[pull_quote_right]Yeah it was a pretty scary situation my freshman year. I didn't know what was going on. It came really quick, you know.[/pull_quote_right]On April 19, 2015, recently signed linebacker of the Dallas Cowboys, Andrew Gachkar sat down with Bobby, Jared and Josh on Cowboys Cast to talk a little about his life before signing with Dallas and his role moving forward.
If you haven't listened to the show yet, you can find it at listen.cowboyscast.com/ep2
Bobby (@SportsByDallas): Andrew, How are you doing, man?
Andrew (@theGACH): I'm doing good. I'm having a good Sunday, and I'm on my way back down to Dallas right now to get started for the first day of me being a Cowboy.
Bobby (@SportsByDallas): Wow, that's great. So you're coming from San Diego and this is I think the most crucial question to see how Cowboys Nation receives you. So coming from San Diego, into Dallas, Whataburger or In-N-Out?
Andrew (@theGACH): You know what? I have tweeted about Whataburger, and I do like Whataburger, but I also like In-N-Out. But I honestly would choose Smash Burger.
Bobby (@SportsByDallas): Oh! There you go. Smash Burger's a good call. We've got former Cowboys running a bunch of those franchises out here, actually. Leonard Davis, Colombo and a couple of other guys.
So let's jump right into this. In the discussions you had with the team leading up to this point, what's your understanding of your role heading into this season? You know, from your time in San Diego you had special teams proficiency, but are you coming in here looking to fight for one of the starting linebacker spots or what's your understanding of what's coming into 2015?
Andrew (@theGACH): Oh, absolutely! I did a good job playing linebacker last year and speaking with the team, I think my role is definitely to find my niche in the linebacking core. They're gonna give me, I'm sure, every opportunity to try and fight for a starting role. Where that is, I'm not sure yet.
Obviously, with Rich Bisaccia I definitely have a role in the special teams game and that's kind of where I started my NFL career off but, definitely I'm gonna be fighting for a starting role on defense.
If not there then maybe a nickel situation like I was with the Chargers. Wherever I can find my spot is where I want to help the team, honestly. That's really the main goal is giving the team exactly what my best abilities are to help them win.
Josh (@JoshWingate_302): Let's say May 1, Dallas is looking at a second round, and they pick a linebacker the first round, does that change your mentality for the 2015/2016 seasons?
Andrew (@theGACH): It doesn't change my mentality at all. I mean, you come in prepared, you know. Rookies aren't always ready to play or an injury happens here and the entire season completely changes, you know what I mean? So, I'll always be prepared. I mean that's always been my role the last four years. Just be prepared, be ready.
That's what happened to me last year. We got to about game three and then from then on I played the entire season. So, however it works out, it works out. I'm just excited for the opportunity to be a Dallas Cowboy, and I keep getting better at my position and I'm excited to show the fans exactly how I can play.
Jared (@Jared_Katz30): Hey Gach. So we know that Dallas jumped on you fairly quickly in free agency so did you really get a chance to talk with any other teams, or were you looking to come to Dallas right away?
What was that whole process like for you?
Andrew (@theGACH): I think me and my wife knew in the beginning that Dallas was definitely going to be one of the areas we wanted to go to. We definitely had five or six other teams that would like me there.
It came down basically in the end to New England and Dallas and with the same offers on the table, we really felt like Dallas was gonna be a good fit for us. My wife being from Dallas and a couple of coaches on the staff and already knowing them; It was really gonna be a good fit for me.
Bobby (@SportsByDallas): Now there is one thing that Cowboys fans already, without having seen you play a snap with a star on your helmet yet, there's one thing Cowboys fans can know for sure about you Andrew, and that's you're one tough son of a gun.
Alright, it takes real toughness to play on a special teams unit to begin with, but it's also pretty incredible that you managed to continue your football career after a pretty serious health scare your freshman year at Missouri.
Can you talk about what happened there and your process of recovery just to get back to playing football at Missouri, much less make it to the NFL?
Andrew (@theGACH): Yeah it was a pretty scary situation my freshman year. I didn't know what was going on. It came really quick, you know. I was playing some basketball one day and I just, later that afternoon I'm in the hospital for a good month after that and had a bunch of surgeries and it wasn't fun.
Coaches seeing me afterwards, being like 180lbs, not ever thinking I'd... Not playing football was in the question. We had no idea.
So it was definitely a life changing experience but then I actually came back later that year - probably six months later - and it wasn't the season I exactly wanted, you know. But I eventually got over it and moved on from the situation.
Josh (@JoshWingate_302): I heard you have a newborn and how much Red Bull are you drinking so far?
Andrew (@theGACH): I got a lot of time off right now, so it's not too bad. She's actually a really good baby. She sleeps throughout the night and she doesn't cry that much. She may have like one period a day where she's crying...
Bobby (@SportsByDallas): You're a lucky man, Andrew.
Andrew (@theGACH): I'm pretty lucky. Yeah, I think we are.
Jared (@Jared_Katz30): Obviously we have to ask you the big draft question: who would you take first overall between Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, if you were the Buccaneers?
Andrew (@theGACH): I guess if I'm the Bucs, I'd probably take Jameis Winston. But I guess I can't say that I'm too convinced on that.
I'm not a draft expert or anything like that but if I had to say, he's probably the most pro-ready looking quarterback out of them. But I'm not sure how ready quarterbacks are coming out of college anyway, so good luck to them, I guess. I don't really know.
Jared (@Jared_Katz30): Good point.
Bobby (@SportsByDallas): Well here, let's jump on something a little bit different.
I know just from checking your Twitter and following you on there, and for those of you who want to go follow him it's @theGACH - I know from following you there, you seem to be a pretty big avid TV watcher during the offseason.
So what are you and the wife watching right now?
Andrew (@theGACH): Yeah, we are. We've been keeping up all of our... I mean, every show we watch usually is on Netflix. Couple of weeks ago we finished out the (House of) Cards season and we keep up with our Scandal every episode. Now we're just starting the Game of Thrones back up. We're big fans of Homeland too.
Andrew (@theGACH): Not this season, no. We kind of put that on hold because we're moving and stuff.
What's your game day playlist sound like, Andrew; what do you listen to to get pumped up before a game?
Andrew (@theGACH): I'm a little weird, I guess. I don't listen to that much music before games. I'm more of a levity guy. I'm telling jokes and stuff in the locker room and I'm keeping it real light. That's kind of how I am. I used to - back in high school - be banging my head against lockers listening to music and stuff but then I figure, you know what? You're just wasting energy. Just save it for the game.
Bobby (@SportsByDallas): So then I guess it's just the thought of being able to throw Eli Manning to the ground that's enough to get you pumped up? You don't need to worry about music.
Andrew (@theGACH): Exactly. I like to be loose, and then get serious once that game starts. I mean I'll listen to what everyone has in the locker room but I'm not picky. I'm more of a country guy anyway and most of the time they're not...
Bobby (@SportsByDallas): Hey, well that'll fit here, man.
Jared (@Jared_Katz30): Sure will.
Josh (@JoshWingate_302): What kind of music do you listen to, as far as country... who's your artist right now?
Andrew (@theGACH): Well I got Florida Georgia Line on in the car right now. Well, it's kind of on silent but I'm more of a today's country kind of thing. My wife turned me on to it about ten years ago anyways.
But yeah, I like Blake Shelton and stuff like that.
Bobby (@SportsByDallas): You sound like you got a great wife, man. She's from Dallas. She's getting you turned on to the right music already. I think you've got a keeper there.
Andrew (@theGACH): Oh yeah, she's pretty special.
Bobby (@SportsByDallas): Andrew, we've just about got a few seconds left here, but I know everybody in Dallas is really excited to have you here.
We've all kind of been checking out the game film, we've seen you shoot that gap and get past the guards. So I know we're all excited to see what you can do on the football field.
But best of luck this season and here's to Super Bowl number six.
Andrew (@theGACH): I appreciate you guys having me on. I'm excited.
Be sure to follow Andrew Gachkar on Twitter at @theGACH and give him a warm welcome to Dallas!
PFF Ranks Cowboys Run Defense 13th In The NFL
The Cowboys duo of young linebackers took the NFL by storm in 2018.
Rookie Leighton Vander Esch and former second round pick Jaylon Smith played well above expectations, as for the first time in years Dallas did not face a significant drop off in defensive production when Sean Lee was out and injured.
These young linebackers are the cornerstone of a run defense which should be among the league's best going forward, and Pro Football Focus agrees. Well, somewhat agrees.
PFF ranked all 32 run defenses heading into the 2019 season, slotting the Cowboys 13th overall. Better than half the league, but not quite top 10.
PFF's reasoning behind this ranking certainly makes sense, as they credit the young linebacker duo without mentioning much of what will be in front of them helping to stop opposing running games.
"The Cowboys’ run defense begins and ends with the league’s best young linebacker duo. Leighton Vander Esch ranked third in run-stop percentage as a rookie while Jaylon Smith checked in at 29th."
The playoff loss in Los Angeles has left a bad taste about the Cowboys' interior defensive line in a lot of mouths, but I do think they've improved the unit this offseason. Signing Christian Covington and drafting Trysten Hill was a nice start to do so, but having Maliek Collins healthy and Antwaun Woods back for a full season will also go a long way.
Interestingly enough, two of the Cowboys divisional foes came in ranked above them on this list. Washington was slotted as the 12th best run defense, while Philadelphia was placed at number 8. Both teams' units deserve respect, of course, but this further highlights how difficult it could be to run the ball in the NFC East this season.
While I hate simply throwing this term around, analytics suggest that passing is what wins games in the NFL. Passing and stopping the pass, I should say.
With strong run defenses in their division, the Cowboys will need to maximize their passing game efficiency if they want to repeat as NFC East champions.
3 Reasons Amari Cooper is Primed for an All-Pro Season
Amari Cooper changed life for the entire Dallas Cowboys offense in 2018. Finally, Quarterback Dak Prescott has the number one option at wide receiver he's desperately needed since his rookie campaign. Now, after half a season and multiple playoff games under his belt in Dallas, Cooper is set to have a monster year. Here are three specific reasons why.
Head Coach Jason Garrett has established a certain way of doing things in Dallas since taking over in 2010. His constant search for the RKG or "Right Kinda Guy" as he puts it has the culture in the locker room at a very positive and productive place. As criticized as he is, justifiably or not, he has his team all on the same page. This is something Cooper has been trying to find since he entered the league in 2015. An organization with the right mindset in order for him to perform and maximize his skill set. After being traded to Dallas, Cooper opened up in November about being unhappy during his days in Oakland.
"I wasn't really happy in Oakland or anything like that. But when I sat and thought about it [Monday} night, I thought about the fact that they traded me away. I don't know how to feel about it," Cooper told Yahoo Sports.
This may seem small to others considering these players make millions of dollars right? Well, it doesn't change the fact that they're human. When you feel unappreciated you don't play to the best of your abilities. Shortly after the trade, Cooper talked about how he's been different since putting a star on his helmet. "I feel like it did change me, as far as having that chip on my shoulder. Not that I wasn't passionate before, but playing with more passion, trying to intentionally have fun out there. It definitely has changed me, in terms of me going out there and just having fun with it," Cooper said. A change of scenery was just what the doctor ordered for Cooper and the Cowboys.
2. The other weapons around him
The Cowboys aren't just Amari Cooper or bust at the wide receiver position. Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb provide more challenges for defenses on a weekly basis. Gallup has firmly locked down the number two spot on the depth chart. It took a while for him to establish chemistry with Dak Prescott, as they would misfire on several big plays during the first half of the season. Nonetheless, by seasons end things started to pick up, and he finished with 33 receptions for 507 yards and 2 touchdowns. In the playoffs, he scored a touchdown in the Cowboys Wild Card win over Seattle. The next week against the Rams he performed well even in defeat, with 6 receptions for 119 yards. He's got speed, size, and versatility. Now with a full season and two games of playoff experience under his belt, I look for even more production from Gallup, as a possible breakout star.
Randall Cobb is a much-needed upgrade in the slot for the Cowboys. Unlike former receiver Cole Beasley, Cobb can line up inside or outside. Giving new Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore a bigger bag of tricks at his disposal. Now, he can lineup Cooper inside or outside and play with a plethora of different looks, keeping defenses off balance because of the uncertainty of how the Cowboys will attack through the air.
Then, of course, there's Ezekiel Elliott. The two-time rushing champion is the tone-setter on offense and dictates how defenses will attack. With Cooper being such a threat in the air you basically have to pick your poison. 8-9 man fronts against the run can make you vulnerable to play action down the field or quick slants with Cooper's exceptional route running. The more productive Elliott is the more honest it keeps opposing defenses, opening up more opportunities in the passing game. Averaging 101.2 yards per game for his career, second all-time to Hall of Famer Jim Brown, Elliott can make create even more opportunities for Cooper in 2019 with a full season of playing time together.
Amari Cooper is currently looking to sign a long-term deal with the Cowboys. Preferably, both sides would like to get this deal done before the season starts considering he's in the last year of his rookie contract that is set to pay him 13.9 million in 2019. However, it isn't just a new deal that motivates Cooper heading into the new season.
"It's kind of a weird situation, just being that I've never been in this situation before, talking about a contract. But also, I'm under a fifth-year option, so I'm not too familiar with it. I really don't ask my agent many questions. I'm not really worried about it that much. I'm more focused on actually playing and really earning the respect and then the contract," Cooper said.
Being motivated by earning respect is a very mature approach from Cooper. Now, add that to the fact that I'm sure he wants to firmly put his name alongside Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr, and Michael Thomas as the best receivers in the game, you have a fully motivated number one option heading into the new season.
Amari Cooper has already made three pro bowls, but now there's another level for him to reach. In just nine games last year with the Cowboys he caught 53 passes for 725 yards and 6 touchdowns. Also, he caught another 13 on 18 targets in the playoffs for 171 yards and a score. He's in the right culture, he has a number of other weapons around him and he has multiple reasons to be motivated heading in the new season. With a full offseason of building chemistry with Dak Prescott, I see Cooper taking that leap to the All-Pro level in 2019.
Is La’el Collins Playing For A Contract On A Different Team?
How good is La'el Collins?
This is a question that Cowboys fans have disagreed on since his rookie season. Collins, who originally joined the team as their left guard replacing an injured Ronald Leary in 2015, moved out to right tackle in 2017, starting all 32 games there the last 2 seasons.
Collins' play has been somewhat up-and-down, as should be expected when a lineman not only switches from guard to tackle, but from the left side to the right side as well. Still, he's been a solid right tackle and a stable presence for a Cowboys offensive line which has struggled with major injuries at other positions over the last couple of years.
While Collins has not been the "elite" level player fans had hoped for when signed after the 2015 draft, he's been a solid player nonetheless. Dak Prescott has faced more pressure from the right side of the line than the left, but a good portion of that pressure has to do with him struggling to sense pressure from that right side.
The Dallas Cowboys seem rather undecided about La'el Collins' future with the team themselves, though. Dallas went out and draft guard Connor McGovern in the third round of the 2019 draft, starting the whirlwind of rumors that McGovern will be the starting left guard in 2020. This would kick second year player Connor Williams out to right tackle, allowing Dallas to let Collins walk without too much worry.
While this is well and good on paper, on the field the transition will likely not be as smooth. We've already seen how tough it is to move from left guard to right tackle in just one offseason, even if you were a college tackle once upon a time. Connor Williams could face these same struggles, despite possibly even anticipating the change a year out.
Regardless, La'el Collins is now in a contract year and is playing for that new deal come 2020. Dallas may not be looking to extend him, mostly due to the plethora of new deals they'll be handing out to other players, but he will be a hot commodity come free agency if and when he hits the open market.
Collins could very well be playing for a new contract elsewhere this season, as his days in Dallas look to be numbered.
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