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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

18 Comments

  1. Derek Robinson

    April 10, 2018 at 8:21 am

    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

      April 11, 2018 at 12:24 am

      Won’t*** play

  2. Chuck Wright

    April 10, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Would be awesome. . . . .

  3. Nick Russo

    April 10, 2018 at 9:55 am

    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.

  4. Will

    April 10, 2018 at 10:53 am

    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

  5. Telvin Jones

    April 10, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    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

      April 10, 2018 at 7:38 pm

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

      • Telvin Jones

        April 10, 2018 at 8:20 pm

        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

          April 10, 2018 at 8:24 pm

          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

            April 10, 2018 at 8:30 pm

            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

      John Williams

      April 11, 2018 at 3:20 am

      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

        April 11, 2018 at 10:49 am

        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

          John Williams

          April 12, 2018 at 1:21 am

          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.

  6. Mr. Jaguar

    April 11, 2018 at 2:15 am

    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

  7. oneputter

    April 11, 2018 at 8:11 am

    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!

  8. Chet

    April 11, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    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.

  9. Tommy Davis

    April 11, 2018 at 10:57 pm

    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.

  10. Telvin Jones

    April 12, 2018 at 10:04 am

    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?

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Star Blog

Could Loaded FA Safety Market Drive Down Earl Thomas’ Value?

Brian Martin

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Could Loaded FA Safety Class Drive Down Earl Thomas' Price Tag?

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.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

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.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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?



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Star Blog

Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors

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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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Star Blog

2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back

Kevin Brady

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Anthony Brown's Resurgence A Great Sign for Cowboys Defense
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.

As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.

Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.

These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.

Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.

Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.

Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.

Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.



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