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3 Cowboys Players Who Will Have a “Breakout” 2018 Season

Brian Martin

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Xavier Woods, the Real Reason Cowboys Didn't Pursue Tyrann Mathieu?
(AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

For the Dallas Cowboys to have a successful 2018 season they are going to need some of their young players step up and improve their game from a year ago. Keeping everyone healthy will be a huge help as well, but today I want to focus on a few players who I believe will have a breakout year this season.

In 2017 we saw DeMarcus Lawrence go from a player who a lot of Cowboys Nation was calling to get released, to a player who became one of the best at his position. It's rare to see someone take that kind of jump, but I don't think the Dallas Cowboys or their fans are complaining. The only real complaint I see now is how the Cowboys plan on keeping him around.

To say that Lawrence had a breakout 2017 season would be an understatement. He dominated all year and it's that kind of progress we are hoping from some of the Cowboys youngsters. But, who is ready to take that kind of jump?

Below I've identified three players who I believe are going to have breakout seasons in 2018.

Chidobe Awuzie

Chidobe Awuzie

Dallas Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie

Out of everybody on the Dallas Cowboys roster, I think Chidobe Awuzie is the most likely to have a breakout season like DeMarcus Lawrence did in 2017. Part of that has to do with the hiring of Kris Richard, who I believe will help him develop, but it mostly has to do with Awuzie's talent and how he performed as a rookie.

His rookie season didn't get off to the best start due to reoccurring injuries. He was only able to start six of 10 games and finished the year with 25 tackles, one forced fumble, and one interception. Not terrible numbers for a first year CB, but it could've been much better.

I believe with a full year in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program and a healthy offseason, Awuzie will without a doubt be the best cornerback on the roster. He has all the tools to succeed, now he just has to go out and prove it.

Hopefully changing from #33 to #24 doesn't jinx him. The 24 jersey hasn't been very kind to the last two CBs who wore it.

Xavier Woods

Xavier Woods

Dallas Cowboys S Xavier Woods

Out of the entire Dallas Cowboys 2017 draft class, Xavier Woods might have been the most impressive in his first year in the NFL. What makes it even more impressive is the fact that he was a sixth round draft pick, the 191st player selected. And I don't know about you, but I'm really looking forward to see him play this season.

As a rookie, Xavier Woods was used in a variety of roles in the Cowboys secondary and finished the season with 42 tackles and one interception. He played in all 16 games, but only started in for those contests.

I'm really expecting Xavier Woods to take a big jump in his second season with the Dallas Cowboys. I wouldn't be surprised if he is one of the starting safeties. A lot of people say that he's a little undersized to play the position, but he is almost exactly the same size as the safety everybody wants the Cowboys to trade for, Earl Thomas.

I believe if the Cowboys don't take a safety early in the 2018 NFL Draft it's probably because they like what they have in Xavier Woods.

Byron Jones

Byron Jones

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones

I've actually been predicting a breakout season for Byron Jones these past several years, but unfortunately he hasn't really lived up to those aspirations just yet. I'm going to go out on a limb again and predict he finally proves why he was a first-round draft pick.

The Dallas Cowboys didn't do Byron Jones any favors by continuously having him play different positions in the secondary. I've always believed his best position was at CB, which is why am really excited the Cowboys are no longer going to play him at safety. He played safety out of necessity and has been average, but I think he will be an above average CB.

His size and athleticism should benefit him more at CB than it did at S. At safety he was asked to match up with bigger tight ends in coverage and was out physicaled from time to time, but I don't think that will happen when guarding receivers. I really think we will see a different player in 2018.

* Honorable Mention

Jaylon Smith - I thought about adding Jaylon Smith to the list due to his improved nerve regeneration in his knee/drop foot, but I think he had his breakout season last year. Hopefully he will be even better in 2018 though.

Jourdan Lewis - Jourdan Lewis is another player I contemplated adding to the list, but he is kind of being demoted a little bit and will likely be the Dallas Cowboys nickel cornerback in 2018. I'm still expecting big things from him.

Which Dallas Cowboys players do you think will have a breakout 2018 season?



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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18 Comments
  • Derek Robinson

    I believe it’s Taco. Only because of the rotation on that defensive line. If he doesn’t step up and compete, he want play.

    • RickRude85

      Won’t*** play

  • Chuck Wright

    Would be awesome. . . . .

  • Nick Russo

    I don’t think I could have written this any better. I agree with every aspect that you listed about these 3 players and I believe each of them will have big years. A lot of people I have conversation with are skeptical because the lack of “big names” in our secondary but I believe that as young as they are, they could surprise people as one of the better secondary units in the league. The big question for me is the other safety position and if heath and Frazier will split time there or if we look to add someone.
    My picks for breakout player are rod smith and Charles Tapper.
    Smith showed that he can be a suitable RB2 with his ability to run, block and catch the ball and look forward to see him continue the momentum he finished last season with.
    I’ve been high on Tapper since we picked him and although we signed Ealy, I think Tapper needs a chance to prove himself. He only played in two games last year but looked explosive off the edge getting a sack against the giants and getting a lot of pressure against Denver.

  • Will

    Taco, after coming on strong at the end, and with teams paying extra attention to Law, is going to break out. Ealy for the same reason. And I think Switz Is going to kick Beasley off the team as well with his breakout, Noah has a chance too. Who I personally want to see is a healthy Gathers. TE could be solved in house if he developes

  • Telvin Jones

    This list is lame. Now i know for a fact these people are no true cowboys fan. They listed 3DB. They calling a 2nd year player and a guy changing his position a breakout player. Hahaha smh. Lame

    • EverybodyTalks

      STILL – Waiting for your article that shares your awesome list of breakouts. Please share your wisdom, True Cowboy fan.

      • Telvin Jones

        How can a 2nd year player have a breakout season? From what? A rookie year? Really that’s what they do to these young players? Let these dudes grow!!! It is these same people who cry over every mistake playing coach but to stupid to understand player development. Now people have to start thinking good solid play is now a break out season which still needs to be determined? As in to be seen once the season starts.

        • EverybodyTalks

          Telvin – Still asking??? (I got what you were saying. No need to repeat.) So who do you see, if anyone. as having a breakout, this season?

          • Telvin Jones

            By design it’s is going to be a team effort. So no one person will shine week to week. Other then on offence I believe Dallas defense is systematic at best. Not even Shawn Lee can say he is a single dominate player. But in understanding the role asked to be played his measurements equate to a very solid piece to the puzzle.

    • John Williams

      What’s wrong with predicting 3 DBs and two second year players as the breakout candidates.

      Awuzie and Woods showed a lot in their rookie years to let us believe that they are on an ascending path. Jones is going into his fourth year now and has yet to hit his stride, mostly because he hasn’t found his best position yet.

      The DBs are the unit to watch for me this offseason and training camp. I’m really excited to see their progression as a unit.

      And I’m with Everybody Talks. Who are the guys you are expecting to breakout in 2018?

      • Telvin Jones

        Nothing but the fact of being a redundant subject. You can pick all you want to. Just don’t fall in love with your picks. I noticed a lot of people tend to place blinders over their eyes when it comes to picking who will do what before the season starts. I am the prove it type. With any other team we can have fun if it’s all about fun. With this team talk is cheap. For the cowboys it’s win or shut up.

        • John Williams

          We aren’t the players, so we can talk all we want. The players have to perform. We can just sit back and talk about it. It’s not like we are influencing the players anyway.

          That’s what we all read sites like Inside The Star for. Talk. We obviously don’t know what’s going to happen, but we offer our opinions on what we think will happen.

          Projecting a year two jump for Xavier Woods and Chidobe Awuzie is not out of the question. They were decent for much of their rookie seasons, but still have room to grow.

          I’m with Brian in thinking that the DB group is going to show the biggest year over year improvement of any unit on the team.

  • Mr. Jaguar

    Imo, Rico Gathers @ TE, and Kony Easley @ DE, my dark horse is the rookie wide receiver and Noah Brown, Allen Humes. Just my two cents worth

  • oneputter

    byron jones?! he is only getting in the way of the younger players. all this talk of him moving to corner to take who’s spot? he is no better than lewis, brown or awuzie…..these are our corners/slot.

    as stated previously time to move on and call a bust a bust….maybe he can be dealt during the draft.

    a breakout player….frazier!

  • Chet

    I like your list. I hope it is spot on, if it is we will have a much better defense this year. Irving had a good half of a year last year so I am going to make him my first break out player – he plays a full year and leads the team in sacks with 15 and is selected All Pro. My 2nd break out player is Collins – he gets 9 sacks and absolutely wrecks the opposing OL from the middle. My 3rd break out player is TE Rico Gathers – he catches 45 passes with 10 TD’s and becomes a really good blocking TE and cements his place as the future of the position for the Cowboys.

  • Tommy Davis

    Brian, the best cornerback on the Cowboys is Jourdan Lewis, he ranked as one of the top corners in the NFL, Awuzie has potential but he struggles in man coverage. If Lewis is being demoted a little as you say, that just validates what I’ve been saying about the Cowboys not playing the most talented players, that would be an absolutely rediculous move. Lewis covers receivers like a blanket, Awuzie attempts to make up for his inability to tightly cover receivers by trying to dislodge the ball after the catch. That tactic does not work too often in the NFL.

  • Telvin Jones

    After a player have a so called breakout year. What next? Typical white folks. When they have no where to turn they make shit up. No wonder the NFL is now fag football but Sams still got cut. Breakout??? When??? One year , two years? I get it. Until he is not breaking out NO more then y’all flake out on these players calling them names and put downs crying for them to be let go or traded. Because these so called owners or GMs are stupid enough to blame one guy that is suppose to be playing a team sport. No wonder they care about non sports related issues like being a role model or some sickly kid who make a wish to an imaginary figure. That still don’t make a player play better. Dallas is on a new trip. They so stupid they want their flunky fans talking about trash to sale trash Enstead of player development or recognizing when they have a good player on their team. What they do? They don’t just let their good players walk. They allow rival teams to pick out the players that leave. Some of these players get their revenge. Some of them go to other teams and help them win a super bowl. New age cowboys fans act as if it never happened and the cowboys owners and staff continue with the same bullshit game they call or run. When they win they will win until then enjoy a player that breaks out on a losing team. When you have nothing to demand for you except what ever trash they throw out. PS Jerry and the other staff members know Dak was the real cause behind the poor play. They using Dez to save Dak’s confidence until they get tired of his play. Then they will revile to him who they TRULLY are. Fired Jimmy and let D ware go to another team to get what he could not get in Dallas but yet they still proud? Smh if that don’t say it all. Dez should just leave he will help another team do what Dallas could not do. Win a championship. All that matters is another breakout player who will soon be leaving helping anther team win where Dallas always seem to lose. Let’s see who is more closer to the truth, me or you clowns?

Star Blog

Is it Too Late For Dallas to Fire OC Scott Linehan?

Brian Martin

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Scott Linehan

Grab your pitchforks and your torches, it's time to run the Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan out of town. His playcalling has been absolutely atrocious season and it's time for him to hit the road, even if there are only two regular-season games left on the schedule.

It's completely unorthodox for an NFL team to fire an offensive coordinator this late in the season, but just last week we saw the Minnesota Vikings do just that when they parted ways with John DeFilippo. It was definitely a bold move to make considering the Vikings are still in playoff contention, but it was something they believed was in the best interest of their team.

I believe if the Dallas Cowboys want to do what's best for their team right now and not later, then they should go ahead and cut ties with Scott Linehan. His predictability and un-creativeness as a play caller is holding back a talented offense, which is hurting the overall team as a result. He's been given every opportunity to turn things around, but enough is enough.

I'd personally be on board with Jason Garrett taking over the playcalling duties. He has the experience and held the position with the Cowboys from 2007 until Linehan was hired. I'd even consider giving Kellen Moore a shot as the OC. He knows the system and has worked closely with Quarterback Dak Prescott. Regardless, the Cowboys need to find some way to increase their offensive productivity.

Kellen Moore

Dallas Cowboys QB Coach Kellen Moore

Right now the Cowboys offense is the 26th scoring offense in the NFL and are averaging just 19.7 points per game. To make matters worse they are the 31st ranked Red Zone offense in the league. I don't know about you, but I think that is completely unacceptable with the talent they have on the offensive side of the ball.

Firing Linehan has been a long time coming. The Cowboys flirted with the idea earlier this season during the bye week and should've pulled the trigger then, but for some reason or another decided to let him stick around. They are definitely still paying for that mistake now.

The Cowboys mistake not to replace Linehan could mean yet another early exit in the playoffs, something we have unfortunately become accustomed to. Scoring just 19 points a game isn't going to get them very far, which is truly unfortunate considering the talent they've acquired this season.

Unfortunately, as much as we would love to see Scott Linehan tarred and feathered and run out of town, I just don't see the Cowboys doing that before their season is officially over. But, in no way should he be allowed to retain his position beyond this season. He clearly isn't the answer any longer.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys should fire Scott Linehan?



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Star Blog

Despite Embarrassing Showing, Health Remains Biggest Cowboys Concern

Kevin Brady

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Zack Martin

What is it about the AFC South with these Dallas Cowboys?

Dallas' five game winning streak came to a close on Sunday, as they got straight-up embarrassed by the now 8-6 Indianapolis Colts on the road. The loss was the first since the Cowboys were embarrassed by a different AFC South competitor, the Tennessee Titans, on Monday night football earlier this season.

Though the final was 23-0, and not a single phase (or really even a single player) showed much fight or promise, the biggest concern I have for the Cowboys moving forward didn't change because of the putrid performance. It didn't change because the defense was gashed play after play or the offense failed to finish a single drive. And it didn't even change because both the Redskins and Eagles secured season-saving victories on the same day Dallas was dismantled.

The biggest concern is still their health, particularly across the offensive line.

That was not a playoff caliber interior offensive line the Cowboys put out their on Sunday. Not even close.

With their backup center in Joe Looney, backup guard in Connor Williams, and the very last interior offensive linemen on their roster in Adam Redmond playing for basically the entire game, this offense never had a chance. Dak Prescott wasn't any more inaccurate or indecisive than normal, but all those who like to scream "step up in the pocket" whenever he is sacked did not seem to have an argument this week.

There often was no pocket to step into, as those interior three, specifically Looney and Redmond, failed to provide much protection or confidence for Prescott at all. Joe Looney has actually been rather solid this season, but Sunday felt like one of his worst games of the entire year.

The Cowboys absolutely need Zack Martin to get healthy if they are to make any noise whatsoever in the postseason. At the very least, the need Xavier Su'a-Filo to come back and replace Redmond, and regain the form he displayed during his debut against the Eagles back in November.

Prescott already has issues with his pocket presence and footwork when pressured, so throwing three backup-level linemen right in front of him is not a recipe for success for the Cowboys.

I'm not jumping out of the window over this loss, and I don't think any of you should be either. Dallas had won three straight incredibly emotional and important home games to extend, save, and solidify their season respectively before this loss. They had also just about clinched the NFC East a week ago with their win over Philadelphia, and they played like a team that was due a flat performance

A letdown loss on the road, against a good team I might add, is not the end of the world. The bigger issue here is their health, because if Martin can return to anchor this offensive line, the offense should look a whole lot better than they did against Indianapolis.

It's time to move on from Sunday, go beat Tampa Bay, officially clinch the division, and get ready for Wild Card Weekend.



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Star Blog

Where In The World Is DE Taco Charlton?

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: Defense Comes Alive In Loss At LA Rams 2
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Over pretty much the last decade, the Dallas Cowboys have been rock solid with their first round picks. With selections of Ezekiel Elliott, Travis Frederick, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Leighton Vander Esch (just to name a handful), Dallas has rebuilt the core of their roster through the NFL Draft.

It's nearly impossible to bat .1000 in any round of the draft, however, and this appears to be the current case with the Cowboys' 2017 first round pick.

Defensive end Taco Charlton has not had the sophomore season that he, or anyone, had hoped for. A healthy scratch last Sunday, Charlton has only been active for 1 of the Cowboys' last 5 games, and has not recorded a sack or tackle since week 9.

Prior to disappearing with injuries and "attitude issues," Charlton had only recorded 1 sack on the season and was beginning to fall behind his Hot Boy-brethren. Defensive end Randy Gregory has reached his form over the last few weeks, Tyrone Crawford is having arguably a career year, and DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the best ends in all of football.

This doesn't leave much room for Charlton, who's now having issues even getting on the gameday roster. Rod Marinelli dodged questions about Taco Charlton earlier this week, vaguely saying they are "moving forward" and that he'd like to talk about other players on his defensive line who are performing.

Calvin Watkins on Twitter

Rod Marinelli on Taco Charlton's benching and being inactive last week: "We just keep moving along keep going forward. It's kinda been out there I'd leave it at that. I'd rather talk about our two tackles.

Charlton has not been quiet about his displeasure as of late, either. He's taken to Twitter to voice his frustrations, saying that not only is his shoulder fine but that the Dallas media is making up stories about his absence. He's also posted some cryptic tweets such as this one, with a picture of Allen Iverson and a caption reading "Every players needs that one coach to believe in them."

https://twitter.com/TheSupremeTaco/status/1072203745868554240

Maybe Taco is right. Maybe he just needs increased opportunity and a support system/coach that believes in him whole-heartedly. After all, Charlton has faced nothing but doubters and detractors since the second he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.

But in the NFL, the ultimate "what have you done for me lately" sport, it's hard to imagine he'll get that unwavering support anywhere in the league. He's going to have to "earn" his playing time, as head coach Jason Garrett spoke to earlier in the week. But with the plethora of talent the Cowboys are already putting out there on the defensive line, it's becoming difficult to see exactly where Taco Charlton can fit in on this defense.

It's possible, and fine, if it is simply not a fit between Charlton and the Cowboys at this point. But I'd also be wary of giving up on your first round pick in just his second NFL season. Another offseason with the team, working on his craft and getting fully healthy, should do Charlton wonders, and hopefully allow us to get a better read on his future with the Cowboys going forward.

Until then, we are all left to scratch out heads and wonder what in the world is going on with the Cowboys and Taco Charlton, and if the former first round pick will have a future in Dallas at all.



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