It's been a difficult week for the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did they get crushed in last night's preseason game, but the news of Travis Frederick's nerve disease cast a dark cloud over everything.
The health of the offensive live is now the dominant issue in trying to project the final 53-man roster. Several questions have to be answered:
- Will Travis Frederick be put on injured reserve?
- Will Zack Martin be ready to play?
- How many extra bodies will the Cowboys need to keep, if any?
- Is Chaz Green an Eagles sleeper agent, sent here to destroy us?
The ripple effects of roster decisions are what make these projections so interesting. A few banged up offensive linemen could cost a defensive back or someone at any other, seemingly unrelated, position a job.
So where are we now? What's changed after this week's events?
Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Mike White
After the last three games you may not be too high on either of the Cowboys' backup QBs. I still contend that neither has had much opportunity to shine with poor play from the backup offensive linemen, but I can understand any concerns.
That said, Cooper Rush has not looked like the same guy from the 2017 preseason. If some veteran passers hit the open market after final cuts, could Dallas consider cutting one of their youngsters for more security on the QB depth chart?
If nothing else, the Cowboys may now be more motivated to just keep two guys. Thursday night's game could be critical for one of Rush or White to hang on to their roster spot and avoid the practice squad.
Running Back (4)
Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, Darius Jackson,
Jamize Olawale (FB)
Every week Darius Jackson flashes what a weapon he could be on a few plays, plus he's been getting looks as a kick returner. That gives him added value over Bo Scarbrough, who doesn't offer anything on special teams.
As I said last week, I think Elliott, Smith, and even Olawale give you all of the goal line and short yardage thumpers you need. Scarbrough should make it to the practice squad, and if not I don't see it as any big loss given what you already have.
So, unless something happens with injuries, I'm feeling pretty good about this RB group for Week One.
Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup,
Terrance Williams, Tavon Austin
Changes: Removed Lance Lenoir
It'd be easy to call removing Lenoir a knee-jerk reaction after his rough preseason game. While it does factor in, this change is about more than just a few muffed punts.
Keeping six receivers is never guaranteed. You'd really need to feel good about all six guys, plus have clear roles for them. Even though he's had a strong showing before last night, Lenoir may not even be active on game days. He clearly won't be the return man, either.
As I said at the outset, Dallas may have to go long on the offensive line. So at this point, all things considered, I'm going to make Lenoir the fall guy for those issues.
Tight End (3)
Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim, Dalton Schultz
Rico Gathers probably makes the team if not for the issues at other positions, but the math just doesn't work for him anymore. Dallas will hope he gets to the practice squad, but I don't think they'll lose much sleep at this point if someone claims him.
As much as some might be disappointed about the failed experiment, you have to remember what we were talking about with Gathers. Think about all the guys who don't make it to the NFL despite great college careers.
Rico didn't play football in college. He didn't play it in high school. You were just hoping that you could make a football player out of this great athlete, essentially cheating the normal process of how people get into the NFL.
It didn't work because it's not supposed to. The odds were never in his favor.
Offensive Tackle (3)
Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Cam Fleming
While he hasn't looked great at times this preseason, Fleming is still the clear swing tackle with no real competition for the job. It's unlikely anyone better will become available after final cuts, either.
What's encouraging here is that Tyron Smith and La'el Collins are healthier than last year, hopefully making the swing tackle a little of a concern. Given what's going on elsewhere with the offensive line, Dallas needs their tackles to be out there every snap if possible.
Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Connor Williams,
Joe Looney, Kadeem Edwards, Free Agent TBD
Changes: Added "Free Agent TBD"
I'm still on the fence about Frederick going to IR. I can easily see it happening, but I can also see Dallas wanting to wait in case he can come back sooner. If it swings just one game to have him out there as opposed to Joe Looney, that could be the difference between making the playoffs or not.
So right now, I'm projecting with the idea that Frederick stays on the 53 but inactive to start the year. In that case, Joe Looney will start. Dallas will get aggressive looking for a new backup guard/center, and they might sign two and cut Edwards.
Defensive End (6)
DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Randy Gregory,
Taco Charlton, Dorance Armstrong, Charles Tapper
While this may be one DE too many, all it takes is one injury to wish you still had somebody. None of these guys are just a body; all have some upside Dallas would hate to lose.
What we'll probably see is that one of these guys, most likely Charles Tapper, gets released once David Irving comes back from suspension. After four weeks, though, who knows how injuries may change the landscape.
Defensive Tackle (4)
Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods, Daniel Ross,
Changes: Removed Jihad Ward
Jihad Ward hasn't done much to justify a spot, but he's also new to Rod Marinelli's system. I think he'd get extra time if there weren't other issues, but injuries on the offensive line and at safety are going to cost him a spot.
As always, we're going to see a lot of rotation and plenty of guys getting snaps in different formations. Nobody from this DT group can really be called a clear starter, especially with Tyrone Crawford probably getting more looks as the 3-tech again.
Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch,
Damien Wilson, Joe Thomas, Justin March-Lillard
Free agent addition Joe Thomas is looking like a total steal. He may now be their first man off the bench, even ahead of the first-round rookie.
The Cowboys have as much LB depth as they've had in some time. While we'd certainly never want to be without Sean Lee, they are much more ready to deal with it now than in the past.
Chidobe Awuzie, Byron Jones, Anthony Brown,
Jourdan Lewis, Charvarius Ward
We're still waiting for a clear favorite to emerge for the final spot at CB. I'm sticking with Ward just because I've had no reason to bump him for someone else.
With Xavier Woods hurt and likely to miss Week One, the roster spot could come from corner. Dallas has kept just four guys in the past, and the top four right now are all healthy.
Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier,
Jeron Johnson, Tyree Robinson
Changes: Added Johnson, Robinson
Removed Marqueston Huff
Johnson and Robinson are just placeholders right now. Hopefully Dallas pulls off a deal for a certain safety from Seattle, but they should at least be active in looking at other team's cuts.
The Cowboys may not even keep a fifth guy, regardless of Woods' status. They can always play Byron Jones at safety if another injury happens. They might want to use that roster spot at another position.
Special Teams (3)
Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur
We've only gotten to see Dan Bailey attempt one field goal this preseason, so some of the questions from last year still linger. But the Cowboys appear confident enough to keep him shelved in these games, which seems like a good sign.
What to Expect from Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Group in 2019
In a span of a week, the Dallas Cowboys have solidified their wide receiver group with the resigning of Tavon Austin to a one year deal and the signing of former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb. Despite the loss of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys have a created a really good group of receivers for Quarterback Dak Prescott to throw to.
Cobb joins a really nice group of players that includes incumbent starters on the outside in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup as well as solid depth players in Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Throw in Cedric Wilson, the Dallas Cowboys sixth round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft and the Cowboys may have one of the deeper receiving corps in the NFL.
The question is, how will the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff delineate the roles?
Let's take a look.
As I mentioned before, the Dallas Cowboys are returning their top two options on the outside in Amari Cooper, who is the X wide receiver and Michael Gallup, the Z receiver. Both players will go into week one as the starters at their respective positions in two-wide receiver formations.
Despite some of the overthrows from Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup, Gallup had a really nice rookie season and got better as the year went along, even leading the Cowboys in receiving in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. In that game, Gallup recorded the first 100 yard game of his career. Sure, it was in an attempt to comeback by the Dallas Cowboys, but it is impressive nonetheless. His touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks the week before was clutch. The Cowboys needed that to take the lead at the end of the first half. 2018 was only the beginning for Michael Gallup. He showed an ability to win with a full offseason to work with Dak Prescott, their chemistry and connection should only improve.
As for Cooper, his presence was felt right away as the offense just looked different once he stepped on the field. It's no coincidence that Dak Prescott's two best career games in terms of passing yardage came with Cooper in 2018. He's such a threat that he opens up space for the rest of the wide receiver group. His route running, speed, ability to run after the catch make him a threat to score any time he's targeted.
Behind Cooper and Gallup, you have options in the event that one of them gets hurt. Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Noah Brown are all players who took snaps on the outside for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 and did so with effectiveness. Hurns best game of the year came just before the Cooper deal was made as he went for five receptions for 75 yards.
Tavon provided down field speed on several occasions and provides some gadget quality that the Dallas Cowboys love to have. Noah Brown is a player that the Dallas Cowboys love to deploy as a blocker in the running game. While it looked like he might get more run in the passing game in 2019, the depth additions will limit him again to a specialty role. If needed, though, he could be an option to take snaps on the outside as his big frame allows him to box out defensive backs down the field.
There will be snaps on the outside for someone when the Cowboys go to 11 personnel, because of Amari Cooper's ability to slide into the slot.
Obviously, the writing is on the wall with who the Dallas Cowboys are planning on deploying in the slot as things stand right now, and that's Randall Cobb.
While Cobb should be penciled in as the starter in the slot, I doubt that he's going to get 100% of the snaps there in 11 or 10 personnel groupings. Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson could all push for playing time from the slot.
Last month, I wrote a piece about Allen Hurns and his effectiveness in the slot and why the Cowboys should feature him there. With Cobb coming off an injury laden season, the Cowboys would be wise to give some snaps to Hurns along with Tavon Austin.
In Jacksonville, Hurns was incredibly effective from the slot running posts, slants, and ins and outs. His size and route running made him an effective mismatch against linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks alike. Remember, it wasn't long ago that Hurns had a 1,000 yard season with Blake Bortles at the helm.
Tavon Austin's quickness is an asset that could be very effective in the slot as well. Though he lacks size, he's a player that opposing defenses have to account for because of his ability to make big plays once the ball's in his hands.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The Cowboys haven't been shy about carrying seven wide receivers on their 53-man rosters and it's possible, though unlikely that they could do it again in 2018. As things stand now, I see Noah Brown and Cedric Wilson as the potential odd men out. Of course, this could all get reshuffled if the Dallas Cowboys use a top 100 pick on a wide receiver in the draft.
With Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Randall Cobb only under contract through the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to invest at the position despite the strength of the position in 2019.
Report: Dallas Cowboys Set to Meet with Safety George Iloka
As the Dallas Cowboys continue the process of building a roster capable of taking them back to the playoffs, and hopefully to a Super Bowl, this next season, they’re bringing in another safety to try and strengthen their top 10 defense. This time it’s free agent safety George Iloka, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings.
Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Dallas Cowboys are set to meet with
The #Cowboys are hosting former #Vikings and #Bengals safety George Iloka for a visit tomorrow, source said. They're still looking to add in the secondary.
It will be the third meeting this week that they’ve had with a veteran safety after hosting recently resigned Indianapolis’s colts Safety Clayton Geathers and former Kansas City Chiefs Safety Eric Berry.
The Cowboys feel really good about Xavier Woods at safety, but definitely could use some depth at the position as they head toward the 2019 NFL Draft.
Iloka is coming off a season where he was relegated to a reserve role for the Vikings. In five of the last six seasons, Iloka’s played all 16 games, and the one season he didn’t, he played 12. He has nine career interceptions, and has three seasons with more than 70 total tackles.
Back in August of last year, Brian Martin argued that the Dallas Cowboys should pursue Iloka after being released by the Cincinnati Bengals. He would play the strong or box safety role in the Cowboys defense if they were to come to an agreement.
Stay tuned for more Free Agency coverage from us here at InsideTheStar.com.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Draft Needs: Impact of Free Agency Moves & Rumors
With most of the marquee NFL free agents already off the market, many are already turning their eyes to the 2019 Draft. Whether a glaring need went unaddressed or the needs have simply changed, the draft offers the next big opportunity for teams like the Dallas Cowboys to stock talent for next season.
While they've been conservative so far this offseason, Dallas has been active in the last few days in covering bases and giving itself more flexibility for the draft. They don't want to have to reach on a talent because of a need, nor do they want to tip their hand too much to the rest of the league.
As of now there are still some significant acquisitions that could happen. Dallas has visited with veteran Safety Eric Berry and Defensive Lineman Malik McDowell, plus are reportedly in trade talks with Miami for Defend End Robert Quinn. Any of these moves could have a big impact on their need levels for the draft.
We've already seen some changes thanks to offseason activity. With Tuesday's signing of Randall Cobb, plus moves to retain Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns, Dallas may not be looking at a receiver as early as we might've thought. The same can be said for Jason Witten's return and the tight end position.
If the draft were today, without accounting for any of the players that the Cowboys have had talks with but remain unsigned, here's how I would rank the team's 2019 draft needs:
- Defensive End
- Defensive Tackle
- Tight End
- Running Back
- Wide Receiver
- Offensive Tackle
- Quarterback (Mike White is their drafted backup project for at least another year.)
- Punter (Could add someone to compete with Chris Jones and save some cap dollars.)
- Fullback (They re-signed Jamize Olawale, who they barely use anyway. Zero need here.)
I put safety on top because it's the spot that could most use an immediate upgrade and has some pressing future need. Dallas didn't make the big move for Earl Thomas that many hoped for and Jeff Heath's contract expires after this season. Hopefully, a second-round talent could compete for a starting job now and at least replace Heath in 2020.
Even with the Kerry Hyder signing defensive end has some major red flags. DeMarcus Lawrence has sworn he would holdout without a long-term deal. Randy Gregory is suspended again, and now Tyrone Crawford is now facing potential league action from an incident with police last week. Unless the Cowboys think Taco Charlton is going to make a big push in his third year, they could be hurting for a pass rush in 2019.
I expect things with Lawrence will get resolved, and I doubt Crawford will get suspended for more than a game or two if at all. But Dallas could still use another solid DE if they don't get this deal for Robert Quinn done.
Remember, the 2019 Cowboys aren't working with a first-round pick. Barring a trade, they'll be waiting until the 58th pick to make their first selection. That limits the impact potential of their picks and makes what they do with the Day 2 picks all the more critical.
So what if the Cowboys pull off these three potential moves, adding Berry, McDowell, and Quinn? Each player would help to address the top three needs on my list.
Eric Berry hopefully solves the immediate upgrade need at safety, though it may not do much for the future. He turns 31 this year and was released by Kansas City because of multiple injury issues. Dallas could still consider taking a rookie prospect, perhaps even releasing Jeff Heath for cap savings if needed.
Malik McDowell was considered a first-round talent in 2017 but has never played after a major ATV accident prior to his first training camp with Seattle. If he's finally recovered enough to return to football and play at his original potential, he could give Dallas a talent infusion that none of their draft capital could provide.
Robert Quinn has been around a while but will be just 29 in May, and is still putting up sacks at a solid rate. He's averaged 7.5 sacks the last two years with two different teams. He would go a long way to stabilizing things at defensive end and allowing Dallas look at guys like Gregory and Hyder as icing on the cake.
If Dallas lands all three players then I would adjust the list as follows:
- Tight End
- Defensive Tackle
- Running Back
- Defensive End
- Wide Receiver
If you think about it, the safety and tight end positions would be kind of similar in this scenario. You'd have Eric Berry and Jason Witten as the veteran stopgaps, Xavier Woods and Blake Jarwin as intriguing young guys with starting potential, and Kavon Frazier and Dalton Schultz as other young depth.
However, at every step, safety would be deeper and have more upside. Berry should have more to often than Witten, Woods is more proven than Jarwin, and Frazier is more experienced than Schultz.
Plus, we didn't even mention that you'd have Jeff Heath for experience and versatility at safety. Meanwhile, TE Rico Gathers probably won't be on next year's team.
So yes, I'd vault tight end to the top of the need list. Dallas may like Blake Jarwin but they could find a far more polished and talented player with the 58th pick.
Even with McDowell and Christian Covington added to the mix, Dallas would still be wise to address the defensive tackle position. They have several contract issues coming up at once in 2020.
Covington and Maliek Collins will be unrestricted free agents next year. The Cowboys will also likely want to finally shed Tyrone Crawford's contract, with $8 million in cap relief possible. That would leave them pretty bare at defensive tackle.
Dallas could make a move now to solidify their rotation and prepare for the future. They'd have a little more stability at defensive end with assumed multi-year deals for Lawrence and Quinn, making tackle the more immediate concern.
The backup running back spot can't be ignored, with only Darius Jackson and Jordan Chunn currently signed behind Ezekiel Elliott. If Dallas doesn't bring back Rod Smith between now and the draft, they may want to spend a high pick for Zeke's relief man and an additional offensive weapon.
Elliott's own contract will be up for discussion as soon. Having a talented player with a four-year rookie deal behind him could give the Cowboys much-needed leverage in any future talks with their franchise back.
~ ~ ~
We'll see if Dallas lands any of the players we've hypothesized about. Any of them would help lessen the need at their positions, but those would still remain important areas for the Cowboys to look at in the upcoming draft.
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
5 Realistic Free Agents Cowboys Should Sign Before the Draft
NFL Draft1 week ago
Hypothetical La’el Collins Trade Could Recoup Cowboys a 2019 1st-Round Pick
NFL Draft2 days ago
Cowboys Draft Target: Nebraska WR Stanley Morgan Jr.
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Cowboys Show Interest in Browns DE Emmanuel Ogbah
Player News1 week ago
Chiefs Release Eric Berry, Should Cowboys Be Interested?
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign DL Christian Covington
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Dallas Cowboys Should Take a Run at EDGE Justin Houston
NFL Draft5 days ago
Dallas Cowboys Make Trades in this 7-round Mock Draft