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  • Cowboys News: Jim Tomsula could be a home run hire for the Cowboys defense
    by Matt Holleran on January 23, 2020 at 10:00 am

    Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images Plus more news on America’s Team. Grading Mike McCarthy’s defensive staff: Jim Tomsula is just what the doctor ordered for Cowboys’ D-line-John Owning, Dallas Morning News A breakdown of the Cowboys new defensive staff featuring former head coach, Jim Tomsula. One of McCarthy’s most exciting hires was his selection of Jim Tomsula as defensive line coach. Throughout his time with Washington and San Francisco, Tomsula has developed a reputation as one of the best defensive line coaches in the NFL. Most of his experience came with teams with a 3-4 base defense, but he should have no problem transitioning to a 4-3 base. Tomsula has a long resume of developing effective and production defensive linemen. While in San Francisco (2007-15), Tomsula deserved a ton of credit for helping turn Justin Smith into one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the game. Before he joined the 49ers in 2008, Smith had yet to be voted to a Pro Bowl or All-Pro team. In his seven seasons with Tomsula, Smith was voted to five Pro Bowls and two All-Pro first teams. Smith even called Tomsula “the best D-line coach in the NFL.” In Washington, Tomsula oversaw the development of Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis, all of whom became quality players under his tutelage. Ioannidis’ development is the most impressive, as he came to Tomsula as a fifth-round draft pick while Payne and Allen were first-rounders. This season, Ioannidis finished with an impressive 64 tackles, 11 for loss, 55 total pressures and 8.5 sacks. How Will The Coaching Change Affect This Draft? - David Helman, dallascowboys.com Will the Cowboys draft strategy be altered under a new coaching staff? What exactly will those changes look like? This coming draft could be awfully telling. The Cowboys have long valued an all-inclusive decision making process, drawing input from their scouting department and their coaching staff. Obviously, the coaches in question are now different, but McClay said Wednesday he doesn’t expect to see wholesale changes in the setup. ”I don’t think it changes. We’re always looking for better football players,” he said. “There might be some tweaks on things that we’re looking for, but at the end of the day – as Jerry said the other day – we, organizationally, set the standard for what we’re looking for player-wise.” A reason for that is because it doesn’t sound like McCarthy wants to reinvent the wheel. He already said last week that he wants to build his offense off what Kellen Moore has already put in place. And though new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan figures to use multiple looks, it doesn’t sound like the Cowboys are preparing for a drastic departure from what’s in place. ”At the end of the day, we’re going to stay within the same scheme, and we’re going to do things a little bit different,” McClay said. “So our job is to go and evaluate all the players. They might want bigger interior players, so that’s fine. We’ll go and look for that. But I think we’re going to be looking for the same type of players.” Troy Aikman surprised by Mike McCarthy’s decision to give up Cowboys’ play-calling duties - Joe Hayden, Dallas Morning News The legendary Cowboys quarterback was surprised by Mike McCarthy giving up play-calling duties to Kellen Moore. Aikman agreed that Moore’s debut season as a coordinator in Dallas ended in impressive fashion. “I think Kellen Moore has done a nice job, it’s hard to argue what they did last year offensively. … I think anyone objectively looking at the Cowboys would say they were pretty explosive offensively and did a lot of really great things,” Aikman said. The Cowboys were the No. 1 offense in all of football this season averaging 431.5 yards per game, and were sixth in scoring averaging 27.1 points. Moore will have the opportunity to improve on those numbers next year, as well as continue to build his relationship with Dak Prescott. However, despite McCarthy’s initial stance on who will be in charge of calling plays, Aikman feels the Cowboys’ head coach will still be keeping a watchful eye as the season begins. “The carry over and the continuity for Dak I believe is a good thing. I think having Kellen Moore, who Dak has a great relationship with, I think is a really positive thing. But yet, I think that Mike is going to be involved in the play-calling,” Aikman said. “I don’t think it’s a situation, knowing Mike and how he feels about the offense, that he’s just going to hand it over to somebody and not have any role within that.” Dak Prescott has unique leverage over the Cowboys – Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk Dak Prescott has some leverage over the Cowboys in negotiations this offseason. Prescott refused any and all long-term offers from the Cowboys, embracing the risk of injury and ineffectiveness in his contract year. Now that his contract year has ended, he’s on the brink of a long-term deal from the Cowboys, one that will be fueled by leverage that no player has had since Joe Flacco in 2013. Seven years ago, Flacco parlayed his preseason refusal to sign a multi-year deal into a Super Bowl MVP and a long-term contract struck as the Ravens faced the dilemma of applying the non-exclusive franchise tag or the exclusive tag. That’s the posture Prescott and the Cowboys currently occupy, with Dallas having to choose between the non-exclusive tag (at roughly $26 million per year) and the exclusive tag (currently projected to be $33.4 million). The former allows a team to sign Prescott to an offer sheet that the Cowboys can’t/won’t match, surrendering a pair of first-round draft picks as compensation. The latter keeps Prescott of the market, but it unlocks a potential year-to-year approach that sees the tag spike to $40.08 million in 2021 and $57.715 million in 2022. Either version of the franchise tag presents another problem for the Cowboys. If tagged, Prescott’s leverage becomes enhanced by the fact that he can choose to take a page from the Le’Veon Bell playbook and stay away from the offseason program, training camp, and the preseason — without being in violation of his contract or otherwise losing a dime. Which would significantly complicate Mike McCarthy’s first season as head coach of the Cowboys. How Should Dallas Cowboys go About Replacing TE Jason Witten? - Brian Martin, Inside The Star If Jason Witten does not return, how will the Cowboys replace him...again? I have studied this year’s tight end draft class and quite honestly I’m not all that impressed. There could be a player, possibly two, that sneaks into the later part of the first-round, but I wouldn’t bet on it. As far as the Dallas Cowboys are concerned though, a first-round TE isn’t likely ranked that high on their to do list anyway. Having said that though, this year’s TE draft class isn’t completely void of talent. There are a few players with starting potential, but that becomes less likely the further along we get into the draft. I honestly have a hard time seeing the Cowboys draft a TE in rounds 1-3. That means they’d have to hit on a mid-round prospect with starting capability. That’s easier said than done. Any mid-round TE the Dallas Cowboys could draft is going to come with some warts. Whether it’s off the field issues or some question marks about the prospects game, there are going to be red flags way or another. That doesn’t exactly scream starting potential and I don’t think the Cowboys are looking for another developmental prospect. They’ve gone that way before and failed. Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott on Jason Garrett Exit: 'Sometimes You Need Change' - Tyler Conway, Bleacher Report Many Cowboys fans agree with Ezekiel Elliott that sometimes change is a good thing. Linebacker Jaylon Smith complimented Garrett's ability to keep calm amid the pressure in Dallas. "It's going to be weird because you're so used to Jason and one thing I loved about Jason, he's the ultimate, consistent [person]," Smith said. "Never high, never low, just [clapping]—that's him. He always stayed true to himself, I respect him for that. I learned a lot from Jason, looking forward to what's next." McCarthy spent 13 seasons with the Packers before being fired with three games remaining in the 2018 season. He spent 2019 out of football, engrossing himself in football analytics that he hopes will improve an offense that felt stale toward the end of his Green Bay tenure. Cowboys Sign Kicker, DT To Reserve/Future List - Rob Phillips, dallascowboys.com Dallas made two roster moves on Wednesday. The Cowboys have made two additions to their Reserve/Future list, signing kicker Tristan Vizcaino and defensive tackle Justin Hamilton. Vizcaino tried out twice for the Cowboys in December as a potential replacement for Brett Maher. They ultimately released Maher after a 31-24 loss to the Bears – which featured Maher's 10th field goal miss of the season – and signed veteran Kai Forbath for the final three games of the season. Vizcaino has not kicked in a regular-season game, but he has spent offseason time with the Bengals and Jets since finishing his career at the University of Washington in 2018. BTB Podcast Will McClay met with the media in Mobile on Wednesday. Here are our thoughts about what he had to say. Make sure that you never miss an episode from Blogging The Boys by subscribing to the Blogging The Boys podcast feed!

  • Will McClay comments on Cowboys keeping Byron Jones, and possible changes on the defensive line
    by RJ Ochoa on January 23, 2020 at 3:00 am

    Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports When Will McClay speaks, we listen. The Dallas Cowboys have undergone a lot of changes since we flipped our calendars to the year 2020. There’s a new head coach in town, plenty of new assistants, but one important thing has remained the same. Will McClay is the Dallas Cowboys Vice President of Player Personnel and if you’re unsure what that means you simply need to know that he is the person in charge of the draft. It is Will McClay that oversees the entire process for the Cowboys, the person heading the group that “shops for the groceries” if you will. With the Cowboys scouting personnel stationed in Mobile, AL at the 2020 Senior Bowl, they are obviously looking for prospects that can better the team. McClay met with reporters on Wednesday and offered some information that can potentially be useful in determining what the team is planning to do this offseason. You can watch the interview on the mothership’s properties, we’ve embedded the YouTube video right here. There were a handful of things that McClay said that we felt merited some special discussion Here they are. A new coaching regime doesn’t change the process much Obviously a new coaching staff means that there are some changes to how the Dallas Cowboys operate. McClay doesn’t seem to think that this will impact the job of his group too much, and that’s good. In an ideal world the scouts scout, the coaches coach, and the rest falls into place. “They might want bigger interior players” This was perhaps the most interesting thing that McClay had to say. We have all known and been able to telegraph what the Cowboys were going to do in the draft for so long, when things are the way that they are for a decade that tends to be the case. The Cowboys never made it a point to prioritize positions like safety or defensive tackle during the Jason Garrett era and many have been wondering whether that will be something that changes a bit. McClay seems to have eyes for big players up front. Get hyped. “At the end of the day we’re going to stay within the same scheme. And we’re going to do things a little bit different. So our job is to go and evaluate all of the players. They might want bigger interior players, so, that’s fine, we’ll go and look for that. But I think we’re going to be looking for the same type players.” Reading in between the lines here it does seem like the order initiated from Mike McCarthy’s coaching staff is that they want, well, bigger interior players. That’s, oh I don’t know, what Cowboys fans have been screaming about for some time now. Last Tuesday I co-hosted ESPN San Antonio’s The Blitz and we actually had McClay on. I asked him what he liked in a defensive tackle and while he kept it a bit neutral, it seems like this position is obviously a focus. We had Dallas Cowboys Vice President of Player Personnel Will McClay on @ESPN_SA on Tuesday.Here is what he said about what he likes in a defensive tackle. Full interview: https://t.co/xmUikjAcbm pic.twitter.com/7EuDUQv7E9— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) January 15, 2020 Fingers crossed. The comments on Byron Jones were interesting Rumors are flying around the NFL right now, so much so that there is some speculation that soon-to-be free agent Byron Jones could wind up on the Philadelphia Eagles. That would not be fun. McClay was asked about Byron getting ready to hit the market. Here’s what he said. “He’s a starting-caliber NFL corner. He’s a really good player. And we have to figure out his financial value and if it fits for us.” These comments from McClay come one day after Stephen Jones called Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper priorities numbers one and two, respectively (you can watch that interview here). Jones is obviously third at best.

  • The Pro Bowl will showcase a new onside kick rule, but is it a good idea?
    by Dave Halprin on January 23, 2020 at 12:00 am

    Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images Should the NFL adopt this idea? The onside kick in the NFL is on its deathbed. Heck, the whole idea of kickoffs may be going the way of the dodo bird, but for now, it still exists. The recent rule changes to how kickoffs are performed has had the unintended effect of driving down the success rate of an onside kick. Through the 2017 season, onside kicks were successful on average at around 21%. In 2018 that number plummeted to 7.7% and in 2019 it rebounded slightly to 12.9%. Based on that, the NFL is going to experiment with something new at the Pro Bowl. It’s a rule change that was suggested last year but was voted down by the owners in March. The NFL front office doesn’t want to give up on it so they are going to try it in the Pro Bowl. The new, second option for the scoring team would serve as a substitute for an onside kick. It would allow it to run one additional play from its own 25-yard line. If the scoring team gains 15 or more yards, it would retain possession. If it falls short, the opposition would take over at the dead ball spot. Essentially, it will be a fourth-and-15 play. This is similar to the rule in the short-lived AAF which used a fourth-and-12 play from the 28-yard line as the substitute for the onside kick. For reference, success on third- and fourth down-attempts with over 15 yards to go in regular NFL play over the last two years has been 14.1%. That’s a slight uptick from what we are now getting from onside kicks, but not quite the 21% average that we used to have. The Cowboys tried four onside kicks in 2019 and were unsuccessful on all four. Three of them were at the end of games attempting a comeback (Jets, Bills Bears) and the other was at the end of the first half when they were kicking from deep inside their opponent's territory because of penalties with very little time left on the clock (Lions). While the onside kick as it exists today is a pretty neutral play since the real factor is just how good your kicker is at popping the ball up in the air (or other variations on making it difficult to recover), this new rule could benefit certain kinds of offenses. For instance, let’s take the Super Bowl participants of this weekend. It certainly seems like a passing, big-play offense like the Chiefs would be more likely to hit on a 15-yard pass play than a ground-and-pound offense like the 49ers where play-action would have no effect. But it would certainly be more exciting to watch these plays occur than the new onside kicks of the last few years that are almost always unsuccessful. Imagine a scenario where a team is down 11 points late in a game. They score a touchdown to cut it to four points then elect the 4th-and-15 onside kick option. On that play, the receiver gets behind the secondary and goes all the way. Boom, they are now leading by three. Let’s hope that the two squads in the Pro Bowl try this out just for kicks (pun intended), even if the situation doesn’t call for it. It would be nice to see it play out a few times. Would you rather have the new rule or stick with the current onside kick format?

  • 2020 NFL Free Agency rumors: Philadelphia Eagles could target Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones
    by RJ Ochoa on January 22, 2020 at 9:00 pm

    Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images Then again, almost every team could target Byron Jones. The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of work to do this offseason, and it’s likely going to be very expensive. There are a number of free agents that the Cowboys will have to get re-signed, and if and when they do that, it remains to be seen just how much shopping they’ll do for players coming from other teams. You can see every soon-to-be Cowboys free agent right here. Stephen Jones met with the media on Tuesday out at the Senior Bowl and when he did he noted that Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper are priorities numbers one and two, respectively, for the team. That’s fair, but that means that Byron Jones is at the highest number three. While Jones was addressing this other things were obviously going on around him and according to Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline, they may have included the aforementioned Byron Jones. Pauline noted that the Philadelphia Eagles are expected to go after cornerbacks hard in free agency and that Byron Jones could be a name they target. Philadelphia Eagles set to aggressively pursue a CB in free agency Word here in Mobile is that the Philadelphia Eagles will go hard after a cornerback in free agency. Chris Harris and Byron Jones are two of the names being thrown around, but I expect the Eagles to turn over every rock in free agency in an attempt to fill the position. Byron Jones has played very well for the Cowboys since transitioning to cornerback full time ahead of the 2018 season. It remains to be seen just how highly the Cowboys will value their former first-round pick. Jones didn’t put forth the stellar campaign of 2018 during this most recent season, but he was still very good. What’s more is that he is a free agent and in situations like these players are generally overpaid (this is said with no disrespect for Jones). If the Eagles are intending to be aggressive, with the Cowboys having to focus so much attention and money on Prescott and Cooper, it stands to reason that they could lose their cornerback to Philadelphia or someone else. Poaching a prominent player away from the Cowboys by the Eagles has happened fairly recently as everybody remembers the DeMarco Murray incident of five years ago. Coincidentally, it was just after that free agency period when the Cowboys drafted Jones. Seeing him end up an Eagle would be a bitter pill to swallow.

  • Six former Cowboys players are playing in the Super Bowl; is there anyone you’d want back?
    by DannyPhantom on January 22, 2020 at 7:00 pm

    Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports The Cowboys aren’t playing in the Super Bowl, but some former star-wearers are. The Dallas Cowboys are not in the Super Bowl, but that doesn’t mean fans won’t be able to root for some guys who used to be on the team. Both the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs have players who will be performing on the year’s biggest stage that at one time or another have played for the Cowboys. In particular, the Chiefs have a group of former Cowboys players, including three defensive starters. While it’s great for those guys to get a shot at a Super Bowl ring, does it make you have any regret over the Cowboys decision to let these guys get away? Let’s take look and see if hindsight reveals any front office mistakes. Anthony Hitchens Hitchens played the first four years of his NFL career with the Cowboys before signing a five-year, $45 M deal with the Chiefs in 2018. He was a reliable piece to the Cowboys linebacker group, including a rookie season that saw him start 11 games after Sean Lee was lost for the year with a knee injury. During his first three seasons, he never missed a game. Hitch is a smart player who can play all three of the linebacker positions. Hitchens wasted no time finding a new home in Kansas City. He recorded 135 tackles in his first year with the Chiefs, and has established himself as a key fixture to their defense. Did the Cowboys make a mistake letting him go? No. His price was too steep, and the front office did an outstanding job replenishing the linebacker talent when they selected Leighton Vander Esch in the first round in 2018. Damien Wilson Speaking of key fixtures at linebacker, Kansas City grabbed another former Cowboys linebacker when they signed Wilson to a two-year, $5.75 M deal last offseason. During his rookie deal with the Cowboys, he played in all 64 games, although most of them were coming off the bench. With the Chiefs, Wilson has started every game this season as Kansas City has made good use of another former fourth-round linebacker selection by the Cowboys. Did the Cowboys make a mistake letting him go? No. While his cost is nowhere as expensive as Hitchens, that type of investment is still hard to justify when Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, and Sean Lee are taking up most of the snaps. And with Joe Thomas also available to them, the right play was to let him go. Charvarius Ward If there is a player on this list that brings about some regret, it has to be Ward. He was signed as an undrafted free agent last year with the Cowboys, but he would never make it onto the official 53-man roster. Due to injury issues along the offensive line, the Cowboys traded Ward to the Chiefs in exchange for Parker Ehinger. While Ehinger never played a down with the Cowboys, Ward has turned out to be a gem of a find for the Chiefs. He started all 16 games at cornerback this year, and he has played very well. There were 10 cornerbacks to reach 1,000 total snaps in the 2019 regular season. Charvarius Ward was one.• Passer Rating: 67.3 (1st)• Yards Allowed: 634 (3rd)• Reception %: 47.6% (1st)• Yards/Coverage snap: 1.00 (T-3rd) : Denny Medley, USA Today#ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/WPPcVmrlGk— PFF KC Chiefs (@PFF_Chiefs) January 5, 2020 It’s hard to be too critical of the front office when you consider the depth they already had at cornerback. Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis held down the fort as CB#5 (C.J. Goodwin) only played three defensive snaps last season. Did the Cowboys make a mistake letting him go? Absolutely! Ward has turned into a quality player who would come in handy, especially with Jones and Brown entering free agency. You can never have too much corner depth. Matt Moore An undrafted free agent from Oregon State, Moore looked like a nice signing to spice up the Cowboys depth chart in 2007. Moore had a good preseason where finished with a quarterback rating over 100, but the Cowboys already had Tony Romo and Brad Johnson so they cut him in hopes of sneaking him onto the practice squad. The Carolina Panthers had other ideas and claimed him off waivers. Moore has spent 11 years in the NFL as a reliable backup. He has a career .500 winning percentage, making a total of 32 starts. He was thrown into action for three games this year when Patrick Mahomes got hurt in the middle of the season. He finished the season with 659 yards passing with four touchdowns and no interceptions (100.9 QB rating), helping the Chiefs win two of the three games he played. Did the Cowboys make a mistake letting him go? Yes. His services certainly would’ve come in handy in 2008 when Romo got hurt as Johnson was ineffective and the Cowboys barely missed the playoffs. The inept play of the Cowboys backup QBs over the years have come back to bite them multiple times. Morris Claiborne Jerry Jones rolled the dice in 2012 when they traded up to grab the top cornerback in the draft. The former LSU Tiger played five years in Dallas where he battled several injuries and had trouble staying on the field. He left in 2017 to play for the New York Jets, but then signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Chiefs this season. Claiborne has added some depth to the Chiefs and he’s played in eight games for them this season; however, he’s been a healthy scratch in both playoff games so far. Did the Cowboys make a mistake letting him go? No. A change in scenery has done nothing to ignite his career. He’s a backup and nothing more than that. Mark Nzeocha There was a time when Mark “Gotcha” Nzeocha was a pet cat of many Cowboys fans, including our own fellow German, OCC. The first Nzeocha jersey signed by @MNzeocha himself! pic.twitter.com/4htIioOtz3— One Cool Customer (@OCC44) August 11, 2016 A seventh-round pick in 2015, Nzeocha exhibited great athleticism, but was a development player. Unfortunately, a run of injuries made it hard for him to get going in Dallas. He only played in seven games across three seasons with the Cowboys. When he joined the 49ers in 2017, he played in 10 games which eclipsed what he had done in Dallas over his three previous years combined. He’s now played in every game over the last two seasons and was the 49ers leader in special teams snaps with 336. Did the Cowboys make a mistake letting him go? No. It’s great to see him experience good health, and to be on a squad with some great defensive players speaks to how well he’s come along. But at this point in time, he hasn’t demonstrated anything more than special teams fodder. Don’t forget about... Former Cowboys defensive end Damontre Moore played two games with the Chiefs this season before the team placed him on injury reserve with a broken forearm. He played three games for the Cowboys back in 2017, but was released to make room for kicker Mike Nugent after Dan Bailey suffered a groin injury. Defensive tackles Terrell McClain and Joey Ivie both logged time for the Chiefs this season. McClain played two games before Kansas City released him. He played three seasons with Dallas, including a strong 2016 season that landed him a four-year, $21 M deal with the Washington Redskins. Ivie was drafted by the Cowboys in the seventh round in 2017; however, he was released during final roster cuts. Ivie’s bounced around on a few practice squads before finally seeing eight games of action this year, including the first five with the Chiefs earlier in the season. Are there any guys on this list you wished the Cowboys hung on to?


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