The Cleveland Browns and the San Francisco 49ers. Those were the only two teams worse in red zone efficiency than the Dallas Cowboys in 2015.
Despite that great, powerful offensive line and the NFL's fourth leading rusher the Cowboys struggled mightily in red zone and short yardage situations. As a team the Cowboys fell from just about 65% in red zone efficiency in 2014 all the way down to 44.44% in 2015. Of course, the absence of Tony Romo put a huge dent into this number, but it could be argued that Dez Bryant's injury handcuffed this offense in the red zone even more than Romo's did at times.
Without Bryant, the Cowboys lacked any type of long receiving threat who could go up and get the ball at it's highest point and bring it down for a touchdown.
I don't want to overreact to one inter-squad scrimmage and a week of training camp, but so far, undrafted free agent wide receiver Andy Jones looks to be that missing threat.
While he is listed at 6'2", the former Jacksonville State receiver plays much longer than that on the field. Andy Jones has even already gained the trust of just about the most important player to the future of his career, quarterback Tony Romo. According to Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com, Romo already has so much confidence in Jones' ability that he is "not afraid to throw him the ball in any situation."
Wow. That's a lot to say about an undrafted rookie free agent.
When the lights turned on yesterday for the Cowboys blue/white scrimmage and fans packed the house or streamed eagerly on their computers, Jones continued to prove why he deserves a spot on this team.
I see you, Dak. Play action fake, finds Andy Jones. https://t.co/k6hQvw0SOw
While it is hard to see his entire route from this angle, you can see Jones go up, extend his arms, and catch the ball while knowing that the defensive back was just waiting to deliver a blow. Then, he toe-taps in for a reception.
Showers to Andy Jones https://t.co/ILmFr9Ysky
We get a bit of a better angle on this play, and we can watch the entirety of Jones' route. He comes off the ball with a purpose, making the defensive back believe that he is running straight up the field. Then, he is able to quickly change directions and cut inside, creating separation and making the play.
There were also multiple occasions that I saw Jones be physical at the line of scrimmage with corners, helping him to win on those quick hitting routes. Much more physical, I might add, than any receiver on this roster not-named Bryant has shown us before.
Dak finds Andy Jones in 7v7 https://t.co/gHKUPuIlOY
Here is yet another example of Jones not being afraid to go over the middle, get up and make the play. Yes, it's just 7 on 7 and you can tell that no defensive back is going to come up and really drill him, but you can still clearly see the ability that Jones seems to possess.
There seems to be a logjam at the wide receiver position in Dallas, as five guys- Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, and Lucky Whitehead- are all already expected to make the final roster. But it is becoming more and more obvious that undrafted free agent Andy Jones is going to make it very difficult for the Cowboys staff to let him go. Even if that means keeping six wide-outs, or letting one of those aforementioned five go.
Andy Jones will be on an NFL roster this fall, and I sincerely hope it is this one in Dallas.
(Here's one last great Andy Jones catch for good measure)
Cowboys Sign Free Agent WR Deonte Thompson
The Dallas Cowboys added some speed to their receiver corps today by signing free agent Deonte Thompson. He played for both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills last season.
Thompson, who turned 29 last month, went undrafted in 2012. He had a quiet to start to his career as a reserve and practice squad guy in Baltimore and Chicago, but finally got a chance to shine with seven starts last year for the Bills. He 27 catches for 430 yards and one touchdown in just 11 games.
The #Cowboys signed WR Deonte Thompson, per agent @davidcanter. He gets 1-year, $2.5M with a $1M signing bonus.
Deonte brings some much-needed speed to the Cowboys offense. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash as a rookie, and while he's 29 now he still poses more of a vertical threat than the current Dallas receivers.
Given the low salary in this deal, Thompson may not be seen as much than a replacement for Brice Butler near the bottom of Dallas' depth chart. We also have to wait and see what happens with the draft and other moves this offseason to know where he fits into the bigger picture.
For now, though, Cowboys fans can take a little comfort in knowing the front office hasn't completely fallen asleep at the wheel.
Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal
At long last, the Dallas Cowboys have their first free agent addition of this offseason. Having lost starters Jonathan Cooper and Anthony Hitchens at left guard and linebacker respectively, the team has added depth at LB with Joe Thomas signing a two-year deal.
The 2018 season will actually mark Joe Thomas' second stint with the Dallas Cowboys, as he was signed to their practice squad in 2015. The team that signed Thomas out of South Carolina State following the 2014 draft, the Green Bay Packers, added Thomas back to their active roster for the 2015 season.
Source: Cowboys have agreed to a 2-year deal with free agent LB Joe Thomas. He visited the Cowboys today. Thomas has played in 42 games over the last three seasons with the Packers. He had a career-high 70 tackles in 2016.
Thomas has spent the last three seasons starting eight games for the Packers, recording 70 tackles and an interception in 2016.
A contingency plan of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith carrying the Cowboys for 16 games at LB requires adequate depth, which is exactly what the Cowboys are typically in the market for come free agency. Waiting longer than usual to make their first splash, the Cowboys absolutely need an addition like Thomas to perform better than last year's FA class.
Used in sub packages by the Packers while also playing special teams - where the Cowboys have lost core players in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber - Thomas will have a great chance to impress two new Dallas coaches in Ben Bloom and Keith O'Quinn.
Cowboys Trade for FB Jamize Olawale from Raiders
Less than a week after the Cowboys lost fullback Keith Smith to the Raiders in free agency, the two teams have worked out a trade to send FB Jamize Olawale from Oakland to Dallas.
Fullback trade! The #Raiders are sending FB Jamize Olawale to the #Cowboys, sources say. Dallas has its fullback, one who was with Oakland since 2012.
To facilitate the trade, the Cowboys will send their fifth-round pick (173rd overall) to the Raiders for their sixth-round pick (192nd), moving back just 19 spots.
In return, Dallas not only brings in a veteran replacement at FB but a player they already know.
Jamize Olawale was an undrafted rookie free agent of the Cowboys in 2012. Despite a strong showing in that preseason, Dallas did not have room for him on the roster. He was on the team's practice squad until December, when Oakland poached him.
Since then, Olawale has been a regular roleplayer in the Raiders' offense. He's missed just six games since 2013.
Jamize brings more offensive firepower to the FB position than Keith Smith had. He's scored at least one touchdown in each of the last three seasons. He can be effective both running and receiving.
Through the trade, Dallas picks up the final year of Olawale's current contract. It calls for a $1.5 million base salary in 2018.
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