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Cowboys news: All kinds of Dez Bryant talk, and some defensive line stuff, too

Here’s Thursday’s look at the headlines involving America’s Team.

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Dallas Cowboys v Oakland Raiders Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

NFL catch rule: What if Dez Bryant, Jesse James non-catches had counted? - Christian D'Andrea,
A little more salt to rub in the wound, although as noted, it may not have changed history the way many believe.

The biggest game: Dez Bryant’s playoff non-catch against the Packers

Bryant’s sprawling fourth-and-2 catch appeared to give the Cowboys new life late in a Divisional Round game at Green Bay in January 2015. Dallas trailed, 26-21, with just over four minutes to play when Tony Romo found his top wideout near the left sideline for a gain that appeared to set up first-and-goal inside the Packers’ 1-yard line. Instead, officials saw the ball shift after Bryant had already taken two steps and negated the play, handing control over to the home team.

It was a fatal blow for the Cowboys, and while it serves as the highest-profile application of the league’s weird catch dynamics, it may not have made a difference. Even if Dallas scores in its next four plays, that still leaves Aaron Rodgers, the 2014 NFL MVP, with somewhere between two-and-a-half to four minutes to rally his team to either a game-winning field goal (if Romo can’t convert a two-point conversion to make it 29-26), a game-tying field goal, or a game-winning touchdown.

Dallas Cowboys: Cole Beasley explains what every Cowboys critic gets wrong about Dez Bryant | SportsDay staff
Cole Beasley did an interview with 105.3 The Fan, and during it he talked about his teammate Dez Bryant.

It seems like everybody always has an opinion about him, and most of the opinions aren't even the right speculation. I'm sure he's an easy guy for people to hate because of what's shown on TV of his outbursts, but they don't even know what he's yelling about half the time. They say one thing, but it could be something completely different he's frustrated about. He's definitely a team guy and all he wants to do is win. I don't think people understand the fire that it takes to win and the fire that these competitors have at this level. You've got to be a different person to do what we do. I'm sure a lot of people might say that about what they're doing. I can't be how I am with you right now when I'm out there. There's a switch you have to flip, and he does it better than anybody.

Should there be concern if Dez Bryant is only now working with a route coach? | A.J. Mada, Cowboys Wire
Recent reports about Bryant working with a route coach raise the question of why this seems to be a new thing for him. It logically should have been done earlier, and the fact it wasn't is not really Dez's fault.

Bryant can certainly still improve his routes, even in his late 20s, but it doesn’t excuse the Cowboys from neglecting the one part of his game that could’ve improved all these years. Speed has also been somewhat of a concern for Bryant, but it’s much easier to work on a technical craft such as route running rather than a physical skill such as running.

Now it’s fair to say Bryant has progressed over the years and that progression has led him to playing in the slot more in recent years. And although some of that can be attributed to improved route running, most of it has to do with Bryant’s playbook knowledge expanding and knowing how to react to various coverages and alignments, a skill necessary for players who make a living in the slot. So even if Bryant’s routes have been improving each year, they have not been improving at the rate they should’ve been and that falls squarely on the Cowboys for mismanaging his offseasons.

Cowboys WR Signings Aren't About Dez, Could They Draft Another at 19? - Mauricio Rodriguez, Inside the Star
Here's a take on how the free agent signings of Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson could impact the draft.

Dallas should still be looking for a good receiver in the Draft, but a Day 1 pick shouldn't be worth the investment. There are many good prospects who'll be available in later rounds, and now that it isn't a pressing need, the Cowboys should be fine with waiting.

Allen Hurns is only 26 years old and with an inexpensive two-year deal in Dallas, he looks like the answer right now at WR. If Dez has yet another down year, Hurns could be the heir to Bryant's role on the offense in 2019.

The Cowboys have a lot of money invested in receivers, giving the WR room the "most intriguing position" title on the team for the rest of the offseason.

2018 NFL Draft: Da’Ron Payne can wreck things in the NFL in the right position - Stephen White,
The Cowboys paid a visit to the Alabama pro day, including head coach Jason Garrett. One of the players they got to see was DT Da'Ron Payne. Dallas doesn't like to draft pure 1-techs, but this analysis of him shows how he is hardly just that.

It would be easy for me to just go through his film and show you some good plays and a few bad plays Payne made while playing head-up on the center, but that wouldn’t have much predictive value, because I don’t see that as being his position in the league.

His new team can call him whatever they want, under-tackle in a base 4-3, defensive end in a base 3-4, who cares? As long as they make sure he spends a lot of time lined up in the B-gap getting up the field in a hurry, they will definitely get their money’s worth.

Dallas Cowboys have 'long-term aspirations' for DeMarcus Lawrence - Todd Archer, Dallas Cowboys Blog- ESPN
The franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence is really just a likely step to locking him up for several years.

"I don't want to speculate on that because whether it be the competitiveness of it or just that it takes two to operate or have a deal, but certainly with the franchise tag, he's got a situation that's very attractive financially, and we do too," Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "We have long-term aspirations, though."

When the Cowboys have used the franchise tag in the past, they have been able to subsequently work out long-term deals with Dez Bryant (2015) and Ken Hamlin (2008). Flozell Adams played the 2002 season on the franchise tag but signed a long-term deal in 2003. Anthony Spencer played the 2012 and '13 seasons on the franchise tag.

Dallas Cowboys: Sources: Cowboys DE Randy Gregory on course to apply for reinstatement | David Morre, SportsDay
Let's preface this with a mandatory warning to not count this particular chicken until it actually hatches. But signs continue to point toward Randy Gregory at least trying to come back.

Multiple sources say Randy Gregory has been faithfully laying the groundwork for his return to the NFL and has reached the stage where his representatives are in the process of doing the work necessary to apply for reinstatement.

The defensive end has been banned from the NFL for repeated violations of the league's substance abuse policy. He hasn't taken the field since the Cowboys final game of the 2016 season.

There are still steps to take and paperwork to file before Gregory is close to going before commissioner Roger Goodell to petition for his reinstatement. But sources say he is doing well, adhering to his program and the feeling around him is said to be positive.

When athletic testing leads you astray: An argument for trusting the tape – Kevin Turner, The Athletic
Although it is behind a paywall, this is a very good set of case studies on how you should not be too swayed by combine and pro day numbers. The first paragraph has the key conclusion.

Athletic traits are a very important part of any player's evaluation. So are his injury history, the scheme he played in and his personality. But the most crucial is how he looks on tape. Trust your eyes, and base your evaluation on the skills he showed over and over against other college athletes.

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