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Cowboys News & Notes: Who Steps Up At Defensive Tackle? Plus, Tony Romo Overrated?

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Buffalo Bills Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Three interesting Cowboys to watch this offseason - Cory Castelan, The Landry Hat
Do you remember when the interior line was crowded with mediocrity? Well, with players like Terrell McClain, Cedric Thornton, and David Irving - the Cowboys have some good options next to Tyrone Crawford. And now, throw in rookie Maliek Collins and suddenly the team has some good talent stuck in the middle.

Collins is poised to have an impact rushing through the interior because of his credentials and the benefit of Rod Marinelli coaching but it will be hard to stand out in a crowded group of defensive tackles. The depth of the position is another reason why the pick of Collins in the third was all the more puzzling.

Whence Comes Pressure? The Dallas Cowboys 2016 Pass Rush Pt 1: David Irving - Jim Scott, BTB
Our own Jim Scott provides some nice gif's as he takes a close look at one of the defensive tackles that has gotten lost in the shuffle of the team's new guys.

How anyone can overlook a 6' 7" 275 lb man is a bit of a mystery, yet that is exactly what we continuously do. On a mere 199 snaps, Irving produced 14 quarterback pressures, 4.5 hurries, and a half-sack. That's not 199 pass-rush snaps, but 199 total. That's some decent production.

As mentioned in the last BTB podcast, Irving actually removed a stop sign from the ground. Now, granted - that's not one of his finer moments, but those things don't come out of the ground very easy.

The Cowboys sneaky pass rusher no one is talking about - Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat
For someone that apparently nobody is talking about, people keep bringing him up a lot.

Irving only recorded 13 tackles and 0.5 sacks in 12 games. But his impact goes beyond the numbers. Although not visible on the stat line, and with limited snaps, Irving was the Cowboys second best pass rusher on the interior of the defensive line according to Pro Football Focus. His pass rush rating of 74.1 was just behind Tyrone Crawford's 78.5.

NFC East offseason exit interview: 3 good things, 3 bad things for each team - Jared Dubin, CBS Sports
Jared Dubin takes a look at some positives and negatives for each of the NFC East teams. There seems to be a consensus that the interior defensive line is looking a lot better these days.

2. Cedric Thornton makes a ton of sense next to Tyrone Crawford.

In Crawford, the Cowboys have their pass-rushing defensive tackle. But over the last two years since he moved inside, they have not had a good run-stuffer to clog up lanes next to him in the middle of the defense. They finished the 2014 and 2015 seasons 22nd and 29th in Football Outsiders' rushing defense DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, which adjusts performance for down, distance, and opponent). They were particularly dreadful last season in power situations, allowing opponents to convert 76 percent of the time on third and fourth downs with two or fewer yards to go. Enter Thornton, who excelled as a two-gapping end in Philadelphia the last four seasons.

Rodney Coe: From Junior College to the NFL Draft - Interviews - Pro Football Spot
And then there's also Rodney Coe, whom the Cowboys consider their "eigth-round" pick. This article is from a while back, and is a bit of a personal interest story, but it details how a fire was lit under Coe that might carry him all the way to a roster spot in Dallas.

In March of 2014 following the season, Coe was dismissed from the program after an undisclosed violation of team rules. To this day, he still regrets it. "Until Iowa State, I was one of those dudes coming from high school who was the best player on the team and I really didn't have any discipline. Going to junior college, it was kind of still the same way. I had a little discipline but not really, so I did my own thing. And then I was in that same mood at Iowa State. I was just one of those players who put themselves before the team, broke the rules, and one of those guys I guess you would say was a cancer to the team." For the third time in three years, Coe found himself without a football home.

That dismissal was a wake-up call to Coe. He said, "Once I got kicked off, that was when it really clicked. I was like, you better fix it now, this is my final chance at playing the game I love." He decided to get serious and transferred to Akron, who had expressed interest after his JUCO tenure, to play his final year of eligibility. There, he sat out a year per NCAA transfer rules before returning to the field for the Zips.

Akron would go 8-5 in 2015 with a bowl victory. Their defense suffocated running attacks, allowing just 89.8 yards per game (third in the nation), bolstered in part by Coe's 47 tackles, including 9.0 TFL and 2.5 sacks. His 56-yard fumble return in the waning moments of the first half of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl helped build an early lead against Utah State. On the season, he received Third-Team All-MAC honors and received a further invitation in the postseason to the College Gridiron Showcase All-Star Game.

By mid-season the Cowboys could have a decent defense and here's why - Kevin Sherrington, Sportsday
While the Cowboys search for answers on the defensive line, one thing is for sure - the tryouts will contain some real game experience as the team tries to fill in for their suspended edge rushers.

Question: If you're Rod Marinelli and Maliek Collins impresses in camp, are you moving Tyrone Crawford to DE (while the others serve suspensions)?

Sherrington: Well, that's the plan right now. Crawford will probably play DE while [Gregory] and Lawrence are out. Crawford gives the Cowboys "position flexibility," as they like to call it. If Collins is really good, and Crawford makes an impact at DE, I think they should consider leaving them at those positions. Besides being really thin at DE, the Cowboys are really young there, too. Crawford could help stabilize it if he can contribute there. Think Jack Crawford will get a shot there, as well.

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Is there a future Cowboy on this list? Most intriguing free agent options left on the market - Staff, Sportsday
Are the Cowboys done in free agency? If they decide to make a play for someone else, it sure would be nice if he was an edge rusher.

4. Dwight Freeney, pass rusher: The Cardinals addressed their obvious edge rushing need with the Chandler Jones trade, but they could still use Freeney for depth after the 36 year old racked up eight sacks in 11 games last season. Freeney made it clear this week that he intends to play in 2016

We May Never See Lance Dunbar in 2016 - Jess Haynie, Inside The Star
With the addition three new running backs acquired this offseason, the Cowboys will have some tough decisions when it comes to who to keep.

Dallas certainly won’t cut Dunbar before they have to. The PUP list gives them a nice option to sit on him as long as possible and perhaps have him provide injury insurance if another play goes down. Dunbar high production early last year shows a system familiarity that will allow him to provide instant impact if he’s healthy and there’s an opening for him.

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Cowboys 1st and 10: An 'Overrated' Top 100 Debate about Tony Romo - Matthew Postins, Scout
It's funny how some people think Tony Romo is overrated. If there was any question about how valuable he is, the answer should have presented itself last season.

Romo's made mistakes. Romo's had gaffes. Romo's only won two playoff games. The implication of being overrated isn't necessarily about what happens on the field. It's more about the money, and Romo gets paid a lot. People see they money and think, "Well, he should win more." And maybe he should.

But you know what? It's hard for me to "overrate" a player when his team's record when he's out is 6-18, as the Cowboys are with Romo not on the field. If he were so overrated, wouldn't the Cowboys win more without him? Or is that too logical?

How Romo Wins 2016 Comeback Player Of The Year - Dante Giannetta, Inside the Star
Now, that's more like it. If Tony Romo can pick up where he left off, he's got a good chance of winning this honor. Dante Giannetta takes a look at what it's going to take to win the CPOY award.

The Comeback Player of the Year Award is well within Romo’s reach. In 2014, Romo finished with 3,704 passing yards, 34 touchdowns and nine interceptions while leading the NFL with a 69.9 completion percentage. He led the NFL in passer rating with 113.2, made the playoffs and a Pro Bowl.

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Searching for Dallas Cowboys best ever; Part III: 'Air Force' Weaponry - Patrik Walker, Cowboys Wire
There has been a lot of talk about the "greatest ever" at certain positions for the Cowboys. In his latest installment, Patrik Walker examines some of the best pass catchers to play for the Cowboys. Which players make the list? Getcher popcorn ready.

Are fans expecting too much of Zeke Elliott? - Matt Urben, Cover32
There is no denying that the fans are salivating for what Zeke will bring to this team. Are some fans forecasting reasonable expectations? After the 2014 season, it seems very clear what is expected of him. Elliott needs to help bring winning back to Dallas.

Romo was able to use play-action and make teams pick their poison between Dez Bryant beating them deep or Murray running it up their gut for six yards. It was a lethal combination and in turn, effectively helped take pressure off of an average Cowboys defense. Murray and Romo kept the chains moving, putting up points and eating up clock.

If you are craving some Zeke goodness, just pay Jon Machota a visit on twitter. He's flooding his feeds with great runs like this:

As many times as Zeke is going to find the end zone, it's important to have a good celebration dance. This is what he's got so far.

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What are the most embarrassing Eagles jerseys to own? - Jimmy Kempski, Phillyvoice
Come on, admit it. If you saw an Eagles fan walking around in a DeMarco Murray jersey, wouldn't you feel sorry for them? Okay, maybe not. While Zeke jerseys are selling like hotcakes, there are several Eagles jerseys hitting the clearance rack. I don't like giving that Kempski fella extra attention, but rabble's response to this question has to be shared.