The Dallas Cowboys have to be careful how they go about closing out the 2018 season against the New York Giants this week. They want to finish the season out strong, but also need to get their team as healthy as possible with the playoffs just around the corner.
This is a fine line to walk for Head Coach Jason Garrett, who is known as someone who has chosen not to sit players this late in the season even with a playoff spot already secured. He has to decide how much he wants to play his starters and if there are any particular players who should sit out this contest altogether. Whatever he decides could have huge implications on the playoffs.
If I was in Jason Garrett's shoes, there are five players I would personally sit this week against the Giants. There is nothing to gain from having them on the field, but losing them could end any chance they had in the playoffs before it even got underway.
Let's take a look…
RG, Zack Martin
Again, if I was making decisions I would shut down Right Guard Zack Martin this week. I wouldn't even suit him up in a uniform. He has been battling a knee injury all season and missed the game against the Indianapolis Colts because he reaggravated it. He did return last week against the Buccaneers, but I'd still give me a week off in order to get as healthy as possible for the Wild Card round.
I'd insert the Dallas Cowboys second-round pick Connor Williams into the starting lineup at RG to get him some more playing time. I just don't want to run the risk of Martin further injuring himself and not being available to the Cowboys in the playoffs. He's still playing at a high level this year despite doing it on a bum knee and I want to keep it that way. Let him rest up.
DE, Tyrone Crawford
Tyrone Crawford exited the game on the first series last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a neck injury and went directly to the hospital to be checked out. Thankfully he avoided any kind of serious injury and could possibly return to the lineup as early as this week. But, with nothing to gain from this game the Cowboys should consider resting him for the playoffs.
To me, this is a no-brainer. He was strapped to a backboard and carted off the field last week for a reason, even though it was mostly precautionary. There is no reason at all to have him suit up this week. Get Taco Charlton and Dorrance Armstrong in there and let them play in his place. As young players, they could use the work.
LT, Tyron Smith
You may be starting to notice a trend here. Left Tackle Tyron Smith is another one of the Dallas Cowboys players who has been banged up this season and has missed some time because of those injuries. He could definitely benefit from some rest.
Luckily, the Cowboys have a solid replacement to insert into the lineup as Smith's replacement. Cameron Fleming replaced him adequately earlier this season at LT and should do so once again this week against the Giants. Let him get out there and knock off some rust just in case he's needed.
RB, Ezekiel Elliott
For me, sitting Running Back Ezekiel Elliott this week in the season finale is another no-brainer. He's a competitor and it will take some convincing to keep him off the field, but the rewards far outweigh the risk of him becoming more banged up than he already is.
Even if Elliott doesn't play against the Giants this week, he should finish the 2018 season as the leading rusher in the NFL. He currently has 1,434 rushing yards this season, which is 183 more than Todd Gurley and 236 more than Shaquon Barkley. Neither will likely catch him, especially since Gurley might sit again this week with an injury and with Barkley set to go up against the Cowboys top run defense.
Last, but definitely not least, I would personally sit Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence. Unlike everybody else on this list, he's not banged up as far as I know. But, he has been playing a high volume of snaps and could use the rest as a kind of reboot heading into the all-important playoff season.
Again, I would let Taco Charlton and Dorrance Armstrong take over the majority of the snaps at DE for the Cowboys. Jason Garrett should treat this game more like a preseason match and get some of his young players as much playing time as possible. That's why I would make D-Law a healthy scratch this week.
Which Dallas Cowboys players would you sit in the 2018 season finale?
BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign Free Agent Safety George Iloka
The Dallas Cowboys have reached a one-year agreement with Safety George Iloka, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Iloka spent 2018 with the Vikings after six years with the Bengals.
He's started 79 of his 99 career games since being a fifth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012. Iloka turns 29 years old next week.
The Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with safety George Iloka, according to a source. Iloka met with the Cowboys on Friday and was the third safety to meet with the club during the week along with Clayton Geathers and Eric Berry. The Cowboys have... https://t.co/JB5nJLWepc
This isn't the safety that most Cowboys fans wanted. After over a year of pining for Earl Thomas, sights turned to Eric Berry after his free agent visit in Dallas last week.
However, it makes sense that Iloka would be attractive to the Cowboys. At 6'4" and 225 lbs, he fits the physical mold of what Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard likes in his players. He also is younger than than Berry and Thomas without the same recent injury issues.
Iloka becomes one of many Boise St. products on Dallas' roster, joining Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, and others. He entered the league with college teammates Crawford and Kellen Moore, the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator, in 2012.
We'll have to wait and see how George Iloka fits into the current mix at safety with Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. He spent most of 2018 as a backup with Minnesota, but Dallas will likely give him a chance to start.
What to Expect from Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Group in 2019
In a span of a week, the Dallas Cowboys have solidified their wide receiver group with the resigning of Tavon Austin to a one year deal and the signing of former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb. Despite the loss of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys have a created a really good group of receivers for Quarterback Dak Prescott to throw to.
Cobb joins a really nice group of players that includes incumbent starters on the outside in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup as well as solid depth players in Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Throw in Cedric Wilson, the Dallas Cowboys sixth round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft and the Cowboys may have one of the deeper receiving corps in the NFL.
The question is, how will the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff delineate the roles?
Let's take a look.
As I mentioned before, the Dallas Cowboys are returning their top two options on the outside in Amari Cooper, who is the X wide receiver and Michael Gallup, the Z receiver. Both players will go into week one as the starters at their respective positions in two-wide receiver formations.
Despite some of the overthrows from Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup, Gallup had a really nice rookie season and got better as the year went along, even leading the Cowboys in receiving in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. In that game, Gallup recorded the first 100 yard game of his career. Sure, it was in an attempt to comeback by the Dallas Cowboys, but it is impressive nonetheless. His touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks the week before was clutch. The Cowboys needed that to take the lead at the end of the first half. 2018 was only the beginning for Michael Gallup. He showed an ability to win with a full offseason to work with Dak Prescott, their chemistry and connection should only improve.
As for Cooper, his presence was felt right away as the offense just looked different once he stepped on the field. It's no coincidence that Dak Prescott's two best career games in terms of passing yardage came with Cooper in 2018. He's such a threat that he opens up space for the rest of the wide receiver group. His route running, speed, ability to run after the catch make him a threat to score any time he's targeted.
Behind Cooper and Gallup, you have options in the event that one of them gets hurt. Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Noah Brown are all players who took snaps on the outside for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 and did so with effectiveness. Hurns best game of the year came just before the Cooper deal was made as he went for five receptions for 75 yards.
Tavon provided down field speed on several occasions and provides some gadget quality that the Dallas Cowboys love to have. Noah Brown is a player that the Dallas Cowboys love to deploy as a blocker in the running game. While it looked like he might get more run in the passing game in 2019, the depth additions will limit him again to a specialty role. If needed, though, he could be an option to take snaps on the outside as his big frame allows him to box out defensive backs down the field.
There will be snaps on the outside for someone when the Cowboys go to 11 personnel, because of Amari Cooper's ability to slide into the slot.
Obviously, the writing is on the wall with who the Dallas Cowboys are planning on deploying in the slot as things stand right now, and that's Randall Cobb.
While Cobb should be penciled in as the starter in the slot, I doubt that he's going to get 100% of the snaps there in 11 or 10 personnel groupings. Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson could all push for playing time from the slot.
Last month, I wrote a piece about Allen Hurns and his effectiveness in the slot and why the Cowboys should feature him there. With Cobb coming off an injury laden season, the Cowboys would be wise to give some snaps to Hurns along with Tavon Austin.
In Jacksonville, Hurns was incredibly effective from the slot running posts, slants, and ins and outs. His size and route running made him an effective mismatch against linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks alike. Remember, it wasn't long ago that Hurns had a 1,000 yard season with Blake Bortles at the helm.
Tavon Austin's quickness is an asset that could be very effective in the slot as well. Though he lacks size, he's a player that opposing defenses have to account for because of his ability to make big plays once the ball's in his hands.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The Cowboys haven't been shy about carrying seven wide receivers on their 53-man rosters and it's possible, though unlikely that they could do it again in 2018. As things stand now, I see Noah Brown and Cedric Wilson as the potential odd men out. Of course, this could all get reshuffled if the Dallas Cowboys use a top 100 pick on a wide receiver in the draft.
With Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Randall Cobb only under contract through the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to invest at the position despite the strength of the position in 2019.
Report: Dallas Cowboys Set to Meet with Safety George Iloka
As the Dallas Cowboys continue the process of building a roster capable of taking them back to the playoffs, and hopefully to a Super Bowl, this next season, they’re bringing in another safety to try and strengthen their top 10 defense. This time it’s free agent safety George Iloka, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings.
Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Dallas Cowboys are set to meet with
The #Cowboys are hosting former #Vikings and #Bengals safety George Iloka for a visit tomorrow, source said. They're still looking to add in the secondary.
It will be the third meeting this week that they’ve had with a veteran safety after hosting recently resigned Indianapolis’s colts Safety Clayton Geathers and former Kansas City Chiefs Safety Eric Berry.
The Cowboys feel really good about Xavier Woods at safety, but definitely could use some depth at the position as they head toward the 2019 NFL Draft.
Iloka is coming off a season where he was relegated to a reserve role for the Vikings. In five of the last six seasons, Iloka’s played all 16 games, and the one season he didn’t, he played 12. He has nine career interceptions, and has three seasons with more than 70 total tackles.
Back in August of last year, Brian Martin argued that the Dallas Cowboys should pursue Iloka after being released by the Cincinnati Bengals. He would play the strong or box safety role in the Cowboys defense if they were to come to an agreement.
Stay tuned for more Free Agency coverage from us here at InsideTheStar.com.
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