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Should Cowboys’ Fans Buy Into The Rico Gathers Hype?

Brian Martin

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Cowboys' Fans, Time To Tap The Breaks On The Rico Gathers Hype

The Dallas Cowboys haven't even made it into training camp or put on pads yet, but all eyes are already fixated on second-year tight end Rico Gathers as a potential breakout player in 2017. Justifiable or not, that's just the way things go in the off-season. But, it might be wise for Cowboys' fans to tap the brakes on the expectations they might have for Gathers this season.

It may sound a little harsh, but Rico Gathers still has quite a ways to go in his development before he can be relied upon. He is still transitioning from a college basketball star into a football player. There are quite a few things that go into the transition process, and unfortunately it can't be rushed.

The Dallas Cowboys decided to draft Gathers in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft as a developmental project. The key word here being "project". That is what #80 is, and the sooner we realize that the better.

Upon the completion of his collegiate basketball career, Rico Gathers decided to turn his attention to the gridiron and become a professional football player, despite not playing the game since he was 13 years old. So, you can imagine there are not only a lot of X's and O's he has to learn and catch up on, but he also has to transform his body from that of a basketball player into a football player.

Gathers has been in the system for an entire year and has been putting in the work in the strength and conditioning program to prepare his body for the upcoming season. He also had the added benefit of working with the recently retired Tony Romo on the practice squad. That alone was probably invaluable to his development, but that was in practice, not actual games.

You see, a lot of the hype surrounding Rico Gathers is because of the work he was able to get in with Romo on the practice squad. Word is the duo was virtually unstoppable against the Cowboys first team defense, which has a lot of us excited about Gathers potential, myself included. But, running scripted plays that allowed him to know exactly what to do is far different than what he would have to do in an actual game.

Rico GathersThat's the reason I'm preaching caution here, because all of the nuances of the game he still has to learn. We really don't know how much of a grasp he has on the playbook or if he knows all of his assignments based on what the opposing defense is showing. This is something will have to wait until training camp to find out.

The Dallas Cowboys ask quite a bit of their tight ends, which makes it one of the more difficult positions to learn. They have several responsibilities in both the running and passing game, which is mostly predicated on being able to read defensive coverages in a split second.

These are the areas of greatest concern for Gathers' development. Of course, he also has to work on his blocking technique and route running, but that's the physical side of the game that comes easier with proper coaching. It's really the mental aspects holding Gathers back, because the physical traits are definitely there.

At 6'7" and 281 pounds, Rico Gathers has rare size and athletic ability, especially for a tight end. That is why it is easy to imagine what he could possibly turn into and do on the football field.

As things stand right now, he is the #2 tight end behind Jason Witten when training camp gets underway, while Geoff Swaim and James Hanna continue to recover from their injuries. So, he will have the opportunity to prove himself. The ball is in his court (pun intended).

I'm personally still going to err on the side of caution when it comes to how much he will be able to contribute in 2017, because I think he still has quite a ways to go in his development. But, that doesn't mean I'm not rooting for the guy.

Rico Gathers just has that kind of story you want to root for. It's not easy to transition from one sport to another, especially when he hasn't played the sport he's transitioning into since he was 13. But, I'm sure we are all hoping he has a storybook ending. Right?

Are you already buying into the Rico Gathers hype?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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Dallas Cowboys: The Case For Regression In 2019

Kevin Brady

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Predicting Dallas Cowboys Roster Locks, Pre-Training Camp Edition
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

It's been a few years since things around the Dallas Cowboys felt this good prior to a season. Coming off a 10-6 year in which Dallas won both the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a one possession road game to the future NFC champions, Cowboys Nation is expecting some big things in 2019.

After all, the Cowboys went out and improved their roster in multiple ways this offseason and brought in some new blood on their offensive coaching staff. Spirits are high among Cowboys Nation, and just about everyone is anticipating a two team race for the NFC East.

But some numbers indicate we should be thinking "not so fast."

The details of the 2018 season are not as pretty as the total picture. Rarely are they ever, of course, but these particular details point towards possible regression for the Cowboys in 2019.

Basically, their point differential a year ago spells out impending doom. (That was dramatic, but let's discuss).

The Cowboys were +15 in 2018, and by pythagorean wins expectation, they were about as strong as an 8-8 team (8.53 wins to be exact). This means they won nearly 2 more games (1.47) than would be expected, fourth most in the entire NFL.

This point is furthered when looking at their record in one possession games. Dallas went 8-2 when the game was decided by 7 points or less, winning close games at a rate that is simply not sustainable year to year.

These numbers make the Cowboys a prime candidate for regression in 2019, as they were in 2017.

Why The Numbers Expect Regression, But Success For Cowboys In 2017

Back in 2016, the Cowboys outperformed their pythagorean expectation by a whole 2 wins. The following season? Dallas finished the year 9-7. The model also indicated that the 7-9 Eagles performed 2 wins under expectations in 2016, meaning they would get back on track in 2017. As we know, they ended up winning 13 games and the Super Bowl the following season.

Of course, this isn't set-in-stone, and the Cowboys very well could outperform these expectations and avoid regression. This would mainly hinge on their coaching staff and quarterback performing at an elite level, carrying them through close games and winning more games by greater than one possession.



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Newly Acquired DE Robert Quinn Brings High Expectations

Kevin Brady

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Robert Quinn
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Winning games in the NFL typically comes down to accomplishing two goals. One, being successful when passing on offense. And, two, stopping the opposing team's passing game.

The Cowboys set out to accomplish that second goal this offseason, re-signing defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and trading for veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn, who tallied 6.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins, is one of the leagues more feared rushers when at his best. The former All Pro has multiple 10+ sack seasons under his belt, including a whopping 19 in 2013.

And, as expected, the Cowboys coaching staff is ecstatic to have such a respected pass rushing specialist on their roster.

“He’s got that first step. He’s an established pass rusher in this league, so he’s going to bring some good stuff for us.” - Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

The Cowboys acquired Robert Quinn for a 2020 6th round pick, which could end up being the steal of the offseason. Quinn has played with some top-notch pass rushers in the past, and each time they have brought out the best in his own game.

Back with the Rams in 2017, when Aaron Donald was on the same defensive line, Quinn got to the quarterback 8.5 times. And, last season, he remained consistent in his sack totals playing alongside Cameron Wake. Now he joins a DeMarcus Lawrence who has 25 sacks over the last 2 seasons.

"I think it was kind of one of those where I get to have fun, pin my ears back and just disrupt the backfield, which is what they want us to do." - Robert Quinn told NFL.com. 

Quinn and the always dominant Lawrence will form an impressive defensive end duo on passing downs, with the potential to be one of the best in all of football. Dallas is also hoping to add Randy Gregory into this mix, a piece which could prove vital late in football games if he is able to return from his current indefinite suspension.

Whether or not Gregory finds his way back onto the field, though, this defensive front will be in good hands. The edge combo of Quinn and Lawrence, combined with a plethora of skilled interior rushers such as Maliek Collins, gives the Cowboys a fearsome defensive line which should keep quarterbacks uncomfortable every Sunday.



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Can Rookie OL Connor McGovern Compete For A Starting Spot?

Kevin Brady

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Connor McGovern

Raising eyebrows in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Cowboys added Penn State offensive lineman Connor McGovern to their already deep OL depth chart.

McGovern, who played guard for the Nittany Lions, was reportedly by-far the best player remaining on the Cowboys draft board when they came on the clock in round three. Still, with seemingly more pressing needs yet to be addressed, Dallas' selection of McGovern was certainly a surprise.

When you watch the tape, though, you immediately see what the Cowboys loved about Connor McGovern.

A "plug-and-play" type guard, Connor McGovern is the type of rookie you'd expect to contribute in year one. On many teams he may be a candidate to start at guard or center from the beginning of his rookie season, but here in Dallas, his role for the 2019 season is somewhat in question.

Clearly, being a day two pick, there's no doubt that McGovern will make the Cowboys roster. But can he compete for a starting job?

During OTA's McGovern took reps at both guard and center, pointing towards the possibility of him being the first interior offensive lineman off the bench if one of the starters were to go down with an injury. Fellow interior linemen Joe Looney and Xavier Su'a-Filo each contributed in big ways during the 2018 season, however, and will be tough to beat out during camp.

Obviously McGovern won't be starting over All-Pros Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, but could he dethrone Connor Williams from his left guard position?

While possible, I would still say it's unlikely. The Cowboys selection of McGovern seems to be more about 2020 and beyond than it is about the 2019 season. With right tackle La'el Collins coming up on a contract year, Dallas might elect to let him walk in free agency, move Williams back to his college position of tackle, and slide McGovern into the left guard slot.

This seems fool-proof in theory, but this many moving parts across the offensive line could spell trouble early on in 2020. Regardless, Connor McGovern's arrival gives Dallas the flexibility to consider all options on their offensive line.

In reality, McGovern strengthened a strength for Dallas, and may be needed to prove himself as early as this Fall if injury issues arise.



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