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Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: Gil Brandt Likes Cowboys "To Finish On Top."

Latest Cowboys headlines: Cowboys could face a difficult fight for the NFC East crown; training camp battles taking shape; Learning all about "Bounce, Bang, Bend."

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Gil Brandt: "I still like the Cowboys to finish on top, but the fight will be difficult" -
Brandt ranks the defending division champions from most vulnerable to least -- and sees trouble ahead for the Panthers, Steelers, and Broncos. For the Cowboys, he sees the biggest threat for repeating as Division champs coming from the Giants, not the quarterback-challenged Eagles.

The Redskins took a step up in free agency and the draft; rookie Brandon Scherff will boost their offensive line, and I think Robert Griffin III will be a better quarterback than he's been the past couple years. The Eagles are tough to pin down, given the uncertainty at quarterback, but they have a good system and an upgraded pass defense.

The Giants, meanwhile, really helped themselves this offseason, notably with the acquisition of former Cowboys special teams star Dwayne Harris; the clash between these two teams in Dallas will make for a great first Sunday night game of the year. I still like the Cowboys to finish on top, not least because of their dominant offensive line, but the fight will be difficult.

Machota: 5 most interesting training-camp position battles | Dallas Morning News
In a chat on Friday, Jon Machota ran down what he anticipates to be the top five roster battles in camp, and anticipates the defensive line roster battle to involve some kind of algebra that requires individual mathcups.

1.) Running back: Who emerges as the starting RB and how does the depth chart play out? Heck, there might be a back thrown in the mix that we haven't even identified at this point. Right now, I'd say it's McFadden, Randle, Dunbar and Williams.

2.) Linebacker: There's basically one LB for every media member that covers the team. Obviously that group needs to be trimmed. Right now, I'm projecting Sean Lee, Rolando McClain, Anthony Hitchens, Jasper Brinkley, Andrew Gachkar, Kyle Wilber and Damien Wilson.

3.) Defensive line: I can't wait to see the training camp battles involving Lawrence, Hardy and Gregory vs. the Cowboys' talented o-line. Those will be some of the best individual mathcups in Oxnard.

4.) Cornerback: Scandrick, Patmon, Jones and White seem like safe bets. So does Brandon Carr, but there are still contract talks involved there. Mo Claiborne might not be ready at the start of camp. If the entire group is there, it'll be interesting to see how much better they are with another year in this system.

5.) Kick/Punt returner: Replacing Dwayne Harris is one of the biggest question marks on this team. They've brought in several undrafted rookies to give it a try. If that doesn't work, they'll likely need to add a veteran.

Outside Zone Run Concept & Play Action Passing Game | James Light Football
The outside zone blocking scheme, also commonly referred to as wide zone, is a staple of some of the top offenses in pro football. In this article, James Light goes over some of the basics of the outside zone blocking scheme and running back reads, and introduces us to the concept of "Bounce, Bang, Bend". If you like Xs & Os, this is your Sunday must read.

Machota: With 'Senator' Byron Jones, Cowboys drafted more than just a workout warrior | Dallas Morning News
Add this to the things you may not have known about Byron Jones.

During the summer of 2013, the cornerback’s time away from football was spent on a pair of internships. His first was in Connecticut with State House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz. The second was with U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty in Washington.

"Within two days of being here, he was assisting in a negotiation of a foreclosure mediation bill," Aresimowicz said. "In a room with the banking commissioner, lobbyists, advocates and attorneys and Byron is offering ideas on foreclosure mediation.

"It was pretty amazing. He’s just a truly special individual. I’m happy he doesn’t live in my district because if he wanted my seat, he would be able to take it in a second."

10 things to know about Cowboys rookie Chaz Green | Dallas Morning News
Looks like Green got a more realistic assessment of his draft prospects from his agent than he did from the many big boards and pre-draft rankings available at the time.

Green wrote a multi-blog series documenting his path to the 2015 Draft for – he had a pretty good idea of how his draft experience would go.

"The teams showing me the most interest right now are Buffalo and Dallas but there are a bunch of other teams that are all pursuing me equally. My agent projects that I will go either late on the second day (third round) or early on the third day (fourth or fifth round). All I am doing is staying positive and enjoying the process because now everything is out of my hands."

10 things to know about Cowboys seventh-round pick Laurence Gibson | Dallas Morning News
Of those 10 things, this is the one that perhaps stands out the most.

While at Virginia Tech, Gibson won the Excalibur Award, according to the Sierra Vista Herald. The award is given to an athlete who shows a comprehensive ability in strength and conditioning. He also won two Iron Hokie awards, which is another strength and conditioning accolade.

10 things to know about Cowboys LB Andrew Gachkar | Dallas Morning News
Lots of things to know about the free agent acquisition, but the fact that he's playing with one rib less than most of us stands out.

In 2007, after his freshman year at Missouri, Gachkar was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. He had developed a blood clot because his collarbone and rib cage were too close together to allow proper blood flow through his veins. As a result, he underwent major surgery to remove one of his ribs, and a second surgery after another clot developed. Gachkar spent more than 20 hours in surgery and nearly a month in the hospital.

Can Ravens afford to keep Pro Bowl OG Marshal Yanda? -
The Ravens boasted one of the NFL's premier guard duos in four-time Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele last season. Will Baltimore be forced to choose between the two in contract talks? Watch this story closely as it develops - the Cowboys may find themselves in a similar situation before too long.


Union: Goodell must back off hearing of Patriots QB Tom Brady -
NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith is demanding that the NFL commissioner to recuse himself from Tom Brady's appeal, because the NFLPA does not believe Goodell could legitimately be impartial.

NFL rejects NFLPA Roger Goodell recusal motion in Tom Brady appeal -
Nominally, NFL VP Troy Vincent issued Brady's suspension, but that decision was authorized by Goodell. And now Goodell refuses to recuse himself, and insists in hearing the appeal of what effectively was his own decision.

Everybody understands that Goodell cannot be impartial in this case - except for the league office itself, which continues to believe that it can create its own reality. This Enron-esque level of arrogance is often the hallmark of corporations and governments that are about to implode.


Need to Know: Redskins’ 5 biggest one-year improvements | Rich Tandler's Real Redskins
If the Redskins were to win the East this year, it would be an historic achievement.

Some fans are saying that the Redskins have a shot at winning the NFC East title in 2015. If they are going to do that, they likely will have to win nine or more games. If they did, they would tie the biggest single-season improvement in team history.

They Picked The Wrong Photo -
This is funny: When Eagles team photographer Drew Hallowell learned that he had been recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in its annual photo contest, he was told that it was for one of his photos from the Eagles' Thanksgiving win over the Cowboys. He of course thought it was a photo of an Eagles player, but it turned out to be for a photo of Chris Jones punting.

Geoff Schwartz: Giants' offensive line will take time to sort out - Big Blue View
After Will Beatty's injury and subsequent surgery, the Giants are trying to figure out what their O-line will look like. They haven't gotten very far yet.

New York Giants offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz said Thursday during an appearance with Armen and Levac on 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio that in the wake of the injury to Will Beatty is is far too early to determine what the team's offensive line configuration will be when the season opens in September.

"Who's gonna play left tackle? We don't even have a lineup really set next week for OTAs. Eventually he (rookie Ereck Flowers) might end up there. Maybe [Justin] Pugh is there, maybe Marshall Newhouse. This process to determine our offensive line is general is going to take until training camp."

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