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