Dallas Cowboys

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Texas finished a historic run to the Big 12 championship game with a 6–3 win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys at ONEOK Field in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Sunday.

The Longhorns, who finished the Big 12 regular season in fifth place with a 2625 overall record, rode the backs of their pitchers to the championship game. Texas got three consecutive complete games from pitchers — senior Parker French, junior Ty Culbreth and freshman Connor Mayes.

Texas saw Sunday’s starting pitcher, right-handed freshman Kyle Johnston, pick up where the other three left off. Johnston threw five innings of one-hit ball before getting into trouble in the sixth inning.

“All of the four starters did an excellent job of getting their outs on time,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “[The pitchers were] pitching to contact, pitching without fear, showing a purpose on the mound, trusting their teammates behind them and going about their business of playing baseball.”

The Longhorns scored the first run of the game in the third inning. Junior left fielder Ben Johnson hit a one-out single and moved over to second on freshman shortstop Joe Baker's sacrifice bunt. Junior shortstop C.J Hinojosa hit an RBI single to center to bring Johnson home and gave Texas a 1–0 lead.

Johnston kept the Cowboys offense shut-down until the sixth inning, in which he issued a one-out walk to freshman infielder Jacob Chappell.  The Cowboys followed the walk with a single from senior outfielder Gage Green. Oklahoma State tied the game on an RBI single by junior outfielder Corey Hassel.

The Cowboys continued their offensive push in the seventh inning. French came into the ballgame to relieve Johnston, as Oklahoma State loaded the bases. The Cowboys were able to score a run and take a 2–1 lead, but French was able to get the Longhorns out of the inning only down one.   

Down a run, the Longhorns offense exploded in the eighth inning. Texas took advantage of three errors and scored five runs on two hits to give it a 6–2 lead.

But Oklahoma State would try to rally in the bottom frame as it loaded the bases in the eighth. The Cowboys were able to score a run, but the Longhorns got off the inning 6–3.

Texas called upon senior left handed pitcher Kirby Bellow to finish the eighth and ninth innings and secure its fifth Big 12 Tournament Championship.    

“I just went out there and trusted myself and focused on the glove and didn't worry about the runners,” Bellow said. “I just went out there and tried to do my job.

Sophomore center fielder Zane Gurwitz was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. Gurwitz had two hits and two RBIs in the championship game.

While he earned the tournament’s highest honor, Gurwitz was quick to acknowledge his teammates efforts throughout the tournament.

I have the easy part,” Gurwitz said. “My teammates in the eighth inning they got the bases loaded for me, they tied the game. All I had to do was put the ball in play, and I found a hole.”

Gurwitz, French and Mayes were named to all-tournament team alongside sophomore catcher Tres Barrera, senior second baseman Brooks Marlow, freshman third baseman Bret Boswell and Baker. 

Members of United Students Against Sweatshops protested at the Main Building on Thursday afternoon.
Photo Credit: Michael Baez | Daily Texan Staff

For over five hours Thursday, students held a sit-in protest outside administrators’ offices to raise awareness of working conditions in factories that produce University apparel — eventually leading President William Powers Jr. to come down from his office to speak with the group.

Students Against Sweatshops, a UT branch of the nation-wide United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), organized the protest, which focused on the licensing agreement UT approved in March with 289c Apparel. The agreement reduced official apparel suppliers from about 2,000 to 20 but also created a deal between the University and the Dallas Cowboys’ official apparel company. Franchesca Caraballo, USAS member and social work junior, said the Cowboys’ apparel company is known for having sweatshops in countries such as Bangladesh and Indonesia.

“The deal essentially means that the Cowboys’ merchandising will have a monopoly over our apparel, and that’s problematic because they have a long range of labor rights abuses and human rights abuses in some of their factories located around the world,” Caraballo said. “The deal was made with no student input.”

Caraballo said the organization will fight the 10-year agreement until it goes into affect in June 2016. 

According to University spokesman Gary Susswein, UT has multiple partnerships with workers’ rights organizations.

“UT-Austin is a member of not just one, but two separate organizations that monitor worker safety in apparel factories — including one that was specifically recommended, backed and endorsed by United Students Against Sweatshops,” Susswein said.

About 15 students occupied the space over the course of the protest. After about four-and-a-half hours, Powers came down from his office, to tell protesters the new deal bolsters UT’s ability to oversee its shortened list of suppliers as well as protect worker safety.

“We take workers’ rights seriously, whether it’s in the United States or abroad,” Powers said. “We monitor [these issues] through the groups that we’re in. We respond to reports that we get and we take them seriously.”

NFL Thanksgiving Preview

I can’t begin to start listing the things I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for my family, my incredible fiancée, my amazing friends, and the many dogs in my life. And you know what? I’m thankful for football on Thanksgiving.  It’s fun watching the men in my family hover from their plates to the TV trying to catch a glimpse of the game. On a day we spend so much time with family, we also spend time with our pals Calvin Johnson, Tyron Smith, and Matt Forte.

This particular turkey day gives us three in-division matchups with huge implications in the standings. The Bears travel to the Motor City for a matchup with Matthew Stafford and the Lions. Two 8-3 teams in the Eagles and Cowboys square off with a division lead in their sights. And finally in the nightcap, the defending NFC champion Seahawks take a trip South to San Fran to meet up with Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers.

Let’s take a minute to break each down (obviously with an eye towards fantasy) and get a better taste of what’s to come this Thursday.

***At the bottom of the article, I’ve listed some fantasy D’s to keep an eye on when looking towards playoff matchups.***

Email me at FantasyDecisions@gmail.com with any questions you may have or any lineup help you need. I’m the expert tool at your fingertips

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

            For the visiting Bears, this matchup is very fantasy unfriendly and reality-unfriendly as well. The Lions may be coming off a beating at the hands of one Tom Brady, but don’t think for a moment that they’re going to lie down for this game. They know it’s going to take their best effort to beat the Bears and keep pace with the in-division rival Packers. The Lions rank as the 3rd, 4th, and 9th toughest defense, respectively, against QBs, WRs, and RBs. With such a tough matchup, I’m not a fan of Jay Cuter this week. While he has great receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, Cutler has struggled recently (failed to reach 10 fantasy points in three of the last five weeks). Temper expectations for your Bears pass catching options. As for Forte though, he’s an automatic play and you hope he can continue his momentum from last week’s two-touchdown performance. If Chicago is going to have a chance, it’s key for them to get the ground game going early.

            As for the Lions, this game sets up picture-perfect for Stafford and his receivers. Megatron (Calvin Johnson) could easily go off for 170 yards and a pair of touchdowns on this weak secondary that’s been getting lit up week after week. I could see the Lions jumping out to an early lead on the arm of the Georgia product. Therefore, I really like the potential of Joique Bell this week. I think they’re going to try to control the clock and force Cutler to sling it around on the other side of the ball. If Reggie Bush is announced as being inactive, Joique moves to top 15 RB status for me. And for one last note on the Lions: I really like Matt Prater. You won’t catch me talking about kickers too frequently but this matchup is the best you can hope for at the position. The Bears have allowed the most points to kickers on the year and Prater has a booming leg. And a booming leg inside Detroit’s cozy dome spells fantasy success.

Prediction: Lions 27 – Bears 17

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

            For the Eagles, this game is a chance for them to stake their claim as the best team in the division and a legitimate super bowl contender. Their warp-speed offense under Chip Kelly will look to showoff on the national stage. A couple guys to note in this fast-paced frenzy are Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy, though, I’m afraid Maclin is really going to struggle this week. For as much as they were criticized for their awful defense last year, the Cowboys have patched together a very formidable group. Before getting torched by Odell Beckham Jr. Sunday night, the Cowboys secondary had only allowed three touchdowns to receivers in the past seven weeks. Since Mark Sanchez has taken the reins, Maclin has taken a hit, having only accumulated 23 points over the past three weeks combined. However, Eagles fans, there is hope. And that hope is in the form of one shift RB named LeSean McCoy. After seemingly being primed for a big game all year long, McCoy finally put the yards and touchdowns together last week against the Titans, going for 130 yards and a touchdown on only 21 attempts. And I think “Shady” continues his success in Big D. The Boys have given up five rushing TDs over the past four weeks and RBs are averaging better than four yards a carry as well. This screams big game for one LeSean McCoy.

            As for “America’s Team”, this game against the Eagles presents one huge, huge mismatch and I fully expect the Cowboys to exploit it. Over the past five weeks, the Eagles have given up nine touchdowns to WRs. Dez must be getting his “Throw up the X” celebration ready. I think he might absolutely go off. I’m not doing rankings this week, but he would probably be my top option at the position. The Eagles are not only the worst in the league against receivers, but they’re the second worst against QBs as well. The Romo-to-Dez connection is going to be visited frequently Thursday and I expect a smashing success. But, no Cowboys preview is complete without mentioning the league’s leading rusher, Mr. DeMarco Murray. The Eagles are giving up an average of 18 points to RBs over the past four weeks, and I think Murray makes that number even bigger. Do me a favor, please start your Dallas studs, not that you weren’t already. Dez and DeMarco are as automatic as can be, and I think Romo should be an absolute start unless you have Luck, Manning, Rodgers, or Brady.

Prediction: Cowboys 31 – Eagles 20

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

            For the Seahawks, this looks like a bad, bad matchup on almost every level. Russell Wilson is a “sit” for me this week going up against the number one fantasy passing defense. I could be wrong, but I just have a feeling Russell really struggles. And to make matters worse, Marshawn Lynch has some tough sledding as well. The 49ers have been the fifth toughest run defense on the year and will look to slow down “Beast Mode”. Having given up only one touchdown in the past 4 weeks, San Francisco has been stout when it matters. However, Marshawn remains a must start, and there is some light in the situation. Four of the last seven RBs to face the 49ers have had at least 100 yards rushing. While I think Lynch’s ceiling may be somewhat limited this week, I think he gets enough yards to make you comfortable starting him. 

            Much the same for the team by the bay, this looks like a defensive struggle in the making. Colin Kaepernick is going up against the second toughest team against the pass, and his receivers are going up against the top rated secondary in football. With only one passing touchdown allowed in their last three games, this is the week to bench your 49er passing options. And the news doesn’t get much better for the backfield. Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde will have a tough time finding many holes against a defensive front that has allowed a 100 yard rusher only twice through week 12. Both backs are touchdown-dependent anyways so play at your own risk.

Prediction: Seahawks 17 – 49ers 14

Best Defensive Matchups in Playoffs (Week 14-17)

Week 14

1.     Texans

2.     49ers

3.     Lions

4.     Vikings

5.     Rams

Week 15

1.     Cardinals

2.     Ravens

3.     Lions

4.     Chiefs

5.     Seahawks

Week 16

1.     Eagles

2.     Bills

3.     Titans

4.     Dolphins

5.     Packers

Week 17

1.     Dolphins

2.     Texans

3.     Seahawks

4.     Colts

5.     Broncos

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Texas Wins

… If the Longhorn running game sustains its success. Over the past two games, running backs – senior Malcolm Brown and junior Johnathan Gray – combined for 192 rushing yards against Texas Tech and 191 yards versus West Virginia. If the running game can be as efficient against Oklahoma State, the Longhorns will win.

… If the offensive line continues to improve. Throughout the season, the offensive line has been ravaged by injuries and suspensions and has struggled to cope at times, but it appears as if the line has finally taken a decisive step in the right direction. With the improvements in the line’s play, the running game has finally taken off and will be a key to Texas winning its game against the Cowboys. If the line keeps getting better, Texas will have a shot at taking down the Cowboys and securing bowl eligibility.

… If Texas can get off to a hot start. Texas’ fast start against West Virginia was big. It set the tone for the game, and, if the Longhorns can replicate that fast start, they will be in a good position to beat Oklahoma State.

… If the defense has a strong performance. The Longhorn defense played a good game against the Mountaineers. Texas held West Virginia to a 17 percent third-down conversion rate. The Mountaineers average 34.1 points per game, but Texas held them to only 16. Additionally, the Longhorns forced two turnovers. If the defense plays as well as it did against West Virginia, it should ease the Longhorns past Oklahoma State.

Texas Loses

… If sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes performs poorly. If Swoopes throws a few interceptions or isn’t able to find a rhythm against Oklahoma State, it will be a long night in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

… If the running game is stuffed. If Texas is unable to run the ball effectively against the Cowboys, it won’t have a shot at winning and will put its bowl hopes
in jeopardy.

… If Oklahoma State is able to penetrate Texas’ defense. If the Longhorns allow the Cowboys to get into an offensive rhythm, Texas will not beat Oklahoma State.

… If Texas’ special teams continue to make mistakes. If Texas’ kickoff and punt units struggle again, and Nick Rose continues to miss field goals, Texas will struggle Saturday.

Consistency, TNF Preview and Week 6 Rankings

Emmitt Smith, Hall of Fame running back of the Dallas Cowboys, once said, “Consistency is one of the hallmarks of my career. You knew what you were going to get out of E-Smith every game, every year, no matter if I was 22, 21, or 35 years old.” 

One of the best RBs in the history of the game knew that consistency was key. You always want someone on your side that you can depend on. No questions about their performance, just that reliability. In fantasy football, we’re looking for the same thing: Consistency. 

Boom/bust guys are infuriating as they get 20 yards one week and 200 yards the next. We want reliable players anchoring our teams, guys that get 100 yards every week, put it in the bank.

Over at ESPN Tristan Cockcroft does a weekly article in which he breaks down his “Consistency Ratings” for each fantasy football player (Go check it out here: http://es.pn/1twBDWe). These ratings take incredible research and time to put together and I think it’s one of the more useful tools on the web when it comes to fantasy studying. The gist of the column is Cockcroft breaking down which guys tend to be consistent: straying little in their weekly output. A lower consistency rating is better because it means you can easily predict a player’s output week to week. The players with lower numbers have very little deviation from their weekly averages. For example, although Drew Brees hasn’t had the elite year many expected from him, he comes in at number one in the consistency rating. Here are his 5 fantasy point totals from week to week: 15, 15, 19, 19, 16. The Saints QB has been extremely predictable this year and that’s the goal of these ratings: to figure out which guys you can trust will stick to the mean or average. On the other end of the spectrum is a guy like Matthew Stafford. His weekly totals so far? 29, 13, 3, 25, and 11. Who knows if this week in Minnesota he’ll put up a stud week like in week 1 or if he’ll have a dud like in week 3.

Furthermore, Cockcroft also sets up the percentage of weeks in which each player would have been a “start” (top 10 QB or top 25 RB/WR), a “stud” (top 2 QB or top 5 RB/WR), or a “stiff” (worse than 21st QB or worse than 51st RB/WR). As an example, look at the running back position. Only 4 guys have been a “start” in each game this year: Murray, Lynch, Bell, and Bernard. Every other running back has had at least one week outside of the top-25 positional outputs. But all in all, take these for what they’re worth. Sure T.Y. Hilton has one of the best consistency ratings, but his consistent average is around 7 points (4, 6, 8, 10, 9). I fully believe this tool can help you win a championship. But even if you don’t frequent it, at least know that this can really help when you can’t decide which running back to start this week or which QB you can write in 20 points for. On to the Thursday Night Football Preview which spotlights a few guys to keep your fantasy eye on.

 

TNF Preview

·      Andrew Luck

o   Luck has gotten off to a scorching start this season putting up more than 25 points per game while leading the league in passing yards and touchdowns. In a homecoming game, Luck will look to continue his hot stretch against a Texans D who has yet to hold a passer under 225 yards. Look for the Stanford product to shine once again in the spotlight. Prediction: 289 yards, 2 touchdowns

·      Ahmad Bradshaw

o   When Colts GM Ryan Grigson traded a first round pick to Cleveland for Trent Richardson last year, he thought he had found his bell cow running back. Instead Richardson has plodded along to an abysmal 3.1 yards per carry. Now the Colts find themselves playing the aged veteran, Bradshaw, more and more as he continues to find success. Going into this TNF matchup against a depleted and weak Texans run defense, Bradshaw will look to exploit the weakness on his way to a solid game. Side note: As an avid Texans fan, I have seen receiving backs destroy this defense so look for Bradshaw to excel in the passing game. Prediction: 10 carries, 61 yards and 5 receptions for 30 yards

·      T.Y. Hilton

o   In his 4 career meetings with the Texans, Hilton has destroyed the Texans secondary with 22 catches for 288 yards and 5 touchdowns. The speedy wideout will look to continue that success tonight, albeit with an improved secondary that looks improved from years past. The safeties will surely be tested with Hilton’s over the top speed and I’m afraid Hilton is going to get behind the D for at least one long gainer. Prediction: 4 catches for 89 yards and a TD

·      Arian Foster

o   Just as Hilton has found success against the in-division rival, Foster has feasted on the opponent’s defense over the years. In his 5 healthy games, Foster has averaged 6.6 yards per carry and found pay dirt 6 times. Coming off a stellar performance against the Cowboys, I think the running back will further improve upon those career stats vs. the Indy defense. Prediction: 23 carries for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns

·      Andre Johnson

o   The ageless wonder has yet to eclipse 100 yards on the season but I think if there’s any game he might do that in, it just might be tonight. He loves being the afterthought, the quiet lurker who’s ready to pounce. Dre is known to destroy Colts CB Vontae Davis and he’s going to continue that trend tonight. Prediction: 7 catches for 101 yards

·      GAME PREDICTION:

o   Homerism aside, I truly think the Texans may have the slightest of edges going into tonight’s game. They’re playing in front of the raucous NRG stadium crows and I think QB Ryan Fitzpatrick’s veteran wisdom finally shows itself. Bet the house on it (please don’t bet your house): Texans 20 – Colts 17.

Week 6 Rankings

·      QB

1.     Peyton Manning

2.     Philip Rivers

3.     Aaron Rodgers

4.     Matt Ryan

5.     Andrew Luck

6.     Russell Wilson

7.     Jay Cutler

8.     Carson Palmer

9.     Eli Manning

10. Matthew Stafford

11. Ben Roethlisberger

12. Jake Locker

13. Andy Dalton

14. Colin Kaepernick

15. Nick Foles

16. Kirk Cousins

17. Tony Romo

18. Tom Brady

19. Joe Flacco

20. Brian Hoyer

 

·      RB

1.     Arian Foster

2.     Matt Forte

3.     Le’veon Bell

4.     Marshawn Lynch

5.     Eddie Lacy

6.     Giovani Bernard

7.     Demarco Murray

8.     LeSean McCoy

9.     Andre Ellington

10. Branden Oliver

11. Alfred Morris

12. Frank Gore

13. Andre Williams

14. Ben Tate

15. Lamar Miller

16. Doug Martin

17. Ahmad Brashaw

18. Zac Stacy

19. Justin Forsett

20. Joique Bell

21. Stevan Ridley

22. Steven Jackson

23. Chris Ivory

24. C.J. Spiller

25. Fred Jackson

 

·      WR

1.     Demaryius Thomas

2.     Jordy Nelson

3.     Julio Jones

4.     Antonio Brown

5.     Dez Bryant

6.     Brandon Marshall

7.     Emmanuel Sanders

8.     Jeremy Maclin

9. Vincent Jackson

10. Percy Harvin

11. Alshon Jeffery

12. Randall Cobb

13. Golden Tate

14. Steve Smith

15. Andre Johnson

16. Michael Floyd

17. DeSean Jackson

18. Victor Cruz

19. Pierre Garcon

20. T.Y. Hilton

21. Mike Wallace

22. Mohamed Sanu

23. Rueben Randle

24. DeAndre Hopkins

25. Brian Quick

 

·      TE

1.     Rob Gronkowski

2.     Julius Thomas

3.     Greg Olsen

4.     Delanie Walker

5.     Martellus Bennett

6.     Larry Donnell

7.     Antonio Gates

8.     Dwayne Allen

9. Eric Ebron

10. Owen Daniels

11. Jordan Cameron

12. Zach Ertz

13. Jason Witten

14. Heath Miller

15. Niles Paul

 

·      D/ST

1.     Chargers

2.     49ers

3.     Titans

4.     Seahawks

5.     Bengals

6.     Packers

7.     Broncos

8.     Lions

9.     Giants

10. Texans

11. Ravens

12. Patriots

13. Vikings

14. Cardinals

15. Eagles

 

·      Flex

 

1.     Arian Foster

2.     Matt Forte

3.     Le’Veon Bell

4.     Marshawn Lynch

5.     Eddie Lacy

6.     Giovani Bernard

7.     Demaryius Thomas

8.     Jordy Nelson

9.     Julio Jones

10. Demarco Murray

11. LeSean McCoy

12. Andre Ellington

13. Branden Oliver

14. Alfred Morris

15. Antonio Brown

16. Dez Bryant

17. Brandon Marshall

18. Frank Gore

19. Emmanuel Sanders

20. Jeremy Maclin

21. Vincent Jackson

22. Andre Williams

23. Ben Tate

24. Lamar Miller

25. Percy Harvin

26. Doug Martin

27. Ahmad Bradshaw

28. Alshon Jeffery

29. Randall Cobb

30. Golden Tate

31. Zac Stacy

32. Justin Forsett

33. Joique Bell

34. Steve Smith

35. Andre Johnson

36. Michael Floyd

37. DeSean Jackson

38. Stevan Ridley

39. Steven Jackson

40. Chris Ivory

41. Victor Cruz

42. Pierre Garcon

43. T.Y. Hilton

44. C.J. Spiller

45. Mike Wallace

46. Mohamed Sanu

47. Rueben Randle

48. Fred Jackson

49. DeAndre Hopkins

50. Brian Quick

 

Feel free to send in your lineup questions, waiver wire wonders, or trade help to FantasyDecisions@gmail.com

This tool is free and I promise to get back to you by the end of the day you send in your question. Send away!

This has been another edition of Fantasy Decisions with Bradley Maddox. Always remember: An elite owner stays ahead of the curve.

No matter what else is going on around the league, the Dallas Cowboys just can’t seem to stay out of the national spotlight, often times for all the wrong reasons. So it was only fitting that during the NFL’s OTA period, America’s team was once again the on the receiving end of some bad news.

Rookie offensive tackle Zach Martin pancaked Sean Lee to the ground causing Lee to tear his ACL. The Cowboys tried to remain optimistic in the days after the injury, but reality set in quickly. An MRI showed just how serious the injury was: The leader of the Cowboys’ defense was out for the season before Dallas had even played a game. Now Lee will be spending his time teaching defensive schemes to young linebackers from the sidelines.

To some extent it was simply a case of bad luck falling on the Cowboys. The drill the team was participating in was supposed to be a non-contact drill. Someone must explain how the Cowboys best defensive player suffered a torn ACL after being flattened in a non-contact drill.

The injury also brings up the question of whether veteran leaders such as Lee should be told to sit out certain offseason activities. Each year, the NFL sees a plethora of top players lost to season-ending injuries in the early stages of the offseason. Teams cannot afford to keep losing key players to unnecessary injuries.

This is a year when the Cowboys will be under pressure to make the playoffs. The past three seasons, the Cowboys have been unable to get past the eight-win mark, and they have not made it to the playoffs since 2009. Owner Jerry Jones has not been quiet about his team’s struggles in recent seasons. He has set the bar high once again for his team, threatening to make drastic changes if there isn’t significant improvement. Losing defensive leader Sean Lee certainly won’t make such improvements any easier. 

The Dallas Cowboys have had a lackluster offseason. Due to its salary cap issues, Dallas couldn’t do too much to bolster its roster. In order to create cap space, the Cowboys parted ways with their all-time sack leader DeMarcus Ware during free agency.

In an attempt to replace Ware, Dallas added defensive tackles Henry Melton and Terrell McClain and defensive end Jeremey Mincey. The Cowboys also addressed their concerns at quarterback by picking up former first round draft pick Brandon Weeden.

While Dallas’ offseason wasn’t as successful as some hoped it would be, America’s Team still has an opportunity to improve its roster through the draft, which is less than a month away.

Here is our second Dallas Cowboys mock draft for the team’s first five rounds:

Mock Draft 2.0

Pick No. 16: S Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix (Alabama)

The Cowboys have a definite need for a defensive back in this year’s draft. Clinton-Dix would be an immediate starter for the Cowboys if selected with the 16th pick.

Clinton-Dix’s biggest strength is his ability to cover the whole field. He’s a tough, physical tackler who can make all the necessary tackles in the open field.  During the 2013 season, Clinton-Dix accumulated 30 tackles and 2 interceptions for the Alabama Crimson-Tide.

Pick No. 47: WR Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt)

With the departure of wide receiver Miles Austin, the Cowboys are now in need of depth at receiver. While most of the Cowboys draft needs are on the defensive side of the ball, Jerry Jones’ loves to make a big offensive splash when he can.

Jordan Matthews would be a nice second round selection. Matthews is a great route runner with amazing hands. He has a great work ethic and would fit into Dallas’ pass-happy scheme.

Pick No. 78: DE Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas)

In our first Dallas Cowboys mock draft, the Cowboys selected Jeffcoat with 78th pick and I’m still sold on this move.

The Cowboys addressed some needs along the defensive line during free agency but Jeffcoat would fit into defensive line coach Rod Marinelli’s scheme.

If Jeffcoat is still on the board at pick 78, Jeffcoat would be a steal.

Pick No. 115: RB Jeremy Hills (LSU)

Running back DeMarco Murray has great success as a Cowboy when he is healthy but when he’s not healthy Dallas suffers.

The Cowboys have a solid backup in Lance Dunbar but Dunbar suffered a knee injury which sidelined him for half of the season.

Dallas selected Joseph Randle in last year’s draft but he didn’t produce as expected during the 2013 season.

It is speculated that the Cowboys are considering drafting a running back late in the draft, if Dallas chooses to, Jeremy Hills would be a solid pick. During the 2013 season, Hills ran for 1401 yards and 16 touchdowns for LSU.

Pick No. 146: QB Aaron Murray

While I tend to believe the Cowboys draft should focus on defense, it wouldn’t surprise me if Dallas were to choose a quarterback in the draft.

Although the Cowboys added Brandon Weeden in free agency and Kyle Orton is still on the roster, Dallas should draft a young quarterback to groom for the future.

If Aaron Murray is available in the fifth round, he would be a great pick for Dallas. Prior to injuring his ACL, scouts were raving over Murray but now there is concern over his knee.

It would be a risky pick but Murray has first round potential, as a fifth round pick he would be steal.

Next season the Dallas Cowboys all-time sack leader DeMarcus Ware will no longer have a star on the side of his helmet. Instead, Ware will wear a Bronco logo as the outside linebacker - defensive end hybrid will join Denver after Dallas failed to restructure his contract.

During his nine year tenure with the Cowboys Ware played in 141 games. In those 141 games, he recorded 444 tackles, 117 sacks and 32 forced fumbles.

While Ware’s presence will be missed, it was time for both parties to split.

Although owner Jerry Jones placed the Cowboys in a salary cap nightmare, Ware could have remained on the team if he was willing to take a pay cut. But that simply wasn’t the case.

But who can blame Ware- the Cowboys organization has finished the last three seasons at 8-8 and Jerry Jones hasn’t made the best moves to help his team. Leaving for Denver gives Ware the best opportunity to win a super bowl.

Even though Ware decided to leave, he said that it was an honor to play for the Cowboys

"I was honored to wear the Star alongside my former teammates and will always hold a special place in my heart for the Cowboys Nation and the Dallas community,” Ware tweeted.

As for Dallas, giving into Ware’s demand was risky- restructuring Ware’s contract could have run the Cowboys over the salary cap and Ware is coming off multiple surgeries.

During the 2013 offseason, Ware had surgeries on his shoulder and right elbow. In 2014, Ware once again had surgery on his right elbow.

Due to his multiple injuries, Ware has seen his production dwindle. Ware’s sack total dropped from 19.5 sacks in 2011 to 11.5 in 2012.

In 2013, Dallas’ new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin changed from a 3-4 scheme to the 4-3, moving Ware to defensive end. This move combined with injuries to his back and elbow resulted in 2013 being one of Ware’s worst seasons, with only six sacks and 28 total tackles.

After Ware’s rough 2013 campaign, the Cowboys had every right to let go of him. Ware isn’t the same player he was in his prime.

Ware might make a comeback with the Broncos but it doesn't seem likely. He is in the twilight of his career and even if he doesn't want to admit it, joining the Broncos is his best opportunity to go out on top.

One day Ware will see his name in the Cowboys’ ring of honor, but for now he’ll chase a championship with the Denver Broncos.  

As the NFL’s free agency period draws near, the Cowboys have a great opportunity to improve their playoff chances. Here are our suggestions:

1. Resign/Restructure Key Players Contracts

Dallas is dangerously close to running over the NFL’s salary cap. As a result, the Cowboys have already been working to alleviate their cap issues.  Quarterback Tony Romo, one of Dallas’ highest paid players, just had his contract restructured, creating $10 million in cap space for America’s Team.

In addition to restructuring Romo’s contract, Dallas is currently working with linebacker Sean Lee and cornerback Orlando Scandrick’s to restructure their deals. These moves could create an additional 6.8 million in cap room.

2. Release Miles Austin

Since his breakout year in 2009, Miles Austin has failed to live up to expectations. Over the past three years, Austin has missed nine games due to a nagging hamstring injury. 2013 was Austin’s worst season. The receiver only played in 11 games and failed to catch a touchdown pass.

Considering his lack of production and the Cowboys cap issues, Dallas should release Miles Austin. By cutting Austin and designating him as a “post-June 1 cut,” the Cowboys can create $5.5 million in cap space. However, the cap room won’t show up until he is actually released, after June 1.

3. Find another running back

The Cowboys have an excellent running back in DeMarco Murray, but he can’t seem to stay healthy. During his first three seasons, Murray has missed nine games.

The Cowboys drafted Joseph Randle in the 2013 draft but he struggled in his rookie season. Lance Dunbar emerged as a solid back up, but he has also suffered from the injury bug.

Dallas may not be able to make a big splash in free agency but finding a durable running back would help them in the long run. Here are a few options:

Toby Gerhart - The one-time Heisman candidate is expected to be a free agent and proved to be a good backup for the Vikings.

Ben Tate - The former Texans rusher was a decent second string back. He thrives in the passing game, which could really help the Cowboys.

Donald Brown - Brown spent time as the Colt’s feature back; he is expected to be on the market and could be a good compliment to Murray.

4. Look for a back-up quarterback

Back-up quarterback Kyle Orton has been contemplating retirement. If Orton were to retire, Dallas would be without a reliable back up.

Even if Orton didn’t retire, an additional quarterback would give the Cowboys depth. Here are a few quarterbacks Dallas could go after:

Chad Henne - Henne had an up-and-down season with the Jaguars in 2013. In 15 games, Henne threw 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. While Henne’s touchdown to interception ratio is concerning, he would make for a solid back up.

Matt Flynn - Flynn is a solid quarterback but he showed over the past two years that he is not good enough to be a starting quarterback. Flynn could be a solid backup and grow under Romo.

Colt McCoy - McCoy is a fan favorite in Texas. He struggled as the starter in Cleveland but has been a solid backup. Expected to be a free agent, the Cowboys could pick him up for cheap.

Ultimately, any of these moves would be difficult to accomplish given the Cowboys salary cap issues, but if they can find the space, these are some good options. 

It’s no secret that the Dallas Cowboys have been mediocre of late. They are long removed from the glory days when they won three super bowls in five years.  

With three consecutive 8-8 seasons, the Cowboys have become the butt of many jokes. Although America’s Team always appears to be in a position to be successful, they have a tendency to grab defeat from the jaws of victory.

Dallas is also known for their questionable scouting evaluation and drafting ability. The Cowboys will take their first step towards the draft when they evaluate players at this weekends’ NFL Scouting Combine.

The Cowboys have many needs this offseason but the focus in the draft should be on improving their defense - the NFL’s worst in 2013.

Here’s our first Dallas Cowboys mock draft for the team’s first five rounds.

Mock Draft 1.0

Pick No. 16: OLB Dee Ford (Auburn)

Outside linebacker Bruce Carter had a rough season. He spent part of the season injured but when he was on the field, he didn’t play very well.

Dee Ford would be a big addition to the Cowboys’ linebacking corps. Last season, with Auburn, Ford recorded 29 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. Ford is quick off the edge and has great speed. Ford could be an instant candidate to be a starting outside linebacker if the Cowboys choose to draft him.

Pick No 47: DT Dominique Easley (Florida)

With a lack of production from the defensive line, drafting a guy like Dominique Easley would be a huge step in the right direction.

Easley possess’ great athleticism. He’s a guy who is capable of disrupting a play, a trait not seen on the stat line. Easley was said to be a charismatic leader in Florida locker room, an important quality in a future NFL player.

The concern with Easley is a recent ACL injury which sidelined him late in 2013. Easley has first round potential but his injury has him projected as a late first round or second round pick.

Pick No. 78: DE Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas)

Like defensive tackles, the defensive ends were almost non-existent for the Cowboys this year. The change from the 3-4 scheme to the 4-3 hurt DeMarcus Ware’s pass rush ability. The defensive ends also fell victim to injury.

Jackson Jeffcoat would be a third-round steal. Jeffcoat is well-built and has a great presence off the edge. Jeffcoat knows how to bully his way to the quarterback. In 2013, the Dallas native led Texas with 86 tackles, 22 tackles for loss and 13 sacks.

Some scouts question Jeffcoat’s ability in the open field but, as a third round selection, drafting Jeffcoat would be a valuable pick.

Pick No. 115: WR Josh Huff (Oregon)

Most sources around the Cowboys predict that they will let go of wide receiver Miles Austin this offseason. Austin had a breakout season in 2009 but hasn’t been able to replicate his prior success.

Drafting Josh Huff would let the Cowboys get rid of Austin without losing depth at wide receiver. Huff has great speed and is very versatile. He compares well to Randall Cobb of the Green Bay Packers.

Pick No. 146: S C.J. Barnett (Ohio State)

The Cowboys entered last season hoping that safety Matt Johnson would be able to play but he too was injured early in the season.

Barnett didn’t receive an invite to the combine but he would be a great late round pick. If the Cowboys don’t take Alabama’s Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix early on, Barnett could be an alternative to satisfy their need for a defensive back.