The preseason isn't about wins and losses but players trying to either make the team or solidify their spot on the depth chart. Even without the best supporting cast around them, Cowboys Brice Butler and Rico Gathers made the most of their opportunities in the team's 20-18 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in the 2017 Hall of Fame Game.
On just two catches, Butler reminded us why he's a potentially dangerous receiving option for the Cowboys offense. Using his pure speed on both plays, Butler got past his man and hauled in two lob passes from Kellen Moore for 46 and 32 yards each. One ball in particular was almost thrown too far ahead but Butler reached out and snagged it for an impressive catch. He might have had a touchdown on the other throw if Moore had put a little more heat on it.
Some, including me, have speculated that Butler might not make the roster if younger guys like Andy Jones and Noah Brown came to play. It's still early, but good reports from training camp and games like this one will keep Brice in Dallas and perhaps even earn him some more opportunities on offense in the regular season.
If you went into the game with Rico Gathers as one of your most interesting players then you were not disappointed. The tight end prospect had three impressive catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. His scoring catch was on a jump ball and the former basketball player looked like he was taking a rebound out of the air over the defender.
Rico's other two catches showed that he has some natural hands as a receiver. Both passes from Cooper Rush were off target but Gathers adjusted and secured the ball. On one player, Gathers had to go to the ground to complete the catch but had the presence of mind to realize that he hadn't been touched. Rico got up and rumbled for a much larger gain, showing good football awareness for such a novice player.
The Cowboys sat both James Hanna and Geoff Swaim tonight so Gathers got to play the entire game. He probably won't get as many snaps in other preseason games, but Rico did his part tonight to maximize the opportunities he had.
- Alfred Morris had a strong showing with 42 yards on just seven carries. His experience shined through with good reads behind zone blocking, and Morris finished runs with both power and athleticism for big gains. Even if he doesn't make the team, more good preseason play could help Dallas find a trade partner.
- The reason Morris could be expendable is Rod Smith, who dominated the second half offense and put on a great display of both his power and athletic ability. Smith had 64 yards on 18 carries and also 25 yards on three catches. Where Rod really impressed was with some vision and improvisational running, taking nothing plays and making things happen.
- Kellen Moore put in a solid outing, playing the entire first half. He rallied back from a disappointing 3-and-out on the first series and moved the offense well the rest of the way. Moore finished with 182 yards on 12-for-17 passing and threw the touchdown pass to Rico Gathers. Kellen's night ended with an interception on an endzone throw to Noah Brown; a jump-ball opportunity that wasn't really on the QB.
- The second half was Cooper Rush's time at quarterback and the undrafted rookie wasn't bad at all. Under fire from several all-out blitzes, Rush didn't turn it over and made some heads-up plays in some chaotic situations. He threw a touchdown to EZ Nwachukwu and also showed some good wheels with a few big runs to pick up first downs.
- DE Damontre Moore looked beastly throughout the night, disrupting the pocket numerous times and sending the quarterback scrambling. He never registered a sack but his impact was obvious.
- FB Keith Smith caught three passes out of the backfield and looked good with the ball in his hands. The Cowboys haven't had an offensive weapon at fullback since the days of Richie Anderson and it's a nice wrinkle for a run-heavy team. If he's developing as a receiver on top of his strong blocking, Keith's roster spot is almost guaranteed.
- It was not a standout night for the Cowboys defense, who allowed the Cardinals to move the ball easily in the first half. Blaine Gabbert looked like a former 10th-overall pick, and not Blaine Gabbert, during the first half as he carved Dallas up for 185 yards. Things got better in the second half as the Arizona offense stalled, but Damontre Moore was really the only defender who was making his presence felt consistently.
- Before the game, it was nice to see Orlando Scandrick embrace Jerry Jones when the Cowboys owner was introduced as one of the Hall of Fame inductees. There was a little friction this offseason around Scandrick and trade rumors during the draft. Clearly, there's no lingering animosity like we had a few years back with Mike Jenkins.
- The Cowboys now return to Oxnard and get a nine-day break before resuming preseason play in Los Angeles against the Rams.
Should Gregory’s Potential Reinstatement Alter Cowboys Draft Plan?
A lot has happened with the Dallas Cowboys roster in a short period of time leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. Just four days away now, the Cowboys are still adjusting to life without Dez Bryant, and may be preparing to welcome back Randy Gregory this season.
After months of speculation about the Cowboys' exiled pass rusher turning his life around for the better, the end result may be Gregory triumphantly returning to the field and filling a considerable position of need in Dallas.
Through Gregory's numerous absences from the Cowboys, the team has searched for temporary fixes at his right defensive end spot until drafting Taco Charlton in the first round last year. In his rookie season, Charlton looked much better at left end behind DeMarcus Lawrence than he ever did rushing against left tackles.
ALERT: Sources offer me very positive reports on #Cowboys DE @RandyGregory_4 coming bid for NFL reinstatement, as @BobbyBeltTX also notes. Randy Gregory has a chance to be a terrific story.
Randy Gregory can beat left tackles with speed and bend, but also has more career suspensions than he does sacks. Finding another defensive end with these traits in the draft could put the Cowboys defensive line over the top, but doing so with this year's class could cost them a pick better spent elsewhere.
Of course, this will be the case if Gregory does complete a comeback that the Cowboys have been understandably quiet about until recently. Stephen Jones has said the plan for Gregory is to apply for reinstatement following the draft.
The Cowboys "smart" approach of rebuilding their front four on defense as if Gregory would never see the field again has yielded them plenty of success - at all but the spot Gregory would line up at. DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Maliek Collins, and Taco Charlton should all inspire hope for this unit in 2018.
This is more than we were ever able to say about forgotten defenders like Benson Mayowa, who remains a free agent RDE.
The same can be said about prospects like Harold Landry or Marcus Davenport. At this point though, it feels like a priority draft pick spent at DE is a sudden sign of nervousness about Randy Gregory's return by the Cowboys.
This team has plenty of depth to deploy Rod Marinelli's patented "waves" of pass rushers, finally entering a season with an elite talent at DE too. The opportunity to have DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory attack opposing quarterbacks from opposite sides is a reality the Cowboys are prepared to work towards.
They should do so looking elsewhere early in the draft, coming back to defensive end if a developmental player they like falls.
Cowboys Quarterback is playing Moneyball
Money talks, and no one talks louder than the Dallas Cowboys. It’s hard to find a more affordable Pro Bowl player than Dak Prescott. A former fourth-round pick from Mississippi State, Prescott is only scheduled to make around $680,000 in 2018. It’s only his third year, but it may be his most important when it comes to his future with the Cowboys.
When a team drafts its franchise quarterback, they usually only get about two seasons to prove they’re "the guy."
Every year, teams draft someone, usually in the first round, with hopes that he'll be their sought after franchise quarterback. However, by being drafted so high, there’s little margin for error afforded to them.
In Dak Prescott’s case, being drafted outside the first round, he wasn’t expected to contribute near as much in his first two seasons as he has. A day-one starter for the then injured Tony Romo gave him his opportunity and he has made the most of it.
In two seasons, Dak Prescott has a 22-10 record, made the playoffs and Pro Bowl, completed 65.2% of his passes and has added a new dimension in the Cowboys offense thanks to his mobility in and out of the pocket. However, I wouldn’t be the first to tell you that his year two wasn’t as good as his year one was. Prescott lost four more games, completed fewer passes and more interceptions in year two.
To be fair, some of his issues attributed to the injury of Tyron Smith, Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension and many of his receivers dropping more passes than we’ve previously seen. These issues will have to be cleaned up not only for the team, but for Dak Prescott’s future.
According to Spotrac.com, Dak Prescott’s market value today is around $25 million a year, which would make him among the most paid players in the league. In comparison, Kirk Cousins will be paid the most in the league at $28 million this year, while Aaron Rodgers will make $22 million.
So, the Cowboys quarterback's market value is among the best in the league.
Cowboys fans everywhere are rooting for him to succeed but year three will be crucial. If he can improve on his play from a year ago and keep winning games, he would likely see his extension happen sometime around his fourth season.
People have already seen Prescott at his highs and lows. Going into 2018 with a new receiving core, the return of Ezekiel Elliott and a new left guard will get rid of any excuses.
If Dak Prescott really is who he believes he is, and who fans know he can be, then the Cowboys have their quarterback. If not, then the search will continue.
Prescott should be plenty motivated to be the Cowboys quarterback for the present and the future. Also, he should be motivated by how much money he could get it.
It is a game, but it’s still a business. And C.R.E.A.M.
Cowboys Expected to Pick Up Byron Jones’ Fifth-Year Option
2018 should be a huge year for the Cowboys' 2015 first-round pick Bryon Jones. After being used all over the secondary, it seems like he'll finally find a position to stay next season. The announcement was made that heading into his contract year, Jones would be moved to the cornerback position full-time.
Fortunately for him, the Cowboys are now expected to pick up his fifth-year option. This may come as a surprise for Cowboys Nation, given there haven't been any hints by the franchise to do so. However, it definitely will be a wise decision.
The #Cowboys are expected to pick up the fifth-year option for Byron Jones, source said. That should give him $6.17M salary for 2019, one that is guaranteed for injury. The 2015 first-round pick should benefit from a full-time move to corner.
Since he played most of his snaps as a safety in 2017 (his third year in the league), Byron's fifth-option will be less expensive than one from a cornerback. This is obviously good news for the front office since it means more cap space will be available in 2019.
Hopefully, Byron finds success under the new secondary coach in Dallas, Kris Richard. With him moving to cornerback full-time, we might just see his incredible athleticism translate into consistent impact on the field.
Byron Jones said ever since Kris Richard was hired as the Cowboys' new DBs coach he talked about moving Byron back to CB. "I think it will be a good move for me and the team.
Jones has a ton of talent but bouncing from one position to another is not good for player progression. Heck, we talk about how hard it is for many talented prospects to come into the NFL and adapt, now imagine a player who's played in different spots in the secondary all through his first three years.
If #31 becomes a quality starting cornerback in 2018, the CB room will be loaded in Dallas.
Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis showed us they could become the next great CB duo for the Cowboys in their rookie seasons. Anthony Brown had a rough 2017, but can still play at a decent level if he's not asked to be CB1.
Add Byron Jones to the mix, and Cowboys Nation should be really comfortable with how this position will look next season.
Picking Byron's fifth-year option will be a wise decision for Dallas, and Cowboys fans should be happy about it. Let's go!
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