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Why Terrell McClain May Be The Key To Cowboys D-Line

Kevin Brady



Cowboys Headlines -  70

For all the talk about how suspect the Cowboys defense, particularly their defensive ends, will be this season, you'd think that the entire unit was a lost cause. That outside of the known Pro-Bowl caliber players on offense, this team is full of duds.

That's simply not the case, especially on the interior of the defensive line.

The return of (we hope) a fully healthy Tyrone Crawford as well as the additions of free agent Cedric Thornton and third round former Nebraska Cornhusker Maliek Collins have created a lot of hope for fans like me who put a lot of faith in these tackles. Faith that they will be good enough to overcompensate for the questionable talent at defensive end.

The forgotten man of this interior group is actually the guy who can make this whole d-line click. The key to the success of the Cowboys defensive front may be sixth year veteran, Terrell McClain.

Cowboys Blog - The Defensive Line is in Worse Shape Than I Thought 3

Terrell McClain can be a big piece for 2016, but he has battled injuries the past two seasons

Riddled with injuries during his stint in Dallas so far, McClain has become an overlooked asset on this defensive line. With the amount of money and years given to Thornton as well as an early third round pick spent on a 1-technique, even the Cowboys seemed to be looking over McClain.

McClain has only played a full sixteen games once in his entire career, and missed virtually the entire 2015 season in Dallas. While durability has been an issue, size and talent certainly have not been.

Standing at 6'2" and over 300 pounds, McClain is the typical 1-technique. While he is a big body who is clearly tough to move off the ball, McClain is not slow or lazy in his get-off. His size and strength give him advantage enough to be a formidable defensive tackle, but when combined with active hands and his range to make plays, McClain can be a real force as the starting 1-technique in Dallas.

But you just signed Cedric Thornton to do that job?

Yes, they did. But having too many talented defensive tackles is never an issue. Plus, Thornton's versatility and athleticism give the Cowboys a chance to try something different, and possibly overcome DeMarcus Lawrence's suspension during the first four games.

McClain cannot move out to 3-technique and play there with much consistency, but we do have reason to believe that Thornton can. Playing both of these guys at the same time on 1st and/or 2nd down and possibly on short-yardage 3rd downs would give the Cowboys as strong an interior run defense as just about anyone else in the league. Of course, it doesn't give you much of an option in terms of pass rush, but it would serve as a formidable run defense.

What do you do with Tyrone Crawford on those downs?

This is where the "overcoming Lawrence's suspension" part comes into play. We don't know what the Cowboys have at defensive end for those first four weeks. The young guys may come out and out-athletic people off the ball, Ryan Russell may have perfected his spin move, and everything may be A-Okay. Or, these young defensive ends could struggle both against the run and the pass.

Enter Tyrone Crawford. Cowboys Headlines - Would It Be A Mistake To Move Tyrone Crawford To Defensive End?

By playing Crawford at defensive end on these early downs, you give yourself a chance on each play. The Cowboys would now have three of their best available defensive linemen in the game, instead of having only two, with one watching from the sidelines.

Inside The Star's Brian Martin detailed why moving Crawford to defensive end would be the wrong move for the Cowboys earlier this year. Overall, I believe Brian is right. Playing a guy out of position, regardless of what his role may have been in college, is usually not the best move to make. He doesn't have the pass rushing moves or skills that most polished, full-time defensive ends have, and will struggle if put into those situations.

However, Crawford does have some position versatility, and if any of these linemen can do it, it is Crawford. No it would not be ideal, but it might be the best the team can do at this point. Like I said earlier, it is not a great option in terms of pass rush, but it would be a great option in running situations.

It might be a long shot, but I do think playing these three guys at the same time is something for the Cowboys to at least consider.

Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and have been with ITS since 2016.

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

Jess Haynie



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.

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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Dallas Cowboys

Breaking: Scott Linehan and Dallas Cowboys Part Ways

John Williams



Scott Linehan Acknowledges Need for New "Wrinkles" in Cowboys Offense

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is reporting that the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan have mutually agreed to part ways following a tumultuous season that saw the Dallas Cowboys offense finish outside the top 12 three out of his four seasons in Dallas.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Sources: The #Cowboys are firing OC Scott Linehan. Taking their offense in a new direction. An announcement is coming.

Scott Linehan was brought in prior to the 2015 season and saw his offenses finish 31st, fifth, 14th, and 22nd in his four years as the Cowboys play caller. The 2015 season can be excused as the Cowboys rolled out Kellen Moore, Matt Cassell, and Brandon Weeden for 13 starts after Tony Romo was injured twice during the season, but the team 2-11 in those 13 starts and the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs despite a strong performance on the defensive side of the football.

The Cowboys saw an offense that finished fifth in the NFL in points in 2016 decline each of the last two offseasons and Linehan has been continually criticized by analysts, fans, and players as well.

Many believe that the reason that Dez Bryant and Brice Butler weren't brought back in the offseason was because of the public criticism of the offense and the play caller instilling the offense and that criticism has carried over to this season when Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper acknowledged that the Philadelphia Eagles were sitting on the slant routes that they had run all game. Dak mentioned that he changed Amari's route to a go route, which led to a 75 yard touchdown that helped open up the offense.

Cole Beasley has been frustrated with his role for much of the season and deservedly so. He was often non-existent in the offensive game plan until the final five minutes of football games.

In the running game, the offense had become too predictable and reliant upon jumbo formations that led to Ezekiel Elliott having to run against eight in the box anywhere from 25-30% of the time. For perspective, Todd Gurley only ran against eight-man fronts around eight percent of the time. Scott Linehan never looked to attempt to take players out of the box, instead insisting on motioning more players into the box for the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott to run against. It's amazing when you think about it, that Ezekiel Elliott was able to win the rushing title when facing loaded fronts as often as he did.

This was a move that needed to happen and the Dallas Cowboys didn't need to waste anymore time to make it happen. The offense had become stale and frustrating for the players as well as the fans. While Jason Garrett started the offseason saying he "didn't expect any changes," this was a move that absolutely had to happen for the offense to take a step forward. Below, you can read Jason Garrett's announcement on the move.

Mike Garafolo on Twitter

Cowboys have fired Scott Linehan

Even after the move for Amari Cooper, the offense looked better, but it still struggled at times to move the football.

The Cowboys have a young team with especially young players on the offensive side of the football. They have a quarterback who can throw from the pocket, but has excellent movement skills and capabilities of throwing the ball on the run. He's an excellent runner on designed runs. Despite us knowing all that, Scott Linehan looked reluctant to use him on designed quarterback runs that weren't read options or speed options. What you saw on designed runs in the Seattle game is what this team should be doing five times a game.

Now the question becomes, who should the Cowboys next offensive coordinator be? Our own, Staff Writer Brian Martin, laid out 5 Options to be the Next Offensive Coordinator earlier this week. I suggest you give it a read.

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DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class

Kevin Brady



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. 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.

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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