The Dallas Cowboys are likely in the time of the offseason where they begin studying this year's group of free agents to see who could be a fit for the 2019 season. With a new offensive coordinator and a mandate for an upgrade to the offensive system, it's likely they could go out and pursue several players who could step in and make an immediate impact for a team on the verge of Super Bowl contention.
A couple of weeks ago, I talked about several under the radar offensive players, but could be targets for the Dallas Cowboys. Last week, I covered the defensive side of the football. This week, I'm going to give you three that could immediately slot into roles for the Dallas Cowboys this season.
Jared Cook, Tight End
It's no secret that the Dallas Cowboys will be approaching the offseason looking to upgrade their tight end group. Cowboys Executive Vice President Stephen Jones has already said as much. With the insane depth of talent at the tight end position in the NFL Draft, it's likely that's where the Cowboys will look to improve that area of the depth chart.
But as we know, the Cowboys also love to use free agency to fill any glaring holes before the draft so they don't feel forced to make an addition where they don't feel comfortable.
Just last April, Jason Witten announced his retirement just before the second round. Pretty much everyone assumed they would use one of their second or third round picks on a tight end to fill the Grand Canyon-like hole at tight end. While they did draft Dalton Schultz, they passed on the opportunity to take now Baltimore Ravens Tight End Mark Andrews with the 81st pick. The choice they used to take Michael Gallup. Instead, they later drafted Dalton Schultz.
Well, this free agency, they'll have an opportunity to address the tight end position before they get to the draft and the top name on the list is Oakland Raiders Tight End, Jared Cook. Cook, you'll remember caught the pass from Aaron Rodgers in the 2016 divisional round matchup that led to Mason Crosby's long field goal to beat the 13-3 Dallas Cowboys.
In 2018, Jared Cook led the Oakland Raiders in receptions, targets, yards, and touchdowns. Even prior to the deal that sent Amari Cooper to the Cowboys, Cook was leading the team in several, if not all of those categories. On the season he caught 68 passes on 101 targets for 896 yards and six touchdowns. Among tight ends last season he was fifth in the NFL in receptions, fifth in targets, fourth in yards, and fourth in touchdowns. All at the age of 31.
He's a player that could help the Dallas Cowboys at tight end, even if it was only as a stop-gap or competition for Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz. He's a veteran presence that still has something to offer as a receiver.
Devin Funchess, Wide Receiver
It was a disappointing season for the former second round pick of the Carolina Panthers, Devin Funchess. With no one standing in the way of him taking over as the lead receiver for Cam Newton, Funchess posted disappointing numbers catching only 44 passes on 79 targets for 549 yards and four touchdowns.
After having over 800 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017, many expected that Funchess would take a step forward this season. He didn't.
Over the final six games of his season, he saw only 24 targets and caught just eight passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. That's after averaging 4.5 receptions on 6.9 targets and catching three touchdowns during the first eight games of the season. 81% of his receptions and yards came over the first eight games of the season and then he just dropped off.
Some of that could be due to Cam Newton's injury, but I think the more likely scenario is that Funchess took a back seat to rookie first round pick D.J. Moore, who finished the season with 788 yards on 55 receptions and two touchdowns. Moore had much more of his production over the second half of the season.
He's an outside receiver that gives the Cowboys some size with his 6-4, 225 pound frame. He'd be red zone threat and with his experience outside, you could use Amari Cooper in the slot on three wide receiver sets.
Funchess may not be an exciting name for the Dallas Cowboys, but he's potentially cheap and is still a very young player who has four years experience in the NFL.
T.J. Yeldon, Running Back
If the Dallas Cowboys do look to give Ezekiel Elliott a four or five-year extension this offseason or next, then they need to get serious about preserving him. In Ezekiel Elliott's two 16 game seasons, he's averaged 367 touches per season. In 2017, when he only played 10 games, he was on pace for 428 touches on the year. Yes, he's capable of shouldering that workload and is one of the elite runners in the NFL, but if you're going to hand him a ton of money, you need to take care of that asset and not run him into the ground.
Enter T.J. Yeldon.
There are several running backs this free agency that are intriguing players and could be good fits for the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars Running Back T.J. Yeldon is one of those guys. He's a do-it-all runner who does his best work as a receiving back.
As a runner, Yeldon had a success rate 48%, per Football Outsiders. Success rate measures the frequency that a player is gaining the expected yards based on down and distance. For reference, Ezekiel Elliott had a success rate of 50% and the league leader in success rate, Gus Edwards, was successful on 63% of his runs.
Yeldon averaged just under four yards per carry on 104 carries and caught 55 passes for 487 yards and five total touchdowns. Yeldon worked primarily as a backup to Leonard Fournette, but filled started four games filling in for Fournette due to injury.
Yeldon would be an upgrade to Rod Smith in terms of running and receiving and would allow you to scale back on Ezekiel Elliott's touches -- especially receptions -- allowing him to stay fresher in games and throughout the season.
With several really talented running backs available in free agency, it's likely that Yeldon could be without a home through the early stages of free agency and be willing to take a back up role somewhere.
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We're about 30 days from the start of NFL free agency and the Dallas Cowboys will likely be players in some sense. We know they like to bargain hunt in the free agent market, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them make a big splash and a few medium-sized splashes as they look to put this team over the top heading into the 2019 season.
Cowboys K Brett Maher’s 63-Yard Field Goal Sets New NFL Record
After hitting a 63-yard field goal last night in the Dallas Cowboys' win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Kicker Brett Maher now owns the NFL record for most field goal made at 60 yards or longer. It was the third 60-plus FG of his career and second so far this season.
Maher hit a 62-yarder last week in Dallas' loss to the New York Jets. That kick tied him with Sebastian Janikowski and Greg Zuerlein for having two career field goals of 60 or more.
Now Brett stands alone in that category. Last night's kick also was just one yard shy of Matt Prater's record for the NFL's longest field goal; Maher hit from 64 yards in 2013.
If Brett Maher ever gets a chance to kick in Denver, he may have a great shot at breaking Prater's record as well. According to NBC's data from last night, Maher's kick would have been good from 66 yards out.
It was a good night overall for the Cowboys kicker. Maher had two other makes from 26 and 29 yards.
Despite his heroics at times, Brett Maher has been one of the least accurate kickers in the NFL the last two years. Even after last night Brett is hitting just 71.4% of his field goals so far in 2019; that ties him for 25th in the league.
The most puzzling aspect of all with Maher is how much he struggles with shorter range kicks. You almost have more confidence in him kicking from 60 yards out than attempting an extra point.
Few kickers could survive that kind of performance and uncertainty, but few can do what Maher can with his long range ability. It's a risk/reward situation that the Cowboys are continuing to work with.
For today, at least, Maher and his team are basking in the glory of a great game. Let's hope both can keep up the positive momentum.
Cowboys Defense Dominates in Crucial Win vs Eagles
Coming into yesterday's battle for NFC East supremacy against the Philadelphia Eagles the Dallas Cowboys defense was looking to regain some swagger. The Green Bay Packers were led by Aaron Jones who had a career day with 182 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns two weeks ago in a 34-24 beatdown of the Cowboys. Last week at Metlife Stadium, the New York Jets got a career day themselves from their former third overall pick in Sam Darnold who threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns in his return from Mononucleosis that kept him out since Week one. The Cowboys were handed their third consecutive loss 24-22 and their season was headed down the drain.
It would be paramount for the Cowboys defensive unit to set a tone and they didn't waste any time doing so. The Eagle's first possession would only last five plays as Jaylon Smith forced a fumble by Tight End Dallas Goedert that was recovered by Maliek Collins. Just two plays into their second drive, Carson Wentz was strip-sacked by All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence inside the Eagles own 15 which was recovered by Antwaun Woods. Both turnovers led to scores for the Cowboys as they took an early 14-0 lead in the games first six minutes.
After the Eagles scored on a seven-play 87-yard drive with a little over four minutes to go in the first quarter they would only run 12 plays the rest of the first half, and the Cowboys went into the locker room with a commanding 27-7 lead.
The second half would be a continuation of the first 30 minutes of play. After an exchange of field goals in the third quarter, the Eagles were simply out of their misery early in the fourth. Wentz was intercepted by Safety Xavier Woods and he committed his second fumble of the game on the very next drive. In the end, the Cowboys whipped the Eagles from start to finish 37-10 and claimed outright first place in the NFC East.
There were several encouraging signs defensively for the Cowboys vs the Eagles. Maliek Collins matched his season total with five tackles and also recovered a fumble. Both starting defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn each had a sack showing exactly why the Cowboys put this combo together, to terrorize quarterbacks. Cornerback Jourdan Lewis had four tackles and a sack, a great follow up to his four tackle performance with an interception a week earlier, further making his case to be the top guy at nickel corner in this defense. The old veteran Sean Lee didn't go unnoticed either as his seven tackles were tied for of the team lead. He got more snaps due to Leighton Vander Esch's early exit with a neck injury.
You expect an offense like the Eagles to make plays and score points eventually, but the Cowboys defense wasn't having any of it in this contest. In addition to giving up under 300 yards of total offense, they only allowed the Eagles to convert three third downs, go 0 for 2 in the red zone and forced four turnovers. That's a recipe for victory any Sunday.
Now, the Cowboys go into the bye week sitting on top the NFC East throne. This is the perfect time to get guys fully healthy with a clash against the New York Giants on the road awaiting them in two weeks. The Cowboys defense played with their backs to the wall and pulled out a big-time performance when they needed it the most. Consistency is what has kept them from looking like the top seven unit they were in 2018. Was this game the turning point? We shall see, but nonetheless, this showing by them was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Cowboys Get Good News on Vander Esch, Quinn Injuries After Eagles Game
The Dallas Cowboys got a big win last night over the Philadelphia Eagles, but there was concern that they also suffered some big injuries. But good news; despite their leaving the game and not returning, both LB Leighton Vander Esch and DE Robert Quinn appear to have avoided any significant issues.
Vander Esch suffered a neck stinger in the second quarter and did not come back. It appears he was held out as a precautionary measure, and the Cowboys' 21-7 lead at that point may have contributed to the decision.
Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch just told me he's good. First neck stinger. Disputes "history" of neck issues reports. Told me he would have continued playing but "wasn't up to me
Quinn's rib injury also occurred before halftime and ended his night. The veteran picked up his obligatory sack before going out, and it sounds like he should be fine for Dallas' next game.
From @GMFB: The #Cowboys got a few injury scares, but LB Leighton Vander Esch (neck) and LB Robert Quinn (rib) are expected to be OK. https://t.co/ld1mncRkNw
These defensive standouts join a host of Cowboys starters who are going to benefit greatly from the team's bye week.
Dallas went into the game with injury concerns to WRs Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb, OTs Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, and CBs Byron Jones and Anthony Brown. Of those, Brown was the only one who did not play last night.
Still, all of these players need a week to rest and be ready for the long haul of the regular season.
The Cowboys will get back to work in Week 9 with a road trip to New York, facing the Giants on Monday Night Football.
Thankfully, it looks like Leighton Vander Esch and Robert Quinn will both be ready to play in two weeks.
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