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Dallas Cowboys News And Notes: Murray Or No Murray, Cowboys Going To Run The Ball In 2015

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All the news that's fit to link - and even some that's not. Today's headlines: Cowboys' "close" locker room; contract questions; the future of the Cowboys' running game; Senior Bowl practice reports; Scouting defensive ends

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

New OC Linehan says "close" locker room could help Cowboys take next step - Nick Eatman, The Mothership

On the latest BTB podcast, McCool and I talked about the unusually tight locker room Jason Garrett and the team leaders have established. Apparently, the new offensive coordinator agrees:

"...I do believe in teams being close from a chemistry standpoint. That doesn’t hurt your ability to win games," Linehan said. "I think that’s one of the things I’m most proud of with our team and I think Jason (Garrett) has done a great job in developing the communication to have the team chemistry we had this year. That’s not something you can bottle up. It’s something the players bought in and created."

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The salary cap trick the Cowboys will use with Tony Romo's contract - David Moore, DMN

The Cowboys success in 2015, Moore argues, is dependent on Romo - and not because of what he does on the field, but in the negotiating room. His cap hit is $27.7 million, so the team will convert a large portion of that salary into a signing bonus that they spread over the remainder of his contract, lowering the salary cap hit in 2015, and giving the club more room to retain their own free agents or pursue others.

Dallas Cowboys haven't made final decision on whether they'll pick up CB Morris Claiborne's fifth-year option - Brandon George, DMN

In an article barely longer than its headline, George reports that Cowboys still have yet to decide whether or not they'll exercise their fifth-year option on the 2012 first-rounder. Stephen Jones:

"When we sit down and take a look at what we have to do underneath our salary cap that plays into it. So we have to look at his health. We have to really measure everything. We think a lot of Mo. We’re still believers that if Mo had a fully healthy offseason and a fully healthy season that he would play up to our expectations."

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Cowboys linemen excited to work with Frank Pollack - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

The titular Pollack, the Cowboys' assistant offensive line coach for the last two seasons, was promoted to the head spot last week when Bill Callahan left to join the hated Redskins. If training camp is any measure, there won't be much of a drop-off, since Pollack appeared to assume a full 50% coaching role. His charges concur:

"I think it makes [the transition] pretty seamless, probably as seamless as it can get," Frederick said. "You're moving Frank from the assistant role, but he was very involved throughout the year. Obviously, Bill was on top but those guys worked very well together and everything they did was together with us. I don't see a huge transition this year at all."

If, as has been reported, Marc Colombo joins Pollack as O-line coach, they could have a Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum situation brewing; both are big 6'4" bald guys with goatees...

Cowboys' run game will stay same even if runner changes - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Whether or not DeMarco Murray is wearing the star in 2015, the Cowboys know one thing: they want to run the ball.

"I just think we build on what we did," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "I think we obviously were very successful at it. I give a lot of credit to [new offensive line coach Frank Pollack] and some of the things we’re doing too. They were in place before I got here....But we’ll look at it all and we’ll say, 'These run types fit this player,' and 'This player did this the best.'...That’s the kind of stuff you go through."

Cowboys committee: running back solution? - KD Drummond, Cowboys HQ

The Noble Drummond makes the case that the most financially prudent approach is a running-back-by-committee scenario, much like the team utilized in 2009 or the Patriots have for many a year now. To wit:

a running back committee behind the best run-blocking line in the NFL could go a long way towards another magical season and hopefully prolonged success over several years as they reap the benefits of a truly low-cost running solution.

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The bulk of today's collective NFL attention was directed at Mobile, AL, where top collegians engaged in padded Senior Bowl practices. Some reports:

Cowboys eyeing D-line at Senior Bowl - Drew Davison, Star-Telegram

The No. 1 area the Cowboys will be looking at closely at this week’s Senior Bowl, Davison reports, is the defensive line. This is not breaking news for anyone who follows Friend-of-BTB Birddog26 on Twitter:

2015 Senior Bowl: Carl Davis, Danny Shelton show power in the pit - Rob Rang, CBSSports.com

There is not a defensive tackle in Mobile this week as explosive as [Aaron] Donald was last year. NFL teams looking for power, however, certainly had to be impressed with Iowa's Carl Davis and Washington's Danny Shelton, behemoths who routinely drove would-be blockers into the backfield during one-on-one drills and scrimmages alike during Wednesday's North team practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Sources tell us: inside scoop on prospects at senior bowl - NFL.com

The scoop: "Teams have different philosophies about size up front on defense, but if a player is tough and strong, then I think he can play in our league. Aaron Donald proved that." -- NFC general manager on Clemson NT Grady Jarrett's size.

The skinny: Jarrett is undersized by NFL standards at just under 6-foot-1 and 288 pounds, and he certainly will be scratched from the draft boards of teams who covet mass from the nose position. While he isn't Donald...he is extremely quick off the snap and plays with good leverage and strength. He's had some outstanding reps in practice this week and the success Donald has enjoyed...is likely to help Jarrett's case despite his lack of size.

Buzz-worthy and buzz-kill players from Day 2 at the Senior Bowl - Bucky Brooks, NFL.com

Here's a buzz-worthy fellow:

Za'Darius Smith, DE, Kentucky: Smith opened a few eyes last week with his impressive MVP performance at the East-West Shrine Game and he is certainly building upon that momentum with his play in Mobile. The 6-foot-4 5/8, 270-pound pass rusher has flashed the quickness, burst and athleticism that scouts covet in nickel edge defenders. Smith is not only capable of bending and bursting around the corner, but he is slippery enough to win with nifty inside maneuvers against overaggressive blockers. In addition, Smith displays a high-revving motor that will allow him to rack up garbage sacks on extra-effort plays off the corner. With Smith dominating his peers on the all-star circuit, the Kentucky standout's stock is poised to soar in pre-draft meetings in a few weeks.

Scout's eye: defenders stand out on first day of Senior Bowl; grading Bryce Petty - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership

The Broad One (and the rest of the DC.com gang) are at the Senior Bowl ogling prospects. News of defensive prospects abounds:

Of the defensive ends that practiced here at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, I would have to say the one that stood out to me over the others was Nate Orchard from Utah. At 6-3, 251, he is not the most physically impressive player -- but athletically he is. These tackles on the North roster had a difficult time handling his rush. He was explosive in his movements and didn’t give these blockers any hitting surface, so it was hard for them to stop his charge.

And believe it or not, there were players at practice who played positions other than defensive line...

Anthony Jefferson from UCLA is a...converted corner that can line up at safety, and from what I observed on Tuesday, he needs further study. I was impressed by his range and his ability to play the ball. Where Jefferson also caught my eye was when they ran him on the blitz. He has a feel for not only how to beat the blocker with movement, but he can be physical too.

Senior Bowl: 10 Wednesday observations about the North squad - Jay Clemons, FoxSports South

7. It's hard to make definitive assessments of safeties at these low-contact practices ... unless we're talking about Michigan State's Kurtis Drummond. At 6'1 and 205 pounds, Drummond was a heat-seeking missile during the 7-on-7 and all-22 drills.

2015 Senior Bowl: Hurricane watch during South practice - Dane Brugler, CBSSports.com

TCU cornerback Kevin White has been routinely known as the "other" Kevin White this season...But the former Horned Frog is making a name for himself in Mobile and making sure everyone takes notice. White has played sticky coverage in practice with excellent coordination and footwork to flip his hips and redirect his momentum on the move.

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2015 NFL Draft profile: what I see in Shane Ray, DE, Missouri - Bob Sturm, DMN

Sturm's series on potential draftees is underway, and has been focusing, rightly, on pass rushers. here, he shares his thoughts on yet another dynamic pass rusher from Mizzou:

What I liked: He is the real deal as an edge rusher with quickness and overall explosion that is just silly....He draws holding calls on a regular basis because his "get-off" is so impressive. At his size, he is just too quick for offensive linemen to deal with....He rallies to the ball well. He has a swat move where he can knock guys off balance by just using one arm to push them aside....Ray appears to be very strong for his size....He lines up all over as RDE, LDE, and even DT. He produced a silly 36 explosion plays in 2014 (Sacks + Tackles For Loss).

Yes, please. But here's the problem:

Summary: He is a legitimate 10-12 sack guy in the NFL. I have no problem expecting him to be one of the true risers in the spring and if he gets in to that 4.5, 40 range, he might be gone in the first hour of the draft.

Ah, well. A man can dream, right?

Offseason digest No. 3: where I would stop in the Cowboys' bidding for Rolando McClain - Bob Sturm, DMN

In a cornucopic piece, Sturm assesses the risk/ reward in resigning Rolando McClain ("$3m a year?  Sure. $4m a year? Careful. More than that? I think I need to bow out."); answers an email re: the 27th pick; and profiles another draft prospect (and another SEC pass rusher) - Kentucky's Alvin "Bud" DuPree. His assessment of Dupree:

I would probably take Shane Ray before Bud Dupree, but based on the college tape, I think they are both better than Randy Gregory in the present tense. Gregory and Dupree could have another gear to their careers, though, based on how well they are developed in their young NFL seasons. Dupree was a tight end conversion in college and just looks like that type of electric player who should get you very excited...that is an exciting possibility to consider, opposite DeMarcus Lawrence.

Exciting, indeed...