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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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Report: Austin Heading to IR: Deonte Thompson is the Next Man Up

John Williams

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Wide Receiver Deonte Thompson Making Preseason Debut Vs. Cardinals

Tavon Austin's stint with the Dallas Cowboys has been up and down through six games. He's provided some big play ability on the outside, but hasn't really had the running room on jet sweeps that the Dallas Cowboys would have hoped for when they acquired Austin from the Los Angeles Rams during the 2018 NFL Draft.

Now it's being reported by Brandon George from the Dallas Morning News that Austin may be headed to injured reserve for a groin tear suffered in the Dallas Cowboys week six win over the Jaguars.

Brandon George on Twitter

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said WR Tavon Austin will be getting a second opinion on his injured right groin in the next day or so. He didn't discount possibility of him being placed on injured reserve.

 

Whether Austin goes to injured reserve or not remains to be seen, but we do know that he'll miss week seven and likely won't be able to suit up for a while. Though Austin hasn't been relied upon much, he has been a threat that opposing defenses have had to account for in both the passing and running game. Tavon Austin leaves a bit of a hole.

Enter Deonte Thompson.

Deonte Thompson, who was signed by the Dallas Cowboys this past offseason, hasn't been the same type of rushing threat that Austin has been in his NFL career. Thompson's only carried the ball two times in his career for -5 yards. However, Thompson has some skills that could bode well should the Dallas Cowboys decide to use him in the jet sweep role that Austin is vacating.

He's been a return threat in his NFL career, averaging 24.8 yards per return. He's had returns of 47, 64, and 74 yards. He's also had some good moments running after the catch in his career, though he hasn't gotten many opportunities.

Thompson's a former track athlete and before the 2012 NFL Draft ran a 4.30 40 yard dash. He has the speed and a bit more size than Austin to make some things happen if given the opportunities.

The jet sweep has become an important staple in the Dallas Cowboys offense. Even when they don't hand it off on the sweep, they use it in play action, to set up screens, and even to get the defense thinking about it on direct hand offs to Ezekiel Elliott. They aren't going to want to scrap that part of the playbook just because Austin will be sitting out. Deonte Thompson can be that guy. Much like Marquise Goodwin in San Francisco, Thompson has elite speed.

He's not just football fast. He's fast-fast.

When I was in high school, I played baseball. In the baseball program I was fast. The fastest on the team. That was my game. Infield singles. Stretching doubles to triples. Stealing bases. I was fast. I went out for track my senior season because I thought, "hey I'm fast, let's see what would happen if I ran the 100-meter-dash." I found out really quickly that there is a difference between baseball fast and track fast.

The same applies to football and track. Deonte Thompson is track fast. He's a guy that the Dallas Cowboys need to get the ball to on those jet sweeps to continue to threaten defenses sideline to sideline. When it's working, as we've seen with Lucky Whitehead in the past and Tavon Austin this year, it opens up a lot for the Dallas Cowboys offense.

It's likely that Cole Beasley gets those first jet sweep attempts, and as a trusted veteran for the Dallas Cowboys, he probably should. But, if Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan want to continue to use the jet sweep to the offense's maximum benefit, they need to start showing it with Deonte Thompson. He has the speed to get to the corner and take it to the end zone from any where on the field.

Here's an example of what Thompson can do with the ball in his hands.

NFL on Twitter

109 YARDS TO THE HOUSE!!! Deonte Thompson returns the missed field goal and runs it all the way back for a @ChicagoBears TD! #CHIvsAZ https://t.co/k9IfkZMoIY

 

With Tavon Austin set to be out -- possibly for the season -- it's time to see what Deonte Thompson can do. The Dallas Cowboys need to get a win here to get above .500 for the first time this season and set themselves up to make a run at the divisional crown. Deonte Thompson's ability with the ball in his hands will give them a good opportunity to do just that.



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Michael Gallup Showing Signs of a Breakout

John Williams

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Cowboys Roster: Dallas Made Right Decisions on Unproven Skill Players

We're only six games into the career of Rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup who was selected 81st overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2018 NFL Draft. It's been a slow start to his career, mostly because of usage. On Sunday, he took a step toward what many thought he could be for the Cowboys when he was drafted; Wide receiver one.

The numbers, one reception on two targets for 27 yards, may not indicate a breakout is coming, but if you look at the two targets he saw and the quality of the corner he faced, they're more impressive.

Marcus Mosher on Twitter

Look at this catch by #Cowboys rookie WR Michael Gallup https://t.co/lD1xJ2WemD

On the Dallas Cowboys first drive of the day, Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott looked Michael Gallup's way down the left sideline and hit him on a nice back shoulder fade that looked an awful lot like a Dez Bryant-like contested catch. It was a key play on 3rd-and-9 to get the Dallas Cowboys into Jacksonville territory on a drive that led to a Brett Maher field goal and a 3-0 lead.

Later in the game with the Cowboys driving to score a touchdown, Gallup made a tremendous catch when he got perfect depth behind All-Pro Corner Back A.J. Bouye and in front of the safety help. It looked to be an impressive touchdown catch just inside the end zone, but was overturned on replay. On review, Gallup wasn't able to get his second foot down after he made contact with the defender. Though the touchdown didn't stand, it was an impressive effort for Michael Gallup.

Jordan Schultz on Twitter

Michael Gallup with a near circus catch to ALMOST haul in his first NFL TD. Ruled incomplete. #cowboys #jags @CSUFootball https://t.co/SePSc3n1Yp

Michael Gallup led the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver group in snaps (81% of the offensive snaps) on Sunday, and according to Mike Clay from ESPN, he led the Dallas Cowboys in routes run as well. Both of Gallup's targets came against Bouye, showing an ability to beat one of the best corners in the NFL.

Mike Clay on Twitter

Michael Gallup paced the Cowboys in pass routes (25) for the first time in his career on Sunday.

As Michael Gallup sees more opportunities to play, his opportunities to make plays are going to continue to grow. With news coming down that Tavon Austin is unlikely to play for several weeks because of a groin injury, more snaps are opening up at the wide receiver position. Tavon played 18 snaps before getting injured on Sunday, so there will be increased opportunities for Gallup moving forward.

Gallup's only seen about 3 targets a game, but with the increased snaps he saw in week six and the potential for even more with Austin coming, the opportunities should grow. As he continues to come down with impressive catches like he did on Sunday (even if only one of them counted), it's going to increase Dak Prescott's and the coaching staff's level of trust in the rookie.

It's safe to say that more big time catches are coming for Michael Gallup and a breakout is coming sooner than later.



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Oakland Raiders’ Wide Receiver Amari Cooper On the Trade Block

John Williams

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Oakland Raiders' Wide Receiver Amari Cooper On the Trade Block

Aside from Wide Receiver Cole Beasley, the Dallas Cowboys haven't received much production from their wide receiver group outside of the occasional big play from fellow wide outs Michael Gallup or Tavon Austin. Well, the Oakland Raiders apparently are willing to listen to offers for Wide Receiver Amari Cooper and, according to Michael Rapaport, are asking for a first round draft pick in return.

Allan Bell on Twitter

Raiders want a first round pick for Amari Cooper, per @RapSheet.

 

The Dallas Cowboys could use someone with Cooper's ability, even if he has been a drop machine through his first four seasons. In his first two seasons in the NFL, 2015 and 2016, Cooper averaged 77 receptions on 131 targets, for 1,111.5 yards, and 5.5 touchdowns. Through his first three seasons in the NFL, Cooper averaged 11 drops a season, including 18 in his rookie season.

Any time you start a discussion about whether you should trade for someone, the question always begins with "what are you paying?" What would you be willing to pay for Amari Cooper? After back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons to start his career, he only went for 680 yards in 14 games (48.6 yards per game). Though the yardage wasn't great last year, he did catch seven touchdowns for the Oakland Raiders.

So far in 2018, Cooper is averaging 46.7 yards per game on 3.67 receptions per game and has only scored one touchdown.

I wouldn't send a top 60 pick for Amari Cooper. He's a good player, but is he better than what Michael Gallup could be? Because if you trade for Cooper he's going to likely eat into Gallup's snap count and we need to find out if Michal Gallup is a player that the Dallas Cowboys could rely on in the future. But, if the Cowboys coaching staff brought Cooper in to replace Allen Hurns, then I'd be very happy to talk about acquiring the former first round draft choice.

A starting wide receiver group of Cole Beasley, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup would be a very difficult group to cover and Quarterback Dak Prescott showed on Sunday that he has what it takes to get the ball down field to his receivers.

The Cowboys probably wouldn't make this trade, unless Jerry Jones got involved, because they value their draft picks too much, but if the Dallas Cowboys could get him for a third round pick I'd do it in a heart beat. For a second round pick, I'd have to get a fifth or sixth back from Oakland in that deal. Cooper's a good player, but hasn't shown to be one of the best at his position.

There are a couple other players from Oakland that I'm more interested in trading for.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

What do you think? Would you trade for Amari Cooper, and if so, what would you be willing to give?

 



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