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4 Decisions That Could Shape Cowboys 2018 Season

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Anthony Hitchens

The Dallas Cowboys will look very different in 2018 for many reasons. Guys who were considered key players for years will not be on the team at all. The team clearly has changed and that will show on the field once the season begins. Hopefully the change has been for the better and not for the worse.

Of course, the front office has had to make some very difficult decisions to get to this point. Let's take a look at the most important ones and the ones that could actually define how the 2018 Dallas Cowboys fare in the upcoming NFL season.

Thank You for the Memories, Dez Bryant

Former Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Releasing Dez Bryant

Dez Bryant remains an NFL free agent and will probably remain unemployed until training camp comes around. The veteran wide receiver didn't really establish a strong chemistry with Cowboys' young QB Dak Prescott and wasn't on the team's plans for the new-look offense.

With an overhauled set of receivers including Michael Gallup and Allen Hurns, the Cowboys hope they can make the passing game work in life after Dez Bryant.

Despite not being the same player that he was in the first four years of his career, Dez still showed up on the field from time to time and was an intimidating presence for opposing defenses. More than letting him go, what the team could end up regretting is not even offering him a pay cut.

Giving Garrett, Linehan and Marinelli Another Shot

After finishing a season in which the Cowboys were among the Super Bowl favorites with a 9-7 record, many fans were ready to see a coaching overhaul at the "top" level. But that wasn't the case. Instead, the front office kept Garrett and his two main coordinators and wiped out just about every other coach on the team.

The arrival of new coaches will be a good thing for the team but one has to wonder if keeping the "Top 3" coaches was the right call. Recency bias comes into play, of course. Even still, the Cowboys seem to be a roller coaster of success. One bad year, one good year, and so on. This coaching staff should be in the hot seat in 2018.

Not Re-Signing Anthony Hitchens

Anthony Hitchens really improved as a player last season, when he started in every game he played. After drafting Leighton Vander Esch in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Cowboys' linebacker group seems fine.

Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch will look terrifying to any quarterback who lines up in front of them. However, there's no denying that Sean Lee is injury-prone, not to mention Smith and Vander Esch have health concerns of their own.

If one of them goes down at some point in the season, it might hurt to see Hitchens playing for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Is Jeff Heath Set for Cowboys Captaincy in 2018?

Dallas Cowboys S Jeff Heath (Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY Sports)

Not Upgrading the Safety Position

What was considered one of the biggest needs for the Dallas Cowboys, the safety position went completely unattended in the offseason. The team will go into 2018 ready to play Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods and perhaps Kavon Frazier at safety.

It's not necessarily a bad unit, but it certainly won't be among the league's best. However, the offseason featured many of intriguing safety free agents. Today, in July, there are still plenty of available safeties out there. Tre Boston, Eric Reid and Kenny Vaccaro have yet to sign with an NFL team.

We're still talking about the possibility of the team trading for Seahawks' All-Pro Earl Thomas, but the team is certainly not in a hurry.

Hopefully, the Cowboys are confident (and right) about the players they have playing at safety.

Tell me what you think about "4 Decisions That Could Shape Cowboys 2018 Season" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL 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 @MauNFL.

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WR Tavon Austin Named Veteran “Most Likely To Be Cut”

Kevin Brady

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Who Will be Cowboys' Main Punt Returner in 2019, Tavon Austin?

The Dallas Cowboys spent the 2019 offseason looking to add new dimensions to their offense.

They went out and signed Randall Cobb, the veteran receiver who made his name in the slot for the Green Bay Packers. They then drafted Memphis running back Tony Pollard in the fourth round to add a versatile weapon to their offensive backfield.

They also promoted quarterbacks coach Kellen Moore to offensive coordinator, hoping he can bring a fresh perspective to an offense many labeled stale over the course of 2018.

All of these changes could leave members of that "stale" 2018 offense in the dust, and Todd Archer believes wide receiver Tavon Austin could be one of those casualties.

Veterans who could be cut by each of the NFL's 32 teams

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Terrelle Pryor and Oakland Raiders offensive lineman Richie Incognito are new to their teams, but will they still be there on opening day? Can Pittsburgh Steelers corner Artie Burns stay out of the doghouse and fight his way back up the depth chart?

Archer named Tavon Austin the veteran most likely to be cut by the Cowboys, and roster math does somewhat point to this prediction coming true. If the Cowboys were to only take 5 receivers, as ESPN is suggesting in their latest roster projection, then it's hard to see a perfect spot for Austin.

Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are complete locks. Randall Cobb is about as close to a lock as you can imagine. That leaves two spots for a lot of talented players, including Austin, Noah Brown, Allen Hurns, Lance Lenoir, and Cedrick Wilson.

It's certainly possible, and more than likely, that the Cowboys go with more than just 5 receivers however. This way they can keep a young hopeful like Wilson around while still maintaining the explosiveness that Tavon Austin can bring them in 2019.

Of course, the Cowboys are not afraid to cut veterans. Just last year we saw Dan Bailey get the axe after training camp, and Dez Bryant get released prior to any offseason activity even began. Tavon Austin is still of cheap value to Dallas, however, and when healthy he was an impressive weapon both on offense and special teams in 2018.

I actually do expect Tavon Austin to survive final cuts in Dallas, mostly because I anticipate they keep more than just 5 receivers on the roster.



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Cowboys Twitter Tuesday: Addressing the 2019 53-Man Roster

John Williams

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Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make Cowboys Roster?

For the Dallas Cowboys, the NFL, and the NFL fanbase, the waiting game for the start of training camp has begun. As Tom Petty says, "the waiting is the hardest part." The Dallas Cowboys go open training camp in about five weeks. The first preseason game is 53 days away and week one is less than three months away at this point. It's so close we can taste it.

Each week, I'll gather questions from you the Cowboys Nation community. Each week, we'll hone in on a specific topic based on your questions. So whether it's roster related, salary cap focused, or you have a fantasy football question, don't hesitate to send it to me on Twitter.

This week, we're going to take a look at the Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster.

jesus flores on Twitter

@john9williams Who contributed to last year's team that won't make this year's team?

The 53-man roster will be one of the more debated topics over the next couple of months as the Dallas Cowboys get ready for training camp and the preseason. Every year there are surprises and we should expect the same this year. The Dallas Cowboys have incredible depth through the roster and so there will be at least one name that doesn't make the final 53-man roster who had an impact in 2018.

To answer Jesus' question, I think the easy answer is one of the wide receivers be it Noah Brown, Allen Hurns, or Tavon Austin. This might be a hot take, but I'm going to go a different direction and say guard Xavier Su'a-Filo.

In 2018, Su'a-Filo started eight games for the Dallas Cowboys and though he started out strong for them midseason, his play tailed off before he was injured allowing Connor Williams to regain his starting spot at left guard. The Dallas Cowboys coaching staff loves position flexibility, especially along the offensive line. Su'a-Filo, though he's a solid backup guard option, doesn't have the ability to play multiple positions along the line like his teammates.

Connor Williams can play guard and tackle. Connor McGovern will get snaps at guard and center, and to hear him talk, he can play tackle as well, though that's probably a bit of a stretch. Joe Looney, the Dallas Cowboys starting center for 2018, has the ability to flex out to guard if you need him to.

Because the Dallas Cowboys will have difficult decisions to make at wide receiver and defensive line, they can afford to go light along the offensive line because of the flexibility of players like Williams, Looney, and McGovern.

Tommy on Twitter

@john9williams #CowboysQuestions do we extend Dak before game #1? How many WRs on 53?

I'm gonna leave the Dak Prescott question for another day and address the wide receiver question as several people asked about that position group in particular.

The wide receiver group is a really deep group. With Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, and Allen Hurns, it features three guys who've had at least one 1,000 yard season in their career. Michael Gallup is an ascending player. Tavon Austin is a really nice punt returner and offensive puzzle piece that can take the top off the defense with his downfield speed. I think four of those five are locks to make the roster.

According to Jeff Cavanaugh from 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, the team really likes Allen Hurns and his ability to play inside and outside in the formation. He's solid veteran depth at a low cost.

Then if you include Noah Brown's ability as a receiver and as a blocker, I think you have a very versatile and dangerous group in the passing game. Though the coaches really like Brown's ability to block in the run game, if they don't use him in the passing game, it tips their hand to the defense that the team is going to run. If they're going to keep him on the roster, they have to use him. It's a waste otherwise.

Brown and Hurns to me are on the roster bubble at wide receiver. Talented players like Cedric Wilson, Devin Smith, Jon'vea Johnson, Jalen Guyton, and Reggie Davis have all stood out at one point in time or another during OTAs and minicamp and will make the decision difficult for the coaching staff.

In my most recent roster projection, I had the Dallas Cowboys keeping six wide receivers; Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Being a team on the verge of contending for a Super Bowl, I think they go with veterans who can help them win now.

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That'll do it for this week's edition. Make sure to get your questions in via Twitter, or you can leave them in the comment section for next week's post. Also, don't forget to check out Inside The Star's newest podcast, Cowboys Weekly featuring Managing Editor Bryson Treece and Senior Writer Jess Haynie.



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Does Darius Jackson Have A “Puncher’s Chance” Of Landing On Final Roster?

Kevin Brady

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Darius Jackson, Bengals

Remember Darius Jackson?

The sixth round running back was an instant fan favorite of Cowboys Nation, as the fanbase hoped Dallas had found the explosive RB2 behind Ezekiel Elliott they needed in the very same draft. Jackson, however, had an up-and-down preseason in 2016 and ended up being waived from the team to make room for Darren McFadden later in the year.

Jackson has bounced around the league a bit since then, joining both the Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers at different points. He's back with the Cowboys, however, looking to fight his way onto the team's final roster.

But does the fourth year running back have more than a puncher's chance to do so?

The Cowboys spent much of the 2019 NFL Draft rebuilding their running back depth. First, they drafted Memphis back Tony Pollard hoping to find a versatile and dynamic threat to compliment the workhorse that is Ezekiel Elliott. Then, in the seventh round, Dallas took another Ohio State running back in Mike Weber who fits more of the "traditional" running back form.

So with two new touted rookies behind the veteran Elliott, and fullback Jamize Olawale more than likely having a roster spot as well, there doesn't seem to be room for Darius Jackson on the Dallas Cowboys.

That didn't stop him from competing at OTAs, however. DallasCowboys.com named Darius Jackson one of their top ten "head turners" from the OTA practices, and considering that Mike Weber is banged up at the moment, Jackson will certainly have his opportunities to fight for that spot.

Still, the odds suggest that Darius Jackson will not be with the Cowboys come the Fall of 2019. Though he entered the league with some fanfare for a day three pick, his production has been more fitting of his draft grade than of his fan hype.

Jackson hasn't been the explosive player/receiving back that they're hoping Tony Pollard will be, nor has he been the every-down type backup runner that they seem to hope Mike Weber will be.

In the end, the Cowboys-Darius Jackson story is likely to close during this year's training camp.



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