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3 Players Who Could Disappoint Cowboys Nation in 2017

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Could Any of These 3 Cowboys Disappoint Cowboys Nation in 2017?
Hannah Foslien / Getty Images

I like optimism, I really do. I'm an optimistic person myself. When it comes to football, it's not hard to look at a certain player and think he'll have a breakout season during July. But there comes a time during the NFL offseason that you have to stop and look at things realistically. The "This Player Looks Younger Than Three Years Ago" and "This Other Player Feels Better Than Ever" headlines can become pretty exhausting.

Every year, there's at least one player who doesn't live up to these optimistic offseason expectations, and ends up disappointing fans.

That is why today, I try to identify three Cowboys players who could end up disappointing Cowboys Nation in 2017.

Before we begin, it's worth mentioning that I avoided both rookies and free agents who've just joined the team.

Could Jeff Heath Be The Starting Safety Next Byron Jones In 2017?

S Jeff Heath

Safety is a position that will be up for grabs this year, and with multiple decent players fighting for the starting job, Jeff Heath has a chance to get more snaps this season. Heath has shown promising flashes when on the field, and naturally, expectations have grown for him.

Heath was signed as an UDFA in 2013. There must be a reason why we haven't seen him much. There must be a reason why he never outplayed JJ Wilcox. Sure, Wilcox did have a pretty good season in 2016, but that wasn't the case in previous years.

Throughout the offseason, Jeff Heath has been one of the main topics for Cowboys fans.

Problem is, we haven't seen Heath play on a consistent basis.

Sometimes, he can look like a playmaker. But he probably hasn't shown us enough from a coverage perspective. Out of the three players on this list, he may be the least likely to live up to expectations.

La'el Collins

OL La'el Collins

Collins did a good job as a LG during 2015. He never stopped throwing defenders around. But we didn't see him as much in 2016. After suffering an injury against the Chicago Bears, Ron Leary took his place.

Before that though, Collins didn't seem to have progressed much. After Leary took over, the offensive line worked better. In my opinion, the only player who can replace Ron Leary without being a downgrade for the position is La'el.

But it doesn't look like Collins will be the left guard this year, as he has practiced as the starting right tackle this offseason. Some consider it a mistake, some consider it the right call.

The last we saw from Collins as a left guard was barely above-average. He hasn't played a single snap at RT. He has the traits, but how good will he really be?

It's only fair to recognize he might fail to have an above-average performance as a RT in 2017.

David Irving

DL David Irving

The main reason I chose Irving for this list is his four-game suspension. 2017 won't be the first season we will be thinking pass rush reinforcements are coming week five.

Irving is perhaps the most promising DL on the team right now. He's always shown flashes of a great pass rusher and late last year he had several premium performances. It was just a matter of getting him more snaps. There doesn't seem to be a reason to think he won't be as good or better this year.

It wasn't until the Cowboys final three games that we saw Irving most of the time on the field. Before that he didn't have a very big role.

Will he be able to have a breakout year after being out for the first four games? Or will he fail to meet expectations?

Tell me what you think about "3 Players Who Could Disappoint Cowboys Nation in 2017" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



I love to write, I love football and I love the Dallas Cowboys. I've been rooting for America's team all the way from Mexico ever since I can remember. If you want to talk football, I'm in... You'll find me at @PepoR99.

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5 Comments
  • Jess Haynie

    Way to be a buzzkill, Mauricio.

    You did pick a good three, though, as all of them are being expected to fill big roles without a lot of supporting evidence. Perception changes so much once a player’s workload increases; flaws are more likely to be exposed and he’s more likely to have mistakes/failures with more fatigue.

    Of the three, I have the most confidence in Collins. While I don’t think he’ll ever be as good at tackle as he could’ve been at guard, he still played it very well in college and in the SEC. At worst, he’ll be a solid starter.

    • Mauricio Rodriguez

      Sorry to be a buzzkill, Jess. I did feel bad writing this, but I think this is something Cowboys Nation needs to read. That’s exactly why I picked these three.
      Out of these three, I’d agree with you on Collins. He won’t be bad. Hope none of them ends up being bad.

  • John Williams

    Hype Train Derailed… lol.

    These three don’t have a whole lot of tape to go on to project that they will be major contributors in 2017.

    Even prior to the David Irving suspension, I was concerned that he was the guy to be relied upon to improve the pass rush.

    Heath will either be the GOAT that we all thought he was, or he will be the goat o the defense.

    La’el at RT has me super pumped for what the offense could do running right.

    Honorable mention to this would be Any of the players make their debuts with the team. Jaylon, Tapper, Chido, Lewis, Woods, Switzer, Taco. The hype is getting big surrounding those players who have yet to play a down yet.

    • Mauricio Rodriguez

      Exactly. That’s why I decided to avoid rookies. Any of them can end up being a bust, whether we like it or not. They´re rookies. Sorry to derail the hype train, John!

      • John Williams

        Lol. You’re arguments were strong. There is no guarantees from anyone that’s being hyped. Like You I take a more optimistic view for sure.

Star Blog

How Should The Cowboys, And The NFL, Value RBs?

Kevin Brady

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Will Cowboys' Offense Improve With Ezekiel Elliott's Return?
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There is no one, stand-alone "best" strategy for winning in the NFL. There are, of course, common themes and ideals which run true year in and year out among the top teams.

Strategy in the NFL is dynamic, or at least it should be. Running in place for too long under the same leadership often breeds mediocrity, and refusing to move with current trends can put you at a severe disadvantage.

Succumbing to those trends without fully analyzing the confounding factors your situation presents, however, can also ruin a team building exercise.

With that being said, should teams pay elite running backs top dollar? Or are those running backs expendable, replaceable, and often forgettable within the NFL machine?

To be honest these aren't very fair ways to pose legitimately interesting questions. You can acknowledge that a running back is important to your offense while also acknowledging that you don't want to break the bank for a position with such injury risk and high turnover year-to-year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently facing this dilemma, as their star running back Le'Veon Bell asks to be paid like an elite "weapon," not as a normal running back. And when you examine how the Steelers deploy Bell within their offense, he clearly has a point.

Bell is not your traditional "running back." He lines up on the boundary, in the slot, and is a passing threat out of the backfield as well. On top of all of this versatility, Bell is an excellent pass protector, something which is often lost among other "versatile" backs.

Bell can quite literally do it all for an offense, but the idea of paying that position elite-level money makes teams cringe. As The Athletic's Marcus Mosher pointed out on Twitter, teams like the New England Patriots have been able to replicate Bell's production by using multiple speciality backs rather than one workhorse.

In theory, this takes away the injury risk component to a certain extent. Rather than giving one player 350-400 touches per season, you spread those touches out and allow for players to do what they do best.

Lately, the NFL has seemed to agree that this is the most efficient way to play offense. But when you have a player like Bell or Ezekiel Elliott, in what way is taking the ball out of their hands "efficient" at all? In addition, how is using three players to mimic the skill set of one efficient?

Yes, the NFL is a passing league, but when you have a playmaker who is of the caliber of a Bell or an Elliott, it is up to the offense to deploy in him ways that maximize his value. Teams should be using the Bells and Elliotts of the world as pass catching threats and as weapons all over the field. Force the entire defense to account for your running back rather than just jamming him between the tackles like it's 1975.

The movement towards "running back by committee" rather than the traditional one-back system can also be credited to the lack of workhorse-worthy backs entering the league.

Ezekiel Elliotts don't grow on trees, they are rare and special players. And when you have one, especially when you spend a premium pick on him, you should get the most out of him that you can. Playing winning offense in the NFL is about more than just "do you run or do you pass," and it often hinges on creating splash plays of 15-20 yards.

If you can get those plays through the use of an elite running back, that player becomes intrinsically valuable to your team. No matter what "position" he is labeled as. Of course you want to be able create mismatches in the passing game all over the field, so when you are able to do this with a running back, shouldn't that be deemed as highly valuable?

We can't say just yet if the Cowboys should re-sign Ezekiel Elliott once he enters free agency. After all, five seasons (and a franchise tag year) where he touches the ball more than most players in the league will almost certainly bring about some wear and tear.

But with the way the Cowboys have chosen to play offense, and the way in which they've built their roster, a workhorse back like Elliott is necessary for success.

Once again, at least it is for now.



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Star Blog

Is DE Kony Ealy At Risk Of Not Making Cowboys Final Roster?

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: As Late FA Signing, New DE Kony Ealy Brings Value at DE

As training camp approaches and we draw closer to the 2018 NFL season, fans are beginning to get excited for new faces, old stars, and new beginnings for the Dallas Cowboys.

One player which has been a bit forgotten about over the last few months, and even overlooked when he was first signed back in April, is defensive end Kony Ealy. Of course, some of this overlooking is justified, as Ealy's career has been filled with more valleys than peaks thus far.

With a fresh start in Dallas, though, some expect Kony Ealy to rekindle his career, and look like the player he was during the Panthers' Super Bowl 50 loss just a few seasons ago. The problem is, that game looks like the outlier and not the norm over his professional career.

Originally drafted by the Carolina Panthers, Ealy has had a shaky start to his career. Now joining his third team in the same number of seasons, it's certainly fair to say he hasn't lived up to his second round draft selection.

At 6'4" and 275 pounds, however, Ealy fits the mold of a 4-3 defensive end in the Cowboys' scheme. While he isn't the explosive pass rusher that other players on the roster are (and can be), he could provide solid rotational depth across the defensive line.

With fellow former second round pick Randy Gregory gaining reinstatement to the NFL this week, Ealy could struggle to salvage any real playing time with the Cowboys at all. Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, and Taco Charlton all feel like locks to make the team.

Then there is 2018 day three pick Dorance Armstrong and former fourth round pick Charles Tapper providing competition as well.

Tapper and Armstrong are unproven, but have the athletic profiles to become solid edge rushers at the professional level. For both, especially Tapper, health is of the upmost concern going forward. If Tapper can remain healthy, he has a real shot of making the team and having his impact felt as early as 2018.

That "if" has been a serious one thus far, however.

When the Cowboys first signed Kony Ealy back in April, I really believed he could provide solid and cheap depth along their defensive line. Now in July, I still have those beliefs, but it's become fair to question if he will even find himself on the final 53-man roster based on the competition around him.



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Star Blog

Can Connor Williams Follow in Zack Martin’s Footsteps?

Brian Martin

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Can Connor Williams Follow in Zack Martin's Footsteps?

Connor Williams has yet to play a single snap the NFL, but there are already some pretty high expectations for the rookie Guard. That's because he will be sandwiched between two Pro Bowl players in Center Travis Frederick and Left Tackle Tyron Smith. But, it's the Dallas Cowboys third Pro Bowl offensive lineman Williams should try to emulate and follow in the footsteps of.

Yes, I'm talking about Zack Martin.

Zack Martin's career couldn't have gotten off to a better start coming out of Notre Dame. He hit the ground running as a rookie with the Cowboys and put together a dominating performance his first year in the NFL, earning his first Pro Bowl bid as well as being named to the All-Pro team. He continued to play at a high level ever since and has not only turned into the best player at his position, but continued his Pro Bowl streak every season since entering the league.

To ask, or even expect Connor Williams to have the same kind of immediate success as Zack Martin is probably a little unfair, if not impossible. The kind of success Martin has had already in his career is almost unheard of. But, that's not to say Williams isn't going to try to follow in Martin's footsteps and to become the best player he can.

Zack Martin

Dallas Cowboys OG Zack Martin

The footsteps I think Connor Williams should try to follow as it pertains to Zack Martin is how well he made the transition from a collegiate Offensive Tackle to an NFL Guard. I think that should be Williams' main focus right now with training camp coming up.

Williams will be inserted into the starting lineup as the Cowboys new Left Guard. It will be a new position for him after playing mainly Tackle at the University of Texas, that will require an entirely new mindset and technique. But, it's in transition I believe he can make rather smoothly.

Connor Williams should benefit from Zack Martin's similar transition from college OT to an NFL OG. I wouldn't be surprised if we see the rookie shadowing Martin throughout training camp to soak up as much knowledge as possible. It's probably the best way for him to jumpstart his career.

Now, I fully expect to see some growing pains from Williams throughout the 2018 season. It's to be expected from any rookie, especially one transitioning to a new position. But, I do believe he will not only be an upgrade at LG for the Cowboys, but will make the entire OL even better.

I don't know about you, but I'm excited to see what kind of player Connor Williams ends up being this season.

Do you think Connor Williams can follow in Zack Martin's footsteps?



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