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Dallas Cowboys: An Organizational Blueprint To Become Legitimate Contenders

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728261The Cowboys seem to be in an infinite loop of mediocrity; a perpetual cycle of good enough to tease fans and bad enough to never contend.

Cowboys Nation seems to be in a state of constant demand and ever growing expectations.  While Cowboys fans can be the best in the NFL, often they are blinded by the strategic unethical journalistic assault that sports media tends to launch.  Constantly big platform guys like Skip Bayless twist and turn the words and actions of "America's Team" to conjure up negative perceptions around the NFL and, ultimately, more reads.

As I sit here writing this, I impore you to sit back and look at these Cowboys with an open mind.  Take away your personal biases or individual feelings towards current players.

Now, there are three unequivocal truths about these Cowboys: 1) Tony Romo, like him or not, WILL be quarterbacking this team for the foreseeable future. 2) Jason Garrett possesses the talent to be an excellent head coach in this league. 3) This team remains one of the most talented teams in the league.

Those are the things that we can not control and must stop trying to argue. We can't take back Tony Romo's contract.  We can't justify firing Jason Garrett after two seasons that have seen improvement just to have to rebuild again.  And we certainly can not support an arguement that says the Cowboys don't have the talent to contend in this league.

Cowboys fans let me make one thing abundantly clear, this Cowboys team is a top team in this league.

The only question that remains is how do you get them to play like it?

I'm not talking about just this year, i'm talking about consistently contending thoughout a long-term window that has been created through two years of smart drafting.

So for a minute, I get to escape from my very average life and step into Jerry Jones' shoes and put together a blue print for returning the Dallas Cowboys into an NFL juggernaut.

Here we go....

Maximize Talent While Minimizing Cap

morris-claiborne1The Cowboys have put themself in a incredibly tough situation to navigate through in the upcoming years.  With limited increase projected in terms of salary cap allowance, the Cowboys have little room to add or retain upcoming free agents.

The Cowboys must adopt a philosophy of careful player potential evaluation.  Every personnel move needs to be calculated, meaning that every player needs to be evaluated in terms of long-term cost and long-term potential.

Additionally, the team needs to realize the benefit of player acquisition through the NFL draft.  For years the Cowboys have carelessly drafted and watched picks bust or flame out.  Thankfully, Jason Garrett has began to change that trend and will need to continue to do so to help the burden of potentially losing impact players in the near future.

In the next two years Sean Lee, Tyron Smith, Dez Bryant, Bruce Carter and DeMarco Murray will all be free agents.  Those afforementioned players represent the young core of this team.  The Cowboys must make it a priority to ensure that they retain as many of these players as they can.  Each has superstar ability and it would be nausiating to see them depart to have success elsewhere because the Cowboys didn't know how to budget properly.

Promote Continuity Through Coaching

106827160_crop_650x440For all the crap that Jason Garrett gets I believe that he's doing something very special in Dallas.  He has transformed this roster from a group of individuals to a team.  Changes don't occur over night, no matter how much we want them too.

Finally, Garrett has his type of players and that can't go overlooked.

Let me break it down for everyone.  Players don't benefit from constant coaching changes.  Learning new schemes isn't easy and if you're having to do it every offseason you're never going to be able to maximize your potential.

Garrett may not be perfect and he certainly has a lot to improve on.  However, if i'm Jerry Jones i'm giving him an extension.  Garrett needs to know that he has security in building this team.  If you're making him consistently look over his shoulder in fear he's never going to be able to fully commit to successful coaching.

The players need to know that Garrett isn't going anywhere, they need to know they can commit to him without fear of having to endure change.  Garrett is the glue to a team that is finally starting to come together.

Let The Son Claim His Throne

Stephen+Jones+Dallas+Cowboys+v+Houston+Texans+Ibc5eTzTPvgxJerry Jones is arguably the best marketer that the NFL has ever seen.  He has continued to make the Cowboys one of the most popular teams in the NFL and as a result he is the owner of the most valuable sports franchise in the world.

However, Jerry Jones' ability to be a good business man doesn't mean he's worth anything as a general manager.

For a while now Jerry Jones has been grooming his son to take over the family business.  It has been said that Stephen Jones has the right mind to be a successful GM in the NFL and could do so with any NFL franchise.

Stephen seems to be the anti-Jerry.  He understands how football operations work and seemingly does things for the betterment of the team.  Stephen was reportedly the front man for the Cowboys negotiations with quarterback Tony Romo which is structured in a way that will maximize the Cowboys ability to retain players in '14-'15.

The Cowboys would benefit from having Stephen if for no other reason that he can dedicate all his time to being the GM.  Jerry will always be more committed to growing his bank account than the franchise.  If this team plans to win, they need a GM committed to it as well.

Summary

There is a reason that this blueprint is tailored to the front office.  The talent on this team suggests that the Cowboys are ready to win now.  They have a mixture of older veterans and young budding superstars which is the equation to success.

However, until the ownership recognizes what it wants from this team and the extremely important role it plays in it's teams success, the Dallas Cowboys will remain "Next Year's Champions".



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2 Comments
  • Football Mensa

    They have a 3 year window. Jerry wasted the careers of the core players. If Dallas hits in this draft it will be a very good season. They bomb and the older core guys will never see a superbowl.

    Jerry should have relinquished control a long time ago. Amazing how the pride of a man will ruin a franchise and spin a web of failure.

    • http://bleacherreport.com/users/785399-bo-martin Bo Martin

      Completely agree, this is the most important draft in years. Let’s hope that they get it right and Cowboys fans and players can enjoy the season they’ve been looking forward too.

Game Notes

Byron Jones Has Been The Cowboys’ Best Player, And Here’s Why

Kevin Brady

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Byron Jones
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

For a former first round pick, Byron Jones has had to prove himself to the Cowboys fan base quite a few times.

As a rookie Jones was impressive, flashing just how high a ceiling he had. Jones split some time between cornerback and safety due to injury and inconsistencies of his secondary mates, but he excelled in both roles.

As his career continued, Byron Jones continued to do what he does best. Jones became the Cowboys' tight end eraser, matching up with some of the best in the league and downright shutting them down. Over time, however, the coaching staff began to misuse Jones a bit. Moving him to safety full time but still wanting him to use those tight end coverage skills, Dallas started to move Jones into the box more often.

That, especially in 2017, is where Byron Jones struggled the most. Being utilized as a box safety put Jones' weaknesses as a physical tackler on full display, and left him open for fans' criticism.

Luckily for both Jones and the Cowboys, new passing game coordinator Kris Richard values him as a cornerback, where he will spend the rest of his career in Dallas. And, thus far, the returns on that move have been fantastic.

PFF DAL Cowboys on Twitter

After 3 weeks, Byron Jones has the highest season defensive grade among CBs with a 91.0. Jones is tied for the 7th highest defense grade among all defensive players with at least 50 snaps. #CowboysNation Be a PFF ELITE member to check out stats and more: https://t.co/qEKU85c6bI

Pro Football Focus has graded Byron Jones out as the league's best cornerback through three games, and the 7th best defensive player overall. Against the Seahawks last week, Jones allowed just 3 catches for 10 yards when he was the primary defender. He also came away with two pass breakups against veteran wide out Brandon Marshall, and was one of the few positives from the horrible loss.

dalvssea2018 byron jones first

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On the Seahawks' opening drive they faced a third down and five deep in their own territory. Seattle has a bunch formation to the right with Marshall locked up in man coverage at the bottom of the screen.

The Cowboys bring a blitz, leaving Jones on an island against Marshall. Russell Wilson initially looks towards the bunch side of the formation, but quickly works back to Marshall on a shallow crosser. Byron stays sticky in coverage on his backside hip, and deflects the ball away at the catch point.

Even if Marshall were to catch this, Jones was right there to stop him short of the sticks.

dalvssea2018 byron jones

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Later in the game the Seahawks tried to allow Marshall to beat Jones with his size. Marshall tries to get physical with Jones here, and wants to body him on a back shoulder fade. Jones shows no backdown, trading blows with Marshall at the line of scrimmage and effecting his get-off.

Still, Marshall is bigger than Jones and is able to create some separation towards the sideline. Jones does a nice job of recovering from this physicality, however, and gets himself back into a position to make a play on the ball. Even though he was initially boxed out, Jones's awareness to get a hand on the ball shines through here.

This goes down as Jones' first of two pass breakups on the day.

dalvssea2018 byron jones 2

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Here's the second one, once again on a back shoulder fade. Byron Jones uses his length to jam Marshall off the line, and quickly turns his hips to keep up in coverage. Once he reads Marshall's eyes, Byron gets his head around and is able to deflect the pass away.

This is textbook coverage of the back shoulder fade, and Jones' athletic traits and length aid him greatly in covering the larger Marshall on this route.

dalvssea2018 byron jones odell

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You may be thinking to yourself, "sure, Byron Jones was great against Brandon Marshall, but what about an elite receiver like Odell Beckham?" Well do I have some news for you.

Jones did an excellent job against Beckham during their week two match-up, as did the entire Cowboys secondary. On this play, Jones is locked up in man coverage with Beckham at the top of the screen. He allows Beckham to get a clean outside release, but trusts his hips and speed to recover in coverage with inside leverage.

Jones shows off just how fluid an athlete he is running stride for stride with Beckham down the sideline. Eli Manning puts the ball on Beckham's shoulder, giving him a shot at the 50/50 ball. Jones uses his length and ball skills to get up and deflect the pass away, even against the talented Beckham.

Byron Jones has done a nice job covering this route, using the sideline as an extra defender and minimizing the available area for the receiver. His arm length also help him shrink the catch point in the air.

dalvssea2018 byron jones odell 2

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Here we see Byron Jones in man coverage with Beckham again, this time at the bottom of the screen. The Giants are looking to utilize play action to take a deep shot to Beckham, anticipating he will defeat Jones' coverage and find a soft spot over Awuzie's head.

Instead, Jones runs step for step with Beckham across the middle, and stays sticky to his backside hip. Manning is forced to hold the ball longer than he expected to due to Jones's coverage, and ends up taking a sack for a big loss.

There's no question that Byron Jones has been a bit of a controversial figure among Cowboys Nation throughout his young career. But, since moving to cornerback full time this season, he has been flat-out awesome.

Byron Jones looks like the shutdown corner the Cowboys have been looking for since trading up for Morris Claiborne back in 2012.



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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Coaches Should Be on Mid-Season Hot Seat

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Doug Pederson's Success Will Make Jason Garrett's Seat Hotter 1
Bill Streicher / USA TODAY Sports

A loss in week in week 3 is subject to overreactions from NFL fans everywhere, something we should always be careful with. But as the Dallas Cowboys head to work after another terrible offensive performance, it's tough to imagine the conversation going on in Cowboys Nation is an overreaction. I imagine I'm not alone in wishing that's what it was. But it isn't.

The Dallas Cowboys have opened their 2018 NFL season with a 1-2 record, and even though other teams (such as the New England Patriots) unexpectedly have the same record, or that other crazy stuff is going on around the league, the Jason Garrett-led Cowboys haven't given us much reason to believe they can turn the offense around.

Without further ado, let's get to another Takeaway Tuesday. As always, feel free to share your takeaways from last Sunday's loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!

Coaches Must Be on Mid-Season Hot Seat

OK, it's high time we have this conversation. Dak Prescott and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys' offense has been struggling. Although the defense has been playing surprisingly well, there are simply no excuses for the way Scott Linehan's unit has been playing.

There has been trouble at every single aspect of the offensive side of the ball, which was supposed to be this team's strength heading into the season. As much as the future at the quarterback position is uncertain, the biggest problem is coaching. Sure, Prescott isn't living up to the expectations so far, having terrible stats in the first three weeks of the season but the coaches could definitely be putting him in better positions to succeed.

Playing to his strengths. Prescott is at his best when the team runs play-action plays or lets him throw on the run or use his legs to hurt opposing defenses on the ground as well. Prescott could thrive on RPOs and read option runs, but that's not how they're utilizing him.

Jake Kemp on Twitter

per @PFF, Dak Prescott play action percentages by week. week 1 - 17.9% week 2 - 44.0% week 3 - 12.5%

As much as it pains me to say it, it honestly feels like the Cowboys are stuck with Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett at the wheel. Although there aren't big names in the pass-catchers positions, the offense is talented enough to keep the ball moving. Even still, they aren't.

Right now, it's not even about the offense not being the best unit for the team, but a unit that is costing them games and will continue to do so unless some drastic changes are made.

Not that the coaches are the only ones that should be accountable, just about every player should be, including QB Dak Prescott, who might be playing for his job the rest of the year. But if this mediocre performances continue into week 8, for instance, it might just be time to move on from the current coaching staff. What will change in the next seasons that can makes us believe Garrett and Linehan are the answer for the franchise's future?

And yet, no changes will be made as far as the Cowboys' play-caller is. Right now, it's tough to imagine where this season is headed. But two things might be for sure. 1) It won't be good. 2) We'll see some RB screens on third and long and three tight end sets on first downs.

Wish List for Dallas Cowboys 1st Preseason Game

Dallas Cowboys LBs Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee

Defense Might Just Be Fine With Vander Esch Filling in for Sean Lee

Sean Lee hurt his other hamstring playing in Seattle last Sunday, which usually would have us freaking out about the linebacker position. However, as we've discussed since the preseason, Jaylon Smith is looking pretty amazing and healthy. But now, it's not only Smith that's been showing off his football skills.

It's first round draft pick Leighton Vander Esch who's having a pretty nice start to his career. At least, it's been way better than what some expected (myself included) from his rookie season.

In just three weeks and limited snaps, Vander Esch has had 18 tackles and a tackle for loss. He's been around the football a lot, just like Lee when healthy. If the Boise State product continues to play this week, one has to wonder about Sean Lee's future in Dallas.

The Jury is Still Out on K Brett Maher

Kicker Brett Maher kicked a 50-yard field goal last Sunday as Cowboys' fans at home breathed a huge sigh of relief. After letting Dan Bailey go, it was time for something positive to say about the kicker position in Dallas.

Maher was pretty good on the field last week, but there's no denying his kicks were sort of scary and not perfect attempts right down the middle. Cowboys Nation should be more comfortable with the cut of Dan Bailey, but the jury should still be out on his replacement.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Coaches Should Be on Mid-Season Hot Seat" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Game Notes

LB Leighton Vander Esch Rare Bright Spot In Cowboys’ Disappointing Loss

Kevin Brady

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LB Leighton Vander Esch Rare Bright Spot In Cowboys Disappointing Loss

Sunday in Seattle didn't go nearly as well as anticipated for the Cowboys, as they fell to the Seahawks in embarrassing fashion, 24-13. While the final score looked close, the fact of the matter is that Dallas was dominated for much of the game.

Offensively they looked lost, unable to create any downfield passing threat or sustain scoring drives. Defensively they played okay, but not up to the standard they had established the first two games of the season. With the offense being as pedestrian as it has been, though, there is a ton of extra pressure placed upon the young defense's shoulders.

One of the youngest members of that young unit shouldered the pressure just fine on Sunday, however. Rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch had himself a heck of a day, leading the team in tackles with 11 including 9 solo ones and a tackle for loss. He flashed his speed, pursuit, tackling ability, and overall athleticism as he worked laterally to make plays and contain the Seahawks running game on the edge.

Wish List for Dallas Cowboys 1st Preseason Game

Dallas Cowboys LBs Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee

His performance built upon an impressive first two games, including a solid home opener against the New York Giants where he tallied 7 tackles in just 28 defensive snaps. Vander Esch hadn't seen the snaps that Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee saw prior to Sunday, but when Lee was forced to miss chunks of the game with injuries, Vander Esch shined.

A key knock placed on Vander Esch's game during the draft process was that he wasn't physical enough as a player. He tended to struggle when taking on blocks and wasn't as sure a tackler when things got muddied up as you'd like to see from a first round pick.

While these were legitimate concerns from his college tape, Leighton Vander Esch looked as comfortable and refined as you can expect from a rookie against the Seahawks. He was a top 3 player on the Cowboys' defense on Sunday, and the Cowboys should be ecstatic about his progress moving forward.

On Monday it was announced the the veteran Sean Lee is expected to miss a few weeks with yet another injury, allowing for Vander Esch to likely be the starter. Lee has been unreliable when it comes to his injury history, and you have to wonder if Vander Esch could supplant him as the full time starter earlier than anyone expected due to those injuries.

I, like many, questioned the Cowboys' selection of Leighton Vander Esch in the first round of last year's draft. The lack of comparative position value combined with the questions about Vander Esch's game made me value a pass rusher like Harold Landry much higher than Vander Esch at 19.

So far, though, Leighton Vander Esch is proving the Cowboys right in their selection, and looks to be the starting WILL and three-down backer of the future in Dallas. With Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch playing how they have with limited experience, that future looks very bright defensively.



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