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Blueprint to Beating the Big Blue Black and Blue – Part 2

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Back by popular demand (popular demand being defined as, at least, one person asking me to do this), I will now attempt to predict how the Cowboy's can stop the otherwise vaunted run attack of the Giants and their potentially dangerous aerial game.

But the first thing we have to do as a collective fan base, is brain dump everything we thought we learned from this unit against Tampa Bay, for three reasons:  1.  It was the first game.  The players adrenaline is higher than normal, the pressure to prove ones value is higher, it's the first game the starters play a full 4 quarters, and the coaches have very little film to game plan against the opposing team (I'm sure there are the factors, but those are the major ones).  2.  I honestly believe the Bucs are better than what they are getting credit for.  Admittedly, they could use a different QB.  But Antonio Bryant, Michael Clayton, Kellen Winslow, Jerramy Stevens, Cadillac Williams and Derek Ward are not pedestrian weapons; they have all been considered dominant players at their perspective positions at some point in their careers, if not as early as last year (Bryant, Ward, Stevens).   Furthermore, that OL played an outstanding game, in my opinion.  3.  For the first time in a long time, despite the win, the defensive players are not satified with their performance and are committed to correcting what many have agreed are correctable issues.

Feel better?  Okay, let's move on.

First, our starters:

Defensive Line:

Jay Ratliff (6'4" 303):  This analysis is going to be long; we all know who Ratliff is.  Next.

Marcus Spears (6'4" 309):  Like many players returning from last year's squad, he committed to improving his game over the offseason.  Be that due to personal pride or the fact that he is entering a contract year, I think we can expect him to be solid throughout the year; against the Giant's, though, we will need more.

Igor Olshansky (6'6" 315):  For the time being, I have to give Igor an incomplete on his grade.  The trouble is, in the 3-4, defensive lineman effectiveness is very hard to evaluate because their job vastly differ's from a 4-3 lineman.  But, if Demarcus isn't getting his sacks, that's should be a good indication that Igor is not doing his primary job:  keep Ware in one on one blocking situations.

Jason Hatcher (6'6" 305):  Of all the back ups, Jason seem's to have the most potential to eventualyl unseat a current incumbent.  He get's good penetration, and can push the pocket on even starting quality offensive lineman.

Junior Siavii (6'5" 318):  Thus far, he has been invisible.  On the defensive line, that's probably the most significant criticism you can offer.

Stephen Bowen (6'5" 306):  He comes in at a close second, behind Jason Hatcher as a back up.  He has good size and a decent motor.

Linebackers:

Demarcus Ware (6'4" 262):  Listening to an interview following the Bucs game, he admitted he was never quite right after that first hit that sidelined him while they assessed the severity of what was later revealed to be a concussion.  My understanding of league rules is that he should not have played from the point forward, but there is little trainers can do when a player like Ware makes his mind up that he is going to pass every test they throw at him to determine rather or not he is good to go.  Beyond ability, let this serve as a reminder to his committment to this team and his awareness of how important it is he is standing on the field as a factor in the game or not.

Keith Brooking (6'2" 241):  This quote says everything:  "We've got to go in with a mentality that we're not going to allow them to run the ball on us, period.  No matter what happens, no matter what we call, no matter what they run, it's on us to be where we're suppose to be.  And when we get there, get there with bad intentions!"  To that, all I can say in reference to his position is, 'Zach who?'.  For those of you who contend that talk is cheap, he has the career stat sheet to back his talk up!

Bradie James (6'2" 247):  Following the ugly Bengals game last year, players seemed content to squeak out a win against a lesser opponent.  Flash forward to this week and from the vast majority of the defense from the Head Coach down the mantra is the same, "We have to play better," Bradie James admitted.  "We know that."  Nuff said.

Anthony Spencer (6'3" 255):  Throughout his career, thus far, he's been inconsistent.  He has all the physical tools and speed, but he tends to revert to his college day MO of trying to outrun the tackle/TE by going around the block to get to the QB/ball carrier.  In the NFL, in the 3-4, it is imperative, regardless if it involves being taken out of the play by a blocker, that he own his gaps of responsibility.  The 3-4 can be a very effective defense (as the Steelers and Baltimore's chart topping defenses should suggest), but it requires unselfish players at every level, who obey their assignments.  If he doesn't take the blocker in his gap, the blocker will have the opportunity to pick up someone in the secondary and that typically mean's a long run, if not TD, by the ball carrier.  For an example of what to do, take a look at what Demarcus Ware has become excellent at.  He takes on the block and while using one arm to disengage the blocker, he uses his other arm to bring down the carrier or corral him towards other manned gaps.  It requires Demarcus trusting that his teammates will be where they are supposed to be, but again, that is absolutely crucial for the 3-4 to be effective.

Bobbie Carpenter (6'2" 249):  Bust.  We've establish this much.  But I do believe he is, at least, a servicable replacement for Kevin Burnett.  And if you think about it, had we drafted Bobbie in the 3rd round, like Burnett, instead of the 1st, the criticism of Bobbie wouldn't be nearly as bad; and that was Parcells fault.  At any rate, the one thing the Cowboy's are doing with Bobbie that I ardently oppose is him being a member of the goalline defense.  His instincts, size, and frame do not matchup well to most NFL team's goalline offense.  And I really just cannot envision him getting in the air meeting a RB trying to dive over the pile.

Corners:

Terence Newman (5'11" 195):  When healthy, he's clutch.  If health had not been an issue in 2007 and 2008, I might even say he's pretty close to being a shut down corner.

Orlando Scandrick (5'10" 192):  Thus far, I'd say he has proven he should be the 2nd starting corner over Mike Jenkins.  A true student of the game, we can expect him to be well prepared for the Giants.

Mike Jenkins (5'10" 198):  He has the tools and the frame defenses like for their corner.  It's the mental side of his game that typically get's in the way.  Rather it is over-thinking or a lack of thinking, the jury is still out.  But, I will say, I like him starting over Anthony Henry, Pacman Jones, and Alan Ball.  And if I'm not mistaken, the guys at football outsiders actually think pretty highly of him, as well.

Alan Ball (6'1" 188):  He proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was the best corner behind the above 3 in training camp and in preseason.  But with his only competition being the likes of Courtney Brown, Mike Mickens, DeAngelo Smith and Julian Hawkins, that really isn't saying much.

Safeties:

Gerald Sensabaugh (6'0" 210):  We've seen good and we've seen bad.  He's certainly a better coverage guy than Roy Williams, Keith Davis and Patrick Watkins, but he has not been as good as advertised against the run.  Thus far, preseason included, team's have not had opportunities deep, but he sure has been called for quite a few penalities; most notably the defensive holding call that nullified a Mike Jenkins interception against the Bucs this past Sunday.  I have a theory:  As much as Wade Phillips gushed about what Sensabaugh, in particular, add's to his defensive scheme's, I can't help but wonder if he is over-thinking and committing these stupid penalties to live up to the hype.   Honestly, I think that little bit of phsychology may have also been an issue for quite a few of the Cowboy's players in 2008.   Regardless of his excuse for mental error's, it's unacceptable and against the Giant's the Cowboys will need every part of his focus.

Ken Hamlin (6'2" 209):  Much has been made about those two infamous missed tackles at the end of the game against Baltimore, closing the door forever on Texas Stadium.  But for the most part, considering the injuries that created a turnstile at various positions in the Secondary, I honestly believe Ken Hamlin did the best he could with what he had.  As the Quarterback of the defense, it is his job to ensure that all of those rookies and bottom of the roster feeders forced to play due to the suspension or injuries, are lined up correctly.  Ultimately, it comes down to his ability to trust the other guys lining up back in the secondary, to do their job.  He could not do that last year.  In his trying to compensate for poor play by those other positions, his position suffered.  But that's just my opinion.  Either way, Hamlin has been known to throw everything he has into hit's and he will be primed to hurt people when the Giants are in town.

Special Teams:

Matt McBriar (6'1" 220):  Prior to his injury early last year, he was on pace to be a Pro Bowl selection.  He has a boot that can put the ball 60 yards from scrimmage, but from what I understand, DeCammalis has wisely requested he adjust his kicks to not out-punt the coverage.  Thus far, this adjustment has paid off.

Nick Folk (6'1" 222):  The dynamic of a defense changes when backed against it's own endzone.  The Cowboy's may rely on Nick quite a bit to ensure we don't leave points on the field.

David Buehler (6'2" 228):  He will likely end the season as the Touchback king of the league, which is huge, but that's not the only place he will contribute.  He also helps on punt coverage and for a guy who beat out all of the highly touted linebackers drafted from USC this year in the combine at the 40 and on the bench, he is not to be taken lightly as an open field tackler.

Of all the defensive player's above, Special Teams will likely be where the Cowboy's win this game.  The Giants, barring turnovers, should have a long field to traverse each time they start a drive.  This will be huge in the wanning moments of the game, particularly considering that of all the attributes their receivers can offer, burning our defense for a quick score likely won't be one of them.

Now here's the motley crew the Giant's will be throwing at the Cowboys:

Offensive Line:

For any NFL team, anything done offensively begins in the trenches.  Partly because I'm lazy, but mostly because it's unnecessary, I'm going to skip the individual breakdown of the Offense Line.  When you think of the Giant's OL, most Cowboy fans can't name one player from the offensive side of the ball with a hand on the ground, anyway.  And for the Giant's, that's a good thing.  Why you ask?  Because that mean's they are a cohesive unit that get's recognized for their cumulative efforts and not just that one dominant presence; example:  Joe Thomas of the Browns.    But, if you consider the 5 sacks the Cowboy's were able to compile the last time these two team's met, you know they are not without their flaws.  Granted, the Giant's didn't have Brandon Jacobs in that game, so that should change Wade's approach a bit.  But keep in mind, despite his TE like frame, Jacobs is actually notoriously horrible at pass blocking, which is why we won't see him catching to many balls Sunday night (unless it's on the chin, figuratively speaking; I'm sorry, I had to).  In for sure passing situations, we will likely see Ahmad Bradshaw manning the RB position.

Running Backs:

Brandon Jacobs (6'4" 264):  To be honest, he doesn't scare me.  Personally, I believe if you took away his stellar offensive line and committee of RB's around him, he would be considered an average RB, at best.  With a full head of steam, he is extremely difficult to bring down.   But if the Cowboys can slow his initial acceleration, by simply hitting him (notice I didn't say they have to tackle him at this point) before or shortly after he crosses the line of scrimmage, his overall production will be marginal.  I will admit, however, if the Giant's are within 3 yard's of the Goalline, because of his presence, and, of course, that offensive line, it's an automatic 6 in my opinion.  By the way, if you didn't quite get the clowning I was delivering at BJ's expense in paranthesis at the end of my assessment of the Offensive Line, in other word's, I'm predicting he's going to suck against the Cowboys.

Ahmad Bradshaw (5'9" 198):  I wouldn't say he scare's me, but he does draw more concern from me than BJ.  First, he is the RB they will rely on the most in pass protecting, now that Derrick Ward is gone, meaning that he is the guy most likely to catch are defense with their pant's down expecting the pass.  Furthermore, he is in the mold of those RB's from last Sunday the Cowboys played against, though I've forgotten their names adhering to my own advise.  Last year, Ahmad only compiled 60 yard's, but with those 12 attempt's, he averaged 5 yards per carry.  In 2008, he had 355 yard's on 67 attempt's for an average of 5.3 yard's.  And in 2007, he averaged 8.3 yards per carry, with 190 yards on 23 attempts.  If anything, you can say he consistently put's the Giants in 3rd and relatively short.

Danny Ware (6'0" 234):  Statistically speaking, we don't know much.  In 2008 he had 2 carries for 15 yard's, averaging 7.5 per carry, but that could hardly be considered a trend.  Judging from what I've read, he likely could be described as a cross between BJ and Bradshaw, not only in size, but in style, as well.  Last year, he was the preseason team MVP amassing 180 yard's on opposing team leftovers and bubble-riders.  What that says about him and how he will fare against the Cowboys, if he even see's the field, is beyond me.

Wide Receivers:

Steve Smith (5'11" 195):  With 6 passes for 80 yards against the Redskins, Smith was Eli's favorite target.  His longest reception of the day was 26 yard's, so if the Giants do try to test our Safeties, it will likely be with him.

Domenik Dixon (6'2" 182):  Last year, he owned the slot, amassing 596 yards on 43 receptions.  He is also dangerous after the catch.  Scandrick will have his hand's full, but with our selection of cover Safeties, Scandrick shouldnt' have to many problems keeping Dixon in check.

Sinorice Moss (5'8" 185):  The younger brother of self-proclaimed Cowboy-killer Santana Moss, he never has lived up to the Giants expectations.  He has shown flashes, but thus far has failed to be consistent, particularly at catching the ball.

Mario Manningham (5'11" 183):  He scored a 6 on the Wunderlich and was considered as too slow to play receiver in the NFL.  Most team's had scratched him off of their draft boards.  But the Giant's saw something in him and if the Washington game is any kind of indication, with one year under his belt, they are beginning to reap the rewards.

Ramses Barden (6'6" 227):  Though he likely will never be Plaxico Burress, his size affords him the ability to be that type of weapon in the readzone.  His performance for a 3rd round pick was impressive in preseason, but he has yet to catch a ball in the regular season.  If the Giants are within 10 yards of scoring, I would not be suprised if the Giant's don't, at least, put him on the field to give the defense something more to think about.

Hakeem Nicks (6'0" 215):  The Giant's 1st round pick was touted as being the most NFL ready receiver available; Jeremy Maclin perhaps being the lone exception.  Early in training camp and preseason, though, Ramses Barden was earning the vast majority of the buzz.  The light's seemed to come on late, but again, it was preseason.  Against the Redskins, he collected two passes for 18 yards, 11 yards being his long.  If anything, you can say he catches what is thrown at him; Darrius Heyward-Bey, the top receiver drafted, unfortunately, cannot make that claim.

Tight Ends:

Kevin Boss (6'6" 253):  Jeremy Shockey was the Giant's T.O..  And Kevin Boss is the Giant's Roy Williams.  Kevin may not have the amount of talent Shockey possesses, but the Giants, with the baggage Shockey added brought to the team, are better off with out him.  Parallel aside, Boss would still be the 3rd TE on the Cowboy's depth chart.

Travis Beckum (6'3" 239):  Drafted in the 3rd round, behind Ramses, Travis topped quite a few list for TE's available this year, making him a steal in the 3rd.  However, he has not been targeted in the regular season, and only caught two passes for 37 yards throughout preseason.  It may take a year or two to see him reach is potential.

Darcy Johnson (6'5" 252):  If he does see time, he is mostly considered a blocking tight end.  In 3 years with the Giant's he has only caught 4 passes for 46 yards.

Analysis:

Like the Cowboys, having jettisoned Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer in the offseason, the Giants have an offense that flourishes by spreading the ball around and keeping opposing defenses off balance by pounding the run, using a few different types of ball carriers.  The Cowboys defense likely won't dominate the Giants.  That may be asking a little much.  What I am counting on is that the Cowboys will win the field position battle through special Special Teams and the Cowboys offense will ultimately outscore the opposition.   The key for the Cowboy's defense is to keep the pressure on Eli, even if it doesn't result in Sacks, and ensure that their running game cannot be relied on to extend drives and dominate the time of possession ratio throughout the game.



I am 35, married and a father of 2 boys. I have been a Cowboys fan since Jimmy Johnson took over; not because I had anything against Tom Landry, but because it just so happens I was old enough to start following and understanding football right as that new era began. Since then, I haven't missed games if I could help it.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Joe C

    September 18, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Canty, Hakeem Nicks, and Aaron Ross are reportedly out for Sunday’s game, if this holds true that’s gotta be a plus for the Cowboys!!!

  2. Jonathan

    September 18, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Like I alway’s say Joe, I’ll take what advantages the opposing team gives me, but as a fan, the victory is not as satisfying when they are not at full strength. The Giants now have a built in excuse for losing, and that, to a certain extent, takes a little of the pressure to win off their shoulders.

    • Mick

      September 19, 2009 at 12:43 pm

      Jonathan,
      – No excuses here!
      – I think your ‘boys would win this game even if my Giants were completely healthy. Combo of best talent in the league (except maybe San Diego), adrenaline of new stadium, relatively healthy roster, and no distractions this early in season makes ‘Boys just about unbeatable . . . for now.
      – Though I would never call a defeat a good defeat, the mental and emotional makeup of the Giants will turn this defeat into a motivational springboard.
      – Obversely, we’ll see your ‘Boys feel the hype and pub from this win (and others), and they will eventually lose their edge.
      – Romo is a borderline great QB, but he doesn’t possess the Force of Personality necessary to fill the leadership void that exists there. That’s what happens when you have fools navigating the voyage.
      – JJ assembled a great team in the 90’s and had a great leader (other JJ) to steer the starship (who eventually ejected from the cockpit). But like Al Davis and George Steinbrenner, he’s lost his way because his ego CAN’T HANDLE having strong leaders around him. This is the ONLY reason why your Cowboys will eventually fail once again, and deep down I’m sure you all know this to be true.
      – BTW, I’m not so unobjective that I’m predicting a Giant Super Bowl, but I believe we have a better shot because we have talent, depth, leadership and a quality organization from the top down. I hope Jerry keeps Wade indefintely – until then I’ll worry more about the Eagles. Unless I get some replies from you guys, I’ll just assume that y’all just agree with me!

    • Arjay

      September 22, 2009 at 11:11 am

      So then what’s the Cowboy’s excuse for losing to a depleted team? Hell, Flozell even cheap shotted Tuck to add to the Giants injuries and they STILL LOST!

      You can talk about “it was only by 2 points”, “Romo gave them the win” blah, blah, blah. Bottom line is the Giants won, in Jerry’s new palace, his self proclaimed new wonder of the world. When it counted most Romo choked and Eli came up clutch again. The Giants capitalized on the Cowboys mistakes and limited theirs. And if you want to cry that Romo gave the ball away then the Giants spotted Dallas points by only scoring FGs in the red zone. If they scored TDs it would’ve been a blowout. Woulda, coulda , shoulda.

      Good teams win the close ones. Bad teams lose them.

  3. Joe C

    September 18, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    To me a win is a win, regardless who they have out there playing. I don’t think it will be even less incentive to win for the Boys, it’s their home-opener in a brand new bad*** stadium. They will def. be hyped and still ready to take whatever the Giants throw/run at em. I can’t wait.

  4. Mike D

    September 22, 2009 at 7:09 am

    Yeah, so how’d that “Blueprint” work out for ya?
    oh Jonathen…Once again Super Bowl MVP Eli comes up Big and Chokmo poops himself in a big game..3 years now I have been telling you that Romo is garbvage. When are you going to figure it out?

  5. Jonathan

    September 22, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Mike D. Weak. That’s all can I say is weak. You keep your trap shut all week and then, once your team has already won, then you want to talk trash. Mirror time in the morning must be miserable for you.

    Admittedly, Romo had a bad day. Eli’s career accuracy as compared to Romo, even after Sunday, tell’s me that he has had his fair share of issue’s throughout his career. Regardless of what we saw Sunday, I still say Romo is the better QB. So to answer your question, I’ll never “figure it out!”

    • Arjay

      September 22, 2009 at 11:23 am

      While I admire your loyalty to your QB I have to think it’s because Dallas has no choice than to stick with Romo. While his overall passer rating, accuracy, yards, TDs etc. may be better than Eli’s he doesn’t have what Eli possesses. Guts. While it would be great to see Eli put up “fantasy” numbers I will take 250+ yards and more TDs than int’s every game that leads to a win anytime. Especially when wins come in big moments like the Super Bowl and the opening of Cowboys Stadium.

      And this is with no name receivers. Dallas has a supposed #1 in Williams, Witten, Bennett. And they were home in their brand new stadium, all those fans, dancing girls, celebrities…big moments just ain’t Romo’s thing huh?

      • bags030404

        September 22, 2009 at 11:37 am

        You are completely correct with your depiction of Tony Romo and the woulda, coulda, shoulda of sunday nights game. Point taken I get it! However your depiction of Eli Manning is not very good! He is an average QB, that is all he has been and all he will be. Is that good enough to win a Super Bowl in New York? Yes! but must I remind you that Brad Johnson also has a Super Bowl victory to his credit? What I am saying is that Super Bowls, Big games, close games are won by TEAMS not by QB’s! and for right now New York has the better team. However even you must admit New York has a loooooooong way to go if the Super Bowl is on your mind.

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Dallas Cowboys

Terrance Williams Was OK, But Cowboys Need More From Michael Gallup

Jess Haynie

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Can WR Michael Gallup Eclipse 1,000 Receiving Yards as a Rookie?

Just yesterday, the Dallas Cowboys declined an option on Wide Receiver Terrance Williams' contract and ended his six-year tenure with the team. One reason the veteran was no longer in their plans was the presence of Michael Gallup, who the team has high hopes for entering just his second NFL season.

It's interesting to compare Gallup and Williams on several levels. Just as Terrance's time ends, having only made a few appearance last year in just three games, Michael was a fast learner as a rookie and emerged as the team's number-two receiver by the playoffs.

Both were third-round picks, with Williams (74th) being selected just seven spots higher overall in 2013 than Gallup (81st) was in 2018.

Terrance came to Dallas when Dez Bryant was firmly entrenched as the team's primary receiver. Michael was drafted less than a month after Dez was released, but Amari Cooper soon established himself as the number-one WR midway through the year.

In both cases, the Cowboys hoped that their third-round selection would yield a player who could at least play a complimentary role as a solid roleplayer, if not regular starter.

For all his warts Terrance Williams was ultimately a solid draft pick. He started in about 75% of the games he played in and was a proficient run blocker, helping both DeMarco Murray and Ezekiel Elliott have big years. He also made some highlight reel catches in his time.

Did Terrance Williams' Big Game Quiet His Doubters?

Dallas Cowboys WR Terrance Williams

But with those big plays came some big blunders. Terrance often had a bad drop for every good catch he made. A huge mental error may have cost Dallas the 2016 season opener against the Giants. And if the team wasn't already starting to turn on him, his 2018 arrest for public intoxication seemed to push them over the edge.

That said, the biggest issue with Williams was his inability to produce without other plays drawing attention. He didn't rise to the occasion when Dez Bryant was injured. He rarely even made defenses pay for giving Dez too much attention.

At his best, Terrance was a solid number-two receiver. Plenty of teams who've spent first-round picks on receivers wish they could they'd gotten as much in return. Nobody should be disappointed with how that 2013 third-round pick turned out.

But when it comes to Michael Gallup, Dallas should hope that Williams' career is the floor for Gallup's potential. As teams key on Amari Cooper going forward, can Gallup do damage in ways that Terrance rarely could?

Even more importantly, if Cooper were to ever get injured, could Michael step up and take on a larger role? Can Dallas finally have a number-two receiver with the capacity for occasionally taking the lead?

#DALvsWAS: Michael Gallup Will Play, Value Extends Beyond Passing Game 1

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

That may be putting too much pressure on young Mr. Gallup but it's really not an unfair expectation. Recent drafts have produced highly productive third-round receivers such as Keenan Allen, Cooper Kupp, Kenny Golladay, and Tyler Lockett.

Even more pressure comes if Cole Beasley leaves the team in free agency. While his role lessened toward the end of 2018, Cole remained one of Dak Prescott's favorite options in clutch situations. He was almost impossible to stop with just one man covering him, and that gave defenses a real dilemma once Amari Cooper arrived.

Can Gallup fill those shoes? Can he become a reliable target when the game is on the line?

In the end, all Michael has to do is be a solid starter to provide a great value for his draft selection. The Williams standard isn't a bad measure.

But if the Cowboys ever want to win more than just the occasional playoff game then they need another receiving threat who truly punishes opposing defenses. They need the next Alvin Harper, not the next Terrance Williams.

We can only hope, as the team does, that Michael Gallup is up to the task.



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Dallas Cowboys

Deep Dive into the Dallas Cowboys 2019 Salary Cap

John Williams

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check

The Dallas Cowboys are heading into free agency, which opens March 13th, in really good shape. The Cowboys will be able to be aggressive in the free agent market if they want to. They have the 10th most cap space in the NFL. It could make for a fun free agency period for the front office and Cowboys Nation, however, we know how this team has felt about spending on outside free agents since being burned by the Brandon Carr signing.

In years past, they’ve opted to bargain shop. Last year was a departure from the norm though, as they chased the mythical unicorn that is Sammy Watkins last offseason.

Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make. 

They haven’t generally been a team that chased big-time free agents, though this could be the season that all changes with several free agent safeties that could be immediate upgrades.

We know they’re going to spend a lot of money on their own with Demarcus Lawrence coming free and Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and Dak Prescott looking for contract extensions, but they’re could Ben opportunities to bring in a star from another player to come where The Star.

I hope Jerry Jones has his signing hand ready, it’s going to be putting in a lot of work over the next couple of months.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve had people on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Google+, MySpace, AOL Chatrooms, and via USPS correspondence express concern about whether the Dallas Cowboys will be able to afford all their guys and chase free agents.

Not to worry Cowboys fan, with a little salary cap and contract gymnastics, the sky’s the limit.

Let’s take a look.

Current Cap Space

According to OverTheCap.com, the 2019 Salary Cap is estimated to be around $190 million. After the release of Terrance Williams, the Dallas Cowboys are expected to have nearly $48 million in cap space available to them when free agency opens on March 13th.

When you look at that number by itself, it doesn’t look like a lot with big money contracts coming to DeMarcus Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and Byron Jones. Remember, though, the salary cap may be a fixed number, but contracts are pliable, meaning the team can do several things to create cap space through releases, how they structure new contracts, and restructures.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, the Dallas Cowboys will have the money they need to sign the players they want to sign.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 2

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

Likely Releases

Sean Lee, Linebacker

Age and injury catch up to everyone and this is where we are with All-Pro Linebacker Sean Lee who will be turning 33 in July. Lee’s career has just been unlucky from the time he set foot in Dallas.

Since coming to the Cowboys in the 2010 draft, Lee has only played in 64% of the possible 149 games that the Dallas Cowboys have played in that time frame. Contrast that with a player like Zack Martin who has played in all but two games in his five-year career. That’s a 92% availability rate for his career.

The Dallas Cowboys don’t typically pay age. The difficult choice with Lee is that he’s long been a leader for the Dallas Cowboys. However, with the emergence of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, it’s extremely difficult to justify a $7 million cap hit to a part-time player.

Allen Hurns, Wide Receiver

Allen Hurns was a roller coaster ride in 2018.

First, it appeared he was brought in to be an upgrade at the number two spot. Then when the Cowboys shocked the world and released Dez Bryant, he immediately moved up the wide receiver pecking order, but was generally ineffective. After the Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper, Hurns became somewhat of an afterthought in the wide receiver snap distribution. Then he was lost in the win over the Seattle Seahawks with a gruesome ankle injury.

Allen Hurns is a fine player, but the Cowboys could get $5 million in cap relief by parting ways with the former 1,000 yard receiver.

A couple weeks ago, I outlined why I think Hurns could be a solution to the problem facing the Cowboys if Cole Beasley walked away. Hurns best attributes shine when deployed in the slot and asked to run over the middle of the field.

Coming off of the ankle injury, the Cowboys could easily move on and use that $5 million to extend one of their own or go after a big name in free agency.

Unlikely, but not Impossible Releases

The next few players are players that will most likely be on the squad in 2019. But as we saw with Dez Bryant, there can always be surprises.

Joe Looney, Center

The 2018 season seemed almost sunk when news came down that Center Travis Frederick was diagnosed with Guillen-Barre Syndrome during training camp. One of the stories of the 2018 season, was the play of Frederick’s backup Joe Looney. Looney may not have been the most valuable player, but you can’t understate how important he wasn’t to the success the Dallas Cowboys had in 2018.

We’ve seen what happens when backups who are incredibly inferior to the starter they play behind see action. Think back to Atlanta in 2017. If the Cowboys get better play from Chaz Green and Byron Bell, that game and perhaps the season turns out differently. Kind of like when Cameron Fleming filled in for Tyron Smith this season. It was a completely different result. Was Fleming perfect? No, but he wasn’t a disaster and the Cowboys were able to win games without their All-Pro left tackle.

Joe Looney is going to be with this team unless someone loses their center and wants to trade for him. In the event the Cowboys wanted to get some cap relief, they could save $1.5 million in 2019, with only $125 thousand in dead money on the cap.

I don’t see them making this move, but for those of you curious, there are the numbers.

Joe Thomas, Linebacker

Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch got all the glory at the linebacker position in 2018, and for good reason, but Joe Thomas was an important piece to the puzzle as well. He provided excellent depth and a lot of good snaps for the Cowboys in 2018, which is why I think he’s back next year.

He only saves you about $2 million on the cap, but if you didn’t want to pay a  backup linebacker $2 million, then you could part ways with him.

Jeff Heath, Safety

Jeff Heath is a solid player, but gets relied upon for a little more than he should. He’d probably be best served with being a rotational safety in the NFL. He has a penchant for making plays, but also has some maddening snaps as well, like the final play against the Rams where Jared Goff was able to scramble for a first down. Heath never saw the bootleg and was late getting to Goff to keep him from picking up the first down.

The Dallas Cowboys like him as a player and he’s likely to stay with the team. He helps on special teams and provides valuable depth.

If they were to move on, they could save $2.5 million.

La’el Collins, Tackle

It’s not often you hear people talk about releasing a starting tackle, and I’m certainly not here to advocate for that.

Collins has had some up and down games, but in his short two-year stint at right tackle he’s been pretty good. He’s stood tall against some of the best pass rushers in the NFL.

His contract will carry him through the 2019 season, but if the Dallas Cowboys wanted to part ways, again, not saying they should, they could save a whopping $8.5 million in the salary cap.

$8.5 million could be the cost of Earl a Thomas or a Tre Boston. That’s  pretty big chunk of change.

Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, offensive line

Dallas Cowboys offensive linemen Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick

Potential Restructures

When it comes to restructures, the Dallas Cowboys have been selective over recent years with who they choose to flip the switch on.

A restructure doesn’t change the money owed to the player, just changes when the pay out happens. When a team and a player agree to a restructure, the cap hit or base salary is lowered to a more manageable amount and the difference is paid out as a bonus. The bonus is then spread out evenly over the remaining years of the contract.

For example.

Player A has four years remaining on their deal with a cap hit of $16 million per year for the rest of the contract. The team and player A agree to restructure the contract to decrease this season’s base salary to $1 million dollars. The $15 million difference is then paid out as a bonus and then the cap hit is added to the final three years. So instead of the cap hit being $16 million per year for the remainder of the contract, it is now $21 million per year.

The problem with restructuring contracts is that you better hope that the players you restructure make it to the end of their contract otherwise you could end up with big dead money holds on your cap.

The Dallas Cowboys could restructure the following players:

Tyron Smith, Tackle

The Dallas Cowboys All-Pro Left Tackle may be the best draft pick they’ve made in the last 10 years. He’s been one of the best in the game at his position for nearly his entire NFL career and until recent seasons, had been incredibly reliable.

According to Over The Cap, if the Cowboys decided to restructure Smith’s contract, they could get $7.26 million added to the salary cap this season.

That’s a big number, which would help you get your hands on a top safety or defensive lineman in free agency. The reasons why you wouldn’t do it surround Tyron’s health.

He’s missed games each of the last three seasons because of back issues. He’s signed through the 2023 season, which is his age 33 season. It’s entirely possible that he continues to play at a high level through the end of the contract, but you’ll always be a bit concerned about his back.

Zack Martin, Guard

If Tyron was the best draft pick, Zack Martin is a close second. He’s been the definition of reliability as he’s provided elite guard play through the first five years of his career making the All-Pro team each of his first five seasons.

If I were managing the cap for the Dallas Cowboys, it would be a no brainer to restructure Martin who is signed through the 2024 season; his age 34 season. Offensive lineman can play at a high level well into their 30’s barring injury and Zack has the ability to be one of those guys. At his current pace, he could one day end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

By restructuring Martin, the Dallas Cowboys could save $7.36 million on the 2019 salary cap.

Travis Frederick, Center

Last summer was a scary situation for Travis Frederick and by all accounts his recovery is going well. It sounds like he should be ready to go by training camp, and if that’s the case, there’s no reason to believe that Frederick won’t be the player we’ve all come to expect and missed during the 2018 season.

He’s a leader on the offensive line. He’s an excellent communicator and really good at blocking other big humans.

Getting Frederick back for the 2019 season is as big of an upgrade as you could have on an offense. He changes everything. He helps set protections and call out stunts. He will make Conor Williams a better guard just by being present. The offense as a whole will be better by having Frederick available.

Like Smith and Martin, there’s no reason to believe that he won’t play out his current contract at a high level. Even if he’s only 75% of his previous self because of the illness, that’s still a really good football player who is worth every bit of the $10 million a year he’s getting paid.

Travis Frederick has five more years left on his contract. If the Cowboys were to restructure his deal, they could gain another $4.1 million in cap relief this offseason.

Tyrone Crawford, Defensive Line

If ever there was a player that was a victim of his contract it’s Tyrone Crawford. The Dallas Cowboys signed him to an extension thinking he would be the answer at the 3-technique defensive tackle spot. He was good on his rookie deal but his contract was more of a projection than a deal based on prior production.

Unfortunately, Crawford hasn’t lived up to his deal, but he’s been a reliable and versatile player for the Dallas Cowboys. His ability to play both at defensive end and defensive tackle has been huge over the years and he’s come up with some timely defensive plays.

Crawford has two years remaining on his contract that runs through the 2020 season and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Cowboys keep him around. He’s a leader on the defense and he gives you good quality snaps. As they continue to wait for Randy Gregory and/or Taco Charlton to take steps forward, Crawford is a guy that they like and will continue to find snaps for.

If the Cowboys restructured Crawford’s contract, they could get a little over $3 million in cap savings this year. $3 million may not sound like a lot, but in combination with the other moves they could make with the cap, it can help. Every bit helps when constructing a roster. That money could go to paying for the 2019 draft class.

Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 18: Dak Prescott #4 and Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys celebrate after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at AT&T Stadium on December 18, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Grand Total

The Dallas Cowboys front office has a lot of decisions to make this offseason and several of them will be in the form of extensions for their own players. They’ll have to figure out a way to use the contracts to their advantage.

If they did everything that could be an option to them, they could create another $48.22 million in space in the salary cap. If they didn’t release any of the “unlikely releases,” they could still free up another $33.72 million by releasing Lee and Hurns and restructuring Smith, Martin, Frederick, and Crawford.

So, they’ll be going into the offseason with at least $48 million in cap space, but through a few moves could have as much as $81-$96.22 million in cap space when it’s all said and done.

None of this even accounts for the way the Cowboys could structure the contracts of Elliott, Dak, Cooper, Lawrence, and Byron Jones. With some smart salary structuring, they won’t necessarily have to eat much of their cap hits in year one of their new contracts.

Don’t worry Cowboys fans. The Cowboys will be able to create enough money to get the things done that they want to get done. If they don’t sign anyone of note in free agency or extend your favorite player, it won’t be because they couldn’t afford to.

It’ll be because they didn’t want to.



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Player News

Report: Free Agent DL David Irving Not in Dallas Cowboys’ 2019 Plans

Jess Haynie

Published

on

David Irving

The Dallas Cowboys and troubled Defensive Lineman David Irving appear to be at an impasse. According to a report from David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, the team has "no intention" of trying to re-sign Irving and will allow him to become an unrestricted free agent.

Irving started the 2018 season with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He only appeared in two games after that, registering one sack and four tackles.

David Moore on Twitter

Source: Cowboys have no intention of keeping DT David Irving at this time https://t.co/vqMNZty6Aq via @sportsdaydfw

Despite reports of David's ongoing issues with an ankle injury, Dallas never placed him on injured reserve. Then came the reports that Irving was missing practices and team meetings while dealing with personal issues related to the custody of his daughter.

The team stayed pretty mum on the subject of Irving's status throughout the year, falling back on the ankle injury when pushed. But after months, it became clear that either David, the team, or both parties were disinterested in his return to football.

The Cowboys had high hopes after 2017, when Irving posted seven sacks in just eight games. They placed a second-round tender on him last offseason as a restricted free agent and were surely ready to give him a long-term deal if he'd built on that success.

But David's issues, physical or otherwise, have clearly done the opposite.

Dallas is known for working with troubled players, as we've recently seen with Randy Gregory. That they're closing the book on Irving suggests there's an issue with his desire towards football.

It's a sad loss for both. David's potential is enormous, as evidenced by his productivity when he actually does play. But he appears more likely to hit the Commissioner's exempt list in 2019 than the football field, given the reports of multiple failed drug tests over the last year.

Hopefully David Irving can turn things around one day and capitalize on his talent. But if it ever happens, it appears that it won't be with the Dallas Cowboys.



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