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Wade Phillips Sets the Cowboys Lineup for 2009

Bryson Treece

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I was reading Mickey's article on DC.com last night about the Cowboys seemingly trying to get younger, or more specifically, trying to avoid getting old, and the one part that sticks in my mind is the stuff about Ellis.

If you've read the blogs over at CowboysNation.net before, then you might very well know that I have mixed feelings over Ellis between his decent to good play over the years, and his inability to shut up about his contract.

But now the Cowboys have told Ellis that he will not be the starter in 2009, and that Anthony Spencer will instead be given the job. Spencer has developed into a bit of a gamble lately, not really because of his off-the-field incident after the season ended, but because he's not yet proven that he can stay healthy long-term.

For the sake of argument, I actually see Ellis as a better player simply because he has experience. His only major injury since the switch from DE to OLB has been the Achilles injury that landed him on IR a couple of years ago, and to my surprise that a lot of people don't know this, it was Bobby Carpenter that filled in for him 90% of the time he was out.

But Anthony Spencer has been as much of a role player as Ellis has been the past two years. Last year, Ellis was the starter by title, yes, but that was mainly because he played the first defensive down of every game. Spencer would then come in on most first and second downs while Ellis played primarily on third downs, in passing situations.

But the real point here isn't whether Ellis or Spencer starts, but that Ellis will not start ... that he has been told already, in March mind you, that he will not be the starter. This does two things; 1) it gives Ellis even more reason to continue whining that he might be cut since his cap number is awfully high for a third down player, and 2) it sets the tone for the whole season as far as player management.

Maybe it's a benefit of having your head coach also serve as the defensive coordinator. Not only does Wade know what he wants to do with his defense as the DC, but as the HC he doesn't have to wait around to convince anyone else that it's best, he doesn't have to wait and see how it turns out ... he's already got the authority to make the decision early on.

It also goes to show that maybe he is making some of those changes to his nice-guy persona that so many have complained about. He isn't going to let the cards fall where they may and use competition or a challenge scenario as an excuse to start Spencer over Ellis, he's come right out and made it known long before it really matters that Ellis will not be the starter. Somehow the "awe shucks" image just doesn't fit a move like this.

So while Ellis is now seemingly on the chopping block awaiting his impending doom with the franchise, this team has taken a step toward less controversy and more stability. Having it set this early on that your younger player will be the starter has its positives.

For instance, instead of valuable reps in the off-season being wasted on a veteran player who knows the system pretty well, the guy who really needs the extra work will get every last snap that he needs to prove himself.

It's equally beneficial that the club has made it known that they plan on Miles Austin being the number 2 receiver opposite Roy Williams instead of returning Patrick Crayton to the spot now that Owens is gone.

It portrays a picture of a coaching staff that has done their homework, has made choices, and is not only sticking by them, but doing so in a way that leaves no doubt to played upon later as the season nears. It portrays something that many fans refuse to believe, that this coaching staff knows what they are going to do for 2009.

It's a small step, but it's another one in the right direction.



Nothing gives me greater joy than the experience of being a Dallas Cowboys fan come time to check another victory on the schedule every Sunday. I live Inside the Star everyday and blog on it occasionally, as well. Follow us on Twitter - @InsideTheStarDC

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Dallas Cowboys

WR Randall Cobb Named Cowboys “Surprise Standout” for Offseason

Jess Haynie

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Randall Cobb

NFL teams have wrapped up their offseason activities with the close of OTAs, especially where the players are concerned, and await the start of training camps next month. In reviewing the last few months, ESPN had their local reporters each pick a surprise standout from their team's practices. Todd Archer, who covers the Dallas Cowboys full time, selected veteran receiver Randall Cobb.

Cobb is in his first season with Dallas after signing as a free agent last March. He's spent the last eight years with the Green Bay Packers and was a Pro Bowler in 2014, but has struggled with injuries the last few seasons.

Here were Archer's observations on how Randall is doing so far with the Cowboys:

Normally a player with Cobb's résumé -- 470 catches for 5,524 yards and 41 touchdowns during his career -- would not be considered for a category like this. But injuries limited him to only nine games and 38 catches for Green Bay in 2018, and it was hard to know what the Cowboys were getting in the veteran receiver.

If the offseason work is any indication, they have found a replacement for Cole Beasley. Cobb's versatility can expand the offense for others, such as Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Cobb looked quick in and out of his breaks and fast enough to make plays down the field. Will he put up the 1,287 yards he had in 2014? No, but he gives Dak Prescott a security blanket in the slot who can turn a small gain into a big one.

The notion of Cobb replacing Beasley is a big one. While we'd like to think that Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup will provide plenty of firepower for the Cowboys offense, Dak Prescott has enjoyed a reliable threat from the slot position since he arrived.

Randall Cobb, when healthy, can do more than just make clutch catches. He has good run-after-catch skills and perhaps bring more big play potential than Beasley did.

If Cooper and Gallup do emerge as a dangerous starting duo on the outside, Cobb should have even more opportunities to punish defenses than Beasley did.

If nothing else, it's very encouraging to hear that one of the Cowboys' few 2019 free agent moves is already reaping benefits. Cobb still needs to bring it over a full season to really justify the move, but these early reports are cause for excitement.



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BREAKING: Cowboys TE Rico Gathers Receives One-Game Suspension

Jess Haynie

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Rico Gathers

Tight End Rico Gathers already had an uphill climb to return to the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster in 2019. But that climb just got even steeper; the NFL handed down a one-game suspension to Gathers today for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

If he does make the team this year, with Dallas or anyone else, Rico will have to sit out Week One of the season without pay.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys TE Rico Gathers is suspended without pay for the first game of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse. This is from his arrest in 2018 for marijuana possession.

Gathers' chances of returning in 2019 were already hurt by Jason Witten's reversed retirement. He dropped to fourth on the TE depth chart behind Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz, and Dallas only kept three tight ends last year.

The Cowboys also added Codey McElroy as a developmental player during the offseason.

While the suspension is news, the incident that led to it is not. Dallas already knew about the arrest, which occurred in early September of 2018, and have kept Gathers around up until now.

The NFL's substance abuse system is pretty formulaic, so the Cowboys likely anticipated this suspension all along. This may not change anything about how they value Rico Gathers for the 2019 season.

Nevertheless, a player who can't help you in Week One and is a liability for ever longer suspensions down the road is definitely a red flag against Gathers' job security.



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Antwaun Woods: Cowboys DT is Just Getting Started

Matthew Lenix

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Antwaun Woods is just getting started

Antwaun Woods went undrafted in 2016 coming out of USC. After two years with the Tennessee Titans, he would only see one game of action. In May of 2018, the Cowboys signed Woods to a two-year contract worth 1.05 million. Probably seen as nothing more than a practice squad guy, Woods would quickly show he was much more than that.

The newly acquired Woods started his climb to stardom in Oxnard during training camp, and not for making plays. One day during practice he got into a friendly game of fisticuffs with All-Pro Center Travis Frederick. The team even posted the video on social media, which had fans buzzing and wanting to know who he was.

All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott echoed those thoughts when he saw Woods during camp. "Honestly, when we first got him, we were like, 'Who is this guy?'. He was giving Travis Frederick, one of our best players, hell all camp. Just trying to figure out where this guy came from," Elliott said.

Once the regular season started it was clear the Cowboys had found a hidden gem. Although the sack numbers won't dazzle you, seeing as he only registered 1.5, you could forget about running the ball anywhere near him. Woods has amazing quickness for a 300 pounder which allows him to extend his arms before offensive lineman can get a hand on him.

How significant is that? It becomes that much easier to bull rush and blow running plays up in the backfield.

When you can get your hands on an offensive lineman immediately when the ball is snapped, he's basically under your control. You can move him around like a puppet on a string. Essential for a 1-technique nose tackle. With that being said, there should be no surprise the Cowboys finished fifth against the run in 2018 with Woods manning the middle.

Woods draws a lot of double teams, and he handles them well. Having the ability to take on multiple linemen frees up your other playmakers. As the anchor in the middle, Woods made life a lot easier for not only his fellow defensive linemen but the team's two young star Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Allowing them to roam freely like Lions in the Serengeti makes running backs essentially Zebra's carrying the ball, cooked food. So much so that both tallied over 120 tackles and were the only teammates in the NFL to rank in the top 15 in that category.

There's nothing but upside with Antwaun Woods. He's only had 18 games of experience in three years. He's already a stud, but with limited snaps, it can only mean he'll be even more formidable going forward.

The Cowboys have a loaded defensive lineman group with around 15 bodies, plenty of competition. All signs point to him remaining the starter, but it's not guaranteed. Even with that being said I don't expect a complacency from Woods, especially with DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn looking like the only sure starters on the defensive line. Plus this is a contract year for him, so you know he'll be even more motivated as he tries to maximize his dollars. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg from this raw talent, setting up for a potential breakout year for him in 2019.



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