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Off-Season Progress Report: Cowboys Begin 2016

RJ Ochoa

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Cowboys Blog - Off-Season Progress Report: Cowboys Begin 2016 2

A week ago the Dallas Cowboys were preparing for the season finale against the NFC East Division Champion Washington Redskins. Today? They're chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool... welcome to the off-season.

There has already been a few tectonic shifts in the NFC East this off-season as some of our division rivals made some big moves.

Cowboys Blog - Off-Season Progress Report: Cowboys Begin 2016

You know already know how the Philadelphia Eagles waved the white flag and fired Chip Kelly. Well this week the New York Giants sang a similar tune when they said goodbye to their two-time Super Bowl winning Head Coach, Tom Coughlin.

Jason Garrett is now the longest tenured Head Coach in the NFC East, but one of his men may be on his way out. It was announced on Wednesday that secondary coach Jerome Henderson is expected to interview with the Cleveland Browns regarding their vacancy at Head Coach. Seriously. You do you, Cleveland.

There are other vacancies in the NFL besides those Head Coach gigs. The Detroit Lions have an opening at their General Manager position - which Will McClay declined to interview for. This is a big deal for all of Cowboys Nation as McClay has been the architect behind what the Cowboys have been doing for the past few seasons. He wants to get things right here in Dallas and it's great to know how committed he is to us.

In terms of player news... the Dallas Cowboys cleaned out their lockers on Monday. A few of them took to Twitter to express some thoughts regarding the 2015 season.

Cole Beasley on Twitter

Thank you #CowboysNation for all of your support through the good and the bad. We will get it right!

Mark Nzeocha on Twitter

Rookie year in the books! Couldn't be more fortunate and blessed to be a part of this team. We'll be back stronger in 2016. #CowboysNation

Mr. Mince CEO on Twitter

I want to genuinely thank The Dallas Cowboys Organization for the opportunity. Got chance 2 Live a childhood dream. #superhungryagain

The writing seems to be on the wall regarding Jeremy Mincey that he may not be back in the blue and silver come September.

Speaking of the guys that might not be back next year, Over The Cap is a great resource for all of those with questions regarding free agency.

Cowboys Blog - Off-Season Progress Report: Cowboys Begin 2016 1

Upcoming Dallas Cowboys Free Agents

Our own Bobby Belt spoke with Jason Fitzgerald, founder of Over The Cap, regarding what the Cowboys could be doing this year in free agency on Cowboys Cast. It's a great listen that'll help prepare you for the exciting days of March.

There are obviously free agents coming off of stints with other teams that the Cowboys will be looking to put a Star on this year.

My fellow Inside The Star Staff Writer Nick Cocchiaro wrote up a potential free agency plan that details who the Cowboys could target. If you've read any of my work before then you know how much I love "plans" and Nick's gets my official thumbs up!

Speaking of Inside The Star, the Dallas Cowboys are coming Inside The Star! Staff Writer Sean Martin tells you here all about how the Cowboys new home of all football operations, The Star, is opening in 2016. You're already Inside The Star... the Cowboys are joining you in 2016!

Regular X-Thrower-Upper (what?) Dez Bryant successfully had surgery on his foot and ankle on Wednesday morning. It became more and more obvious as the season went on that Dez simply wasn't right, and this surgery will go a long way in correcting that. He's already feeling better, too.

Dez Bryant on Twitter

Thank you everyone for the prayers...I'm already up and running baby #throwupthex lmao!!!

The 2015 season is over largely due to the ineptitude of the Dallas Cowboys Offense and the backup quarterbacks that were given the keys to it. It's no secret that this position is a high priority for Dallas this off-season and that they'll be looking for key ways to address it.

If the Cowboys choose to draft a quarterback there are plenty to choose from. Senior Analyst Ryan Ratty has film reviews on Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Connor Cook, and many others if you want to catch yourself up on the potential future franchise quarterback.

Of course Tony Romo will be the man at the helm of the Dallas Cowboys in 2016. Our own Jess Haynie wrote up a great piece here detailing how Carson Palmer's resurgence into NFL stardom gives Cowboys Nation and Romo hope for the future. It's one of those articles that's going to get you completely jacked for next year. Give it a read and thank me later.

Make sure and stay tuned to us here at Inside The Star as we'll be having this weekly progress report all throughout the off-season. It's a great way to catch up on what you might have missed or chat with your favorite RJ.


RJ Ochoa on Fancred

What are you excited about during this Off-Season? What moves do you want to see the Dallas Cowboys make? Let me know! Comment below, Email me at Roel.Ochoa.Jr@Gmail.com, or Tweet to me at @rjochoa!

Tell us what you think about "Off-Season Progress Report: Cowboys Begin 2016" in the comments below. You can also email me at RJ.Ochoa@SlantSports.com, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!



I like long walks on the beach, mystery novels, no just kidding those suck. The Dallas Cowboys were put on this earth for us all to love and appreciate. I do that 24/7/365. I also love chicken parmesan. Let's roll. @RJOchoa if you wanna shout!

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Leighton Vander Esch To Top Rookie Season With Pro Bowl Trip

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Next Day Rant: Cowboys Drafting LB Vander Esch Looks Pretty Smart Now

Dallas Cowboys' rookie Leighton Vander Esch has done enough to prove every single doubter wrong. When Roger Goodell called his name during the 2018 NFL Draft in Arlington, Texas, many in Cowboys Nation rejoiced at the thought of having a young linebacker for a defense surrounded with uncertainty. However, many analysts doubted the draft pick. For a lot of people (sadly, I include myself in this category), the pick should've been used on another player. For most, despite acknowledging his raw talent, Vander Esch wouldn't be able to provide the Cowboys with an instant impact player. Ah, well.

After a remarkable season, Vander Esch (a.k.a. Wolf Hunter) has earned a spot on this season's second-team All-Pro. When the Pro Bowl voting began, Vander Esch was snubbed from the ballot itself. It didn't took the NFL long to realize their mistake and add the Cowboys' linebacker to the list. Despite missing the cut at first, Vander Esch will be heading to Orlando to play in this year's Pro Bowl on January 27th.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

DallasCowboys linebacker @VanderEsch38 has been added to the 2019 Pro Bowl Roster. 🐺 Congratulations, rookie! → https://t.co/AYqEUy2tZx

The former Boise State Bronco will be replacing Carolina Panthers' LB Luke Kuechly, who won't be participating because of an injury.

Vander Esch racked up 140 tackles (per Pro Football Reference), ranking third in the league in this category. He finished the season as the fifth best linebacker in Pro Football Focus' rankings.

But numbers aren't really enough to fully appreciate what Vander Esch did for the Dallas Cowboys. A team that was used to seeing its defense break when veteran Sean Lee went down injured, did not only get someone to fill in for Lee. Vander Esch actually upgraded the Cowboys' defense. It didn't matter where the ball went, he was always around when opponents were tackled. His speed and chance of direction allowed him to run sideline to sideline, covering a huge portion of the field.

Along Jaylon Smith, Dallas managed to have one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL.

The last time a defensive rookie from the Cowboys went to the Pro Bowl was in 1981, when Everson Walls made the team. Vander Esch is the 11th rookie in team history to be selected to the Pro Bowl. This year, the rookie will be accompanied by DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Ezekiel Elliott.

Tell me what you think about "Leighton Vander Esch To Top Rookie Season With Pro Bowl Trip" 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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Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program

Jess Haynie

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Travis Frederick

Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.

After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.

Rob Phillips on Twitter

Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire

While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.

It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.

Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.

That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.

But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.

Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.



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For Cowboys to Beat the Rams, Dak Prescott must Lead the Way

John Williams

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Playoff Scenarios Aim Towards Seahawks vs Cowboys in Wild Card

In the NFL wins and losses often come down to quarterback play. That isn't to say that if a team wins, it was all because of the quarterback and inversely, if a team loses that it was all on the quarterback. Teams win or lose games. Generally speaking, however, the quarterback has the highest amount of influence on the outcome of an NFL game. This will be no different for the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in the LA Coliseum. For America's Team to make their first trip to the NFC Championship Game since 1996, Dak Prescott has to have a good game.

This looks to be a good matchup for the Dallas Cowboys offense, which should allow Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to take advantage in certain areas.

A few Rams Passing Game Notes

  • The Los Angeles Rams were middle of the pack against the pass this season, allowing the 14th fewest passing yards in the league this season.
  • The Rams allowed 7.7 yards per attempt. Dak Prescott is averaging 7.6 yards per attempt since week 10 of the season.
  • The Rams allowed the eighth most passing touchdowns in the NFL this season. They and the New Orleans Saints are the only teams in the top 10 of passing touchdowns allowed in the playoffs this season.
  • The Rams were 15th in the NFL in sacks, with 41, but Aaron Donald accounted for half of that with 20.5 sacks on the season. No other player had more than five sacks.
  • They were third in the NFL in interceptions, collecting 18.
  • The Rams allowed the ninth highest yards per completion on the season at 11.8. So on average, every completion went for a first down.

Dak Prescott is playing as well as any quarterback in the playoffs at the moment. Over the last nine games, he's averaging 272 passing yards, two total touchdowns, was only intercepted four times, and was sacked on average 3.2 times per game.

On Saturday night, we saw Scott Linehan put the ball in his hands on a couple designed runs that nearly scored touchdowns. It was an excellent addition to the offense that could help fix the Cowboys red zone woes. Getting Dak Prescott running on some designed runs or quarterback draws could help slow down Aaron Donald and the pass rush.

The Cowboys needed every bit of Dak Prescott magic to overcome a stingy Seattle Seahawks defense in their Wild Card win and they'll need him to step up again this week against the Rams. Every team is going to attempt to take away the running game to make Dak beat you and as he continues to mature, he's getting more and more comfortable doing that. He's comfortable with the big stage and the big moments.

NFL Research on Twitter

Dak Prescott Since 2016, including playoffs * 15 game-winning drives (Most in NFL) * 13 primetime QB wins (Most in NFL) * 19 rush TD (Most in NFL by QB) #DallasCowboys @dak

No Quarterback in the NFL has more game winning drives, rushing touchdowns, or wins in primetime than Dak Prescott. When we talk about Dak Prescott, we talk a lot about the things that he can't do as a passer and deservedly so, he still has some growing to do in that area, but in the things that you can't objectively quantify -- mental toughness, resiliency, clutchness, will, determination -- Dak is one of the best in the NFL. He's as mentally tough as they come in the NFL and he doesn't let the spotlight or the game situation phase him. He has that stuff that's hard to put your finger on.

The Dallas Cowboys will need more of that on Saturday night in Los Angeles. The Rams can score and can score in bunches and if the Cowboys defense starts sluggish or has an off night, they'll need Dak Prescott to keep them in the game. Even if the defense has a good game, Dak still has to come through in the passing game and on the ground to give the Cowboys a chance to pull off the upset.

The Dallas Cowboys are going to try to run the ball against the Rams on Saturday. That's their identity; run the ball, control the clock, and be efficient in the passing game. Prescott, either with his legs or with his arm will have to make some plays to extend drives and keep the Rams offense on the sideline. He'll need to be sharp in the red zone to convert those opportunities into touchdowns. Settling for field goals against the Rams is how the Cowboys get beat.

This matchup with the Rams looks to set up nicely for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys, yet how things look on paper doesn't mean much when the lights go on and the whistle blows. It's a big stage and it's another win-or-go-home game for the Cowboys (like every game has been over the last nine weeks). In a big game, you need big time players, and the Cowboys have one in quarterback Dak Prescott.



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