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Is the Defensive Backfield Still a Concern?

Given the option of Ezekiel Elliott or Jalen Ramsey, the Cowboys opted for Elliott. I’m thrilled Elliott will be playing for Dallas and I’m rubbing my hands together in anticipation for Week 1.  While the idea of Ramsey paired with Byron Jones and Orlando Scandrick seemed exciting, that fantasy is not reality. So in reality is the secondary fine the way it is, or could it have used more attention in the draft? Many would agree that, at this point, the Dallas Cowboys’ achilles heel is the defensive line.



Cowboys Headlines - Is the Defensive Backfield still a concern?

Given the option of Ezekiel Elliott or Jalen Ramsey, the Cowboys opted for Elliott. I’m thrilled Elliott will be playing for Dallas and I’m rubbing my hands together in anticipation for Week 1.  While the idea of Ramsey paired with Byron Jones and Orlando Scandrick seemed exciting, that fantasy is not reality.

So in reality is the secondary fine the way it is, or could it have used more attention in the draft? Many would agree that, at this point, the Dallas Cowboys’ achilles heel is the defensive line. The line could benefit from a strong defensive backfield, but is the defensive backfield also a concern?

The Defensive Backfield is a Concern Because…

The depth of the secondary in general looks shallow. Behind Brandon Carr is Josh Thomas, Brandon McGee, and then Arjen Colquhoun. Rookie Anthony Brown sits behind Morris Claiborne and before Olatoye Deji and Terrance Mitchell. Behind Byron Jones is J.J. Wilcox and Jeff Heath and behind Barry Church is rookie Kavon Frazier. After Orland Scandrick is Milligan Rolan.

Unfortunately, the last time we saw Orlando Scandrick in the regular season was in 2014. He tore his ACL weeks before the season opener and missed the year entirely. Scandrick may have recurring issues with his knee and there’s also the chance that he simply may not be able to return to the same level of play.

Even though Scandrick may be the Cowboys’ best corner, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t struggle at times. In 2014 opposing QBs completed about 74% of passes against Scandrick. Ideally you’d like that number to be around 50% or less. Not to mention, he isn’t much of a ball hawk. He had two picks in 2014 and has seven on his career. Numbers like those can comfort a QB and make them more inclined to throw in his direction.

Scandrick’s supporting cast, Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr, both seem to be playing for their jobs. The question of releasing Brandon Carr was asked over and over before his pay cut. His production could also be declining as he gets older. Claiborne may suffer from the same issues that have made him a disappointing first-round pick.

Cowboys Headlines - Is the Defensive Backfield still a concern? 2

More so, without a dominant pass rush, especially the first four weeks of the season, the defensive backfield could look bleak. We’ve seen how Carr and Claiborne can struggle when quarterbacks have time to throw. Assuming that Jones is playing safety, Scandrick, Carr and Claiborne are the Cowboys’ top cornerbacks and that won’t change in 2016.

And if Jones does plays safety, then behind him is J.J. Wilcox. Wilcox might even have some trouble making the final roster, especially if he’s not head and shoulders above Jeff Heath at the safety position. He has started the last two years but struggled to make plays against both the run and pass.

It’s also hard to compete with Heath who lead the team with two interceptions. The Cowboys defense in total had eight interceptions.

There’s plenty of reason to worry about the defensive backfield but there are just as many positives as there are negatives.

The Defensive Backfield is Not a Concern Because…

Byron Jones played both corner and safety last year as a rookie, although he looked more comfortable at safety. One of his most impressive games, in my opinion, was against New England when Jones was tasked with covering Rob Gronkowski. Before the Patriots played the Cowboys, Gronkowski scored four touchdowns and averaged 102.6 receiving yards. Against Jones, Gronkowski was held to four receptions and 67 yards.

Jones finished fifth on the team with 76 tackles and led the entire defense with 12 pass deflections. Jones is likely to start next to Barry Church and the two could serve as a very formidable duo.

I think Church gets a bad wrap because he is not great in coverage, not a ball hawk, not among the league’s elite safeties. It’s important to remember he is still a good box safety and a fantastic leader for the Dallas defense. He’s excellent in run support and excels when brought up closer to the line of scrimmage. He’s also a defensive captain and a positive locker room personality. Pairing Church with an athlete like Jones might help mask whatever Church lacks and could end up being very productive in 2016.

Cowboys Headlines - Is the Defensive Backfield still a concern? 1Scandrick is also due for a comeback season. He did not allow a touchdown in primary coverage all season and graded as the eighth-best cover cornerback in the league in 2014. He was one of only three corners who, when targeted 80 or more times, did not give up a single touchdown.

He does his job on the defense and he does it effectively through good positioning and awareness. While he is better in zone coverage, which is where he frequently plays, he is still talented enough to cover a team’s best receiver while in man.

Scandrick joins Morris Claiborne who showed promise last season, and earned him a new one year deal going into 2016. And with rookie safety Kavon Frazier and corner Anthony Brown there’s room for growth and improvement.

Perhaps most important to note is that the Cowboys ranked 5th in Pass Defense. That was without Scandrick.

I have confidence in the defensive backfield. Just because the Dallas Cowboys’ secondary may not be flashy, doesn’t mean they can’t fly under the radar being competent and making stops when needed.


I was born and raised in New York state's Hudson Valley and now attend school in New Jersey. Although I live in Montclair, my heart will always have a soft spot for Dallas, Texas. As an intern for Inside the Star, I now have a legitimate reason for the Cowboys to consume my life. Before, I was just a Cowboy fan with no life ... and very concerned parents. When I'm not writing about the Cowboys, I enjoy reading, seeing plays, creative writing, watching TV, and making my friends and family laugh. Follow me on Twitter, so we can connect on all topics related to America's Team. How 'bout em!

Player News

Orlando Scandrick Talks Cowboys’ Disappointing Season on FOX Sports

Mauricio Rodriguez



Cowboys Headlines - Forget the Triplets: Cowboys Need The Underrated to Shine in 2016
Ashley Landis / The Dallas Morning News

For better or worse, the Cowboys don’t even need to play football to be all over national TV. I guess it’s just part of being the one and only America’s Team. For the second consecutive week, Fox Sports had a Dallas Cowboys’ player on set for Fox’s “Undisputed.”

Just a week ago, Brice Butler made waves with some controversial comments that failed to make him look like a “great teammate.”

This time, Fox’s guest was Cowboys’ Cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Unlike Butler, I really think we should give Scandrick credit for being a very good teammate, and acting like one on his TV appearance.

Throughout the segment, it feels as if Orlando is being tricked into saying something against his teammates. Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe start bashing on Dez Bryant‘s performance and the fact that he should be replaced.

Of course, this is the kind of stuff fans in Cowboys Nation are thinking about. Heck, I really wouldn’t even mind if Dez isn’t wearing a star next season. However, I really disliked Butler’s comments when asked if he would’ve done a better job if given the same opportunities as Dez.

Scandrick’s responses were awesome though. When asked if he would defend Dez, he didn’t even hesitate.

“I don’t think he’s lost any confidence. He’s one of the most confident players I’ve ever been around. I think it can all be fixed. I think he just needs to get back to work and get back to the basics.” – Orlando Scandrick on Dez Bryant.

Scandrick also answered questions about what went wrong with the Cowboys this season by pointing out the fact they lost one of their best players because of a suspension, and some injuries. But he also said what’s been in our minds for a long time. When asked what was the biggest reason they struggled, he said some painful, yet truthful words: “We played some bad football against some very good teams.”

Later, he was asked about how Sean Lee’s absence affected the defense, he insisted they didn’t step up. At the end of the day, the NFL is a league in which you can’t be that dependent on a single player.

Sean Lee is an awesome player, but I think we’d all like to see this defense be a little less dependent on him.

Scandrick even had to defend Dak Prescott.

Dak was highly criticized after a sophomore season in which he struggled, alongside the entire team. But in the words of Orlando, we should “give him time.” Dak had a lot on his plate, but he made a lot of progress for the Cowboys.

You can listen to the entire interview here.

Orlando Scandrick’s time in Dallas may be coming to an end, especially with young guys like Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis taking over. He’s signed through 2019, so who knows; maybe we see him wearing the star for a bit longer.

“It’s always a possibility.” – Orlando Scandrick on potentially not returning to Dallas next season.

Even still, it’s nice to see him support his football team and his friends on a show which featured a non-starting Cowboys’ wide receiver taking shots against his team. Orlando Scandrick deserves an applause.

Tell me what you think about “Orlando Scandrick Talks Cowboys’ Disappointing Season on FOX Sports” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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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Dallas Cowboys

Should Cowboys Pursue Veteran Backup at Quarterback?

Jess Haynie



Cowboys en Español: Cooper Rush
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys only have two quarterbacks under contract right now, starter Dak Prescott and backup Cooper Rush. With only three years of combined experience between them, one could argue that a veteran presence would be useful. Should Dallas make a veteran QB a free-agent priority in the 2018 offseason?

Of course, there’s plenty of other QB experience on the Cowboys staff. Head Coach Jason Garrett played professionally from 1989-2004, and started his coaching career with quarterbacks.

Scott Linehan has been coaching offense with an emphasis on the passing game for 30 years.

Kellen Moore, who is taking over for the departed Wade Wilson as quarterbacks coach, has played very recently and will bring a fresh perspective.

However, losing Wilson’s experience from the room, and the lack of any veteran player at QB, shouldn’t be dismissed.

Dak Prescott has said veteran Mark Sanchez — who was with Dallas in 2016 — was a major help during his whirlwind rookie season. Tony Romo enjoyed veteran advice from guys like Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna, and Kyle Orton throughout his playing career.

This isn’t to say Dallas would want to bring in a veteran to knock Cooper Rush down the depth chart. After a surprising preseason, Rush took the backup job from Kellen Moore and certainly has intriguing upside.

If the Cowboys were to add a veteran, that player would have to come in with the understanding he’s competing with Cooper and may not be guaranteed a job.

The good news is that it’ll be a buyer’s market for veteran quarterbacks this offseason.

Guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, and Matt Moore could all be available. Even a player with more pedigree, such as Sam Bradford, may have trouble finding starting work with many jobs taken among the NFL’s 32 teams.

Dallas could even consider bringing back Mark Sanchez, given his previous relationship with Dak Prescott. He only had a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears.

Given Prescott’s seeming durability, Dallas will likely only keep two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster in 2018 and for years to come. Because of that, they may be content to focus on Dak and Cooper Rush, and just get through the offseason with training camp bodies.

However, the case can certainly be made for adding another veteran player with the desire to teach to help these young quarterbacks develop. Prescott was not the same guy in 2017 that we saw as a rookie, and perhaps the absence of guys like Sanchez and Tony on the sideline had something to do with that.


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Dallas Cowboys

Why WR Coach Sanjay Lal is a Good Hire for Cowboys

Kevin Brady



Why WR Coach Sanjay Lal Is A Good Hire For Cowboys

Yesterday, it was announced that the Dallas Cowboys will hire Sanjay Lal to be their new wide receivers coach. Lal spent 2017 with the Indianapolis Colts in the same position, but has made multiple stops around the NFL prior to joining the Cowboys staff.

Most recently and arguably most notably, Sanjay Lal was the receivers coach for both the New York Jets (2012-2014) and the Buffalo Bills (2015-2016). This means he coached on Rex Ryan’s staff for two different teams, with two very similar offensive philosophies.

Run the football.

As seen in the video below, Sanjay Lal has experience working as the wide outs coach for an offense with a run-first philosophy. He even says himself that their offense in New York was “ground and pound,” but notes that “without a pass game there’s no pound.”

Cowboys fans became all too familiar with the truth behind that statement during the 2017 season, as even solid efforts in the run game were rendered meaningless by their lack of explosion through the air.

Jets Nation Inside Camp: Sanjay Lal Mic’d Up

Jets wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal is mic’d up during training camp, and also discusses trying to play pro football before becoming a coach in the NFL.

A lot has been made of Sanjay Lal’s lack of 1,000-yard receivers during his time as a coach. The offensive philosophies of the teams which he coached for, however, show why this criticism is flimsy.

It’s quite possible the Cowboys will once again be without a 1,000 yard pass catcher this season, but if Ezekiel Elliott and the run game are clicking, and Dak Prescott is spreading the ball to different targets, this stat won’t mean a thing.

Lal was also the coach in Buffalo when Sammy Watkins had the best years of his career, including a 1,000-yard season.

During that stint he coached Robert Woods to productive seasons as well. Now Woods is a dangerous target for the Los Angeles Rams after being coached by Lal for multiple seasons.

These were also the same years that quarterback Tyrod Taylor was at his best.

While in New York, with the Jets, Lal’s most productive receiver was Jeremy Kerley, who finished with 827 yards in 2012 and 523 in 2013. What’s important to note here is that Kerley played as a slot receiver for much of his time as a Jet.

The Cowboys lacked any type of production from the slot in 2017, but maybe Lal can change that by getting the best out of Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer, as he did with Kerley.

Bryan Broaddus on Twitter

Know that some believe he had a real shot to be an OC in this league one day.

All indications from those “in the know” suggest Sanjay Lal is on his way to becoming an offensive coordinator soon. Many believe he has the smarts and the football IQ to command an offense himself, as soon as he gets the right opportunity.

Maybe that opportunity will come down the line in Dallas, where he can continue to coach within that “ground and pound” style, which he has done for many years while also implementing elements of his own passing game expertise.

Everyone has been critical of the Cowboys’ inability to bring in external hires, and to spark up new/creative offensive ideas. Lal has spent time among some of the smartest offensive minds in football.

Maybe he’s the man to bring in that outside creativity this offense seems to lack.


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