The Dallas Cowboys have become a prime example of what roster building in the NFL should look like at its best under Will McClay, and recently signed WR Lance Lenoir of Western Illinois is proof of this.
Lenoir's signing may not have made many headlines, but after scouting him right here and now being fortunate enough to spend a few minutes talking to him, it appears the Cowboys have found another potential steal at the WR position with the right attitude, physical traits, and experience to break in with America's Team.
Listen to my interview with Lance Lenoir right here, or read below, as he discusses everything from his HS playing days with now-Vikings WR Laquon Treadwell, college football experience, and life as a Cowboys fan once studying Dez Bryant.
Q: To start off, what is the one thing Cowboys fans should know about you when it comes to your game and what you bring at the WR position?
Lance Lenoir (@Lance_Dreams7): I'm a great competitor. I have great hands, run great routes, and I'm going to go hard on every play. I'm going to help contribute to the team and hopefully help bring a Super Bowl championship to Dallas.
Q: What trait do you personally think gives you the best chance to make an impact right away with this team? What are you most comfortable doing in any offense, having done whatever the team needed of you to win in college?
Lance Lenoir (@Lance_Dreams7): I can do a lot. We have great competitors like Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, and Terrance Williams that are great veterans to learn from. I'm just playing my role and playing on special teams, working on strength, being great on special teams.
I also bring in good routes and strong hands, being consistent and doing anything coaches ask me to do.
Q: How much did your short experience with the Bears earlier in the offseason help you feel a little more comfortable at Cowboys minicamp?
Lance Lenoir (@Lance_Dreams7): It was definitely comfortable, it wasn't something new to me. I was already in this position so it was comfortable coming in to do what I do.
Q: How has working with players like - as you mentioned - Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, veteran Jason Witten, and Dak Prescott been? It has to be pretty surreal knowing that the team you have a chance with now is loaded with young, ready-to-win talent right on the offensive side of the ball.
Lance Lenoir (@Lance_Dreams7): Being with that group of guys is definitely great motivation. Jason Witten is a Hall of Fame guy and a Pro Bowler, and so is Dez Bryant. They all come in with a strong attitude and it all rubs off on us, so we have to bring that each and every day - I look up to those guys and I'm glad to be in this position.
Q: Are you particularly drawn to this offense because of the physicality they play with across the board, being a physical player yourself? Is it something you admire about this offense?
Lance Lenoir (@Lance_Dreams7): Of course, yes. Being a tough receiver, Coach Dooley lets you bring some nastiness with you and I feel comfortable being here. I'm ready to get to work.
Q: Is there a receiver in the NFL you've tried to model your game after?
Lance Lenoir (@Lance_Dreams7): It's funny you said that, that guy has always been Dez Bryant.
I looked at him when I was young and also in college, and have always admired his game and his nastiness. I've tried to compare myself to that.
Being next to him now, as a Dallas Cowboy, it is great to learn a lot from him.
Q: Have you had a lot of time to talk to Dez and see his work ethic?
Lance Lenoir (@Lance_Dreams7): I talked to him through minicamp and he's taken me under his wing. We've been working on things, he's answered questions for me and his help has been good so far.
Q: As just a football fan, what did you think of this Cowboys' offense a year ago taking the league by storm with two rookies in Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott? How excited are you to now have your name on this roster with them?
Lance Lenoir (@Lance_Dreams7): It is a blessing to have my name with the Dallas Cowboys and compared to great names like you mentioned. I've always been a Cowboys fan and this is basically a dream come true. This is a strong team and they have a lot to bring, I"m just glad to be in this position with them.
Q: What was the experience like when you found out you were being signed after working out for the Cowboys?
Lance Lenoir (@Lance_Dreams7): It was a great day, they told me after my workout I would be signed but it wouldn't be announced until Tuesday. I stayed in Dallas and worked out with Derek Dooley, and stayed in shape. I was excited, and I called my agent and then my family to tell them all the great news. It's basically time to get to work now and do what I do.
Q: What are you looking forward to with the competitiveness of training camp, being ready for the challenge of competing against so many other WRs?
Lance Lenoir (@Lance_Dreams7): Coming in is going to be fun with a great group of guys to learn from. I'm just studying the playbook, learning what I need to and playing. I'm going to come prepared to stay on this team.
Q: Getting back to your tape from Western Illinois, do you think the blocking element of your game is something that can help you on a team that values that so much from their receivers?
Lance Lenoir (@Lance_Dreams7): Blocking was something that was very important to me, even when I played HS ball. My coaches preached that you can't be on the field if you can't block, so I carried that with me through college. Now in the pros I'll come with the same nastiness that Dez, Beasley, and Williams do as blockers and play makers.
Learning from this great group of guys and bringing that consistency will be needed.
Q: What's been your impression of the young defensive backs the Cowboys have, with Dez Bryant already saying he's loved the way they've competed so far?
Lance Lenoir (@Lance_Dreams7): Those are a great group of guys. They bring that dog mentality which you need on your team to compete. It makes you stay on your toes every day, you can't slack off and take reps off or be lazy knowing their coming. Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, and Xavier Woods are all competitors so being around them is helping me and they're all great guys.
Q: It seemed like your best games in college came against higher competition. When it comes to the day in and day out grind of the NFL, how much does this part of your experience help you?
Lance Lenoir (@Lance_Dreams7): All of that is having confidence. I was glad to be at Western Illinois, they showed me a love that was very genuine which is why I chose to go there. I'm never afraid of any competition, I put on the same shoes and sweat and bleed just like any competitor.
There's never a threat from bigger schools or competition, it's all about being yourself and balling - I'll never be scared of any competition because I'm confident in my ability to play hard, give it my all, and know I belong here. I played alongside Laquon Treadwell in HS, my best friend, and we always had that nastiness in college and now in the pros.
Competition has always made me stronger.
Q: How has working with WR Coach Derek Dooley been, and what have you been able to learn from him?
Lance Lenoir (@Lance_Dreams7): Coach is a great guy, he's helped me catch up on the playbook since I was late coming in. He's been impressed by my ability on special teams and the play-to-play effort. They took their time with me catching up on the playbook in three days, but come training camp there's no excuses and I'll be prepared. He's a great guy and a great coach, any questions I need he has been there for me which I appreciate.
The Cowboys are absolutely stacked at WR now with the top of their depth chart set, and Lance Lenoir prepared to make the absolute most out of his opportunity with his favorite team.
Watching all of these guys line up against a nearly identically deep pool of hungry defensive backs is going to make for must-see football in training camp.
Inside The Star will have you covered as always, and thanks again to Lance for his time!
Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración
Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.
Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.
Cambios de Coach
A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.
A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.
Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?
A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.
A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.
En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.
La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.
Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.
Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.
No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.
Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story
Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.
Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.
Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.
Here's why those people are wrong.
Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.
Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).
Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.
There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.
Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.
Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.
Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.
Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.
And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.
Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?
When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.
It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.
Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.
Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.
Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.
The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.
Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating
Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating
As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.
Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
Now, he just has to go out and prove it!
Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?
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