Cowboys go extreme on 'next man up' with defense


Cowboys go extreme on 'next man up' with defense

IRVING, Texas (AP) The next man up for the depleted Dallas defense is Batman. That's the way newcomer Brady Poppinga is looking at it, anyway.

Poppinga joined the Cowboys on Monday as the roster replacement for linebacker Bruce Carter, who will miss the rest of the season with a dislocated left elbow. Carter is the fourth starting Dallas defender to be placed on injured reserve.

A seven-year veteran caught up in a mess of defensive injuries when Green Bay won the Super Bowl two years ago, Poppinga last played in the 2011 season finale for St. Louis on New Year's Day. He's been working out and waiting for another chance ever since.

``I was in what you call Batman shape, meaning when I get the call, boom, I put the mask on, I'm gone,'' Poppinga said. ``I got the mask on, so here I am.''

Problem is, the Cowboys may need Superman and a few of his friends to help a defense missing a third of its starting lineup and two key reserves. It comes off a demoralizing second quarter that put Dallas in a 28-3 hole on the way to a 38-31 Thanksgiving loss to Washington.

Dallas is now without both starting inside linebackers in Carter, injured in the third quarter against the Redskins, and defensive leader Sean Lee, who badly injured a toe last month.

Dan Connor, an offseason free agent pickup from Carolina, will be the third defensive play caller at the start of a game Sunday against Philadelphia. The player next to him will likely be Ernie Sims, signed off the street a month ago after Lee was injured. Poppinga could be the primary backup.

``The next man up philosophy is alive and well with the Cowboys,'' Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. ``Always has been, so if you're a part of the 53-man roster, you'd better be ready to play.''

Several Dallas defenders apparently weren't ready when the second quarter started Thursday against Washington. Robert III Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor, was 8 of 8 for 178 yards with three touchdowns in Washington's first four-touchdown quarter in 13 years. Another rookie, Alfred Morris, averaged 7 yards per carry and had the other touchdown. The Redskins only faced two third downs, and converted both.

``They hit some big plays and we weren't playing very well,'' Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. ``That's just the truth.''

The defense helped the Cowboys get back in the game, even getting just the fourth interception of Griffin this season to set up a touchdown that made it a seven-point game with plenty of time left. But then Ryan's bunch let down again, allowing the Redskins to run nearly 5 1/2 minutes on a field goal drive that killed any realistic hopes of completing the rally.

Dallas had a similar letdown five days earlier when a great defensive stand was followed on the next Cleveland possession by a communication problem., That gave the Browns a go-ahead touchdown in the final minutes before the Cowboys came back and won in overtime.

``That's something we really focused on last year coming into this year is just not giving up those big plays and communication and all that stuff,'' said linebacker Anthony Spencer, who has a career-high 6 1-2 sacks after taking down Griffin twice. ``We just had a few of those things happen in this game that we definitely can't have happen.''

Carter wasn't the only Dallas defender who didn't finish the Washington game. Defensive end Jason Hatcher, a key replacement with Kenyon Coleman gone for good with a torn triceps, had to leave with a concussion. Orlando Scandrick, the extra cornerback in pass coverage in a secondary already missing safety Barry Church (torn Achilles tendon) for the season, injured his left hand and is out indefinitely after surgery.

``Those are three ... good guys to add to the list of about a hundred, but that's the way it is,'' Ryan said. ``We'll get back.''

Cornerback Morris Claiborne said Ryan's message hadn't changed Monday.

``His mood and mindset don't really change,'' Claiborne said. ``He still feels like we're the best team in this league no matter what and he's the best coach. So his spirit will never change.''

NOTES: Dallas released WR Andre Holmes and replaced him with veteran Anthony Armstrong after Miles Austin injured a hip in the Washington game. ... The Cowboys signed CB Reggie Jones to the practice squad to replace WR Danny Coale (hamstring), who was placed on injured reserve.


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After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

Associated Press

After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

The Redskins are very thin at running back right now. 

Today at practice the Redskins had three running backs on the field. Rob Kelley and Kapri Bibbs are fully healthy while Chris Thompson is limited as he recovers from a broken leg he suffered last November. 

Injuries have hit the depth at running back. The most recent casualty was Martez Carter, who was waived with an injury designation. 

The move was surprising since Carter had some good runs against the Jets during their preseason game on Thursday and he did not appear to be injured during the game. 

Coach Jay Gruden did not offer any more details as to what the injury to Carter was, only that he is no longer with the team. 

Also sidelined with lower leg injuries are Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall. According to media reports, Perine will be out one week and Marshall for two to four. Gruden would not confirm the timelines, saying only that they are undergoing treatment and the timetable for their returns in unknown. 

The Redskins will bring in some running backs to try out on Sunday. They will need at least one and probably two in order to get through the upcoming preseason game against the Broncos on Friday. 

In other personnel moves, the Redskins waived linebacker Jeff Knox and defensive end Jalen Wilkerson and signed offensive tackle Kendall Calhoun, defensive back Darius Hillary, and wide receiver Allenzae Staggers. 

More Redskins news

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler


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Alex Ovechkin and wife Nastya Ovechkina welcome baby boy

NBC Sports Washington/USATSI

Alex Ovechkin and wife Nastya Ovechkina welcome baby boy

After lifting the Stanley Cup just over two months ago, something else very exciting has happened in Alex Ovechkin's life.

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Ovi spent this week practicing at the Florida Panthers' facilities with other NHL players living in the surrounding area.

After the Cup's visit to Moscow, Nastya and Alex settled down at their apartment in Miami, staying put and preparing for the birth. 

The couple were married two years ago but didn't hold an official ceremony until July of last year. The celebration was as lavish as you'd expect.

She revealed her pregnancy shortly after the Cup victory, and has kept us up to date on life this summer via Instagram. A few weeks ago, the Ovechkins graced HELLO! Russia magazine, showing off Nastya's baby bump among their glamour shots.

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A post shared by Nastasiya Ovechkina (@nastyashubskaya) on

Congratulations to Ovi and Nastya, and all our best wishes for health and happiness!