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Is This Cowboys Defender Due for a Pro-Bowl Year?

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Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Sophomores: LB Damien Wilson

The talk of the Dallas Cowboys defense this offseason has been mostly about first round pick Taco Charlton, the return of Jaylon Smith, the revamped secondary, or the emergence of second year player Charles Tapper. One player who is quietly flying under the radar is former fourth round pick out of Minnesota, Damien Wilson.

Damien Wilson was the 127th overall pick in the 2015 draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Wilson was selected as insurance in 2015 adding yet another linebacker to the already crowded linebacker group.

Wilson had plenty of competition coming onto the team with veterans Will Smith, Kyle Wilber, Dekoda Watson, Jasper Brinkley, and Cameron Lawrence also on the roster. Damien Wilson didn’t shy away from the competition, instead he showed up in training camp and the preseason games and earned his star.

His first year in the league, Damien Wilson didn’t necessarily set the world on fire. He finished the season with 10 total tackles, most of which coming on special teams. Most fans will recall the overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints, in which he was a late substitution and allowed C.J. Spiller to beat him and win the game for the Saints on a blown coverage. While that wasn’t one of his finer moments, Wilson was one of the better players on the Cowboys defense in the 2016 season.

After a slow start to the season, missing most of the offseason due to an eye injury, Damien Wilson came back better than ever.

Wilson finished 2016 with 27 total tackles and 0.5 sack. While serving as a primary role player in 2016 filling in for Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchens, and splitting time with Justin Durant, Wilson was fantastic against the run and was even better in pass coverage in 2016.

On Friday, ProFootballFocus.com put out a ranking of lowest quarterback rating allowed when in coverage by a linebacker, Damien Wilson was ranked third best on that list right behind Jordan Hicks, and Jamie Collins.

Pro Football Focus on Twitter

Elite coverage linebacker.

There are two things I really like about Damien Wilson.

First, is just that, his coverage ability. One of the hardest players to find in the NFL is a linebacker that can cover and play the run, and Damien Wilson can do both. As PFF points out, Wilson allowed a 67.5 QBR when in coverage; that is an extremely good percentage and a trait that the Cowboys’ linebackers seem to lack (excluding Sean Lee).

Second, is his ability to flow sideline to sideline and work down the line without getting washed out of the play. Far too often linebackers will get washed out of a play by a tight end, pulling offensive linemen, or wide receivers; but Wilson has very good awareness of how to shed blocks, keep his feet moving and stop the ball carrier in his tracks.

Cowboys Headlines - Damien Wilson "Eyeing" Bigger Defensive Role

Damien Wilson has only started six games in his two years with the Cowboys, but that is mainly due to the depth the Cowboys have had at the position.

This year, that isn’t the case.

The Cowboys didn’t draft a linebacker with any of their nine draft picks for the first time since 2004.

Coincidence? I think not.

With Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchens, and Jaylon Smith (pending health) as the penciled in starters don’t be surprised to see Damien Wilson get himself in the conversation as an opening day starter at MIKE linebacker or SAM linebacker.

Damien Wilson has been an excellent role player for the Cowboys, in an expanded role could we be looking at the chance at his first Pro-Bowl? I wouldn’t be surprised one bit.

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Born in 1995, loved Football but more importantly the Dallas Cowboys since day one. Living in Redskins Country flying the Blue and Silver flag as high as possible. Covering the Dallas Cowboys for InsideTheStar.com and CowboysNation.com. Catch me on twitter @connorx147 !

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Sean’s Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat

The Cowboys have just one more game to get through without their star running back Ezekiel Elliott, but Alfred Morris and Rod Smith deserve a ton of credit for the way they’ve been able to fill in out of the backfield for Zeke Elliott. Throughout the time Elliott has missed though, the Cowboys have lacked the explosive plays on offense that he can provide – until Rod Smith was given an opportunity last week at the Giants.

Smith complimented Morris exceptionally well, running with quickness and power to prove his case for more of a role on offense behind Elliott moving forward. It was the Ohio State product’s consecutive touchdowns of 81 yards through the air and 15 yards on the ground that sealed the game for the Cowboys in week 14.

Here is a closer look at Rod Smith’s performance from last week in this latest Sean’s Scout.

Smith3 – Streamable

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The Cowboys offensive line was dominant as always against a tough New York defensive front, and this first play is a great look at their execution in space and on the move. Rod Smith’s decisiveness when hitting the hole with speed and balance was the first thing I noticed on the game tape.

The best thing Smith does on this play comes at the second level, where running backs can truly make a difference in Dallas. As RG Zack Martin rides his man out of the play entirely, he gets in front of Smith who is seeing the play develop straight ahead. With his long strides, Smith is able to smoothly get through traffic and continue accelerating up field through arm tackles for a big gain.

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These same traits are seen with Rod Smith as a pass catcher – something he does effortlessly to also help fill the void left by Elliott. Watch how quickly Smith commits to his angle up the field after catching this dump pass from Dak Prescott, attacking a defender that has the angle on him after the catch.

Rod subtly leans to the right just enough to make the defender hesitate long enough to allow his burst to evade him and gain extra yards falling forward.

Smith4 – Streamable

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Smith essentially does the same thing without the ball in his hands here, on his 81 yard catch and run for a touchdown. Setting up the safety out of the slot to be beat across his face, Smith separates from him at the stem and then does a great job getting depth on his route into the vacated middle of the field. With blockers to help him reach the end zone, Smith turns this busted coverage by the Giants into the game’s biggest play.

Smith1 – Streamable

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This last play I chose to show is probably the least well-blocked attempt for Smith out of the ones in this Sean’s Scout, but there is still a lot to like about what Rod does here with the ball in his hands.

The Giants might be a two-win football team, but they still have marquee players up front, particularly DE Olivier Vernon. Smith does well here to keep his feet moving as he cuts this play to the backside. Vernon does well to limit the potential gain on this play by staying away from the block of Jason Witten, as Smith is taken down by Darian Thompson.

The numbers the Giants had to commit to stopping the run was still a huge reason why Prescott had a career day throwing the football, and Rod Smith’s readiness to step in at RB was a deciding factor in getting Dallas to 7-6.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Proving to be one of the Dallas Cowboys most valuable players, considering his cost (under contract through 2018), and ability to contribute on special teams and offense, Rod Smith is the perfect RB3 for this team.

Smith is not elite in any one area, and is not a prototypical RB from a physical standpoint, but his contributions as a runner, pass catcher, and blocker could remain critical to the Cowboys’ hopes of reaching the playoffs behind this offense – even when Ezekiel Elliott is back in the fold.

Tell us what you think about “Sean’s Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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La’el Collins’ Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise

Brian Martin

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La'el Collins' Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise 1

The decision by the Dallas Cowboys to move La’el Collins from left guard to right tackle was met by some skepticism by quite a few members of Cowboys Nation during the off-season. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was one of those skeptical of the move, but I’m not afraid to admit he has exceeded my expectations.

In all honesty, I always believed that La’el Collins’ best position in the NFL is on the interior of the offense of line as a guard. I thought he could use his strength and athleticism to his advantage when working in a phone booth against slower and less athletic defensive tackles. That’s not to say I didn’t think he would make a good right tackle, I just thought he had Pro Bowl potential as a guard.

Strangely enough, Collins has probably put together a Pro Bowl caliber season in his first season starting at the right tackle position for the Cowboys. He has become an upgrade over the previous starter Doug Free, and is really starting to earn high praise from the brass. Stephen Jones in particular has been impressed with Collins, especially considering how he has played after missing two full weeks of practice.

Mark Lane on Twitter

DallasCowboys COO Stephen Jones told @1053thefan La’el Collins has answered the bell after his contract extension.

I personally agree with everything Stephen Jones said about La’el Collins. I’ve really enjoyed watching his progression this season, but I have been really impressed how he played the last two weeks after missing so much practice.

You might not of known, but Collins has missed two full weeks of practice due to a herniated disc in his back. This is put his availability to play against the Washington Redskins and New York Giants in jeopardy, but somehow he has toughened up and played considerably well.

This unfortunately will be something he has to continue to battle through the rest of the season, but I’m not going to bet against him playing. He absolutely makes this offensive line better and I would hate to see Chaz Green or Byron Bell back on the field after the way they played as feel-ins.

La’el Collins has without a doubt earned my respect and I think it’s about time we all recognize the player he is turning into. I know the Dallas Cowboys appreciate all that he does and believe that his recent contract extension is money well spent.

What do you think about La’el Collins?

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Cowboys’ DE DeMarcus Lawrence Fed Up With NFL Officiating

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Crossroads: Is This a Short-Term or Long-Term Team? 2

The Dallas Cowboys were able to come away with a 30-10 victory over the New York Giants Sunday afternoon in what was described as a must-win situation in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. Typically, when these two teams square off against one another there are sure to be some kind of fireworks in the ballgame, but the final volley of explosions didn’t go off until after the completion of the game during an interview with DeMarcus Lawrence.

DeMarcus Lawrence didn’t hold back in his post game interview, especially in regard to the NFL officiating. He let his frustrations known that he is fed up and that he’s not going to take it anymore. At least not quietly that is.

Lawrence, the NFL’s sack leader, ripped the officiating crew after the Giants game Sunday afternoon for not calling any holding penalties. There was actually one holding penalty called against the Giants, but the point Lawrence was trying to make still rings true.

Joe Trahan on Twitter

Cowboys DE Demarcus Lawrence goes on an explosive rant about officiating, in particular, a lack of holding calls by linemen against him. And yes, Lawrence realizes he a fine is coming, whether he’s got a point, or not. And yes, he probably does. https://t.co/UU51xQi05p

DeMarcus Lawrence certainly has a right to be mad and I don’t blame him at all for voicing his frustrations about the lack of holding calls against opposing offensive lineman. This actually adds more fuel to the fire that there is indeed an officiating conspiracy against the Cowboys.

In fact, you may or may not be surprised to learn that there have only been two holding penalties called on Cowboys’ opponents in the last 10 games, including the one against the Giants Sunday afternoon. For comparison sake, the Cowboys offensive line have been flagged 18 times during that time span.

It’s gotta be a coincidence, right? Maybe, maybe not. But, one thing is for sure… DeMarcus Lawrence has had enough!

Of course, Lawrence’s outburst will surely earn him a fine from the NFL, but it may be worth it if it draws more attention to the poor officiating the Cowboys have been receiving. I don’t know about you, but I for one am glad #90 will not “go gentle into that good night“.

Do you think DeMarcus Lawrence’s frustration is justified?

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