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The Real Reason Why Greg Hardy Won’t Be Back

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Blog - Greg Hardy Back In Week 5: What To Look Forward To

A rumor broke on Monday from credible Cowboys analysts that the team had decided to move on from soon-to-be free agent Greg Hardy. In response, Stephen Jones has made a public statement that the team is not yet decided on Hardy. Is this the truth or the typical management move of trying to maintain leverage until point you absolutely don't need it? Only the Cowboys know for sure.

Let's assume that the original report is correct and that Dallas intends to let Hardy walk. Some are rightfully surprised by this news given the current issues at defensive end. Randy Gregory will be serving a four-game suspension to start the year and DeMarcus Lawrence is recovering from minor back surgery. Jeremy Mincey and Jack Crawford are free agents, leaving just Ryan Russell currently under contract from last year's squad.

It would be a mistake, in my opinion, to label Dallas' decision as an admittance of error about signing Hardy last year. I've already seen some trying to say just that; that the Cowboys have realized they were wrong to give Hardy a chance after learning more about his domestic abuse case. There's also the notion that Hardy was too much of a locker room problem and burned his bridge in Dallas.

Let's put aside all that conjecture and focus on the one fact we have about Hardy in 2015; he had just four sacks in his last 11 games. You don't need to know anymore than that to understand why Dallas is moving on. I'm not saying the other stuff isn't a factor, but it's secondary to the simple truth that Hardy wasn't a difference-maker for the defense after his first few weeks.

We didn't realize it at the the time, but even Hardy's grand debut has to be taken with a grain of salt. After serving his suspension Hardy debuted in seemingly top form with two sacks, a forced fumble, and several other hits on Tom Brady. However, just a few months later, we saw Brady and the Patriots' offensive line get massacred by the Broncos.  Was Hardy really making an impact there or was it more an issue of the Patriots' horrible pass protection?

Put that game aside and Hardy's season was well short of impactful. He did have one more sack the next week and an interception the week after, but from there he had just three sacks over the final nine games. By comparison, Mincey had six sacks in his last nine weeks of 2014.

Hardy was supposed to blow Mincey out of the water. That's why Dallas bit the bullet on signing him and took on all of the public relation backlash after Hardy's domestic issues. That's why they put up with Hardy's Twitter misbehavior and reported issues with practice and team meeting tardiness and absence, or his minor dust-up with Special Team Coach Rich Bisaccia.

Remember, Dallas could have cut bait with Hardy at any point last year. They structured his contract specifically with that provision; a penalty-free option to release him whenever they felt they needed to. Despite Hardy's lack of production, and despite their season going in the toilet pretty quickly thanks to the Tony Romo injury, things never got so bad that Dallas felt they needed to cut Hardy loose.

To be clear, I wouldn't blame the Cowboys if they wanted to bring Hardy back. He turns just 28 in July and still has better skills than most of what's out there in free agency. Dallas has already taken the media hit for doing business with Hardy and perhaps they could chalk up his low production to all of the turmoil and distractions swirling around his personal life. Taking a chance on him getting back to form next year, further removed from the drama, would be a logical move.

In the end, though, football isn't very merciful. Dallas took a big P.R. hit and paid Hardy a lot money for very little in return. That doesn't sit well with any front office. Hardy could've overcome every bit of his personal issues with on-field production. He didn't, and I expect Dallas would rather look to new options than stick with a seemingly bad investment.

Maybe they'll be wrong. Hardy could sign with a new team and be back to double-digit sacks. I'm sure some of those clamoring for Dallas to part ways now will have short memories and later criticize them for giving up too soon. That logic I described earlier about Hardy bouncing back could wind up being another team's to enjoy.

Much like they took a chance by signing Hardy, though, I think Dallas will take the risk of letting him walk. They won't lose sleep over whatever success he has with his next team because, here and now, they sent a clear message to their players that you have to show up on Sunday. Yes, they'll put up with plenty Monday thru Saturday if you do it, but what happens on the field is ultimately what matters.



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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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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Cedrick Wilson: Cowboys WR Could Shine After a Year Off

Matthew Lenix

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Cedrick Wilson could shine after a year off

The departure of Cole Beasley to Buffalo via free agency in March left a hole at the slot receiver position in Dallas. The team signed veteran Randall Cobb about a week later, but only to a one year deal. Names like Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns along with Cobb are looked at as the replacement for Beasley but don't forget about Cedrick Wilson.

Selected in the sixth round in 2018, Wilson was coming off an impressive and highly productive two-year career at Boise State. Tallying 139 receptions for 2,640 yards and 18 touchdowns in just 26 games.

When OTA's began last season, the rookie was already turning heads with his route running, ability to create separation and athleticism, but unfortunately, disaster happened not long afterward. Wilson would suffer a shoulder injury that placed him on injured reserve for 2018, the same shoulder he had issues with in college. A not so fairy tale beginning to an NFL career.

Although his time on the field was short-lived last summer, he definitely caught the eye of wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal.

"Ced's a savvy, smart football player. He picks things up really well. He applies them to the field. In terms of technique, he's one of the best if you watch him. His stance and start is really good. He comes off the ball with low pad level. He's eating up ground and then has a nack to make a big play over the top on a big post," Lal said.

Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb make up a very formidable receiving core, and adding a healthy Wilson to that could work wonders. His experience on the outside and the slot gives offensive coordinator Kellen Moore plenty of options. Slot receivers are usually harder to bump off the line with the extra few yards of cushion they get, giving them more options route wise seeing as they can go inside or out a lot easier than outside receivers. That's where Wilson's supreme route running can come into play. Also, with his ability to separate on the outside and beat corners deep, you can play him opposite Amari Cooper and put Cobb in the slot with a combination of either Gallup, Austin or Hurns in a four-wide receiver set, the possibilities are endless.

A setback can be a blessing in disguise if approached in the right manner. Wilson hasn't let the year off derail his focus on what he's trying to do in Dallas.

"Coming back off the rehab was tough in general. But definitely a year of just seeing how everything goes, the speed is definitely slowing down. Just getting back in the playbook and learning from older guys of what I need to do and doing what the coaches expect of me," Wilson said.

The competition won't be easy for Wilson, though, as other young up and coming receivers are fighting for roster spots as well. UDFA's (Undrafted Free Agents) Jon'Vea Johnson and Jalen Guyton will also be fighting for snaps during mini-camp, with the former already making waves during OTA's. Reggie Davis has also turned a few heads in the summer, a fellow UDFA himself trying to find a home after bouncing around the league between four different teams since 2017.

It's all about health for Cedrick Wilson at this point. Can his shoulder hold up enough to allow his skill set to make a contribution to the Cowboys in 2019? The talent is there, along with the praises of his position coach, now it'll be interesting to see if this potential diamond in the rough can shine under the bright lights of AT&T Stadium.



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