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Cowboys news: Ezekiel Elliott saga still unfinished for Dallas

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Jason Garrett says everyone else besides Zeke expected to play next Sunday

NFL Pro Bowl Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Cowboys getting closer on guaranteed money with Ezekiel Elliott deal but more work is needed - Calvin Watkins, DallasNews.com
Another day, another “Cowboys and Elliott getting close” report. We’ve been here, doing that for a while.

Monday was the first day the Cowboys began preparations for the regular season opener against the New York Giants.

And if Elliott does get a new contract with the team, has the window to play Week 1 already passed?

”That’s a hypothetical,” Jason Garrett said. “Zeke is as capable as anybody I know. He’s an experienced player. He’s been a really good player for us. He knows our system of football. I don’t think there will be a lot of learning there. He’s a smart guy; he’s an instinctive guy. But again, that’s a hypothetical. We’re just focused on the guys we have right now. We’re going to go practice as well as we can to prepare the right way to prepare for the Giants.”

The Cowboys clearly are preparing to play without Elliott.

Cowboys Laboring On Labor Day - Mickey Spagnola, DallasCowboys.com
Perhaps more importantly, the Cowboys long list of key, injured players got a good report, with head coach Jason Garrett claiming everyone’s going to be ready.

Time To Go: For seeming the past several weeks, the Cowboys have cautiously treated players with injuries. Their only goal was to have these guys as healthy as possible for the start of the season. Well, the season is fixing to start, and the walking wounded returning to practice on Monday doing at least something included Amari Cooper, Sean Lee, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, La’el Collins, Taco Charlton, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz and as they had been for the past 1½ weeks periodically, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford and Byron Jones. “All the guys who have been out should be ready,” head coach Jason Garrett said.

Special Help: Just because Tony Pollard and Alfred Morris will play important roles on Sunday against the Giants, especially if Zeke isn’t in uniform, that doesn’t absolve them from possibly helping out on special teams. In fact, both were participating in special team drills Monday not involving returns. The Cowboys need all the help in coverage they can get, especially if you consider their top three linebackers – Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Sean Lee, do not play special teams, along with sixth linebacker Luke Gifford still recovering from that high ankle sprain.

Cooper Feeling Fine After First Practice Back - David Helman, DallasCowboys.com
Among the wounded returning to practice was Amari Cooper.

For Amari Cooper, it’s a start.

Monday morning’s practice wasn’t a full workload for him, given that it was his first day back to practice since early August. But as he tries to assess how his injured foot feels, it’s at least a jumping off point.

“I would say I didn’t feel any pain today, but then again I didn’t do everything I would do in a game today,” Cooper said. “I would need the rest of the week to assess it.”

Fortunately for Cooper, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. The Cowboys are off on Tuesday, and Cooper said it will be telling to see how he feels after putting stress on the foot at practice.

After that, there will be the three customary game week practices on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. If he’s unclear about how he’s feeling now, he should have a pretty good idea later on.

Monday provided the latest piece of optimism surrounding Amari Cooper’s status for Cowboys-Giants - Michael Gehlken, DallasNews.com
More on Amari Cooper’s return to the field.

All signs are a go for Cooper to start Sunday’s season opener against the New York Giants. He reported a pain-free session, the latest piece of optimism surrounding his gameday status.

Cooper is dealing with an intrinsic muscle strain in his left heel area. The sense around the Cowboys’ headquarters in recent weeks has been that he’ll be ready for Week 1.

”Obviously, I (generally) cut really hard and stuff like that, which is hard to do with a foot injury,” Cooper said Monday afternoon. “But I pushed it as the day went on because it’s just something about going against defense and live reps that just make you kind of forget about everything else and just want to win. So, I think that was the best thing that could’ve happened, just me going out there and practicing today.”

Source: Cowboys to cut reinstated LB McClain - ESPN Staff

The Cowboys will cut their old linebacker who was recently reinstated.

The Dallas Cowboys on Monday will release linebacker Rolando McClain, who was conditionally reinstated by the NFL last week, a source confirmed to ESPN.

McClain had been suspended since December 2016 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Texans’ seismic trades, John Schneider on Clowney to Seattle - Albert Breer, SI.com
A look at how two recent extensions rewarded two franchises (including the Cowboys) for some daring draft decisions back in 2016.

Congratulations to Myles Jack on his four-year, $57 million extension in Jacksonville. Both he and Dallas’ Jaylon Smith, drafted two spots apart early in the second round of the 2016 draft, deserve all the plaudits they’re getting for overcoming difficult medical circumstances to become very good NFL linebackers, and to get the blockbuster second contracts to which all players aspire.

Here’s where they’re different—the circumstances surrounding their draft day drops raise very separate questions. For Smith, given that he had serious nerve damage that led to a case of dropfoot, the question was whether he’d ever make it back on the field. But the feeling was if he was able to do that, his condition wouldn’t be a problem thereafter. In Jack’s case, the arthritic condition in his knee wasn’t about playing right away (everyone figured he could do that) but instead regarding how long he’d last. Which, of course, adds context to the deals done by the two teams and what would motivate either player to get the contrats done now—Smith having faced his football mortality in a very real way, and Jack not knowing how far he is from that moment.

Dallas Cowboys 2019 season preview - Todd Archer, Pressure's on talented roster
The ESPN beat writer has his Cowboys preseason preview, including a look at the schedule’s key games.

Most important game: Week 4 at New Orleans. If the Cowboys want to be true contenders, then beating last year's NFC runner-up could go a long way in cementing that reputation. The Cowboys beat the Saints at AT&T Stadium a year ago behind a dominant defensive performance. If they can do that again in the Superdome, then they would have to be considered one of the league's best.

Toughest stretch: Weeks 14-16 at Chicago, home against the Los Angeles Rams and at Philadelphia. That's three difficult offenses to defend and three defenses capable of putting pressure on the quarterback. That stretch comes after a Nov. 24 visit to New England.

Over or under 8.6 wins? Over. If it's not the over, then Garrett will not return and a new coach will inherit a young roster that has plenty of pieces to be in the championship mix. The Cowboys have not posted back-to-back playoff seasons since 2006-07 and they have not had consecutive double-digit winning seasons since 1995-96. Eight wins seems a little low considering the talent available.

3 Cowboys players who stand to benefit most from Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator - John Owning,DallasNews.com
As is his habit, John Owning takes a deep dive, including a look at how Kellen Moore’s newfangled schemes might play out.

Let's start with the obvious first, as Dak Prescott should benefit more than anyone with his former teammate and QB coach Kellen Moore as the offensive coordinator.

Prescott's first NFL offensive coordinator, Scott Linehan, wasn't as bad as most fans think, but it was clear and obvious that his offense wasn't efficient and often made life tougher on the team's personnel, especially when there was a lack of talent at receiver and tight end.

Linehan's offense was littered with isolation routes, which aren't a bad idea when your WR group is more talented than the opposing secondary; however, it's a terrible strategy when your team's franchise tight end retired and the team is without a legit No. 1 receiver, as it was the first eight weeks of last season.

Linehan ideology as a play-caller often appeared to be some semblance of "we are going to do what we do well, see if you can stop it," which is why the Cowboys have had one of the most predictable offenses in the NFL.

Linehan failed to make life easy on his young quarterback - which, when combined with the offensive line's leaky habits in 2018, often caused the offense to stall for large portions of games, especially before Amari Cooper arrived.

If there was anything made apparent in training camp this year, it's that Moore is going to do whatever he can to make life easier on his franchise quarterback.

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