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Gil Brandt Predicting Bounce Back Year For The Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys have entered their third week of organized team activities (OTA’s) and minicamp practices are just around the corner. If you believe the talk by those people who have been fortunate enough to watch some of these OTA’s, then you probably already know that it looks as if the Cowboys players are practicing with a greater sense of urgency and a renewed energy. Former Vice President of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys, Gil Brandt, was on hand to watch two different OTA practices last week and shared a lot of interesting observations based on what he saw from the team as a whole and from individual players. Brandt was a key part of the Cowboys organization from 1960 up until 1989 when the  Jerry Jones era began. At age 83, Brandt is still a well-recognized voice of opinion around the NFL and currently contributes as a senior analyst for NFL.

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Gil Brandt Predicting Bounce Back Year For The Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys have entered their third week of organized team activities (OTA's) and minicamp practices are just around the corner.

If you believe the talk by those people who have been fortunate enough to watch some of these OTA's, then you probably already know that it looks as if the Cowboys players are practicing with a greater sense of urgency and a renewed energy.

Former Vice President of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys, Gil Brandt, was on hand to watch two different OTA practices last week and shared a lot of interesting observations based on what he saw from the team as a whole and from individual players.

Brandt was a key part of the Cowboys organization from 1960 up until 1989 when the  Jerry Jones era began. At age 83, Brandt is still a well-recognized voice of opinion around the NFL and currently contributes as a senior analyst for NFL.com.

Now, I understand that these practices shouldn't really be taken too seriously because players aren't in full pads yet, which makes it really difficult to judge how well individuals are performing when they're not really in a game like situation.

So, just about anything you hear about the Cowboys OTA practices can be taken with a grain of salt, but at this time of year any positive news is encouraging, especially after what they team went through in 2015.

Taking all of this into consideration though, Brandt still made several observations that should have Cowboys fans excited for the 2016 season.

Cowboys Headlines - Gil Brandt Predicting Bounce Back Year For The Dallas Cowboys

(AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)

Brandt observed that Tony Romo looks like a spry 27-year-old and that tight end Jason Witten looks more like a player entering the second year in the league than a seasoned vet. He said Witten looks like he is in the best shape of his career.

That alone should create some sort of optimism among fans. Both Romo and Witten are now the two oldest members on the offensive side of the ball and we all know that these two players are key to the success for the entire offense.

There was one observation that Brandt made that I disagreed with somewhat, but at the same time found encouraging.

"Cole Beasley's improvement. If Beasley were 6-2 and not 5-8, I think he'd be a star in the NFL. The fact he's not, but there's still a lot to like about his game. I thought he looked much improved catching the ball and running routes. He showed last year when Dez Bryant went down that he wasn't ready. I think he learned something from that and went into the off-season to improve his overall game as a slot receiver. It showed."

First off, I agree that if Cole Beasley were 6-2 instead of 5-8 that he would probably be a star in the NFL, but unfortunately he's not. Beasley is a mismatch for anybody who is lining up opposite him on defense and should probably be featured more on the offense.

Cowboys Headlines - Gil Brandt Predicting Bounce Back Year For The Dallas Cowboys 1Now, this is where I disagree with Brandt. He stated that Beasley wasn't ready when Dez Bryant went down.

With Bryant in the lineup Beasley is probably the number four option behind Terrance Williams, Jason Witten, and Dez Bryant, but without Bryant he is still nothing more than the third option.

I don't know what kind of expectations Brandt had for Beasley, but he still managed to have a pretty good 2015 season. In fact, Beasley ended up having the best season of his career.

Season
Receptions
Yards
TDs
2015 52 536 5

Beasley was able to accomplish this even with the carousel of quarterbacks that played for the Cowboys last year. So to say that he wasn't ready when Dez Bryant went down is a bit of a misinterpretation on Brandt's part about Beasley's role on offense.

Overall, it is still encouraging to see that Beasley is still improving his route running and is catching the ball with more ease. There is no place for complacency in the NFL. That is how players end up losing their jobs.

We should get a much better feel for how players are actually performing once the pads come on during minicamp practices and fortunately for us we don't have too much longer to wait.

Hopefully Gil Brandt is right and the Cowboys are primed for a bounce back year in 2016.

What do you think?

Please feel free to use the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions.



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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How Should The Cowboys, And The NFL, Value RBs?

Kevin Brady

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Will Cowboys' Offense Improve With Ezekiel Elliott's Return?
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There is no one, stand-alone "best" strategy for winning in the NFL. There are, of course, common themes and ideals which run true year in and year out among the top teams.

Strategy in the NFL is dynamic, or at least it should be. Running in place for too long under the same leadership often breeds mediocrity, and refusing to move with current trends can put you at a severe disadvantage.

Succumbing to those trends without fully analyzing the confounding factors your situation presents, however, can also ruin a team building exercise.

With that being said, should teams pay elite running backs top dollar? Or are those running backs expendable, replaceable, and often forgettable within the NFL machine?

To be honest these aren't very fair ways to pose legitimately interesting questions. You can acknowledge that a running back is important to your offense while also acknowledging that you don't want to break the bank for a position with such injury risk and high turnover year-to-year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently facing this dilemma, as their star running back Le'Veon Bell asks to be paid like an elite "weapon," not as a normal running back. And when you examine how the Steelers deploy Bell within their offense, he clearly has a point.

Bell is not your traditional "running back." He lines up on the boundary, in the slot, and is a passing threat out of the backfield as well. On top of all of this versatility, Bell is an excellent pass protector, something which is often lost among other "versatile" backs.

Bell can quite literally do it all for an offense, but the idea of paying that position elite-level money makes teams cringe. As The Athletic's Marcus Mosher pointed out on Twitter, teams like the New England Patriots have been able to replicate Bell's production by using multiple speciality backs rather than one workhorse.

In theory, this takes away the injury risk component to a certain extent. Rather than giving one player 350-400 touches per season, you spread those touches out and allow for players to do what they do best.

Lately, the NFL has seemed to agree that this is the most efficient way to play offense. But when you have a player like Bell or Ezekiel Elliott, in what way is taking the ball out of their hands "efficient" at all? In addition, how is using three players to mimic the skill set of one efficient?

Yes, the NFL is a passing league, but when you have a playmaker who is of the caliber of a Bell or an Elliott, it is up to the offense to deploy in him ways that maximize his value. Teams should be using the Bells and Elliotts of the world as pass catching threats and as weapons all over the field. Force the entire defense to account for your running back rather than just jamming him between the tackles like it's 1975.

The movement towards "running back by committee" rather than the traditional one-back system can also be credited to the lack of workhorse-worthy backs entering the league.

Ezekiel Elliotts don't grow on trees, they are rare and special players. And when you have one, especially when you spend a premium pick on him, you should get the most out of him that you can. Playing winning offense in the NFL is about more than just "do you run or do you pass," and it often hinges on creating splash plays of 15-20 yards.

If you can get those plays through the use of an elite running back, that player becomes intrinsically valuable to your team. No matter what "position" he is labeled as. Of course you want to be able create mismatches in the passing game all over the field, so when you are able to do this with a running back, shouldn't that be deemed as highly valuable?

We can't say just yet if the Cowboys should re-sign Ezekiel Elliott once he enters free agency. After all, five seasons (and a franchise tag year) where he touches the ball more than most players in the league will almost certainly bring about some wear and tear.

But with the way the Cowboys have chosen to play offense, and the way in which they've built their roster, a workhorse back like Elliott is necessary for success.

Once again, at least it is for now.



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Is DE Kony Ealy At Risk Of Not Making Cowboys Final Roster?

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: As Late FA Signing, New DE Kony Ealy Brings Value at DE

As training camp approaches and we draw closer to the 2018 NFL season, fans are beginning to get excited for new faces, old stars, and new beginnings for the Dallas Cowboys.

One player which has been a bit forgotten about over the last few months, and even overlooked when he was first signed back in April, is defensive end Kony Ealy. Of course, some of this overlooking is justified, as Ealy's career has been filled with more valleys than peaks thus far.

With a fresh start in Dallas, though, some expect Kony Ealy to rekindle his career, and look like the player he was during the Panthers' Super Bowl 50 loss just a few seasons ago. The problem is, that game looks like the outlier and not the norm over his professional career.

Originally drafted by the Carolina Panthers, Ealy has had a shaky start to his career. Now joining his third team in the same number of seasons, it's certainly fair to say he hasn't lived up to his second round draft selection.

At 6'4" and 275 pounds, however, Ealy fits the mold of a 4-3 defensive end in the Cowboys' scheme. While he isn't the explosive pass rusher that other players on the roster are (and can be), he could provide solid rotational depth across the defensive line.

With fellow former second round pick Randy Gregory gaining reinstatement to the NFL this week, Ealy could struggle to salvage any real playing time with the Cowboys at all. Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, and Taco Charlton all feel like locks to make the team.

Then there is 2018 day three pick Dorance Armstrong and former fourth round pick Charles Tapper providing competition as well.

Tapper and Armstrong are unproven, but have the athletic profiles to become solid edge rushers at the professional level. For both, especially Tapper, health is of the upmost concern going forward. If Tapper can remain healthy, he has a real shot of making the team and having his impact felt as early as 2018.

That "if" has been a serious one thus far, however.

When the Cowboys first signed Kony Ealy back in April, I really believed he could provide solid and cheap depth along their defensive line. Now in July, I still have those beliefs, but it's become fair to question if he will even find himself on the final 53-man roster based on the competition around him.



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Can Connor Williams Follow in Zack Martin’s Footsteps?

Brian Martin

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Can Connor Williams Follow in Zack Martin's Footsteps?

Connor Williams has yet to play a single snap the NFL, but there are already some pretty high expectations for the rookie Guard. That's because he will be sandwiched between two Pro Bowl players in Center Travis Frederick and Left Tackle Tyron Smith. But, it's the Dallas Cowboys third Pro Bowl offensive lineman Williams should try to emulate and follow in the footsteps of.

Yes, I'm talking about Zack Martin.

Zack Martin's career couldn't have gotten off to a better start coming out of Notre Dame. He hit the ground running as a rookie with the Cowboys and put together a dominating performance his first year in the NFL, earning his first Pro Bowl bid as well as being named to the All-Pro team. He continued to play at a high level ever since and has not only turned into the best player at his position, but continued his Pro Bowl streak every season since entering the league.

To ask, or even expect Connor Williams to have the same kind of immediate success as Zack Martin is probably a little unfair, if not impossible. The kind of success Martin has had already in his career is almost unheard of. But, that's not to say Williams isn't going to try to follow in Martin's footsteps and to become the best player he can.

Zack Martin

Dallas Cowboys OG Zack Martin

The footsteps I think Connor Williams should try to follow as it pertains to Zack Martin is how well he made the transition from a collegiate Offensive Tackle to an NFL Guard. I think that should be Williams' main focus right now with training camp coming up.

Williams will be inserted into the starting lineup as the Cowboys new Left Guard. It will be a new position for him after playing mainly Tackle at the University of Texas, that will require an entirely new mindset and technique. But, it's in transition I believe he can make rather smoothly.

Connor Williams should benefit from Zack Martin's similar transition from college OT to an NFL OG. I wouldn't be surprised if we see the rookie shadowing Martin throughout training camp to soak up as much knowledge as possible. It's probably the best way for him to jumpstart his career.

Now, I fully expect to see some growing pains from Williams throughout the 2018 season. It's to be expected from any rookie, especially one transitioning to a new position. But, I do believe he will not only be an upgrade at LG for the Cowboys, but will make the entire OL even better.

I don't know about you, but I'm excited to see what kind of player Connor Williams ends up being this season.

Do you think Connor Williams can follow in Zack Martin's footsteps?



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