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3 Cowboys Rookies with Opportunities for a Prominent Role

John Williams

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Trysten Hill

It isn't often that you look at a draft class and think, there isn't a day one starter in the bunch. That isn't a shot at the talent of the 2019 Dallas Cowboys draft class, it's more of a reflection of the state of the Dallas Cowboys roster.

On defense 10 of the 11 starters from the Cowboys top 10 unit are currently slated to start and former All-Pro Robert Quinn figures to be the day one starter at right defensive end. On offense, the Dallas Cowboys will have two new starters from their playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Tight End Jason Witten and slot receiver Randall Cobb. Witten isn't a new face, but after having a year off, he's back and will likely retake his mantle at the top of the tight end depth chart.

As things stand right now, that doesn't leave a lot of room for rookies to make a dent in the starting lineup, but there are a few who could work their way into serious playing time.

Under Head Coach Jason Garrett, rookies don't often find themselves as week one starters unless you're an offensive lineman or Ezekiel Elliott. Generally, rookies have had to wait their turn and earn their snaps, but there are several who could see significant playing time right away.

Trysten Hill, Defensive Tackle

Heading into training camp, Maliek Collins figures to be the first-team 3-technique defensive tackle. His injury history, however, suggests he may not make it through training camp unscathed. Collins has had problems with his feet and those problems have limited him during training camp in seasons past. Any setback to Collins could open the door for fellow 3-technique and second-round pick Trysten Hill.

Tyrone Crawford is another player who will get snaps at 3-technique a season he’s ha had a lot of success rushing from the interior.

Even with veterans in the 3-Tech rotation, the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff will find a way to get Hill on the field. He has an incredible ability to get off the line of scrimmage so quickly that it disrupts the play beforehand it ever gets going.

Hill comes to the Cowboys with a lot of tools to rush the passer and be a penetrating force on the inside but needs to get better at working off of blocks.

Hill figures to be part of the 3-tech defensive tackle rotation from the get-go. with the opportunity to earn more snaps along the way. With Hill, COllins, and Crawford, that’s a scary rotation.

Tony Pollard, Running Back/Kick Returner

We all know who the starting running back is for the Dallas Cowboys. It's the two-time rushing champion, Ezekiel Elliott. Barring any unforeseen suspension handed down for Elliott's offseason "altercation," he'll be the starter again at running back.

Where fourth-round draft pick Tony Pollard has an opportunity to have an impact in 2019 is as the team's kick returner and the primary gadget guy.

Pollard was a dynamic returner in college, returning seven kicks for touchdowns over three seasons. He's an electric player with the ball in his hands and with Kellen Moore calling the shots for the offense, Pollard was the first skill position player the Cowboys drafted for him.

Pollard is a puzzle piece that Moore can deploy as a running back, wide receiver, jet sweep option, or even as a blocker for Elliott.

How Tony Pollard performs could not only have an impact on the running back depth chart but the wide receiver depth chart as well. He could very well supplant Tavon Austin as the team’s gadget player who takes the jet sweep snaps.


If he proves capable of handling backfield snaps during the preseason, he’ll be the back up running back behind Elliott because he’s able to play on offense in a variety of roles and on special teams.

He’ll be the primary kick returner week one, but he’ll also play on the coverage teams as well. He provides so much more as a back up running back than Rod Smith did or Darius Jackson can.

It's unknown at this point how much he'll see the field early on, but you can bet that if he has a good training camp, Kellen Moore will figure out ways to get him the football. He’s too dynamic of a player to sit on the bench.

Donovan Wilson, Safety

The strong safety position is the one area on the defense where there appears to be a question mark. Jeff Heath is the incumbent starter at safety, but the Cowboys front office brought in veteran George Iloka and drafted Donovan Wilson in the sixth round to add depth and competition to the position.

Donovan Wilson is a player to get excited about for the Cowboys secondary. He’s a playmaker.

At Texas A&M, he recorded eight interceptions over three seasons, including five his sophomore season. Injuries slowed him down through the last couple years of his collegiate career, but it appears that his playmaking skills are translating to the Cowboys practice field thus far.

The quickest way for Wilson to have Ann impact is on special teams. His speed and toughness should make him an excellent coverage player on kickoffs and the Cowboys could use him as a gunner inn punt coverage.

Though he may primarily be a special teams player from the start, he’s got the skills to make a significant impact a series a box safety for the Cowboys defense.

Wilson's climb to the top of the strong safety depth chart isn't very steep. Sure, there are two veterans in front of him, but Jeff Heath struggled to tackle in 2018 and George Iloka has bounced from Cincinnati to Minnesota and now to Dallas over the last couple of years.

The rookie safety is a good tackler and a player who can make plays on the football. If he's able to pick up the defense and compete in training camp an the preseason, it's not a stretch to think, he could be starting at some point during the regular season.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Though training camp is still five weeks away, there are some very interesting storylines to follow as we inch toward the regular season. Each figures to have a role for the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and one of these three may find themselves in the starting lineup sooner rather than later.

Which of the rookies do you think will end up starting at some point during the regular season?


Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could. Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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Game Notes

3 Things the Dallas Cowboys Need to do Against the Detroit Lions

Brian Martin

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3 Things the Dallas Cowboys Need to do Against the Detroit Lions

The  Dallas Cowboys are coming off yet another disappointing loss at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings. Their season and playoff hopes could be hanging in the balance now, which makes just about every game from here on out all that more important. They need to start playing as if their backs are against the wall, because that very well could be the case.

Luckily the Dallas Cowboys should be able to take care of business this week when they hit the road to take on the Detroit Lions. This is one of the more winnable games left on the Cowboys schedule this year and they should use it as a bit of a refresher game of sorts in order to get things back on track. The objective of course remains the same… Winning. But, this is also an opportunity to clean a few things up.

Let's take a look at a few things I think the Dallas Cowboys need to do against the Detroit Lions in this Week 11 matchup.

Hit the Ground Running

Amari Cooper, Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott and WR Amari Cooper

No more slow starts! The Dallas Cowboys have to hit the ground running against the Detroit Lions instead of digging themselves into an early hole like they've done quite a bit this season. I honestly don't care if it's on the arm of Quarterback Dak Prescott or on the legs of Running Back Ezekiel Elliott, the offense has to figure out some way to be the aggressor in order to put points on the board early.

The Dallas Cowboys fell behind early in nearly every single one of their losses this season. I don't think a single team has really outplayed them yet this year, but when they have to scratch and claw their way back to get out of the hole they've dug themselves into it makes it exceedingly more difficult to win. It's time to change that narrative this week against the Detroit Lions so that hopefully it carries over for the rest of the year.


Execute! Execute! Execute!

Dalvin Cook

Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook

The second thing the Dallas Cowboys need to do this week against the Detroit Lions is to clean up their execution, especially in the defensive side of the ball. Offensively things are going pretty well for the Cowboys, but the same can't be said about their defense. Despite all the talent they've added this season they are still struggling to put everything together and play up to expectations. Hopefully this Week 11 matchup helps them right the ship.

This is a game the Dallas Cowboys should be able to focus on their execution. That means maintaining their gap integrity in the running game, staying assignment sound in the passing game, and most importantly finish the tackle. Tackling was especially poor last week against the Vikings which is why Dalvin Cook ran wild. This has to be a group effort here. Yes, individuals need to improve, but for the overall defense to play up to expectations they have to execute as a unit.

Establish the Running Game

Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard

Dallas Cowboys RBs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard

Dak Prescott has been playing phenomenal these past few games and has proven he's more than capable of carrying the offense on his back, but the Dallas Cowboys still need to establish the running game. Just about everything Prescott does in the passing game is built off of play action. If the running game isn't producing that hurts the overall offensive output. Plus, the best way to control the game is by running the ball.

I think Ezekiel Elliott should have a pretty big game against the Detroit Lions this week. After being bottled up by the Vikings last week that should be news to the Cowboys ears. This offense feeds off of Zeke and it needs him to find his groove now that we're getting into the do or die part of the NFL season. No. 21 isn't the only RB who needs to find his groove though. Tony Pollard needs to start being more involved and what better game to get him going than against Detroit.

What do you think the Dallas Cowboys need to do against the Detroit Lions?


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Game Notes

Lion Down: QB Matthew Stafford Ruled Out for Cowboys Game

Jess Haynie

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The Detroit Lions will be without starting Quarterback Matthew Stafford this Sunday when they host the Dallas Cowboys. He has been officially ruled out due to fractures in his back; the second-straight game that Stafford will miss with the injury.

Fourth-year backup QB Jeff Driskel will get the start as he did last week against the Chicago Bears. The Lions lost that game 20-13, and Driskel went 1-4 as a starter last season when playing for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Stafford's status was confirmed this morning by Lions' Head Coach Matt Patricia.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Lions QB Matthew Stafford (back) has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Cowboys

Losing Stafford could leave Detroit completely crippled on offense. While they have one of the league's top passing offenses so far in 2019, that was all Matt's work at QB. Now they are missing both their starting QB and their top running back, Kerryon Johnson, who went on injured reserve in Week 7.

That said, Detroit did put up 357 total offensive yards last week against the Bears with Driskel starting. Given the quality of Chicago's defense and that the Lions were playing on the road, that's a strong number.


It will be interesting to see how Dallas strategizes on defense after last week's loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The Cowboys were completely run over by Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, so will increased focus on run defense creates opportunities for Driskel and the Lions' receivers?

However it shakes out, Matthew Stafford's absence definitely helps the Cowboys. He is still one of the top quarterbacks in football and had a top-five passer rating before the injury.

We never root for injuries but such is life in the NFL. Sometimes you get the benefit, sometimes you're on the losing end.

Hopefully, this turn of fate helps Dallas get a much-needed victory.


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Game Notes

#DALvsDET: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction

Kevin Brady

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Zeke the Freak Tames Lions – Texans Up Next

The Line

Cowboys -3.5 O/U 51.5 points.

Dallas Cowboys

After suffering a devastating four point loss to the Vikings on Sunday night, the Cowboys will look to get back on track against yet another NFC North foe.

Dallas now sits at 5-4, clinging to their first place spot in the division with the Philadelphia Eagles right on their heels. They have fumbled away four very win-able games already this season, and are running out of chances to take full control of their playoff destiny.

You can't necessarily call this one a must win for the Cowboys, but it's damn near as close as it can get to one for a week 11 game. Considering Detroit's record and injuries, the Cowboys can ill afford to let this one slip away on Sunday.

It's one of the few games against a team with a losing record remaining on their schedule.


Detroit Lions

The 2019 Lions are a tough team to figure out. Expected before the season to be one of the worst teams in the conference, the Lions started out the season rather well.

They were "undefeated" (there was a tie) through the first three weeks of the season, and played the Kansas City Chiefs extremely tough. They also went on the road and had the Green Bay Packers on the ropes for four full quarters.

But, with all that being said, they now sit at 3-5-1, with their NFC playoff hopes just about destroyed. Quarterback Matt Stafford is having one of the best seasons of his entire career, however, and is surrounded by an offense littered with receiving talent. If he's healthy and can play, he'll be a handful for the Cowboys secondary to deal with.

Trends

  • The Cowboys are now 2-4 against the spread their last 6 games.
  • The score total has gone over in 5 of the Cowboys' last 6 games. It's also gone over 5 of their last 6 road games.
  • The Lions are 1-4 against the spread their last 5 games.
  • The score total has gone over 7 of the last 8 times these teams have played.

Prediction

Despite being on the road this week, I'm going to pick the Dallas Cowboys to come out on top and cover the 3.5 point spread. At some point, talent has to take over for this bunch, and what a better day for that to happen than against a hobbled Detroit Lions team?

The Cowboys have been far from perfect in 2019, but it's now or never if they want to rack up wins and start a playoff run.


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