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Cowboys news: Dallas defense definitely needs an upgrade this offseason

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NFL: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

What does Cowboys’ 2020 shopping list look like, and could LSU-Clemson provide a preview? – Bob Sturm, The Athletic
Per Sturm’s usual approach, he takes a comprehensive look at the Cowboys needs on both sides of the ball. The offense is in pretty good hands. But the defense?

The defensive line is a huge question mark. Under contract are the following: DeMarcus Lawrence, Antwaun Woods (exclusive rights FA) and a bunch of guys. Dorance Armstrong, Joe Jackson, Trysten Hill and Daniel Wise are the youngsters under contract with Tyrone Crawford a cap question and “Who Knows, Part 7” on Randy Gregory. That means the following players have no contracts at all: Robert Quinn, Michael Bennett, Kerry Hyder, Maliek Collins and Christian Covington. That, my friends, is an issue. We could argue about how good the line was last year and stay busy, but with that many key players out of deals, they have a ton of work to do here.

Their linebackers are Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch (neck injury, pending) and Chris Covington. Otherwise, Joe Thomas, Sean Lee, Malcolm Smith, Justin March, and Ray Ray Armstrong are all unrestricted. Dallas will absolutely need some bodies, but Day 3 is probably the target there, as well as trying to sign a few of these players on cheaper deals. Of course, this is all pending a full evaluation of Vander Esch, which requires time Dallas may not have.

And then we have the defensive backs. Byron Jones, Jeff Heath and Anthony Brown are all unrestricted free agents — three of the five preferred starters back there. Backups Kavon Frazier, Darian Thompson and CJ Goodwin are all UFAs, too. That means only the class of 2017 — Chido Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods — remains, along with young Donovans Wilson and Olumba.

As you can see, there are plenty of issues on the defense.

Taking a closer look: Will Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy break these tendencies he had with the Packers? - John Owning,

Did Mike McCarthy pass too often at Green Bay? Did he neglect play-action passes? We have questions, Owning has answers.

McCarthy designs his offenses to get the ball in the hands of his best playmakers. In Green Bay, that was Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ passing attack. In New Orleans, that was McAllister and Williams.

From 2000-03, McCarthy’s top running back touched the ball even more frequently than Elliott has in the first four years of his career. Moreover, notice how McCarthy’s backs in New Orleans were utilized heavily in the passing game, so even if he couldn’t create advantageous opportunities for the RBs on the ground, he still looked to keep them involved through the air.

Now, don’t get it twisted, the Cowboys aren’t going to turn into the Seattle Seahawks and just incessantly pound the rock in an effort to “establish the run.” Even when McCarthy had McAllister and Williams, the Saints ranked top-10 in pass attempts in two of the four seasons, and that was with Aaron Brooks as QB, who is much less talented, accurate and effective than Dak Prescott.

While there are reasons to be skeptical of McCarthy’s fit with Dallas, his tendency to underutilize RBs in Green Bay shouldn’t be one of them. Don’t worry Cowboys fans, NFL defenses are still going to get a full serving of Ezekiel Elliott on Sundays.

Jimmy Johnson To Get Hall of Fame Induction - Rob Phillips & Nick Eatman,

Seems like the entire NFL was happy to see Jimmy Johnson added to the National Football League Hall of Fame.

“This is so special to me,” an emotional Johnson said on the set, surrounded by his co-hosts and Hall of Famers Michael Strahan, Howie Long, Terry Bradshaw and Tony Gonzalez. “When you put in the work that we did, it’s nice to know that people appreciate it. All the assistant coaches that worked for me and all the players that played for me, they’re the reason I’m here.”

Johnson was Cowboys owner/general manager and Hall of Famer Jerry Jones’ first hire when he bought the team in 1989. Together, they transformed the Cowboys from a 1-15 also-ran in ‘89 into a dominant two-time Super Bowl champion from 1992-93, led by future Hall of Fame “Triplets” Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin. Smith and Aikman were draft picks during Johnson’s tenure, and Irvin played for Johnson at the University of Miami.

The spontaneous, on-air announcements of Johnson and Bill Cowher gave NFL fans two of the best moments of the entire season. If you’re wondering who the Hall of Fame guy making the announcement is...wonder no more.

The Hall of Fame Guy That Made Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson Cry - Rodger Sherman, The Ringer

Before Saturday, I had never heard of Baker. But when a mountain walks onto your TV wearing a full stage curtain from a Broadway theater and does a brief standup comedy bit before reducing a no-nonsense Football Guy to tears, you Google him. Search “Hall of Fame Guy”—it works—and you will find out about his incredible life story. This man is 6-foot-9, 400 pounds, played professional basketball in Switzerland, was convicted of forgery for trying to finance an unsuccessful congressional campaign with a $48,000 check he wrote to himself, became commissioner of the Arena Football League right before it went bankrupt, and is now going around America surprising football legends with the greatest news of their lives while wearing suits designed to fit Shrek, But a Pimp. I want him on my television all the time.

I got my wish. Sunday, Baker showed up on Fox to do the same thing for Jimmy Johnson. He was wearing an equally loud but different color suit. You’d think a surprise wouldn’t work the second time, but guess what. It was just as good.

ESPN preparing Tony Romo offer: CBS can reportedly match deal - Ben Pickman, Sports Illustrated
Former Cowboys Tony Romo has firmly established himself as the best and most popular NFL booth analyst. Soon, he’ll be the highest paid.

Romo is a broadcasting free agent this offseason. He is currently finishing the final year of his initial contract with CBS, a three-year deal for around $4 million annually. A source told Front Office Sports that CBS has the right to match ESPN’s offer. It’s additionally unclear what role Romo would exactly have if he did move to ESPN. CBS altered its top booth for Romo’s arrival, something that network executives at FOX and ESPN were reportedly not ready to do when the former Cowboys QB was deciding on where he wanted to start his broadcasting career.

Romo starred almost immediately upon transitioning from the field to the booth, arguably calling his best game in last year’s AFC Championship when he predicted countless plays before they transpired on the field.

Tony Romo: CBS or ESPN? - Jimmy Traina, Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated’s media analyst speaks for many of us (well, me at least) when he hopes Romo stays with CBS.

The CBS job is infinitely better than the ESPN job. Each and every week, Romo calls the best AFC game. When that game is played at 4:25 pm, he also calls the highest-rated game of the week. The ESPN schedule is always mediocre and brings in significantly less viewers than the CBS game.

At CBS, Romo calls three playoff games each year. At ESPN, he'd call one. CBS is in the Super Bowl rotation with FOX and NBC. ESPN is not.

At CBS, Romo has his play-by-play partner in Jim Nantz for as long as the two want to call games. At ESPN, nobody knows who Romo's play-by-play partner would be. And don't discount how much Nantz has helped make Romo the smash success that he is.

MMQB: Chiefs’ offense drives a comeback for the ages - Albert Breer, Sports Illustrated
Apparently, while the Jones’ family didn’t formally interview any college coaches, their coaching search did include discussions about the pros and cons regarding them.

“I won’t say specific names, but Jerry and I spent a lot of time talking about college head football coaches,” Cowboys COO Stephen Jones told me Friday. “We talked about specific ones. We went down that road hard, internally, between the two of us in particular, but my brother [Jerry Jr.] weighed in and we talked to [VP of Player Personnel] Will [McClay]. We did our diligence. We just didn’t have anybody in for a formal interview.

“And in a lot of ways, that was by design, because these guys have jobs, they’re recruiting and you don’t want to rock boats.”

Stephen Jones knew the landscape well, too, because his son John Stephen, now playing at Arkansas, was recruited by guys like Matt Rhule and Lincoln Riley.

“I really got to understand what they were all about as head coaches philosophically, those type of things, so yeah, it was fortunate that I did have some real insight into some of these guys,” Jones said. As Mike McCarthy fills out his coaching staff it’s worth pondering whether Jason Wittens next role with the Cowboys might be behind the bench.

As McCarthy Shuffles Jobs, Will Jason Witten Move to Cowboys Coaching Staff? - Mike Fisher, SI.Com
As Mike McCarthy fills out his coaching staff, it’s worth pondering whether Jason Witten’s next role with the Cowboys might be behind the bench.

We don't know what McCarthy's opinion of Witten as a coach is, but we know what the Jones family thinks of Witten—and seeing him leave The Star to serve as a position coach elsewhere is something the family would find upsetting.

"I think it will be a pretty quick decision,'' Witten said before Week 17 when asked of his retirement timing. "When I’m done playing, (coaching is) something I’d like to do, for sure.''

At what level would Witten like to coach?

"Right here,'' Witten said, again cleverly leaving the listener responsible for determining if "right here'' means "the NFL'' or "the Cowboys.''

None of this is to denigrate the talents of Moore or Kitna or anyone else, but rather to suggest that there sometimes wasn't enough credit to go around when it came to Dak's success.

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