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3 Underrated Dallas Cowboys Heading into 2020

The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of big names on their roster. Players that they need to have significant impacts for the Cowboys for them to go as far as they want to go. In addition to the star players, there are several members of the roster that get overlooked on what they can contribute to the team. And sometimes, they’re cast aside altogether.

Despite the prevailing narratives on these players, they’ll make significant contributions to the Dallas Cowboys in 2020.

1. Tyrone Crawford, Defensive Line

There isn’t a player on the Dallas Cowboys roster that fans and analysts alike have tried to get rid of as often as they’ve wanted to get rid of Tyrone Crawford. All because the Dallas Cowboys gave him a contract that was a little rich for what Crawford would eventually become.

The reality is Tyrone Crawford is pretty cheap. Among interior defensive linemen, Crawford’s $9 million salary for 2020 ranks 24th in the NFL. If you want to put him among edge rushers, he’s 32nd in the NFL.

That’s a pretty solid value for a guy who can play several spots along the defensive line and in multiple defensive fronts. Whether you want to line him up as a defensive end in a three or four-man front or as a defensive tackle in a four-man front, Crawford can help you at multiple positions.

As new Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan has come in with the desire to play multiple fronts, Crawford’s a perfect player for what he wants to do.

Crawford has been selfless in his time with the Dallas Cowboys and has provided a lot of leadership on the field and in the locker room. He was missed in 2019 as he battled hip issues in the early part of the season before getting sent to injured reserve.

Tyrone Crawford is still one of the team’s best run-defenders and is an underrated pass rusher. His last full season back in 2018, Crawford came away with 5.5 sacks. Not elite numbers, but productive for someone who is a “glue guy” for this team.

Every team that has ever won a championship has had a guy that brings it all together. Often, they aren’t the highest-paid or even the best player on the team, but a player that has the respect of everyone in the locker room because of their work ethic. They typically come through in big moments.

Heading into the final year of his contract with the Cowboys, Crawford will play a significant role as the team looks to get Aldon Smith, Bradlee Anae, Trysten Hill, and Neville Gallimore up to speed. He’s excellent insurance if none of those guys are ready for significant snaps.

2. Chidobe Awuzie, Cornerback

The Dallas Cowboys have invested heavily in their cornerback group this offseason. Though Byron Jones was allowed to leave for the Miami Dolphins in free agency to become the highest-paid cornerback in the history of the NFL, the Cowboys brought in five new cornerbacks and re-signed Anthony Brown to a three-year $15 million deal.

Though they come with a variety of experiences and levels of investment, it’s clear the Dallas Cowboys’ front office is preparing for the potential departures of fourth-year cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in the 2021 offseason.

While he has just one year remaining on his rookie contract, Awuzie shouldn’t be overlooked. Yes, there were times where Awuzie could have been better, but it’s not like he was getting burnt all the time. Did he allow some receptions? Yes. However, he was almost always right where he needed to be to make a play.

With Byron Jones gone, the likelihood that Awuzie is the target of offensive coordinator’s game-planning decreases. Because Jones locked down the other side of the field, coordinators took the path of lesser resistance by going after Awuzie. Now, the Cowboys don’t have their shutdown cornerback, which could alleviate some of the pressure placed on Awuzie.

A new scheme that will blitz more may leave Awuzie out on an island more, but quarterbacks won’t have the time to find space in the pocket to make throws from a stable platform.

Chidobe Awuzie was better in 2019 than people want to remember, but in 2020, he has a chance to make a name for himself. Despite all the investments, Awuzie will remain at his left cornerback spot in 2020 with the potential to earn a big payday if he can build off of his 2019 season.

3. Connor Williams, Left Guard

It seems that everyone is ready to insert 2019 third-round pick, Connor McGovern, into the starting lineup at left guard. The problem is, he’ll need to supplant incumbent Connor Williams. That won’t be as easy as some might think.

Though the Dallas Cowboys have a new offensive line coach and head coach, which will provide a clean slate for some of these training camp competitions to play out, Williams arrives at camp with a leg up on the competition. Williams is entering his third training camp with the team and has started 21 games in his first two seasons in the NFL.

Sure, there was a bit of a learning curve in 2018 as he made the transition to guard, but he rebounded nicely after coming back from injury. He played well against Aaron Donald in the Cowboys loss to the Rams in the 2018 divisional round of the playoffs.

With a third offseason to add weight and muscle to play on the interior, the job is Connor Williams’ job to lose. If all things are equal in training camp, the edge will go to the more experienced Williams. McGovern hasn’t played or practiced football in a year, so he’ll need to get up to speed when the Cowboys return to the practice facilities in preparation for training camp.

Before we make any assumptions that McGovern will take over at left guard, the Cowboys coaching staff probably needs to see him on the field first.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

New players added to the roster aren’t always better than what you have. Sometimes, we can convince ourselves that change for change’s sake is a better option than the known. Sometimes, though, different isn’t always better. Tyrone Crawford, Chidobe Awuzie, and Connor Williams may not be spectacular players at their positions, but they’re reliable and can be counted on to perform to an NFL standard.

The Cowboys have won a lot of games over the past several years with these players. The narratives surrounding them shouldn’t take away from that reality.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

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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  1. Good choices. Clinton-Dix is also worthy of consideration (especially amidst all this Adams talk). He has a chance to be a solid addition. On offense it could be whoever gets the nod at fullback (depending on how McCarty/Moore deploy him). Or maybe even Tyron Smith. Not many players can be bashed like he’s been lately (for injuries, age, and what they deem declining skills) and yet still be among the very best at their position in the NFL.

    • Oh, and Tony Pollard. I think this guy can be a stud. I’m hoping that McCarthy will demand that Moore involve him more. Hoping that the way McCarthy experimented with Tyrone Montgomery will lead him to use Pollard in a big way.

      • I bet we see a lot more Tony Pollard this year if only because he’s in his second year and the risk averse Jason Garrett isn’t around to stifle the development of young players.

    • I agree with you there. I think Ha Ha was a sneaky good signing. Yeah, the Tyron Smith stuff is weird to me. Even if you only get him for 13 games a season, he’s still a top five left tackle in the NFL.

  2. To me Sean Lee is important too. If Vander Esch or Smith go down with injuries he can easily plug in and play with such tenacity and heart. Vander Esch is who worries me especially with how serious a neck injury is.

  3. What with all the uncertainty around our LB core I’ll throw Joe Thomas name in the hat. He can play every LB position and very well might before the end of the season. He always seems to around the ball and for the above mentioned reasons I’m frankly surprised Cowboys didn’t lock him up for a few more yrs. With u Bill on T Pollard looks like he could be a real weapon in McCarthy/Moore hands. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon at times last yr. made Zeke look sluggish in comparison…. and while i”m on the subject of Zeke I hope he stays out of trouble and comes into the season in shape. The guy doesn’t seem to have alot of self restraint and doubtful R Goodell with have any mercy on him if he screws up again. A big weakness of Cowboys in recent yrs has been lack of turnovers so good call on Dix…… career interceptions for entire secondary of Cowboys (16) Dix also (16) just saying

  4. I agree with Bill, Dix & TP will have diff but positive roles on BIG D. IMO TP will be lightning to Zeke’s Thunder and Dix will be that calming leader for the secondary that we have desperately needed for years!!! I believe that our O-Line is gonna be great again this yr. Our WR’s will be in the tops of the NFL! My pick overall is Blake Jarwin, I believe he will make the jump and be the TE that Big D needs him to be!

  5. Got 2 more names for us to consider. Jourdan Lewis and Cam Erving. Lewis is straight up our best corner who gets no love because of his size but in reality is far and away our best corner and playmaker. He deserves the slot corner role while Diggs, Awuzie, Robinson, Worley, Canady and Brown fight for the 2 outside spots. Erving can play all 5 spots on the OLine and thus helps to fill multiple needs in one because of his versatility.

      • You are probably the only one that don’t agree that Jourdan Lewis is our best corner!! And your wrong about his interceptions!! You mite wanna go back and watch those plays again!! I can tell you one of his interceptions that he had to make a play on to get…. And that’s the one he got from Drew Brees!! You can go watch that play over again too!! So again I have to agree with Justin…. Lewis is definitely our best corner!!

        • I don’t see how anyone can flat-out claim any one of these corners is the best on the team. Brown and Lewis are essentially the same player, Awuzie still has perhaps the highest ceiling, and Worley has tools. Won’t consider the rookies yet (until we see them). I do believe Lewis has the ability to be a very good player, but my long-tenured support for him has always been that he just makes plays. I don’t care if that means he happens to be the guy closest to a fumbled ball, or the QB throws a ball right to him (which by the way is how most of our CB’s get their interceptions), or he gets a sack … he just makes plays! He showed himself quite well his rookie year but never really got the chance to cement himself with the old staff. He was the key reason we beat NO that year, not just with his interception, but he completely nuetralized Kamara.

          Truth is, I think he is already being earmarked for a potential cut/trade. Consider …

          His rookie year, he earned a starting job on the right side by mid-season and played rather well. He was doing a nice job against Devonte Adams all game long, despite giving up the winning TD pass to Rodgers/Adams (after having prevented the previous attempt form working). It’s important to note that McCarthy was the coach of that team and apparently targeted Lewis, likely for the simple reason he was a rookie and his size disadvantage vs Adams. It worked, and I’m sure that is still in McCarthy’s memory bank.

          • The truth is I think we actually could’ve afforded Jones had we done so more contracts smarter. I think the Boys shouldve let Zeke walk. Pollard coupled with a power back can give you production out of the backfield. All of that money we gave to Zeke would’ve then been to give to Jones. Then we wouldn’t be worried about our secondary as much. The fact is Jerry focuses more on offensive side than defensive. Outside of Lawrence and Smith. No one on defense has a huge deal whereas offense has Zeke, Cooper, Smith, Martin, and Collins. Frederick before he retired and I’m sure Dak will get his soon.

          • All good points Justin … but still not convinced Jones was worth what he got, or that would have been money well spent. I too think Pollard can be a full-time back, or at the very least they could have acquired one by now if they opted to let Zeke walk.

  6. Not sure why J Lewis is so highly regarded by some. Maybe cuz he has flashed some playmaking ability and seems to be in the right place alot, which is sorely lacking with our DBs The fact of the matter is that our secondary is probably our weakest unit (along with special t) Awuzie has upside but his difficulty locating the ball does not bode well. Weak ball skills seem to prevalent amongst this group. Being in good position isn’t good enuf if u don’t know where the ball is. Diggs is said to excel in this area but may go thru some growing pains before he hits his stride.

    • All true, but its an awfully tough position to play! Being in the right place is the absolute 1st skill required. I don’t blame CB’s for well executed back shoulder passes, but its clear Awuzie needs to improve his ability see and react to the ball better. I’ve heard it suggested that some coaching staffs don’t stress it enough and that they prefer their CB’s be chasers instead of readers. Awuzie always seems to be chasing (and rather well), but he just never seems to understand what is going on behind him. To me that speaks of two things: (1) maybe a lack of football acumen or film study. Its one thing to study a receiver and learn what route he may be running by his movements, get-off, etc but its another thing to know that by virtue of a formation and the route your man is running, what it means to other clues the offense is doing. Awuzie might need advanced teaching in this regard so that he can become better at anticipation. (2) Awuzie might best be used in a zone scheme where he can see the QB’s eyes a little longer?

      I believe Awuzie has CB1 potential, but this staff will be key in his getting there, and by virtue of his contract, he doesn’t have a lot of time to prove it here. He may never be a shutdown corner (an extremely overused term by the way), but that’s not required.

  7. If Diggs is a week-1 starter, he’s either the second coming of Jalen Ramsey or these other guys are as bad as we hope they aren’t (and Lewis is gone).

  8. I don’t know Bill don’t know what Awuzie chasing (rather well) means. Seems like u made a rather strong case against him then for him. If he is a potential CB1 he has a lot of work to do. Maybe that’s why they flirted with the idea of him at safety, where he doesn’t have to turn and run then locate the ball so much. Maybe he’s a player that does better with the action in front of him. He does seem to be in position to make a lot of plays on the ball, but just simply doesn’t. Talent wise though he does look like he has a lot of upside. Sometimes the light goes on and guys take it up a notch. Hope for our sake that’s the case with him. I would settle for J Ramsey light……… that guys a stud.

    • You’re correct. Awuzie’s play reminds me of both Kevin Smith and Terrance Newman. Usually in good position, but always having to make a tackle anyway. Both were quality NFL cornerbacks and worthy of starting, but awful frustrating to watch. My point was that he’s young enough to not necessarily be pigeon-holed yet … he’s now got new teachers who may be able to tap into his potential and if he gets an epiphony moment during instruction, who knows? Yet even if he doesn’t, he’s still pretty much right there with Brown and Lewis in terms of overall capability. I think Awuzie still has room for growth whereas I think we see what Brown and Lewis are (and I’m fans of both, so no disrespect intended). And failing that, he gets a last ditch roster spot at safety, where for reasons you note, perhaps he can be quire good?

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