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Cowboys News: Why 40 Is The New 30 For QBs; Three Young Cowboys Ready To Break Out?

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Latest Cowboys headlines: Byron Jones offers substance over flash; Ryan Russell a sleeper to watch in 2016; can Brice Butler win the No. 2 spot from Terrance Williams?

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the NFL’s New Era for Old Quarterbacks - Kevin Clarke, The Ringer
Clarke explains that there's a paradigm shift going on in the NFL right now. For decades, very few QBs played in the NFL beyond their mid-30s, but today there are numerous QBs "hurtling toward being functional after 40."

It would represent a considerable sea change in the NFL. But there aren’t one or two; there’s an entire generation, forcing numerous teams to reevaluate their personnel strategy and mull what to do with a quarterback who’s managing something that, until recently, had never really been done before.

There have been 15 instances in league history in which a player 34 or older has posted a QB rating above 100 while starting double-digit games. Nine — nine! — of those have occurred in the past five years. Steve Young was the only player to do it twice — until Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning all did it multiple times. Carson Palmer, who will turn 37 this season and was last seen torching defenses for a career-high 4,671 yards, will assuredly join them as a repeat achiever, as will Tony Romo if he manages to remain healthy. Great quarterbacks under 30 certainly exist — Cam Newton and Russell Wilson are both 27 — but the top eight players by passing yards per game last season were all north of 30, a feat never equaled in the NFL.

While Troy Aikman retired at the age of 34, Tony Romo (36) recently said playing 4-5 more years is "absolutely realistic." Many observers promptly ridiculed Romo's statement, but going by this article, it would seem that those observers simply haven't quite caught up to the new QB paradigm yet.

Most legendary quarterbacks don't get a storybook ending to their NFL careers - Adam Stites, SBNation.com
Hall of Fame quarterbacks had forgettable ends to their memorable careers. Could the same fate await some of the older QBs in the league today?

Dan Marino's Hall of Fame career with the Miami Dolphins ended with a 62-7 blowout in the playoffs to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but many legendary quarterbacks didn't even get a last crack at the postseason. Troy Aikman's 12 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys included eight trips to the playoffs, yet his final year was a 5-11 season with just seven touchdowns and 14 interceptions. [In his final season, Johnny Unitas] threw three touchdowns and seven interceptions in the five games he played with the Chargers during a 2-11-1 season in 1973.

For older quarterbacks in the NFL today, like Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning and Tony Romo, tough ends to strong careers could be on the way. They're all expensive and on teams that finished with losing records in 2015.

Romo, 36, told James Palmer of NFL Network that he believes he could play as many as five more seasons, but many have their doubts. Despite playing behind one of the NFL's best offensive lines for the last few seasons, Romo has struggled with injuries and multiple breaks of his collarbone.

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Byron Jones Film Room: Substance Over Flash – Marcus Mosher, Footbology
The always readable Mosher offers a film study piece on Byron Jones' rookie year and how being flashy is over-rated.

I could be wrong, but I still don’t expect a ton of "big" plays from Jones because that’s just not who he is. He wasn’t a turnover machine in college and I’m just not sure that’s his game. But that’s okay. He’s going to make a bunch of smart, "little" plays that make a defense much better. Each and every Sunday, you’ll feel very good about who is in your secondary because Byron Jones will make enough of those little plays to keep you in games.

Can Brice Butler win the No. 2 spot from Terrance Williams? - Todd Archer, ESPN
Brice Butler is the current flavor of the week on social media, but in his latest Twitter mailbag, Archer offers a take on the No. 2 spot devoid of hyperbole and hyperventilation accompanying much of the internet chatter about Brice.

Wide receivers coach Derek Dooley was asked this question on Wednesday and his first reaction was to talk up Terrance Williams, so, no, I don’t see Brice Butler becoming the No. 2 receiver unless there is some sort of injury. I wrote about Williams’ future earlier in the week and the contract he could see, and I was surprised at the negative reactions. Do I believe the Cowboys will re-sign Williams? Not right now because of the commitments they have made elsewhere on offense. Do I think Williams will get a good contract? I do. It’s the way of the market. Teams have a lot of cap space and money to spend.

But as for the competition at No. 2, Butler has to make up a lot of time with Tony Romo. Williams has a better feel for the scheme. He can run all day. He never misses a practice. I think he’s been judged a little too harshly in the last six to eight months.

When the Cowboys open the year, he will be the No. 2 wideout.

NFL breakout players: Ryan Russell a sleeper to watch in 2016 season - Chris Burke, SI.com
Every NFL season, a handful of players emerge from the shadows to blossom as surprise stars, and Burke believes Ryan Russell could be one of those potential breakout performers in 2016.

Another 2015 draft pick, Russell barely saw the field last season, suiting up for just one game before landing on injured reserve. But Greg Hardy’s departure, Randy Gregory’s suspension and Demarcus Lawrence’s back surgery have flung the door wide open for the Purdue product. Russell reportedly has been lining up as the Cowboys’ left DE (Lawrence’s usual spot) during early off-season workouts.

"I just think I see some maturity in him, how he’s handling it," Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said recently. "This is non-pads—we’ll make a decision in camp. But I like what he’s doing."

Russell never produced much in the way of sacks during his college career, averaging just 2.4 per year. The flip side is that he is 6' 5" and 270 pounds, with long arms and athleticism (he ran a 4.7-second 40 time at his pro day). Marinelli loves to rotate his D-linemen frequently, so rookie Charles Tapper, newcomer Benson Mayowa and others figure to join Russell and eventually Gregory and Lawrence in the fight for playing time. Just by being on the field now, Russell is on his way to a significant role, and he has the skill set to do some damage.

Brandon Carr hoping things are all right at cornerback - Todd Archer, ESPN
The Cowboys moved Brandon Carr to right CB, and Morris Claiborne to left CB. No biggie, says Carr.

"Just something for y’all to talk about," Carr said.

"Me personally, I think it’s just a different game on the right and left side," Carr said. "The right side is more the boundary, more where the X receiver is and things of that nature. The left side you get more combinations with the slot and multiple formations. I feel like [Claiborne is] at the point in his career where he can benefit from playing on that left side and he can make some plays from over there."

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Cowboys waive two cornerbacks - Josh Alper, ProFootballTalk
The Cowboys announced that they have waived cornerback Terrance Mitchell and waived/injured cornerback Brandon McGee.

Our roster builder has been updated accordingly.

Darren McFadden Discusses Lawsuit Against Former Business Manager - Cowboys Sports Radio
Brandon George and Jon Machota give their analysis with exclusive audio from McFadden, who explains why he sued his ex-business manager for $15 million.

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NFC Least? Not when it comes to wide receivers - Damon Salvadore, NY Daily News
It's become somewhat fashionable to refer to the NFC East as the "NFC Least," among both fans and the media, but that's certainly not true at wide receiver.

But for all the terrible defense, coaching firings and disappointing playoff losses, there is one position that the NFC East thrives at more than any other division in the league. That position is wide receiver. So in order to succeed in this division you need to be able to cover big, fast receivers down field, which might explain the Giants signing free-agent corner Janoris Jenkins to a five-year, $62 million deal and then drafting another cover corner in Eli Apple out of Ohio State and Washington adding playmaking corner Josh Norman to its roster.

One could easily make the argument that the NFC East showcases two of the top five best wide outs in the entire league in Bryant and Beckham. With so much wide receiver talent flourishing in one division with such poor defense being displayed, you can bet there’s going to be a lot of high scoring affairs this upcoming season.

Get your popcorn ready.

The NFL coaching hot zone: How secure is your favorite team's coach? - Jason La Canfora, CBSSports.com
Until there's some actual football to write about, we'll get inundated by rankings, lists, and top tens up the wazoo. Here, CBS takes the temperature of all 32 coaching seats, and you can easily tell that La Canfora is just going through the motions with this piece when you read his take on Jason Garrett (who is listed among the seven coaches with the hottest seats).

I almost put him in the second tier, but his owner is Jerry Jones, though Stephen Jones, thankfully, seems to be taking the wheel more. Add very high expectations, a healthy Tony Romo and Dez Bryant and an extremely pedestrian NFC East, well, there's a reason this is one of the more high-profile jobs in the league. Jones has already shown more understanding with Garrett than many predicted.

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How a 2005 NFL mock draft helped the Packers get Aaron Rodgers - Brett Smiley, FOX Sports
Who said NFL teams don't read mock drafts?

Just two days before the 2005 draft, Packers GM Ted Thompson and his assistant John Schneider saw a Mike Mayock mock that had Rodgers falling to 24. That's when they realized that it was possible, and they spent the next two days getting up to speed on the California QB before picking him just as Mayock had predicted.