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5 Bye Week Decisions the Cowboys Hopefully Made

Brian Martin



5 Bye Week Adjustments Cowboys Hopefully Made
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The bye week for the Dallas Cowboys quite possibly came at the perfect time. After two close games that probably should've gone in their favor, it was time to take a step back and regroup, while also evaluating everything in order to figure out exactly what's working and what's not.

The Dallas Cowboys coaching staff is probably going to have to make some tough decisions if the evaluation process turns out the way I think. It is not always easy to make these kind of decisions, but sometimes you have to do what is best for the team in order to get the right players on the field.

That is why I decided to put together a list of five bye week decisions I am hoping the Dallas Cowboys made in hopes of putting the best possible team on the field the remainder of the season. Continue to read below to see which five decisions I'm hoping the Cowboys made during the bye week.

WR Brice Butler

Dallas Cowboys WR Brice Butler

1. Promote Brice Butler over Terrance Williams

Dallas Cowboys fans have been hankering to see Brice Butler receive more playing time over Terrance Williams for a couple of seasons now. It has been a hot topic the last couple of off-seasons, but nothing has ever materialized. Hopefully, that may change if the Cowboys coaching staff sat down and really evaluated how both of these receivers have performed through the first five weeks of the 2017 season.

Butler has clearly outperformed Williams so far this season and absolutely deserves more playing time. He already has accumulated 207 receiving yards and two touchdowns compared to Williams' 180 yards and ZERO TDs. Also, Butler provides something Williams doesn't… big ability. It's something the Cowboys offenses has been lacking and definitely something it needs.

It's time that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan really opens things up for Dak Prescott and having Butler's deep threat ability does just that. Opening up the entire offense for Prescott is even more important while Ezekiel Elliott serves his six-game suspension. It's past time the Cowboys offense spreads things out and force opposing defenses to cover the entire field.

QB Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports)

2. Move the pocket for Dak Prescott

You may or may not have noticed, but Dak Prescott has been somewhat erratic with some of his throws this season. I honestly believe that has a lot do with the fact he has been asked to throw out of the pocket more often this season, whereas last season he threw on the move more. I think that is what the Dallas Cowboys need to get back to and where Prescott is the most dangerous.

The Dallas Cowboys need to move the pocket for Prescott coming out of their bye week. Opposing defenses know this is where Prescott is at his best, but it's still difficult to defend. I'm hoping we see much more bootlegs, misdirection, and run/pass options (RPO's) as the season progresses. Prescott is much more accurate when he is on the move and is a threat to pull the ball down and run with it on any given play. It really puts opposing defenses in a difficult situation.

5 Bye Week Decisions the Cowboys Hopefully Made

Dallas Cowboys LG Jonathan Cooper

3. Make Jonathan Cooper the starting Left Guard

If we are being completely honest with ourselves, neither Jonathan Cooper or Chaz Green have been overly impressive as the Dallas Cowboys starting left guard so far through the first five games of the season. There is no doubt they are the weak link along the offensive line, but it's time for the Cowboys to settle on a starter and I think that is Jonathan Cooper.

I think Jonathan Cooper and Chaz Green are both on equal playing ground so far through five games, but I'm giving Cooper the advantage because he has been the more healthy of the two. If the Cowboys coaching staff wants to create continuity for the OL, then Cooper without a doubt gets the nod. Green might be the more talented player with the more upside, but he simply can't stay on the field.

DE Taco Charlton

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

4. Replace Tyrone Crawford with Taco Charlton

To say Dallas Cowboys fans have been angry about the play of Taco Charlton so far through the first five games of the 2017 season would be an understatement. He has basically been in the visible and has had very little impact. So, why on earth would the coaching staff replace Tyrone Crawford with Charlton? Well, let me try to enlighten all of you.

Tyrone Crawford has been playing ahead of Taco this season, but it has been in large part to try to help the Cowboys' porous run defense. In Week 5 against the Green Bay Packers, Crawford struggled against the run, and the Packers took full advantage of that and continuously ran the ball his direction. Crawford will also count $9.1 million against the cap next season in 2018 and likely isn't in the Cowboy's long-term plans any longer.

That is why I believe Taco Charlton needs to be promoted. He provides youth and length to the defensive line, and that something Rod Marinelli loves. The start to Charlton's NFL career has been far from promising, but added snaps could help him find his groove. It's not like Tyrone Crawford is tearing things up either. It's time to see if Charlton can provide a boost at the DE position.

S Jeff Heath

Dallas Cowboys S Jeff Heath

5. Bench Jeff Heath for Chidobe Awuzie

I think we can all agree that the Jeff Heath experiment as a starting safety should come to an end as quickly as possible. Heath has actually been one of the worst Dallas Cowboys defensive players through the first five games of the 2017 season and it's past time for a change. That is why I believe it's time to bench Jeff Heath and insert Chidobe Awuzie into his place opposite Byron Jones.

Awuzie has struggled staying healthy so far this season due to a reoccurring hamstring injury, but hopefully the extra rest in the bye week solved that problem. Awuzie the has ability to play any position in the Cowboys secondary, but I think he fits best at safety long-term. He has the size and play making ability to be an upgrade. Unfortunately, the only thing holding him back right now is his health.

Of course, fellow rookie Xavier Woods is another option, but he has already been playing really well out of the slot, so I would keep him there for now. Whether it is Chidobe Awuzie or Xavier Woods, it's time to move on from the Jeff Heath experiment as a starting safety. Hopefully the Dallas Cowboys came to that conclusion as well during the bye week.

Do you agree or disagree? Let me know what you think in the comment section below or feel free to hit me up on Twitter @BrianMartinNFL.

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

  • Randy Martin

    Since his arrival in Dallas I have often spoke out against Butler. Until this year he has been a disappointment in my eyes. There has been a BB bandwagon trying to leave the station since OTA’s and training camp but I’ve refused to get on it simply because a leopard seldom changes their spots. It’s easy to look at Williams, especially after that game changing bounce off the hands against GB but he still has a 76% catch ratio this year. That being said Butler has caught 8 of 11 for 207 yards and 2 TD’s. The problem is I don’t know that you can take that and substitute him for Williams and extrapolate that over the season. Butler may simply be that big play guy that does what he does and leaves you wanting more. Is it worth an experiment over a few games? Why not, something needs to change. On Taco, I think we ask and expect too much of him. It’s not his fault we took him in the first round. We knew he needed work and everybody has expected him to be a plug n play guy and he just isn’t yet. Personally I think he and Lawrence should swap sides. Taco would have a better chance against RT’s than LT’s who is usually the better player of the two. But I agree it’s time to get him in there and get the game experience. He only needs one…success begets success. It seems like everybody but the FO knows that Heath is a dime package guy and a ST guy. Whether it’s Awuzie or Woods one of them should be playing. Unless Cooper or Green can master that position Guard looks like an early priority in the draft next year. A guy like Quenton Nelson or Martez Ivey come to mind. And while we are at it, it’s time to be planning for LAD…life after Dez. He does not appear to be the game breaker he was with a team worst 43.8% catch rate. That is among the leagues worst for #1 receivers. I don’t think Db’s fear him any longer. Whether it’s these 5 or any 5 I hope they took some serious introspection during the bye week to look at changes because what they’ve been doing hasn’t been working.

    • Brian Martin

      Randy, thanks for commenting. I agree with everything you said. I’m not ready to completely move on from Williams yet, but benching him for Butler might be good for him. The Cowboys could see of Butler is the better of the two, while the benching could help modifier under Williams. I would personally give it a try to see what happens.

      I also agree with you about Taco. I always thought he was better as a LDE, but getting him reps on either side would be a good thing for him.I don’t think he would be any worse than Crawford, but you never know.

      I think finding a left guard is a priority, but I doubt it happens in the first few rounds of the draft. A WR1 might be a bigger priority, but they also need to upgrade the LB, DE, CB, and S positions as well.

      • DevilDog58

        LDE would be going against their ROT, right? If so, then I whole-heartedly agree. Having ANY rookie going against team’s best pass protector week after week is just lame and a great way to destroy a rook’s confidence. As to Brice, the one thing he brings that NO other WR brings is Take-The-Top-Off speed. Even if he and Dak don’t connect on a deep pass, we should try 2-4 of them per game just to give the opposition something else to prepare for. The more looks/plays you throw at a team the more they have to spend valuable practice time covering them. To me that’s much smarter than the over confident practice of letting a team know EXACTLY what you’re going to do every week like running the ball and saying, “This is what we’re gonna do, now try and stop us.” Or just using the same pass plays and formations each week. Garrett and Linehan need to open up or expand the playbook not just for the opposing team’s detriment but for Dak’s benefit. He’s a second year pro now and with his brains there’s no doubt in my mind he can handle it. Plus, let the guy run the ball when he’s wide open. They obviously didn’t learn from Romo taking a beating trying to stay in the pocket when he was younger and getting the sh*t kicked out of him. If you remember, he was a fair scrambler when he was younger but was never close to Dak’s ability to create in that sense, not to mention Dak has tree-trunk legs and resembles Cam’s whereas Tony was more in the mold of Roger but they took that option away from him, just like they’re doing to Dak. At least when a QB is running he can slide or run out of bounds to protect himself vice standing tall in the pocket when no one is open and having a 4.5, 250 lb. LB running full speed and just laying the wood on a stationary target. It’s every defensive player’s dream scenario while watching a QB run for a first down when your Secondary has shutdown all his receiving options is not only frustrating but can be downright disheartening.

    • Russ_Te

      “It’s not his fault we took him in the first round”



  • Hobbes49

    I agree with 4 of the 5 observations completely, and see your point on the Taco over Crawford. To me the Heath change is a stone cold no brainer, I will be truly mystified if they don’t change to either Woods or Chido. Cooper has looked a little better each week, and you hope the osmosis of playing with the other studs continues to develop, as does the line continuity, which is critical. Butler definitely has earned more reps, and Dak has shown how downright dangerous he is on the move, so that seems a no brainer as well. Taco needs more consistent snaps,but I don’t don’t believe the staff is going to make that happen. If they won’t replace Heath, no way they replace Crawford. Hopefully they will do both. Time for change has arrived, and your suggestions are solid!!

    • Brian Martin

      Yeah, I kind of doubt the Cowboys replace Crawford with Taco either. They seem to stick with their veteran players too long, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they start increasing Taco’s reps. I actually think Taco could be just as good, if not better than Crawford as he grows more comfortable with what he’s asked to do. Only time will tell though.

      • Hobbes49

        You drafted him in the first round, you really have to give the guy a legit shot. To me, this is partly the failure of the coaching staff to get him ready to go as well. We shall see what happens.

        • Brian Martin

          I don’t mind him being in a rotation as a rookie, but even in the rotation he is not seen very many snaps. I think that should change.

  • DevilDog58

    I have to say that I pretty much agree with you in this article. The way the team is playing now we’ll never see the post season. First off for me is Heath. He has been absolutely dreadful and his terrible play is affecting the whole D. I’ve also never been a big fan of the huge contract they gave Crawford. He has never played well enough to rate such big bucks. As a number one pick, Taco needs to be put in a position to suceed, wherever that is on the D-Line. I also agree with giving Butler more chances for the ball since Williams seems to have disappeared this year, much like he did when Dez was injured in years past. Dez has lost something although I am not sure what it is. I don’t think it’s a step as he’s never been a burner. It really could correlate directly to Linehan’s penchant for trying to keep Dak in the pocket instead of letting him do what he does so well which is throw on the run or tuck and run or juse roll out and create. Why anyone wants to take the nightmare of facing that possibility away from opposing DCs is beyond me. The OL has struggled but I think with continuity (as you pointed out) they’ll be OK. One thing no one is talking about is the fact that Witten is finally showing his age. One of the greatest TEs of all time seems to have lost two steps, plus he’s either not sitting down in the seam past the first down markers like he used to and he’s actually dropped a couple of passes. Again, this also could be traced back to the head-scratching move of reining Prescott in. I’d also offer up the fact we just aren’t using our players that we’re drafting in the ways they should be used. Instead of just returning punts, Ryan Switzer should be another Danny Amendola or Cole Beasley (which is another player who seems to have disappeared). I’m kinda wondering what’s going on with our OC and why or run defense has gotten so bad so quickly while we finally found a pass rush(er). I knew there would be growing pains on defense but this has just been a strange season. Yet, I will stay eternally optimistic until I know we’re done.

    • Hammer33

      This isn’t the first time I’ve read someone say Heath’s play has effected the entire defense, and in defense of Heath this is absolutely absurd. First let’s deal in facts, them opinion.

      Heath’s ranking is often stated. I’m assuming this comes from PFF since that’s the only place that publishes rankings. But up until LA they had him in the top 30. He played well against Green Bay, but that seems to have been overlooked by many here and on fan blogs.

      What PFF doesn’t seem to track are targets and completions per target. Wonder what that grade would be for Brown or scandrick. Even jones who has real trouble with zone concepts and that’s troubling for a safety.

      You’d also need to know the coverage calls which seems to be tough for the press. An example being the TD against AZ, which everyone said Heath should have been on top of. That wasn’t the call, and if brown wasn’t going to honor Fitzgerald then Heath had to. They were in quarters if you didn’t know. Judging by most of what’s written, I’m going to assume you don’t.

      Chido proved Sunday he can miss a tackle in the open field as well a Heath. Nothings said. Jones is not where he’s supposed to be on the Nelson TD, nothings said. Brown?? Nothings said.

      So heaths had a couple of coverage mistakes, but not as many as people believe, missed a few tackles, as has everyone on D, including Lee, and generally played better than or worse than everyone else. But let’s name him the culprit. Everyone else gets a pass.

      If you choose to have an opinion try to be fair. That doesn’t seem possible with Heath. I’ve read the press and I’ve followed the entire D. I know some about the game. I also know when someone’s getting the shaft. Not only from the fans but the press as well. If you think anything I’ve said is untrue may I suggest you take another look. Especially the coverage lapse’s. Aside from the Two or possibly 3 man errors, like falling down, wait, didn’t Lewis do that in Denver too? You’ll find he’s been solid on the back end. Sacks are caused by coverage too. Doubt heaths guy or zone was open but the QB didn’t see it.

      And by the way. Woods has looked good in a very limited man/zone window. He’s being protected in coverage. That’s why he’s not in front of Heath. He’s not better.

      But of course, what do coaches know.

      • DevilDog58

        How you came up with me laying the entire blame of the Defense’s poor play entirely on Heath makes me think you read the first few sentences of my post and stopped. I said it AFFECTS the entire Day just as any other player’s poor play affects the entire D. I don’t go by what PFF or any other ranking organization writes, I go by what I observe when watching the games. Except for Lee and Lawrence, nobody on the D is beyond reproach. And since I don’t know what each player’s responsibility is on every play, I can’t speak to that. Only the coaches can, IMO. All I’m observing is a lack of a nose for the ball. Heath, whatever his responsibilities on a given play does not demonstrate one. Sure, even Lee misses tackles, but not often. I don’t come on here to argue with anyone or start fights, just give my opinion on what I see which I freely admit doesn’t make me right. We do have a young Defense and Lee is a young guy (at 26) but I’ve yet to see him play a dominant game like Lee in the 4+ years he’s been playing. Still, there’s plenty of blame to go around. I’m just saying the same thing I’ve been saying for years and that is that we need two good to outstanding Safeties in the Backfield.

        • Michael Barthel

          He really just took up for heath. Wow heath is terrible always has been had a couple good games and plays then all of sudden he should be starting and church gone. Church was so underrated and I miss church he is balling in Jacksonville. Woods and Jones need to start at safety. Lewis and scandrick start at corner. They should go out and sign perry riley Jr to help the linebackers he’s a good run stopper and been a good player in this league. Carr Claiborne and church all left and are playing better than their replacements here in Dallas. We always screw up on defense with draft picks n stuff on defense. Gregory was a mistake. Claiborne couldn’t stay healthy and we traded a decent amount to move up to get him. Marquez white needs to be brought up from the practice squad dude only gave up 2 tds at Florida State. He’s tall physical corner we need that right now. We need to go sign Darrelle Revis or a proven veteran to help these young corners. Scandrick is not helping the way we thought. It’s time to see a big change with this defense us fans are tired of seeing this defense get man handled every week. We haven’t had a respectable defense in 10 years plus. Marinelli is the problem and I don’t think he is with us next year

          • DevilDog58

            Yeah, I see what you’re saying about his sticking up for Heath, I guess I just don’t get why. I thought Church started well at Safety but then slowed down. But you are right, like so many other Defensive players we draft they seem to thrive once they’re on different teams/under different management/coaching. I always liked Marinelli but maybe the game HAS passed him by. I don’t know. I was pissed when they let go of Mike Zimmer, who I always knew was an excellent coach. Look at how he’s turned around the Vikes. I think Jerry and Co. blamed him for his porous defenses but it turned out he was coaching the crap out of some pretty average players (mixed with a few good to very good ones) as we found out. I believe the same situation exists today. I keep getting the feeling that we’re good at drafting Offensive players but not so successful at drafting Defensive players. And I’m not sure it’s the Coaching Staff as much as it is the owner/GM staff. It seems since Jerry and Jimmy broke up Jones has created a losing atmosphere much like the Redsocks and Cubs had for years. The same situation seems to exist in Cleveland. It could be the only answer is new ownership and we all know that will NEVER happen.

          • Michael Barthel

            Also because Garrett is a offensive minded coach. I was pissed when Zimmer left as well but they should of moved wade Phillips to dc instead of completely firing him. Garrett is an average coach if that. 4 8-8 seasons. 1 4-12 and 2 seasons with 12 plus wins. 1 playoff win. I mean we can’t have that at all. They love picking offensive players but every year you hear analyst say well they have a great offense but I’m worried about that defense. Every single year. They think oh well if we control the ball 35 minutes a game we will win alot of games I understand that but what happens when a team shuts you down like Denver did and you can’t do anything on offense well your defense suffers and gives up points. We have given up 34 plus points in the 3 losses this year. If they ever want to win anything you need a good defense. Even new England last year had a pretty good defense. Also Seattle Carolina Denver Atlanta Kansas city etc. Have all proved you need a defense to make it far in this league. To much pressure on dak Elliott dez and this offensive line. When u have a good defense you can say oh ok well we didn’t get it done that drive but our defense won’t allow them to score. When our defense goes on the field it’s oh damn here we go there going to score and were going to lose. It’s not good and if Garrett finishes with 8 or less wins this season we need a new coach. I’m so sick of his damn hand clapping when things go wrong. If you are scoring 30 plus points at home you should not lose period. Marinelli Garrett and linehan should all be fired if we finish with less than 8 wins and be average

          • DevilDog58

            I feel just like you do on so many of these topics. A team with a great defense and a decent offense can win a SB. A team with a great offense and a decent defense probably won’t. A team with a great D and a very good offense like ours could win multiple SB’s. I think Jerry is trying to keep coaching continuity, which is a good idea, as long as you improve each year. It’s not such a great idea when the team yo-yo’s constantly, season after season. Bottom line is you and I are right: to be a consistent SB contender you MUST have a great defense, period. If we had the same picks Cleveland has had for the past 8 or so years I think we’d be in a SB. They keep changing Head Coaches which is why I think they aren’t. Jones has tried to avoid that but it’s not working. It too Coach Landry 11 years to win a championship. But his teams improved each year, ESPECIALLY after he drafted Staubach in the last round of the draft.

          • Hammer33
    • Russ_Te

      I used to think Taco would end up at DT because of the players ahead of him at LDE. But he seems to have trimmed up since draft day, and with Lawrence now the anchor at LDE, it’s best to use Irving next to him at LDT. You can’t double both of them, and that should result in more pressures.

      Which leaves Taco looking for a role. I agree he’s probably not a downgrade from Crawford at RDE, but I would be shocked if he could beat starting LOT’s with any regularity as a pass rusher.

      He has straight-line burst but not much first-step, and less agile than Lawrence to my reading. You’d like to use his arm span to obstruct throwing lanes. I think this year is a bust for Taco, and he should bulk up to move inside for 2018.

      • DevilDog58

        I would like to see them trying flip-flopping Taco and Lawrence. I thought I read somewhere that Taco’s natural position is RDE. Whatever it is the Cowboys need to find it fast and put that kid in a position to succeed. It takes an extremely tough minded man to be labeled a bust and then come back from that and play at a Pro Bowl level (which is what you want from ALL1st round picks. Didn’t he play DE at Michigan? Was he called a “Tweener” or what they are now calling an “Edge” player when he came out? After thinking about my last post above, I’m more and more concerned about our coaching staff putting players in their correct or “best chance to succeed” spots.

        • Russ_Te

          Right, DE at Michigan. He only started as a senior according to his Wikipedia page. Taco is definitely looking like a reach now as a #1, but probably has enough physical attributes to develop a game at LDE or inside at DT. He just has to tune out the noise and keep working IMO. If Lawrence is not re-signed, he’ll get a chance at LDE.

          • DevilDog58

            Thanks Russ. Appreciate the help. I definitely think they should be putting this kid against the weaker pass-protectors the DL faces each week (if they’re not already). To me, building a rookie’s confidence is the best thing a team can do for him. He should be playing opposite DeMarcus for as many snaps as is feasible every week IMO.

  • Jerry Norman


Star Blog

Sean’s Scout: WR Deonte Thompson A Vertical Threat for Dallas Cowboys

Sean Martin



Sean's Scout: WR Deonte Thompson A Vertical Threat for Dallas Cowboys

Finally addressing their underwhelming cast of wide receivers, the Dallas Cowboys signed journeyman Deonte Thompson yesterday. The seventh-year pro spent 2017 with both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills, hauling in 38 passes for 555 yards and two touchdowns.

Thompson was undrafted in 2012 out of Florida, making both the Cowboys' free agent signings to date former UDFAs. The Cowboys added LB Joe Thomas earlier in the week, who you can learn more about in Sean's Scout as well.

In desperate need of speed and play making ability on the outside, here is a look at what WR Deonte Thompson can bring to the Dallas Cowboys.

WR Deonte Thompson: Strengths

Thompson1 - Streamable

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Deonte Thompson plays with a great understanding of his own frame, using his length to give defensive backs problems up the field. Not a true "burner", Thompson takes some time to accelerate down the field, but can separate vertically.

Thompson runs smooth routes, using his long strides to get on DBs in a hurry. Once in position to free himself at the stem of a route, Thompson showed the ability to consistently turn his hips and complete a number of underneath and deep routes at a high level.

Thompson2 - Streamable

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Deonte Thompson may not win on many throws "above the rim", but he is above average at the catch point securing passes with his strong hands.

Snagging the ball outside of his frame is not much of an issue for Thompson, who makes the most of his run-after-the-catch opportunities by effortlessly receiving the ball in stride.

At this stage of his career, Thompson may not be an every down player, but this is a player the Cowboys can absolutely find a way to get involved in their sputtering passing offense next season - at the very least replacing the role of FA WR Brice Butler.

WR Deonte Thompson: Weaknesses

Deonte Thompson should not be expected to go over the top on many defenses for the Cowboys in 2018. While the traits are there to flash as that sort of player, Thompson simply is not at his best trying to track down deep vertical passes.

When Thompson does not create separation on his initial burst up the field, there was a tendency for him to get shoved around at the catch point. Still coming up with his fair share of passes, the degree of difficulty on these catches was often increased by his inability to truly play through contact.

This is not a player with a powerful lower body, relying on upper body flex and foot speed to free himself and create plays in space. Overall balance is a strength for Thompson, but he rarely is able to break tackles or move defenders as a blocker in the running game.

WR Deonte Thompson: Summary

Thompson3 - Streamable

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The Cowboys should know what they are getting in Deonte Thompson, who has not had the benefit of great quarterback play in recent seasons. The hope in Dallas is that a number of receivers on the bottom of the depth chart can stand out this summer to make the team out of a crowded room.

This group of Ryan Switzer, Lance Lenoir, Noah Brown, and KD Cannon will now include Deonte Thompson - who should have the edge over most of these names.

Thompson won't be the difference in the Cowboys' offense having a bounce back season in 2018, but his raw athleticism and effortless ability to serve as a deep threat could surely make an impact in Dak Prescott's progression.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: WR Deonte Thompson A Vertical Threat for Dallas Cowboys" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Star Blog

Using Win Probabilities To Evaluate Decision Making: Cowboys Kick Vs. Raiders

Kevin Brady



Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys' Defense Silently Shined, Jeff Heath Saved The Season 1
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles have surpassed the Dallas Cowboys in more ways than one, but on Super Bowl Sunday, their willingness to "be aggressive" and "take chances" shined through the most. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was congratulated by the masses for not coaching scared, and instead going for it on key fourth downs and even attempting trick plays.

When you really evaluate those decisions, however, they shouldn't even be thought of as "risky." If anything, they were simply the obvious call.

Over the last few months I have been working with win probability models, looking to validate and refine those available to the public. I can't share too much about the work as of yet (there will hopefully be a published article in the future), but the work is certainly promising.

What I can say is this. Dennis Lock and Dan Nettleton worked to utilize random forests to estimate win probabilities before each play in an NFL game. These "forests" are similar to decision tree machine learning, cycling through random trees of past data to predict future outcomes.

Brian Burke has been utilizing his model for a while now, and Pro Football Reference has a simple, yet effective model as well. For my project, I have been working to find the "best" ways to estimate those win probabilities in order to inform decision making by head coaches and coordinators.

If you aren't utilizing analytics correctly in today's NFL, you're falling behind. And if you aren't willing to take calculated risks based off of what these numbers say and mean, you are really falling behind.

How does this all relate to the Cowboys?

Well, Cowboys Nation has been pretty consistent in their main criticism of head coach Jason Garrett: he's too conservative. They say he coaches scared, and they believe he punts the ball away too often between the 40's. Numbers accumulated by writers such as Bob Sturm and Marcus Mosher back up these claims, but I wanted to examine Garrett's decision making through the win probability lens.

I took to Twitter to ask the fan base for specific scenarios in which they felt Garrett was too conservative. Then, I ran these situations through the win probability model to determine how these decisions affected the outcomes.

Over a series of posts I will detail what the model says about the Cowboys' decision making in these key moments. First, we go back to December of last season where the Cowboys had their season on the line in Oakland.

Cowboys at Raiders, 2017

One instance which was consistently brought up was ironically from a Cowboys win. Yes, a win!

The Raiders had played the Cowboys close all game long, and with their season on the line Dallas was in position to put those pesky Raiders away. Tied at 17 they entered a fourth and goal situation at the Raiders' 1 yard line. The Cowboys decided to kick the field goal and grab a 20-17 lead. While Dallas did hang on to win, this was only because of a miraculous play by Jeff Heath which resulted in a fumble and a touchback.

Many of the fans who tweeted at me seem to think the Cowboys should have went for the touchdown on fourth down, rather than take their three points. But what does the model say?

Prior to the fourth down play, the Cowboys had about an 85% chance to win the game. After kicking the field goal and kicking the ball away to Oakland, that probability went down to just above 80%. Had the Cowboys gone for it and been stuffed at the Raiders' 1 yard line, that probability would have dropped all the way to just over 57%.

But the model does believe that Garrett made the right decision. Of course, had Dallas scored a touchdown, the game would've virtually been over, but the variance in probabilities suggests that kicking the field goal and taking the sure points was a good move.

Next week, I explain where Jason Garrett and company may have gone wrong during a key 4th down decision against the Los Angeles Rams. If you have any suggestions for plays/situations you'd like evaluated, please comment below!

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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Nuevas Contrataciones, ¿Podría Ser Allen Hurns la Siguiente?

Mauricio Rodriguez



Cowboys en Español: Nuevas Contrataciones, ¿Podría Ser Allen Hurns la Siguiente?

La agencia libre de los Dallas Cowboys comenzó un poco tarde, siendo el último equipo en toda la liga de la NFL en realizar una contratación este offseason. Ahora, con algunas caras nuevas en el equipo, comienzan las preguntas inevitables. ¿Qué jugadores tendrán un impacto y qué jugadores serán una contratación irrelevante?

Sólo el tiempo lo dirá. Las piezas que añadieron los Cowboys no son agentes libres de gran renombre pero podrían llegar a tener algún impacto en el 2018. Sin embargo, no todas las adquisiciones de Dallas han sido por medio de la agencia libre.

Hace unos días, los Raiders y los Cowboys acordaron un trade por el fullback Jamize Olawale. Días después de perder a Keith Smith (quien fue contratado por... los Raiders), Dallas no quiso echarse todavía otra necesidad encima, así que solucionó rápidamente su hueco en la posición que le abrirá camino a Ezekiel Elliott.

Además de enviar a Olawale a los Cowboys, los Raiders consiguieron una selección de quinta ronda de parte de Dallas y ellos entregaron su sexta ronda. En otras palabras, los Cowboys sólo renunciaron 19 turnos en las rondas tardías del Draft por un fullback que será de ayuda constante para esta ofensiva.

A pesar de ser tres años más grande que Keith Smith, Olawale le brinda a los Cowboys potencial para participar en el juego aéreo así como en el terrestre.

Por la agencia libre, los Cowboys obtuvieron ayuda ofensiva y defensiva.

Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal

Joe Thomas, (no, no el que todos conocemos como uno de los mejores tackles de la historia) el linebacker que viene de los Green Bay Packers, usará la estrella este 2018. Mi compañero y escritor de Staff Sean Martin escribió una excelente pieza analizando a detalle al nuevo defensivo. 

Thomas definitivamente no será un titular, pero sin duda ayudará a un grupo de equipos especiales que necesitan bastante apoyo esta temporada. Además, es un linebacker rápido y atlético que podrá brillar como un jugador de rotación en una defensiva que incluye a Sean Lee y a Jaylon Smith.

Esta contratación no hace que los Cowboys dejen de tener una gran necesidad por un LB, pero da una profundidad que urgía a la posición.

Questions Surround Cowboys WR Position After Deonte Thompson Signing

El último movimiento y quizá el más discutido por los aficionados de los Cowboys es la adquisición de Deonte Thompson. Un receptor abierto que ha batallado para conseguir una casa en la NFL llega a un equipo que cuenta con nombres como Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams y Cole Beasley, pero que aún necesita mucho más producción.

¿Acaso la adición de Thompson al roster hace que WR deje de ser una necesidad para el equipo de los Cowboys? Claro que no, pero añade un talento que quizá pueda ayudar al equipo en ciertos aspectos.

Thompson es un jugador muy rápido, lo cual es algo que esta ofensiva necesita para abrir el campo un poco más. Un corredor de rutas bastante sólido con manos seguras. Thompson viene probablemente a ser una versión mejorada de Brice Butler por $2.5M.

Quizá fue un error de parte de la administración garantizarle un millón de su contrato. ¿Por qué garantizarle dinero a un jugador que ni siquiera debería tener un lugar asegurado en el equipo? Sin embargo, Thompson parece ser un contribuidor a la ofensiva.

Pero no fue el WR en la agencia libre del que se ha hablado esta semana en el mundo de los Dallas Cowboys. De hecho, aún después de firmar su contrato, no es el más discutido entre los aficionados.

Allen Hurns, receptor que fue cortado de Jacksonville, es un jugador que podría llegar a hacer un impacto inmediato en la ofensiva de Dak Prescott y proveerle al QB un potencial mejor amigo. A pesar de que muchos esperarían que conseguir a Hurns significaría decirle adiós a Dez Bryant, la verdad es que no sería necesario.

Hurns podría tomar el rol que Terrance Williams posee ahora como receptor "Z" y llevar a esta ofensiva a otro nivel. Todd Archer de ESPN reportó que la reciente adquisición de Deonte Thompson no significa que la posibilidad de ver a Hurns usando la estrella ha acabado.

Todos queremos ver acción en la agencia libre, aunque a veces lo sensato sea ser conservadores. Así como muchos aficionados de los Cowboys se quejan de la falta de movimientos, muchos aficionados de los Steelers y los Patriots agradecen que sus equipos tengan esta filosofía de no gastar mucho en agencia libre.

La diferencia son los resultados en el campo.

Sin embargo, Allen Hurns definitivamente parece como una opción muy viable para los Cowboys, y una adición que simplemente tendría mucho sentido. Sólo queda esperar si lograrán firmarlo o si un equipo (como los Jets, quienes han mostrado mucho interés y tienen bastante espacio en el tope salarial) logra convencerlo de no regresar a Dallas.

Por ahora, esperamos. Quizá hasta que los Cowboys firmen a alguien más. O quizá hasta la llegada del NFL Draft.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Nuevas Contrataciones, ¿Podría Ser Allen Hurns la Siguiente?" 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!

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