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.
Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?
Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.
The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.
The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.
Lock Down the Big Guns
Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.
Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.
As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.
Adding New Talent
One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.
Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.
If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.
Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.
Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.
The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.
As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.
Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.
Could Loaded FA Safety Market Drive Down Earl Thomas’ Value?
It's no secret the Dallas Cowboys and Earl Thomas share a mutual interest in one another. Thomas has publicly stated his desire to join America's Team and the Cowboys did their darndest to make that happen last offseason. Nothing ever materialized a year ago, but it's looking as if the stars have finally aligned and a union between the two could merely be just weeks away.
Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys may have dodged a bullet last year when the Seattle Seahawks refused to part ways with their All-Pro safety. Not only would they have had to surrender a high draft pick, but they would've also had to extend Thomas' contract. Fortunately, timing is everything and now the Cowboys might just have to do the latter.
A potential contract between the Cowboys and Thomas is of course what I want to dive in today. I'm not going to get into numbers right now, because it's nearly impossible to project any kind of contract for any safety this offseason, especially for the former Seahawk, Earl Thomas.
Right now, it's a little difficult to know who might have the advantage in contract negotiations, Earl Thomas or the Dallas Cowboys. A lot of times the one that has the leverage, however slight, is the one that gets the better of the deal. As surprising as it may be, the Cowboys might just have the advantage here and I'll tell you why.
First off, this year's market for free agent safeties is pretty stacked with starting caliber players. See below:
- Earl Thomas
- Landon Collins
- Lamarcus Joyner
- Tyrann Mathieu
- Adrian Amos
- Clayton Geathers
- Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
- Glover Quinn
- Tre Boston
- Kenny Vaccaro
- George Iloka
- Jimmie Ward
- Adrian Phillips
Earl Thomas is obviously the headliner here amongst the free agent safeties, but having so many starting caliber players available could drive down Thomas' market value just a bit. This is especially true when you take into consideration the market for FA safeties just a year ago. It was almost a complete standstill last year, with only Kurt Coleman signing a three-year $16.5 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. Not even the "Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu could get more than a one-year deal.
With all of these safeties available in free agency, we could be looking at another stingy market. This of course could be good or bad news for the Dallas Cowboys, especially as it pertains to Earl Thomas. Since he is the top FA safety available, everything could once again be at a standstill until he is signed.
Of course, we all know this will ultimately come down to determining Earl Thomas' market value. There is no denying he is still arguably the best free safety in the game today, but there are concerns about his age (30) and the two lower leg injuries he's sustained in the past three years.
Even with the loaded free agent market of starting caliber safeties and Thomas' age and recent injury history, he's still likely to receive a contract that earns him $10 million annually, give or take. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he gets another four-year deal worth $40 million, $25.7 million guaranteed, with a $9.5 million signing bonus like he signed with the Seahawks back in 2014.
The Cowboys of course would probably find a four-year $40 million deal for Earl Thomas acceptable. They would more than likely frontload the contract with a lot of protection in the details. They have the cap space to make this happen and still be able to sign their own, so money shouldn't be a problem.
Now, whether or not Thomas' market value may dip a little due to all of the above mentioned reasons will be something we will have to wait and find out. Regardless, I'd be a little shocked if Earl Thomas doesn't finish his career with the Dallas Cowboys.
Do you think Earl Thomas' market value will take a little hit this offseason?
Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors
What a difference a receiver makes, right? As Dallas fans, we know the impact of a player who can shake coverage, get open, and catch the ball. How was the season going before the Cowboys pulled the trigger for Amari Cooper in the deal with the Raiders? Cooper proved to be the lightning rod and a turning point in a season that was growing increasingly dismal. Dak Prescott and Cooper went together like peanut butter and jelly, while the Cowboys stormed to a division title and a postseason berth.
Now, imagine all of that times two… maybe even two and a half if Antonio Brown could be had from the Steelers. Scary right? We understand there’s only one ball to go around but that didn’t stop Kevin Durant from joining the Warriors, did it?
As of this writing, the best online sportsbooks like Intertops, are dealing Dallas as the seventh of 16 choices to win the NFC championship at odds of 12-1. Imagine how those odds would shrink if Brown wore a Cowboys uniform next season, giving Prescott the luxury of not one upper echelon wideout but that plus an elite receiver. Hut, hut, hut and a few clouds of smoke later the Cowboys would be moving the chains or celebrating in the endzone.
Brown and Cooper would be a devastating combination with Ezekiel Elliott coming out of the backfield. Brown was made for Dallas, it gives him an even grander stage than the one he shared with Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh.
Despite the fact that the 'Boys haven’t won a Super Bowl since Barry Switzer was roaming the sidelines in the mid-90s, America’s Team still resides in Dallas. But we need a game-changer and Brown is just such an athlete. But what do we give in return and will that cost be worth whatever productive years Brown has left after this one? Let’s not forget that the mercurial Miami native will be 31 when the season begins and men who make a living with their legs don’t get better at that age. But Brown is so good and so unique that, even if he drops half a click, he's still amongst the best in the game.
That level of talent is hard to replicate and it could be the missing piece which allows Dallas to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season and the year after.
However, up to this point, we’ve been very good at dreaming of a Brown to Dallas trade but haven’t quite worked out the details. It takes two to tango and if we expect to get the Steelers’ attention we need to give them something valuable in return. Dallas surrendered their first-round pick (27th) this season when they traded for Cooper so that’s no longer an asset.
Pittsburgh would be vying for a first-round pick (and likely more) for Brown's services but some have speculated Dallas would consider dealing rookie-standout Leighton Vander Esch.
Wait... what? We know, you’re clutching your pearls, and the words are stuck in your gasp. We get it. The kid was a home run this past season, leading the Dallas defense in tackles and earning a Pro Bowl invitation in his inaugural NFL season. But this would be a Faustian deal.
The Cowboys give up a player who is poised to be a stud for years to come for a playmaker in Brown that could render a Super Bowl in the immediate future. Brown's expiration date will surely turn his milk sour sooner rather than later, but in the here and now, Antonio Brown could be the bell cow who leads the Cowboys to the promised land before he’s put out to pasture.
Just something to think about...
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