FRISCO, Texas -- Undrafted rookie tight end M.J. McFarland caught a simple pass down the field Wednesday and was met with a loud reminder.

It didn’t come from Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett or offensive coordinator Scott Linehan or tight ends coach Steve Loney.

It came from Dak Prescott.

“Tuck it. Tuck it,” Prescott told McFarland, telling him to secure the ball as he ran down the field to get ready for his next snap.

As Prescott enters his second season as the Cowboys' starting quarterback, more is being put on him. Linehan is adding to the Cowboys’ system as Prescott becomes more proficient in all areas with a year of experience. Prescott is also being asked to take ownership of the team.

Dak Prescott, Jason GarrettTim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Dak Prescott, right, and coach Jason Garrett share a smile and a fist bump during drills Wednesday.

A year ago at this time, Prescott was getting used to taking snaps from center and splitting time as the third-team quarterback with Jameill Showers. In his first organized activity as a rookie, he took two snaps in team drills. On Wednesday, he took five of the 12 snaps in team drills. Kellen Moore took three. Austin Appleby took two, and Cooper Rush had one.

“I guess just being more outspoken,” Prescott said. “But just the way I handle my business, the way I go about every day, I don’t think much has changed. Just the fact that now when I say things, people are listening, and I have the floor to say things now. Last year, I was just being quiet and trying to fit my way in somehow or another.”

He set 19 team rookie quarterback records in 2016. He tied an NFL rookie record with 13 wins. Yet Prescott says he can be “100 percent better” in everything he does.

“Mentally, I think as a quarterback and pretty much at every position, the No. 1 way to get better is the number of reps," the 23-year-old said, "and just me having a good bit of those this offseason, I think it’s going to allow me to get better with my footwork, get better at the reads, get better going through things faster and being more accurate every day.”

After Prescott earned the NFL Rookie of the Year award for his 23-touchdown season in which Dallas earned the best record (13-3) in the NFC, the trappings of being the Cowboys’ quarterback could've been overwhelming, but Prescott has not been caught up in the success.

While enjoying what can come for someone in his position -- such as the sponsorship deals he has secured with Frito-Lay, Pepsi, Adidas and Beats By Dre in the past 12 months -- Prescott spent the early part of the offseason working out in Orlando, Florida, with strength guru Tom Shaw, who helped prepare him for last year’s draft.

When the Cowboys reconvened in early March for captains workouts, Prescott was there, and he hasn’t missed a day.

At offseason testing earlier this week -- vertical jump, a three-cone drill, bench press, a 20-yard sprint and flexibility -- Prescott’s numbers improved from his rookie year in every category.

“He’s not resting on anything that went on last year,” quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said.

The Cowboys had that first inkling last year, when he told them that he would need a week to master the ability to take a snap from center, something he rarely did at Mississippi State. Although he was a fourth-round pick, he quickly became the leader of Dallas' rookie group. When Tony Romo and Moore went down with injuries last summer, Prescott showed that he was ready for everything.

As his second season begins, Prescott is making sure that he is ready for the encore.

“He is trying to get himself ready for every opportunity he has, as quarterback, in the meeting room, walk-through, practice, games, in the weight room,” Garrett said. “He is just one of those guys, and he is a great example for a coach to use with the other players on the team. They naturally follow him. They naturally see how he goes about everything, how ready he is for the chances that he does get.”

If teammates see him working, the thinking goes, then they will work with him. If they see him taking accountability for his mistakes, then they will accept his criticisms when they err. It’s why Prescott took the time to remind McFarland, whose chances of making the final roster might be remote at the moment, to tuck the ball away.

“I don’t look at what’s behind me,” Prescott said. “I look at where I want to go and what I can do. The only way I know is through hard work, so it’s just something that I continue to try to do.”

FRISCO, Texas -- A hamstring strain kept Dallas Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley from taking part in Wednesday’s session of organized team activities. Early on in the workout, Lucky Whitehead suffered a similar injury and headed to the locker room.

As a result, Ryan Switzer received a lot of work in the slot, and the fourth-round pick did not disappoint.

Ryan SwitzerMatthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports"He's got confidence and he's got good football sense and savvy, and you see that in him right away," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said of rookie Ryan Switzer.

He made one acrobatic catch near the sideline of a Dak Prescott pass while falling down. Backup quarterback Kellen Moore found him three times with underneath routes.

“I think he’s going to be a good player,” Prescott said after practice. “He’s a guy that can definitely learn a lot from Beasley. They’re definitely similar in their play style. He’s got some stuff to him. Excited just for him to keep learning, getting better watching Bease, watching these other guys.”

Beasley led the Cowboys in receptions last year with a career-high 75, becoming a favorite target of Prescott early and often.

“I call those guys like quarterback-friendly, just in the fact that they’re hard to cover,” Prescott said. “Sometimes in zones, people forget about them. In man, they got the shiftiness or whatever it is that they need to get way. They’re usually open. That’s why I said he can learn a lot from Beasley and become one of those guys.”

The Cowboys selected Switzer because they did not believe they had adequate depth at the position should something happen to Beasley in the regular season. They also needed help in the return game, and he had seven career punt returns for touchdowns at North Carolina.

“He was in there with the ones and he made some plays,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Obviously he’s a young player, still learning everything. This is the first time for him. Every time he does something, it’s the first time, so that’s an interesting situation to be in. But he’s got good poise about him. He’s got confidence and he’s got good football sense and savvy, and you see that in him right away.”

FRISCO, Texas – The biggest part of the Dallas Cowboys first organized team activity open to the media was who was not on the field.

Start with Ezekiel Elliott, who was in a car accident on Sunday. Coach Jason Garrett said the NFL’s reigning rushing champion was complaining of general “body soreness, neck soreness” when he reported to work Monday, so the Cowboys opted to hold him out of the workouts this week.

Garrett said the expectation is Elliott will take part in OTAs next week when they resume on Tuesday.

Tony Gutierrez/Associated PressEzekiel Elliott was held out of Wednesday's workout with general soreness but just as a precaution.

Tight end Jason Witten and linebacker Sean Lee also were held out of the workout as the veterans work through an every-other-day schedule.

While Garrett said the schedule is a “good rhythm for them,” he knows both players want to do more.

“It's always been a fight to get them out of an individual play, let alone a practice, but you sit down with them and you talk to them,” Garrett said. “We're doing this to help them and to help our football team. I think they understand that and they can have a really productive day even when they don't practice. So, they are involved in the meetings, involved in the walkthrough. They did all of that. And then when they warmed up with us, they went in and worked with the rehab guys just to work on some things where they can hopefully benefit from. And then they came back out and watched the team stuff. So, very positive day for those guys. We'll continue with that rhythm."

Garrett said a training camp plan for both players has not yet been discussed, but he expects there to be a similar schedule once the Cowboys get to Oxnard, Calif.

Linebacker Jaylon Smith is on a similar schedule as the veterans but for different reasons. He is coming back from a serious knee injury that forced him to miss all of last season. The Cowboys do not want to overdo his return with too much work too soon, but optimism remains high.

Defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford went through the early portion of practice but did not take part in 11-on-11 drills. He said his surgically repaired shoulder is getting better but has hopes of potentially doing more in the OTAs and the June minicamp.

Defensive end Benson Mayowa and defensive tackle Stephen Paea have knee issues that have kept them off the field. Both players went through resistance training in the early portion of practice.

Wide receiver Cole Beasley has a hamstring strain that kept him off the field, and he was joined by Lucky Whitehead, who left practice early with a similar injury.

Garrett wasn’t sure when Beasley would return.

“We’re going to be deliberate bringing him back. Hamstrings can be tricky,” Garrett said. “He’s had a really good offseason up to this point, but this has just been bothering him.”

Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and offensive tackle Chaz Green, who had back surgeries, also did not practice. Neither did tight end James Hanna (knee) nor TE Geoff Swaim (foot), although they are not expected to practice until training camp.

Guard/center Joe Looney did not practice because of a sore back, but Garrett said Looney could return Thursday.

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FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott missed his second straight day of organized team activities after being in a car accident Sunday.

The Cowboys said Elliott suffered a hit to the head in the "minor accident" and is being evaluated. Elliott is doing conditioning work off to the side, the team said.

Garrett said the team learned of Elliott's accident on Monday morning. He said the running back was coming back from a charity event Sunday night when the car in which he was riding was involved in the accident.

"When he came in on Monday he had some body stiffness and some neck stiffness, so we got him checked out," Garrett said. "We felt like it was the right thing to do to keep him out. He's done the dynamic warm-up over the last couple of days, but we kept him out of the practice portion of it."

Elliott, who led the NFL with 1,631 yards in 2016, will not practice Thursday, but Garrett said he expects his star running back to practice when the OTAs resume next Tuesday.

Running backs coach Gary Brown and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said Elliott appears fine. During the early portion of practice, Elliott ran along the sidelines and returned to watch the final portion of 11-on-11 drills.

"He's fine," running backs coach Gary Brown said. "He's good. Everything's good."

The week before the Cowboys' playoff game against the Green Bay Packers in January, Elliott was involved in a minor accident on his way to the facility.

With Elliott not practicing, Darren McFadden took the first-team snaps.

Elliott's representatives declined comment.


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FRISCO, Texas -- For the fourth straight season, the Dallas Cowboys could have a defensive player miss games because of a suspension.

David Irving is appealing a four-game ban for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy, according to a source, but rarely are those suspensions overturned or even thrown out altogether. Players are told -- and retold -- that they are responsible for what they put into their bodies. If they don't use an approved substance, then they run the risks of what Irving is facing.

If (or when) the suspension is upheld, Irving will join Orlando Scandrick (two games, 2014), Greg Hardy (four games, 2015), Randy Gregory (14 games, 2016 and all of 2017), DeMarcus Lawrence (four games, 2016) and Rolando McClain (suspended indefinitely, 2016) as suspended Cowboys.

Since 2014, the Cowboys have had 10 different players receive suspensions from the NFL. Some never played for the team (Shaq Evans, R.J. McDill). Others had small roles (Josh Brent, Jakar Hamilton). But Irving, Gregory, McClain, Scandrick, Lawrence and Hardy were starters or major role players when they were hit with the penalty.

Joe Flacco, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore RavensAP Photo/Michael AinsworthDavid Irving has star potential but hasn't put it together for an entire season yet.

That's a difficult way to build a defense.

From Irving's perspective, the timing is awful. He was the Cowboys' most productive defensive lineman at the end of last season. While he was set to become a restricted free agent after this season, the Cowboys pondered the possibility of doing a multiyear extension, similar to what they have done with Cole Beasley and Jeff Heath the last few years.

While it remains possible to work out a deal, Irving's price would be affected if the suspension holds because the next penalty is even more severe.

From the Cowboys' perspective, it should not change how they handle their defensive line group.

If the suspension holds, Irving will be able to continue to work out through the organized team activities, minicamp, training camp and preseason games. Once the team makes the final cuts for the 53-man roster, he would then be moved to the suspended list.

The Cowboys have felt comfortable with their defensive line depth. They added Stephen Paea and Damontre Moore in free agency. They drafted Taco Charlton in the first round and tackles Joey Ivie and Jordan Carrell on the third day of the draft.

In between they have Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Maliek Collins, Benson Mayowa, Cedric Thornton and Charles Tapper.

Irving's absence could help Moore's chances of making the roster. One of the undrafted free agents, such as Lewis Neal, could make it into the fold as well.

But the Cowboys don't need to make a 16-game decision on a player because Irving could miss four games. They didn't make significant additions when they lost Lawrence for four games. (Gregory falls into a different category because of the multiple violations that have him deep into the substance-abuse program with the possibility of not playing again.)

Losing Irving would be a tough blow to the rotation defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli likes to employ, but it does not take the Cowboys out of contender status. Irving had four sacks last season. He led the Cowboys in quarterback hurries with 26. He is an ascending player in many ways, but he is not a finished product to the point where the Cowboys know what to expect from him week to week.

Remember, after his dominating performance against the Green Bay Packers in the sixth game of the season -- one sack, three forced fumbles, one pass deflection, one tackle for loss that earned him defensive player of the week honors -- he went seven games without a sack.

In many ways Irving remained a projection as he entered 2017.

The Cowboys defense is better with Irving in the rotation, but his potential absence can be overcome.

They have made do without Scandrick, Lawrence, Gregory and McClain and managed to make the playoffs in 2014 and 2016.

They can make do in 2017 without Irving if required.

videoFRISCO, Texas -- The NFL has decided to relax some of the rules on celebrations to allow players the chance to have some fun after big plays.

The No Fun League has decided to put some fun back into the game, provided it's tasteful, doesn't last too long and isn't directed at an opponent.

So does that mean Ezekiel Elliott can jump into the Salvation Army Red Kettle in 2017 without any retribution?

Maybe. A spokesman said the league would address these questions in the months to come.

To refresh the memory: after a 2-yard touchdown run, his 13th score of the season, in the second quarter of the Cowboys' win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Elliott raced through the end zone, hopped into the kettle and hid.

Though it might not have been spontaneous -- he said he thought about it in pregame warm-ups -- it was all in fun.

"I mean it's just sitting there right in the end zone, you know. It's the perfect celebration," Elliot said after the game. "They're one of our biggest partners, so I had to show them a little bit of love."

Elliott drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for the celebration and a brief admonition from coach Jason Garrett, but ultimately the NFL opted not to fine him.

"Well, he shouldn't have done it. I thought it was creative, but he shouldn't have done it," Garrett said after the game. "You know that's how the league is going to rule on those things. You have to understand what's legal and what's not legal. You can jump into the stands in Green Bay, but you can't jump into a Salvation Army bucket in Dallas. You've got to be careful about snow angels. All of these different things that we do. So we have to be more mindful of that. I've got to coach that better."

Snow angels are now legal. Elliott's jump might be deemed OK before the season starts.

The best part of the celebration is what it did for the Salvation Army. In a little more than 12 hours after Elliott's celebration, the charity raised more than $182,000 in online donations.

FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys defensive end David Irving is facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy against performance-enhancing drugs, a source has confirmed.

An appeal on Irving's behalf was filed last week. A source said the issue stems from an over-the-counter substance Irving used in an attempt to endorse the product.

Irving started two of 16 games last season, but he was the Cowboys' most productive defensive lineman down the stretch. He finished the season with four sacks, five tackles for loss and a team-high 26 quarterback pressures. He also had five pass deflections and forced four fumbles, including three against the Green Bay Packers that helped him earn NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

In the final four games, Irving had six of his 11 tackles, according to the coaches' breakdown, with three sacks, 10 quarterback pressures, two pass deflections, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble.

He signed his exclusive free-agent tender earlier in the offseason and is set to become a restricted free agent after the 2017 season.

The Cowboys hope Irving can continue to develop and show consistency as he enters his second full season with the team. He joined the Cowboys early in the 2015 season off the Kansas City Chiefs' practice squad.

The pending suspension was first reported by 105.3 The Fan in Dallas.

If the suspension is upheld, he would be the Cowboys' second defensive lineman penalized by the league this year. Randy Gregory


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Las Vegasistockphoto.com

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has released odds for all 32 teams to win their respective divisions for the coming season.

Here they are below.

Super Bowl odds | Weeks 1-16 spreads | Over/unders


NFC East

Cowboys 5-4

Giants 11-4

Eagles 7-2

Redskins 9-2

NFC North

Packers 4-11

Vikings 7-2

Lions 6-1

Bears 50-1

NFC South

Falcons 8-5

Panthers 2-1

Bucs 4-1

Saints 4-1

NFC West

Seahawks 1-4

Cardinals 3-1

Rams 25-1

49ers 40-1


AFC East

Patriots 1-14

Dolphins 11-4

Bills 7-2

Jets 9-2

AFC North

Steelers 2-3

Ravens 1-4

Bengals 13-4

Browns 80-1

AFC South

Colts 9-4

Texans 9-4

Titans 2-1

Jaguars 5-1

AFC West

Raiders 9-5

Chiefs 2-1

Broncos 7-2

Chargers 4-1


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Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesEzekiel Elliott still has the cloud of a possible suspension hovering over him.



FRISCO, Texas -- In February, Darrelle Revis was arrested on a charge of felony assault. In March, the charge was dismissed. On Monday, the NFL said the free-agent cornerback and one of the best cornerbacks of his generation would not face any league-imposed discipline for the incident.

All it took was three months.

Last July, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was questioned by Columbus, Ohio, police after a former girlfriend alleged an incident in which Elliott forcibly pulled her out of a car. The district attorney chose not to pursue charges against Elliott because of conflicting stories. Witnesses at the scene said they did not see an assault occur.

Ten months later, the NFL said the incident remains under review.

How can Revis' case be wrapped up in three months and Elliott's still be under review?

"Every matter is different," a league spokesman said by e-mail.

In 2014, Ray Rice was suspended for just two games after he punched his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City hotel elevator but was suspended indefinitely after video of the incident was made public. Last season, New York Giants kicker Josh Brown was suspended one game for a domestic-violence incident with his wife.

Last October, documents in which Brown admitted he physically, verbally and emotionally abused his wife emerged. The Giants cut Brown, whom they signed to a two-year deal after the 2015 season.

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has been upset with the pace of the Elliott investigation. He believes the due process of law should supersede what the league can impose and that essentially Elliott is being treated unfairly.

Since the July incident, Jones has supported Elliott.

"There is just nothing," Jones said from the combine in February. "I know I would have heard about it. I would have the information if there were something. I know that."

When the Cowboys' season ended in January, Elliott said he wanted "closure."

"I would rather it not drag on this long," Elliott said. "If there was something to find, which there's not, they would've found it by now. The police did a very thorough investigation. It just seems like they're dragging their feet right now. Who knows, man? I'm just ready for it to end."

According to the league’s personal conduct policy, a player can be punished by the NFL even if he does not face legal punishment. A first-time violation of the policy carries a six-game suspension, but it also allows for a lesser penalty if mitigating factors are involved.

The Cowboys' third-round pick, Jourdan Lewis, has a court date in July for a misdemeanor domestic-violence charge in March. Jones said the Cowboys did their due diligence on the incident and are confident in Lewis' character.

Lewis believes the charges will be dropped.

"I think I will be exonerated from everything," Lewis said. "I'm completely innocent. I believe that wholeheartedly. And I'm just going to have to see what happens in my next trial date."

Because this happened before he was selected by an NFL team, Lewis would not face an NFL penalty. Since Elliott's incident happened after he was selected by the Cowboys, he could face possible discipline.

Because the incident remains under review, the Cowboys almost have to prepare for the possibility of some kind of penalty to Elliott, who led the NFL in rushing with 1,631 yards last season.

Losing Elliott for even one game would hurt the Cowboys' playoff chances.

The NFL doesn't care about playoff chances. It doesn't want to look bad should something arise in the future.

So it remains under review evidently -- with no end in sight.

FRISCO, Texas – For the first time since their playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers in January, the Dallas Cowboys will get back to actual football as Phase 3 of the offseason program begins on Monday.

Well, it’s sort of like football as the organized team activities take place, starting Tuesday.

The players are in helmets, but not pads. They will work offense against defense, but there is no tackling. They will work on one-on-one drills and seven-on-seven drills. It will be competitive but not to the degree of, say, training camp.

Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsLB Jaylon Smith (54) is slated to participate every other day during OTAs.

While it’s like football, there will be plenty to see and learn.

All eyes on

At the top of the list is Jaylon Smith. His recovery from a major knee injury that included nerve damage has been well chronicled since the Cowboys took him in the second round last year. Through the first two phases of the offseason program, Smith did everything with the team. As the pace picks up Jerry Jones said Smith is expected to go through an every-other-day schedule in OTAs so as to not overdo the work for a player who has not practiced since January 2016.

The nerve is regenerating and Smith has feeling and some function. Will it be a 100-percent recovery? Nobody knows. Will Smith be on the field? The Cowboys and the linebacker fully believe that. Will he be the player many projected him to be? There is no way of knowing, but the OTAs will offer a glimpse.

New leadership

The Cowboys, from the coaches to the players such as Jason Witten and Sean Lee, have made it clear they want to empower Dak Prescott as he enters his second year. A year ago Prescott was just learning the finer points of taking a snap. Now he is one of the leaders on the team.

Prescott possesses a maturity that is not seen out of a lot of second-year players. He quickly won over the locker room last year with his work ethic. The 11 straight wins didn’t hurt either. And he has continued to work the same way in his second year, not missing a voluntary workout.

Prescott was not afraid to challenge some veterans last year if things weren’t to his liking. In the OTAs, he will get to demonstrate more on-field leadership by not only knowing what he is doing but what everybody else is doing.

Health check

There is more than just Smith to look at from a health standpoint.

Defensive linemen Tyrone Crawford (shoulder), DeMarcus Lawrence (back) and Cedric Thornton (shoulder) had offseason back surgeries. It’s not clear whether they will take part in any of the OTAs. Tight ends James Hanna (knee) and Geoff Swaim (foot) will not take part in much of anything in the offseason with an eye on being fully ready for training camp.

Safety Kavon Frazier is practicing after undergoing foot surgery earlier in the offseason. That should help him in a bid to earn more playing time in his second season. Tackle Chaz Green (back) has been working out in the offseason program and should be able to take some work in practices. That should help him in a bid to show he can be Doug Free’s replacement.

Who goes where?

Depth charts at this time probably won’t match what we see come September, but they aren’t meaningless.

The offense is mostly set but the line has some spots that could be shuffled. La'el Collins has been working with the first-team line at right tackle with Jonathan Cooper and Joe Looney working at left guard.

Defensively, injuries could play a part in the lineup viewed this week, but will the Cowboys go with Nolan Carroll, their biggest free-agent signing, and Orlando Scandrick as the starting corners? What about second-year corner Anthony Brown? Where will draft picks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis line up? Up front, does first-round pick Taco Charlton work with the first team from the start at right defensive end? Is David Irving at left end?

If we see Smith at Wednesday’s practice, which will be the first open to the media, will he be working with the first group at middle linebacker over Anthony Hitchens?

FRISCO, Texas -- The Boston Celtics seemed to suspend reality with their comeback win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday when they beat the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Nothing looked to be more of a sure thing than the Cavaliers after their blowout wins in Games 1 and 2 and Isaiah Thomas’ absence because of a hip injury.

Nevertheless, the Celtics won.

While there can be parallels drawn to the Dallas Cowboys’ 2016 season with them winning 13 games without Tony Romo as their starter and saw several key players miss games throughout the season, to the Celtics' win, the point of this post is to continue to suspend reality.

In asking for Twitter mailbag questions last week, one stood out for its creativity.



So let’s bite on this one and get away from the organized team activities that start this week, how Dak Prescott will fare in his second season and whether Jaylon Smith’s nerve is regenerating enough to where he won’t need a brace on his left foot.

Word has it that Rico Gathers, Ezekiel Elliott, Byron Jones and La’el Collins helped Chitwood win a championship at the prestigious Prestonwood Church’s men’s basketball league. Jason Witten and Romo also saw some action with the team during the season.

Since Romo is no longer on the team, he is not eligible.

Gathers was a sixth-round pick on the football field, but he was a first-team All-Big 12 pick at Baylor as a junior when he averaged 11 points and a 11 rebounds. He could have had a career in professional basketball – if not the NBA – had he not elected to give the NFL a try. He is big (6-foot-8, 281 pounds). He is athletic. He can guard multiple positions. Would you try to take a charge on this guy?

Lil pick and Roll action with @ezekielelliott =-=-=-. #CuTTwork #whowantit #cowboys #fromrebounds2touchdowns

A post shared by Rico Gathers Sr. (@ricogatherssr) on



With Gathers playing center, Witten will be the power forward. He has played in the Prestonwood league for years and is a solid defender and rebounder. He will also surprise with his mid-range game.

Cole Beasley will man the point. Jason Garrett has said Beasley might be one of the most naturally gifted athletes on the Cowboys’ roster. He even made reference to Beasley copying some of Steph Curry’s ballhandling warm-ups. And if you want to sleep on Beasley, he can always throw down one of these dunks.

Dez Bryant will get a look at the small forward position. He can drive to the basket, defend and guard multiple spots. He can be a streaky jump shooter, but he plays enough to get hot when it matters most.

The starting five will be rounded out by Jones. He will be the defensive specialist. He can guard four spots. He can grab rebounds. He can do the dirty work.

Coming up with the sixth man is a little tricky. I considered Prescott for the shooting guard spot over Jones. Word has it he has a good shot. Judging by his work last season in hamper-bin basketball inside the locker room, Prescott could be an instant-offense type off the bench.

Taco Charlton would be a good option off the bench as well. He was an accomplished basketball player before the lights came on in football. His father said Charlton opted for football over basketball because the first scholarship offer he received came from football. The Cowboys lauded Charlton’s 34-inch arms as a pass-rusher. That wing span on the basketball court would be an advantage as well.

Elliott was a strong player in high school. He can be a power guard with a decent shot but he can also get to the basket. Another option could be undrafted rookie Dan Skipper, the 6-10 offensive lineman. Did you notice he’s 6-10?

But give me Prescott as the sixth man. He can play the point. He can shoot. That’s a good combination.

Would this grouping beat the Cavaliers? Probably not. But they might be the best team in the NFC East.

Making consecutive trips to the postseason is one of the more difficult things to accomplish in the NFL. Not every team can be as successful as Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, who have been to the playoffs in each of the past eight seasons and 13 of the past 14.

It's a grueling 16-game season, and only six teams from each conference earn a playoff bid.

In 2016, the Dallas Cowboys were the cream of the crop in the NFC. They finished with a 13-3 record behind their rookie duo of quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. They were the top seed in the conference, but went down to Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers in the divisional round.

The Detroit Lions crept into the playoffs in the last week of the season, while the Seattle Seahawks made a familiar appearance, along with the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons -- who represented the conference in the Super Bowl.

But which of those six teams is least likely to make a return to the playoffs in 2017? You be the judge:


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Dan Graziano explains the difference in his confidence between second-year quarterback Dak Prescott and Sam Bradford, who has a history with injuries.

FRISCO, Texas -- When it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, there is always plenty to talk about regarding the starting quarterback as well as the backup quarterback.

It’s been a way of life with this franchise since the days of Don Meredith.

In this week’s Twitter mailbag, let’s look into the quarterback situation.

On Thursday, ESPN’s Dan Graziano updated his Quarterback Confidence Index and the Cowboys checked in at No. 19. Now, before you fly off the handle, that doesn’t mean Graziano believes Dak Prescott is the 19th-best quarterback in the NFL. It just means he believes the entire quarterback situation -- starter, backups -- comes in at that point.

Graziano has the Cowboys in the “Let’s See Some More” category, which is fair, considering Prescott is entering only his second season. Prescott was great in 2016, winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. He won over the coaches. He won over the locker room. He played well above any expectations anybody could have had for him.

AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezOne would hope the Cowboys aren't using Colin Kaepernick's anthem protest as a reason not to sign him as backup quarterback.

But there should be some “let’s see some more” from everybody, including the Cowboys. That doesn’t mean you doubt Prescott can do it again. I believe he will have a better season this year, but he will throw more than four interceptions. Graziano points out Robert Griffin III and Nick Foles, who had great seasons in the NFC East in their first years starting but quickly crashed in their second seasons.

Again, I believe Prescott will be fine. I also believe Kellen Moore will be a suitable backup. I believed that last year when he entered camp as Tony Romo’s No. 2. He’s smart. He knows the system. Most importantly -- and this is something I believe all players need to understand -- he knows what he isn’t. He won’t try to do things he’s not capable of doing.

But back to the Twitter question about adding a veteran quarterback.

It was interesting to hear executive vice president Stephen Jones twice mention the possibility of signing a veteran when we spoke to him last week at the Cowboys’ sponsors golf tournament. He didn’t say they would add a veteran, but he said it is possible.

The Cowboys have undrafted free agents Cooper Rush and Austin Appleby under contract behind Prescott and Moore. Based on the limited work we saw in the rookie minicamp, both are a long way away from being ready to play in a game.

There has been plenty of discussion across the league about Colin Kaepernick not having a job yet. I asked around on Kaepernick, and the answer was, “Not a fit.” Why not? There would not be a significant investment required to sign him. His game would seem to be more in line with what Prescott does than what Moore does. Of course, Moore has the blessings of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, so that helps. Kaepernick went 1-10 last year with the San Francisco 49ers, but he had 16 touchdown passes and four interceptions. Kaepernick is still young enough and has big-game experience.

I’d like to believe the Cowboys would not be shy in signing him because of his taking a knee during the national anthem. They have taken chances on a number of players over the years -- Tank Johnson, Adam Jones, Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory -- when there was a real or perceived distraction that would come with those additions. When Kaepernick signs with a team, it will be a story for a few days and then he will proceed as a backup quarterback, a position for which headlines are few and far between.

If not Kaepernick, who? RG III? Aaron Murray? Zach Mettenberger? Austin Davis? Thaddeus Lewis?

None of those names would be as credible as Kaepernick.

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