The Dallas Cowboys moved on from a wide receiver that lacked production and became a distraction in his criticism of the team's coaches and personnel. Than they signed Allen Hurns.
Hurns made similar headlines on Wednesday, as the first-year Cowboys receiver called out Scott Linehan's play calling against the Houston Texans. In an interview with ESPN's Josina Anderson, Hurns said that Dak Prescott's second interception was the "worst play call you can make against that coverage".
When asked about his public comments in the Cowboys locker room by Dallas media, Hurns doubled down on the poor decision from Linehan, claiming it was "unfortunate" that the Cowboys ran that play against one of the few two-man looks the Texans gave them.
The result was this ball deflected away from Deonte Thompson and into the arms of Justin Reid.
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Speaking in the Cowboys locker room, Hurns also expanded on the issues this Dallas offense is having. While shouldering some of the blame himself, Hurns put an emphasis on the receivers executing more, the blocking improving, and Prescott taking control of the offense.
Prescott was noticeably changing a lot of the Cowboys plays at the line early in this game, but didn't get the opportunity to on this second interception.
Hurns' frustration is understandable. The FA receiver bet on himself by joining the Cowboys on a two-year deal. Hurns will only be 28-years old at the end of his Cowboys contract, giving him a chance to earn another big deal if he puts up numbers in Dallas.
With Prescott, Elliott, and an elite offensive line, this shouldn't be as hard as it's become.
Though he did catch his first touchdown in this loss to the Texans, Hurns and the entire Cowboys passing attack has been a major struggle. The interception from Prescott highlights this, but running aimless routes with little emphasis on scheming receivers open has been the Cowboys approach in this 2-3 start to 2018.
The Cowboys offense ranks 30th in pass yards per game this season. Hurns' rookie season in 2014 being the exception, the worst his Jaguars passing offense finished was 19th in the league - a team hardly known for stellar quarterback play, and much more so for a defense that presents a monumental challenge to the Cowboys this week.
Moving on from yet another WR calling out the team's play calling is hardly the only thing the Cowboys have to put behind them this week, as Jason Garrett's decision to punt in overtime is something that can linger over a team on the cusp of losing this season to chemistry and poor coaching.
Cutting Allen Hurns, as the team did Dez Bryant, is not a realistic option, and shouldn't be. The best possible outcome is for Linehan to have to continue coaching Hurns, and better yet find ways to get him more involved out wide as the only established pass catcher on this team.
Hurns has caught footballs before, which feels hilariously difficult for the Cowboys right now. As he said, "sometimes we're (the receivers) not put in the best position".
When asked about the communication he'll have with Linehan this week in preparation for the Cowboys home game against the Jaguars, Hurns said that he'll continue to mostly talk with Wide Receivers Coach Sanjay Lal - who can then work with Linehan.
Remembering that it was a 9-7 season a year ago that spurred the Cowboys first wave of coaching firings, in which Lal was brought in to replace Derek Dooley, there won't be too many other places for the Cowboys to assign blame for this season other than Linehan and even Garrett.
The goal of the Cowboys new positional coaches was to bring new ideas and a fresh perspective on Linehan's offense, but as Hurns elaborated on, expecting Lal to have enough say to truly change anything is improbable.
On a team littered with personnel protecting their own jobs rather than doing their job at a high level, Hurns risked quite a bit with his comments to ESPN, but acknowledges that he's also not playing well enough.
Whatever the answer is to how the Cowboys stop the bleeding on offense and get back on track, it better come from an inspired effort at AT&T Stadium this Sunday against one of the league's best defenses.
Cowboys to Use 5th-Year Option on Ezekiel Elliott’s Contract
To nobody's surprise, the Dallas Cowboys intend to exercise the fifth-year option on star Running Back Ezekiel Elliott's contract. This will keep Zeke signed with the Cowboys through the 2020 season.
The deadline for teams to use the options years on the draft class of 2016 is Thursday, May 2nd, just a few days following the 2019 NFL Draft.
Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on the team eventually exercising the fifth-year option on Ezekiel Elliott's contract: "Obviously we're gonna do it.
It's appropriate that Stephen said "obviously," because there is no reason for the Cowboys not to utilize this provision. It's one of the perks of drafting a player in the first round; the option does not apply to any other rookie deals.
Right now, the 2020 option year projects to pay Elliott around $10 million. That is a bargain considering other franchise backs like Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell, and David Johnson are all now averaging $13-$14 million per season.
In fact, it may be more of a discount than Zeke is willing to give. He may very well holdout if the team doesn't give him a new contact closer to his market value.
For all we know, the Cowboys have every intention of doing just that. This move is little more than a formality; a placeholder that prevents Elliott from entering unrestricted free agency in 2020 and secures his rights while a new deal is negotiated.
Connor Williams Adding Size and Strength Huge for Cowboys OL
It's no secret that heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, the book on Connor Williams coming out of Texas was that he didn't have enough length to play tackle in the NFL and didn't have enough bulk to play guard. At least not at first.
It was an issue we saw play out early in the 2018 season as he struggled with some of the more powerful defensive tackles. He struggled so much that the team went to Xavier Su'a-Filo during his injury and for a couple games after he was healthy, thinking they had a better option. After having a bit of time to sit back and watch, Williams came back into the starting lineup with a better feel for that power and was much improved over the last half of the season, including the playoffs. He never relinquished his job again.
Though he played better, it was obvious what his number one offseason focus would be; adding size and strength. According to Dallas Cowboys Vice President Stephen Jones, he's done just that.
Speaking to 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday afternoon, Jones gave us some insight into how Williams is looking this offseason.
Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on offensive lineman Connor Williams, last year's second round pick: "My understanding is that he's taken some huge steps in terms of his strength and size. My understanding is that he's put on some really good weight.
Jones then added some lofty expectations on the second year guard from the University of Texas.
Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on @1053thefan: "I think Connor Williams is gonna be a mainstay in our offensive line for many years to come. ... I think we'll be talking about him just like we do several of the other players on our offensive line.
Connor Williams was already proving himself capable of standing up to powerful defensive lineman as late in the season and in the playoffs, but this is very encouraging to hear as we look to 2019.
Against the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams, Williams and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys interior offensive line had big challenges in front of them. Seattle's Jarran Reed and Los Angeles' Aaron Donald were two of the better defensive tackles in 2018. Donald, is considered by many, the best defensive player in the NFL because of his brute strength that is matched by his quickness.
Against both players, Williams performed well. Not perfect, but well enough to be encouraged about what Williams could bring in 2019. Per Pro Football Focus, he only allowed five total pressures during the playoffs, including one in the divisional round against the Rams. There's a reason that everyone is so high on Williams heading into his second year.
The front office included.
Stephen Jones praise is significant. The Dallas Cowboys feature three All-Pro offensive lineman. To say that "we'll be talking about him just like we do several of the other players on our offensive line" is very high praise. There aren't many teams in the NFL that boast as much talent along the offensive line as the Dallas Cowboys do in Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Travis Frederick. For Jones to think Williams cold be that level of player doesn't sound like generic front office speak.
With a full year under his belt, including two playoff starts, Williams should be confident heading into his second year. Adding strength and weight will help him anchor better against the strong interiors he'll face weekly in the NFL. Getting Center Travis Frederick back in the lineup will help him with the mental aspect of the game.
There's a lot to be excited about with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and the offensive line remains one of those things. How Connor Williams improves from year one to year two will be one of the major storylines throughout the offseason heading toward week one. The Cowboys offensive line remains a focal point for America's Team and all eyes will be on Williams as he looks to make the second year jump.
La’el Collins Has Surgery Ahead of Contract Year
The list of injured Dallas Cowboys players getting surgery keeps getting larger. DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones will welcome La'el Collins to the "surgery recovery" group chat after Collins had a procedure to repair a torn rotator cuff. According to the report from Forth-Worth Star Telegram, Collins suffered the injury at the end of the 2018 season.
La'el Collins expects to be ready for training camp, but don't expect much from him in the upcoming offseason program.
For Collins, this is a very meaningful season. At 25 years old, he's heading into a contract year in 2019. So far, his career has been decent at best. He began playing at guard, where he showed some pretty impressive flashes before moving to right tackle, where he's started since 2017.
Even before it was reported that he would have surgery, many in Cowboys Nation have wondered about his future. The truth is, since he signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015, his career hasn't lived up to the hype. Prior to the 2015 NFL Draft, an off-the-field misunderstanding made every team pass on him. However, he was seen by many as a top prospect in the class and was a projected first round pick.
Although he improved when Marc Colombo took over as the OL coach, Collins has struggled during his time at right tackle. At this point, he hasn't earned a long term deal.
Right now, the Cowboys should see offensive tackle as a need in the NFL Draft. Not a priority one, but definitely one to watch out for in the later rounds. Tyron Smith is 28 years old, but his injury history doesn't look promising at all. I can definitely see this team addressing the lack of depth at the position at some point in Day 3.
This whole discussion raises yet another question. Would the Cowboys trade La'el Collins? I don't think it would happen, but it doesn't sound like a terrible idea either. At the moment, Cameron Fleming is on the roster and he isn't a bad starter. Now granted, he might be a downgrade from Collins. However, if you're able to get a good draft pick in exchange, it's worth considering. Use Fleming as a bridge player between for a younger one down the line.
Connor Williams could also move over to tackle, although I doubt they want to try experiments like this with a young player just like they did with La'el Collins. Let Williams grow as a guard and keep him there.
La'el Collins or not, the Cowboys have a need at offensive tackle and Collins' makes it even more evident. The good news is he expects to be back by training camp and doesn't seem like a huge question mark for week 1 as DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones do.
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