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Stephen Jones Knows Cowboys Must Focus on Defense in 2017 Draft

Sean Martin

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Stephen Jones Knows Cowboys Must Focus on Defense in 2017 Draft

Just two of the last seven Dallas Cowboys first-round draft picks have been used on the defensive side of the ball, but based on Stephen Jones’ recent comments ahead of next month’s draft – in which the Cowboys have become one of the most successful teams – this trend could be changing soon.

It is no secret that the top of the Cowboys’ organization in Stephen Jones along with Jerry and Will McClay realize that it is long overdue Dallas builds a championship defense. Having missed the Tony Romo window for a plethora of reasons, a glaring one being incompetence on defense, Romo remains on the Cowboys’ roster as a reminder of how the era that Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have brought upon America’s Team can be wasted.

Foremost, it is the best player available approach that has led to the Dallas Cowboys dominance of late in the NFL Draft – particularly in patiently building their world-beating offensive line.

Rob Phillips on Twitter

Stephen said best-player-available approach still applies in the draft, but “our focus in the draft is going to be on defense.

According to Stephen Jones, this approach will rightfully not change, but with the re-signings of WR Terrance Williams and RB Darren McFadden along with the addition of OT Byron Bell, the excitement of last season’s offensive continuity carrying over into 2017 shifts Cowboys Nation‘s focus to the equally exciting amount of defensive talent available for Dallas in this draft.

If “best defensive player available” is the approach that you want the Cowboys to take into next month’s draft, the two biggest areas of need on Rod Marinelli’s defense appear to be pass rusher and cornerback or safety.

Rob Phillips on Twitter

Stephen on defensive priorities the rest of the offseason: “No. 1 priority is get more pressure. 1A, make more plays on the ball, turnovers

The need at defensive end has been an ongoing narrative for this team almost long enough to make it comical, but seeing Jones finally list getting after opposing quarterbacks as opposed to protecting their own as the Cowboys’ top priority is more than a step in the right direction.

It’s not like the Dallas Cowboys have not tried to build a defensive line through the draft. Recent second-round picks Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence have failed to live up to their draft status as revered pass rushers with red flags out of Nebraska and Boise State respectively. Using the 2016 Cowboys’ draft class as the most recent example though, a third-round player like starting DT Maliek Collins proves that the Cowboys can scout and find talent along the line.

This 2017 NFL Draft will put them in a rare position to potentially sit at the back-end of the first round and have a dominant collegiate pass rusher fall to them with the depth in this class. Not needing (or willing) to reach for a DE though, the Cowboys will also see plenty of cornerbacks and safeties ready to retool a secondary that lost Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr, J.J. Wilcox, and Barry Church in free agency.

Cornerback is not a position that the Dallas Cowboys have invested as much into when it comes to the draft, with now-Jet Morris Claiborne serving as their most recent first-round pick at the position. Again looking to 2016 for a change in this flow, sixth-round pick Anthony Brown projects as a starter moving forward, as do an absurd amount of this year’s prospects.

The options are endless for the Cowboys to field a new-look defense to look forward to in the draft, and its clear they have the right guys committed to doing so in place.

Draft season is in full swing, and everything a Cowboys’ front office member says from now until the end of April will be critical. If you find Dallas’ need for impact players on defense critical itself, these quotes from Stephen Jones should be music to your ears.

Tell us what you think about “Stephen Jones Knows Cowboys Must Focus on Defense in 2017 Draft” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Pleasant NJ, no we're not how you think we are. Host of "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. You may @ me: @SeanMartinNFL.

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2 Comments
  • Corey

    Jerry Jones needs to stop drafting injured players or players with issues. Hopefully LB Jaylen Smith will be as good or close to as good as he was at Notre Dame playing with a brace. Using a 2d. Rd. pick on DE Randy Gregory was a mistake. He has been suspended more than he has been on the field. DE Charles Tapper is another one who spent all of last season on IR with back issues. Hopefully he can be healthy for the whole year. The only 2 defensive players I think Dallas will miss this season are DT Terrell McClain and CB Mo Claiborne. McClain actually played pretty good last year and Claiborne was a good CB when he was healthy, it is sad he couldn’t stay healthy and be able to stay in Dallas. I think if he can stay healthy a whole season he will be an outstanding CB for someone. That is a big “if” though because hasn’t been able to yet. This team already has some good players on the DL in Irving, Collins, and Paea. I think they will be ok going forward

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      Corey, thank you for reading and commenting! I agree with you on a lot of this, first and foremost that its crucial this team drafts defensive players that can actually step in and play right away. With the needs they have for depth on this defense, I think its safer to say they will compared to past years that led us to Gregory and the others you mentioned.

      Paea should replace McClain nicely, and I’ll be watching Claiborne closely here from NJ with the Jets now to see what they get out of him.

Dallas Cowboys

Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

Sean Martin

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Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

After hiring Paul Alexander to fill their vacant OL coaching position, the Dallas Cowboys are continuing to retool their offensive staff below Scott Linehan. Sanjay Lal has been hired to coach the Cowboys’ wide receivers, replacing Derek Dooley.

Lal has experience as a WR coach with four different teams, dating back to 2009 with the Oakland Raiders. He was promoted up to this position after serving as the Raiders’ quality control coach from 2007-08.

David Moore on Twitter

Sources: Cowboys have reached an agreement with Sanjay Lal to become the team’s WR coach. Lal was with Indianapolis last season and replaces Derek Dooley on the staff.

Most recently, Sanjay Lal coached the receivers for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017. He has also been with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.

In this interview with the Colts, Lal mentions being very detail-oriented with a focus on the technical aspects of playing receiver.

Lal beats out former Cowboys WR Miles Austin for this position, earning the right to lead a room of receivers in desperate need of fresh talent. In an offseason that’s been about finding fresh ideas with the coaching staff so far though, the Cowboys have a new voice on offense.

Tell us what you think about “Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Losing Linebackers Coach Matt Eberflus to Colts

Jess Haynie

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Matt Eberflus, Sean Lee

Multiple sources are reporting Matt Eberflus — who has been the linebackers coach and passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys — will leave to join the Indianapolis Colts as the new defensive coordinator. Eberflus has been with Dallas since 2011, having joined Rob Ryan’s staff when Ryan become the coordinator for the Cowboys’ defense.

He has been the linebackers coach during his entire Dallas tenure and was also named passing game coordinator in 2016.

Tom Pelissero on Twitter

With Josh McDaniels ticketed for the #Colts, former #Cowboys assistant Matt Eberflus is expected to come along as defensive coordinator, I’m told. Lot of parts falling in place now.

If not the Colts, some thought Matt Eberflus might end up replacing Matt Patricia as the defensive coordinator in New England. Either way, it does not appear Dallas could have kept him around while Rod Marinelli remains in his current position.

Eberflus’ work in Dallas speaks for itself, and primarily through LB Sean Lee.

He has been Lee’s position coach for all but his rookie season, and in that time Lee has been one of the top defensive players in all of football.

Beyond Lee, Eberflus has also been able to get quality play out of mid-round picks like Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson. We also saw Jaylon Smith make significant progress this season.

Given Matt Eberflus has never worked with Josh McDaniels before, the fact he was on the Colts’ radar says a lot.

Make no mistake; the Cowboys lost a good one here.

Don’t panic, however. Coach Marinelli has cast a very wide net during his time in the NFL and there are a lot of potential guys, some with plenty of experience, that Dallas might look to.

It’s entirely possible that Eberflus’ replacement will be someone who Marinelli spends 2018 grooming to take over as the defensive coordinator.

Still, of all the coaching changes so far for Dallas, this one hurts most.

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Thus far the 2018 offseason has brought a plethora of change to the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Now it is being reported the Cowboys have hired a brand new offensive line coach, former Cincinnati Bengals’ Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander.

Alex Marvez on Twitter

Source tells @sportingnews that Paul Alexander hired as new @dallascowboys offensive line coach

Alexander coached with the Bengals for over 20 years, and replaces the same man in Dallas who replaces him in Cincinnati, Frank Pollack. Alexander has also been the Bengals assistant head coach since 2003.

The Cowboys recently lost an assistant head coach when Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia left for Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders.

Per usual, the hire has been met with mixed reactions from Cowboys Nation.

Joey Ickes on Twitter

Since 2003, CIN has had only one season where they finished top-10 in Yards per attempt on the ground… They’ve been bottom-5 in the league 5 times in that span… That’s the OL Coach DAL just hired.

The hiring of an offensive line coach who’s rushing attack finished bottom five in the league in rushing yards per attempt five times since 2003 doesn’t look too great on paper. He will also teach with different techniques and styles than previous Cowboys OL coaches, which could potentially set back the offensive line early in the season.

Plus, respected Bengals’ writer Joe Goodberry did not exactly love the hire for the Cowboys.

Goodberry on Twitter

Pretty bad https://t.co/fysjZqCQ6l

Regardless, this is still a very talented offensive line and one which should lead an effective ground attack based on their talent alone. 2017 proved further that coaching matters a lot in the NFL however, and the wrong hire could set back even the most talented of units.

We will just have to wait and see how this 2018 season ends up playing out.

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