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An Ideal Free Agency Haul: Pass Rush, Secondary

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What does this team need right now, today? What does this team need to win Super Bowl LI? A solid quarterback? Check. An all-pro offensive line? Check. One of the best receivers in the game? Yep, got that one too. I'll throw in a hall of fame tight end, just for kicks.

That's nice, what about defense? Well, we're getting there. For starters, how about a solid 3 technique for your Tampa 2 scheme? Yeah we got one of them puppies. If only we had a defensive end that posted 8 sacks in 8 games last seas - oh wait - yeah we got one of those. Cool. How's that secondary look? Well, meh. We've got a free safety who looks to have the makings of something special, and arguably one of the most underrated defensive backs in football in Orlando Scandrick. You're losing me here, Ian. What if I told you we have a pair of nickel linebackers comprised of a first and second round pick, one of whom made the pro bowl last season? That's a little better. But the team certainly still feels incomplete.

That's nice.

What if we signed the best (taking talent and youth into account) defensive end on the market? You're getting there. I'm not done yet. What if I throw in a nickel defensive back who's only 26 years old, had 6 interceptions his rookie season, and is only reaching free agency because of the log jam of talent at his position on his team? Well that fixes the secondary issues, but what about that gaping hole at 1 technique? Whelp, the NFL thought of that a bajillion years ago and implemented this nifty recruiting metric called "The NFL Draft."

In all seriousness, this draft is STACKED at defensive line. So stacked, that I firmly believe we'll nab Nick Hayden's replacement at pick #34.vernonsacknewton

So let's recap. Demarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Pick #34, Olivier Vernon, Casey Hayward, Mo Claiborne, Orlando Scandrick, Sean Lee, Rolando McClain, Barry Church, and Byron Jones. I firmly believe that is a Super Bowl winning defense.

What about the offense? Well, we have the best offensive line in football. I'm not sure I'll get much argument about that, unless your name is Jason Peters. What goes really good with an offensive line?

I'm not sure about you, but I'd like to throw a running back behind it who can do damage. A running back who can be on the field for all three downs. A running back who some people believe could be an all-pro. I'm starting to think that the best option for this team is to take Ezekiel Elliot with the fourth overall pick. I won't go into a ton of details now, but in terms of win now AND win in the future, this could be the guy.

So to give you a free agency recap, I want to haul in Olivier Vernon, and Casey Hayward this week. I think Miami being willing to put the transition tag on Vernon says a lot. Usually with free agents, teams will either franchise tag, or let them test the market. Miami basically said, "We'd be willing to pay this guy X amount of dollars, but he's still technically on the market."

Casey Hayward has gotten overshadowed in Green Bay by better players, but showed a ton of promise and shouldn't completely break the bank, and with our lack of corner depth, would easily walk into the 3rd cornerback spot.

This is one potential route we could go. Do I think it's possible? Yes. Do I think it's realistic. Maybe. It's a little too rich for what our front office has done in recent years, but given the success of John Elway's "just buy all the good players," method, we may be a little more inclined to put money on the table. Keep an eye on a name like William Hayes. Under the radar production and a perfect bridge player to get us into Randy's prime.

Whelp, news just broke that Charles Johnson is going back to the Panthers. Market's getting pretty thin there, Jerry.



Dallas Cowboys fan since the Drew Bledsoe "era." I love Tony AND Dak. I like to think that I'm the most objective that a fan can get, while still being a diehard, which I truly believe is the 8th wonder of the world. Go Cowboys!!

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Dallas Cowboys

Despite Changes, Cowboys Offense Still Runs Through Ezekiel Elliott

Jess Haynie

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Ezekiel Elliott, Rams

We've talked a lot this offseason about the changes at Offensive Coordinator and slot receiver, or how Jason Witten's return will impact the tight end position. But while all of these will impact the Dallas Cowboys' offense in 2019, the constant feature remains Running Back Ezekiel Elliott and the rushing attack.

From 2016 to 2018, since the Cowboys drafted Elliott, Dallas has ranked 1st, 3rd, and 10th among NFL teams in "run vs. pass" play calls. That's only logical; you don't spend a fourth-overall pick on a RB and then not make him the featured player in your offense.

Zeke has certainly rewarded Dallas' decision; Elliott has led the league in total rushing two out of three years, and he led in yards-per-game in 2017 while dealing with his suspension.

Leaning on Elliott has been smart business based on his effectiveness, plus the investment in the offensive line over the last several years.

Dallas has now sunk three first-round picks (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin), one second (Connor Williams), and now two thirds (Chaz Green and Connor McGovern) on building up their front wall. They've spent a lot of money to keep their All-Pro guys around, plus La'el Collins.

Some would try to paint the run-heavy approach as how the team is trying to hide the weaknesses of Dak Prescott at quarterback. But in 2014, with DeMarco Murray at RB and Tony Romo at QB, the Cowboys were still 3rd in the league in rush vs. pass attempts.

This isn't about Zeke or Dak, or any other specific player. This about a team philosophy that starts at the top with Jason Garrett, and that isn't going to change even with Kellen Moore taking over as the new Offensive Coordinator.

Dallas Cowboys: Ranking Top 5 Most Indispensable Players 4

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

We're all excited to see what new wrinkles comes from getting rid of Scott Linehan. We highly anticipate the development of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in the offense, coupled with the addition of Randall Cobb. We're salivating at what Blake Jarwin might become under the tutelage of the great Jason Witten.

Heck, maybe we'll see fullback Jamize Olawale's receiving skills put to more use. Perhaps gadget guys like Tavon Austin or rookie Tony Pollard will be deployed in more creative ways.

And yes, Dak Prescott's growth is another major factor in Dallas' 2019 success. It's especially interesting, and even concerning, as talks are ongoing about his long-term contract.

But make no mistake, this is still the Ezekiel Elliott show. Even if a few more of his carries become receptions in Moore's scheme, Zeke should still get the lion's share of the touches.

That's why this week's news about his incident in Las Vegas is so troubling. It probably won't lead to a suspension, but we saw what happened in 2017 when Elliott was missing for over a third of the season.

While Dallas should be better able to withstand losing Zeke now than it was two years ago, it may still be more than Prescott, Cooper, and the rest could handle. It definitely wouldn't put the Cowboys in good position to compete for a Super Bowl.

In the end, the 2019 will still come down to how well Dallas runs the ball. It's the engine; nothing else matters if the rushing game doesn't set everyone else up for success.

Don't ever take it for granted. This is still Ezekiel Elliott's offense.



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What Would a Successful Season Mean for Kellen Moore’s Future?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Kellen Moore

Out of every chess piece moved by the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, the decision to name 30-year old Kellen Moore might be the most interesting one. Not only that, but it could be the one that makes the biggest impact on the team. After all, the Cowboys are ready to go talent wise.

With Kellen Moore taking up a new role, it's intriguing to imagine what a successful season would mean for his future with the Dallas Cowboys. Truth be told, Moore is in a pretty fortunate position to debut as an offensive coordinator. He'll be driving a unit full of talented players with almost no weak links. Last year, it wasn't the lack of quality players lined up that had the offense struggling throughout the season, but the guy in charge.

At first, the philosophy of not needing a #1 wide receiver clearly blew up on the Cowboys face. The passing game in Dallas needed a spark and they didn't find it until they traded a first rounder for Amari Cooper. Cooper's impact on the team was clear right away as he put on impressive performances on a weekly basis.

But even when Cooper was at his best, the offense still presented relevant struggles. Despite getting more first downs, the Cowboys still had trouble scoring touchdowns when in the red zone and kept leaving points on the field.

Although he's been a controversial conversation among members of Cowboys Nation, there are a few reasons to be excited about what Kellen Moore can bring to the table as a young offensive coordinator. Ever since he declared for the NFL Draft out of Boise State, where he ran a very complex offense on his way to become the QB with most wins in NCAA history, he was seen by many as an extremely smart prospect. Many expected him to have a mediocre career as a player, but saw him as a potential coach down the line.

Now it's his chance to prove the world just how smart he is and his potential as a coach. He will not only be proving it to the Cowboys organization, but all of the NFL and college football teams. Don't forget what NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah mentioned a few months ago.

Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter

I've mentioned this before- Kellen Moore is a rising star and he'll be in the mix for HC gigs (CFB or NFL) in the near future. https://t.co/hLjOb4HAUc

With a great group of talent at his disposal, it's fair to imagine Moore having a pretty successful "rookie" season at a major coaching position. If he indeed manages to turn heads with the Dallas Cowboys offense in 2019, what does that mean for his future?

In a league that's turning to the young offensive-minded coaches thanks to guys like Sean McVay, is it possible one team decides to pull the trigger and make him an offer for a head coaching gig? It certainly would seem premature, but it's still a possibility in the NFL, where teams have become increasingly impatient with their coaches.

I definitely wouldn't be surprised if next offseason, we're concerned about another team (college or NFL) trying to snatch Moore off the Cowboys. I insist in pointing out this would be a premature decision if it does happen, since Moore has very little experience, but looking at the trend in the NFL it certainly could happen.

This might be the most important year in Kellen Moore's young career. For now, let's hope he does a good job leading Dak Prescott in his fourth year as a professional player and an offense that has a solid OL and a pretty good set of skill players.

Tell me what you think about "What Would a Successful Season Mean for Kellen Moore’s Future?" 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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Connor Williams Working as Left Tackle in Cowboys Practice

Jess Haynie

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Connor Williams

Second-year guard Connor Williams has been working as the Cowboys' left tackle during practice this week. While this isn't the plan for him in 2019, it does provide a glimpse into potential uses for Williams down the road and how Dallas might handle future offensive line moves.

Using Connor at LT this week has been a matter of necessity. The top players on that depth chart, Tyron Smith and Cameron Fleming, were not participating for other reasons.

Todd Archer on Twitter

With Tyron Smith getting a vet day and Cam Fleming not practicing because of a bruised shin, Connor Williams worked at left tackle Wednesday. He said it was his first left tackle snaps since he was at Texas. He said it felt like riding a bike after a little bit.

Indeed, Williams spent three years at left tackle in college. It was the last position he'd played before being drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft by Dallas, who immediately moved him to guard.

Connor started 10 of 13 games at guard last season. He played mostly on the left side, starting Weeks 1-9, before getting injured. Xavier Su'a-Filo played well enough in his absence that Williams didn't get the starting job back when he was healthy. However, when Zack Martin had to miss a few games at the end of the year, Connor started a right guard for those two weeks.

When Martin returned for the playoffs, Williams was back as the starting left guard in both postseason games.

Tyron Smith and Cam Fleming will be your starter and backup at left tackle next year. But for 2020 and beyond, Connor Williams' ability to play tackle creates some interesting possibilities.

La'el Collins will be an unrestricted free agent next year. Fleming will still have one year left on his deal and Dallas just spent a third-round pick on the versatile Connor McGovern. Throw in that Williams can play some tackle, and it seems as if they're covering bases for Collins eventual departure.

We could very well see a starting lineup in 2020 with McGovern at LG and Williams at RT. Another possibility is that Fleming starts at RT and Williams stays at guard, but can be moved to tackle if needed.

If nothing else, it's nice to know that Dallas has options. We may never see Connor Williams play a regular season snap at left tackle, but versatility is a great asset. It can greatly increase a player's value, and give his team some leverage and flexibility in roster management.

For the Cowboys, it does make you wonder what the future holds for the offensive line.



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