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10 Thoughts As I Reflect On The 2015 Dallas Cowboys

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Cowboys Blog - 10 Thoughts As I Reflect On The 2015 Dallas Cowboys

Defensive Tackles Should Do More Than Just Plug Holes

In 2016, I think it's time this coaching staff begins to value the 1-technique. Nick Hayden, while a serviceable player, doesn't really give you much. Yea he will plug the middle fine, but he is by no means an impact 1-technique and fails to consistently make plays in the backfield.

When I look back on this season, I remember the Philly game in week 2. The defense in that game, as a whole, was phenomenal, and I can’t help thinking that had, at least, something to do with Terrell McClain playing like a man on fire. McClain was in the backfield all game, disrupting timing. If you remember in that game the DEs were making tackles for losses and the Eagles could not get anything going.

I attribute that to the amount of attention the offensive line had to pay to the interior of our defense with Tyrone Crawford and McClain causing havoc. McClain could be a viable option if not for his durability concerns, so I'd like to see the club look elsewhere in the offseason.

The Dawning Of Run DMC (Darren McFadden)

Darren McFadden really proved himself to me this season. The last offseason when he was signed I honestly did not expect him to beat out Ryan Williams and make this roster. Well, he sure shut me up fast. When Randle was getting the bulk of the carries early on, McFadden in his limited carries did not produce. It wasn’t until McFadden was given a full workload that we got to see why the Cowboys signed him in the offseason.

Doug Free Stepped Up When Needed Last Year

This time last year, people were calling for the Cowboys to draft or find the replacement for Doug Free. Whether it be for productivity or health issues, last year Free was the target of some criticism. I believe over the course of the year, Free shut the haters up. He was healthy throughout the season, and unlike last year, protected very well.

It became incredibly crucial for Free to play well the final 2 games of the season, as Kellen Moore’s blind side was the right tackle, not the left. Free was up to the challenge and protected well. Free’s presence as the grandfather in the locker room cannot be overlooked as I truly believe he has played at least a small part in the younger lineman's development.

Randy Gregory Looked Better Than The Stats Show

While not having a very impactful Rookie Campaign, I think Randy Gregory has a great chance of becoming a good player in this league. While he never officially got credited with a sack, he was in the backfield a ton and impacted a number of throws that lead to positives for the defense.

Where he must improve is developing more pass rush moves.

Gregory always tries to use his speed, dip his inside shoulder, and get around the tackle. This is a fine move, unless you don't have any other moves to set it up or keep the tackle guessing. If you wanna be a one trick pony, that trick better produce sacks like the signature Dwight Freeney spin move.

If there is one more thing Gregory needs to work on it's his feel for his depth when rushing. Too often he would run past the quarterback leaving a very nice pocket for the quarterback to step up into. With all that said, I've seen enough from Gregory this year to assume that he will have a Demarcus Lawrence type of year #2.

DeMarcus Lawrence Is Developing Nicely

Speaking of DeMarcus Lawrence, it was amazing seeing the kind of transformation he had this season. I remember seeing pictures of him last offseason and thinking how much bigger he looked. This season proved it, as switching from RE to LE is not an easy transition. Going against RTs instead of LTs means you must put on size, as the RT is more of a power position. It was amazing to see Lawrence gain the size and not lose a step on the field. All season he was causing havoc in the backfield, and although the sacks started to come late he was getting close to the quarterback all season.

To me, though, what's more impressive than the sacks is that game after game it seemed he was making a big stop in the backfield. Both defending the run and rushing the passer, "Tank" Lawrence made great strides this season.

Whitehead & Butler Stood Out When Times Were Tough

I really hope to see Lucky Whitehead and Brice Butler get more opportunities on offense next season. I can’t help but feel like we have seen the last of Devin Street in a Cowboys uniform. After being given ample opportunity to produce, with Dez Bryant being out and Terrance Williams not playing well, Street was unable to make an impact and failed to get open consistently against 1-on-1 situations.

Brice Butler made big plays seemingly every time he was given a chance; he is a vertical threat and plays big with his size to win contested catches. I'd like to see Butler compete for the number 2 WR next season.

Lucky Whitehead was dangerous every time he got the ball, and I wonder why it took so long for the coaches to give him opportunities. I think both WRs have bright futures, maybe even bright enough to withhold from drafting a WR this year.

Rookie Defensive Backs Impressed Me All Year

I think we have really found something with the young defensive backs on this roster. Byron Jones had an amazing rookie season, doing something that is unheard of by playing all over the secondary as a rookie. His season was well reported on InsideTheStar.com so I will focus on the play of Terrance Mitchell and Deji Olatoye.

Both players were thrown into the fire late in a lost season and I think they both responded well. Actually, they got the only two interceptions from corners on this season. Mitchell has the feistiness we saw at times from Tyler Patmon but he has far more upside. Olatoye - at 6-1 - is a big corner with a lot of upside. I think both of them have a future role on this team.

Dan "The Man" Bailey Was True To Form

I know it doesn't have to be said but this year especially Dan Bailey was unreal. Looking past his near perfect field goal percentage and perfect extra point percentage, Bailey was almost supernatural kicking off this year. He allowed only 23 returns all year after allowing over 40 in every other year of his career. We fans often take him for granted but seeing all the missed extra points and teams shuffling through kickers, I realized how lucky we are to have Dan.

Rookie Left Guard La'el Collins Is Really Special

La’el Collins has a chance to be the best of all our offensive linemen. He is an athletic freak; I’m sure we all saw him go stride for stride with Darren McFadden. He needs work on the mental aspect of the game as it seemed all of the sacks given up were a mental lapse. If he continues to develop as expected, we will have 4 pro bowlers very soon.

Don't Forget About The Other Kicker...

Nobody wants to hear about the punter, but sorry, Chris Jones had to sneak past the NFL and took steroids or something this year (kidding obviously). He killed it after most of us thought he would get beat out by the rookie in training camp. He improved tremendously this year compared to last and was one of the best punters in the league all season. It's weird to say but he was probably the biggest pro-bowl snub on this roster.



Hello, My name's James. I'm a senior in highschool and have been a Dallas Cowboys fan my whole life. If I'm not reading, watching, or talking about football, I'm playing rugby!

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1 Comment
  • http://www.dallascowboyschat.com cowboysdude

    You only need to know 1… this team isn't going to win anything as long as the current structure stays in place. They continue to NOT hire a real HC… the issues are so deep and entwined in this organization that they are seriously a broken organization.

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Could NY Giants Be a Surprise Threat in the NFC East?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Could Giants Be a Surprise Threat in the NFC East?

The NFC East is a wild, wild division. Since 2004, the division that hosts some of the most popular franchises in the NFL hasn't seen the same team winning the NFC East title two years in a row. It's crazy! Who expected the Dallas Cowboys to become the #1 seed in the conference in 2016 after seeing Tony Romo go down during the preseason? Who was able to predict the Philadelphia Eagles' amazing run for the Super Bowl last year?

It's an unpredictable league, but the NFC East side of things can really amaze you on a yearly basis.

Heading into 2018, it all seems to be about the Eagles and the Cowboys. Being the last two teams to win the title, it's only logical to expect them to be the only teams in the division that have what it takes to own the NFC East crown.

But maybe, just maybe, we are overlooking the New York Giants.

Coming from a 3-13 record in 2017, the Giants have quite a bit to prove if they want to become a winning team once again and return to playoff contention. With Odell Beckham missing most of the season and with good ol' Ben McAdoo calling the shots, the team was never able to get a break.

Listen, we all know Eli Manning has been struggling lately. Many thought the Giants should've drafted a quarterback when they held the #2 overall pick back in April. But whether we like it or not, New York seems to have a plan: take advantage of Manning's last years on the field.

Instead of taking a young QB for the future, they drafted the best player available to take the load off Manning's shoulders. Saquon Barkley will probably be able to do what Ezekiel Elliott was able to do in 2016: lead the offense by running the football 20 times a game and have several 100-yard performances.

Could NY Giants Be a Surprise Threat in the NFC East?

New York Giants OG Will Hernandez

Not only that, but the front office did make an effort to re-build a disastrous offensive line by bringing in a talented left tackle in Nate Solder and by stealing the UTEP product, Will Hernandez in the second round of the draft. If the Giants are able to finally groom Ereck Flowers into a decent starter at right tackle, this could be a pretty solid offensive line.

Of course, Manning will not only be benefited from the running game, but his superstar wide receiver will be back on the field. Beckham is one of the NFL's best wide receivers and will surely be back at terrifying opposing secondaries week in and week out.

The Giants are bringing in Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher, who did a nice job for the Arizona Cardinals' defense over the last few years. With some talented defensive players, the team might not have the best squad in the league, but it doesn't seem like a defense that will struggle throughout the season.

Last but not least, the Giants will have a new head coach in form of Pat Shurmur. He's had some success in the league, lately as an offensive coordinator for a Minnesota Vikings team that managed to get to the NFC Championship with Case Keenum at QB. It was a good hire for the team, and I'm pretty sure it will be easy to do a better job than McAdoo's work with the Giants.

If I was to make a prediction, I'd say the Giants will have a handful of wins in 2018. However, I don't see them getting back into the postseason just yet. An 8-8 record sounds about right. Having said that, though, it really seems like a team that could surprise everyone and emerge as a surprise contender in the NFC East.

Do you think the New York Giants could be a surprise threat in 2018?

Tell me what you think about "Could NY Giants Be a Surprise Threat in the NFC East?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Where Cowboys CB Marquez White Fits In 2018

Kevin Brady

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Dallas Cowboys Draft CB Marquez White at #216

In the 2017 NFL Draft the Dallas Cowboys selected four new defensive backs, three of which saw significant playing time during their rookie season.

Those three, of course, are Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, and Xavier Woods. That fourth defensive back, however, should not be forgotten about as we enter the beginning stages of the 2018 season. That player is former Florida State cornerback Marquez White.

Rather than playing alongside his rookie counterparts in the secondary, White spent time on the Cowboys practice squad in 2017. The former sixth round pick was signed to a futures contract at the end of 2017, however, and now has a chance to compete in camp once again.

Entering their sophomore seasons the starting secondary already appears to be taking shape. Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones are just about locked in to the outside cornerback jobs, Xavier Woods is expected to start at safety beside Jeff Heath, and Jourdan Lewis is battling with now third year player Anthony Brown for the slot corner role.

So where does Marquez White fit into all of this?

Cowboys CB Marquez White Could Emerge in 2018

Dallas Cowboys CB Marquez White

Well, the aforementioned players are locks to make the 53-man roster, but Marquez White should be the favorite to win the 5th cornerback spot going forward. White's raw talent is undeniable, and he has the ability to play under both man and zone responsibilities.

The main reason we should be optimistic about Marquez White's chances to land on the final roster, however, is his athletic profile. At 6'0" tall, just under 200 pounds, and long arms White fits the mold for what new secondary coach and passing game coordinator Kris Richard tends to look for in his cornerbacks.

And, for better or for worse, Richard clearly values these measureables highly. This is evident in how second year corner Jourdan Lewis has been used thus far in mini camp and offseason activities; being relegated to second team and the slot rather than allowed to compete for an outside cornerback job with Awuzie and Jones.

So with the arrival of Kris Richard, the departure of Orlando Scandrick, the underwhelming play of Anthony Brown, and the raw talent he already possesses, Marquez White has a very strong chance of making the final 53-man roster in Dallas.



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Can Jaylon Smith Challenge Vander Esch For Starting MIKE Role?

Kevin Brady

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In Season For Youth, Cowboys Must Make Tough Decision On Jaylon Smith

When the Dallas Cowboys selected Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with their first round pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the whole world basically assumed he would be the starting MIKE linebacker week one of the upcoming season.

After all, the Cowboys lost Anthony Hitchens to free agency and none of the injury replacements had much success during the 2017 season.

Now just a couple of months shy of that week one match up with the Carolina Panthers, a battle for that middle linebacker spot appears to be occurring.

Former 2016 second round pick Jaylon Smith has seemed to find his health, and his movement skills and agility look like they did back when he was at Notre Dame. Whether or not these offseason hype videos will actually mean anything on the field remains to be seen, but just the fact that Smith is working out and playing without the knee brace is obviously a good sign.

Unlike Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith did play for the Dallas Cowboys a year ago. Sure Smith had his share of growing pains, but he seemed to find his groove late in the season. It probably isn't a coincidence, though, that Smith's best games came when coming off the bench in a limited role and when playing beside veteran Sean Lee.How Will LB Jaylon Smith Best be Utilized in 2018?

During the offseason activity thus far Jaylon Smith has gotten the majority of snaps at middle linebacker, but Vander Esch has also been sidelined with an injured ankle. Leighton Vander Esch clearly fits the mold of a MIKE both physically and athletically, but at his best Jaylon Smith does as well.

Despite the resurgence of Jaylon Smith and the injury to Leighton Vander Esch, I still do expect Vander Esch to snag that MIKE role moving forward. While showing glimpses of productive play, Smith did not impress enough to earn him the unquestioned starting job last season, and may best fit as a SAM backer and situational pass rusher/blitzer in the current scheme.

Allowing Jaylon Smith to conserve his energy and provide a boost off the bench is the best way for the Cowboys to structure their defense. Of course, this is only true as long as Vander Esch becomes the player they expect him to be, though.

If Jaylon Smith does return to the player he was at Notre Dame prior to his horrific injury, the Cowboys will possess three incredibly rangy, athletic, and talented linebackers on their roster.

Of course, that if is a very big if at this point, however.



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