After a poor performance in the game that eliminated the Dallas Cowboys from playoff contention, Dez Bryant has been one of the most talked-about players in Cowboys Nation. Understandably so. Coming into the season, our expectations around the chemistry we all thought Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant had developed were too high.
The truth is, they don't have said chemistry. The Cowboys found that out the hard way this season, as the passing game never got to be "good enough." Now, questions arise. Should Dallas get rid of Dez Bryant and his $70M contract? Is it all his fault? Is it all Dak's fault? What about the scheme, does he fit in this offense?
I will say this. As a young fan, Dez Bryant became one of my favorite players when watching the Cowboys play every Sunday. His passion, his big catches and the amazing moments he and Tony Romo made possible were captivating for me.
But I won't lie. I don't feel the same as before about 88. Times have changed. The Cowboys' QB position has changed. His production has changed.
Dez still has his moments every once in a while, though. His record-setting touchdown against the Redskins was one of them. His 50-yard touchdown catch versus the Giants was another one. But when you realize how many passes he's dropping, how many times he fails to get open... it gets tough. Last week, he wasn't able to catch a ball that despite not being a perfect pass, hit both of his hands and ended up being tipped in the air and intercepted by Seattle.
Earlier, he fumbled in a crucial moment of the game. It has come to a point in which we have to question, is Dez even worth the money he is being paid? I truly believe that he isn't.
The first thing that people argue at this point, is the fact that Dak Prescott is not the kind of QB who will throw a contested ball, which is where Dez excels. Well, they're right.
Dak has a long way to go. I think that Prescott, despite having a tough season, is the guy who will lead Dallas for a long time. This wasn't his best season, but at the end of the day he's a second year QB who missed his superstar RB for six games, almost got killed by his backup left tackles, and saw his defense crumble to pieces without Sean Lee.
He's the future. Yes, he deserves a big part of the blame. His play this year was far from great. That doesn't mean it's the end of his career though. It doesn't mean that the Cowboys have to move on. He's an NFL quarterback. It takes time. There is a learning curve.
Which naturally brings us to the inevitable Tony Romo mentions.
"He was good with Tony, so that means the problem is Dak, not Dez", some say. I understand that. Failing to recognize that Dak doesn't take the risks Romo once did would be foolish.
However, look at DeAndre Hopkins. Look at Larry Fitzgerald. The guys who throw them the ball are not even close to being "special QBs". Yet they continue to be elite WRs. Year after year. As I said before, I was once a huge Dez Bryant fan, but he's far from a top WR right now. Is it possible that his chemistry with Romo was actually that good?
It's been 21 straight games without more than 100 yards for Dez. I don't care who's throwing him the football, if he really was an "elite WR", he wouldn't be struggling this much. It's ridiculous.
Last year, it looked like Dez was still a very good receiver stuck with a rookie QB who wasn't taking many risks. Right now it just feels like Bryant isn't as good as before. It feels like the Cowboys could do better.
Number 88 had a lot to say on Wednesday when he met with the media, and frankly I don't know what to make of it. While Bryant is trying to offer reasons as to why he hasn't played at the level he's supposed to be, the only thing I can see are excuses.
Dez Bryant said he had been bothered by tendinitis since early November. Said he was surprised no one knew. It has never appeared on Cowboys injury report and he hasn't spoken about it until Wednesday.
This is what stuck out to me the most. Really? He's been injured since November and this is the first time we hear about it? NFL teams actually don't mind players being in the injury report because it messes with opposing teams' game-planning, but somehow we never heard of this?
At times, it feels like it's always something with Dez. There's always an injury we haven't heard about. Maybe I'm getting carried away, but I'm not buying it. I don't think an injury is the reason for his declining production.
Dez also mentioned that he planned to talk to Jerry Jones about the scheme. What? Shouldn't he be talking to his coach? What does he want to talk to Jerry about? I mean, I don't think his fumble and his drops last week had anything to do with a scheme.
I'm aware of his talent. I'm aware of the fact that he may just shake it all off and be the awesome WR he once was as soon as next year. He's a passionate player and things get on his mind. You don't know when he'll bounce back. From one second to another, his level can change completely.
But when you're paying a player the amount of money Dallas is paying him, is it worth it? Is it worth not knowing if he'll ever get back to being the amazing play-maker as before? Is it worth it if "things can get on his mind" in one of the biggest games of the season, an elimination game?
The Cowboys will need that cap space soon.
David Irving, Zack Martin, DeMarcus Lawrence and Anthony Hitchens are just a few names that this front office will have to look at pretty soon. Maybe the Cowboys should do something about Dez. At this point, I think he either takes a pay cut or he stops playing for the Cowboys.
I can't believe I'm saying this after years of idolizing him, but I wouldn't mind if Dez played his last game with a star on his helmet this Sunday. It's the scheme, it's an injury, it's things getting in his mind... or is it just excuses for a guy who isn't the same wide receiver he once was?
Despite Going Undrafted, Kameron Kelly A Welcome Addition to Cowboys Secondary
The Dallas Cowboys best move of the offseason may very well be hiring Kris Richard as their new passing game coordinator. Despite not signing any free agents or drafting added talent for Richard to work with in the secondary, the Cowboys have plenty of reasons to feel great about their current starters - along with an intriguing class of UDFAs.
The prospects of Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Byron Jones, and Xavier Woods working with Richard to sharpen their skills with Seattle's "Legion of Boom" fabricator is as good as it gets. In a very short period of time, the cornerback position has turned into one of the hardest spots for fringe players to make the Dallas Cowboys roster.
Don't tell this to San Diego State's Kameron Kelly. Neither Richard or Kelly may be household names around the NFL, but San Francisco 49ers Cornerback Richard Sherman certainly is. Sherman also happens to be the player the Cowboys are looking for Kelly -- an undrafted free agent that didn't receive a single college offer from "power five" schools -- to emulate.
Given all that Sherman meant to Richard's defenses since being drafted by his Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, these feel like impossible expectations for Kelly to live up to.
The 6015 (6' 1 5/8") defender didn't even play the same position as Sherman until his final collegiate season, slowly making the transition from WR to DB at SDSU by starting as a Sophomore and Junior at safety.
Now just another player in a blue jersey with white numbers at The Star, Kelly is looking to earn the star on a team that may look to remain young, deep, and most importantly versatile in the secondary by keeping one or more UDFAs.
That is, if any of these long shot players deserve a spot on the final 53-man roster. Kelly already has an edge on this field, blessed with the length and daunting frame that allows Richard and the Cowboys to dream of featuring their own Richard Sherman.
"I think he’s trying to turn me into his next Richard Sherman or something". - Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Kameron Kelly
Kris Richard is going to coach everybody he comes across hard. He knows no other way. Kam Kelly is already embracing this, seeing the Cowboys vision for him and not backing down from the challenge.
Turn on the tape for this "diamond in the rough" prospect, and you'll see a player that carries this same competitive toughness onto the field.
Will a DB compete / tackle ? Top of screen- flat footed read on bubble- trusts eyes and goes ! Just checking boxes- I see you, kameron Kelly of SDSU.... https://t.co/fJM4s16Eq1
Kelly joins Charvarius Ward, Donovan Olumba, and Tyree Robinson as the Cowboys class of UDFAs at both cornerback and safety. An athletic DB out of Oregon, Robinson has made a strong initial impression with several plays on the ball in drills so far.
However, it was Kam Kelly that set up an interception for Jameill Showers in yesterday's practice by getting in the face of rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup.
Projecting anything that resembles a starting lineup for the Cowboys defense in the last week of May is silly. So too is realistically expecting Kelly, Ward, Olumba, or Robinson to ever crack this lineup.
The Cowboys could find themselves without enough practice snaps to go around for starting caliber players like Awuzie, Lewis, Jones, Anthony Brown, and even Marquez White. This does not bode well for Kam Kelly, who is only going to continue generating buzz from fans and the Dallas media.
For now, Kelly is getting his chance though. The Cowboys are ever-so-slowly getting back into form for 2018 - doing so with many familiar faces no longer on the roster. This team is going to look different on both sides of the ball come September, and Cowboys Nation can only hope it's for the better given the impressive amount of depth all over the field.
Kam Kelly won't back down from the depth the Cowboys have at CB, expecting to impress his new coach Kris Richard in the mold of three-time All-Pro Richard Sherman.
Rico Gathers’ Absence in 2018 Wasn’t About Health
A sixth-round pick out of Baylor University, Rico Gathers was supposed to be one hell of a football story. A basketball superstar, Gathers hadn't played college football at all, but the traits he had were enough for the Dallas Cowboys to take a chance on him during the final day of the 2016 NFL Draft to find a potential heir to Jason Witten.
After spending his entire rookie season developing in the practice squad, it felt like Gathers would have his chance in 2017. However, after suffering a concussion in the preseason, he never saw the field during the regular season. Despite initially making the 53-man roster, he was quickly placed on injured reserve.
Cowboys Nation hoped to see him back after the mandatory eight weeks in IR, but the much-anticipated comeback never took place.
The narrative was that the concussion was more serious than previously thought and that there was also a jaw injury involved. And through it all, there were some whispers about Gathers' absence being more coaching related than health related.
Last Wednesday, the former Baylor basketball star talked to the media about his situation and brought some very interesting responses to the table.
Cowboys TE Rico Gathers said he was cleared from his concussion after Week 7 last year to return to practice. "But I could just tell by the drift of the season and the drift of the coaching staff that I probably wasn't going to play this last year anyway.
If his comments are true, it really confirms that the fact that Gathers didn't get any playing time at all last season wasn't only concussion-related. If he was truly ready to go since week 8, then him not being on the field shows how the Cowboys coaching staff isn't sold on the player like the fans are.
Sure, it'd be one hell of a story. And of course, he seemed to make a statement during the preseason. However, it's not like Dallas had very special backup tight ends behind Jason Witten. As much as it hates to admit it, maybe Gathers simply isn't as good as some thought he was.
This was not the only interesting comment from Rico as he also said that the jaw injury never happened, claiming that was something media-related. This obviously brings up an even more interesting question: Was the team lying about Gathers' health to keep him on IR and avoid having to get him on the practice squad and risking him being pouched by another team?
We might never get to know the absolute truth in this case, but it's still worth noting.
Right now, Gathers' fight is all about making it to the regular season.
Rico Gathers: "The biggest thing for me this year is just making it to the regular season. I have to make sure I'm healthy and make sure I'm able to be on somebody's 53-man roster.
"Somebody's 53-man roster" is the quote that sticks out from this comment. If Gathers makes it to a roster for the 2018 season, it just might not be with the Dallas Cowboys. Perhaps it's for the best. The team has a chance to give Dalton Schultz an important role from day 1 and continue with Geoff Swaim's and Blake Jarwin's development going forward.
Rico Gathers may still be in the picture, for sure, but don't be surprised if he's shown the door before expected. I think every fan out there agrees that having a kid who hadn't played football since he was 13-years old turn into a quality starter in the league would've been remarkable.
But it's time to realize that that doesn't look to be the case.
Right now, Gathers is fighting for a spot on the roster. He's going to have to put up a big fight if he's to prove he's worthy of wearing the Star. Luckily for the Dallas Cowboys, with a deep TE room, they won't be desperately relying on his success to find the new starting tight end of the franchise.
Cowboys RB Bo Scarbrough Tabbed to “Exceed Expectations” in Rookie Season
Given their rich history at the position, and current resources allocated to the running game, the addition of any running backs to the Dallas Cowboys roster is always noteworthy. Making two-time national champion Running Back Bo Scarbrough their last pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Cowboys did as well as they could at 236th overall.
Naturally, a prospect that played at Alabama has garnered plenty of attention as a potential compliment to Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas. This would of course be exceptional value for the Cowboys to get out of their ninth player drafted.
NFL.com's Lance Zierlein gets much further into the draft than just the recognizable players such as Scarbrough. This is why it's noteworthy to see the rookie back land on his list of "seven late-round picks likely to exceed expectations in 2018".
In his brief overview of the loaded backfield that Scarbrough finds himself in, Zierlein writes that:
"Ezekiel Elliott is clearly capable of handling the lion's share of duties on all three downs, but Scarbrough is a downhill runner who has the size and demeanor to help the Cowboys continue to impose their will on the ground when Elliott is resting. I can envision Scarbrough thriving in a complementary role similar to the one the Titans' Derrick Henry has played behind DeMarco Murray for much of his career. Landing Scarbrough in the seventh round could turn out to be a tremendous steal this season."
The name clearly missing from this quote is Rod Smith. Likely posing the biggest threat to Scarbrough's roster spot, Smith embodies what the Cowboys are looking for in a back that can do it all - spelling Elliott as a capable runner and receiver while also contributing on special teams.
Proving himself on just 55 carries for 232 yards this season, Smith's roster spot feels safe entering 2018. As seventh round picks should have to do in making a contending team's roster, Scarbrough will have to excel in ways he never did at Alabama in order to earn a spot behind Smith.
It's also interesting to see Zierlein mention former Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray in the scheme of two physical running backs coexisting.
If their better understanding of what Rod Smith can do on offense wasn't enough of an indicator, the Cowboys also traded for two backfield additions this offseason in Tavon Austin and Fullback Jamize Olawale.
There is little doubt that the Cowboys will hold true in their commitment to backfield depth again this season. The versatility and overall readiness of this unit is a direct extension of the best positional group in the league, being the Cowboys offensive line.
The idea of handing the ball to Bo Scarbrough late in games against a defense already shredded by Elliott is a great one for Cowboys Nation. It is one that many national writers will continue to mention in their discussions of how the Cowboys can return to form after a surprising 9-7 setback last year.
Unless Scarbrough is able to elevate his game on special teams or as a pass catcher, he faces an uphill battle to live up to nearly any expectations on the table for him right now. Nonetheless, the Cowboys have an exciting player to utilize this summer through the preseason in hopes of maximizing Scarbrough's upside.
In his more in-depth scouting report of Scarbrough, Zierlein sees the player similarly, giving him an overall grade of 5.50. This translates to Scarbrough having a "chance to become an NFL starter," a position happily occupied by Ezekiel Elliott for hopefully years to come in Dallas.
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