DeMarco Murray is a Philadelphia Eagle. As much as it pains me to say that, the only team willing to meet his contract demands with a roster capable of winning games is our long hated rival. I would have preferred him outside the division but it is what it is.
It's time to move on and one of the ways the Cowboys plan to do that is by tapping into a few players already with the team. Lance Dunbar, Joseph Randle, and Ryan Williams.
Dunbar and Randle are already well-known among Cowboy fans. Dunbar has been a fantastic receiver for a RB, and Randle has incredible burst and vision, unless he's trying to get around security guards at the mall, of course. And Ryan Williams has been a largely unknown commodity since he joined Dallas.
Mike from @CowboysNation says, "If Ryan Williams can stay healthy, he is going to surprise a lot of people in 2015 and make the Murray pain fade quickly."
Injuries have crippled Williams' career since being selected in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft by the Arizona Cardinals. He played only five games in Arizona - all in 2012 - due to knee and shoulder injuries, before joining the Cowboys for their 2014 preseason. He showed us flashes of what he could do in some preseason games, but nothing concrete.
And now the Cowboys have signed former Oakland Raiders back Darren McFadden to a 2yr, $5.8 million contract with just $200,000 as a signing bonus. NFL.com reports the contract is worth up to $5.85 million, indicating the deal is laced with incentives that may lower the Cowboys' risk should McFadden suffer another injury or not even make the team.
By all accounts, the Cowboys are heading into the 2015 draft with RB a priority position on their draft board, however, signing the 2008 #4 overall pick may mean the Cowboys will take either the best player available at #27 or look to fill one of many holes on the defense with their first round selection. It's not exactly the strategy any of us fans want to hear after losing Murray to a NFC East rival.
Runner Todd Gurley out of Georgia still has his medical evaluations to clear prior to the draft. Should he be cleared medically after injuring his ACL last year, a popular scenario has the Cowboys taking him at #27 in the 1st round. Of course, that suggests one of the top RBs in the draft will fall to the end of the first round for the Cowboys to have a shot at him, which isn't a sure thing.
The 2015 Dallas Cowboys training camp looks to feature five backs vying for one of the three roster spots Coach Garrett typically allots for the running back position; Darren McFadden, Ryan Williams, Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar, and a rookie to be named later.
Dunbar has failed to impress as a ball carrier or blocker. Randle has off the field issues which may have already sealed his fate. Williams has played in just 5 NFL games since entering the league in 2011. McFadden didn't play a full season until 2014 and only boasts a 4.1 career average per carry.
Jason Garrett is a fan of the Running Back By Committee approach and with the current stable of backs, committee may be the only rushing attack possible. It's not as bad as it sounds, though the naysayers among us will never make it easy to see, because the Cowboys still have the top offensive line in the NFL. A line of that caliber offers higher success rates for any back.
The draft will tell us more, and training camp will illuminate all. But until then, your guess is as good as mine which backs have an edge over the rest.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott
Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.
In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.
During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...
...of his offensive lineman.
During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.
As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.
It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.
With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.
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