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Old 08-08-2019, 02:04 PM   #1
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Default Enemy camp-Cowboys are feeling it

This Cowboys’ Roster Boasts Depth That the Team Hasn’t Seen Since the ’90s

Roster depth is a good problem to have, according to Cowboys COO Stephen Jones. But the team feels the squeeze to capitalize now, before money becomes a limiting factor. Also, answering your questions on holdouts, the best rookies at training camp, top five AFC teams and more.
By ALBERT BREER August 08, 2019
OXNARD, Calif. — Ezekiel Elliott’s not at training camp. Dak Prescott’s learning to work with a new offensive coordinator, one who happened to be a teammate just 19 months ago. Travis Frederick is coming back from Guillain-Barre syndrome. And there are contracts ticking towards expiration all over the place.

This kind of noise is nothing new to the Cowboys—it’s as much a part of who they are as the star on their helmets, and there’s plenty of it this year.

But there’s also the fact that they believe this is the franchise’s deepest, best roster since 1990s.

“I think it’s there,” says Dallas COO Stephen Jones, from his makeshift office in the Oxnard Residence Inn, which is about the distance of a Prescott-to-Amari Cooper throw to the post from the practice field. “The ’06, ’07, ’08 [teams], that was difficult, because you didn’t have the depth. I would say if you were to put a ding on that group, injuries would hurt you. … We believe this roster, because of the depth, is right there with that ’90s roster.

“The depth we had on that roster, the defensive line depth was crazy, we had some good backup offensive linemen, although I don’t know that we ever called upon any. We just had a good group, and a hell of a 53-man roster. And [scouting chief] Will [McClay] and I were just going over the roster today, and there are gonna be some tough, tough cuts, guys who are gonna be on football teams that we’re not gonna have room for. It is a good problem.”

They’d argue some of the above problems are good ones, too. The belief internally is that new offensive coordinator, 30-year-old Kellen Moore, will prove a revelation, and be a boon for Prescott, in merging college concepts with the existing offense. Frederick’s ability to get back to his old level is a question, but the team developed Joe Looney behind him last year. And the chief reason for the contractual logjam is that the team has hit on draft picks and, thus, has guys to pay.

That said, there is a flip side to all of that.

“We’re not going to have it long, this depth,” Jones said, “because we’re gonna have to pay these guys.”

Indeed, the time is now for the Cowboys. And the Joneses aren’t afraid to say it.

In this week’s Game Plan, we’re two weeks deep in training camp visits, and we’re getting to your questions on …

• The value of running backs, and what will likely happen with Melvin Gordon and Ezekiel Elliott’s holdouts.

But we’re starting in Oxnard, where the Cowboys hold training camp, because 2019 brings awfully big stakes.

What began with Dallas building the league’s most fearsome offensive line—punctuated with the decision to draft Zach Martin over Johnny Manziel in April 2014—has bloomed into the Cowboys emerging as one of the NFL’s most efficiently run operations. You can see it in how they’ve drafted, how they’ve developed talent, how they carried out succession at quarterback and how they’ve empowered young assistants like Moore and Kris Richard.

And it’s come together at a sweet spot generated in a combination of young talent on rookie contracts, pricey veterans with good ball left and experienced pieces to give depth to the overall picture.

As Jones said, that won’t last forever. So, yes, there’s a sense of urgency here.

“I think there is,” Jones says. “Jerry’s pretty much said it. I know [head coach] Jason [Garrett] feels it, obviously he’s in the last year of his contract. We just feel like it’s time to take the next step around here. We’re not satisfied that people are saying, ‘Well, you’ve really drafted well for 10 years.’ Or, ‘You’ve put together a hell of a roster.’ That’s not good enough anymore. I mean, we’ve been doing that.

“Even in the 2000s, we had a couple shots there and didn’t get to the championship game, damn sure didn’t get to a Super Bowl. That’s not good enough. We’ve got to take the next step. We’ve got to have a successful season. We’ve got to have success in the playoffs. We’ve got to get in there and give ourselves a chance.”

There’s tangible angst in Jones’s voice, and he’s right—the last time Dallas made the NFC title game was 24 years ago, the year of the third title of the Aikman/Irvin/Emmitt Era. In three of the last five years they’ve fallen short in the divisional round, and twice it’s happened in soul-crushing fashion (Aaron Rodgers’s throw to Jared Cook, Dez Caught It).

In addition, the team has to determine what the franchise will look like in a year or two. We’ll probably get some answers in the coming weeks, but most of the questions will likely be answered based on how the 2019 season goes.

With that in mind, there’s no better time than right now to dive into what’s ahead for this group, starting with...

The contracts. If I had to rank the likelihood of deals getting done before Week 1, I’d go Elliott, Prescott, Cooper, with the first two close to one another, and the third a ways behind them.

For Elliott, my sense is the Cowboys are willing to get close to, and maybe nudge past the four-year, $57.5 million extension the Rams gave Todd Gurley last summer. Likewise, I’ve heard the team is ready to break the $30 million APY barrier for Prescott. Ultimately, I think contracts in that neighborhood, with the right structure, will be difficult for the 2016 draft picks to pass up, so long as there’s a little more negotiation between now and Week 1.

Cooper’s deal, on the other hand, is on the backburner for now, and the feeling I’ve gotten there is that the player’s camp is largely responsible for hitting the pause button, because he’s making $13.9 million this year and there’s no reason to move for anything that isn’t really good. Michael Thomas’s deal helped his cause. Extensions for Julio Jones and Tyreek Hill could move the market. So Cooper’s in a good spot.

I figured the Cowboys would have at least one of these three contracts done by now, but Jones isn’t surprised that not one is signed yet.

“It’s not personal. It’s business,” Jones says. “We’re trying to keep a team together, it’s not gonna save us any money, whatever we save. It’s not like we’re out here trying to save money for our family. I mean, we’re out here saying, ‘We gotta save a little bit here, a little bit there, a little bit on each one, which could allow us to keep two or three more guys rather than maybe one more guy.’ …

“And it’s not their job to run our cap, it’s our job to figure out how to keep people. Fair enough, very fair. But it’s not personal. It’s not one of those things where we’re trying to be difficult. We’ve had tough negotiations with players forever. Emmitt missed two games. Emmitt’s the all-time rushing champion, one of the best ever to put on a Cowboys helmet. Had tough negotiations with Michael, and eventually got him done. These things are hard.”

Making it harder is the volume of homegrown pieces after those guys in line—corner Byron Jones, defensive tackle Maliek Collins and right tackle La’el Collins are 2020 UFAs, and linebacker Jaylon Smith is a 2020 RFA. A good problem to have, yes. But still a complicated one.

The balance. If players have contracts on their minds, it can often cause problems. They might play outside the bounds of what they’re asked, knowing a big payday is ahead. If one guy gets paid, another who doesn’t might have hard feelings. We’ve seen these things before.

This season McClay and Garrett have tried to fill the roster with players won’t spend a season worrying about their bank account, even if it will be hard for anyone not to.

“The best players I’ve been around are able to compartmentalize things in their life,” Garrett says. “They understand this is a business. And there’s a time to take care of that business. But the best ones know when it’s time to get to work, and focus on what they need to do. Everyone’s respectful of how you have to handle business. We get that. Every situation is different. But when it’s time to go to work, it’s time to go to work. …

“And that’s one of the many reasons you want those kinds of guys on your team. We used the expression around here for a long time—the right kind of guy. With the right kind of guy, it’s all about loving football, wanting to work at it and be a part of a team, all those things. And we got a lot of those guys on our team, that’s how we built our team.”

The coach. When I asked Garrett about his own contract situation—as was the case in 2014, he’s going to coach out his deal, which will be up at year’s end—he said, “I didn’t even think about it once, I’ve never really thought about my contract ever.” But it will, for sure, be a storyline over the coming months.

“Our point with Jason—‘You have done it before’, and let me tell something, he’s special like that,” Jones says. “And of course, Jerry’s made it very clear and I feel the same way, I want Jason Garrett to coach for the next 10 years. If we go out and we kill it, he’s made himself a lot more money than he would have if we’d signed him last year. We know he’s gonna say, ‘OK, I did it, now pay me.’ And fair enough. So he’s got all his chips pushed to the middle.”

As for what Garrett has to do to keep his job, Jones said there isn’t a win total in his head, or a stage of the playoffs to reach (although he did mention getting back to the championship game). He believes the right move will make itself apparent naturally.

“There’s a lot of extenuating circumstances that go down and, in general, we all know we want to take that next step,” Jones says. “But to define, ‘Hey, there’s certain things we have in our mind’, I mean, you’re gonna know it, he’s gonna know it, we’re all gonna know it. It’ll be like, ‘hey, let’s do it.’ And we’ve done it before, and it was wonderful. We signed him to a new five-year contract and paid him more money than we would’ve had we extended him.”

The lessons. Some look at the 2014 draft—when Jerry Jones was overruled on Manziel—as a turning point to a more responsible time in team-building in Dallas. The results line up with that idea. The Cowboys have made the playoffs in three of the last five years, and the only losing season in there was largely a result of a quarterback injury.

The roster’s in great shape, too, because Dallas learned from where it slipped before. So as the Cowboys have to pick and choose who to pay within its fertile crop of young talent, there’ll be lessons from prior years applied in how they piece the next era – when the Elliotts and Prescotts and Coopers are a lot wealthier – together.

“Late 2000s, we had a lot of good football players, and we were trying to figure out how to massage everything, and we got to where we were real top-heavy in terms of our roster—that’s what happens when you start to pay these guys this kind of money,” Jones says. “You’re not going to have the ability [to keep everyone]. You’re going to have to keep drafting well, because that’s gotta be your depth, young guys coming through the door.”

So to confirm, I asked Jones if he would like to avoid being as top-heavy?

“You’d like to avoid it,” he responded.

In a little less than a month, this picture will be clearer. Either Elliott will be paid or he won’t. Either he’ll be with the team or he won’t. Prescott might have a new contract, he might not. Cooper probably won’t, but crazier things have happened than a team and star player changing course on something like this.

Those are the variables, but one thing is for certain—there’ll be plenty of pressure on this franchise this fall, regardless.

“The big thing, why we’re so laser-focused, whatever we’ve doing the last 25 years hasn’t worked,” Jones says. “So now we gotta have the urgency to take the next step. We want to get in that championship game and play to get into a Super Bowl, and then play to win one—win another Super Bowl ring. We’ve done it before, seems like forever, but we’ve done it before, we know it can happen, we know we can do it, we know we’ve got good personnel, we know we’ve got good coaches, we know we’ve got a good organization.

“Now, we’ve gotta go execute. And we feel like we’ve got the proper pieces in place. We’re damn sure not resting on what we have. People always ask, ‘Do you feel pretty good about your roster?’ No, if I could upgrade it, if Will could, if Will came in tomorrow and said, ‘Hey, I got a guy’, then we’re making a move if it’s available and it fits. The urgency is there. Everybody feels it.”
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Old 08-08-2019, 03:06 PM   #2
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I'm so friggin tired of hearing how deep and talented the Cowboys are. When was the last time they won something.

Our OL and DL are light years better and deeper than them. Our TE and WR are far superior. And our secondary is way better. They do have some talented LBs.

At the all important QB spot, we got Wentz they got Dak.

And there superman RB is sitting on the sidelines asking for a new deal.

I hate them almost like cancer. They are a cancer. That is all.
You know Darren if you'd have told me 10 years ago that someday I was going to solve the world's energy problems I'd have said your crazy.... now lets drop this big ball of oil out the window.
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Old 08-08-2019, 04:53 PM   #3
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It looks like the depth just got a tad thinner:

Cowboys DE Robert Quinn suspended two games for PEDs
8/8/2019 3:22:27 PM
The NFL has suspended Dallas Cowboys defensive end Robert Quinn two games for violating the league's ban on performance-enhancing supstances according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Quinn is furious about the ban as he claims the positive test was triggered by his seizure medication but apparently he lost his appeal. The news could be worse for the Cowboys as Quinn was already in danger of missing the start of the regular season following surgery on his broken hand, although head coach Jason Garrett had expressed optimism he would be ready for Week 1. The 29-year-old Quinn is not much more than a situational pass rusher at this point in his career but he is a talented one. His presence will be missed in early season NFC East contests against the Giants and Redskins.

Kerry Hyder will start in Quinn's absence but the Cowboys pass-rushing corps is already thin.
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Old 08-08-2019, 06:11 PM   #4
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Depth is losing your MVP quarterback, your hall of game LT, your starting MLB, your special teams captain, the best 3rd down back/return ace in history, and your kicker but you still win the fu—ing Super Bowl.
Then the next year, you only get a shell of the MVP QB for 11 games, lose every player in the secondary except for 1 and your top three RBs for most of the season but you still win as many playoff games as the division winners.
The Cowboys have been relatively healthy the past 3 years.
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Old 08-08-2019, 06:27 PM   #5
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After lengthy, rigorously objective analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the Dallas professional football team...and having scrupulously removed any small seed of prejudice, no matter how minute, from the examination process I have come to the inescapable conclusion that the Dallas Cowboys eat shit.
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Old 08-08-2019, 09:06 PM   #6
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QB: Advantage Eagles
RB: Equal if Zeke is playing
OL: Equal IMO
TE: Huge advantage Eagles
WR: Advantage Eagles

DL: Advantage Eagles
LB: Huge advantage Dallas
CB/Safety: Equal ? I want to lean towards the Eagles on this one though.

Head Coach: Give me Doug.
P/K: Hard to say

Discounting major injuries, we should take them. But, it should be a tight one.
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Old 08-08-2019, 09:25 PM   #7
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Default Watching the Giants game

Maybe they knew what they were doing when they drafted Jones. I know it's only preseason but boy he throws a nice ball.
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