The Dallas Cowboys play their first regular season game of 2018 in just eleven days. Without seeing their starting quarterback since week two of the preseason, Running Back Ezekiel Elliott in any game, and lingering injuries to Left Tackle Tyron Smith and Center Travis Frederick, it's becoming clearer by the day that the Cowboys energetic defense will have to cover for this offense early in the year.
You can point to budding stars like Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and Linebacker Jaylon Smith as huge reasons why this is even a possibility for Dallas. With Rod Marinelli still coordinating this Cowboys defense though, the team will always rely on every player through the depth chart having a say, which is the case on their deep defensive line.
The Cowboys rotation at defensive end could be one of the league's best at full strength. The same might be said about their defensive tackles should David Irving return to form after serving another four game suspension. For now, the team is getting by at DT thanks in large part to the 6'1", 318 pound Antwaun Woods.
Woods has absolutely embraced the Cowboys lone weakness on the defensive line, turning the 1T position into a strength so far this preseason. Between the first-year player in Woods and second-year Cowboy Brian Price, the Cowboys have legitimate options at nose tackle to allow a player like Maliek Collins to line up at 3T again.
For the first time since undergoing surgery on a broken foot in the spring, defensive tackle Maliek Collins took snaps in 11 on 11 drills. He worked at both tackle spots and continues to be on track to be available for the season opener.
Collins has done just that as he continues to ramp up his activity in practice, returning from a second broken foot in three years. Playing admirably as the 1T last season, Collins' potential as a pass rusher was lost, which the Cowboys can hope to regain in 2018. Collins -- who also missed most of training camp as a rookie -- recorded five sacks from this spot in 2016.
Should Collins not be ready for week one, the Cowboys have also been afforded the luxury of moving veteran Tyrone Crawford back to his original position at defensive tackle. If not for Woods, this move would likely be viewed as irresponsible and counterproductive.
DeMarcus Lawrence, the undisputed leader of this talented Cowboys defensive line, has endorsed Crawford's shift back to 3T as a way to free him up to the quarterback more. Lawrence said the same thing about Collins at the start of last season.
In his own right, a leaner and faster Crawford will also benefit from having Woods occupy double teams on the inside.
The Cowboys first-team defense played 39 snaps this preseason, 16 in their base defense and 23 in nickel. Here's how they lined up in each:
The Cowboys first team defense, which Woods has staked a claim in as both a base and Nickel starter, has not allowed a single point this preseason. With their only focus for Thursday's final exhibition being keeping everyone healthy, this stat shouldn't change before the team heads to Carolina.
The Cowboys level of play on defense has quickly disbanded their "orphans" moniker of just a year ago. If you didn't know any better about Antwaun Woods, you might think that the preseason standout was a remnant of these defenses.
Instead, Woods is a perfect product of his own work paired with exceptional talent around him. The USC Trojan has become a fan favorite not only for his value to the Cowboys, but also for a social media presence that embraces the scrappy nature of Woods' thankless position.
The Cowboys have devalued the 1T position in previous years, and in turn their entire defense hasn't gotten the credit it's arguably deserved. Now, this unit is set to earn plenty of headlines, and Cowboys Nation shouldn't lose sight of what Antwaun Woods' consistency this preseason will mean to this cause.
Officially, the box score only shows two assists against the run for Woods in 54 snaps this preseason. His ability to bring the same technique and power into each of these reps has earned him more than just an extended look in the Cowboys defense, but a starting position that's going to make those around him even better.
BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb
According to multiple sources, the Dallas Cowboys have signed former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year deal to help bolster their depth at the WR position and potentially become Cole Beasley's replacement.
Cowboys are giving former Packers' WR Randall Cobb a one-year, $5 million deal, per source. https://t.co/8KWFPjSP8T
The Dallas Cowboys met with Randall Cobb earlier this week, but he eventually left Dallas without a contract. He must've had a change of heart or just needed time to ponder the Cowboys offer, but regardless of what transpired in that short time he is now part of America's Team.
During his time with the Packers, Cobb accumulated 470 receptions for 5,524 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. The eight-year veteran will now be expected to replace some of Cole Beasley's production out of the slot for the Dallas Cowboys.
After years of watching Beasley as the Cowboys slot WR, it will be really interesting to see Randall Cobb in that role. He's not as quick twitched as No. 11, but can be just as dangerous due to his ability to be more of a down the field receiver. He also brings added value in the return game and could compete with Tavon Austin to become the return specialist.
This could mean the Cowboys forgo drafting a wide receiver early in the 2019 NFL Draft, but I wouldn't put it past them. Regardless of what happens, this is an excellent addition.
Welcome to Cowboys Nation Randall Cobb!
REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur
L.P. Ladouceur is returning for his 15th season as the Cowboys' long snapper. The veteran free agent was re-signed by Dalals today to a one-year deal.
Thanks to Jason Witten's one-year sabbatical with Monday Night Football, Ladouceur has now been with the Cowboys for more consecutive seasons than any current player. He just turned 38 last week, but Louis-Philippe remains one of the top long snappers in football.
The Cowboys have signed long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a one-year deal worth $1.03 million and $90,000 in bonus money, but he will count $735,000 against the cap. This will be Ladouceur's 15th season with the Cowboys, tying Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Mark... https://t.co/2iDsi6RX7e
Retaining Ladouceur is an underrated move for the Cowboys given their situation at kicker.
Brett Maher was only 80% accurate overall on field goals last year. The team could be considering an upgrade in free agency.
Whether they bring Maher back or try someone new, having a long snapper with Ladouceur's performance perfection will make things much easier for them.
REPORT: Police Detain Cowboys DL Tyrone Crawford After Bar Fight
According to TMZ, Tyrone Crawford was involved in a brawl at a bar in Panama City, FL last Friday night. The Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman and team captain was detained by police but apparently was not arrested.
The level of Crawford's involvement has not been substantiated, but TMZ's report does have him shoving police officers at some point in the action. The incident was reportedly captured by surveillance equipment at the bar.
Given that he was not arrested, one could assume that Tyrone was not one of the primary players in the melee. But that doesn't mean the NFL won't still review this matter as it relates to the personal conduct policy, and Cowboys fans know too well how "fair" that process can be.
This is certainly not a story you'd expect to see attached to Tyrone Crawford, who has been a model citizen and leader since entering the league in 2012.
Dallas elected to keep Crawford this season despite solid potential savings. He will count $10.1 million against their 2019 salary cap, which is high for his average production. However, he can play multiple positions and is one of their most experienced players.
Even if Tyrone were to get suspended by the league, it likely wouldn't be more than a one or two-game ban given his record and reputation. It shouldn't change anything about his status with the team.
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