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.
Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?
Since becoming the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, Rod Marinelli hasn't had too many of his former players follow him to Dallas. In fact, I can only think of one… Henry Melton, and we all know how that turned out.
I don't know about you, but I found that a little strange. It's pretty common for coaches to try to bring some of their players with them when they accept a new job. Familiarity goes a long way in the NFL and former players can also help make the transition easier for everyone.
Strangely enough, Rod Marinelli hasn't really been afforded that luxury, whether it was his doing or not. But, there is a free agent who played under Marinelli's tutelage in Chicago who might make sense for the Dallas Cowboys, linebacker Shea McClellin.
Rod Marinelli was the defensive coordinator in Chicago when the Bears decided to draft Shea McClellin 19th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Marinelli likely had a big say in that decision, and if he still feels the same, a reunion could be in order.
Shea McClellin started his career in the NFL as a 4-3 left side defensive end playing opposite Julius Peppers, but was also viewed as a potential Brian Urlacher replacement. He showed flashes of becoming a solid defensive end his first few years in the league, but was eventually moved to linebacker, where he seemed to find a home for himself.
After his contract expired with the Bears, the New England Patriots decided to bring him aboard to help with their linebacker depth. He only ended up starting four games for them in 2016, but made some memorable plays to help the Patriots become the Super Bowl champions.
Unfortunately, the 2017 season wasn't very kind to him. His entire year was wiped out due to a concussion, which probably had a lot to do with why they recently released him.
This of course could be good news for the Dallas Cowboys. They currently need some depth at the linebacker position and Shea McClellin could provide that, if he's healthy. The healthy bit here is key, because he has had problems with concussions in the past.
If McClellin is indeed healthy, he could bring a versatile skill set to the Cowboys defense. His best spot is probably at strong side LB (SAM), but I think he could play middle linebacker (MIKE) as well. He also could provide depth at defensive end, the position he played to start his NFL career.
With the LB depth a concern, Shea McClellin makes quite a bit of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, his past history with concussions is a red flag, but it also drives down his asking price. I think he would definitely fall into that "bargain shopping" mentality the Cowboys have been using these last few offseasons.
He probably wouldn't be viewed as a very important signing, but you still need these types of players on your team in order to succeed in the NFL. Let's see if the Dallas Cowboys agree.
Do you think a Rod Marinelli and Shea McClellin reunion is in order?
Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys
Now that he's signed with the Washington Redskins, cornerback Orlando Scandrick joins a lackluster list of former Cowboys players and coaches who have gone from Dallas to its historic rival. The history of these moves is ugly for Washington, going back over 40 years, and can't have their fans too excited anytime they sign an ex-Cowboy.
The most recent example was just last year with defensive tackle Terrell McClain. After a strong season as a 15-game starter in Dallas, McClain got a four-year, $21 million deal to join the Redskins. He missed four games with injuries and was only credited with two starts; hardly what the team wanted given the money they paid.
Before him it was Jason Hatcher, whose 11-sack season for the Cowboys in 2013 got him a four-year, $27.5 million deal from Washington. Hatcher would battle knee injuries for two season, getting only 7.5 sacks from 2014-2015. His early retirement in 2016 brought an abrupt end to a disappointing tenure.
Continuing the legacy of defensive linemen was Stephen Bowen, who Washington paid a shocking amount of money ($27.5 million over five years) to in 2011 to pick up in free agency. Bowen had a great first year for the Redskins with six sacks and 16 starts, but injuries would soon cost him 14 games from 2013-2014. He was eventually released after only one standout season in four with the team.
Going back even further, DT Brandon Noble joined Washington in 2003 after being a full-time starter for Dallas for over two seasons. He would miss all of 2003 with a knee injury, have an unimpressive year in 2004, and then missed all of 2005 with more health issues. He retired after being released by the Redskins in 2006.
Orlando Scandrick won't be the first cornerback to go from Dallas to Washington, or the best. At age 32, Deion Sanders was released in 2000 by the Cowboys and then got a huge seven-year, $56 million deal from the Redskins. This came less than a year after Daniel Snyder bought the franchise and was desperate to get them relevant again.
The Sanders move backfired horribly. Even after a solid season by his lofty standards, Primetime was disgruntled with both the coaching staff and his increasing struggles as an aging player. He suddenly retired after just one season of the seven-year contract.
Washington also tried to tap into the Cowboys' glory days when they signed receiver Alvin Harper in 1997. Harper had left Dallas in 1995 and spent two years with Tampa Bay, but had not carried over the same success he enjoyed playing in the Dallas offense.
The Redskins hoped that reuniting him with Norv Turner, who had been Harper's offensive coordinator and was now their head coach, would help Alvin get back to form. But between ongoing injuries and the absence of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith as teammates, Alvin Harper was never the same guy as when he won two Super Bowls in Dallas.
The failed poaching attempts go back many more decades, another one being running back Calvin Hill. The fourth-leading rusher in Cowboys history and a four-time Pro Bowler while in Dallas, Hill joined Washington in 1976. He served as a backup only, averaging only 3.8 yards-per-carry as he played behind the likes of Mike Thomas and John Riggins.
The bad history doesn't stop with players. The aforementioned Norv Turner, who was one of the hottest assistant coaches in history after the Cowboys first two Super Bowl wins in the 90s, was hired as the Redskins' head coach in 1994.
Turner's run started with a whimper, drafting quarterback Heath Shuler third overall in that first year. Shuler would go down as one of the biggest QB busts in NFL history
Norv's Redskins never seemed to recover from that blunder. He only had two winning seasons and one playoff appearance from 1994-1999, and was fired midway through the 2000 season.
Far more recently, Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan left the team in 2015 and took the same job in Washington. He didn't get to bring the offensive line or DeMarco Murray with him, though. As such, the Redskins have remained one of the league's worst rushing teams for the last three seasons. They fell to a new low of 28th in the NFL in 2017.
~ ~ ~
Of course, none of this means that Orlando Scandrick won't have success in Washington. But with the Redskins generally the most mismanaged team in the NFC East, all of the Dallas players and coaches who've gone there have not walked into good situations. For all that Cowboys fans love to complain about Jerry Jones, he handles the owner and GM roles better than any pair Washington's had in almost 30 years.
Given the nature of the rivalries, we naturally can't wish success for Scandrick or anyone else who leaves Dallas for a division opponent. With the track record we just discussed for Washington, it's not something I'll be losing any sleep over.
Xavier Woods, the Real Reason Cowboys Didn’t Pursue Tyrann Mathieu?
It's not uncommon for Dallas Cowboys fans to zero in on certain free agents in hopes that they will bring their talents to America's Team. In fact, just about any "big name" player to hit the open market is often linked to the Cowboys in some way or another. That was the case when the Arizona Cardinals decided to move on from Tyrann Mathieu.
Once Tyrann Mathieu became available, Cowboys fans immediately wanted to see him with a star on his helmet. But, despite the fans petitioning, the Cowboys brass seemed to show almost zero interest in the former Cardinal.
The decision to not pursue Tyrann Mathieu certainly didn't sit well with a lot of Cowboys Nation, but I think it was the right decision.
Despite Mathieu's perceived talents and youth (he's just 25), the Cowboys weren't interested in paying the price to bring him to Dallas, especially since they already have a similar player on their roster.
It may sound crazy, but I think the real reason the Dallas Cowboys didn't show much interest in Tyrann Mathieu is because of Xavier Woods.
I honestly believe Xavier Woods and Tyrann Mathieu have a similar skill set. Both players are little undersized to be a full-time safety in the NFL, but each of them have the versatility to play several different roles in the secondary.
Mathieu may have been listed as a safety on the Arizona Cardinals roster, and now the Houston Texans, but the truth is he played mostly out of the nickel/slot in his professional and collegiate career. That is where he is at his best, and the same can be said about Xavier Woods.
As a rookie, Xavier Woods showed his versatility with the Dallas Cowboys by playing a variety of different roles in the secondary. His versatility was one of the reasons the Cowboys decided to trade up in last year's draft to acquire his services.
His name might not carry the same kind of weight as Tyrann Mathieu right now around the league or amongst NFL fans, but I don't think Xavier Woods is that much of a drop off talent wise.
Personally, I believe Mathieu is starting to decline a little as a player. I think injuries are starting to take a toll on his play, although it may be minimal. I actually prefer Xavier Woods' upside, especially when you take into account the difference in salaries between the two.
Surprisingly enough, Xavier Woods might just have been more productive in 2017 then Mathieu. Woods started just four games and finished the season with 42 tackles, three passes defensed, and one interception. Mathieu on the other hand started all 16 games and accumulated 78 tackles, one quarterback sack, one forced fumble, and two interceptions.
As you can see, Xavier Woods was almost just as productive as Mathieu in nearly a third of the playing time. What's even more impressive about this is that Woods accomplish this as a rookie.
Of course, all of this is speculation, but I for one am not all that upset the Dallas Cowboys missed out on Tyrann Mathieu. I'm willing to bet on Xavier Woods being able to do everything Mathieu can and at a fraction of the cost.
Were the Cowboys right not to pursue Tyrann Mathieu?
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