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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.



Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and have been with ITS since 2016.

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Star Blog

Can Rookie OL Connor McGovern Compete For A Starting Spot?

Kevin Brady

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Connor McGovern

Raising eyebrows in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Cowboys added Penn State offensive lineman Connor McGovern to their already deep OL depth chart.

McGovern, who played guard for the Nittany Lions, was reportedly by-far the best player remaining on the Cowboys draft board when they came on the clock in round three. Still, with seemingly more pressing needs yet to be addressed, Dallas' selection of McGovern was certainly a surprise.

When you watch the tape, though, you immediately see what the Cowboys loved about Connor McGovern.

A "plug-and-play" type guard, Connor McGovern is the type of rookie you'd expect to contribute in year one. On many teams he may be a candidate to start at guard or center from the beginning of his rookie season, but here in Dallas, his role for the 2019 season is somewhat in question.

Clearly, being a day two pick, there's no doubt that McGovern will make the Cowboys roster. But can he compete for a starting job?

During OTA's McGovern took reps at both guard and center, pointing towards the possibility of him being the first interior offensive lineman off the bench if one of the starters were to go down with an injury. Fellow interior linemen Joe Looney and Xavier Su'a-Filo each contributed in big ways during the 2018 season, however, and will be tough to beat out during camp.

Obviously McGovern won't be starting over All-Pros Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, but could he dethrone Connor Williams from his left guard position?

While possible, I would still say it's unlikely. The Cowboys selection of McGovern seems to be more about 2020 and beyond than it is about the 2019 season. With right tackle La'el Collins coming up on a contract year, Dallas might elect to let him walk in free agency, move Williams back to his college position of tackle, and slide McGovern into the left guard slot.

This seems fool-proof in theory, but this many moving parts across the offensive line could spell trouble early on in 2020. Regardless, Connor McGovern's arrival gives Dallas the flexibility to consider all options on their offensive line.

In reality, McGovern strengthened a strength for Dallas, and may be needed to prove himself as early as this Fall if injury issues arise.



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Cowboys en Español: Analizando al Rival Más Fuerte en la NFC East

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Amari Cooper has Final Say on Trade Compensation in Cowboys Win 3

Los Dallas Cowboys se han llevado el título de la NFC East tres de los últimos cinco años. Dos veces han sido con el QB Dak Prescott como el titular. Sin embargo, no han logrado llevarse la división en años consecutivos. De hecho, ningún equipo de la NFC East ha logrado coronarse campeón divisional en años consecutivos desde el 2004. Los Cowboys, actuales campeones del grupo, buscarán romper esa tendencia en la temporada que está por comenzar en septiembre.

Los New York Giants, Washington Redskins y Philadelphia Eagles intentarán evitar que tal hazaña suceda. Sin embargo, parece ser que solo uno de estos tres equipos podrá ser rival para un equipo de Dallas bastante completo tanto en ofensiva como en defensiva.

Prescott vs. Wentz, the Meaningless Debate Continues

Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz, Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Matthew Emmons / USA TODAY Sports)

Los Eagles, quienes estuvieron en postemporada al igual que los Cowboys en 2018 (pero en calidad de comodín), cuentan con un muy fuerte equipo para la próxima temporada. En las apuestas deportivas, las casas de apuesta tienen como favorito a ganar la división a Philadelphia. El margen de diferencia entre ambos equipos es muy pequeño, poniendo las expectativas para ambas ciudades en aproximadamente el mismo nivel.

Para Eagles, termina una agotadora discusión entre Nick Foles y Carson Wentz después de que el veterano partiera a Jacksonville en la agencia libre y dejara a la segunda selección global del 2016 al mando de su equipo, como debería de ser. Wentz es un QB prometedor para su equipo. Antes de lesionarse en 2017, era el claro favorito para ser premiado como el MVP de la temporada. Pero la fortaleza del equipo va más allá de su mariscal de campo.

Doug Pederson ha demostrado ser un head coach muy capaz en la NFL, y tiene la fortuna de liderar un equipo repleto de talento. Similar a los Cowboys, los Eagles tuvieron un offseason algo discreto pero efectivo.

En ofensiva, Eagles consiguió talento para el juego terrestre después de conseguir al ex-Chicago Bear Jordan Howard y al novato de Penn State, Miles Sanders. Como receptor hace su regreso a Philadelphia Desean Jackson, quien será un arma peligrosa con Alshon Jeffery y Nelson Agholor.

Catching Up With Dallas Cowboys NFC East Rivals' Offseasons 1

Para la defensiva, consiguieron ayuda en la línea defensiva (que de por sí lucía muy talentosa) firmando al DT Malik Jackson. Como linebacker, una posición en la que necesitaban una mejora, llega Zach Brown. Ese frente defensivo es de temerse, sin duda.

Pero no solo se trata de aquellos jugadores nuevos en Philadelphia, sino las retenciones claves. Con Eagles se quedan después de firmar extensiones y nuevos contratos el centro Jason Kelce, el tackle Jason Peters, el caza cabezas Brandon Graham y el cornerback Ronald Darby.

Los Cowboys tienen un rival fuerte a quien superar si quieren llevarse el título de la división por segundo año consecutivo. Ambos equipos se enfrentan en las semanas 7 y 16, pero la NFC East se tendrá que ganar con un esfuerzo en los 16 partidos de la temporada.

Recientemente, Eagles y Cowboys han representado la rivalidad más importante dentro de la división y el 2019 no será la excepción. A nosotros como aficionados, nos espera un espectáculo.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Analizando al Rival Más Fuerte en la NFC East" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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What Will Joe Looney’s Role Look Like In 2019?

Kevin Brady

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Would Cowboys Trade Joe Looney if the Saints Came Calling?

The quick answer to the question the title poses is: he will be the backup center.

And, well, yes. Duh. Right?

Now that veteran center Travis Frederick has returned to claim his rightful spot on the Cowboys offensive line, Joe Looney must slide back into his backup role. Looney filled in for the All Pro center admirably in 2018, playing well above expectation level for much of the season. Still, there was clearly a drop off in play between he and Frederick, especially when it came to communication across the offensive line.

It may not be as simple as "Joe Looney is back to being a backup interior lineman," though, especially considering the offseason which the Cowboys had. Dallas went out and added Penn State guard Connor McGovern with their second selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, adding him to a very crowded interior group.

Now, Joe Looney is joined by two guards which played significant time in 2018 in Connor Williams and Xavier Su'a-Filo, the unquestioned starter Travis Frederick, and this rookie who draft pundits have praised to be plug-and-play on the inside.

Looney himself, however, doesn't sound too concerned about how these pieces may fall during Training Camp. “Whatever happens, happens. My role is to be the best player that I can be. When the team needs me, my job is to be ready,” Looney told DallasCowboys.com recently. "Right now, it’s about getting better. If my number is called, I’ll be ready.”

There's no question that Joe Looney is both a favorite of the fans, and in the Cowboys locker room. The jolly lineman which NBC's Cris Collinsworth dubbed "Jumbo Joe" has proved his worth both on and off the field during his time in Dallas. Still, he isn't the player now that someone like Frederick is, and he doesn't have the ceiling or potential that someone like Connor Williams has.

One of these interior linemen is likely to be released before the season starts, but my guess would not be Joe Looney. Su'a-Filo did a fine job when Connor Williams missed time due to injury in 2018, but he is likely the odd man out on the interior of the Cowboys offensive line.

Joe Looney's ability and comfortability at the center position is extremely valuable, as is his experience from a season ago playing a full season for this offensive line. It would be extremely difficult for Dallas to move on from him in favor of lesser-known players, especially if Frederick's health is still any sort of question mark.



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