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Cowboys news: The 15 most “impactful” Cowboys

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Michael Strawn

The most impactful Dallas Cowboys in franchise history – Bob Sturm, Calvin Watkins, & Jake Kemp, The Athletic
It’s the dead time of year for the NFL which means an opportunity to reminisce about past greats. Dallas-area writers at TheAthletic have come up with the “15 most impactful” players for each of the big four Dallas area teams and here they look at the Cowboys. Narrowing the list of Cowboys’ greats to only 15 is virtually impossible, and there were heated debates on many players.

Romo debates cost me years of my life. The fact is, yes, Romo was a miracle. The Cowboys had no business falling into quarterback of his caliber given their approach to the position in the post-Aikman era. But even if we remove the NFL Draft version of the soft bigotry of low expectations and merely judge him on his career, I consider Romo a top-10 Cowboy of all-time. Admittedly, his career was certainly a strange one. His lack of playoff success is a fair demerit to his legacy, although I believe it’s leaned on too heavily. Things just never synced up right for Romo. His two worst full seasons by QBR (14th in 2008, 13th in 2009) coincided with the two best defenses the Cowboys had during his tenure (ninth by DVOA in 2008, 10th by DVOA in 2009). So it was only fitting that in Romo’s final full season, when he led the league in QBR, the Dallas defense ranked 22nd. Romo was 27 before he started a full season under center. Couple that with three major injuries, and Romo’s body was simply no longer capable by the time he had all the answers to the tests. Had Romo arrived at 2014 form at age 31 instead of 34, and been able to play without injury for another half-decade, I believe he would be headed to the Hall Of Fame. -Jake

NFL Division Power Rankings: NFC North stands above the rest - Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com
With the NFC East returning two teams from last year’s playoffs - with both seemingly improved at first blush - you’d think the NFC East would rank fairly high among the NFL’s eight divisions. But this NFL.com writer find the bottom half of the division lacking.

There's an argument to be made that the NFC East has as good a 1-2 punch atop the division as any, so the fact that it comes in second to last on this list shows that we're ranking many groups that are close to evenly matched. One of the league's most injured teams last season, the Eagles should be among the NFC favorites once again. The Cowboys' offense has a lot of room to grow with new coordinator Kellen Moore expected to add some much-needed fresh ideas.

The division is ranked seventh because the Redskins and Giants would both be lucky to sniff eight wins, regardless of when their rookie quarterbacks crack the lineup. Even if Eli Manning and/or Daniel Jones play well, the Giants' defense looks to be a year away.

More To Robert Quinn’s Game Than Just Pass Rush - Rob Phillips, DallasCowboys.com
Phillips continues the Mothership’s look at 30 key players by focusing on new edge rusher Robert Quinn.

Quotable: “I’m just really impressed with his work habits here. He’s a real pro, comes to work here every day: effort, details, doesn’t say much. And I’m telling you what, he’s going to be a good run defender just like D-Law (DeMarcus Lawrence). We’ve got lizards over there -- racing lizards who play the run.” -Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli

Bryan Broaddus’ Take: I was excited that the front office took the opportunity to make this trade with the Dolphins for Quinn. It’s never a bad situation to target teams with a new general manager and head coach. Those teams tend to give away talented players, and in this case I believe that the Dolphins have done just that. The Cowboys didn’t have to give much in return and Quinn will be a perfect fit for a scheme that will take full advantage of his ability to attack the pocket. I am expecting a big year from him.

Mailbag: Witten’s Role; A Young LB To Watch? - Rob Phillips & Bryan Broaddus, DallasCowboys.com
The Mothership’s staff also take your questions and respond to them.

Question: I drove over to the start of training camp last year and before he got hurt, LB Chris Covington seemed to be getting lots of praise from his position coach in several drills. How is he doing and will he make an impact in 2019? - BILL CONWAY / PALM SPRINGS, CA

Bryan: I am still waiting for Chris Covington to turn the corner. It appears they;re giving him plenty of chances but he hasn’t responded like he should. Joe Thomas and Justin March-Lillard have shown up more than Covington in these practices and that’s surprising.

Rob: Covington’s frame (6-2, 245) makes him a natural fit for the strong-side (SAM) linebacker spot. But the Cowboys want their best three linebackers on the field at once, so it makes sense to move Sean Lee to SAM. Special teams will be key for Covington as the backup linebacker competition moves into training camp.

Veterans who could be cut by each of the NFL's 32 teams - Staff, ESPN.com
Competition should be stiff at Cowboys’ camp this season and there’s probably a veteran or two who finds himself on the outside looking in.

Dallas Cowboys

WR Tavon Austin

He re-signed with the Cowboys on a one-year deal that included just $500,000 guaranteed and was limited during organized team activities and minicamp because of a hamstring strain. Austin caught eight passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns last year but played in just seven games because of a groin injury. The Cowboys added Randall Cobb in free agency to handle the slot. They drafted running back Tony Pollard to be the change-of-pace back and potential returner. That doesn't leave a lot of room for Austin to make a mark. He can be a game-changer with his speed, but he has to stay healthy. -- Todd Archer

How Latest Gathers Situation Shakes Up TE Spot - Nick Eatman, DallasCowboys.com
Rico Gathers was issued a one-game suspension. How does that affect the tight end situation you ask? Eatman has some answers.

Now with Witten back in the fold, the tight end room could be again get crowded, but the Cowboys have shown the ability to keep four on the roster before.

The key for Gathers is to once again prove that he’s worthy of keeping. Before, it was more justified because he was a young, raw talent who was just learning the game of football. While the learning curve is still there, he’s now entering his fourth pro season. How much longer can the Cowboys really wait on him to turn that proverbial corner and make a contribution?

Last year, he caught two passes in the regular season, but was used mainly as a blocker. The threat of him high-pointing the ball near the goal line to snatch down passes like he did rebounds in college at Baylor, just never materialized.

Maybe Gathers is ready to make that leap this year, but the road just got even harder. And not because of his suspension, but the fact that Witten is now back in the fold and history suggests he doesn’t come off the field too often.

Now from the Cowboys’ perspective, the suspension to Gathers might actually give them more time to make what could be a tough decision.

Ranking NFL divisions by running backs: Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott can't lift NFC East above AFC North - Sean Wagner-McGough, CBSSports.com
More rankings, this time of the running back position by division (it’s that time of year folks). Somehow a division that has both Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley isn’t the highest ranked.

The NFC East might be the most obvious pick for the best division because of Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott. But while it's true that Barkley and Elliott are two of the best running backs in the NFL, it's also true that the rest of the division doesn't measure up.

The Eagles traded for Jordan Howard this offseason, but that didn't necessarily fix their problem at the position. Howard exploded onto the scene in 2016 and 2017, when he rushed for 2,435 yards while averaging 4.6 yards per carry. But this past season, his production dipped. He rushed for 935 yards while averaging 3.7 yards per carry. The bigger problem is that Howard is a one-dimensional back who can't be expected to contribute as a pass catcher.

Offsetting that problem is Corey Clement, who's caught 32 of 40 targets while averaging 9.8 yards per catch in his career. Second-round rookie Miles Sanders could also play a pivotal role in the offense, especially if Howard struggles to rediscover his form. In short, while the Eagles don't have a star the way the Cowboys and Giants do, they have a committee that could be productive as a collective.

2018 Passing Plus-Minus - Rivers McCown, Football Outsiders
Oh hey, another “advanced passing” metric to make us question quarterback rankings. I don’t know, but any metric that puts Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers in the middle and Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr near the top seems....suspect to me.

Passing plus-minus is a stat we annually track to help provide context to completion percentage. Given the location of a quarterback's passes, it compares his completion percentage in each area to historical baselines. This stat does not consider passes listed as "Thrown Away," "Tipped at Line," or "Quarterback Hit in Motion" by Sports Info Solutions charting. How often a pass is completed based on the pass distance, the distance required for a first down, and whether the ball was thrown to the left, middle, or right side of the field. This is a counting stat, so more attempts are obviously a great thing for the purposes of what we're talking about here.

Courtesy Rivers McCown, Football Outsiders