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Mailbag: Can The Players Right The Ship?

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I liked the players taking charge of the locker room after the Thanksgiving debacle--maybe they realize you only get so many opportunities in life. Do you think the players themselves can right this ship? - LES HOFFMAN / PELL CITY, AL

Nick: I think that’s a start. I’ve been pretty vocal the past month that I think the players are a big part of this problem right now. Not giving the coaching staff a pass on this but I also don’t think the players are as talented as everyone likes to say. Yes they need to take some ownership for these losses as well. But like Dak said on Monday, this really isn’t the time for motivational speeches and yelling in the locker room. At 6-6, and knowing they’ve only beaten bad teams, the Cowboys should have all the motivation they need. But yes, it starts with the players playing better.

Rob: I have always believed that in any sport, coaching is always reflective of team performance on some level, positive or negative. I agree that the players are putting the responsibility on themselves. As Jason Witten told us Monday, “Execution is such a broad term that I think gets thrown out a lot. We’ve just got to play better. In every makeup as a team, we have to play better.” Most of the guys that won 10 games and made the divisional round a year ago are still here. They’ve still got belief. But as Dak Prescott said yesterday, it’s about actions.

In the preseason and early season, Devin Smith was talked about being a deep threat with his speed. What happened? We haven't seen him in a game in a while. Is he hurt or just not making the cut? - TONY VADASZ / PISCATAWAY NJ

Nick: Well, he’s not hurt. What happens with all backup receivers is they get judged on how they play special teams. So if they’re not playing at a high level at receiver and providing a consistent threat in that area, they better be able to run down on kickoffs and punts and make an impact. He was doing that early but he and Cedrick Wilson have been passed over by Ventell Bryant on special teams. The Cowboys only want to take five players to the game and the last receiver has to play special teams. Now, could you argue that the Cowboys could possibly get more from Tavon Austin at receiver? Yeah you could but I don’t see them making a change there at this point. Smith will likely get the offseason to keep learning the system and will be in the mix next year. The Cowboys have invested time in him and he’s going to be around.

Rob: They do like Smith’s talent at receiver, but he hasn’t been active since the Green Bay game in October. That game-day spot has gone to Bryant largely because of special teams, as Nick said. Bryant got his first NFL catch and first NFL touchdown last week on a play that wasn’t designed for him.

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