Shark Bites

The Cowboys worked LB Rolando McClain in the middle with the 1st team at Tuesday's practice and slid LB Justin Durant out to the weak side.  That put regular 1st-team WLB Bruce Carter on the sideline.  But does that mean he's being demoted?  “No, I don’t think so,” Carter said, via ESPN Dallas. “I just think we need depth. Especially Ro, he needs to get his reps at Mike. … So they’re just trying, I guess, to see what the rotations are going to be. I don’t know.”  We think Carter's in denial.  The Cowboys easily could have slid Durant to the strong side or off the field when getting McClain into the lineup, but they didn't.  They removed a guy who never matched his 2013 performance to his considerable talent or his coaches' considerable expectations.  It sure seems as though Dallas would prefer to not have to rely on Carter this year.  Whether he sticks with the 1st team or not through the rest of camp, Carter doesn't make for much of an IDP target in your fantasy football draft.  He began well out of starter range in our 2014 IDP rankings and has slid even further down this week.  Carter needs to give us reason for optimism at this point.  McClain and Durant, on the other hand, will be worth looks on sheer potential tackle volume if they stick in their Tuesday roles.  This is a bad defense that will be on the field a lot.

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Cowboys TE Gavin Escobar left Saturday's 2nd preseason contest with a left shoulder injury.  ESPN Dallas reports that the team plans further evaluation Sunday but that HC Jason Garrett said, "We don't think it's going to be too, too serious."  We'll await the official diagnosis.  Escobar obviously isn't much of a fantasy prospect on his own but could make for an interesting waiver target if Jason Witten were to go down.

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Cowboys QB Tony Romo's back certainly didn't look like a problem in his preseason debut against the Ravens on Saturday night.  In 2 possessions, he completed 4 of 5 passes for 80 yards and a score. Three of Romo's 4 completions went to WR Dez Bryant, including a 31-yard TD.  It's a small sample size, but the entire 1st-team offense looked ready for the start of the season.  We'll continue to keep an eye on Romo's back, but if healthy, he offers top-6 fantasy upside.  And you can get him in the 8th or 9th round of your draft.

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6 days ago

After attending Cowboys camp, insider Jason La Canfora came to the conclusion that QB Tony Romo still "isn't himself" after offseason back surgery.  "He's not throwing too many deep balls, he's not rolling out with abandon," La Canfora writes.  "The ball didn't come out with sizzle ... and he wasn't connecting on much outside of 10 or 15 yards ... At this point Romo certainly does not look like a quarterback ready to cut loose and go full throttle."  We've been hearing mixed reviews on Romo's performance in camp.  It's possible he's just taking it easy to make sure he's at 100% when Week 1 rolls around.  We'd feel a lot more comfortable targeting him as a fantasy starter if he shows well in preseason action, though.  We'll see him for the first time on Saturday night.

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Cowboys owner Jerry Jones expects QB Tony Romo to play “a few series” Saturday against Baltimore. Romo’s back has limited him in training camp, but it’s not something to be overly concerned about. While Dallas projects as a pass-happy team, Romo should throw behind one of the NFL’s top O-lines. Even if he looks rusty against the Ravens, he'll retain QB1 appeal in fantasy.

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With RBs DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar sitting out the Cowboys' preseason opener, RB Joseph Randle drew the start.  He turned his 13 carries into 50 yards.  “I thought he was decisive running the football, putting his foot in the ground and getting up the field," HC Jason Garrett said afterward. "It looks like he saw the field well, saw the holes, saw the soft spots and got north and south. I thought he had a real good night.  I think you’re seeing him grow and mature right before our eyes."  Randle also showed well in pass protection.  Last year's 5th-round pick appears to be safely ahead of Ryan Williams for the Cowboys' #3 RB job.  Williams gained 29 yards on 8 carries, plus 31 yards on 5 catches, but didn't enter until the end of the 2nd quarter.  The battle for the #3 spot in Dallas is worth tracking because the winner would likely share the backfield with Dunbar in the event of a Murray injury.

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Cowboys QBs coach Wade Wilson says QB Tony Romo's deep ball still isn't back to where it was pre-back surgery.  "It’s been OK," Wilson said.  "I think the deeper the ball goes down the field, it’s a little bit more inconsistent. He’s thrown all the intermediates --- the fours and the seven routes and the deep outs – have been fine. It’s just the nine routes and the deep posts. Those things have been a little inconsistent. I think that’s all due to his back."  Romo still has almost 4 weeks to get it cleaned up before the start of the season.  "As camp goes on, he’ll just get nothing but stronger and more confident in his throws," Wilson said.  We'll be keeping a close eye on Romo in Dallas' 2nd and 3rd preseason games.  (He won't play in the 1st.)

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ESPN Dallas reports that Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence suffered a broken right foot in Tuesday's practice. He'll have surgery Thursday and then miss 8-10 weeks.  The short end of that time frame would return the rookie after Dallas' Week 3 game.  Lawrence had been pushing Jeremy Mincey for right DE work with the 1st team.  With him out, Mincey stands as the favorite to start there.  Mincey slipped after looking like an ascending player as recently as 2011 in Jacksonville.  His position certainly carries some upside, though, as evidenced by left DE George Selvie last year in Dallas' version of the "Tampa 2" scheme.  IDP owners shouldn't draft the 30-year-old Mincey at this point, but keep him in mind as a potential waiver watch guy.

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Rookie Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence limped off the practice field with an injury to his right foot or ankle Tuesday.  A cart reportedly took him to the locker room, and he was due for X-rays Tuesday night.  "Hopefully it'll be OK," GM Jerry Jones said, per ESPN Dallas.  Obviously, it's not shock that the owner/GM is hoping for the best.  But that comment from Jones plus the fact that Lawrence left the field under his own power could mean a less serious injury than the presence of a cart might imply.  The team hopes the 2nd-round pick will play a key role on D, perhaps taking over DeMarcus Ware's old right DE spot.  We'll see how severe the injury is.

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Cowboys LB Rolando McClain worked as the 2nd-team MLB Saturday after missing the 1st 2 days of camp to attend his trial.  “I was glad to see him,” owner/GM Jerry Jones told ESPN Dallas. “I was impressed that they put him right in. I really thought they might ease him in, might need to since he hadn’t had OTAs, hadn’t had the kind of drills. The deal with him, and because of the issue retiring, what you want to see is what you were seeing when he wasn’t in the drill. He was back over there, his body language was great.”  McClain missed all of last season with off-field issues and retired as a Raven in the offseason before heading to Dallas via trade.  He'll compete for the starting middle job in the wake of MLB Sean Lee's season-ending injury.

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Dallas coaches have been impressed by Cowboys LB Bruce Carter's dedication this offseason.  HC Jason Garrett told ESPN.com that he thinks Sean Lee's absence might help the OLB by forcing Carter to step up and fill some of the leadership void.  Garrett also said that Carter has showed the desire to become a "really good football player."  LBs coach Matt Eberflus echoed the sentiment, saying: "He's meeting with me as much as he can. Studying the tape, giving him clear and concise goals daily for practice and he's doing a good job of attaining those goals each and every day."  We pushed Carter too high up the IDP rankings in 2013 in all the excitement over him taking on Derrick Brooks' old role in Monte Kiffin's "Tampa 2" scheme.  But the talent has always been there.  If Carter proves this summer that he's honed his game, he could turn into a strong post-hype sleeper in the 2014 IDP rankings.  We'll be watching him in training camp and the preseason.  It's also worth noting that he's in a contract year.

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Cowboys insider Todd Archer believes RB Lance Dunbar's role would expand only "a little" in the event of a DeMarco Murray injury.  Dunbar goes just 5'8, 188 pounds and isn't built for a feature-back role.  If Murray goes down, Archer believes either Joseph Randle or Ryan Williams would become the "every-down back."  Dallas only figures to keep 1 of those guys, making it an intriguing training camp battle to monitor.

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The Cowboys are planning to use RB Lance Dunbar all over the formation this season.  "He's a guy that's going to be a complete weapon," RBs coach Gary Brown said.  "We can line him up anywhere on the team - tailback spot, at the wide receiver spot, in the slot. He has tremendous hands and he's just not a specialty guy. He could play tailback if you need him to go out there and give you 15 or 20 carries. He's that type of kid. He brings a whole different dimension, a whole different vibe in our room as far as what he does and we're looking forward to using him as a weapon as well."  Brown went on to compare Dunbar to RBs Darren Sproles and Danny Woodhead.  But a better comparison might be Reggie Bush, who caught 54 balls in Scott Linehan's offense last year.  Linehan, of course, will be calling plays in Dallas this season.  Mark down Dunbar as a PPR sleeper on your fantasy football cheat sheet.

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