Last night I was washing dishes and, as I sometimes do, I reflect on the great problems of the world. You know, poverty, the deficit, and the numbers game present on the Dallas Cowboys defensive line. Ok, that last one isn't really a problem. Not even a first world problem. It's more of a conundrum that I was pondering.
Dallas' defensive line is looking as deep as it has in a long time. It may not have a lot of star power--yet--but there are several players who show a lot of promise.
I could see as many as nine making the 53 man roster out of training camp. When David Irving comes back from his suspension, I could see them carrying 10 defensive linemen on the 53.
As I was getting the dishes cleaned from taco night--which is undefeated--and trying to solve the Dallas Cowboys' defensive line numbers game, the question that came to my mind was: "How important is it to carry two 1-technique defensive tackles on the 53-man roster?"
NFL teams are beginning to use 11-personnel--one running back, one tight end, and three wide receivers--as their base offensive grouping more than ever before.
In 2016, the NFL deployed 11-personnel on 60% of the offensive snaps, according to FootballOutsiders.com. The next closest personnel grouping was 12 personnel--one running back, two tight ends, two wide receivers--and was only used 17% of the time. In fact, the usage rate of 11-personnel has increased from 40% in 2010 to now 60%.
Only five teams, the New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, and New York Jets utilized 11-personnel on less than 50% of their offensive snaps.
18 teams used 11-personnel more than 60% of the time, including the Dallas Cowboys (60%). Seven teams used it more than 70% of the time.
Of Dallas Cowboys opponents for 2017, only the Atlanta Falcons used 11-personnel less than 50% of the time in 2016.
The Dallas Cowboys will play in their nickel and dime defenses a lot in 2017. They'll need to get guys on the field who can both rush the passer with consistency and play the run as well.
With only 46 slots available to the active roster, the team has to make a lot of decisions on who it can bring on game day. Against teams like the New York Giants or San Francisco 49ers it may be more valuable to bring an extra cornerback, defensive end, tight end or extra offensive lineman than it is a second 1-tech.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive line versatility could even allow the team to deactivate Stephen Paea or Cedric Thornton.
Defensive Line 53-Man Roster Projection
I think it'll become more of a reality as we get closer to the season starting, but my hope, and the hope of many in Cowboys Nation is that they will move Tyrone Crawford back to 3-technique. He is better suited for that role and he plays his best there.
With the versatility along the defensive line, left defensive ends like Tyrone Crawford and Taco Charlton can bump inside and play in the 3-technique role.
David Irving's four game suspension gives them a little bit of flexibility as they open week one, but still there are a lot of guys that have a lot of potential to have an impact on the team.
When he comes back, Irving is another guy that can play inside at the 3-tech.
Maliek Collins, who is the starting 3-tech for the team, also has the ability to play the 1-technique. So again, why bring two 1-techniques to play the 11-personnel, pass happy New York Giants?
Along the defensive line, the two players that led the 2016 Dallas Cowboys in snaps were Maliek Collins (62%) and Tyrone Crawford (59%). Two players who are at their best rushing the quarterback from the inside 3-technique position.
Terrell McClain, who was the starting 1-technique tackle, played on only 44% of the teams defensive snaps. 2016 backup and projected 2017 starter Cedric Thornton, only played on 26% of the teams defensive snaps.
While Stephen Paea and Cedric Thornton could be solid contributors from the 1-technique position, if you're using them on less than half the defensive plays, is it worth having a backup taking up a roster spot?
Collins' can play both defensive tackle positions.
Crawford, Charlton, and Irving can play the strong side defensive end and the 3-technique tackle spots.
So wouldn't it make more sense to carry only one 1-technique tackle on game days? Especially against a team like the Giants, who will have you in your nickel package for nearly 90% of the game.
In week one, the Dallas Cowboys will face the New York Giants and will have decisions to make along the defensive line. In order to get their best players on the field, they need to get creative about their defensive tackle deployment.
Malik McDowell Is Well Worth The Risk For The Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly brining defensive lineman Malik McDowell into The Star this week for a visit, as they decide whether or not to potentially sign him for the 2019 season.
McDowell is a former second round pick of the Seattle Seahawks, who fell to day two because of what scouts call "off the field" or "character" concerns. McDowell did not last long with Seahawks, as he was released in 2017 following an ATV accident in which he reportedly suffered "extensive brain and eye trauma" according to Charles Robinson.
None of us know much about who Malik McDowell is as a person, or what concerns their really should be with his health. But what I do know is that on tape at Michigan State, McDowell was a top 5-10 player in the 2017 draft class. He was a stud, and has the traits to continue to be a stud in the NFL.
The 2017 NFL Draft is chock full of talented, athletic, and productive defensive linemen. While most of the draft pundits have focused on EDGE rushers thus far, the defensive tackle class also possesses some of this year's top NFL prospects. Arguably the best of those defensive tackles is Michigan State's Malik McDowell.
Back in 2017 I wrote a full scouting report on McDowell, detailing why he earned such a high grade on my board. McDowell is a versatile linemen who is explosive off the ball, powerful and rangy against the run, and a skilled pass rusher who plays with a high motor. What more could you really ask for?
"McDowell is a patient pass rusher at times, setting up the blocker how he likes and then beating them with ease. McDowell’s ability to swipe hands off helps him greatly, but his quick swim is his most effective pass rush move.
On this play he uses that swim to perfection, forcing the center to power down to the right before swimming back to the other side."
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
When the Spartans went to a three man pass rushing front, McDowell moved to the EDGE often and made plays with his quick, active hands and impressive swim move. He was much more impressive on the interior, however, and could be a direct replacement for David Irving as an explosive and powerful 3-technique for the Cowboys.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
I love that the Cowboys are bringing McDowell in for a free agent visit. His price will likely be low, as he is yet to play in an NFL game over the last two years, but his ceiling remains very high if he is healthy. It's rare for a player with his college production, natural ability, and measurables to completely fail in the NFL.
Maybe all McDowell needs is a second chance to get his head right and prove that he belongs in the league. Maybe he flames out quickly and can't get on the field due to "off the field" stuff. Or, maybe he simply isn't healthy enough to contribute as an NFL player. Regardless, for the price he'll likely command, McDowell is well worth the risk if the Cowboys are willing to take it.
Though Not A Direct Beasley Replacement, Randall Cobb Would Bring Value To Cowboys’ Offense
When the news broke Monday that veteran wide receiver Randall Cobb was visiting the Dallas Cowboys, most immediately assumed he would be a logical replacement for the departed Cole Beasley.
When you take a look at the film and each of their skillsets, however, you quickly see this is likely not the case.
While Cobb would be able to play in the slot as a receiver for the Cowboys if he signs, his value extends much further than just a slot receiver. Where Beasley makes his mark with precise route running, short area quickness, and 3rd down reliability, Cobb is much more of a threat after the catch. He's not the route runner that Beasley is, and really isn't an upgrade over Beasley as a receiver, but Cobb would be able to help the Cowboys' become more diverse in their offensive schemes.
Similar to Tavon Austin, Randall Cobb can be used in pre snap motion and jet-sweep packages, as well as a traditional running back. A college quarterback, Cobb's versatility is what makes him so attractive to NFL teams. Cobb would actually fit more of the Lance Dunbar "scat back" role of sorts for the Cowboys than that of the Cole Beasley slot receiver role. His versatility, however, allows him to carve out a lane within the offense which they haven't quite had before.
Another area Cobb could help the Cowboys is when the play breaks down. With experience in the Packers offense playing with arguably the greatest improviser we've ever seen in Aaron Rodgers, Cobb would be able to help Dak Prescott down the field when he breaks the pocket and the play is off schedule.
So often last season we talked about how the Cowboys offense is reliant on remaining on schedule, staying in front of the chains and not having to force the ball downfield. Unleashing the Mississippi State version of Dak Prescott, where he can improvise and use his legs to create big plays, tends to be when this offense is at its best, however.
Randall Cobb won't be a Pro Bowler if the Cowboys sign him, and depending on the money he receives, it might not even be a lock that he makes the final roster. But Cobb would be an exciting addition to a Cowboys offense which has lacked "creativity" over the last few seasons, and is looking to reinvent themselves to a certain extent.
A receiving corps headlined by Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, with versatile weapons such as Cobb and Tavon Austin behind them, is a pretty good one to head into draft day with.
Signing Cobb would keep the Cowboys from "needing" to take a wide receiver early in the draft, and would allow them to easily shed Allen Hurns if a receiving weapon did fall to them at 58th overall.
Should Cowboys Inquire About Trading for 49ers DL Solomon Thomas?
When it comes to making trades, the Dallas Cowboys are typically the buyer and not the seller. They proved that last season when they acquired Tavon Austin, Jamize Olawale, and Jihad Ward via trade and could be looking do the same once again this offseason. That's why today I want to talk about the Cowboys putting in a call to the San Francisco 49ers to inquire about potentially trading for Solomon Thomas.
New 49ers Defensive Line Coach Kris Kocurek is rumored to be evaluating Solomon Thomas' film in order to determine his fit and future with the organization moving forward. This is no easy task. In his two years in the league they've tried Thomas at DE and DT, but unfortunately the former No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft has yet to find his footing at either position.
Being a man without a position doesn't bode well for Solomon Thomas, especially after the 49ers acquired Defensive End Dee Ford from the Kansas City Chiefs last week via trade. The 49ers are suddenly stacked along the defensive line. That's not all though, things could actually get worse for Thomas.
To further complicate matters, the 49ers could use their second overall pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft on the either Nick Bosa or Quinnen Williams. If that's what indeed happens, someone is going to be the odd man out. If you haven't guessed it yet, I think that player could be Solomon Thomas.
As a former high first-round draft pick, Thomas would count $7,678,468 against the salary cap in 2019 and $8,958,213 in 2020. That's probably more than the 49ers want to pay for a rotational/backup defensive lineman. And cutting him this season would create $16.6 million in dead money, so a trade is the logical solution.
With all that in mind, it wouldn't surprise me if San Francisco put Solomon Thomas on the trade block any day now. He is only two years into his four-year rookie deal and comes with a fifth-year option as a former first-round draft pick. That means if a team does trade for him they have him under contract for essentially three more years.
If you add all of this up, it makes a lot of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. They need defensive line help and Solomon Thomas needs a fresh start. The Cowboys would get a young versatile defensive lineman and the 49ers get to dump his contract while also receiving some compensation in return. It's a win-win for all parties concerned.
I know what you're thinking though. What would the Cowboys have to give up in the trade? Well, it might not be as much as you think.
Fortunately, Thomas' failure to make an impact his first two years in the NFL favor the buyer, in this case the Dallas Cowboys. He has only four career quarterback sacks, three of which came in his rookie season. Stats of course don't always tell the entire story, but game film does. Unfortunately for Thomas, he can't escape his poor play.
I believe it wouldn't take more than a 2019 fourth-round draft pick to get Solomon Thomas away from the 49ers. Remember, just last season the New England Patriots sent a third-round draft pick to San Francisco and received Offensive Tackle Trent Brown and the fifth-round pick in return. Brown was a more proven player and was in the last year of his contract.
I don't know about you, but I kind of like the idea of Solomon Thomas in a Dallas Cowboys uniform. If anybody can tap into his potential, Rod Marinelli can. Giving up a 2019 fourth-round pick is well worth the gamble in my opinion.
Do you think the Cowboys should inquire about trading for Solomon Thomas?
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