2017 Pepsi Rookie of the Year: Dak Prescott


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Dak Prescott wins rookie of the year award after leading Cowboys to 13-3 record and a playoff berth.

His name is Rayne. He goes by Dak. Now you can call him ROY. After leading the Cowboys to the playoffs, Dak Prescott has been named the 2017 Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year.

Dak threw for 3,667 yards for 23 Touchdowns and only throwing 4 interceptions. He finished the season with 104.9 passer rating and an 81.5 QB rating. Third on both lists behind Matt Ryan and guys like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady (Second in QBR). The poise and mental toughness that Precott showed caught everyone off guard. No one expected this fourth round pick to not only become the Starting QB for America’s team but become the leader and pro bowl caliber player that he became in his first year.

At Mississippi State, Dak played in a shotgun spread offense. Every team passed on him. The Bears and Browns passed on him three times in one round. Even the Cowboys selected Charles Tapper in the fourth before turning in Dak Prescott’s name with the Compensatory pick. 134 players had gone before him, and if you would redraft, maybe he goes to the LA Rams with the number one overall pick they aquired from the Titans.

Dak had 11 games with atleast one TD pass, 5 games throwing 3 Touchdowns. He holds the rookie record for both game and season completion percentage, games of over 100 passer rating, and most consecutive passes without an interception which is also an NFL record of 176. While he was not the best rookie on his team, the value of being at the quarterback position holds weight. The way he carried himself and represented the Cowboys have been astonishing. His poise and prepation for every moment captivated the entire football world. Fans no longer wonder about the QB position of the furture. The Cowboys found a gem.

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NFL Off-season Schedule


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Ezekiel Elliot cemented his status as a Top 5 pick in last year’s NFL Draft at the combine. Who will rise to the occasion this year?

The last game of the 2016 NFL season is to be held Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Unfortunately, your Dallas Cowboys, who were heavily favorited to be here and SuperBowl LII, did not make it. While the players have probably started their vacations, this team has already kicked up their preparation for the 2017 season. It started with an evaluation of the team, both players and coaches. After that, an inventory of what they have and what they need. Last week, scouts were in Mobile, Alabama taking a look at the next crop of talent getting ready to enter the NFL. What is next for the front office and scouting department?

February 6, 2017: The day after the Superbowl marks the beginning of the NFL waiver system. Teams are listed in draft order (win/loss record and playoff position) as to how they set a claim to a player that is waived. This prevents the better teams from just poaching available talent. Again, teams have already evaluated their players and will continue to do so along with montoring who is available on the Waiver Wire.

February 11th in Seattle, Washington; February 18th in Houston, Texas; February 25th & 26th in Washington DC; March 4th in Eden Prairie, Minnesota; and March 11th in Metairie, Louisiana. These are all dates for Regional Combines. Regional combines are smaller groups of players who are eligible for the upcoming NFL draft. There is a saying that if you have talent, the NFL will find you. Some of these players come from small schools that did not make a blimp on major radars, thus not getting an invite to the large combine held in Indianapolis. Most of the same drills will be held. Reminder: college teams will also have prodays.

February 15th: This is the first day an NFL can designate players who they want to keep off limits to other teams by applying a franchise (exclusive or non ezclusive) or transition tag to them. Once a player is tagged, he will be under a one year deal. How much is this worth?  The franchise tag is the average of the top five salaries at a whatever position the player played at; while the transition tag is worth the average of the top 10 salaries at the player’s position. This money is a direct hit to the salary cap. Each team is granted one tag per NFL year.

March 1st: All tags must be submitted to the league by 4:00 PM. This time limit is eastern time and is the  time on all league deadlines.

March 7th: Teams can talk to agents regarding players and come to terms with an tentative agreement.

March 9th: Free Agency officially begins suspending the waiver wire. The Cowboys have 18 players who will hit rhe market, and all of them are unrestricted. Teams can start not only signing players, but also trading players and picks. If a team has a restricted Free agent, that player must have already been given an offer to stay. If not, he becomes unrestricted and can be signed by any team that wants him. If a team wants to sign a RFA, they will have to compensate the current team with a draft pick. At the deadline for the day, all NFL teams must be under the NFL salary cap. The Cowboys are currently $11.3 million over the cap so they do have some work to do. Not really a big deal since they can restructure a few contracts by turning players base salary into bonuses and pushing money back into the contract.

April 5th-26th: Veteran Spring League will start its practices. Yes. There will be real football being played in the off season by real NFL talent. This league is not associated with the NFL, but will give teams a chance to look at possible free agents who were not on an NFL team last year. The league has extended invitations to players such as Johnny Manziel, Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Jalen Sanders. This is an opportunity for some of these players to not only show that they are serious about changing their life but making that nezt step forward. Game times have not been set.

April 21st: This is the deadline for RFA to sign their offer sheets.

April 27th through April 29th: The 2017 NFL Draft will be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

July 22nd: All players who were designated with a franchise or transistion tag can start making deals with teams. Teams have exclusive rights to players that have signed their tag offer until the 10th week of the NFL regular season. If a deal is not met and player has not signed their offer sheet, they must sitout the rest of the season. Both teams and players want to avoid this at all cost.

May and June mark the times for rookie and team mini camps. After that, training camp- where teams start to prepare on the field for the 2017 season. So Cowboys fans, just sit back and try to enjoy this off-season. Rather you stay tuned in for all the transactions and news or not, the return of football will not be too long.

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Addressing Cowboys Pass Rush In The Off-season


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DeMarcus Lawrence was supposed to fix our pass rush problem. Battling a back injury has kept him from being the player Cowboys dreamt of.

After a 13-3 season that saw the Cowboys reclaim the NFC East and return to the play-offs, the offseason is finally upon us. The Cowboys future is certainly bright after two rookies set the league on fire offensively. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot both played at a high level in year one behind this offensive line and the receiving corp picked up their game from last year as they actually had solid QB play in the absence of Tony Romo. The cloud that is hanging over this team still remains its pass rush.

DeMarcus Lawrence was billed as the player who would (at least come close) replace DeMarcus Ware. Lawrence has had 9 sacks since his entry to the league. In that same span, Ware has had 21.5. Lawrence has to be better. Unfortunately the battle with his back has been far greater than the battle of sack leader. For the second straight year he has had offseason back surgery.

The Cowboys have sought to find talent else where, but to no avail. Their most promising rusher can’t stay on the field. After missing 14 games last year, Randy Gregory will miss the entire season this year. Jack Crawford has not taken that next step from being JAG. Their free agent acquistion who was brought in to supplement their pass rush, Benson Mayowa, became their sack leader. Other young acquired talent still needs to develop. David Irving gave them some good minutes, but both him and Mayowa were inconsistent. Mayowa was benched for three games and Irving only had four sacks. An interesting note that out of their combined 10 sacks, 7 came in three games. The Cowboys second leader in sacks, Tyrone Crawford has also battled injuries for the last two years.

The Cowboys had 36 sacks last season. The Kryptonite for this defense is creating pressure off the edges. More talent is needed. Causing a quarterback to hurry his movements and reads are not enough. The Cowboys need Defensive Ends who can get home, all the way to the Quarterback, and do so consistently in about 3.19 seconds (average QB release time before being sacked). This number is an average that has variables such as progressions, type of route, offensive line performance and type of play pre/post snap.  Who is getting there for the Cowboys? Mostly the Defensive Tackles. Players listed as DTs (Note that Irving and T. Crawford are DTs) have 17.5 sacks while pure Defensive Ends had 15.5 sacks last year.

Where do the Cowboys look to for Pass Rush help? Free agency is one way, but this comes with a price- a price that might be too high even after the Cowboys reconstruct some of their contracts. Even then, the only premium talent on the market is Jason Pierre-Paul and Chandler Jones. It seems highly unlikely that the Cowboys would gamble on Dion Jordan, a player with more of a drug issue than Gregory.

This leaves the draft. Mock drafts have the Cowboys being linked with a Defensive End with their 28th pick. Most notably Takkarist McKinley, Carl Lawson or Taco Carlton. I prefer Takk and Lawson as they have proven in college that they have the athleticism to get to the quarterback in that 3.19 seconds. These are the type of athletes that could change not only the game but how other Offenses play you. Teams will chip them with TEs or straight up double team them giving other rushers more of a chance to make a play.

Some of the experts have Tight End as a high priority position in this draft for this team. I disagree. Future Hall of Famer Jason Witten still finds ways to get open on a consistent basis. James Hanna and Geoff Swaim (terrific run blockers) are set to return after their season ending injuries and Rico Gathers will have a year of NFL coaching under his belt after spending the year on the practice squad. The three TEs behind Witten are young and athletic. I say give them time to develop before you draft another Tight End. O.J. Howard, Jake Butt and Evan Engram are all great Tight Ends but would not have the impact as a good Pass Rusher for this team.

Instead, how about not only drafting one at 28th, but also in the second or third round? Even though it is early, players like Duwane Smoot, Tim Williams,  Derek Rivers, Chris Harris, DeMarcus Walker or Tanoh Kpassagnon should be there should the Cowboys choose to invest a premium pick on a second pass rusher on day two of the NFL draft.

The Cowboys have a Top 5 offense, the number one rusher in the NFL and arguably the best offensive line. This offense is built to succeed. The defense on the other hand is ranked 26th in Passing Defense. The fact that they are tops in run defense and 5th in scores allowed suggest that they are only a few players from being a dominant Defense. You have two picks from last year, Jaylon Smith and Charles Tapper that will give them much needed help this year if they are healthy. Adding two more pass rushers and replacing two of their impending free agents in the secondary could make this team just as dangerous on defense that it is on offense. So many events that need to be unrolled before the draft gets here. So much work needing to be done, but one way or another, the Cowboys need two more impactful pass rushers. This draft class is as deep as it has been in a while. All the Cowboys have to do is find them. A task simpler said than done.

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Boys Bag Brice Butler for Conditional Pick


Cowboys chose to go with a young and athletic receiver in Brice Butler than other Veteran options.

Cowboys chose to go with a young and athletic receiver in Brice Butler than other Veteran options.

 

With Dez Bryant being sidelined for a duration of four to six weeks, (Bryant broke a bone in his foot that will prevent him from playing) the Cowboys needed to acquire new talent to help carry the load at the wide receiver position. Tuesday, they did just that and maybe more when they traded a conditional seventh round pick to the Oakland Raiders for Brice Butler. Some do not know who Butler is, as he has been struggling to climb out of the depth chart in Oakland. Who is he and what can he bring to the Dallas Cowboys?

Brice Butler was a seventh round selection by the Raiders in 2013. He spent his senior season playing for the San Diego State Aztecs, as a teammate to current Cowboy Gavin Escobar. Previous to that, he played for the University of Southern California. Butler has not had the success that he had wanted, but works hard and has impressed in the little time that he does see. He looks the part of a go to guy, but has not pieced it together. While the Cowboys were in need of a receiver, Butler was in need as well of a change of scenery and a new opportunity to showcase his talent and skills.  They had other options as veterans like Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks were available, but Cowboys chose to go with Butler.

Physically, Butler is a very gifted receiver. He stands 6’3 inches tall, weighs in at 215 pounds, possesses a 39 inch vertical and was clocked at his pro day at 4.36 in the forty-yard dash. Looking at his college and pro film, he shows that not only can he make tough catches, but he can use his speed to over the top of the defense and get yards after the catch. What I have seen is only a sample size, but it seems like what he needs is more touches. In Dallas, he will get every opportunity.

Terrence Williams will be your primary receiver. Cole Beasley will be in the slot. The question you ask is who will be opposite of Williams?  Cowboys could utilize Escobar or Witten more and try to use their size to the Offense’s advantage. We saw Sunday what a weapon Lance Dunbar can be. And the coaches are still hoping that Devin Street can show what he is capable of doing under bright lights and in an actual game. So there are options. Consider this, though. Williams isn’t the playmaker that Bryant is. He doesn’t command double teams. In quick passing situations, Dunbar can be dangerous, but you don’t want to show that too much with a QB who has had some injury issues from a pass protection standpoint. You need another wide receiver who can come in and hold the defense accountable and be able to make a play if their number is called. With his size and speed, Butler could make an immediate impact on this team.

What exactly did the Cowboys give up for the young wideout? The conditions of this trade is simple. Brice, like any other player can be released at any point and time, but if he is on the roster for week 8 then the seventh round pick will turn into a fifth round pick. Interesting of note, the Raiders will send the Cowboys back a sixth round pick. If Butler doesn’t last that long, then it will just be a loss of a seventh round pick for the Cowboys. Basically, the Cowboys have a total of six games to see what they really have in him.  Three good things about this is: 1) the window. Nothing but upside with little cost. Especially if you consider the compensatory picks the Cowboys will most likely get next year. If he doesn’t pan out, it is just a seventh rounder. The Cowboys cut their seventh round picks this year. Keep that in mind. 2) If he is on the roster, then he must be doing well for the team. Cowboys have depth at WR now, and when Dez comeback, they might have another weapon to put on the field with him. 3) You find serviceable talent and get an additional pick for the price of one as the Raiders would give the Cowboys their sixth round pick. Good dealing by Stephen Jones and front office. Hopefully this is another great find by Will McClay and his staff.

The show must go on. Dez Bryant will be missed. No one can replace his value to this team and his knack for making plays. One would hope; however, that this receiving corps rise to the challenge and gives Tony Romo enough windows and haul in enough passes to keep the Cowboys on track. The league doesn’t take a vacation because your star Wide Receiver is out. The Cowboys head to Philadelphia next week to play another NFC rival, then the Falcons come flying in to AT&T Stadium the next week followed by the Saints. This is going to be a difficult time, but true heroes turn trials into triumph. Lets see how heroic this Cowboys team can be.

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Cowboys Players Who May Have Breakout Seasons


DeMarcus Lawrence is set to make a name for himself in this league.

DeMarcus Lawrence is set to make a name for himself in this league.

It has been a good off-season for the Dallas Cowboys. They ended getting three first round caliber players in the draft process, signed Greg Hardy to improve their pass rush, resigned their head coach, defensive coordinator, and offense play caller. They also resigned a number of their own players. The most notable was Dez Bryant. With most of the front office off-season done and training camp being a week away, football is getting closer and closer. Many players have put in some hard work this off-season with hopes of getter better this year. Who do you think will have that break out season this year?

It would be all too easy to mention a player like Joseph Randle to have an amazing season. Randle will most likely take over for DeMarco Murray and should rush for over 1,000 yards rushing this year. But what about players who will be playing in their same role? Which Cowboys will take that next step? The three names that come to mind for me are Cole Beasley, Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence.

Cole Beasley is the slot receiver for the Cowboys. Last year, he racked up 420 yards receiving and scored four times. The more tape you see on Beasley, the more you see his upside. Beasley could easily get 800 yards this year. He runs great routes and seems to always be open. Beasley has the speed to turn short routes into long plays and the quickness to elude defenders. Pro Football Focus (PFF) noted that Cole forced an average of .77 missed tackles per catch last season. That is the best in the NFL amongst all wide receivers. The 5’8 baller from Little Elm might do big things for this Cowboys offense in 2015.

On defense, it is a toss-up between DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford. Crawford has been in the League since 2012, but only got three sacks to his credit.  That number should change. Not only is he getting better, but he now has better people around him as well. DeMarcus Lawrence is in his second year in the League. Like Crawford, his alma mater is Boise State. He is both naturally and physically gifted. That is why the Cowboys traded up to get him. Sadly, a broken foot sidelined Lawrence for 9 weeks of the regular season. When he did get his shot, it took him some time to adjust and get his feet under him. It was apparent, however, the talent was there. He proved that once the Cowboys got into the playoffs. Lawrence had sacks in both the Detroit and Green Bay games and helped seal the deal against the Lions. Cowboys are hoping that he continues to develop and be the player that they know he could be. Lawrence had learned new pass moves and put on some weight in the off-season. His hard work can be seen. So many people are talking about unleashing the Kraken and the pass rushing prodigy Randy Gregory, but don’t forget about Tank Lawrence.

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Training Camp: Risers of the Challenge


Of the players expected to step up and have a good year, is third year running back, Joseph Randle.

The Dallas Cowboys will be leaving for Oxnard on Tuesday. By Thursday, July 30, they will be having their first camp practice. Training Camp is the place where all your hopes and dreams begin to form. The real work begins and you start to build something special for the upcoming season. Excitement builds, for veterans and rookies alike. Everybody is ready for the season to start. There will be some players who will be asked to step up and make an impact on this team. Rather that is in a starter role or not, the role that they take on can prove to pay huge dividends for the team in the 2015-16 season.

Gavin Escobar has been a known commodity for a couple of years, but his production has not matched what we all thought it would be. True, there is only a certain amount of targets a fifth or sixth option can have, but there are things that he can do to improve. The main thing is his run blocking ability. The coaching staff needs to trust that he can handle all assignments given to him, especially when they are in the 12 formation. If he can block and be the receiving target that he is, the offense is at an advantage.
Escobar has only gotten 18 receptions on 28 targets in his first two seasons. All but four of those receptions has resulted in a first down or touchdown. Gavin seems poised to be a player that Romo trusts and is willing to give more opportunities to. Not only that, but Witten is 33 years old and heading into his 13th season at Tight End. At 6’6, 260 pounds, Gavin is a mismatch for most defenders on size alone. Again, he will have to show in camp that he can be counted on in the run blocking game to merit more playing time that.

Sometimes a challenge arises through situations. The situation with players suspensions have created an opportunity for some players. Jasper Brinkley and Damian Wilson are two players that will have to step up for this Defense. Ironically, neither player was with the team last year. Wilson will be in his first season in the NFL. He played for the University of Minnesota last year. Brinkley on the other hand played for the Minnesota Vikings. With Rolando McClain being suspended for four games, the Cowboys will look to them to help with the third linebacker position. The coaches have been preparing Wilson for the possibility of playing early and often since the mini-camps. Remember how he and Hitchens were used at various times during nickel drills? Similar to how they treated Hitchens last year, this staff has thrown a number of different sets and plays at Wilson with success. He has shown promise. Brinkley has been in this league long enough that he and the staff knows what he excels at. His calling card is his ability to stop the run. Last season, Brinkley had a 9.4% run stopping percentage and a 20.7% running game tackling efficiency rating. Though he doesn’t get a ton of snaps, he makes the best of them and can be counted on to make plays.

While four games isn’t that long, the more they adjust and absorb the better they will play. Who knows when the Cowboys might need them. Lee was lost for the season last year and McClain is coming back after he had two concussions and other nagging injuries. Then you look at the “what if” with him. What if McClain fails another drug test? McClain would get a 10 game suspension. The Cowboys need this entire linebackers corps to play solid football and match some of the intensity that Rolando McClain brought last year.

The name Morris Claiborne gives Cowboys fans mixed feelings. Morris Claiborne is in a contract year. Though he has always battled injuries, he has the talent needed to be a shutdown corner. Mo just doesn’t seem to be able to piece it all together. In 3 years Morris Claiborne has missed 19 games. He has not been able to stay healthy and live up to the hype of his draft selection or the expectations coming out of Louisiana State University. The Cowboys want him to make that step and be the player that they scouted. Claiborne wants it also. Claiborne surprised everyone except his self when he was able to participate, a little, in mini-camps. He has done an excellent job of getting back right after the offseason surgeries. Claiborne had to have a surgery to fix the torn patella tendon in the shoulder, and another surgery to his knees. As of now, he’s letting his work do the talking, but he knows this is a big year for him. Just how big does he want it to be?

Much talk has been given to the Cowboys running game. Rightly so. Last season, we had the best running back in the NFL who have to get the second most rushing yards in the League. With the departure of DeMarco Murray all eyes have been placed on Joseph Randle. Honestly we will not get to see fully what Randle can do on the field during training camp. there is only so much a running back and show you and non contact drills and limited contact. Last season, though his carries were miniscule, we saw his vision and expolosion when he rushed for 6.7 yards a carry. Being a good running back requires more than that. What made Murray so good and have the type of season he had in 2014 was his great offseason approach, both mentally and physically. Murray was mentally ready and knew where he needed to be and what assignments his line had. Also, he was physically ready to take on the punishment of being a workhorse running back in this system. The Cowboys will not employ the same strategy with Randle, Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar, but Randle needs to prepare his self just like Murray did. He needs to have the mental focus and willpower to make the most of each carry an opportunity. While 29 will not be behind number 9, the impact of a good running game remains. The commitment to run the ball will not change as the Cowboys continue to try to have a balanced attack.

The Dallas Cowboys are also in the need of a return specialist. Many have this opportunity going to whoever wins the fifth receivers position. The two players who have stood out the most are Lucky Whitehead and Antwan Goodley, but what if a player like Deontay Greenberry wins the job. What will happen then? Deontay is not return specialist. Lache Seastrunk was added to the team for training camp and does possess the athleticism to merit consideration. This is highly doubtful since the Cowboys will not carry four or five running backs into the season. Another option is using one of the veteran players like Cole Beasley or Lance Dunbar. It will be interesting who steps up to win the job and take over the production from the departed Dwayne Harris.

The Cowboys pass defense will need to improve as well. they only tallied 28 sacks and gave up 4,031 yards of offense. Players like Anthony Spencer, George Selvie and Henry Melton are gone. New players like Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory will be looked at to lead this new group of rushmen against NFL passers. Being close is not enough, in sacks nor interceptions. It is good to get pressures and pass reflections, Marinelli wants sacks and turnovers. This is the quickest way to turn an average defense into a good one. Cowboys are optimistic that the changes they have made will improve not just there pass rush, but their overall defense.

The Cowboys went 12-4 last season and was a few plays (really one catch)away from being in the NFC Championship game. The only thing that is pertinent this year is that they build off that season and progress. This will take hard work and a strong dedication. While there are some individuals who will be called on to step up, it will take a team effort to have the success that they want. The goal is SUPER bowl. Training Camp is the first step towards that lofty prize of the Lombardi Trophy.

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Scandrick, Rewarded Again


Scandrick wasn’t happy that Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr will be making more money than he him this year…

When you think about Cowboys, you think about Country Music. Jake Owens has a song stating that “We all want what we ain’t got.” Don’t tell that to Orlando Scandrick. He wanted more money, and now he has it. Scandrick wanted a salary increase via an extension this year. He wasn’t concerned about staying here longer, he had four years left on his deal. His issue is that in 2015 both Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr will be making more money than he would. Somehow, he felt under-valued. Is that the case?

The Dallas Cowboys have rewarded Scandrick. It started off in 2011 when Scandrick, our third corner back at the time, just played the slot. They saw something in him. They saw his value. They ended up rewarding him for something that he had not yet earned. Cowboys gave Scandrick a 5 year, 15 million dollar extension. This deal consisted of 10 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of 3 million dollars.

Scandrick later overcame competition and supplanted himself as the Cowboys best corner. He made good on their gamble. Yet, the Cowboys rewarded him again. In 2013 he received a two-year, six million dollar extension. That same year, his contract was restructured to give him 3.75 million dollars. One of the things about a restructure is that it pushes money up into your contract. What you were going to make later is changed. This is why he was only going to make 1.5 million dollars.

Have the Cowboys mindsight changed? No. They have believed in Scandrick. They continue to do so. No one complains when you get more of a good thing. Scandrick agreed to all these terms. A person shouldn’t be so quick to see what you presently do not have, that you don’t see the benefits you have already received.

Scandrick entered a minor holdouIt, letting Cowboys management know that he was unhappy. Cowboys requested that he join the club and that they would look into his contract. Orlando Scandrick reported back to the facilities and now has been rewarded again. Another year was added to his contract. Not only will he be guaranteed 4 million dollars, but a total of 9.5 million dollars have been added to his contract over the next five years.

For certain reasons, the Cowboys gave in to Scandrick. The depth at Corner is lacking. You have an average corner in Brandon Carr, a rookie in Byron Jones, Morris Claiborne is still recovering from knee surgeries, and the competition will soon start for your fifth corner spot. Getting a quality, free agent corner, worthy of starting isn’t cheap. Then look to the afore-mentioned Brandon Carr. It isn’t a sure thing either. The Cowboys would rather give him an extra $2 million here or there than to have him sit out. They would rather him be here, happy, as a leader of this defense.

The Cowboys are building something here. They believe that these are the “Days of Gold” for the Romo and Witten Era. The key to this team reaching expectations lie with this defense.

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Prime Position Battles: Defense


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The Dallas Cowboys defense showed improvements last year. This was a pleasant surprise. Rod Marineli deserves his fair share of credit, but the players took on this challenge and answered the call. New Defensive Coordinator, replacing your top two pass rushers, and not signing any big time free agent to bolster up the pass rush. This defense went from historically bad, and ranked last in 2013 to a ranking of 19th in 2014. This defense knows that is has the potential to be even better this year. With Organized Team Activities starting May 26, the work needed to accomplish that goal starts now.

As if overnight, the Cowboys have rebuilt this Defensive line. No more Anthony Spencer, George Selvie, and as of now, no Josh Brent. In the Cowboys mind, no problem. So pencil in Mincey and Lawrence at ends to start. Nick Hayden and Crawford in the middle. What is every bit of important, is having a solid rotation to keep these guys fresh without losing production. Depth isn’t an issue. The 2015 draft brought in Randy Gregory and Ryan Russell. Ben Gardner, Ken Bishop, Kenneth Boatright, and Devon Coleman look to impress and show why they deserve to be in this rotation. Chris Whaley and Jack Crawford are coming back healthy. Whaley sat out last year and has already caught the eye of the coaching staff and personnel. Crawford got the chance to play last year, but suffered a broken thumb and was put on Injured Reserve. Crawford has versatility and he knows what coaches expect from him.

What we know is that the Kraken, Greg Hardy will have to miss time due to a suspension that he is seeking to get reduced. DeMarcus Lawrence finished the year on a high note. The best defensive end last year was Jeremy Mincey. Rookies Gregory and Russell are excited to showcase their athleticism.

Injuries were a major concern even before the season started. The Sean Lee  injury was the most crippling blow to this team, but they managed to salvage enough talent to keep afloat. Anthony Hitchens proved to be a play maker in his rookie season. He stepped in and played valuable time and all three linebacker positions. With Bruce Carter and Justin Durant now gone via free agency, new Cowboys will look to earn their keep and contribute to the team. Not only that, but the depth we build just might come in handy. Veteran Free agent acquisitions Jasper Brinkley and Andrew Gachkar would logically have the upper hand against rookies Damien Wilson and Mark Nzeocha. Brinkley is a great run stopper and Gachkar shows strong fundamentals. Experience versus athleticism. Gachkar has been solid on special teams. To make this team, the rookies will have to prove that they can be an asset in the coverage game. Kyle Wilber, who was brought in for the 3-4, had some nice plays last year. His development will be key to what role he has this year. A player with the most to prove is Cameron Lawrence. The four-year player has only been a special teams contributor. It is obvious that the team is looking to get more athletic at each LB position.

The secondary is undeniably the Cowboys biggest room for improvement. I am not sold on either safety spot moving forward. J.J. Wilcox showed flashed of being a solid player. Naturally, he is still learning.  Trusting  film sessions and letting the game come to him will make him a better player. Barry Church is still giving up entirely too many big plays. In this defense, the Safety can not afford to lose ground. He is going to be in coverage, and last year, he proved to be a liability.  The Cowboys roster doesn’t offer much help. Jeff Heath has been the back up for the squad. Nothing special can be said of his play. CJ Spillman is versatile, but not really good at anything except special teams. He will never be more than what he is. The undrafted rookies that were signed have a solid skill set. Tim Scott sees the field well and closes on the ball quickly while Ray Vinopal plays with a chip on his shoulder. They will get their chances to showcase their talents come training camp.

Your starting Cornerbacks might have contract concerns, but they are the best you have. Byron Jones will get his chance to play Corner, and he may be one of the best coverage guys on this team. Morris Claiborne is still recovering from knee surgeries. If all goes well, he might be ready by training camp.  Tyler Patmon will try to earn snaps like he did last year, and newcomers Jason Wilson, udfa from Central Michigan, and Corey White, free agent who played for the Saints last season will also compete for that fourth corner spot. White is believed to have the skills needed to work out of the slot. A slot receiver has more route combinations and field to work with. Defending the slot has become a huge priority for Defenses. Lately, Cowboys have put Scandrick, their best corner there. If White can produce, this frees up Scandrick to match up elsewhere.

The Dallas Cowboys have done a great job of bringing in the best talent possible. While their offense is still explosive, they understand that creating stops and turnovers is crucial in determining the winner of a game. The Cowboys will have to be tough, physical and mentally prepared. The competition that we see in camp will set the foundation for the entire season.

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Position Battles on Offense


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Organized team activities has not even started yet and people already coming out with their 53 man rosters. admittedly this can be fun and excitement of the Cowboys is officially back. We just witnessed the rookies getting their first taste of the NFL and go through practices and film/ training sessions with the coaching staff. There is not a Cowboys fan anywhere that is not in anticipation of September 13th, the Cowboys first regular season game. wow this is understandable, we still have a ton of work to do. For starters, the inside competition will start first. In what ways? Position battles.

The main competition will be who will get the majority of the snaps at running back. Will it be Joseph Randle, Ryan Williams or Darren McFadden? At the current time, Cowboys are electing to keep the competition in-house. Has Ryan Williams improved his pass protection over the last year? Many are high on Williams because of the player he was coming out of Virginia Tech. He has the talent needed to be a featured running back but health has derailed his career. Williams has not played a game since week 5 of the 2012 NFL season. Is this the year he gets on track and run away with the job of Cowboys main threat? Some point to the contract details and signing bonuses between Williams and McFadden as an indicator to who has the upper hand. All that says is that Williams has the better agent. The rest will be handled on the field.

The position battle at left guard is sure to be a nice one. The Cowboys already had, with little debate, the best offensive line in the NFL. It only got stronger through the draft process. La’el Collins went undrafted due to a murder investigation that he wasn’t involved in. This Top 15 Talent decided to come to Dallas to be a part of something legendary. Now his task is to supersede the last player that the Cowboys signed undrafted at guard, Ronald Leary. Leary has shown heart and character battling veterans like Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernardeau and his own injuries. He earned his spot and has had a huge role in the success of this team.

The Cowboys also drafted tackles Chaz Green and Laurence Gibson. Green could very well be the heir apparent at RT. He needs to improve his strength, but has the skill set and athleticism to be a solid starter in this league. He is also versatile which comes in handy when picking which lineman can contribute to your team. Gibson is the player that worked out for Mark Columbo, offensive line assistant and former Cowboy. Even after taking a tackle early in draft, the impression Gibson left on the staff merited a selection. Players like Ryan Miller, Darion Weems and John Wetzel will need to continue to improve, both physically and mentally or they could be left behind.

Tyler Clutts was released so the Cowboys need to find another Fullback. The two that they have on their roster now are Ray Agnew and Jed Collins. Agnew is a strong down hill blocker while Collins is the more dimensional zone blocker. He can block from the I- formation or the off set. Having a solid lead blocker is important to a running game. They must act with power and precision. They need to quickly identify their assigned man and work in unison with the line and the runner to accomplish  goal of a successful play call. Expectations for the fullback is not just run block but to perform effectively on passing downs as well, be it staying in to protect Romo or running a route for a short gain. Whoever can have the most impact on this team as a football player will get the job.

The Cowboys spent not just one draft pick, but one next year as well to grab Geoff Swain, Tight End from the University of Texas. This is yet another example of where the Cowboys are thinking smart. Two things they know for certain. Jason Witten isn’t getting younger and James Hanna is in his contract year. Has he proved that he can be the player that the Cowboys need? If not, the Cowboys will not think twice about letting him in go. If this is the case, I am sure he will go on to bigger things like former backups Anthony Fasano and Martellus Bennett.  What about Gavin Escobar? He is a great target and a huge receiving threat (9 catches, 105 yards and 4 Touchdowns), but are the Cowboys using him enough? Is his lack of blocking ability hurting his opportunity? He is one of the players that I want to see more of. Rookie Ray Hamilton will also be in camp trying to earn a spot on this team.

Not to be lost in the shuffle is the replacing of Dwayne Harris. Harris left via free agency to the New York Giants. He was more than just our fourth receiver. He was a gunner on the return team and returned both kicks and punts. He was a versatile player that will be missed. He didn’t have that many touches at receiver, especially with Dez Bryant, Terrence Williams and Cole Beasely ahead of him, but the team trusted him if his number was called. A handful of undrafted rookies and a few second year guys will be looking to step up. Devin Street doesn’t offer too much from a special teams perspective, but he runs great routes and has solid hands. He didn’t get to see much action, but was on the active roster each game. Chris Boyd will be looking to make the transition from practice squad to the 53 man roster. Boyd is a big receiver. With improved route running, he could be a dangerous weapon. Rookies like Antwan Goodley, Ronald Lucky Whitehead, George Farmer and Deontay Greenbury will try to earn their keep by winning the return job. Farmer is a physical and athletically gifted wideout. Goodley played at Baylor University and can be a solid weapon. Lucky might have the advantage in the return game, but he will have to show he can compete on a far greater level then what he was accustomed to. This will be the fastest way to make the team. During all drills, they will need to maintain their focus and rise to the occasion. They are competing against other players for the position they play and opposing corners trying to earn a spot as well.

The health of Tony Romo is a huge concern. The hopes of a franchise lay with his arm and on his surgically repaired back. He has stated that he is feeling as good as he has felt in years. Just thinking about this offensive line must do wonders to his mental health, but we know that it only takes one hit to change the outlook. So with that in mind, the back up quarterback position will be one of emphasis. Dustin Vaughn or Brandon Weeden? Weeden failed to capitalize on all the preparation he received filling in for an injured Romo. He had the majority of reps in training, and then the starters reps each Wednesday. Given the opportunity to reveal his grasp of this offense and confidently lead this team to a victory, he failed. Weeden threw for 183 yards, 1 TD, with 2 interceptions and a passer rating of 55.5 on the way to a 28-17 loss. The most prepared backup in the league couldn’t get the job done. Dustin Vaughn will get his chance this year. Vaughn made the roster and spent every game learning and soaking up any information that would help him become a better player. He saw the good decisions and bad decisions and got schooled on how to handle certain situations. Learning from the sideline is a helpful thing, but come OTAs and Training Camp, he will be tested to see if he can become a player the Cowboys can count on in the worst case scenario. He has all the tools that you need: strong arm, accurate, poised, ample mobility and toughness. This battle means more to Vaughn as he is trying to show the Cowboys that he can be the guy once Romo hangs up his holsters.

OTAs begin May 26. The coaches can finally get to see the picture they have been working on since that loss in Green Bay. Cowboy fans are ready. After a long off-season, the Cowboys should be ready as well.

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Cowboys Not Waiting On Purple Jesus


Adrian Peterson is a great talent, But Cowboys believe that they can be productive without a premier running back.

 

The Dallas Cowboys are making headlines again. Thoughts of making a trade involving their first round pick next year are the topic of discussion. No one mentioned Adrian Peterson, but that was what the media jumped to conclusion to and what many will have you believe. No one mentioned that the Vikings are not interested in trading Adrian Peterson for one pick. No one mentioned that the Cowboys said that they would consider it, as it being an option not the plan.

Adrian Peterson is a phenomenal football player, an All-world talent. He has been something special since his days in Palestine, Texas where his legend begun. Stories where he was on defense, he would beat his man, crush the quarterback so hard that they caused a fumble and would take the ball 60 or 70 yards the other way for a touchdown. With in 20 yards of him taking off, players just stopped chasing him. His father saw it in him early, hence the nickname “All Day.”

In college, he was an instant star the moment he stepped onto the field in Norman, Oklahoma. His freshmen year, Peterson carried the ball 339 times rushing for 1925 yards and 15 touchdowns. Injuries might have derailed the future All-American and Heisman Finalist, but he never rushed for less than 1,000 yards in either of his three seasons at Oklahoma. He was fast, quick, powerful and unstoppable. The scary thing is, he still is. The six-time pro bowler and three-time All-Pro will most likely finish top five in rushing yards once he hangs up his jersey. Peterson is greatness.  But greatness has its price.

In the next three seasons, Peterson is slotted to make $44.25 million dollars. The 30-year-old running back is halfway through a six year deal that was worth $86.28 million dollars with $36 million guaranteed. To keep his services in Minnesota, Peterson’s team is reportedly asking for another $25 million in guaranteed money over two or three years. Honestly ask yourself is this the financial flexibility that the Cowboys want? If the Cowboys really wanted to sign a premier running back, why not keep the one you had for more than half of what Peterson wants?

We rave about this offensive line. We talk about its potential to be dominant, to be great. Not just this year, but for a decade. That would be historic. To keep three or four pro bowl caliber type of players will take financial flexibility. Tony Romo will need this line to help prevent further injury to himself and prolong his career. Hopefully, the Cowboys can find a suitable replacement with Romo still on roster. You don’t want history to repeat itself and be wandering around the NFL without a QB.  Need I remind you, the post Troy Aikman years saw a win percentage of 41% and one playoff berth.  Until then, a healthy Romo is our best shot at winning a Super bowl.

Consider also the fact that when running backs can be found anywhere, many want to over pay and mortgage a part of their future when a capable running back can suffice.

A capable running back is currently on the Cowboys roster. In a sample size of touches, Joseph Randle produced for this team last year. Randle had 51 carries for 343 yards. That is an average of 6.7 yards a carry. He has earned his chance. The notion that he can’t be the work horse since he haven’t been is insane. I suppose that Aaron Rodgers couldn’t lead the Packers since Brett Farve was doing it previously. A super bowl and MVP later, and he is one of the greatest quarterbacks of this generation. The Cowboys had a good running back. He is no longer here. Next man up. Give Randle a shot. Have we forgot that he produced in college for Oklahoma State? Take his 2011 and 2012 seasons. Randle rushed for 2,633 yards and had 38 touchdowns. He has been a productive starter before. Randle has made some mistakes off the field (drugs, violence and theft). He has acknowledged them and is currently moving forward. Let us not be hindered by our mistakes but brought back on track by them. Let us learn and grow from them to be better people.

Darren McFadden was also brought in. Will he replace the production of Murray? No. But he can contribute. He can add to the running game and provide something that we haven’t seen lately. Run DMc still has some speed a burst about him. Again, he will be playing behind a great offensive line. Where cracks become alleys and alleys become highways. Why not let a guy with his pedigree be unloaded against opposing teams? Let him get loose around the edge and see what happens. Trust what you have built. Before you go grocery shopping, check your pantry to see what you have. You could very well have enough for a feast.

No one saw DeMarco Murray having the success he had last year. The change came when the Cowboys made a commitment to the running game. Not the runner, the running game. They knew that a balanced attack is the most dangerous strategy on offense. This won’t change. The next running back or group of running backs will inherit this line and get every chance to produce at a high level, either separately or collectively. The opportunity is there. Now is their time to run with it.

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