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Stephen Jones: Next 3 Months Critical In Building A Team To Catch The Eagles

FRISCO, Texas – Like the other 31 teams in the National Football League, the Cowboys' goal every year is to reach the Super Bowl.

Watching a division rival like Philadelphia hoist the Lombardi Trophy last Sunday only fueled that motivation more.

"Certainly have a tremendous amount of respect for the Redskins, the Giants and the Eagles," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones told reporters on Wednesday. "But we certainly want to beat them.

"Certainly it's interesting to see that they (the Eagles) ended up being the Super Bowl champion. We're in their division. We feel like we're very competitive with them and know that we have to get better if we want to walk in their shoes. But I certainly respect them and certainly give them all the credit for putting together a great football team that won the Super Bowl."

The challenge for the Cowboys is continuing to build a team that can catch the Eagles in 2018.

The teams have split their four meetings since 2016, including the last two regular-season finales in Philadelphia with little at stake besides pride. In 2016, the Cowboys had already clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. In 2017, the Eagles had already secured the No. 1 seed.

Now Philly is on top of the league for the first time.

At 9-7, the Cowboys produced back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2007. But they finished a game out of the wild-card race in a rollercoaster season that included Ezekiel Elliott's legal fight against a six-game league suspension he ultimately served.

The team went 3-3 during that stretch, but those three losses – by a combined 92-22 score – gave Dallas no room for error until Seattle officially eliminated them from postseason contention on Christmas Eve.

The organization has spent the last several weeks retooling their coaching staff under Jason Garrett and evaluating their roster's performance, player by player.

Next up is the NFL Scouting Combine in late February. Then free agency in mid-March. Then the NFL Draft in late April.

It's a critical time to make the team better, Jones said.

"We were able to really get in there and grind our personnel and really look at what we have as a team and where we are," Jones said, "and at the same time know that we've got to be better if we are going to compete with a team like the Eagles. But we certainly feel like we can. We've got to continue to improve. We've got a big couple of months coming up, the next three months between unrestricted free agency, between the draft.

"(Vice president of player personnel) Will McClay, our coaching staff, (Cowboys owner/general manager) Jerry (Jones) and I, really got to roll up our sleeves and improve our football team. And if we do that, we think we've got a great opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl championship."

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