There is a reason I've been quiet about arguably the top story for the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, which is Dez Bryant's future with the team. Foremost, there has been very little news to actually drive this story that Bryant will either be on the team in 2018 or not. At the end of the day, this is another player under contract for the Cowboys - making talks of his departure from Dallas purely speculation.
Almost all of this changed yesterday though, with a report that Cowboys Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones will finally get his much-anticipated meeting with his team's star wide receiver on Friday.
This offseason arrived abruptly for the Cowboys, who missed out on the playoffs in 2017 while watching Bryant struggle once again with second-year Quarterback Dak Prescott. Since the end of the season for Dallas, two things (that now pertain to this Dez Bryant situation) have been perfectly clear.
1. Despite pressure to shake up the coaching staff even further, the Dallas Cowboys retained Head Coach Jason Garrett, Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan, and Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli
The extent of which the Cowboys turned over their coaching staff as a response to a disappointing nine wins may be bad news for fans, but should be viewed as good news for Dez Bryant.
From top to bottom, the Cowboys have become known (for better or worse) as a loyal franchise to its players and coaches. Since being drafted in 2010, perhaps no player has felt this loyalty from America's Team more than Dez Bryant.
If we believe that the team is imposing some sort of fabricated "deadline" to deal with Dez Bryant this offseason, a player they can happily carry into next season if they choose, a decision following Jerry's meeting with Dez will be made by a similar brain trust to that of the last seven years.
This may seem obvious, but it is immensely important to keep in mind. Under Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan, the Cowboys failed on offense this season. Entirely.
Fixing the offense for the Cowboys certainly seems achievable in a short period of time, which is likely all Garrett and Linehan have to turn this team around. Are both coaches, along with the rest of a staff they could collectively drag down, prepared to fight for their coaching lives without a competitor like Dez Bryant on the field in 2018?
The logical answer here would be a simple "no".
Sorting through a potential roster move that would instantly change the direction of the Cowboys is not easy though, and requires a further look at what the Cowboys plan could be to compete without Bryant next season.
2. The Cowboys have shown a lot of interest in acquiring wide receivers since the start of the offseason.
At the first opportunity to improve their roster, the Cowboys began free agency by showing interest in WR Sammy Watkins. When Watkins signed a three-year deal in Kansas City worth almost $26.5 million guaranteed, the Cowboys regressed to their usual FA approach.
This is to say that Stephen Jones and the Cowboys stepped away from the market of top-tier free agents, waiting patiently again to fill out the roster with less expensive talent. The team was able to add two new wide receivers through free agency though, signing both Deonte Thompson and Allen Hurns.
The team has also not stopped showing interest in available WRs, as they're focused has shifted to the 2018 NFL Draft. With a deep group of pass catchers available, the Cowboys have visited with nearly all of the top receiver prospects - including Oklahoma State's James Washington as late as this week.
The only safe takeaway from the Cowboys doing their due diligence at a position of need (as the roster stands here on April 12th still, with Dez Bryant on the field) is that they will be looking to continue adding young receiving talent in hopes of restoring confidence to their young quarterback and becoming more potent on offense in 2018.
This may be an unattractive headline, but it is the calculated one when it comes to dissecting how the Cowboys feel about Dez Bryant in this moment - which brings us to the reported details of what Jerry Jones and Bryant will actually sit down to discuss tomorrow.
There are indeed discussions at The Star about a meeting between owner Jerry Jones and WR Dez Bryant on Friday, per a source. Whether that conversation is a "pay cut" conversation or a "you're cut" conversation? Source said "have no clue". #Cowboys
All of the work the Dallas Cowboys have done in evaluating both free agent and draft eligible wide receivers has been handled without Jerry Jones truly "getting his hands dirty". It still makes sense that Jones, who remains as important a decision maker in Dallas as any, will meet with Dez Bryant to either discuss an emotional farewell from the Cowboys or a pay cut to remain with the team.
If the latter option is truly being offered to Bryant, a declining player with two year's worth of struggles under a QB the Cowboys are not planning on moving on from anytime soon, this entire offseason's worth of work has been about creating negotiating leverage against Dez. The Cowboys may not like the idea of entering the draft with an even larger need at WR, but they can certainly show Dez Bryant that they're prepared to address his position in a big way.
For a team whose salary cap is primarily managed by Stephen Jones though, this could be a case of Jerry delivering Stephen's message to Bryant. One can only imagine the twisted game of high-stakes telephone that could be played between the Jones' should Jerry still be loyal to Dez Bryant.
There is no reason to sit here today and think that Jerry Jones is not a supporter of Bryant, nor that he is alone in wanting the 29-year old WR on the team next season. There may be even more reason to believe that these Cowboys executives will be outweighed, not just by the "anonymous staffer" that called for Bryant's departure recently, but by an equally powerful contingency of players, coaches, or front office members.
Hence the need for Dez Bryant to sit down with Jerry Jones. It doesn't get any higher than the Hall of Fame owner of the Dallas Cowboys. Jones has not been put in the position to potentially cut an All-Pro player without the proven help of his son Stephen as well as Will McClay.
Whatever the Cowboys do with Bryant, we may never know who the final decision maker was, or if the team was able to reach any consensus on it - which I believe will truly be the more important Cowboys story to come of this.
Friday will not be your average start to a weekend in late April for Cowboys Nation.
Maliek Collins Playing Excellent for Cowboys Defense
For the Dallas Cowboys on the interior, a lot of the news consistently surround the availability of Defensive Tackle David Irving, but Maliek Collins is playing excellent right now. While I'm willing to be very patient with Irving because of the elite talent he brings, Maliek Collins should continue to start for the Dallas Cowboys at 3-technique defensive tackle.
Collins has been a player that the Cowboys have bounced between the nose tackle and the 3T position with the hopes of getting their best players on the field, and because of the lack of a consistent presence at the 1-technique or nose tackle position. Well, with Antwaun Woods taking control at the 1T, Collins has been able to play at the position where he's at his best. The 3-tech.
He hasn't put huge numbers in the sack column this season, but that doesn't mean he's been absent from being the disruptive player he's been through his first two and a half seasons.
During the Dallas Cowboys five game winning streak, Maliek Collins has led the Dallas Cowboys defensive tackles in total pressures with 13, according to Pro Football Focus. PFF combines sacks, quarterback hits, and hurries into their "pressures." Collins hasn't recorded a sack during the winning streak, but he has four quarterback hits and nine hurries. He's tied with Tyrone Crawford for third in total pressures behind DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory over the last five weeks.
Over the last five weeks, Collins leads the defensive tackles in solo tackles with five and is tied with Crawford and Antwaun Woods with three run stops on defense, according to Pro Football Focus. Collins has also has two tackles for loss in the last five games and recovered Tyrone Crawford's force fumble on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Collins had six sacks in his rookie season when he played primarily as the 3T, which allowed him to see more one-on-one blocks against opposing interior offensive linemen. Especially with the way the rest of the defensive line is playing.
With the Cowboys on the road to face the Indianapolis Colts this week, Collins is going to have a tough matchup with a very good Colts offensive line, in particular, rookie Quentin Nelson. Collins ability to get pressure on Andrew Luck on the interior is a huge key for the Dallas Cowboys this week. We know that Gregory and Lawrence will get their pressures, but if Andrew Luck is able to step up into a clean pocket, it will make for a much more challenging game for the Cowboys secondary.
Collins has proved to be up to any task over the last five weeks and if he's able to keep playing at such a high level, he'll make the Cowboys coaching staff, and the rest of Cowboys Nation forget about using other defensive tackles. For the Cowboys to make a deep push in the playoffs, they'll need Collins to be a big time player for them moving forward.
Amari Cooper Wins 2nd NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award of 2018
For the second time in just three weeks, Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Cooper scored three touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime, to lead the Cowboys to victory last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has 10 catches for 217 yards, which led all NFL receivers last week.
After his record-setting performance during week 14, @AmariCooper9 is the FIRST #DallasCowboys to win NFC Player of the Week twice in a season! → https://t.co/kvBDIeOgBd #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote
As the official website stated, Cooper is the first Cowboy to win the award twice in the same year. He's also the first Cowboy to be named Offensive Player of the Week since Ezekiel Elliott in 2016.
Before this year, Elliott was the only Dallas player to win the Offensive award in three seasons. Cooper has now done it twice in three weeks.
Since being traded to the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has amassed 40 catches for 642 yards and six touchdowns.
His wasted time in Oakland may keep Cooper out of the Pro Bowl this year, but he's already become a fan favorite in Cowboys Nation. Congratulations to Amari for another well-deserved award!
David Irving Out Again for Cowboys, Does Defense Need Him?
Dallas Cowboys Defensive Tackle David Irving, once a key member of the team's defense, will not make his return after all against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. For the second straight week, Irving was reportedly trending towards suiting up before being ruled out. The Cowboys haven't missed his unique presence for 13 weeks (playing against the Jaguars and Redskins), including through an ongoing four game win streak that began with a win against these Eagles on the road.
In that road win, veteran Tyrone Crawford recorded a sack and three tackles, while Antwaun Woods added two for a Dallas defense that held Philadelphia to 23 first downs and 71 rushing yards. The Eagles managed to cross the Cowboys' 30-yard line just four times.
There are many scenarios in which the Cowboys could have cut ties with Irving for not being worth the off-field trouble he's caused - beginning the season with a four game suspension. The absolute best case scenario is what they've realized amidst this turnaround, with other defensive linemen taking advantage of the opportunity left behind by Irving.
While it can still be true that Irving would make more splash plays than the likes of Crawford, Woods, Maliek Collins, and Caraun Reid, this defensive tackle group deserves praise for their ability to step in. Pass rush ability is one thing teams can't have enough of, and the Cowboys are missing some with Irving, finding ways to win thanks to the other traits these defenders bring to the table.
Cowboys Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard may effectively be the team's defensive coordinator with an emphasis on the back seven, but DC Rod Marinelli's impact is still felt - particularly up front. Regardless of where they're lined up and deployed, the Cowboys front four is expected to be disruptive on every snap, something this scrappy unit excels at.
Prepared once again to play on the edge this season, Crawford is thriving at his original position of 3T-DT. Crawford has two sacks, nine total tackles, and three other hits on the quarterback over the past four weeks. Leading by example with a relentless spirit on every play, Crawford has meant just as much to the Cowboys defensive ends as Irving could.
In a short period of time, the Cowboys have gone from building up Irving thanks to his transcendent ability to make those around him better to simply -- and importantly -- being better across the defense.
Led by DeMarcus Lawrence as their premier rusher, the Cowboys defensive line is a lot for opposing offenses to contain. The "Hot Boyz" work up front has allowed Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch to play fast and make plays all over the field.
Maliek Collins, battling back from his second broken foot in three years, is proving again he's a patented Marinelli guy. Collins' play speaks for itself when considering if the Nebraska product is best as a 3T or 1T tackle. Wherever he's asked to play, Collins creates penetration with an explosive first step and can finish at the quarterback with an array of power rush moves.
At 7-5 and fighting for their playoff lives, the Cowboys are done making excuses on the 2018 season. Their strides on defense speak for themselves, and with a group that keeps Dallas in every game they'll play, the door remains open for David Irving to earn snaps again when ready.
The Cowboys don't know any better than their play without Irving right now, and as winners of four straight, it's worth questioning if we'll see Irving over the last three weeks of the regular season.
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