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NFL Annual Meetings: Highlights From McCarthy 


PHOENIX One room, 16 head coaches, and hundreds of media members with their microphones, cameras and recorders.

That is the scene for the annual coach's breakfast at the NFL Owner's Meetings. The AFC coaches went Monday, followed by Tuesday morning with the NFC coaches, including Mike McCarthy of the Cowboys. 

McCarthy answered questions to a dozen reporters asking everything from the release of Ezekiel Elliott, to his play-calling duties, to the newly-signed veterans to his working relationship with Dak Prescott. He even fielded a question about his former QB Aaron Rodgers, who remains in the headlines.

But here are some quick highlights from McCarthy on Tuesday: 

  • Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore are the headlines of the offseason so far for the Cowboys. But more than just what they provide on the field, McCarthy seems overly excited about the leadership they will bring. "These are two very high quality veterans. I think their play clearly speaks for themselves. I think anyone who has followed Brandin and Stephon, from clear football ability and production, you're definitely excited about it. But the type of people they are. You could see it immediately, just when they came in to sign their contracts. The impact they'll make particularly with our young players. Real excited the way they fit into our locker room. I always continue to emphasize that the locker room is the most important component of the football operations. I feel we have an excellent locker room to build off of and these guys are a great fit for us, both."
  • On Cooks, who has played for four other teams in his career and is one of two players (Brandon Marshall) in NFL history to record 1,000-yard seasons for four different teams, McCarthy said he's excited about how quickly Cooks has adapted to new teams. "I think it definitely shows his versatility. And I think any time you jump from scheme to scheme, I know for me personally, to have the opportunity to coach the last couple of years in a digit system based, that was formed from a digit system, and now being a West Coast offense my whole career, when you learn other systems it just broadens your football education. I think Brandin definitely brings that."
  • With players that have come in the door, McCarthy spoke about the high-profile player who has exited in Ezekiel Elliott. McCarthy said he'll never forget the 2020 offseason, his first year with the Cowboys, when Zeke made a big impression in the meeting rooms. "In my time what I admired about Zeke was going back to the pandemic, when we had our meetings in the Ford Center, Zeke sat in the first seat front row. He's very coachable. Great teammate. He's loved in the locker room. So all those things factored. But I think just like anything the financial puzzle you're always trying to put together a nd build and grow your football team. But these decisions are very difficult."
  • Without Zeke in the lineup now, McCarthy said figuring out he will be replaced is going to be an offseason chore. "Any time you have a big change like this - just look at Zeke's opportunities and I'll just speak on my time with him the last few years - where do those touches go? So much of this game is made about how many times you run it or pass it, but it's really about how do you get the ball distributed to your perimeter players, and it's no different than Tony (Pollard). Sitting there having Tony and Zeke conversations in the offensive staff - it's how are we going to get these guys to touch the ball? That won't change. You just look at where these touches go and do some of the touches go to receivers, tight ends, the new backs definitely absorb some of those opportunities, Tony's will probably go up."
  • Asked about Terence Steele and the possibility of him working at guard, McCarthy said it'll come down to the position-flex and getting the five best on the field. "We're talking about it, yeah," McCarthy said of Steele working some at guard. "We haven't got in there with those guys yet. Offseason program starts in April, but yeah we'll definitely … we're looking at all those things."
  • McCarthy said he sees newly-signed lineman Chuma Edoga as a versatile player who can play both guard and tackle, but "without a doubt" will compete at left guard. "He's a good athlete. Came in and did a nice job with his interviews. We feel like he'll be a good fit for us." 
  • Dak's interceptions have been discussed in length since last season, when he led the NFL with 15 in the regular-season. McCarthy said he spent four hours in a film-room session with Dak and QB coach Scott Tolzien recently this past month to go over not only the picks, but near-interceptions as well. McCarthy called it a "healthy" exercise and something that is not uncommon in the offseason. 
  • As the new play-caller, McCarthy said he doesn't envision a big change in how the offense will look, but pointed out that even when he was in Green Bay for several years as the play-caller, the offense will always have some alterations year to year. "I don't see a huge change in the run component of it. Schematically. Just like anything, if you put three play-callers in one room and you give them the same playbook, they're all going to call it a little differently. I think that's to be expected. The second point is you have to evolve it every year anyways. If we didn't make the change at playcaller, we'd be evolving anyway."

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