IRVING — Brandon Carr has slowed Demaryius Thomas, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson the past three weeks. But the Dallas Cowboys cornerback faces his biggest challenge this week in Calvin Johnson.The Lions wideout set the NFL record with 1,964 receiving yards last season. He has 33 catches for 492 yards and six touchdowns this season.“This one is more special,” said Carr, who is from Flint, Mich. “He is the best receiver in the league. For my coaches to have confidence to allow me to go out there and challenge him for 60 minutes, it gives me confidence. Now, it’s time to go play and time to have fun.”The past three games, the Cowboys lined up Carr outside on the other team’s best receiver. Thomas had five catches for 57 yards; Garcon had six catches for 69 yards; and Jackson had three catches for 21 yards.“He’s having a heck of a year,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. “He’s doing a great job. He works extremely hard in practice. It just doesn’t come easy. You have to work at what you do and he’s worked from Day One when we got here way back. He played a lot of this technique that he’s really good at.”Carr has 29 tackles, two interceptions and nine pass breakups. Quarterbacks have targeted him 45 times, and he’s given up 20 receptions for 282 yards and a touchdown.“You need all the confidence you can get,” Carr said. “You need all the tools you have learned against a receiver like [Johnson], but my confidence and the confidence of my unit is pretty high right now. We have been playing some solid football the last few weeks. Guys are getting comfortable with the play-calling and comfortable with the scheme in the framework of the defense.”Marvin Austin shapes upJay Ratliff left the building only a week before his No. 90 and his locker went to another defensive tackle. Marvin Austin has taken over both after the Cowboys signed him Tuesday.Austin spent two seasons with the New York Giants after they made him a second-round pick in 2011. He spent two games with the Miami Dolphins this season before his release Oct. 15.“It’s definitely a new beginning and a lot to build on,” Austin said.Austin, listed at 6-foot-2, 312 pounds, still was pouring with sweat a half hour after practice. He admits he is not in football shape.“Not good enough,” Austin said. “To be honest with you just the way they practice and the way they want you to go out there and play, I’ve got to keep working every day to get in shape to go out there and perform.”Receivers slowedCowboys receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin both were limited in practice Wednesday. Austin has been battling a hamstring injury he suffered in a Sept. 22 game against the St. Louis Rams, and Bryant was listed with hamstring and wrist injuries.Defensive end DeMarcus Ware (thigh) did not practice. He rehabbed on the side. But he said he is feeling better and is day-to-day. Defensive tackle Nick Hayden (back) and linebacker DeVonte Holloman (neck) also missed practice.Running back DeMarco Murray (knee) returned to practice after missing last week’s game, though he was limited. Also limited were defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (neck), running back Lance Dunbar (hamstring) and defensive end George Selvie (shoulder).Receiver Dwayne Harris (hip) was a full participant.
Charean Williams, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @NFLCharean