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2013 Dallas Cowboys Positional Rankings: Defensive Line and Linebackers

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Last week we touched on the two position groups that are in need of huge upgrades next season. This edition of positional rankings we are going to be focusing on defensive line and the linebacker groups. With Monte Kiffin taking over this defense and changing the scheme to the 4-3, these groups will need to revamped.

One noticeable change forthcoming this season will be DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer putting their hand on the ground every down as defensive ends. Both players played predominately from the outside linebacker position, however at their respective universities they played as 4-3 ends. Not to mention the tackle position will also have a different look.

Jay Ratliff will be on the line as one of the tackles, but who will be lined up next to him? Josh Brent is unlikely to be back next season, as he is dealing with the aftermath of his DUI manslaughter case. Tyrone Crawford and Sean Lissemore could be in the rotation, but many scouts and draft analysts have this as a primary need for the upcoming draft.

Outside of the two linebackers converting to defensive end, there was little to no production of the rest of the unit. Victor Butler and Marcus Spears are no longer part of this team but there are plenty of potential players that could make an impact. Quanterus Smith of Western Kentucky is one name to pay attention to; he isn’t a player that will be selected on day one of the draft. He is most likely a third day guy according to Todd McShay of ESPN.

Smith is a player who can add depth to a bleak defensive end position outside of Ware and Spencer. Defensive tackle however is most likely to get early round attention. If Sheldon Richardson of Missouri or Sharrif Floyd of Florida are still available at 18, expect Jerry Jones to give them a long look. Either would be a great compliment to Ratliff.

Linebacker which was once the strength of this defense now seems to weakness in Dallas. The two outside pass rushers are moving up to defensive end and there can only be one middle linebacker. It should come as no surprise that Sean Lee will be that guy. Bruce Carter will command either outside positions, with a focus more on stopping the run and dropping into coverage than rushing the passer.

News broke yesterday that Ernie Sims had re-signed with the team, which is great news for his experience and depth to middle linebacker. Kyle Wilber and Alex Albright will be competing for the linebacker position opposite of Carter. Most likely with any rookie free agents that are signed or a later round draft pick like Zavier Gooden of Missouri.

There is still the chance of free agents to come into the mix prior to the NFL Draft; however that will depend on if Jones can negotiate deals for Romo and Spencer. Spencer is due to make $10.6 million this season with getting the franchise tag, so his deal is the higher priority. However Romo is more likely to get an extension which will help this team’s financials exponentially.

 


Patrick Conn is the founder and creator of Valley Ranch Outsiders. His work has been seen on SI.com, FanSided, Yahoo and Blue Star Times. He is an avid Cowboys fan and NFL Draft analyst. He currently hosts a podcast about the Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys

Should Gregory’s Potential Reinstatement Alter Cowboys Draft Plan?

Sean Martin

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Cowboys en Español: Buenas Noticias para Jaylon Smith, ¿Fin de Randy Gregory?, ¿Adiós a Lucky Whitehead?

A lot has happened with the Dallas Cowboys roster in a short period of time leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. Just four days away now, the Cowboys are still adjusting to life without Dez Bryant, and may be preparing to welcome back Randy Gregory this season.

After months of speculation about the Cowboys' exiled pass rusher turning his life around for the better, the end result may be Gregory triumphantly returning to the field and filling a considerable position of need in Dallas.

Through Gregory's numerous absences from the Cowboys, the team has searched for temporary fixes at his right defensive end spot until drafting Taco Charlton in the first round last year. In his rookie season, Charlton looked much better at left end behind DeMarcus Lawrence than he ever did rushing against left tackles.

mike fisher ✭ on Twitter

ALERT: Sources offer me very positive reports on #Cowboys DE @RandyGregory_4 coming bid for NFL reinstatement, as @BobbyBeltTX also notes. Randy Gregory has a chance to be a terrific story.

Randy Gregory can beat left tackles with speed and bend, but also has more career suspensions than he does sacks. Finding another defensive end with these traits in the draft could put the Cowboys defensive line over the top, but doing so with this year's class could cost them a pick better spent elsewhere.

Of course, this will be the case if Gregory does complete a comeback that the Cowboys have been understandably quiet about until recently. Stephen Jones has said the plan for Gregory is to apply for reinstatement following the draft.

The Cowboys "smart" approach of rebuilding their front four on defense as if Gregory would never see the field again has yielded them plenty of success - at all but the spot Gregory would line up at. DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Maliek Collins, and Taco Charlton should all inspire hope for this unit in 2018.

This is more than we were ever able to say about forgotten defenders like Benson Mayowa, who remains a free agent RDE.

Sean's Scout: Cowboys Can Fix RDE Problems with BC's Harold Landry

The same can be said about prospects like Harold Landry or Marcus Davenport. At this point though, it feels like a priority draft pick spent at DE is a sudden sign of nervousness about Randy Gregory's return by the Cowboys.

This team has plenty of depth to deploy Rod Marinelli's patented "waves" of pass rushers, finally entering a season with an elite talent at DE too. The opportunity to have DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory attack opposing quarterbacks from opposite sides is a reality the Cowboys are prepared to work towards.

They should do so looking elsewhere early in the draft, coming back to defensive end if a developmental player they like falls.

Tell us what you think about "Should Gregory’s Potential Reinstatement Alter Cowboys Draft Plan?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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Player News

Cowboys Quarterback is playing Moneyball

Shane Carter

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Jekyll or Hyde: Year 3 "Prove It" Season For Dak Prescott?

A Fully Focused Ezekiel Elliott can Carry the Cowboys into 2018 PlayoffsMoney talks, and no one talks louder than the Dallas Cowboys. It’s hard to find a more affordable Pro Bowl player than Dak Prescott. A former fourth-round pick from Mississippi State, Prescott is only scheduled to make around $680,000 in 2018. It’s only his third year, but it may be his most important when it comes to his future with the Cowboys.

When a team drafts its franchise quarterback, they usually only get about two seasons to prove they’re "the guy."

Every year, teams draft someone, usually in the first round, with hopes that he'll be their sought after franchise quarterback. However, by being drafted so high, there’s little margin for error afforded to them.

In Dak Prescott’s case, being drafted outside the first round, he wasn’t expected to contribute near as much in his first two seasons as he has. A day-one starter for the then injured Tony Romo gave him his opportunity and he has made the most of it.

In two seasons, Dak Prescott has a 22-10 record, made the playoffs and Pro Bowl, completed 65.2% of his passes and has added a new dimension in the Cowboys offense thanks to his mobility in and out of the pocket. However, I wouldn’t be the first to tell you that his year two wasn’t as good as his year one was. Prescott lost four more games, completed fewer passes and more interceptions in year two.

To be fair, some of his issues attributed to the injury of Tyron Smith, Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension and many of his receivers dropping more passes than we’ve previously seen. These issues will have to be cleaned up not only for the team, but for Dak Prescott’s future.

According to Spotrac.com, Dak Prescott’s market value today is around $25 million a year, which would make him among the most paid players in the league. In comparison, Kirk Cousins will be paid the most in the league at $28 million this year, while Aaron Rodgers will make $22 million.

So, the Cowboys quarterback's market value is among the best in the league.

Cowboys fans everywhere are rooting for him to succeed but year three will be crucial. If he can improve on his play from a year ago and keep winning games, he would likely see his extension happen sometime around his fourth season.

People have already seen Prescott at his highs and lows. Going into 2018 with a new receiving core, the return of Ezekiel Elliott and a new left guard will get rid of any excuses.

If Dak Prescott really is who he believes he is, and who fans know he can be, then the Cowboys have their quarterback. If not, then the search will continue.

Prescott should be plenty motivated to be the Cowboys quarterback for the present and the future. Also, he should be motivated by how much money he could get it.

It is a game, but it’s still a business. And C.R.E.A.M.


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Player News

Cowboys Expected to Pick Up Byron Jones’ Fifth-Year Option

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Film Room: Cowboys DB Byron Jones Is A Vital Piece To A Rebuilt Defense

2018 should be a huge year for the Cowboys' 2015 first-round pick Bryon Jones. After being used all over the secondary, it seems like he'll finally find a position to stay next season. The announcement was made that heading into his contract year, Jones would be moved to the cornerback position full-time.

Fortunately for him, the Cowboys are now expected to pick up his fifth-year option. This may come as a surprise for Cowboys Nation, given there haven't been any hints by the franchise to do so. However, it definitely will be a wise decision.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

The #Cowboys are expected to pick up the fifth-year option for Byron Jones, source said. That should give him $6.17M salary for 2019, one that is guaranteed for injury. The 2015 first-round pick should benefit from a full-time move to corner.

Since he played most of his snaps as a safety in 2017 (his third year in the league), Byron's fifth-option will be less expensive than one from a cornerback. This is obviously good news for the front office since it means more cap space will be available in 2019.

Hopefully, Byron finds success under the new secondary coach in Dallas, Kris Richard. With him moving to cornerback full-time, we might just see his incredible athleticism translate into consistent impact on the field.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Byron Jones said ever since Kris Richard was hired as the Cowboys' new DBs coach he talked about moving Byron back to CB. "I think it will be a good move for me and the team.

Jones has a ton of talent but bouncing from one position to another is not good for player progression. Heck, we talk about how hard it is for many talented prospects to come into the NFL and adapt, now imagine a player who's played in different spots in the secondary all through his first three years.

If #31 becomes a quality starting cornerback in 2018, the CB room will be loaded in Dallas.

Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis showed us they could become the next great CB duo for the Cowboys in their rookie seasons. Anthony Brown had a rough 2017, but can still play at a decent level if he's not asked to be CB1.

Add Byron Jones to the mix, and Cowboys Nation should be really comfortable with how this position will look next season.

Picking Byron's fifth-year option will be a wise decision for Dallas, and Cowboys fans should be happy about it. Let's go!

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Expected to Pick Up Byron Jones’ Fifth-Year Option" 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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