Why Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence is the biggest player missing from camp, not Ezekiel Elliott - Tim Cowlishaw, SportsDay
The SportsDay columnist makes the case for why too much attention is being paid to Elliott’s situation and not enough to All-Pro defensive end Demarcus Lawrence’s absence due to injury.
Ten days into training camp, Ezekiel Elliott’s absence remains not just a local but national obsession. “WHO WILL CAVE FIRST: ZEKE OR JERRY,” reads the talking point on ESPN’s First Take.
And yet four months into his recovery from shoulder surgery, DeMarcus Lawrence rarely draws a mention even though he is the Cowboys’ most indispensable player on their best unit.
This may fall somewhere between fun exercise and mind-blowing revelation, and I’ll let you choose where it belongs. It surprised me even though I already knew Dallas was a defense-first team in 2018.
If you’re a minus-team, it doesn’t mean you’re bad. It simply means your defensive rankings were better than your offensive numbers. You can figure that Chicago (minus-26) and Baltimore (minus-19) would be high on this list. Who else?
How about the Cowboys coming in No. 1 at a minus-31? Dallas ranked 7th and 6th on defense and a mediocre 22nd on both offensive categories. Even recognizing that the offense improved after Amari Cooper’s arrival seven games in, this was a team that defined itself as a contender on the national stage with its 13-10 upset of New Orleans. This was a team that got shutout (23-0) in its only loss in the second half of the season. It even boosted its paltry offensive totals with a meaningless 36-35 win over New York on the final Sunday after its playoff date was set.
While the Rico Gathers Experiment is a great name for a jazz-fusion trio, it won’t be a pleasant memory for Cowboys fans whose visions of a big, fast, strong, talented tight end abusing opposing secondaries came to and end.
The Cowboys have apparently seen enough of the Rico Gathers experiment, deciding to cut the tight end on Monday here at training camp.
Gathers was entering his fourth camp with the team, and had seemingly improved every year, going from the practice squad in 2016-17 to the active roster last year in 2018, when he played 15 games, including four starts.
But here at camp, Gathers hadn’t made a big impact, and also suffered a minor ankle injury that kept him out a few days.
Unveiling the 2019 All-NFC East Team – Bob Sturm, The Athletic
Eight NFC East writers for The Athletic cast their votes and name the top players from the division. The Cowboys dominated the linebacker position.
LINEBACKER: We see significant changes in the off-ball linebacker group. Dallas had a unanimous winner last year in Sean Lee, but he is being replaced by two Cowboys linebackers who received every vote possible. Jaylon Smith (DAL) and Leighton Vander Esch (DAL) both collected the maximum of 16 points. Alec Ogletree (NY) and Nigel Bradham (PHI) are both added as second-teamers with five and four points, respectively. The top honorable mention does go to Lee, but he is expected to take a much-reduced role in Dallas this year.
Cedrick Wilson Embracing Every Opportunity - David Helman, DallasCowboys.com
The back end of the wide receiver position continues to be a source of speculation and debate. Cedric Wilson is making his claim to a final roster spot.
That talent has been a talking point for the entirety of this offseason. Wilson caught a whopping 83 balls for 1,511 yards and nine touchdowns during his final season at Boise State. Given the uncertainty on the back end of the receiver depth chart, there’s understandable optimism that Wilson can bring some juice to the position.
Through eight practices, the optimism looks well-founded. Wilson has done a little bit of everything in Oxnard, lining up inside and outside, running the ball out of the backfield, taking part in special teams and everything in between.
“Any opportunity, I love it,” he said. “Any chance they call me to get in there, I’m going to get in there and run the play to the best of my ability. And then when I get done doing it, I’m going to ask what I should have done better.”
A big part of that has been learning to play slot receiver. Wilson was mainly an outside threat in college, but the the Cowboys’ coaching staff has asked him to try his hand inside.
Drew Brees, at 40, is looking to get better - Albert Breer, SI.com
The Monday Morning Quarterback author thinks the Cowboys contract dilemmas are a good problem to have.
I was in Oxnard on Sunday, and I don’t sense great panic over the Cowboys’ contractual traffic jam. They’ve shown a willingness to pay quarterback Dak Prescott and receiver Amari Cooper among the top-five players at their positions, and Zeke Elliott right at the top of the running back market. Does that get it done? It hasn’t thus far. But if Dallas is already at that point, I think it’s reasonable to think getting one or two of these deals accomplished (the Cooper talks have moved slower) before to Week 1 is doable. And remember, this is a good problem for a really good team to have.
2019 Fantasy Football Rankings: The Top 150 Players for Standard Leagues - Staff, The Ringer
It’s fantasy football season and The Ringer staff weigh in with their draft recommendations. Their first pick? Ezekiel Elliott.
If Elliott reports to the Cowboys by the start of Week 1, he’ll be in the conversation to be the top player in all of fantasy football. His ongoing contract holdout complicates matters, but based on the Cowboys’ history of retaining their stars and the investment the franchise has already made in the former top-five pick, it feels like the situation will be resolved before the real games get going. Elliott may not lead the league in touches like he did last season (a staggering 381, which is the sort of workload that backs just don’t get anymore), but with first-year coordinator Kellen Moore’s running the offense and all the key components of the league’s best offensive line returning, Zeke’s efficiency should see an uptick this season.
Randy Gregory hasn’t applied for reinstatement but still wants to play this season - Charean Williams, ProFootball Talk
Seems we’ve gone a full two or three weeks without a Randy Gregory update so it makes sense to check in on the talented edge rusher’s situation.
Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory has not applied for reinstatement but has every intention of filing his petition and returning this season, a source tells PFT.
Gregory is “doing well” and continues to do everything necessary in his treatment and personal responsibility plan. Gregory’s parents are moving from Michigan to North Texas as part of Gregory’s “reliability partner” program.
Reports early last month indicated Gregory intended to file his petition to the NFL before training camp in an attempt to participate in the preseason. But Gregory is taking his return “step-by-step” in hopes of avoiding another setback.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said during the opening news conference at training camp that he had seen enough to know he wants Gregory “on the Dallas Cowboys in the future.”
Can the running back, Cowboys find a compromise? - Todd Archer, ESPN.com
The ESPN beat writer seems to think the Elliott holdout could last a while.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott's holdout is stretching into its second week with no real end in sight.
Talks between the Dallas Cowboys and Elliott's representatives continue, but they are not close to a deal, according to sources. The good news is they're talking. The bad news is Elliott has missed six padded practices.
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones goes back and forth in what he says, believing a deal will get done in one breath while in the next saying it would not concern him if the impasse took months to reconcile.
"As far as doing something that would disrupt and shake the base of our plans for how to keep the talent we've got here, I'm not about to shake that loose," Jones said after Thursday's practice. Then he says of the extension: "When have I ever not done one?"
NFL position battles to watch during training camp for all 32 teams - Todd Archer, ESPN.com
What’s the biggest camp battle in Oxnard? With the Cowboys set at most positions, it could be the backup quarterback spot.
That the biggest battle is to see who will be Dak Prescott's backup speaks to the state of the Cowboys' roster. On offense, the roles are set, although this is assuming holdout running back Ezekiel Elliott will be back sooner rather than later. On defense, the roles for the key players remain the same. If the Cowboys lose Prescott, they are in trouble, which is why all eyes are on Cooper Rush, who has handled the role for most of the past two seasons but has thrown only three passes, and Mike White, who was inactive for every game last season. This will play itself out in the preseason, but both have had some good and not-so good moments in camp. If both struggle in the preseason games, the Cowboys could be forced to look for a better backup -- something Jerry Jones would like to avoid.