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Cowboys news: Dallas tumbles to bottom of NFC East, but draft spot in top five

Happy Monday. Checking in on your Cowboys news.

Washington Football Team v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Updated 2021 NFL Draft order: Cowboys, Chargers, Panthers improve outlook with losses - Billy Heyen - Sporting News

Good news for #TeamTank.

The Jets, Jaguars and Bengals are ruining the suspense when it comes to the 2021 NFL Draft order, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t movement happening in the second half of the season.

The Cowboys cemented a spot in the top-five with a Thanksgiving loss, and both the Chargers and Panthers lost in Week 12 to move up the order. There’s still a lot of movement waiting to happen in the NFC East potentially, but right now Dallas is sitting at the same No. 4 spot that brought it Ezekiel Elliott in 2016.

The Panthers nearly pulled off a last-second win in Minnesota, but Joey Slye’s field goal flying wide left might’ve actually been the best outcome for Carolina’s long-term outlook. The same is true of Justin Herbert’s turnover issues in Buffalo, as the Chargers will be able to get more help for their young franchise quarterback this way.

Dallas Cowboys: 4 possible replacements for Mike Nolan in 2021 - Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat

This isn't the first time Mike Nolan’s job has come under fire. It surely won't be the last.

Nolan and his defensive coaching staff turned what was a top-ten defense in 2019, ranking ninth in average yards allowed per game (327.0) and 11th in scoring defense (20.1), into what has a chance to be one of the worst defenses in league history.

If the Cowboys decide to move on from Nolan in 2021, here are four possible candidates to replace him in Big D …

#4 – Wade Phillips

This offseason, new Cowboys’ head coach Mike McCarthy hired both special teams coordinator John “Bones” Fassel and running backs coach Skip Peete previously from the Los Angles Rams’ coaching staff. Why not now add a third (later, a fourth)? And this one happens to be a former Cowboys’ head coach.

Valdovinos’ 3-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft: Dallas finds a new QB - Matthew Valdovinos, Pro Football Network

The Cowboys opt for another QB option in a new mock draft.

4. Dallas Cowboys: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

The first surprise of this 2021 3 round NFL mock draft, Zach Wilson makes his way to Jerry World. Despite the Cowboys already possessing an elite quarterback, it’s hard to ignore the combination of Dak Prescott’s injury, how far the two parties were in contract talks last season, and the Cowboys sitting in a position to take one of the top quarterbacks in college football this season. I believe paying Dak Prescott is the only correct choice, but I wouldn’t put it past the Cowboys to make a business decision like this.

Wilson possesses an above-average arm with impressive ball placement down the field. He uses his natural athletic ability to create plays out of structure and push the ball down the field. This selection would also help Jerry Jones save face by not forcing him to give Prescott a mega-extension that he avoided last year.

The Dallas Cowboys Have a Zeke Elliott Problem - Brad Gagnon, Bleacher Report

This shouldn’t be breaking news to anyone watching the Cowboys regularly.

But after $15-million-per-year running back Ezekiel Elliott lost two yards on first down, Mike McCarthy’s offense ran a failed reverse to wide receiver CeeDee Lamb and then threw an incomplete pass in an unfavorable spot before settling for a field goal.

That was as close as Dallas would come to erasing a deficit that existed for the entire second half of a winnable game before it eventually turned into a 41-16 WFT blowout.

The aforementioned failed red-zone drive was just one of several instances in which the Cowboys understandably signified their desperation in the embarrassing defeat. They went to Elliott once in a crucial spot and then ignored him for the remainder of the series, just as they did in the second quarter when they neglected their three-time Pro Bowl back on 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1 before turning it over on downs in what was then a tie game.

And it’s hard to blame them because the two-time NFL rushing king has been more of a liability than an asset throughout the 2020 season.

Stephen Jones on the Cowboys’ secondary, his reaction to the fake punt vs. WFT and more - Dallas Morning News SportDay Staff

Some quotes from Stephen Jones:

Jones: “I’m never going to be one of those guys that second-guesses a coach’s decisions. When they work, they’re great. When they don’t work, they get certainly challenged, they get second-guessed. Certainly we’re supportive of Coach McCarthy and the decisions that he makes. He’s got the pulse of this football team and certainly made decisions based on the best interest of the team.

I know no one wants to win a football game more than Coach McCarthy, and as I said, those decisions are always second-guessed when they don’t work. Certainly no one says a word when they do work. So, it’s part of our game, and certainly our game is at a point over time — you know, Jerry and I were talking you go back to when he was playing in the ’60s Coach [Frank] Broyles was always — he’d punt on the 30-yard line. He’d punt on third-and-long. The game is played differently. Certainly people take a more aggressive approach with analytics and things of that nature, but that’s part of our game.”

While New York Giants have emerged as the favorite, Cowboys could have the final say on who captures NFC East - Tim Cowlishaw, Dallas Morning News

Here’s how (yes, I know Team Tank) Dallas could determine their own fate.

We can say that the Cowboys are alone in last place with a 3-8 record after losing a second time to Washington. In fact, the one-sided nature of the two losses to Ron Rivera’s team (25-3 and 41-16) makes it feel as though Dallas is miles away from contention. The reality is that while they reside in last place, the Cowboys are one game off the lead and have the softest remaining schedule.

After their trip to Baltimore, the Cowboys play four teams with losing records. That’s not to suggest any of those games are especially winnable for Mike McCarthy’s team. It’s merely a statement of fact. Washington has three games left against teams with losing records. Philadelphia has two. The Giants have only one, and that’s the season-ending contest against the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium.

Crazy as it sounds after what we witnessed Thursday at AT&T Stadium, that final game against New York could determine which team captures the East....and maybe which team becomes the first 6-10 team ever to host a playoff game.

Mike McCarthy’s failed gambles contributing to Cowboys’ brutal season - Todd Archer, ESPN

More questions for Mike McCarthy:

It’s the things that McCarthy can control, however, that have raised concerns this season.

He passed on a potential game-tying 28-yard field goal in the fourth quarter of the 20-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 1.

He was eventually bailed out in the Week 2 win by an onside kick after electing to go for a 2-point conversion down 9 points against the Atlanta Falcons. And that came after two failed fake punts. While analytics might have been on his side, McCarthy did not go for two when presented the same opportunity the following week against the Seattle Seahawks.

McCarthy’s fourth-down decisions in the loss to Washington were perhaps even more egregious because the current iteration of the Cowboys needs almost everything to go right in order to win.

How Aldon Smith Won His Battle For Self-Worth - Jonny Auping, DallasCowboys.com

Aldon Smith’s story is an incredible one, and he hopes to build on this season.

Smith returning to the league after five years away is hard to believe. That he might be the Cowboys’ best defensive player this season barely makes sense. On Thanksgiving, he chased around the Alex Smith, his top competition this season for Comeback Player of the Year. Alex Smith, who was a teammate of Aldon in San Francisco, is coming off a broken leg injury in 2018 that required nearly a dozen surgeries.

The Cowboys lost the game 41-16 in a game that Aldon Smith described bluntly as “disappointing.” But just being on the field, playing on national television on Thanksgiving Day is something Smith doesn’t take for granted.

“It means a lot. I’m glad that I’ve been given this chance to go out and play, so I just plan on making the best out of the opportunity I’ve been given,” Smith said after the game.

So what does the new Aldon Smith want to accomplish in his second NFL career?

“I want to prove that I’m the best defensive player in this league, if not the best player in this league,” he said. “I can still accomplish that.”

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