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Cowboys news: Dallas coaches create their own bubble

Plus, a new name added to the practice squad.

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

NFL coronavirus: Cowboys create bubble for staff to help combat COVID-19 for remainder of 2020 season - Patrik Walker, CBS Sports

The Cowboys, like most NFL teams, have encountered plenty of struggles in handling the COVID-19 virus throughout the season. After seeing several players go on the COVID reserve list the last few weeks, the coaching staff is creating their own bubble for the rest of the season to prevent further spread.

To that end, the team has established a bubble during their Week 10 bye — sources confirm to CBS Sports — specifically for all staff that has direct contact with players. This is similar to what the team did in training camp, and at the same location, when a large number of players took up residence at the Omni Hotel attached to Cowboys headquarters at The Star in Frisco, TX. The team entered intensive protocols after the Pittsburgh Steelers ran into positive COVID-19 results following the battle in Week 9 at AT&T Stadium, but the bubble is Jones’ way of ensuring the Cowboys aren’t the next team to throw the league into disarray.

“We’re going in a more intense way, and we’re having our coaches restrict their activities away from the field and restrict their contacts away from the field,” Jones said to 105.3FM the Fan on Tuesday. “We’re having all staff that touch a player do that. That’s in addition to what the NFL is doing.”

The Omni Hotel is directly connected to The Ford Center (a 12,000-seat practice venue), and isn’t lacking for whatever the staff might need. For Jones and the Cowboys, it’s all about not getting comfortable — something they were reminded against by a recent move of both quarterback Andy Dalton and Tyrone Crawford to the COVID-19 list. While it’s unclear if Dalton had contracted the illness, separate sources confirm Crawford did not, but instead had contact with someone who had. Both moves marked the first time since Ezekiel Elliott tested positive in July that the Cowboys had a run-in with the novel coronavirus.

Cowboys Sign Ex Chiefs Second-Round D-Lineman - Mike Fisher, Cowboy Maven

The Cowboys defense is starting to get things together, but that won’t stop them from adding talent. On Tuesday they added the former 46th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Breeland Speaks, to their practice squad.

Speaks was a 2018 second-round draft decision of the Chiefs. He totaled 24 tackles and 1.5 sacks and appeared in all 16 games as a rookie. He spent part of his second-season campaign on injured reserve. The Ole Miss product also, while he was on IR, handed an NFL suspension of four games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

“He came into camp and had lost weight and was healthy and I think he was able to practice throughout the course of the preseason and he worked hard to put himself in that position, so when guys are ready to go, we defer to the medical expertise of our staff and we let them go out there and compete and see how everything shakes out,” Veach continued. “Again, it certainly did put him behind the eight-ball in that regard. Not having a year of football is certainly going to be tough.’’

The homestretch of the Cowboys’ season will determine LB Jaylon Smith’s future with the team - Jean-Jacques Taylor, Dallas Morning News

Jaylon Smith has had quite the rough stretch this year, frequently looking out of position on plays and giving up easy completions or runs. While there are rumors he could be falling out of favor with the new staff, his contract situation also sets the stage for a swift exit in the offseason.

The reality is Smith doesn’t have anymore guaranteed money left in his deal unless he’s on the roster on the fifth day of the 2021 league season. If he is, Smith’s 2021 salary ($7.2 million) becomes fully guaranteed. The same goes for 2022.

If Dallas releases Smith before June 1, he’d count $9.4 million against the cap in dead money. He’s on the books to take up $9.8 million (salary plus $2.6 million on bonuses), so they’d save $400,000 by cutting him.

As for replacing Smith, he’s really had one outstanding season and that was 2018. You could find a comparable replacement in free agency or in Rounds 2 or 3 of the draft. In 2018, his first season as a full-time starter, Smith had 121 tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He also had six tackles for loss and six quarterback hits. No doubt, he’s a talented guy. Consistency has been his issue. Smith makes a lot of tackles — 89 so far this season — but not many of them have been impact plays. He’s been nonexistent as a pass rusher this year with just half a sack.

CeeDee Lamb, Zack Martin among Dallas Cowboys’ few bright spots - Todd Archer, ESPN

The 2020 season has been rough for the Cowboys - that’s what happens when you lose your franchise quarterback - but it hasn’t been without some positives. CeeDee Lamb already looks like a bona fide superstar, and Zack Martin is showing that he’s still the cream of the crop among interior offensive linemen.

Zack Martin might seem like the last man standing on the offensive line. Travis Frederick retired. La’el Collins did not play a snap this season because of hip surgery. Left tackle Tyron Smith played two games before a neck injury shut down his season.

Martin, the Cowboys’ 2014 first-round pick, missed one game because of a concussion, but he has been his normal, dominant self, especially in the Philadelphia game against Fletcher Cox. He also was able to swing out to right tackle in the Week 3 game at Seattle. The Cowboys believe Smith and Collins will be back to normal in 2021; Biadasz has the look of a starter, and Martin is still Martin. Although Smith’s recurring injury problem is a concern and might warrant a look at his successor in April’s NFL draft, the line might not be as far off as some think.

“You see the impact of having Zack Martin as opposed to not having him,” McCarthy said. “He brings that to your offensive line. He keeps that group tight. He’s definitely an excellent leader. I’ve been very impressed with that. His level of play is extremely consistent, and he makes players better around him. ... You don’t get into the National Football League being an average player. To me, they’re all good players, and the great ones make people around them better, and Zack Martin is definitely that guy for us.”

Mailbag: Who Has The Edge In The NFC East? - Nick Eatman and David Helman,

After the Giants defeated the Eagles this week, the NFC East is once again wide open. Despite the Cowboys currently being on pace for the third overall draft selection, a win or two would vault them to first place. So who has the edge in this ugly division race?

Nick: Everyone has an edge it seems. Momentum and division wins? It’s the Giants. How about the best defense? It’s Washington. Better quarterback and actual division lead at the moment? Eagles. And what about the most favorable schedule down the stretch? That’s the Cowboys. So all of these teams have a shot to win it because they’re all right there. As for Dallas, this team has to show at some point they can go get a win. It’s been well over a month without a victory so if they have any thoughts of getting into the mix, obviously they need to start winning.

David: I can’t believe I’m typing this, but it’s hard not to like the Cowboys’ chances when you consider what’s ahead. Dallas is the only team in the NFC East with three division games left, which means they get to play almost half their remaining games against putrid competition. Throw in games against middling teams like Minnesota, Cincinnati and San Francisco, and all of a sudden it looks like there’s a path to five or six wins. It’s going to hinge on getting solid quarterback play from Andy Dalton. But in this division, 6-10 might sadly be just good enough.

Film room: 3 players the Cowboys should play more in the back half of the 2020 season - John Owning, Dallas Morning News

The Cowboys may still technically be in the playoff hunt, but the season is over whether or not they end up hosting a postseason game. With that in mind, the Cowboys would do well to start playing some of their younger talent, such as Bradlee Anae, to see what they can do.

We shouldn’t expect Bradlee Anae to step on the field and be an immediate difference-maker, but in a lost season, he should be given opportunities to gain experience. The player above him on the depth chart, Dorance Armstrong, hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire with his play this season.

Armstrong has been utterly unimpactful, only generating five pressures and four stops in the 182 snaps he’s played this season, per Pro Football Focus. That’s not the type of production that should warrant playing Armstrong overwhelmingly more than Anae.

In fact, there’s reason to believe that Anae could have a bigger impact as a pass rusher than Armstrong has thus far. Coming of Utah, Anae possessed one of the most well-developed pass-rush skill sets in the entire 2020 draft class. He posted three straight seasons with at least seven sacks and 10 tackles for loss. He tallied three sacks in his Senior Bowl appearance.

Has Ezekiel Elliott’s time run out? The RB’s future & the Cowboys’ dilemma - Bob Sturm, The Athletic

Ezekiel Elliott can be a polarizing figure, especially this season with his inconsistent performances. It was just a year ago that he was locked up to a really rich deal, but could the end already be in sight?

Here is where it gets rather problematic. If they chose a player who was and is and will be elite, we have no problems. Athletes make tons of money, franchises make tons of money and, provided, it all is sorted fairly, we often just want to see the best players get rewarded for as long as they are the best players.

Elliott still has the biggest contract and one of the biggest reputations. He is just 25 years old, and even with a new coaching staff, he is still being given the ball a lot and the marketing materials still suggest that you are tuning in to see Elliott do his thing. But as I write this today, it is very difficult to find a way to suggest Elliott is the best running back in football. It is very difficult to suggest he is a top-five running back in football. And the more you dig, the more you wonder where he ranks.

But, first, let’s look at the entirety of Elliott’s five-year run in terms of the most basic metric, scrimmage yards per game. However a player gets the ball, rushing or receiving, this is his total contribution per game.

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