It may be old news by now, but the Dallas Cowboys seem to have a knack for finding undrafted players that are able to contribute to the team in several different ways.
Quarterback Tony Romo is arguably the best rookie free agent signing the organization has ever made, but there are also several current players on the roster that have become key contributors as well.
Barry Church, Cole Beasley, Dan Bailey, La'el Collins, Ronald Leary, Jeff Heath, Lance Dunbar, and Lucky Whitehead all went undrafted and all have been able to find a place as either a starter or as a role player with the Cowboys.
The Cowboys' success at being able to find these players that have slipped through the crack is uncanny and I personally think there are a few undrafted players in this year's crop that could possibly have the same type of success.
In fact, wide receiver Andy Jones received the opportunity to practice with the first-team offense during mini-camp and could possibly have a chance of making a final 53 man roster. Jones might have a leg up on the competition amongst the rookie free agents, but it's another WR that has caught my eye.
Wide receiver Ed Eagan is a player I will be paying particularly close attention to during training and he is someone I think that could possibly be the Cowboys next undrafted free agent hidden gem.
Northwestern State receiver Ed Eagan was a premier kick returner in college He finished as the school's all-time leader in career receptions (177), receiving yards (2,228), and all-purpose yards (5,651). He was also the school's leader in kickoff returns (125), single-season kickoff return yards (1,045), single-season kickoff attempts (45), and kickoff return yards (2,922).
Sound like a player the Dallas Cowboys can use?
Ed Eagan was a last-minute addition to the Senior Bowl where he first met the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff. It's a meeting that is probably the sole reason why Eagan is now competing for a roster spot with the Cowboys organization.
After not hearing his name called in the 2016 NFL Draft, Eagan had initially committed to sign with the Buffalo Bills. Head coach Jason Garrett decided to step in and convinced him to sign with the Dallas Cowboys.
Eagan was an outside receiver in college, but was moved into the slot at the Senior Bowl. That is likely where he will be used in the NFL because of his size (5'11", 193), but he has all of the tools necessary to succeed at the next level as either an outside or slot receiver.
One of the reasons why I like Ed Eagan is because of his versatility to contribute not only as a wide receiver, but on special teams as well. His special teams ability is likely what will earn him a roster spot, but don't discount what he can do as a WR.
His speed (4.32 40 yard dash) is something that sets him apart from other WRs on the Cowboys roster and it's something that makes him dangerous as a player. Speed is something that the Cowboys offense can use more of and Eagan definitely qualifies in that category.
Now, I think Ed Eagan definitely has a difficult hill to climb in order to prove he is worthy of earning a roster spot. I personally don't see the Cowboys carrying more than five wide receivers and with Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, and Brice Butler locked in as the top four, it leaves a lot of WRs competing for that one last remaining spot.
As much as I hate to say it, I don't see Lucky Whitehead is a lock to make the team and I think that is who Eagan will have to prove he's better than in order to make the final 53 man roster. It might all come down to who is the better player on special teams or who can contribute in more areas.
Personally, I'm really looking forward to seeing how this battle shakes out between #13 and #85 in training camp.
Ed Eagan will definitely have to set himself apart from the other wide receivers, but there are a lot of things to like about him as a football player. That is why I think he could be the next undrafted free agent hidden gem for the Dallas Cowboys.
Do you think Ed Eagan is the next hidden gem for the Dallas Cowboys?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions on this topic. I look forward to hearing from all of you so that we can discuss this further.
Leighton Vander Esch To Top Rookie Season With Pro Bowl Trip
Dallas Cowboys' rookie Leighton Vander Esch has done enough to prove every single doubter wrong. When Roger Goodell called his name during the 2018 NFL Draft in Arlington, Texas, many in Cowboys Nation rejoiced at the thought of having a young linebacker for a defense surrounded with uncertainty. However, many analysts doubted the draft pick. For a lot of people (sadly, I include myself in this category), the pick should've been used on another player. For most, despite acknowledging his raw talent, Vander Esch wouldn't be able to provide the Cowboys with an instant impact player. Ah, well.
After a remarkable season, Vander Esch (a.k.a. Wolf Hunter) has earned a spot on this season's second-team All-Pro. When the Pro Bowl voting began, Vander Esch was snubbed from the ballot itself. It didn't took the NFL long to realize their mistake and add the Cowboys' linebacker to the list. Despite missing the cut at first, Vander Esch will be heading to Orlando to play in this year's Pro Bowl on January 27th.
The former Boise State Bronco will be replacing Carolina Panthers' LB Luke Kuechly, who won't be participating because of an injury.
Vander Esch racked up 140 tackles (per Pro Football Reference), ranking third in the league in this category. He finished the season as the fifth best linebacker in Pro Football Focus' rankings.
But numbers aren't really enough to fully appreciate what Vander Esch did for the Dallas Cowboys. A team that was used to seeing its defense break when veteran Sean Lee went down injured, did not only get someone to fill in for Lee. Vander Esch actually upgraded the Cowboys' defense. It didn't matter where the ball went, he was always around when opponents were tackled. His speed and chance of direction allowed him to run sideline to sideline, covering a huge portion of the field.
Along Jaylon Smith, Dallas managed to have one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL.
The last time a defensive rookie from the Cowboys went to the Pro Bowl was in 1981, when Everson Walls made the team. Vander Esch is the 11th rookie in team history to be selected to the Pro Bowl. This year, the rookie will be accompanied by DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Ezekiel Elliott.
Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program
Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.
After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.
Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire
While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.
It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.
Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.
That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.
But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.
Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.
For Cowboys to Beat the Rams, Dak Prescott must Lead the Way
In the NFL wins and losses often come down to quarterback play. That isn't to say that if a team wins, it was all because of the quarterback and inversely, if a team loses that it was all on the quarterback. Teams win or lose games. Generally speaking, however, the quarterback has the highest amount of influence on the outcome of an NFL game. This will be no different for the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in the LA Coliseum. For America's Team to make their first trip to the NFC Championship Game since 1996, Dak Prescott has to have a good game.
This looks to be a good matchup for the Dallas Cowboys offense, which should allow Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to take advantage in certain areas.
A few Rams Passing Game Notes
- The Los Angeles Rams were middle of the pack against the pass this season, allowing the 14th fewest passing yards in the league this season.
- The Rams allowed 7.7 yards per attempt. Dak Prescott is averaging 7.6 yards per attempt since week 10 of the season.
- The Rams allowed the eighth most passing touchdowns in the NFL this season. They and the New Orleans Saints are the only teams in the top 10 of passing touchdowns allowed in the playoffs this season.
- The Rams were 15th in the NFL in sacks, with 41, but Aaron Donald accounted for half of that with 20.5 sacks on the season. No other player had more than five sacks.
- They were third in the NFL in interceptions, collecting 18.
- The Rams allowed the ninth highest yards per completion on the season at 11.8. So on average, every completion went for a first down.
Dak Prescott is playing as well as any quarterback in the playoffs at the moment. Over the last nine games, he's averaging 272 passing yards, two total touchdowns, was only intercepted four times, and was sacked on average 3.2 times per game.
On Saturday night, we saw Scott Linehan put the ball in his hands on a couple designed runs that nearly scored touchdowns. It was an excellent addition to the offense that could help fix the Cowboys red zone woes. Getting Dak Prescott running on some designed runs or quarterback draws could help slow down Aaron Donald and the pass rush.
The Cowboys needed every bit of Dak Prescott magic to overcome a stingy Seattle Seahawks defense in their Wild Card win and they'll need him to step up again this week against the Rams. Every team is going to attempt to take away the running game to make Dak beat you and as he continues to mature, he's getting more and more comfortable doing that. He's comfortable with the big stage and the big moments.
Dak Prescott Since 2016, including playoffs * 15 game-winning drives (Most in NFL) * 13 primetime QB wins (Most in NFL) * 19 rush TD (Most in NFL by QB) #DallasCowboys @dak
No Quarterback in the NFL has more game winning drives, rushing touchdowns, or wins in primetime than Dak Prescott. When we talk about Dak Prescott, we talk a lot about the things that he can't do as a passer and deservedly so, he still has some growing to do in that area, but in the things that you can't objectively quantify -- mental toughness, resiliency, clutchness, will, determination -- Dak is one of the best in the NFL. He's as mentally tough as they come in the NFL and he doesn't let the spotlight or the game situation phase him. He has that stuff that's hard to put your finger on.
The Dallas Cowboys will need more of that on Saturday night in Los Angeles. The Rams can score and can score in bunches and if the Cowboys defense starts sluggish or has an off night, they'll need Dak Prescott to keep them in the game. Even if the defense has a good game, Dak still has to come through in the passing game and on the ground to give the Cowboys a chance to pull off the upset.
The Dallas Cowboys are going to try to run the ball against the Rams on Saturday. That's their identity; run the ball, control the clock, and be efficient in the passing game. Prescott, either with his legs or with his arm will have to make some plays to extend drives and keep the Rams offense on the sideline. He'll need to be sharp in the red zone to convert those opportunities into touchdowns. Settling for field goals against the Rams is how the Cowboys get beat.
This matchup with the Rams looks to set up nicely for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys, yet how things look on paper doesn't mean much when the lights go on and the whistle blows. It's a big stage and it's another win-or-go-home game for the Cowboys (like every game has been over the last nine weeks). In a big game, you need big time players, and the Cowboys have one in quarterback Dak Prescott.
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