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Cowboys Free Agency: Spending on Defensive End is a MUST

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Cowboys Headlines - Spending on Defensive End is a MUST

You get what you pay for.

This is the story of the Dallas Cowboys defensive line.

For too long the Cowboys have tried to patch their defensive line by either taking chances in the draft or waiting in free agency to get bargains.

But, bargains are what they are because there is something wrong with the player. You are never going to get a bargain for something that is great. A bargain comes when there is a red flag or some sort of issue. Greg Hardy was a bargain because of the off-the-field concerns. Age can sometimes come with a bargain. Jason Pierre-Paul could be a bargain because of his hand.

If the Cowboys seriously want to add to their defensive line then they must pay as if they want to. Sure, they can continue bargain hunting hoping they strike gold like Macklemore in a Thrift Shop, but if they want to win under Tony Romo they better act like it.

In 2015, 9 of the top-10 teams in the NFL in total sacks made the Playoffs. Each of those teams had no less than 42 total sacks. The Arizona Cardinals had the least sacks of any Playoff teams with 36, five sacks more than the Cowboys had last year. Keep in mind unless they spend it is very hard to picture the 2016 Cowboys defensive line being anywhere near last year.

Let’s look at the Cowboys defensive line as of now. You have Demarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Terrell McClain, Randy Gregory, Ryan Russell and David Irving as your main contributors.

Cowboys Headlines - Spending on Defensive End is a MUST 2

Demarcus Lawrence showed great promise in 2015, but becoming “the guy” and coming off back surgery have to temper expectations

When projecting, I like to look at conservative numbers. If I’m building a roster I think it is wrong to be too hopeful and assume you will get the best of every player. You have to be ready for the things that go wrong during a season.

With that being said I think it is only fair to project Demarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford for 2016. The rest of the players just aren’t starter level players and haven’t proven anything on the NFL level.

Cowboys Headlines - Spending on Defensive End is a MUST 1

Tyrone Crawford hasn’t had the big season we’re all expecting yet, but his production last year could be attributed to a shoulder injury that he had offseason surgery on

I’ll project 8 sacks for Demarcus Lawrence and 5 for Tyrone Crawford. I’ll assign another 12 sacks to be shared between the rest of these defensive linemen as well as linebackers and defensive backs.

That brings you to 25 sacks, something that is a lot less than desirable. Keep in mind even if Dallas brings in some mid-level defensive linemen, that would skew this number slightly. While a guy like Adrian Clayborn might get more sacks than a Ryan Russell, he would also take away time from the rotation I assigned 12 sacks to, skewing the number just slightly.

The way you get that projection of 25 much higher is by adding a dominant player. The Cowboys are desperate for a guy who can give them double-digit sacks. Jason Hatcher was the last Cowboys defensive lineman to register double-digit sacks with 11 in 2013.

DeMarcus Ware was the last Cowboys defensive lineman to make a serious impact in the sacks department with 19.5 in 2011.

Another really important element that is being overlooked is the impact that Greg Hardy had for the rest of the defensive line.

Greg Hardy was the guy teams had to game plan against. Greg Hardy was the guy who had to fight the dirty work. Greg Hardy fought the double teams and took on all of the attention. Greg Hardy pushed sacks to Demarcus Lawrence.

If Demarcus Lawrence becomes the guy in 2016, is he really ready for that? Lawrence’s sacks came in bunches and a lot of Cowboys fans weren’t happy with him for a good portion of the beginning of the season.

If Demarcus Lawrence is the guy who is getting game planned against and the guy who is getting doubled, first off I don’t know if he can handle that and I do know that the rest of the defensive line is not good enough to benefit from that.

The fact of the matter is you can’t rely on Rod Marinelli to work his magic every year. You also can’t depend on rookies to come in and make an impact. Spend some money and put together a defensive line that will sack the quarterback. Defensive line pressure also leads to poor decisions, which lead to turnovers. As we all know, the Cowboys defense barely forced any turnovers in 2015.

Cowboys Headlines - Spending on Defensive End is a MUST 3

Adrian Clayborn is one of the players that is said to have a lot of interest from the Cowboys. He has had nagging knee injuries throughout his career, but can be an above average player

On one hand this team swears they are a win-now team under Tony Romo. If that is what they are then they have to act like it. You can’t say that on one hand and then on the other spend cheaply on mid-level players as well as use the draft for positions of desperate need. If you want to win now then you spend on players you KNOW will give you production in 2016 and you use the mid-rounds to develop players to become productive after the Romo window and after the contract with said productive defensive lineman runs out.

Is there a JJ Watt on the market? Absolutely not. However, there are impact players that demand game planning and help the rest of the defensive line look like a much better unit.

Mario Williams, Charles Johnson, Olivier Vernon and Malik Jackson would make a huge impact in 2016.

Cowboys Headlines - Spending on Defensive End is a MUST 4

Olivier Vernon is only 26 years old and in my opinion is just barely scraping the surface. I could only imagine what he can become under Rod Marinelli’s teaching. Keep in mind that no other player owned Tyron Smith like Vernon did

If the Cowboys do want to go the cheap route, they can still get production if they sign several names. If they go get several out of the group of Adrian Clayborn, William Hayes, Tamba Hali, Jason Pierre-Paul, Jeremy Mincey, Jack Crawford, Robert Ayers, Jaye Howard, Derrick Shelby etc. they can still make it work.

I prefer going for the high end defensive lineman under a 1-3 year deal to really go for it, while using mid-rounders or even higher picks to build the defensive line long-term. However, if the Cowboys do go to the second or third tier, they better sign multiple players or every single one of us has more than enough reason to be extremely disappointed with the team.

This defensive line as currently assembled is an embarrassment and that won’t change much unless they do serious work in free agency and the draft.

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I've been blogging about sports and music for almost eight years now. I also work in media relations for a New York sports team, so I understand the bridge between the outlets writing about a team and the team monitoring content. I hope to bring something new to Inside The Star, getting deep into draft work, breakdowns and I always come with a strong and passionate opinion. I'm very active on Twitter, so ask questions, comment on stuff, etc. and I will almost definitely respond to you in some sort of debate!

Dallas Cowboys

Should Cowboys Pursue Veteran Backup at Quarterback?

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys en Español: Cooper Rush
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys only have two quarterbacks under contract right now, starter Dak Prescott and backup Cooper Rush. With only three years of combined experience between them, one could argue that a veteran presence would be useful. Should Dallas make a veteran QB a free-agent priority in the 2018 offseason?

Of course, there’s plenty of other QB experience on the Cowboys staff. Head Coach Jason Garrett played professionally from 1989-2004, and started his coaching career with quarterbacks.

Scott Linehan has been coaching offense with an emphasis on the passing game for 30 years.

Kellen Moore, who is taking over for the departed Wade Wilson as quarterbacks coach, has played very recently and will bring a fresh perspective.

However, losing Wilson’s experience from the room, and the lack of any veteran player at QB, shouldn’t be dismissed.

Dak Prescott has said veteran Mark Sanchez — who was with Dallas in 2016 — was a major help during his whirlwind rookie season. Tony Romo enjoyed veteran advice from guys like Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna, and Kyle Orton throughout his playing career.

This isn’t to say Dallas would want to bring in a veteran to knock Cooper Rush down the depth chart. After a surprising preseason, Rush took the backup job from Kellen Moore and certainly has intriguing upside.

If the Cowboys were to add a veteran, that player would have to come in with the understanding he’s competing with Cooper and may not be guaranteed a job.

The good news is that it’ll be a buyer’s market for veteran quarterbacks this offseason.

Guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, and Matt Moore could all be available. Even a player with more pedigree, such as Sam Bradford, may have trouble finding starting work with many jobs taken among the NFL’s 32 teams.

Dallas could even consider bringing back Mark Sanchez, given his previous relationship with Dak Prescott. He only had a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears.

Given Prescott’s seeming durability, Dallas will likely only keep two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster in 2018 and for years to come. Because of that, they may be content to focus on Dak and Cooper Rush, and just get through the offseason with training camp bodies.

However, the case can certainly be made for adding another veteran player with the desire to teach to help these young quarterbacks develop. Prescott was not the same guy in 2017 that we saw as a rookie, and perhaps the absence of guys like Sanchez and Tony on the sideline had something to do with that.

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Why WR Coach Sanjay Lal is a Good Hire for Cowboys

Kevin Brady

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Why WR Coach Sanjay Lal Is A Good Hire For Cowboys

Yesterday, it was announced that the Dallas Cowboys will hire Sanjay Lal to be their new wide receivers coach. Lal spent 2017 with the Indianapolis Colts in the same position, but has made multiple stops around the NFL prior to joining the Cowboys staff.

Most recently and arguably most notably, Sanjay Lal was the receivers coach for both the New York Jets (2012-2014) and the Buffalo Bills (2015-2016). This means he coached on Rex Ryan’s staff for two different teams, with two very similar offensive philosophies.

Run the football.

As seen in the video below, Sanjay Lal has experience working as the wide outs coach for an offense with a run-first philosophy. He even says himself that their offense in New York was “ground and pound,” but notes that “without a pass game there’s no pound.”

Cowboys fans became all too familiar with the truth behind that statement during the 2017 season, as even solid efforts in the run game were rendered meaningless by their lack of explosion through the air.

Jets Nation Inside Camp: Sanjay Lal Mic’d Up

Jets wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal is mic’d up during training camp, and also discusses trying to play pro football before becoming a coach in the NFL.

A lot has been made of Sanjay Lal’s lack of 1,000-yard receivers during his time as a coach. The offensive philosophies of the teams which he coached for, however, show why this criticism is flimsy.

It’s quite possible the Cowboys will once again be without a 1,000 yard pass catcher this season, but if Ezekiel Elliott and the run game are clicking, and Dak Prescott is spreading the ball to different targets, this stat won’t mean a thing.

Lal was also the coach in Buffalo when Sammy Watkins had the best years of his career, including a 1,000-yard season.

During that stint he coached Robert Woods to productive seasons as well. Now Woods is a dangerous target for the Los Angeles Rams after being coached by Lal for multiple seasons.

These were also the same years that quarterback Tyrod Taylor was at his best.

While in New York, with the Jets, Lal’s most productive receiver was Jeremy Kerley, who finished with 827 yards in 2012 and 523 in 2013. What’s important to note here is that Kerley played as a slot receiver for much of his time as a Jet.

The Cowboys lacked any type of production from the slot in 2017, but maybe Lal can change that by getting the best out of Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer, as he did with Kerley.

Bryan Broaddus on Twitter

Know that some believe he had a real shot to be an OC in this league one day. https://t.co/1s21w2jZGR

All indications from those “in the know” suggest Sanjay Lal is on his way to becoming an offensive coordinator soon. Many believe he has the smarts and the football IQ to command an offense himself, as soon as he gets the right opportunity.

Maybe that opportunity will come down the line in Dallas, where he can continue to coach within that “ground and pound” style, which he has done for many years while also implementing elements of his own passing game expertise.

Everyone has been critical of the Cowboys’ inability to bring in external hires, and to spark up new/creative offensive ideas. Lal has spent time among some of the smartest offensive minds in football.

Maybe he’s the man to bring in that outside creativity this offense seems to lack.

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Dallas Cowboys

Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

Sean Martin

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Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

After hiring Paul Alexander to fill their vacant OL coaching position, the Dallas Cowboys are continuing to retool their offensive staff below Scott Linehan. Sanjay Lal has been hired to coach the Cowboys’ wide receivers, replacing Derek Dooley.

Lal has experience as a WR coach with four different teams, dating back to 2009 with the Oakland Raiders. He was promoted up to this position after serving as the Raiders’ quality control coach from 2007-08.

David Moore on Twitter

Sources: Cowboys have reached an agreement with Sanjay Lal to become the team’s WR coach. Lal was with Indianapolis last season and replaces Derek Dooley on the staff.

Most recently, Sanjay Lal coached the receivers for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017. He has also been with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.

In this interview with the Colts, Lal mentions being very detail-oriented with a focus on the technical aspects of playing receiver.

Lal beats out former Cowboys WR Miles Austin for this position, earning the right to lead a room of receivers in desperate need of fresh talent. In an offseason that’s been about finding fresh ideas with the coaching staff so far though, the Cowboys have a new voice on offense.

Tell us what you think about “Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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