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Cowboys news: A make or break year for Dak Prescott?

Plus, Stephen Jones likes the team’s depth.

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Is there an NFL player with more at stake in 2018 than Dak Prescott? – Bob Sturm, The Athletic
Sturm ponders whether Dak Prescott has more at stake in 2018 than any other player in the NFL. While admitting it’s an open question, he also makes it clear where he stands on the issue.

My conclusion is pretty simple: I have no idea where Dak Prescott’s career is going and neither do you.

But his first two chapters are undeniably great. Whether you like it or can explain it away in some sort of reductive way, Prescott’s career is off to a phenomenal start. If the 2016 draft was reset, he would still be taken behind Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and several others. But, he would move way up the list and be a top-10 pick. Prescott has played historically well through 2016 and 2017 and the timing of his speed bump was not a coincidence. It took place when his two best teammates went away and his coaching staff went out to lunch, too.

He probably will never be Staubach, Aikman, or even Romo. But, doggone, he is better than most seem to realize through his first two seasons – all as a fourth-round compensatory pick.

This is a massive year for Prescott, and I admit that if my theory is wrong and he continues to play poorly with Zeke and Tyron back, then next spring they will have some very difficult decisions to make. He will have every right to a big contract if he plays well and the bidding starts at the Derek Carr deal (5 years/$125 million). Considering how every QB deal appears to exceed the next, even that might not be enough.

Cowboys TE Blake Jarwin on growing up an Eagles fan: 'I don't know what was wrong with me' - Staff, SportsDay
Better late than never.

Question: Being an Oklahoma kid, did you grow up a Cowboys fan?

BJ: "I actually was a Philly fan growing up. I don't know what was wrong with me. My mom was a big Dallas fan and I think I wanted to be rebellious. But I had the opportunity to choose in free agency and I decided to come here -- I couldn't turn down the offer to learn under Jason Witten."

Stephen Jones likes the Cowboys’ depth, camp competition - Clarence Hill, Jr., Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Stephen Jones, like his father, is prone to seeing the glass half full and gives his thoughts on the roster situation thus far.

Executive vice president Stephen Jones likes what he has seen so far from the Dallas Cowboys in training camp. He is especially excited about the depth at receiver, defensive back, linebacker and defensive end.

Jones said the quality of competition is so good that the Cowboys will likely have to cut five players who would have made the roster last year. Jones is especially excited to see what tight end Rico Gathers can do in Thursday’s preseason game and whether he can sustain it after blowing up early in preseason last year then tailing off.

Dallas Cowboys to retain control of DT David Irving as RFA? - Clarence Hill, Jr., Fort Worth Star-Telegram
David Irving’s absence from camp could potentially cost him unrestricted free agency following the 2018 season.

Now there is a question of whether Irving’s continued absence will impact his unrestricted free agent status at the end of the season and allow the Cowboys to somewhat control his destiny as a restricted free agent again.

If Irving doesn’t report 30 days before the start of the regular season, which is Tuesday, he won’t receive the accrued season necessary to become an unrestricted free agent in March 2019.

Article 8, Section 1(b) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement states that, “A player shall not receive an Accrued Season for any League Year in which the player is under contract to a Club and in which he failed to report to such Club at least thirty days prior to the first regular season game of that season.”

Per a source, that is a rule that would apply to Irving, who is not expected to show up by Tuesday.

Speaking of a defensive linemen who has missed out on accrued seasons...

Randy Gregory practices in pads for first time - Stefan Stevenson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Randy Gregory may have been reinstated with the team, but the Cowboys are taking their time with their young edge rusher as they ease him back slowly.

Head coach Jason Garrett said Gregory’s health is the No. 1 concern. The team doesn’t want him to move too fast after missing the entire 2017 season because of the suspension. Gregory is unlikely to be fully active in practices until the team returns to Texas on Aug. 17.

“We’ll certainly try to ramp up his reps. He’s been doing some of the work in the morning with the team on the grass sessions,” Garrett said. “You’ll see him in pads here the next couple days, but he won’t get into practice here. We’re still trying to lay that base and that foundation. He’s done a really nice job, though.”

Pro Football Hall of Fame isn’t short on Cowboys, but it’s sorely missing this one - Tim Cowlishaw, SportsDay
Cowlishaw makes the case for this former Cowboys’ enshrinement into Pro Football’s Hall of Fame. Whoever you think it is, it’s not him.

A few reasons I still think what I thought a year ago at this time, that the ageless Gil Brandt should be the next Cowboy inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame:

Unlike Ray Lewis, Brandt will not speak for 34 minutes. And he will be mostly coherent.

Unlike Terrell Owens, he will speak in the correct city.

And, most important, unlike every other man inducted into the Hall, he will not have been a coach, player or general manager. The art of scouting was not invented here, but the Cowboys were so far ahead of their competitors in the ‘60s and into the ‘70s in this field, it was instrumental in their sustained success and in becoming “America’s Team,’’ love ‘em or hate ‘em.

2017 Slot vs. Wide: Defense - Scott Kacsmar, Football Outsiders
This one’s a bit nerdy but it’s interesting because it shows where the Cowboys have enormous room for improvement in terms of coverage. Consider the Cowboys’ rankings in certain situations last year:

  • 26th defending all slot players lined up in the slot versus 11th against all players lined up wide.
  • 28th against receivers lined up in the slot versus 6th against receivers lined up wide.
  • 31st against running backs lined up in the slot versus 30th versus running backs lined up wide.

Opposing coaches knew these numbers and no doubt utilized players in the slot and running backs to attack the Cowboys’ weaknesses.

Our first table looks at all targets each defense faced that were thrown to any player in the slot or out wide. We have listed each team’s DVOA and number of passes against both slot and wide targets; the rate of passes to players in the slot as a share of passes to either slot or wide receivers (Slot%); and the difference in DVOA from wide to slot. As a reminder, since this is defense, the more negative the DVOA, the better. Teams are sorted by the difference in performance against slot and wide receivers -- those at the top fared better against slot receivers, while those at the bottom had better coverage against receivers split out wide.

Why ‘us against the world’ coach Sean Payton could - and should - sign ex-Cowboys WR Dez Bryant - Staff, SportsDay
We’ve heard about the possibility of Dez to the Cleveland Browns, but what about Dez to the New Orleans Saints

Good Morning Football co-host Peter Schrager said Monday that two teams stand out as Bryant’s best fits.

“Cleveland Browns,” Schrager said on the NFL Network show. “Josh Gordon currently in that situation, Corey Coleman just shipped off. I could see Dez going there and being the veteran leader.”

”I also like a wildcard no one’s talking about,” Schrager added. “The New Orleans Saints make a lot of sense. They released Brandon Coleman overnight, who was their big, tall, big-bodied guy. [Put] Dez Bryant in that Sean Payton system.

”You want to talk about a guy who is us against the world? Sean Payton is the perfect guy to take Dez Bryant and say, ‘Hey, no one believes in you, but I do. Let’s go conquer the world.’ I think Sean Payton would be a great coach for Dez Bryant.”

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