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Cowboys News: How The 2016 Cowboys Were Built To Win

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Latest Cowboys headlines: How the 2016 Cowboys were built to withstand injuries; how the Cowboys lucked into Dak Prescott; how Cowboys' team-building approach will pay dividends for years to come.

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Why Everyone Missed on Dak Prescott - Dan Pompei, Bleacher Report
Pompei takes a long but highly readable look at three myths that drove Prescott's draft stock down and adds a few observations about how Prescott has impacted the Cowboys since. An excerpt:

Mike Woicik is the Cowboys strength coach. He's been coaching in the NFL for 27 years and has six Super Bowl rings, including three from his tenure with Bill Belichick's Patriots. After all this time, he knows how players' minds work as well as how their muscles work.

After the offseason program had concluded, Jones asked Woicik, who had spent a lot of time with the rookies since the draft, which ones stood out to him.

"I'm not saying he's Tom Brady as a football player," Woicik told him. "But Dak has the same type of people skills and leadership skills that Tom has."

How the Dallas Cowboys almost missed on QB Dak Prescott ... over and over - Adam Shefter, ESPN
A missed draft pick. A trade that fell through. Another draft pick. Another trade. It did work out, but it took a lot of misses before the Cowboys finally lucked into Prescott. Shefter recounts each step it took for Prescott to finally get the start in Dallas, including when Romo handed over his team to Prescott:

The Tony Romo-Dak Prescott QB conundrum reveals how smart the Cowboys really are - Andrew Lynch, FOX Sports
Instead of the usual woe-is-me tone of most "Cowboys HAVE to make a choice between Dak and Tony", Lynch explains why the Cowboys' embarrassment of riches at QB is the best problem to have, and how the Cowboys were smart about approaching the QB situation.

It's a glaringly simple concept on the surface. As your franchise quarterback ages, you need to have his replacement waiting in the wings. All of the greatest franchises have followed that recipe. The New England Patriots might not have known what they had in Tom Brady, but when Drew Bledsoe went down with an injury, Bill Belichick had the team's future QB ready to go. When Brett Favre's career was starting to wind down, the Green Bay Packers prepared for transition at the game's most important position by drafting Aaron Rodgers. And when the Cowboys realized they needed to plan for the post-Romo era, they went out and found Dak.

Truth be told, there's really only one downside to drafting your next QB too soon: the scenario we're seeing play out this season. When your veteran QB still has a lot of football left in him and your young signal-caller is ready to go right this minute, a quarterback controversy is inevitable. You know what, though? If I were an NFL GM, I'd be willing to pay that insignificant price for peace of mind moving forward. Frankly, we in the media probably make too much of in-season QB battles. The goal for any NFL coach is to put the best team on the field for 16 weeks of the regular season. Getting caught up in who is or isn't "your guy" merely detracts from that.

Regardless of how the Romo-Prescott conundrum plays out, though, one thing is for certain. The Cowboys' proactive approach to team-building will pay dividends for years to come. A little bit of wisdom goes a long way in the NFL.

The honeymoon is over for rookie sensations Prescott and Wentz - Dieter Kurtenbach, FOX Sports
There now is enough film on both QBs, Kurtenbach argues, and things are about to get a lot tougher for both rookies as defenses adjust to their games.

The feel-good portion of the show might have been over for Dak Prescott for a few weeks now. The Cowboys are an NFC-best 5-1, in large part — but not exclusively because of — Prescott’s steady hand at quarterback, but with Tony Romo lurking in the wings, there’s no guarantee that the rookie out of Mississippi State will keep his job as the starting quarterback.

After a rollicking start to the season, Wentz completed only 54 percent of his passes in the last two Eagles games. Much of this has to do with teams taking away his first option — that’s a film-room adjustment — but it’s also in part a bit of arm hubris. Wentz isn’t moving his feet in the pocket effectively, and is attempting to use his prodigious arm strength to rifle the ball into tight windows.

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Oral history of how Tony Romo of Dallas Cowboys became starting quarterback - JJ Taylor, ESPN
Outstanding piece from Taylor in which he uses coaches and player quotes to compile an oral history of the time it took Romo to grow from an undrafted rookie into the starting QB of the Cowboys. Sean Payton, Bill Parcells, Tony Sparano, Stephen Jones, Marcus Spears, Jason Witten, and many others contribute. Here are some choice quotes from Romo's first training camp with the Cowboys in 2003, but there's much more where this came from, much more.

Darren Woodson, Cowboys safety 1992-2004: "I didn't know who Romo was until training camp. I'm watching him throw balls against us in training camp, and his ball was better than Quincy Carter's, for sure. He was the most accurate of the bunch, and to me, he was the most athletic. He was more athletic than Quincy."

Zuriel Smith, Cowboys receiver, 2003: "I was actually shocked at how athletic he was. We were playing basketball on the courts by the practice field. ... He was dunking."

Clint Stoerner, Cowboys quarterback, 2000-03: : "He loved studying protections and loved studying the run. He knew everybody's assignment in the run game. Who does that? Obviously the great ones do."

No Practice For Romo Friday, But Took "A Good Step" This Week, Garrett Says - Rob Phillips, Dallas Cowboys
Tony Romo sat out Friday's practice, after participating on a limited basis on Thursday for the first time since his injury.

"He had a good day yesterday," Garrett said before Friday’s practice. "He did more. He threw the individual stuff. He also threw the scout team 7-on-7, so that was positive for him. He also did rehab away from the team with our strength and conditioning guys and our trainers. So he’ll continue to work on that to get his conditioning right. Again, I thought it was a good step."

7 Weeks In The NFL Tells Us Everything - Kenneth Arthur, Sports on Earth
History can tell us a lot. And in the NFL, recent history tells us that the teams leading their divisions after the first seven weeks of the season usually tend to make the playoffs.

What we basically have seen since the start of division realignment in 2002 is that over three-quarters of the playoff race is basically decided before the midway point of the year. What does that likely mean for the 2016 playoffs?

But there's also a reasonable scenario in which every team maintains their lead through Week 17, and recent history suggests that at least six of them will. If your team is more than one game back, even with 10 weeks left to play, it may actually be too late for a division title.

Dallas Cowboys: Cowboys CB Mo Claiborne cleared after concussion - Kate Hairopoulos, SportsDay
Claiborne is expected to play against the Eagles after participating fully in practice this week.

Claiborne said that doctors cleared him a week ago Friday, but that the bye last Sunday obviously came at a good time. He is in the midst of what is perhaps his best NFL season.

"After it happened, I wasn't feeling that good, but the next day I had no symptoms," Claiborne said Friday. "It was all about just going to the doctors and letting them clear me from that point. ...So I was ready to go this week."

Cowboys cornerbacks at full strength for first time since opener - Todd Archer, ESPN
Orlando Scandrick is ready for his first action since the opener though it might be in limited snaps.

Scandrick suffered a hamstring strain in the season opener against New York Giants and then aggravated the other leg later. He was able to get through three days of practice without any issues, but defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said Scandrick could be on a bit of a pitch count, "Again, first time getting in for a whole, pads, full speed, tackling, all those things," Marinelli said. "We’ve got to get these guys in a groove."

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How the 2016 Cowboys were built to withstand injuries - Albert Breer, MMQB
Breer writes that the underlying story in Dallas is about how the team was much better equipped to deal with injuries than in past years, and that this is no coincidence. Garrett explains:

"The things we talked about coming out of last season, we have to build our team better to withstand the adversities of the season," Garrett told me the other day. "So what does that mean?

"The first thing is who we bring in, the players, that’s the big part—guys who are capable of having some success if they have to go in and play.

"But also, it’s about building your team the right way with the right kind of character guys who are embracing adversity.

"And then, it’s about building your team the right way every day as a coaching staff, instilling toughness in them, a mentality in them that there’s no adversity we can’t handle, we can’t overcome.

"To me, that’s what it is. That’s been a process we’ve gone through, literally from the first week of January. That’s how we evaluated the season last year—we have to be able to handle adversity better."

Youth-infused Cowboys riding wave of rare chemistry, camaraderie - Clarence Hill, Star-Telegram
Rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott brought the juice to the Dallas Cowboys locker room, but from there evolved a chemistry even the older players say is unprecedented, Hill writes.

"It feels like college again," said veteran cornerback Brandon Carr, as he looks up with a smile on his face. "Spirits are flowing and we are having a good time. You can feel it."

"The energy they bring on the field is what brings the juice, not just them being younger," receiver Cole Beasley said. "They play with so much passion, Zeke and Dak both. When you see other guys playing well and bringing that much energy after plays and being excited, it brings juice to everybody."

"The team chemistry is the best I’ve ever been around," receiver Dez Bryant said. "Since the time I set foot here, this is something you look forward to, you dream for. It’s the most beautiful thing in the world. We got guys that actually give a damn about one another and want to see somebody perform. When you’ve got guys like that in the locker room, it’s hard to beat."

"It’s everybody," linebacker Sean Lee said. "Not only do we like being around each other, we like competing against each other whether it’s on the field, whether it’s here in the locker room."

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2017 NFL Playoff Picture: Eagles, Cowboys battle for NFC East supremacy in Week 8 - Jared Dubin, CBSSports.com
Dubin offers a succinct summary of what may determine the outcome of the Eagles @ Cowboys game.

The Sunday night game will of course be billed as a showdown of rookie quarterbacks as Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott meet for the first time, but the game will likely be decided by the battle in the trenches between the Dallas offensive line and Philadelphia's front seven. If the Cowboys can get Ezekiel Elliott going in the manner they have the last few weeks, it may not matter what Wentz or Prescott do with their chances.

There Are No Great NFL Teams This Year - Chase Stuart, FiveThirtyEight
Stuart offers a dispassionate look at the top teams in the NFL this year, and offers these rather sobering conclusions about the Eagles and Cowboys.

Philadelphia: The defense looks great, but how far can the team go with a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach? Like the Vikings, Philadelphia also lacks a top-notch playmaker on offense to carry the team. Jordan Matthews is the team leader in yards from scrimmage, but leaguewide he ranks just 75th in that metric this year. Darren Sproles, at age 33, is second on the team and 77th overall.

Dallas, like Philadelphia, is a surprise behind a rookie quarterback. And while the Cowboys rank seventh in points allowed per game, the defense is below average, as its EPA rating indicates. Dallas leads the NFL in time of possession, which helps keep the raw numbers down, and the Cowboys defense ranks fourth in percentage of drives ending in turnovers, which is unlikely to continue. More worrisome? Dallas ranks 29th in third-down defense and is below-average against the pass.

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Eagle Eye: The Vaunted Cowboys' Attack - Fran Duffy, Philadelphiaeagles.com
Insightful stuff from the Eagles' mothership, that includes a lot of film breakdowns. Recommended reading.

The Dallas offensive coaching staff has done a great job managing Prescott. Much like the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins did with Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III back in 2012, the Cowboys are running the football at a high level, moving the pocket, and for the most part they are keeping things pretty well defined for the rookie. This is not to say that Prescott hasn’t made what most would call NFL throws because he has. Just like at Mississippi State, Prescott has shown off his arm talent and ability to throw on the run, but what has really impressed me are two things. First, his poise under pressure which, for the most part, has been very good. Second, his accuracy and ball placement, and this can be said from both inside and outside the pocket.

The Cowboys love to get Prescott out on the perimeter with boot-action, faking run one way and having him keep the ball and roll out in the opposite direction. His athleticism allows him to be effective out of the pocket, but what’s impressed me has been his accuracy on the move. The Eagles' defense has to be ready for these boot-action plays, meaning that the backside defenders have to be disciplined in their contain responsibilities to keep him inside the pocket.

Bennie Logan Out For Sunday Night Football Vs. Cowboys - Kevin McGuire, CBS Philly
The Eagles have ruled out defensive tackle Bennie Logan for Sunday night's game.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz may feel good about his defensive line, but without Logan things may not be so easy against one of the best offensive lines in the league. Stepping in Logan’s place will be Beau Allen, who stepped in to replace Logan last Sunday against Minnesota once Logan was forced to leave with his groin injury (Logan entered last week’s game listed as questionable).

Philadelphia Eagles on defending Dez Bryant: 'There's no one thing you can really do' - Aaron Kasinitz, PennLive.com
Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant returns from his knee injury to play the Eagles on Sunday.

Bryant's tendency to secure catches mid-air makes him hard to prepare for, cornerback Nolan Carroll said. Schemes and double teams are ineffective when a receiver like Bryant can snag passes with defenders draped over him and break tackles once he pulls the ball in.

"There's no one thing you can really do to defend him," Carroll said. "It's just coming in with different game plans and just going from there. He's a guy who is one of the top receivers in the league, and it's one of those things where you're going to have to come out every single snap and be physical."

Eagles-Cowboys scouting report: Birds just do not match up well - Corey Seidman, CSN Philly
Beating the Cowboys would be enormous for the Eagles' confidence, but their defense just doesn't match up well, Seidman explains.

While the Eagles have played up to the level of competition in their two toughest games, I just don't see them going into Dallas after a Cowboys bye week and beating a balanced offense. This just is not a great matchup for a pressure-oriented defense against a gargantuan offensive line.

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2017 NFL Mock Draft: Cowboys reload at WR - Dane Brugler, CBSSports.com
With Terrance Williams in the final year of his deal, the Cowboys address the receiver position with their 30th overall pick (which means they would have lost to the Vikings in the conference championship game).

John Ross, WR, Washington: With Terrance Williams' rookie contract up after the 2016 season, Dallas could be in the market for a new No. 2 wideout opposite Dez Bryant. Ross has difference-making speed.