Dez Bryant, Julio Jones among most valuable pass catchers - Nate Burleson, NFL.com
Burleson lists the top five most valuable pass catchers in the league, and to surprise of exactly nobody, Dez Bryant makes the list. Here's why:
Looking back at 2015, it's no secret that the production of the Dallas Cowboys' offense was down when Bryant was in street clothes. When Dez did play, it was clear that the Cowboys were a completely different team, playing, even when their star receiver was limited. Tony Romo needs a player like Dez on the field on every play. With Dez's explosiveness and ability to get open right away, Romo can get the ball out quickly instead of sitting in the pocket. The Cowboys have other solid pass catchers, including Jason Witten, Terrence [sic] Williams and Cole Beasley, but no one can replicate what Dez can do. With this offense, it's a night and day difference when Dez is out there and when he's not.
Dez Bryant ready to progress to football drills - NFL.com
Bryant is ready to progress to football drills after undergoing X-Rays on his surgically repaired ankle, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Bryant is expected to be 100 percent for training camp.
Bryant is ready to progress to football drills but needs final approval from a team doctor before doing so, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via a source informed of Wednesday's X-Ray results. Bryant is not yet fully recovered, but it's a good sign that he can increase his cutting in individual drills. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett spoke to reporters Wednesday about Bryant's recovery process.
"Hopefully (Bryant) will be cleared to take the next step, and then we have to decide what that next step is," Garrett said. "He's done a really good job in his rehab. He's been involved in some of the walk-through situations, and I think he's benefited from that. He's really watching practice and doing his rehab on the side, and all of that has gone well."
Dez Bryant: Cowboys Emotional And Inspirational Leader - Brian Martin, Inside The Star
From this Cowboys fan blog comes a summary of what Bryant means to the team.
Bryant approaches practices just like he does actual games. He enjoys the competition and tries to put his best into each and every repetition he takes. I think he kind of demands it from his teammates as well, especially the defensive backs that try to cover him in practice.
He provides an energy that is contagious both on and off the field. It doesn’t really matter if he’s in the game making plays or if he’s on the sideline cheering on his teammates. His passion and emotion for the game helps to inspire those around him.
It’s a quality that can’t really be coached. A person is either born with it or not.
Rolando McClain’s absence raises eyebrows in Dallas - Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk
More headlines to fuel the anti-McClain sentiment in Cowboys Nation, as Smith latches on to this quote from Stephen Jones:
"You always want everybody here. Certainly I know coach Garrett wants everybody here, 100-percent attendance. And it’s certainly disappointing when they’re not here," Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News.
I can only speculate why PFT chose to include only part of the original quote, and I would speculate that it has a lot to do with writing a juicier headline, so here's the original quote in full from behind the Sportday paywall, which sounds much less ominous:
'You always want everybody here. Certainly I know coach Garrett wants everybody here, 100-percent attendance. And it's certainly disappointing when they're not here. But at the same time we know there's always circumstances where guys are gonna miss. And that doesn't necessarily indicate if that guy's gonna have a good year or a bad year. I think it certainly gives them a better chance to have a good year when they're in our competitive offseason conditioning programs, the OTAs, all those things. Obviously these aren't mandatory. We certainly can't press the issue but we certainly encourage guys to be here and we think they have a better chance to be successful over the course of the season if they attend these things.'"
17 Patriots players not participating in OTAs - Mike Reiss, ESPN
Headlines galore about McClain not at Cowboys OTAs, but nary a peep from Boston where 17 Patriots are not participating in OTAs.
Early signs point to rebound season for Dallas Cowboys - Gil Brandt, NFL.com
We already linked to this article yesterday, but it's worth going back to see what Brandt had to say about some of the premier young talent on the team:
Ezekiel Elliott's quick study. The rookie running back looks as good as advertised. So many times you get a rookie and he comes in and everything is overwhelming to him. Not Elliott. Nothing seems to bother him; he looks exactly like the running back Urban Meyer had at Ohio State. At the OTAs, he displayed very good quickness and speed. I didn't see a coach correct any of his routes or runs. He has the mental ability and work ethic to succeed right away. He was always one of the first on the field, and one of the last to leave. I feel as strongly about him winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year as I did with Todd Gurley at this point last year.
Dak Prescott's progression. The Cowboys knew Prescott would be a work in progress, but I'm not sure they expected it to come this quickly. Credit should go to offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson for getting Prescott up to speed so quickly. Prescott wasn't getting first- or second-team snaps, but when he did get in there he looked like someone who had taken the ball from under center all of his life. He made several good sight adjustments in passing drills and his mechanics were very sound. He also showed natural leadership qualities; players gravitate toward him and seem to genuinely like him.
Randy Gregory's special skill set. The second-year player could have a bright future in the NFL, if he can figure out what it takes to be a professional off the field. His quickness and length as a pass rusher were easily identifiable at the OTA practices. If the four-game suspension he faces doesn't hurt him, I think he'll end up having a very good year.
Stephen Jones' Home Hits Market at $11.5 Million - Douglas McIntyre, 24/7 Wall St.
Apparently, there's a living to be made with this football thing.
The son of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has placed his house on the market for $11.5 million. Team CEO Stephen Jones has lived like a king.
One has to wonder why Jones would dump such a palace. Maybe he and his family have outgrown the six-bedroom house. It has only 10,543 square feet.
Dallas could host a Super Bowl between 2022 and 2027 - Kevin Seifert, ESPN
Seifert takes a stab at guessing where the next six Super Bowls -- after 2021 -- could be played, and Dallas is one of the six options.
Rest assured that the NFL will stage another Super Bowl in Jerry Jones' football palace, AT&T Stadium. It's just a matter of when, and it could be earlier than 2027. The world didn't really get the full Dallas/Fort Worth experience in 2011, when many Super Bowl XLV activities were snowed out or iced in by once-in-a-generation January weather. Odds are it'll be nicer this go-around.
The NFL’s Brewing Information War - Kevin Clark, The Ringer
In 2016, the NFL is not the only body grappling with how to implement technology, but it stands on the edge of a crucial and contentious debate about what to use and when. Clark explains how a brewing information war will determine the future of the game. If you have even a passing interest in analytics, this is a must read.
‘Where does it end?': NFL coaches resist technology’s advance onto sidelines - Nick Martin, The Washington Post
Taking Clark's Ringer article as a jumping off point, Martin looks at how the NFL is resisting technological advances, some as simple as sideline video.
Ron Rivera told The Ringer he doesn't want "to get beat because someone used a tool or technology — that is not coaching at that point."
Rivera is among the league’s strongest voices in opposing the use of technology on sidelines around the league; he is joined by the majority of his fellow committee members. At the meeting, the league voted down the creation of a system that would allow teams access to player-tracking data. It also rejected the notion video replay has a place on NFL sidelines, keeping in place the system of photo stills that have dominated NFL.
Past the video debate lies a much larger issue — the league’s resistance to instant analytics. According to The Ringer, head coaches in the league scoffed four years ago when presented with the opportunity to have access to data that tracks player movement on the field and would eliminate the need for assistant coaches to constantly draw every single play by hand. The league is also far behind in making use of advanced statistics in real time; teams just received their own advanced data from the 2015 season in May. League-wide data is collected and eventually distributed by the NFL, though it is not available for public use.
Why NFL offseason programs don’t properly prepare players - Ben Volin, Boston Globe
Volin argues that the lack of instructional time could help explain why so many recent draft classes have underwhelmed.
Quarterbacks and receivers don’t have much time to develop timing, while offensive and defensive linemen can’t practice the physical aspects of blocking and pass rushing. And not only has practice time been cut back significantly, but there hasn’t been a worthwhile developmental football league since NFL Europe was shuttered in 2007.
"Look at some of the quarterbacks that came out of NFL Europe — Kurt Warner, Jake Delhomme, Marc Bulger," McLeod Bethel-Thompson said. "You’re seeing the game hurt from it because you don’t have that time to develop a player. You don’t have time to build a team, for that matter, and I think it’s hurting the quality of the game."
"Under the old CBA, you’re in the weight room a good two months before you had to get out on the field," Bills 11-year guard Richie Incognito said last week. "Now it’s basically one month in the weight room, one month in the field. Then the windows in the weight room get smaller, and the next thing you know you’re on the field practicing."
"I think it’s great for guys who ‘get it,’ who get being in shape before you show up and have played in the same system for a few years. I think it’s tough on the rookies and the guys in their second and third years, who maybe bounce around a little bit trying to make a team."
Orlando Pro Bowl returning to AFC-NFC format in 2017 - Conor Orr, NFL.com
The NFL announced Wednesday it's going to tinker with its much-maligned All-Star Game for the second time in a few years. Starting next season, the contest will be moving from Aloha Stadium in Hawaii to Camping World Stadium (formerly known as the Citrus Bowl) in Orlando, Fla., for the foreseeable future. In addition, the 2017 Pro Bowl is going back to the AFC vs. NFC game format it used prior to the 2012 game, putting an end to the Team Irvin vs Team Sanders nonsense.
Two of the worst QBs against the blitz play in the NFC East - Sheil Kapadia, ESPN
The secret sauce for the Cowboys' pass rush in 2016 may be less about the defensive line and more about blitzers - if Eli Manning and Sam Bradford end up quarterbacking their teams.
Sam Bradford: What’s interesting about Bradford is defenses had very little success sacking him when they blitzed. Opponents brought him down 2.1 percent of the time when sending pressure, the second-lowest number among all quarterbacks. The problem? Although Bradford got rid of the ball, he rarely did anything positive with it. Bradford completed 50 percent of his passes (second worst) against pressure. His 65.9 passer rating was ahead of only Foles, and Bradford’s 28.0 QBR ranked 32nd.
Eli Manning: No quarterback was blitzed less frequently last season. Opponents sent pressure at Manning on just 16.3 percent of his dropbacks, but on those occasions, he performed poorly. Manning’s 67.7 passer rating against the blitz was ahead of only Foles and Bradford. In the past three years, Manning’s passer rating against the blitz (82.0) ranks in the bottom five league-wide.
Joe Flacco, whose Ravens are on the Cowboys' 2016 schedule too, also ranks in the bottom five against the blitz.
Bradford is great, says Eagles OC and no one else - SBNation.com
I for one am rooting hard for Bradford to keep his job in Philly.