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Cowboys news: Dak Prescott’s game evolving; Patrick Surtain II on joining Trevon Diggs in Dallas

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NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

How Dak Prescott Can Be “Smarter” As A Runner - David Helman, DallasCowboys.com

They can’t lose Dak’s ability to run, they just need to get him to slide more.

Prescott acknowledged that the situation dictates what should be asked of him, and that a first down in the third quarter probably isn’t the time to make the extra effort.

“On a play like that — first down, you’re going down. You’re sliding,” he said.

It’s hard not to think about how many times Prescott has kept his offense alive through sheer willpower, though – most notably, his winding, somersaulting, 16-yard run against Seattle on a crucial 3rd-and-14 of a wildcard game. The run set the Cowboys up on the Seahawks’ goal line, where they eventually took a 24-14 lead to put the game away.

And to hear it from Prescott, that’s not the type of play he plans on taking out of his repertoire.

“To say that the game’s on the line, it’s a first down or it’s the red zone and I’m going there — that’s who I am,” he said. “I don’t know if I can ever tone that down, and if I do then y’all are changing who I am.”

His head coach seems to agree with him. Asked about it last week, Mike McCarthy acknowledged that Prescott probably doesn’t need to stiff arm and lower his shoulder on defenders as much as he has in the past. But McCarthy also said he doesn’t want to coach instinct out of any of his players.

“I don’t ever try to make a statement to a player that would make him hesitate, because hesitation in the NFL is, you’re a full step slower than the opponent and it can put you in a worst position,” McCarthy said.

Patrick Surtain II intrigued by joining Trevon Diggs with Dallas Cowboys - Jaylon Thompson, 24/7 Sports

The Cowboys could have two Alabama corners.

“(Trevon) Diggs, he’s my brother for life,” Surtain said. “Just lining up with him again, it would be a special feeling. ...It’d just be like another day here in Alabama.”

The Cowboys selected Diggs in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Diggs made appeared in 12 games (11 starts) for the Cowboys as a rookie. He recorded 58 tackles, three interceptions and 14 passes defended.

Diggs will likely lead the revamped Cowboys defense in 2021. The Cowboys hired Dan Quinn to be the defensive coordinator for the upcoming campaign. Quinn likes to use multiple cornerback schemes dating back to his days with the Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons as a coach.

Should the Cowboys select Surtain, he would give the organization two shutdown cornerbacks to fortify the secondary. Last season, the Cowboys ranked 23rd overall in passing yards allowed and also surrendered 29.6 points per game.

Dallas Cowboys: Grading big free agency signings so far - Khaled Abdallah, NFL Spinzone

Taking a look at how the Cowboys are doing in free agency.

Carlos Watkins, DT (Houston Texans)

Grade: B-

The addition of Carlos Watkins to the Dallas defensive tackle rotation will cost the team just $1.75 million on a one year deal. The former Houston Texan was a fourth round pick in 2017 and has gone on to play in 42 games for the AFC West squad.

Watkins has been a rotational lineman for the Texans and that trend will likely continue in Dallas as coordinator Dan Quinn has always liked having constant rotation at that position group. The Cowboys are not betting on upside with Watkins like they may be with Basham but he fills a need at the three-technique tackle position and likely spells the end of Gerald McCoy’s brief tenure in Dallas.

This move does not keep the Cowboys from drafting an impact defensive tackle early in the draft but does give them solid depth at the position ahead of some other moves being made. Watkins has four career sacks and nine tackles for loss and had the best season of his career in 2020 on a poor Houston defense.

If he continues to trend up he could end up being a bargain signing for the Cowboys as they look to continue rebuilding their defense for a playoff push in 2021. At the moment he does little to move the needle but could thrive with all of the attention that the talented edge rushers could attract.

Neal, Kazee contract details follow Cowboys bargain-bin shopping model - K.D. Drummond, CowboysWire

It’s a great strategy, get a cheap player to play well then either re-sign, or try to get a compensatory pick.

Kazee, who despite his testing is still going to be an unknown when it comes to his return, didn’t even get that. He has a base salary of just $990,000, a signing bonus of just $137,500 and if he isn’t right come training camp can be released for only $387,500 in dead money.

That’s the contract of a placeholder; a guy brought in just in case the club cannot find a solution elsewhere. Now Dallas played Donovan Wilson (finally) last season and Mike Nolan’s defense had him aligned as a free safety pre-snap, but his skill set is more of a strong safety who needs to play in the box in Quinn’s preferred single-high, Cover 3 scheme. He is capable though, in some regard, just not in the best regard, of being the free safety.

Neal could, in theory, be a strong safety if his coverage skills improve over 2020. Jayron Kearse, signed after working out the same day as Kazee and Hooker (for still undisclosed non-riches), could be in the mix as more than the special team player he’s been the majority of his career.

With the draft less than a month away, Dallas has a solution for their safety rotation, it just doesn’t have the definitive solution. They’ve chosen to bargain shop in free agency and plug holes which will allow them freedom come the draft. But if that freedom doesn’t lead them to a top-100 safety capable of starting early if not on Day 1, then they may be yet again shopping in the wrong store, in the wrong mall.

What Roster Spots do the Cowboys Still Need to Fill? - Shane Carter, Inside The Star

The Cowboys have more work to do.

Nose Tackle

Adding players like Carlos Watkins and Brent Urban to the defensive tackle rotation should offer more depth. But outside of Antwaun Woods the team lacks a second, true nose tackle.

Urban and Watkins should be able to flex between both tackle spots but both could also end up being camp bodies who ultimately don’t even make the final roster. Free agency still has plenty of veteran options available that the Cowboys need to consider.

Players like DaQuan Jones and Danny Shelton are both still available and either one would upgrade the position going into the draft.

A Cowboys roster comparison to one year ago shows where they improved, and where work is needed - Tom Ryle, Blogging The Boys

They should be better just based on their players being healthy.

Defensive tackle

Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, Trysten Hill, and Antwaun Woods were the group, with Crawford also counting due to his position flex. McCoy would be lost early in camp, Poe was a clear failure, and after a promising start to his season, Hill would go on IR in the first weeks of the season.

This was a big focus in free agency, with Brent Urban and Carlos Watkins both joining the team. Woods is back, Hill will hopefully be fully recovered, and the team also has Neville Gallimore, Justin Hamilton, and the little known Walter Palmore on the roster. Again, with the value of hindsight, this looks to be an improved part of the roster. And as badly as the IDL performed last year, it may be enough to make a big difference, especially in the run game.

Arrow pointing: Up

Linebacker

This was a pretty full room at this point a year ago. Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee seemed a solid trio of starters, Joe Thomas and Justin March were quality depth and ST contributors, and they had Luke Gifford and Chris Covington vying for spots.

Smith and Vander Esch would struggle all season, to put it kindly. Thomas, March, and Covington are gone, while Lee is mulling retirement. Joining Smith and LVE now are Gifford, Francis Bernard, and Azur Kamara. It is not only thin, but very unproven. However, both Keanu Neal and Jayron Kearse are expected to be used as WLBs at times, so that may help.

Arrow pointing: Clearly down, and begging for some additions.

Should the Dallas Cowboys still pursue Malik Hooker? - Joey Pollizze, The Landry Hat

Maybe the Cowboys should go back and pick up another safety on the cheap.

Just last week, Hooker visited the Cowboys, per SI.com. Nonetheless, the Cowboys decided to not offer the former first-round pick a contract and instead signed former Atlanta Falcons safety Damontae Kazee.

This move might have been surprising to some as Hooker only had positive things to say about his visit to Dallas. After his meeting, the former Ohio State star claimed that the “visit went great,” according to dallascowboys.com.

So, this leaves the question if there is still room for the former Colts’ safety. With the loss of Xavier Woods, who signed a one-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings, this could open up room for Hooker to join the team.

Although Dallas has already signed three safeties this offseason, they likely aren’t done adding to their secondary. Last season, it appeared that this secondary was one of the worst in the NFL. They ranked in the bottom half of the league in yards allowed per game (386.4), opponent’s passing touchdowns a game (2.1), and opponent’s yards per completion (11.1).

As a result, the Cowboys likely need more help in the secondary. The former Minnesota Vikings and Detriot Lions safety Jayron Kearse is known for his special teams play and will likely not play much in the secondary. On the other side, recently acquired safety Keanu Neal is moving to weak-side linebacker for the Cowboys, according to nfl.com.

This leaves only Donovan Wilson and Damontae Kazee in the secondary. Adding Hooker could give Dallas more room to improve their secondary.

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