Before we get to all the latest news concerning the Dallas Cowboys, it does seem appropriate to acknowledge the other really big sports story. Congratulations to the entire city of Cleveland, as they see the end of the longest major professional sports championship drought (putting the onus on San Diego now). In seeking to find just the right thing to sum this up and put it in the proper perspective, this jumped out.
Now, on to business.
A lot has been said about how Ezekiel Elliott is a much better fit for the zone blocking scheme than Darren McFadden, which is the basis for a great deal of optimism about the 2016 season. This article delves deeper, and points out how having that well-oiled ZBS working actually creates opportunities for the power game. It's a good read from John Owning, a guy who knows his stuff about the Cowboys.
Because Elliott and the offensive line are so efficient with zone concepts (the base of their rushing attack), opposing defensive lineman will begin to cheat laterally to defend, which will lead to an opportunity for big runs using power concepts.
While Dallas had a great running game in 2014, they have the ability to be even better in 2016 with Elliott in the backfield.
The writers over at the mothership had a bit of a debate about which running backs would wind up on the 53 man roster. Ezekiel Elliott is a given, but who of the others will still be around in September? Arguments are presented for Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Lance Dunbar, and Darius Jackson not making the cut, as well as reasons why each will make the roster. Nick Eatman had this take:
Zeke is better as a complete back. McFadden will be better on third downs and Dunbar, when healthy, can be a better receiving threat. And I'm saying it right now - Darius Jackson will lead the team in rushing during the preseason - by far - and will probably do enough things to stick around. So I think Morris is the odd man out, although it will be sad for me.
One of the biggest questions for the Cowboys this year is: How will they be able to generate some pass rush, especially during the first four games when Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence are suspended? Jerry Jones has his opinion on that, as well.
"A couple guys the last couple of days [of minicamp] that have really shown some aptitude out there, wouldn't have been out there probably in [David] Irving, and possibly even [Ryan] Russell, that are getting some opportunity out there," Jones said. "In Irving's case, he looks really apt outside and looks like it might fit him a little bit naturally even as much or more as inside."
Todd Archer covers things that stood out for him during the OTAs and minicamp. If you are still looking for a pet cat for training camp, this part might be of interest.
Best rookie not named Elliott: Fourth-round pick Charles Tapper made strides as the spring went on, but from the first day through the last, undrafted receiver Andy Jones might have been the best rookie. He seemed to earn some trust with the coaches, who put him in with the first-team offense at times. He won't run away from defenders, but he can pluck the ball with his hands and can position his body in a way to keep defenders on his back.
There's no doubt that there are very few relationships between a current NFL star and one of his team's former greats as strong as that of Dez Bryant and Michael Irvin, who share the legacy of the number 88 jersey in Dallas with Drew Pearson. Irvin believes Bryant will bounce back from his injury-hampered 2015 season. He bases this at least partly on his own experience.
Irvin dealt with an injury-shortened season early in his remarkable career. In 1989, Irvin's second year, he tore his ACL and missed the team's final 10 games. He returned in the middle of the 1990 season and would help lead the Cowboys to three Super Bowls in the ‘90s.
For some, there is a concern that Dallas as an organization is more concerned with flash and glitz than winning a Super Bowl, as exemplified by the spectacular new practice facility, the Star in Frisco, that will open this summer. Stephen Jones wants to make it clear that this is not the case.
"Of course," Jones said. "I mean, I'm worried every day that we don't get a championship. You worry about that all the time. That's why we're very aggressive in trying to get there. It's just not acceptable in our minds that we haven't been able to win a championship in so long. I do worry about that. I worry about that all the time."
Rob Phillips' answer as to why the perception of this edition of the Cowboys is that it is much closer to the 2014 team than what was seen last season is interesting, because rather than focusing on the obvious strengths of the offense, he mentions some possible difference makers for the defense.
I wasn't here in 2014 but I can tell you there's a similar assessment of this year's roster from outside observers. The offense looks as complete as it's been in many years, but defensively they again don't have a pass rusher who's produced a double-digit sack season. Stephen Jones believes this defense looks better than the group two years ago in part because Sean Lee didn't play in 2014 due to injury, Byron Jones wasn't on the team and Tyrone Crawford has two years' more experience at this point.
A couple of days ago, our own Michael Sisemore took a look at head coach Jason Garrett. This article asks whether Garrett is the best fit for Dallas, and offers a very interesting point about how things have gone lately.
Former Colts and current Lions head coach, Jim Caldwell, was viewed as a great coach when Peyton Manning was healthy. His first year taking over for Tony Dungy, he started 14-0 with a Super Bowl appearance. Two years later, he went 2-14 when Peyton missed the year with injury, and was fired after the season. So is it just about perception or does a coach need to be held accountable if they lose their franchise quarterback?
The NFL has been showing interest in making changes to the kickoff in an attempt to reduce injury risks, and has already decided to move the touchback from the 20 to the 25. Now there is word that the league may experiment with some other changes during preseason, including these ideas that were solicited from special teams coaches around the league.
- Starting the kickoff team from a stationary position at the 35-yard line, with no run-up;
- Mandating eight players on the return team line up a set distance closer to the ball, such as in front of their own 40- or 35-yard line;
- Outlawing all wedges;
- Outlawing "attack" blocks;
- Treating balls like punts if they hit the ground beyond the return team's 40-yard line, so they could be downed by the kicking team, not recovered as live balls; and
- Eliminating the "K" ball.
This is important to Cowboys fans, of course, because Dallas makes so many appearances on Sunday night.
Fred Gaudelli, NBC's executive producer of both Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football, confirmed to the Associated Press that a new Underwood song will debut this season.
Here is a video of the Miranda Lambert/Carrie Underwood song the new theme is supposed to be based on:
Finally, here is a handy and concise guide to the tentative schedule for the Oxnard portion of the Cowboys' training camp.