After writing my first article The Resurgence of America's Team, I started looking more into journeyman Will McClay's road to becoming the Senior Director of College and Pro Scouting.
Although born in Memphis, Tennessee, McClay would spend his adolescent years right outside of Houston, Texas. He would stay locally for college and start all 4 years (1985-1988) at defensive back for Rice University. After college ball, McClay was picked up by the Detroit Drive of the Arena Football League where he would help capture 3 Arena League Titles in 4 appearances.
After his playing days were over, the Drive kept him on as the secondary and special teams coach in 1993. Over the next few seasons McClay would bounce around as Defensive Coordinator for the Milwaukee Mustangs, Florida Bobcats and Anaheim Piranhas. While with Anaheim in 1997, he began to try his hand in the management side of football and became Director of Player Personnel. The following season McClay would join the Grand Rapid Rampage in the same capacity before being promoted a year later to Head Coach.
In 2001, McClay set his sights on the XFL as the Director of Player Personnel and Scout for the Orlando Rage. It is worth noting that while in Orlando, McClay assembled an 8-2 team that clinched the first seed in the playoffs only to fall in the first round.
After Vince McMahon's one-year wonder of a football league fell apart, McClay was able to make the jump to the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars as the Assistant Director of Pro Scouting. While in Jacksonville his main duty was to scout the teams not on the Jaguars schedule in an effort to expand scouting reports.
In 2002, McClay joined the Dallas Cowboys player personnel department as well as Defensive Coordinator for Jerry Jones' expansion AFL team, the Dallas Desperados. He maintained both jobs until 2004 when McClay was promoted to Head Coach. Over the next 5 years he produced 4 winning seasons and was named Coach of the Year in 2006.
After the league folded in 2009, Jerry Jones kept McClay on the Cowboys staff serving in various capacities reviewing tape and compiling extensive scouting reports. Highly regarded within the organization as a workaholic and having a keen eye for talent, the Cowboys essentially created a position for him when he was named Director of Football Research, a position which no longer exists.
From 2011-2013 McClay's main focus as Director of Football Research was to scout players on the other 31 NFL teams. It was through his efforts that the Cowboys have been able to find success with players like Ernie Sims, Laurent Robinson, Justin Durant, Nick Hayden, George Selvie, and Rolando McClain. Players who were seemingly plucked from the NFL's land of misfit toys. Players whose careers were in jeopardy but could fill a role on the Cowboys roster.
In 2014, after a Draft Day disagreement between the scouting department and coaching staff, McClay was promoted to Assistant Director of Player Personnel and given the keys to the War Room. As I alluded to in my first article, his presence on draft day has been surely felt. Former oil tycoon turned GM Jerry Jones is no longer trying to strike it rich with players from smaller schools or taking on big persona's like Johnny Manziel to increase sales.
When all 9 draft choices in 2014 came from big football programs, McClay had this to say about his picks, "I think it was important for us to say, if we’re trying to build this thing and get to a point where we can win now, who has been able to handle the pressure of a big time program? Who will most likely be able to come into a situation like the Dallas Cowboys and the microscope that we’re under with all the games we play on national TV, and not, pardon the expression, pee their pants? We want grown men that are able to handle the situation.”
We now live in an era where McClay and company will put in more than their due diligence to walk away with the best player available. After an abysmal defensive effort from the Cowboys in 2013, McClay elected to take OL Zack Martin stating, "You're never one player away, you always want to solidify your team, and we approached it (the draft) with that strategy."
Martin would later be named to the All-Pro team as a rookie.
In May 2015, McClay was promoted to his current position as Senior Director of College and Pro Scouting. Once again this offseason the front office took a financially responsible approach to assembling this season's team.
Their boldest move by far was their unwillingness to pay NFL leading rusher, Demarco Murray, any more than they thought he was worth. Murray would later sign with division rival Philadelphia for $40 (26 guaranteed) million over 5 years, while Dallas elected to keep trucking with our current stable of running backs along with Free Agent Darren McFadden who signed an incentive-laced 2-year/$3 million contract. The front office had the luxury of making this type of decision because of the tireless work McClay and company have done building one of the best offensive lines in the league.
While the coaching staff is getting the team ready for the regular season, and Jerry is smiling for the cameras, Will McClay will undoubtedly be in the film room, scouring the pro and college ranks for the next diamond in the rough. And that's the way he prefers it.
Cowboys Next 3 Games Pivotal To Playoff Run
A popular way of evaluating a team's season is by breaking their results into quarters. Because teams play 16 games in the NFL, if you are able to finish 3-1 each quarter of the season then you will likely be in competition for a first round bye come January.
Through the first quarter of this season, the Cowboys accomplished that exact goal. Sitting at 3-1 wth the second quarter of the season to go, the Cowboys deserved to feel pride in how they started their year off.
With a home loss last week, though, the Cowboys are already behind the eight ball for their second quarter of the season. When you look at the upcoming schedule, however, you see a huge opportunity for the Cowboys going forward.
If Dallas is to make a playoff run, and Jason Garrett is to earn a contract for next season, these next three games are massive.
Unbeaten in New Jersey
Two of the Cowboys' next three games will be played at MetLife Stadium, and if they are to make the playoffs, they have to go unbeaten in the state of New Jersey.
After two straight losses the Cowboys have the perfect "get-right" game against the winless Jets on Sunday. Then, following their bye week, the Cowboys go back to East Rutherford to finish their season series with the Giants.
These have to be two victories.
The Jets have been an absolute disaster this season, and while Sam Darnold returns from his illness this week, they are still 7.5 point home underdogs to the 3-2 Cowboys.
Not only are the Giants a conference and divisional opponent, but they are one of the Cowboys' only remaining "gimme" games on the schedule. Following their game against the Giants the Cowboys go through a gauntlet of sorts, facing the Vikings, Patriots, Lions, Bills, Bears, Rams, and Eagles before finally seeing the Redskins.
That's 7 straight games against teams with winning records, including 5 against teams they are directly fighting for playoff positioning with.
Yeah, it's not going to get any easier.
Battle for First Place
Sandwiched between these two games in Jersey are the Philadelphia Eagles. As it stands right now, both Dallas and Philly sit at 3-2. So regardless of what happens this week in their respective games, this match-up will be for early control of the NFC East.
I don't have to tell you how important a game with the Eagles is, especially one the Cowboys will have at home.
Going 3-0 over these next three games would put the Cowboys in an excellent position before they must face one of the toughest second half schedules in all of football.
Cowboys en Español: Problemas Defensivos al Frente
Los Dallas Cowboys fueron aplastados por la ofensiva de los Green Bay Packers toda la primera mitad durante el encuentro de la semana 5 de la temporada. Fue un tal Aaron quien los dominó, pero no el "Aaron" al que los Cowboys están acostumbrados. Esta vez, Aaron Rodgers apenas y tuvo un juego decente en Dallas. Sin embargo, fue porque el corredor Aaron Jones corrió para 107 yardas y cuatro anotaciones terrestres, además de sumar 75 yardas por la vía aérea. Tal juego por parte de su corredor le dio a los Packers una victoria con marcador de 34-24 y un récord de 4-1.
¿Qué salió mal en este partido para Cowboys? Lo más sencillo y sinceramente lo principal fueron las entregas de balón. En la NFL, es casi imposible entregar el balón tres veces y salir victorioso. Después de lanzar tres intercepciones, la derrota de Dallas era casi inevitable.
Sin embargo, la defensiva tampoco funcionó. Hasta ahora, los Cowboys han tenido una unidad defensiva comandada por Rod Marinelli y Kris Richard que ha estado lejos de cumplir con las expectativas. Aún después de sostener a los New Orleans Saints a solo 12 puntos, ha sido un cuerpo defensivo que nos ha decepcionado.
El mayor problema, en mi opinión, viene en la línea defensiva. A pesar de que muchos han criticado mucho al ala defensiva DeMarcus Lawrence por su "ausencia," dichas críticas han sido un poco exageradas. Si bien no ha aparecido tanto en la ficha de juego, Lawrence ha forzado a equipos contrarios a mandarle doble cobertura para cuidar a sus mariscales. El hecho de jalar a dos ofensivos solo para bloquear es de gran ayuda para el resto de la defensiva. ¿El problema? El problema es que no lo han capitalizado.
Robert Quinn sorprendió desde su regreso de suspensión, convirtiéndose rápidamente en uno de los líderes en sacks y presiones. A pesar de ello, el interior de la línea defensiva ha sido deplorable.
La lesión de Antwaun Woods ha sido una muy dolorosa, pero la verdad es que Maliek Collins tampoco ha hecho mucho desde su puesto. Al pelear contra el juego terrestre, los tackles defensivos de Cowboys han ganado pocas batallas en las trincheras. Trysten Hill, el novato de segunda ronda, ha demostrado no estar listo para ser titular en la NFL. El equipo de Marinelli ha sufrido por no querer invertir en un buen tackle defensivo.
Estos problemas en el frente defensivo han repercutido a la actuación de un dúo de linebackers de quienes se esperaba mucho. Leighton Vander Esch y Jaylon Smith no se han visto del todo bien y en parte ha sido su culpa. Contra Packers, Vander Esch pudo haber tenido la peor mitad de su carrera en la NFL. Jaylon Smith ha tomado ángulos equivocados.
A todo esto, le sumamos que hay muchos linieros ofensivos llegando al segundo nivel debido a un pobre trabajo de los tackles defensivos.
En resumen, la defensiva frontal de Cowboys fue dominada contra Green Bay y no ha sido convincente el resto de las semanas.
Si Dallas va a llegar lejos esta temporada, necesitan que la defensiva despierte. Hasta el momento, ha sido lo más decepcionante del año.
A pesar de las críticas tras un partido en el que Dak Prescott lanzó tres intercepciones, los Cowboys están clasificados como el equipo #1 en ofensiva según DVOA (estadística utilizada para evaluar si una jugada fue exitosa o no tomando en cuenta escenarios específicos). Ezekiel Elliott no está jugando mal, a pesar de las conclusiones precipitadas de muchos al ver que solo acumuló 62 yardas. El total es bajo, pero lo consiguió en 12 acarreos (promediando 5.2 yardas).
Sinceramente, los Cowboys han sido mejores de lo que su récord indica. Mientras muchos están eliminándolos por el resto de la temporada, este equipo podría estar 5-2 en un abrir y cerrar de ojos previo a su semana de descanso.
Es una temporada larga en la NFL.
Ezekiel Elliott’s Carries Have Decreased Three Straight Weeks, Here is Why
All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott had his first 100-yard performance in a Week 2 win on the road against the Washington Redskins. After 48 yards on 11 carries in the first half, Elliott had only 36 yards in the second half until a 27-yard run pushed his overall total to 111 yards on 23 carries. Exactly the kind of yardage and attempts you would expect from your bell cow. However, the last three weeks have been a little different as his carries have diminished each game. It hasn't been from a lack of commitment to the run game per se, but sometimes certain game situations force you to adjust your gameplan.
When the Miami Dolphins came to town in Week 3 they were considered by many to be the worst team in the league. That all sounds good on paper but games are played on the field, and as we all know, every team gets fired up for the Dallas Cowboys. The first half saw the Cowboys score ten quick points on their first couple of possessions but they wouldn't score again before halftime. The one bright spot was Elliott who ran for 86 yards on 13 carries as the Cowboys led 10-6.
The Cowboys jumped all over Miami with back to back touchdowns from Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott to start the second half pushing the lead to 24-6. Elliott wasn't really needed much after that point and his last carry came with under nine minutes remaining in the game. This allowed rookie Tony Pollard to take over the fourth quarter with 74 yards on 8 carries, and keep Elliott fresh for a showdown with the New Orleans Saints a week later.
In all, Elliott ran for 125 yards on 19 carries, extremely productive and not taxing on the body. Pollard running for 103 yards himself allowed Elliott to stay on the sidelines and rest up for the next game.
In Week 4 the Cowboys faced the Saints on the road in prime time. Unfortunately for Elliott, this would be a game where his offensive line would get manhandled for four quarters. This put the Cowboys in quite a few second/third and long situations because Elliott seemingly saw gold helmets in his face immediately after taking each handoff. He would only rush for 35 yards on 18 carries, less than two yards per attempt.
In these situations when an offense can't muster anything on the ground you simply stick with it just to keep the defense honest and not become one-dimensional. The flow of the game, in this case, dictated that Elliott wouldn't see a lot of touches with his offensive line getting dominated.
This past Sunday against the Green Bay Packers could've been a monster day for Elliott considering he would be going up against the 26th ranked run defense, but like the previous two weeks, the flow of the game forced a different scenario. The first half saw the Cowboys invade Packers territory on three consecutive drives, but one stalled due to a sack and the other two ended with interceptions. Elliott had 60 yards on 10 carries in the first half but the Cowboys found themselves in a 17-0 hole.
That deficit quickly ballooned to 31-3 in the second half and virtually took Elliott out of the game. He had only two carries after halftime and finished with just 62 yards on 12 carries. Early turnovers put the Cowboys behind so much that the only way to get back in the game was to air it out the rest of the way.
Given the way the previous three games have unfolded no one should be overly concerned at this point about Elliott's carries going down. The Cowboys simply adjusted to what was happening on the field and in these cases. Elliott was either not needed or taken out of the gameplan.
This Sunday against the New York Jets the Cowboys will be facing a good defensive front seven. I would still expect Elliott to be used early and often to establish what the Cowboys do best which is run to set up the play-action passing game.
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