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Cowboys News: Connor Williams beefs up for his second year

Plus, Kris Richard’s thoughts on the defense

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

So ... how many pounds has Cowboys LG Connor Williams added to his frame and bench press? - David Moore, SportsDay Dallas

Connor Williams had a challenging rookie year playing at left guard, and while he showed some significant growth near the end of the season, many agreed that his biggest problem stemmed from a lack of strength. Williams has done his best to remedy that issue, as the second-year guard has bulked up this offseason.

The bulk Williams has added over the last four months isn’t just weight. Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin is his lift partner in the Cowboys program. A player who would bench press 315 pounds 10 times as a rookie is already up to 365 pounds on nine reps.

”There’s not even a comparison,” Williams said. “Big steps.”

“Strength and getting the power up,” Williams said of his goals. “I think I’ve put myself in a good position which is refining the technique and getting comfortable.”

Kris Richard has high praise for Xavier Woods progress, upside - Patrik Walker, 247 Sports

Xavier Woods is entering his third year in the NFL and his second as a full time safety, despite Dallas’ attempts to sign Earl Thomas. Woods has voiced the perceived disrespect and how he plans to use that as motivation, and Kris Richard seems to think there’s more than just motivation that will help Woods take a big step forward.

“[Woods is] on the [come-up],” said passing game coordinator Kris Richard, via Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News. “He’s going to be in the second year of our system. He’s really grasped a firm hold of assignment responsibility — of physicality. He was a bell cow for us back there, in regards to getting on course and laying heavy on wide receivers and tight ends, and that’s what we’re looking for.

“Obviously the next phase is going to be getting the ball. We think that’s just going to come. It’s going to come with time.”

Kris Richard ‘pleased’ with how the Cowboys are ‘building the stable’ at cornerback - Jon Machota, SportsDay Dallas

Kris Richard has a certain type of cornerback he looks for, and the Cowboys used the 2019 NFL draft to get some players who fit that criteria. Drafting Michael Jackson from Miami and signing Chris Westry of Kentucky as an undrafted rookie have made Richard very happy.

“Very pleased with him,” Richard said of [Michael] Jackson. “Intelligent, very smart, very sharp, picks things up really quick. Big, massive man. He’s about 210 pounds, very fast, has nice athleticism. I think he’s got corner and nickel combo ability for us. Obviously the more you can do, the more value that you’ll present for yourself.”

Richard said he was “very thrilled” that they were able to acquire Westry as an undrafted rookie free agent. He was one of Dallas’ top 30 pre-draft national visitors.

”He’s a ball of clay for us,” Richard said. “It’s just really cool to have a guy with that type of athletic ability, first and foremost, beyond the profile fit. You look at a guy of this nature, 6-4, 33-inch arms, he’s really fast and has great athleticism.

”Obviously the No. 1 thing we’re looking for is -- we’ll get him to be able to play the technique -- but it’s the rest of the game that’s going to come along with it, the physicality, the aggressive nature.”

Meet The Undrafted WR Who’s Turning Heads - David Helman,

The Cowboys are no strangers to undrafted wide receivers carving out significant roles with the team - Miles Austin and Cole Beasley were fixtures of the offense for years. But now there is a new undrafted rookie receiver who is turning heads, and Jon’Vea Johnson could find himself a roster spot even in a crowded position group.

“It’s not a surprise, because we loved his film, but Jon’Vea the last two days, his speed and athleticism and how smooth he is has shown up here – almost a little bit earlier than we thought it would,” said Cowboys receivers coach Sanjay Lal.

It makes sense that Lal isn’t surprised by Johnson’s progress, considering how long the Cowboys have been on to him. Johnson was one of just five receivers the team brought to their facility as a pre-draft visitor, and was the only one who wound up going undrafted.

In fact, among a loaded Toledo receiver group that saw standout Diontae Johnson drafted in the third round and Cody Thompson sign undrafted with Kansas City, Lal said he liked his guy the best.

“I went to the Pro Day, and out of all those Toledo receivers, his Pro Day was off the charts – how athletic he was, how fast,” he said.

Why you shouldn’t expect to see a prominent free agent, like Gerald McCoy, on the Cowboys’ roster - David Moore, SportsDay Dallas

It’s that time of the year where teams like the Cowboys try to snatch up available talent at bargain prices, and Dallas has been tangentially linked to several free agents, including Gerald McCoy and Eric Berry. But Jon Machota doesn’t expect any moves to be made for those kind of big names.

Do you think the Cowboys will sign a veteran free agent before the start of the season?

Jon Machota: I do. But I don’t think it will be Gerald McCoy or Eric Berry like so many Cowboys fans would prefer. My projection is more about adding a player or two when rosters have to be trimmed to 53 before the start of the regular season. Two positions to keep an eye on: running back and safety.

If the Cowboys don’t feel good about their traditional backup RB spot with rookie Mike Weber, late August could be a good time to add a veteran to play behind Elliott. I predict Dallas will keep three running backs and a fullback. Safety was the biggest need entering the offseason. Perhaps a veteran they like becomes available during roster cuts.

Dallas Cowboys: Will Randy Gregory return before the season starts? - Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat

After a promising return to football in 2018, Randy Gregory was slapped with an indefinite suspension once again. However, Stephen and Jerry Jones have both seemed confident that Gregory will return to football, potentially even this year. But will it happen?

Still, the Dallas brass seem unusually optimistic about Gregory’s situation. The team has vowed to continue to support him. And the Cowboys even gave Randy a one-year extension, presumably to aid him in his finances. But when can fans actually expect to see Gregory back on a football field?

The Dallas Cowboys did add an insurance policy for Randy Gregory’s absence, trading for veteran defensive end Robert Quinn this offseason. But if the 26-year old Gregory can find a way to return sometime this year, the two would represent the best pass rushing rotation in Dallas in recent memory.

Looney Content Behind ‘Best Center’ in the NFL - Nick Eatman,

Joe Looney did an admirable job filling in for Travis Frederick all of last year, and was arguably the most consistent offensive lineman for the team in 2018 with Tyron Smith and Zack Martin missing a few games with injury. But any concerns about Looney being dismayed at going back to the bench can be laid to rest.

“I feel like when I first came here, coming to the Cowboys really helped my career out,” said Looney, who played three seasons with the 49ers and another in Tennessee before joining the Cowboys in 2016. “Coming in and being around Travis, Zack [Martin] and Tyron [Smith], seeing how they work and master their craft. It made me want to be a better player. I have to give credit to those guys. They really helped me get to where I was last year.”

But even if that means taking a step back in 2019, Looney not only understands the situation, he embraces it.

“Travis is the best center in the league,” he said. “The way I look at it, I was brought to the Cowboys to be a backup and that’s my role on this team. When my number is called, I have to be ready to play. It was unfortunate what happened to ‘Trav’ last year. Thankfully I sat next to him for three years so he could help me get to the point where I was in my career to help the team. It wasn’t my spot to begin with. Travis is the best in the league.”

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