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Cowboys News: Why Dallas will reach 10 (or more) wins in 2018

Plus: Three defensive difference makers, a space Cowboy, and a surprise find at DT.

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Why it's hard to see how the Dallas Cowboys don't reach 10 (or more) wins in 2018 - Staff, SportsDay
In a recent podcast Kevin Sherrington, David Moore, and Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News discussed why they all expect the Cowboys to have 10+ wins this year. An excerpt:

Kevin Sherrington: "I don't know if I've been on record yet for the Cowboys. I think I said, was gonna say 10-6 -- I think I'm bumping that up to 11-5. What are you doing, David?"

David Moore: "I also have 11 wins [...] Look, things have been in place here. Everyone understands the system. I think the defense showed strides at the end of last year. Now you bring in Kris Richard from Seattle, where we've talked about: the defensive DNA is the same with what Seattle's defense is, but he's gonna come here and play it differently -- more bump-and-run [coverage], more physical corners, more Cover 3 instead of Cover 2 -- so I think you're tweaking the defense enough where teams aren't going to have a read on their tendencies early in the season, which is going to help them. And you go back to the fact that, really, every other year over these last four years under Jason Garrett has been the bounce-back and, you know, chance-for-a-division-title-into-the-playoffs year. Like I said before, I think 10-to-11 wins, and I think if they're not there, there are going to be consequences."

A sit-down with Cowboys’ Will McClay: 3 defenders who’ve caught his eye at camp - Jon Machota, Sports Day
The Cowboys’ Vice President of Player Personnel Will McClay recently sat down with Jon Machota and discussed three standouts in camp.

Asked to name a few defenders who have caught his eye through the first 14 training camp practices, McClay shared the following three in order.

1. Jaylon Smith, LB, 2016 second-round pick: “His recovery is remarkable. He’s 100 times better than he was last year. You watch the movement and the reactionary stuff like when he’s got short-area type stuff and he does it just naturally more so than thinking about it. You can see his explosion. And then he’s just so dang physical.”

2. Dorance Armstrong, DE, 2018 fourth-round pick: “Armstrong continues to jump out and impress us. The No. 1 thing is to fit into our defense, you got to be a man. When he was at Kansas he moved positions. He had that great production his sophomore season, not as much his junior season but he played so damn hard. That’s No. 1. But his ability to play with length, to play with speed and then to get around the corner are all things that make good pass rushers in this league.”

3. Randy Gregory, DE, 2015 second-round pick: “You kind of see all of that stuff just kind of slowly coming back to him. It’s only a few practices, but it’s like getting on a bike. He knows how to do it. You’re watching him run some of the games, he naturally feels those. He has a way of playing off of people. He understands that stuff. And then just his speed and ability to bend. It’s all there and you can see the timing coming back with his hands and feet.”

Scout’s Notebook: Defensive Difference Makers - Bryan Broaddus,
Some interesting observations from Monday's practice that neatly fall in line with McClay’s observations:

Jaylon Smith: We continue to see Jaylon Smith being put in coverage situations and coming up big. Smith has been asked to carry receivers down the field as well as tight ends and running backs to the sideline, with no physical limitations or issues. His lateral agility and quickness have been impressive. One of his better snaps was when he had to carry Dalton Schultz across the field with a ton of space to deal with. Smith played the route perfectly, waiting until the just the right moment to put his hand in front of Schultz to bat Dak Prescott’s pass to the ground.

Dorance Armstrong: Tremendous effort by Dorance Armstrong to get in the throwing lane in order to knock a Dak Prescott pass down to the ground. At first, Armstrong didn’t know where the ball was. But after looking to the inside and the outside, he was able to spin away from Cameron Fleming, which put him in the necessary position to make the play.

Randy Gregory: DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory are already coming up with signals before the play, in order to better coordinate their pass rush. Lawrence looked down the line and made a motion with his hand toward Gregory, who acknowledged the signal. At the snap of the ball, both men fired off the ball and executed the exact same pass rush moves on La’el Collins and Cameron Fleming in attempt to get to Dak Prescott.

“We didn’t even know that step was available.”

Dak Prescott credits Tony Romo & Jason Witten for laying foundation of leadership with Cowboys - Tom Ryle, Blogging The Boys
Dak spoke to NBC’s Peter King about leadership, and he was quick to credit those that came before him.

Peter King: “I find it really interesting that in the course of two years the Dallas Cowboys have lost their two most-noted leaders, Tony Romo one year, Jason Witten the next year. You’re 25 years old and you’re being asked to be the leader of one of the most storied franchises in all sports. How does that feel?”

Dak Prescott: “It’s a blessing. Growing up a Cowboys fan, always being a leader in every stage of football that I’ve been in, as you said just to only be 25 years old and being asked to take this lead... it’s been fun. I give credit to those two guys you said, Tony Romo and Jason Witten, of laying a good foundation and teaching me how to be a leader and wear the star the right way on and off the field. It’s easy when you have the type of guys that we have in this locker room and the team that we’ve got, so it’s fun.”

How the Cowboys think Ezekiel Elliott can do even more – Calvin Watkins, The Athletic
Looks like Scott Linehan wants Ezekiel Elliot to be the Space Cowboy.

One of​ the​ biggest​ changes the​ Cowboys​ would​ like​ to see in​ their​ offense​​ is an increased utilization of Ezekiel Elliott in open space.

In practices, the Cowboys have lined up Elliott in the slot so he can match up with a linebacker or safety. The Cowboys have assigned linebackers Sean Lee or Jaylon Smith on the running back in some team drills. Elliott is also a safe option for quarterback Dak Prescott on pass plays out of the backfield. Moving Elliott around not only spreads out defenses, but also it prevents defenses from putting eight men in the box.

“It’s going to be big for us in our offense,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan told The Athletic after Monday’s practice. “Zeke is the most dangerous player we have with the ball. We got other guys for sure that can do some really good things for us, but he’s touching the ball more, in different ways, not always in the run game. Instead of having to beat an eight-man front, it’s just ‘beat one guy.’ That’s a big part of what we’re trying to get done.”

DT Antwaun Woods among 32 surprise players to watch in 2018 preseason - Staff, ESPN
ESPN chooses some unexpected players you need to watch on every team, and for the Cowboys that player is Antwaun Woods.

He did not sign with the Cowboys until May 30, but he has worked his way up the depth chart to find himself as their starting nose tackle. He dropped 20 pounds after signing with the Cowboys and has the quickness Rod Marinelli wants in that spot. The Cowboys have had their eye on him for a while and tried to sign him off the Tennessee Titans' practice squad last year. He might not start opening day, but he has impressed enough that he would have to be in the mix as part of the defensive line rotation.

Once far-fetched, Randy Gregory is with the Cowboys again. Now comes the most important game plan of his life - Kate Hairopolous, Sports Day
After taking time to get back into shape, Gregory is starting to get into team drills again for the first time in a long while.

“I’ve got a good schedule,” Gregory said during his first interview since his return with the full media contingent that covers the Cowboys. “Got around the right people. Therapy always has helped, just being consistent with that. Healthy dose of medication. Then just being able to realize what I have on my plate, my priorities, and being happy -- not only with what I’m doing, but with myself internally -- has been the biggest [difference], I think.”

Gregory has never been able to stay clean throughout his three-year career, failing a drug test at the NFL scouting combine before the Cowboys even drafted him out of Nebraska in 2015. He battles mental health issues including anxiety and depression, sources have told The Dallas Morning News, and smoked marijuana to counter the effects. Gregory said that he also sabotaged himself and needed to grow up.

Cowboys rookie Bo Scarbrough is doing the little things needed in order to make the team - DannyPhantom, Blogging the Boys
Bo Scarbrough, the former Alabama standout, will have to do a lot just to make this roster behind others like Ezekiel Elliott and Rod Smith. In his first preseason game, Scarbrough showed he’s willing to do whatever the team asks of him.

Well, Scarbrough is going to have to be more than just a third-string back who chills on the sideline waiting to make a cameo appearance here and there. He’s going to need to find a role on special teams. And so far, that’s exactly what he’s doing. Against the 49ers, Bo recorded 12 reps on special teams (46%), which was the sixth most of any player in that game. The Cowboys are certainly giving him every opportunity to carve out a role on special teams and head coach Jason Garrett has stated that Bo has embraced that role.

Cowboys’ top PFF offensive grades from first preseason game - @PFF_Cowboys
The Cowboys’ first stringers looked pretty good in the preseason opener, as well as some depth players. What did PFF have to say about their top offensive players?

Cowboys’ top PFF defensive grades from first preseason game - @PFF_Cowboys
There were a lot of positive takeaways from the Cowboys defense in the 49ers game, but perhaps nobody predicted a certain linebacker earning the best PFF grade.

Dez Bryant is scheduled to meet with the Cleveland Browns on Thursday - RJ Ochoa, Blogging the Boys
Dez Bryant has had a pretty eventful offseason despite remaining unemployed into the start of the preseason. However, later this week the receiver will be meeting with a team he’s been linked to in recent days.

Dez noted last Thursday (when the Browns and coincidentally the Cowboys had their first preseason games) that he “wouldn’t mind” playing for the team that’s only won one game over the last two seasons. Talk about a ringing endorsement.

Nobody expected the Cowboys all-time leader in receiving touchdowns to be on the market well into the preseason, but nobody predicted that he’d publicly refer to Sean Lee as a snake either, so sometimes you have to roll with the punches. If Dez truly is fine playing for the Browns it seems like the meeting on Thursday could be prosperous for both sides. Hopefully we get to see it on next week’s episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks.

From the FanPosts

Our FanPost section is where Blogging The Boys members have the opportunity to write their own posts about the Cowboys. Take a little time to write a post about your thoughts regarding the Dallas Cowboys, and there’s a chance it will be linked right here in our morning News roundup.

It would be ridiculous for the Cowboys to cut Rico Gathers - VAfan, Blogging the Boys FanPost

The offseason seemed to be filled with sound bites that tanked the stock of Rico Gathers, and now it seems to be a toss up as to whether he makes the 53 man roster. BTB’er VAfan seems to think it’s the only logical conclusion to keep Rico.

As we stand here today, Rico Gathers might become the best and most complete tight end of this group.

Even if he isn’t, he is a huge receiving threat, who can score from anywhere on the field.

That leads me to my final point. Rico is more than just a red zone threat. Did you see the one handed grab in practice? That was a post route. Could be run from the 20 yard line, and unless the safety can catch him and tackle him, that play could have been an 80 yard TD. In other words, Rico can run down the field routes and provide a huge target for Dak, from anywhere. He isn’t just a jump ball guy in the red zone.

Let the preseason play out. And keep Rico because he’s a mismatch. And the Cowboys need that.

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