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.
NFL to Study Marijuana Use, Will It Impact Randy Gregory’s Status?
The NFLPA and the NFL have reached an agreement to research alternative pain-management tools for the players. They'll form joint medical committees to study different strategies, among which will be the use of marijuana. It's important to make it clear that said committees will not be exclusively about marijuana, but a lot of different issues related to pain-management in the league. However, it'll likely be one of the most important aspects of their work.
Marijuana continues to be a highly debated topic and it's no different when discussing the NFL. Dallas Cowboys fans should be very familiar with the situation. Earlier this year, David Irving "quit" on football during an Instagram live stream while smoking weed. In the video, Irving talks about how he thinks it's better to be addicted to marijuana rather than certain medications used by NFL teams to treat their players.
Although David Irving is not an authority on substances, that is where all of this debate centers around. Throughout the league, players are given strong medication to deal with injuries and the physical pain of playing pro football. I'm not an expert either, but it's more than fair to say there's a strong argument here. Specially in a country where marijuana has already been legalized in 10 states and the trend points toward legalization continuing.
The current CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) between the NFL and NFLPA will expire after the 2020 season and how the league's drug policy looks like in the new agreement will be a huge factor for reaching a satisfactory CBA for both sides.
Of course, the fact that the NFLPA and the league are working together on such an important task doesn't mean we will see any immediate changes or that the NFL's ban on marijuana will be lifted anytime soon. Many big question marks will have to be answered before we hear about teams implementing this substance as a pain management tool.
For the Dallas Cowboys, this will be a relevant narrative down the line. Pass rusher Randy Gregory was reinstated after serving an indefinite suspension due to substance abuse prior to the 2018 season. After a dominant year, Gregory was suspended again by the NFL and it all points toward him sitting out this upcoming season and perhaps even more.
Even still, the Cowboys are still standing behind their 2015 second round pick. If the league ends up lifting its ban on marijuana, they'll have to decide what they will do with players already serving a suspension for this reason. Guys like Randy Gregory, for instance. If it's decided they'll be reinstated to the NFL, the Cowboys will sure be glad to have supported Gregory all throughout the process.
Last year, the pass rusher proved how effective he could be even with a short period of time training. Hopefully, the Cowboys are able to get him back on the field eventually, where's been consistently dominant. In the meantime, we'll see how recently acquired Robert Quinn does in Dallas.
The NFL won't be lifting its ban anytime soon, but it's good to know they're at least open minded to changing the league's policy and consider alternatives that could benefit the players' health. We'll see how these new medical committees work and keep you updated here at Inside The Star.
Should Cowboys Consider Trading for Disgruntled Packers S Josh Jones?
Despite their insistence that upgrading the safety position was a top offseason priority, the Dallas Cowboys haven't really done much to improve the backend of their secondary. They did sign former Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals Safety George Iloka as a free agent and drafted Donovan Wilson in the sixth-round in this year's NFL Draft, but neither player looks like a clear-cut upgrade at this point. Fortunately, there's still time to find Xavier Woods' counterpart for 2019.
Xavier Woods is the only clear-cut starter at safety currently on the Dallas Cowboys roster. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine as to who starts opposite him this season. With that in mind, the Cowboys should be keeping all of their options open, including acquiring players who get released or even making a trade for someone they like. The latter is what I want to talk about today.
A potential safety who could be put on the trade block that I'm kind of intrigued with is Josh Jones, who has reportedly requested a trade from the Green Bay Packers.
Packers safety Josh Jones is skipping the voluntary OTAs and working out in Florida because he's hoping to be traded, a source told ESPN. The source said the 2017 second-round pick believes it would be best for both parties if they parted ways. Story coming on ESPN shortly.
Josh Jones clearly sees where he stands with the Green Bay Packers after they signed Adrian Amos in free agency and drafted Darnell Savage Jr. 21st overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, thus his absence from OTA's and trade request. He understands the business and knows he's not going to see the field much behind those two, meaning his best chance for playing time would be in a different uniform.
It's not all that shocking Jones has requested a trade. Even before the Packers added Amos and Savage he wasn't receiving a lot of playing time. He's just never seemed to fit into what Green Bay was trying to do on the backend of their defense. It may be in the best interest of both parties to mutually part ways. This is where the Dallas Cowboys come in.
I believe Josh Jones is exactly the type of safety Kris Richard would like to pair Xavier Woods with on the backend of the Cowboys defense. He fits the criteria Richard likes in his defensive backs as far as size, length, and speed are concerned. And, he also has the kind of skill set/mindset to become that Kam Chancellor "enforcer" type of strong safety.
Josh Jones is at his best when he can play around the line of scrimmage, much like Chancellor was during his time with the Seahawks. But, Jones also has the ability to be a factor in coverage as well. The only real question here is whether or not he's an upgrade over the likes of Jeff Heath, George Iloka, and maybe even rookie Donovan Wilson?
In all honesty, I don't have the answer to that question. Josh Jones really hasn't received a fair opportunity to prove himself in his first two years in the NFL. I believe the skill set is there to start in the league, but there's not much there to back up that belief.
Personally, I'd be willing to part way with a late round pick if I were the Cowboys to acquire Josh Jones. I like the idea of bringing him in to work with Kris Richard and allowing him to compete for the starting job next to Xavier Woods. This is exactly the kind of low risk/high reward move Dallas likes to gamble on, and it could potentially pay off in a big way.
Where do you stand? Should the Cowboys consider trading for Josh Jones?
How Can The Cowboys Force More Turnovers In 2019?
2018 seemed like the beginning of a new era. A defensive era. For the first time in years the Cowboys were able to consistently lean on their defense during games, staying alive even as their offense sputtered and limped through stretches early in the season.
The defense was downright prolific some weeks. They carried the Cowboys to an inspiring home victory over the New Orleans Saints to put them in prime position to make the playoffs. They dominated the Wild Card game in key moments, making key stops and holding the Seahawks to just 22 points in the win. They featured one of the league's best individual pass rushers in DeMarcus Lawrence, an All Pro cornerback in Byron Jones, and one of the league's most exciting young linebacker duos.
For all of this success, this defense still lacked one thing. Takeaways.
The Cowboys forced only 9 interceptions in 2018, ranking 26th across the league. In fact, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was actually tied with Xavier Woods for the team lead in interceptions with just 2. When it comes to total takeaways the Cowboys' defense was a little better off, though, finishing 16th in the NFL.
Part of the "problem" seems to be their philosophy. The Cowboys have finished 26th, 24th, 27th, and 31st in interceptions dating back to 2015. They've also finished 9th, 25th, 18th, and 19th in team defense DVOA over that same stretch. Clearly there was an improvement in total defense in 2018, but neither their team defense nor ability to take the ball away has been strong since 2015.
The bigger problem, really, is a lack of luck. While this sounds like a cop-out, takeaways often do come down to just that. Of course putting yourself in the right place at the right time to benefit from a batted pass or overthrown ball matters, but those bounces finding the right hands is usually a matter of luck.
Turnovers are incredibly volatile year to year, and as much as you'd like your players to "make their own luck," randomness does play a part here.
You can certainly argue the Cowboys have done their best this offseason to increase their chances at takeaways, however. By trading for defensive end Robert Quinn, re-signing DeMarcus Lawrence, and adding talented players to the middle of their defensive line as well, Dallas has put an emphasis on getting after the quarterback and corralling the opposing running game. Putting pressure on quarterbacks can force them into quick decision making or bad throws, which could in turn breed interceptions.
This is far from guaranteed, though. Plus the Cowboys play against some of the league's top quarterbacks this year, which hurts their chances of taking the ball away further.
In the end the Cowboys will need both the skill of their pass rushers and defensive backs to put them in good positions, and luck to smile down on them, if they'd like to turn around their takeaway numbers in 2019. And after all, this demoralizing trend has to reverse itself at some point, doesn't it?
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