The Dallas Cowboys play on a short week tomorrow, facing the rival Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving for the third time since 2012. Winners of two straight to even their record at 5-5, the Cowboys need to be in must-win mode against the 6-4 Redskins still. The Cowboys recent wins at the Eagles and Falcons showed signs of this offense turning the corner. Though this short week presents new challenges to the offense, the Cowboys personnel changes have worked to their benefit.
One such change was the promotion of Marc Colombo to offensive line coach. The Cowboys offensive line immediately elevated their level of play under Colombo, despite dropping his first game at home to the Titans. This was the last game rookie Left Guard Connor Williams started.
Suffering a knee injury that kept him out two weeks ago in Philadelphia, the Cowboys turned to their depth signing in Xavier Su'a-Filo. With so many other changes on offense, including the addition of Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, it's difficult to measure Su'a-Filo's true impact at the LG spot. The experienced starter has outplayed Williams in two starts, most recently with Williams healthy to play in Atlanta.
The Cowboys still have plenty of reasons to believe that Williams will be a great player for them, and may even have an opportunity for the second round pick to get back on the field as soon as tomorrow.
With Geoff Swaim injured at tight end, the Cowboys are likely turning to another rookie in Dalton Schultz. The Stanford product has flashed in limited opportunity as a blocker this season, but like his fellow TEs on the roster offers little in the passing game.
Lining Williams up at tight end in "Jumbo" formations may be an outside-the-box solution for the Cowboys. 41% (89 of 217) of the Cowboys hand offs this season have come with Swaim on the field, showing this offense will still need to value the TE position in the running game.
Schultz has played just 31 run snaps this season, compared to 211 for Williams. The collegiate left tackle has struggled where Su'a-Filo has thrived at left guard. Anchoring against bigger, stronger defensive tackles was not Williams' strength in eight starts.
Using Williams for down after down against even more athletic and faster edge rushers is not the way for the Cowboys to instill confidence in their 50th overall pick. With much more experience blocking on the end of the line of scrimmage, Williams could still prove a serviceable tight end when playing on the move and opening holes for Ezekiel Elliott.
Surviving an injury scare in Philadelphia, Zack Martin has powered the Cowboys running game as his usual self ever since. The trio of Martin, La'el Collins, and Williams on the right side of the Cowboys line is a potentially devastating one to the Redskins defense Thursday. The Cowboys don't have to look far to find linemen that have performed at tight end before, with starting Center Joe Looney playing in this role at times last season.
With all respect to Looney, who has filled in exceptionally for Travis Frederick, the Cowboys have bigger long-term plans for Williams. Keeping a young, healthy player off the field for the remainder of the season could be damaging to this outlook for Connor. Allowing him to play just a few snaps at tight end feels like an ideal way to keep him involved but maintain the Cowboys identity in the running game without further personnel changes.
Behind Schultz, and before Williams, the Cowboys remaining options at tight end are Rico Gathers and Blake Jarwin. Gathers is much more of a receiving threat than a blocker, with the same likely being true of the seldom-used Jarwin.
Marc Colombo has been a fantastic addition to the Cowboys coaching staff, most importantly bringing experience to a relatively new staff at the positional level. First year tight end coach Doug Nussmeier is looking for answers quickly at his position, and may just find them from the surplus of depth at the team's best position.
Cowboys Offseason: Landon Collins Cleaned Out Locker, Set to be FA
It's no secret that the Dallas Cowboys are heading into the 2019 offseason looking to upgrade at the safety position on a defense that finished inside the top 10 in 2018. With much of the focus on Earl Thomas, New York Giants Safety Landon Collins has become the center of attention in the last couple of days.
Per a report by Josina Anderson, Collins cleaned out his locker on Wednesday as he gets ready to go into free agency for the first time.
I'm told that Giants S Landon Collins cleaned out his locker today at the team facility and said his goodbyes to teammates, coaches and trainers. It doesn't seem like Collins expects to be a Giant for much longer, per sources.
After Paul Schwartz attempted to assert that there was no claim to the report...
Attention those who care about the New York Giants: Landon Collins HAS NOT cleaned out his locker at the team facility. Repeat: Landon Collins HAS NOT cleaned out his locker at the team facility. Go about your business and have a nice day.
And Landon Collins had this to say...
If cleaning out a locker is any kind of evidence, then Collins is prepared to hit the market when free agency opens on March 13th. He joins a loaded safety group that includes Thomas, Houston Texans Safety Tyrann Mathieu, Los Angeles Rams Safety LaMarcus Joyner, Glover Quin of the Detroit Lions, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix formerly of the Green Bay Packers, but most recently of the Washington Redskins, and several others who could find new homes this offseason.
The Cowboys are very familiar with Landon Collins, as they've seen him nearly twice a year over the last four years. The three time Pro Bowler was one of the best players on the Giants defense. They would line him up in the box and at time use him to cover Cole Beasley.
Collins ranked first in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus in run stop percentage at 7.2%. Meaning on running snaps, he made a tackle that rendered the running play ineffective 7.2% of the time.For further reference, Jeff Heath made a run stop on 4.2% of his run plays, which was 15th in the NFL among safeties.
The only positions to have more of an impact on the running game were linebackers and the defensive line. Even if you include linebackers, his run stop percentage was 31st in the NFL. Leighton Vander Esch led the Dallas Cowboys with a run stop percentage of 11.3%, which was third among linebackers. Collins number nearly matched the run stop percentage of Jaylon Smith at 7.6%.
Add Collins to a defense that stops the run as well as the Dallas Cowboys did last season and you take your team to another level against the run.
Landon Collins will probably get the most money this offseason. He's only 25 and has had success in the NFL. Many teams will be reaching out to Collins when free agency opens and the Dallas Cowboys should certainly be one of those teams. Collins would be an excellent addition to the Dallas Cowboys defense and would allow Xavier Woods to stay in his role as the free safety.
We're just under three weeks away from the start of NFL free agency and the drama will only get bigger as the Cowboys look to add to their team.
Report: Free Agent DL David Irving Not in Dallas Cowboys’ 2019 Plans
The Dallas Cowboys and troubled Defensive Lineman David Irving appear to be at an impasse. According to a report from David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, the team has "no intention" of trying to re-sign Irving and will allow him to become an unrestricted free agent.
Irving started the 2018 season with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He only appeared in two games after that, registering one sack and four tackles.
Source: Cowboys have no intention of keeping DT David Irving at this time https://t.co/vqMNZty6Aq via @sportsdaydfw
Despite reports of David's ongoing issues with an ankle injury, Dallas never placed him on injured reserve. Then came the reports that Irving was missing practices and team meetings while dealing with personal issues related to the custody of his daughter.
The team stayed pretty mum on the subject of Irving's status throughout the year, falling back on the ankle injury when pushed. But after months, it became clear that either David, the team, or both parties were disinterested in his return to football.
The Cowboys had high hopes after 2017, when Irving posted seven sacks in just eight games. They placed a second-round tender on him last offseason as a restricted free agent and were surely ready to give him a long-term deal if he'd built on that success.
But David's issues, physical or otherwise, have clearly done the opposite.
Dallas is known for working with troubled players, as we've recently seen with Randy Gregory. That they're closing the book on Irving suggests there's an issue with his desire towards football.
It's a sad loss for both. David's potential is enormous, as evidenced by his productivity when he actually does play. But he appears more likely to hit the Commissioner's exempt list in 2019 than the football field, given the reports of multiple failed drug tests over the last year.
Hopefully David Irving can turn things around one day and capitalize on his talent. But if it ever happens, it appears that it won't be with the Dallas Cowboys.
BREAKING: WR Terrance Williams Gets Dropped by Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys have ended their six-year relationship with Wide Receiver Terrance Williams. According to multiple sources, they have declined a team option on Williams' contract and he will now be an unrestricted free agent in 2019.
The move will reportedly save the Cowboys $2.25 million in salary space this year.
Williams was the team's third-round pick in 2013 and started 68 of the 83 games he played in. He developed into a solid number-two receiver by the end of his rookie deal in 2016 and was given a new four-year contract that offseason.
Terrance Williams career w/ the Cowboys is done. Sources say the club has declined the WR's option for 2019, making him a free agent. The move is no surprise. He caught just 2 passes for 18 yards last season. His departure frees up $2.25 million on the cap.
After another decent year in 2017, things took a bad turn for Terrance last season. It started with an offseason arrest for public intoxication that eventually led to a three-game suspension, although Williams served that while on injured reserve.
The Cowboys already appeared to be giving Williams' spot away when they made several offseason acquisitions at WR; Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin all were brought in even before Terrance's arrest.
While Williams did start in two of Dallas' first three games in 2018, he only had three passes his thrown his way. The team finally put him on IR due to ongoing complications with a surgically-repaired foot.
While it didn't end well, Terrance Williams' time in Dallas was ultimately a solid return for a third-round pick. He made a few big plays and was a proficient run-blocker, good enough to start in almost 75% of the team's games since he was drafted.
The Cowboys now hope that another third-round pick, Michael Gallup in 2018, will do bigger and better things.
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