I'm now going to do something that our defense had some issues with this year, tackle another position in my positional breakdown of the current roster. Yeah, cheap shot, but between Jenkins watching Ward run by and everyone missing McClain and McGahee, it kind of fits. Here's the linebackers.
DeMarcus Ware -
A great overall athlete, big surprise here.
The guy has an outstanding work ethic and drive. He gets to the ball quickly, and is good at deciding where a play is going.
He's versatile, quick, strong, and doesn't rely on others to allow him a chance, he makes plays where others wouldn't.
By far the only must have on this team, or any team.
Brady James -
The soft-spoken leader of this defensive unit, he's been a steady contributor and a reliable linebacker. Sometimes he shows us why he gets left out of the Pro Bowl, but the 2008 season was certainly his best year. He deserved the vote, and he agreed, but he did publicly express his feelings about not making the all star team, and that isn't okay.
Still, his play on the field overcomes the very few and minor issues that he brings to the team. An obvious keeper.
Zach Thomas -
Since he was first drafted years ago, I've never really seen why he is such a big deal. And when we signed him last year I was a bit skeptical because of his age and my personal beliefs of him. This year he showed me two things, the first is that he is a solid player that could be a starter on just about any team, and the second is that my first impressions of him were right.
He was brought in to be an experienced veteran to help guide younger players, and provide some balance beside Bradie James. He was what we thought he was, he just didn't make as big of an impact as most hoped, and many dreamed.
After the Philly game, as we all know by now, he expressed his feelings over how he fit into this defense, and he did it publicly. Yeah, he did change his tune a little in the following days, but the message had already been delivered.
Thanks to some favorable conditions in his contract, he was able to void the remaining three years of his deal down to one. I don't know if that's optional and he has to take it or if it's a done deal already. In either case, I don't see him passing on a way out of a defense that he thinks he doesn't fit into when it means the next four years will be here, unless he retires. I also don't see the Cowboys signing him to another deal. He's too old for a multi-year deal, and the Cowboys could better use the money on a one year deal to bring in some solid talent through either free agency or the draft.
I don't expect to see Zach back next year.
Greg Ellis -
I still think Greg Ellis can play the game, and he seemed to get his second wind with the switch from end to OLB. I think the current system works; the rotation between he and Anthony Spencer is complimenting to his age and keeps him fresh as a solid role player.
I expect to see him back next year, and I expect the rotation schedule to change a little more in favor of the young and blossoming Spencer.
I don't expect Ellis to be graceful about though. As has been the case each off-season for a while now, Ellis often has complaints about his role on the team, in spite of career performances in this current system. What will be will be, I guess. He already got the money, so he doesn't have a lot left to gripe about, unless he wants to play more like Ware does.
Anthony Spencer -
He's the most recent player to have a run in with the law, but I doubt anyone is holding that against him.
This year, his first being healthy all year, he showed us why he takes snaps away from the trusted veteran Ellis. What more can you say about him? He's got upside, he's quick, and he's bright, most of the time.He'll be around for a few more years, I suspect.
Kevin Burnett -
I know that perceptions be misleading, especially in football, but as I write this, I find it hard to get the image of his blunder in the Philly game out of my head. He's shown us that he can play; now he needs to work on his confidence and awareness a little. Being caught out of position isn't good, especially not when you get as few reps as he does in a game.
But on the flip side, he isn't a bad player, and an extra year, an extra off-season, should be all he needs to hone in on the skills he sometimes misfires on. I expect to see him back next year; Jerry will pay to keep him because of depth and continuity at the position. Thomas leaving will only concrete the need for him. I also expect him to play at a higher level next year than he has thus far, and I'm a little excited to see him do it.
Bobby Carpenter -
I want to say, "this poor guy." He was drafted with high expectations and he hasn't lived up to them. But unlike most players who do that, he hasn't been the reason for his lack of success. Constantly moving him from one position to another, and not really offering him any hope of earning a starting job have hindered his progress as far as I'm concerned.
As many fans are saying right now, and have been saying for a while, it's high time he got a real chance to compete for a bigger role on defense. I expect this to be his year due to the depth concerns in the middle. I just hope he can finally show his first round talent on more than just a draft board.
Justin Rogers -
Did this guy even play? Hate to admit it, but I never once paid any attention to him, so I'll let someone else fill in his spot in the comments. Fair enough.
Carlos Polk -
Signed more out of concerns for special teams, he began to get some time on the defense through promising play. He's still got some things to work on, and will probably never be a great player for us, but he's got enough to make him valuable on special teams. His biggest problem is being positioned behind Ware on the depth chart, same for Rogers too.
Being one of Wade's guys though, he'll be back next year, and I'm not really upset about it.
Steve Octavien -
Here's another one that hasn't done enough to really give anyone an impression of what he can do. That usually means he's in development and will be back next year for continued grooming.
That's my take on things. What do you all think?
Is 2019 Wide Receiver Group Best Dak Prescott Has Worked With?
Dak Prescott will be leading the Dallas Cowboys offense for the fourth consecutive year in what has been a very unlikely career. In three seasons, he's led the Cowboys to two NFC East titles and one playoff win. He's done so with quality offenses, starting by a strong offensive line and an elite running back in Ezekiel Elliott. During his career in Dallas he's had some solid receivers, but he hasn't played with a group as strong as the one he'll have in the upcoming 2019 season.
This year's starters will be headlined by Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb. Although there's many other intriguing players to watch at the position, those three are the presumed starting three.
Despite the big debate among fans and analysts, Prescott has been able to win games for this football team. Perhaps his worst came at the beginning of last season, when the team's plan of not having a WR1 backfired terribly.
In the first seven weeks of the 2018 season, Dak averaged only 202 yards per game. In that span he threw for less than 200 yards in four games. Once the team traded for Cooper, that average rose all the way up to 274 yards per game. He threw for less than 200 yards in only one occasion since then.
Michael Gallup is poised for a breakout season after a rookie season in which he improved every week. The Cowboys' 2018 third-round pick didn't get as much playing time at the beginning of the season as he fought for snaps with Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin among others. In the postseason, Gallup caught six passes for 119 yards. He still has a long way to go, but the talent is clearly there.
As for Randall Cobb, many fans have doubts. He's coming in to replace Cole Beasley, who was such an effective slot wide receiver. Cobb's style will likely be different, and although he might not be as good at shaking defenders off as ol' #11, he'll be more of a downfield threat than Beasley.
Comparing this starting group to the ones from prior years, it really seems like the best Dak Prescott has worked with. During his first couple of years in the league, Dak played with a Dez Bryant that (like it or not) wasn't anywhere close to his peak. 2016-2017 Dez wasn't on last year's Amari Cooper's level. Williams had his moments, but wasn't consistent and was well-known as a body-catcher.
This year's group has its question marks, that's for sure. Randall Cobb hasn't played a full season since 2015 due to injuries and Michael Gallup doesn't have a ton of experience and is yet to breakout. Even still, it seems like Prescott will have a great group of pass-catchers to help him lead the Cowboys to another NFC East title. It'll be an interesting fourth year for the young Cowboys quarterback. It's definitely good to see he'll have help.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Training Camp Preview: Offensive Tackle
The Dallas Cowboys appear to be bringing back the same key trip of players at offensive tackle from last year. But with talk that 2019 could be La'el Collins' last season in Dallas, will we see signs that the Cowboys are preparing for future changes in how they handle the position in this year's training camp?
With Tyron Smith as an All-Pro fixture at left tackle, and Cameron Fleming re-signed this offseason to be the swing tackle, the intrigue swirls around Collins and his impending free agency in 2020. If the Cowboys have no intention of paying La'el what he can command on the open market, what might they do now to lay the groundwork for Collins' exit?
Here's a quick look at the projected OT depth chart for 2019 camp:
- Tyron Smith, La'el Collins
- Cam Fleming, Jake Campos
- Mitch Hyatt, Derrick Puni, Brandon Knight
As was just said, the returning top three are locked in to those spots. Campos is a carryover from last year's practice squad, so that experience gives him a potential edge over the three undrafted rookies.
Back to the top, though, and this situation with La'el Collins. If Dallas had Collins locked up for years to come, they would likely only keep the two starters and Fleming as a backup. A fourth OT is unlikely to be active on game days, and they have Guard Connor Williams' college experience as a tackle in case of an emergency.
If the Cowboys are truly thinking that La'el won't be back in 2020, perhaps they use a roster spot now to hang on to a player who they value for depth next year.
This is where undrafted rookie Mitch Hyatt becomes an intriguing figure in this 2019 camp. He comes from a championship college program at Clemson and was projected as a late-round pick this year. Dallas made him a priority free agent signing after the draft.
Of course, Campos, Knight, or Puni have the potential to make some noise as well. But Hyatt would seem to have the most upside of the group, and Dallas might be willing to consider him as a 2020 swing tackle option if he can hit the ground running in camp this year.
Cam Fleming is also going to need to have a strong camp to help the Cowboys' in their strategy. Letting Collins go would be predicated on their comfort level with Fleming as the right tackle next year. If he struggles now, then doesn't get much playing time in the regular season, that would likely shake their confidence.
The final result of all this talk could be that La'el Collins and Dallas actually do figure out a way to continue their relationship. But when the Cowboys drafted Connor McGovern in the third round of this last draft it felt like a future-pointed move, with Collins' projected departure the likely impetus for the investment.
What we may wind up seeing is McGovern taking over at left guard and allowing Connor Williams to replace Collins at tackle. But that's a discussion better saved for next offseason.
You can read more about La'el Collins impending free agency in this recent article by our own Kevin Brady. A few weeks back, I also discussed the idea that Dallas should trade Collins now rather than lose him as a free agent next year.
For now, the offensive tackles in 2019 should have continuity and stability. But if we really pay attention in this training camp and preseason, we may see signs of what the Cowboys are planning to do at the position in the coming years.
~ ~ ~
OTHER 2019 CAMP PREVIEWS
Randall Cobb Will Be a Different Slot WR for Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys signing Randall Cobb might just be the most underrated move of their offseason. For less than five million dollars, they got an experienced wide receiver who is only 28 years old. The former Green Bay Packer has had a solid career wearing green and yellow and now gets the chance to play with the Cowboys' colors. But what can we expect from the veteran wideout?
There are some players who are absolute locks to make the 53-man roster and Cobb is one of them. That much is clear. On the depth chart, he probably sits behind Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, who will likely be the number one and number two receivers, respectively.
With Cole Beasley departing to the Buffalo Bills in free agency, Cobb is expected to take his place as the offense's starting slot receiver. Cowboys Nation knows very well just how good Beasley was at playing in the slot. His ability to shake defenders off was really impressive and his hands were reliable. However, we might see something different from Cobb.
Yes, it all points toward him playing the same position, but don't expect him to be a Beasley 2.0. This is of course, not a bad thing. Something fans consistently complained about Scott Linehan's offense were the short routes receivers had to run. In Cobb's short time with the Cowboys, we're seeing deeper routes even out of the slot position.
Bryan Broaddus from DallasCowboys.com wrote: "the ball to Cobb even playing out of the slot is further down the field. We hadn’t seen that from Cole Beasley and visually it looks different."
This should be exciting for Cowboys fans, specially considering all the positive reviews on new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. What we see from Randall Cobb in 2019 could be very different from what we had seen from Beasley in prior years.
It's also worth mentioning that word is Cobb has quickly developed an important chemistry with his new quarterback, Dak Prescott. Beasley was very important in Prescott's rookie season, when he averaged 52.1 yards per game and accounted for five touchdowns.
While Beasley was an important receiver for Cowboys, he wasn't really known as a team leader. Cowboys reporter Lindsay Cash Draper wrote about Cobb's leadership skills will carry on to the team whether he's doing it intentionally or not. It's always good to have such presences out there on the training field to spark the team.
Randall Cobb won't be this team's #1 guy or anything like that, but he will surely contribute every week. When we look back to this offseason, I believe this signing will look like a great move by the Cowboys' front office.
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