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Cowboys Expecting Assistant Coaches to Make Massive Impact

The Cowboys are preaching faith, hope and optimism when it comes to their passing game

The two men who might just have the biggest impact on the Cowboys this season aren't Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.

It's not Sean Lee or DeMarcus Lawrence either.

Actually, the dudes I'm talking about don't even play.

Their names? Receivers coach Sanjay Lal and passing game defensive coordinator Kris Richard.

Think about it, when is the last time you heard about a pair of assistant coaches, who weren't coordinators, getting as much hype as the Cowboys' new duo.

You haven't.

No one has, but each will have a huge impact on the Cowboys' season.

Dez Bryant is gone and the Cowboys have been adamant that their collection of no-name receivers can adequately get the job done this season.

They must perform at a high level because if they don't, Elliott will be seeing nine-man fronts all season.

And if that happens, we all know his effectiveness will drop. Prescott is a quality quarterback but this offense isn't built around him.

It's built around Elliott and the running game.

When he's running well — Elliott has been held to fewer than 80 yards twice in 25 starts — it sets up the play-action pass and it forces the defense to commit a safety to run defense, which means somebody is getting man-to-man coverage.

That's where Lal impacts the Cowboys' offense.

He's billed as a route-running guru, the kind of coach who can help every receiver on the roster improve and maximize his potential.

"I've been with Sanjay before and I can already tell he's taking me back to the basics and I can feel the difference," said Deonte Thompson, who signed a one-year deal in free agency. "He gives you a lot of tools that you can out in your toolbox to get open."

Understand, Terrance Williams is the most accomplished receiver on the roster with 3,359 yards.

Allen Hurns, the team's biggest offseason acquisition, Cole Beasley, Thompson, Williams and Noah Brown have combined for one 1,000-yard season in 22 seasons.

The Cowboys are preaching faith, hope and optimism when it comes to their passing game.

They say it will make Prescott a better passer because he won't always be looking for Bryant or Jason Witten.

They must. The alternative is disaster.

The Cowboys need Richard to have an equally-big impact on their defense.

His most important task is to get the Cowboys' collection of young defensive backs — Chido Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods, Anthony Brown and Byron Jones — to play to their pedigree.

Richard is a charismatic leader who understands the big picture when it comes to defensive concepts, but excels at teach the defense's nuance to his players.

Jones, though, is the key.

The former No.1 draft pick has moved between corner and safety and it has slowed his development.

He has two career interceptions and one of those was a Hail Mary at the end of the first half in a 2016 win over Tampa Bay.

He hasn't made nearly enough plays and he has occasionally struggled to make tackles, but he has been good covering pass-catching tight ends that proliferate today's NFL.

Richard wanted Jones at cornerback to take advantage of his 6-0, 205-pound frame.

He's always likes big cornerbacks.

"It's part of the system. The more guys we can get of that nature, of that stature, of that build, the better that we think we can be," Richard said. "Length, strength create issues at the line of scrimmage. We want to cause as many problems as we can for an offense before the ball is even snapped.

"If we're up there at the line of scrimmage and we're making you think about where you need to go and how you're going to get around me, it's a whole lot better than you just thinking about where you need to go."

Lee says this defense has a chance to be the best since the Cowboys drafted him in 2010.

Richard must play a vital role for that to happen.

He has a Super Bowl ring and he has a presence. His players have already noticed and he's infused them with a certain swag two months  before the start of training camp.

"He might be as good as any acquisition coming in," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "This guy's really good. When you meet him, you'll like him. You know that 'it'? He's got it."

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