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Cowboys news: Pro Bowl and Senior Bowl review, looking ahead towards free agency

And other off-season news about your favorite team

2019 Senior Bowl: 3 Big Winners From The Week - Kevin Brady, InsideTheStar
The return of Cole Beasley is uncertain at this point so it makes sense to look at potential replacements through the draft. Penny Hart of Georgia State is one candidate.

Penny Hart, Georgia State

When you talk about winning a week of practice, you have to talk about Georgia State wide receiver Penny Hart. Despite his small size, Hart embarrassed defensive backs in the slot rep in and rep out at the Senior Bowl.

For three straight days of practice, Penny Hart was making highlight plays and going viral within draft Twitter. Previously thought of by many as a late day three prospect, Hart might have played himself into much higher consideration during the 2019 draft.

Cowboys’ Leighton Vander Esch reflects on Pro Bowl, meeting idol - Jared Wingate, CowboysWire
Vander Esch got an opportunity to spend some quality time with a childhood idol during his time at the Pro Bowl.

The Dallas Cowboys should feel confident in their first-round draft strategy, based on their success rate over the last few seasons. From building one of the league’s premier offensive lines, to addressing the need for impact defensive players, Dallas has devoted their focus into building their team with young, cost-controlled talent.

The organizations’ latest smash hit, rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, has risen to being a leader on America’s Team. Vander Esch showed impressive awareness, play recognition and leadership that is not normal for a player from eight-man football in high school. Vander Esch was selected as a Pro Bowl alternate, replacing his idol, Luke Kuechly. While Kuechly skipped out of the contest, Vander Esch was able to spend some time with another of his idols, Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner.

Kris Richard on why Year 2 could be even better for Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch - Jon Machota, SportsDay
Rookie Leighton Vander Esch and veteran Bobby Wagner were a pair of admirers during Pro Bowl weekend. We can only hope LVE lives up to the promise he showed during his rookie campaign.

The opportunity also presented Vander Esch a chance to spend the week practicing and then playing alongside another linebacker he holds in high regard -- Seattle’s Bobby Wagner.

”It’s crazy,” Vander Esch said. “I grew up watching him. I followed him on Instagram as soon as I had Instagram. I followed him on Twitter as soon as I had Twitter. He was one of the first guys that I like really, really followed throughout my whole entire football journey. And now to get to play with him and talk to him. I traded jerseys with him after the playoff game. The guy is awesome. I love him.”

Wagner appreciated the experience as well because the five-time Pro Bowler said he enjoyed watching film of Vander Esch this season. Wagner was hoping the rookie would get an opportunity to do his signature wolf howl celebration after making a big play in Sunday’s NFL all-star game.

Under Review: Most Surprising Performance? - Staff,
The Mothership’s staff is working through their 10-part season review, this time looking at the most surprising performance from 2018.

David Helman: There are so many options for this question – Dan Bailey, Leighton Vander Esch and Antwaun Woods all spring to mind. But I’ll never forget my reaction when I woke up from a nap on the flight back from Washington D.C. on Oct. 22. I asked my coworkers what they were talking about, and they responded “they just traded a first-round pick for Amari Cooper.” It took them a solid five minutes to convince me they weren’t joking. I’ll be honest: at the time, I never would’ve believed Cooper would play up to that price tag. He had been lackluster the last two seasons in Oakland, and the Cowboys’ passing game was atrocious. It felt like an overpay. Well, it goes to show what I know. Here we are in late January, and getting Cooper for the No. 27 overall pick feels like a steal. Yes, the Cowboys will have to find a way to extend him – but that’s a small price to pay for your No. 1 receiver of the future. As it turns out, it was a pretty great trade, and it was one of the biggest surprises of my time covering the Cowboys.

Evaluating Goal-to-Go Strategy with Expected Points - Spencer Harrison, Football Outsiders
Have you ever felt that team’s using the fade pattern in the end zone were banging their head against the proverbial wall? Football Outsider’s puts pencil to paper to determine how effective each play type is near the end zone and, well... the fade doesn’t grade out well.

How often have you seen a quarterback throwing a fade into the end zone with his team close to the goal line, sailing the ball over or off the receiver's outstretched arms as he jumps to try to make the play?

Dating to 2016, the fade (combining both traditional and back-shoulder varieties) is the second-most-targeted route type in goal-to-go situations. However, EPA suggests that this is one of the most inefficient throws a quarterback can make in these situations.

Over the past three seasons, there have been 14 route types (as classified by Sports Info Solutions Video Scouts) to garner at least 50 targets in goal-to-go situations. Of those route types, six average a positive EPA per target. The routes that do well tend to be shorter and more lateral with higher completion percentages. Drags work best in this situation, followed by throws into the flat.

To truly be in 'win-now' mode, these are the moves the Dallas Cowboys have to make this offseason - Kevin Sherrington, SportsDay
Cowboys fans seem to be coming around to the idea of Kellen Moore as the team’s offensive coordinator. SportsDay’s Kevin Sherrington informs us it’s okay to feel good.

Go ahead and say that Kellen Moore will be the new offensive coordinator. Don't act so embarrassed to admit it. I mean, unless the Pro Bowl was supposed to be a trial run.

Moore has all the intangibles to succeed in the NFL these days. He's bright, young and works on the offensive side of the ball. Maybe he's even smart enough to incorporate a few more plays where Dak Prescott uses his feet. And maybe Jon Kitna -- whose role is also yet to be identified -- can teach Dak how to use his feet.

No one's asking the Cowboys' coaching staff to turn Dak into Dude Perfect. He'll never throw footballs through car windows on the Bush. Or tight windows at JerryWorld. But he's good enough. Just ground him in fundamentals and take advantage of his strengths. Maybe give his wide receivers a new wrinkle or two.

Bold Free-Agent Predictions for Every NFL Team - Brad Gagnon, Bleacher Report
It’s never too early for bold (read: unfounded) off-season predictions and the Bleacher Report decides to jump on the bandwagon first.

Bold can be surprising, and surprising can be bold, but there's no rule that bold must be surprising, which is why the Dallas Cowboys would still be performing an act of boldness by signing superstar safety Earl Thomas—even if the whole Milky Way has been predicting said development for well over a year.

Thirteen months to be exact. That's how long ago Thomas visited the Cowboys locker room following a game between Seattle and Dallas at AT&T Stadium and told the most popular team from his home state to "come get me."

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