Before we start with our roundup of the latest Cowboys headlines, be sure to check out Landon’s Mailbag FanPost, where you can drop in a question for the podcast later this week. You guys always ask great questions and he’ll try to answer as many as possible.
"I hope everyone in the league has the same goal of playing in the last game and winning it, so that's the obvious factor," quarterback Dak Prescott said. "We would be crazy if we said we didn't think we could get there. Right now, it's about working. It's about putting that in the back of our mind and just getting better.
OCC picks up on that theme with this article.
What endears us Cowboys fans so much to the rest of the NFL fanbase is our collective ability to hold on to successes from more than 20 years ago and derive some sort of expectation and relevance from it for today. Yet here we are, with just two playoff wins to show for the last 20 years. With that in mind, and as we prepare for the 2017 season, what do you think would need to happen for this season to be considered a success?"
What’s the new slogan? Re-commit.
"I think you have to have that approach," tight end Jason Witten said. "You just can't allow yourself to say, 'Hey, we're going to pick up where we left off.' That just doesn't work in this game. You'll get exposed individually and collectively as a team if you take that approach. I think it's a good mantra to have, to re-commit.
"I think it's good for guys to understand it. But really it's we got to go do it. I think we have that understanding that this is what we have to do. I think it gives you a lot of confidence to see young players to have the success that they did go back and re-commit and find things they can do better as we all can. So that's a good start. We got a long way to go."
Would you give the Cowboys a C+ for their offseason?
They lost Ronald Leary in free agency but knew they couldn’t keep him. They lost Barry Church, Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and J.J. Wilcox from their secondary after making relatively low bids to keep them, which was a sign they were ready to move on as much as the players were ready to move on. They lost Terrell McClain and Jack Crawford along the defensive line, but felt those players were replaceable.
The biggest free-agent addition was cornerback Nolan Carroll at three years, $10 million. A recent DWI arrest has Carroll potentially facing a suspension. They re-signed wide receiver Terrance Williams, which was something of a surprise.
So a C+ seems about right.
How would you rank the Cowboys players? Here’s how Sports Illustrated did.
1. RB Ezekiel Elliott (47 points)
2. LB Sean Lee (36)
3. LT Tyron Smith (35)
4. WR Dez Bryant (26)
5. C Travis Frederick (24)
6. G Zack Martin (18)
T-8. TE Jason Witten (13)
T-8. DE Taco Charlton (13)
T-8. G/T La'el Collins (13)
10. DT Maliek Collins (9)
One of the key questions going into the season is whether Jonathan Cooper can finally realize the potential he came into the NFL with. He’s working hard to try, and there’s a slot at left guard he could fill nicely.
There have definitely been some growing pains during the past few weeks in the form of fumbled snaps and missed assignments. But having spent time on four different rosters, Cooper said one of his favorite aspects of the Cowboys’ offensive line is the commitment to the cause.
“Like I said, they don’t have egos. They’re not putting you down if you make mistakes,” he said. “They’re really helping me out a lot. I really feel like it makes a world of difference, and I’ve just got to stick with it and keep learning.”
Speaking of the offensive line.
Let's package this into two topics, as both pertain to the O-line. First, Dallas must sort through and find the best options to play the left guard and right tackle spots. La'El Collins is getting some offseason work at right tackle, but he could stay at guard and leave just one spot open. If he plays right tackle, there's a competition at left guard, which includes former first-round pick Jonathan Cooper. The second order of business is paying guard Zack Martin, perhaps the NFL's best player at the position, who could be an unrestricted free agent in 2019. Dallas has said a long-term extension for Martin is a priority, so don't expect him to hit the market.
Lots of new guys in the secondary. This is the guy I think might be the best.
Seeing the look as the ball was snapped, Dez Bryant raised his hands signaling a touchdown. He just knew Kellen Moore would find Terrance Williams in the corner of the end zone.
Moore’s throw was in a perfect spot to the back corner pylon, giving Williams the best chance to catch it. But rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis was having none of it. He went up and through Williams to knock the ball away for an incomplete pass.
George likes Chidobe Awuzie.
How have the rookie corners looked so far in OTAs?
Brandon George: I think second-round CB Chidobe Awuize has looked better than any of them. He's been the most consistent. Third-round pick Jourdan Lewis has had his moments as well. His quickness and closing speed are impressive.
Williams posits whether Awuzie might end up at safety. It’s a view I share.
“We see him as a corner right now, but as a corner who could potentially play some safety,” secondary coach Joe Baker said. “The nice thing about him is he’s got the intelligence to handle it all, so that’s what you also look for as well as the toughness.
“He’s got all those factors that say, ‘Hey, this guy could go do it [at safety].’ Right now we’d like to see what he can do at corner first.”
Staying with the secondary, what role will Kavon Frazier have this year?
Big strides can often be made between the first and second years of a player’s career when he’s able to fully immerse himself in training, not only improving his strength and endurance but also simply becoming even more comfortable with the playbook. Fresh off his debut campaign, Frazier and the Cowboys were looking forward to him having a full offseason in the team’s workout program.
But unfortunately, that program has been somewhat limited for Frazier. While he’s been able to stay involved and do some of the required regimen, he’s also had to overcome offseason foot surgery, his health taking a priority above all else for the time being.
George tackles several questions, including this one about the defense.
How's Rod Marinelli feeling about his D unit after Dallas finally drafted defenders en masse?
Brandon George: He has to feel better knowing that Jaylon Smith could be ready to finally contribute at middle linebacker and the Cowboys used their first-round pick to draft a defensive end who could step right in as the right-side pass-rusher in Taco Charlton. That said, there is a lot of new faces, especially in the secondary. The Cowboys have had a youth movement on the back end of their defense, and they will need to jell quickly.
What’s the word that helped Dak set a record to open his career?
"Prepare," Prescott said.
"And I think that's the greatest thing I can do and continue to get better at. By just knowing what the defense is going to give me, knowing my plays in and out, knowing where my checkdowns are, being able to get through my progressions fast all falls back on the preparation. And knowing when to take your chances -- knowing when the reward is worth the risk. And I give credit to [Mississippi State] coach Dan Mullen on teaching me that."
Ever heard of the Joe Flacco scale? All Prescott is missing is those elusive playoff wins.
"Prescott is the hardest quarterback to rank on this list. Is he too high? Too low? He went 13-3 as a starter as a rookie and learned what it takes in the postseason in a heart-breaking loss to the Packers. Prescott should continue to grow as Dallas' next big-time quarterback."
A year ago at this time, no one was expecting what played out last season.
Last summer, the Cowboys were Romo’s team, which is something Prescott kept insisting when Romo's potential return was broached at different times during the regular season. Prescott won’t call the Cowboys his team now, but the transition is complete.
“It was never something I was trying to make it from Tony’s team to my team. It’s a team,” Prescott said. “It’s the Dallas Cowboys and all we can do is continue to get better, and we’re doing that right now.”
Lots of takes. This one seems best.
Cowboys TE Jason Witten: I will remember that ultra-driven athlete who worked his tail off to learn how to perfect the proper throwing motion. The player who would stand at the chalk board tirelessly thinking through and dissecting how to block-up a brutal Jim Johnson blitz. A guy who would take command at the line of scrimmage with the authority of a 5-star general all while having the charisma of Joe Namath and the competitive fire of Michael Jordan. ...
Most fondly, I will remember a man with a big heart, who loved to include others and took a great sense of pride in watching them enjoy the fruits of his labor. A man with an infectious personality and a contagious smile.
Broaddus gives us his quick take on the Cowboys’ newest addition. He’s not eligible for the practice squad, but he did come from Arizona, one of Dallas’s opponents this year.
This is a competitive player that has an NFL quarterback frame. He has the physical toughness to hang in the pocket and take a hit, and he has the football intelligence to understand where the sticks are and work to convert. For his size, he lacks true NFL arm talent. The ball tends to die on him. He’s a better under and intermediate passer than down the field. He threw a terrible interception against Tennessee in the red zone where he just couldn’t get enough on the ball to get it to the open receiver in the end zone. He also had other passes that were short and not on the mark.