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Has The 2017 Season Exposed The Cowboys “True Needs”?

Brian Martin

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Has Sean Lee Become A Liability For Cowboys?

The 2017 NFL season has certainly been full of ups and downs for the Dallas Cowboys. Injuries and suspensions have been at the forefront of the Cowboys problems this season, but despite that they still have a chance to make it into the postseason. It's strange isn't it?

Cowboys Nation has been taken on a roller coaster ride in 2017, and strangely enough the ride isn't quite over yet. There are still two regular-season games left on the schedule this year and a possible playofff berth. But despite everything that has already happened, the off-season evaluation process should be much easier.

You see, the Dallas Cowboys and the coaching staff should have a better understanding of their "true needs" because of everything that's happened throughout the 2017 season. They have had to deal with multiple suspensions and injuries, which has caused them to dive deeper into their depth chart than they probably would have liked. Fortunately though, this could end up being a blessing in disguise.

The roster depth on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball has been exposed this season in particular probably more than any in years past. The Dallas Cowboys have had to depend on their backups more than usual, which has really exposed their off-season needs. Let's dive into this a little deeper and try to determine some of the Cowboys off-season needs.

Offensive Needs

Could The Cowboys Keep 6 Wide Receivers?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Wide Receiver

The Dallas Cowboys wide receivers have been a huge disappointment this season and I think it's time to insert some new blood. Opposing defenses have found ways to pretty much take Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley out of the game and unfortunately nobody else has really stepped up. This became an even bigger problem without Ezekiel Elliott in the lineup.

I wouldn't at all be surprised if the Cowboys decided to draft a wide receiver early. Dez Bryant isn't getting any younger and it might be time to find his eventual replacement. Dak Prescott needs more help from his WRs in the passing game, and a young new weapon might help improve the team more than any other position.

Offensive Guard

Four out of five of the Dallas Cowboys offensive line is pretty much set in stone, but the left guard position is still up in the air. Jonathan Cooper finally won the starting job in 2017, but he is a free agent after the season. The Cowboys could choose to re-sign him once again, but finding a long-term solution would probably serve them better.

Zack Martin will without a doubt receive a contract extension after the season, which means the Cowboys already have a lot invested in their offensive line. This probably means they won't draft an OG early, but you never know how things will play out. But regardless, the LG position could stand to be upgraded.

Offensive Tackle

Tyron Smith and La'el Collins should be the starting tackles for the Dallas Cowboys for years to come, but both players have dealt with back problems in 2017. Smith has even had to miss a few games because of injuries, which exposed the Dallas Cowboys lack of depth at the position.

Not a single Cowboys fan wants to see Chaz Green or Byron Bell on the roster next season. Both players have been exposed as an extreme liability, which means this is definitely an area in need of upgrading in the off-season. Again, like OG, I doubt they draft a player early with so much already invested in the OL, but never say never.

Running Back

Honestly, having Ezekiel Elliott available for an entire season makes the running back position less of a concern, but one slip-up could put that availability in jeopardy. With Alfred Morris set to become a free agent after the 2017 season, the Dallas Cowboys could use another young RB capable of becoming Elliott's backup.

We can argue that Rod Smith might be able to handle that role, but we really haven't seen him be the primary back in 2017. There are still questions how he would be able to hold up, which means finding an upgrade might be more of an off-season need than we think.

Defensive Needs

Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchens, Jaylon Smith

Linebacker

The linebacker position might just be the Dallas Cowboys biggest off-season need. Sean Lee has proven time and time again that he is incapable of staying healthy and Anthony Hitchens is set to become a free agent after the season. There are also still questions about whether or not Jaylon Smith is capable of becoming a starting caliber LB.

The Cowboys are without a doubt in need of depth at the position, but they need to start to prepare themselves for life without Sean Lee in the lineup. Unfortunately, we have all witnessed how production dips without him in the lineup and it's probably time to find his replacement.

Defensive Tackle

The Dallas Cowboys don't really value the defensive tackle position very much, but that kind of came back to haunt them this season. Right now, they are depending on players they have called up from the practice squad and the lack of talent there is really hurting them.

They could really use a big bodied/space eating 1-technique, someone who would command double teams and clog up the middle. They haven't really had that type of player in some time now, and it might be past time to address the position.

Defensive End

The Dallas Cowboys defensive end position is a huge question mark after the 2017 season. I don't think they will let DeMarcus Lawrence getaway, but I'm not sure they can afford to sign him to a long-term contract. He will likely receive the franchise tag, but the depth behind him is concerning as well.

Taco Charlton has continued to improve throughout the season, but he still relatively unknown. The Cowboys will have Charles Tapper and Randy Gregory returning next year, but they are still young unproven players, much like Charlton. Pass rushers are hard to come by, so drafting one early might be a top priority.

Safety

The Dallas Cowboys pretty much had a complete makeover in their secondary this season and for the most part it has paid off. But, they probably took a step back at the safety position. Byron Jones has seen his playing time recently decreased and he might be better as a CB from here on out. Jeff Heath on the other hand has continued to make plays, but is probably still best as a reserve player.

Finding a difference making safety is just about as hard to do as finding a dominant pass rusher. They are a rarity in the NFL and typically drafted early. That is what the Cowboys will likely have to do if they want to upgrade the safety position, but it has become a need based on the way their players have performed this season.

Which positions do you think have been exposed in 2017?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Kevin Black

    December 19, 2017 at 8:55 am

    It’s a shame about the weak side DE still being an issue. They could have addressed that in the last draft with T.J. Watt.

    Dallas already has a potential replacement for Bryant in Noah Brown. He’s raw, but he definitely has the ability. It will take about 1-2 more seasons, but he could definitely replace Bryant. Still, if an amazing player is on the board and he’s a WR, I’d still want Dallas to take him.

    What’s odd about the LB situation is our weak side that Lee plays. We don’t have a potential replacement on the roster for him and it’s time we start looking. Wilson was talked about as a weak side LB, but he’s been moved to the strong side and doesn’t appear to be in the coach’s confidence enough to try him on the weak side any more. If Hitchens signs elsewhere because another team offers him stupid money, a backup MLB will need to be addressed, but Jaylon Smith will be your starter next year most likely. One more thing in Hitchens camp is he can play some weak side linebacker, but he doesn’t have the speed you’d prefer at the position.

    I’m fairly sure that Cooper will stay in Dallas, but he could bolt if the money elsewhere is just too much to turn down. That would move that position to the top of the list for Dallas and based on where they are drafting, they could still get a top-flight guard around the middle to back-half of the first round. That would still leave the backup tackle position up for grabs. Green obviously regressed this year and I’m not sure Dallas has a ton of respect for Bell’s ability to be the long term answer. I could see a tackle being drafted in the top three rounds.

    Safety and running back would be much lower concerns. We will still have Jones, Heath, Woods and Frazier on the roster next year. We will also have Elliott and Smith on the roster and I would not be surprised if Morris is resigned. So unless a player drops to them in the draft, I don’t expect to see either of these positions being looked at before the fifth round.

  2. Hector Espindola

    December 19, 2017 at 10:28 am

    Sure yes! And not having a backup for Lee is scary.

  3. EverybodyTalks

    December 19, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    Conservatively speaking, I believe we could have 9 or 10 picks – 4 compensatory( 4th, 4th, 5th, 5th) plus 5 or 6 regular picks. I know we gave up our 5th round for Xavier Wood, but I’m not sure if we lost our 7th round for Benwikere. I’m curious how you see the priority by round. Last week I was sure we should go after a Roquan Smith(ILB/Georgia) to strengthen our Linebacker core, even after we resign Hitch. Then after the Raider game with Tyron going down, I had visions of Chaz Green covering for him again (OMG!) I gave serious thought to Connor Williams( OT/ Texas) in the 1st, As hard as this is for me to say, I think it is OT may be the priority in the first.The O line is what makes this whole thing go. Now go LB in the 2nd or 3rd. RB in the 2nd or 3rd. DT &WR with the 4th round picks.The two 5th round picks used on OG and S. We may use the 6th to move up. I think CB is covered if we move Byron out of Safety to CB, plus we still have White on the practice squad. I don’t think we need to go after a DE either. We have Tapper and Gregory on the back burners, so to speak. Let’s see if either fits before using a pick on another DE. How do you see it breaking down/

  4. John Williams

    John Williams

    January 30, 2018 at 4:38 am

    I’m honestly not sure how big a need WR is. It’s important that they be more consistent, but they aren’t going to be able to invest heavily there unless they release Beasley, and he just might be a cap casualty.

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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches
Smiley N. Pool / The Dallas Morning News

Lamentablemente, la temporada 2018 de los Dallas Cowboys ha llegado a su fin. Lo hizo cuando el equipo visitó Los Angeles para intentar sorprender a los Rams en su propio campo en la Ronda Divisional de los playoffs. Ni siquiera con una invasión exitosa de la afición de Dallas pudieron ganarse un pase al Campeonato de Conferencia. En vez de eso, los Cowboys estarán viendo desde casa y la afición estará preguntándose: ¿qué sigue para los Dallas Cowboys?

Parece ya una tradición anual que no podemos dejar pasar. Este momento en el que comenzamos a cuestionar, una vez más, que entrenador es digno de quedarse en la franquicia y cual debe irse. En esta edición de "Cowboys en Español," hablaremos específicamente de los tres principales coaches en el equipo.

Cowboys DC Rod Marinelli Should Be On The Hot Seat

Coordinador Defensivo Rod Marinelli

El futuro del coordinador defensivo de los Dallas Cowboys no se puede tratar sin mencionar a Kris Richard. Fue la defensiva la que llevó al equipo hasta la postemporada y fue la unidad que cargó al equipo en muchas de sus victorias. Incluso con la llegada de Amari Cooper a Dallas, la defensiva fue siempre el pilar de la franquicia esta temporada.

Jaylon Smith y Leighton Vander Esch sorprendentemente se perfilaron como uno de los mejores duos de linebackers en toda la liga, la línea defensiva fue muy exitosa con Randy Gregory y DeMarcus Lawrence en los extremos y con la grata sorpresa que fue Antwaun Woods en el centro. La secundaria vio la mejor temporada en la controversial carrera de Byron Jones e hizo un excelente trabajo con un talento decente, pero no genial.

Todo esto, y el haber terminado como la sexta mejor defensiva en puntos permitidos (20.2) y la quinta mejor contra la corrida (94.6), hace a Rod Marinelli merecedor de una ronda de aplausos. Sin embargo, Richard probablemente merezca más aplausos.

Fue Richard quien revolucionó la defensiva de los Cowboys y la convirtió en un grupo mucho más agresivo. Fue él quien implementó jugadas de "blitz" en el equipo (algo no común con Marinelli) y quien en un punto de la temporada, comenzó a seleccionar las jugadas desde la banda.

En esta posición, me parece que los Dallas Cowboys tienen que enfrentar la dura decisión de decirle a Marinelli que es tiempo de dejarle el puesto a Kris Richard. Si bien no se llevó un trabajo de head coach, es muy probable que le llovieran ofertas a Richard si no se hace con el título de coordinador defensivo en Dallas.

Scott Linehan Acknowledges Need for New "Wrinkles" in Cowboys Offense

Dallas Cowboys OC Scott Linehan (Tim Heitman / USA TODAY Sports)

Coordinador Ofensivo Scott Linehan

Con un equipo tan polémico como este, la afición de Dallas no concuerda en muchas cosas. Sin embargo, lo hacen al hablar del pésimo trabajo que Scott Linehan ha realizado mandando las jugadas en ofensiva. Realmente ha sido doloroso de ver y es en mi opinión, el mayor problema que tiene el equipo actualmente.

Semana tras semana, fuimos testigos de pésimas decisiones en la ofensiva de los Cowboys. Vimos como el equipo se aferraba a llenar la caja de defensivos antes de correr el balón con Ezekiel Elliott. Vimos incontables pases pantalla en tercera oportunidad y largo. Pero no solo es lo que vimos, sino lo que no vimos.

A pesar de la innegable habilidad para correr el balón de Dak Prescott, Linehan se rehusó a explotar esta versatilidad de su QB. Vimos pocos "QB sneaks," jugada donde el mariscal toma el balón bajo centro y consigue poco yardage detrás del empuje de su línea ofensiva.

Siendo honestos, los Cowboys llevan dos años sufriendo por este coordinador. Dejarlo volver en el 2019 sería una decisión ridícula. Los comentarios en la radio de Jason Garrett no lucen prometedores, pero realmente sería una sorpresa que fueran ciertos. Linehan no debe volver... punto.

Jerry Jones Delivers Vote of Confidence in "Real Deal" Jason Garrett

Head Coach Jason Garrett

El futuro en esta posición será muy debatido durante los próximos meses, pero de los tres que hemos mencionado es sin lugar a dudas el más seguro de todos. Nos guste o no, Jason Garrett estará al frente del equipo la próxima temporada.

Garrett está lejos de ser un gran coach y aún le hace falta demostrar que puede cumplir las aspiraciones de los Cowboys de traer un sexto Trofeo Lombardi a casa. Pero siendo honesto, este equipo debería tener suficiente con Garrett y un par de buenos coordinadores. ¿El problema? No hay un par de buenos coordinadores en el equipo.

Sin embargo, Garrett ha demostrado que cuenta con el amor y apoyo de sus jugadores. Ha demostrado que efectivamente, puede ganar la división (lo ha hecho en tres de los últimos cinco años). Este año el equipo le dio la vuelta a la temporada después de comenzar 3-5.

Lo más preocupante en mi opinión, es la falta de urgencia para despedir a Linehan, por ejemplo. Quizá a puerta cerrada Garrett quiere un cambio en su staff, pero nunca lo sabremos.

Jason Garrett no es un coach excelente, pero podría ser suficiente para llevar a los Cowboys a un Super Bowl si tiene un equipo adecuado. Todo parece indicar que su trabajo está seguro (incluso más de lo que pensamos) así que es tiempo de esperar que se arreglen sus coordinadores.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL 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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Star Blog

2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch

Kevin Brady

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Leighton Vander Esch Lands on List of NFL's Top 10 Rookies

As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.

It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.

Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.

No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.

Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.5 Studs and Duds From the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Season

This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.

There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.

Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.

Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.



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Star Blog

What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?

Kevin Brady

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Can we Believe General Manager Jerry Jones?

Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.

Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.

They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?

Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.

Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.

Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.

Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.

Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.

This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.

The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.



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