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Jerry Jones: “When Healthy,” Sean Lee Will Be Cowboys Starter at LB Again

Sean Martin

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Jerry Jones: "When Healthy," Sean Lee Will Be Cowboys Starter at LB Again 2

Yet another "hot hand" Cowboys depth chart controversy has come up with the pending return of Linebacker Sean Lee. Though it's possible for Lee to coexist with the already dominant pairing of rookie Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, Cowboys Nation has convinced themselves the days of seeing the Wolf Hunter as a starter are numbered.

Jerry Jones' recent comments on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas did little to slow this outrage, but do require more context than provided to fully understand.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Jerry Jones says Sean Lee will get his starting job back when he returns from his hamstring injury. Jones on Lee: "When he's right, there's nobody better.

Jones said Lee will be the Cowboys starting WILL linebacker once he's fully healthy. For a 32-year old linebacker that's never once played 16 games in a season, the merits of being "fully healthy" are worth questioning.

Lee shouldn't be feeling the same urgency to get on the field as quick as possible. For the first time, the Cowboys are competent on defense without him, and that's because of Leighton Vander Esch - who admits he's learned a lot from Lee while sidelined.

There is of course the adage that capable players play, and Lee could be in uniform for the first time since a week nine loss to the Tennessee Titans this Sunday. Whether or not he's healthy enough to play his usual workload will determine how many of Vander Esch's snaps he takes, with the Cowboys more than willing to let LVE carry the game if needed.

In the team's previous win at the Eagles, Vander Esch recorded his first interception on Carson Wentz, leading to a Dallas field goal.

Jerry Jones: "When Healthy," Sean Lee Will Be Cowboys Starter at LB Again

Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch

The decision the Cowboys must make about their linebacker depth is a topic I've discussed here more than once already. Prior to the Cowboys win over the Saints, I warned that a substandard game from the defense against the top scoring offense in the league shouldn't influence the decision to cut Vander Esch's snaps too much.

"Vander Esch and Lee have only been on the field together for 19 snaps this season, hardly the Cowboys plan when they locked onto the raw defender out of Boise State early in the draft process. In games where both linebackers are available to play, Vander Esch is averaging 32 snaps a game, well below the 58.8 he averages when primarily handling the WILL LB position in Kris Richard's defense."

All Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith did was combine for 19 tackles and hold the Saints to a season-low ten points. The schedule doesn't get easier for the Cowboys from here, as their four game win streak has set up another must-win match up with the Eagles.

Though the Eagles aren't the same team that handed the Cowboys their worst loss ever at AT&T Stadium a year ago, they are 6-6 with life in the NFC East. Having Sean Lee available to help put an end to a late season run by the defending Super Bowl champions is a great thing for the Cowboys, and a luxury they didn't have in last November's 37-9 loss.

Lee, Vander Esch, and Smith suiting up as the three primary linebackers for the Cowboys is not yet something they've figured out. The time is now for playoff hopeful teams to get healthy and explore any lineup changes. The Cowboys should have total faith in Kris Richard figuring out the best way to deploy all of his linebackers.

Jerry Jones: "When Healthy," Sean Lee Will Be Cowboys Starter at LB Again 1

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

If Vander Esch is playing less snaps, it means that Lee is back and playing at a high level. The General will be the first to take himself off the field if he's not up to a usual standard of excellence. Such a standard has been remarkably matched by Vander Esch, to the point where the Cowboys should be praised for their added talent at LB - instead criticized for a decision that hasn't happened yet.

Tell us what you think about "Jerry Jones: “When Healthy,” Sean Lee Will Be Cowboys Starter at LB Again" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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Report: Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott Planning Training Camp Holdout?

John Williams

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Ezekiel Elliott: NFL's History with Domestic Violence Shows Inconsistency, Hypocrisy 2

All offseason, the possibility of a new contract for Dallas Cowboys Running Back Ezekiel Elliott has been a hot button issue among media and fans alike. Not because Ezekiel Elliott isn't a great player and worthy of top running back money, but because the idea of paying running backs north of $15 million a year isn't as simple as, "Is he worth it?"

There is significant evidence that the running back position experiences a significant decline in production around their age 28 season and few running backs play into their 30's with good to elite production. Ezekiel Elliott, though he's experienced heavy usage in his first three seasons, could be the exception to the rule.

Well, knowing his worth to the Dallas Cowboys he's expecting a heavy payday at some point in the next couple of seasons. Elliott is under contract through 2019 and the Cowboys picked up his rookie option for 2020. So, technically, Elliott wouldn't be a free agent until the 2021 offseason. However, much like in the case of Todd Gurley, Elliott's looking to get paid early to maximize his prime years as the Dallas Cowboys running back.

Within the last hour, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk released a report that Ezekiel Elliott is planning on holding out of training camp if he doesn't receive a new contract, per a "league source." It should be noted that Mike Florio has had some missteps in his reporting of Dallas Cowboys news, most notably the perpetuating a rumor that Dez Bryant was caught on videotape doing something at a Wal-Mart, that would have a "Ray Rice type of impact." A tape that has never been discovered or produced and a story that's completely died off since it was originally reported in 2015.

Given the recent news that Melvin Gordon is planning a training camp hold out, it should come as no surprise that Elliott is being mentioned similarly. ESPN even mentioned the idea of Elliott and a looming contractual holdout in a piece earlier today, but their prediction pointed to 2021 and wasn't a report based on fact or a source, but a prediction for next year.

The two-time NFL rushing champ is scheduled to make $7.9 million in 2019 and just over $9 million in 2020 as the fifth-year option to his rookie contract. Elliott certainly has earned the right to be paid like Todd Gurley ($14.37 million per year), Le'Veon Bell ($13.13 million per year), and David Johnson ($13 million per year) despite having two more years on his deal.

In looking at the long-term impact of Elliott's contract, I've advocated that if the Dallas Cowboys intend to pay Elliott, now's the time to do it. A contract extension now, that adds three or four more years onto his existing deal would get Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys to his age 28 or 29 season. In a well-structured contract, they'd have opportunities to get out at the back end if Elliott experienced a significant decline in production.

Ezekiel Elliott's contract is going to continue to be a hot button issue until he's either signed to an extension or it's made known that the Dallas Cowboys have no intention of extending him. Currently, there aren't any other sources confirming Elliott's plan to hold out of training camp, which starts July 27th, but it's a story that we'll continue to follow here on InsideTheStar.com.

Update: 7/15/2019 1:45 pm.

Charles Robinson, Senior Reporter for Yahoo! Sports provided some insight into the thinking of Elliott and his representation.

It certainly seems like holding out is on the table for Ezekiel Elliott and his representation, but no decision has been made at this point.

Check back with us for updates on Ezekiel Elliott's contract extension. 



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Can Xavier Woods Take the Next Step into Dallas Cowboys Stardom?

John Williams

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Xavier Woods' Ascension Will Make Everyone Forget About Earl Thomas 1

The Dallas Cowboys have always been a team that has had lots of star power. Even in their down years in the early 2000s or the 8-8 teams of this decade, the Cowboys have always had names that struck a chord with NFL observers. Heading into the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys have household names on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football, but there are several players who can still take the leap to join that list of stars for America's Team. The staff over at DallasCowboys.com discussed who they thought could be an emerging star for the Dallas Cowboys in 2019.

Surprisingly, none of them mentioned Xavier Woods.

Along with Byron Jones and Anthony Brown, Xavier Woods helped to solidify the Dallas Cowboys secondary that helped the team become one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2018. Woods became a physical playmaking free safety for the team last year and gave the front office and coaching staff enough reason to not make a significant upgrade at the position.

After what the Cowboys didn't do in the offseason, it's obvious that they are confident that Woods will continue to take steps toward being the free safety they've been longing to find since Darren Woodson retired. They felt good enough about Xavier Woods that they opted not to pursue any of the big name free agents in Eart Thomas, Tyrann Mathieu, Landon Collins, or Tre Boston. In the draft, with pre-draft visitors Juan Thornhill and Taylor Rapp staring them in the face, the Cowboys instead drafted Trysten Hill to be their 3-tech defensive tackle for now and the future.

Per Pro Football Focus, among safeties that played at least 352 snaps in coverage, Xavier Woods finished tied for sixth in the NFL with a passer rating allowed of 62.8. He was seventh in the NFL among safeties in yards allowed per coverage snap, 10th  in snaps per target, and 12th in snaps per reception allowed at 31.1. Woods allowed the 12th fewest receptions and the seventh-fewest yards in the NFL among safeties. He tied for the team lead with two interceptions on the season to go along with his nine pass deflections, which finished third on the team.

What doesn't show up in the boxscore are the bone-jarring hits that he put on receivers coming over the middle of the field. Several times during the 2018 season did Woods lower the shoulder on a player to separate him from the ball after the reception was made.

Xavier Woods physicality combined with his ability to make plays on the football is something the Dallas Cowboys haven't had in years. If Woods can take another step forward in his play in 2019, there's no reason to think he can't contend for a Pro Bowl spot and be the next player to join the Dallas Cowboys group of stars.



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REPORT: Cowboys DE Randy Gregory to Request Reinstatement on Monday

Jess Haynie

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Randy Gregory

Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan is reporting that Randy Gregory, the Dallas Cowboys' defensive end currently under indefinite suspension, will request a full reinstatement from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell this coming Monday. Gregory hopes to rejoin the team and be a full participant in Dallas' 2019 Training Camp and preseason.

Last February, Gregory was hit with the suspension after another violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy. It is unknown what sort of violation occurred; Randy's probationary status means several different possibilities for what triggered the suspension.

mike fisher ✭ on Twitter

EXCLUSIVE: Cowboys Gregory To Appeal For Reinstatement To NFL On Monday With Specific Proposed Plan https://t.co/qSx2nf5IQl

The Cowboys have expressed confidence throughout this offseason that Gregory would be able to return for the 2019 season. This may due to the league's softening stance on marijuana use, or their belief in Randy's genuine efforts to confront his issues.

According to Fisher's report:

"The application will include an update on Gregory's process as a result of his in-depth treatment in behavioral and substance-abuse clinics and will feature a continuing "personal responsibility'' plan that will likely have him living with family members in DFW."

If it works out for him, Randy Gregory will return to a much more crowded defensive end position than last year.

The Cowboys have loaded up at DE this offseason. They added veterans Robert Quinn and Kerry Hyder, then drafted Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks. These four join DeMarcus Lawrence, Taco Charlton, and Dorance Armstrong as returning players.

Gregory has the talent to be factor regardless of who else is around. Hopefully he's done enough to earn his way back onto the team and avoid future suspensions.



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