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Cowboys News: Why the “Burning of Atlanta” could lead to “unexpected run in the NFC” for Cowboys

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George Straight 2014 The Cowboy Rides Away Tour Press Conference Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Essential Broadcast Media

Jerry Jones on lessons learned from 'the Burning of Atlanta' in 2017 - Kate Hairopoulos, SportsDay
Last season's loss in Atlanta has been a primary driver for the Cowboys' offseason activities in 2018.

That led to an offseason focus on making sure the team is better prepared to handle adversity and injuries. Changes were made to the coaching staff.

"You do lose people... you're supposed to make adjustments, we didn't adjust," Jerry Jones said of last season. "That really, really was a a focal point of our offseason. Just to remember...

"We don't want to have another Atlanta happen to us. 'The Burning of Atlanta.' That was called 'the Burning of Atlanta.' Gone with the wind."

Will Dak-friendly offense lead to "an unexpected run in the NFC" for Cowboys? - Bucky Brooks,
Brooks looks at how the Cowboys have tweaked their offense around their young quarterback, and wonders if those changes will lead to "an unexpected run in the NFC".

I don't know why the football world is up in arms with Jones after the Hall of Fame inductee recently suggested the Dallas Cowboys' offense will be more "Dak-friendly" in 2018. Most teams build around the talents of their franchise quarterback, and the Cowboys are finally stealing a page from Chapter 1 of the NFL's team-building manual to help their young quarterback thrive in his third season.

With that in mind, I applaud the Cowboys for building around Prescott's talents as a QB1. Despite the narrative surrounding his play, the third-year pro has been one of the most impressive young players at the position, as evidenced by his 22-10 career record and 95.5 passer rating. Sure, No. 4's game took a dip in 2017 when Ezekiel Elliott missed six games due to a league-imposed suspension, but his 16 games with a passer rating of at least 100.0 since 2016 puts him on par with Tom Brady (16) and ranks only behind Drew Brees (20) in terms of pass efficiency.

Considering how Brady and Brees are viewed as the gold standard at the position, the Cowboys would be wise to build a system around a young quarterback showing enough promise to be mentioned in the same conversation as the greats, right?

To that point, the Cowboys have made a concerted effort to tweak the offense to better suit No. 4's game. The team has shown a number of spread and empty formations in preseason games with a number of crossing routes and quick-rhythm concepts designed to get the ball into the hands of the team's playmakers within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. In addition, the Cowboys sprinkled in a few bootlegs and naked passes to get the young passer some easy completions on the move. Granted, the defense hasn't overreacted to the run (yet) with Elliott on the sidelines, but the sight of No. 21 in the backfield will create more movement from the defense when the regular season begins.

The Cowboys will also sprinkle in some zone-read and quarterback designed runs (QB draw) into the game plan to take advantage of Prescott's athleticism and running skills. They've typically utilized these plays in the red zone in the past, but we could see more of these plays in the middle of the field when defenses aggressively come after Elliott with loaded boxes.

In a quarterback-driven league where QB1s decide games each and every week, it's sensible for the Cowboys to build the offense around a young playmaker who has shown some promise as a franchise player. Like it or not, No. 4 has earned that right from "America's Team" and we will soon find out if it helps the Cowboys make an unexpected run in the NFC.

Cowboys 2018 training camp: Michael Gallup continues strong push for starting WR job - Blogging The Boys
Michael Gallup = stud.

Because it’s our favorite thing to do, it’s Michael Gallup time. He’s been outstanding and gets better every single day:

Michael Gallup is named an “under-the-radar” player for 2018 - Dave Halprin, Blogging The Boys
The rookie hasn't been flying under the radar in Dallas for quite some time, but folks outside of Dallas are still playing catch up.

Gallup is already looking like a real find in the third round of the draft. The Cowboys waited for two rounds as receiver after receiver went off the board in the draft, causing anxiety among some of the fanbase. They finally settled on Gallup, and they may look as prescient on this one as they did when they selected Dak Prescott in the fourth round. Gallup has looked like one of the better receivers in training camp and already has a 30-yard touchdown on the board in the first preseason game. In Thursday’s practice, beat writers were raving about one of his catches.

Gallup has made play after play in camp. The other thing he has done is make some catches down the field. As PFF noted, he was among the top receivers in yards per route in college, and given how shallow the Cowboys passing game became last year, that would be a welcome change. Dak Prescott only averaged 6.78 yards per attempt in 2017, placing him 20th in the league. In his very successful 2016 season, he averaged 7.99 yards per attempt which was fourth in the league. You’d like to see him get much closer to the 2016 number this year, and Gallup just might be able to help with that.

Helman: Outlining The Cowboys’ 53-Man Options - David Helman,
Roster cuts are due in exactly one week, and Helman goes position-by-position to weigh the Cowboys' options at each. Here's his take on the defensive line.

What We Know: This is the most talent the Cowboys have had on their defensive front in six or seven years, easily. There was already talent on hand – and that was before Dorance Armstrong caught everyone’s attention, and before Randy Gregory re-entered the lineup. The Cowboys have four really intriguing ends in DeMarcus Lawrence, Taco Charlton, Armstrong and Gregory – and they have a team captain who can do a little bit of everything in Tyrone Crawford. Combine that with Maliek Collins, who hopes to be healthy for the season opener, and this is quite a promising looking group.

What We’ll Learn: There’s some work to do in figuring out the defensive tackles – and that may be impacted by players’ versatility. The Cowboys went into camp with Jihad Ward and Datone Jones as their starting tackles, but they lined up last Saturday with Antwaun Woods and Daniel Ross in the starting roles. With Collins injured and David Irving absent, Rod Marinelli doesn’t appear to have settled on anyone. And that was before Jones got injured in the loss to the Bengals. Woods has come on strong after starting camp as an afterthought, and Brian Price has had his moments. Like Crawford, Kony Ealy is a guy who can flip between tackle and end. Will that help him claim a roster spot, or is there enough talent among the defensive tackles?

Bottom Line: There’s not as much room here as you might think. Rod Marinelli has only kept eight pass rushers on the 53-man roster these past two seasons. Whether he keeps more this year will probably depend on how the coaching staff views the back of the depth chart. Antwaun Woods, Brian Price, Daniel Ross and Charles Tapper are all guys to watch in this final week.

Latest Cowboys depth chart shows significant changes at defensive tackle - OCC, Blogging The Boys
Does the latest depth chart provide early hints about who the 2018 Cowboys DTs will be?

The Cowboys started both the 2016 and 2017 seasons with eight defensive linemen (and had one guy on suspension), so it’s not a given that they’ll keep more than eight players this year too.

But if they do keep a ninth guy, that last spot will likely come down to Daniel Ross, Kony Ealy, Caraun Reid, Brian Price, Charles Tapper, or Jihad Ward. Or they could swap one of those players for a tight end or safety currently on another roster. That’s what depth can do for you - when you have it.

Travis Frederick Released From Hospital and Could Visit the Cowboys on Friday - Vincent Velotta, 12Up
This is fantastic news. Get well soon Travis, Cowboys Nation loves you!

The ​Dallas Cowboys got some terrible news when their star center Travis Frederick was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that can be treated but generally weakens the subject who has it. Frederick has played every single game since he was taken in 2013 as a rookie, being selected to the Pro Bowl in four of his five NFL seasons.

While the situation at large is very unfortunate for the star center, there has been a bit of progress as Frederick has returned home from the hospital.

Frederick will also (hopefully) be visiting the Cowboys on Friday, presumably for the first time since being diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder. Of course, Frederick won’t be returning to the team anytime soon, with most believing he’ll be out well into the regular season.

Practice Recap: Zack Martin On The Mend; Notes - David Helmann,
This week wasn’t looking so hot for the offensive line. Things are starting to look up. Let’s hope positive things continue to happen.

It’s one thing to hear optimistic reports about Zack Martin’s condition. It’s another thing to ask him personally: does he plan on being ready for the season opener?

“Oh yeah, no question,” Martin said on Thursday afternoon.

Martin is actually already back in pads, less than a week after hyperextending his knee in Saturday’s preseason game against Cincinnati. The Cowboys’ All-Pro guard isn’t mixing back into practice yet, but he got into uniform to continue his rehab from the injury – and to keep himself from falling out of the routine.

“I don’t really like going a couple weeks without putting pads on, so today I put pads on and just did some conditioning – light, individual stuff. That’s good for me,” Martin said.

Practice Recap: Deonte Thompson Is Good To Go - Staff,
More good news from the Cowboys infirmary.

It had been awhile since Thompson took part in practice, as he was patiently watching a strained Achilles these past few weeks. But after mixing in gradually on Thursday, the veteran receiver was a full-go on Friday, functioning as a first-team wide receiver.

The Cowboys rotated several receivers with the first-team offense in the hurry-up session, including Gallup, Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Lance Lenoir and the returning Thompson.

Scout’s Notebook: Battles To Watch vs. Arizona - Bryan Broaddus,
Broaddus breaks down some key roster battles to keep an eye on in the Cowboys preseason game against the Cardinals.

It appears that there still is a battle for both cornerback and safety spots on this roster. The front office brought in Jeron Johnson and Dominick Sanders to help at safety with Tyree Robinson and Kam Kelly. Johnson played for Kris Richard in Seattle and got a look just on that reason alone. Robinson played well against the Bengals and practiced well this week. It would make sense to have him on the roster over the veteran from a cap purpose, but the front office might not agree with me on that. Duke Thomas, Donovan Olumba and Charvarius Ward are still in the mix, and I am still waiting for one of them to take ahold of a job -- but that just hasn’t been the case. This is a position where one or two of these players will cut themselves if performances don’t improve.

Here’s what you should look for in the Cowboys-Cardinals preseason game – Calvin Watkins, The Athletic
Watkins runs through six things to look for against Arizona, one of which is the battle for the last wide receiver spot.

The Cowboys have five wide receivers who will almost certainly make the 53-man roster: Austin, Beasley, Gallup, Allen Hurns and Terrance Williams. Will the Cowboys add one more receiver to that group, or two? Noah Brown (hamstring) and Deonte Thompson (Achilles) are running out of time to make their case. As Stephen Jones likes to say, or repeat he heard from someone else, “You can’t make the club in the tub.” Lance Lenoir Jr., gets another opportunity.

In two practices at The Star this past week, Lenoir was outstanding, prompting Jason Garrett to praise him during his conversation with reporters on Thursday. If Lenoir keeps this up, he should become the sixth receiver. Garrett said Brown and Thompson are not running out of time to make the squad because of their injuries. Thompson returned to practice Thursday while Brown did not and won’t be ready until next week. It seems Thompson is behind Lenoir, however, it’s possible the Cowboys keep them both.

Play Dak and Zeke in preseason? That’s Jason Garrett’s dilemma - Todd Archer,
Archer explains in detail how Jason Garrett could handle the Cowboys “dress rehearsal” game.

If Garrett does not play Elliott, Prescott, Smith, Lawrence and Lee, where does he stop? Who else is indispensable? Looney has played the most snaps of any offensive player in two preseason games, but if he were to go down, the Cowboys would not have a center on the roster with game experience.

Lee played 10 snaps against the Bengals. He was held out of team drills at the start of camp as the Cowboys took a patient approach with their veteran linebacker. Are 10 snaps enough?

Spagnola: Jumbo Joe Now Center Of Attention - Mickey Spagnola,
Mickey Spagnola of the mothership has a very positive vibe about former-backup, now starting center, Joe Looney.

Jumbo Joe looks stronger this summer. He is moving better. Looks like he’s in better shape. This is the best we’ve seen him play. Look at Joe hold up in these one-on-one pass-rush drills.

And this after missing all off-season practices, recovering from wrist surgery to repair a fractured bone. He spent those couple of months doing a lot of cardio off to the side with the weight and conditioning coaches while his teammates were practicing in OTAs and the minicamp.

Could Paul Alexander soon look to his past to help shore up the center position? - RJ Ochoa, BloggingTheBoys
Ochoa has a good plan for how the Cowboys could add some (familiar) depth to the offensive line. Will they look to do it?

It’s important to remember that the Cowboys have a new offensive line coach, Paul Alexander. He’s new because he used to coach for the Cincinnati Bengals, who the Dallas Cowboys just played, and Cincy might be ditching one of their current centers some time soon - T.J. Johnson.

Our friends at Cincy Jungle seem to think Johnson could be a casualty of roster trimming for the Bengals, and while the Cowboys missed out on a certain former member of that team maybe Paul Alexander will look to his past to find some help for his future. From SB Nation’s Rebecca Toback:

“He’s never been given too much of a shot in Cincinnati as he was the backup to Russell Bodine who the Bengals inexplicably loved. Bodine also never missed a start in four years, so Johnson got almost no playing time, save for a few snaps here and there. Not being able to beat out Bodine doesn’t bode well for him, but that really could have been the Bengals being stubborn and refusing to admit Bodine was bad. This year, the Bengals drafted Billy Price in the first round and he’s set to start at center. There’s more of a priority toward having more guys who can play guard/tackle on the roster as backups so the team is planning for guard Trey Hopkins to also serve as the backup center, which will eliminate the need for Johnson to remain in Cincinnati. By all accounts, it seems he’s headed toward being cut on Sep. 1”

Jason Garrett Must Successfully Maneuver Cowboys Through Adversity - Jean-Jacques Taylor, NBCDFW
JTT boldly proclaims that the “injury excuse” has been removed forever in the NFL, even if it feels like his point is solely about Garrett and not the NFL in general.

Still, it doesn’t give coach Jason Garrett a built-in excuse to survive a season that doesn’t meet expectations. He’s either going to win a couple of playoff games, surpassing his total from the previous eight years as head coach combined, or none of us should be shocked if owner Jerry Jones fires him. It’s really that simple.

The Eagles removed the injury excuse forever last year when they won the Super Bowl without MVP candidate quarterback Carson Wentz, left tackle Jason Peters, middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, cornerback Ronald Darby, running back Darren Sproles and Chris Maragos, their best special teams player.

Player tracking data is next step in NFL's analytics revolution - Seth Walder, ESPN
Remember when coaches and armchair GMs alike used to say "stats are for losers"?

Good times.

Player tracking data is the next analytics arms race in the NFL, and it's here.

"Make no mistake, it is going to be a separator in terms of your competitiveness, both in personnel and on Sundays," said one NFL executive, who requested anonymity before discussing how use of the new data would affect teams' strategy. "My belief is it will drastically help teams compete if they can embrace it and integrate it. [And] I think it will be more of a separator early."

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