Monthly Archives: April, 2014

2014-2015 ROSTER UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys exercise fifth-year option for LT Tyron Smith | Free Agent wide receiver LaRon Byrd signed

2014-2015 ROSTER UPDATE - Dallas Cowboys exercise fifth-year option for LT Tyron Smith - Free Agent wide receiver LaRon Byrd signed

IRVING, Texas – It’s long been viewed as inevitable, but the Dallas Cowboys made it official today by exercising the fifth-year option on Tyron Smith’s contract.

The move extends Smith’s contract through the 2015 season, and it bumps his salary from the roughly $2 million he’ll make in 2014 to $10.039 million in the final year of the deal. That salary is guaranteed, and Smith gets it fully guaranteed if he is still on the Dallas Cowboys roster at the start of the 2015 league year next March.

The next bit of news for Smith will be how this affects his prospects of reaching a long-term deal with the team, though it does buy both parties some time. The Cowboys had until May 2 to exercise the fifth-year option or Smith would have become a free agent next spring.

With the option, Smith now won’t be slated to enter NFL free agency until spring of 2016, but the Cowboys will likely try to lock him up well before that. The 23-year-old Los Angeles native doesn’t turn 24 until December 12, and he is widely considered among the best young offensive tackles in the league, earning his first Pro Bowl selection last season.

Even with the extended contract, Smith is still likely to be one of the Dallas Cowboys top targets for a new deal, along with wide receiver Dez Bryant. It’s been widely speculated one or both players could receive new contracts prior to the 2014 season.

The Cowboys selected Smith No. 9 overall out of USC in the 2011 NFL Draft. He has appeared in 47 of 48 possible games during his career – all of them starts. He played right tackle as a rookie before shifting to left tackle in 2012.

Smith’s emergence as a dominant left tackle helped improve the Cowboys’ much-maligned running game last fall. The Cowboys rushed for 95 yards or more four times in the final six weeks of the season, including four games of 107 yards or more. They managed that just once during the first 10 games of the year. The team’s ground game averaged four yards per rush on attempts to Smith’s side, and five yards per rush on attempts between Smith and guard Ronald Leary.

The strong finish earned DeMarco Murray his first NFL Pro Bowl selection, in addition to Smith.


2014-2015 ROSTER UPDATE - Dallas Cowboys sign Free Agent wide receiver LaRon Byrd - The Boys Are Back website

IRVING, Texas – Regardless of what happens in next week’s NFL draft, the Dallas Cowboys have added a new body to their receiving corps.

The Cowboys confirmed that they’ve signed wide receiver LaRon Byrd, a free agent who was released by the Cardinals earlier in April. The move gives the Cowboys eight receivers on the roster right now, along with Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Dwayne Harris, Tim Benford, Lance Lewis, and Jamar Newsome.

At 6-4, 220 pounds, Byrd is the largest receiver of the bunch.

Byrd entered the 2012 NFL Draft out of Miami but went undrafted. He signed with Arizona and made the active roster, logging one reception for eight yards and two tackles in four games.  During the Cardinals’ 2013 preseason, Byrd suffered a concussion and was placed on the team’s reserved/injured list. He was placed on Arizona’s injured reserve after clearing waivers.

The Cardinals released Byrd on April 4 after signing two offensive linemen and a defensive tackle.

Byrd was a four-year contributor with the Hurricanes, from 2008-11. He finished his career with 106 receptions for 1,254 yards and seven touchdowns. He set a career high in 2009 with 33 receptions for 460 yards.

POINT AND COUNTERPOINT: Kyle Orton’s status should alter QB draft plans | With or without Orton, drafting QB isn’t crucial

POINT AND COUNTERPOINT - Kyle Orton’s status should alter QB draft plans - With or without Orton, drafting QB isn’t crucial Rowan

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys need to know about Kyle Orton’s future before next Thursday.

That’s not a request or a threat from the team, it should just be more of a courtesy on Orton’s part as the Cowboys prepare for the 2014 NFL Draft and decide whether or not to select a quarterback.

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SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN: True Blue fans also preparing for the Dallas Cowboys 2014 NFL Draft | NFL Draft 2014 | Special Feature

The Dallas Cowboys 2014 NFL Draft is now only 11 days away. We want True Blue Dallas Cowboys fans even more prepared for the upcoming draft than your average fan around the league. This article also introduces Dallas Cowboys players and coaches. These interviews and features shows a personal side to some of these key people in the Dallas Cowboys organization.

Take time to view The Blitz television series and latest Dallas Cowboys Draft shows on your PC or phone. All of the (much smaller) audio files can be downloaded to your computer or phone and listened to at will.

This article is part of the 2014 Dallas Cowboys Draft series on The Boys Are Back website called “SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN”. For all related articles click HERE. Enjoy!

video series - the blitz - the boys are back blog

The Blitz: Top Safeties and Linebackers (1/5) | Take a look at some of the top safeties and linebackers in this year’s draft. (Watch | Listen)

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TAKING A CLOSER LOOK: Dissecting the Dallas Cowboys 2014 2015 regular season schedule | Dallas Cowboys Schedule 2014

2014 2015 Dallas Cowboys schedule 2014 2015 - Print 2014 2015 Dallas Cowboys schedule 2014 2015 Print - The Boys Are Back website

The 2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule doesn’t have the mostly home-road-home-road pattern of the 2013 season, or the home opener and closer.

It’s back-loaded with road games.

But there are small advantages within it.

For one, the Dallas Cowboys don’t face any rested team coming off its bye week. No team will get the extra week to prepare for new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli or play-caller Scott Linehan.

For another, the Dallas Cowboys don’t have to travel to a home opener in a rabid environment like last year, when they went to Kansas City and got ambushed. This season, the Cowboys are the home opener for Tennessee.

The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers will be on equal footing, schedule-wise, when they open the season at AT&T Stadium. But when the Cowboys host the Saints on a Sunday night game in Week 4, it will be the third road game in four weeks for the Saints. The Saints will have opened with two on the road, at Atlanta and Cleveland, before their home opener.

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IN CAREER RELAUNCHING MODE: Dallas Cowboys re-sign DE Anthony Spencer to one-year contract | NFL Free Agency 2014

dallas cowboys outside linebacker anthony spencer (93) sacks washington redskins quarterback robert griffin iii - the boys are back blog

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys answered one of their final lingering questions of this offseason this afternoon.

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2014 NFL SCHEDULE RELEASED: Dallas Cowboys 2014-2015 NFL Schedule – Dallas Cowboys 2014 schedule

EDITORS NOTE: This information is continually updated. Click HERE for the latest scheduling news.

2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys regular season NFL schedule – Printable (right-click)

Print 2014 2015 Dallas Cowboys schedule 2014 2015 - Dallas Cowboys 2014 2015 schedule print - Dallas Cowboys schedule 2014 2015

2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys preseason NFL schedule – Printable (right-click)

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DALLAS COWBOYS SCHEDULE 2014: America’s Team will weather another tough December | Bonus Videos

DALLAS COWBOYS SCHEDULE 2014 - America’s Team will weather another tough December - Dallas Cowboys 2014 schedule

IRVING, Texas – When this football season begins, it will be in sunny California where the temperatures will be just short of amazing.

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ARMED FOR THE OFFSEASON: Dallas Cowboys sign QB Caleb Hanie for depth | Kyle Orton’s absence continues

ARMED FOR THE OFFSEASON - Dallas Cowboys sign QB Caleb Hanie for depth - Kyle Orton’s absence continues - The Boys Are Back 2014

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys added another arm by signing a one-year deal with quarterback Caleb Hanie.

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SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN: NFL Draft prospects may help address needs at offensive guard and center | Dallas Cowboys Draft 2014

SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN - NFL Draft may address Dallas Cowboys needs at offensive guard and center - Ronald Leary - Dallas Cowboys Draft 2014

As the 2014 NFL Draft approaches on May 8-10, we’ll analyze every position, including the Dallas Cowboys needs and which players might be targeted with their 11 picks. Today features options regarding the offensive guards and centers.

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MARK YOUR CALENDARS: 2014 2015 Dallas Cowboys schedule announced tonight | Dallas Cowboys schedule 2014 2015 regular season

2014 2015 Dallas Cowboys schedule 2014 2015 - Print 2014 2015 Dallas Cowboys schedule 2014 2015 Print - The Boys Are Back website

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys 2014 season will kick off with a bang on Sunday, Sept. 7, as they are set to play host to the San Francisco 49ers from AT&T Stadium.

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THE QUARTERBACKUP PLAN: Kyle Orton absent from first day of ‘voluntary’ offseason workout program

THE QUARTERBACKUP PLAN - Kyle Orton absent from first day of ‘voluntary’ offseason workout program - Guy Reynolds - The Boys Are Back website 2014

IRVING, Texas — Before people get carried away with Kyle Orton’s absence from the Dallas Cowboys offseason program, two factors need to be put out there: the workouts are voluntary and he missed just one day.

But the Cowboys should not look at Orton’s absence as a one-day deal. They need to determine whether Orton really wants to play football in 2014, despite what they heard from the player’s agent and the fact Orton would be walking away from $3.25 million.

It could be as simple as him not wanting to play anymore. He is the second-highest paid backup quarterback in the NFL behind Matt Moore ($4 million) of the Miami Dolphins, so money wouldn’t seem to be an issue. He has been content in his role as a backup to Tony Romo, so opportunity wouldn’t seem to be an issue.

Undoubtedly the Cowboys have spoken directly to Orton this offseason with the whispers of him thinking about retirement. What was discussed is not known. Did he tell them he would play or not play?

Orton holds the cards here because he does not have to show up until the mandatory June minicamp. If he does not report for that, then he would face fines up to close to $70,000. If he does report, what kind of condition is he in?

The Cowboys can trade him or release him. What kind of return would they get for a player who may or may not report to a new team? If they release him, then they would forfeit the right to pick up $3 million of the $5 million signing bonus he received in 2011.

They could keep him and hope he arrives at the June minicamp in good shape and is ready to go when the team reports to Oxnard, Calif., for training camp. Hope, however, should not be their strategy.

Yet there is a more immediate question raised from Orton’s absence. Does it push quarterback up the ladder when it comes to the draft?

The Dallas Cowboys signed Brandon Weeden to a two-year deal in the offseason with no signing bonus. They liked him coming into the 2012 draft, but not as much as the Cleveland Browns liked him. He had more interceptions than touchdown passes, but the Cowboys have taken a no-risk look at him.

What can they learn about Weeden before the draft? Not much. Coaches are not allowed on the field with the players until Phase 2 of the offseason program, which comes the week of the draft.

The Dallas Cowboys attended Aaron Murray’s workout at Georgia last week. They talked with Jimmy Garoppolo and David Fales at the NFL scouting combine. They had a number of quarterbacks at their Dallas Day workouts last week in Garrett Gilbert, Casey Pachall and James Franklin, but they did not have a quarterback among their national visitors.

The Cowboys aren’t exactly being held hostage by Orton, but his decision (or indecision) could go a long way in how they plan to attack the draft.

AROUND THE NFL: Former Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa retires

AROUND THE NFL - Former Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa retires - Michael Ainsworth - The Boys Are Back website 2014

Former Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa surprised everyone Monday by retiring from the NFL at only 26 years old.

This morning, Costa released a statement via his agent explaining his decision to retire after just signing a two-year contract last month with the Indianapolis Colts.

“Unfortunately, the day-to-day physical rigor of the NFL season has taken a toll on my body and has been a driving force behind my decision,” Costa said in his statement.

Costa, who started all 16 games in 2011 for the Cowboys, played in only three games each of the previous two years. A dislocated ankle caused him to miss the majority of the 2012 season.

Costa also thanked the Cowboys, Colts, his coaches, teammates, family, friends and the fans for all of their support throughout his career.

“As I look forward to the next chapter of my life, I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have played in the league,” Costa said.

2014 OFFSEASON WORKOUTS BEGIN: Tony Romo celebrates birthday with return to practice field

2014 OFFSEASON WORKOUTS BEGIN: Tony Romo celebrates birthday with a return to the practice field

IRVING, Texas– Today marks the beginning of the voluntary portion of team workouts, both for the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL as a whole – though you wouldn’t know it’s optional, judging by the full parking lots at Valley Ranch.

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MAKING OF AMERICA’S TEAM: The Dallas Cowboys best all-time NFL draft picks round-by-round | Special Feature

america's team - dallas cowboys helmet 2012 - the boys are back blog

IRVING, Texas – This list centers on breaking down the Dallas Cowboys top NFL Draft picks in club history, round by round. These aren’t the best groups of draft picks in franchise history, but quite possibly the best in each round.

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DALLAS DAY WORKOUTS 2014: Fifty local prospects visit Valley Ranch for annual workout with America’s Team

Texas wide receiver Mike Davis

IRVING, Texas – While the Dallas Cowboys can only bring in 30 college prospects as national visits, there are no such rules for area standouts who fit the NFL’s criteria for the local workouts. For the Cowboys, the annual event is simply known as “Dallas Day” and today more than 50 players from either local colleges or high schools came to Valley Ranch for a workout for the club’s coaches and scouts.

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STILL WAITING ON DATES: Dallas Cowboys 2014 Preseason schedule matchups announced by NFL

2014 Dallas Cowboys Preseason Schedule 2014 - The Boys Are Back website

IRVING, Texas – The NFL released this year’s preseason scheduled match ups, with many specific dates still to be determined.

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FIRST-ROUND FLURRY FACTOR: History shows that Jerry Jones may reshape the 2014 NFL Draft | Dallas Cowboys NFL Draft 2014

Jerry Jones reaffirms his faith in Jason Garrett; Focusing on players - Dallas Cowboys owner general manager Jerry Jones will not fire Jason Garrett

IRVING, Texas – Mock drafts might want to skip Dallas at 16, if history’s any indication.

Six of the past seven years, the Dallas Cowboys traded the first-round pick they were slotted for based on their record the previous season.

Most recently, the Cowboys traded from No. 18 to No. 31 in the first round in 2013 and picked up a third-round pick from San Francisco to select center Travis Frederick and wide receiver Terrance Williams, respectively, while the 49ers used their pick at No. 18 on safety Eric Reid.

It marked one of many first-round trades around the NFL in 2013, and it was a decision that appears to have paid off for both teams, though only time will tell.

The choice to trade down occurred one year after trading with the Rams to move up from No. 14 to No. 6 and grab cornerback Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys forfeited their second-round pick in the process – a pick the Bears then traded up for to grab wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. The Rams took defensive tackle Michael Brockers with the No. 14 pick.

2011 NFL Draft - Dallas Cowboys select Tyron-Smith - The Boys Are Back website

The 2011 NFL Draft marked the only time since 2007 the Cowboys stayed put and used the pick they were scheduled to have based on their record. They took Tyron Smith with the No. 9 pick overall and found their future star left tackle and would follow that pick up with Bruce Carter and DeMarco Murray.

Each of the four drafts prior to the Smith pick, the Dallas Cowboys made moves either up, back or out entirely.

Dallas lacked a first-round selection in 2009 after trading its No. 20 overall pick as well as a third-round pick and a sixth-round pick for wide receiver Roy Williams and a seventh-round pick. The Lions used that first-round pick on tight end Brandon Pettigrew. The Cowboys also traded their only second-round pick that year to Buffalo for third and fourth round choices.

That 2009 draft will go down as one of the Cowboys’ least successful in recent memory. None of the Cowboys’ 12 picks that season are still with the team, and most of them are no longer in the league. (Editors note: The 2009 NFL Draft was not particularly good for any NFL team.)

HEADED TO HAWAII - Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith both named to NFL Pro Bowl for first time - Dallas Cowboys roster 2013 2014

The Cowboys ensured they wouldn’t wait around on talent a year later in 2010, trading their first-round pick at No. 27 and a third-round pick to move up for the Patriots’ first-round pick at No. 24 and a fourth-round pick. Dallas selected Dez Bryant at No. 24, while New England selected cornerback Devin McCourty at No. 27. The Cowboys also moved up a round later and traded their second and fourth round choices to the NFC East-rival Eagles to grab Sean Lee.

Both trade-ups in the 2009 scenario worked out for Dallas. The first-round trades in 2007 and 2008 were a bit more confusing to follow.

In 2007, the Dallas Cowboys traded their No. 22 overall pick to the Browns (who selected Brady Quinn), to grab the No. 36 overall pick and a 2008-first rounder. The Cowboys then traded that No. 36 pick to the Eagles, who landed Kevin Kolb with the selection, along with a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick to move back in the first round and select Anthony Spencer. There were a lot of moving parts, but in the end the Cowboys netted a Pro Bowl defensive end.

Their 2007 trade with Cleveland allowed the Cowboys to select Felix Jones in the first round at No. 22 overall in 2008. The Cowboys also moved up that year from No. 28 overall to No. 25 overall in a trade with Seattle that brought cornerback Mike Jenkins to Dallas. The Cowboys also dealt fifth and seventh round picks in the process.

The only year the Cowboys stayed put resulted in success in 2011. The Cowboys experienced varied successes and failures by moving up and down the last seven years, going to show there’s not always a black and white answer for the best decision from draft to draft.

WAR ROOM SNEAK PREVIEWS: Annual NFL Pre-Draft visits are a window into most of the Dallas Cowboys recent draft picks

NFL Draft - Dallas Cowboys war room - Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

IRVING, Texas — In the coming weeks you will hear about NFL teams bringing in college players from around the country for the annual pre-draft visits. Each club is allowed to bring 30 players into their complex up until the week before the actual NFL draft.

These players will have the opportunity to visit with the front office and coaching staff for group or one-on-one meetings, tour the complex and take a physical if necessary. The clubs are not allowed to work these players out unless it is that player’s hometown, or if the school they attended is in the metro area of that team’s complex.

Earlier in the year, teams had the opportunity to visit with most these players for just fifteen minutes while they were in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine. During these official visits, the clubs are allowed to keep the players overnight and then meet with them the entire next day if necessary.

In the case of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett and Will McClay, along with the coaches and scouts will be able to interact with these players in a more comfortable setting. They can sit down and watch game tape with the players, as well as test them on X’s and O’s to see their ability to retain information.      

Coaches always welcome the opportunity to sit down with players and see what makes them tick. There were numerous times in my experiences preparing for a draft where a coach did or did not like what he heard from a player in one of the pre-draft visits.

I remember an example from Randy Moss’ pre-draft visit to Valley Ranch. The wide receivers coach at the time, Dwain Painter, brought up in a final draft meeting with Jerry Jones that he was turned off by Moss and his attitude. That feedback ultimately affected Jones’ decision not to draft him.

In these pre-draft visits you will hear about names like Aaron Donald and Kony Ealy, who are likely first round picks. But there will be other names on these visits that will be considerations much later in the draft. Maybe these players didn’t have a chance to go to the Combine and the club needs a physical on them before the draft. During this period, this is where you will see those physicals take place.

Along with the annual Dallas Day, these pre-draft visits are vital to working toward building the final draft board that the Cowboys will use. Impressions good or bad will shape that board and ultimately shape this team. As we start to bring you news of who is visiting Valley Ranch, pay close attention who they are because trust me, other teams around the league sure are.   


RELATED: Dallas Cowboys’ pre-draft visits headlined by top defenders

Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh, 97 - NFL Draft 2014

To get a clearer understanding who the Dallas Cowboys might take with their 16th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, keep an eye on who their bring in for pre-draft visits, starting today and running through Wednesday.

The Cowboys are allowed to bring in 30 top prospects for national visits and considering the names reportedly already here or on the invite list for the up close and personal meet and greet, targeting the defense is the obvious focal point.

Many of the prospects came in Sunday night.

The expected visitors include Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald (pictured above), Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy, UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, Boise State defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, Arizona State defensive end Davon Coleman, Southeast Louisiana State defensive tackle Jerrod Black, Northwest Missouri cornerback Brandon Dixon, Northern Illinois strong safety Jimmie Ward.

These visits are important considering that DeMarcus Ware in 2005 and Morris Claiborne in 2012 were the only top picks taken by the Dallas Cowboys in the past nine drafts who didn’t make pre-draft visits to the team’s Valley Ranch headquarters.

Travis Frederick in 13, Tyron Smith in 2011, Dez Bryant in 2010, Jason Williams in in 2009, Felix Jones in 2008, Anthony Spencer in 2007 and Bobby Carpenter in 2006 were among the pre-draft visitors the year they were taking first by the Dallas Cowboys.

SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN: Dallas Cowboys first-round NFL Draft Prospect C.J. Mosley | NFL Draft 2014

SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN - Dallas Cowboys first-round NFL Draft Prospect C.J. Mosley - NFL Draft 2014 pick

Linebacker C.J. Mosley | College: Alabama | Height/Weight: 6-2 / 234 | Age: 21

Honors: Butkus Award winner in 2013 as nation’s top linebacker. Took home SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and was a first-team All-American and All-SEC pick in 2012 & 2013. To wrap up his junior season, Mosley earned Defensive MVP honors in the 2013 BCS national championship game vs. Notre Dame, recording eight tackles. He was voted a freshman All-American in 2010.

Key stat: Played in 51 of 53 games in his four-year career in the rugged SEC. His only two games he missed – in 2011 of his sophomore year – occurred from a dislocated elbow injury midway through the year.

Where He’s Projected: His projection is tricky because of his medical history. While he’s only missed two games, he’s got plenty of bumps and bruises, including a shoulder injury that prevented him from participating in every drill at the combine. Mosley is still considered a mid- to late-first round pick. There is a good shot he’d be sitting there for the Cowboys at No. 16.

Alabama Missouri Football

How He Helps the Cowboys: An established, heady linebacker that knows how to get to the football would be useful for all defenses, no matter if it’s a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. Mosley has the instincts to play middle linebacker but would likely be better suited for the outside right now. He’d help the Cowboys if he could come right in and be healthy enough to start. However, there’s no guarantees he’d beat out Bruce Carter, or even the promising young backers such as Kyle Wilber and DeVonte Holloman. But Mosley has plenty of talent and with a linebacker corps that has been hit hard by the injury bug, especially to middle linebacker Sean Lee, acquiring playmaking depth here would be a great asset.

Scout’s Take: Mosley is one of those players you need to keep an eye on for the Dallas Cowboys in this draft. His grade on the board will most likely allow him to be available when it comes time to select.

Physically, he is an impressive player in regards to his ability to take on blocks, disengage and finish the play. H keeps his feet active, and is wrap-up tackler – he gets his man on the ground with force. He’s more than willing to step up and take the fullback on in the hole. Has the awareness and vision to work down the line. Does a nice job of getting to the ball once he sees it — will play around blocks and can avoid men on the ground.

Tends to use his shoulder more than his hands to play off blocks, which is surprising because of the issues he has had with his shoulder. Reads then attacks the ball. Can knife through inside. Physical in the hole. Will step up and make the play. Has a feel for how to make plays at the point of attack. Does not get knocked back. Reads the quarterback’s eyes in his drop. Can tackle big backs in space, no problem.

Importantly for the Cowboys, Mosley has a feel for how to rush the passer. He will retrace his steps when he rushes the passer to get back to the ball. More power than technique here. Good to read in the flat and react. Can get in the throwing lanes and knock the ball down. 

Another key for the Cowboys is that Mosley shows the awareness to play in pass coverage. Nice change of direction in his game. Doesn’t struggle in movement, despite his size. Doesn’t give up on the play, and he will play off the block and chase the ball. Had problems with his balance in the Texas A&M game.

I think he’d most likely play as a Mike or Sam linebacker in this scheme. I believe he could cover well enough to play in the middle of the defense. More explosive than he is quick or fast – the type of guy that can be a load at the point when taking on blocks. Has a nose for the ball and can finish. Is the best middle linebacker in the draft. Of course, you have to know that he has an injury history. No doubt that he is a first round talent. Was the backbone of a nationally-ranked defense and is the type of talent that you plug in and play with.  — Bryan Broaddus

SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN: Dallas Cowboys first-round NFL Draft Prospect Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix | NFL Draft 2014

SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN - Dallas Cowboys first-round NFL Draft Prospect Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix - NFL Draft 2014

Safety Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix | College: Alabama | Height/Weight: 6-1/208 | Age: 21

Honors: As a junior starter in 2013, Clinton-Dix was one of the consensus best defenders in the nation. His 46 tackles and two interceptions earned him first-team All-SEC and All-American honors, despite serving a two-game suspension during the season. He also earned SEC and national championship rings as a member of Alabama’s 2011 and 2012 championship squads.

Key stat: Clinton-Dix’s abilities in coverage have drawn praise, as many scouts consider him a center fielder-type safety. Although he managed just two picks in 2013, he did intercept five balls during his junior campaign.

Where He’s Projected: Depending on who you ask, Clinton-Dix is either the best or second-best safety in this draft – coupled with Louisville’s Calvin Pryor. Both players are considered locks to go in the first round, and the drop off to the next-best safety after them looks considerable. It’s a pretty safe bet Clinton-Dix won’t last too far past the middle of the first round – if he makes it that far.

How He Helps the Cowboys: The play of rookie safeties J.J. Wilcox and Jeff Heath wasn’t exactly inspiring for anyone that watched the Cowboys last fall. It’s true that both players were rookies, and it’s also true that the Cowboys just spent a third round pick on Wilcox. There’s still a common opinion that this team doesn’t have a good cover guy among its safeties. A player as talented as Clinton-Dix would have to be considered a good bet to vie for a starting spot, despite his shortcomings.

Scout’s Take: Like all defenders in Nick Saban’s Alabama scheme, this guy is not afraid to mix it up. He’ll come forward to force the run — a downhill player that will get to the ball.

He has shown at times that he doesn’t take great angles, and that will put him in some awkward positions. But when he does take the correct path, he will wrap the ball carrier up – and I have also seen him use a block down tackle or low tackle in space.

Clinton-Dix is one of those players that will hustle to chase the play — no matter where the ball is, he is going to be running. He will throw his body around, and he showed the ability to take on blocks off the edge and work to the ball.

He has some Barry Church in him, in the sense that he will try and go for the strip to try and cause a turnover. He can separate the ball with a big hit and is not afraid to light the ball carrier up. In the same way, he will play down in the box and get in the middle of the action.

Clinton-Dix does a nice job of reacting to the ball in front of him. When he sees it, he goes after it – he can pedal, plant and come forward.

One of his strengths in coverage is his awareness in getting to the flat. He reads the backs and tight ends in routes. In Alabama’s game tape against Texas A&M, he did his best to come off the hash to defend a ball along the sideline. He tried to get there but arrived a step late. You don’t see him put in many situations where he has to cover, but he plays like he has smarts and awareness. He did show better range in A&M game than any of the other ones.

I respect his game because of how physical he can be at times. And if you’ll remember, a similar Alabama safety that Tampa took named Mark Barron wasn’t put in many coverage situations while in college.

He will no doubt need some experience here. I see him more as a strong safety than as a free in this scheme. — Bryan Broaddus

SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN: Dallas Cowboys first-round NFL Draft Prospect Louis Nix III | NFL Draft 2014

SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN - Dallas Cowboys first-round NFL Draft Prospect Louis Nix III - NFL Draft 2014

Defensive Tackle Louis Nix III | College: Notre Dame | Height/Weight: 6-2/331 | Age: 22

Honors: Nix was named first-team All-Independent for three straight seasons, from 2011-13.

Key stat: Unusual for a defensive tackle, Nix led all defensive linemen in tackles during Notre Dame’s 2012 run to the BCS Championship Game. He recorded 50 tackles in 13 appearances — 11 of them starts. In 2013, he finished third among defensive linemen with just 27 tackles, though he appeared in just eight games.

Where He’s Projected: To get a gauge on where Nix will go, you have to consider the type of scheme being used by the teams looking at him. He is widely considered one of the top three or four defensive tackles in this draft, but most agree he fits best as a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense — his college position. Because of that, his role within a defense seems likely to influence his draft positioning. All of that said, he looks like a likely first or early second round pick.

How He Helps the Cowboys: There’s no doubt the Cowboys could use the help at the defensive tackle position, but it’s not clear how much that pertains to Nix. His likely position in Rod Marinelli’s defense would likely be a one-technique defensive tackle, while the Cowboys would prefer to add another three-technique. Still, if Dallas does wind up selecting the Notre Dame product, Nix has proven plenty capable of being disruptive. He managed 9.5 tackles for loss in his final two seasons at nose tackle for the Fighting Irish.

Scout’s Take: This is a large, thick player — a hard guy to move off the line, who is able to get a push with power. Nix can hold the point of attack and knock the blocker off balance with his shot. He will chase down the line, he doesn’t just stay in one spot. Impressively for a guy his size, he can avoid the low block, but he doesn’t possess many, if any, pass rush moves.

What Nix can do is fight through double-team blocks — he plays like a two-gap nose tackle in the way he reads the play. Overall, he doesn’t play with his hands as consistently as I would have liked, but he played better in later games.

He has surprising lateral quickness, and he’s been used on twist stunts — but I didn’t see the quickness to get around the corner for him to do that all the time. He needs better pass rush moves, but he has shown a good quick-arm move that he used effectively against USC. And he will try to make back door plays.

I feel like his best position would be as a 3-4 nose tackle, but he is active enough to maybe consider trying him as a one-technique defensive tackle in this 4-3 defense. — Bryan Broaddus

SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN: Dallas Cowboys first-round NFL Draft Prospect Kony Ealy | NFL Draft 2014

SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN - Dallas Cowboys first-round NFL Draft Prospect Kony Ealy - NFL Draft 2014

The Dallas Cowboys aim to improve their roster through the draft. With the 16th pick, the team hopes to select a player that will be an immediate contributor and help the Cowboys for years to come. Here is a look at a prospect who may make sense for Dallas:

Kony Ealy | Position: Defensive End | School: Missouri | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 273

What he’s done: Overshadowed by teammate Michael Sam in recent months, Kony Ealy performed well in his final season at Missouri. He was a first-team All-SEC selection after collecting 9 ½  sacks and 14 ½ tackles for loss in 2013. He also led Missouri with 16 quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles. Ealy opted to forgo his senior season after his strong performance as a junior. At the NFL combine, Ealy didn’t wow scouts or coaches. He completed the 40-yard dash in 4.92 seconds and did 22 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press. He did produce the best time among defensive ends in the three-cone drill, showing agility.

Why he makes sense for the Cowboys: With the departure of DeMarcus Ware, the Cowboys are in the market for a defensive end who can be a reliable impact player. George Selvie performed well last season, but it’s not clear yet whether he can sustain that level of productivity. New acquisition Jeremy Mincey, has a similarly spotty track record. With the Cowboys unable to lure Jared Allen to Dallas, they still have a need for a defensive end. Ealy, who proved an able pass rusher in the nation’s toughest conference, may be just what the Dallas Cowboys are looking for as they try to fill the mammoth void left by Ware.


How ‘bout a quick look?

SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN - Dallas Cowboys first-round NFL Draft Prospect Kony Ealy - NFL Draft 2014 - making the case Video

Making A Case For Kony Ealy

Join Talkin’ Cowboys as they weight the positives and negatives between two of the top defensive players in the draft. (Watch | Listen)

HAPPY TRAILS TO FORMER COWBOY: Dallas DL Jarius Wynn signs with Buffalo Bills | NFL Free Agency 2014

HAPPY TRAILS TO FORMER COWBOY - Dallas DL Jarius Wynn signs with Buffalo Bills - NFL Free Agency 2014

IRVING, Texas – Another member of last year’s defensive line in Dallas will be playing with another team in 2014.

The Bills signed former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Jarius Wynn, an unrestricted free agent, to a one-year deal Tuesday.

Wynn signed with the Cowboys on Oct. 17, 2013, and made his debut with the team just three days later, helping to hold LeSean McCoy to just 55 yards on 18 carries. His best game with the Dallas Cowboys may have been his second time playing the Eagles, when he notched two tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss in the season finale.

He was one of the few linemen signed in the middle of the year to stick the rest of the way, playing a total of 10 games with the Cowboys.

Wynn’s versatility was crucial on a defensive line ravaged by injuries. He was able to play inside when needed and bump outside to end to provide a rush. He even started for Jason Hatcher against the Saints when the defensive tackle was out with a stinger.

Wynn finished with 12 tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss and six quarterback pressures during his time in Dallas. He also played in five games with the Chargers in 2013 and recorded a sack.

His production last season would suggest he’d be a possible fit to return to the Cowboys in 2014, but Buffalo scooped him up. If Wynn is active for the Bills next season, it will mark his fifth different team he’s played for since joining the league as a sixth-round pick in 2009.

Wynn joins Jason Hatcher, DeMarcus Ware, and Corvey Irvin as players who were on the Dallas defensive line at the end of the 2013 season that’ll be playing elsewhere in 2014.

SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN: Dallas Cowboys first-round NFL Draft Prospect Aaron Donald | NFL Draft 2014

SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN - Dallas Cowboys first-round NFL Draft Prospect Aaron Donald - NFL Draft 2014

IRVING, Texas – Aaron Donald doesn’t pay much attention to the pre-draft hype, but his mother sure does.

“She’s pretty much looking at Google every day. So every day she says ‘This team says they’re going to draft you this time,’” Donald said. “I’m like, ‘Mom, just don’t look at that. None of that matters until your name gets called.’ But that’s what she does.”

Donald’s mother has that in common with thousands of others, mainly Dallas Cowboys fans, who are bound to be intrigued by the defensive tackle’s visit to Valley Ranch on Monday morning. The All-American from Pitt has been strongly linked to the Cowboys as the possible No. 16 pick since the draft process started, and his selection as one of the team’s 30 pre-draft visitors will do nothing to quell that.

The Cowboys are the third – and at this point final – team Donald has visited with this spring. With his highly-publicized work at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine behind him, Donald said this last bit of draft preparation will ready him for what comes after he is finally picked.

“I’m just staying in the weight room, conditioning, staying in shape – just getting football-ready now,” he said. “It’s been a grind, but I’m just making sure I’m ready for whenever I get picked and drafted so I can be ready for what’s about to come.”

What’s about to come is likely a lofty first-round draft status. Plenty of people think Donald will be unavailable by the time the Cowboys pick at the midpoint of the first round. If that’s the case, he can look back to his eye-catching Combine, as well his decorated college career, as the reasons why.

Donald rose from an unheralded high school recruit with just three scholarship offers to an All-Everything star for Pittsburgh. He capped off his career last fall by winning the Bronko Nagurski Award, the Chuck Bednarik Award, the Outland Trophy and the Rotary Lombardi Award, in addition to first-team All-America and All-ACC selections.

If some weren’t convinced by his on-field performance, he showed up at the Combine and dazzled with a 4.68 40-yard dash, best among defensive tackles, 35 reps on the bench press, second-best among defensive linemen, and remarkable aptitude in the agility drills.

“They want to see that this guy can do what he does on a football field, but they want to see how you move outside the pads and things like that,” Donald said. “It ain’t nothing but football drills. It’s nothing to be worried about or nervous about – you just have to go out there and do it.”

There’s bound to be those that still doubt him, as Donald’s 6-0, 288-pound frame hardly looks like that of a defensive stalwart. If the accolades don’t sway people, though, he said he’ll let his play speak for itself.

“There’s probably people that are still going to doubt you.  It is what it is – I’m still going to go out there and play football the way I do and still have passion for the game the way I do,” he said. “All I can do is keep playing football the way I’ve been playing.”

Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli doesn’t sound like someone who needs convincing. Donald is well-familiar with Marinelli’s history of coaching elite defensive tackles, and it seems like a safe bet he’d love a chance to pair the youngster with the Cowboys’ newly-signed Pro Bowler in Henry Melton.

“I had the opportunity to talk to him a couple times at the Combine, I talked to him last night and I talked to him today,” Donald said. “He’s a great coach, and just talking to him and looking in his eyes – the way he talks, he’s got a passion for the game of football and he loves the game of football.

“He loves doing what he does, so that’s a coach I’d love to play for and learn from. Knowing he coached guys like Warren Sapp, that just gets you excited just knowing he’s got history and is one of the best to do it. If I was able to play for Coach Marinelli that would be a blessing, but we’re going to see.”

He’s going to see soon, as a matter of fact. It feels like an eternity since Donald first turned heads in Mobile, Ala., at the Senior Bowl, but the NFL draft is now a matter of weeks away. As one of this year’s top prospects, he was invited to watch the proceedings from Radio City Music Hall in New York, but he opted to watch from home with his family.

Home brings an interesting dynamic to the story. As a native of Pittsburgh and a childhood Steelers fan, Donald has heard plenty about that rivalry, as the Cowboys and Steelers have faced off in three Super Bowls.

“I wasn’t born yet when the big rivalry with the Steelers and Dallas started, but you always hear about it getting ready for the draft,” he said. “Everybody in Pittsburgh is saying ‘I hope you don’t go to Dallas.’”

Much like his mom’s reports, Donald said he isn’t paying much attention to that talk, though. With time winding down until the big day, he’s focused on the final destination – of which, he said, Dallas is as good as any.

“I’m like ‘I’ll go to any team that wants me,’ and Dallas is a team I’d love to play for,” Donald said. “Getting coached by Coach Marinelli, one of the best to ever do it — he coached Hall of Fame guys, so I know he can get me to that level I want to play at. I want to be great, and I feel like he can help me do that.”


How ‘bout a quick look?

SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN - Dallas Cowboys first-round NFL Draft Prospect Aaron Donald - NFL Draft 2014 - Video

Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald discusses his biggest fan and inspiration in life as well as how he will celebrate when he’s selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. (Video | Audio)


SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN - Dallas Cowboys first-round NFL Draft Prospect Aaron Donald - NFL Draft 2014 - making the case Video

Making A Case For Aaron Donald

With Aaron Donald in the building for a visit, The Break discussed what makes him such a great fit for the Dallas Cowboys. (Watch | Listen)

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