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5 Under-The-Radar Cowboys Who Can Be Huge In 2016




Cowboys Headlines - 7 Under the Radar Cowboys Who Can Be Huge in 2016

While the Cowboys have gotten a ton of flack for their lack of free agent additions, there are several current members of the team that can really help them in 2016. And while new players help, player development is key for year to year improvement.

There are 2 key components to getting the most out of these players:

  1. Figuring out a player's role so that you can maximize what you get out of them
  2. The player putting in the necessary work both mentally and physically to come back better than they were before

Some of these players will be thrust into bigger roles and others may just need to be given a chance.

Wide Receiver, Brice Butler

Cowboys Headlines - 7 Under the Radar Cowboys Who Can Be Huge in 2016 1

Brice Butler needs to develop a rapport with Tony Romo, but if he does I think he can be a huge piece of the offense in 2016, possibly pushing Terrance Williams down the ranks

When the Cowboys traded for Butler a lot of people were wondering who the player was.

Butler is a freak athlete with the kind of size necessary to play outside wide receiver. He also brings a speed element that this team is so desperate for.

He battled injury after coming to the Cowboys, but when healthy he really flashed in an offense that lacked flash in a big way when led by Matt Cassel.

The intriguing thing is that Butler screams of a guy that Tony Romo can turn into something special. Like Romo did for guys like Miles Austin and Laurent Robinson, Butler seems like a guy who I can see becoming the key number 2 wide receiver for this team.

Seeing Butler work with Romo is one of the things I am most looking forward to for next season.

Defensive Tackle, David Irving

Cowboys Headlines - 7 Under the Radar Cowboys Who Can Be Huge in 2016 4

David Irving has the tools to really develop. You can't teach his combination of size and athleticism

This one can also be huge for the Cowboys and unlike Ryan Russell, we have actually seen flashes from him in games during the 2015 season. The Cowboys poached Irving off of the Chiefs practice squad after their week 3 game versus the Atlanta Falcons.

Irving flashed several times throughout the season by being a real nuisance for opposing teams when on the field. His size and athleticism are particularly noteworthy as he stands 6'7" tall and ran a 4.84 40-yard-dash with a 1.69 10-yard-split, which is really good.

David Irving didn't play a single game at Iowa State during the 2014 season prior to being drafted. Irving was dismissed from the team after committing fifth-degree theft, disorderly conduct, and criminal mischief. He was also suspended for a game in 2013 for domestic assault, charges that were later dismissed.

Irving's off the field concerns are what led to him going undrafted. The one critique of him from a football standpoint was that he lacked the bulk to play as an interior defensive lineman. In his time with the Cowboys he has used his length and athleticism to make plays both as an interior defensive lineman and off the edge.

Defensive End, Ryan Russell

Cowboys Headlines - 7 Under the Radar Cowboys Who Can Be Huge in 2016 5

Ryan Russell hopes to return to his 2012 form and if you believe him, he says on Twitter he can't wait to show how much he's developed

Perhaps the most important player on this list, Russell will have to play a much bigger role in 2016 than he did in 2015.

It is no secret that the Cowboys value Russell's talent. Throughout training camp Rod Marinelli really ripped into Russell. It became obvious that Marinelli was being extremely hard on him and you have to think that is because he really sees something there.

Russell flashed in college when used as a 4-3 defensive end. When they changed schemes at Purdue that is where Russell's stock fell, but not far enough for him to last past the fifth round where the Cowboys took him.

When watching 2012 Purdue film several scouts noted how Russell caught their attention while watching Kawann Short and Ryan Kerrigan on that same line who are now stars on the NFL level.

If Rod Marinelli can get Russell back to his form from 2012, back at defensive end, he can play a major role at the thinnest position on the Cowboys roster.

Wide Receiver/Returner, Lucky Whitehead

Cowboys Headlines - 5 Under the Radar Cowboys Who Can Be Huge in 2016 1

The Cowboys need to find a bigger role for Lucky Whitehead. Plain and simple. He is dynamic with the ball in his hands

It took a while for the Cowboys to completely trust Whitehead to return punts. Once he was given the chance he made a real impact back there. He was also used a lot more on offense in a role similar to how Dwayne Harris was used. Whitehead was used primarily for jet sweeps, sometimes taking the ball on a hand off and other times just as a decoy.

Where I think you can really get something out of Whitehead going forward is by actually using him as a receiver instead of making him strictly a gadget player.

While there is a lot you can get out of him by faking hand-offs or actually letting him run the ball, I'd like them to let him go out for passes, particularly the deep pass. Whitehead can be used for screens as well, but I think it is fairly obvious that when the ball is in his hands he can make big plays.

Linebacker, Damien Wilson

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Damien Wilson showed tons of potential in college and can develop into a higher ceiling version of the Anthony Hitchens role

We didn't get to see much of Wilson throughout the season. He is probably most known for being the guy that was burned by C.J. Spiller in overtime against the New Orleans Saints.

However, Wilson is a really talented player that I'd love to see get a chance for some playing time.

Wilson seems most like a weak-side linebacker and Sean Lee has that locked down, but he can also play some middle linebacker if necessary.

I in no way want to see a situation where Wilson has to get a large portion of snaps, but I'd also like to see him take a step from year one to year two. If Wilson can take that step, I'd feel really good knowing behind Sean Lee at Will and Rolando McClain at Mike, I'd have Damien Wilson and Anthony Hitchens.

5 Cowboys With Huge Potential In 2016

With the exception of Brice Butler, these are all going to be second year players. As I have laid out before, the Cowboys of late have had a real issue drafting or developing players taken after the second-third round.

With the development of these young and talented players, these can turn into at worst good role players. With real development both from the coaching staff and the players themselves, these can be players who play major roles for this team in 2016.

David Irving and Ryan Russell may come with more expectation than the others due to the need at the position. The Cowboys may actually be counting on them to be major players in 2016 and they obviously know much more than the public about where these players are in their development.

The fact of the matter is that these are all players that have the potential to become something in this league. Will the coaching staff find a way to make it work? Will the players do what is necessary to take themselves to the next level?

I've been blogging about sports and music for almost eight years now. I also work in media relations for a New York sports team, so I understand the bridge between the outlets writing about a team and the team monitoring content. I hope to bring something new to Inside The Star, getting deep into draft work, breakdowns and I always come with a strong and passionate opinion. I'm very active on Twitter, so ask questions, comment on stuff, etc. and I will almost definitely respond to you in some sort of debate!


Player News

Report: Amari Cooper Likely out for the Rest of the Preseason

Matthew Lenix



Report: Amari Cooper Likely out Until Week 1

Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Amari Cooper is likely out for the remainder of the preseason according to ESPN's Todd Archer. He is currently dealing with a form of plantar fasciitis that has kept him out of practice since August 6th.

The three-time pro bowler changed life in Dallas last season as the team went 7-2 in it's final nine games after he was acquired to win the NFC East. Cooper isn't worried about any long term effects, though, as this is something he's familiar with.

"I'm not worried about it at all, because I know if it does linger, it doesn't matter," Cooper said. "I had 1,000 yards when I played on plantar fasciitis before."

The Cowboys host the Houston Texans this Saturday in what is known as the "dress rehearsal" game before the regular season. Starters normally play about a half of football to get the juices flowing for when games really count in September. Ideally, the plan would be for Cooper and Dak Prescott to get a rhythm of sorts before the season starts but that will have to wait until the team prepares to take on the New York Giants on September 8th.

However, the good thing here is this issue doesn't seem to be serious and Cooper will be ready for the start of the 2019 season.

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Player News

Report: Cowboys Agree To Contract Extension With LB Jaylon Smith

Kevin Brady



Jaylon Smith, Eagles

The Cowboys are neck-deep in contract negotiations with some of their team's most important players, but it appears they have gotten one key guy signed this afternoon.

ESPN's Todd Archer is reporting that the Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with middle linebacker Jaylon Smith, though the exact terms of the contract have yet to be announced.

Todd Archer on Twitter

The Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with linebacker Jaylon Smith, according to sources. Smith was set to be a restricted free agent after this season but the Cowboys and his representatives started talks in the spring and they ramped up once camp began. Smith, a...

Of course, the Cowboys drafted Jaylon Smith early in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft despite the horrific leg injury he suffered in Notre Dame's college bowl game. Some didn't think Smith would ever recover to be the same player he once was, but in 2018 Smith emerged as an excellent middle linebacker once again. Smith finished the 2018 season with 121 combined tackles and 4 sacks, and has looked just as imposing thus far in the preseason.

Smith regained his athleticism and sideline to sideline speed, while retaining his impressive hit power and sound tackling to become one of the league's best. Combining Smith with Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys have put together arguably the best linebacker group in the NFL.

And now, there's no end in sight for the dynamic duo.

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Player News

Report: 2 Dallas Cowboys to be Activated off of P.U.P. List

John Williams



Auto Draft 6

Per a report from ESPN's Todd Archer, the Dallas Cowboys will soon activate Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence off of the Physically Unable to Perform (P.U.P.) List.

"The Cowboys are planning to activate defensive linemen DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford from the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday, according to a source. They will work through individual drills in their first steps on the field before going through full practices. Lawrence had shoulder surgery not long after signing a five-year, $101 million contract in April. Crawford has been working his way through a hip issue that kept him out of the offseason program. Safety Byron Jones (hip) and receiver Noah Brown (knee) remain on PUP."

Todd Archer -

This report comes after DeMarcus Lawrence had offseason shoulder surgery in April and signed his five-year deal making him the highest-paid player in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, at least for now. It looks as if Lawrence will be ready for a week one return.

It's long been believed that Lawrence would be available for week one of the regular season and hasn't suffered any setbacks to this point that should lead you to believe otherwise. With Robert Quinn suspended for the first two games of the regular season and Randy Gregory's status still up in the air (he still hasn't applied for reinstatement), getting Lawrence and Crawford back for the first two weeks of the season becomes instrumental.

The Dallas Cowboys defensive line has looked really good through the first two games of the preseason, but as good as they've been, they'll need Lawrence and Crawford once the regular season starts. Lawrence will slot back in as the left defensive end and Tyrone Crawford will split snaps at right defensive end with Dorance Armstrong and 3-technique defensive tackle with Maliek Collins, Trysten Hill, and Kerry Hyder.

While the additions of DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford will help the defense tremendously, there still isn't a timeline on the return of Pro Bowl Cornerback Byron Jones. Jones has been out since having hip surgery this offseason.

With as good as the Dallas Cowboys defense has looked this offseason, there's reason to believe that they can be even better once each of these guys are back in the lineup full-time. For a defense that was one of the 10 best defenses in the NFL in 2019, they'll need Lawrence, Crawford, and Jones to make the jump into the elite stratosphere of NFL defenses.

With the Dallas Cowboys' eyes set on capturing that sixth Lombardi Trophy, getting Lawrence and Crawford back in time to be ready for the regular season is vital to starting the 2019 season off right.

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