Dallas Cowboys

Will Jerry Jones really hold Ezekiel Elliott out of the preseason, cut Rico Gathers?

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Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones spoke for almost 20 minutes following his team’s 21-13 preseason loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Saturday night.

Jones had a number of interesting takes after two preseason games and only three weeks left before the Sept. 9 season opener against the Carolina Panthers.

Topping the list are Jones’ thoughts on a Cowboys defense being better than expected and possibly keeping running back Ezekiel Elliott in bubble wrap until the start of the regular season.

Elliott has gotten a lot of work in practice and training camp. And while he is expected to play at least one series in Sunday’s third preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, which is considered the dress rehearsal for the season, Jones said it’s not a given he will at all. He certainly doesn’t need to see him.

“I don’t know,” Jones said about Elliott playing against the Cardinals. “I’ll have to think about that one.

“Zeke has had such a great work and been so workmanlike about his approach to camp, I don’t need to see any more.”

Most surprising was Jones’ take on tight end Rico Gathers, a former Baylor basketball player who the Cowboys owner treated like a pet cat through his first two seasons.

Jones has forever lauded Gathers’ potential as a big play threat in the red zone because of his size and athletic ability. But he is seemingly growing weary with his inconsistent play and slow adaptation to the nuances of the game in terms of blocking, route running and special teams.

He openly talked about the possibility of cutting Gathers to keep a possibly more valuable player on the roster at another position. Gathers is the fourth tight end behind Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin and rookie fourth-round pick Dalton Schultz.

“At a point, and I’m not so sure we’re not at that point, if he can be consistent on a personal basis, I’ll give him the time he needs to make those kinds of plays,” Jones said. “We talk about being a weapon in red zone, and he’s certainly that. He’s making those because of his obvious talent and physical advantage, size, leaping ability, strength, hands, all that.

“He’s blocking well when he’s blocking the right man. He’s got enough there, but the angst comes when you’re sitting there looking at the guy who is not on the roster because you kept him on the roster.”

Jones is confident center Travis Frederick is out of the woods in terms of a serious neck injury after suffering from stingers in camp. He was held out of the Bengals game after visiting Dr. Robert Watkins last week to let the inflammation subside. The goal is for Frederick to be ready for the season opener, so it’s likely he will be sidelined for the final two preseason games.

”I don’t want to set an expectation there,” Jones said. “As I stand here, certainly expect him to be as ready. And he wants to be (ready) for the opener.”

Jones liked what he saw from defensive end Randy Gregory in his first game of any kind since being suspended following the 2016 season finale for the repeated violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Jones said Gregory has a chance at a really great career because of his talent but acknowledged that it’s a day-to-day proposition with him because of his challenges to stay clean under the league’s drug policy.

“I thought he was confident. He looked like he was right at home. He didn’t look like he had missed any work.

”I think he has a chance to really have a career that you might hope someone with that kind of talent, but it’s a day-to-day thing relative to his challenge,” Jones said. “I hope we all understand that. The way it is right now in the National Football League, you can’t have a dependence on under the present rules in that area. If you’re on the spot, which he is, if you don’t stay on point, then you can … that comes to my mind every time we talk about him.”

Jones expressed similar sentiment toward defensive tackle David Irving, who is suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Irving did not report to training camp to take care of ongoing personal issues and won’t return to the team until Oct. 1.

Jones said Irving, who recently criticized the NFL’s drug policy in a rant on social media, can have a great career if he can get in line with the league’s drug program.

“I just know that he’s very capable,” Jones said. “I’m talking about apart from being an athlete, he’s very capable of being a big part of this team. If he can also get in line with the policy of the NFL, then he’ll have a great career. I can say that unequivocally. Matter of fact, both those guys we’re talking about [Gregory and Irving] can have great careers.”

Jones said the highlight to him of the first two games was the play of the defense, which has recorded five turnovers in the first two preseason games and shut the Bengals out the starters on the field.

“I think we’ve done a heck of a job,” he said. “I think we have depth. I see rotation. We’re deep there. I think we’ve got depth and we can keep that bunch fresh with the level I’m seeing out there. It’s better than I maybe expected.”

These former Dallas Cowboys players were recognized for their role on "America's Team" by getting a place on the Cowboys Ring of Honor.

Clarence E. Hill Jr. :@clarencehillljr
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