Jerry Jones is getting praised for a football move.There might not be a better way to explain the impact of the oft-criticized owner and general manager's bold trade for Dallas Youth Manti Te'o Jersey , sending a 2019 first-round pick to Oakland for receiver Amari Cooper with the Cowboys fading fast in the NFC East race.Cooper leads the NFL in yards receiving since joining the Cowboys, who have won five straight games to get to the brink of the division title and a home wild-card game.With Cooper, Dak Prescott looks more like the 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year rather than a struggling quarterback. And Jones' name is coming up in broadcast booths, and as an off-the-wall choice for performer of the week in the NFL.In other words, the primary object of ire for fans fed up with nearly a quarter-century without a trip to the Super Bowl, or even an NFC championship game, is being viewed as someone who saved Dallas' season.The Cowboys (8-5) can wrap up the NFC East with a win at Indianapolis (7-6) on Sunday."I think a big part of doing things with the desire to excel is to show them," Jones said after Cooper scored three touchdowns, including the winner in overtime of a 29-23 victory against Philadelphia that gave the Cowboys a two-game division lead with three to go. Dallas has the tiebreaker by virtue of a season sweep of the defending Super Bowl champs."I think that's a major motivation factor 鈥?to show them. I think the way sports and football, it just gives you a chance when people say, 'I don't like that move, that's not smart.' I like this stuff. As a matter of fact, I make my worst grades when I'm being praised."There were plenty of second-guessers when Jones made the move at 3-5, with conventional wisdom saying the Cowboys had problems beyond a missing playmaker at receiver in the first season without franchise TD catch leader Dez Bryant, dumped in a cost-cutting move.Prescott was on that list of issues Manti Te'o Jersey Stitched , mired in a 25-game stretch of mediocrity and numbers sharply lower than those from his sensational rookie season, when Dallas set a franchise record with an 11-game winning streak and had an NFC-best 13 victories.And while Prescott had two interceptions and a lost fumble to help the Eagles stay in a game the Cowboys were dominating, the display he put on with Cooper in the last half of the fourth quarter and overtime was remarkable.Touchdown throws of 28 and 75 yards in the fourth quarter were followed by a 15-yarder on the first possession of overtime , with Cooper grabbing a pass tipped by Philadelphia's Rasul Douglas and cruising in from the 7."I knew he was good," Prescott said. "I knew he was going to get separation and get open and make great catches. But when you just see the run after catch and breaking tackles, and being that great of a player, I'm just thankful we got that trade."Star running back Ezekiel Elliott is a beneficiary of Cooper's presence as well. The running lanes have been wider, and check-downs against defenses preoccupied with the former Alabama standout have been more frequent. Elliott had a career-high 12 catches against the Eagles."I didn't know we were going to get all that, honestly,'" said Elliott, who retook the NFL rushing lead with 1,262 yards. "But when I finally saw him in person, when I saw him catch the ball, I saw him run around and run after the catch, that's when I really realized he's truly special."The Cooper acquisition is bringing back good 鈥?and bad 鈥?memories for Jones.The good? An offseason trade for now-Hall of Fame defensive end Charles Haley in 1992 Youth Tommylee Lewis Jersey , before Dallas became the first team to win three Super Bowls in four years. And the free-agent signing of Deion Sanders in 1995, before the last of those titles.The bad? A pair of trades for receivers during the current Super Bowl drought. Joey Galloway was particularly costly because Jones gave up two first-round picks for not much in return. Roy Williams was a midseason trade similar to Cooper a decade ago.It took Williams 21 games to get what Cooper has in six 鈥?an NFL-best 696 yards since Week 9. Cooper has six touchdowns. The other Dallas receivers have seven combined."He is making big plays," Jones said. "He is altering the defense. There is no question about it. He makes everybody better on both sides of the ball. But you got to make the big plays. You can see he is a difference-maker."Jones has the pats on the back to prove it.NOTES: Coach Jason Garrett said RG Zack Martin re-injured his left knee against the Eagles, just as he did in the teams' first meeting. Martin has been hobbled since spraining the medial collateral ligament in the knee in the preseason. The Cowboys are hopeful he won't miss a game for the first time in his five-year career. ... Garrett said LB Sean Lee and WR/KR Tavon Austin should return to practice as limited participants this week. Lee has missed all five games on the winning streak with a hamstring injury. Austin hasn't played since Week 6 because of a strained groin.Three Saints Veterans Who Could Be Released Before Training Camp The New Orleans Saints have one of the more talented rosters in the NFL. Last year, they won the NFC South and made a run in the playoffs despite multiple injuries at different positions. This offseason, the team clearly focused on adding depth with the majority of their moves in free agency and the draft. They felt comfortable enough with their offseason additions that they released veteran linebackers Michael Mauti and Adam Bighill last week, just a week after letting go of tight end Coby Fleener. Today, we have a look at a few more veterans who could be facing the end of their Saints careers, perhaps even before the team begins mandatory mini-camp in June or training camp in late July. De'Vante Harris, CB Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY SportsHarris has suffered a long dropoff from the beginning of the 2017 season, when he was a starting cornerback in the team's season opener against Minnesota. He came to New Orleans as an undrafted rookie in 2016, and played well enough to be among the top cornerback options for the Saints through training camp last year. He struggled mightily in coverage early in the '17 season, quickly getting benched and used only on special teams units, where his play was often inconsistent at best. The Saints cornerback position is suddenly crowded with talent. Marshon Lattimore is the reigning defensive rookie of the year, and Ken Crawley played well as the starter opposite Lattimore. The team re-signed Patrick Robinson this offseason Tommylee Lewis Jersey Stitched , a former Saints first round pick who played for New Orleans from 2010-14, and still has P.J. Williams, who intercepted two passes as a part-time starter a year ago. The Saints also expect big improvements from Arthur Maulet, who made the team as an undrafted rookie last year, along with special teams standout Justin Hardee. They then added even more talented competition through the draft, with Natrell Jamerson (5th round), Kamrin Moore (6th round), and Linden Stephens (undrafted), making this perhaps the most hotly contested position on the team entering training camp. Harris has clearly regressed from the player who latched on to a roster spot in the summer of '16, and faced an uphill battle to make the team to begin with, but now may be jettisoned before the final roster battle begins. Tommylee Lewis, WR/KRPhoto by Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesLewis made the roster as an undrafted free agent in 2016, then held the spot again last year due to standout performances in preseason. The Saints had hoped that he would take over primary kick and punt return duties, while also providing a big play threat as a backup receiver. Lewis has been largely ineffective as a kick returner, averaging less than 10 yards per punt return Youth Tyeler Davison Jersey , just 21 yards per kickoff return, and was replaced by Alvin Kamara on the kick return unit down the stretch last season. He's caught just 17 passes in two seasons, often struggling to consistently make plays in the open field, as was expected of him. The Saints used a 3rd round pick on Tre'quan Smith, acquired Cameron Meredith through free agency, and also re-signed Brandon Coleman. A receiving corps that struggled to produce last year outside of starters Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn looks like it's been significantly upgraded, perhaps leaving Lewis as the odd man out. The return units look deeper as well, with the addition of rookies Natrell Jamerson and Boston Scott, both of whom showed explosive open field abilities in college. Michael Hoomanawanui, TEPhoto by Sean Gardner/Getty Images"Hooman" has been a valuable run blocker and used effectively in the Saints' short yardage packages since his arrival to the team in 2015. He missed the '16 season with a knee injury, but bounced back nicely last year, helping New Orleans to the 5th best rushing attack in the league. Although he has proven to be a decent weapon near the goal line, Hoomanawanui adds little as a receiving threat, limiting the Saints passing options when he's in the lineup. The offseason return of Benjamin Watson, who played for New Orleans from 2013-15 Tyeler Davison Jersey Stitched , gives the team a dual receiving and blocking factor in the starting lineup. Although the team did not draft a tight end, if the coaching staff feels comfortable with the potential of undrafted rookies Deon Yelder and Cam Serigne, or if they perhaps add another veteran free agent, such as Antonio Gates, then they may decide to cut ties with Hoomanawanui or fellow veteran Josh Hill before camp convenes. There do not appear to be any big name veteran players for New Orleans in jeopardy of being released by June 1, a date when many players throughout the league will be released for salary cap reasons. The recent cuts of Fleener, Mauti, and Bighill does show that the Saints feel comfortable with their offseason attempts to upgrade depth at many positions on the team. New Orleans still will have to make a number of moves as they set their roster limit moving towards the start of training camp. The Saints have 3 OTA sessions between now and their June 12th mini-camp, the first of which begins this week. They've already shown no hesitation in moving on from veterans who performed below their expectations, even coming off of a division championship season. We can expect more moves of the same on what looks to be a New Orleans squad with several deep roster positions.
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