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Cowboys news: Jerry Jones says you don’t need a rushing champ to win Super Bowl

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Divisional Round - Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Jerry Jones: You don’t need a rushing champ to win SB - Kevin Patra, NFL.com
From the “needlessly airing your own dirty laundry department” comes this piece with quotes from Jerry Jones.

“The point there is, you don’t have to have a rushing champion to win a Super Bowl ... Emmitt was the first one to do it,” Jones said.

Since Smith accomplished that feat in 1992, 1993 and 1995, only Terrell Davis in 1998 led the league in rushing and won a Super Bowl in the same season, per NFL Research.

”That’s one of the dilemmas at running back is that the league knows that you can win Super Bowls and not have the Emmitt Smith back there or not have Zeke back there,” Jones said.

Rushing titles may not win Super Bowls, but Jerry Jones needs Cabo-bound Ezekiel Elliott if the Cowboys want a shot in 2019 - Calvin Watkins, SportsDay
Watkins, hand firmly grasping the obvious, notes the Cowboys need Ezekiel Elliott.

The last six Super Bowl winners didn’t have rushing champions on their rosters but did employ Marshawn Lynch, LaGarrette Blount (three times), Anderson and Michel. If the Falcons hadn’t blown that 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI, the talented Devonta Freeman could be added to the list.

So, yes, you really don’t need a rushing champion to reach the title game, but a reliable, sturdy back is needed. The Cowboys have that in Elliott, considered one of the top backs in the league. Jones knows this, and at some point he’ll work out a deal with Elliott and bring him to camp. For now, Jones plays these games in the media as Elliott continues his radio silence until a new deal is reached.

But let’s not believe the Cowboys don’t need Elliott -- because they do -- regardless if he wins a rushing title or not.

Can Ezekiel Elliott beat Todd Gurley's $57.5M deal? - Charles Robinson, Yahoo.com
The Ezekiel Elliott holdout continues to be the focus of media attention. The Todd Gurley deal has created a difficult market threshold for teams wanting to keep a lid of running back salaries.

According to contract advisers who have been circling running back deals over the past 12 months, it is apparent that the deals of guys like Gurley, Bell and even Johnson isn’t the kind of math teams are interested in engaging in. While franchises appear to have grudgingly accepted Odell Beckham Jr.’s $18 million annual salary (and the impact it has had on wideouts) as a barometer for the market, teams have been less accepting of Gurley’s deal as being a bellwether for running backs.

The rationale for why that is has been a subject of debate, but it likely has roots in every-down running backs becoming less of a bedrock in offensive schemes, as well as injury realities at the position. Not to mention that Gurley’s deal could look staggeringly bad if last season’s worries about his knee health persist this year.

This looms large for Elliott on a number of fronts. First, he’s angling for a contract that exceeds the Gurley deal, which is hard for Dallas to grapple with because the Gurley deal looks like a bad one. Second, Dallas has a quarterback in Dak Prescott who is going to be near the top of the quarterback heap, along with a wideout in Amari Cooper who should land in the top three in his position when his deal is done.

Considering the money already invested in the offensive line, that makes Dallas overwhelmingly salary cap-heavy on offense in the next few seasons. That is a problem because there are some additional defensive deals that should be sizable, including linebacker Jaylon Smith and cornerback Byron Jones.

Cam Newton Puts Away Cape, Feeling ‘Like a Rookie’ After Surgery – Peter King, ProFootballTalk
The veteran football scribe outline why he thinks the Elliott holdout won’t last very long.

I think the biggest reason why I don’t think the Ezekiel Elliott holdout will last into the season is that Jerry Jones won’t allow it to happen. He’s too excited about the Cowboys normally. But this year, with a young, play-making defense and a stacked offense, he’s got to feel like this is his best chance to go deep into the playoffs for a long time. And he knows he’s not going deep into the playoffs without Ezekiel Elliott. I can’t see this holdout lasting. Zeke’s supposed to make $3.8 million this year and $9.1 million in 2020. What seems fair to me: Elliott just turned 24. He already has 5,247 scrimmage yards in his young NFL career (even with suspensions), and he is the force that makes the Cowboys’ offense go. Take the $12.9 million he’s due over the next two seasons, add two years at, say, $8 million and $10 million, and give him a $21-million signing bonus. That’s not enough, you say? Well, it’s $52 million for the next four years, and it allows him to hit the market for one last contract at age 27 (his birthday is in July). Seems equitable for all.

Off to Oxnard, 2019: Sports Sturm’s State of the Cowboys – Bob Sturm, The Athletic
The Sturminator weighs in with his annual State of the Star Address.

But if there is anything that would represent ominous clouds on the horizon in 2019, it would be that all we have heard for months is contract talk. Is the Zeke holdout a big deal? Well, not really. I don’t need him participating in football activities at the moment anyway, but you can believe that most veteran players are wondering what will happen and how it will affect them. That is why you can’t actually view the Zeke situation as just affecting him. Byron Jones knows that an extension for everyone in front of him affects him. So does Jaylon Smith. La’el Collins hasn’t even been mentioned, and he is a starting right tackle in his own contract year.

Finite amounts of cap room — and a franchise that has to identify the keepers and the discards — will eventually cross the mind of every single player who has their own story, family and future to consider. We know this to be true, and we have seen it cause issues in other rooms. We also know that this is where the coach can be a real difference-maker. He can bring everyone together and convince all to leave their concerns outside the room and galvanize things wonderfully. Or he can be of no help whatsoever. Perhaps, in this case, they will find some common ground knowing he is in the exact same spot.

In other words, it sure seems to me that there is a recipe here for a very disjointed, drama-filled and distracted 2019 if the Cowboys become splintered or isolated in their own dramas. And much of that will fall to Jason Garrett. Can he keep the room’s eye on the prize amidst so many of the top personalities all choosing their own adventures and “looking out for No. 1” in their journeys? This is why contracts are best done from March through June, when leverage is lower and feelings are calmer. Trouble is, people are never motivated to make deals when everyone is calm.

The Dak dilemma: Do teams succeed when they pay Tier 3 quarterbacks top-tier money? - Mike Sando, The Athletic
The dilemma facing the Cowboys regarding Dak Prescott is daunting, as outlined in this piece from The Athletic.

As the 2018 season wound down, I asked a salary-cap analyst how much he’d pay Prescott if the choice was his. This analyst said he would offer $15 million to $18 million a year, and then trade Prescott if the quarterback balked at such a relatively modest number. He called Prescott great for the Cowboys, but only at a low price. He did not think the Cowboys could realistically win a Super Bowl with Prescott as a highly paid starter.

This analyst projected at the time that Dallas could sign someone such as Nick Foles or Joe Flacco in free agency. Those quarterbacks are earning $22 million to $23 million a year. Both were below Prescott in QB Tiers balloting. All three are in the third tier.

“People always believe you should never guarantee money to anybody, never pay anybody, always collect draft picks and have optionality every year,” a different team exec said. “It is an unbelievable philosophy and I could not agree more, except it is not realistic. At some point, you have to commit to players. At some point, your locker room looks at you and says, ‘Hey, how do you treat people? What do you do? What is right?’ There is a culture, and it depends on how you build your team.”

The Washington Redskins faced a somewhat similar quarterback dilemma in recent years. They resisted paying Cousins near the top of the market. Cousins was, and still is, a low-Tier 2 or high-Tier 3 quarterback, like Prescott. He landed in Minnesota on a deal averaging $28 million a year, which was the third-highest APY in 2018.

“People crushed the Redskins for the way they handled Kirk Cousins and now people think Kirk Cousins is no good and you should never pay him,” the exec said. “You can’t have it both ways.”

2019 NFL season: Patrick Peterson leads top 10 cornerbacks - DeAngelo Hall, NFL.com
The former Redskins defensive back (and all-around Cowboys nemesis) likes what he sees from Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones.

Byron Jones: It's common to see a player transition from cornerback to safety, but rarely do you see someone transition from safety to cornerback. Jones, who began his career as a corner, returned to the position last season after playing safety in 2016 and '17. The result? He manned the island in Dallas and earned the seventh-highest coverage grade among CBs with 500 or more snaps in 2018, per Pro Football Focus. His physicality and ability to blanket receivers shined. In fact, Jones wasn't targeted at all during the Cowboys' Week 4 win over the Lions -- something that proves you have arrived as a lockdown corner.

Scout's Honor - Andy Fenelon, NFL.com
Gil Brandt will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend. It’s the ultimate honor for one of the primary architects of one of the league’s greatest dynasties. Do yourself a favor and read this touching longform piece about the relationship Brandt and former Cowboys Thomas Henderson have forged over the years.

Laying on his cot inside the maximum-security prison near the California-Oregon border, just eight days into a 56-month prison term and 244 days into sobriety, Thomas Henderson began writing the toughest letter of his life to the man partly responsible for him not securing a potentially lighter sentence.

Henderson was writing a lot of letters from his Susanville Correctional Facility cell in the latter part of 1984 -- to former Dallas Cowboys teammates, coaches, and friends. It was part of Step 9 in the 12-step program he was undergoing for alcohol and substance abuse: Make direct amends to people you have harmed wherever possible.

But this letter, written on July 9, 1984 -- the first of three he would pen to Gil Brandt, the former Cowboys executive who will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday -- was particularly agonizing. A few months earlier, while Henderson was awaiting sentencing for the sexual assault of an underage girl, among other serious charges, Brandt had provided a non-glowing statement to a probation officer that would help determine the fate of the player he had scouted, drafted and signed a decade earlier.

The statement brought to light an incident that involved Henderson asking Brandt for money to support his $10,000 a week cocaine habit. Brandt didn't believe much leniency should be granted by the sentencing judge, that the Pro Bowl linebacker -- formerly known as "Hollywood" for his flamboyant and outspoken nature during his playing days with the Cowboys -- needed significant time in prison to fully appreciate the consequences of his actions.

Henderson's conundrum: Should he express forgiveness or blame?

He chose love and hope.

Robert Quinn: “There’s Only One Goal In Mind” - Rob Phillips, DallasCowboys.com
Former All Pro defensive end and NFL veteran Robert Quinn sees much to like on the Cowboys’ roster and believes high expectations are in order.

Quinn’s math is correct. The Cowboys have 2018 Pro Bowlers at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and offensive line. Returning tight end Jason Witten has been to the all-star game 11 times. And they have Pro Bowlers at every level of their defense: the line, linebacker and the secondary.

In April, the Cowboys traded a future sixth-round pick to the Dolphins for the 29-year-old Quinn, who has a 19-sack season and two Pro Bowls on his own resume.

He has lined up at right defensive end throughout the offseason, and he’ll get plenty of snaps even when last year’s part-time starter Tyrone Crawford (hip) returns from the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Quinn was arguably the Cowboys’ biggest addition of the spring.

But he believes he has joined a team with already enough talent to compete with anyone in the league this season.

“There’s only one goal in mind. You know where that’s at: to be standing on that (Super Bowl) podium,” he said. “I mean, let’s not sugarcoat it. We want to be standing on that podium February (2nd) in Miami. That’s our goal.

Brandt Has Seen Dynamic “54 & 55” Duo Before - Nick Eatman, DallasCowboys.com
Speaking of Brandt, he still has a scout’s eye and thinks the Cowboys dynamic duo (Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch) have great things in store for them.

“Lee Roy Jordan and Chuck Howley were pretty darn good for us,” Brandt said. “But I like these two right now. 55 and 54 can really play.”

And ironically enough, Brandt has said that before, referring to the jersey numbers of Jordan (55) and Howley (54), the only two linebackers currently in the Ring of Honor at AT&T Stadium.

“Yeah, that’s pretty neat. 55 and 54,” Brandt chuckled. “I’ve seen that before.”

In no way is Brandt ready to compare Jaylon Smith (54) and Leighton Vander Esch (55) to any of the Cowboys greats, but they have a quality that could help them take the defense to another level.

“What I like about this group is that they can really run, and they play three downs,” Brandt said. “When you get linebackers that can stay on the field and play in all of the packages, you can play with anyone.”

2018-19 Deep Ball Project - John Kinsley, Football Outsiders
Read how Football Outsiders measure deep passing attempts.. .and how Dak Prescott ranks.

That's where The Deep Ball Project comes in. You may recall that I previously wrote a piece on this study last year for Football Outsiders but if you don't, here's the rundown: The Deep Ball Project separates accuracy percentage and completion percentage, focusing on a quarterback's accuracy throwing downfield regardless of whether the ball was caught or dropped. Raw stats such as yards, touchdowns, and interceptions are included, but accuracy percentage is the main stat.

Before I discuss what's featured in the 2018-19 edition of The Deep Ball Project, you can check out this year's edition of it right here. In previous editions I had included all throws of 16-plus air yards, but this time I decided to only include throws of 21-plus air yards, so the accuracy numbers and raw stats are completely different from those of previous years.

In last year's edition, I included efficiency score as a way to reward quarterbacks that made accurate throws under pressure and into tight windows. Going into this year's edition, however, I thought efficiency score only rewarded longer throws instead of overall accuracy. So that was removed for the 2018-19 Deep Ball Project, and instead the main focus is accuracy percentage.

Accuracy percentage can differ greatly from completion percentage. Aside from straight up drops, accurate passes are counted on incomplete passes if the receiver can't keep two feet in bounds on a pass he should have had no problem hauling in, some Hail Marys, some pass disruptions (depending on the placement), etc.

On the other hand, completions where the receiver has to make an unnecessary adjustment are punished as inaccurate passes. Back-shoulder passes are not included in here for obvious reasons, but passes where the receiver has to go out of his way just to make a catch are. (Just watch a highlight reel of Odell Beckham, or DeAndre Hopkins before Deshaun Watson.) As such, accurate incompletions and inaccurate completions have returned for this edition, though the amount is drastically reduced since the 16- to 20-yard throws from the past are removed from the equation.