While almost everything coming out of Sunday's big win has been positive and encouraging, there have have been some critical remarks about how little we saw of the Dallas Cowboys' 2019 rookie class. But rather than get discouraged about our newest players, we should understand the circumstances and appreciate what this says about the depth of the Cowboys roster.
Before we dive into this, here's a recap of our eight 2019 draft picks and their current status with the Cowboys:
- DT Trysten Hill - On roster
- OL Connor McGovern - IR (eligible to return)
- RB Tony Pollard - On roster
- CB Michael Jackson - Practice squad
- DE Joe Jackson - On roster
- S Donovan Wilson - On roster
- RB Mike Weber - Practice squad
- DE Jalen Jelks - IR (season-ending)
Just from that, you see how limited to class is right now at being able to make an impact. Half of the rookies aren't even on the 53-man roster, and Donovan Wilson missed Sunday's game with an ankle injury.
The most jarring absence was that of 2nd-Round pick Trysten Hill, who was one of the seven inactive players that didn't suit up to play the Giants. With other rookies like Tony Pollard and Joe Jackson getting to play, it may have been alarming to see our young defensive tackle as a healthy scratch from the 46-man game day roster.
But even though he was the highest draft pick on the team this year, keep in mind that Trysten was still just the 58th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. If you thought he was going to come in and make an impact like Leighton Vander Esch (19th overall in 2018) last year, those weren't reasonable expectations.
Hill is also competing with a loaded group at his position. Maliek Collins and Antwaun Woods are well-established now as a starting duo, and veteran Christian Covington was signed in free agency before the Cowboys ever drafted Trysten.
While we still want to see positive things from Trysten Hill in 2019, it's important to remember that he was drafted with a long-term perspective. With Maliek Collins a free agent and Tyrone Crawford likely being released in 2020, Hill was added to provide current depth and hopefully a future starter. He was scouted as a raw talent who needed development; an ideal player for the role Dallas had available this year.
The same goes for 3rd-Round pick Connor McGovern. He was drafted with potential free agency departures from La'el Collins and Joe Looney in view next year.
Dallas wound up re-signing Collins, and McGovern's ongoing pectoral injury limited his ability to compete in training camp and preseason this year. Even if he gets recalled from IR later this season, Connor isn't going to be more than a backup linemen as a rookie.
Tony Pollard and Joe Jackson were the only two rookies who actually got to play on Sunday, but neither was able to do much with their opportunities. Pollard's 13 carries amounted to just 24 yards, and Jackson was part of the defensive line rotation that got very little pressure on Eli Manning throughout the game.
It's easy to say, "don't overreact to just one game." That's valid, but we should prepare ourselves for the reality that most of these 2019 rookies could have very quiet seasons.
Barring injuries, Trysten Hill probably isn't going to moved ahead of any of the other defensive tackles on the depth chart. Once veteran DE Robert Quinn comes off suspension next week, Joe Jackson could easily be joining Hill on the inactive list.
The two guys who have the best chance to make impacts as rookies are Tony Pollard and Donovan Wilson. Hopefully, future weeks will give Pollard better looks and see Kellen Moore utilize him as a weapon in the passing game. It would also be nice to see Tony on kick returns, where he was a stud in college.
After arguably being MVP of the preseason, Donovan Wilson returned to practice yesterday and will hopefully be among the active players against Washington. Even if he doesn't oust Jeff Heath from a starting job this year, Wilson should still get opportunities to play.
A key thing to remember with this 2019 draft class is that the 1st-Round pick went to Oakland for Amari Cooper. There is no Leighton Vander Esch, Byron Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, or Zack Martin in this bunch when it comes to that projected early impact.
Cooper's instant effect on the offense last year, and his strong game against the Giants on Sunday, far outweigh the benefits from any 1st-Round rookie that Dallas might have selected last April. This caveat can never be forgotten when we talk about the class of 2019; it's greatest asset is not reflected in the rookie pool.
That being said, the Cowboys have been spoiled in recent years with immediate contributions from players like Connor Williams, Michael Gallup, Chidobe Awuzie, and Jourdan Lewis as rookies. It's easy to start holding everyone to that standard, counting on Will McClay's draft magic to keep producing these kinds of players.
But one of the issues you're now seeing is how good drafting and free agent scouting can eventually fill the cupboard to capacity. Michael Jackson didn't make the team because there was already so much talent at cornerback, and all of them still on their rookie contracts. Joe Jackson, good as he's looked, may wind up playing very little because of a good pick last year in Dorance Armstrong and a shrewd signing in Kerry Hyder.
Because of their depth, the 2019 Cowboys were able to draft for the future rather than the present. They were ready to use guys like Hill and McGovern if needed, but were happy to let them develop for a year behind a wealth of returning talent.
Again, it's still early. We may see Trysten Hill get on the field and even become a prominent rotation player by the end of the season. The Cowboys are certainly invested in his future, so they will be happy to give him those opportunities if it's mutually beneficial.
But for now, given the depth of the team and the circumstances of these rookies and the positions they play, we may need to adjust our expectations for their immediate impact. The class of 2019 has talent and will be heard from in due time, but it may not be as soon as we usually hope.
Amari Cooper Continues to Feast on the Philadelphia Eagles
The 2018 trade that sent the Dallas Cowboys 2019 first-round draft pick to the Oakland Raiders has been genius since last year. But it'll never get old bringing it up after many panned the Cowboys for making the move when the Philadelphia Eagles sent a third-round pick, for now, New York Giants Wide Receiver Golden Tate.
The beauty of this deal for the Dallas Cowboys is that their trade for a wide receiver worked out tremendously and at the same time, their biggest rival's trade for a wide receiver fell flat. The other part that continues to make the deal for Amari Cooper a dream come true is the way he's played against the Philadelphia Eagles in some high-leverage games.
In week 10 of the 2018 season, Cooper's second game with the Dallas Cowboys, they found themselves facing an uphill battle for the NFC East as they sat at 3-5 in what would become the first must-win game of the season. After spending just two weeks with the Cowboys, Cooper put up a six reception, 75-yard effort in the Cowboys win that brought them to 4-5. That victory would propel them to win their next five games in a row and go 6-1 over their final seven games.
In their division-clinching win in week 14, Amari Cooper put up an all-time game when he caught 10 passes for 217 yards, and three touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime.
Yet again, in a pivotal matchup for the NFC East between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles, Cooper showed up yet again. He really likes playing against Philly. On the night he had five receptions on five targets for 106 yards. Cooper had receptions of 44 and 28 yards that helped set up scores to put the game out of reach.
In addition to those two big receptions, Amari picked up two other receptions for first downs, something that we've come to expect at this point. The Dak Prescott to Amari Cooper connection continues to be a treat to observe as the two are on just another level when it comes to their chemistry.
On the 44 yard bomb, the Cowboys put Cooper in motion, and though the man didn't travel with him, Dak knows he's got single coverage on the outside. Prescott uses a good shoulder faint to sell the slant to Cooper before he runs a sluggo route (a slant and go) and gets behind his man and away from the deep middle safety down the sideline. That reception helped set up the first of Brett Maher's two field goals in the final two minutes of the first half, which made it 24-7.
Then at the start of the fourth quarter, with the Dallas Cowboys attempting to milk the clock and also ice the game, Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper come up with another big-time throw and catch. This time down the right sideline.
After Randall Cobb goes in motion, Prescott again knows he has Amari with single coverage at the top of the screen. Much like they did last year in the week 10 matchup where Cooper had more than 200 yards receiving, Prescott puts the ball out in front of Cooper and gives him an opportunity to run under it.
Amari Cooper's ability to use his speed and body positioning to go from out of position to make the play in an instant is an incredible thing to watch. Unlike Dez Bryant, he's not using a jumping ability to beat these defenders to the ball, Cooper's simply using his frame and speed to get into a better position to make these over these shoulder catches down the field.
In three games now against the Philadelphia Eagles, Amari Cooper's caught 21 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns. More importantly, the Cowboys have recorded three huge wins against their NFC East rival in those games.
If and when the Dallas Cowboys extend Amari Cooper this season or in the offseason to a long-term extension, it should send shivers down the spine of the Philadelphia Eagles and their fan base. He's abused the Eagles over the last year and it's unlikely that they'll be better for the next meeting later in the season. At this point, Amari Cooper probably gets really excited to see the Eagles on the other side of the field from him, knowing that there isn't a defensive back that can hang with him in man coverage.
Jason Garrett Deserves Major Praise For Cowboys Week 7 Win
Jason Garrett's seat had never been hotter than it was entering Sunday night.
And that's saying a lot.
The much maligned head coach of the Dallas Cowboys has been fending off those who have called for his job since the very day he took the team over from Wade Phillips in 2010. Garrett has been called a yes-man, the "clapper," and flat-out a bad football coach by seemingly every national media outlet despite the success he's had as the coach in Dallas.
That's right, I said success.
Yes, there has been no championship level success under Garrett's regime, but there has been success. Since 2014, Garrett has led the Cowboys to 3 division titles in 5 years and has reached the Divisional round of the playoffs three times. He's 16-5 against the NFC East in the Dak Prescott era, and has the Cowboys in first place of the division through seven weeks once again.
So, there has been success. But certainly not enough of it to defend his every move.
Jason Garrett messed up in New Jersey. There's no way around it. Sloppy game management and poor control of the clock put his team in a tough situation against the Jets, and ultimately led to their disastrous week 6 loss. He was outcoached and out-prepared by a winless team, and suffered one of the worst losses in his era as the team's head coach.
Fans were calling for his job, and rightfully looking for answers as to why such a talented group of players was in the midst of a three game skid that no one had predicted after their fast start to the 2019 season. Dallas' backs were against the wall, and they had to answer against the Eagles in order to salvage a season which had such high hopes just weeks before.
And, as Jason Garrett's teams have done more often than not, the Dallas Cowboys answered. Garrett's Cowboys had been plagued by slow starts during their three game losing streak, but his team came out on fire on Sunday night. Dallas forced two quick fumbles, scored two easy touchdowns, and were up 14-0 before the Eagles had even blinked.
The game was over, and it had just started.
Jason Garrett is far from perfect as a head coach. He often deserves criticism, and he has some faults which are hard to look past as we project what the Cowboys will be down the stretch of the season. But he deserves major praise for this team's week 7 performance. It would've been easy for the Cowboys to once again come out slow on Sunday, get behind early, and fall into the shell they had found themselves in the previous two weeks.
But instead, they fought. They dominated. And they won.
Games like these are why it's so difficult for the Cowboys to move on from Jason Garrett as their head coach. These teams play hard for him, and they are rarely out of contention on any given Sunday, or during any given season.
Jason Garrett's seat is still hot. The Cowboys will need postseason success to ensure that it cools to a comfortable temperature for the coach this offseason. But kudos to him and the Cowboys for getting a massive win on Sunday night.
Brett Maher Named NFC Special Teams Player of Week 7, 2019
Brett Maher's 63-yard field goal last Sunday may have been a drop in the bucket on the scoreboard for the Dallas Cowboys. But the historical significance of that kick, and it's near record-breaking distance, helped Maher earn the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week award for Week 7 of the 2019 season.
Maher went 3/3 on the day as the Cowboys routed the Philadelphia Eagles. But it was the 63-yard FG at the close of the first half which brought Brett this latest accolade. He became the first kicker in NFL history have three career field goals of 60 yards or more.
1st player in @NFL history to have three career FGs of 60 yds or more ✔️ @brett_maher is your NFC Special Teams Player of the Week! → https://t.co/MFiAnAScrY
Maher's kick was one yard short of tying the record, 64 yards, set by Matt Prater in 2013.
It was weeks like this one which helped Brett Maher keep the Cowboys' kicker job this year despite mixed results in 2018. He won two Player of the Week awards last season and showed off his rare long-range ability, but was one of the least accurate kickers overall from shorter distances.
That same mixed bag has been seen this year. Despite his work on Sunday, Maher is at just 71% accuracy on his total field goal attempts right now.
Hopefully, Brett's big day over the Eagles will spark a hot streak. His range is an incredible weapon for the Cowboys; can he consistently prove that he's more of an asset than a liability?
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