Ahhhhh... Training Camp is here, and football is in the air. Your 2017 Dallas Cowboys have taken the field and will begin practicing to try to repeat as NFC East Champions and return to the playoffs to potentially make a run at the Lombardi trophy.
In order to do so the pass rush has to improve, and the Cowboys' front office spent more resources this offseason trying to find that difference maker to get after the quarterback.
Cowboys Nation has very high expectations for first round pick, Taco Charlton, and Damontre Moore has been making a ton of noise this offseason, but one player who is moving along rather quietly is fourth year player, DeMarcus Lawrence.
DeMarcus Lawrence is entering his fourth year with the team and is looking to finally put together a productive, and healthy season.
After the Cowboys traded up in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Lawrence has played in only 32 of 48 playable games. In those 32 games, he has brought down opposing quarterbacks a total of nine times and eight of those nine total sacks came in his promising 2014 season.
There would be no argument if anyone would say Lawrence has been a disappointment so far in his short NFL career. Whether it's due to low sack numbers or because of injury, the word disappointment fairly surrounds DeMarcus Lawrence's name.
But the past is the past, and all that matters is what happens now, and for DeMarcus Lawrence good news is already coming his way.
Monday on 105.3 The Fan, Stephen Jones talked about his health entering camp.
This is fantastic news for the team heading into camp.
Now we have been lied to before so there is reason to pump the brakes just a little bit, but at this time last year Lawrence was recovering from offseason back surgery. We were also learning about the possible four game suspension that he was facing after failing a drug test.
With a lot of young and new faces along the defensive line, Lawrence is one of the few veteran players in the defensive meeting rooms. While he is one of the few veterans that doesn't mean he is locked in to be a day-one starter.
Entering 2017 he has plenty of competition on both sides of the line. Taco Charlton, Benson Mayowa, Damontre Moore, Tyrone Crawford, and Charles Tapper will all battle for a starting spot at either defensive end position.
What does Lawrence have on his side to help him earn back is starting job?
- His health - If he is 100% healthy--like Stephen Jones told us Monday--Lawrence should be in good shape to earn a starting spot by the time training camp is over.
- Contract Year - We have consistently seen over the last few seasons how good some players play in contract years. For Lawrence, after the 2017 season, he will be a free agent and the Cowboys will have to make a tough decision on his future with the team.
- Position Flex - Lawrence has played all along the defensive line, even rushing as a defensive tackle on some third down situations in his three years with the team.
- Veteran - Defensive end is one of the hardest positions to transition to from College to the NFL. Taco Charlton and Charles Tapper may start off slow and that could also help Lawrence's chances to start at left or right end.
We are still so early into training camp, so there are still plenty of questions surrounding the Dallas Cowboys pass rush, but the question still needs to be brought to our attention.
Do you think DeMarcus Lawrence will have a big season to end his rookie deal?
I certainly do.
David Irving Ready to “Be Put Through Ringer” in First Action with Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys patience in Defensive Tackle David Irving is set to pay off on Sunday, as Irving will play in his first game of 2018 after being suspended for the first four weeks. Irving was eligible to play last week in the Cowboys overtime loss at the Texans, but did not make the trip to Houston as he dealt with off-field concerns.
The Cowboys defense has performed admirably without Irving, but in a needed game against the Jaguars, it could be up to this defense to win the game for Dallas - something a disruptive player like Irving has the ability to do on any given snap.
While the plan is for the Cowboys to ease Irving into this game, his impact from the DT position might be enough to leave him on the field as much as needed in a tight game.
Irving said the coaches want to play him 10-15 snaps Sunday. "That's what they say now but if it's a close game, I know good and well Marinelli is going to be sending me out there & putting me through the ringer. I'm ready for it.
Like a good left-handed pitcher in baseball or three-point specialist in basketball, the Cowboys have afforded Irving a long leash despite his unreliability thanks to a 6'7" and 290 pound frame that makes him a menace for opposing guards.
The 3T-DT position is a pivotal one in Marinelli's scheme, and one the Cowboys have afforded Irving every opportunity to fill, yielding results whenever the former Chiefs practice squad steal suits up.
Filling in for Irving through the Cowboys first five games of the season has been reliable veteran Tyrone Crawford. Expected to play at defensive end this season, Crawford has recorded 14 tackles and one sack from the 3T position.
With Irving back in the "Hot Boyz" rotation, it will be interesting to see if Crawford once again goes out to right defensive end, where Randy Gregory has struggled to make the most out of his own return from suspension.
Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli is not expecting similar struggles from Irving, prepared to put him "through the ringer".
Where Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard calls the Cowboys defense, Marinelli is still one of the most respected coaches at The Star, demanding a lot of his defensive line in particular. It's the pairing of Marinelli's motivation and Irving's intangibles that have the Cowboys defense on the brink of taking another step toward's one of the league's best.
With their own offense set to line up against perhaps the best overall defense in Jacksonville on Sunday, Irving's return is just in time. The NFC East is far from out of reach for the Cowboys, who will be at full strength on defense once Sean Lee returns as early as next week.
The Cowboys have never lost a game in which Lee, Irving, and Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence play at least 20% of the team's snaps on defense. Perhaps this stat will have to be adjusted to include rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in short time, but for now the Cowboys are hours away from fighting for a 3-3 start to 2018, doing so with one of their most important defenders back in the lineup.
Dak Prescott is the Leader the Cowboys Need Right Now
The Dallas Cowboys (2-3) get set to face a Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2) squad that has one of the best defenses in the NFL, which leaves few believing that America's Team will see a turn around on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium. Every game is different and this team is 2-0 at home in 2018. There is a possibility that Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys can come away with a win to even their record at 3-3.
I know I shouldn't be spreading hope and cheer about the Dallas Cowboys after what we've seen this season, but I just can't help myself. There are several reasons I believe this team can still make a run at the playoffs and one of those reasons is Dak Prescott.
While the wide receiver group and the coaching staff attempt to deflect criticism, Dak Prescott, the leader on the offense is willing to accept it.
Speaking to the media on Thursday, Dak let everyone know that he still has confidence in this team despite the start to the season and knows that there are things that he needs to work on for this offense to move forward.
“Obviously I haven’t had my best showing of that here recently. Getting my feet right, making sure it’s all in line, feet and eyes in line, and just making sure the ball’s coming out of my hand earlier.”
Dak Prescott - via Rob Phillips of DallasCowboys.com
You can find plenty of people on Twitter or Facebook to tell you what's wrong with Dak Prescott. Shoot, I wrote a piece looking at how long Dak has had in the pocket and how long he's held onto the football. Whether it's his footwork, throwing technique, processing speed, or accuracy, there are a lot of things to point to for reasons not to believe in Dak Prescott. However, there are intangibles to Dak's game that don't necessarily show up on film or in the stat book.
The most important intangible, to me, is leadership. A leader always believes that the best is yet to come. Yes, they are willing to take a personal inventory of where they and those they lead are at, but they always believe that people can be more than what they've shown. Even themselves.
Even though there isn't a lot of belief left in the Dallas Cowboys' offense right now, Dak Prescott still believes.
On Thursday, he told reporters, "I don't think we're far off."
Dak Prescott has always exhibited leadership qualities. From the first snaps he took as a rookie in his 2016 opener against the New York Giants, he's always showed an ability to rally when the deck seemed stacked against him. If you need more evidence, look to the Green Bay Packers divisional playoff game in 2016, when they got down 21-3 -- largely due to errors by others on the offense -- and he rallied the team to nearly pull off a miraculous comeback.
Prescott's not a perfect quarterback. He has things that he has to get better at if he wants to be the franchise quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. The positive take away is Dak Prescott isn't unwilling to look at the things he needs to do to get better or to work on those things.
I know most of us are down on Dak at this point and things are looking bleak, but that doesn't mean that he's finished as a starting quarterback in this league or even for the Dallas Cowboys. And sitting a half game back of the Philadelphia Eagles, after their win over the New York Giants Thursday night, Dak Prescott has a chance to keep the Dallas Cowboys in the playoff hunt.
They're right in the thick of this thing and while there's plenty of reasons to doubt this team, one thing you should never doubt is Dak's resolve. He will continue to play hard and fight to rally the rest of the offense around him to go and get the job done.
Don't forget that just two weeks ago against one of the better pass defenses in the NFL, the Detroit Lions, Dak Prescott led the Cowboys on a game-winning drive with under two minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
There is a lot of criticism coming at Prescott and the Cowboys' offense, but leadership means standing tall in the face of adversity and Dak Prescott has that in spades.
He may not be the leader you want right now, but with everyone telling the Dallas Cowboys that they aren't good enough, he's the leader you need.
Allen Hurns’ Frustration with Cowboys Dysfunctional Offense is Justified
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.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
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.
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