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.
Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches
Lamentablemente, la temporada 2018 de los Dallas Cowboys ha llegado a su fin. Lo hizo cuando el equipo visitó Los Angeles para intentar sorprender a los Rams en su propio campo en la Ronda Divisional de los playoffs. Ni siquiera con una invasión exitosa de la afición de Dallas pudieron ganarse un pase al Campeonato de Conferencia. En vez de eso, los Cowboys estarán viendo desde casa y la afición estará preguntándose: ¿qué sigue para los Dallas Cowboys?
Parece ya una tradición anual que no podemos dejar pasar. Este momento en el que comenzamos a cuestionar, una vez más, que entrenador es digno de quedarse en la franquicia y cual debe irse. En esta edición de "Cowboys en Español," hablaremos específicamente de los tres principales coaches en el equipo.
Coordinador Defensivo Rod Marinelli
El futuro del coordinador defensivo de los Dallas Cowboys no se puede tratar sin mencionar a Kris Richard. Fue la defensiva la que llevó al equipo hasta la postemporada y fue la unidad que cargó al equipo en muchas de sus victorias. Incluso con la llegada de Amari Cooper a Dallas, la defensiva fue siempre el pilar de la franquicia esta temporada.
Jaylon Smith y Leighton Vander Esch sorprendentemente se perfilaron como uno de los mejores duos de linebackers en toda la liga, la línea defensiva fue muy exitosa con Randy Gregory y DeMarcus Lawrence en los extremos y con la grata sorpresa que fue Antwaun Woods en el centro. La secundaria vio la mejor temporada en la controversial carrera de Byron Jones e hizo un excelente trabajo con un talento decente, pero no genial.
Todo esto, y el haber terminado como la sexta mejor defensiva en puntos permitidos (20.2) y la quinta mejor contra la corrida (94.6), hace a Rod Marinelli merecedor de una ronda de aplausos. Sin embargo, Richard probablemente merezca más aplausos.
Fue Richard quien revolucionó la defensiva de los Cowboys y la convirtió en un grupo mucho más agresivo. Fue él quien implementó jugadas de "blitz" en el equipo (algo no común con Marinelli) y quien en un punto de la temporada, comenzó a seleccionar las jugadas desde la banda.
En esta posición, me parece que los Dallas Cowboys tienen que enfrentar la dura decisión de decirle a Marinelli que es tiempo de dejarle el puesto a Kris Richard. Si bien no se llevó un trabajo de head coach, es muy probable que le llovieran ofertas a Richard si no se hace con el título de coordinador defensivo en Dallas.
Coordinador Ofensivo Scott Linehan
Con un equipo tan polémico como este, la afición de Dallas no concuerda en muchas cosas. Sin embargo, lo hacen al hablar del pésimo trabajo que Scott Linehan ha realizado mandando las jugadas en ofensiva. Realmente ha sido doloroso de ver y es en mi opinión, el mayor problema que tiene el equipo actualmente.
Semana tras semana, fuimos testigos de pésimas decisiones en la ofensiva de los Cowboys. Vimos como el equipo se aferraba a llenar la caja de defensivos antes de correr el balón con Ezekiel Elliott. Vimos incontables pases pantalla en tercera oportunidad y largo. Pero no solo es lo que vimos, sino lo que no vimos.
A pesar de la innegable habilidad para correr el balón de Dak Prescott, Linehan se rehusó a explotar esta versatilidad de su QB. Vimos pocos "QB sneaks," jugada donde el mariscal toma el balón bajo centro y consigue poco yardage detrás del empuje de su línea ofensiva.
Siendo honestos, los Cowboys llevan dos años sufriendo por este coordinador. Dejarlo volver en el 2019 sería una decisión ridícula. Los comentarios en la radio de Jason Garrett no lucen prometedores, pero realmente sería una sorpresa que fueran ciertos. Linehan no debe volver... punto.
Head Coach Jason Garrett
El futuro en esta posición será muy debatido durante los próximos meses, pero de los tres que hemos mencionado es sin lugar a dudas el más seguro de todos. Nos guste o no, Jason Garrett estará al frente del equipo la próxima temporada.
Garrett está lejos de ser un gran coach y aún le hace falta demostrar que puede cumplir las aspiraciones de los Cowboys de traer un sexto Trofeo Lombardi a casa. Pero siendo honesto, este equipo debería tener suficiente con Garrett y un par de buenos coordinadores. ¿El problema? No hay un par de buenos coordinadores en el equipo.
Sin embargo, Garrett ha demostrado que cuenta con el amor y apoyo de sus jugadores. Ha demostrado que efectivamente, puede ganar la división (lo ha hecho en tres de los últimos cinco años). Este año el equipo le dio la vuelta a la temporada después de comenzar 3-5.
Lo más preocupante en mi opinión, es la falta de urgencia para despedir a Linehan, por ejemplo. Quizá a puerta cerrada Garrett quiere un cambio en su staff, pero nunca lo sabremos.
Jason Garrett no es un coach excelente, pero podría ser suficiente para llevar a los Cowboys a un Super Bowl si tiene un equipo adecuado. Todo parece indicar que su trabajo está seguro (incluso más de lo que pensamos) así que es tiempo de esperar que se arreglen sus coordinadores.
2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch
As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.
It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.
Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.
No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.
Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.
This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.
There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.
Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.
Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.
What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?
Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.
Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.
They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?
Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.
Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.
Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.
Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.
Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.
This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.
The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.
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