IRVING, Texas – Ernie Sims’ study habits may lead to him earning a starting job at linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys.
Sims made an impression while competing for the starting strong side linebacker job in training camp before a groin injury derailed that opportunity. After Bruce Carter’s struggles last week and Justin Durant also suffering a groin injury, it’s likely Sims starts at linebacker this week at one of the outside linebacker spots.
“One thing I do know is that I’m going to be prepared like I don’t know what,” Sims said. “Through all my years of playing back in Detroit and my early years in the NFL, I didn’t prepare. I just relied on my God given ability, but now I’m putting two and two together and it’s really starting to show up.”
Sims was a first-round pick of Rod Marinelli’s in Detroit in 2006. It never panned out the way he would have liked through the first few years of his NFL career. Maybe that’s because he didn’t prepare himself the way he has recently.
The former top-10 pick was somewhat of an afterthought entering training camp, but he put together one of the better defensive performances throughout his time in Oxnard, Calif., earning a spot on the 53-man roster. He may have even earned a starting spot if not for the groin injury, which recurred again at the start of the regular season.
Now healthy, Sims said he’s ready to play. He’s taking the majority of reps at linebacker in the nickel package, and the way Sims sees it, he’s a starter. Sims said right now they have him starting at weak side linebacker, but it’s possible he could take the strong side spot if Durant can’t go.
“I’m staying in for base and for nickel,” Sims said. “On the board, they’ve got me starting, so like I said, you never know what happens, but I know one thing – I’m preparing as if I’m starting and playing the whole game. When my number is called, I’m prepared and ready to go and make plays.”
Sims and Carter have rotated some this week in the nickel package, and it appeared Sims was taking all the reps at nickel early in Friday’s practice. But head coach Jason Garrett didn’t suggest Carter will be completely off the field this week.
“We haven’t really talked about the exact situation with how those guys are going to play, because of the availability of all the guys,” Garrett said. “We’ve been practicing a certain way. Bruce is going to play a lot in the ballgame. Ernie’s going to play a lot in the ballgame. They’re both important parts of our defense.”
Regardless of where he starts, Sims is slotted to play a lot more than the 27 defensive reps he got last week against the Chargers, compiling six tackles in limited time. It’s an opportunity he relishes, considering he was at home driving his tractor to begin the 2012 season.
But he doesn’t feel like he’s made up for lost time yet after sitting out with his groin injury.
“Not one inch,” Sims said. “I’ve still got a lot to prove. I’m just eager to compete. Peyton Manning is great player. I was there in Indianapolis with him for one year. I didn’t get a chance to play with him, but he was on the team or whatnot, and I just got to see small fraction of what type of guy he is and what type of player he is. I’m just excited. It’s a big challenge for me and for this team and as a competitor this type of game you live for.”
He’s fired up about this chance, because he knows the alternative if it doesn’t work out. He’s experienced what it’s like not to have a job or a team to play for when an NFL season begins.
“You dang right, that’s in the back of my mind,” Sims said. “I’ve got a lot to prove, and when I was younger I did it for different reasons. Now it’s all about my family, my wife and my son. That’s all I think about, proving myself and providing for my family. That’s all I think about when I’m on the field.”
IRVING, Texas – It’s hard to quantify whether Tony Romo is putting in Peyton Manning-type time at Valley Ranch this season, but he’s certainly dealing with plenty of Peyton Manning talk this week.
With one of the game’s great quarterbacks playing the Dallas Cowboys this week, it goes without saying that Romo would field plenty of questions about Manning – especially given the prolific start the Broncos quarterback is off to this year.
“I think it goes without saying. He’s been a great football player his whole career,” Romo said. “Right now he’s playing at a very high level — week in and week out — that provides a great test for anybody that goes against him.”
Manning’s presence at AT&T Stadium has dominated the pregame storylines, mainly because of his 1,470 and 16 touchdowns with no interceptions through for games – an incredible start, even by his standards.
There are also the comparisons in preparation time, which Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones invited on his franchise quarterback when he said he Romo would spend “Peyton Manning-type time” on game planning.
That falls in line with what Romo and Garrett have said all year – even before the Broncos were the next team on the schedule. On Monday, Garrett repeated that he was as quarterback as happy with the game plan as possible.
“You want quarterback to be invested in what you are doing,” Garrett said. “You want him to like the plays that are in the plan. You want him to like the plays you are calling into his helmet so he can go play his best football.”
Romo was never going to get into specifics about the Cowboys’ game plan for the Denver defense. But asked about the difference in his workload on Mondays and Tuesdays, he said it comes down to more than just game film.
“You’re always watching a lot of tape – I don’t think that changes,” Romo said. “The difference is just some of the ideas and things that are put into the base plan, and each day it goes from there.”
It’s something Romo said he might not have handled as a younger quarterback.
“When you’re young you just don’t – you haven’t experienced it or seen enough to understand exactly what people are trying to do, philosophy-wise, against you,” he said.
With or without specifics from Romo, all eyes will be on his role in derailing the Denver freight train moreso than the Cowboys defense. Both Garrett and Romo acknowledged that Manning and his offense would have their fair share of success on Sunday.
Romo has been incredibly efficient in 2013, with a 105.1 quarterback rating and just one interception this season. Some of that can be attributed to DeMarco Murray’s 356 rushing yards through four games, but it also raises questions about the Cowboys’ ability to push the ball downfield to targets like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten – a notion Romo disagreed with.
“Since you’re 12 years old, there’s a coverage and there’s places to throw the football – you take that,” he said. “Kansas City wanted to get up and play single-high coverage and press man, and the ball went to Dez five times down the field. One got dropped, and another got called for a penalty – that might change the balance of certain things, too. In some of the other games, they just dared us to run – so we ran.”
The Cowboys have had more success running against some than other, but the stats hold true across the board. Through four games Romo has just three completions of more than 25 yards – two against Kansas City and one against San Diego. He said that stat doesn’t come from fear of turnovers, however, but reading the defense.
“For me, I’m just what play gets called and taking it through the progression,” he said. “Believe me, if there’s shots down the field, I’ve never been accused of not taking them.”
Cowboys WR Dez Bryant vs. Broncos CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
With no Champ Bailey in the lineup, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been the best cornerback for the Denver Broncos this season. He is a wiry, long athlete that plays with an ease of movement.
Rodgers-Cromartie is very smooth and do not see many plays where he is beaten badly or is in terrible position on the route. Likes to play a physical game and get right on top of the receiver. Can play very tight in coverage. There is little separation in his game. Is not afraid to use his hands to keep the receiver from getting up the field on him. Is not afraid to mix it up at all. Is not going to shy away from contact. Hard guy to run away from because of his speed and burst.
Rodgers-Cromartie was a 4.35 40 guy coming out of Tennessee State and six years later, and you still see him play with those types of numbers. Do not expect him to back down from the challenge of having to deal with Dez Bryant all day. He’s one of those cornerbacks that doesn’t need help over the top because of his ability.
He had some games in Philadelphia where offensive coordinators picked on him, but has made a nice transition in Jack Del Rio’s scheme. Rodgers-Cromartie has played some large receivers this season, Jacoby Jones and Brice Butler but none with the strength and power of Dez Bryant.
Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick vs. Broncos WR Wes Welker
There will be plenty of matchups that this Dallas Cowboys defense is going to have to deal with, but the one that could swing the balance of the game, is how Orlando Scandrick is able to play Wes Welker.
As well as Scandrick has been playing this season, I put him on Welker no matter where he is on the field. With the skill level of Scandrick and the fact that I know that in his preparation, he will study every pass that Welker has not only caught this season, but also when they met in New England in 2011 and use that to his advantage.
Where Scandrick is good in this matchup, is that he has played Welker before and did quite well. With Welker, it not so much about his speed but the quickness. It’s the initial burst that makes Welker difficult to handle. Scandrick can run with his all day but where he needs to be at his best is when gets up on him and jams him at the line.
The key to playing Welker, is not letting him get off the line. If you give Welker free access off the line, he is going to make your life difficult. Orlando Scandrick has always been one of those players that felt like he was slighted as a player and covering Wes Welker all day, playing him well, gets him that respect he desires.