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Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: 2015 Cowboys On Track For NFC Championship Game?

Latest Cowboys headlines: Cowboys' history says 2014's 12-4 record is a springboard for 2015; Tyron Smith impressed with DEs Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory; A feisty afternoon at training camp in Oxnard.

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Cowboys' history says 2014's 12-4 record is a springboard for 2015 - Brandon George, Dallas Morning News
Good news if you're into this sort of thing:

The Cowboys have won at least 12 games in the regular season 11 other times. The following year, they’ve made the playoffs nine times and finished with a winning record every time.

Six of the Cowboys’ 11 previous 12-win seasons led to a playoff run to at least the NFC Championship Game the following year.

Ranking the Cowboys by position - Shawn Kairschner, The Shreveport Times
Here's a look at how the individual position groups rank after one week of camp. No surprise at the top where the interior offensive line is ranked as the strongest position group, but ranking defensive ends as the second best unit may raise some eyebrows.

Oh what a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago, retreads and injured rookies populated the defensive end cupboard. Now, the Cowboys can go three deep in quality players. In the offseason, they picked up the best pass rushing DE available in free agency (Greg Hardy) and the draft’s best 4-3 pass rushing defensive end (Randy Gregory).

These two join last year’s surprising free agent find, Jeremy Mincey, and two second year players, DeMarcus Lawrence and Ben Gardner, who spent their rookies seasons on the injury rolls, but have remade their bodies and look terrific in camp. Lawrence is the most improved player on the roster. Add to this the fact that sixth-round pick Ryan Russell has been coming on lately and you can see why the DEs ranked so highly.

Shockingly for Cowboys fans still stuck in 2014-mode, cornerbacks are next at No. 3.

Tyron Smith impressed with DEs Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory: ‘They’re great players’ | Brandon George, Dallas Morning News
Rod Marinelli calls the matchups between Tyron Smith and DEs Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory "best on best," and Smith is also impressed with the quality of the pass rushers across from him.

"They’re great players. They’re going to bring it every time," Smith said. "You have to be on your game every time you go against these guys. One little false slip-up and you’re going to get beat."

On Hardy: "He’s physical and he’s violent," Smith said. "He’s a player who has a high-motor who comes at you every time. He’s going to give you everything he’s got every time."

On Gregory: "He’s physical when he has to be and he’s quick," Smith said. "He’s an all-around great player."

Bob Sturm: Another great thing about the Cowboys’ offensive line (besides their talent) | Dallas Morning News
Sturm ruminates on how the contract lengths for the current O-line are sequenced.

Luckily, they have everyone on contracts that do not end simultaneously. Leary is up this year. Frederick is the next to free agency in 2017. 2018 is Zack Martin, Doug Free, and La’el Collins. Surely, the priorities are Frederick and Martin (with Collins needing to prove himself). Tyron is locked up until 2024, if you can believe that. With the cap going up, I am not saying 72 and 70 are going to be cheap, but I assume they can pay 3 of the OL handsomely and then fill the other 2 spots with youth or lesser players over the long run. Let’s just say this is a great problem to have. The OL is fantastic and young and for now, cheap.

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Cowboys 2015 Training Camp Practice Summary: A Feisty Afternoon At The Goal Line - Blogging The Boys
Rabblerousr kicks off our reviews of yesterday's practice with what he calls the "saltiest and testiest practice of camp".

During the final team period, two fights broke out, the biggest one being a skirmish between Tyler Clutts and Kyle Wilber, who had enjoyed a few testy reps earlier in the week. Outside of the fights, the general attitude was chippy and confrontational; offensive players celebrated more loudly - as if rubbing it in. For their part, the defensive players seemed always to have an elbow for a receiver or a hard swat for a ballcarrier.

Rabble will have a more extensive summary of what transpired at camp later today, so stay tuned.

Cowboys offense has its way on goal line - Todd Archer, ESPN
Archer also recounts a testy practice:

The entire practice was testy. Clutts came to Joseph Randle's defense after linebacker Kyle Wilber threw the runner to the ground after a long run. That set off a mini-scrum. In pass-rush drills, Tyrone Crawford and Travis Frederick got into it. After Crawford and Ryan Russell beat Frederick and Zack Martin in their 2-on-2 work, Crawford had some pointed words for [Frederick]. On the next snap Frederick handled Crawford easily and the two stared at each other for a few seconds.

10 thoughts from Saturday’s practice | Clarence Hill, The Star Telegram
The Star-Telegram beat writer offers his observations from Cowboys practice, and this one sticks out:

Rookie defensive lineman Ryan Russell is showing up more and more, especially when they use him as an under tackle. He won a couple of battles in the pass rush drill. Russell was a defensive end in college.

Practice Recap: Carr Could Be Back Soon, But Focused On Sept. 13 Opener | Rob Phillips, Dallas Cowboys
Phillips also offers his take on the day's events, but leads with Brandon Carr and what Carr is focusing on.

"Fortunately we have some more time than he (Murray) did as far as just getting ready for the next game," Carr said after Saturday’s practice. "We have a few weeks before the home opener. That’s just my focus right now – taking care of business on Monday and just going day by day to see how it feels."

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Sign of a true teammate: DE DeMarcus Lawrence saves teammate Ken Boatright from hospital meatloaf | Brandon George, Dallas Morning News
Lawrence said he visited Boatright in the hospital Friday and added that he was in good spirits but not exactly thrilled with the food selection.

"He just needed somebody to talk to. He was tired of the hospital food," Lawrence said. "He said he didn’t like the meatloaf, so I had to go get him some Chipotle. He’s doing a lot better."

Sean Lee Easing Back into Training Camp - The Sports Journal
Lee is slowly getting back into the rigors of training camp as he recovers from an ACL injury that caused him to sit out all of 2014, and participated in his first 11-on-11 drills yesterday.

The timidity with which the Cowboys have been working with Lee in training camp is not only a product of his own recovery from a torn ACL, but also of the fact that the team has lost four linebackers this offseason.

Keith Rivers suddenly decided that he didn’t want to play football anymore, Rolando McClain and Mark Nzeocha were placed on the physically unable to perform list due to knee injuries, and Justin Jackson tore an ACL during a special teams walk-through last Saturday. Keith Smith and Will Smith [Smith has already been released again] were signed to add linebacker depth, but the Cowboys are still clearly shorthanded at the position.

"As Sean gets older, and Sean’s been through some adversity, I think he’s learning and I’m learning to have the ability to understand what the final product needs to look like and also understand the process to get there," linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said. "I think he’s understanding of that and I’m doing a better job, I hope, of understanding as well. It’s a work in progress. We’re going to work to the final product."

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Lucky Whitehead showing he has more than luck on side - Todd Archer, ESPN
While Lucky Whitehead is far from a certainty to make the roster, he has made the most of his limited opportunities so far in training camp - and he's getting noticed.

"We’ve been moving a couple of guys around a little bit just to be able to see what they’re capable of," Romo said. "He’s handled it. Some days better than others. It’s been good. Some young guys, it’s time to step up right now and figure out who is going to get more reps. He’s done a pretty good job to get himself a chance to get some more reps."

Rookie WR Lucky Whitehead explains why he signed with the Cowboys after the draft | Jon Machota, Dallas Morning News
Whitehead had several options as a rookie free agent, but chose the Cowboys after doing some research on the WR situation in Dallas.

"They know how to use smaller receivers and free agent guys," Whitehead said. "And then I knew that Dwayne Harris had just left, so I knew that was a chance for me to get an opportunity to get that job.

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Cowboys Injury Update: Brandon Carr Breaks Bone In Hand - Blogging The Boys
During his Saturday press conference, Garrett addressed some of the injury issues the Dallas Cowboys are currently facing. The big one is cornerback Brandon Carr, who broke a bone in his hand while doing some press coverage. He will undergo surgery in Dallas on Monday.

Dallas Cowboys DE Ken Boatright to be released from local hospital Saturday | Brandon George, Dallas Morning News
Boatright's agent tweeted an update on Saturday afternoon:

"Cowboys DE Ken Boatright is being released from the hospital today… They’ll continue evaluating him & there’s no timetable for his return."

Darren McFadden won’t return to practice for at least another week | Drew Davison, The Star Telegram
The Cowboys don’t want to rush McFadden back from a hamstring injury, and Garrett said McFadden won’t return to practice until after the first preseason game against the Chargers, which means McFadden's first practice would be next Saturday.

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