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5 Questions the Cowboys Must Answer in the NFL Draft

Shane Carter

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2018 NFL Draft: Understanding Cowboys Presence at Top Prospects' Recent Pro Days 1

Draft day is almost here and it's business as usual for the Dallas Cowboys. Every year, NFL scouts, coaches, analysts and writers break down hours of film on different prospects and potential draft picks.

By now, the team's scouts and coaches have watched film, gone to the pro days, interviewed players, etc. The team has done its homework so that by the time it's their turn to pick, Cowboys fans everywhere are hoping that Jerry & Co. will make the right moves.

A lot has occurred this off-season, and now the team will need to answer for the moves they made.

Players like Anthony Hitchens and Dez Bryant are no longer with the team, and new Cowboys like Allen Hurns and Kony Ealy are eager to get started. However, before anyone hits the field, the Cowboys need to answer these five questions during the draft.

Only when these are answered, will the Cowboys be ready to get started.

Who will replace Dez Bryant?

Signing Deonte Thompson and Allen Hurns look like solid moves that will help quarterback Dak Prescott, but neither look like viable heirs. Realistically, Thompson looks to be more of a Brice Butler replacement and Allen Hurns is an improvement at the WR2 position over Terrance Williams.

As far as finding the new play making, number one receiver? That looks likely to be answered in one of the first three rounds.

Whoever this new player is will have a lot of pressure on them to not only click with Dak Prescott, but to become the new star receiver wearing the star. The last one was Dez Bryant, so they'll have some big shoes to fill.

In what round do they complete the offensive line?

The Cowboys are as close to having a complete offensive line as you can have, except for the left guard spot. Last year's starter, Johnathan Cooper, is gone and there's a vacancy at his position. The team has a few options on the roster currently in Chaz Green, Marcus Martin, Joe Looney, and possibly La'el Collins.

Collins looked very good at right tackle in the second half of the season, and switching him back to guard doesn't seem likely. What does seem likely is using a draft pick on the position.

If the team wants an instant starter, they'll have to address the left guard in one of the first two rounds. This year's interior line group is very top-heavy, and any one of them look like they could fill in nicely with the Cowboys.

What's the team's biggest defensive priority?

The Cowboys have needs at linebacker, safety and nose tackle. Which one gets drafted first is sometimes based upon best available as well as which area needs the most help.

The Cowboys have a starting set of linebackers in Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith and Damien Wilson, but the depth behind them is not very good. Depth is much more important than realized when you throw in the injury history of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith.

The Cowboys have plenty of talent and depth along the defensive line, but the biggest mistake made was playing Maliek Collins at the nose tackle position when he thrived at the 3-technique. A pure nose tackle is a big need, which could solidify the starting front four.

Finally, we reach the back-end of the defense.

Amazingly, cornerback is not a need this year, as it has been. With Byron Jones moving back to corner opposite Chidobe Awuzie, and Jourdan Lewis playing in the slot, the starting corners are set.

As far as the safety position, Xavier Woods looks like the most talented, and he has the ability to play multiple secondary positions. Jeff Heath and Kavon Frazier will compete for the other starting spot, but I wouldn't put it past the team to improve on the position sometime early in the draft.

Is Rico Gathers the future?

We all saw Rico Gathers ball out in the 2017 preseason, and then Cowboys fan's imaginations went wild. However, a concussion and subsequent neck injury caused Gathers to miss all of his second year.

With Jason Witten not getting any younger, James Hanna retiring, Geoff Swaim being more of a blocker than a receiver, and Blake Jarwin being all potential at this point, the tight end position is a question mark. We all want Rico to be "the guy," but how much longer can the team wait?

I wouldn't put it past the Cowboys to at least consider drafting a tight end. This year's tight end group is very deep, and all options should be considered. Undoubtedly, Rico Gathers is talented and could become a serious receiving target for the team, but by the time the draft is over, we may have our answers.

Is Earl Thomas still on the table?

Ever since Earl Thomas went into the Cowboys tunnel following their game against the Seahawks, Cowboys twitter has been buzzing. As we've gotten closer to the draft, these rumors have not died down in the slightest.

The Seahawks initially tried to get a first rounder for Earl Thomas, but that wasn't happening.

A more likely asking price is a second or potentially a third-round pick. Dallas being willing to trade one of those for Thomas is still a possibility.

Earl Thomas, wherever he ends up playing, wants a new contract, and it doesn't look like he'll get one. Richard Sherman is gone, and Earl Thomas could end up the same way. Not only does he want a new contract, he wants to go to a team of his choosing.

With the release of Dez Bryant, a contract extension for Earl Thomas is a bit more realistic. But whether or not the Cowboys are interested in trading for him, or if Seattle wants to part with him will be answered on Draft night.



Lifelong Cowboys fan, who doesn’t mind telling the harsh truth. I’ve got a Bachelors Degree in Electronic Media and Communications from Texas Tech University. I welcome all opinions but I will shut down any troll.

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Travis Frederick’s Return Named Cowboys Biggest Reason For Excitement

Kevin Brady

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Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Center

Overall, Cowboys Nation feels to be in a positive mood during this year's offseason. Despite early angst over lack of action at the start of free agency, and concern over the Cowboys' draft strategy, most within the fan base seem to have high, yet realistic, hopes for the 2019 season.

Most seem to believe the NFC East will be a two team race, with the last two champions battling for the crown once again down the stretch of the season. Others can see the potential for a dark-horse candidate in Washington, but still believe the Cowboys roster has the edge.

So while Cowboys fans may not think they need a singular reason to look forward to the Fall of 2019, Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski gave them one this week.

Every NFL Team's Biggest Reason to Look Forward to 2019 Season

NFL Brent Sobleski @@brentsobleski Twitter Logo NFL Analyst The offseason can be as thrilling for NFL fans as the regular season. Player movement constantly refreshes rosters-whether through free agency, the draft or trades. Significant changes inject excitement into franchises, personnel and fanbases. A one-time league doormat can become the league's "it' team simply through a string of acquisitions.

Brent identified the biggest reason for each team to look forward to 2019, with the return of center Travis Frederick being the Cowboys' submission. There's no question that when healthy, Frederick is one of the best centers in the game, and anchors an offensive line many still consider to be at the top of the league.

"A full year with wide receiver Amari Cooper and re-signing Demarcus Lawrence to a long-term deal are both reasons for the Dallas Cowboys to be excited. However, the return of Travis Frederick to man the middle of the offensive line is far more pertinent."

Frederick missed all of the 2018 season after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disease that I am not nearly qualified enough to discuss. What I do know is that it can be very serious, and it kept Frederick out for the entire year.

The Cowboys offensive line suffered during the early part of 2018, largely due in part to Travis Frederick's absence. Yes, Joe Looney filled in and played as well as anyone could have hoped for, but the disconnect in communication across the offensive line was clear without their usual center. Especially during the first couple months of the season.

If Frederick is fully back and healthy, his presence alone will take the Cowboys offensive line back towards their peak. Combine his comeback with a healthy Zack Martin, and a now bulked up Connor Williams, and the interior of this line has the chance to be special.



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3 Dallas Cowboys Who Could Make Pro Bowl Debuts this Season

John Williams

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Snap Judgments: Cowboys' Linebacker Depth Stands Out in Win

Every year, the Dallas Cowboys send quite a few players to the Pro Bowl. This year, the Cowboys sent eight players to the Pro Bowl with Leighton Vander Esch and Byron Jones being selected to their first Pro Bowl squad.

There is a lot of talent on this year's roster and the Cowboys will likely send someone to the annual all-star game that hasn't been there before. Here are three I think will make a push for Pro Bowl recognition in 2019.

Chidobe Awuzie, Cornerback

In the first half of the season, Chidobe Awuzie got picked on a bit. His coverage was always pretty good, but he allowed a ton of receptions. Awuzie allowed the ninth highest passer rating in coverage, the 12th most receptions, the 10th most yards, and tied for the sixth most touchdowns allowed weeks 1-9 of 2018.

In the second half, including the playoffs, Awuzie was much better and showed a higher level of comfort. His passer rating allowed dropped 50 points and was the 17th lowest in the league among corners who played at least 197 coverage snaps. He allowed fewer receptions, yards, and touchdowns in the 10 games over the second half than he allowed in the first eight games of the season.

Awuzie is one of the tougher players on the team. He plays with a similar edge that DeMarcus Lawrence does on the defensive line.

After spending part of his rookie season injured and rotating in, Awuzie found his stride in the second half of 2018 and was one of the Cowboys better cover players. Going into his third season in the NFL, the Cowboys 2017 second round pick looks to be an ascending player that could make some noise for postseason awards.

Tony Pollard, Running Back/Kick Returner

The Dallas Cowboys went into the 2019 NFL Draft looking to find a gadget player they could use on offense, but just as important, they wanted a player who could contribute in the return game. They got him in Rookie Tony Pollard.

Over the course of three seasons and 87 returns, Pollard averaged 30 yards per kick return and returned seven kickoffs for scores. In 2017, Pollard averaged an insane 40 yards per return. He's an incredibly dynamic player with the ball in his hands and though he wasn't used much on punt returns, shows an ability to make people miss and read his blockers.

As Stephen Jones said, "he's got a little Alvin Kamara to him." As a ball carrier, Pollard averaged 7.7 and 7.1 yards per carry over his final two seasons at Memphis. He was dynamic as a receiver as well averaging more than 12.4 yards per reception over three seasons in college.

With Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys may not give Pollard enough snaps and touches to have an Alvin Kamara like rookie campaign (120 carries for 728 yards, 8 touchdowns and 81 receptions for 826 yards and 5 touchdowns), but if he's given half that workload, plus what he could do on returns, he'll make noise for Pro Bowl consideration.

Jaylon Smith, Linebacker

It was a bit surprising to go back and look at which linebackers made the Pro Bowl and not see Jaylon Smith's name. As good as Rookie Leighton Vander Esch was, Jaylon Smith might have been better. By standard metrics -- tackles, interceptions, tackles for loss -- Vander Esch totaled more. Advanced metrics like defensive EPA (expected points added) and playmaking EPA, favored Jaylon Smith's season.

Cowboys Stats & Graphics on Twitter

Overall playmaking EPA rank among all NFL defenders: 5. DeMarcus Lawrence 7. Jaylon Smith 58. Leighton Vander Esch

Jaylon Smith didn't rack up the tackles like Vander Esch, but he was far more impactful over the course of the season. That's not to diminish Vander Esch's contribution to the Cowboys success in 2018. It's important to show Jaylon Smith his due, though.

Smith recorded four sacks, two forced fumbles, four passes defended to go along with his 120 combined tackles in 2018. And that was just his second full season back from the devastating knee injury he suffered in college.

Another season removed from the injury should make Jaylon Smith more confident and more explosive in 2019, which should lead to another outstanding season for the Dallas Cowboys Middle Linebacker.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Don't let anyone tell you that Pro Bowls don't matter. They do. Sure, All-Pro awards are the more highly coveted recognition, but to the players and to their agents, Pro Bowl selections matter. It's not as exclusive, but in a league with 1,696 players being one of 88 is still a really nice honor. To be a Pro Bowl player mean's you're in the top 5% of NFL players.

Obviously, we'd all prefer none of the Dallas Cowboys play in the Pro Bowl. Because that would mean they'd be preparing to play for that elusive sixth Lombardi Trophy. The Cowboys have always provided quite a few participants to the Pro Bowl game, but if the participation was zero in 2020, it wouldn't be all bad.



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Will “Rumored” Position Change Help Keep LB Sean Lee Healthy?

Brian Martin

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Will "Rumored" Position Change Help Keep LB Sean Lee Healthy?

Rumors and speculation. That's the point of the offseason we have reached with the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL. That's not necessarily a bad thing because it means players are staying out of trouble, but it's still a slow time nonetheless.

Today, I'd like to dive into some of the rumors and speculation surrounding the Dallas Cowboys right now. I thought I'd start off with Linebacker Sean Lee, and his "rumored" position change heading into the 2019 season. I think it's something worth discussing, as it is just about anything involving General Lee.

If rumors are correct, the Dallas Cowboys are considering a position change for Sean Lee in 2019. He's been their starting weak side linebacker (WILL) pretty much ever since they went to a 4-3 defense, but could be making a move to the strong side (SAM) to replace Damien Wilson. If true, this is interesting on so many different levels.

Sean Lee was initially moved to WILL in the Cowboys 4-3 defense years ago in order to hopefully protect him from the reoccurring injuries he was sustaining year after year. The thought was he would be better protected by not having to fight through so much trash or take on as much contact on the weak side. This was true to some degree, but unfortunately the injury bug continued to bite.

Jason Garrett, Sean Lee

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

With that in mind, it seems strange the Cowboys are considering moving Sean Lee to SAM since it's considered to be a more physical position to play than he's use to. There is a lot more physicality and contact involved playing on the strong side, which you would think would make him more susceptible to the problem that's plagued his entire career, injuries.

The thought process of having Sean Lee switch to a more physical position seems like a strange one on the surface. A player who has struggled to remain healthy his entire career moving to play a more physically demanding position seems odd, but not if you were to look beyond the obvious.

Yes, the SAM LB position is more physically demanding, but doesn't receive a lot of playing time in the Cowboys 4-3 defense. Damien Wilson only played 30.72% of the defensive snaps in 2017 and 27.93% in 2018. Playing less snaps could actually play in Sean Lee's favor and potentially keep him healthy. That would make the move a win-win for No. 50 and the Cowboys.

A healthy Sean Lee playing SAM would be an upgrade over Damien Wilson. It would also give the Dallas Cowboys arguably the best starting 4-3 linebackers in the entire NFL. You may disagree, but I challenge you to find a better starting trio. I don't think it's possible.

Of course, all of this is just a rumor we are forced to speculate about right now, but it's still interesting to discuss nonetheless. I don't know how all of this will play out in the end, but I can't really think of any reason why Sean Lee shouldn't get the first crack at replacing Damien Wilson as the strong side linebacker in 2019.

Maybe, just maybe this will be the move that will finally keep him healthy.

What do you think? Do you like the idea of Sean Lee making a position change?



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