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Dallas Cowboys News And Notes: DeMarcus Lawrence "Can Be A Game-Changer"

All the news that's fit to link. Today's top storylines: mini-camp reports; DeMarcus Lawrence is getting better everyday; Dez Bryant contract blather; Cowboy and Rams finalize plans for shared training camp practices; The Moose speaks; Sturm reviews McFadden's game; Rolando McClain: a real bargain in 2015; Cowboy one of top QB franchises in NFL history.

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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday kicked off the mandatory minicamp, which is different than OTAs in two regards: the team will have post-practice meetings to review tape and the media is allowed to view all three days of practice. And you know what that means: a good news day! Let's get started, shall we?

Scout’s Eye: Wilson’s Progress, Hardy’s Shift Among 12 Thoughts From Minicamp - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership

Broaddus checks in with his daily dozen observation from camp. Number four caught my eye:

4. It is amazing the feel that Lance Dunbar has when he is lined up as a receiver. Dunbar doesn’t look uncomfortable at all and the routes that he is able to run looks natural and with flow. His ability to play in space has improved to the point where putting him outside or in the slot is not a bad option at all.

Eye issue has kept DE DeMarcus Lawrence from practicing, but he’s ‘perfectly fine now’ - Brandon George, DMN

After being derailed by an "eye problem," DeMarcus Lawrence was back on the practice field Tuesday:

"It really wasn’t no injury at all," Lawrence said. "Something happened with my eye so I had to get it dilated so when I went out into the sun it was hard for me to see. It had me dizzy. So I just took those days off to get back healthy. I’m perfectly fine now."

Lawrence was wearing a shield on his helmet to help protect his eye. He's worn one before, at Boise State.

Cowboys DT/LB Randy White watches practice, impressed with DE DeMarcus Lawrence - Brandon George, DMN
"The Manster" sat in on Tuesday's practice, and DeMarcus Lawrence caught his eye:

"The guy can move like a cat. He’s pretty impressive out there," White said. "He can be a game-changer out there if he can continue to improve and play the way he did at the end of last year. I think he’s going to be a great player for them."

Doug Free doing what he can to be ready for training camp - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Free has spent the entire offseason recovering from left foot surgery but he said he expects to be full go for the start of training camp practices:

"Anytime that you miss something you feel like you’re getting behind, but I’ve done the mental preparation the best I can and also the physical stuff, what I can do, I’ve been keeping up with," Free said. "Just planning on getting into training camp a little fresher maybe than some other people and working extra hard."

We'll see you in Oxnard, big guy.

Cowboys’ Gavin Escobar believes he’s making strides, improving body: ‘They don’t teach you in college to eat good’ - Jon Machota, DMN

The Cowboys need Escobar to improve as a blocker, so gaining weight has been a top priority for the former Aztec. He entered his rookie year at 245 pounds, and is now hovering around 255 with hopes of reaching 260 by training camp. And Escobar says he’s adding good weight, cutting back on the burritos that were the staple of his college diet:

"It’s been good," he said. "I got a nutritionist. I have some weird nut allergies so I have to work around that. I’ve been working hard to get to 260."

"They don’t teach you in college to eat good, something I’ve kind of learned every year."


Of course, many in the media tried to make this the big story. Because, you know, clicks...

Dez Bryant skips Dallas Cowboys' minicamp amid contract dispute - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Bryant's agent, Tom Condon, affirmed the wideout's position on Tuesday during a radio interview. Here's the sentence that sent Cowboys Twitter into a frenzy:

"In my conversations with him, he's indicated he's willing to do [miss regular-season games]," Condon said.

Stephen: Dez Extension Still The Goal, But "Wide Gap" In WR Market - Rob Phillips, The Mothership

Phillips transcribes the key statements from Stephen Jones interview on Sirius XM NFL Radio. Jones the Younger makes it clear that the key issue is the gap between the NFL’s two highest-paid receivers, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald and Detroit’s Calvin Johnson – both of whom have deals in the $15-16 million per year range – and the rest of the league:

"...this is an environment right now with a receiver market that’s not exactly easy to get your hands around....It’s been well-documented that both Fitzgerald and Megatron both got their deals based on their rookie contracts because they were high draft picks and the franchise tag dictated that," Jones said. "But since then all receivers, the top ones, have pretty much been paid in the $11.5-12.5 million range, and there’s a big disparity there.

"I don’t think anyone quite knows what that market is, and that makes it difficult. I think once we figure out what that is, then there’s a way for us to get something done with Dez. But until that happens, it’s what teams think versus what players and their representatives think. There’s a wide gap right now."

Dez Bryant's absence leaves sizable void at Cowboys minicamp - Lindsay Jones, USA Today

There's an unfamiliar sound these days in the Dallas Cowboys locker room, Jones notes: silence. And that's not a good thing:

When Bryant is here, he's an unmistakable force inside of Valley Ranch, just as much as he is on the practice fields behind the complex. He's a loud voice in the huddle, and that energy and intensity doesn't subside once he's back indoors.

Devin Street, who occupies the locker next to Bryant, concurs. What is different?

"A little less energy, I guess," Street said. "I definitely miss him, I'm not going to lie. That mentality, that mindset. He just makes everyone better."

Dez Bryant's contract not an issue for the Dallas Cowboys until later - Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN Dallas

JJT goes on a rambling jeremiad about the Dez Bryant contract situation. In the midst of it, these clear thoughts emerged like sun from behind the clouds:

No one who matters in the Cowboys' front office actually believes Bryant will skip the first regular-season game.

Heck, he has made at least one impromptu appearance at an offseason training activity because he loves the game so much. That said, Bryant is an emotional person and you never know if he's going to be so frustrated that he decides to skip a week or two of training camp.

While the Cowboys haven't put a contingency plan in place just yet, they have started discussing life without Bryant in terms of which formations they'd use more if Bryant wasn't around, and which ones they'd use less.


Cowboys Set To Host St. Louis Rams For Two Days Of Practice At Training Camp - David Helman, The Mothership

The Cowboys have finalized a plan to practice against the Rams this summer in Oxnard, on Aug. 17-18. The practices will come between the Cowboys’ first two preseason games.

St. Louis Rams' Jeff Fisher: L.A. training not related to relocation - Nick Wagoner, ESPN

Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said his goal in scheduling shared training camp days with the Cowboys was to give his team a chance to get additional practice repetitions outside of its four preseason games:

"I think big picture it will help us," Fisher said. "We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t think it was going to be beneficial. Depending on the play time for the starters in the first preseason game, this creates another opportunity for them to compete and get better aside from preseason games. You have a full padded practice against another opponent."


Former Cowboys fullback Mose Johnston participated in a Q&A over at the Dallas Morning News. The result? A couple of posts:

Daryl Johnston: Don't compare Super Bowl Cowboys' rule-bending to Patriots - DMN Staff

Here, he responds to a query about who might be the current NFC East favorite:

I tend to go with, "Until you knock off the previous champ." Unless there is a drastic change, I give the nod to the defending division champ. So I am going to go with Dallas. It had a good offseason. Tony Romo has been able to go through an offseason on the field and that’s a huge plus over the past. (Replacing) DeMarco Murray will be the biggest challenge for them and not so much from a production standpoint but from a mentality. I love the way he ran. The offensive line feeds off that. How does that intangible element figure in and who picks up that slack? Who creates the spark for the offense? They’ve added some defensive pieces.

Moose Johnston: Dez Bryant is Cowboys' biggest negative entering season - DMN Staff

Moose was also asked about the Cowboys draft. Here's his take:

I thought that Byron Jones was a good pick, he has versatility at cornerback and safety. We all know about his athleticism, his broad jump. He’s tremendously gifted, a high-character guy. With Gregory, who slipped and was a potential first-round talent, I think one of the things is you have to be concerned about his weight. There were reports at Nebraska that he dropped below 230 pounds. You’re going to need a little more weight. Dwight Freeney and Charles Haley were undersized guys at pass rusher, but they were still 250-255 pounds. There was a speed-power combo they needed to have.


A Breakdown of RB Darren McFadden - Bob Sturm, DMN

Sturm's review of the current RBs on the Cowboys roster continues with an examination of Run-DMC. He looks at the former Razorback's struggles in Oakland and arrives at the following conclusion:

So let’s circle back for the summary: Do I think McFadden is the answer at RB? No....I don’t believe he is much of an appealing option on 1st and 2nd down zone runs. But, what if I told you that for about the price of a punter, you could replace DeMarco Murray as Romo’s blitz protector and receiving option on all of those huge moments on 3rd down and late in halves?  I think McFadden is instantly their best option there and should be fine.  In short, I believe he can be trusted to get his protection assignment blocked and then be a bit dangerous in the flat as a dump-down, security-blanket.


Ranking the most underpaid veterans - Nathan Jahnke, ESPN

Jahnke creates a value model that determines how much money a player should be counting against a team's cap for a year, and compares it to veteran players' actual cap hits to determine which NFL veterans' contracts offer the greatest value. Guess who's in the top ten:

7. Rolando McClain, MLB, Dallas Cowboys 2015 cap hit: $2.8 million 2015 JVM: $8 million Value differential: $5.2 million After off-field run-ins, head injuries and an abrupt retirement, McClain saw a limited market for his services when he returned to the game last year. This allowed Dallas to sign him at a bargain price rather than what he deserved to be making based on his talent. His 15.2 run stop percentage ranked atop the list for middle/inside linebackers, with the next-closest player being Luke Kuechly (12.3 percent). He also posted 10 pressures on just 37 pass rushes, and graded out well in coverage. Putting McClain next to a healthy Sean Lee should give the Cowboys their best linebacker duo in at least five years.


NFL's top quarterback franchise? Historical countdown from No. 32 to 1 - Eliot Harrison,

Harrison takes the top three signal callers from each NFL franchise and ranks each threesome. The Cowboys come in third, behind Green Bay (Starr, Rodgers, Favre) and Indianapolis (Unitas, Manning, Luck):

3) Cowboys: Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, Tony Romo

Dallas comes in at No. 3 -- narrowly -- over the 49ers. Staubach retired as the NFL's all-time best passer and arguably quarterback (behind perhaps only Unitas). Aikman is one of just four quarterbacks to start and win three Super Bowls. Romo currently holds the second-best career passer rating (97.6) behind only Aaron Rodgers. Bet few fans, or league analysts, know that stat.

For my money, the Cowboys' threesome edges out the guys from Indy. But then again, I might rank the 49ers' three - Montana, Young, Brodie - ahead of the Cowboys', so...

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