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Cowboys Nation Position Breakdown – Linebacker

Bryson Treece

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I'm now going to do something that our defense had some issues with this year, tackle another position in my positional breakdown of the current roster. Yeah, cheap shot, but between Jenkins watching Ward run by and everyone missing McClain and McGahee, it kind of fits. Here's the linebackers.

DeMarcus Ware -
A great overall athlete, big surprise here.

The guy has an outstanding work ethic and drive. He gets to the ball quickly, and is good at deciding where a play is going.

He's versatile, quick, strong, and doesn't rely on others to allow him a chance, he makes plays where others wouldn't.

By far the only must have on this team, or any team.

Brady James -
The soft-spoken leader of this defensive unit, he's been a steady contributor and a reliable linebacker. Sometimes he shows us why he gets left out of the Pro Bowl, but the 2008 season was certainly his best year. He deserved the vote, and he agreed, but he did publicly express his feelings about not making the all star team, and that isn't okay.

Still, his play on the field overcomes the very few and minor issues that he brings to the team. An obvious keeper.

Zach Thomas -
Since he was first drafted years ago, I've never really seen why he is such a big deal. And when we signed him last year I was a bit skeptical because of his age and my personal beliefs of him. This year he showed me two things, the first is that he is a solid player that could be a starter on just about any team, and the second is that my first impressions of him were right.

He was brought in to be an experienced veteran to help guide younger players, and provide some balance beside Bradie James. He was what we thought he was, he just didn't make as big of an impact as most hoped, and many dreamed.

After the Philly game, as we all know by now, he expressed his feelings over how he fit into this defense, and he did it publicly. Yeah, he did change his tune a little in the following days, but the message had already been delivered.

Thanks to some favorable conditions in his contract, he was able to void the remaining three years of his deal down to one. I don't know if that's optional and he has to take it or if it's a done deal already. In either case, I don't see him passing on a way out of a defense that he thinks he doesn't fit into when it means the next four years will be here, unless he retires. I also don't see the Cowboys signing him to another deal. He's too old for a multi-year deal, and the Cowboys could better use the money on a one year deal to bring in some solid talent through either free agency or the draft.

I don't expect to see Zach back next year.

Greg Ellis -
I still think Greg Ellis can play the game, and he seemed to get his second wind with the switch from end to OLB. I think the current system works; the rotation between he and Anthony Spencer is complimenting to his age and keeps him fresh as a solid role player.

I expect to see him back next year, and I expect the rotation schedule to change a little more in favor of the young and blossoming Spencer.

I don't expect Ellis to be graceful about though. As has been the case each off-season for a while now, Ellis often has complaints about his role on the team, in spite of career performances in this current system. What will be will be, I guess. He already got the money, so he doesn't have a lot left to gripe about, unless he wants to play more like Ware does.

Anthony Spencer -
He's the most recent player to have a run in with the law, but I doubt anyone is holding that against him.

This year, his first being healthy all year, he showed us why he takes snaps away from the trusted veteran Ellis. What more can you say about him? He's got upside, he's quick, and he's bright, most of the time.He'll be around for a few more years, I suspect.

Kevin Burnett -
I know that perceptions be misleading, especially in football, but as I write this, I find it hard to get the image of his blunder in the Philly game out of my head. He's shown us that he can play; now he needs to work on his confidence and awareness a little. Being caught out of position isn't good, especially not when you get as few reps as he does in a game.

But on the flip side, he isn't a bad player, and an extra year, an extra off-season, should be all he needs to hone in on the skills he sometimes misfires on. I expect to see him back next year; Jerry will pay to keep him because of depth and continuity at the position. Thomas leaving will only concrete the need for him. I also expect him to play at a higher level next year than he has thus far, and I'm a little excited to see him do it.

Bobby Carpenter -
I want to say, "this poor guy." He was drafted with high expectations and he hasn't lived up to them. But unlike most players who do that, he hasn't been the reason for his lack of success. Constantly moving him from one position to another, and not really offering him any hope of earning a starting job have hindered his progress as far as I'm concerned.

As many fans are saying right now, and have been saying for a while, it's high time he got a real chance to compete for a bigger role on defense. I expect this to be his year due to the depth concerns in the middle. I just hope he can finally show his first round talent on more than just a draft board.

Justin Rogers -
Did this guy even play? Hate to admit it, but I never once paid any attention to him, so I'll let someone else fill in his spot in the comments. Fair enough.

Carlos Polk -
Signed more out of concerns for special teams, he began to get some time on the defense through promising play. He's still got some things to work on, and will probably never be a great player for us, but he's got enough to make him valuable on special teams. His biggest problem is being positioned behind Ware on the depth chart, same for Rogers too.

Being one of Wade's guys though, he'll be back next year, and I'm not really upset about it.

Steve Octavien -
Here's another one that hasn't done enough to really give anyone an impression of what he can do. That usually means he's in development and will be back next year for continued grooming.

That's my take on things. What do you all think?



Nothing gives me greater joy than the experience of being a Dallas Cowboys fan come time to check another victory on the schedule every Sunday. I live Inside the Star everyday and blog on it occasionally, as well. Follow us on Twitter - @InsideTheStarDC

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. The Wizard

    January 23, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Personally, I think it is time to cut ties with Ellis. Yes, I think he can still play and I like him. But, he clearly doesn’t want to play in the role they have etched for him. And, they need to have players that are all on the same page. Maybe, they can get a pick for him in the 3rd-5th range with a team needing a pass rusher.

    As far as Ware, James, and Spencer are concerned those are the starters for sure. You’re right about Carpenter. They need to find out about him. Maybe he can be the other starter on the inside. He has the size, but the question is with his skills.

    I like Burnett too but he is smallish and more of a finesse player who is also better suited for a 4-3 defense. The other backers are more special team/backup types.

  2. Bryson

    January 23, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    I think the jury is still out on Burnett and Carpenter, we really haven’t gotten to see a whole lot from either.

    I am a little back and forth on Ellis each year. On a separate note though, I find it quite amusing that nobody makes a big deal out of Ellis’ whining every year considering that he makes more noise in one off-season that Owens does in a whole year.

    I still think he can play well enough to justify hearing him piss and moan. But I can’t very well say what I do about Garrett and not apply that same logic to Ellis. If he wants to leave that badly then I’m all for it. Any player that doesn’t want to be here is a distraction this team doesn’t need.

    I’m kind of leaning more towards saying that he won’t be a problem this year, the more I think about it. What did he have this year? Like 12 sacks? That’s pretty good for Ellis. I think he might see the value for him here and in the current rotation with production like that.

    But he won’t make the Pro Bowl again until he stops his bitching.

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Dallas Cowboys

5 Potential Candidates Cowboys Could Target to Replace OC Scott Linehan

Brian Martin

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5 Potential Candidates to Replace Cowboys OC Scott Linehan

Should he go or should he stay!? That seems to be the question the Dallas Cowboys are asking themselves about their current Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan. Many of us would say it's an easy decision to make, but we really don't know what's going on behind closed doors.

The only thing we know for sure right now is Scott Linehan is still employed by the Dallas Cowboys and it might be a while before we know his fate with the organization one way or another. The Cowboys coaching staff, including Linehan, will coach the Pro Bowl in a little over a week, which is why any decision regarding Dallas' coaching staff will likely be delayed.

I know my opinion means little, but I have a hard time seeing Scott Linehan returning to the Dallas Cowboys next season. His playcalling has been pretty predictable and dated the past few years, plus there's the fact he was nearly fired earlier this season during the bye week. I don't think he's done much since then to improve his chances of sticking around. But, that's just my opinion.

That's why today I thought I'd share with you a few of the potential OC candidates I'd personally target if I were the Dallas Cowboys. Let's get started…

Tony Romo

Tony RomoHow elated would Cowboys Nation be if Tony Romo returned to the Dallas Cowboys as their next offensive coordinator. Everybody understands he doesn't have any formal coaching experience, especially in the NFL, but I seriously doubt that would matter.

No one would question his knowledge of the game, especially after hearing him break down the X's and O's first hand while he's commentating on game days. It's one of the reasons why he's grown in popularity as a commentator in such a short time.

Honestly, bringing in Romo as the OC could be the match made in heaven for the Cowboys. He already knows the system Jason Garrett likes to use offensively and his coaching philosophy. It would likely be a seamless transition, especially since he's already so familiar with the personnel. But, there's really no way of knowing if he's ready to leave his cushy commentating job to become a coach.

Todd Haley

Todd Haley

(Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)

As much as I'd like to see Tony Romo make his return back to the Dallas Cowboys in a coaching capacity, bringing back Todd Haley to the organization would be a close second. He spent 2004-2006 with the Cowboys as their wide receiver coach before moving on to become the offensive coordinator for several teams (Cardinals, Steelers, Browns) and the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Unlike Romo, Haley has a proven track record as a play caller in the NFL. I personally like what he would bring to the table if made the new OC in Dallas. He is an aggressive play caller with a fiery attitude. I think his addition to the Cowboys offense could have the same kind of impact as Kris Richard's did to the defense this past season.

There is a downside about Haley though. He can be a bit abrasive with those he's working with. He's known for not always getting along with some of his players or with his coaching staff. It's one of the reasons why both he and Hue Jackson were fired this past season by the Cleveland Browns. I don't think it would be a problem with Dallas, but it is something to think about.

Eric Bieniemy

Eric BieniemyI'm grasping a little bit here because it would take quite a bit to lure Eric Bieniemy away from the Kansas City Chiefs, but it's not completely impossible. Jerry Jones would have to really put on his business hat to get Bieniemy's attention, especially after he was in the running for a few head-coaching jobs here recently. But, we all know how persuasive Jerry Jones can be when he wants to.

First off, the Dallas Cowboys would have to make Bieniemy their assistant head coach as well as their offensive coordinator. He is already the OC with the Chiefs, just not the playcaller. Andy Reid still handles those responsibilities. He does however handle the majority of the game planning, which is raved about because of his attention to detail.

His players have also raved about his personality and aggressiveness as a coach. This is something that has endeared Cowboys players to Kris Richard in a short amount of time and it could be the same if Eric Bieniemy comes aboard. Unfortunately, I think this is a longshot. He's probably is eyeing a head-coaching job that could come as soon as next season. Jason Garrett replacement?

Joe Lombardi

Joe LombardiJoe Lombardi, the grandson of Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, isn't on a lot of people's list as a potential offensive coordinator candidate, but probably should be. He does have one year of experience as an OC in the NFL, but that was with the Detroit Lions in 2014-2015 and we shouldn't count that against him. No play callers last long in Detroit since Matthew Stafford took over as their starting QB.

The reason I really like Lombardi as a potential Scott Linehan replacement is because of the time he spent with Sean Payton and Drew Brees in New Orleans. Minus the one year in Detroit, he's been with the Saints since 2007. The majority of that time was spent as the QB coach to one of the best ever played the game.

I've been trying to figure out a way to get Sean Payton back as a Cowboys coach for the past several seasons without any success. Turning to someone he's personally groomed could be the next best thing. He was there through all of Drew Brees' numerous passing records and his Super Bowl victory. He has also help develop Taysom Hill into the playmaker he's become this season. He could just be the guy to take Dak Prescott's game to the next level.

Doug Nussmeier (In-house Candidate)

Doug Nussmeier

Dallas Cowboys TE Coach Doug Nussmeier

If the Dallas Cowboys do indeed decide to move on from Scott Linehan, it doesn't necessarily mean they will look outside the organization for a new offensive coordinator. They could quite possibly already have his replacement on the team in Doug Nussmeier, who served as their tight end coach this season.

Nussmeier's coaching background mostly consist of him being a QB coach or offensive coordinator at the collegiate level. In fact, those are the only two coaching titles he's held throughout his career until this year when he became the Cowboys TE coach. I don't know about you, but I find that pretty impressive, especially after seeing Dallas' young tight ends progress through the season.

Promoting Nussmeier to OC would virtually be a seamless transition for everybody involved. He knows the system, the players, and has been involved in the game planning this past season. I don't know however if he would be an upgrade over Scott Linehan. The two have known one another for years and have worked together in the past. Not exactly a ringing endorsement in my opinion.

Do any of these Dallas Cowboys OC candidates intrigue you? If not who?



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Top 5 Offseason Priorities for the Dallas Cowboys

John Williams

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check

The 2018 NFL Season has come to an end for the Dallas Cowboys and now the team looks to the offseason to gear up for what should be another run toward the playoffs in 2019. As with every team heading into every offseason, they'll have some difficult decisions to make with some of their own players as well as deciding how they want to attack free agency and the draft.

The Cowboys have drafted really well over the last three seasons in particular, but have had a long track record of success in the Jason Garrett era. How we judge the draft this season should take into account what Amari Cooper has been to this team. He's been everything the Dallas Cowboys hoped for when they sent their 2019 first round draft pick to the Oakland Raiders for Cooper. The Cowboys, without a first round pick, will have less room for maneuvering around the draft, but as we've seen in the past, they are just as effective in the second round and beyond as they are in the first round.

As we get going in the offseason, let's look at the Dallas Cowboys 5 Most Pressing Priorities.

1. Dealing with DeMarcus Lawrence

The NFL is a passing league. You need players who can throw the ball and catch the ball. On the defensive side of the ball, you must have guys that can get after the passer and cover the receiver.

After moving to the 4-3 defense and the departure of DeMarcus Ware, the Cowboys struggled to find any pass rushing consistency at the defensive end position. They were led at the position by players like Jeremy Mincey, George Selvie, and Benson Mayowa. Finally, the Cowboys selection of DeMarcus Lawrence is paying off has he's had double-digit sacks each of the last two seasons and has been equally effective against the run.

The Cowboys have the option of using the franchise tag on Lawrence again this offseason, which is a possibility as it would prevent other teams from negotiating with the Cowboys best defensive player. While the Cowboys need to continue to build the team through the draft and extend a few players, there isn't a bigger offseason priority than getting DeMarcus Lawrence's deal done.

RJ Ochoa on Twitter

Jason Garrett on soon-to-be free agent DeMarcus Lawrence: He's certainly as big a priority as there is

 

2. Making Big Adjustments to the Offense

There was a lot of consternation yesterday at the comments Jason Garrett made to 105.3 The Fan in Dallas-Fort Worth about Scott Linehan's future with the team. It's obviously a possibility that he returns in 2019, but as Stephen Jones mentioned later in the day, it's too early to begin discussing those things as they haven't really began to review the season.

Scott Linehan has been good as an offensive coordinator and he's been a part of Dak Prescott's progression, but there are certain areas of this offense that need to be reworked or shaken up. Whether the Cowboys decide to move on from Linehan or they decide to make adjustments to the scheme, something needs to change. In particular, the team's insistence on using jumbo packages on every short yardage situation has made them predictable.

On 4th and 1 on Saturday, the team went to the Ezekiel Elliott in jumbo formations one too many times. In an era when most of the NFL is attempting to spread things out with 11 and 10 personnel, the Cowboys continue to force two and three tight end formations.

This offseason is just getting started and the Cowboys have a lot of decisions to make about their offense, but none is bigger than figuring out who the play caller is going to be. While the team may be publicly supporting Scott Linehan at the moment, it would be highly unlikely for the team to bring him back for another year.

#DALvsWAS: Michael Gallup Will Play, Value Extends Beyond Passing Game

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

3. Continue Building the Wide Receiver Corp

The Dallas Cowboys began the process of overhauling the wide receiver corp last offseason when they released Dez Bryant, signed Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson, drafted Michael Gallup and Cedric Wilson, and traded for Tavon Austin and most importantly Amari Cooper.

Generally, when the Dallas Cowboys have attempted to rebuild a position, they've done it over a few seasons, like they did with the offensive line, the defensive line, and the linebackers.

This offseason, the Cowboys will have a few decisions to make at the wide receiver position. Do they bring back Cole Beasley? What about Tavon Austin? Allen Hurns would have likely been a player the Cowboys could have used in the slot to replace Cole Beasley, but he's hurt and possibly won't be ready for training camp.

On offense, the passing game began to take shape in the second half of the season as Dak Prescott began to get more comfortable with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. They'll make a nice 1-2 punch heading into 2019, but there is still room for adding a player or two. Depending on the type of contract he'd want, it would be great to bring back Cole Beasley. It's become clear that he's not as big of a focal point in the offense since Amari Cooper has emerged, but he's still a good player that can make some big catches for you.

If the team looked to the draft, one player that is high on my list is Oklahoma Wide Receiver Marquise Brown. He's a home run hitter in every stretch of the imagination. With speed for days, he could be the field stretcher that the team has struggled to find. Not only does he have speed, he's an excellent route runner and has excellent hands and spends the offseason training with Steelers Wide Receiver and cousin Antonio Brown.

If the Cowboys wanted to go the free agency route to add a wide receiver, they should look at Jamison Crowder of the Washington Redskins or Adam Humphries of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to fill their slot wide receiver role. If you remember back to the Bucs game, Humphries was giving the Cowboys fits totaling 10 catches on 12 targets for 79 yards. Crowder struggled with injuries this season and had a down year, but that could mean he'd be cheap to sign, which is the way the Dallas Cowboys do free agency.

There are some nice players in the draft and free agency that the Cowboys could look to add to their wide receiver group, but they'll also be getting back Cedric Wilson, their sixth round pick from last season. The team really liked the production that Wilson had at Boise St. and Wilson was playing well in training camp and was pushing for a roster spot before his season ending injury.

Noah Brown is also a player in line to see more snaps moving forward. He's played well when called upon, using his superior blocking to make an impact in the running game while displaying nice route running and hands in the passing game. If Cole Beasley didn't return to the Cowboys this offseason, I could see the Cowboys giving Brown an expanded role on the outside or using him as a big slot receiver, similar to how the Arizona Cardinals use Larry Fitzgerald or how the New Orleans Saints use Michael Thomas. He has the size to be a mismatch for slot corners and the route running to be a mismatch for linebackers. They could also use Brown on the outside, put Cooper in the slot and then when they want to use Brown as a blocker, could motion him in-line.

Wide receiver will be a big question this offseason as teams must have three or four solid receivers to run their offense. The Cowboys have some players that could be given expanded roles, but should continue to add to the position through the draft.

4. Safety

Most of 2018 was spent discussing the possibility of trading for Seattle Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas, and I imagine that much of this offseason will be spent discussing him again. If you got tired of Earl Thomas talk last year, get ready, it's about to pick up.

Earl Thomas will be a free agent this offseason, so he'll be free to sign with any team he chooses and he's made it known that he'd like to play for the Dallas Cowboys. There are several question marks when it comes to Earl Thomas that the Cowboys will have to consider.

When will he be ready to go? What kind of money will he demand? Has health become a concern?

All legitimate questions for a player that will be coming off a broken leg suffered this season. He should be ready for offseason training as there have been videos posted to his Instagram showing him running stadiums. If he's ready to roll by free agency and is able to pass his physical, I bet they take another long look at adding him to the roster.

They have another free agent option that they can look into though in New York Giants Safety Landon Collins. He's a different type of safety than Earl Thomas, but Collins is a player. He's more of a "box" or strong safety that you could use to play the Jeff Heath role, which would leave Xavier Woods playing the free safety spot.

5. Defensive Tackle

Antwaun Woods, Maliek Collins, Tyrone Crawford, Caraun Reid, and Daniel Ross played well for the Dallas Cowboys defense, but as we saw on Saturday night against the Los Angeles Rams, they were lacking as a group. In Woods, Collins, and Crawford, you feel good with what you have as you approach free agency and the draft, but they need to add a player that can help them with their interior pass rush.

Much of the pass rush that the Cowboys received this season came from their defensive ends and linebackers. The tackles were good, but inconsistent in their ability to collapse the pocket and not allow any room for opposing quarterbacks to step into.

This is a draft that is deep on defense and the Cowboys will have a chance to add to their defensive tackle spot with their second round pick. With Rod Marinelli likely returning to the Dallas Cowboys next offseason, we know his ability to find diamonds in the rough. I wouldn't be surprised if they go practice squad diving again this offseason and find a player that can have a significant impact like David Irving did in 2017 and Antwaun Woods did in 2018.

It's unlikely that David Irving will be back and Tyrone Crawford could be a cap casualty if the Cowboys no longer want to carry his $10 million cap number.

The Cowboys are likely to bring back DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory is still under contract, as well as Taco Charlton and Dorance Armstrong. They are pretty solid at defensive end, but could still add a player to compete with Taco and Armstrong. Defensive tackle though, is a place where they need to make a move to upgrade the position. The defense was really good last season, but needs to look for ways to improve heading into 2019.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Dallas Cowboys will do as they always do this offseason as they approach the roster; sign inexpensive veterans with the hope that they outperform their contracts and attempt to draft well yet again. It's a formula that has worked for them and there's no reason to think it won't continue moving forward.



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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys Re-Sign OL Coach Marc Colombo Through 2019

Sean Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Re-Sign OL Coach Marc Colombo Through 2019

Hiring six new positional coaches and a special teams coordinator prior to the 2018-19 season, the Dallas Cowboys saw plenty of success with this turnover - rebounding from a 3-5 start to reach the Divisional Round before having their season end at the LA Rams. At arguably their most important position, the Cowboys admitted to hiring the wrong fit when Paul Alexander was fired mid-season. Very fortunately, Alexander's assistant was ready to step up and become one of the most respected coaches on the staff, with former Cowboys Tackle Marc Colombo receiving a new contract as OL Coach through next season.

The team announced that Colombo would return on Tuesday. The day prior, Head Coach Jason Garrett said he expects Center Travis Frederick to be ready for the entirety of the offseason program. The two-time 1st Team All-Pro missed the entire season dealing with Gillian-Barre Syndrome.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Source: Cowboys have signed offensive line coach Marc Colombo to a new contract

There's still work to be done this offseason for the Cowboys to maintain their usual standard on the offensive line. Just days removed from the end of the season, in which the Cowboys became the first playoff squad since 1988 to start all players under the age of 30, the Dallas OL is in great position and should remain an overwhelming strength under Colombo.

With Joe Looney set to return to a backup role and Xavier Su'a-Filo under contract, even the Cowboys depth up front is built up nicely well before free agency or the Draft. Cam Fleming and Marcus Martin are the Cowboys offensive linemen with expiring contracts.

The Cowboys averaged 136.9 rush yards per game under Alexander, who introduced an unfamiliar scheme to established veterans like Tyron Smith and Zack Martin. Alexander's time as the Cowboys OL Coach also stunted the growth of rookie Left Guard Connor Williams, who finished the season strong once returning to the starting lineup.

The Cowboys allowed 56 sacks this season, 23 of which (41%) came in the six games under Alexander. Colombo had served as Alexander's assistant, believed to be a candidate to run his own OL room at some point.

When that opportunity came sooner than expected, the Cowboys brought back former offensive line coach Hudson Houck to assist Colombo.

A projected starting lineup of Smith, Williams, Frederick, Martin, and La'el Collins is what Colombo and Houck will have to look forward to when the Cowboys offense takes the field in 2019 - along with rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott and fourth-year Quarterback Dak Prescott.

Colombo described himself as the "luckiest guy on the planet," when asked about his opportunity to continue coaching with his former team.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Re-Sign OL Coach Marc Colombo Through 2019" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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