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Cowboys news: Jason Garrett and staff to visit Alabama’s Pro Day, “loves” Dez Bryant

Wednesday morning’s links.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

2018 NFL draft: Cowboys’ Jason Garrett is headed to Alabama on Wednesday... and that’s a big deal - RJ Ochoa, BTB

Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys headed down to Tuscaloosa to check out Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide’s Pro Day. RJ explains why that is significant.

Normally this wouldn’t be discussion-worthy. Normally somebody would snap a photo of Bill Belichick or somebody talking to Nick Saban and Twitter would have an all-day-long caption contest. But on Tuesday morning we found out why this is big if you’re a Cowboys fan (that’s you).

Jason Garrett is going to be there.

Jason Garrett doesn’t make it a habit to go to pro days. He’s not keeping a running tally of which schools have Pepsi or Coca-Cola products. This is a big deal because, as ESPN’s Todd Archer points out, the last time this happened was when the Cowboys went to the The Ohio State and ultimately selected Ezekiel Elliott.

Can you say Minkah Fitzpatrick, Calvin Ridley? Cowboys coaches, scouts heading to Alabama Pro Day - David Moore, SportsDay

Garrett explains why his staff is heading down to the Yellowhammer State. Hint: there’s a lot of talent.

“We are going to go down,” Garrett said Tuesday during a breakfast news conference in Orlando. “They are going to have 18 players get drafted. We had some guys at the initial Pro Day. We have had some guys working them out.

“These schools that have all these guys at all of these different positions it makes sense,” Garrett said of taking a traveling party to Alabama.

”One of the things we try to do is we try to get our coaches out to see as many players as we can to go along with the scouts’ evaluation of them. Obviously we have a chance to bring some players in to get to know them better so those are the things that we’ll be focused on in the evaluation of this draft class.”

Jason Garrett says Cowboys ‘love Dez Bryant’ - Todd Archer, ESPN

Despite the signings of Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson, it doesn’t sound like the Cowboys have plans to move on from 88.

“We love Dez Bryant,” Garrett said. “Dez has been a great player for us for a long time. Any speculation about his contract or anything like that to me is irrelevant relative to the recent signings that we’ve made.”

“I think both with Allen and with Deonte, you’re just trying to continue to create competition at a position that’ll bring out the best in everybody,” Garrett said.

“Dez has been an outstanding player for us for a long time, a big-time player.,” Garrett said. “We’re not in a situation right now where we’re around our players. The offseason program will start in the middle of April. We anticipate Dez and everybody else being there and getting going. Any speculation about his contract or anything like that really doesn’t apply to the football part of Dez Bryant. He’s been a great player, and we anticipate having great competition at the receiver position and Dez being a part of it.”

Jason Garrett: Focus on receivers about improvement, not referendum on Dez Bryant - Clarence Hill, The Star-Telegram

The Cowboys are committed to both Dak Prescott and improving the passing game.

“We just need to get better in our passing game,” Garrett said. “One of the best things we’ve done around here for a long time is throw the football. And we’ve been a very good running team the last few years and last year we didn’t throw the ball as effectively as we needed to as consistently as we needed to. We have a history of being a very good passing team. We want to be able to get back to that. We want to add the kind of players who allow us to do that.”

“You’re trying to improve your football team and you look at every viable option to do that and if it makes sense for you from a football standpoint, from a financial standpoint, and trust me, we evaluate all the top guys in free agency,” Garrett said of the Watkins interest. “We evaluate all the top guys in the draft. And if you’re able to get some of these guys on your team under the conditions that you like and you think they can help you, you go ahead and do that. But just because you have a certain philosophy about something doesn’t mean you don’t overturn all the stones and see if you can find a player that can help you.”

Why drafting a wide receiver early would ‘absolutely’ signal the end of the Dez Bryant era in Dallas - JJT, SportsDay

JJT speculates that drafting a wideout in round one or two would bring an end to Dez in the Big D.

Question: If the Cowboys draft a wide receiver in the first two rounds of the draft, does that mean the end of the Dez Bryant era?

JJT: Absolutely. They’re not keeping eight receivers and they already have seven under contract. A lot of folks in the organization have grown weary of Bryant’s behind-the-scenes behavior. He’s always been difficult to control, and slicing his salary by 50-60 percent isn’t going to make that any easier. He’s done some great things in Dallas, but if they take a receiver early it means the Cowboys want to run with the draft pick, Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, Deonte Thompson, Ryan Switzer and Terance [sic] Williams this year.

Cowboys Keeping Close Eye On Christian Kirk At Texas A&M Pro Day - David Helman, The Mothership

Helman was in College Station for the Texas A&M Aggies’ Pro Day. He writes on Christian Kirk — a potential target for the Cowboys.

Kirk worked primarily as an outside receiver during the workout, which is bound to interest NFL teams. The 5-10 speedster played predominantly in the slot in college, and there are plenty of questions about whether he can transition to the pro game.

“Being able to play in the slot, being able to play outside, special teams and whatnot. I just want to show these coaches I’m an all-around football player,” he said.

The last bit of that quote might be the most interesting. Cowboys special teams coordinator Keith O’Quinn was in attendance on Tuesday, and he brought Kirk to the Aggies’ outdoor practice field for a brief workout as a punt returner.

Scout’s Notebook: Johnny Manziel, Christian Kirk & A&M’s Day 3 Prospects - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership

Broaddus was also in attendance for A&M’s Pro Day, and he also wrote on Kirk.

Christian Kirk was the headliner today. Kirk stood on his Combine times (4.45 in the 40, 35 1/2 on vertical jump and 20 bench press reps) and only participated in position drills, but he did go through a wide receiver’s workout with the A&M quarterbacks.

Kirk appeared comfortable and eager to do whatever the scouts asked of him when it came to working on the outside. He executed the slant, out and in-cut well. I thought where he excelled was when the ball went down the field on the vertical or “9” route, where he had to track the ball. Johnny Manziel did a nice job of putting the ball on him, where he didn’t have to do much other than run under it.

I am hearing that Kirk has a private workout scheduled with the Cowboys in the coming days in order to further assess his ability. Kirk said that he had workouts with the Cardinals and Seahawks, as well.

From realistic to shocking, the group of linebackers the Cowboys could land at No. 19 - Dane Brugler, SportsDay

While some are holding out hope for Roquan Smith, Brugler says Rashaan Evans and Leighton Vander Esch are more realistic options for Cowboys.

Smith at No. 19 would be a shock. There was a time earlier in the process when I thought he could potentially slip because he is a tick undersized, but 18 teams passing on him just seems unrealistic. On the other hand, Evans is a more realistic scenario. He is a thumping tackler with movement skills to hold up in space. The better question might be: Which linebacker will the Cowboys have rated higher on their board, Evans or Boise State’s Vander Esch?

Cowboys counting on Jaylon Smith but some mystery remains - Todd Archer, ESPN

Speaking of linebacker, the Cowboys are counting on their 2016 second-round selection, but there are still questions about Jaylon Smith.

“From our vantage point, he continued to get better physically the more he played, and we expect him to continue to get better still the more he plays, the more he works out,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s got a season under his belt now. We expect him to come back better this spring, better in training camp than he was the past training camp. So we think his physical development will continue as he goes the farther he is away from that surgery. The growing pains that he had being a rookie the first time playing, you work through those. He got better as a result of the experience, but I do think he’s getting better physically, and we expect him to continue to do so.”

Smith’s strength continues to improve in his foot and knee, but the Cowboys can’t know how he will fare in 2018 with more snaps until they see him on the field.

The 2017-18 Deep Ball Project – Jonathan Kinsley, Brick Wall Blitz
Kinsley goes through an exhaustive process to identify the most efficient downfield passer in 2017, and Dak Prescott - counter to a popular narrative - shows up as the 2nd most efficient downfield passer last year.

Be surprised when I say Prescott was outstanding on deep passing in 2017.

What really stood out with Prescott is he was much more aggressive and in control of his offense. He was the most accurate quarterback on play action, 4th most under pressure, 2nd most on throws of 16-19 yards, and first on throws of 40+ yards. This was not the rookie season Dak Prescott.

Dak’s accuracy was phenomenal in spite of worse pass protection, more tight windows, and unreliable receivers. I can’t speak enough about how good he is under pressure–it reminds me of Tony Romo.

So don’t believe what you hear. Prescott did a great job managing a worse supporting cast, and was only behind one guy as the most efficient deep passer of 2017.

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