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Cowboys news: The youth movement in Dallas is getting noticed

Plus more Cowboys’ news, all that is fit to print

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-OTA Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

In this week’s edition of the MMQB, Breer looks at the Cowboys’ rebuild-on-the-fly of the last two years.

Fun fact I stumbled into a few weeks ago: There are only three 30-somethings on the Cowboys’ roster. For a team that just a few years ago relied on aging stars like Tony Romo and Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware, it sure happened quietly.

The 10 highest-paid players on the roster by APY are DeMarcus Lawrence (26), Zack Martin (27), Tyron Smith (27), Travis Frederick (27), Tyrone Crawford (27), La’El Collins (27), Sean Lee (31), Tavon Austin (27), Ezekiel Elliott (22) and Allen Hurns (27). Dak Prescott is 24. And the two guys over 30, aside from Lee, are kicker Dan Bailey and long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur.

What does it mean? Dallas has effectively rebuilt its roster on the fly, without really ever bottoming out, and now it looks like they’re a few things breaking right—young DBs developing; Prescott rebounding; a young receiver, like Michael Gallup, emerging—from being set up nicely for some time to come. Which isn’t bad when you consider half of the eight Pro Bowlers from the 12-4 team of 2014 are gone.

Here's who is replacing Jason Witten behind the scenes - Jon Machota, SportsDay
Sean Lee is looking to step up his leadership, in part because time is one of the very few things the General can't stop.

Lee turns 32 next month. It struck him recently when he saw the birth dates of fellow linebackers Jaylon Smith (23) and Leighton Vander Esch (21).

"It definitely gives you a sense of urgency," Lee said. "For me, we need to make a move now, win now, and my impact has to be greater than it ever has been."

"If you want to have a great team, the leaders got to bring guys in. You can lead by example, but you also got to get the young guys working the right way too."

"I think it's a responsibility for me, similar to how it was for Jason Witten," Lee said. "Jason kind of set the tone for us. Not only did he set the pace leadership wise, but he also knew that you had to pass the leadership down and you had to be gracious and try to help guys. That's something I am really trying to do also.”

2018 fantasy football depth charts for all 32 teams - Michael Fabiano,
While real football is still months away, fantasy leagues are already heating up and that means lots of fantasy takes. Fabiano takes a stab at each team's depth chart and for the Cowboys it's a murky picture.

What to watch: Prescott has a bunch of new faces in the pass attack, so keep tabs on who he gains a rapport with in the preseason. He's a late-round No. 2 fantasy quarterback, at least for now. ... Hurns, Gallup and Williams all have late-round appeal due to the 137 targets the Cowboys have up for grabs. Hurns is the player I would target, as he'll see more work on the outside this season. ... Elliott is a good bet to lead the league in rushing in an offense that will lean on him a ton. He's a top-five overall pick. ... With Jason Witten now gone, a deep sleeper could emerge at tight end in camp. Two players to watch: Jarwin and Gathers. Neither has re-draft value at this point, though.

Can Cole Beasley or Michael Gallup out-receive Allen Hurns in 2018? - SportsDay Staff
The SportsDay gang gathers around for a round-table discussion on the state of the Cowboys’ receiving corps and David Moore has some firm convictions.

David Moore: Let me start by saying what the Cowboys receivers won’t do in 2018. None of them will reach 1,000 yards. None of them will rank among the NFL’s top 25 in receptions. The player who leads the team in receptions in Week 1 may not do it again until November. No lead receiver will emerge. This will be a true democracy. There won’t be much separation from one to five on the Cowboys receiving list. With that as the backdrop, who leads the team in receiving yards? Veteran Allen Hurns if he remains healthy.

Who Fills In For Irving? - Rob Phillips,
David Irving won't be available for the first four games of the season so Rob Phillips helps us evaluate the candidates to seize the opportunity and earn that playing time.

Irving tallied seven sacks in only eight games last year, primarily at one of the two tackle spots in the base defense next to Collins, but now the Cowboys know they’ll be without him that first month for the second year in a row. Who takes his spot? Richard Ash filled in for two games last December, and Datone Jones – a veteran signed last November – got first-team practice reps this offseason. But newcomer Jihad Ward might be the most impressive candidate. Arriving in the Ryan Switzer trade with Oakland, Ward capitalized on extra practice reps and showed the type of up-the-field pressure that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli wants from his interior linemen.

Dallas Cowboys are turning into the 2013 Seattle Seahawks - Gillia Baattai, Fansided
Are the Cowboys using the Seattle blueprint for success? A look at a number of similarities.

Defensively, the Cowboys have brought over one of the architects of the teams heralded secondary in defensive passing game coordinator Kris Richard. The team has placed long and physical corners around Richard to be molded into the image of the secondary he helped put together in Seattle. The Cowboys are also just a matter of time away from acquiring free safety Earl Thomas. His arrival would ensure a heavy dose of Seattle’s philosophy in the defensive secondary.

From 2012 to 2014 seasons, running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 1,590, 1,257, and 1,306 yards respectively. With 12, 14, and 17 total touchdowns in those seasons as well. He was the engine that pushed the offense and the game flowed through him.

His effect on the passing game and time of possession was much like running back Ezekiel Elliott‘s is to the Cowboys of today. With a full 16 games, there is no reason to believe Ezekiel Elliott can’t be as effective or better than Lynch was in those seasons.

Ranking the Cowboys' roster, Nos. 53-41: Four rookies make their debuts - Jon Machota SportsDay
In the first of a five-part series, Machota looks into his crystal ball to see if he can identify the lucky 53 who will make the team's opening game roster. This bottom of the roster effort includes more than a few names that will have to overcome stiff competition to claim the roster spot.

48.) Charles Tapper, DE -- He has the talent to be ranked much higher, but he's been unable to stay healthy since the Cowboys drafted him early in the fourth round two years ago. The selection of Dorance Armstrong gives Tapper another young pass rusher to compete against to make the final roster.

47.) Justin March-Lillard, LB -- He added depth and contributed on special teams in his first season with the Cowboys, recording two tackles in seven games. March-Lillard, 24, flashed at times during offseason practices. He'll likely again be asked to provide defensive depth and help on special teams.

Bleacher Report naming Prescott as ‘disappointing Cowboy’ reveals hope - K.D. Drummond, Cowboys Wire
Our friend K. D. has some thoughts on a recent Bleacher Report story and finds hope for the upcoming season.

As for Elliott, it’s clear he was the fundamental missing link. In the eight games before Elliott was suspended, the Cowboys averaged 28.25 points per game. In the six games he missed, that average dropped 10 points a game, down to 18.3.

Here’s the rub: There’s no reason to think Elliott will miss any games. Knock on wood, he’s been able to avoid the big hits that lead to running backs missing games. He’s eerily similar to Emmitt Smith the way he avoids the big hits and impact. If he plays a full season, the Dallas offense should be just fine, despite the losses of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.

Along those lines, Dallas has spent the last several months crafting an offense without those two focal points of the passing game. While their leadership may be missed, getting the production out of those two slots isn’t the mountain to climb it’s being perceived as. They were average performances and Dallas should have enough to crank out average performances based on the collection of talent they’ve acquired.

Dak Prescott hoping to cash in with new agent - Clarence Hill, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott still has two years left on his rookie deal but can sign a monster contract extension after the 2018 season. Prescott bolstered his position by switching agents, hiring Todd France of powerful CAA to represent him.

Vice president Stephen Jones and owner Jerry Jones have acknowledged multiple times over the past few months that Prescott is in line for an extraordinary contract based on his play and the cost of the position.

Also remember, Jimmy Garoppolo got a five-year contract worth up to $137.5 million from the San Francisco 49ers. Though entering his fifth season, Garoppolo has started only seven games, far fewer than Prescott, who is 22-10 as a starter in two years.

“We all see what some of the other guys are who aren’t Aaron Rodgers, who aren’t Matt Ryan [are getting paid]," Stephen Jones said. "He’s going to do well. We certainly know that’s going to happen. We’ve got that planned in our budgeting for the salary cap."

“I just want Dak to go out and be MVP this year of the NFL. That’s what I want. Then, we’ll deal with that.”

And when the Cowboys are ready to deal with it, Prescott will have one of the top agents backed by the biggest talent agency in sports and entertainment in his corner.

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