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.
2018 In Review: Byron Jones Emerges As CB1
Heading into the 2018 season Byron Jones was being asked to prove himself. The former first round pick had fallen out of the coaches' good graces during his third season, though many of his struggles could be attributed to those very coaches which were then questioning his ability.
Being asked to play out of position, or at least in a spot which did not maximize his natural ability, Jones struggled in 2017. Too often he was playing in the box as a safety where his lack of physicality was exposed by the opponent's run game. This was mostly due to the coaching staff falling in love with his tight-end-erasing ability in man coverage, but backfired when overused as a safety.
Once hired the following offseason, Kris Richard and company decided to move Byron Jones to cornerback full time, allowing him to utilize his excellent coverage skills and athletic ability to the fullest, rather than putting him at a disadvantage in the box.
The results? Well, Jones had one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football, earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his young career.
Byron Jones had a dominant season for Dallas
Pro Football Focus graded Jones as the sixth best cornerback in all of football last season, allowing just 0.79 yards per coverage snap. Despite not having an interception on the season, Jones still earned national recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league.
Down the stretch of the season, Chidobe Awuzie started to play up to the level which fans had hoped for during the preseason. He had been sticky in coverage most of the year, but now he was making plays on the ball at a much better rate, forcing incompletions. This led to an increase in targets to Jones' side, and though the increase resulted in more catches given up by the number one cornerback, I don't think Jones' play faltered as much as some will have you believe.
The fact is, when you get targeted more you are bound to give up more catches and yards. The key is to force them into contested catches, and make things as difficult for the receiver as possible when targeted.
Byron Jones continued to do this all season long, and fans should be excited for the next step of his growth in 2019.
Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial
Por muchos años, el tema del tope salarial ha sido un tema sensible para los Dallas Cowboys. Entre dinero muerto y otros problemas, el equipo ha tenido una situación delicada en este aspecto. Sin embargo, para la temporada del 2019 tienen más espacio de lo que estamos acostumbrados.
Según Over The Cap, los Cowboys tendrán aproximadamente 48 millones de dólares disponibles en 2019. Es importante recalcar que este número no es definitivo y puede cambiar. Año tras año, esta administración ha sido aficionada de reestructurar los contratos de ciertos veteranos para liberar espacio salarial constantemente. Además de esto, hay varios jugadores bajo contrato que el equipo podría decidir cortar para liberar aún más dinero.
Al ver sólo 48 millones disponibles, es complicado imaginar un escenario en que el equipo logre satisfacer todos sus objetivos. Hay bastantes candidatos a grandes extensiones en el equipo, principalmente dos jugadores. En una liga en la que quarterback es la posición más importante, la segunda más importante podría ser la del caza cabezas, cuyo objetivo es ir tras el quarterback contrario.
Pues en Dallas, hoy dos jugadores en estas posiciones que hay que extender. El más urgente sin duda es el defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence se puso el jersey del equipo cuando este lo designó a jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia. Afortunadamente, el atleta de 26 años la hizo de soldado y jugó sin amenazar con faltar a entrenamientos ni pretemporada.
Lo que sí comentó es que no pasaría por lo mismo en 2019. Ahora, el momento está aquí y es tiempo de que los Cowboys lo extiendan. El valor de Lawrence es difícil de predecir, pero es bastante seguro que se acercará a los números de Khalil Mack. Mack hizo historia ganando un contrato que en promedio gana 23.5 millones al año. Si bien no anticiparía que lo supere, la cifra estará cerca al contrato del defensivo de los Chicago Bears.
Además está Dak Prescott, cuyo contrato probablemente estará por encima de los 25 millones anuales. Son contratos caros, pero son piezas fundamentales para el equipo. Definitivamente se les tiene que pagar a ambos. Son pilares que año tras año buscan equipos en toda la NFL.
Además de esto, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley y más podrían tener un impacto en el tope salarial. Algunos buscan un contrato nuevo, otros una extensión. Pero honestamente, me parece que habrá más espacio en el tope salarial de lo que pensamos. Sólo es cuestión de tiempo para que los Cowboys comiencen a reestructurar a sus veteranos para ahorrarse unos cuantos millones para utilizar en agencia libre.
Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford entre otros pueden ser buenas opciones para comenzar este proceso. Antes era Jason Witten uno de los candidatos favoritos para este proceso, pero él ya se encuentra comentando partidos para ESPN. En Inside The Star, continuaremos actualizándote con contenido al día de los Dallas Cowboys.
Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?
Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.
The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.
The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.
Lock Down the Big Guns
Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.
Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.
As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.
Adding New Talent
One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.
Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.
If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.
Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.
Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.
The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.
As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.
Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.
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