From Earl Thomas to Eric Berry to the 2019 NFL Draft, the safety position may have been the most-talked-about spot on the roster for the Dallas Cowboys this offseason. It should come as no small comfort then that third-year stud Xavier Woods is arguably the most-talked-about player so far at the Cowboys' training camp.
The idea of Woods having a breakout season in 2019 is not a new thought. However, this first week of camp has only served to confirm and accelerate the projections.
You're going to see this year why the Cowboys didn't sign Earl Thomas. #XavierWoods https://t.co/dRH9eZ2FKM
Xavier Woods INT. Pro Bowls are in this man's future. #Range. #Cowboys https://t.co/6eaH6iPt34
If I had to pick five Cowboys players who are having the most badass camps so far, they'd be: - Xavier Woods - Maliek Collins - Michael Gallup - Jaylon Smith - Reggie Davis
This is just a sampling of the praising remarks that we've seen about Woods' performances so far in the Oxnard practices.
The Cowboys disappointed many fans when they didn't sign a big name like Berry or Thomas last spring. Then when Dallas also didn't draft a safety until the 6th round of the 2019 draft, there was an uproar at the thought of going into this year without a talent upgrade.
But if Jerry Jones' comments yesterday are any indication, the Cowboys are expecting that upgrade to come organically.
Jerry Jones on Xavier Woods: "I think he's going to be one of the best safeties. When we were talking safeties (before the) draft ... I'd run into him and he said, 'Why are you so worried about safety? Got me back there. Why is everybody worried about a safety?
While Xavier was only a 6th-round pick in 2017 himself, his play-making spark has already been seen over the last two years. Now in his third professional season, and second with Defensive Backs guru Kris Richard as a coach, Woods' rise to stardom could take a dramatic leap.
We've already seen that Xavier can lay some big hits and generate turnovers. But the hope for 2019 is that his game now has polish, helping him to avoid penalties and add some consistent shutdown coverage to the big-play potential.
Improved fundamentals will not only help Woods take his career to the next level, but it also help solidify the defensive backfield for whoever his fellow start winds up being.
Veterans Jeff Heath and George Iloka are both experienced but need to be playing next to a true star to mitigate their weaknesses. Based on how they handled the offseason business at safety, the Cowboys seem to be betting on Xavier to provide that presence.
We already expect Jaylon Smith to be a first-time Pro Bowler in 2019. It may be a few more months before we know if we can add Xavier Woods to that discussion.
But if this first week of training camp is any indication, it should be worth the wait.
The Time has Come to See More of Tight End Blake Jarwin
When Jason Witten made his triumphant return from the Monday Night Football booth to the Dallas Cowboys' locker room, the addition was met with a bit of reserved optimism. On the one hand, it was awesome to get one of the best players in the history of the franchise back on the field and in the locker room. On the other hand, it meant that he would eat into the snap counts of Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, or any rookie they potentially drafted in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Though, upon arrival, the Cowboys and Witten stated the future Hall of Famer would only play roughly 25 snaps a game, it didn't take long to figure out that Witten was the starting and full-time player at tight end. In training camp, Witten got a majority of the first-team snaps. In the first nine games of the 2019 season, Witten's played nearly twice as many snaps as Blake Jarwin.
It's an unfortunate turn from the narrative we were being fed in the offseason as Blake Jarwin provides a receiving dynamic that no other tight end for the Dallas Cowboys can. He's quicker, more agile, and has much more athleticism than Jason Witten.
On a per snap basis, Blake Jarwin is offering more in yards per snap and in yards per route run. Jarwin has accrued 0.811 yards per snap to Jason Witten's 0.711. Basically, if you prorate Jarwin's yards per snap total of 0.811 to Jason Witten's snap count of 475, Jarwin would theoretically have nearly 50 more receiving yards than Witten while providing another downfield threat to the passing game.
If we look at yards per route run, Jarwin's outpacing Witten 1.97 to 1.37 per Pro Football Focus. If you were to give Jason Witten's number of routes run to Blake Jarwin and prorated based on Jarwin's production in 2019, he would have roughly 484 receiving yards or 150 more receiving yards than Jason Witten.
Obviously, Jarwin's still got some development that needs to happen as a run blocker to be able to get on the field more. The Cowboys coaching staff, however, has still elected to roll with Jason Witten over Blake Jarwin even in pass-heavy situations as we saw on Sunday Night Football. This is the first game of the year where the Cowboys needed to be in heavy passing mode, but they continue to keep one of their more athletic weapons on the sideline when they need to get chunk plays.
Jarwin's ability to attack up the seam can help open everything up for everyone else in the offense. Just having another vertical threat on the field can create space for Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb underneath.
Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff isn't going to flip their snap counts anytime soon, but the time has come for Blake Jarwin to get more of the situational passing work. When the Cowboys get into obvious passing situations -- 3rd and longs or in two-minute situations -- Blake Jarwin needs to be the tight end on the field.
We've seen each of the last two weeks what Jarwin can do once he gets the ball in his hands. Against the New York Giants, he ripped off a game-changing 42-yard touchdown run and catch. On Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, Jarwin had a big 26-yard reception that helped get the Cowboys going offensively.
Jason Witten will go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor. It's time he and the coaching staff recognizes that the Dallas Cowboys could be an even more dynamic offensive team by getting the more athletic Blake Jarwin on the field more.
QB Colin Kaepernick to Hold Workout, Cowboys Showing an Interest
Former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is apparently attempting to resurrect his NFL career and will hold a private workout for teams on Saturday in Atlanta according to Adam Schefter.
NFL clubs were informed today that a private workout will be held for Colin Kaepernick on Saturday in Atlanta. Session will include on-field work and an interview. All clubs are invited to attend, and video of both the workout and interview will be made available to clubs.
For fans who believed Colin Kaepernick was blackballed after all of the kneeling during the national anthem fiasco, this is long overdue. For everyone else, they probably couldn't care less. But, where exactly do the Dallas Cowboys stand? After all, that's all we really care about here around Cowboys Nation. Right!?
Well, it appears as if the Dallas Cowboys could be at least a little bit interested. Or, it could just be them doing their due diligence. Either way, it looks as if they will have somebody on hand at the workout.
After speaking to another team from my last tweet, as of now, I'm told there is interest within the #Cowboys organization to send at least one representative to Colin Kaepernick's workout, per source.
If you put aside all of the protest stuff and kneeling during the national anthem, this is a move that actually makes quite a bit of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. And, you can bet that this is an opportunity Kaepernick himself has been waiting for.
I'm just getting word from my representatives that the NFL league office reached out to them about a workout in Atlanta on Saturday. I've been in shape and ready for this for 3 years, can't wait to see the head coaches and GMs on Saturday.
This may be the opportunity Kaepernick has been waiting for, but why should the Cowboys be interested? Well, let me try to lay it out for you little better…
You see, the Dallas Cowboys are going to need another backup quarterback next season. Cooper Rush is in the last year of his rookie contract and is set to become a free agent after the completion of the 2019 season. In Colin Kaepernick they would not only be upgrading Dak Prescott's backup, but also adding a QB with a similar skill set as him as well.
Now, there is a catch of course. There always is. Kaepernick hasn't thrown a pass in the NFL since the 2016 season. Also, he'd have to be willing to accept a backup role. Those are some pretty big red flags, but he could do a lot worse than bringing his talent to Texas as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys could actually be the best spot for him to resurrect his career. The national attention he would receive as a member of America's Team could be the best place for him to put his talents on display and prove he still has something left in the tank, even if it is in a backup role. If he can do that, there's no telling where his career could go from there.
In all honesty, this sounds like a win-win for both the Dallas Cowboys and Colin Kaepernick. Uniting these two could be a match made in heaven. It's very possible both parties are interested in one another, but unfortunately we won't know how things turn out anytime soon. It's a waiting game now…
Do you think Colin Kaepernick would be a good fit with the Dallas Cowboys?
Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Turned Their Back on Prescott’s MVP Performance
The Dallas Cowboys have lost games to the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets and the Minnesota Vikings. Last Sunday Night, the Cowboys hosted the Vikings on primetime and lost in a game that went down to the wire. It felt like the toughest loss of the season. Why? Let's dive in to this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday.
Cowboys Turned Their Back on Dak Prescott's MVP Performance
Cowboys Nation was shocked with the Cowboys' play-calling late in the game and for good reason. After starting the drive backed up at their own five, Prescott completed six of seven passes for 79 yards. Then, on second down and two to go, the Cowboys ran the ball with Ezekiel Elliott for no gain. On a short yardage down, that was comprehensible. Maybe not ideal, but understandable. On third down, though, they handed it off again to Zeke.
In the game in which Dak Prescott was playing at an MVP level, with less than two minutes on the clock, the Cowboys took the ball away from him to put the game on the star running back who was having a rough day with less than 50 yards against a stout Vikings defense.
Now granted, the play on third down seemed to be an RPO concept with Jason Witten as the pass option. But why are you giving Dak one pass option when he's dominated all night? Why are you instead trusting Elliott in a game in which he failed to average three yards per carry? Prescott was unbelievably clutch, throwing for almost 400 yards, three touchdowns and a 100% conversion rate on 3rd & 7+.
This was by far the number one reason why the loss to the Vikings was so frustrating to watch. The Cowboys have a franchise quarterback. But they need to learn to trust him as such and put the games on his hands when needed. Not on their running back, regardless of how much they pay each.
Jason Garrett Must Be More Aggressive in Fourth Down Decisions
It's easy to say this in retrospective, but I believe the Cowboys didn't make the right decisions when facing fourth down last Sunday night. The first notorious decision came in the second quarter, when the Cowboys faced 4th & 4 with the ball on the Vikings' 40 yard-line. Being behind 14-0, they decided to punt.
It turned out fine for the Cowboys in the end, tying the game 14-14 later in the second. But the analytics trend in the NFL really has evidence to back up the fact that Dallas should've gone for it in such a critical spot.
In the fourth quarter, the Cowboys decided to kick the field goal being on their opponents' five. Down 21-28, Brett Maher went out to kick the field goal, which put the Cowboys behind by four points instead of seven. They still needed a touchdown to take the lead with ten minutes left on the game.
Kevin Brady took a deeper look at the Cowboys' win probabilities on this article for Inside The Star.
was working on a post for @InsideTheStarDC on this last night. here's the estimated WP for each scenario on that fourth and goal.
The Baltimore Ravens are taking the league by storm using analytics and making the right decisions in fourth down. Yet, some teams in the NFL are not catching up. The Cowboys are one of those teams.
Cowboys Defense Exposed Again
The main reason the Cowboys lost to the Vikings was coaching and that's clear. But defense earned the second place. Kirk Cousins played a good game versus Rod Marinelli's unit, despite the box score suggesting otherwise. He made a couple of impressive throws at AT&T Stadium while Kyle Rudolph finished night with two touchdown catches and a two point conversion.
Dalvin Cook, one of the toughest offensive weapons to face in this league totaled 183 yards last weekend. It's not easy to face Cook and limit him and the Cowboys failed to do so. The linebackers had a very rough day overall and there wasn't a single performance to point out as a positive.
Slow Starts Won't Stop
Every week. Every week we talk about how this Cowboys team started slow against any opponent. In six games, they haven't scored a TD in the first quarter. Not even at the beginning of the season, when they went 3-0 against poor teams did they start a game on the right foot. Who to blame? Both players and coaches, but I'd lean toward coaching first.
Bottom line, there's a huge problem with the way this football team prepares for gameday and the Cowboys need to figure it out fast. Their backs are against the wall and playing from behind every game costs games. At 5-4 and headed toward tough opponents in the second half of the season, it's time to put an end to such starts.
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