For several Dallas Cowboys, 2018 will be the fourth and final year of their rookie contracts. Coincidentally, this could be a big season for the draft class of 2015 as the Cowboys roster has undergone some major changes.
No player will get a bigger opportunity than Tight End Geoff Swaim, who is getting the first chance at replacing Jason Witten with the starting offense. The former seventh-round pick only has nine career catches, but those were hard to come by with the Hall-of-Famer never leaving the field.
While he's getting veteran deference early in OTAs and minicamp, Swaim will have to earn the starting job before Week One. The athletic Rico Gathers and rookie Dalton Schultz will also be in the mix, and even a dark horse like Blake Jarwin could make noise. It's wide open at tight end right now.
But these early reps as the starter are valuable, giving Geoff even more edge than his three years of experience already did. Swaim has flashed some receiving ability in the past and is a proficient blocker, which is critical for the run-focused attack Dallas' offense uses. At this point it's his job to lose.
If a seventh-round pick can be a solid starter for you, that's a huge boon for the overall quality of your draft class. But Geoff Swaim isn't the only guy that could make a leap this year.
While he's already been a starting safety for two seasons, Byron Jones' move to cornerback might take his career to another level. That is because of the arrival of Kris Richard as the Defensive Backs Coach, who brings the winning strategy of using bigger athletes at corner from the Seattle Seahawks.
Dallas has already picked up the fifth-year option on Jones' rookie deal, meaning he's locked in through 2019. That decision, which will pay him over $9 million next season, speaks to the potential the Cowboys see in Byron at corner.
Jones played CB in college and for part of his rookie season. It's the position where he shined enough to become a first-round draft pick. While Dallas had sound reasoning for thinking he could be a dynamic safety, that experiment never worked out the way anyone hoped
Byron's return to cornerback coincides with the rise of the Cowboys' pass rush. If DeMarcus Lawrence keeps excelling and the defensive front continues improving in its pressure on quarterbacks, guys like Jones will get increased opportunities to make plays.
While Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis are the hot new names at CB, Jones has just as much talent and potential. He's still just 25 and will hopefully be in the best position to succeed that he's had so far in the NFL.
Unlike Byron Jones, who has had a major role almost immediately since entering the league, Defensive End Randy Gregory has been almost invisible since he was drafted. That is largely due to his time away from the game due to suspension.
But with Gregory's reinstatement to the league probably imminent, the athletic pass rusher could finally be a huge addition to the Cowboys defensive line.
Randy is the edge rusher the Cowboys have needed for some time, with the agility and speed to take on NFL left tackles on the weak side. With DeMarcus Lawrence now a bonafide threat on the other side, Gregory may not see hardly any double teams or help in his pursuit of opposing QBs.
Of course, Randy has to prove he can still play and the long absence didn't do permanent damage. But given all the work he's put in to get his life back in order, I'm not worried about Gregory putting in the effort to maximize his football potential.
Even though guys like Taco Charlton and Kony Ealy are around, they're all best suited for the same role that DeMarcus Lawrence plays. If he's still got the talent that made him one of the top prospects in the 2015 draft, Randy Gregory is the best right end Dallas has. He could wind up being their biggest addition of the offseason.
While he wasn't technically a draft pick, La'el Collins joined the Cowboys in 2015. After several years of shifting spots on the offensive line, he should be returning as the right tackle and that could be big for his development.
Collins was solid last year but moving to a new position, and some health issues, were evident in his play. 2018 gives him a chance to finally build on what he's learned rather than having to relearn technique.
Remember, La'el was a right tackle in college. He was considered a potential first-round talent in the 2015 class before an undetermined legal problem kept him from being drafted.
If this new stability and hopefully a return to good health help Collins to take it to the next level this year, the already-great Cowboys offensive line will be truly special. Doug Free was better than he got credit for, but La'el has the potential to be just as good as his Pro Bowl teammates.
If Collins delivers, this may truly be the best offensive line in Cowboys history.
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While those four players will get the best opportunities, even guys like Damien Wilson or Chaz Green from the 2015 class are still hanging around. Wilson is always just an injury away from major responsibility at linebacker, and Green was getting first-team reps when Zack Martin was still sitting out during contract negotiations.
Clearly, this is a big season for this 2015 rookie class. Some guys like Gregory and Swaim are fighting for their NFL futures, and others like Jones and Collins are looking to prove they deserve their big salaries.
If the the Cowboys are going to reach their championship goals this year, these young players have to deliver.
CIN 21, DAL 14: Dak Prescott Continues Strong Preseason in Loss
The games may not count yet, but Dak Prescott looks ready for the 2018 season. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback continued his strong preseason play in the team's 21-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Prescott played three series, going 10/15 for 86 yards and a touchdown. He got the offense out of trouble a few times with his feet, avoiding sacks and ultimately getting the scoring pass off on a redzone scramble.
Dak's strong play has coincided with shutdown performances from the starting defense. The Cowboys' first-team defenders have yet to allow a score in two preseason games. Tonight, the Bengals were forced into four punts and two turnovers on their first-half possessions.
Overall, the Cowboys are a combined 24-7 in the first halves of their first two preseason contests.
The second half has been the problem, and for two weeks now Dallas' reserves have squandered halftime leads and given up losses. Thankfully, most of the responsible players will not be on the final 53-man roster.
- There were several concerning injuries for the Cowboys tonight. None was scarier than when All-Pro guard Zack Martin went out with a knee injury, but it does not appear to have been serious. Starting defensive backs Byron Jones and Xavier Woods also got banged up; Byron returned to the game but Woods did not. Defensive lineman Datone Jones also left with a knee injury.
- Even more concerning was the play of the second-team offensive line. Chaz Green was typically awful, but we also saw swing tackle Cam Fleming struggling and just an overall lack of protection for the backups quarterbacks. Green got benched in the second half and may have finally played his way off the team.
- Credit to Terrance Williams for getting open in the endzone to give Dak Prescott a receiver for the touchdown throw. Even with his warts, Williams' two years of experience playing with Dak can't be ignored in deciding who makes the team.
- Tight end Blake Jarwin continues to run with the starters on offense and may have quietly taken the job away from Geoff Swaim.
- Darius Jackson took advantage of some extra playing time tonight after Bo Scarbrough left with a hip injury. He broke off a few nice runs to amass 42 yards on just six carries, plus had four receptions.
- We finally get to see Dan Bailey kick a field goal again, and it was an easy 35-yarder with no issues.
- Shout out to Chidobe Awuzie for one of the pretty interceptions that a Cowboys DB has made in some time. Awuzie had to bend like Beckham (Odell, that is) to get a hand on the ball, then tipped it to himself for the pick.
- Preseason fun continues for the Cowboys next Sunday when they host the Arizona Cardinals on NBC's Sunday Night Football.
#DALvsCIN: Can WR Lance Lenoir Continue To Impress?
Entering training camp projecting who would make the final roster from the Dallas Cowboys wide receiving room was a crapshoot. The combination of misfits from other teams, unproven young guys, and a couple of Cowboys veterans makes this position group the most questioned across the entire roster.
But while Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, and Michael Gallup were stealing headlines, Lance Lenoir was making a name for himself among the Cowboys faithful.
After serving on the practice squad for the Cowboys a year ago, Lenoir seems to have entered 2018 with one goal in mind: to make the official game-day roster. And even if he falls short of this goal, it won't be due to any fault of his own.
Day in and day out Lance Lenoir has been a consistent wide out, catching nearly everything thrown his way and running some of the crisper routes on the team. Under new receivers coach Sanjay Lal, Lenoir has become a technical route runner and dangerous receiving threat.
Maybe most importantly for his future with the team, Lenoir has developed an obvious chemistry with starting quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott has continued to compliment Lenoir throughout training camp, and you know that the Cowboys front office is well aware of Prescott's trust in Lenoir on the field.
During the preseason opener against the 49ers, Lance Lenoir caught his first touchdown of the season, dazzling with his toe-tap ability. If he is going to steal a roster spot away from one of the more seasoned wide outs, however, he will have to remain that consistent target.
This Saturday, Lenoir gets another shot to prove why he's not only deserving of a roster spot, but of a starting spot. Sure, it might be a bit of a stretch, but if he continues to play like he has during camp and preseason, Lenoir could find himself working with the 1's more frequently.
Look out for Lance Lenoir against the Bengals this week, as he makes it harder and harder for the Cowboys to cut him by the second.
Cowboys en Español: ¿Es Tavon Austin Más Importante de lo que Creemos?
Cada vez más cerca de la verdadera acción en la NFL, tuvimos una oportunidad de ver a los Dallas Cowboys en el campo contra los San Francisco 49ers hace una semana. Francamente, a pesar de perder la ventaja en los últimos segundos del partido, la actuación del equipo dio una muy buena señal a los aficionados de la Estrella Solitaria.
Todavía quedan tres partidos por jugar, empezando por el enfrentamiento contra los Cincinnati Bengals este sábado. Hay muchas cosas que ver de parte de los Dallas Cowboys y quizá algunas de ellas las veamos este mismo fin de semana.
Una de las cosas más interesantes esta semana fue la conversación de los wide receivers (receptores abiertos). Lance Lenoir se ha mostrado como un candidato real al roster de 53 jugadores, pero esa es sólo una pequeña fracción de la conversación de receptores.
Hay muchos receptores de que hablar, y el día de hoy, eso haremos en Cowboys en Español.
¿Cole Beasley es realmente el receptor #1?
A lo largo de todo el offseason, se ha manejado la narrativa de que "los Cowboys no tienen un buen WR." A pesar de que Dez Bryant es un nombre difícil de olvidar, esta aseveración sobre los receptores en Dallas me parece errónea.
Si bien es cierto que Bryant es uno de los mejores WRs en la historia de los Cowboys, también es cierto que Jason Garrett y compañía tienen un mejor grupo de lo que la afición considera. Si somos sinceros, un trío titular de Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley y Michael Gallup no suena mal.
La pregunta será: ¿quién es el #1? Comentarios de Dak Prescott han hecho referencia a Cole Beasley como el dueño de dicho rol. ¿Realmente puede fungir como el receptor líder del equipo siendo un jugador de 1.73 metros?
Se ha hablado mucho de Beasley jugando fuera de los números e intentando vencer a los defensivos por fuera. Es intrigante, pero sin duda un poco difícil de creer.
Tavon Austin: ¿Es un arma más importante de lo que creemos?
Los Cowboys dejaron ir a Ryan Switzer y obtuvieron a su aparente remplazo con el ex-WR de los Rams por una selección de sexta ronda. Tavon Austin ha tenido un viaje extraño con el equipo. Fue listado en el roster como un corredor pero utilizado como un receptor.
Lleva poco tiempo en Dallas pero ha sorprendido en training camp y ha sido utilizado como más de lo que esperábamos. Desde que llegó al equipo, empezamos a compararlo con Lucky Whitehead y Ryan Switzer. Ambos talentosos, pero destinados a ser un jugador "gadget" que fueron utilizados casi exclusivamente en jugadas "en movimiento" o los famosos "jet sweeps."
Pero Austin puede ser más que eso y lo ha demostrado en training camp. No parece que Tavon vaya a tener el mismo destino que Switzer, sino que tendrá un rol mucho más involucrado en la ofensiva constantemente. Bien puede ser un factor sorpresa para la ofensiva en Dallas.
¿Puede Terrance Williams perder su trabajo?
A pesar de que el coraje puede llevar a los aficionados a criticar a Terrance Williams un poco más de lo que merece, la verdad es que Williams está en riesgo de ser cortado por los Cowboys antes de que inicie la temporada en septiembre.
Es uno de los WRs con más experiencia, sí. Pero durante su estadía en Dallas, cada vez que Dez Bryant ha caído lesionado, Williams ha tenido la oportunidad de surgir como un receptor #1 capaz y preparado. Y nunca lo ha logrado.
Con un roster lleno de talentos jóvenes como el de Lance Lenoir y Noah Brown, es probable que la administración y los coaches opten por el potencial joven en vez de Williams, quien ha tenido problemas para demostrar que puede ser un jugador constante.
Los Dallas Cowboys tienen que conseguir que su ofensiva sobreviva las pérdidas de Jason Witten y Dez Bryant y tendrán que comenzar en la posición de WR. A pesar de que Williams esté en el equipo, Cole Beasley será el único en repetir titularidad del año pasado en Dallas esta temporada.
Dak Prescott tendrá un rol enorme cuando la ofensiva trate de emprender su marcha y definitivamente será responsable del éxito de esta. Es ahora o nunca para Dak.
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