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Despite Early Success, Dez Bryant’s Return Crucial To Cowboys

Kevin Brady

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Inside The Star - Dez Bryant Video: Ignore the Rumors

As all of Cowboys Nation argues over who should be under center come the return of a healthy Tony Romo, one giant missing piece to this offense has been lost in the shuffle.

That player is Pro Bowl wide receiver Dez Bryant. And luckily for the Cowboys, that player announced that he is ready to go after the bye for their divisional showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Now that the Cowboys have won three straight games with Bryant absent, some have had the audacity to call for a trade or even the permanent benching of Dez. Some have called him "cancerous" to the locker room, or have even accused the Cowboys of trying to work outside their offense to force the ball to him when he is healthy.

The fact of the matter is, the accusations are absurd and completely false.

Dez Bryant does not require you to work outside the offense, he takes your offense to an entirely new level.

The Cowboys ran the ball 508 times in 2014, and yet Dez still found a way to score a career high 16 touchdowns. This is because Dez is a special player, a team player, who while he wants so badly to contribute and make plays, what he wants even worse is for the Cowboys to win games. Cowboys Headlines - Dez Bryant Has Hairline Fracture, Hopeful To Play Sunday In San Francisco

Since Dez Bryant entered the league in 2010 he has caught 60 touchdowns, second only to the Patriots' Rob Gronkowski. When we last saw him fully healthy this season, he went for over 100 yards on 7 catches against a Washington secondary which spent millions of dollars on a number one cornerback.

As good as the Cowboys offense has looked this season, you can still tell they are missing a key piece. The combination of Terrance Williams and Brice Butler has worked nicely for Dallas trying to pick up the slack which Bryant leaves behind, but they are still not Dez.

Cole Beasley is having a career year and playing better than any of us had expected, but his production should only theoretically increase with the return of Bryant. He will be able to work on one in the slot even more often when Dez is lined up outside, due to the threat Bryant gives of taking the top off of the defense.

And, no matter who the quarterback is, Dez can catch the deep ball this team has been missing.

Some have criticized Dak Prescott for "Daking and dunking" the ball down the field to guys like Beasley and Jason Witten. They say that while his conservative throwing style protects against the big mistake, it may also hold back the offense as a whole when they face teams like the Minnesota Vikings or Seattle Seahawks.

First off, Dak is second in the NFL in yards per attempt with 8.2, so I think those critics are wrong in more ways than one. But, Dak has also shown the ability to be very accurate with the deep ball both in the preseason and regular season.

Sure, his longest pass so far this year was a 47 yard completion but Dak has the arm strength to make the throws if guys are able to get open down the field. Last week we saw Brice Butler beat one on one coverage deep in their own territory, only to drop what would have been a huge reception. If they try to cover Dez one on one in those situations, not only will he win, but he will also come down with the catch and make the defense pay.

Dez Bryant creates match up issues which no one else on this roster can. When you move him around like the Cowboys did in week 2 against Washington, he is able to exploit lesser defenders in the slot with ease.

In that week 2 game, the Redskins refused to move their $70 million man early in the game. With him being kept on one side, the Cowboys moved Dez around to face Bashaud Breeland, who he exposed. While Beasley has been very effective this year, he cannot move around the field to create those mismatches like Dez Bryant can.

Cowboys Blog - Dallas Cowboys 2015 Schedule Outlook: Cowboys on Prime Time Path to Emulate 2014 Success

Dec 14, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) makes a catch for a touchdown as Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher (24) defends in the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Dez's run blocking is also dearly missed.

Too many times this season we have seen Ezekiel Elliott break through the first level of the defense untouched, move through the linebackers with ease, but get tackled by a cornerback or safety who he wasn't able to see.

Why does this happen?

Because Williams and Butler simply haven't been able to block as well as Dez Bryant can. I am not trying to knock those guys, they have been fantastic for the Cowboys this season, but they just aren't as good as one of the best in the league is. Cowboys Headlines - Dez Bryant and La'el Collins to Have MRIs Following Cowboys Win

Dez will lock onto smaller, weaker cornerbacks in the third level of the defense and give Elliott even more room to move and cut. This should result in even more big plays in the running game, which there certainly has not been a lack of so far this year.

The return of Dez Bryant is absolutely crucial to this offense and to this team as a whole. Sure, they have been "fine" without him over these past three weeks, but if they hope to continue to improve and be good enough to make a serious run at a championship, they will need Dez to be the healthy beast that we all know he can be.

So, stop with your bad takes and stop screaming to trade Dez Bryant. He is the best receiver on this team and one-third of the new-looked triplets in Dallas. We are extremely lucky to be able to call him a Dallas Cowboy.



Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and am currently a college student. Lets get going.

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Geoff Swaim Needs Surgery, Should the Cowboys even use a Tight End?

John Williams

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Cowboys TE Geoff Swaim Quietly Exceeding Expectations? 1

Well, the injury woes continue to mount for the Dallas Cowboys with news coming down this evening that Tight End Geoff Swaim broke a bone in his wrist in the 22-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. The injury will need surgery which will mean Swaim will be out a while, if not for the rest of the season.

David Helman on Twitter

Geoff Swaim broke a bone in his wrist yesterday and is going to need surgery. Sounds like it might not be season-ending, but he won't be available Thursday #cowboyswire

In previous seasons this wouldn't be much of a blow to the offense, but Geoff Swaim has been the only tight end that the Cowboys have ben able to rely on this season. Dalton Schultz is a rookie, Blake Jarwin's been inconsistent, and Rico Gathers still isn't fully trusted. With the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan's insistence on using a tight end, it seems there's a huge hole at the position heading into Sunday's first place showdown with the Washington Redskins.

But in reality, is there?

For weeks, I've been screaming for this team to use more 10 personnel (one running back and zero tight ends) as its primary passing formation because it gets their best pass catching weapons on the field at the same time. Swaim has been solid and consistent in his first year as a starter, but the rest of the tight end group has disappointed. So why even run a tight end out on the field.

The Dallas Cowboys have options that could replace the tight end in the passing game without actually using a tight end.

First, they could use Noah Brown as the de facto tight end. He's been one of the best blockers on the team in his first two seasons with the team and this is the type of role he's made for. Split him out wide and motion him in tight when you want to run. He can be a threat down the seem and in the red zone with his athleticism. He'd be a mismatch for the linebackers that try to cover him and could open space underneath for Cole Beasley. Brown is also a really good run blocker, so having him on the field doesn't negate what you want to do in the run game.

The other player the Cowboys coaching staff could work into more of the tight end route responsibilities is Allen Hurns. Hurns is a really good route runner, especially in the middle of the field, where the Dallas Cowboys haven't received a lot of production. You can put Hurns in as the fourth wide receiver and split him a couple of yards off the tackle to give him a cleaner release than a TE might get and have him run "Y-option," shallow post routes, or drags. He can be a threat in the passing game if put in situations where he can excel. See below for something Allen Hurns does really well.

Film Review: What's Up with Allen Hurns?

In fact, by going four wide receivers with Brown or Hurns on the field, it's possible the opposing defense is forced to run more of dime packages against the Dallas Cowboys 10 personnel.

Why would you want to get teams into dime packages?

Most NFL teams have two pretty good linebackers that they can deploy in nickel situations, but teams rarely have four corners that they can put on the field and feel really good about. So, if you can force teams to remove one of their 11 best players for a backup corner back or safety, you are already winning that matchup.

That matchup would also get you into much more favorable defensive fronts to run against. Even if the opposition put seven or eight in the box, it would be against smaller personnel like corners and safeties instead of a second linebacker.

Running 10 personnel as their base offense moving forward would be unconventional, but with an opportunity to take control of first place in the NFC East on Thanksgiving, now is not the time for conventionality.



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Cowboys WR Michael Gallup on Personal Leave; Team Offers Support

Jess Haynie

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Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys rookie receiver Michael Gallup suffered a personal tragedy on Sunday, being informed that his brother committed suicide. He is now on personal leave away from the team, and both Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett have given their full support to Gallup during this difficult time.

According to reports, Gallup was unaware of his brother's death until immediately after the Cowboys' win over the Atlanta Falcons. Michael did not return with the team to Dallas and remained in Atlanta to be with his family.

A formal statement was made by owner Jerry Jones yesterday regarding Gallup:

“Our team and our entire organization are deeply saddened by the news of Michael’s loss. His family is our family. We share in the grief and pain that comes with something so personal and tragic. We offer our support, care and comfort for Michael, and we ask that all of those who have sons and daughters and brothers and sisters join us in keeping Michael and his wonderful family in their thoughts and prayers.”

Throughout his time owning the Cowboys, Jerry has built a reputation for personal loyalty and compassion with his players. His head coach is no different.

As he addressed the media Monday, Jason Garrett did not get into football matters when addressing Gallup's situation:

“This is a very challenging time for him. We’ll take it moment by moment, day by day, and give him all of our love and all of our support.”

While Michael is certainly dealing with something far more important than football, his availability for Thursday's Thanksgiving game against the Washington Redskins does come into question.

The Cowboys have a short week to prepare for Washington, and Gallup has started their last five games. If the rookie has to sit, which seems probable given the timeframe, we can expect more playing time for Allen Hurns and Noah Brown.

Whatever happens happens on that front. Our focus is on Michael Gallup during this sad time, with him and his family in our collective thoughts as Cowboys fans and fellow humans.



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Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch’s Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion

Sean Martin

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Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch's Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion 1

The Dallas Cowboys know what they're doing when it comes to the NFL Draft. Not to be outdone by Philadelphia, the Cowboys brought the 2018 Draft to AT&T Stadium, marking the first time the event's been held in an NFL stadium. This made Boise State Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch the first player to be drafted on the field he now calls home. Returning home this week after two straight interceptions against the Eagles and Falcons, Vander Esch is far from the controversial pick that drew jeers inside AT&T Stadium on draft night and every bit the star the Cowboys projected him to be.

The ascension of Leighton "Wolf Hunter" Vander Esch as one of the best young linebackers in the game has happened rapidly. LVE played eight man football in high school, tasked to do everything on both sides of the ball before settling into defense as a walk onto the blue turf.

For the first time in what seems like forever, the Cowboys have more than just a plan to play defense without Sean Lee. Thanks to their 19th overall pick they're thriving as one of the best units in the league, making Lee an afterthought.

Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch's Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion

Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch

Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith have changed the entire makeup of the Cowboys defense, two young and athletic linebackers that should be roaming the middle of the field for a long time in Dallas.

This is exactly what LVE was able to do on his interceptions of both Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan. Vander Esch defending well against the pass is probably the least surprising part of his development, as his coverage skills always overshadowed his strength against the run in college.

It just so happens that Vander Esch tallied 63 tackles in eight games before recording his first career interception, establishing himself as an all-around linebacker with no true weakness. Vander Esch has played with the power and block shedding ability that matches his sideline to sideline range and instincts, as opposing offenses have done little to slow the Cowboys new leader on defense.

LVE2

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This is Vander Esch's first interception, which set up a Cowboys field goal against the Eagles. Watch as Leighton reads the eyes of Wentz through the play, first angling towards his check down throw and then gaining depth to intercept the pass.

The subtle yet effective movements from Vander Esch to undercut Wentz's throw is a fine example of how quickly LVE has picked up on Kris Richard's defense, as well as the next level game speed.

LVE1

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Sunday's interception from Vander Esch was the type of game breaking play the Cowboys needed to separate from the Falcons in hostile territory. Although the Falcons would rally to tie the game after this point, the Cowboys defense became the first to hold Atlanta under 20 points at home this season, thanks in large part to LVE as always.

The smoothness from Vander Esch on this play is exceptional, stepping up into coverage against the running back before sprinting back in position for the turnover. Calvin Ridley, drafted seven picks after Vander Esch, helps Leighton by letting Ryan's pass go through his hands.

Give Vander Esch credit for being in the right place at the right time and finishing the play. Every week, the rookie finds a way to do something memorable, and in helping the Cowboys earn their first two road wins of 2018 he finally flashed in pass coverage.

The next challenge for the Cowboys defense comes on a short week, against the division leading Washington Redskins. Though they lost starting Quarterback Alex Smith for the season on Sunday, expected to start Colt McCoy on Thanksgiving, it was Running Back Adrian Peterson that gashed the Cowboys for 4.13 yards a carry and 99 total yards in the Redskins week six win over Dallas.

Given what not only Leighton Vander Esch but the rest of the Cowboys defense has shown against the run in recent weeks, all without David Irving and most recently without either Antwaun Woods or Daniel Ross, the Cowboys should certainly be prepared to play for first place in the NFC East on Thursday.

Tell us what you think about "Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch’s Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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