Connect with us

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Defense Benefiting from Loyalty, Patience

Jess Haynie

Published

on

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Defense Benefiting from Loyalty, Patience

The best player on the Cowboys defensive line right now is tackle Terrell McClain. Their best cornerback is Morris Claiborne.

A year ago, or even just a few months ago, many would have guessed that neither would be on the 2016 roster. Their sudden turn from disappointments to defensive standouts is a credit to the patience and loyalty that the Cowboys show their players.

Terrell McClain

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys 2016 Roster Projection: Post-Draft Edition (Part 2) 4

AP Photo/James D Smith

Dallas took a chance on McClain in 2014 after he'd flamed out with three different teams in four seasons. Injuries kept McClain from being a factor that year and cost him all but two games in 2015.

Dallas could've released McClain this year for $1 million in cap space and minimal dead money. After they signed Cedric Thornton in free agency, it didn't seem that McClain would be anything more than a bench option. Given his health problems, Dallas would've been justified in looking for more reliable depth.

Finally healthy for the first time as a Cowboy, Terrell McClain is showing the talent that made him the 65th overall pick in 2011 (the first pick of the third round). He was taken higher in his draft than any of the Cowboys' other defensive tackles, and that is showing in his current play.

Last Sunday was a great example of what McClain is bringing to the Cowboys defense. He led the team with 1.5 sacks and three QB hits. While thought of more as a power player, McClain has shown he can move and be disruptive as well. He was the most impactful defensive linemen from either team, far out-showing Geno Atkins from the Bengals.

Turning 29 and becoming a free agent next summer, McClain may not be able to secure a large contract regardless of what he does now. Still, the veteran is clearly giving it his best effort. Even if his next deal is with another team, Dallas is reaping benefits now.

Morris Claiborne

Cowboys Blog - Looking Ahead: Free Agents that Need Cowboys Remaining Games

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY

Not only has Claiborne emerged as the Cowboys' best corner, but he is getting league-wide recognition as a standout performer in 2016. It is, by leaps and bounds, the peak of his career thus far.

Dallas chose not to use the team option they had on Claiborne this season. It would've paid him about $11 million in 2016; a hefty price for a player with such a problematic career.

Still, the Cowboys clearly hadn't lost faith in Claiborne. Despite having an aging Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick coming off a major knee injury, Dallas didn't spend big in free agency or use a high draft pick at cornerback. They agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with Claiborne to give him one last chance as a Cowboy.

Remember, Dallas faced a tough decision with their fourth overall pick of the NFL Draft. They could've selected Jalen Ramsey, who many felt was the best defensive back prospect in several years, instead of running back Ezekiel Elliott. Even with Claiborne signed to his "prove it" contract, taking Ramsey would've made plenty of sense for the present and future.

Nobody is lamenting the Cowboys' choice to take Elliott now, and a huge part of that is the way Claiborne has delivered. If his strong play continues, we could be looking at a long-term extension sometime in the next few months.

~ ~ ~

These examples of the team being rewarded for its loyalty to players are very relevant as discussion swirls around Tony Romo. Every situation is different, but will having trust validated by other veterans hold any sway on the Cowboys' handling of the quarterback position?

Regardless of who is under center, Romo or Dak Prescott will benefit from the play of Terrell McClain, Morris Claiborne, and the improving defense that they are leading. Not every franchise would have stuck with these guys after the difficulties they've faced, especially the lack of production the team has gotten from them.

Cowboys Headlines - Jerry Jones Named Finalist As Contributor For Pro Football Hall Of Fame

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Jerry Jones has taken plenty of criticism through the years of being too loyal to his players. There's no denying that it's gotten him into trouble before, but there are times that it ends up benefiting the team.

Make no mistake; Jones' treatment of his players is a marketing and negotiating strength when free agents come to town. They see when his former players ask him, and not their lauded head coach, to introduce them in Hall of Fame ceremonies. They see when these former Cowboys stay close to the organization long after their careers have ended. It's why a guy like Claiborne wasn't desperate for new surroundings and wanted to make it work in Dallas.

Claiborne, along with Terrell McClain, are finally making it work as Cowboys. They are at the forefront of a defense which, although not a league-leading group, is exceeding expectations and maximizing its talent.

And they're only here because the Cowboys gave them one more chance.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

Advertisement
Comments

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Late-Round Rookies Will Struggle to Make 2019 Roster

Jess Haynie

Published

on

Jalen Jelks

Being picked in the later rounds of the NFL Draft is no guarantee of a roster spot, but the Dallas Cowboys have had a good run lately of finding talent on Day 3. For this 2019 class, however, even talent may not be enough. The success of past drafts has loaded the roster, and will make it hard for this year's late-round rookies to get through final cuts.

Starting with CB Michael Jackson and DE Joe Jackson in the fifth round, these newcomers may be hoping just to make the practice squad in 2019. The group includes safety Donovan Wilson, RB Mike Weber, and DE Jalen Jelks.

Over the past few years, Dallas has found some significant contributors with their Day 3 draftees. Safety Xavier Woods and CB Anthony Brown, both 6th-round picks, should both have major roles in the secondary this year. Geoff Swaim, a former 7th-rounder, was the starting TE last year before injury.

Another 6th-round safety, Kavon Frazier, has been a solid reserve and special teamer for three seasons. RB Darius Jackson and TE Rico Gathers are also still here from that 2016 draft and competing for jobs. So is WR Noah Brown, a 2017 7th-round pick.

But also with these success have come plenty of failed picks. Going back to just 2017, only Brown and Woods remain from the five players drafted in those last two rounds. CB Marquez White and DTs Joey Ivie and Jordan Carrell didn't last long, and only Ivie remains in the NFL (Kansas City) at this time.

This new crop of 2019 rookies has an even taller order than those past draft classes. They're up against the good picks from recent years, who still have youth and cheap contracts but also a few years of valuable experience. It's the best of both worlds for the Cowboys, but a daunting hurdle for this year's rookies to get over.

Do Tony Pollard or Mike Weber Have Starting Potential?

Dallas Cowboys RB Mike Weber

Of the players drafted in the 5th-7th rounds in 2019, RB Mike Weber has the best shot at making the 53-man roster. The Cowboys didn't keep Rod Smith or sign any other veterans to back up Ezekiel Elliott, creating open competition throughout the remainder of the depth chart.

One spot will go to 4th-round rookie Tony Pollard, who should at least be a gadget player and return specialist if not the primary backup. But Weber has a good chance of being the third man, competing with similarly inexperienced players like Darius Jackson and Jordan Chunn.

The key for Weber may simply be staying healthy. Injuries were an issue for him in college and he already had his first professional scare with a knee injury during mini-camp, which thankfully came back benign. However, more missed time could have Dallas looking for a more reliable option.

One scenario which could hurt Weber's chances is the possibility that the Cowboys keep just Elliott and Pollard on the 53, then utilize fullback Jamize Olawale as an emergency third RB. With his proven offensive skills from the Raiders, Olawale could get them through a game in a pinch. Zeke's durability makes this an acceptable risk.

If that happens, Weber, Jackson, or Chunn will be hoping to stick around on the practice squad and be ready in case of an injury. It would still be a positive outcome for a 7th-round pick like Weber, but it's not the same as making the official roster.

Donovan Wilson

Dallas Cowboys safety Donovan Wilson

The player with the next-best odds of making the team this year is safety Donovan Wilson, who many considered a steal in the sixth round. With Kavon Frazier entering the final year of his rookie deal, Dallas might be willing to cut him loose and go with the younger player with a fresh, new four-year contract.

But even if the Cowboys like Wilson over Frazier, he's also got to worry about Darian Thompson. Taken in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft by the Giants, Thompson may have higher upside and has already been getting work in practice before Frazier, Wilson, or other safety prospects.

The situation is even worse for other rookies. Michael Jackson has to hope that the Cowboys either keep more than four cornerbacks, which they didn't last year, or that Jourdan Lewis gets traded. He also has to worry about Donovan Olumba, who nearly made the team last year and is back with a season of practice squad experience.

Joe Jackson is also feeling a number crunch at defensive end, as is 7th-round pick Jalen Jelks. The Cowboys have loaded up at DE this year, adding veteran Robert Quinn and Kerry Hyder to the returning cast of DeMarcus Lawrence, Taco Charlton, and Dorance Armstrong. There's also Randy Gregory still floating around out there, hoping for reinstatement before the season begins.

One idea I've seen floated is that Jelks could get converted to strong-side linebacker, in the mold of former Dallas roleplayer Kyle Wilber (credit to @KDDrummondNFL). This would make a lot of sense given Jelks' physical makeup and the opportunity at LB, where he'd be competing with Chris Covington for the sixth roster spot.

~ ~ ~

All of these players will have an opportunity. They weren't drafted for nothing; Dallas will inherently root for them after investing picks to acquire them. But a spot with this team, or even in the league, is far from guaranteed for any late-round rookies.

Will someone from this group will emerge as the next Xavier Woods? Or will they join the many who spent only one or two offseasons with the team and then quickly faded from memory?

Every year's rookies face this question, but this 2019 group will have a harder time than most of avoiding the discard pile.



Continue Reading

Player News

Is Amari Cooper the Most Important Contract for Cowboys to Finalize?

John Williams

Published

on

Amari Cooper has Final Say on Trade Compensation in Cowboys Win 3

Most of the offseason contract chatter, once DeMarcus Lawrence's contract was signed, began to focus on the next group of stars due for big-time money, most notably Quarterback Dak Prescott. For good reason as the quarterback is generally regarded as the most important player on the team. While Prescott has been important to the team's success over the last three seasons, few players made as much of an impact on the 2018 Dallas Cowboys than Amari Cooper.

The Dallas Cowboys front office is working on deals for Prescott and Cooper. Both will get new contracts at some point before they're scheduled to hit free agency in March of 2020, but one could argue that getting Amari Cooper's deal done is more important than Dak Prescott's.

Prior to the arrival of Amari Cooper, the Dallas Cowboys offense struggled and was inconsistent. In the seven games prior to the trade that brought Cooper to Dallas, the Cowboys went 3-4 and scored more than 20 points only three times. In wins over the New York Giants, Detroit Lions, and Jacksonville Jaguars they averaged 28.67 points per game, highlighted by a 40 point outburst against the Jaguars in week six. In their four losses on the season they averaged 13.5 points per game. Over the first seven games, they averaged 20 points per game.

In the nine games, the Dallas Cowboys played with Amari Cooper, the Cowboys averaged 22 points per game. They scored more than 20 points in all but three games; losses to the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts and a win over the New Orleans Saints.

If you remove the 40 point game against the Jaguars from the scoring average over the first seven games and the shutout loss to the Colts from the scoring average over the final nine games, the scoring average changes dramatically. Without the Jaguars game, the Cowboys only averaged 16.67 points per game in the other six contests, decreasing their scoring average by more than three points per game. Conversely, if you remove the shutout loss to the Colts from the scoring average over the last nine games, the Cowboys averaged 24.87 points per game. That's nearly a three-point difference.

Even if you remove the best (week 17 against the Giants) and worst (week 15 against the Colts) games of the final nine games from the scoring average, the Cowboys averaged 23.3 points per game. removing the best (week six against the Jaguars) and worst (week one against the Panthers) games from the first half of the season, the Dallas Cowboys averaged only 18.4 points per game in the other five games.

So Amari Cooper was worth between two and 4.9 points per game. That may not seem like a lot, but that's a huge difference in a league where so many games come down to a single score.

Amari Cooper has Final Say on Trade Compensation in Cowboys Win 1The impact offense as a whole is noticeable, but what about on Dak Prescott.

Dak Prescott only averaged 202 passing yards per game and had a passer rating of 87.4 with eight touchdown passes and four interceptions in the first seven games prior to Amari Cooper's arrival. Prescott only completed 62.14% of his passes in the first seven games of the season.

Over the final nine games of the season, Dak averaged 274 passing yards a game, threw for 14 touchdowns and only threw four interceptions. Prescott had a passer rating of 103 and completed 71% of his passes.

In the first half of the season, Prescott only had a passer rating over 100 two times, while he had a passer rating under 90 three times. Over the final nine games with Amari, Prescott had a passer rating over 100 six times and had only two games with a passer rating under 90.

Not only did Amari Cooper make a significant impact on the passing game, but the running game led by Ezekiel Elliott saw a dramatic increase in his production once Amari Cooper arrived.

In the first seven games of the season, Ezekiel Elliott averaged only 19 carries a game and 88.4 yards rushing per game. He was averaging 4.69 yards per carry. Through the air, Elliott caught 3.6 passes per game for only 25 yards with seven yards per reception.

After Cooper's arrival, Elliott got more opportunities and found more room to run as well. he averaged 21.5 carries per game, rushed for 101.9 yards per game. He more than doubled his receptions per game with 6.5 and averaged 49 yards receiving per game, nearly doubling his first half of the season totals.

It's no coincidence that the run and pass games saw increased production after bringing in one of the better young receivers in the NFL. The overall impact of Amari Cooper led to the Dallas Cowboys going on a 7-2 run to finish the season to win the NFC East. Prior to the trade, the team looked dead in the water. After the trade Dak Prescott looked like a completely different quarterback. The team was hitting big plays, converting on third downs, and scoring tons of points on the way to winning lots of games.

Dak Prescott is going to get his contract finalized, of that, I have no doubt. While I feel good about his upward trajectory as a player, I feel a lot better about it knowing that Amari Cooper is about to get a contract too.

Amari Cooper is an excellent talent. His route running precision makes opposing defensive backs look foolish and the separation he creates makes a quarterback's job that much easier. Cooper is like having Cole Beasley in Dez Bryant's body with sub-4.4 speed.

Just turning 25 years old, Amari Cooper is one of the bright young stars at the wide receiver position and is about to enter his prime. Unlike players like Dez Bryant, who rely on physicality and athleticism, Cooper is going to age much more gracefully as route running is one of those things that doesn't drop off near as quickly as athleticism. Just look at Jason Witten.

The Dallas Cowboys need to not mess around with Amari Cooper. Because having him for his prime and for the same timeframe that you are extending your franchise quarterback will make the next six years of their respective careers much more productive. The best way to take care of your franchise quarterback is to give him an offensive line to protect him. The second best way is to give him a wide receiver that can get open for him.

Amari Cooper is a quarterback's best friend and will be worth every penny he gets in a contract extension. In the Cowboys 2018 run to the playoffs, there were few players as important to that success as Amari Cooper. In this offseason of contract extensions and signings, few still, are as important to the Cowboys success as Amari Cooper.

Get him signed, so he can go play football.



Continue Reading

Dallas Cowboys

Could Cowboys Have Another “Ezekiel Elliott vs. Jalen Ramsey” Debate?

Jess Haynie

Published

on

Ezekiel Elliott, Jalen Ramsey

The debate over "Ezekiel Elliott vs. Jalen Ramsey" for from the 2016 NFL Draft has never really stopped in Dallas. From before that draft until now, Cowboys fans still argue over which player the team should have taken. For the team, could they face that question again in the next few years?

A little over three years ago, the Cowboys drafted Elliott with the fourth-overall pick. In so doing, they also snubbed Ramsey; the cornerback expected to become a Cowboy and wound up going with the fifth pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Where you stand on this issue likely has a lot to do with how you value running backs. Some argued in 2016, and still do, that no RB is worth that high of a pick or paying top dollar for in future years. You've seen plenty of those opinions this offseason as talk of a long-term contract extension for Elliott has heated up.

Those same folks would have loved for Dallas to take Jalen Ramsey, who instantly became one of the NFL's top corners. And in 2021, with both players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, they would probably rather see the Cowboys let Elliott walk away and use that money to add an elite player at a position like cornerback.

We mention Ramsey here because of his very public feud with Jacksonville over his contract. The team reportedly informed him they would wait until next year to do a long-term extension, and Ramsey made it known through social media that he was going to drive the price up. Given his known issues with Jaguars' VP Tom Coughlin, it could lead to a parting of ways.

If  Jalen Ramsey hit the open market, and still want to be a Cowboy, could the CB end up in Dallas after all?

Ezekiel Elliott Already Has Second Rushing Title Locked Down

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

Let's hypothesize that both Ezekiel Elliott and Jalen Ramsey have to play 2020 on their fifth-year options. Now the Cowboys are having to decide if they want give Zeke a long-term deal, the franchise tag, or just let him go.

How does the prospect of potentially signing Ramsey, or some other elite talent at another position, sway Dallas' thinking? Could they decide that the best bang for their buck is to spend roughly $15 million per year at RB or at CB, OT, or somewhere else?

The Cowboys already have a Pro Bowl corner in Byron Jones but there's still a lot of uncertainty at the other starting position. Neither Chidobe Awuzie or Jourdan Lewis have been consistent enough and both will have expiring contracts in 2021.

Ezekiel Elliott will turn 26 that year. He will have five seasons of workhorse mileage. And this is the same Cowboys team that decided to let DeMarco Murray walk away a few years ago.

Of course, Elliott trumps Murray in almost every way. He's been elite every season so far, not just one, and has been far more durable. Assuming personal conduct issues don't remain a problem, Zeke will be much harder to let go of than DeMarco was.

However, the salary cap forces teams to think about the entire roster when making personnel decisions. Even if you can justify paying Elliott huge money, that means less for someone else. And even if it makes sense for a year or two, what about when Zeke is creeping closer to 30 years old?

Jalen Ramsey

Jacksonville Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey

Again, I mentioned Ramsey here because of the intrigue with his contract situation in Jacksonville and connection to Dallas from the 2016 draft. It would be quite ironic if the Cowboys, five years later, were again having to decide between the same two players.

But Jalen exemplifies a greater issue that Dallas faces in the coming years. Does it make sense to tie up so much money at running back and weaken yourself at other positions?

While RBs as special as Ezekiel Elliott don't grow on trees, it's still one of the easiest positions to fill. Assuming the Cowboys still have one of the NFL's top offensive lines in a few years, they will be tempted to try and get solid rushing production with a much cheaper ball carrier.

When Dallas let DeMarco Murray go and then drafted Ezekiel Elliott a year later, some thought it could be the start of a new trend in roster management. Draft a RB high, get 4-5 years out of him, and then let somebody else pay him the big money. Rinse and repeat.

But then Zeke came along and has been the stuff of legends. If he has a long-term career in Dallas, he will be right there with Emmitt and Dorsett in the top-three of all time Cowboys running backs.

Elliott isn't just highly productive but brings personality and excitement. Guys like that are hard to let go of; they are as valuable for marketing as they are on the field.

That said, a lot can change in the next year or two. More issues with the league office, or a major injury, could have a dramatic effect on how we see Elliott's long-term value. It may make the decision much easier.

But assuming Zeke remains as valuable as ever, the Dallas Cowboys could be facing another major quandary between the running back and other elite players like Jalen Ramsey. What most helps the team win, and what has the most value over multiple seasons?

Hopefully, Ezekiel Elliott keeps playing well enough to keep the debate going.



Continue Reading



Enjoy 40% commissions on officially licensed products as a FanPrint affiliate. You can even make your own, fully licensed Cowboys and player designs! Get started here

Trending