The NFL released it's 2019 Pro Bowl selections on Tuesday with five Dallas Cowboys making this year's all-star game. Ezekiel Elliott, Byron Jones, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyron Smith, and Zack Martin will be representing the Dallas Cowboys this season when the AFC and the NFC teams face off in Orlando, Florida in February.
None of the players selected are a surprise as they've been in the discussion as the best at their position in 2018. Byron Jones is the only one making his first Pro Bowl as he's been a stellar and surprising aspect of the Cowboys defense this season.
The surprises come when you think about the players who didn't make the Pro Bowl. Let's look at four Cowboys who should have been invited to Orlando.
1. Leighton Vander Esch, Linebacker
The Dallas Cowboys surprised everyone when they made Leighton Vander Esch their first round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft when many thought he was more of a very late first, second round type of player. They made their choice and have looked like geniuses since.
Vander Esch has played as well as any rookie in the NFL this year. If it weren't for the ridiculous season that Indianapolis Colts Linebacker Darius Leonard is having, Vander Esch would likely run away with the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Vander Esch is third in the NFL in solo tackles and second in the NFC to Luke Keuchly. According to Pro Football Focus, LVE ranks fifth among linebackers in their "stops" category, which credits players for plays that result in a "loss" for an offense.
Because the NFL doesn't differentiate between 4-3 outside linebackers and 3-4 outside linebackers, Leighton Vander Esch gets left out as Khalil Mack and Ryan Kerrigan get in by virtue of their sack numbers. If there's an argument to be made, it's Vander Esch over Minnesota Vikings Linebacker Anthony Barr who hasn't played in an as many games as Vander Esch and hasn't racked up near the stats that the rookie has.
2. Jaylon Smith, Linebacker
While Leighton Vander Esch has been impressive this season, you'd probably be surprised to discover that Jaylon Smith has been the more impactful of the two. Jaylon Smith is in the top 15 in solo tackles, is tied for fifth in sacks among linebackers (excluding 3-4 outside linebackers), tied for 10th in total pressures, and is 13th in the NFL in Pro Football Focus's stops.
LVE has been all over the field as a tackler, but Smith has had the more well-rounded season, providing an impact for the Dallas Cowboys both as a run defender and as a pass rusher. Jaylon Smith has also forced two fumbles this season, which is tied for third in the NFL.
Jaylon Smith has been one of the best players on one of the NFL's best defenses. He hasn't put up gaudy sack or tackle numbers, but he's been a very well-rounded player for the Cowboys this season. Smith's presence, athleticism, and speed have been game changing this season -- see the stop on Alvin Kamara vs the Saints.
3. Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver
Amari Cooper deserves to be a Pro Bowler. I don't care if he's only played seven games in the NFC, let's take a look at what he's done on the season and since his arrival to the Dallas Cowboys.
Between the Oakland Raiders and the Dallas Cowboys this season, Cooper has caught 66 passes for 954 yards and seven touchdowns. Since coming to the Dallas Cowboys, Cooper has 44 catches on 60 targets, for 674 yards (15.3 yards per reception), and six touchdowns.
Since week nine, when Amari Cooper came to the Cowboys, only one wide receiver in the NFC has more yards than Cooper: Julio Jones. Only three receivers have more receptions than Cooper, Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, and Julio Jones, each of whom is going to the Pro Bowl. Nobody has more touchdowns than Cooper.
Adam Thielen, who is the fourth wide receiver representing the NFC had a great start to the 2018 season, but he's been kinda meh over the last seven weeks. Amari has 13 more receptions, 340 more yards, and three more touchdowns than Thielen since coming over to the NFC.
Amari Cooper is playing as well as any other receiver in the NFL at the moment and shouldn't be punished for only playing a little more than half the season in the NFC.
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It's possible that the Cowboys get another player into the Pro Bowl with L.P. Ladouceur as a possible choice once the coaches are determined for the annual all-star game. The three players mentioned above could be added to the Pro Bowl roster at a later date if there is an injury or a player is playing the Super Bowl opts out of the game, but they shouldn't have to wait for an opening. Their play on the field should have spoken for itself.
DL Kerry Hyder Helps Solidify A Re-Tooled Defensive Line
The Cowboys got off to a busy start to week two of free agency on Monday, and capped it off by signing defensive lineman Kerry Hyder to a one year deal.
The former Detroit Lion could be classified as a "one year wonder" of sorts, but when you look closer at his career arc, you see that Hyder can provide upside at multiple positions across the Cowboys' defensive front.
After having 8 sacks and 19 quarterback hits as a defensive end in 2016, Hyder missed all of 2017 with an achilles injury. Last season, under new head coach Matt Patricia, Hyder was moved out of position and forced to play as a nose tackle and 5-technique more often.
So, the last time Hyder was healthy and playing in the role in he will likely fill in Dallas, he was productive. Yes that was a couple of seasons ago but it makes Hyder worth the one year deal he received from the Cowboys.
What exactly is that role, though?
I see Hyder primarily as a rotational 3-technique for the Cowboys. At just 270 pounds Hyder isn't going to play over the center often, and won't be very useful as a 1-technique against the run. He's at his best when lining on the outside shade of an offensive lineman, where he can use his get-off and quickness to create pressure.
Kerry Hyder can also fill in at defensive end if needed, especially when the Cowboys go into a nickel package. Hyder is similar to Tyrone Crawford in his ability to move inside and out, but is a bit better of a pass rusher than Crawford when at his best.
Hyder is a high energy, motor, and character defensive lineman who will fit right in with a Rod Marinelli unit. If it all clicks for Hyder and he regains his 2016 form, the Cowboys will have stolen an impressive pass rushing defensive lineman who can win from multiple positions.
If Hyder is actually a "one year wonder" who is more of his 2018-self with the Cowboys despite being put in a better role to succeed, Dallas can move on rather quickly because he is only on a one year deal.
This is a smart signing by the Cowboys front office as they look to re-tool their defensive line, and avoid being pigeon-holed into over-drafting at a certain position this Spring.
New Cowboys WR Randall Cobb Announces His Signing With A Fantastic GIF
On Tuesday this week it became official the Cowboys would sign former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb to a one year deal worth an estimated $5 million. After his visit Monday morning, speculation around whether and when he would sign was swirling.
Cobb confirmed his intentions to join the Cowboys himself, and did so with some A+ GIF usage on Twitter.
In case you don't know, the GIF Cobb tweeted is Woody from Toy Story, emerging confidently and tipping his cap.
This was Cobb signaling that he his a Cowboy, and he appears excited to be joining America's Team. Cobb also received some social media love from his now former teammates in Green Bay, including wide receiver Davante Adams and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers had some parting words for new Cowboys WR Randall Cobb
Clearly Randall Cobb made an impact in Green Bay, both on and off the field. Let's hope he can replicate some of that in Dallas now that he has joined the Cowboys.
Malik McDowell Is Well Worth The Risk For The Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly brining defensive lineman Malik McDowell into The Star this week for a visit, as they decide whether or not to potentially sign him for the 2019 season.
McDowell is a former second round pick of the Seattle Seahawks, who fell to day two because of what scouts call "off the field" or "character" concerns. McDowell did not last long with Seahawks, as he was released in 2017 following an ATV accident in which he reportedly suffered "extensive brain and eye trauma" according to Charles Robinson.
None of us know much about who Malik McDowell is as a person, or what concerns their really should be with his health. But what I do know is that on tape at Michigan State, McDowell was a top 5-10 player in the 2017 draft class. He was a stud, and has the traits to continue to be a stud in the NFL.
The 2017 NFL Draft is chock full of talented, athletic, and productive defensive linemen. While most of the draft pundits have focused on EDGE rushers thus far, the defensive tackle class also possesses some of this year's top NFL prospects. Arguably the best of those defensive tackles is Michigan State's Malik McDowell.
Back in 2017 I wrote a full scouting report on McDowell, detailing why he earned such a high grade on my board. McDowell is a versatile linemen who is explosive off the ball, powerful and rangy against the run, and a skilled pass rusher who plays with a high motor. What more could you really ask for?
"McDowell is a patient pass rusher at times, setting up the blocker how he likes and then beating them with ease. McDowell’s ability to swipe hands off helps him greatly, but his quick swim is his most effective pass rush move.
On this play he uses that swim to perfection, forcing the center to power down to the right before swimming back to the other side."
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
When the Spartans went to a three man pass rushing front, McDowell moved to the EDGE often and made plays with his quick, active hands and impressive swim move. He was much more impressive on the interior, however, and could be a direct replacement for David Irving as an explosive and powerful 3-technique for the Cowboys.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
I love that the Cowboys are bringing McDowell in for a free agent visit. His price will likely be low, as he is yet to play in an NFL game over the last two years, but his ceiling remains very high if he is healthy. It's rare for a player with his college production, natural ability, and measurables to completely fail in the NFL.
Maybe all McDowell needs is a second chance to get his head right and prove that he belongs in the league. Maybe he flames out quickly and can't get on the field due to "off the field" stuff. Or, maybe he simply isn't healthy enough to contribute as an NFL player. Regardless, for the price he'll likely command, McDowell is well worth the risk if the Cowboys are willing to take it.
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