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5 Cowboys Players Who Need To Step Up Against Denver

Brian Martin

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5 Cowboys Players Who Need To Step Up Against Denver 4

The Dallas Cowboys put together a pretty impressive four quarters against the New York Giants last Sunday night. They now need to carry that momentum on the road for this week's matchup against the Denver Broncos. This will mark the first road trip of the 2017 season, so we will find out pretty soon how well this team travels.

I think we can all agree that the Denver Broncos are much more talented team than the New York Giants. So, every single Dallas Cowboys player is going have to step up their game in order to put another W in the win column. I don't really like to  single out individual players, because this is ultimately a team sport. But, I think there are 5 Cowboys who need to step up their game this week if Dallas wants to get to the 2-0 mark.

Continue to read below to see who I believe needs to step up just a little bit this week against the Broncos. As always, use the comment section at the end of the article to express any of your thoughts and opinions on this topic.

Dez Bryant

Dez Bryant didn't have a terrible game against the New York Giants, but as a fan we always want more. The Giants defense did an excellent job of shifting an extra defender in his direction pretty much every time he was on the field to make it even more difficult for him to get involved. Janoris Jenkins also made it difficult to get Bryant the ball with his sticky/grabby coverage Sunday night. But, there is no doubt that Bryant needs to be more involved on offense.

This is probably less about Dez Bryant needing to step up as it is with Scott Linehan finding a way to get their best playmaker the ball. Denver has a pair of good CBs in Chris Harris Jr and Aqib Talib, so it could be tough going for Bryant once again. However, if Linehan would move him around the formation more to create favorable matchups, it should help improve the chances of Bryant having a big game against the Broncos.

Chidobe Awuzie

CB Chidobe Awuzie

Chidobe Awuzie

Chidobe Awuzie could possibly be looking at earning his first start in the NFL against the Denver Broncos if Orlando Scandrick has to sit out this contest. I would imagine that Nolan Carroll will start at the opposite outside CB position with Anthony Brown in the slot, leaving Awuzie as a next likely option.

Awuzie should feel right at home in the Mile High City, since he played his college ball at Colorado. The atmosphere shouldn't be too much for him and he should be ready to step up and make his presence felt on the field.

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli usually doesn't have his CBs shadow any particular receiver, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see Awuzie covering Demaryius Thomas more times than not. He has the size and athletic ability to match up well with the talented WR.

RT La'el Collins

RT La'el Collins

La'el Collins

La'el Collins in my eyes has already proven to be an upgrade at the right tackle position for the Dallas Cowboys. I'll admit that I was a little worried how he would stand up against Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon, but he held his own and won the battle more times than not. Unfortunately, neither Vernon or JPP come close to Von Miller's abilities, so Collins will have to keep on his toes so to speak.

Von Miller's a different animal than Collins has faced as a pass rusher. Miller's able to play with strength, speed, and agility and you can bet he will be looking for a favorable matchup against the Cowboys. That could mean that Collins could be seeing Miller more than he would like to and he will have to be on the top of his game to keep the talented pass rusher at bay. The Cowboys may wait and see if Collins can hold his own, but it wouldn't hurt to get him a little help from time to time.

Dak Prescott

I'm hoping that last week was just a rarity we can chalk it up to early-season jitters, but Dak Prescott didn't quite look like himself early in the contest against the New York Giants. He was uncharacteristically inaccurate with a lot of his passes and missed a few chances for what should've been a sure fire touchdowns.

Prescott can't afford to miss those throws against the Broncos talented secondary. He is going to have to be at the top of his game, especially when he gets down the red zone. Walking away with a field-goal instead of a touchdown this week could cost the Cowboys the game. Fortunately, I think he will rebound after getting the first game of the season under his belt.

Cowboys' pass rushers

In all honesty, the Dallas Cowboys pass rush was pretty impressive against the New York Giants Sunday night. They continued to make plays behind the line of scrimmage and fluster QB Eli Manning the entire game, but everybody needs to step up their game this week against the Broncos.

The Denver Broncos have a better offensive line than what the New York Giants have patch worked together. It probably won't be easy for DeMarcus Lawrence and the rest of Rod Marinelli's "rush men" to get home this week. They are all going to have to dig deep and be relentless in their attack in order to hopefully force Trevor Siemian to a mistake or two.

Who do you think needs to step up against the Denver Broncos?



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.

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29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Fatfan

    September 14, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Speaking of pass rushers…will Charles Tapper’s sickle cell trait prohibit him from playing in Denver?

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      September 14, 2017 at 12:19 pm

      I may be mistaken, but I don’t think Charles Tapper has a sickle cell trait problem. He does have a pars defect in his back, maybe that’s what you were thinking about.

      • shane loshek

        September 14, 2017 at 1:24 pm

        he does have sct..and i was concerned about the same thing..i remember the announcers mentioning it when dallas drafted him and said “well at least i dont think he’ll be playing at mile high this year” do to the lack of oxygen

        • Brian Martin

          Brian Martin

          September 14, 2017 at 1:30 pm

          I’m sure that it’s something the Dallas Cowboys are aware of then. I’m sure they will have a plan for him to ensure his safety.

  2. TreFKennedy88

    September 14, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    Hit the nail right on the head, I think Dez gets 100+ yards and we get the W, same way we feed zeke you gotta feed Dez

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      September 14, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      Getting Dez more involved just opens up things in the running game for Elliott and vice versa. Really need to get 88 more involved to keep opposing defenses honest and from stacking the box to stop the run.

      • TreFKennedy88

        September 14, 2017 at 6:26 pm

        Exactly Brian and would you believe the talking heads are trying to say Dez has “fell off” like they don’t know since Dez has been with us he’s never had a 100 yard game to start the season, Dez starts off slow to start the season. It really Erks my nerves but I’m just like wait, because by the end of the season X will have 90+ catches 1200-1500 yards and 12-18 touchdowns and even then they’ll still try to dismiss Dez. Matter fact it seems like any good player on our team “they” try to dismiss smh

        • Brian Martin

          Brian Martin

          September 14, 2017 at 6:41 pm

          The Dallas Cowboys have a popular brand, so anytime anybody gets a chance to link them to a story it makes it bigger. I’m not worried about Bryant. Defenses are going to pay him extra attention and that’s exactly what the Giants did. Janoris Jenkins didn’t limit Bryant alone. They always had a linebacker or safety shading in his direction

  3. Hobbes49

    September 14, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    I agree with the things you said. I would say that the improved play we need to see from Dez and Dak go hand in hand. Dak gets that throw to Dez properly in the end zone against the Giants and both men’s stat’s look much improved. I would really like to see Dez run more crossing patterns in games, get him into some open space and let him go to work. I think Dak will be much more himself with the Giants monkey off his back. More relaxed, and I think back to what we saw last year and in the preseason this year. I thinks Lael’s tenacity will help carry him this week, although I am not averse to seeing James Hanna lining up on his side to help out at times. The improved play of the d-line I think is coming from the push we are seeing from Paea and Collins, freeing up some space for the edge rushers. D-Law is also primed for a huge season, which is nice to see. I expect the pressure to keep coming on Sunday. Chidobe is just going to continue to improve, but this is a tough matchup, hopefully he hangs in.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      September 14, 2017 at 3:42 pm

      Hobbes49, I agree with everything you said. I would really like to see Dez Bryant get some of those crossing patterns that were successful for Terrance Williams last week. I think we all tend to forget how dangerous Bryant can be with the ball in his hands since we haven’t seen that from him in a few years.

    • TreFKennedy88

      September 15, 2017 at 9:37 pm

      Truth and as much as I like love Dez I really wish he’d work with Aj green or a route running guru to work on the routes he’s not really good at. On a scale of 1- jordy Nelson route running wise Dez is like 6-7 and we need him at 9-10 because his blocking is great, still a beast at jump balls but he needs to work on routes he’s not comfortable with.

  4. bearlamberth

    September 14, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    How did Collins do against Miller in SEC competion

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      September 14, 2017 at 4:12 pm

      I believe Von Miller was before Collins’ time at LSU. I don’t think the two have ever squared off against one another before.

  5. DevilDog58

    September 14, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    Another good article, Brian. I’m becoming a fan of yours. Denver’s a tough place to play and they have a good team. If we can pressure their QB I think we can force him into some turnovers, which might make the difference.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      September 14, 2017 at 5:25 pm

      It’s always great to get positive feedback. I don’t even mind the negative feedback most of the time LOL. Yes, Denver is a tough place to play, but I think the Cowboys are a better team than the Chargers and they gave Denver all they could handle. I think it’ll be a close game, but I think the Cowboys will come out on top in the end.

      • DevilDog58

        September 15, 2017 at 8:33 am

        I also think it will be a close game and although through many years (54 yrs as a fan, so yeah, I’m an old man) I’ve learned that I shouldn’t make predictions, of course I hope Dallas prevails. It’s a team sport but we haven’t had a leader at the QB position like Prescott since Aikman, so I like our chances.

        • Brian Martin

          Brian Martin

          September 15, 2017 at 9:09 am

          I’m going to have to disagree with you a little bit here. It depends on what type of leader you’re talking about. Tony Romo was more of a leader behind the scenes/ leader by example. Prescott I think is a same way, but has found a way to get his team to rally behind him. I think Prescott will get better at it with time though.

          • DevilDog58

            September 15, 2017 at 10:32 am

            Don’t get me wrong; I loved Tony as a player and later, as a leader. But Tony didn’t become the leader he finished as until he’d been our QB for a few seasons. If you think back earlier in his career, he didn’t audible out of a lot of the plays he ran. Once he started doing that was when he really showed he was the team leader. This was as he got older. He and Witten struck me as more of a “leadership by example” type players. Witten was also not a “rah rah” type of guy. But as he’s aged as a player and a person I think he’s also become more vocal. I wanted Tony to win a SB just because of what he did for Dallas and the brutal beatings he took behind some poor O Lines. It’s hard to put in words but Dak is a special, special player. He just has that “it” as they say about movie stars. Talented, great work ethic and intangibles plus a good person. He reminds me of my teenage idol, Roger Staubach. Sorry my posts are so long, Bro.

          • Brian Martin

            Brian Martin

            September 15, 2017 at 11:07 am

            I’ll agree with you there. It took a while for Romo to become the kind of leader Prescott is right now. There are so many intangibles to think about why one may have taken charge earlier than the other, but that would certainly be an interesting debate. And, don’t worry about your comments being too long. That’s what the comment section is for

          • E Deplorabus Unum

            September 15, 2017 at 3:43 pm

            Honestly, I think the locker room rallied around Dak so much because the expectations were they would have another 4-12 season without Romo. And then Dak not only played well but none of it was too much for him. You have to be proud of the guy and if he’s a teammate, he’s a hero to you as everyone had great stats last year. A bad QB makes every player on the team look poor often.

          • Brian Martin

            Brian Martin

            September 15, 2017 at 3:55 pm

            Prescott was definitely thrust into a leadership role. How he performed his rookie season I think pretty much shocked everyone including his teammates, which brought everybody together. They rallied around him and believed in him. If Tony Romo wouldn’t have handled things like he did, it probably would’ve split the locker room. I give a lot of credit to Romo and Prescott for they seamlessly way that things went down between the two.

          • DevilDog58

            September 16, 2017 at 2:18 pm

            Yeah, I agree with you there, E. I had serious doubts whether Tony would have made it through the season. I think the only person who believed he would was Jerry. Of course, Jerry is loyal to a fault (and sometimes to the detriment of the team). Too bad he couldn’t figure out a way to keep DeMarcus Ware, which I think he wanted to do badly. But I digress; QB is the most important position on the Offense, if not the team. He’s the only person who touches the ball on basically every play. So many people blamed Romo for various loses through the years but they fail to realize that without him we never would have even been in those games to begin with. I’m definitely optimistic for our future. As the Joneses and our coaches and player personnel people continue to build a great roster, I believe Dakota Prescott and the Offense will excel.

        • E Deplorabus Unum

          September 15, 2017 at 3:43 pm

          The day Romo beat the snot out of the 49ers with broken ribs, and I think he played injured vs the Jets that year too? I think it was 2011 and from that moment, I never had issues with Romo. The last 5 years of his career (where he actually played) were phenomenal.

          • Brian Martin

            Brian Martin

            September 15, 2017 at 3:57 pm

            The Dallas Cowboys never really gave a lot of help to Tony Romo during his career as a Cowboy. I have always been a big fan of his and I think he will probably always be underrated for what he did for the organization.

          • TreFKennedy88

            September 15, 2017 at 9:43 pm

            Jerry wasted his career Brian, when the o line literally collapsed against the Vikings in the divisional round of the 09-2010 playoffs we should have started rebuilding it than. I’ve never seen an oline literally lose like 2-3 pieces in one game, to think Romo did everything within his power to get us back to glory yet his biggest part in helping us required his career pretty much to ignite the spark for the next generation of cowboys.

  6. Colston Ballew

    September 14, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    The chargers had 4 sacks and denver’s o line got banged up last game. I see the D line having a big game again.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      September 14, 2017 at 5:40 pm

      The Cowboys DL was certainly impressive against the Giants last week. I’m hoping they can carry that momentum into this week against the Broncos. It will certainly help the entire defense, but hopefully also cause the QB to make a mistake or two.

  7. Javier Enrique Zetina Pinelo

    September 15, 2017 at 2:26 am

    definitivamente debe presionar la linea defensiva si desean el triunfo y del lado ofensivo es preocupante la baja de juego y la perdida de dominar el juego de dez brayant convirtiendose en un receptor mas del monton

  8. Rodney Simpson

    September 16, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    Hello Brian that was great read and I agree on all points anyway I have a question. I think this game will come down to coaching and we have a edge. But I would like to know what is Mike McCoy’s record against a Rod Marinelli defense ? This is going to be a big part of what Trevor will be able to do in this game.

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Offensive Tackle

Jess Haynie

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La'el Collins

The Dallas Cowboys would seem fairly settled at offensive tackle for 2019, with last year's starters both still under contract and set to return. But the need for a reliable backup has become increasingly important, and Dallas may also want to use this offseason to start planning for the future.

Tyron Smith and La'el Collins return to their starting roles, but not without some concern. Smith has now missed three games in each of the last three seasons, though a few of those have been for veteran rest at the end of the year.

We all remember the Chaz Green debacle in 2017 Atlanta.  That led to the Cowboys paying veteran Cameron Fleming $2.5 million last season to come and play as the swing tackle, and Smith's ongoing issues with health will make his backup an offseason priority once more.

Meanwhile, Collins has started every game since taking over as the right tackle in 2017. He's been solid but not a star, which is a disappointment after his draft year hype and some of the talent he flashed at left guard during his first two seasons.

2019 is a contract year for La'el. He will turn just 27 by the 2020 season, making him an attractive potential free agent. But his play has arguably not lived up to his current salary, which has him as one of the higher-paid right tackles in the NFL already.

Anyone who has the privilege of playing next to Zack Martin has no excuses.

Cowboys Place LT Tyron Smith On IR Before Week 17

Dallas Cowboys LT Tyron Smith

Even with his many trips to the Pro Bowl, Tyron Smith isn't immune to contract talk. The 2020 offseason presents Dallas with about an $8 million cap relief opportunity by releasing Smith. It would only leave them with about $5 million in dead money, which is less than they've had when releasing stars like DeMarcus Ware, Tony Romo, and Dez Bryant in recent years.

While still just 28 years old, Tyron has been getting increasingly bothered by nagging injuries. Bad backs and necks tend to become lifelong issues, and we've already mentioned the games he's missed over the last few seasons.

When healthy, Smith is still about as good as they come at left tackle. But could his health issues spark an early decline in skill? And if it happens as soon as 2019, could Dallas start looking at that cap space more intently?

With Cameron Fleming now a free agent and these 2020 question marks looming on both starters, there's a good argument for the Cowboys to spend their second or third-round pick at offensive tackle.

Ideally, a "Day 2" rookie would be able to take over as the swing tackle this year. Dallas could still sign a veteran insurance policy to compete in camp and the preseason, or even carry both players next season.

But more important aspect would be taking a player now to groom for 2020, when you might need to make a big decision on either Collins or Smith's future. Or, at the very least, have a solid swing tackle in place for the duration of his four-year rookie contract.

Cameron Fleming

Dallas Cowboys OT Cameron Fleming

That said, free agency starts a month-and-a-half before the NFL Draft. The Cowboys can't really afford to wait for the draft to find a swing tackle, or else they may wind up with nothing.

The simplest move would be to just re-sign Cam Fleming. He is an adequate player with plenty of experience, and could likely be retained for about the same salary as last year.

But given Fleming's age (26) and experience, which includes starting in playoff games and even a Super Bowl for the Patriots, he could attract teams looking for even more than just a backup. Thankfully, there a still a number of veterans out there if Dallas has to find a replacement.

One guy to consider, especially for just a one-year deal, is Ty Nsekhe from the Redskins. He's a native of Arlington, TX and has started 14 games over the last three seasons, backing up the oft-injured Trent Williams. On the negative side, Nsekhe turns 34 next October.

As a whole, this 2019 offseason doesn't present any immediate dangers. The Cowboys will need to figure out their swing tackle situation by either re-signing Fleming, adding a different veteran, or drafting a replacement.

But given the contract situations of Tyron Smith and La'el Collins in 2020, Dallas could make a move in the next few months to help prepare for a potential big change a year from now.



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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Linebacker

Jess Haynie

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Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch's Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion

One of the brightest spots on the Dallas Cowboys' projected 2019 roster is linebacker. The young pair of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have already emerged as one of the league's best duos. But that doesn't mean that the Cowboys have no work to do at the position this offseason.

Having Jaylon and Leighton does take a lot of pressure off. Most teams utilize their nickel scheme more than any other these days, which generally utilizes just two linebackers, in the increasingly pass-focused NFL. And thankfully, both Smith and Vander Esch have shown great skills in pass defense.

But there's still a semi-starting role to get figured out in the base 4-3 scheme. Damien Wilson has held the strong-side or "SAM" position for the last few years and has an expiring contract.

What's more, Dallas has a big decision to make regarding the contract of Sean Lee, which is ripe for terminating with $7 million in salary cap savings possible.

It's highly unlikely that the Cowboys would keep both Lee and Wilson. If they decide to re-sign Damien, Lee will be cut to help fund that move and others. If Sean is kept on, Wilson will almost surely be looking for a starting role somewhere else in free agency.

Even if the Cowboys do make Lee a cap casualty between now and March 13th, they may still allow Wilson to test free agency and then try to re-sign him later at a discount. He's unlikely to attract the same attention that Anthony Hitchens got last year.

How Does LB Joe Thomas Fit Into Cowboys' 2019 Plans?

Dallas Cowboys LB Joe Thomas (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Another factor in all of this is Joe Thomas, a free agent addition last year who provided good depth and could potentially start in 2019. He is scheduled to count $2.2 million against the cap, which is fine for a primary reserve but a bargain for an occasional starter.

A core of Smith, Thomas, and Vander Esch gives the Cowboys a good foundation to build from. Smith can play the SAM in the base scheme and Thomas can be the primary backup to Jaylon and Leighton in the nickel.

However, going that route would deplete the depth chart. Chris Covington, a sixth-round pick last year, would be the only noteworthy player under contract. Dallas would need to find at least two more guys to fill out the group for 2019.

They could look at re-signing backup Justin March-Lillard, who would at least bring some familiarity and veteran experience. But that might still leave them looking for more of a primary reserve, which would be especially vital if Thomas is promoted to a starting role.

The projected LB free agent pool for 2019 should make it a buyer's market. Dallas may be able to re-sign Damien Wilson or even add an upgrade, like perhaps the Vikings' Anthony Barr, at a relative bargain. There should be ample options for depth as well.

Barring an extremely favorable value opportunity, don't expect the Cowboys to spend a significant draft pick at linebacker. The fourth-round is the earliest I could see one going based on other needs, and even then it would need to be someone they really like.

Good drafting is why Dallas has flexibility and leverage this offseason. The picks they invested in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch appear to have made LB a strength of the team for the next several years.

There is still business to attend to, but the Cowboys won't have to be too concerned with linebacker in 2019 thanks to their young stars.



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Xavier Woods Versatility Key in Dallas Cowboys FA Safety Pursuit

John Williams

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Cowboys Safety Xavier Woods Is Getting Better By The Week

There has been a debate going on among Cowboys Nation for more than a year now about the prospects of bringing in Seattle Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas. Now with free agency approaching, there are several other names that the Dallas Cowboys could consider when looking to upgrade the safety position. Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu, and Tre Boston are several of the many quality and really good safeties that are hitting the free agent market in a few weeks. It's a group with varied skill sets and abilities, which makes the debate even more interesting. The Dallas Cowboys, however, will be able to take a look at all of them when free agency opens March 13th because of one player; Xavier Woods.

Xavier Woods, the Cowboys fifth round draft pick from the 2017 NFL Draft just finished his first full season as a starter for the Cowboys and played really well. In two years he's shown the ability to cover from the slot, play deep, play in the box, be a force over the middle, and make plays on the football. He's one of the more versatile players on the defense with his ability to play all over the field. That versatility allows the Dallas Cowboys' front office an advantage when approaching the names mentioned above.

The Dallas Cowboys don't have to be locked in to one particular type of safety. When people talk about Landon Collins, they label him a "box safety." Earl Thomas is a traditional free safety. Tre Boston is a similar player to Earl Thomas and Tyrann Mathieu is like Collins. The Cowboys can go into free agency with the freedom to explore their options and do their due diligence when it comes to these players.

That's a distinct difference from this offseason to last.

Last offseason, the feeling was that the Dallas Cowboys had to go get Earl Thomas. The safety position was so weak that the Cowboys were going to be playing at a disadvantage in the high-flying, pass-heavy NFL. Xavier Woods proved in his first full season that he can be a productive, play making starter in the NFL and should only continue to improve.

According to Pro Football Focus, Xavier Woods was sixth in the NFL in passer rating against among safeties with at least 352 coverage snaps. His 62.8 passer rating allowed in his coverage was tied with Eric Weddle, better than Derwin James, Reshad Jones, Adrian Amos, and Maliek Hooker. Of the safeties drafted in the 2017 draft class, only Eddie Jackson from the Chicago Bears had a better passer rating against than Xavier Woods.

The Dallas Cowboys got a really good player in Xavier Woods and as they get ready to potentially make a run at a big name safety, they can feel confident that whoever they end up signing will be a good fit with Woods. He can play in the box or cover receivers and tight ends. You can run more two deep safety looks, because he has the range to play it.

This year, as opposed to last, they have more certainty at the safety position because of Xavier Woods and the strides he took in 2018. There's no reason to believe that he can't continue to take a step forward for the Dallas Cowboys. His ability to play all over the field allows the Cowboys to be smart and patient in their pursuit of a safety upgrade this offseason.



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