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Cowboys News & Notes: Optimism For The Future, But Still Questions To Answer In The Offseason

Also, some last looks at the loss to the Packers, and some pithy stuff on that fan base in Philadelphia we love to hate.

Dan Powers-USA TODAY Sports

Phillips: Taking The Next Step Won’t Be Easy; 5 Reasons It Can Happen | Dallas Cowboys

Rob Phillips takes a look at reasons for optimism after the disappointing end to the 2016 campaign, and buries a little nugget along the way that may be bigger than you think.

This team does have a ‘fight' gene. Garrett, normally measured and precise at the podium for his daily press briefings, nearly dropped an F-bomb Monday when describing how much Elliott loves football. The best thing Garrett likes about this team is they compete. It's the foundation of the program, and it's really never cracked in Garrett's six full seasons as head coach. How many times have the Cowboys simply gotten blown out in a game during that stretch?

Film Room: Looking At The Positives From The Cowboys' Loss - Marcus Mosher, Fanrag Sports

In another article detailing why there is a bright future ahead for the Cowboys, Mosher looks a lot at Dak Prescott, but also has this observation about that other super rookie, Ezekiel Elliott.

Elliott is a complete back who has no weakness. If the Cowboys were up in this game late, Elliott probably would have carried the ball over 30 times. But that didn't happen, and it led to Elliott having to pick up a lot of key blitzes.

However, that's where the value lies for Elliott.

He can do anything you ask him to at a high level. Despite coming into the year a little out of shape and injured, Elliott was able to accumulate 2,117 total yards in 16 games (counting the playoffs). With another year in the Cowboys' offense with, hopefully, a more advanced passer, don't be shocked to see that number float closer to 2,500 yards.

Owner Jerry Jones believes he has built a legitimate Super Bowl contender | Clarence Hill, The Star-Telegram

There is no guarantee that the Cowboys will even make it back to the playoffs next year, much less get over the divisional round hurdle that has stymied them of late, but Jerry Jones is always the optimist.

But Jones refuses to call this season a failure because of the emergence of rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and the bright future the Cowboys have in front of them.

"Our team enjoyed about as fairy tail of a season that you can draw up," Jones said on his radio show on 105.3 The Fan Tuesday. "I'm not at all in anyway disappointed what has happened to us. We have a lot more answers about the future than when we started. You want to have this taste in your mouth. We have a team capable of winning it all. We really do. That team was capable of beating Green Bay."

Ronald Leary undecided on Dallas Cowboys, may be too costly - Patrik Walker/ 247 Sports

Keeping Ronald Leary for insurance last season really paid off for Dallas, but now that he is an unrestricted free agent, he may be too costly for them to bring back.

Offensive lineman Brian Winters has already signed to a four-year, $29-million dollar extension with the New York Jets, which pretty much sets the market for now. This definitely works in Leary's favor, especially considering he had more starts this year than did Winters.

It's not impossible to imagine Leary and the Cowboys working out a deal, but it'd likely mean he accepts less money as well as a backup role to a returning Collins in 2017.

To prepare for the possible departure, Dallas signed guard Jonathan Cooper late in the year. The team was thoroughly impressed with Cooper, who is also a free agent this offseason.

Dallas Cowboys: Sturm: What you may not have noticed on pivotal Rodgers-Cook play that'll be lasting memory of Cowboys' loss | SportsDay

Bob Sturm does his usual outstanding job breaking down the defense in the loss to Green Bay. It is an excellent read, and his conclusion points out what the team needs to do going forward.

I think the Cowboys made a calculated gamble on draft day to not really do too much to address the defense in 2016 and bolster an already loaded offense. They still feel happy about it, and we will really change the mood the moment Jaylon Smith takes the field. But on Sunday, they certainly looked outclassed when the Packers had the ball. And that will no doubt be the focus this offseason. If they meet again, you need a few more difference-makers who can win and sack that quarterback before he can make those throws.

Dallas Cowboys: 'Really, Rodgers?' Byron Jones breaks down play that led to Cowboys' loss, how he's coping | SportsDay

There are so many questions about the play that wound up beating the Cowboys. Byron Jones gives his explanation for what happened and how he got beat.

"So we were in a zone coverage, Cover 2. I'm an underneath dropper, and you know, we all understand what [Aaron] Rodgers is gonna do. We understand he's gonna leave the pocket, so the play's gonna be extended. The zone kind of gets all warped up when he holds the ball and he's running outside the pocket. I kept my eyes on Rodgers like I'm coached to do and tried to defend my seam, and then of course you got [Jared] Cook sneaking behind me and he catches it on the sideline.

"It's one of those plays where it's just like, 'Really, Rodgers?' I mean, he threw a dime on the move. You don't see stuff like that. Quarterbacks like that, they find those small holes in the zone and they can just take advantage of it, and Rodgers was able to do that."

Report: Dan Bailey has herniated disc, could require surgery - Patrik Walker, 247 Sports

Dan Bailey was money in the playoff loss, but seemed a little less sharp at times during the regular season. It has been revealed that there was a reason for that.

It's being reported by NBC DFW Channel 5 that the six-year veteran actually discovered he had a herniated disc after the Week 4 victory against the San Francisco 49ers, a game Bailey was in noticeable pain throughout.

And it's an injury he could require surgery to repair this offseason.

The Cowboys flirted with the idea of signing veteran kicker Robbie Gould at the time but opted to sharpen the kicking prowess of safety Jeff Heath in the event Bailey could not suit up in Week 5. Ultimately, he did and proceeded to play every game for the remainder of the season going 19/22 on field goal attempts despite it all.

Dallas Cowboys: Former NFL GM says Tony Romo should go ahead and retire: 'I wouldn't touch him' | SportsDay

There is going to be a lot of talk about possible trade options for Tony Romo, but former NFL GM Charles Casserly (Washington and Houston) said on the NFL Network that he just doesn't see that happening.

"It's gonna be a hard trade," Casserly said. "I think he will get released because I'm not sure anybody would give up anything to get this guy. 37 years old. Three back surgeries. You don't know what you're buying. You're going to have to have him on a reduced contract, a lot of incentives, maybe even put a waiver in there. If he has another back injury, hey we're not going to pay it. That's what kind of a risk I think this guy is."

Dallas Cowboys: Why Tony Romo starting for the Cowboys in 2017 is nonsense | Matt Mosley, SportsDay

These are some words of wisdom you might keep in mind the next few months.

Romo's as good as gone from this Cowboys team, and he knows that better than anyone. All this talk from Jerry about how helpful Romo was this season is window dressing. The Romo I've known for years never embraced some type of mentor role, and that's fine. You think Drew Bledsoe embraced that role with the Cowboys in 2006? Absolutely not.

You'll hear a lot of talk from Jerry over the next few months. Just know that anything he says about the possibility of Romo starting for the Cowboys in 2017 is nonsense.

NJ Governor Chris Christie: Eagles fans 'angry, awful people' - Jeff Kerr, 247 Sports

Please don't think of this in political terms. Just showing that truth can come from unexpected sources.

"The hostility, I will tell you that I take for being a Cowboys fan," Christie said Carton. "Now Eagles fans...I understand it a little more. They suck and they've sucked for a long time. And their fans are generally, generally...angry, awful people."

And because you can never say too much about how bad the Philadelphia crowd is:

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