The NFL offseason can get boring at times, leaving us die-hard football fans time to think up and discuss abstract ideas.
Earlier this week, some fellow Inside The Star writers and I were discussing how many Cowboys would make an "All-NFC East" team, fielding a full 53-man roster. It was a fun exercise, and one that we took a little time coming up with.
So, I figured I'd let you all in on the debate, as we search through the division for the best talent at each position. Instead of building a full 53-man roster, however, I have come up with a two-deep depth chart.
Let's first look at the offense, and examine the defense during another post.
- Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
- Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
To be honest, this might be the easiest group to sort through. In my opinion, Prescott and Cousins are the clear cream of the crop in the NFC East, with Eli Manning and Carson Wentz falling in behind them.
While many believe Wentz has a ton of promise, he certainly did not perform anywhere near as well as Prescott did during their respective rookie seasons. I'm not the biggest fan of Cousins, and understand why the Redskins aren't sold on him as the answer going forward, but he certainly has enough talent and production to make him QB2 in the NFC East.
Manning has the pedigree, but he has shown a decline in his play over the last few seasons. Though Odell Beckham has done a nice job of masking those deficiencies.
- Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
- LaGarrette Blount, Philadelphia Eagles
I mean, come on. We all know who the best running back in the NFC East is.
Last year's league leading rusher, Ezekiel Elliott earns the RB1 title on our All-NFC East squad. Behind him is a new conference-mate, LaGarrette Blount, joining the Eagles from the New England Patriots via free agency.
Blount is the second best back in the division currently, though I thought hard about putting New York Giants running back Paul Perkins in over him on upside alone. Perkins was a guy I wanted the Cowboys to target in 2015 before they selected Elliott, and I still believe he can play at a high level.
- Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants
- Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
- Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles
- Terrelle Pryor, Washington Redskins
- Sterling Shepard, New York Giants
Imagine this receiving corps?
Arguably the best wide out in the entire NFL, Odell Beckham, is clearly our WR1 here. After him, the NFL's receiving touchdown leader since 2010 in Dez Bryant is named WR2, and the dynamic Alshon Jeffery comes in at WR3.
Terrelle Pryor flashed WR1-type abilities at times in Cleveland last season, and will have the chance to perform at an even higher level with a better quarterback throwing him the ball in 2017.
Last but not least, the Giants' Sterling Shepard just edges out Cole Beasley for the slot receiver role, though I do think you could argue for either one.
- Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
- Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
- Evan Engram, New York Giants
There should be no argument about who the best tight end in this division is, as Washington's Jordan Reed is truly a top five tight end in the entire league. Deciding who would be TE2 was a tougher call, however.
I ended up giving Jason Witten the nod, simply off his pedigree. A future Hall of Fame player, we all know what Witten has done over his career as a Dallas Cowboy.
Lastly, I threw Evan Engram on the roster for his upside. I loved Engram at Ole Miss, and though I thought the Giants reached a bit to draft him, I think they'll still be very happy with his production over the years.
Maybe Zach Ertz should be in over Witten, but he's been nowhere near as reliable lately.
- Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys
- Trent Williams, Washington Redskins
- Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles
- Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles
On this roster are the two top left tackles in the NFL in Tyron Smith and Trent Williams, and the best right tackle as well in Lane Johnson (at least in my opinion). Oh, and you can add a player who has been one of the top left tackles in the game for years in Jason Peters too.
We all know how great these four players are, but the fact that Morgan Moses was left off a list which included four tackles in the division just furthers that point.
The NFC East has three of the top ten offensive lines in the NFL, so narrowing this list down was tough to do.
- Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys
- Brandon Scherff, Washington Redskins
- Justin Pugh, New York Giants
- Brandon Brooks, Philadelphia Eagles
The best guard in all of football, for my money, is the Cowboys' Zack Martin. So, clearly, he makes the roster and does so as a starter.
After that, I believe that Washington's Brandon Scherff and New York's Justin Pugh are the next best in the division. Scherff was my favorite interior offensive linemen of his draft class, and after the way he played in 2016, he certainly deserves his spot here.
Brandon Brooks is one of the more underrated guards in football, as is his teammate Allen Barbre. If I was taking five, the Eagles interior duo would both make the team.
- Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys
- Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles
Sorry, Giants fans, as I'm only doing a two-deep, Weston Richburg does not make the final depth chart. After a down season by his standards, I had to give the more consistent Kelce the edge as the back up center.
In the NFC East, however, everyone is fighting for second place when it comes to offensive linemen. Frederick is the best center in all of football, and earns the starting center job on our All-NFC East squad.
Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración
Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.
Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.
Cambios de Coach
A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.
A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.
Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?
A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.
A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.
En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.
La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.
Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.
Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.
No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.
Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story
Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.
Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.
Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.
Here's why those people are wrong.
Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.
Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).
Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.
There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.
Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.
Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.
Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.
Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.
And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.
Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?
When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.
It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.
Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.
Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.
Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.
The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.
Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating
Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating
As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.
Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
Now, he just has to go out and prove it!
Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?
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