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Cowboys News: After a down 2019 for DeMarcus Lawrence, a new defense offers up new possibilities

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Questions surrounding the Cowboys: Was 2019 a down year for DE DeMarcus Lawrence ... or decline? - Calvin Watkins, Dallas Morning News

DeMarcus Lawrence’s first season under his new contract extension didn’t quite go according to plan, leading many to wonder if it was simply a down year or something more serious.

You could blame Lawrence’s down season (five sacks) on several factors: his recovery from labrum surgery; his ability to take on more blockers, which opened the door for Robert Quinn to lead the team in sacks with 11 ½; or, he simply might be on the decline.

One look at Lawrence would tell you he’s not on the decline, but it’s interesting that after recording 42 quarterback pressures in 2018, he fell to just 29 in 2019. Lawrence reached Pro Bowl heights in 2017 and 2018, when he compiled a total of 25 sacks, three fumble recoveries and 49 quarterback hits.

What happened in 2019? Health was an issue, which slowed his progression, as did the reality that he did face more attention as the Cowboys’ premier pass rusher. Quinn is gone, having signed a five-year deal with the Chicago Bears, so that means Lawrence will be a marked man. Tyrone Crawford and Aldon Smith will compete as the other starter at end. How they perform could determine the type of season Lawrence has. The Cowboys also are going with a new defensive scheme, switching from a base 4-3 to a 3-4, so that will impact Lawrence as well.

Amari Cooper loves the CeeDee Lamb pick, predicts Cowboys WR trio will join a rare club in 2020 - Jared Dubin, CBS Sports

Amari Cooper may play the same position as the Cowboys’ newest first-round pick, but he doesn’t have any hard feelings about it. In fact, he’s so excited about it that the star receiver is expecting really, really big things.

The team’s No. 1 wide receiver, Amari Cooper, is thrilled with the move. “I think it was a great pick up,” Cooper said, per ESPN’s Todd Archer. “You have to draft the best player on the board. Everybody understands that. He’s a great receiver. I think with me and Michael Gallup going for 1,000 yards last year, the expectation is to have three 1,000-yard receivers this year.”

Three 1,000-yard receivers on the same team? That’s a heck of a thing to just expect. There have only been five instances in NFL history three players (regardless of position) each reaching the 1,000-yard mark in the same season, and only three instances of three wide receivers getting there. The most recent instance was the 2008 Arizona Cardinals, with Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston joining the club. (Before that, it was the 2004 Indianapolis Colts, with Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Brandon Stokley. The 1995 Falcons, 1989 Washington team, and 1984 Chargers joined those two squads on the list.)

So, can the 2020 Cowboys join them? Well, it’s not at all out of the realm of possibility. First of all, they weren’t too far away from joining the club last year. Cobb finished the season with 828 receiving yards on his 83 targets. Cooper finished with 1,189 and Gallup had 1,107 despite missing two games.

Amari Cooper said he took less money from Dallas as a free agent because he loves the Cowboys - Frank Schwab, Yahoo Sports

Amari Cooper signed a big deal in free agency to remain with the Cowboys, but he apparently had a bigger contract offer from the rival Washington Football Team. Cooper’s decision to turn down more money was rooted in the appeal of the Cowboys.

“I just like everything about being a Dallas Cowboy,” Cooper said. “I love the culture we’ve created here, and just the atmosphere both in the building and outside of the building in terms of being in the city of Dallas and the surrounding areas.

“I guess that would be the same reasons why I was willing to take less money to stay here. That coupled with the fact I had a privilege of playing on a different team, I understand every culture isn’t the same, every city isn’t the same and every team isn’t the same. Me being able to see that while being on another team and having the opportunity to be on a team I really love, I wouldn’t trade that for a little bit more money.”

Name To Know: An Intriguing Candidate At CB - Rob Phillips,

The Cowboys are set to have quite the contentious position battle at the cornerback spot, and there are many names to keep in mind, but Daryl Worley may be one player flying under the radar.

How Does He Make It: Worley signed only a one-year deal, but he’s got a legitimate chance to make the 53-man roster and compete for playing time in a deep cornerback group. The Cowboys do have three of their top four corners returning (Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis) along with core special teams contributor C.J. Goodwin. They also drafted Trevon Diggs and Reggie Robinson II in the first four rounds. But with Byron Jones now with Miami, no corner on the current roster has more career starts than Worley. Veteran Maurice Canady has opted out of the 2020 season, leaving the Cowboys a little thinner at the position than they were in April.

How He Can Help: Here’s what makes Worley such an intriguing signing: in addition to his experience — primarily at corner — he can play pretty much anywhere in the secondary. Worley switched to free safety late last season after the Raiders released D.J. Swearinger. At 6-1, 215pounds, Worley fits the Cowboys’ philosophy of tall, physical press corners. But he’s versatile enough to change positions if needed, and he has been a productive player at different spots in his first four NFL seasons.

NFC East’s most interesting 2020 additions: New Cowboys coaching staff, Eagles star corner and more - Jared Dubin, CBS Sports

The Cowboys were one of the most talented rosters in the NFL last year, and have returned most of their major players for 2020. But the big storyline is their almost entirely new coaching staff, led by Mike McCarthy.

For the past decade, the Cowboys have been coached by Jason Garrett. Garrett’s old-school philosophies made Dallas one of the most conservative teams in the league, with an offense focused on the running game and fourth-down and two-point decision-making that was damn near retrograde. In more recent seasons, Garrett’s conservative nature transferred over to the defensive side of the ball, where the Kris Richard and Rod Marinelli-led defense was one of the most vanilla in the NFL.

For those reasons and more, the most intriguing newcomers for the Cowboys this year are the entire coaching staff.

Mike McCarthy’s playbook got stale by the end of his time in Green Bay, but during his tenure he was one of the most pass-heavy and aggressive coaches in the NFL. That’s the kind of offense the Cowboys (and most other teams) should be running. Mike Nolan hasn’t been a defensive coordinator in quite some time and his defenses have tended to be up and down, but he at least has shown a willingness to swing between 4-3 and 3-4 fronts and utilize personnel in a variety of different ways. And after having one of the worst special-teams units in the league the past couple years, the Cowboys brought in John Fassel, who is widely regarded as one of the best special teams coaches in the league.

Examining the Cowboys’ 10 biggest training camp battles and who might win them - Jon Machota, The Athletic

Without preseason games being played this year, all of the Cowboys’ position battles will be carried out in training camp, which likely creates an advantage for the more experienced players. But that doesn’t mean these ten position battles are over just yet.

1.) Connor Williams vs. Connor McGovern. The two are expected to compete for the starting left guard position. Williams has started 21 games there over the last two seasons. McGovern, a third-round pick last year, was going to compete for the spot last season before a pectoral injury ended his rookie year. Williams has the edge due to experience, but McGovern could make things interesting if he’s able to stay healthy. Prediction: Connor Williams wins the job.

2.) Joe Looney vs. Tyler Biadasz. Neither are expected to play to the Pro Bowl level of Travis Frederick, but one of them will likely take over the starting center spot with Frederick retired. Looney started all 16 games in 2018 when Frederick was sidelined with Guillain-Barre syndrome, making Looney the favorite to win the job. But the Cowboys, especially new head coach Mike McCarthy, liked Biadasz a lot entering this year’s draft. Dallas traded two fifth-round picks to Philadelphia to move up and draft Biadasz with the final selection in the fourth round back in April. Prediction: Looney wins the job, but Biadasz becomes the starter next season.

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