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Cowboys Sophomores: S Byron Jones

The 2015 Dallas Cowboys did not exactly leave us with many bright spots heading into the off season. Of course, that is not to say that through the fog of a 4-12 campaign there were not players that overwhelmingly stood out and provided some hope for 2016. From their 2015 draft class, first round selection Byron Jones was impressive all season long in the secondary. Drafted out of UCONN mainly because of his off-the-charts athleticism and Combine numbers, Jones was asked to play as an outside corner, inside corner, free safety, and single-high safety all in his rookie season. Byron was always ready for the challenge, sticking to targets in coverage no matter where he was lined up.

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Sophomores: S Byron Jones

The 2015 Dallas Cowboys did not exactly leave us with many bright spots heading into the off season. Of course, that is not to say that through the fog of a 4-12 campaign there were not players that overwhelmingly stood out and provided some hope for 2016. From their 2015 draft class, first round selection Byron Jones was impressive all season long in the secondary.

Drafted out of UCONN mainly because of his off-the-charts athleticism and Combine numbers, Jones was asked to play as an outside corner, inside corner, free safety, and single-high safety all in his rookie season. Byron was always ready for the challenge, sticking to targets in coverage no matter where he was lined up.

Most notably, Jones was used to take opposing tight ends out of the game, which he was able to do even against some of the game's best like New England's Rob Gronkowski.

Having Jones on the field for this defense was a refreshing site to Cowboys fans, as we have watched the team's secondary struggle with the same cast of players for a long time. However, now that Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli has designated Jones to focus on the free safety position, he will be playing behind familiar faces in Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr.

Claiborne and Carr are both back with the team after Carr took a pay cut entering the season and Claiborne returned on a one-year deal. Returning from injury to cover in the slot is veteran leader Orlando Scandrick. Behind these three starters, players like Terrance Mitchell, Deji Olatoye, Josh Thomas, and rookie Anthony Brown will add depth while competing for potentially significant playing time.

Byron Jones can help out all of the names listed above by remaining at the safety position. The Dallas Cowboys' passing defense surprisingly ranked 5th in the league last season in yards allowed, while trying to support an offense that provided just over 17 points per game. Hopefully playing with an offense that puts up points while dominating time of possession, the Cowboys' secondary can once again force some turnovers like we saw in 2014.

These turnovers were all but absent in 2015, but with Jones now being able to now drive downhill towards the football in support of his corners, the expectation for the second-year player should be that he can help in this area.

While Jones will use the rest of OTAs, training camp, and the preseason to practice his skills at the safety position, he should also be available to play down at CB in the case of an injury.

The ideal scenario though for the Cowboys is to keep their veteran corner backs healthy, and let them make plays on the ball knowing the athletic Byron Jones is behind them at free safety.

Potentially, the Cowboys' passing defense could be one of the strongest we've seen from this team in a long time in 2016. For that to be the case, #31 Byron Jones will be absolutely pivotal.

What do you expect from Byron in 2016? Start the conversation by leaving a comment below!

"Cowboys Sophomores” is an ongoing series that will look at second-year players and their roles for the 2016 Dallas Cowboys here on Inside The Star. For previous player profiles, click here

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Sophomores: S Byron Jones" 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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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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