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Cowboys News: Leighton Vander Esch injury update & backups who need to play

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The latest news on Dak Prescott, Leighton Vander Esch, offensive line and more.

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Cowboys’ Leighton Vander Esch fully recovered from neck injury, ‘excited’ to return and feeling ‘wonderful’ - Patrik Walker, CBS Sports

Sounds like the Wolf Hunter is healthy and ready to start hunting again.

“I feel just as good as I ever have,” he said. “I’m just excited to play football at this point and get back on the field and, like I said, whenever they give us the green light to go — we’re going to be ready. From that time on, it’s full-go and don’t let off the gas pedal.”

Vander Esch went on to explain in detail how the injury occurred, cementing the fact it was anomalous.

“Well [the Philadelphia Eagles tight end] and Jeff [Heath] pretty much ran into me while I was falling down,” he explained. “I was man-to-man on the running back if I remember right, and right when I turned and looked he had just caught the ball, and they were like right in front of me. Then he kind of pushed me in my side while I was going down. I was going down to tackle him at first, but then I kind of lost my balance when the running back kind of pushed me in my side, I just got caught in a bad position, and that was pretty much it.

“I obviously took the bye week off, because it was right before the bye week, and then sat out the Giants game in hopes that it would be better. I went back and tried to play for two weeks with it, and I dealt with it for those two games, and I just … it was a struggle. It was hard. But like I said, players are always battling through injuries, and they’re always playing.”

Vander Esch: Cowboys defense ‘really dangerous’ despite ‘more adversity’ - KD Drummond, Cowboys Wire

Here’s Vander Esch thoughts on the Cowboys new defense.

The change in staff will provide a chance to do things differently in trying to return to the level achieved in 2018. Vander Esch though doesn’t see anything drastic happening to his role, though, as he’s already familiar with having multiple responsibilities and knowledge requirements for various roles.

“Well I wouldn’t even really say that the roles change that much. In the Cover 3 systems now today, the mike (middle) and the will (weakside) are essentially the same thing, the Boise State Bronco revealed. “We can play a position here, we can play a position there. And especially as linebackers, we should know every position on the field and what they’re doing anyway, because that’s going to make you a better player.”

“The faster we can get everybody on the same page right now with all the stuff that we’re dealing with – I know it’s hard to meet virtually and do all that – but the faster we can get everybody on the same page, the better off we’re going to be. Obviously we have more adversity because we’re putting in a new playbook, we’re putting in a new system.”

Dallas Cowboys’ public negotiations are par for the course - Ben Davila, Fansided DFW

There hasn’t been much movement, but it’s good to understand how this is playing out.

If this year’s act is anything like last year’s dog and pony show with Ezekiel Elliott, they’ll hem and haw on it, and then ultimately cave and give Prescott and his camp the deal that they want. It’s just the typical way the Dallas Cowboys go about their business. It’s a soap opera that plays itself out, and by the time it’s over we’re all sitting around and wondering what the fuss was about.

Forget about which camp you’re in regarding the “Sign him” or “Don’t sign him” side. The bottom line is the Cowboys are going to pay Dak Prescott. It’s not about whether or not he deserves the money. Competent franchise quarterbacks don’t necessarily roam free in the NFL. So some of the pipe dreams I’ve seen from the fan base, a la giving the reins to newly-acquired backup Andy Dalton and moving on from Prescott, don’t hold water.

As for the podcast itself, Jones explained that they want to get Prescott signed, but he also referred to some set of heretofore unknown metrics suggesting that giving a quarterback an overly large piece of the pie can hurt a team’s chances to win. Whether or not this is actually true is up for debate, but the rub here seems to be the actual length of the contract rather than the amount of money.

Are the Dallas Cowboys forgetting their offensive line roots? - Brandon Ladd, The Landry Hat

Games are won in the trenches in the NFL and questions still remain for the Cowboys O-line.

Any fan of America’s Team believes in the power of a successful offensive line due to the success of “The Great Wall of Dallas”, the nickname for the offensive line who’s play led to three-Super Bowls in four years in the early 90s. For four seasons, from 1992 to 1995, that position group led the charge for the Cowboys to go 59-16, including playoffs.

The modern team has been centered around solid offensive line play as well. The two most recent examples being the 2014 and 2016 seasons. Which featured running backs DeMarco Murray and Ezekiel Elliott running for 1,845 and 1,631 yards respectively. Both led the league in rushing those years. 2014, the Cowboys went 12-4. In 2016, 13-3.

These years came after a draft strategy by the front office to focus on rebuilding the offensive line by introducing first-round talent to the position group for a string of years. From left tackle Tyron Smith in 2011 all the way to the steal of the 2015 NFL draft, first-round talent La’el Collins signing as an undrafted free agent after a controversial pre-draft period.

2020 Stat Predictions for Every Projected Starting NFL QB - Maurice Moton, Bleacher Report

Once Prescott takes the field, his eyes should light up. The team re-signed top pass-catcher Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup will go into his third year after a 1,107-yard campaign. The front office selected wideout CeeDee Lamb with the 17th overall pick.

At Oklahoma, Lamb attacked every level of opposing defenses and averaged 19 yards per reception as a collegian.

The Cowboys offensive line took a hit with Travis Frederick’s decision to retire, but Joe Looney is a strong candidate to become a Band-Aid at the position. He started all 16 games at the pivot during the 2018 campaign while Frederick sat out with Guillain-Barre syndrome.

In 2019, Prescott posted career highs in passing yards (4,902) and touchdowns (30). Now, he has a stacked group at wide receiver plus running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Film room: 3 backups who will play big roles for Cowboys, including why Tony Pollard needs to be an every-week RB - John Owning, Dallas Morning News

New scheme means new opportunities for certain players.

Against the run, Thomas struggles mightily to get off blocks but he displays an ability to avoid blockers while pursuing the ball carrier. Instead of the classic stack-and-shed techniques to take on and defeat blocks inside the box, Thomas chooses to use athleticism to beat blockers to the spot or avoid their blocks altogether on his way toward the ball carrier.

On top of his ability on defense, Thomas has also been one of Dallas’ most effective special-teamers since joining the squad in 2018. In 2019, Thomas played 51% of Dallas special teams snaps — fourth-most on the team, per PFF.

Fortunately, the rest of the NFL’s loss is the Cowboys’ gain, as they were able to retain Thomas on a cheap one-year deal to provide quality LB depth and special teams ability.

Examining the NFC East: Defensive Lines - John McMullen, Cowboys Maven

The defensive lines in the NFC East on paper look tough.

No. 3 Dallas Cowboys - There is some significant change in Dallas but still plenty of talent starting with DeMarcus Lawrence on the edge. Inside big-name veterans Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe were signed to provide presence and competency but the reputation is greater than the reality there. Tyrone Crawford remains to provide some inside/outside versatility but reproducing the speed Robert Quinn gave off the edge last season will be difficult.

The depth is lacking a bit as well and a number of young players - 2019 second-round pick Trysten Hill, and 2020 picks Neville Gallimore (third round) and Bradley Anae(fifth) might need to ramp up quickly. Two super-talented suspended players - Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory - could change the narrative quickly on the outside.

“Tank (Lawrence) needs to have a big year,” said an AFC scout “I don’t know how you can count on Gregory never mind Smith but if all of that hits, look out.”

Dallas Cowboys fighting both competition and scheduling this season - Kenneth Wilson, The Landry Hat

Despite the optimism around the Cowboys 2020 schedule, they still have a tough road ahead.

If being tasked to help open up the Rams’ new stadium to open the season wasn’t enough, the Cowboys will then head to Seattle in Week 3 to play in what has come to be one of the toughest away atmospheres in the NFL. With a few home games and divisional away games in between that one and this next one, they go to the bitter cold of Minnesota to face the Vikings late in November.

They finally end their non-divisional road duties in the first two weeks of December with consecutive away games in Baltimore and against the aforementioned Cincinnati Bengals, but only after being home for one week after the Minnesota game mentioned above. What a smooth ride that should be.

Look, this isn’t a cry for help or a pity party, it’s a close and realistic look at what’s before them this season. Not to mention the fact that these are just the non-divisional road games, with home games and all divisional games, no matter the locale, to be just as tough as well.

BTB Podcast

Being a Cowboys fan is a lot of fun, but what’s it like to know how every Cowboys fan is feeling? Girls Talkin ‘Boys caught up with Scootger Magruder to find out.

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