Identifying Dallas Cowboys’ 5 Most Improved Positional Units

As usual, it was an eventful offseason for the Dallas Cowboys. Once again they passed on signing some of the bigger names in free agency as they focused on improving their roster through the draft.

Rather than adding expensive players in free agency, the Cowboys have opted to pay their own and add cheaper free agents. Dallas was able to add a few names in the later days of free agency that helped improve depth across multiple positions.

While some positions lost numerous starters, such as safety and offensive line, the team improved in multiple spots this offseason, specifically on defense.

Here are the top five most improved positional units for the Dallas Cowboys heading into 2017.

No. 1: Defensive Line

The Cowboys lost a few veterans on their defensive line this offseason (Terrell McClain and Jack Crawford), but Dallas was able to add a lot of talent to the group via free agency and the draft. First, let’s take a look at the veterans the Cowboys added.

Stephen Paea was signed to compete with Cedric Thornton for the starting one-technique job. Paea finished 2016 with an average grade (75.7), according to Pro Football Focus. With Dallas not having a big, powerful middle linebacker to take on blocks, it makes sense that Dallas would go with Paea inside, as he provides more girth and run-stopping ability than Thornton. I predict that he will start over Thornton in Week 1.

Dallas also added former Giants’ defensive end Damontre Moore to the roster. Moore played just 104 snaps last season, but Dallas is hoping that pairing him with Rod Marinelli will be the right move to resurrect his career. Moore is just 24 and has 10 career sacks to his name, and he will be competing for a roster spot in camp.

In the draft, Dallas added three defensive linemen to compete for roles in 2017. The most notable addition is first-round pick Taco Charlton from Michigan.

Charlton will start his career at right defensive end and will likely start from Week 1 at that spot. While he doesn’t fit the traditional mold of a Marinelli right end, Charlton’s length and quickness will allow him to be productive as a rookie. He will see plenty of snaps in his first year at multiple positions, and he should be able to help against the run right away.

Dallas also selected defensive linemen Joey Ivie and Jordan Carrell in the seventh round of the draft. Each will provide quality depth as they fight for roster spots. Both are high-motor players who will make plays with athleticism and effort, and they will be competing against one another for a spot on the 53-man roster.

Ultimately, Dallas added talent and depth to its defensive line. While it won’t be the strength of the team going forward, it’s clear that Dallas wanted to address this position, and the Cowboys added lots of youth to the group. I expect the Cowboys to have an improved pass rush heading into 2017.

No. 2: Cornerback

At the end of the season, Pro Football Focus ranked the Dallas Cowboys’ secondary as the best unit in the league.

Despite their success in 2016, Dallas allowed its top two cornerbacks (as well as Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox) to walk out the door in free agency. So how can Dallas improve at a position that ranked No. 1 in the league last year? The answer is simple; turnovers.

Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne played a combined 1,509 snaps on defense last year, and together they combined for just two interceptions. While both cornerbacks played well last year, neither takes the ball away at a high rate, and that’s been true for each throughout their careers. Quarterbacks were not afraid to throw at either of them. While they were solid players, they just weren’t dynamic enough for Marinelli.

The Cowboys added four cornerbacks to the roster this season; three via the draft and one through free agency (Nolan Carroll). The goal for the Cowboys was to find cornerbacks who excel at taking the ball away and can fit better as zone corners in the Tampa-2 defense.

While Dallas added youth and playmakers to its cornerback room, that also means that the team may surrender more yardage. However, the hope is that the team found players who can create turnovers more frequently and give Dallas more flexibility in the secondary.

It may take a few weeks or months for this roster turnover to prove itself as a smart move, but by the end of the season, the cornerback unit should be much improved.

No. 3: Wide Receiver

Heading into free agency, it seemed as if the Cowboys were going to have a much different receiver corps entering 2017. Terrance Williams and Brice Butler both hit the market, and it was assumed both would find more money elsewhere.

However, Dallas was able to retain both Williams and Butler (at discounted deals), and that didn’t force its hand in the draft. Instead of reaching for a receiver due to need, the Cowboys were able to sit back and let the draft come to them.

This resulted in the team selecting not one, but two receivers in April’s draft. Dallas added a dynamic slot receiver in Ryan Switzer, as well as a big-bodied player in Noah Brown.

On top of retaining the team’s top-six receivers, the Cowboys were also able to add to the group. That alone should provide an upgrade, as Switzer and Brown will push the receivers at the bottom of the roster.

No. 4: Special Teams

To say the Cowboys’ special teams unit has been lackluster in the past five years is quite an understatement.

In the last six seasons, the Cowboys have failed to return a kickoff for a touchdown and only have one punt return touchdown. They’ve blocked just one punt and one field goal in the past six seasons. Outside of Dan Bailey, the Cowboys have had an average-at-best special teams unit.

To help improve the return game in 2017, the Cowboys added two returners this offseason, the first being Switzer in the draft. Not only will Switzer help as a receiver, but he actually may contribute even more as a returner his first few years in Dallas.

In his career at North Carolina, Switzer returned seven punts for touchdowns and averaged nearly 11 yards per return. He will likely be the team’s starting punt returner in Week 1 against the Giants.

The Cowboys also signed another returner in free agency; CFL star Quincy McDuffie. In 2016, McDuffie scored twice on kickoff returns, while averaging a career 12.6 yards per return on punt returns. He’s no lock to make the roster, but he will push Lucky Whitehead and Switzer in the return game.

Between Whitehead, Switzer and McDuffie, the Cowboys should have improved competition at both return spots, and that should produce much better play from the unit in 2017.

No. 5: Linebacker

While Dallas didn’t draft or sign one in free agency, the expectation is that its linebacker corps should be greatly improved in 2016. How can this be an improved unit without Dallas adding one player? The answer is simple; Jaylon Smith.

In 2016, the Cowboys selected Smith knowing full-well that he would likely miss the entire 2016 season and that there was a significant chance he wouldn’t play a down for the team. And while there’s still a chance that he may not, it seems like the odds of him being on the field in Week 1 against the Giants are growing daily.

Smith has been participating in the team’s OTAs, albeit one day on then another off. The goal is to keep him fresh and ready to go for the season, but by all accounts, it seems like he hasn’t been limited in practice.

Smith is still using an AFO brace to help lift his foot, but he can walk without the brace. He can lift his toes towards his shin, and his foot no longer drags.

Even if Smith returns to only 80 to 85 percent of his 2015 self, that will be an upgrade over the linebackers that were next to Sean Lee in 2016. It’s assumed that if Smith is cleared to get on the field physically, it won’t take him long to grasp the defensive playbook, as he’s one of the smarter linebackers to ever come out of the draft.

There is still a lot of unknown about Smith, but every day he progresses, it seems more likely that he will be able to contribute to the team in some capacity.

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Downtown Dallas Is Getting a New 45-Story Tower Next to Huge $70 Million Fountain Place Redo

Goddard Investment

At the same time, another developer is breaking ground on a 45-story companion tower next door.

Atlanta-based Goddard Investment Group — which bought Fountain Place in 2014 — is building a new garage and retail building on the northeast side of the green glass tower.

The upgrades to the 31-year-old Ross Avenue skyscraper have already prompted several major tenants to sign up for longer leases in the building.

Wells Fargo Bank — which had been looking at other options in downtown and Uptown — has committed to keeping 123,650 square feet in Fountain Place for its flagship Dallas location.

Bracewell LLP, Tenet Healthcare, Hunton & Williams and investment firm Gerald L. Ray & Associates have also decided to stay in the tower.

In all, more than 500,000 square feet of extended office deals have been signed in the 1.2 million square foot building, according to property agents at Cushman & Wakefield of Texas who lease the tower.

“The renewals and new leases are an absolute validation of the vision of Goddard Investment Group and their commitment to such a significant reinvestment in an iconic Dallas property,” Cushman & Wakefield’s Johnny Johnson said.

Revamping Fountain Place wasn’t something the new owners rushed into.

Designed by Harry Cobb of I.M. Pei and Partners, the building is one of Dallas’ most iconic skyscrapers and a standout on the city’s skyline.

Goddard hired New York-based James Carpenter Design Associates Inc. and Gensler to lead the team working on Fountain Place.

The current construction includes:

· Building a 10-story, 1,500-space parking garage with ground-floor retail between Fountain Place and the next-door Fairmont Hotel.

· Renovation of the tower’s lobby, including a floor-to-ceiling, glass-wall art piece designed by James Carpenter.

· A new tenant lounge constructed at the north end of the lobby.

· An 8,000-square-foot fitness center.

· A training room to accommodate up to 150 people.

The upgrades will also include renovation of the tower’s signature fountains and landscaping around the base.

The renovations will include new art glass walls in the lobby. (Goddard Investment)

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Uptown-Area Condo Tower Cruises Toward Summer Opening

Another new Uptown Dallas tower is heading to the finish line.

The 33-story Bleu Ciel condominium tower, which is being constructed at the north end of Harwood Street, has topped out its construction.

A project of developer Harwood International, the high-rise has about 150 condo units ranging in size from from 1,373 to more than 5,800 square feet.

Units in the building start in price near $800,000.

Designed by Dallas-based HDF and Paris-architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, the tower has a ground floor garden, a spa, private garages and a gourmet market.

“We will start delivering units this summer,” Harwood’s Jessica Young said.

Bleu Ciel is one of three buildings the developer has under construction in its Harwood district north of downtown Dallas.

Harwood is completing a new building for watchmaker Rolex.

And the developer recently broke ground for a 22-story office tower on McKinnon St.

The Bleu Ciel tower has more than 150 condos.

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Fun Things to Do Once You Arrive at North End Dallas

If you get to the city of Dallas, you might want to go to North End Dallas in order to see many fun things that you can do. It is a place that is perfect for tourists, and there are also many locations that locals like to visit from time to time. If you are a tourist, it is likely that you have done the Dallas CityPASS which is an exciting tour that will take you to many different destinations. You can also ride the bus and do the Dallas Attraction Tours which will take you to even more locations. Here are a few things that you ought to do once you arrive if you’ve never been to North End Dallas before.

Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

If you enjoy botanical gardens, you will definitely like to visit the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. You will get to see many beautiful flowers, and thus why you need to travel to Dallas during the spring time if you want to truly experience how beautiful it is. There are other things that you can see while you are there, and it is definitely one of the most relaxing places that you can go. Locals will also travel here because it is right next to a large body of water, and also a garden that is designed for children that they can also appreciate.

The Sixth Floor Museum

This is a Museum that will teach you all about John F. Kennedy, and an assortment of other things. It is a very organized tour, and not too long, making it perfect for people that would like to do more than one or two tours during the day. You should block off at least two hours, and if you are only there on the weekend, this is one place that you definitely need to go. It is a location that will give you a lot of information about Dallas and its history.

This quick overview of what you can do when you get to North End Dallas will make it worth your while to visit this beautiful location. It is a place that is designed to accommodate people that are interested in learning about the city, but also having a good time. You can also visit other destinations including the George W. Bush Museum, and you can also take Segway tours if you prefer doing that. There are so many things that you can do, plus you can see the beautiful skyscrapers that have been seen in many movies and TV shows. Book your trip today and find out why so many people love the city of Dallas.

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Over 50,000 New Apartments Under Way in Dallas–Fort Worth’s Hot Housing Market

The Dallas–Fort Worth multifamily market was already one of the nation’s hottest in the beginning of 2017, and it remains so. Currently, the market has 50,588 apartments under construction (second only to New York City), with 30,000 or more expected to be complete by the end of the year, according to the Dallas Morning News:

“Seems like forever I’ve been quoting folks that the pace of apartment building in North Texas is sure to slow soon,” wrote Steve Brown, the paper’s real estate editor. “I wouldn’t count on that.”

Thirty percent of the units under construction are in the north end of the market, in Frisco-Proper, Allen/McKinney, and Richardson, while 11% are in the market’s city center. Many of the new buildings are mixed-use, New Urbanist, luxury communities, built to appeal to the city’s influx of young professionals.

Right now, the two largest projects by square footage under construction in D-FW are some of these New Urban-style ones, and are both in Frisco (Wade Park and Frisco Station). Other notable multi-family projects include various towers in central Dallas, and mid-rise lofts in Fort Worth. The 3rd largest construction project right now is the Toyota Corporate Campus, in Plano, and while it is strictly commercial/office, it too provides a window into the nature of D-FW’s apartment growth.

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Dallas Cowboys: What to Expect from Defensive End Taco Charlton

The Dallas Cowboys passed up more popular choices to pick Taco Charlton 28th overall in the NFL Draft, so now what are the expectations for his rookie season?

There seemed to be a collective groaning amongst Dallas Cowboys fans when the team made their first-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. On the clock at No. 28, the Cowboys could have made some headlines by picking either cornerback Kevin King from Washington or Wisconsin edge rusher T.J. Watt — both of whom were heavily favored by fans as the top choices.

Instead, the Boys went with Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton, which wasn’t the flashy name many wanted. It wasn’t so much that anyone thought Charlton was a bad prospect, but rather he didn’t have the upside of the other two mentioned.

Since the pick was made, it was easy to see that Dallas believed a stacked corner class allowed them to wait on selecting a defensive back. They later did pretty well in that department by getting Chidobe Awuzie out of Colorado in the second and the talented Jourdan Lewis from Michigan in the third — although he did fall some thanks to red flags about off field domestic violence issues.

Those choices calmed some of the frustration over passing on King, but that just made fans more upset about the team passing on Watt. Will McClay, the team’s senior director of college and pro personnel, went on 105.3 The Fan and tried to explain the rationale behind the move.

“I think going after Taco in the first round gives us a defensive end that we feel like has upside, that’s athletic but can also be multiple,” McClay said. “He played right end, left end, can play inside, can mismatch guys on the inside. He had four different positions at Michigan. The right kind of kid. He’s got size, he’s got length – that helps us there.”

The key point McClay mentions is the player being “multiple.” Dallas likes players who can move around on defense, like Byron Jones, who has played corner and safety. David Irving is another player fitting that bill, as he’s been able to help at left defensive end and the three-technique tackle spot.

Without saying it, though, he also mentioned why the team passed on Watt — because he never played end at Wisconsin. Watt was talented, for sure, and could very well have blossomed as a hand in the dirt pass rusher. But McClay likes to see things done rather than base first-round picks on projections.

Any expectations for Watt as a defensive end would be exactly that, purely projection. In Charlton, they have seen him on the edge of the line and they truly believe they know what they got. Our question then is, what exactly is that?

The best player to look at when thinking of Taco Charlton may very well be Greg Ellis. The North Carolina defensive end had almost identical size to Charlton. Ellis was listed at 6-6 and 271 pounds whereas Charlton is the same height, but tipped the scales at 277 pounds.

While Ellis was picked much higher back in 1998, the eight-overall selection was greeted with a similar annoyance as Taco. The fans at the time wanted wide receiver Randy Moss, who the team passed on for character concerns. Although Moss turned out to be one of the best receivers ever, Ellis at least proved to be a dependable player.

In 11 seasons with the Cowboys Ellis had 84 sacks and 372 career tackles. He only topped double digits in sacks one time — in 2007 when he had 12.5 — but was a consistent presence who averaged close to eight sacks per season throughout his career.

If Charlton becomes a similar player to Ellis, it wouldn’t be the worst bargain for someone taken near the end of the first round. As a rookie, he could very well start from Day 1 at right end, which also allows the team to let Demarcus Lawrence spend time at that spot as well, where he was able to record eight sacks in 2015.

Charlton should be strong against the run as a rookie thanks to his size and smarts, but don’t expect his pass rushing to be great right out of the gates. Even the legendary J.J. Watt had just 5.5 sacks as a rookie for the Houston Texans, proving pass rushers usually need time to figure out the next level.

However, Charlton helps in other ways too by allowing more freedom for people like Lawrence to move. He also can keep 2016 sack leader Benson Mayowa on the sidelines during running downs, which helps keep him fresh as he hopes to improve upon his six sacks from his first year wearing the star.

Eventually,fans may learn to love this pick, as long as they judge Charlton for his work alone rather than looking in the rearview mirror at what other players end up doing in a different system and situation. Taco is ready to put his hand in the dirt in Dallas right now, which is exactly what the Cowboys coveted.

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Houston Developer Hines Hits the Mark with Dallas-Area Home Communities

You may need a map to find one of the biggest new home communities being built in North Dallas.

Just a couple of blocks north of Presbyterian Hospital on Meadow Road, the 300-home residential development is going up in a neighborhood once filled with tumbledown apartments.

Now one of the world’s best-known developers, Houston-based Hines, is turning the 23-acre redevelopment into a high-end home community.

“There are a lot of good places to live in D-FW, but inside Interstate 635, this is one of the largest master planned single-family developments done in a long time,” said Ben Brewer, Hines’ managing director. “To have something of this size in a location like this is rare.”

Called Merion at Midtown Park, the high-density community includes a central park with swimming pool and almost a dozen other small green spaces.

K. Hovnanian Homes, Coventry Homes and Chesmar Homes are building houses averaging about 2,200 square feet and starting around $450,000.

“The first phase is 100 homes,” Brewer said. “About half of what has already been built has been sold.”

The buyers so far have been a broad mix.

“We are seeing people who live in North Dallas and want to downsize,” he said. “We see young professionals that office in Uptown and want to own.

“We are even seeing some people who work in the CityLine project in Richardson.”

Merion is between DART’s two light-rail stations at Walnut Hill and Royal lanes, about 7 miles north of downtown Dallas.

“We are seeing a lot of people from Preston Hollow that want to downsize,” said Tammie Mabe of Chesmar Homes. “One builder just sold to a couple with kids.”

Chesmar’s townhouses have the master bedroom and a guest suite on the third floor. An optional elevator connects all the levels.

K. Hovnanian is building two- and three-story houses, with the smallest starting at 1,675 square feet.

“I’ve had two sales in the last two weeks,” said K. Hovnanian’s Tina Peterson. “It’s a product that can speak to buyers who are millennials and all the way up to the empty nesters.”

Midtown Park project

Hines’ Merion development at Meadow and Rambler roads occupies one of the largest portions of the 80-acre Midtown Park project.

Midtown Park started more than a decade ago when developers bought up thousands of old apartments in the neighborhood just east of North Central Expressway.

After clearing the land and rezoning the property, the original owners lost the high-profile property during the recession.

Dallas’ Provident Realty and Kroenke Holdings of Missouri and bought the vacant blocks in December 2011 after a foreclosure.

Along with Hines’ home development, three high-end apartment projects and a senior housing community are under construction in Midtown Park.

“There’s a lot going on now in the area,” said Provident CEO Leon Backes. “We felt having a single-family neighborhood in the project was a great addition.”

Hines, which has built everything from the Galleria shopping mall in Far North Dallas to skyscrapers at home in Houston and abroad, isn’t known as a single-family neighborhood builder. But in the last decade, the developer has constructed over a dozen residential communities in North Texas.

The largest of Hines’ communities under way is a 664-home project in Frisco. The Edgestone at Legacy community is aimed more at families, with larger homes priced from more than $500,000.

Hines has developed several home projects in Las Colinas.

“I was brought up from Houston in ’06 when Hines purchased 600 acres in Las Colinas,” Brewer said. “Our D-FW office is Hines’ largest single-family operation.

“We have really created a good market here.”

Tornadoes, Flooding Stretching From Texas To Missouri Blamed For 8 Deaths

CANTON, TX — A severe storm spawned several tornadoes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that left at least four people dead and injured more than 50 others Saturday. The pattern of severe weather left major destruction in parts of the midwest and the south over the weekend, leaving a woman dead in Missouri when she drowned in flood waters and killing another person in Arkansas when a tree fell on a mobile home. On Sunday, at least two deaths were reported in Mississippi.

Severe storms battered residents in Van Zandt, Rains and Henderson counties in Texas with much of the damage situated in the small town of Canton, about 60 miles southeast of Dallas. The National Weather Services reported that between three and five tornadoes may have touched down in Canton, Eustace and Caney City, tossing cars and semi-trucks and flattening trees Saturday afternoon. Officials said the Canton tornado was at least a half-mile wide as a moved through town, striking nearby Emory and Fruitvale.

At least one person was killed when a tornado lifted a car in the air and tossed it back to the ground with passengers still inside, according to officials. The East Texas Medical Center system hospitals in the area took in 54 patients, with one of those in critical condition. None of the other patients were suffering life-threatening injuries, officials said.

The American Red Cross of North Texas had set up two shelters for victims displaced by the storms — one at Canton’s First Methodist Church Life Center, the other at the Emory City Center in Emory, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Meanwhile, the search for other tornado victims is expected to continue Sunday, with rescue crews from Texas Task Force 2 expected to arrive early Sunday to assist.

The severe weather hit a wide swath of the midwest and the south, leading the governors of Oklahoma and Missouri to declare a state of emergency in their respective states. In Missouri, a 72-year-old woman drowned even as her husband tried to save her as the car they were in was swept away by rushing waters in Clever, Missouri, reports the Kansas City Star. In Arkansas, a person was killed after a tree fell on a home in the town of De Witt.

Another death was reported in Durant, Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant said. By late Sunday evening, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said a second death had been confirmed in the state after a child suffered an electric shock in floodwaters.

Major flooding is expected to continue in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri and the threat of additional flooding will move into the mid south and Tennessee Valley, according to the National Weather Service. The service also predicts rain across western and central Michigan to Northern Illinois.

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Rowlett Mayor Resigns, Sets Sights on Dallas County Commission Seat

Rowlett Mayor Todd Gottel announced his resignation Tuesday and his candidacy for the Dallas County Commissioners Court seat being vacated by Republican Mike Cantrell at the end of 2018.

Gottel has been mayor of Rowlett since 2011 and on its council since 2007. He is best known for guiding the city of 58,000 through the aftermath of an EF-4 tornado that struck in December 2015.

Rowlett Mayor Todd Gottel announced his resignation and candidacy for Dallas County Commissioners Court. (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News)

Gottel never lost an election in Rowlett. However a proposed change to the city charter that would have allowed him to serve up to three full terms instead of the current two, was turned down by voters last May. That left Gottel facing term limits in 2019.

Rowlett’s city’s charter calls for the special election of a new mayor within 120 days of Gottel’s announcement. Gottel said he plans to preside as mayor until his replacement is elected.

Though municipal seats are non-partisan, Gottel said he is known as a Republican. He emceed U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions’ recent town hall event when the congressman’s foes came out passionate and raucous.

“We see the same things in our city,” Gottel said. “The issue is not health care, but it may be apartments or something they care just as much about. A lot of it is trying to educate people on the facts and let them make their own minds up on it. Government doesn’t have to be bad.”

Commission’s lone Republican

District 2, the lone Republican seat on the Dallas County Commissioner’s Court, is generating a lot of early interest, even though Cantrell plans to stay on the job until the end of 2018. The election is in November 2018, but the race will likely be decided in the party’s spring primary.

“It’s really early on, but if you’re going to get into the race, you have to start now,” Gottel said.

Dallas attorney J.J. Koch declared his candidacy last August, within days of Cantrell’s retirement announcement. Koch and Gottel both believe the campaign will require $300,000-$400,000.

J.J. Koch of Dallas, 37, attorney and declared 2018 candidate for Dallas County Commissioners Court, District 2.

District 2 includes parts of Addison, Carrollton, Coppell, North Dallas, Farmers Branch, the Park Cities, Richardson, Rowlett and Sachse.

“Todd Gottel is a phenomenal public servant,” Koch said. “It is simply my belief that the challenges we face in the Commissioners Court are very dissimilar than the challenges he has faced. We have a crisis in law enforcement, courts, jails and general administration in the county.”

Garland City Council member Stephen Stanley has also acknowledged an interest in the seat. Stanley remains on the council, which means he is not officially a candidate, but his Garland term ends in May and he did not seek re-election.

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0 Preston North End

Match Report: Leeds United 3-0 Preston North End – United Exude Efficiency in Defeat of Lilywhites
Saturday, 8th Apr 2017 22:05 by @LucasMonk_

On a glorious afternoon at Elland Road, Leeds United ensured that they would not suffer the ignominy of losing three successive league matches for the first time in over a year, by comprehensively vanquishing Preston North End in consummate style and consolidating their position within the play-offs for the time being.

Prior to kick-off on an idyllic and tranquil afternoon in West Yorkshire, those in attendance commemorated the lives of Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight. The two were ardent supporters of the Whites, who tragically lost their lives in grievous circumstances 17 years ago in Istanbul. A minute’s applause preceded the game’s beginning, and the showing that Leeds United delivered will doubtless have done them both proud.

In spite of their Lancastrian opponents applying significant attacking pressure in the early stages of the match, United eventually cruised to a noteworthy victory that their performance wholly merited.

Kemar Roofe netted his third goal of a transitional campaign since his move from Oxford United in the summer transfer window, while Pablo Hernandez and substitute Souleymane Doukara also registered strikes of their own to secure an invaluable three points against vigorous opposition.

The result, in consequence, means that seventh-placed Fulham remain five points behind Garry Monk’s side, with a mere five matches remaining in what has been a memorable season that thus far has been chock-full of delight. The Whites travel to St James’ Park next Friday, as they prepare to do battle with automatic promotion hopefuls Newcastle United in a climacteric televised clash.

Team Lineups

Leeds United (4-2-3-1) – Green; Ayling, Bartley (C), Jansson, Berardi; Vieira, Phillips; Roofe (Dallas 70’), Hernandez (Taylor 88’), Pedraza; Wood (Doukara 80’).

Unused Substitutes: Peacock-Farrell, Coyle, O’Kane, Barrow.

Preston North End (3-4-1-2) – Maxwell; Clarke, Huntington, Baptiste (Red Card 86’); Vermijl (Johnson 61’), Gallagher (Makienok 72’), Pearson (C), Cunningham; McGeady; Barkhuizen, Robinson (Beckford 72’).

Unused Substitutes: Lindegaard, Spurr, Browne, Horgan.

First-Half

The hosts began proceedings, shooting toward the Kop. With little more than two minutes of play elapsed, Tom Barkhuizen, having been recently crowned the Championship’s player of the month, bewildered each and every spectator present by inexplicably heading Marnick Vermijl’s cross straight at United’s Rob Green from only yards out.

Having exuded goalkeeping aptitude by diverting the aforementioned Barkhuizen header over the bar, Green was soon enough called into action once more; from the subsequent corner, it would be Barkhuizen who connected with the ball for a second time, with the former England goalkeeper gratuitous to have saved with relative ease on this occasion.

Nine minutes bereft of any clear-cut goalscoring opportunities ensued, before Barkhuizen would spurn a third chance to score his seventh goal for the Lilywhites since his winter move from Morecambe. Kemar Roofe uncharacteristically relinquished possession in the centre of the field, before the 23 year-old was presented with a facile, one-on-one prospect of opening the scoring. After effortlessly evading a defensive challenge from Kyle Bartley, the former Blackpool prodigy could only curl an infernal effort wide of Green’s right-hand post.

The Preston North End management, playing staff, and supporters would have been unanimously cursing what was to come five minutes later with rueful exasperation. Having enjoyed a sprightly start, the visitors could conjure up zilch to impede Kemar Roofe, who, after a slick interchange of passes with Chris Wood elected to lift the ball over a hapless Chris Maxwell in consummate style.

United could count themselves as being highly unfortunate not to have increased the margin of their advantage on 40 minutes. The talismanic Chris Wood, scorer of no less than 27 goals this season, was under an ephemeral impression that he’d recorded goal number 28 of what has been a stellar campaign, only for the goal to be disallowed following the referee Peter Bankes’ consultation with the linesman.

Whether the indignant protestations of a scattering of Preston players served to bear an influence upon the decision, only the officials involved will know, but in any case, United would double their money just five minutes later. Having already netted the opening goal of the game, Kemar Roofe displayed wondrous vision and finesse to play Pablo Hernandez in on goal. With only North End ‘keeper Maxwell left to beat, the Spaniard conquered his counterpart in a foot race before poking the ball home with the deftest of touches for his fifth goal of the season.

That proved to be the last action of intrigue in the first-half, and the sides ventured into the changing rooms with United having established a healthy 2-0 lead.

HT – Leeds United 2-0 Preston North End (Roofe 18’, Hernandez 45’).

Second-Half

As the hosts had begun proceedings by kicking off the first-half, it was the prerogative of Preston to begin the second period.

The visitors made a vigorous start to the second-half, and though they won a succession of corners in this period, none of them were to culminate in a goal.

Leeds would then come desperately close to increasing their lead to an almost unassailable margin in the game’s 54th minute. Pablo Hernandez’s sumptuous delivery eventually fell to Chris Wood, who instinctively swivelled and crashed a venomous effort against the crossbar. A frenetic few minutes would follow, with Preston’s Belgian right-back Marnick Vermijl seeing a timorous effort fly comfortably into the grateful arms of Rob Green, before United expeditiously surged upfield and won a corner. The consequent delivery, once more on the part of Hernandez, was this time met emphatically by Kyle Bartley, only for Ben Pearson to clear the goalbound effort of the Swansea loanee off the line.

In the absence of club captain Liam Bridcutt, a youthful central midfield pairing of Ronaldo Vieira and Kalvin Phillips were delegated the task of establishing a hegemony for their side in the middle of the park. This was a task that they both saw too with great gusto and enthusiasm, and Vieira in particular was performing admirably in front of the Leeds rearguard. On 66 minutes, the exotically named academy graduate struck a vicious effort toward goal that elicited a fine save from visiting ‘keeper Maxwell, before Alex Baptiste cleared the ball to safety.

With 14 minutes remaining and their hopes of mounting a stunning fightback diminishing as each second passed, North End’s Barkhuizen was once again to spurn a guilt-edged chance to halve the arrears. Aiden McGeady’s initial effort from outside of the Leeds area was erroneously fumbled by Green, only for the forward to lash an impetuous effort against the crossbar before Simon Makienok headed over the bar in lieu of guiding the ball into an unguarded net.

United substitute Souleymane Doukara would then pass up a glorious opportunity to score his sixth goal of the season, and his side’s third of the match, with just seven minutes of normal time to play. Another Leeds substitute, Northern Ireland international Stuart Dallas, had played the Meudon-born forward clean through on goal with only Maxwell to beat, but the former Fleetwood Town goalkeeper did exceptionally well to deny Doukara with an outstretched save.

Three minutes passed, before the tempestuous North End defender Alex Baptiste was given his marching orders by referee Peter Bankes for a disdainful act of violent conduct on Hernandez.

With the game nearing its conclusion, Doukara would atone for his earlier error in added time having been released on the right by virtue of an exquisite pass on the part of Kalvin Phillips, advancing into the penalty area before slotting the ball into the bottom-right corner with aplomb.

FT – Leeds United 3-0 Preston North End (Roofe 18’, Hernandez 45’, Doukara 90+3).

After a start of some turbulence, United mustered up the composure and the courage to strive for greater standards, and eventually ran out as deserved 3-0 winners having made the most of their goalscoring opportunities.

Man Of The Match

Kemar Roofe (9.1 WhoScored Statistical Match Rating)

Having regained his place within the starting 11, it would be a truism to declare that Kemar Roofe grasped the opportunity that had been granted to him with both hands. The 24 year-old enjoyed his finest display in United’s sparkling white to date, exuding copious amounts of confidence and composure, while scoring and assisting in the match. The former Oxford United talisman possessed the sufficient gravitas to put the Preston defence to the sword, and all that can be asked of him now is that he deliver performances of this kind with a tad more regularity.

Goals: 1

Assists: 1

Pass Success: 77%

Key Passes: 2

Dribble Success: 67%

Tackles: 2

Interceptions: 2

Media: Victorious Leeds United head coach Garry Monk and losing manager Simon Grayson

Garry Monk, speaking to the BBC:

“It was really important to respond and we were determined to after back-to-back defeats away from home and that was the key.

“The first five 10 minutes they had a couple of breakaways, which could have been more dangerous. But once we got to grips with it, for the next 50 or 60 minutes we played some really good football.

“We created numerous chances and probably should have capitalised a bit more, but we were playing against a good side and they are in form.

“They were never going to make it easy for us, but some of the football we played I thought was excellent.”

Simon Grayson, also speaking to the BBC:

“We started really well and had two great opportunities through Tom Barkhuizen.

“But before you know it, we switch off and they got their noses in front. We weren’t good enough defensively and that was the big aspect.

“We created some good chances. We had good possession and played some decent stuff, but it mistakes at key times cost us.

“If you do that against a strong team like Leeds they’re going to punish you.”

Match Statistics and Facts

Stats – (Leeds/Preston)

Possession – 50% / 50%

Pass Success – 73% / 70%

Aerial Success – 47% / 53%

Shots – 15 / 15

On Target – 6 / 6

Tackles – 25 / 13

Fouls – 11 / 6

Corners – 4 / 7

Referee – Peter Bankes

Booked – Wood (Leeds), Baptiste (Preston, Red Card).

Attendance – 31,851.

Writer’s Verdict

A superlative performance and a fine way to silence those pesky purveyors of melancholy among such prosperous times for our football club (on the field, at least).

Although we conceded far too many chances to Preston for my heart’s liking, their profligacy, in stark contrast to our potency in front of goal ensured that we emerged from this momentous match as victors.

Much credence should be appropriated to Kemar Roofe, whose sparkling and infallible performance led the North End defenders a merry dance as the sun beamed down upon Elland Road, a venue that has been utterly transformed into a formidable footballing fortress this term.

Victory was required of the players today, with the play-off chasing pack waiting to circle around us in a manner akin to predatory vultures in the event of us floundering, but after a virulent start, each and every United player warrants praise for producing a fine display.

Onward to Newcastle.

Photo: Action Images

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