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Cowboys Offense: Evaluating Options at WR and RB

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Offense: Evaluating Options at WR and RB

For a NFL offense to reach its full potential, the offensive line needs to be consistently playing their best football. For the Dallas Cowboys, who have had the best offensive line in the league since 2014, this part of the offense has begun to feel like an afterthought.

The imposing wall up front offensively that Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Doug Free combine to form gives the Cowboys their offensive identity as a physical football team that will command the game with a steady ground attack.

Ezekiel Elliott is here to provide the majority of Dallas' work in that running game, but the rookie out of Ohio State is not the only intriguing option in the backfield for Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan to employ.

Of course, the running game as a whole will also benefit from strong play out of QB Tony Romo and his weapons out wide. Stretching the field vertically and keeping this offense balanced will be left primarily to Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Brice Butler, and Cole Beasley. However, similar to the situation at running back, the Cowboys have a few different directions that they could go to fill out the rest of the depth chart at wide receiver.

With the team entering a game week - opening up the preseason in Los Angeles against the Rams on Saturday - let's explore further some decisions the Dallas Cowboys will have to make at running back and wide receiver.

Running Backs - Who will take carries away from Zeke?

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Offense: Evaluating Options at WR and RB 1

Ezekiel Elliott is going to be hard to take off the field on Sundays for the Cowboys.

If you draft a running back in the top 5 of the NFL Draft like the Cowboys did, you expect him to be able to play as a workhorse that can immediately be the focal point of an offense.

Elliott can do all of these things as a runner, pass catcher, and blocker. The sky is truly the limit for one of the most complete running back prospects to enter the NFL in years, as his standard will be set by DeMarco Murray's 2014 performance behind this offensive line.

Perhaps being forgotten at this point from the Cowboys 12-4 division winning season of two years ago is the effort that Joseph Randle put in behind Murray. As a slashing change-of-pace back that served as a home run hitting threat, Randle carried the ball 51 times for 343 yards.

With Elliott being a Swiss army knife type of back - combining the physical abilities of Murray and finesse abilities of Randle into one player - it is going to be that much harder for any back behind him currently on the roster to take carries away from him.

Vying for that RB2 spot is last year's leading rusher Darren McFadden, newly signed zone-runner Alfred Morris, rookie Darius Jackson, and Lance Dunbar. If Dallas truly wants to replicate 2014 and use a back that varies in style from Elliott, they should be hoping for Darius Jackson to continue to impress and for Lance Dunbar to retain his usual form as he works back from injury.

While there may only be one game day roster spot for Jackson and Dunbar to occupy, both backs can carry the ball with blazing speed in the open field. Jackson is already becoming a fan favorite for Cowboys Nation, as he has looked good through training camp thus far, and expects to get a heavy workload to prove himself further this preseason.

Personally, while I am all for Darius Jackson playing his way onto this football team, I am hoping the Cowboys get away from the differing styles in the backfield and add more physicality to the offense by making veteran Alfred Morris the primary runner behind Ezekiel Elliott.

With Romo under center with Elliott and Morris primarily lining up in the backfield, the Cowboys offense would truly be feared by defenses on every single snap as one that can blow you off the ball and run it at you while providing the threat of a dynamic passing game at the same time. With the offensive line excelling at getting to the second level, a full speed Ezekiel Elliott followed by a bruising Alfred Morris coming at linebackers and corners is a recipe for total offensive domination in 2016 from the Dallas Cowboys.

Wide Receivers - Finding Romo's Newest Toys

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Offense: Evaluating Options at WR and RB 2

 (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

The WR position on the Cowboys roster is currently full of talent, potential, and future decisions to be made. With the team being so deep all over the roster both offensively and defensively, there is going to be a few "odd men out" when it comes to this current group of 11 pass catchers.

The roster locks, however, are pretty set in stone.

Dez Bryant is ready to get back to doing Dez Bryant things, Terrance Williams and Brice Butler will both make the team and fight for playing time across from Bryant, and Cole Beasley will man the slot once again.

This leaves even last year's fan favorite UDFA Lucky Whitehead on the bubble, competing for one - or at the most two - spots with this year's UDFA class of wide receivers consisting of Ed Eagan, Andy Jones, and Chris Brown.

Vince Mayle, Rodney Smith, and Devin Street are also on the roster, but appear to be on the outside looking in right now at these other young options that are turning heads. Particularly, Ed Eagan and Andy Jones have both put some of their best football onto the Oxnard practice fields through the first week of training camp.

Should the decision come down to these two wide outs for the Cowboys, the winner will tell us a lot about the direction this offense plans on heading.

//insidethestar.com/cowboys-headlines/can-ed-eagan-be-cowboys-next-undrafted-gem/

Should Eagan beat out Jones, we can expect to see plenty of short passes from the Cowboys offense to get the ball out of Romo's hands quickly and into the hands of his play makers. Eagan would likely serve as a slot WR opposite of Beasley, and is shifty with a faster "second-gear" than Beasley in the open field.

While this quick strike offense would certainly be exciting, with Eagan also helping his cause by giving the Cowboys another option at punt returner, the team will also be looking for more red zone threats after struggling in that area through 2015.

Of course, not having Romo and Bryant out there and in sync took away the Cowboys' best red zone connection, but the rest of the receivers called on to make plays for the backup quarterbacks were underwhelming.

Bryan Broaddus on Twitter

Jones has looked the best. Getting reps with the 1s now. https://t.co/jM1D6L1E4s

Enter Andy Jones, a physical stud out of Jacksonville who could make the Dallas red zone offense absolutely unstoppable. While Jones struggles to create separation at the line, his ability to make contested and adjusting catches has caught the eye of coaches enough to get him some reps with the first team offense.

As things stand now, the Cowboys may feel that they have enough speed at the position in Bryant, Williams, Butler, and Beasley, and decide to use their final WR spot on Andy Jones to give them some more versatility.

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys Call Off Immediate Search For Veteran Quarterback

Should this be the case, and they also plan on running mostly Alfred Morris behind Zeke Elliott, the 2016 Dallas Cowboys offense could be one of the greatest displays of power and speed coming together to form something special that we have ever seen.

What do you make of the Cowboys situation at running back and wide receiver? Agree with my picks to make the cut? Disagree? Let's talk about it! Comment below with who YOU will be hoping makes the cut to start the conversation.

 

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Offense: Evaluating Options at WR and RB" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. 88xfactor

    August 8, 2016 at 11:10 am

    Fear the STAR. Keep Romo upright, and the Boys are unstoppable.

    • Sean Martin

      Sean Martin

      August 10, 2016 at 9:14 pm

      You speak the truth. Thanks for reading!

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys Offseason: Projecting Dak Prescott’s Extension

John Williams

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QB Dak Prescott Switches Agents Prior to Crucial 2018 Season 1

This week, Spotrac.com, who analyzes the salary cap, player performance, and makes projections for future contracts, released their most recent contract valuations for the big name Dallas Cowboys who will be approaching the offseason looking for a new contract. Between, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys will have a lot of negotiating going on this offseason and will be handing out some big bucks.

Obviously, the one that we're most concerned about here in Cowboys Nation is what the Dallas Cowboys front office is going to do with Dak Prescott. Many fans and pundits aren't sold on Dak Prescott as a franchise quarterback, but he is a franchise quarterback and he's about to get paid like one.

Brace yourselves. 

Spotrac on Twitter

Updated Baseline Market Valuations for notable #Cowboys heading into 2019 Dak Prescott: $25.2M https://t.co/ShnCWjIJOM DeMarcus Lawrence: $19.6M https://t.co/3pekUoiVjQ Amari Cooper: $16.7M https://t.co/vPymDSdEeU Zeke Elliott: $9.4M https://t.co/mtFxTap892

Over The Cap is projecting the 2019 salary cap to be around $190 million this season, which would put Dak Prescott's projected salary figure of $25.2 million at around 13.2% of this season's salary cap. And percentage of the cap is the more important number to look at when judging Dak Prescott's figure. When Russell Wilson signed his four-year extension in 2015 that averaged out at $21.9 million per year, his contract took up 15.3% of the salary cap when signed. So yes, in total dollars, Prescott's salary will be higher, but in percent of the cap it will be lower. If you give Dak Prescott 15.3% of the projected 2019 salary cap, you’re looking at $29.07 million per year.

When Spotrac does their salary projections they attempt to find quarterbacks who have had similar careers to the player and use those players as a gauge for what the projection might be, including adjustments for the market rate for the position and the growing salary cap. So, Spotrac has Dak Prescott's career thus far comparable to Blake Bortles, Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson, and Cam Newton. Below, you can see the contract numbers for those players that Dak Prescott compares to and the age when they signed their deals.

That's an interesting mix of players.

What will a Dak Prescott Contract Extension Look Like

Let's also take a look at the top six quarterback contracts in the NFL.

Dallas Cowboys Offseason: Projection Dak Prescott's ExtensionLet's start first with Derek Carr, who has the sixth highest average annual pay rate at just over $25 million per year. He signed his deal two years ago in the 2017 offseason. Another contract I like to look at when attempting to figure Prescott's number is Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo got his deal from the San Francisco 49ers after only seven NFL starts (two with New England Patriots and five with the 49ers). His contract made him the fourth highest paid quarterback at $27.5 million per year. Again, after only seven NFL Starts.

Dak Prescott has 48 starts in the NFL regular season, and a career passer rating of 96. Of the top six quarterback contracts listed above, only Aaron Rodgers and Jimmy Garoppolo have a higher career passer rating than Dak Prescott. If you look at the top 10 quarterback contracts in the NFL now, only Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Jimmy Garoppolo have a higher career passer rating than Dak Prescott. You can argue that Prescott's teams have had more success than Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins, and Derek Carr in his first three seasons. While QB Wins is not a stat that we should use to evaluate quarterback play, because you’re paying not only the production of Dak Prescott, but also the intangibles if Dak Prescott, you have to look at the wins.

The Dallas Cowboys have gone 32-16 in the regular season with Dak Prescott at quarterback and 1-2 with him in the playoffs. That, in only three years in the NFL. He's going to get better as a player. Even if you don't look at QB Wins, Dak Prescott has been as productive as those guys he's mentioned with, aside from Brees and Rodgers.

John Williams ✭ on Twitter

Dak Prescott's body of work as a 3-year starter is franchise QB level stuff. As @Marcus_Mosher pointed out on the @lockedoncowboys Podcast, Dak's last 15 games 4,100 total yards, 30 total TDs, 7 INTs. Y'all don't want to pay that? #CowboysNation

These comparisons below look at the two years before the quarterback signing their franchise quarterback contract. Here you see that Dak compares favorably to Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and Kirk Cousins.

What will a Dak Prescott Contract Extension Look Like 1

 

As you can see above, over the last two years, Dak Prescott's averaged more passing yards per game, nearly as many touchdowns per game, fewer interceptions per game, and a comparable passer rating to Newton and Wilson in the two years before they signed their big contract extensions. His completion percentage That doesn't consider his play during the 2016 season in which he won rookie of the year as the starting quarterback for a team that went 13-3.

RJ Ochoa on Twitter

Derek Carr became the highest-paid player in NFL History after his third season. He signed a five-year, $125M extension. Here's his first three seasons next to Dak Prescott's.

RJ Ochoa, formerly of Inside The Star and now of Blogging the Boys, provided a nice comparison between Derek Carr and Dak Prescott in their first seasons in the NFL. When Derek Carr signed his contract, he became the highest paid player in NFL history.

The projection provided by Spotrac of $25.2 million is the floor as it would be just above Derek Carr's contract that he signed 2 years ago. It's entirely possible that Prescott signs a contract for more than Matt Ryan and could potentially become the highest paid quarterback in the NFL,  but I'm going to estimate that Dak Prescott receives a five-year deal for $145 million, which would give him $29 million per year.

Jerry Jones has been adamant over the course of the season about his desire to get a long-term contract done with Dak in the offseason. Jerry Jones is the owner and the general manager, so it's only a matter of time before Dak's representatives and the Cowboys front office hammers out the final numbers. Dak Prescott is going to get a big deal and bigger than many in Cowboys Nation want to give him. But the going rate for franchise quarterbacks in the NFL is that number that Jimmy Garoppolo signed.

More Salary Cap and Contract discussion here at Inside The Star

2019 Offseason Cap Casualties

2019 Dead Money Relief

Cowboys 2019 Cap Space: Who Stands to Gain the Most?

 



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Dallas Cowboys Fire Special Teams Assistant Doug Colman

Sean Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Fire Special Teams Assistant Doug Colman

The theme of last year's offseason in Dallas was coaching changes below HC Jason Garrett, OC Scott Linehan, and DC Rod Marinelli, and not yet through a week of this offseason it appears to be the same now. The Cowboys today have moved on from Special Teams Assistant Doug Colman.

Like current ST Coordinator Keith O'Quinn, Colman was in his first season with the Cowboys. The former sixth-round draft pick out of Nebraska held the same position with the Houston Texans for four previous seasons.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Small change on the #Cowboys coaching staff, as assistant special teams coach Doug Colman is out, source said. The only known change at this point.

With O'Quinn filling perhaps the biggest shoes left behind from last year, when Rich Bisaccia left the Cowboys after five seasons, the team has tentatively agreed they're struggles on special teams do not fall on the coordinator and will now be looking for a new assistant.

The Cowboys did successfully transition from Kicker Dan Bailey to Brett Maher, watching Bailey struggle with the Vikings as Maher finished 29 of 36 and six of seven on field goals of 50 or more yards. The always-steady Chris Jones averaged 44.5 yards a punt in 2018, up slightly from 44.1.

The return game is where Dallas struggled to find consistency. Deonte Thompson led the team in kick returns despite being released after eight games. Darius Jackson, Jourdan Lewis, and Cole Beasley all failed to make an impact from this spot once called upon - with Beasley and Tavon Austin also handling punt returns for an average of 5.7 yards a return.

With further upgrades at wide receiver being a pressing need for the Cowboys still, adding a dynamic returner should be of priority for both the current coaches and any new additions to the ST staff.

The Cowboys were also second to last in average kickoff return yards allowed this season, and 16th in punt coverage.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Fire Special Teams Assistant Doug Colman" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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5 Potential Candidates Cowboys Could Target to Replace OC Scott Linehan

Brian Martin

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5 Potential Candidates to Replace Cowboys OC Scott Linehan

Should he go or should he stay!? That seems to be the question the Dallas Cowboys are asking themselves about their current Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan. Many of us would say it's an easy decision to make, but we really don't know what's going on behind closed doors.

The only thing we know for sure right now is Scott Linehan is still employed by the Dallas Cowboys and it might be a while before we know his fate with the organization one way or another. The Cowboys coaching staff, including Linehan, will coach the Pro Bowl in a little over a week, which is why any decision regarding Dallas' coaching staff will likely be delayed.

I know my opinion means little, but I have a hard time seeing Scott Linehan returning to the Dallas Cowboys next season. His playcalling has been pretty predictable and dated the past few years, plus there's the fact he was nearly fired earlier this season during the bye week. I don't think he's done much since then to improve his chances of sticking around. But, that's just my opinion.

That's why today I thought I'd share with you a few of the potential OC candidates I'd personally target if I were the Dallas Cowboys. Let's get started…

Tony Romo

Tony RomoHow elated would Cowboys Nation be if Tony Romo returned to the Dallas Cowboys as their next offensive coordinator. Everybody understands he doesn't have any formal coaching experience, especially in the NFL, but I seriously doubt that would matter.

No one would question his knowledge of the game, especially after hearing him break down the X's and O's first hand while he's commentating on game days. It's one of the reasons why he's grown in popularity as a commentator in such a short time.

Honestly, bringing in Romo as the OC could be the match made in heaven for the Cowboys. He already knows the system Jason Garrett likes to use offensively and his coaching philosophy. It would likely be a seamless transition, especially since he's already so familiar with the personnel. But, there's really no way of knowing if he's ready to leave his cushy commentating job to become a coach.

Todd Haley

Todd Haley

(Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)

As much as I'd like to see Tony Romo make his return back to the Dallas Cowboys in a coaching capacity, bringing back Todd Haley to the organization would be a close second. He spent 2004-2006 with the Cowboys as their wide receiver coach before moving on to become the offensive coordinator for several teams (Cardinals, Steelers, Browns) and the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Unlike Romo, Haley has a proven track record as a play caller in the NFL. I personally like what he would bring to the table if made the new OC in Dallas. He is an aggressive play caller with a fiery attitude. I think his addition to the Cowboys offense could have the same kind of impact as Kris Richard's did to the defense this past season.

There is a downside about Haley though. He can be a bit abrasive with those he's working with. He's known for not always getting along with some of his players or with his coaching staff. It's one of the reasons why both he and Hue Jackson were fired this past season by the Cleveland Browns. I don't think it would be a problem with Dallas, but it is something to think about.

Eric Bieniemy

Eric BieniemyI'm grasping a little bit here because it would take quite a bit to lure Eric Bieniemy away from the Kansas City Chiefs, but it's not completely impossible. Jerry Jones would have to really put on his business hat to get Bieniemy's attention, especially after he was in the running for a few head-coaching jobs here recently. But, we all know how persuasive Jerry Jones can be when he wants to.

First off, the Dallas Cowboys would have to make Bieniemy their assistant head coach as well as their offensive coordinator. He is already the OC with the Chiefs, just not the playcaller. Andy Reid still handles those responsibilities. He does however handle the majority of the game planning, which is raved about because of his attention to detail.

His players have also raved about his personality and aggressiveness as a coach. This is something that has endeared Cowboys players to Kris Richard in a short amount of time and it could be the same if Eric Bieniemy comes aboard. Unfortunately, I think this is a longshot. He's probably is eyeing a head-coaching job that could come as soon as next season. Jason Garrett replacement?

Joe Lombardi

Joe LombardiJoe Lombardi, the grandson of Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, isn't on a lot of people's list as a potential offensive coordinator candidate, but probably should be. He does have one year of experience as an OC in the NFL, but that was with the Detroit Lions in 2014-2015 and we shouldn't count that against him. No play callers last long in Detroit since Matthew Stafford took over as their starting QB.

The reason I really like Lombardi as a potential Scott Linehan replacement is because of the time he spent with Sean Payton and Drew Brees in New Orleans. Minus the one year in Detroit, he's been with the Saints since 2007. The majority of that time was spent as the QB coach to one of the best ever played the game.

I've been trying to figure out a way to get Sean Payton back as a Cowboys coach for the past several seasons without any success. Turning to someone he's personally groomed could be the next best thing. He was there through all of Drew Brees' numerous passing records and his Super Bowl victory. He has also help develop Taysom Hill into the playmaker he's become this season. He could just be the guy to take Dak Prescott's game to the next level.

Doug Nussmeier (In-house Candidate)

Doug Nussmeier

Dallas Cowboys TE Coach Doug Nussmeier

If the Dallas Cowboys do indeed decide to move on from Scott Linehan, it doesn't necessarily mean they will look outside the organization for a new offensive coordinator. They could quite possibly already have his replacement on the team in Doug Nussmeier, who served as their tight end coach this season.

Nussmeier's coaching background mostly consist of him being a QB coach or offensive coordinator at the collegiate level. In fact, those are the only two coaching titles he's held throughout his career until this year when he became the Cowboys TE coach. I don't know about you, but I find that pretty impressive, especially after seeing Dallas' young tight ends progress through the season.

Promoting Nussmeier to OC would virtually be a seamless transition for everybody involved. He knows the system, the players, and has been involved in the game planning this past season. I don't know however if he would be an upgrade over Scott Linehan. The two have known one another for years and have worked together in the past. Not exactly a ringing endorsement in my opinion.

Do any of these Dallas Cowboys OC candidates intrigue you? If not who?



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