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5 Cowboys Given Vote of Confidence Following 2017 NFL Draft

Sean Martin

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Counting undrafted free agents, the Cowboys added 20 new players over the weekend – so basically Football Christmas is the best thing ever and we should all be excited about these new members of America’s Team.

Equally as excited should be a few Cowboys that I think were given a vote of confidence by the team based on their roster status and the positions targeted in the draft.

Here is whose fan club in Cowboys Nation could be growing very soon.

Anthony Brown

CB Anthony Brown

Sure, the Cowboys drafted three cornerbacks in this draft, but each was selected with a direct acknowledgement of the existing CB depth in Dallas. The highest defensive back drafted, 60th overall pick Chidobe Awuzie, is already being considered as a “chess piece” player with the instinctive cover skills to play both outside and in the slot as well as at deep safety.

Awuzie will join Byron Jones as the match up weapons for the Cowboys’ secondary, but players like this can only go so far without solid starters locked into roles like Anthony Brown’s. The second-year player may not dominate at multiple positions, but he proved an above-average starter at CB as a rookie sixth round pick.

The Cowboys are so committed to their youth at cornerback that rumors have even surfaced about trying to trade veteran slot CB Orlando Scandrick, a move that would only further bump Anthony Brown up the depth chart.

What Anthony Brown will bring to the back-end of Rod Marinelli’s defense at cornerback in 2017 is invaluable, and the Cowboys realize that.

 

3 Reasons Why QB Dak Prescott Will Thrive In 2017

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

QB Dak Prescott

You’ve likely heard already this offseason that, “Dak Prescott was only good in 2016 because of his offensive line, Ezekiel Elliott, and wide receivers”, and these conversations likely took place with Eagles, Redskins, or Giants fans.

There is no question at all that the Dallas Cowboys are committed to Dak Prescott as their franchise quarterback, with a core in place ahead of the draft to feel pretty good about Prescott leading this offense to great things once again.

With that said, the NFL Draft should also be looked at as an opportunity to add to your existing strengths in addition to addressing needs. A case could have been made for an early pick to be used at RB, WR, RT, or TE.

Instead, the first of just two picks the Cowboys dedicated to Scott Linehan’s offense came in the form of North Carolina WR Ryan Switzer at 133rd overall – followed by Ohio State WR Noah Brown in the seventh.

Excitement is already building for the role (or multiple of them) that Ryan Switzer could carve out in Dak’s offense, but the point remains that Dallas’ offense is ready to dominate so long as Prescott remains sharp entering year two.

Could Jeff Heath Be The Starting Safety Next Byron Jones In 2017?

S Jeff Heath

Instilling confidence in the greatest football player to ever walk the earth may have been an easy task for Will McClay and the Cowboys front office this weekend, but nonetheless the veteran safety and special teams ace still looks to enter 2017 with an expanded defensive role following a draft that brought in just one safety – Xavier Woods.

When the Cowboys’ safeties were at their best a year ago, they were able to rotate in fresh legs with the likes of the now-departed J.J. Wilcox and Barry Church. This rotation included Jeff Heath, who most notably was all over the field in Dallas’ home playoff loss to Green Bay.

Jeff Heath being a magnet for the football is something Cowboys Nation wants to see more of, along with rookie Xavier Woods. Both will have to earn their chances to play this summer in training camp, and you better believe these Cowboys coaches will be pushing to get the most out of Heath.

5 Cowboys Given Vote of Confidence Following 2017 NFL Draft

Aug 25, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Chaz Green (79) defends against Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cassius Marsh (91) during a NFL football game at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks defeated the Cowboys 27-17. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

 

RT Chaz Green

As somewhat expected, the Cowboys felt good enough with the job they did adding depth at RT following Doug Free‘s retirement to not use a draft pick on the offensive line. While Byron Bell and Emmett Cleary remain in place to add some solid depth, Chaz Green is certainly Dallas’ preferred starter on the right side.

Green’s biggest issue in the league since 2015 has been his durability, as he’s proven on the field to fit in perfectly with the likes of Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, and Ronald Leary filling in for LT Tyron Smith.

Chaz Green will face competition to earn this key starting job, but it won’t come from any rookie draft picks.

Rico Gathers

TE Rico Gathers

Another spot the Cowboys did not address in the draft was TE, despite having many more questions than answers at the position currently. For a short while, tight end was in the conversation for the 28th overall pick should an O.J. Howard or David Njoku slide, but even Njoku being available to them didn’t prompt the Cowboys to let pass rusher Taco Charlton get away.

The TE spot doesn’t need to be a focal point of the Cowboys offense thanks to their running game and presence out wide, but relying on two injured players in James Hanna and Geoff Swaim to backup Jason Witten is questionable team building.

Still a “secret weapon” to many, Rico Gathers could also be factoring into the Cowboys’ plan at TE – as he has made strides to learn football ever since being placed on the practice squad for 2016. While there, Gathers was paid that of a full-time player, an early sign that the team was committed to seeing the end results of his transition from basketball to football.

Should this transition work out and Rico Gathers wears out the middle of the field in the passing game while using his frame as a blocker, the former Baylor hoops star will literally become a big part of the silver and blue’s success moving forward.

✭✭✭✭✭

These are five Dallas Cowboys that will have to live up to some heightened expectations following the last integral part of 2017’s roster build – the NFL Draft. Where the Cowboys decided to allocate their draft assets shows confidence in some, and puts even more pressure on others facing job security questions.

That is a topic we will explore here at Inside The Star later in the week, but for now be ready to keep a closer eye on these five players over the summer. Every time Jason Garrett pushes the mantra “Compete”, the guys on this list should pay special attention.

Tell us what you think about “5 Cowboys Given Vote of Confidence Following 2017 NFL Draft” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Pleasant NJ, no we’re not how you think we are. Host of “Upon Further Review” on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. You may @ me: @SeanMartinNFL.

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Sean’s Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat

The Cowboys have just one more game to get through without their star running back Ezekiel Elliott, but Alfred Morris and Rod Smith deserve a ton of credit for the way they’ve been able to fill in out of the backfield for Zeke Elliott. Throughout the time Elliott has missed though, the Cowboys have lacked the explosive plays on offense that he can provide – until Rod Smith was given an opportunity last week at the Giants.

Smith complimented Morris exceptionally well, running with quickness and power to prove his case for more of a role on offense behind Elliott moving forward. It was the Ohio State product’s consecutive touchdowns of 81 yards through the air and 15 yards on the ground that sealed the game for the Cowboys in week 14.

Here is a closer look at Rod Smith’s performance from last week in this latest Sean’s Scout.

Smith3 – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

 

The Cowboys offensive line was dominant as always against a tough New York defensive front, and this first play is a great look at their execution in space and on the move. Rod Smith’s decisiveness when hitting the hole with speed and balance was the first thing I noticed on the game tape.

The best thing Smith does on this play comes at the second level, where running backs can truly make a difference in Dallas. As RG Zack Martin rides his man out of the play entirely, he gets in front of Smith who is seeing the play develop straight ahead. With his long strides, Smith is able to smoothly get through traffic and continue accelerating up field through arm tackles for a big gain.

Smith2 – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

 

These same traits are seen with Rod Smith as a pass catcher – something he does effortlessly to also help fill the void left by Elliott. Watch how quickly Smith commits to his angle up the field after catching this dump pass from Dak Prescott, attacking a defender that has the angle on him after the catch.

Rod subtly leans to the right just enough to make the defender hesitate long enough to allow his burst to evade him and gain extra yards falling forward.

Smith4 – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

 

Smith essentially does the same thing without the ball in his hands here, on his 81 yard catch and run for a touchdown. Setting up the safety out of the slot to be beat across his face, Smith separates from him at the stem and then does a great job getting depth on his route into the vacated middle of the field. With blockers to help him reach the end zone, Smith turns this busted coverage by the Giants into the game’s biggest play.

Smith1 – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

 

This last play I chose to show is probably the least well-blocked attempt for Smith out of the ones in this Sean’s Scout, but there is still a lot to like about what Rod does here with the ball in his hands.

The Giants might be a two-win football team, but they still have marquee players up front, particularly DE Olivier Vernon. Smith does well here to keep his feet moving as he cuts this play to the backside. Vernon does well to limit the potential gain on this play by staying away from the block of Jason Witten, as Smith is taken down by Darian Thompson.

The numbers the Giants had to commit to stopping the run was still a huge reason why Prescott had a career day throwing the football, and Rod Smith’s readiness to step in at RB was a deciding factor in getting Dallas to 7-6.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Proving to be one of the Dallas Cowboys most valuable players, considering his cost (under contract through 2018), and ability to contribute on special teams and offense, Rod Smith is the perfect RB3 for this team.

Smith is not elite in any one area, and is not a prototypical RB from a physical standpoint, but his contributions as a runner, pass catcher, and blocker could remain critical to the Cowboys’ hopes of reaching the playoffs behind this offense – even when Ezekiel Elliott is back in the fold.

Tell us what you think about “Sean’s Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Rod Smith Vs Alfred Morris: Who’s The Cowboys Real RB1?

Brian Martin

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Rod Smith Vs Alfred Morris: Who's Cowboys' Real RB1?

The Dallas Cowboys are less than a week away from welcoming back their talented Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott, but until then they still have a game to play against the Oakland Raiders. That means we will have one more week of Alfred Morris and Rod Smith handling the workload, but which RB is sitting at the top of the Cowboys depth chart?

Unfortunately, this is exactly the type of decision that can end up winning or losing a game. Both Alfred Morris and Rod Smith have had their moments during Ezekiel Elliott’s absence, but neither one of them have really distanced themselves from the other. So, should Rod Smith or Alfred Morris receive the majority of the workload against the Raiders Sunday?

A Case for Rod Smith

RB Rod Smith and QB Dak PrescottRod Smith might just have had is coming out party last week against the New York Giants. Against their divisional rival, in what was a must win game for the Cowboys, Smith rushed for 47 yards on six carries and added another 113 yards through the air on five catches. He also found himself in the end zone twice, once on a rushing touchdown and the other on a receiving touchdown.

You may or may not agree, but I believe that “Lightning” Rod Smith was largely responsible for igniting the Cowboys offense and helping them pull away from the Giants last Sunday. He accounted for over 160 total yards and two touchdowns by himself and didn’t receive the majority of his playing time until later in the game.

Rod Smith certainly has traits that make him a more desirable RB over Alfred Morris. First off, he is a more complete back. He is better in pass protection and at catching the ball out of the backfield. But, he is also starting to show up in the running game and is averaging 4.5 yards a carry this season. His size (6’3″, 235) also makes him a better short yardage back, although I wish he would deliver more of a blow at the end of his runs.

A Case for Alfred Morris

RB Alfred MorrisAlthough there’s nothing particularly special that stands out about Alfred Morris, he has proven time and time again he is more than capable of carrying the workload. He has received the majority of the workload during Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension and has performed pretty well. In fact, he is averaging 5 yards a carry this season, which is better than any other RB on the Cowboys roster, including Elliott.

Alfred Morris has looked pretty good this season and is playing with more of a spring in his step than I have seen from him in probably his entire career. Last Sunday against the Giants he received the the majority of the workload and finished the game with 19 carries for 62 yards. Not particularly spectacular, but the week prior he did rush for 127 yards on 27 carries in the victory over the Washington Redskins.

Like I mentioned earlier, Morris is a tried-and-true RB in the NFL and is at his best when he can continue to pound the rock and wear down opposing defenses. That is what he did against the Redskins, but he has his limitations as well. Despite his years in the league, he still struggles in pass protection and is limited in what he can do in the passing game. But, he does seem to have the trust of the Cowboys coaching staff.

✭✭✭✭✭

Personally, I would like to see more of Rod Smith this coming Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. I really like what I’ve seen from him in both the running game and in the passing game. I just think he is a more dangerous and versatile weapon then Alfred Morris. His presence on the field really opens up what the Cowboys can do offensively.

I don’t mean any disrespect to Alfred Morris at all. I just think that Rod Smith has proven he is a more dangerous offensive weapon of the two. I don’t know if the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff will agree or not, but I truly believe Rod Smith could once again be the X factor against the Oakland Raiders.

Of course, both Rod Smith and Alfred Morris will have to take the back seat once Ezekiel Elliott returns. So, this discussion really only has any credibility for this week in yet another must win situation against the Oakland Raiders.

Who do you like better… Rod Smith or Alfred Morris?

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La’el Collins’ Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise

Brian Martin

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La'el Collins' Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise 1

The decision by the Dallas Cowboys to move La’el Collins from left guard to right tackle was met by some skepticism by quite a few members of Cowboys Nation during the off-season. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was one of those skeptical of the move, but I’m not afraid to admit he has exceeded my expectations.

In all honesty, I always believed that La’el Collins’ best position in the NFL is on the interior of the offense of line as a guard. I thought he could use his strength and athleticism to his advantage when working in a phone booth against slower and less athletic defensive tackles. That’s not to say I didn’t think he would make a good right tackle, I just thought he had Pro Bowl potential as a guard.

Strangely enough, Collins has probably put together a Pro Bowl caliber season in his first season starting at the right tackle position for the Cowboys. He has become an upgrade over the previous starter Doug Free, and is really starting to earn high praise from the brass. Stephen Jones in particular has been impressed with Collins, especially considering how he has played after missing two full weeks of practice.

Mark Lane on Twitter

DallasCowboys COO Stephen Jones told @1053thefan La’el Collins has answered the bell after his contract extension.

I personally agree with everything Stephen Jones said about La’el Collins. I’ve really enjoyed watching his progression this season, but I have been really impressed how he played the last two weeks after missing so much practice.

You might not of known, but Collins has missed two full weeks of practice due to a herniated disc in his back. This is put his availability to play against the Washington Redskins and New York Giants in jeopardy, but somehow he has toughened up and played considerably well.

This unfortunately will be something he has to continue to battle through the rest of the season, but I’m not going to bet against him playing. He absolutely makes this offensive line better and I would hate to see Chaz Green or Byron Bell back on the field after the way they played as feel-ins.

La’el Collins has without a doubt earned my respect and I think it’s about time we all recognize the player he is turning into. I know the Dallas Cowboys appreciate all that he does and believe that his recent contract extension is money well spent.

What do you think about La’el Collins?

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