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Cowboys Defense Benefiting from Loyalty, Patience

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Defense Benefiting from Loyalty, Patience

The best player on the Cowboys defensive line right now is tackle Terrell McClain. Their best cornerback is Morris Claiborne.

A year ago, or even just a few months ago, many would have guessed that neither would be on the 2016 roster. Their sudden turn from disappointments to defensive standouts is a credit to the patience and loyalty that the Cowboys show their players.

Terrell McClain

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys 2016 Roster Projection: Post-Draft Edition (Part 2) 4

AP Photo/James D Smith

Dallas took a chance on McClain in 2014 after he'd flamed out with three different teams in four seasons. Injuries kept McClain from being a factor that year and cost him all but two games in 2015.

Dallas could've released McClain this year for $1 million in cap space and minimal dead money. After they signed Cedric Thornton in free agency, it didn't seem that McClain would be anything more than a bench option. Given his health problems, Dallas would've been justified in looking for more reliable depth.

Finally healthy for the first time as a Cowboy, Terrell McClain is showing the talent that made him the 65th overall pick in 2011 (the first pick of the third round). He was taken higher in his draft than any of the Cowboys' other defensive tackles, and that is showing in his current play.

Last Sunday was a great example of what McClain is bringing to the Cowboys defense. He led the team with 1.5 sacks and three QB hits. While thought of more as a power player, McClain has shown he can move and be disruptive as well. He was the most impactful defensive linemen from either team, far out-showing Geno Atkins from the Bengals.

Turning 29 and becoming a free agent next summer, McClain may not be able to secure a large contract regardless of what he does now. Still, the veteran is clearly giving it his best effort. Even if his next deal is with another team, Dallas is reaping benefits now.

Morris Claiborne

Cowboys Blog - Looking Ahead: Free Agents that Need Cowboys Remaining Games

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY

Not only has Claiborne emerged as the Cowboys' best corner, but he is getting league-wide recognition as a standout performer in 2016. It is, by leaps and bounds, the peak of his career thus far.

Dallas chose not to use the team option they had on Claiborne this season. It would've paid him about $11 million in 2016; a hefty price for a player with such a problematic career.

Still, the Cowboys clearly hadn't lost faith in Claiborne. Despite having an aging Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick coming off a major knee injury, Dallas didn't spend big in free agency or use a high draft pick at cornerback. They agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with Claiborne to give him one last chance as a Cowboy.

Remember, Dallas faced a tough decision with their fourth overall pick of the NFL Draft. They could've selected Jalen Ramsey, who many felt was the best defensive back prospect in several years, instead of running back Ezekiel Elliott. Even with Claiborne signed to his "prove it" contract, taking Ramsey would've made plenty of sense for the present and future.

Nobody is lamenting the Cowboys' choice to take Elliott now, and a huge part of that is the way Claiborne has delivered. If his strong play continues, we could be looking at a long-term extension sometime in the next few months.

~ ~ ~

These examples of the team being rewarded for its loyalty to players are very relevant as discussion swirls around Tony Romo. Every situation is different, but will having trust validated by other veterans hold any sway on the Cowboys' handling of the quarterback position?

Regardless of who is under center, Romo or Dak Prescott will benefit from the play of Terrell McClain, Morris Claiborne, and the improving defense that they are leading. Not every franchise would have stuck with these guys after the difficulties they've faced, especially the lack of production the team has gotten from them.

Cowboys Headlines - Jerry Jones Named Finalist As Contributor For Pro Football Hall Of Fame

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Jerry Jones has taken plenty of criticism through the years of being too loyal to his players. There's no denying that it's gotten him into trouble before, but there are times that it ends up benefiting the team.

Make no mistake; Jones' treatment of his players is a marketing and negotiating strength when free agents come to town. They see when his former players ask him, and not their lauded head coach, to introduce them in Hall of Fame ceremonies. They see when these former Cowboys stay close to the organization long after their careers have ended. It's why a guy like Claiborne wasn't desperate for new surroundings and wanted to make it work in Dallas.

Claiborne, along with Terrell McClain, are finally making it work as Cowboys. They are at the forefront of a defense which, although not a league-leading group, is exceeding expectations and maximizing its talent.

And they're only here because the Cowboys gave them one more chance.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick

Jess Haynie

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Devin Smith

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:

Jason Bernstein on Twitter

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!



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Dallas Cowboys

Breaking: Scott Linehan and Dallas Cowboys Part Ways

John Williams

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Scott Linehan Acknowledges Need for New "Wrinkles" in Cowboys Offense

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is reporting that the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan have mutually agreed to part ways following a tumultuous season that saw the Dallas Cowboys offense finish outside the top 12 three out of his four seasons in Dallas.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Sources: The #Cowboys are firing OC Scott Linehan. Taking their offense in a new direction. An announcement is coming.

Scott Linehan was brought in prior to the 2015 season and saw his offenses finish 31st, fifth, 14th, and 22nd in his four years as the Cowboys play caller. The 2015 season can be excused as the Cowboys rolled out Kellen Moore, Matt Cassell, and Brandon Weeden for 13 starts after Tony Romo was injured twice during the season, but the team 2-11 in those 13 starts and the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs despite a strong performance on the defensive side of the football.

The Cowboys saw an offense that finished fifth in the NFL in points in 2016 decline each of the last two offseasons and Linehan has been continually criticized by analysts, fans, and players as well.

Many believe that the reason that Dez Bryant and Brice Butler weren't brought back in the offseason was because of the public criticism of the offense and the play caller instilling the offense and that criticism has carried over to this season when Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper acknowledged that the Philadelphia Eagles were sitting on the slant routes that they had run all game. Dak mentioned that he changed Amari's route to a go route, which led to a 75 yard touchdown that helped open up the offense.

Cole Beasley has been frustrated with his role for much of the season and deservedly so. He was often non-existent in the offensive game plan until the final five minutes of football games.

In the running game, the offense had become too predictable and reliant upon jumbo formations that led to Ezekiel Elliott having to run against eight in the box anywhere from 25-30% of the time. For perspective, Todd Gurley only ran against eight-man fronts around eight percent of the time. Scott Linehan never looked to attempt to take players out of the box, instead insisting on motioning more players into the box for the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott to run against. It's amazing when you think about it, that Ezekiel Elliott was able to win the rushing title when facing loaded fronts as often as he did.

This was a move that needed to happen and the Dallas Cowboys didn't need to waste anymore time to make it happen. The offense had become stale and frustrating for the players as well as the fans. While Jason Garrett started the offseason saying he "didn't expect any changes," this was a move that absolutely had to happen for the offense to take a step forward. Below, you can read Jason Garrett's announcement on the move.

Mike Garafolo on Twitter

Cowboys have fired Scott Linehan

Even after the move for Amari Cooper, the offense looked better, but it still struggled at times to move the football.

The Cowboys have a young team with especially young players on the offensive side of the football. They have a quarterback who can throw from the pocket, but has excellent movement skills and capabilities of throwing the ball on the run. He's an excellent runner on designed runs. Despite us knowing all that, Scott Linehan looked reluctant to use him on designed quarterback runs that weren't read options or speed options. What you saw on designed runs in the Seattle game is what this team should be doing five times a game.

Now the question becomes, who should the Cowboys next offensive coordinator be? Our own, Staff Writer Brian Martin, laid out 5 Options to be the Next Offensive Coordinator earlier this week. I suggest you give it a read.



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DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class

Kevin Brady

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Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence's League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

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.

ig: josinaanderson on Twitter

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.



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