Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: Will 2014 Cowboys Have An "Elite Offense?"

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Latest Cowboys headlines: Stephen Jones explains why he thinks the Dallas Cowboys offense can be great; Cowboys are seeing something in Claiborne this spring; Dez Bryant is taking pride in his professionalism.

Stephen Jones explains why he thinks the Dallas Cowboys offense can be great | Jon Machota, DMN
For Jones, an upgraded offensive line, more and better depth at running back, outstanding skill position players like Bryant, Murray, and Witten, and new "offensive coordinator" Scott Linehan calling plays all add up to a better offense than last year. And there's also the guy throwing the rock.

"Obviously we believe Tony is an elite quarterback and you put the supporting cast with him, that’s why we picked Zack Martin," Jones said. "I think we’re better in the offensive line and you’d hope so if you spent the 16th pick in the draft on one of the better offensive linemen in the draft. You’d like to hope you’re better."

"We were pretty good last year and I think we’ll move that up to where you say, ‘Hey, we’ve got a chance to have an elite offense.’"

Cowboys seeing something in Claiborne this spring -- confident, competing player - Carlos Mendez, Star-Telegram
Finally healthy, Morris Claiborne is beginning to look like the player the Cowboys traded up for.

"Competing his butt off," defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson said with a smile, a satisfied sigh and a small shake of his head. "He’s embraced that he’s got to play better, and he’s doing a good job."

Gavin Escobar's high-wire TD vs. Eagles was a glimpse; it's time for Cowboys to see more of picture | David Moore, DMN
Moore writes that Escobar’s role in the game plan during his rookie season was "sporadic and minimal," and that this was "a source of friction - mild, but friction nonetheless - between ownership and the coaching staff." For Escobar, this year will be less about what he still needs to improve on (strength, blocking), and more about what Escobar can add to the offense.

"Let’s start with what he does well and focus on that,’’ passing game coordinator Scott Linehan said. "The things he needs to work on, let’s work on those things but let’s not start with the idea he’s not getting on the field until he masters his weaknesses, because he’s got strengths. Let’s lean toward them. Let’s work on them so it doesn’t become a liability and let’s figure out what we’re going to do with the guy."

"It’s going to be exciting to have some things we can do with him, utilize his ability, not just with the pass game, but put him in position in the run game where it’s a favorable matchup for him,’’ Linehan said. "I think he’s getting a little bit of a knock that he’s not doing a good job there."

"He has a great catch radius,’’ Linehan said. "He has some really receiver-like traits for a guy that tall and that big. He’s a great compliment [sic] to Jason. He’s got a lot of things he can add for us.’’

Return to form for Melton isn't a gamble for Cowboys, in Stephen Jones' mind
Stephen Jones acknowledges the Cowboys are gambling on a handful of players to improve the defense this year. But Henry Melton, despite his repaired knee, is not one of them.

Dez Bryant on his professionalism: I have two baby boys watching me, ‘I have to make sure I’m doing it right’ | Jon Machota, DMN
Instead of resting between drills at the recent OTAs, Dez Bryant took the initiative and went off to catch balls from the Jugs machine. Garret was so pleased with this that he he pointed it out to the entire team during a film session. But that's not all that's impressed the Cowboys about Bryant recently.

Bryant has improved his game without the ball: Bryant says he's working on getting a quicker release, running his routes to the correct depth instead of taking shortcuts, and has gotten better in the film room as well. Asked why taking pride in his professionalism is important, Bryant answers:

"I’ve got two baby boys and they’re watching every day," Bryant said. "I have to make sure I’m doing it right."

"I don’t think about the numbers," Bryant said. "Whatever happens, happens. All I know is I’m confident in the work that I put in. I know if I continue to keep working hard and get the other guys to work hard, it’s always going to be a good result."

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant says extension will "take care of itself." | David Moore, DMN
Dez Bryant isn't concerned about when he'll get his extension from the Cowboys.

"That’s going to take care of itself,’’ Bryant said. "I’m very confident in the work I put in. Whatever happens, happens."

"All I know is I’m going to continue to keep doing my job. That alone shows my dedication and love I have for the game. I’m going to let it work out.’’

Scout’s Eye: Second Year WR Williams Shines At Minicamp - Bryan Broaddus, DallasCowboys.com
Broaddus is highly complimentary about Terrance Williams' route running, Bruce Carter's coverage ability (yes, you read that correctly), and Morris Claiborne's man coverage skills.

Cowboys adding protection to linemen - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
The offensive and defensive linemen are wearing knee braces in practice.

"We're going to have them in practice right now and see how guys respond to them," Garrett said. "We think it's good. It's a good preventative measure. Sometimes guys get rolled up on the offensive and defensive line. It happens away from them, a guy falls on them. It's been a long study through the years. It's been going on for 30-plus years about the value of knee braces. I've been on teams that used them, haven't used them, swear by them, don't think they make any difference. We just think as an organization it's a good thing for us to be able to do. We got them all custom-made for those guys. They're wearing them now for practice. We'll make our evaluations as we go forward."

Cowboys unlikely to get any money back from Kyle Orton, not even fine money - Clarence Hill, Star-Telegram
Hil writes that the Cowboys are in a pickle because they've already moved on from Orton with Weeden, and since they can't simply keep Orton on the roster (it would undermine team morale) they'll have no choice but to cut him and "there is nothing they can do to get the $3 million back."

Tyrone Crawford gets into a minicamp fight with Travis Frederick | DMN
Things got a bit heated, but tempers cooled down quickly after a short scuffle that started with Crawford and Frederick.

"We always preach competitiveness," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "But you have to compete the right way. The best teams that I’ve been on have always had skirmishes happen. There’s a healthy respect for each other. We’re just trying to get better."

"Sometimes those things happen on the practice field. I thought our guys handled it well after that. We separated the group and moved on to the next drill."

The Cowboys Battle For 'Fourth Fiddle' - KD Drummond, Cowboys HQ
KD writes that the top three options in Linehan's passing offense are likely going to be Bryant, Witten, and Williams, but that the fourth option doesn't necessarily have to be a wide receiver.

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Bold predictions for the 2014: Big year for Tight Ends | National Football Post
Jack Bechta offers five predictions for 2014. One of them is tight ends will see more action than ever before.

Offensive coordinators are busy this off-season designing more multiple TE packages. Don’t be surprised to see some teams using more two TE’s on the field at a time (remember what Harbaugh was doing with TE packages at Stanford). With defenses spending the last twelve years drafting, coaching and developing corners to cover three and four receiver packages, the pendulum may start swinging the other way. Offenses can create great mismatches by having two and even three TE’s on the field at once. Most defenses don’t have the personnel to defend two big fast and talented TE’s.

I represented a top TE in this year’s draft and was surprised by the teams that were interested in drafting all the top TE’s. Most of these teams already had two good TE’s and wanted more. The top five TE’s taken in this years draft will see plenty of playing time as will those drafted in the first three rounds last year.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Cancels Redskins Trademark - Hogs Haven
More than half of Redskins fans on the Hogs haven blog think the team will change its name within the next five years.

The A-Z on how the Seahawks got their name - Seahawks.com
Maybe the Redskins could look to Seattle for tips on how to find a team name: Seattle had an NFL franchise in 1975, but not a name for the team that would begin playing during the 1976 season. That changed in a big way when the fans were asked to submit suggestions – and 153 proposed "Seahawks".

Ex-Cowboys DT Jason Hatcher out 4-6 weeks from Redskins' workouts with knee surgery | DMN
The Associated Press reports that Jason Hatcher will have arthroscopic surgery to clean up some cartilage on his left knee, and that he'll be out four to six weeks.

After pay cut, Kiwanuka calls NFL contracts "unfair to players" | ProFootballTalk
Mathias Kiwanuka spoke up against the way NFL player contracts are structured. Most reports on Kiwanuka have little more than snarky remarks about his comments, but Kiwanuka raises a real issue:

"It’s not fair to be locked in somewhere and have that place say that we’ve decided not to honor the rest of the deal. I don’t think it is a contract by definition if one side can opt out of it at any point and the other has no recourse."

Kiwanuka has a valid point. At the same time, the "recourse" is already there in terms of the guaranteed money built into contracts.

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Sun Tzu on Analytics: "Many calculations lead to victory" - Advanced Football Analytics
Next time some doofus hits you with a "stats are for losers" line, you hit back with Sun Tzu:

Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.

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