As we speak, the Dallas Cowboys are preparing for their only Monday Night Football appearance of the 2012 season against the Chicago Bears, and more than a few storylines have emerged over the past week of preparation. Let's take a look at some of the most notable Cowboys headlines heading into this important Week 4 matchup.
Brandon Carr's Increased Play at Safety
As most of the Dallas faithful have heard by now, safety Barry Church suffered a season-ending injury during the team's 16-10 victory over Tampa Bay in Week 3, which led defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to plug cornerback Brandon Carr into Church's vacated role.
Despite Fox Sports' Joe Buck noting that Carr hadn't played safety since the 11th grade, the Cowboys' big-name free agent pickup held his own at the position and performed well given the circumstances.
In fact, Carr performed so well that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones praised Ryan for his decision on the matter, telling Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News: "[It was a] good move. Rob [Ryan] had told me that if we can get [Mike] Jenkins back that we could do some things with all three [corners] on the field."
While Danny McCray will be the one to take over full-time duty at the position in Church's absence, Ryan discovered something during the Tampa game that could be used to fool opposing offenses in the future.
If the Cowboys can come up with schemes that involve Jenkins, Carr and Orlando Scandrick all on the field at the same time, they could become potential "ace-up-the-sleeve" types of option for Dallas.
Kyle Orton Faces Off against Old Team
Alright, that headline is a bit misleading, since Orton is the obvious no. 2 quarterback to Tony Romo. Still, that doesn't mean Orton won't be of any use to the Cowboys.
One way that Orton hopes to contribute to what he hopes will be a Dallas win Monday night is by giving inside information on the Chicago defense. The backup QB told Charean Williams of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
I know the defense pretty well. This is a team that hasn’t changed too much [on defense]...You’ve just got to beat a good football team. They’re not too complicated. They’re just really good at what they do and have a lot of good players.
Orton hasn't put on a Bears uniform since 2008, and it's likely the defense has changed some over the past four years, but any information that he has that could help Romo and the offense is useful.
The Cowboys offense hasn't been anywhere near as electrifying over the past two games as it was against the New York Giants back in Week 1, and maybe with Orton's information, the unit can get back on track against Chicago.
Jason Witten's Dropped Passes
One of the qualities that has allowed Witten to be so successful at the tight end position in his career has been his reliability. Time after time, Cowboys fans have watched No. 82 come up with a crucial catch for a first down or even a touchdown, but those days haven't started in 2012 just yet.
It's no secret that Witten likely isn't at 100-percent health due to his spleen injury from back in the preseason, but he doesn't want any excuses made on his behalf. He told ESPN Dallas' Tim McMahon:
I wish there was a way I could say I wasn't feeling good or I'm pressing or anything like that, it's not that. That would be the easy way to really get out of it, but bottom line is, you've got to get it fixed. Unacceptable.
If Witten was a baseball player, people would probably be writing that he's just in an uncharacteristic slump, and perhaps that, paired with the injury, is what this is. As ESPN's Matthew Berry has said countless times when giving fantasy advice, you have to ask yourself what's more likely to happen.
Applying his fantasy advice to the Witten situation, fans and journalists alike have to ask themselves that question. The answer to that is the seven-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro selection will be back to his reliable self soon, perhaps as soon as Week 4 on ESPN's Monday Night Football.