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Cowboys news: Why Cowboys are set at linebacker for foreseeable future

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NFL: New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

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Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith ranked as Top 5 linebackers - John Williams, InsideTheStar
The Cowboys may be set at linebacker for years to come as we’ve seen how good Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith have been this year.

Yesterday, Pro Football Focus, a site that watches the film and hands out grades on each individual player in the NFL, released it’s top five overall grades at linebacker for the 2018 season. Not that we should be surprised, but Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith both appeared on this top five list.

We see it every Sunday, so we know how good they’ve been from a Dallas Cowboys context, but being on a top five list with Bobby Wagner and Luke Kuechly should tell you that we are watching something special happening. Wagner and Kuechly have long been considered two of the best linebackers in the NFL and both have been rewarded with Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections, deservedly so.

There is only one other team that features two linebackers in Pro Football Focus’ top 10 and [that are] the Carolina Panthers with Kuechly checking in at number two and Thomas Davis at number 10. The Cowboys and the Panthers are the only teams to have two linebackers in the top 15 at their position as well.

Jerry Jones says this is the biggest move the Cowboys made in 2018 - Stefan Stevenson, Star-Telegram
Jones said he thinks the most important change in the organization were the changes on the coaching staff, but this one ranks up there too:

Drafting Leighton Vander Esch and having faith in Jaylon Smith: “I don’t think there’s any question that Vander Esch has made a difference now as opposed to in the future. Just by the fact that Sean [Lee] has missed some of the games he has missed. Just that aspect, the numbers. I think Jaylon Smith’s continued progressing. You’re now starting to see the things if he hadn’t been injured you would have seen him come into the league at one level and then see him be at a different level two and three years out. That’s his makeup. He was going to get better and better. You could see him getting better at Notre Dame.”

Gut Feeling: Predictions For Cowboys-Giants - Staff,
Three of the six staff writers have the Giants winning a close game against Cowboys squad resting some key players. Nick Eatman explains.

This one isn’t as easy to call because we’re hearing all this stuff about the Cowboys saying they will play to win this game. But there have been signs all week, especially with Friday’s injury report that suggest some key players might not play the entire game. This has a feel that the Cowboys are trying to be smart, rather than trying to win this game at all costs. Don’t forget the Giants defeated the Bears a few weeks ago at home. They’re still playing pretty well and trying to win games. I think they wouldn’t mind ending their season with a win over Dallas. I see the Giants winning this game 20-13.

Expert predictions for Cowboys-Giants: With nothing at stake, how will Dallas fare in Week 17? - Staff, SportsDay
All six staff writers have the Giants winning a meaningless game as the Cowboys worry about bigger things.

Tim Cowlishaw: Giants have nothing at stake and no Odell Beckham Jr., and yet they may have more incentive than the Cowboys, who have far more important business at hand next week, probably against Seattle. Always hard to know what you will get in these games, but the Giants without Beckham scored 27 at Indy last Sunday and that’s 27 more than Dallas managed there a week earlier. This isn’t a game for the Cowboys to worry about. Giants 20, Cowboys 10.

Week 17 NFL guide - score predictions for Cowboys @ Giants - Staff, ESPN
Todd Archer expects the Cowboys to lose but stay healthy.

The Cowboys are preparing for the Giants as if it is a normal week, but that does not mean they will play it like a normal game, considering a win would not improve their playoff seeding and an injury could ruin their playoff chances. The Giants have been out of it essentially since the midway point of the season but have played better down the stretch, and this could be Eli Manning's final home game. Saquon Barkley was held to a season-low 28 yards when these teams met in September and has been held to 31 and 43 yards the past two weeks. He should have more than 28 yards in the first quarter Sunday, Manning gets the proper send-off and the Cowboys come home healthy for the playoffs. Giants 23, Cowboys 16

Red zone work one reason Cowboys regulars should play in Week 17 - Todd Archer, ESPN
If there is a reason to play the regulars against the New York Giants on Sunday, it’s to hopefully get some red zone work leading into the playoffs, Archer notes.

As the Cowboys turn their attention to what needs to improve for a potential playoff run, red zone productivity is at the top of the list. Maximizing possessions matters in the playoffs. Points matter in the playoffs. Settling for field goals inside the red zone in the playoffs can be the difference between going on and going home.

“Obviously we’ve been struggling in the red zone a little bit. That definitely should be a point of emphasis,” Cooper said. “Just try to execute in all phases going into the playoffs. Teams will really have an opportunity to game-plan.”

DeMarcus Lawrence doesn’t play games, especially four quarters against Giants - By Stefan Stevenson, Star-Telegram
Lawrence doesn’t expect to play more than a half on Sunday.

“You want me to play in the second half,” Lawrence asked reporters. The answer was no.

“Alright, were on the same page then,” he said.

“Main thing is to stay healthy through this last game going into this playoff stretch healthy, focused and with that determination to take it all,” he said. “This is not a meaningless game. It’s a game for us to focus in on what we need to do in order to succeed in these playoffs.”

“I’m not going to say I’m throwing my body out there all game. Absolutely not,” Lawrence said. “But I am going to be out there focusing on making plays and making sure my fundamentals are correct. Have some fun, play football with my guys and once coach calls me out, I’m out.”

Can WR Tavon Austin give the Cowboys offense a jolt of juice heading into the playoffs - Clarence Hill, Star-Telegram
The Cowboys offense is still searching for efficiency heading into the playoffs. Could Tavon Austin change that heading into January?

While Sunday’s season finale against the New York Giants is an otherwise meaningless game to the NFC East Champion Dallas Cowboys (9-6), who are locked into the fourth seed and will host either the Seattle Seahawks or Minnesota Vikings in the wild-card playoffs next week, it will provide a launching pad for the return of speedy receiver Tavon Austin.

Austin, who has missed the last nine games with a groin tear, will play against the Giants to get some gain action before the playoffs, where the Cowboys hope he can add juice to the offense and provide a game-breaking element on returns.

Through six games this season, Austin had seven receptions for 130 yards and two touchdowns, including a 64-yard score in the first meeting against the Giants. He’s also rushed six times for 55 yards, including an 18-yard run and had a 22-yard punt return.

Cowboys DTs Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins are quickly earning their share of recognition - Jon Machota, SportsDay
Outside of Cowboys fans, most folks would be hard-pressed to name the Cowboys’ defensive tackles, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t playing well.

Woods and Collins anchor the middle of a defensive line that has become one of the NFL’s best at stopping the run. They performed so well three weeks ago against Philadelphia that both were given game balls.

It’s become obvious over the last month that their biggest fan inside The Star is defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

”These guys are up field, low center of gravity, good feet, good base, good hips, they disrupt the line of scrimmage like we want,” Marinelli said. “They’re not sideways guys. They’re explosive guys up the field. And that starts to disrupt blocking patterns.

”It’s everything for us.”

How Cowboys DT Antwaun Woods developed from fringe NFL player to starter - Jori Epstein, USA TODAY
How 7 words from Rod Marinelli launched Cowboys DT Antwaun Woods from fourth-string to starter in six months.

“Don’t eat yourself out of the NFL,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli had explained in May.

Woods took the message to heart.

So Woods stopped drinking and eating late. He repeatedly ran 100-meter sprints. He lost the roughly 30 pounds Marinelli requested he shed. He did so in the same way he’d attacked each step of his journey from the gang violence of his Los Angeles neighborhood to the charter school where he became an a high school All-American, to USC and then to the Titans’ practice squad, and ultimately the Cowboys' first-team defense.

“He came in and man, he was a new man,” Marinelli said. “Looked good in a suit.”

Cole Beasley talks about his future in Dallas with free agency looming - Brandon George, SportsDay
Beasley’s quotes read like he’s preparing to leave Dallas.

”I just want to be somewhere where I’m wanted,” Beasley said. “I want to be somewhere where I have opportunities. Other than that I don’t really care about the place. I just want to play and have opportunities to contribute and that’s it. If that’s here, that’s cool. If it’s not, it’s part of the business.”

”Stats matter a little bit, but people see what you’re doing on film and they know the value of a guy regardless if you’re sky high or not very much,” Beasley said. “If you put good stuff on tape people are going to see that and want to utilize that.”

”I’ve battled through a lot of injuries this year. I’ve had some people fall on me in awkward positions,” Beasley said. “Other than that I’m great. The ankle has been kind of jacked up a little bit. My legs feel good. I’m only 29, man. I’m a young 29.”

How Taco Charlton rubbed the Cowboys wrong and what he changed to get back on field - Clarence Hill, Star-Telegram
Some fans were already calling for Taco’s head based on little more than half-baked rumors. But everything appears to be fine now.

When the Dallas Cowboys started reducing defensive end Taco Charlton’s snaps over the last month, it was blamed on his attitude and approach in practice as well as his recovery from a shoulder injury. But, according to Charlton, he was benched because the coaches didn’t like the way he carried himself off the field.

Charlton learned his lesson and changed his ways, allowing him to return to action in Sunday’s victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and appears set to remain active for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants and the upcoming playoffs.

“We have had our talks,” Charlton said Friday. “It didn’t have so much to do with practice but away from everything and just walking around and stuff like that, just how I carry myself. We made the corrections. Everything improved. They like where I am now. We are going to keep improving.”

Charlton is laid back and that can sometimes be misunderstood.

Jerry Jones compares Amari Cooper-effect to Michael Irvin - Kevin Patra,
Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones had some high-praise for WR Amari Cooper over the last week. Here’ what he had to say:

On Wednesday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joined NFL Network’s Good Morning Football and compared Cooper’s impact to Michael Irvin’s in the 1990s.

”Well, I think I’m going to go back to Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin. Emmitt had a lot of his runs where he wasn’t touched for the first three or four yards,” Jones said. “It’s because [Troy] Aikman and Irvin had them backed off, and they knew if they didn’t stay back then Aikman, Irvin and [Jay] Novacek would take them right down the field. Well, Cooper has done that for us. We got to keep them back off. When we do, then Zeke can basically have the kind of days we want him to have as a running back. So it’s a balance thing -- it always has been.”

Cooper’s presence certainly aided Zeke. Elliott leads the NFL with 111.3 rushing yards per game and 166.7 scrimmage yards per game since Week 8, after the Cowboys traded for Cooper during their bye week.

Giants star Odell Beckham Jr. ruled out for season finale vs. Cowboys - Alex Butler, UPI
It looks like the Cowboys secondary will catch a break when they take on the Giants this Sunday.

The New York Giants will be without superstar Odell Beckham Jr. for the fourth consecutive game on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

Giants coach Pat Shurmur officially ruled Beckham out when he met with reporters on Friday. Beckham finishes his 2018 campaign with 1,052 yards and six touchdowns on 77 receptions in 12 games. The three-time Pro Bowl selection has played in a total of 16 games in the last two seasons combined due to multiple injuries.

How Giants NFL Draft order shakes out entering Week 17 - Mark Fischer, NY Daily News
Early in the season, the Giants were a virtual lock for the top overall pick, but their recent 4-3 surge has them dropping out of the top 5 and clinging to the No. 7 position.

The Giants have a 6% chance to land a pick within the top-five, but don’t bother feeding that information to Pat Shurmur, whose “years connect” mentality will ensure Big Blue doesn’t throw in the towel this week against the Cowboys.

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