The Dallas Cowboys begin voluntary, aka show up dude come on, Organized Team Activities (OTAs) today. It is the first chance for the coaching staff to get their hands on veterans AND the new rookie sacrifices, I mean draft picks. This is cause for a parade because it means that we’re yet another step closer to the 2015 NFL season! There will be a lot going on and a lot to see. Here are five things that I think are on all of our minds:
1. What’s happening at running back?
If you hadn’t heard DeMarco Murray has no interest in winning a Super Bowl and therefore took his talents to the home of the Italian Stallion, the City of Brotherly Love. While DeMarco Murray is busy watching reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air the Cowboys will be seeing who wants to tote the rock this season. 2013 5th round pick Joseph Randle, 2015 free agent signee Darren McFadden, 2014 free agent signee Ryan Williams, and this year’s undrafted Synjyn Days are the names to watch.
2. Where will La’el Collins line up?
The La’el Collins situation has been very well documented over the last few weeks. An unfortunate set of circumstances let to the, arguably, best offensive tackle in this year’s NFL draft going completely undrafted and landing right in the lap of the Great Wall of Dallas, Part Deux. Deux is French for two and La’el is a son of the French Quarter having donned the LSU purple and gold in his collegiate days. He lined up at left tackle under Les Miles and he’s got some heavy talent…and permeability. La’el is slated to play either left guard or right tackle. The current offensive line of the Cowboys is (from left to right):
Mickey Spagnola of DallasCowboys.com always instructs his listeners to follow the money. Seeing as this past offseason saw some hefty amount of it invested in our current right tackle, Doug Free, it would appear that La’el could win the starting left guard job.
3. What will the linebacking corps look like?
Today (technically May 27th, but who’s counting?) is not only the first day of OTAs. It is the one-year anniversary of Sean Lee tearing his ACL. That was a dark day for Cowboys fans, but it led to the dawn of Rolando McClain. Rolando was a savior for the 2014 Cowboys’ defense and proved to be a prominent force at Middle Linebacker. Thankfully, Jerry and Co. were able to re-sign McClain for the 2015 season so the MLB presence is filled. Sean Lee, fully healthy and hungry (reminds me an awful lot of Bill Bates, don’t you think?), will most likely slide over to the Weakside Linebacker spot…a position that he can play more naturally. That begs the question…who will be this season’s Strongside Linebacker? 2014’s 4th round selection Anthony Hitchens proved during the late stages of last season that he’s capable of holding his own. The Cowboys have already signed Andrew Gachkar and Jasper Brinkley this offseason, and further bolstered the corps by drafting Anthony Hitchens 2.0, Damien Wilson out of Minnesota in this year’s 4th round.
4. How will Byron Jones look?
With the 27th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft the Dallas Cowboys selected the University of Connecticut’s Byron Jones, a cornerback/safety. Byron has a lot of incredible physical gifts, he set a world record at the broad jump during the 2015 NFL Combine, but where can we best utilize him? Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick, fresh off of his brand new contract extension, will line up at the starting corner spots. The Cowboys still have Corey White (who they signed this offseason from New Orleans), Tyler Patmon (a 2014 undrafted rookie), and 2012 first round draft pick Morris Claiborne (still coming off of surgery mind you) who are all expected to contribute this season. The safety spot has been in question ever since Darren Woodson left, but Barry Church and JJ Wilcox held their own last season. Byron will be put where he can make the biggest impact, it’ll be exciting to see exactly where that is.
5. How good is this defensive line going to be?
Darren Woodson’s presence at safety will obviously be attempted to be emulated, but Woody himself took to the stage at the 2015 NFL Draft to announce a different renovation happening on the Cowboys defense. Darren announced the Cowboys’ 2nd round draft pick, 60th overall, Randy Gregory from Nebraska. Gregory partners up with this year’s marquee free agent signee, Greg Hardy, as the new regime on Dallas’ defensive line. They’ll join the likes of Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence (2014 2nd round draft pick), Jeremy Mincey, Davon Coleman, Jack Crawford, and Ryan Russell (2015 5th round selection from Purdue) as Rod Marinelli’s favorite toys.
There is a lot of hype going into the 2015 NFL season. And you know what? There should be. This is a very talented team and today they’ll join together to start a journey that will hopefully culminate in a trip to San Francisco and Super Bowl 50.
Tony Romo Won’t Be the Next Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator
The pipe dream has been going on since former Dallas Cowboys Quarterback-turned CBS Analyst Tony Romo hung up his cleats for the black blazer. Fans from all corners of Cowboys Nation have clamored for a return to the field or at worst the sideline as the Cowboys offensive coordinator.
Let me stop you right there. It's not happening.
First of all. He's never been a coach at any level of football, so to assume that he could leave the broadcast booth and step into coaching an NFL offense and doing so at a high level is a huge leap of faith in number 9. Sure, Jon Gruden left the Monday Night Football booth for his lucrative deal with the Oakland Raiders, but he had won a Super Bowl and had been an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL for years before joining the broadcasting ranks.
Tony Romo has an excellent understanding of football. He displays it on a regular basis during the CBS broadcasts. But doing from the broadcast view, seeing what the defense is trying to do, and calling the plays to counter what the defense is trying to do are very different things.
Secondly, the coaching job would be a major time commitment that at the moment he doesn't have. Even if he's working a 40 hour work week in preparation for his three-hour time slot, the demands on NFL coaches are easily twice that with many coaches putting in 100 hour work weeks in preparation for Sundays. Tony Romo has a family that even he's talked about as part of the reason that he went into broadcasting instead of looking to hop on with another NFL team.
Finally, the job would mean a significant pay cut from what Romo is already making. It's estimated that the former Cowboys quarterback is making anywhere from $5-10 million dollars a year with CBS. Jason Garrett is making $6 million per year as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, so even if the Jones family was willing to pay first-time NFL coach Tony Romo a ton of money to come out of the broadcast booth, there's zero chance they pay him what he's making as a broadcaster. To do so, would be to undercut the head coach. Jason Garrett is Jerry Jones' guy. The owner and general manager wants Garrett to be the guy that leads the Cowboys to Super Bowl success, so there's zero chance he'd pay a coordinator close to Garrett's money, which would lead to constant speculation about the head coach and his future with the organization.
I love Tony Romo. His jersey is one of only two Cowboys jerseys that I own -- along with Darren Woodson -- and I think he could make a good coach one day, but I'd be hard pressed to see him come out of the coaching booth to take a coordinator job and have immediate success. The guys that are offensive coordinators in the NFL have been grinding for years to earn their jobs. Most started as position coaches -- see Sean McVay as Redskins TE coach. The Dallas Cowboys will spend the next few days, and perhaps weeks, identifying their replacement for Scott Linehan, but let's put to bed the dream of Romo as offensive coordinator.
It's just not going to happen.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
Breaking: Scott Linehan and Dallas Cowboys Part Ways
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is reporting that the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan have mutually agreed to part ways following a tumultuous season that saw the Dallas Cowboys offense finish outside the top 12 three out of his four seasons in Dallas.
Sources: The #Cowboys are firing OC Scott Linehan. Taking their offense in a new direction. An announcement is coming.
Scott Linehan was brought in prior to the 2015 season and saw his offenses finish 31st, fifth, 14th, and 22nd in his four years as the Cowboys play caller. The 2015 season can be excused as the Cowboys rolled out Kellen Moore, Matt Cassell, and Brandon Weeden for 13 starts after Tony Romo was injured twice during the season, but the team 2-11 in those 13 starts and the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs despite a strong performance on the defensive side of the football.
The Cowboys saw an offense that finished fifth in the NFL in points in 2016 decline each of the last two offseasons and Linehan has been continually criticized by analysts, fans, and players as well.
Many believe that the reason that Dez Bryant and Brice Butler weren't brought back in the offseason was because of the public criticism of the offense and the play caller instilling the offense and that criticism has carried over to this season when Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper acknowledged that the Philadelphia Eagles were sitting on the slant routes that they had run all game. Dak mentioned that he changed Amari's route to a go route, which led to a 75 yard touchdown that helped open up the offense.
Cole Beasley has been frustrated with his role for much of the season and deservedly so. He was often non-existent in the offensive game plan until the final five minutes of football games.
In the running game, the offense had become too predictable and reliant upon jumbo formations that led to Ezekiel Elliott having to run against eight in the box anywhere from 25-30% of the time. For perspective, Todd Gurley only ran against eight-man fronts around eight percent of the time. Scott Linehan never looked to attempt to take players out of the box, instead insisting on motioning more players into the box for the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott to run against. It's amazing when you think about it, that Ezekiel Elliott was able to win the rushing title when facing loaded fronts as often as he did.
This was a move that needed to happen and the Dallas Cowboys didn't need to waste anymore time to make it happen. The offense had become stale and frustrating for the players as well as the fans. While Jason Garrett started the offseason saying he "didn't expect any changes," this was a move that absolutely had to happen for the offense to take a step forward. Below, you can read Jason Garrett's announcement on the move.
Cowboys have fired Scott Linehan
Even after the move for Amari Cooper, the offense looked better, but it still struggled at times to move the football.
The Cowboys have a young team with especially young players on the offensive side of the football. They have a quarterback who can throw from the pocket, but has excellent movement skills and capabilities of throwing the ball on the run. He's an excellent runner on designed runs. Despite us knowing all that, Scott Linehan looked reluctant to use him on designed quarterback runs that weren't read options or speed options. What you saw on designed runs in the Seattle game is what this team should be doing five times a game.
Now the question becomes, who should the Cowboys next offensive coordinator be? Our own, Staff Writer Brian Martin, laid out 5 Options to be the Next Offensive Coordinator earlier this week. I suggest you give it a read.
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