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Dallas Cowboys News: Ryan Russell Rising, Ezekiel Elliott Learning, Tyron Smith Unstoppable

Mentoring is important for a couple of Cowboys. Plus, some strange goings-on involving an NFL player in Dallas who isn't a Cowboy.

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The vet is paying it forward with the rookie.
The vet is paying it forward with the rookie.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It is the final week of OTAs, and although the first day of this week's practice in Dallas was Monday, there was no media availability. But never fear, we have all the news about the Cowboys you need, plus some other topics of interest from around the NFL.

Ryan Russell Making The Most Of His Opportunity At Left Defensive End - David Helman, Dallas Cowboys

By now, you may be getting just a tad weary of having to read about the suspensions of DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory. But those are going to open up opportunities for other players, including Ryan Russell, who spent his rookie year mostly taking a lot of, shall we say, energetically expressed criticism from Rod Marinelli.

With DeMarcus Lawrence still recuperating from an offseason back surgery, it's Russell who is receiving the bulk of the first-team snaps at left defensive end -€” a far cry from where he was just seven months ago.

Dallas' Darren McFadden happy to help Ezekiel Elliott reach potential - JJ Taylor, ESPN

There is a distinct possibility that Ezekiel Elliott is going to spell the end of Darren McFadden as a member of the Cowboys. You might expect that to lead to some resentment, but it seems McFadden went through the same thing, only in the Elliott role, when he was drafted by the Oakland Raiders. And the man he eventually replaced, Justin Fargas, offered his help to DMC in learning the ropes, and now McFadden is paying it forward.

"Coming in as the fourth overall pick is going to be a lot of weight on your shoulders, but I feel like it's something he can handle," McFadden said of Elliott. "He's been doing a great job in [organized team activities]. He's a hard worker. He knows his plays, and that's one of the main things for a running back."

McFadden knows the Cowboys didn't spend the fourth pick of the NFL on a running back to keep Elliott on the bench. Elliott's going to start and receive the bulk of the carries this season, McFadden just wants to make sure he has a role on the club.

McFadden is not the only running back who is going to be pushed down the depth chart by Elliott. Alfred Morris is probably going to be the number two back this season, and he knows his game has some holes in it. But like McFadden, Morris is not sulking at all.

"I'm coming here to have a new opportunity and to build that trust ... to help myself be the complete back I desire to be," Morris said. "It's something I've been working on my whole career. I think I might find a way to get over the hump with this opportunity."

Lett Me In: Cowboys’ Gregory needs to listen to Leon Lett with both ears -  Patrick Walker, Cowboys Wire

Another player with a great opportunity to find a mentor is Gregory, who has Leon Lett as a coach. Lett went through some similar things in his career with the Cowboys, and it sounds like Gregory, who is facing issues with anxiety and depression diagnoses on top of everything else young NFL players come up against, needs to listen very carefully to the Big Cat.

The issue with Gregory is and has never been talent. His skill set is prominent and Lett believes he needs to learn to channel his frustrations more productively; using them to bully an opposing team's offensive line and quarterback.

Five players who will make or break the Cowboys in 2016 - Jason Thomas,

Our old friend Jason Thomas has a new gig, and he is doing a countdown of the top five players who will affect the Cowboys' success this season. He starts off with Tyrone Crawford.

His five sacks last year were good for 11th among all defensive tackles.  And context makes those five sacks look even better.  Dallas as a team saw the second fewest pass attempts in the league.  Of the 10 DT's who recorded more sacks than Crawford, only one played on a team that saw fewer pass attempts.  In fact, the 10 DT's as a group saw an average of 36.5 pass attempts per game.  That's nearly a full five more passes a game than Crawford saw, which is comes out to 79 more sack opportunities on the season.

And Tyrone Crawford did it all on one arm.

PFF: Dez Bryant not among Dallas Cowboys' top five players - Todd Archer, ESPN

The scoring system used by the folks at Pro Football Focus has often been criticized for things like an apparent lack of consistency, and their choice of the top five Cowboys players for 2016 just adds to the list.

PFF lists the Cowboys' top five players as Tyron SmithZack MartinTravis FrederickSean Lee and Tony Romo. While it may be hard to argue that one of them should come off that list, it also seems odd that Dez Bryant isn't on it.

If the list of top-rated players is based on 2015 performances, then Romo shouldn't be on it because he played in four games. Bryant had a down year in 2015 because of a broken right foot and knee injury, but I can't imagine that the 31 other teams wouldn't consider him one of the Cowboys' top five players. Heck, there would be plenty of teams that consider Bryant No. 1.

But, of course, we like it when they say things we can agree with, such as this.

And this.

The NFL's 10 Most Unstoppable Forces|Pro Football Focus

7. Tyron Smith's cut blocking


Smith is an absolute freak of nature for an offensive tackle. His athleticism suggests he should be lining up on the opposite side of the ball, and the Cowboys use that to their advantage. They frequently run outside zone away from Smith, giving him the task of chasing down backside linebackers and defensive tackles, which he does with ease. Smith's +26.5 cumulative run-blocking grade was the highest among all tackles last season.

NFL: Could the Cowboys have the most explosive offense in the league? - Anirudh Subramanian, All About The Knicks

Heck, folks, even NBA team fan blogs can see the blatantly obvious.

The Cowboys are one of the rare teams that has an elite player at QB, RB and WR, while having the best offensive line. I have not even included Terrence [sic] Williams and Jason Witten, both who are very good complement pieces. The Cowboys will have the best offense in the NFL.

Why The Dallas Cowboys May Be Unable To Keep Terrance Williams, Even If They Want To - OCC, Blogging The Boys

Our own OCC examines the situation that is brewing with the current number two wide receiver, and explains how Terrance Williams may become a luxury the team does not want to pay for.

The Cowboys may be in a bit of a bind on this one. Outside of Dez Bryant, they currently don't have a tall, proven, outside receiver who can stretch the field vertically and who is under contract beyond the 2016 season. Which may be why they've beefed up their receiving corps with tall receivers who can play outside and perhaps replace the 6-2, 208-pound Williams:

Chris Brown: 6-2, 193
Andy Jones, 6-2, 214
Vince Mayle, 6-2, 224
Devin Street: 6-3, 200
Rodney Smith: 6-5, 220

Even Brice Butler (6-3, 215) would fit the bill, even if he, like Williams, is playing on the final year of his contract. Those are the guys the Cowboys will be looking at in camp and during the season as possible replacements for Williams. Because another solid year by Williams will likely push him out of the Cowboys price range, and even if they wanted to, they likely won't be able to keep him.

Brian Orakpo called the Eagles' offensive line "garbage" while defending DeMarco Murray - BL Gowton, Bleeding Green Nation

Brian Orakpo and DeMarco Murray are now teammates on the Tennessee Titans. And it seems Orakpo harbors little love for the Philadelphia Eagles, holding them responsible for the dismal year Murray had running the ball.

"There's a lot of factors that may play into [why Murray had a disappointing season]," Titans defensive end Brian Orakpo said, via Jason Wolf of The Tennessean. "Wrong style, not getting along with the coaching staff, offensive line being garbage. I mean, it's a lot of things that can be attributed to the way he performed or the way he didn't perform as well as everybody wanted him to. But I really feel like the Titans is the team for him, and like I said, he's been great so far."

Aqib Talib "too intoxicated to remember what happened" in Dallas shooting, report says – Niki Jhabvala, The Denver Post

This is just a little weird. Not that Aqib Talib was involved in something strange, and had to miss the trip the Denver Broncos made to the White House as Super Bowl champs. And it's not that he may or may not have inflicted the wound on himself, or that he is claiming he doesn't really know what happened because he was so intoxicated.

No, it's weird that people come to Dallas to get in this kind of a mess.

Details are murky on what happened early Sunday at a strip club in Dallas, where two others were injured from gunshots.

"Everything was a blur, and I was too intoxicated to remember what happened," Talib told Dallas police, according to WFAA-TV's Rebecca Lopez.

General rule of thumb: Nothing good happens when you are drunk out of your mind at a strip club.

Top NFL doctors set up conference call with marijuana advocates - Darin Gantt, ProFootballTalk

There is a lot of discussion about the NFL's continued inclusion of cannabis on the list of banned substances. Part of the issue is that it is now legal in several states, which makes the stance on forbidding it somewhat questionable, particularly for players that reside where it can be purchased under the law. But another, more pertinent, argument is that many medical professionals now think it has some benefits for alleviating and even healing the trauma of CTE. For the first time, the NFL is reaching out to some of those professionals to see if they need to re-think things.

"They are interested in learning more about the potential for cannabinoids to help current and former players, as is evidenced by them taking the call, and also expressed a desire to learn more," said Marcel Bonn-Miller, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania school of medicine. "They are definitely showing genuine curiosity, and they are definitely not throwing up roadblocks."

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