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Cowboys News: Mike McCarthy and Will McClay’s bond over philosophy

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Catch up on all the news from the day before

NFL Combine - Day 2 Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Dallas Cowboys draft MVP Will McClay credits Mike McCarthy’s player over system truth - Clarence Hill Jr., The Star Telegram

Those who pay close attention to the Cowboys know that Will McClay is the man in charge when it comes to drafting players now. So naturally, the relationship between McClay and new head coach Mike McCarthy needs to be solid, and it seems like that’s already the case.

“It’s not me, it’s the entire group and it’s the way that we scout,” McClay said. “We are one of the few franchises, we scout throughout. We have continuous study. So when the shelter in place happened we were continuing on. And most credit to me, from me, goes to our scouts. Our area scouts, jumping in and just doing everything that it took to make sure that we had all the information.”

McCarthy told McClay that his priority was that the team go after good football players first and the coaches will be flexible within the scheme to use the talent. And it played out in the team’s ability to consistently make value picks based on the best player available on their board through the draft. “One of the first things out of his mouth was ‘players over system,’” McClay said. “Well, that rung a bell with me right away.”

“It was just a unique deal,” McClay continued in speaking about McCarthy and his staff. “Typically when you have new coaches or a new staff and you explain the way you’re doing things from a grading standpoint, you usually have outliers.” He said the coaching staff and the scouting department were very much in-step with how all of the players were rated. “So there was a unique synergy within that process, as well.”

‘Necessity is the mother of all invention’: How Cowboys attacked virtual NFL draft in Mike McCarthy’s first year - Jori Epstein, USA Today

As the NFL gets ready for its 101st season, they faced a new challenge in having their first ever virtual draft. While this caused a lot of new wrinkles for teams, the Cowboys, specifically Will McClay, actually saw it as a positive.

The socially distant draft created new challenges. But the Cowboys believe that they also identified distinct advantages this year. No travel to Pro Days where scouts could analyze prospects in person? No problem.

“When you’re all together, there’s more of an us-think board compared to what everybody else does,” McClay said. “Sometimes when you go on the road, there is paralysis of overanalysis. We honed in on the things that mattered most to us at a higher level because I think we had the time and ability to do that.”

“They say necessity is the mother of all invention,” McClay said. “We have a job to do, whatever the case may be. If I am a guard and I got to do go dig that guy out, I got to figure out a way to get it done. And that is the way we, as an organization, approached this draft.

NFC East draft grades: Cowboys clean up; Eagles create a stir - Gennaro Filice, NFL.com

The Cowboys were widely regarded to have had one of the best drafts this year, if not the best, so it’s no surprise to see them leading the divisional pack. It’s also no surprise to see the team’s selection of CeeDee Lamb as the best selection in the division.

From late January through last Thursday, 11 different NFL.com writers published a grand total of 31 mock drafts. And in this glut of simulated selections, Lamb fell into the second half of the first round just three times. He was the third receiver off the board once. So, naturally, both of those scenarios played out on draft night, as Jerry Jones had the consensus All-American fall right into his lap at No. 17. And despite the fact that Dallas entered this draft with more pressing needs on the defensive side of the ball, Jerrah made the wise (i.e., obvious) decision to snap up the best player available.

According to the Cowboys owner, Lamb was the No. 6 overall player on Dallas’ big board. Now he joins a pair of 1,100-yard receivers in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Too much of a good thing? Nope. Like most NFL offenses nowadays, the Cowboys mainly operate with 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR). The ‘Boys did so on two-thirds of their offensive snaps in 2019, with Randall Cobb typically manning the slot. But Cobb parlayed a bounce-back season into a lucrative free-agent deal with the Texans, meaning Dallas had an opening in its primary offensive set. Will the rookie spend time in the slot? It’s certainly not a bad idea, as Lamb led the nation in yards per route run from the slot last season (6.11, per Evan Silva).

But you have to figure Cooper, who struggles at times against press coverage on the outside, will make his way inside for a fair share of snaps, as well. No matter how Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore choose to deploy their receivers, Dallas suddenly boasts one of the best receiving trios in the league (if not the best). Somewhere, Dak Prescott’s bank account smiles.

Mailbag: Cowboys Undrafted Rookies To Watch? - Nick Eatman and Jonny Auping, DallasCowboys.com

Few teams have a better history of hitting on undrafted free agents than the Cowboys, so every year it’s not a matter of if but who will make the team as an undrafted free agent. The guys at the Mothership give their early guesses.

Nick: Good question and you’re right, there always seems to be a few guys make the team. I’ll give three names – Sean McKeon was a guy they nearly drafted in the fifth round but got him in free agency. It’s a spot where he can possibly beat out Dalton Schultz.

I also like safety Luther Kirk – the only safety added to the team this weekend. He was a big-time player on the FCS level. And then there’s James Madison defensive end Ron’dell Carter, who apparently already has some guarantees in his contract that would keep him on the books. Sounds like the Cowboys have some big plans for him.

Jonny: Aaron Parker out of Rhode Island intrigues me the most. The top three receivers are well-established in Dallas, but they’ll need depth. Parker didn’t exactly play against the country’s stiffest competition, but he was no slouch. He scored 30 touchdowns over his career and, at 6-3, he’s got the size to make plays in the NFL. Sometimes for receivers in a position like this, chemistry with the quarterback is the difference between seeing real game snaps or not even making the team.

Drafting Gallimore Means Re-Loaded Cowboys Lose Covington To Broncos - Mike Fisher, Cowboy Maven

The Cowboys went into the offseason with some holes on the interior of the defensive line, but signing Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe helped. Then, drafting Neville Gallimore more or less set the position. That led to Christian Covington officially signing elsewhere instead of trying to return to the Cowboys’ now-cramped defensive tackle room.

The Denver Broncos have added some veteran beef to their defensive line as our colleague Adam Caplan of SiriusXM NFL Radio reports that they are signing defensive tackle Covington to a one-year contract. The deal is worth up to $1.75 million with $625,000 guaranteed.

Covington played in every game for the Cowboys last season and was pressed into service enough to having made six starts. A four-year member of the Houston Texans before coming to Dallas, he recorded 28 tackles and a sack in his one Cowboys season.

He’ll work to be a rotational contributor in Denver as the Cowboys turn the page to what they hope is an entirely revamped defensive line, with DeMarcus Lawrence returning at one end but a trio of newcomers likely to start alongside him, with free agency bringing to Dallas former Pro Bowlers Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe at the tackles, plus the rehab project that is Aldon Smith at end.

Add veteran utility man Tyrone Crawford, end Randy Gregory (like Smith hopeful of the NFL’s permission to return) and now draftee Neville Gallimore to battle with last year’s top (but disappointing) rookie Trysten Hill and one can see just how crowded the defensive line room is becoming.

After Mike McCarthy tried to clear up which defense the Cowboys will run, the NFL draft added some more questions - Tim Cowlishaw, Dallas Morning News

Mike McCarthy has said multiple times that the Cowboys defense will remain a primarily four-down-linemen defense, with room to add some creative, multiple wrinkles in. Yet for some reason, the team’s draft has cast some uncertainty on that claim.

In the aftermath of the NFL draft, the consensus is that the Cowboys’ offense is headed for the stratosphere. As for the defense, could it be bound for the ... 3-4?

I realize that early last week coach Mike McCarthy attempted to head off confusion on this point, stating that the Cowboys would play a 4-3 defense in 2020 but that the club was always looking for options and alternatives, different wrinkles to throw at the opposition. At this point, though, if new players work out the way the team hopes, I think it’s at least a 50-50 bet the Cowboys will be a base 3-4 team by 2021.

A final hint came in the fifth round of the draft — and I’m not suggesting a team is smart to change its defense because of the arrival of a third-day pick. Even though Utah defensive end Bradlee Anae technically lined up in a 4-3 in the Pac-12’s best defense, he made a lot of plays from a wide stand-up position. Analysts believe his size makes him well suited for a 3-4 outside linebacker role in the NFL.

2 Way-Too-Early 2021 Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft Predictions - Brian Martin, Inside the Star

The 2020 NFL draft is officially over, so it’s time to start thinking about the 2021 NFL draft, right? Luckily there’s already two Cowboys mock drafts out there, one from Dane Brugler and another from Matt Miller.

27. Dallas Cowboys – Talanoa Hufanga, SS, USC - “You don’t need to know Hufanga’s number, just follow the ball and that is where he will be. His aggressive nature will work against him at times, but he competes with outstanding effort and anticipation to make plays versus the pass and run.” – Dane Brugler

28. Dallas Cowboys – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State - “While definitely not the biggest need, we saw in the 2020 draft the Dallas Cowboys want to surround Dak Prescott with talented weapons. Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth is well worth the price of selecting him of the late first round.”

“Had Freiermuth entered the 2020 draft class, teams would have seriously considered selecting him over Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet, who was the first tight end off the board. A solid 2020 season could push Freiermuth into a lock as a first-rounder.” – Matt Miller

BTB Podcast

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