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Cowboys News: Why 2017 has a chance to be special for the Dallas Cowboys

Latest Cowboys headlines: Elliott ruling makes Cowboys instant NFC contenders; Jaylon Smith's remarkable comeback; more

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Enjoy the 2017 ride, don't worry about Dallas Cowboys' future just yet - Todd Archer, ESPN
With a revamped secondary and Ezekiel Elliot's looming suspension, Dallas fans have one eye on the 2018 season. But 2017 has a chance to be special, Archer explains.

I still believe the Cowboys are talented enough to win the division even with all of those questions. Why? Every team has questions entering the season. Followers of the Cowboys just know the questions facing their team more than any other.

If Elliott is gone for six games at some point this season, I expect the Cowboys to still be able to run the ball. I believe Collins will be fine at right tackle. I believe they can find somebody to work between All Pros Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick at left guard and be serviceable. I believe the defense will be better than people think, especially because the expectations might be so low. For years people howled at Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and J.J. Wilcox, and now that they are gone folks wonder if the younger players can do better. You can't have that argument both ways.

Ezekiel Elliott Ruling Makes the Dallas Cowboys Instant NFC Contenders - Robert Mays, The Ringer
Mays explains why Elliott's availability elevates the Cowboys to an elite NFC team.

With Elliott back on the field, the ground game will go from a unit that would have been able to manufacture consistent yardage to one that will rack it up at will after finishing second in rushing DVOA in 2016.

Dallas’s running game regularly ensured that the offense stayed ahead of the sticks and rarely had to deal with challenging down-and-distance scenarios. With Elliott active, that should be the case once again. It’s reasonable to believe that Prescott will take another step forward as a quarterback in his second season; he likely would have been able to handle the complicated elements that come with third-and-8 more smoothly than he could have a year ago regardless of the personnel around him. But there’s a big difference between naturally progressing as a player and needing to.

If Elliott plays all season and the Cowboys keep their entire stable of offensive talents in place, it will take the worst possible iteration of the defense to remove Dallas from the league’s upper tier. The Cowboys already figured to contend with Elliott suspended for six weeks. Now, they again look like an elite NFC team. And we’ve seen where that level of play can take them.

How Dak Prescott can make third time a charm vs. Giants - Jared Dubin, CBSSports.com
Dubin explains why the Cowboys can beat the Giants tonight, and the right tackle position is one of the many reasons he lists.

There is simply no way that La'el Collins can do a worse job of pass protection in the season opener than since-retired right tackle Doug Free did in the two matchups with the Giants last season. The extent to which Jason Pierre-Paul (Week 1) and Romeo Okwara (Week 14) dominated Free is almost indescribable.

During the Week 1 matchup in which Prescott was pressured on 13 pass attempts, 11 of them saw Free's man among those close enough to hit, hurry, or otherwise bother the Cowboys' quarterback. Dak was pressured on 19 drop backs in Week 14; eight times Free's man was among those that made it into the backfield and close to Prescott's throw. Collins will have his struggles against Pierre-Paul, as any tackle does, but the likelihood of him performing as poorly as Free did in those two matchups is vanishingly low. Those were the two worst performances a Cowboys lineman had all last season.

[...]

The Cowboys are the rare team that has stars on the offensive line, they have a star (for this week) at running back and a star wide receiver. They have one of the greatest tight ends of all time and they have one of the NFL's shiftiest slot receivers. And they have a budding star quarterback that they badly need to put in better position to take advantage of his star teammates this time around, or else they're going to come away with yet another loss against their hated division rival.

Why Cowboys Offense Will Fare Better Against Giants In 2017 - Joey Ickes, Fanrag Sports
Ickes suggests three ways in which the Cowboys can improve for their matchup with the Giants in Week 1 this year, sticking with the run game, getting Dez Bryant involved early, and this:

Attack the middle of the field: As a rookie, the one place Dak Prescott didn’t attack very efficiently was the middle of the field in the intermediate and deep areas. Part of this is because most teams play the Cowboys with a single safety in the deep middle. But the Giants have played Dallas with a lot of split safeties, meaning the middle is the most vulnerable area of the field. If Dak can work the ball to his inside weapons down the field between the safeties, the offense will create dynamics that even the Giants’ defensive personnel will struggle with.


Report: Jaylon Smith set to start at MLB vs. Giants - Jeremy Berman, NFL.com
Jaylon Smith's long return to football will officially conclude with the first snap of the 2017 NFL season. Smith is reportedly slated to start at middle linebacker in Dallas' home opener against the Giants.

Smith has progressed well this offseason, earning praise from owner Jerry Jones, coach Jason Garrett and a multitude of teammates along the way. The linebacker made his preseason debut in Week 2, and Smith recorded four tackles, including one for loss, in two preseason games.

On Sunday, Smith will likely be doing it for real, tasked with shutting down an improved Big Blue offense alongside Sean Lee and Justin Durant.

In a game featuring an unsuspended Ezekiel Elliott, Offensive Rookie of the Year Dak Prescott and the always entertaining, and potentially sidelined, Odell Beckham, Smith's debut might be overshadowed from the jump, but it shouldn't be forgotten how long his journey back to the field has been.

Cowboys’ Jaylon Smith About To Cap Remarkable Comeback - Ed Valentine, Big Blue View
Our friends over at BBV take a look at Jaylon Smith's remarkable journey, and conclude that "Giants’ fan or not, you should feel good for the former Notre Dame star". An excerpt:

Fortunately for the Cowboys, however, an 85 percent Jaylon Smith is probably still better than a lot of starting linebackers in this league.

[...]

The longer I write about the Giants, the NFL and the players who play this brutal, unforgiving game, the more I’m reminded that they are just people. People with hopes, dreams, doubts and frailties, just like the rest of us. The devastating injury Smith suffered might mean he will never reach the heights that were once forecast for him. Beginning Sunday, though, he will get to live the dream of being an NFL player that he spent much of his life working for.

That is something worth celebrating.

Charles Tapper ready for NFL debut - Drew Davison, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Tapper couldn’t get on the field last year because of a back injury. But the Oklahoma product is ready for his pro debut Sunday.

“It’s a surreal moment right now,” Tapper said. “This is what you’ve been wishing for from the first day you step on that college campus. This is what I’ve been wishing for and it’s finally coming true.

“I can’t wait to get out there and hopefully get my first sack. Go out there and rush against [Giants offensive tackle Ereck] Flowers. Whenever my number is called, I’ve got to take full advantage of my opportunity.”

Tapper said he is 100 percent physically and is feeling as good as ever. He dropped weight and is now in the 255-260 pound range and strengthened the core to try and avoid future injury setbacks.

How Cowboys constructed one of the best offensive lines ever - Zach Braziller, New York Post
A very well-written summary of how the Cowboys O-line became one of the best in the business, and why it's about more than just investing high draft picks. The opening paragraphs:

The strategy was far from traditional. It was extremely rare. Few teams have replicated the model. But it has worked out as well as anyone in Dallas could have scripted it.

Three times in a four-year span the Cowboys used their first-round pick on an offensive lineman, taking left tackle Tyron Smith ninth overall in 2011, center Travis Frederick 31st in 2013, and right guard Zack Martin 16th in 2014. All three are among the best at their respective positions, and have each made at least three Pro Bowls.

“It’s not conventional, but it’s smart,” ESPN analyst and former Jets offensive lineman Damien Woody said in a phone interview. “They said we’re going to make it a priority of building a team from the inside out. It’s not going to look pretty, flashy to a lot of people. But when you look at the Cowboys now, you can point to that one area why the Cowboys have made a turnaround.”


Could a settlement happen in the Elliott case? – Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk
Florio points out there's a (very) slim chance the NFL could settle with Elliott, but also points out how the league has maneuvered itself into a corner it may not be able to get out of by itself.

Right or wrong, the league concluded that Elliott committed domestic violence. Reducing the suspension without an admission from Elliott that he committed domestic violence would create a potential P.R. problem for the league, creating the impression that it was too soft on domestic abuse. If, in turn, the league admits that it botched the investigation and disciplinary process, that won’t be good for business, either.

So even if Elliott were willing to accept a suspension for something other than domestic abuse, the league may have no good way out of the corner into which it has painted itself. Which means that the league’s only choice may be to wait in that corner for a lifeline from an appeals court.

NFL did harm to accuser and accused in Ezekiel Elliott case - Dan Wetzel, Yahoo Sports
Wetzel takes a bigger a look at results of the NFL's mishandling of the Elliott investigation. Well worth a read.

When it comes to the domestic violence case of Ezekiel Elliott, Roger Goodell’s NFL investigative tactics and system did one of two things.

1. Wrongly convicted a player of a heinous act by ignoring, prohibiting or outright hiding exculpatory evidence, witnesses and opinion.

2. Allowed a player who committed a heinous act to walk free, at least for the 2017 season, by ignoring, prohibiting or outright hiding exculpatory evidence, witnesses and opinion. In doing so, the league completely hung out to dry an accuser who courageously stepped forward, but now has to watch the player star each week while having fans rip her and her story to shreds.

At issue here is the NFL’s system of duplicity, which Mazzant lampooned in his 22-page decision. It reads like the judge sat over his keyboard, mouth agape that some of this stuff could even occur in America.

“The question before the Court is merely whether Elliott received a fundamentally fair hearing before the arbitrator,” Mazzant wrote. “The answer is he did not.”

Why trust Goodell? Why trust the NFL?

“Fundamental unfairness infected this case from the beginning, eventually killing any possibility that justice would be served,” Mazzant wrote.

That’s Roger Goodell’s NFL for you. Some far-off legal reversal won’t help the damage done, that the NFL somehow managed to deny justice to both the accused and the accuser.


Cowboys letting Dolphins use practice facility while in California - Gordon Dixon, Larry Brown Sports
The Cowboys have offered to let the Dolphins use their training facility in Oxnard while Miami is there for the week, according to ESPN’s Joe Schad.

Could experimental device protect Luke Kuechly from concussions? - Jourdan Rodrigue, Charlotte Observer
Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly is wearing a hard-to-see, experimental ‘Q Collar’ on the field in an attempt to limit concussions.

You’ll have to squint to see it. Kuechly has worn the thin band that circles around the back of his neck, with two open ends that press slightly against either side of his jugular vein, throughout the preseason to little notice.

Co-invented by Dr. David Smith a little over five years ago and developed by Connecticut-based sports science company Q-30 Innovations, the Q Collar’s inspiration was drawn from the physiology of a woodpecker, which beats its head against a tree trunk several thousand times per day but does not suffer brain damage. This is because, among other advantages, a woodpecker’s tongue can put pressure on its jugular vein.

By doing so, the blood flow out of the skull cavity slows and provides a cushion for the brain on the inside of the skull. Similarly, Smith found, as the two ends of the Q Collar press slightly on a human’s jugular vein, cerebrospinal fluid outflow is slowed, increasing the amount of fluid by between a teaspoon and a couple of ounces.

The Q Collar aims to [...] limit the space within the skull that the brain has to move, and in turn protect the brain from damage.

Saints sign long snapper Zach Wood – Charean Williams, ProFootballTalk
Another Cowboys UDFA who made good.

The Saints signed long snapper Zach Wood, according to Wood’s agent, Mike Abadir.

Wood signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted rookie free agent out of SMU in 2016. He has spent time with the Cowboys in each of the past two offseasons and the preseason. But Wood has never played in an NFL regular-season game.


McCloughan has filed grievance against Washington – Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk
Former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan has filed a grievance against the Redskins for the 22 months of pay remaining on his contract. Normally, this would be a fairly straightforward issue, except that Roger "fundamentally unfair" Goodell will be making the decision here.

The grievance, however, makes the past a key part of the future, with the Commissioner eventually deciding whether Washington owes McCloughan the balance of his contract. And since the Commissioner’s contract is set by Washington and the other 31 NFL franchises, McCloughan is facing a stacked deck.

Some Eagles players and coaches reportedly believe Jim Schwartz is trying to take over Doug Pederson’s head coaching job - Bleeding Green Nation
The season hasn't even started and the Philly dumpster fire is already burning like it's Chip Kelly's last day in Philly.

The Inquirer’s Jeff McLane put out an interesting story early on Saturday morning that had some interesting information about Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. According to McLane, there’s a sense in Philadelphia’s organization that Schwartz is aiming for Pederson’s head coaching job.

At the very least, the optics aren’t favorable. One Eagles staffer said the only coach who probably doesn’t think Schwartz is trying to undercut Pederson is Pederson. Three players, who requested anonymity, said that it’s become well-known in the locker room that Schwartz is waiting to usurp power.

“He walks around the building like he thinks he’s the head coach,” one player said.

McLane notes how former NFL general manager Mike Lombardi, who unleashed harsh criticism about Pederson’s qualifications earlier this week, has professional and personal ties to Schwartz. Lombardi denied his Pederson criticism was influenced by the Eagles coordinator, but he did admit he’s friends with Schwartz.