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.
Ezekiel Elliott vs Byron Jones Part II: The Case For Paying Zeke
It's a debate that has raged on social media for some time now and it likely won't slow down as the offseason progresses and the Dallas Cowboys begin to hand out massive contracts to their top players. Pay Ezekiel Elliott? Pay Byron Jones? If you could only pay one, which would you pay?
This week fellow Inside The Star Staff Writer, Kevin Brady took to Twitter to poll the populous and his results were a bit surprising to me.
if you can only pay one it should be
The results inspired me to see what would happen if I put the same poll on my timeline.
Inspired by my teammate @KevinBrady88, if you can only pay one, which would it be?
On Monday, Kevin wrote a piece looking at one of the difficult decisions facing the Dallas Cowboys this offseason or next. If the Cowboys could only extend Byron Jones OR Ezekiel Elliott, who should they choose? Kevin, as am I, is a firm believer in Byron Jones ability and says the Cowboys should extend them, and I agree. But let's look at the other side of the argument.
To begin, the Cowboys should and probably will get both guys contract extensions either this offseason or next. It's not impossible with the cap continuing to increase at a rate of about $8-12 million per year that the Cowboys will have the space to get the deals done that they need to get done. Ezekiel Elliott and Byron Jones included.
Byron Jones settled in nicely at cornerback during his first full season at cornerback and knowing what we know about Jones, he won't be satisfied with a second team All-Pro appearance. Expect him to get better. However, if there's a single player that represents the current identity of the Dallas Cowboys, it's Running Back Ezekiel Elliott.
The Cowboys made him the fourth overall pick in 2016 and haven't looked back in their plan to establish the running game. For his career Elliott has averaged 26.9 touches per game over the course of his 40 games.
Here's a look at what Elliott's per game and per 16 game paces look like through the first three seasons of his career.
As you can see from the table above, Ezekiel Elliott is averaging 131.2 total yards per game for his career. In his rookie season he had 1,994 total yards and he sat out the week 17 game against the Philadelphia Eagles when the Cowboys had the NFC and home field advantage locked up. In 2017, Elliott sat out six games and still had nearly 1,000 yards rushing. In 2018, Elliott broke through the 2,000 total yard barrier after seeing a huge increase in his targets and receptions.
Ezekiel Elliott has been everything the Dallas Cowboys could have hoped for and more. With the leadership role he's taken with the team, he's a player that leads both vocally and by example. There are few players on the Dallas Cowboys that give as much effort as he does each snap. How many times has it looked like Elliott was about to get dropped for a two or three yard loss only to grind through tackles to pick up a four yard gain? How many times has he bounced off tacklers to get to the first down marker? Ezekiel Elliott is the human personification of dirty yards, but don't let that fool you into thinking that Elliott can't take it to the house every time he touches the ball. Elliott's is a game breaker who threatens the defense every time he steps on the field.
In 2018, Elliott led the NFL in yards after contact, per Pro Football Focus. His 949 yards after contact in 2018 would have ranked 13th in the NFL in rushing, which was better than David Johnson's 940 yards rushing last season.
Not many running backs effect a football game like Ezekiel Elliott does.
Few players outside of the quarterback position are as much of a focal point for their offense while being an attention grabber for opposing defenses like Ezekiel Elliott is. In 2018, he saw eight or more men in the box on nearly 25% of his carries in 2018. Some of that is related to the Dallas Cowboys insistence on using two tight ends on 50% of their running plays (per Sharp Football), but the other aspect is related to how much they respect the Dallas Cowboys running game. Since the 2014, the Cowboys have been synonymous with running the football. DeMarco Murray, Darren McFadden, and now Ezekiel Elliott have been the faces of that running game behind the Cowboys elite offensive line.
Even in a down year for offensive line play from the Dallas Cowboys, Elliott still managed to lead the NFL in rushing for the second time in three seasons. Elliott made the Pro Bowl for the second time in three years as well. Were it not for the railroad job done by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in 2017, there's a really good chance that Elliott leads the league in rushing three years in a row and that the Dallas Cowboys make the playoffs all three seasons.
Sure, the running back position is undervalued in the NFL and rushing yardage can be replaced, but there are intangibles to Elliott's game that are very difficult to replace. His ability to grind out the dirty yards, break big plays, create yards after contact, pass protect, be a threat as a receiver, and his leadership make him a player that is difficult to replace.
Yes, Byron Jones was really good in 2018 and deserves to get paid by the Dallas Cowboys as well, but you'd be hard pressed to find a player on the Cowboys roster who has been as consistent and dominating week in and week out as Ezekiel Elliott has been over the last three years.
BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb
According to multiple sources, the Dallas Cowboys have signed former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year deal to help bolster their depth at the WR position and potentially become Cole Beasley's replacement.
Cowboys are giving former Packers' WR Randall Cobb a one-year, $5 million deal, per source. https://t.co/8KWFPjSP8T
The Dallas Cowboys met with Randall Cobb earlier this week, but he eventually left Dallas without a contract. He must've had a change of heart or just needed time to ponder the Cowboys offer, but regardless of what transpired in that short time he is now part of America's Team.
During his time with the Packers, Cobb accumulated 470 receptions for 5,524 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. The eight-year veteran will now be expected to replace some of Cole Beasley's production out of the slot for the Dallas Cowboys.
After years of watching Beasley as the Cowboys slot WR, it will be really interesting to see Randall Cobb in that role. He's not as quick twitched as No. 11, but can be just as dangerous due to his ability to be more of a down the field receiver. He also brings added value in the return game and could compete with Tavon Austin to become the return specialist.
This could mean the Cowboys forgo drafting a wide receiver early in the 2019 NFL Draft, but I wouldn't put it past them. Regardless of what happens, this is an excellent addition.
Welcome to Cowboys Nation Randall Cobb!
REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur
L.P. Ladouceur is returning for his 15th season as the Cowboys' long snapper. The veteran free agent was re-signed by Dalals today to a one-year deal.
Thanks to Jason Witten's one-year sabbatical with Monday Night Football, Ladouceur has now been with the Cowboys for more consecutive seasons than any current player. He just turned 38 last week, but Louis-Philippe remains one of the top long snappers in football.
The Cowboys have signed long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a one-year deal worth $1.03 million and $90,000 in bonus money, but he will count $735,000 against the cap. This will be Ladouceur's 15th season with the Cowboys, tying Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Mark... https://t.co/2iDsi6RX7e
Retaining Ladouceur is an underrated move for the Cowboys given their situation at kicker.
Brett Maher was only 80% accurate overall on field goals last year. The team could be considering an upgrade in free agency.
Whether they bring Maher back or try someone new, having a long snapper with Ladouceur's performance perfection will make things much easier for them.
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