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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.



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 @ConnorNFLDraft!

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Cowboys RB Mike Weber’s Injury Scare Continues Concerning Trend

Jess Haynie

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Mike Weber

Rookie RB Mike Weber had a brief scare earlier this week with a knee injury in practice, but thankfully the MRI came back with a good report. However, as he fights to have a future with the Dallas Cowboys, this health incident is a concerning reminder of Weber's recent history.

One reason that Weber fell to the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft was due to battling injuries during his last two years at Ohio State. He lost his starting job in 2017 due to ongoing hamstring issues and also had to miss time last year because of a foot strain.

Carrying the load for the Buckeyes is a far different workload than being second or third on the Cowboys' RB depth chart. But this latest scare happened in early May, just two weeks after Mike joined the team and well before the more strenuous activities of an NFL offseason.

A practice injury can cost you just as badly as one that happens in a game. And with Dallas already thin at RB, it could leave them severely shorthanded if it occurs during the regular season.

Many have projected that the Cowboys' RB group in 2019 would have Ezekiel Elliott as the obvious starter and then rookies Weber and Tony Pollard behind him. While Pollard was drafted three rounds ahead of Weber, he's not built to take a large number of carries if Zeke were to go out.

If Mike Weber does make the team, he would be expected to take a sizable role if something bad happen with Elliott.

Mike Weber

Dallas Cowboys RB Mike Weber

The "injury prone" label is disastrous for any athlete, but especially a guy with no real claim to a roster spot. If Weber causes concern in the front office about his durability, they may go a different way at final cuts.

Remember, Mike's not just up against Pollard and Darius Jackson for a roster spot. There are still plenty of veteran free agent running backs out there that Dallas could turn to if they're not confident about their young prospects.

This isn't too say that one scary moment in May, which ultimately didn't amount to much, is reason to cut bait with Mike Weber. But when you stack it up with his injury history in college, it does make you wonder how he'll do over the course of an entire NFL season.

Hopefully, Weber bounces back from this and has a great summer. Former Buckeye RBs have treated Dallas well the last few years, and it'd be fantastic if Mike can provide the same solid solid depth that Rod Smith did.

But this latest news is just a reminder of why Dallas can't rest easy at running back just yet, and why they may still have another move to make to prepare for 2019.



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Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Graduating From Notre Dame

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: Jaylon Smith Returns Cowboys to NFC East Prominence in Win Over Bucs

The 2019 season is right around the corner for the Dallas Cowboys, with OTA's and training camp getting ready to kickoff in the coming weeks/months.

Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith made the most of his offseason, going back to Notre Dame to finish out his college degree. Smith is set to graduate from Notre Dame this Saturday, and will walk to earn his degree in Film & Television.

Smith talked to DallasCowboys.com's David Helman about why it was so important for him to graduate and finish what he started at Notre Dame. 

“When I left after my junior year, I promised my mom that I would go back and finish...Finishing my third year with the Cowboys, it was time.” - Jaylon Smith

Michael Bertsch on Twitter

2,025 @NotreDame undergraduates will receive degrees during Commencement Weekend. That contingent includes @thejaylonsmith Yes, the current @dallascowboys & former @NDFootball All-American linebacker, who took 21 credits this spring #4for40 #GraduatingChampions #CEV

Smith continues his leadership on and off the field, and we all send our congratulations to the Cowboys starting MIKE linebacker!



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Ezekiel Elliott Snubbed from Top 25 Players Under 25 List

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Should Cowboys Start Preparing for Life Without Ezekiel Elliott?

On Tuesday, Pro Football Focus published it's Top 25 Players Under 25, with Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch one of only three linebackers on the list. Oddly, one of the best players on the team was absent from this same list; Running Back Ezekiel Elliott.

The running backs they included were Kareem Hunt, Saquon Barkley, and Alvin Kamara. Pro Football Focus has been very open about their dislike of Elliott's 2018 season, ranking him 30th in the NFL according to their player grades.

Elliott has won the NFL's rushing title in two of his three seasons and likely would have won it in 2017 had he not been served with a league-mandated six-game suspension. Elliott ran for nearly 1,000 yards in the 10 games he played, which put him in 10th place in rushing in 2017. Le'Veon Bell led the NFL in rushing that season with 1,291 yards. Using some basic arithmetic, I've discovered that Elliott finished just 308 yards off the league lead in six fewer games.

https://twitter.com/PFF_Cowboys/status/1128700802422517761

Despite being the most productive back in the NFL in his first three years in the NFL, Elliott gets knocked because he sees such a high volume of carries and targets from the Dallas Cowboys offense.

On Wednesday, Mark Chichester of Pro Football Focus talked about the players who just missed the cut. Here's what he had to say about Ezekiel Elliott.

"There’s no doubt that Ezekiel Elliott is one of the top players at his position, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that his production is, in large part, thanks to the offense that Dallas has built around him. Over the last three years, Elliott ranks first in rushing attempts (868), rushing yards (4048), rushing yards after contact (2567) and first down conversions (219). However, his three-year rushing grade of 80.2 ranks ninth among the 36 backs with at least 300 attempts in that span, while his 0.119 missed tackles forced per attempt ranks tied for 27th among the same group." 

Mark Chichester - Pro Football Focus

Ezekiel Elliott is one of the best running backs in the NFL, if not the best. There can be an argument for Todd Gurley or Le'Veon Bell, and maybe even Saquon Barkley, but if you aren't including Ezekiel Elliott in the discussion, the discussion is a bit flawed.

For three years, under Scott Linehan as the offensive coordinator, every team in the NFL knows that Elliott is going to get the ball and get the ball a lot. Primarily on first downs. Yet, Elliott continues to be productive and grind out his yards, even against heavily stacked fronts.

I understand the argument that Elliott wasn't very efficient with his touches in 2018, but when you are the primary focus for opposing defenses, it makes it difficult to be efficient. Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamar had the benefit of being coached by Andy Reid and Sean Payton who are considered creative offensive minds. Saquon Barkley had the benefit of Odell Beckham Jr keeping safeties honest.

While the Cowboys had Amari Cooper, the passing game still doesn't get near the respect that the Cowboys run game gets from opposing defensive coordinators. With Kellen Moore on board and the talk about presenting multiple formations for opposing teams to figure out, the Cowboys offense could get more creative in 2019.

Heading into his fourth year in the NFL, it's amazing that Ezekiel Elliott apparently still has something to prove to some out there. After winning rushing titles in two of his three seasons and averaging right around 100 yards a game, Elliott still doesn't get the respect he deserves from national observers.



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