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Cowboys Camp: First Look At The Starting Defense

Kevin Brady



Tyrone Crawford, Sean Lee, Cedric Thornton, Eagles

The Dallas Cowboys had a real football practice yesterday. Yes, it's okay to be excited about it even if it was only a walk through.

With the first practice comes our first look at what the coaches believe to be their starting units, if they were to build a depth chart on day one. For the most part, there weren't any surprises with who lined up with the first unit. Still, there is still some interesting analysis to be drawn from the Cowboys initial starting defense.

David Helman on Twitter

1st D is: LCB - 24 RCB - 30 Slot CB - 32 FS - 31 SS - 38 WLB - 50 MLB - 59 LDE - 98 DT - 92 DT - 96 DE - 90

As you can deduce from David Helman's tweet, the Cowboys first defense was their current nickel set. In the secondary, there isn't much to discuss. Byron Jones and Jeff Heath are the starting safeties, as we expected. Nolan Carroll and Anthony Brown are the starting cornerbacks, with Orlando Scandrick working in the slot.

Scandrick and Carroll should both be on notice, however, as rookie corners Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie may be gunning for their spots during the season.

Jaylon Smith is absent from the starting linebackers, but that was to be anticipated. Anthony Hitchens, a serviceable player, and Sean Lee, the best defensive player on the team, are the starting backers.

Up front is where things get more interesting.

Second year stud Maliek Collins and former Eagle Cedric Thornton line up on the inside, while DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford begin at defensive end. Crawford spent time both inside and out in 2016, moving around the defensive line as needed.

Lawrence is an intriguing case. If healthy, he may be the best defensive end on the Cowboys roster. The problem is, he simply has not been able to stay healthy. With nagging back issues we are right to question if Lawrence can hold up for an entire season.

If he can, however, he should be a productive defensive end for the Cowboys in 2017. If they can somehow get 6-8 sacks from DeMarcus Lawrence, the outlook for this defense will change drastically.

The only change I anticipate from now to week one, barring injury, is at left defensive end. I really do expect Taco Charlton to win the job by the end of camp. If not by then, I think he will be the Cowboys main LDE by the middle of this season. Maybe I am being a little to rash in my predictions, but I do like what Taco can bring.

For now, though, Tyrone Crawford holds the spot and a chance to be the full time starter. Another player to look out for to overtake a defensive end spot would be Benson Mayowa, who reportedly spent all of day one getting reps at RDE.

It will certainly be a lot of fun to watch and see how the defensive lineup unfolds throughout the rest of training camp and preseason.

Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and am currently a college student. Lets get going.

  • Travis Diggs

    This line up looks cute now lol. By midseason its gonna be all jumbled up in a good way. I believe the whole db Draft class will contribute. Demontre Moore will push Tyron Crawford out of his job and Taco will push Lawrence in Make or Break year for him. The defense is getting younger in a good way, Crawford and Scandrick days are numbered

  • Russ_Te

    Everson Walls – UFA

    Michael Downs – UFA

    Ron Fellows – 7th round

    All rookies in 1981. They went on to all start in Landry’s youth movement in the secondary, and became a strength of that team – which finished in the Final 4. They upticked team INT’s substantially.

    This is the closest year to that I can remember for the secondary. Would be a hoot if Jones flew them out to Oxnard for a couple days (all still alive, late 50’s). I think this unit could get something out of that example.

    Big camp ahead: Maybe Collins. He has the talent & this could be his year to go off. That would go a long way for DL pressures this year. Still think Irving will close the season as starting LDE, and Taco moves inside to LDT.

Player News

Cowboys Sign Free Agent WR Deonte Thompson

Jess Haynie



Deonte Thompson

The Dallas Cowboys added some speed to their receiver corps today by signing free agent Deonte Thompson. He played for both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills last season.

Thompson, who turned 29 last month, went undrafted in 2012. He had a quiet to start to his career as a reserve and practice squad guy in Baltimore and Chicago, but finally got a chance to shine with seven starts last year for the Bills. He 27 catches for 430 yards and one touchdown in just 11 games.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

The #Cowboys signed WR Deonte Thompson, per agent @davidcanter. He gets 1-year, $2.5M with a $1M signing bonus.

Deonte brings some much-needed speed to the Cowboys offense. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash as a rookie, and while he's 29 now he still poses more of a vertical threat than the current Dallas receivers.

Given the low salary in this deal, Thompson may not be seen as much than a replacement for Brice Butler near the bottom of Dallas' depth chart. We also have to wait and see what happens with the draft and other moves this offseason to know where he fits into the bigger picture.

For now, though, Cowboys fans can take a little comfort in knowing the front office hasn't completely fallen asleep at the wheel.

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys: How “Position-Flex” Has Handcuffed The 2015 Draft Class

Kevin Brady



Byron Jones

Over the last few years the Dallas Cowboys have placed a high level of importance on "position flex." They've drafted Swiss-Army knife players which could be moved around to different positions on the field.

By drafting players like Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Woods last year, as well as Byron Jones in 2015, the Cowboys have tried to find these versatile players who can be used in multiple ways.

While this seems great on paper, this strategy has handcuffed the majority of their 2015 Draft Class, and is a key reason why the Cowboys seem to be in such a tough spot.

Byron Jones

The Cowboys' first round pick in 2015, Byron Jones, quickly became a favorite of mine during his rookie season. Incredibly athletic, long, and skilled in coverage, Jones was able to be both a fantastic cover cornerback and a solid middle-of-the-field safety due to his range.

Due to both injuries to his teammates, and Jones' own versatility, the Cowboys coaching staff couldn't keep Jones in just one spot. Once they discovered how great he was in man coverage against tight ends, they became enamored with trying to play him in the box.

Once in the box, Jones' struggles as a run defender were highlighted, and both the organization and the fans soured on him quickly.

Now it is rumored that Byron Jones will be moving back to cornerback full time. And while I do hope this is the case, the fact that he is in year four, and the Cowboys haven't been able to find their first round pick a permanent home is a huge indictment on their ability to evaluate and develop talent.

Chaz Green

Okay, hear me out.

The former third round pick of the 2015 Draft was brought in to be the swing tackle for the Cowboys his rookie year. Mainly due to injuries, Green did not see the field for much of his first two seasons. When he did fill in for Tyron Smith at left tackle in 2016, however, Green was very effective.

Of course, Chaz Green's last appearance with the Cowboys was ugly, giving up a plethora of sacks against the Atlanta Falcons. But Dallas might've made their own bed with Green during the beginning of the 2017 season, when they attempted to move him to left guard full time.

Instead of getting the increased work at tackle, and continuing to work as the swing tackle for the team in case of injury, Dallas started Green at left guard early on in the year. He struggled trying to move positions, and looked even worse when trying to move back to tackle.

Once again, the position flex bit the Cowboys right in the backside.

La'el Collins

It's 2018 and we are still talking about what position to play La'el Collins on the offensive line. And that is solely on the coaching staff and front office, not Collins.

Collins was brought in as an undrafted free agent in 2015, but was widely regarded as a first round pick heading into that draft. Though he started at left tackle at LSU, Dallas shifted Collins inside to left guard in 2015. After taking over for Ronald Leary as the starter, Collins produced highlight blocks week after week.

Injuries shortened his 2016 campaign, but heading into 2017 the Cowboys decided to shift him back out to right tackle. Despite some early struggles, Collins progressed nicely throughout the year and became a solid starting right tackle. Plus, he has the upside to become one of the top right tackles in the league.

Instead, it is now being rumored the Cowboys might move him back to guard for 2018. And with that news, I continue to pull my hair out over the position-flex decisions this coaching staff and front office like to make.

If the Cowboys want to get the most out of each draft class, and effectively develop their talent, they need to let those players actually develop, rather than move them around each season. Hopefully they now understand this, and allow both Byron Jones and La'el Collins to reach their full potential.

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Player News

Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal

Sean Martin



Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal

At long last, the Dallas Cowboys have their first free agent addition of this offseason. Having lost starters Jonathan Cooper and Anthony Hitchens at left guard and linebacker respectively, the team has added depth at LB with Joe Thomas signing a two-year deal.

The 2018 season will actually mark Joe Thomas' second stint with the Dallas Cowboys, as he was signed to their practice squad in 2015. The team that signed Thomas out of South Carolina State following the 2014 draft, the Green Bay Packers, added Thomas back to their active roster for the 2015 season.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Source: Cowboys have agreed to a 2-year deal with free agent LB Joe Thomas. He visited the Cowboys today. Thomas has played in 42 games over the last three seasons with the Packers. He had a career-high 70 tackles in 2016.

Thomas has spent the last three seasons starting eight games for the Packers, recording 70 tackles and an interception in 2016.

A contingency plan of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith carrying the Cowboys for 16 games at LB requires adequate depth, which is exactly what the Cowboys are typically in the market for come free agency. Waiting longer than usual to make their first splash, the Cowboys absolutely need an addition like Thomas to perform better than last year's FA class.

Used in sub packages by the Packers while also playing special teams - where the Cowboys have lost core players in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber - Thomas will have a great chance to impress two new Dallas coaches in Ben Bloom and Keith O'Quinn.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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