Michael Lombardi is a former NFL scout, Director of Player Personnel, and General Manager turned media member over at The Ringer. If you follow the great Bryan Broaddus from the Dallas Cowboys' website, you've likely even seen Broaddus promote some of Lombardi's current NFL work.
He has the respect of many around the league.
All of this does little to distract Cowboys Nation from the fact that, on Lombardi's latest edition of his "GM Street" podcast, he - apparently from the friendly confines of NJ where Lombardi grew up and Jason Garrett attended Princeton University - opened the show with an incredibly off-target string of criticism towards the Cowboys' current head coach.
Cowboys training camp is right around the corner, meaning that there is now a short amount of time for national media outlets to hitch their wagons to whatever flaming hot take on America's Team they want to be able to promote prior to the team returning to action.
If Michael Lombardi truly believes everything he said about Jason Garrett, he is going to be in for a long season regardless of Dallas' record following a 13-3 season in 2016.
"Jason Garrett been a head coach for six years. He’s 50 years old. He’s going to be 51 next year. He should be in the prime of his head coaching career. Instead, he’s made two playoffs. I mean he goes 12-4. Then he goes 13-3 last year and he loses at home to a bad Green Bay defense." - Lombardi on the GM Street podcast
This was Lombardi's first chance to actually say something coherent when it comes to a real issue the Cowboys have had, in that the team has not put together consecutive winning seasons since 2008-2009. Instead, Lombardi takes aim at Garrett's two best seasons as the Cowboys' Head Coach by pointing out the playoff losses to Green Bay.
Despite being on the verge of two NFC Championship games, reaching the playoffs this year with an unprecedented fourth round draft pick under center, Garrett cannot possibly be entering his prime with the team he's reversed from old and hopeless to young and exciting according to Lombardi.
Anyone at all that's followed the Cowboys at almost any time knows this team is in better condition from top to bottom as a contender than ever before, as young stars all over the roster prepare to enter their own primes with a supposed past-his-prime coach.
Of course, these claims by Lombardi become even more ridiculous when taking a closer look at the NFL's reigning Coach of the Year, considering the endless praise he's received in Dallas from the front office and players alike. Lombardi should know these things, but chose to double down on his misguided rant by offering this:
"I don’t see Jason besides clapping and cheering players..."
This is inexcusably bad. To admit that you've only seen Jason Garrett clap and cheer on his players is to admit that you've formed your opinion on him solely by watching Garrett coach on TV. Lombardi is clearly better than this when you consider his background and experience in the media field, but missing the point this much on Jason Garrett is laughable once you try moving past the fact he admitted above to really not having a grasp on his Cowboys' situation.
An even deeper look at what has accelerated the Cowboys near the top of the NFL world shows a dynamic connection from Jerry Jones and the top of the front office to Will McClay and Stephen Jones down to Jason Garrett. Every part of this Dallas team has worked in harmony over the past seasons to turn over a roster that is now ready to win. Jerry himself has expressed multiple times that he believes Jason Garrett is a leader the Cowboys can win with, but once again don't tell this to Lombardi.
"If I'm Jerry I'm nervous, the guy that's always lurking around the corner is Sean Payton"
Sean Payton. The Saints' Head Coach that has had stability at QB with Drew Brees throughout his career only to manage three consecutive 7-9 seasons.
Former GM Michael Lombardi on Jason Garrett: " When you watch him coach, you never really get the sense that he's in control of the game.
One could argue that Dak Prescott provides the most stability at QB for Garrett's Cowboys over his tenure, and even still Jason dealt with his team's rotation of signal callers behind the injured Tony Romo in 2015 the best he could before bouncing back as the NFC's top seed following a Romo injury the next season.
Jason Garrett absolutely still has a chance to enter his prime with the Cowboys. Mr. Process himself deserves a chance to see things through since his first year in 2010, and he is just weeks away from getting the chance to take the same core from a 13-3 team a year ago into 2017 in search of Dallas' elusive sixth Super Bowl.
If you read this and smiled, you're in the right spot ahead of Cowboys training camp and the preseason. This team is going to be fine, thanks in large part to the efforts of Jason Garrett. Let's not listen to Michael Lombardi.
Tony Pollard, Supporting Cast or a Co-lead with Ezekiel Elliott?
Since the Dallas Cowboys drafted Running Back Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in the first-round of the 2016 NFL Draft he's been the star of the show. Any of their other offensive weapons have been nothing more than supporting cast the past three years, but rookie RB/WR Tony Pollard could prove to be more than just supporting cast and become more of a co-lead in Zeke's show.
Suggesting Tony Pollard has a chance to be more than just supporting cast with Ezekiel Elliott is a lot to put on a rookies shoulders, but that's the kind of hype he's receiving already. He hasn't even put on the pads yet with the Dallas Cowboys, but he's already receiving Alvin Kamara type comparisons due to the versatility he's expected to bring with him to the NFL.
Living up to those Alvin Kamara comparisons might be even more difficult than becoming anything more than just an extra behind Zeke anytime soon, but it's doable. After all, Kamara immediately stepped in as a rookie and became a costar with Mark Ingram in New Orleans. It's certainly feasible to think Pollard can do the same.
There's of course only one problem with this way of thinking. Mark Ingram is no Ezekiel Elliott. And, no RB on the depth chart behind Zeke the last three years has been good enough to cut into #21's heavy workload. Is the hype surrounding Tony Pollard justified? Is he talented enough to cut into Zeke's playing time?
Those are some really big questions we don't have an answer to as of yet. Training camp could help determine the type of role Tony Pollard will have with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and beyond, but even that can be thrown out the window once games start to matter in the regular season.
Personally, I think Tony Pollard will be part of a supporting cast behind Ezekiel Elliott this year. I just don't think he's ready to step in and costar with Zeke just yet. I think he will be more of a comedic relief that will be used from time to time to keep things interesting. That's not necessarily a bad thing though considering his versatility to contribute in the running or passing game.
In time though, Pollard could prove worthy of an increase in playing time and become more of a co-lead with No. 21. It may very well be in his rookie season, but he's really going to have to prove himself and that will need to start this week when the Dallas Cowboys kick off their training camp in Oxnard, California.
What do you think? Is Tony Pollard supporting cast or a co-lead with Zeke?
Randy Gregory can Make the Perimeter Pass Rush Extremely Formidable
Randy Gregory showed flashes last season of the potential he has as a pass rusher. Even though he only managed one start he did see action in 14 games. Had registered 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, 7 tackles for loss and 15 hits on the quarterback. That's very good production with limited opportunities. Now, this sets up the Dallas Cowboys on the edge getting to the quarterback, and here's how.
The Cowboys acquired Defensive End Robert Quinn via trade from the Dolphins back in March. He is set to start at right defensive end opposite All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence. Gregory, who lines up on the right side as well, can potentially make said side a huge problem for offenses on 2019.
Let's just take a typical season from Quinn which is between 8-9 sacks. If Gregory can give at minimum what he did last season, that's around 15 sacks just between the two of them alone. Now, as we all know, Lawrence can be penciled in for double-digit sacks routinely at this point. So given this information that's a potential 25-30 sacks just from these three players. This is without including guys such as Taco Charlton, Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder, and rookies Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks (assuming they make the final roster).
Why is Gregory's potential impact so important? For me, it's simply where he lines up at defensive end, on the right side. Most quarterbacks are right-handed, which means when they drop back to pass they face left side defensive ends, with their backs to defensive ends coming off the right side. If you can consistently pressure a quarterback from his blindside the opportunities for sacks and fumbles increase. Regardless of how skilled a quarterback is you can't avoid what you can't see.
Of course, this all depends on what the NFL does regarding the reinstatement of Gregory. He was suspended indefinitely in February for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, a situation he is all too familiar with. My guess is Gregory and the Cowboys will ask for a conditional reinstatement like he was given by the NFL in 2018. What this would do is allow Gregory to participate in meetings and condition work until he's a full participant. He is set to apply for that reinstatement within the next few days.
The only thing Randy Gregory can do now is play the waiting game. The league is currently considering the possibility of softening their stance on marijuana use. If they are serious about it I can see Gregory getting reinstated even if it's on a conditional basis. If this is granted the Cowboys will be getting big-time pressure off the edge with Lawrence, Quinn, and Gregory in 2019.
CB Jourdan Lewis Getting Ready For Bounce-Back 2019 Season
For a third round pick, cornerback Jourdan Lewis sure did come to Dallas with his fair share of hype.
In fact, much of Cowboys Nation was more excited about Lewis joining the Cowboys than they were about either of the team's first two selections in that same draft, Taco Charlton and Chidobe Awuzie. But while Awuzie has soared to starting cornerback levels with Dallas during his first two seasons, Jourdan Lewis has been forced to take a back seat.
After a promising rookie season, Jourdan Lewis didn't get much playing time at cornerback in 2018. Anthony Brown took over as the starting slot corner, while Byron Jones and Awuzie manned the outside. This left Lewis as the odd man out, despite what many consider to be impressive cover skills.
Lewis is not allowing this down season to eat away at him too much, though. While speaking with the media last week at SportsCon in Dallas, Lewis gave his thoughts on how his year spent behind the other young Cowboys corners is only fueling him for the future.
"As a competitor it's always tough, especially as a rookie and you're playing all of the time. It's definitely when you take a step back it humbles you. Sometimes you gotta understand that you have to wait your turn and work on your craft. Understand that you always have to stay a professional no matter your situation. And that's what I learned last year."
Considered undersized by the standards typically used by Cowboys secondary coach Kris Richard, some have argued that Lewis was never given a fair shot to earn playing time once Richard took over in 2018. Whether or not this is true can't ever be said for sure, and the level of play Anthony Brown exhibited from the slot in 2018 didn't leave much room for substitutions either.
Still, Jourdan Lewis says he appreciates that time he spent on the bench, and he hopes that it will only drive him towards bigger and better things down the road.
"I appreciate the time that I sat last year honestly...Because it made me a better player, maybe a better person honestly."
The Cowboys cornerback situation didn't get any less crowded this offseason. Not only is Dallas bringing back all three of the aforementioned starters from a year ago, but they also drafted Miami's Michael Jackson in the fifth round of the 2019 draft.
That cornerback room is full of talent. Not only does this create a luxury for the Cowboys at one of the league's most important positions, but it also breeds immense competition between the corners come training camp.
Which, if you didn't know, begins on July 26th.
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