Cowboys Stephen: Eavesdrop On State Of Team

Stephen Jones dishes on Hardy and Gregory, on Randle and McFadden, on the draft and free agency and all the way down to George Farmer and even Chris Johnson ... oh, and his Cowboys contending for a Super Bowl! ... it's all inside for Premium Cowboys Fans!

Eavesdropping On Stephen

We were able to listen in on the Dallas Cowboys season-ticket holder conference call with COO Stephen Jones this week. Stephen addressed the running back situation, the team's draft picks, improving the defense and more. Here are some of the highlights from the conference call..

On whether or not the Cowboys targeted the running back position in the draft:

"For the first three rounds we had our eyes on backs. But as the draft unfolded there were better football players available when our pick came. So it was just one of those things. In this particular draft it didn't fall right for us. At the same time, we didn't put the priority on taking a back that a lot of people probably thought that we might. We really feel like with Darren McFadden, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar that we have three really good running backs. At the same time, we're not done. Player acquisitions happen 365 days a year and we'll continue to look to improve our football team. It doesn't mean that we won't be adding a back before we go to camp or during camp or even during the season."

On not including Ryan Williams' name among the other three running backs in his previous answer:

"That was an oversight on my part. He should've been mentioned. His name actually came up quite a bit. Many times we were looking at backs later in the draft that we compared to Ryan but didn't feel like they were as good as he was. I think he's only going to get better. He spent a year on our practice squad. We had him in the 2nd round when he came out and went to the Arizona Cardinals. He did some really good things late in training camp and late in the preseason. He certainly will be in the mix as well. That was an oversight on my part."

On rookie LB Damien Wilson potentially becoming the same type of player as Anthony Hitchens:

"It's funny you mention that. When we were going through the draft, this guy came up with our coaching staff as somebody that we kinda liked and would fit into our system. The more we did research on him, the more we liked him. We actually had him in Dallas to have a more in-depth visit with him. Everything came out in a good way. We feel like this guy can be Anthony Hitchens, if not even a little bit better. He's actually a little bigger and a little faster. Although he didn't run a great 40, we had some good information that we felt like he plays faster than his timed 40. This is a guy that we think will be able to step right in and be able to contribute to our defense."

On which undrafted rookie free agents have the best shot at making the team:

"Well we put a big emphasis on wide receiver when we went into that because we actually didn't draft one. We were in the business to draft one if the right guy showed up. But as it turned out, the same thing as the running backs, when we had our eye on one they would come off our board and then the next guy down we would have a better player. We really focused on receiver in free agency and actually got some players that were still on our board at the end of the draft." One particular player is George Farmer from USC. Believe it or not, he was actually one of the highest recruited receivers in the country when he came out and went to the University of Southern Cal. He had some injuries but he's big and fast. He has all of the height, weight, speed that you look for. He just had some injury issues at USC, but nothing that would make you think they're going to continue to happen. He certainly has some upside and then Lucky Whitehead, who is a smaller receiver but can fly. He runs in the 4.3 range, he's got return-ability. He's an exciting guy to watch when you plug in his highlight tape and look at him. And then (Deontay) Greenberry from Houston is a guy that coming into the season, a lot of people thought would be a really good football player. He had some personal issues, family issues, that we did our research on that may have held him back this year. He's another guy that we like and (Antwan) Goodley from Baylor is another one. There's a receiver class there that we're as excited about as a free-agent class we brought in when we brought in Sam Hurd and Miles Austin."

On whether or not the team is interested in the services of free agent RB Chris Johnson:

"Right now we're looking at the guys that we have on our roster. He is somebody that is on a short list of ours that we think could ultimately come in and do some good things for us if we asked him to, but I wouldn't say it's a priority right now."

On the possibility of taking the RB-by-committee approach in 2015:

"At the end of the day, this league more and more is becoming a league where teams use multiple running backs. Last year I think was inordinate, obviously starting with the fact that DeMarco had an All-Pro season. At the same time, as we moved through the year, you saw glimpses of both Joe Randle and Lance Dunbar and some of the great plays that they made and some glimpses of what they can bring to the table. I think we missed out on some of that. It very well could be that this year you'll see a lot more of the 2nd and 3rd running back more-so than you did last year. We may end up being more efficient and more explosive using a running back by committee rather than putting so much pressure on one back."

On Byron Jones' versatility to play bother cornerback and safety:

"First of all, you start with his length. You see on tape that he uses it, but one thing our guys noticed too was the way they were playing him - the stance and the techniques they were using - made it difficult for a cornerback with that type of length. They think there is a few things they can do correction-wise that will really make him a very strong cornerback. At the same time, one of the things we loved about Byron was his versatility and the fact that he played free safety in Connecticut in his first two years, and played free safety very well. So we think we're getting a very versatile guy. What we're wanting to do with our corners is to 'press', not unlike what they do in Seattle with their long corners. They've got corners that can run, they've got long arms and can make plays on the ball, and we think Byron fits all of the above. At the same time, if Mo' Claiborne comes back healthy and rollin' and ready, if you want to get your best players on the field then he'll be a huge factor at the free safety position, which is something that we've been looking for. Both Barry and JJ are very strong 'in the box' safeties - they pack a big punch and are very physical - but they don't have the range that someone like an Earl Thomas of the Seahawks has. Byron allows us to have a couple options."

Fish's Column: "The Byron Jones Perfect, Lucky Grade-A Fit'' is here.)

On the team's continued commitment to running the ball, even without DeMarco Murray:

"We don't want to get away from our running game. We feel like with the backs we have, we can be as successful as ever. We think it's very important with this offensive line that we have and that it's become a part of what we're about, a part of our culture. Talking to coach Garrett and coach Linehan, they're more committed than ever after watching the tape and going back and reviewing the season. Running the football is a huge priority for us."

On helping Randy Gregory deal with his off-field issues and maximize his production on the field:

"He's obviously a great football player on the field. I think he was very open about some challenges that he has off the field, but we really want to get in behind him and support him, just as we have others. We all know that these young men have bumps as they continue to grow up as men. We have a great infrastructure in place that will help those young men who want help. We felt like after visiting with Randy that he was very transparent and he's also very committed to being the type of player, both on and off the field, we want for the Cowboys."

On what the team expects from Darren McFadden:

"I think there are some similarities between him and a running back we used to have here, DeMarco Murray. DeMarco had three years with us where he had injuries and missed games and then he was able to put an incredible season together. I think Darren's the same way. He's had some bumps along the way. He's been in a tough situation with a team that's going through one of those stages where they don't win many games. That makes it hard for everybody. We really think that Darren is in the best shape of his career. He looks great out. Obviously he was a top ten pick in the draft, which was well-deserved. I think most teams had him there. We really think that if you put him behind our offensive line and he has some luck and stays healthy, we might really have something here."

( The Scouting Report on Randy Gregory is here.)

On the possibility of extending the NFL playoffs:

"At the end of the day I believe that most owners, and most people in general, feel like adding a team per conference is probably a good thing. Obviously, when a team goes to the playoffs, it's a huge boost for that particular team and their market. To add one more, all you'd be doing is taking one team who normally would get a bye and the number two team would have to play. I do think it's something that's ultimately going to happen. I don't think it's 'if', I think it's 'when'."

On improving the defense being a major Cowboys priority:

"We've certainly, in our opinion, been working hard at it - starting with taking DeMarcus Lawrence 2nd pick in the draft. We made some key free agent acquisitions last year, albeit not high profile, they were hard workers that fit coach Marinelli's system. I think it really improved us on defense and that's continued this year with Greg Hardy. Of course, if you look in the draft, we really put an interest in taking five defense players there with our first six picks. We really are trying to get our defensive personnel built up. If we can put a very good defense along with this offense we have, we think we're climbing real close to where we want to be as far as contending for Super Bowl championships."

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