The draft may not be the only route for the Cowboys to improve the pass rush. After an undiagnosed back condition sidelined him in 2016, their fourth round pick from last year is medically cleared and ready to show what he's got.
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Charles Tapper tweeted Wednesday morning that he's been cleared to play next season and that he's "all healthy" after he missed his entire rookie year with a back injury.
Not all is good on the injury front for the Cowboys, as reports of another back surgery for Demarcus Lawrence raise more concerns about his future.
For the second consecutive year, Stephen Jones is proclaiming that the surgery isn't a big deal, but last January he had to change his tone. Following the first surgery, Jones proclaimed the issue was much more serious than they knew going into the procedure. To make matters more doom and gloom, there's never been any public statement about exactly what was wrong with the back the first time, nor what is wrong with it this time.
That leads to concern of whether or not Lawrence will ever be full go for Dallas. It certainly has to cast doubt within the organization as to what needs to be done to improve the mediocre pass rush.
While the Cowboys are looking for new blood to improve their roster, they are also seeking to continue their trend of growing from within by locking up All Pro guard Zack Martin.
There are times when such decisions may be difficult, but the one Dallas has to make this offseason isn't in that category. They picked right guard Zack Martin in the first round of the 2014 draft and watched him become one of the best players at the position right away. He's a two time selection for the All-Pro first-team and made the Associated Press‘ second unit after the 2015 season.
Martin's success means it is little surprise that Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said, via Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News, that the team will be exercising their option on his contract for the 2019 season.
The Sturminator does a season wrap-up of his decoding Linehan series, and comes to a conclusion that bodes very, very well for the future.
By all measures, the offense did a fantastic job. It then converts to absurdly fantastic when you come to grips with the fact that a largely ignored fourth-round rookie quarterback was running the whole thing. To prove that sports fans will look each and every gift horse in the mouth, the consternation and seeming dissatisfaction of not matching or exceeding every offense, in every category, has been heard. Some, I guess, expected Dak Prescott to outperform all of the $25-million-per-season quarterbacks in his first year of professional football, and/or they expected Tony Romo to suddenly heal from all of his repeated health issues and then perform at the top end of his career ladder without any notable action in roughly two years. Regardless, the gift horse delivered at levels that should get everyone excited about the future, especially with the premise that with familiarity, Prescott's performance should improve to even greater heights.
The more you learn about the Cowboys' quarterback, the more you realize he is just wise beyond his years.
Dak Prescott misunderstood the question, which turned out to be a good thing.
That's because the rookie quarterback provided an answer that explained, in part, how he earned the respect of the Dallas Cowboys' locker room so quickly.
"Managing personalities," Prescott said recently when asked the most underrated aspect of being a quarterback.
"You gotta keep guys happy."
Dak Prescott may be enjoying his week at the Pro Bowl, but when he was asked about the playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers, it sounds like what he really wants to do is get started on prepping for the coming season.
"It's behind me, but I can't say I'm over that loss," Prescott said candidly after the NFC practice Wednesday. "I'll never be over that loss. I'll never be over any loss. It's definitely fuel to the fire and ready to get back to work."
Everyone is talking about a defense-heavy draft for the Cowboys, because that is where the most pressing needs are. But keep this thought in mind.
If the Cowboys had taken that need-first approach last April, Ezekiel Elliott might not be here.
Sorting out the secondary, with so many incumbents entering free agency, is a top job for the Cowboys right now. To have along with Byron Jones, still under contract, Todd Archer thinks Barry Church should be the top priority to re-sign.
While the Cowboys know what they have in Jones, keeping Church needs to be one of their priorities. He has served as a defensive captain. He can play multiple roles. He can find the ball. He is a glue guy to a defense that will enter 2017 with enough questions.
If you did a graph of the Cowboys' recent successes in the draft and one of the growing influence of Will McClay within the organization, they would look remarkably similar. His value to the team is almost immeasurable, and it looks like he's sticking around for at least a while.
"Will is happy here," executive vice president Stephen Jones told reporters at the Senior Bowl on Tuesday. "There have been people who have been interested in him."
Sources said a few teams reached out to McClay about potentially interviewing for their general-manager or personnel-chief vacancies, but he declined them. It's the second consecutive year McClay has taken himself out of the mix to run his own show.
Our former colleague makes the excellent point that the "honor" of coaching the Pro Bowl is actually a bit of a handicap for the Dallas coaching staff.
As a reward for their finish, the Cowboys coaching staff was selected to coach this week's Pro Bowl. There are seven Cowboys on the NFC squad, and practices started on Wednesday. The problem is, the coaching staff is in Orlando and the Senior Bowl is taking place in Mobile, Alabama.
Every NFL team has their coaching staff and scouting department in Mobile, but Dallas has split duties.
Elliott is a clear example of how the Cowboys don't draft strictly for need, but here is more on the same subject.
It's undeniable the Cowboys have defensive deficiencies as they head into this draft cycle. But, as they'll tell you, they didn't achieve that success with the short-sighted approach of drafting for need.
"There are going to be some players there, and we have several places that we can basically add to some good players we've got there now," Jerry Jones said. "I think that it's fair to say that we'll be looking defensively. But, as we know, that's not necessarily what shows up."
That's how this year differs from last, thanks to the on-field success. When the Cowboys picked No. 4 overall - and at the top of every subsequent round - last year, they had a much firmer grasp on who would be available to them. Picking No. 28 - and at the tail end of every subsequent round - is going to require much more prep work as they piece their board together.
Speaking of the Senior Bowl, it is the premier showcase for draft prospects (except those coming out early). Here are some articles to get you caught up on what's going on there, with some of the names that might interest the Cowboys (focused on defensive linemen, defensive backs, and wide receivers).
Defensive backs are very likely to be of great value for the Cowboys. How about one who can play multiple positions and show up well against the player widely regarded as the best one at the Senior Bowl.
Cam Sutton (Tennessee) was taking reps at safety, nickel corner, and outside corner today, which was noteworthy. He certainly showed his versatility with fluid hips quickly changing directions in and out of receiver breaks. Sutton was matched up versus O.J. Howard (Alabama) a few times and came away with two pass break ups right on Howard's hip pocket. Sutton is physical and plays with the right technique to adjust.
Just to cover both sides.
Could the Cowboys reunite Dak Prescott with one of his favorite targets in college?
The idea brought a smile immediately to Fred Ross.
A reunion with his college quarterback, Dak Prescott, in the NFL would be a dream come true.
There's no question the Dallas Cowboys have some interest in Ross, the Mississippi State wide receiver, as they've met twice already at the Senior Bowl.
Early draft boards project Daeshon Hall as a mid to late round pick, but his work at the Senior Bowl may cause those expectations to rise. In some ways, he sounds like a prototypical Rod Marinelli rushman.
"I've been working with a new defensive line and performance coach (Scott), and we've been working on skating which is basically like being a boxer, moving your head and moving your feet, moving your legs. If he gives me the outside, I'm going to take the outside and if he gives me the inside, I'm going to take it every time. So just whatever the tackle gives me, I'm going to take it."
It's that type of cerebral approach that will allow Hall to play well in the NFL. In college, not only did Hall know his own assignments, he knew what every player on the defense was doing. It was that intelligence that let him play multiple spots on defense when Myles Garrett went down, and that is just one of the reasons why his defensive line coach is going to love him in the NFL.
The resident scout at the mothership offers his take from Mobile.
I wasn't super high on West Virginia cornerback Rasul Douglas when I studied him on tape. My initial grade was in the fourth round and I was willing to leave him there. Watching him during practice, he showed me a little more than that. His awareness playing routes and positioning was right where it needed to be. There were two snaps during the red zone portion of practice where he was able to undercut the receiver and make a play on the ball. He's a press man corner with more awareness than I thought.
Here's another defensive lineman that sounds a lot like a Marinelli kind of guy.
Eddie Vanderdoes/DL/UCLA: The Senior Bowl is about expectations, and Vanderdoes exceeded them in every way Tuesday. He beat blockers off the snap with his great first step, bull-rushed them off the line with surprising power and also showed terrific hand technique to keep opponents away from him. More than anything else, Vanderdoes outplayed and outhustled everyone he lined up against.
Tues: (Montravius) Adams was impossible to stop at times today and looked like a man amongst boys. He was quick, powerful and drove opponents off the line of scrimmage. He was effective with his hands and had opponents playing back on their heels. Adams had scouts talking today.
Tues: (Isaiah) Jones was arguably the top receiver on both squads Tuesday, running routes hard while still being able to slow down and limit wasted movement at his route stem. Like (Amba) Etta-Tawo, he showed strong hands, good fundamentals catching the ball away from his frame and contested-catch ability in tight coverage down the field.