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Sean’s Scout: Evaluating Byron Jones at CB in Cowboys’ Retooled Secondary

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Evaluating Byron Jones at CB in Cowboys' Retooled Secondary

Byron Jones has started 43 games since 2015 for the Dallas Cowboys, yet the team remains undecided on where that year's first-round pick is best suited to play. Jones began his career at CB before transitioning to safety, flashing plenty of potential early in his Cowboys career as an athletic stud out of UCONN.

Through plenty of highs and lows on the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys' problems under DC Rod Marinelli seem to always find a way back to Jones - a player that's been far from the problem in Dallas.

Remaining at safety in 2016, the Cowboys rebuilt their depth chart at cornerback by drafting Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in 2017. Now, under new secondary coach and passing game coordinator Kris Richard, it appears that Byron Jones is set to join both Awuzie and Lewis as a starting CB once again.

I went back to Jones' tape from the 2015 season to evaluate his play as a CB, and was pleasantly surprised by the traits he showed - as well as the potential he'll have to finally "break out" moving forward at this position.

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Putting Byron Jones closer to the line of scrimmage has yielded his best results for the Cowboys' defense. To take this a step further, I saw a much more controlled and engaged player in Jones when he was lined up at CB.

Jones has always played with outstanding short-range burst as well as long speed. The further he is lined up from the point of attack, the more time opposing players have to build up speed in attacking Jones, who will struggle to keep his balance and change directions fluidly.

Cornerback is the best position for Byron Jones to play to these strengths, given a clear assignment in man coverage on every snap.

Coming over from Seattle, Kris Richard made a name for himself as a top defensive coach in the NFL by building the Seahawks' "Legion of Boom". This fearsome secondary featured some of the longest and most athletic CBs in the league, which Jones could become as soon as 2018.

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Byron was inconsistent with his jam placement at CB in 2015, but his overall length still allowed him to stay on top of routes and open his hips to turn and run. A full offseason focused on refining his game at cornerback and learning technique from Richard come training camp will only allow Jones to dominate even further using his physical attributes.

The Cowboys will create a need at safety with Jones moving down to the second level, and it was generally poor help from the team's safeties in 2015 that led to Jones giving up some yards in coverage.

Even when receivers were able to catch Jones flat-footed and create separation, his recovery ability and lateral speed to still contend at the catch point was impressive.

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This is a player that covers a ton of ground with calculated strides as a vertical defender. Even on film, you could tell the faster processing speed at CB helped Jones - who excelled at lining up across from a receiver and making his life difficult. As a safety asked to play everywhere, Jones was weighed down by reacting to plays in front of him, failing to make as many plays on the ball because of this.

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Byron Jones may very well find himself tested early and often next season as a boundary cornerback for Dallas. Passes will be complete in front of Jones, but in a scheme that plays to limit big plays and force methodical scoring drives, an outside CB pairing of Jones and Awuzie should be just fine.

Throw in Jourdan Lewis potentially shifting to Nickel CB, with Anthony Brown a better inside player as well, and the Cowboys have the future of their secondary figured out. With this cast of cornerbacks, I believe Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, and Kavon Frazier could handle the job at safety - although this is a position the Cowboys would be wise to invest a high draft pick into.

Byron Jones, Vikings

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Jones' transition to CB may be coming at the perfect time, as the Cowboys were already feeling good about their future at the position thanks to the draft capital allocated in the secondary a year ago. Knowing that the "final piece" to this revamp is already on the roster allows the Cowboys to address other positions - while expecting their passing defense to be an absolute force to reckon with this season.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Evaluating Byron Jones at CB in Cowboys’ Retooled Secondary" 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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7 Comments
  • Michael White

    He should have always been a cb…the db to safety back to db experiment was horrible and i never liked the move..sometimes I think they take this flex position philosophy too far…

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      Or not far enough sometimes. Thank you for reading and commenting, Michael!

  • oneputter

    wasted draft pick…..there were much better players to be had.

    i’ve have never seen him as a good cover corner or safety…..time to move on.

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      I think he’s about to surprise you as a really good cover corner. Give 31 a chance.

      • oneputter

        he’s been given 3 yrs and has yet to produce, he doesn’t look like he is getting any better. he still takes bad angles, is afraid to make contact, and consistently gets beat. again as a #1 pick, he should have been a much better performer by now.

  • Roger Johnson

    Byron Jones is a bust! No one even heard of him until the combine. It wss a bad pick….plain and simple. I thought we should’ve drafted Eddie Kendricks with that pick. For everyone who thinks that a new secondary coacj/position is going to make a difference….it’s blind faith. Don’t take my word for it. Look at 3 years of game tape. Cut bait and move on! He’s a BUST! You would think that they learned from Morris Claiborne.

  • EverybodyTalks

    The only busts were the coaches who couldn’t figure out for what to do with Byron Jones for 3 YEARS. They draft the fastest defensive player in the NFL, who was a CB @ UCONN…HELLO. They move him all over the backfield from his rookie year on. Look at our current rookie DBs and everyone is fine with them even though both missed several games last year. Byron has missed 4 games in 3 years. No, this has been a total misstep by the coaches and they better give this guy his 5th year option. Byron Jones was on NFL Total Access and was very positive about moving to CB. He also stated that he played where the coaches asked him to play. Finally, we have a coach in Kris Richard, who I believe will be able to bring out and utilize Byron’s skill set.
    PS: If they let Mo Claiborne hang around for 5 years, they sure as hell should let Byron have the same opportunity.

Star Blog

5 Cowboys Players Who Have The Most To Gain In 2018

Brian Martin

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Mr. Steal Your Job; Dak Prescott Replaces Cam Newton With Dannon Yogurt

The Dallas Cowboys have a few players that have something to gain personally by having a good 2018 season. A little added incentive to go out and play at their best game after game if you will.

You would think that an NFL player, or any other professional athlete, would want to go out and play at their best every game all season, but a little added incentive seems to improve a players game just a little bit. Usually it's a contract year that lights a fire under players, but there are other reasons as well.

Today, I want to share with you five of the Dallas Cowboys players who I think have the most to gain in 2018. Surprisingly enough, all five of these players could possibly benefit financially if they step up their game this season, but all of them definitely have something to prove.

Defensive End, DeMarcus Lawrence

DeMarcus Lawrence

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

Heading into the 2017 season the Dallas Cowboys were in search of a true "War Daddy". The phrase got tossed around so much that many of us grew tired of hearing it. Luckily, it's not a phrase we will be hearing much anymore and that is thanks to DeMarcus Lawrence.

Lawrence was pretty much an afterthought heading into 2017, so much so that quite a few of us were wondering if he would even make the final 53-man roster. Fortunately, he not only made the roster, but he completely dominated last season and ended up being one of the best defensive ends in the entire league.

Heading into 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence has a lot to gain by being able to put together back to back dominating seasons. He will be playing under the franchise tag this year, so his future after the season is still up in the air. If he is able to dominate once again, he has a chance to become one of the top paid defensive ends in the NFL.

Defensive Tackle, David Irving

David Irving, Redskins

Dallas Cowboys DL David Irving

Defensive tackle David Irving emerged as one of the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL in 2017, but surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys were able to retain him by just placing a second-round tender on him to secure his services this year. Many thought this was a mistake at the time thinking that someone would be willing to give up a second-round draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but the Cowboys gamble paid off.

Irving is basically on a one-year rental in 2018, which means he has a lot to gain by performing well this season. It's really difficult to find defensive lineman who are as scheme diverse as Irving. He can dominate from the interior in both a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive scheme due to his rare size and athleticism. Because of that, he will be looking to cash in at the end of the year.

Before David Irving can earn a big money contract, he is going have to prove he can be consistent both on and off the field. If he would've already proven these two things, the Dallas Cowboys likely would have already secured his services for years to come.

Quarterback, Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

No one might have more to gain in 2018 then quarterback Dak Prescott. He has a chance to become the next highest paid QB in the NFL, but he is going to have to prove himself first according to many Dallas Cowboys fans.

Cowboys fans are split three ways when it comes to Dak Prescott. Some fans believe he has already earned to the right to be the franchise QB, while others have already seen enough and determined he's not talented enough to be a franchise QB in the NFL. Then, there are those in the middle who are waiting to see how he performs in Year 3 before making up their minds.

It doesn't really matter where you stand on Dak Prescott right now. But, there is no denying he has a lot to gain by going out and performing well in 2018. It will not only determine his future with the Cowboys, but will also determine the overall success of the team this season.

Cornerback, Byron Jones

Byron Jones

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones (Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports)

Many Dallas Cowboys fans have already made their minds up about Byron Jones and labeled him as a first-round bust. I don't know if I would agree, but I understand the disappointment surrounding him considering the high praise he received coming out of the 2015 draft.

I personally believe the Cowboys coaching staff have done him a disfavor and played him out of position due to need his first few seasons in the league. Fortunately though, I think that all changes in 2018 now that he is moving back to his more natural position, cornerback.

The Cowboys may have picked up Jones' fifth-year option, securing his service through 2019, but he still has a lot to gain by performing well this season. If he plays well this year at CB, not only will he shed that" bust" label, but he could convince a Cowboys he's worth sticking around long-term.

Linebacker, Jaylon Smith

Jaylon Smith

Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

Believe it or not, but Jaylon Smith will be entering his third year in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys. It seems strange considering we've only seen him in pads for one season, but time has a way of flying by in the NFL.

Now entering his third season, Smith has an opportunity to go out and prove himself as one of the best linebackers in the league. Fortunately, he is no longer playing with a knee brace and he believes he is back to where he was both physically and mentally when he was at Notre Dame, maybe even better.

This is certainly good news for the Dallas Cowboys and their linebacker position. But, it's even better news for Smith himself. He has a lot to gain by performing well in 2018. If he has a good season, he could be in line for an early contract extension from the Cowboys, much like the previously mentioned Dak Prescott. If nothing else, it could be a really good boost for his confidence moving forward.

Which Dallas Cowboys players do you think have the most to gain in 2018?


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Star Blog

Cowboys Offense: Finding Roles for 2018 NFL Draft Picks

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Offense: Finding Roles for 2018 NFL Draft Picks 1

It is no secret that the Dallas Cowboys offense failed in 2017. As much as these struggles were about who wasn't on the field for the Cowboys, the talent still out there could rarely do enough to win games. With an elite offensive line, young quarterback, and Dez Bryant on the outside, this was unacceptable and prompted changes in Dallas.

The biggest move the Cowboys made prior to the 2018 NFL Draft was moving on from Dez Bryant. The 29-year old wide receiver remains unsigned, as the Cowboys were comfortable entering the draft with a glaring need at the position.

Still waiting until the third round to add Colorado State's Michael Gallup, the Cowboys later drafted Cedrick Wilson and Tight End Dalton Schultz. Filling their biggest needs with great value on these picks, the Cowboys also found their left guard of the future in Connor Williams at 50th overall.

Add in developmental Quarterback Mike White and Running Back Bo Scarbrough and the Cowboys have an intriguing rookie class on offense - full of players that will absolutely need to step in right away, and some that are here to provide depth.

As I did with the Cowboys defense earlier in the week, here is my best projection on the roles the Cowboys draft picks on Scott Linehan's side of the ball will play.

Left Guard Connor Williams

Scouting Report: "Film Room: OL Connor Williams Is Cowboys Final Piece To Great Run Game"

This was the Dallas Cowboys best pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. Keeping Texas Longhorns prospect Connor Williams close to home, ending his draft-week slide at 50th overall to a roar at AT&T Stadium, is more than just a feel good story.

This is a player that fills the Cowboys need for a long-term starter at left guard perfectly. Considered one of the best tackles in the nation prior to injury, Williams will of course benefit from playing between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick.

Bringing his own trademark toughness and athleticism to a new interior position will give the Cowboys arguably their best offensive line since 2014. Ezekiel Elliott has to be a fan of the Connor Williams pick already - as you should be too.

Although the Cowboys did add veteran depth at OT this offseason, Williams is of course another emergency option on the roster to kick outside and handle himself at any position but center. Connor Williams will be a noticeably fun player at LG, creating movement through to the second level on a consistent basis.

Wide Receiver Michael Gallup

Scouting Report: "Film Room: WR Michael Gallup Provides Excellent Value In 3rd Round"

Predictions for what first-year Wide Receiver Michael Gallup will have in store for his rookie season in Dallas have been all over the place. While most are understandably skeptical of the Cowboys "relying" on a third round draft pick to become a force in the passing game, Gallup is a high upside player that fits the Cowboys new approach on offense.

Phasing out the need for a true number one receiver, Gallup is the Cowboys newest "Dak-friendly" asset. Perhaps playing under the radar too much at Colorado State, Gallup has all of the traits needed to explode onto the scene in 2018.

A lengthy athlete with effortless vertical ability and soft hands, Gallup will have no problem separating as a big target on the outside for Prescott. Because of this, I expect him to be the closest thing the Cowboys have to a "WR1" this season - lining up primarily at the X position and putting up numbers better than some of the eight receivers drafted before him.

Sean's Scout: TE Dalton Schultz Fits Cowboys Need as Willing Blocker

Dallas Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz

Tight End Dalton Schultz

Scouting Report: "Sean's Scout: TE Dalton Schultz Fits Cowboys Need as Willing Blocker"

The Cowboys have a Jason Witten sized hole to fill inside The Star at Frisco. While just how much on-field production this constitutes is up for debate, the reality is that no player will mean as much to the Cowboys as Witten did for so long anytime soon.

Especially fourth round pick Dalton Schultz, drafted the day after Witten announced his retirement from the NFL. If given a chance to make a name for himself though, the Stanford tight end may rarely come off the field for the Cowboys.

Joining Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin on the roster - two experienced run blockers that are developing as pass catchers - Schultz has plenty of experience playing in Stanford's pro style offense.

Not the most overwhelming blocker, Schultz understands how to control bigger defenders at the line of scrimmage - never shying away from a chance to show his dominance and finish blocks to the ground.

Limited as a route runner and true receiver, Schultz is going to be eased into the Cowboys offense, but will have plenty of opportunities to stand out this summer in training camp and carve out a role in 12 or 13 personnel packages.

Quarterback Mike White

Scouting Report: "Sean's Scout: QB Mike White Brings Athleticism, Accuracy to Dallas Cowboys"

It's refreshing for the Cowboys to have a young quarterback that has stayed remarkably healthy through his first two seasons, as Dak Prescott will have no competition for the starting job in 2018. The real competition at quarterback will be directly behind him.

With Kellen Moore trading in his helmet for a coaching hat, second-year Quarterback Cooper Rush will be joined by fifth round pick Mike White. A touch thrower with pro-ready size and plenty of workable traits, White was one of the better late-round candidates the Cowboys could have added to their QB room.

White2

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Taking 2018 to soak in as much as he can about Scott Linehan's offense, it truly doesn't matter much if Mike White is QB2 or QB3 this season. If he was worth the 171st overall pick, the Cowboys believe in his potential, and will work to push him as far as he can go up the depth chart this offseason.

Wide Receiver Cedrick Wilson

Scouting Report: "Sean's Scout: WR Cedrick Wilson the Missing Vertical Threat for Cowboys Offense"

In 2017, the Cowboys entered the draft with a promise to restock their depleted secondary - doing so by drafting starting cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in the second and third rounds. This year, the wide receiver position felt the same way. Although the Cowboys waited until the sixth round to add their second rookie at WR, Cedrick Wilson is absolutely a player that can make an impact this year and outplay this draft status.

By trading Ryan Switzer at the draft, the Cowboys showed some faith in slot receiver Cole Beasley. Likely not coming off the field much this season, Wilson will have a hard time earning reps on the inside, where he menaces defenders with his length and long speed.

Wilson4

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These are still traits that Cedrick Wilson uses to win on the outside, where every receiver the Cowboys have is going to get a chance. Talented pass catchers are not going to make the final cut on the Cowboys roster, but Cedrick Wilson is one that will earn his spot all summer long.

Look for him to standout in the preseason regardless of who's throwing Wilson the ball, forcing the Cowboys to rotate him into their versatile offense for Prescott to have another big target out wide.

Cowboys Offense: Finding Roles for 2018 NFL Draft Picks

Dallas Cowboys RB Bo Scarbrough

Running Back Bo Scarbrough

Scouting Report: "Film Review: What Bo Scarbrough Brings to the Cowboys Running Game"

Bo Scarbrough has generated plenty of buzz from Cowboys Nation, and mostly because his name is Bo Scarbrough. A recognizable name out of Alabama, Scarbrough became the Cowboys last pick of the 2018 NFL Draft at 236th overall.

For as much as we've discussed the decisions the Cowboys will have to make elsewhere on offense, their faith rests in starter Ezekiel Elliott. Behind Elliott, the Cowboys have a completely new stable of running backs though.

Tavon Austin was acquired during the draft by the Cowboys to fill the void once left (?) by Lance Dunbar, and at least for now it seems like Dallas has big plans for Tavon on offense. Working both Elliott and Austin onto the field won't be a problem for Linehan, but including Rod Smith and Bo Scarbrough very well might be.

With Smith firmly holding his roster spot because of special teams contributions, Scarbrough will have to follow in similar footsteps to secure his spot on America's Team. The idea of the Cowboys keeping a bruising back like Scarbrough to help them finish games is a fun one, but it doesn't feel practical when crunching the roster numbers.

If Scarbrough does make the cut however, he can absolutely spell Elliott in short yardage and goal line situations, running with consistent power and better-than-expected vision.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Cowboys have way too much invested into their offense to see it sputter like it did a year ago. Instilling optimism with the injured players they'll welcome back, the Cowboys were not complacent in adding talent at the draft either.

While Connor Williams and Michael Gallup may be the only true "starters" the Cowboys found, I expect both rookies to excel. Contributions from Dalton Schultz and Cedrick Wilson could put this offensive draft class over the top - prepared nicely for the long run while featuring five players with high enough floors to play this season.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Offense: Finding Roles for 2018 NFL Draft Picks" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: La Llegada de Kris Richard, ¿La Salvación de Byron Jones?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Dallas Cowboys Player Profile: FS #31 Byron Jones 2

Desde el momento en el que llegó a la NFL, Byron Jones ha dado mucho de que hablar. Su talento y sus increíbles hazañas atléticas han llevado a pensar a la afición que está destinado al éxito como un defensivo en la secundaria de los Dallas Cowboys. Desafortunadamente, a pesar de algunas jugadas realmente sorprendentes y varios destellos, Jones no ha logrado establecerse como un claro titular de calidad en sus primeros tres años en la liga.

En su primera temporada, el equipo movió a Byron Jones por toda la defensiva, dejándolo jugar como safety, dentro y fuera de la caja, como cornerback interior y exterior. ¡Poco hubiera sorprendido que lo hubieran convertido en un jugador ofensivo!

La versatilidad era un fuerte para el defensivo saliente de la universidad de Connecticut, hasta que el equipo de coaches en Dallas lo convirtió en una debilidad. Al final de cuentas, el dicho lo dice a la perfección. "El que mucho abarca, poco aprieta."

Jones, quien en sus primeras dos temporadas no encontró una posición fija, no obtuvo el progreso que necesitaba. Y una vez que en el 2017 el equipo se comprometió a darle una posición fija, dándole el trabajo de profundo (safety). 

5 Players Cowboys Could put on the Trade Market

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones

Lamentablemente para Jones, debido a problemas contra el juego terrestre y de tackleo, se demostró que jugar con él dentro de la caja, no era la respuesta para Dallas.

Ahora, con la llegada del ex-coordinador defensivo de los Seattle Seahawks y uno de los creadores fundamentales de la entonces llamada "Legion of Boom", Kris Richard, la carrera de Byron Jones cuenta con otra oportunidad y una que podría llevar al jugador de tercer año a finalmente convertirse en un titular de primer nivel.

Tras la llegada de Richard a Dallas, se anunció que Jones se convertiría en un cornerback de tiempo completo para los Cowboys con la esperanza de que este encontrará por fin un lugar donde quedarse.

Probablemente, ambos de los novatos del 2017 Chidobe Awuzie y Jourdan Lewis lograrán quedarse con los dos mejores trabajos en la posición, pero el equipo debe estar contando con que Byron Jones se gané su lugar por encima de Anthony Brown y se establezca como uno de los tres cornerbacks titulares.

"Prototipo. Atleta fantástico, altura genial, tamaño, longitud. Todo está ahí. Tiene una gran actitud. Ha trabajado muy duro desde el día 1. Estoy emocionado de estar a su alrededor." Kris Richard hablando de Byron Jones como un CB.

Los Cowboys tienen esperanzas en Byron Jones, y lo demostraron decidiendo recoger la opción de quinto año en su contrato, asegurándolo hasta la temporada del 2019. Sin duda alguna, una de las razones principales por las cuales el equipo está siendo tan optimista respecto a Jones, es la llegada de Kris Richard.

Con Rod Marinelli cumpliendo 69 años en Julio y bastantes rumores de que consideró el retiro al finalizar la temporada del 2017, el futuro de Kris Richard en Dallas parece prometedor. Tiene todo el sentido del mundo verlo como el coordinador defensivo del equipo en el 2019.

Quizá suene disparatado, pero una mala temporada en el 2018 podría conseguir que Jason Garrett sea despedido. A pesar de que los fans no quieren una mala temporada, si llegara a ocurrir y hay un cambio de head coach para los Cowboys, Kris Richard será un nombre en consideración. Al menos, debería serlo.

Pero por ahora, Richard tiene que enfocarse en replicar el éxito que tuvo defensivamente en Seattle para llevar a la unidad de los Cowboys al siguiente nivel. Byron Jones podría ser una pieza clave en su misión.

¿Será este el año para Byron Jones?

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: La Llegada de Kris Richard, ¿La Salvación de Byron Jones?" 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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