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Cowboys News: Have Cowboys found their bookend pass rushers of the future?

Latest Cowboys headlines: Will Cowboys hammer the ball at Eagles? Rod Marinelli on thin ice? What bookends?

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys

Scout’s Eye: Cowboys-Eagles Will Be Centered Around The Running Game - Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
Broaddus expects a healthy dose of ground & pound from the Cowboys.

My broadcast partner, Nate Newton, likes to say that this time of year that two things travel well -- a running game and a defense. The conditions will be less than ideal for throwing the ball with the game time temperature in the low 20’s, so the focus on running the ball should be the best plan of attack.

Ezekiel Elliott didn’t play the last time these two clubs met. With his history of playing in these types of conditions at Ohio State, he should benefit the Cowboys. Elliott slogged through a game in Washington where protecting the ball took every bit of skill that he had. For the Cowboys to win this game they will lean on Elliott and an offensive line that will be without Tyron Smith. The Eagles have one of the better run defenses in the league -- but how much will they be willing to expose their starters in a meaningless game with home field already secured?

I expect to see the Cowboys, scheme-wise, get in plenty of “12” and “13” personnel groups and hammer the ball at this Eagles front to see how much they really want to play. If they’re successful, this should open up some shots in the play action game -- which would make life easier for Dak Prescott to throw the ball.

Final Thoughts: Opportunities For Young Players With An Eye On 2018 - Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
Some people call it resting their starters, others call it giving their young guys a chance. Whatever it ends up being, Broaddus expects to see more from Ryan Switzer and Lance Lenoir in the passing game.

I am not getting a positive vibe on the availability of Cole Beasley in this game. Beasley has been sick all week and has missed practice time, which has allowed Ryan Switzer to get work with the first offense. Other than his work on special teams, it’s been a struggle for Switzer to get on the field. Looking back, my expectations for him were likely too lofty. I thought he would have had a bigger role in this offense considering what I had seen from him at North Carolina but sadly that wasn’t the case at all.

Lance Lenoir along with Kadeem Edwards are being called up to the 53-man roster. To make room for those players, the season will end for Tyron Smith and Orlando Scandrick. What is interesting about Lenoir is that all season, he is the one practice squad player that was getting snaps with the first offense during practice -- so don’t be surprised if he gets a shot on the active game day roster against the Eagles. I have heard some very positive reviews of his game -- not just this week but throughout the season.

Cowboys injury update: Tyron Smith, Orlando Scandrick moved to IR - Dave Halprin, Blogging The Boys
The final injury update for the Dallas Cowboys.

You know a season is really coming to a close when you get the final injury update of the year. The Cowboys took the opportunity to put a couple of veterans on injured reserve. Left tackle Tyron Smith and cornerback Orlando Scandrick will not play Sunday as both went on IR.

Defensive linemen David Irving (concussion) and defensive end Benson Mayowa (back/illness) have been ruled out of Sunday's game at Philadelphia. Cole Beasley (illness), Rod Smith (illness/back) and La'el Collins (back) and Richard Ash (shoulder) are questionable.

Week 17 NFL predictions: Scores for every game - ESPN
The Cowboys and Eagles beat writers give their take on the outcome of the game.

Todd Archer: Eagles 22, Cowboys 17

Even though there is nothing on the line, the Cowboys will go with their regulars, which means a steady dose of Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, DeMarcus Lawrence and Sean Lee. The Cowboys lost the first meeting 37-9 without Elliott (suspension) and Lee (injury), but how much will it matter? Elliott needs 120 yards to reach 1,000 for the season and the Eagles have been vulnerable to the run over the past month, giving up 105.5 yards per game. Elliott might get his 120 yards, but the Cowboys won’t be able to make enough big plays to score points, which has been an issue most of the season.

Tim McManus: Cowboys 24, Eagles 17

Nick Foles and the majority of the Eagles starters are expected to play for part of this game, but they likely will give way to the backups at some point. Former sixth-round pick Nate Sudfeld should see his first action as a pro, and while the coaching staff is high on the quarterback, it could be tough sledding against Dallas' first team.

NFL Week 17 Picks: Cowboys run wild - Will Brinson,
Brinson thinks the Cowboys will win because they are looking for excuses to explain away the season.

Did you see how quickly this line moved after the Eagles locked up home-field advantage? The Cowboys are playing for nothing, having been eliminated by the Seahawks at home during Week 16. The Eagles are playing for even less -- they have the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC and need to avoid suffering any injuries during the next week. Maybe they bring out Nick Foles to wing it around, but the smart move is to play it safe and to get out of Dodge without anyone suffering any harm that will keep a critical player off the field over the next two weeks. Dallas, meanwhile, would love to secure a 9-7 season where they can say "we just got hosed by the league on the Ezekiel Elliott thing" and point to Elliott running for 1,000 yards regardless of the legal issues he dealt with off the field. It just feels like the opposite of last year, with the Cowboys dominating in a game that no one really cares about.

I can buy into the idea that Elliott could have a big game, and that the Cowboys might be more motivated to get a win, but winning to create some obtuse post-season narrative? Pretty far-fetched.

The Cowboys still have some work to do with their interior defensive line, but they are looking better and better outside: DeMarcus Lawrence is putting up a DPOY-worthy season, and Taco Charlton has improved to a point where he could be considered the future at RDE. And suddenly, the Cowboys have their bookend pass rushers.

The Leading Candidates of the NFL’s Unusually Close Defensive Player of the Year Race - Robert Mays, The Ringer
With one week left, Mays lists five defenders that all have a shot at being named best on the other side of the ball, including DeMarcus Lawrence.

Through the first half of this season, it seemed like the award was Lawrence’s to lose. After missing seven games in 2016 because of suspension and injury, Lawrence came into this season healthy and wreaked havoc from the start. He notched at least one sack in each game and 10.5 overall in the Cowboys’ first seven games. For the first two months, Lawrence wasn’t just eyeing a DPOY trophy—he was chasing records.

Sustaining that sort of historic pace is a tall order, though, and Lawrence’s traditional stats fell off considerably over the second half of the year. He still has 14.5 sacks—tied for second in the NFL with Calais Campbell—but only four of those have come since Week 10. Sack totals are essentially what fuel DPOY campaigns among defensive linemen, which is one reason Lawrence’s candidacy has all but disappeared down the stretch. Another factor is one Lawrence himself pointed out after the Cowboys’ loss to Seattle on Sunday. "It's all irrelevant now," Lawrence told The Dallas Morning News after the game. "One play don't change the game.”

With Dallas missing the playoffs and its defense cratering down the stretch, Lawrence has fallen out of the conversation. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve to be considered for the award. Yes, the sacks have gotten scarce, but Lawrence has still been a consistently disruptive presence for the Cowboys’ defense. Since Week 10, only seven players have more pressures than Lawrence’s 32, and only two guys (Ryan Kerrigan and Terrell Suggs) have created more pressure on a per-snap basis, according to Pro Football Focus. Sack totals can occasionally be misleading, but Lawrence has been every bit as good as his total would indicate.

Taco Charlton optimistic about future - Drew Davison, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Charlton sees his development in the NFL as a continuation of the development he's shown before - and is naturally optimistic about where that development will lead him.

“I’ve grown a lot. If you watch film, you kind of see that,” Charlton said. “If you watched me in college, I improved every game. I improved every year. That’s how it is in the league. Every game I improved, every year I’ll improve.

“In college, I was one of the best edge rushers. In the league, I’m going to get there too. It’s going to come in time. I just have to show up every day and work every day.”

Charlton, 23, believes the consistency will come with time. He developed into an elite rusher over time at Michigan. Charlton had no sacks his freshman season; 3.5 sacks his sophomore season; 5.5 his junior season; and then had 10 sacks as a senior to close out his college career.

Charlton expects to make similar strides in the NFL.

“Every year I’ve always gotten better and always progressed and that’s something I’ve been able to continue to do in the pro game as you’ve seen as the year’s gone on,” Charlton said. “I could see next year just going to a different level. I won’t have to really adjust ‘cause I’ve already adjusted, so now it’s a matter of just getting better.

Week 16 rookie report: Taco Charlton continues to improve - Cole Patterson, Blogging The Boys
Charlton may have played his best game of the season last week.

Taco Charlton has received tons of criticism this season — much of it has been deserved. The first-round selection simply looked lost for much of the early parts of this season. Some of that is expected, especially for a first-year player at a premium position like defense end; however that did not stop many fans from complaining about Taco’s lack of production.

Things have slowly but surely begun to change.

Taco again showed improvement in his game in a good performance this past Sunday. The offense didn’t show up, but he (and the rest of the defense) played well in a must-win game. Charlton finished week 16 with two solo tackles, one sack, and a tackle-for-loss. Quite the game for the rook.

DeMarcus Ware on Dez Bryant taking a pay cut: 'I had to do it. Romo had to do it. Witten had to do it.' - SportsDay Staff
Just because it was said on TV, and just because it makes for an easy headline doesn't make it true.

For the record: Neither Ware, Romo, nor Witten ever took a pay cut in Dallas.

Fake News: DeMarcus Ware Never Took Pay Cut from Cowboys - Jess Haynie, Inside The Star
Haynie explains the business with the paycuts.

Even with our limited resources in our moms' basements, it didn’t take much to debunk Ware’s claim. Not only did DeMarcus never take a pay cut during his time with the Cowboys, but his refusal to do so was the exact reason why he ended up being released by Dallas and landing with the Denver Broncos in 2014. Similarly, neither Romo or Witten have ever taken pay cuts.

Perhaps Ware’s comment was based on confusion, thinking about his deal being restructured rather than a true pay cut. All three players did restructure their contracts at numerous points, moving guaranteed money into later years to help create immediate cap space. This happens all the time in Dallas, with the most recent examples being our Pro Bowl offensive linemen.

But a restructure is NOT a pay cut. The total compensation does not change. All that changes is when paid bonus money is counted against the salary cap in each year of his contract. The player doesn’t lose a dime in the end.

Cowboys' big free-agent decisions: DeMarcus Lawrence, Anthony Hitchens - Todd Archer, ESPN
The Cowboys control Lawrence's contract situation, but there is a chance they my not be able to hold on to Hitchens, Archer explains.

The biggest issues for the Cowboys will be what to do with DeMarcus Lawrence and Anthony Hitchens. Lawrence blossomed as a pass-rusher with a healthy season, but the Cowboys won’t let him leave. Hitchens is overlooked by many outside the franchise, but the Cowboys might not be able to match an offer made to him.

DE DeMarcus Lawrence -- He picked the right time to have his best season (14.5 sacks), but there is little chance he hits the open market. If the Cowboys can’t do a deal with him, he will get the franchise tag.

LB Anthony Hitchens -- He is one of the more underrated players on the roster. With the injury questions surrounding Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, he is a vital piece but other teams might outbid the Cowboys.

NFL rebuild rankings: Which eliminated teams have brightest futures? - Michael Middlehurst, USA Today
The Cowboys season did no go the way many had hoped, anticipated, and predicted, yet the Cowboys are the top team trending upward for 2018, Middlehurst argues.

Ezekiel Elliott's suspension provided an additional reality check for the offense's make-up, but Dallas is still in an enviable position for the long term. Though Dak Prescott needs some help, both in improved protection from the once-dominant line and assistance from an underperforming receiving corps, the Cowboys still have one of the best young cores in the NFL. There are key offseason moves to be made in re-signing DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving, but this group looks more in need of a reset than a rebuild.

NFL Black Monday: Cowboys set to make changes, too - Albert Breer,
Breer takes a long look at which teams will be in the market for a new leader, from the obvious (Giants, Bengals) to the coin-flips (Broncos, Titans) to the long-shots (Seahawks, Jets), and thinks Rod Marinelli is on thin ice in Dallas.

Jerry Jones has publicly proclaimed that Jason Garrett’s job is safe for 2018. He stopped short of giving the same assurance for Garrett’s assistants, and the list of those who won’t be examined closely next week is very short. I’m told plenty of assistant coaches have expiring contracts, which makes this an easy time for Dallas to overhaul the staff, if it so desires.

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is the coach who appears to be on the thinnest ice, in part thanks to an inability to adjust on a game-to-game basis, something that showed up against an Eagles team that is very familiar to Dallas, and in how the Chargers and Packers easily roasted the Cowboys’ man-to-man looks earlier in the year. The Cowboys turned over a lot of personnel on that side of the ball, of course, and that’s part of where the problems were, but there’s also a feeling not enough was done to prop up rookies like Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie, who were quickly thrown in the fire.

As for the offense, if the changes aren’t as big on the sideline, I’d expect there will be some significant ones coming on the field. Dez Bryant clearly has lost a step, and his ability to extend his prime will come down to whether or not he can adjust his game the way Larry Fitzgerald did a few years ago—becoming better at the little things, and dedicating himself through training and nutrition. Even if he does that, it’s clear Dallas needs to get more explosive, with Bryant not the downfield threat he once was. I’d expect an effort to fix that, and maybe add some depth to an offensive line that clearly missed Ron Leary and Doug Free.

There’s plenty of work to do for the Jones family. The good news? The guys they’ve had in place, and that includes Garrett and personnel czar Will McClay, have done a pretty good job reworking the team as they’ve gone the past few years.

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