SportsDay columnist Tim Cowlishaw writes columns and responses to live chats with readers. Here are some of his best pieces from the last month:
Question: It’s entirely too early, but all this Jerry talk of expanding Zeke’s role in the offense (after he led the league in carries as a rookie) and the general “devaluing of the RB position” talk, plus seeing guys like Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles wait seemingly forever to find new homes, makes me wonder if Zeke will even be a Cowboy beyond his rookie deal. Is that concern justified?
Cowlishaw: Yes. I don’t know that the Cowboys think in terms of having Zeke seven or eight years. I don’t know that Arizona thinks of David Johnson that way, either. Get all you can while you can — that is the NFL mentality toward backs today. And, realistically, the Cowboys would be a better team in 2017 if they throw the ball to Zeke more. I think it was nuts to see him going out on third downs last year in favor of Lance Dunbar. That’s a more serious threat? Did the Cowboys not see the 83-yard screen pass against Pittsburgh? So, yes, they will use him heavily and whether or not he gets a big deal after this first contract may be up to other teams. Perhaps the Cowboys will view the DeMarco Murray situation as a mistake and want to keep him but that’s too far down the road to know.
Question: How would you grade the Cowboys’ draft?
Cowlishaw: I suppose a B. Didn’t do anything to shock people, didn’t appear to steal anyone at any point (although we really learn that much later), played it safe in first round with Taco Charlton, who seems more likely to be a good player than a great one. I like the cornerback picks, mainly second round. Not sure what they deal was with Ryan Switzer in fourth round. Is he that much better than Cole Beasley? We’ll see. Thought they might hit wide receiver earlier or tight end at all. But a good draft.
Question: Interesting column on the NFL draft’s effect on the college bowl system. Saw some Internet chatter on Penn State RB Saquon Barkley this week, a sure-fire first-rounder next year, and that he should just take the season off. How long before that actually happens?
Cowlishaw: I suspect a running back will do it. I don’t know why they wouldn’t. Nobody wants a running back that’s 29 years old any more. So basically they have a rookie contract to play for and not much beyond that. How much do you think the Cowboys will want to re-sign Zeke when his contract is up? It’s a fair question. Might be very little. They certainly had little interest in keeping Murray and he was coming off a Cowboys record season. So if you’re a running back who has proven yourself as a freshman and sophomore, what does your junior year do for you? If Fournette had sat out all of 2016, would he have gone top five? I think so. So it’s going to happen. It’s too hard to challenge the NFL rule about three years, but sitting — I think someone will do that.
Question: Which of the Cowboys’ NFC East rivals had the best draft? Who should strike the most fear into the hearts of Cowboys fans?
Cowlishaw: I thought Washington had a good draft. Jonathan Allen from Alabama, most people saw him as a top-10 talent, and they got him at 17. How good might Samaji Perine be even though he fell to the 4th round? Eagles got a big-time pass rusher too in Derek Barnett and they always seem to get after the passer OK. Not sure Giants really did much to address their problem at tackle. Seventh-round pick? That’s expecting a lot from a third-day pick.
As for the bigger picture, the gap between the Cowboys and those who chased them in vain last season has shrunk. This isn’t entirely the fault of the Cowboys and their cautious off-season ways. It’s supposed to happen in the salary-cap world of the NFL.
Heck, it starts just with the schedule. While the Cowboys are playing Green Bay and Atlanta, fresh off an NFC Championship Game, the Giants get Detroit and Tampa Bay. Now as unpredictable as this league is, there are no guarantees New York’s road is safer. But that would be the smart way to bet.
And the Giants already believed they know how to beat Dallas.
The Cowboys went all in on defensive replacements in the early rounds, grabbing two cornerbacks, which was imperative not only because of the four defensive backs lost in free agency but the gains made at wide receiver within the division.
The Giants signed veteran Brandon Marshall before drafting Ole Miss’ Evan Engram — probably more of a tall slot receiver than a true eight end — in the first round. With Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard on hand, Eli Manning has multiple weapons.
Question: Can the Cowboys ever go one draft without selecting someone with an off field issue? (2017 edition: Jourdan Lewis)
Cowlishaw: It’s sort of a Cowboys tradition, but also I think it’s just instructive of how many players come into the draft with an “issue.” Just reading through other teams’ picks and some thoughts on those players, there are plenty of them out there. Way too many obviously. If Lewis gets off on this charge, the team can move on, there’s minimal long-term risk but you have to wonder about character at times.
Question: Jaylon Smith says we should believe everything Jerry says when it comes to his recovery. To that, you say … ?
Cowlishaw: That’s because Smith would love for Jones to be right with all of his optimism on Smith’s recovery. We talked to Dr. Chao on the radio yesterday and he painted a much different picture, acknowledging he doesn’t have inside or direct info but just talking about nerve injuries and how players usually do or don’t recover from them. If Smith is going to practice in a brace, isn’t he going to be limited? I think that’s a given. But maybe he will have the brace off in September and the Cowboys will look brilliant for taking him in the second round a year ago. We don’t know.
Question: When people complain (rightly) about the NFL’s policies, they should remember they are all collectively bargained. Don’t like a provision? Negotiate it in the next go round, being prepared to concede something in return.
Cowlishaw: You are absolutely correct, the NFLPA signs off on this stuff and then says, “Wait, Roger Goodell gets to be the arbitrator? That’s not fair.” Well, show some backbone in your negotiations next time.
Question: How out of whack are the NFL’s policies (or stances)? Josh Gordon, weed smoker, was denied reinstatement today. Michael Floyd, arrested for extreme drunk driving in 2016 which he was under house arrest for (and had a DUI in college), signs a deal with Minnesota.
Cowlishaw: Even Jerry and Stephen Jones have seen the light. I can’t believe the stand that Roger Goodell has taken on this issue. Didn’t we lose that whole “gateway drug” nonsense about 1970? It’s appalling. You can hit women, you can drive drunk but you can’t smoke a joint and stick around in this league. Remember that other sports DON’T EVEN TEST for it. It’s beyond silly.