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Cowboys news: Ezekiel Elliott’s role in a new Mike McCarthy offense

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NFL: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

What’s Up: Zeke’s Role In A New Offense? -

What will Zeke’s role be in Mike McCarthy’s offense?

Here’s another nitpick, given that Elliott was one of the most productive backs in the league last year: Hopefully Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys’ new coaching staff can use him a bit more efficiently.

For years, people have lamented the fact that Elliott was underutilized in the passing game. On the surface, it sounds silly. He caught 77 passes in 2018 and followed that up with another 54 catches in 2019. But if you watch the games, it’s obvious that this was not the most creative use of his abilities. Elliott’s role as a receiver in recent years has been largely as a safety valve, with an occasional screen pass mixed in.

Elliott is versatile to do more as a receiver, and he’s too dangerous with the ball in his hands not to do it. He averaged 7.8 yards per reception last season, and it’s realistic to think he could be up closer to nine or 10.

McCarthy spoke the obvious at the NFL Combine in February, saying Elliott would be a primary focus.

”Zeke will touch the football plenty in our offense,” he said.

Troy Aikman: Cowboys tagging Dak Prescott could create ‘damaging effects’ - Jori Epstein, USA Today

Are Dak and the Cowboys about to head down a slippery slope?

The NFL’s twice-delayed franchise-tag deadline looms near.

Teams have until 11:59:59 a.m. Monday to designate a franchise-tagged player, leaving the window to negotiate a long-term deal open until July 15.

In Dallas, each day brings the Cowboys closer to tagging quarterback Dak Prescott, whose rookie contract is expiring.

Hall of Fame ex-Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman warns against that.

“I’d hate to think what might happen or how Dak might feel if they end up going the franchise-tag route,” Aikman told SiriusXM NFL radio on Wednesday. “I just don’t think that’s going to be in the best interest of all parties, and ultimately I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the Cowboys.

“It could have damaging effects, in my opinion. So I’m hopeful they’ll get a deal done.”

Cowboys ownership has made clear that deal or no deal by next week, they will “absolutely not,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said, part ways with Prescott.

“Certainly have and going to keep his rights,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told beat writers Feb. 27 at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. “That’s just the reality of the thing. I am not in any way going to not have his rights, for one minute.”

Xavier Woods is fourth on the “performance pay” list for 2019 while an ex-Cowboy leads the list - Dave Halprin, Blogging the Boys

Xavier Woods exceeded expectations in 2019, and received a nice raise because of it.

Every year, NFL players can earn a little extra money through the performance-based pay system. There is a standard performance-based system and an additional veteran’s pool. The difference between the two and generally how they are calculated is covered at the end of this post. This system benefits players who are performing well on the field, but because of a small contract dollar amount, are not getting paid as well as other players.

For this year’s distributions (combined performance-based and veteran’s pool), Cowboys safety Xavier Woods received the fourth highest amount in the league at $615,755. He was tops among the Cowboys players.

Some other numbers for the Cowboys:

Chidobe Awuzie - $402,903

Michael Gallup – $380,891

Darian Thompson - $355,842

Jourdan Lewis - $333,474

Blake Jarwin – $322,269

Connor Williams - $255,912

Dorance Armstrong - $236,916

Dak Prescott - $234,019

Antwaun Woods - $202,746

Do the Dallas Cowboys Have a Substantial Need at Linebacker? - John Williams, Inside the Star

There’s whispers of concerns regarding Leighton Vander Esch, which could make linebacker more of a need than we think.

Given the issues that Vander Esch has had with his neck, it would make sense for the Cowboys to have a plan in place in the event this becomes a lingering issue into the 2020 season and beyond.

The other way it could make sense for the Cowboys to have serious interest in Murray is new Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan’s interest in playing multiple defensive fronts. Both Jaylon Smith and Kenneth Murray are really good pass rushers from the linebacker position. Nolan could have ideas for how to get them both involved and on the field in three linebacker sets, even in nickel.

Theoretically, the Cowboys could play their nickel defense with three defensive linemen, three linebackers, and five defensive backs and keep offenses off guard with how they deploy their linebackers. They could send any combination of their linebackers on the rush or not at all.

Kenneth Murray is arguably the best linebacker in this draft class along with LSU Linebacker Patrick Queen. Either one would be a tremendous asset, but given the Cowboys’ needs across the defense, it’s hard to imagine the Cowboys using a premium pick at linebacker.

Film room: 3 best Cowboys fits in free agency, including a position upgrade that should be Dallas’ top priority - John Owning, Dallas Morning News

Three free agents the Cowboys should target next week? John Owning has you covered.

Mike Pennel, NT

It would be wise if the Cowboys made upgrading the nose tackle position the No. 1 priority in free agency, which is stacked with starting-caliber players. Javon Hargrave and DJ Reader are the two best players on the market, but it’s likely they will price themselves out of the range that Dallas would feel comfortable allocating toward the NT position.

With that in mind, NT Mike Pennel would be an outstanding fit for the Cowboys in free agency. He’s not projected to break the bank and would provide a considerable upgrade over Christian Covington.

Listed at 6-4 and 322 pounds, Pennel eats opposing run games for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He’s a linebacker’s best friend, as his ability to anchor and occupy double teams enable LBs to get off their spot and pursue the ball without being immediately encumbered by blockers.

Pennel’s upper body strength enables him to stack blocks on the line of scrimmage, putting offensive linemen on their heels upon contact. If a blocker is on his heels, it eliminates their ability to create vertical displacement.

What’s Up: Can Hill Bounce Back In Year 2? - The Mothership

Can Trysten Hill turn things around this year?

What’s Been Bad:

Hill received opportunities in the first two games of last season and barely saw the field as the season progressed. Whether that was because of his inability to contribute or because the coaching staff had concerns about his attitude is almost irrelevant; either possibility is a problem. Hill was disciplined early in the season for being late to team meeting. Clashes with coaching staffs was an issue that carried over from his time in college.

What’s Next:

The best thing that a player who had an unproductive rookie season can ask for is a fresh start, and Hill will get exactly that. He will be playing for a new head coach, a new defensive coordinator, and a new defensive line coach. Jim Tomsula will likely give him a clean slate to earn his snaps, and depth at the defensive line is a need for the Cowboys so there will be opportunities for him to remind Dallas why they drafted him in the second round. But Tomsula is also a veteran coach who is unlikely to suffer much nonsense from a young player with a shaky track record.

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