Don't shoot me, folks, I'm just the messenger. After the gloomy reports from over the last weekend, the Dallas Cowboys got clobbered again. Try not to become too depressed. Training camp will soon be underway, and hopefully we can find more positive things to report to you. But for right now, reality sucks.
After failing yet another drug test, Randy Gregory is now expected to miss at least ten games.
The Cowboys took a risk when drafting Gregory, banking on their ability to help him navigate his addiction issues and keep him on the field. Gregory has the skill-set and talent to be a feared pass rusher in the NFL, but if he can't stay on the field he may never get the chance to prove it.
The situation is not clear. There are some indications that the team is concerned that Gregory may be lost for the year. In any case, the team is not saying much at the moment.
Although head coach Jason Garrett repeatedly did not comment on Gregory's status for the season, or even for the start of training camp this week in Oxnard, Calif., it doesn't appear he will be joining the team anytime soon.
"I don't want to comment on that," Garrett said Tuesday at a coach's clinic in Arlington. "I'm not commenting on Randy Gregory."
To further confuse the situation, there are also reports that the test was missed, not failed. Gregory was already at a rehab center and may have left for the weekend, when the test was missed.
According to the policy rules, a missed test is treated the same as a failed test.
Gregory's representatives are still working on the appeal of his potential 10-game suspension and he has entered an undisclosed treatment facility and is not expected to report to training camp this week with the team, a league source told ESPN's Ed Werder. Whether he will participate at all is uncertain.
This raises even more questions for the Cowboys as they get ready to depart for Oxnard. Including this huge one.
Additionally, as addressed in the video above, maybe the Cowboys' habit of "taking chances'' of other sorts in the second round, injury-related, drug-related, whatever, merits some evaluation.
For whatever reason, the Cowboys have made a habit of taking big risks with their second round picks. And they are paying a large price in missed games, whether due to injuries or suspensions.
For 2016 the Cowboys have 36-49 projected missed games by their second round picks made since 2009.
All right, how about some positive news? Apparently operating under the belief (and all reports) that the assault charge against first round pick Ezekiel Elliott are spurious, the team plans to have him full-go for training camp.
Speaking for the first time since Ezekiel Elliott was accused of domestic violence, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said the rookie will be on the field when the team opens training camp Saturday in Oxnard, California.
The team also plans on Rolando McClain being in camp, despite his own ten game suspension. Of course, they thought he would show up for the offseason practices, too.
McClain did not participate in voluntary workouts during the off-season and missed a three-day mandatory mini-camp in June.
There is an argument that the success of Darren McFadden proved that the Cowboys can succeed with any running back, which would put the drafting of Elliott into question. But that is not really the whole picture.
Now Dallas has "the" RB for their OL. A zone runner which makes the OL's job easier than the man blocking scheme required when McFadden carries the pill. Elliott is a rare talent that evokes memories of Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith in regards to the good feelings you got when they were drafted. In all three instances you immediately knew your team got a special player.
With multiple players, including star receiver Dez Bryant, recovering from injury, the Cowboys have to rely on their training staff. Jim Mauer is the head athletic trainer, while Britt Brown is the associate trainer and director of rehabilitation. And Brown is known for having a bit of an edge to him.
While some might be hesitant to confront players, Brown isn't. Head coach Jason Garrett was a Cowboys player before he became a coach here in 2007. Brown has been with the Cowboys since 1996. Maurer has been with the team since 1990. They have the backing of Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones and Dallas' coaches.
Rookies learn quickly that Brown is not to be messed with, but sometimes, they have to learn. In 2014, Ahmad Dixon was late to his rehab session while sitting in the locker room. When Brown came to get him, the rookie smiled, but Brown quickly told him he was not joking.
The two-point conversion is becoming increasingly popular with the changes to make extra point kicks more difficult. Some teams are reportedly even flirting with the idea of going for two every time. But Jason Garrett doesn't have any intention of following that trend.
"Dan (Bailey) is a great kicker and that whole operation has been really good for us. We have a tremendous amount of confidence in him ... I think for the most part we'll probably just kick most of our PATs.''
In other words, Dallas views Bailey's near-automatic one point as valuable enough.
With a first round draft pick expected to be a true star in Elliott, experienced backups in McFadden and Alfred Morris, a late round but still intriguing rookie in Darius Jackson, and the hoped-for return from injury of Lance Dunbar, the Cowboys may have one of the strongest RB units in the league. The plan is to return to the run-first approach of 2014 - and that change may be more significant than you think.
Notable number: 39.7 percent. After running the ball an NFL-high 48.2 percent of snaps in 2014, the Cowboys' percentage of running plays dropped to 39.7 percent last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Cowboys averaged a respectable 118.1 yards per game on the ground last year, but that was well off the pace set in 2014 when they averaged 147.1 yards a game
Outside of one analyst who tried to use hard numbers and data, most prognosticators don't seem to think all that much of the Cowboys' chances this year. But that may not be a bad thing.
It seems that the pollsters just don't like the Cowboys that much.
Some fans would prefer it this way, as Dallas seems to have trouble living up to expectations. Most outsiders said Dallas would be at the bottom of the league heading into the 2014 season because of their then-recent defensive performances and the loss of key personnel Demarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Sean Lee. The Cowboys resurgence was built around a smashmouth run game attitude, the same one they plan to employ in 2016.