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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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REPORT: Cowboys WR Michael Gallup Out 2-4 Weeks After Knee Surgery

Jess Haynie

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Michael Gallup

Two games into a seeming breakout season, Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Michael Gallup will now be out for the next 2-4 weeks after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He suffered the injury late into the Cowboys' victory over the Washington Redskins yesterday.

An MRI revealed the extent of the injury today. There were hopes that Gallup had only suffered a contusion, but unfortunately he will be out at least a couple of games after requiring this minor knee procedure.

Gallup is the team leader in catches (13) and receiving yards (226) after the first two weeks of the 2019 season.


Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Sources: #Cowboys promising WR Michael Gallup is having arthroscopic surgery to trim his meniscus, knocking him out 2-4 weeks. No structural damage besides the meniscus tear, so the return should be quick.

The Cowboys still have Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb as a strong starting duo. They also hope to get Tavon Austin back this week after he was inactive in Washington with concussion issues.

Gallup's absence could be big for Devin Smith, who had a 51-yard touchdown catch against the Redskins and should see more work in the coming weeks. It also may prompt Dallas to keep prospect Cedrick Wilson, just called up from the practice squad a week ago, on the 53-man roster a while longer.

Despite this depth, Michael Gallup will still be missed for however long he's out. Hopefully he can return on the quick side of the projection and keep his 2019 momentum going.


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Robert Quinn Returns; How Will Cowboys Make Room on Roster?

Jess Haynie

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Robert Quinn

Defensive End Robert Quinn, who the Cowboys traded for during the offseason, will make his Dallas debut this week after serving a two-game suspension to start 2019. To add Quinn to the 53 for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins, the Cowboys will need to make some kind of move to create a roster spot.

The question now is how Dallas makes that room. Who winds up leaving the team this week to create that spot for Quinn?

Ideally, the Cowboys will be able to find a trade partner for the disgruntled Taco Charlton. The former 1st-Round pick has been targeted for a while now, and trade rumors have intensified after Taco's been inactive for the first two games of the regular season.

Unfortunately, the goal of moving Charlton before Quinn comes back is something the rest of the NFL is also aware of. If a team does have interest, why trade for Taco now when you can potentially just claim him off waivers in a few more days? The Cowboys are the ones with the deadline.

Trading Taco, or releasing him if a trade doesn't materialize in the next few days, is the most logical solution here. It not only get Charlton out of Dallas and fresh start somewhere else, but it all takes place within the defensive end position. One DE out to make room for another; makes sense, right?

But let's say that the Cowboys aren't ready to just lose Charlton for nothing, or aren't satisfied with the trade offers they get. Could they elect to hang on to Taco and create that roster spot some other way?

If that's the case then the move will likely come at another position on the roster. Dallas isn't going to part with any other young prospects at DE like Dorance Armstrong or Joe Jackson. They also may have just lost DT Antwaun Woods for a while with a knee sprain coming out of the Redskins game, so the Cowboys won't like losing any additional defensive line depth right now.

Cedrick Wilson could shine after a year off

Dallas Cowboys WR Cedrick Wilson

The easiest move would be cutting Cedrick Wilson, who was just added last week off the practice squad. Dallas called Wilson up for punt return duties while Tavon Austin recovers from a concussion.

Assuming Austin is able to come back this week, Wilson's release is the simplest way to create a roster spot. It buys Dallas time and leverage in handling the Taco Charlton situation and doesn't force their hand.

One x-factor here is how Michael Gallup's knee is doing after yesterday's game. If there's any thought that Gallup might need a week off, especially with the hapless Miami Dolphins on the schedule, perhaps Dallas wants to keep Wilson for one more week for WR depth.

I think the Cowboys would be fine going with just four receivers in Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, and Devin Smith if they have to. But if there is a reason that they want to hang on to Cedrick for this week, that would mean looking elsewhere for a roster spot.


Another option could be on the offensive line, where Dallas is currently heavy with ten total linemen and two guys who've been inactive in both regular season games. Backups Adam Redmond and Brandon Knight haven't suited up against New York or Washington, so there is a certain level of expendability there.

Dallas went long on OL depth this year due to concerns about Zack Martin's back and the 2020 free agency of Joe Looney and Xaver Su'a-Filo. They didn't want to risk losing either Redmond or Knight from the practice squad.

But with the season now well underway, the Cowboys may feel more confident in being able to move one of those prospects and slip under most teams' radars.

Cowboys Training Camp: 5 Fringe Players Fans Should Follow

Dallas Cowboys safety Kavon Frazier (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

A final area to consider for a roster move is safety. With Darian Thompson and Donovan Wilson both returning from preseason ankle injuries, Dallas now has five total safeties in addition to five cornerbacks.

The Cowboys have have always intended to keep this many total defensive backs, but it's more than they usually have in previous seasons. The general feeling at final cuts was that Kavon Frazier kept his job due to the injuries to Thompson and Wilson, and his time on the roster might be short-lived after they got healthy.

Frazier is a strong special teams player but hasn't ever broken through on defense, and his rookie deal expires at the end of this season. Assuming that Donovan Wilson is able to fill the void on kickoff and punt coverage, Kavon becomes another expendable player this week.

Again, the ideal move will be to find a new home for Taco Charlton and make the easy swap within the defensive end position. Robert Quinn comes in, boosts the first-team talent, and increases the depth via ripple effect.

But as we just illustrated, the Cowboys have other options beyond dumping their former 1st-Round pick. They could find a roster spot at receiver, safety, or on the offensive line and then keep looking for Taco trade partners for the next several weeks.

Time will tell, and ultimately the player lost is probably someone who wouldn't have been active this week or most weeks to come. Just don't assume it's going to be Taco Charlton; there are still plenty of ways this could go.

However it shakes out, we're just glad to finally see Robert Quinn out there and hopefully improving the Cowboys' pass rush.


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Game Notes

The Brady Report: Cowboys Offense Dominant Despite Slow Start

Kevin Brady

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The Brady Report:

The Dallas Cowboys followed up their dominant performance last week with yet another blowout divisional win on Sunday, defeating the Washington Redskins 31-21.

While the Cowboys controlled the game for much of the last three quarters, they actually got off to a slow start in Washington. Once again they fell behind to a lesser team 7-0 early, before scoring on nearly every possession to finish off the game.


Let's get into my game notes from the Cowboys' week two win.

  • We have to start these game notes by talking about Dak Prescott. The Cowboys franchise quarterback was incredible for the second straight week to open this season. Despite the early interception, Prescott continued to look poised and calm in the pocket, allowing him to deliver a dime to Devin Smith for the team's first touchdown. Prescott was picking apart the Redskins secondary during the final three quarters to the tune of 269 yards and three touchdowns. Plus, he was very effective as a runner, including his dynamic 42 yard run on third down and one with the game still tied. If Dak is going to play like this, the Cowboys can beat anyone.
  • Ezekiel Elliott looked a lot more comfortable Sunday than he did against the Giants. Not only were his raw numbers better, rushing for 111 yards and a touchdown, he was back to his ways of falling forward and avoiding the first tackler. He still didn't really explode the way we all know he can, which means opposing defenses should be scared when considering what the Cowboys offense's full potential could be.
  • Which receiver didn't ball out Sunday? Michael Gallup seems to be developing an awesome rapport with Prescott, Amari Cooper continues to prove he's a legit WR1, Randall Cobb was once again effective on swing passes and in the slot, and even Devin Smith had himself a monster game. If Devin Smith is going to be the speed deep threat he was against Washington, look out.
  • Ok, now that I've congratulated the majority of the offense, let's talk about the one guy who I'm sure would've liked to have a better day. Left guard Connor Williams. The second year guard was solid overall Sunday, but was abused by Daron Payne from time to time. Most notably, Payne went right through Williams both to force Prescott's interception and on the only sack of the game. Williams has to be better going forward, because he is the clear weak link across this dynamic offensive line right now. Luckily, as a whole, this line has been very good through two games.
  • Defensively, things could've gone better for the Cowboys. While a lot of the production through the air came through garbage time, Terry McLaurin was still too effective down the field. Chris Thompson was also getting too much YAC against these defenders. Anthony Brown had a rough day in the slot, missing multiple tackles and not being too great in coverage either. Jourdan Lewis, however, did have himself a good game in limited snaps. Both he and Byron Jones made impressive open field tackles on third downs.
  • The Cowboys run defense stepped up from a week ago. The tackling of their front seven overall improved as the game went on, and they held Adrian Peterson to just 25 yards on the ground. Part of this was because of how quickly the Cowboys got to their 21-7 lead in the third quarter, but they were solid nonetheless.
  • Dallas' pass rush will benefit greatly from Robert Quinn's return next week against Miami. DeMarcus Lawrence created a couple big pressures on Sunday, but Quinn's presence should help free him up a bit to create more of a consistent pass rush.


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