Though they were relatively quiet in free agency this year the Cowboys did make a significant move at defensive tackle. Dallas chose not to re-sign Nick Hayden, who'd started all but one game over the last three years, and instead brought in fifth-year veteran Cedric Thornton from Philadelphia.
Coming into the league undrafted, Thornton spent most 2011 on the practice squad. He became a regular reserve in 2012 as a backup defensive tackle. In 2013, the Eagles switched to the 3-4 scheme and Thornton emerged as a starting defensive end.
As Dallas fans know from our time with the 3-4 defense, Thornton's performance doesn't show up much in stats. He only had one sack in each of the last three years but that hasn't been his focus. As a 3-4 end, Thornton's job has been to occupy blockers to allow guys like Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, and Connor Barwin to attack the quarterback. He has been the Marcus Spears of their scheme.
Dallas thought enough of Thornton's work to give him a four-year, $17 million contract last March. That pays him a Top-15 salary for defensive tackles despite the lack of production on the stat sheet.
The Cowboys clearly believe that Thornton can thrive in their scheme. They could have made the safe and less expensive choice by bringing back Hayden but see this as an upgrade. Remember that Dallas play the Eagles twice every season, so they've spent plenty of time watching Thornton on tape.
One reason the Cowboys like Thornton is perceived versatility. Jason Garrett said the following shortly after Thornton was signed:
“We definitely see him as an interior player, but again in their scheme he’s played all along their defensive line... You see him play as a zero nose. You see him play as a shade nose. You see him play as a three [technique]. You see him play as an end in their 3-4 alignment. He’s been a guy who has a number of different things.”
Nick Hayden was never versatile. He was a true one-technique tackle with little to offer as a pass rusher. Dallas believes that Thornton can be used in more ways and perhaps even replace Tyrone Crawford if needed. Rod Marinelli loves versatility in players, as do all coaches, as it allows them to make optimal packages that maximize everyone's strengths.
If team are focused on on Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence as pass rushers then Thornton could see more one-on-one opportunities, especially if he's playing in the nickel package. I would expect for him to improve on his one-sack average.
The term "breakout" is relative depending on where a player already is and the role they play. For a guy like Thornton it means living up to being paid as one of the 15 best defensive tackle in the game. It means being a consistent starter who makes a visible impact on games far more than Nick Hayden did.
Based on the contract and the break from their recent status as offseason misers, Dallas clearly believes in Thornton's potential.
Report: Amari Cooper Likely out for the Rest of the Preseason
Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Amari Cooper is likely out for the remainder of the preseason according to ESPN's Todd Archer. He is currently dealing with a form of plantar fasciitis that has kept him out of practice since August 6th.
The three-time pro bowler changed life in Dallas last season as the team went 7-2 in it's final nine games after he was acquired to win the NFC East. Cooper isn't worried about any long term effects, though, as this is something he's familiar with.
"I'm not worried about it at all, because I know if it does linger, it doesn't matter," Cooper said. "I had 1,000 yards when I played on plantar fasciitis before."
The Cowboys host the Houston Texans this Saturday in what is known as the "dress rehearsal" game before the regular season. Starters normally play about a half of football to get the juices flowing for when games really count in September. Ideally, the plan would be for Cooper and Dak Prescott to get a rhythm of sorts before the season starts but that will have to wait until the team prepares to take on the New York Giants on September 8th.
However, the good thing here is this issue doesn't seem to be serious and Cooper will be ready for the start of the 2019 season.
Report: Cowboys Agree To Contract Extension With LB Jaylon Smith
The Cowboys are neck-deep in contract negotiations with some of their team's most important players, but it appears they have gotten one key guy signed this afternoon.
ESPN's Todd Archer is reporting that the Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with middle linebacker Jaylon Smith, though the exact terms of the contract have yet to be announced.
The Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with linebacker Jaylon Smith, according to sources. Smith was set to be a restricted free agent after this season but the Cowboys and his representatives started talks in the spring and they ramped up once camp began. Smith, a...
Of course, the Cowboys drafted Jaylon Smith early in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft despite the horrific leg injury he suffered in Notre Dame's college bowl game. Some didn't think Smith would ever recover to be the same player he once was, but in 2018 Smith emerged as an excellent middle linebacker once again. Smith finished the 2018 season with 121 combined tackles and 4 sacks, and has looked just as imposing thus far in the preseason.
Smith regained his athleticism and sideline to sideline speed, while retaining his impressive hit power and sound tackling to become one of the league's best. Combining Smith with Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys have put together arguably the best linebacker group in the NFL.
And now, there's no end in sight for the dynamic duo.
Report: 2 Dallas Cowboys to be Activated off of P.U.P. List
Per a report from ESPN's Todd Archer, the Dallas Cowboys will soon activate Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence off of the Physically Unable to Perform (P.U.P.) List.
"The Cowboys are planning to activate defensive linemen DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford from the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday, according to a source. They will work through individual drills in their first steps on the field before going through full practices. Lawrence had shoulder surgery not long after signing a five-year, $101 million contract in April. Crawford has been working his way through a hip issue that kept him out of the offseason program. Safety Byron Jones (hip) and receiver Noah Brown (knee) remain on PUP."
Todd Archer - ESPN.com
This report comes after DeMarcus Lawrence had offseason shoulder surgery in April and signed his five-year deal making him the highest-paid player in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, at least for now. It looks as if Lawrence will be ready for a week one return.
It's long been believed that Lawrence would be available for week one of the regular season and hasn't suffered any setbacks to this point that should lead you to believe otherwise. With Robert Quinn suspended for the first two games of the regular season and Randy Gregory's status still up in the air (he still hasn't applied for reinstatement), getting Lawrence and Crawford back for the first two weeks of the season becomes instrumental.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive line has looked really good through the first two games of the preseason, but as good as they've been, they'll need Lawrence and Crawford once the regular season starts. Lawrence will slot back in as the left defensive end and Tyrone Crawford will split snaps at right defensive end with Dorance Armstrong and 3-technique defensive tackle with Maliek Collins, Trysten Hill, and Kerry Hyder.
While the additions of DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford will help the defense tremendously, there still isn't a timeline on the return of Pro Bowl Cornerback Byron Jones. Jones has been out since having hip surgery this offseason.
With as good as the Dallas Cowboys defense has looked this offseason, there's reason to believe that they can be even better once each of these guys are back in the lineup full-time. For a defense that was one of the 10 best defenses in the NFL in 2019, they'll need Lawrence, Crawford, and Jones to make the jump into the elite stratosphere of NFL defenses.
With the Dallas Cowboys' eyes set on capturing that sixth Lombardi Trophy, getting Lawrence and Crawford back in time to be ready for the regular season is vital to starting the 2019 season off right.
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