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SS Barry Church Returns; CB Morris Claiborne May Be Soon

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Headlines - Morris Claiborne Calls for Dallas to Draft Jalen Ramsey on Twitter

With the Cowboys' pass defense now ranked 31st in yards allowed per game, any good news is welcome. The return of a starting safety and positive news about a starting cornerback certainly qualify.

Barry Church is set to start this Thursday night against the Minnesota Vikings. He has been out with a broken forearm since the Cowboys' Week 8 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. He will play with a brace on his lower arm.

Church's return is timely as J.J. Wilcox, who has started in his absence, could miss a game or two with a thigh injury suffered last week. Jeff Heath will now be the primary backup at safety.

Morris Claiborne injured his groin in the same Eagles game and has been out since. His return timetable has been more vaguem, but Jerry Jones provided an update this morning.

Todd Archer on Twitter

Jerry Jones said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas he expects Morris Claiborne (groin) to return at some point in regular season.

With only five weeks left in the regular season, that means Claiborne's return could be fairly soon. On the other hand, if the Cowboys keep winning then they may elect to give Claiborne some extra time to heal up and wait for the playoffs.

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys Re-Sign Cornerback Morris Claiborne

CB Morris Claiborne

Some of the passing yardage that the Cowboys' defense has allowed has been strategic. They've been content to let team chew up the field while protecting the endzone. It's hard to find fault given their 10-1 record and winning streak.

Once Claiborne returns, it will be interesting to see how Dallas manages the snaps among their cornerbacks. Rookie Anthony Brown has played well and will be tough to take off the field.

Getting Church and Claiborne back will allow Dallas to get more aggressive up front, trusting their starters to hold up better in coverage. This will be invaluable in the playoffs, but even now as they look to secure home field advantage over the final five weeks.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Sean

    November 29, 2016 at 11:44 am

    How does MO’s great start to the season + another lengthy injury affect his next contract?

    • Jess Haynie

      Jess Haynie

      December 1, 2016 at 3:03 pm

      Great question, Sean! I think it’s going to work well in Dallas’ favor. Claiborne wants to remain a Cowboy and now has lost a lot of leverage. I think we’ll be able to sign him to a very modest 2-3 year deal.

  2. Mike Young

    November 30, 2016 at 11:56 am

    Can’t wait to get healthy in the back end. Getting healthy Claiborne would terrific!

  3. Russ_Te (@Russ_Te)

    November 30, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    Raw yards surrendered can be deceptive of course. Teams have been behind Dallas all year, sometimes by a lot – so more passing yardage and fewer running plays.

    I like what Wilcox and Brown did while filling in. That big-hit dimension that Wilcox brings is something any defense is looking for. If he can close the gap with Church on the rest of the SS job, I think he can win the starter role (if he doesn’t leave for another team).

    Brown got burned last week by Deshawn Jackson when he was single up on a 3rd & 1, but that is to be expected. You always need a S over the top for Jackson. The guy has man-coverage skills, and to get that in the 6th round is a very good pick.

    Remember for years it was doubtful if Sean Lee would ever stay healthy. Now he is, for the last 2 seasons. Maybe the same for Claibourne as he goes along. He is the most talented DB on the team, along with Byron Jones at FS.

    Since the Cowboys solved QB and RB in one draft, they can go heavy on defense now. If this team adds a premiere RDE and a premiere CB, it will rule the league for years.

    • Jess Haynie

      Jess Haynie

      December 1, 2016 at 3:08 pm

      Very good observations! I think you’ll definitely see a defensive focus for the next couple of drafts. Outside of another WR and maybe a new RT, Dallas is set on offense for a while.

      • Russ_Te

        December 1, 2016 at 7:04 pm

        Thanks. Ideally change out Doug Free for a better pass blocker, but he is a road grader in the run game. Will probably lose Leary next year / always take an OL who looks good, for depth & to keep the engine driving this train going.

        You can make an injury case against Dez, but otherwise he will be a top WR for a few years still. The other 4 receivers fit into their roles really well. Butler is the possible rising commodity – remember how Miles Austin came out of nowhere to be a top WR for a few years.

        I keep retiring Witten and he keeps defying it. If Escobar looks better down the stretch this year as a blocker, he may be the heir at TE, otherwise that job is coming open at some point fairly soon.

        • Jess Haynie

          Jess Haynie

          December 2, 2016 at 9:38 am

          Last night was a good example of why this needs to be Free’s last year. He was the culprit on Dak getting strip sacked and some killer penalties. He is great in run blocking, but he doesn’t play guard. They can do better.

          The problem with our other WRs is that none of them are able to really step into the WR1 role when Dez is hurt. Beasley can get numbers but we need one more guy who can take on a team’s top corner if needed.

          I think Witten has another year at least. Escobar will walk in FA and we’ll have Hanna, Swaim, and hopefully Gathers on the depth chart next year.

          Really appreciate your comments. Hope you’ll become a regular!

          • Russ_Te

            December 2, 2016 at 5:44 pm

            Thanks very much. I created the board forum Cowboy Saloon in 2006, closed it down the next year due to infighting amongst members. I bounce around now with this pseudonym. This site has a good look definitely.

            Free showed the flaw in his game last night, beatable by a quick DE or LB. At least it is not Dak’s blind side. But it cost a turnover. I think Gathers got on the practice squad, it’s apparently a long way for him from a camp where he didn’t show much. I would get a strong TE prospect if / when available, but the main 2 pickups are probably RDE and CB. Impact players added there would be gigantic.

  4. Bryson Treece

    Bryson Treece

    December 1, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    I’ve always been a big fan of Barry Church. He’s not Ed Reed, but he’s solid. Given the others missing from this defense, I’ll feel much better having him back there with Byron Jones than JJ Wilcox. Small improvement, but a significant one.

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Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick

Jess Haynie

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Devin Smith

The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.

Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:

Jason Bernstein on Twitter

Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh

Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.

Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.

The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.

For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!



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DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class

Kevin Brady

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Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence's League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.

Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.

One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.

ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.

ig: josinaanderson on Twitter

ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t

DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.

Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.

Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.



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When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott

John Williams

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All-22 Notes: Connor Williams Stands Out in Wild Card Win

Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.

In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.

According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.

During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...

...of his offensive lineman.

During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.

As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.

It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.

With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.



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