The Dallas Cowboys are no strangers about sending several of their players to the Pro Bowl year after year. Even when they don't have a good season as a team, they still end up with more than a few Pro Bowlers. It could be because of the voting system and the worldwide popularity of the Cowboys brand, but I choose to believe it's because of the talent they have on the roster.
Last year in 2017 the Cowboys didn't enjoy the kind of success they wanted to as a team, but they still ended up sending four players to the Pro Bowl. The mainstays of course are Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin, but I really enjoy seeing a first timer make their first appearance. That is exactly what DeMarcus Lawrence accomplished last year.
No one really saw Lawrence as a potential Pro Bowl player before the 2017 season started. In fact, a lot of Dallas Cowboys fans were questioning if he would even make the final 53-man roster. Well, things couldn't have worked out better for #90, because he had a phenomenal season and ended up as one of the best defensive ends the entire league.
Today, I want to take a look at the Dallas Cowboys roster and try to determine who might follow in DeMarcus Lawrence's footsteps and earn their first Pro Bowl bid. You may agree or disagree with me, but I think the Cowboys have six candidates worthy of getting voted into their first Pro Bowl.
LB Jaylon Smith
As things stand right now, no one really knows where the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff will choose to play Jaylon Smith. Personally, I think he should stay at middle linebacker. I know they just drafted Leighton Vander Esch, and he could be the MLB this season, but I liked what I saw from Smith there in 2017.
Even though Smith wasn't 100% last year and it was technically his first year in the NFL, he performed really well, showing flashes of the player he was pre-injury at Notre Dame. I would hate to see the Cowboys move him to the strong side in 2018 after seeing him progress throughout the season last year at MLB.
I personally believe if Smith plays the majority of the snaps at MLB for the Cowboys this season, he has an excellent chance of making his first Pro Bowl. I don't think he would have any problems receiving votes if he finds his name on the ballot. His story alone would get him votes, but now that he's going to be healthier this year, it's his talent that should and probably will stand out
CB Chidobe Awuzie
After overcoming his unfortunate preseason injuries, Chidobe Awuzie put together a fantastic rookie season for the Dallas Cowboys. There have been rumblings this offseason about moving Awuzie to safety because of the lack of depth at the position, but I don't think anyone on the Cowboys coaching staff has even considered the possibility.
Awuzie has a real shot of making his first Pro Bowl in 2018 if he's able to build upon how we finished last season. He had one of the lowest completion rates among all cornerbacks in the NFL last year and if he would've been able to play a full season, he may earned a Pro Bowl bid a year ago.
I'm actually expecting big things from #24 (he's no longer #33) this year, especially after the hiring of Kris Richard. He has the talent and skill set to become one the best at the position, he just has to put it all together, which I think he'll do.
P Chris Jones
It may come to a surprise to you, but Chris Jones was actually one of the better punters in the entire NFL last season in 2017. I really thought he deserved to get voted into the Pro Bowl last year, but unfortunately that isn't the way it turned out.
Jones was one of the best in the league last year at pinning the Dallas Cowboys opponents inside the 20 yard line. That is a tremendous weapon to have and he probably doesn't get the kind of recognition/gratitude he deserves from fans.
If Chris Jones can continue to be consistent like he was last season, I think he will end up making his first Pro Bowl. It's difficult to earn such an honor as a punter because they aren't exactly "known" players, but consistency can help get his name out there and earn him some important votes.
DT David Irving
If not for his four-game suspension to start the 2017 season and the fact he missed the last four games of the year with a concussion, David Irving might have joined DeMarcus Lawrence in their first Pro Bowl appearances. Unfortunately, that didn't happen and Irving was left watching from home.
2018 will start exactly like Irving's 2017 season, with a four-game suspension. This doesn't really bode well for his chances to make his first Pro Bowl, but if he rebounds like he did in 2017 after his suspension he could find his name on the ballot sheet when voting opens up.
There is no denying David Irving's talent, but unfortunately he's his own worst enemy. If he can keep his nose clean so to speak upon his return from suspension, he could end up being one of the better interior defensive tackles in the entire NFL when all is said and done.
RT La'el Collins
I'm not afraid to admit that I wasn't fully on board with the Dallas Cowboys moving La'el Collins from left guard to right tackle last season, but he probably played beyond anyone's expectations. He played so well in fact, I thought he had a good chance of making his first Pro Bowl appearance last season, albeit as an alternate.
With a year of experience under his belt at RT, I'm expecting Collins to be even better. It's not going to be an easy task to accomplish, especially as a right tackle, but I certainly think it's doable.
Collins has one thing going for him that could end up getting him the nod over other NFC tackles, youth. Quite a few of the NFC tackles who have been voted into the Pro Bowl are getting up there in age and no longer the players they once were. This gives Collins an edge, which could result in his first Pro Bowl appearance.
CB Byron Jones
I've been higher on Byron Jones over the years than a lot of Dallas Cowboys fans, but I think this is the year he finally lives up to his first-round draft status and potentially earns his first Pro Bowl bid.
I believe the Cowboys did Jones a disservice playing him at safety these last few seasons instead of his more natural position, cornerback. Luckily, Kris Richard is righting the wrong now that he's the new defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator. I expect this move to pay off big.
I think Byron Jones is going to have a fantastic 2018 season and we finally see the rare athleticism and athletic ability that convinced the Cowboys to draft him in the first-round in 2015 to begin with. We will no longer see him be a little bit overpowered by bigger tight ends he's asked to cover, instead he may take on the bully role.
Will any of these 6 Dallas Cowboys players make their first Pro Bowl?
Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?
It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.
These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.
Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.
Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.
This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.
Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.
The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.
It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.
Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.
As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.
For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.
Cowboys OT La’el Collins Could Become Major Bargain
When you talk Cowboys offensive line, you always think of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin first. Right Tackle La'el Collins still has to prove he belongs in the same sentence with his elite teammates. If he does that in 2018, Collins could become one of the best bargains on the roster.
Making the move from left guard to right tackle last year, Collins improved with time and was playing his best football at the end of the year. This was despite ongoing back issues that had him on the injury report most weeks.
La'el started all 16 games at right tackle and did enough that the Cowboys committed to keeping him there in 2018, even despite a big hole back at left guard. They are hoping consistency and stability will allow Collins to really blossom this season, building on the strong progress shown last year.
For 2018, Collins has a $5.76 million cap hit. According to Spotrac, that makes him the 13th-most expensive right tackle in the NFL this year.
That middle-of-the-pack expense is consistent with where La'el currently rates among NFL right tackles. Bleacher Report ranked Collins as the 16th-best RT in football last year.
But that ranking was based on the season as a whole. If La'el plays all of 2018 the way he was playing towards the end of last year, he will have emerged as one of the better right tackles in the game.
If Collins develops as we hope, that salary suddenly becomes a major bargain. The most expensive right tackles in the NFL are making $7-$9 million this season.
But this can go a couple of ways. With his 2019 cap hit rising to $7.9 million, La'el needs to next step forward.
If Collins were to struggle this year, it could make him a potential cap casualty next offseason. Dallas can save $6.5 million in cap space if Collins is released or traded in 2019.
Dallas could elect to give Connor Williams, their second-round pick this year, a look at right tackle next season. It's the position he played in college.
They could also consider veteran backup Cameron Fleming, who will still be just 26-year-old. Fleming has two Super Bowl rings and several starts, including in the postseason, from his time with the Patriots.
While we think of La'el Collins as a first-round talent, it's important to remember that he was ultimately an undrafted free agent. Dallas did not have to invest anything to acquire him, and ultimately that makes it easier to let him go.
Naturally, we prefer the other side of this coin. If Collins builds on 2017, he will join the upper echelon of right tackles in the league. And if the Cowboys' offensive line isn't already the best in the NFL, that would only cement them as the best unit in football.
If La'el makes the leap, it could mean huge things for the Cowboys' offense and team success this year.
How Cowboys Could Benefit From Randy Gregory’s Suspension
Randy Gregory is back! His suspension is officially over and he will be able to join the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California when training camp gets underway less than a week from now.
Speculation has already started as to what this could mean for the Dallas Cowboys defense this season, and shockingly expectations are rather high for a player who hasn't stepped foot on the field in over a year. But, that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to focus on Gregory's mess of a contract, because it is rather interesting.
Randy Gregory was signed to a four-year contract after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gregory's rookie deal was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season, but his multiple suspensions have now changed that expiration date.
You see, Gregory has only played in a total of 14 games in his career, 12 as a rookie and two in Year 2. His third year in the NFL was completely wiped out due to his year-long suspension. If you were to add that all up, it equates to just one accured season in the NFL. Remember that, because it could have a huge impact on his contract down the road.
What all of this means is that the Cowboys can pretty much stretch out Gregory's contract now that they are three years in on the deal and have only gotten one accured season out of the agreement. That basically means they can push his contract back a year, meaning his 2017 salary ($731,813) gets pushed back to 2018, his 2018 salary ($955,217) gets pushed to 2019. That would essentially make him a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in 2020.
Or does it?
Depending on how the Dallas Cowboys handled paying Randy Gregory during his suspension could actually make him an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (EFA). This is a similar situation in which David Irving found himself in after the 2017 season. The Cowboys placed a second-round tender on him in order to secure his services for another season, albeit at a $2.91 million price tag.
As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys pretty much hold all the cards when it comes to Randy Gregory's contract situation. It's all a little confusing, but that's what makes it such a unique and interesting situation.
Of course, the Cowboys could decide to extend Gregory early if he completely dominates upon his return this season. It's highly doubtful though considering his past suspensions, but still technically a possibility. If it does happen, you can go ahead and ignore everything I've written previously.
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