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.
Maliek Collins on the Verge of a Breakout Season
Maliek Collins has never lacked any ability on the field just the ability to stay on it. Foot and knee injuries have always seemed to get in the way when he's been on the brink of reaching his potential.
2019 is a contract year for Collins which means it's the most critical season of his young career. He hasn't wasted any time, though, showing what he's capable of when he doesn't have any physical limitations.
Maliek Collins beats Connor William's with a swim move in 2v2s https://t.co/prL9GsG1rY
In the first video above, Collins gets a great burst off the line of scrimmage while he simultaneously gets his hands on Connor Williams first. He controls and pushes him right into Dak Prescott's face, forcing a throw out of bounds. On the next video, he again explodes off the ball and uses a great swim move to beat Williams again in 2 on 2 drills.
His dominance hasn't been limited to training camp practice, however, as evident in his performance this past Saturday in albeit a short amount of action.
These next two plays stand out for me specifically. In the first, he uses a very physical spin move that knocks the left guard off balance and puts him right in the quarterback's face. In a league that focuses on quarterbacks getting the ball out quickly, the sooner you can provide pressure from the interior the harder it is for a quarterback to stay in the pocket and throw effectively. In the next play, he utilizes a swim move after a quick jump off the line and is right in the face of the runner as he and Jaylon Smith combine for a TFL (tackle for loss).
Beautiful TFL for Maliek Collins. Swims inside the LG on the zone concept to get penetration. Quickly flattens, latches onto Henderson's jersey and drags him to the ground. Outstanding grip strength #Cowboys. https://t.co/6ZnpKSVsRv
Collins performing at a high level in 2019 doesn't just benefit him but also rookie Defensive Tackle Trysten Hill. While he's still acquiring the tools needed for the pro level under the guidance of Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli he can watch and learn from Collins as he'll be right behind him as the team's backup 3-technique defensive tackle. Hill is probably still a year away from being a big contributor with Collins looking so refreshed and healthy so this is a great time to gain all the knowledge he can from a veteran. If that learning process comes along quickly, the Cowboys will have a very solid one-two punch alongside Antwaun Woods, the starter at the 1-technique.
Health, at least so far, seems to be on the side of Maliek Collins heading into the 2019 season, which is all he's ever lacked. Motivated by the opportunity to maximize his dollars for 2020, and a rookie being drafted at the same position, I look for Collins to not only have a breakout year but one that could garner a pro bowl nod, or at least be heavy in the conversation, which would mean great things for the Cowboys defensive front.
Cowboys Nation Mailbag: What about Taco Charlton and Ezekiel Elliott?
The 2019 regular season is now less than three weeks away and now is the time when we start getting down to the nitty-gritty. The "dress rehearsal" game is coming this Saturday as the Dallas Cowboys take on the Houston Texans and a lot of the 53-man roster will likely be decided after that game.
As we inch closer to the regular season, the contract status for the Dallas Cowboys' newest version of the triplets and the construction of the 53-man roster will have even greater emphasis in the news.
Thanks for your questions this week. Let's did into this week's Cowboys Nation Mailbag.
How long until all of cowboys twitter completely turns on Zeke? Like immediately after pollards first long td run or????
— E.D.I.T.H. (@cashfeen) August 19, 2019
I guess it depends on what segment of Cowboys Twitter you're talking about.
Contract situations and hold outs always create some tension within the fanbase. They expect players to show up for work as they do. You hear people talk about Elliott fulfilling the agreement of his contract. But what people don't understand is that rookie contracts and the rookie salary scale was negotiated by players already in the league to avoid rookies making Sam Bradford type money. The veterans and to some extent the owners didn't like the idea that rookies could hold out of training camp to negotiate their first contract.
So, when Ezekiel Elliott was drafted fourth overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, he was locked into a contract length (including a team option for a fifth season) and a salary and bonus for the length of that contract.
The other thing to consider is that Elliott is doing exactly what the collective bargaining agreement allows him to do. Though the Dallas Cowboys can fine him, Elliott is permitted by the CBA to seek a contract extension after the third season of his rookie contract, just like you saw Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints do earlier this summer.
I get that fans are frustrated by the idea of a player "not honoring his contract," but in the NFL, that's the way football goes. The owners don't always honor the contracts they've agreed to, cutting a player with guaranteed money left on his deal because his play might have dropped off or simply because he doesn't warrant the cap hit.
But as Mike Leslie of WFAA recently pointed out on Twitter, our jobs aren't like NFL jobs.
There are a lot of folks that understand that there is a business side to all of this. The players, the coaches, and a large segment of Cowboys Nation all understand where Ezekiel Elliott is coming from. Even the "running backs don't matter" truthers aren't throwing Ezekiel Elliott under the bus for holding out for a new contract.
As I've said before, don't get mad at Ezekiel Elliott or even the Dallas Cowboys for the current state of his contract negotiations. Get mad at the Los Angeles Rams for setting a precedent that Ezekiel Elliott is attempting to take advantage of.
Ezekiel Elliott is only doing what's permitted by the CBA. Though the negotiations continue to drag on, there's still three weeks left till the start of the regular season, which is plenty of time to get a deal done.
Until this holdout lasts until the regular season, you shouldn't worry.
Actually John, I do have a question. I haven't reviewed film from Saturday yet (that's my Tuesday deal each week of the season), but your take on Taco? I thought he had maybe his best preseason game in some time. Enough to secure a spot?
— Marlon C Taylor (@MarlonCTaylor) August 19, 2019
Taco Charlton has done some nice things in the preseason thus far. He's been able to create pressure, and by Bobby Belt's splash metric, Taco Charlton is leading the team.
Cowboys leaders in disruptions (sack, TFL, QB hit, INT, PD, FF) through two preseason games:
1. Taco Charlton - 4
2. Donovan Olumba - 3
t3. Ricky Walker - 2
t3. Kerry Hyder - 2
t3. Trysten Hill - 2
t3. Joe Jackson - 2
— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) August 19, 2019
Obviously, this isn't the only way to evaluate talent, but it does give an indication that Taco Charlton has been good this preseason. I've long believed that Taco was going to make the 53-man roster for the sheer fact that he was a first-round draft pick. That may not be a good enough reason for some, but he's a player that the Dallas Cowboys won't give up on lightly. He's doing enough at this point in the preseason to warrant another year.
Cutting Taco Charlton in 2019 actually costs you money. It would cost the Dallas Cowboys roughly $3.5 million in 2019, but they could save $1.3 million in 2020. It's not likely that the Cowboys will pick up his fifth-year rookie option, which would be for 2021. Financially, the only move that would make sense is a trade, which would cost the Dallas Cowboys only $1.3 million in dead money.
While I think Taco Charlton is a player that is destined for the 53-man roster, with reports that DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford are about to be activated from the physically unable to perform (P.U.P) list, it may come down to a numbers game at defensive end.
Players like Dorance Armstrong, Joe Jackson, Kerry Hyder, and even Jalen Jelks may have something to say about Taco Charlton's spot on the 53-man roster, but I believe they give him another year to prove he's worth retaining.
PFF Ranks Dak Prescott As Tier 3, 17th Overall Quarterback
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is the subject of constant debate around the football world. Now that it's getting time to pay him, those debates are even hotter.
As I discussed last week, Prescott has been much better than he's often given credit for, though the narrative continues to be that he is carried by his offensive line and rushing attack.
Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 starting quarterbacks heading into the 2019 season, placing them both in tiers, and in traditional order as well. Prescott clocked in at 17th overall on their list, listed as a tier 3 NFL starting quarterback.
"Tier 3: Volatile or conservative quarterbacks whose production will rely even more heavily on supporting cast and play calling. Tier 3 quarterbacks can post top-10 production in any given year in the right situation."
The other quarterbacks listed in Prescott's tier include Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Jared Goff, Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, and Cam Newton, all ranked in front of him. Prescott is ahead of a couple of tier 3 passers as well, though, including Jimmy Garoppolo and Derek Carr.
"Even with his added rushing ability, Prescott has settled in as a mid-tier quarterback whose production is more dependent on his supporting cast, and this will be a big year to see if he can get back to his rookie levels of efficiency."
Personally, I'd rank Prescott ahead of a decent number of those tier 3 quarterbacks, such as Stafford and Cousins. Overall, though, it's tough to have too big an issue with their assessment of Prescott and the Cowboys offense. He has been somewhat up-and-down during his time as the Cowboys starter, and saw a big spike in his play when given Amari Cooper as a weapon in the passing game a year ago.
While the entire fanbase is hopeful that he will improve on his mechanics and decision making under new leadership on offense, we can't bank on that happening just yet.
Still, Dak Prescott has looked excellent this preseason, and should be poised for a career year in 2019. I think there's a good chance he finds himself closer to Wentz and Watson on these types of rankings than Carr and Stafford by this time next season.
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Zeke Holdout: Remember, Owners Agreed to Renegotiating Contracts
Dallas Cowboys3 days ago
Michael Gallup Showing WR1 Talent in Amari Cooper’s Absence
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
5 Dallas Cowboys Backups Who Have Earned More Playing Time
Dallas Cowboys7 days ago
Dallas Cowboys Defensive Line Looking Absolutely Stacked
Game Notes1 week ago
3 Studs and Duds From Dallas Cowboys Preseason Week 1 Matchup
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Roster Projection: Preseason Week 2
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Cowboys DT Christian Covington is a Player to Keep an Eye On
Game Notes2 weeks ago
Cowboys WR Jon’Vea Johnson’s Stock Drops After Preseason Opener