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Cowboys News: Which young Cowboys players stood out in Hall of Fame game?

Latest Cowboys headlines: Top performers from Thursday's win; why Jerry Jones belongs with NFL's greats; more.

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NFL: Pro Football Hall of Fame Game-Arizona Cardinals vs Dallas Cowboys Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Re-Focused: Dallas Cowboys 20, Arizona Cardinals 18 - Pro Football Focus
PFF take a look at Thursday's game and offer some interesting takes that may run counter to some of the more panicky hot takes from immediately after the game.

Edge defenders Damontre Moore & Taco Charlton: The Cowboys need to get more production off the edge, and they got a solid night from starters Moore and Charlton. Charlton did not record a tackle or pressure, but did an excellent job of using his length to set the edge and control blockers against the run (80.7 run-defense grade). Moore posted a quarterback hurry and a run stop, while also racking up four assists on just 13 total run plays (80.6 run defense grade).

TE Rico Gathers: Gathers held his own blocking as well, posting a solid 78.1 run-blocking grade, something that the Cowboys likely view as icing on the cake at this point in his football career.

O-line: The Cowboys’ offensive line was very sturdy in pass protection all night, allowing zero sacks, three quarterback hits (none in the first half), and just five hurries on 36 passing plays for a pass-blocking efficiency of 83.3.

What we learned from Cowboys-Cardinals - Conor Orr,
Conor Orr offers his thoughts on Taco Charlton.

I felt Cowboys first-round pick Taco Charlton played his best early. I counted two incredibly quick jumps Charlton got off the ball during the first drive, though he pinballed a bit throughout the rest of his snaps. Pro Football Focus counted 16 total snaps with zero pressures, though I might be able to make an argument for one. Charlton played much better in the run, appearing to have a pretty obvious nose for the ball. His development will be crucial for the pass rusher-starved Cowboys, a team that will not have a choice but to play Charlton significantly right away.

Why it's time to take Cowboys TE Rico Gathers seriously - Bob Sturm, SportsDay
Ladies and Gentlemen, please make room on the Rico bandwagon.

When he caught that wonderful touchdown throw from Kellen Moore by outsizing and outpowering the poor defensive back who was trying to deal with him, it became obvious that I need to drop some cynicism on his future and hop on the wagon that indicates the Cowboys may have something here.

In adding Gathers and Ryan Switzer, it sure looks like the Cowboys are going to be an even more difficult team to match up with when they choose to spread out the defense and isolate the weak links.

Am I sure Gathers can make the team? No. Because the numbers crunch is a real thing. But now, he has graduated, in my mind, from a "long-shot project" to a guy who is in range of the final 53. Another showing or two like that, and they will need to make room and strongly consider carrying four tight ends again. I am not close to suggesting he is able to replace Jason Witten (I have heard some of you throw that around), but he is now properly on the radar for the 2017 team photo. He was very, very impressive in many regards last night.

Cowboys find new candidate for their backfield in former fullback Rod Smith - Ken Skiver,
Skiver likes what he saw from Smith.

Smith, an Ohio State grad, had 18 carries for 64 yards, continuing an impressive offseason in his first year as a true running back in the NFL. Due to that offseason, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett felt it prudent to reward Smith.

"We wanted to give the bulk of the snaps at running back to Rod," Garrett said, per the team's official website. "He got a lot of snaps, he got a lot of carries in the game. I thought he handled himself well."

Those who have been following the Cowboys shouldn't be surprised by the development. Word around Cowboys camp was that Smith had more or less usurped the third spot from Morris already. However, it may have been surprising to see how effective he was early on, particularly for a player that so rarely gets a large workload.

A lot more good things may end up happening for Smith if he continues his success, especially for a team with the reputation of the Cowboys.

Connecting the dots: Rico Gathers and Keith Smith may give the Cowboys a killer new package - Tom Ryle, Blogging The Boys
Rico Gathers and Keith Smith were leading receivers in the HOF game, and that opens up some very interesting possibilities. Ryle explains how the Cowboys could move from a run-look (22 personnel) into a four-wide formation with ease, all with the same personnel.

This is a group that could be rolled out in a short-yardage situation, especially in the red zone. The defense would likely counter with a run-stuffing group, looking to crowd the box while putting their best coverage DB on Bryant just in case.

And then Dak Prescott drops back into shotgun and the rest of the personnel motion into a four-wide configuration. Gathers goes to the WR position opposite Bryant, while Elliott and Smith line up in the slots, or both go to one side to put three receivers there.

Get it now? Gathers and Smith are both starting to look like very capable receivers, and we know that the team is looking to get Elliott more involved in the passing game. Suddenly the defense has the wrong personnel to cover all five potential targets, any one of which could get the ball (because you know Witten will find a way to get open). The most likely outcomes of this are: 1. The opponent is forced to call a time out, or 2. The defensive coordinator throwing his headset on the ground in disgust as Dak burns his team.

Cowboys' Jason Garrett pleased with Kellen Moore's showing as starter - Todd Archer, ESPN
Kellen Moore returned to action in the Hall of Fame Game after a lost 2016 season and secured his standing as the Cowboys' backup quarterback, Archer writes.

"Kellen played like Kellen always plays," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "He has a real poise and composure about him. He's got a great understanding of what we're trying to do offensively. He just has a good feel for playing the game and he made a lot of good throws in the game. I think he recognized what it was they were trying to do defensively and attacked it."

Scout's Notebook: Best Moments, Top Performers From Thursday's Win - Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
Another must-read from Broaddus, in which he chronicles 12 impressions from the Hall of Fame Game. Here are two of them.

I still saw a few snaps where La’el Collins was off with his hands, but he didn’t hurt his footwork. He appeared to be in good position off the line and into his set. He wasn’t overextended and his power was where it needed to be. Where he had been getting into trouble was when he was too aggressive and it caused him to miss with those hands. Lucky for Collins, the rushers were not able to take advantage of those misses in order to put him in a poor blocking position.

I haven’t seen much from Kavon Frazier during this camp, but he made an important stop on third down to hold the Cardinals to a field goal. Frazier, playing at depth, was able to successfully read the toss sweep to Penny and then come flying forward to put a form tackle on him for no gain. If Frazier doesn’t make that tackle, Penny is going to get around the corner with the Cardinals in business just outside the red zone.

Jerry Jones’ HOF game standouts: Rico Gathers, Cooper Rush, Andy Jones - Clarence Hill, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Jones remarked on three players that stood out to him:

“I liked Rico Gathers,” Jones said. “We knew he was going to get all the snaps. He got them. No questions at 280 pounds, he was laboring at the end of the game. He’s a weapon. Romo told me. Last thing he said was ‘we ate them up all year, me and Rico, during our practices last year’. He said Rico was a weapon. I thought Rico did real well.”

“I liked Rush,” Jones said. “I thought Rush accounted for himself well. That was some pressure stuff he got to see. I thought he got the ball out real good. And Andy Jones...he is just stacking them up. He has had some good practices.”

Barstool Sports will provide thousands of Goodell clown towels for Patriots season opener - Matt Yoder, Awful Announcing
You too can get in on the Goodell clown face action, as Barstool offers both T-shirts and towels

Quarterback Supporting Cast Power Rankings 2017 – Cian Fahey, Pre Snap Reads
For his supporting cast rankings, Fahey takes the quarterback out ranks each offensive position group (with coaching added as a bonus) to arrive at an overall ranking.

The Cowboys finish second overall and just five spots ahead of the Eagles. So much for the "Wentz has no offense to support" him fairy tale.

Although losing Doug Free disrupts the continuity of the Cowboys offensive line, the unit is still outrageously talented. Four of the five spots on the line will have potential All-Pro performers. La’el Collins is likely to have more consistency issues as he transitions to a new position at right tackle but he did at least play tackle in college. Collins and Tyron Smith book-ending the pass protection will give Prescott plenty of time in the pocket.

Ezekiel Elliott’s value to the Cowboys is massive. Sure, another running back could be productive behind that line, but few other running backs offer up the play-calling diversity and the matchup problems that Elliott creates. Only two—David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell— offer up that value in the passing game while still being consistent running the ball snap-to-snap and capable of creating their own big plays.

Dez Bryant is one of the best receivers in the league. Bryant is easier to throw to than most receivers but he also doesn’t create as much separation as the top receivers. That means the quarterback has to have an aggressive mindset to give him opportunities to make a play on the ball in the air against tight coverage. Cole Beasley is an effective possession receiver who can create his own separation on underneath routes, but Terrance Williams has too many limitations and consistency issues to fill the role he is likely to fill.

Effective Completion Percentage – Cian Fahey, Pre Snap Reads
In another piece from earlier this week, proposes an "effective completion rate", which weights the completion rate by distance thrown and is calculated as follows:

Passes that were completed behind the line of scrimmage count for nothing. For every yard the ball goes past the line of scrimmage, 0.1 is added to the quarterback’s adjusted completions number. So a one-yard pass is 0.1, an eleven yard pass is 1.1 etc etc.

Here's an excerpt of his 31QB ranking, you can read up on the full ranking by following the link above:

1. Marcus Mariota, TEN (59.1%)

2. Matt Ryan, ATL (53.7%)

3. Andrew Luck, IND (50.8%)

4. Dak Prescott, DAL (50.2%)

5. Kirk Cousins, WAS (49.9%)


25. Eli Manning, NYG (37.2%)

27. Carson Wentz, PHI (36.2%)

Pro Football Hall of Fame 2017: Why Jerry Jones belongs with NFL's greats - Ellis Wiliams, Sporting News
A very succinct summary.

His place in Canton was cemented not only by his accomplishments as an owner and executive, but also his status as the most influential owner in professional sports.

Jones has changed the way the NFL does business.

Jones has always been an innovator and he belongs in Canton not only for his decisions as the Cowboys’ owner but also for the major contributions he has made in transforming the NFL into the most popular major sports league in America.

Dallas Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones hit by Hall of Fame reality - Todd Acher, ESPN
Jones is properly humbled by the HoF experience, an experience he plans on sharing with his close family and a few select friends:

After the dinner, Jones will hold a private party for nearly 1,000 people. His entire family will be there. So will friends from his time at Arkansas and throughout his life. The Cowboys players will be on hand, and Jones invited his fellow Hall of Fame class members. At Saturday’s induction ceremony, he figures there will be 600 to 700 in attendance with direct ties to him.

“Well, the idea of wanting to demonstrate or show just how much it meant to me and our family for me to get to go into the Hall of Fame, I think will be clearly evidenced by the party tonight,” Jones said, “I’m not going to disappoint.”

Jerry Jones: "I Do Not Anticipate A Suspension" For Ezekiel Elliott - David Helman, Dallas Cowboys
It's one thing for Jerry Jones to make a statement like that in front of microphones, it's another to post it on the team website. So here's the official PR-approved text from the Cowboys.

“I do not anticipate a suspension,” Jones said.

The league’s investigation has been ongoing since last July, when allegations against Elliott first surfaced, and it hasn’t faded from the spotlight in the year since. The Pro Bowl running back reportedly met with the league before the Cowboys reported to training camp, and he has also been the subject of speculation throughout this summer, as reports have circulated that he may be in line for a suspension this season.

Jones has staunchly stated in the past that there is no merit to the domestic violence allegations. He has also been sure not to insert himself too much into the investigation, except to say that he did not foresee a coming suspension.

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