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Cowboys Defense: Bigger Need at Safety or Defensive End?

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Defense: Bigger Need at Safety or Defensive End

The 2018 NFL Draft from Dallas is coming up quickly, on a league calendar that has not yet officially entered the new year. This hasn't stopped many teams from turning these last few weeks into opportunities for improvement, with trades, releases, and free agent agreements all taking place.

As expected, the Dallas Cowboys have been quiet. For better or worse, it feels safe to say they'll remain relatively quiet through free agency - relying once again on this year's draft haul to contribute right away.

With ten total picks in this draft, the Cowboys are in a great position to improve the overall depth of their team. Primarily in need of starters on defense, the Cowboys could look to upgrade their pass rush or add another starting-caliber safety early in this draft.

Having recently covered a DE prospect that would make sense for the Cowboys in Harold Landry, let's compare this need to their others in a developing secondary.

Dallas Cowboys Defensive Ends

Cowboys Planning

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Current players under contract: Taco Charlton, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Charles  Tapper

Thanks to DeMarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys sustained a pass rush for the first time in a long time this season. Setting the tone up front at the LDE position, Lawrence was a dominant pass rusher with the help of Maliek Collins and David Irving inside.

Lawrence's dominance and ensuing franchise tag that's been placed on him for 2018 may have one downside though. Taco Charlton -- the Cowboys first round pick of 2017 -- is best at this same left end position, as he was in college.

With Tank and Taco rushing off of the strong side, and Benson Mayowa already released by the team, the Cowboys should still be in the market for their next great RDE. The days of relying on Randy Gregory to ever become this player are unfortunately over in Dallas, although he is eligible to apply for reinstatement.

Stopping here with their overall commitment to getting better in the trenches on both sides of the ball would not be smart for the Cowboys, and adding another talented pass rusher to join this solid group could have huge implications for this defense.

Dallas Cowboys Safeties

Cowboys Need Depth of 2017 Draft to Shine in 2018 1

Dallas Cowboys S Xavier Woods

Current players under contract: Jameill Showers, Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier

Byron Jones' move from S to CB this offseason is a positive one, as it allows one of the most athletic defenders in the entire NFL to play his ideal position. His absence could be felt at safety given the Cowboys' current depth here, with plenty of potential for Kris Richard to work with but little experience.

With Jones, Jourdan Lewis, and Chidobe Awuzie expected to start at CB, the Cowboys should feel great about their ability to cover on the back end. Helping these cornerbacks with adequate safety play needs to be prioritized, as Jeff Heath should remain a rotational player.

Rookie Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier both flashes at times in various safety roles this season, and both have the ability to play down in the box. This means that the Cowboys need at safety remains a deeper play maker, a role Jones was never able to fit.

Similarly to their situation at DE, the acquisition of another safety could help the Cowboys get the most out of the players listed above - all of whom showing enough promise/consistency to earn snaps next season.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Although free agency is far from the Dallas Cowboys' preferred method of roster building, their approach in these coming weeks before the draft could tell Cowboys Nation a lot about their outlook on defense.

This defense is incredibly close to coming out of the shadows of the Cowboys offense, becoming a top unit as opposed to one responsible for "protecting the lead" and "not being the reason the Cowboys lose".

Both defensive end and safety are not particularly deep positions in this upcoming draft, only putting further pressure on the Cowboys' self-scouting to prepare for selecting 19th overall.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Defense: Bigger Need at Safety or Defensive End?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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5 Comments
  • Chuck Wright

    ???? 1 tech is by far the biggest need/hole. Followed by S then LB. In fact drafting a top flight/make an impact day one 1 tech will make both LB and S instantly better. Not to mention the pass rushers.

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      I agree with their need at 1T, but they’re not going to draft that position in the first round. DE and SAF are viable options, however.

  • winstar

    Safety and more-so DE is down the list. I am of the opinion that LB is the priority even if we keep Hitch. That’s hard for me to admit as much as I want Vea or Payne. Tyron and Lee killed us last season with injuries. Dez and Prescott didn’t help along with Elliott’s suspension. I was proud of Morris and Smith but Elliott being gone got into Prescott’s head. The FO better get serious or we will be back here next year singing the same song. BTW, OG is a higher priority than S.

  • EverybodyTalks

    To answer the question of DE or S ??? —- I’m going with Safety, especially with Byron going to CB. The DEs we have are a good rotation, w/o even considering the status of Randy Gregory. I agree with the comments on DT1 and that is where we could really strengthen the line. The good thing is DT1&3 are deep in this draft. The reason I say DT1&3 is because of the comment by Stephen Jones. He stated that they would consider a DT1, but only if that player also had DT3 attributes. So to me, that includes Vita and DaRon. Plus in other rounds, we could select other DT1&3s such as Nathan Shepherd, Poona Ford, Desmond Harrison, to name just a few.

  • David L Lamon

    Better a DE if available. Without an excellent pass rush it puts too much pressure on the DB’s. Their lineback corps is not very good either and with Smith they still don’t know what they are going to get. His coverage skills suck buttermilk and he over pursues too much. This is in part due to his lack of confidence in his own playing ability and inexperience.

Star Blog

The Cowboys Blueprint for Success has been Set

Shane Carter

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Monday Morning Hangover: Cowboys Dominate Jaguars Top-Ranked Defense 1

The Cowboys victory against the Jaguars was a reminder to everyone just how good Dak Prescott & Co. can be. They ran and threw all over the Jaguars defense like they were high school level. It was a one-sided, lambs to the slaughter type of game.

At the end of the game, it left all of us wondering, "where has this team been all year?"

Throughout the season, the Cowboys showed both dominance and incompetence on the offensive side of the football. One game the team moves the ball up and down the field with ease, the next game the offense looks inept. Last Sunday’s game versus Jacksonville shows that Dallas can be successful the rest of the season, if they continue to play as such.

Run the ball

This team was built to run the football. Look at the offensive line, their type of tight ends, their quarterback, and of course Ezekiel Elliott.

The line is full of first round talent, the tight ends are block-first types (sans Rico Gathers), Dak Prescott gives them another dimension with the mobile ability in and out of the pocket, and Elliott is one of if not the best running back in the league.

The concept of running the football should not be lost on this team.

If they let Elliott run 20 or more times per game, allow Prescott to run outside of the pocket and not just be a stand-still passer, and mix in some of Rod Smith and Tavon Austin (when healthy) to give their main runner a break, they can run on anyone.

Let Dak Move Around

What makes Dak Prescott so special to this team isn’t just his leadership, but also his ability to extend plays. He stays in the pocket if he has to but he’s so skilled outside with his legs. Zone read, play action, tuck and run, throw on the run, etc., any excuse to get Dak Prescott on the move is a plus. Defenses respect his ability to move so much that the Cowboys receivers get open more as a result.

The worst thing a coaching staff can do to a mobile quarterback is to keep him standing still when he can do so much more with his feet. Don’t buy a Corvette and keep it locked up in the garage. The best way for Dak Prescott to stay consistent and succeed as a passer is to let Dak be Dak.

Keep Blitzing

The Cowboys have found a serious advantage that they’ve lacked in years past. Led by DeMarcus Lawrence and Jaylon Smith, the Cowboys have 18 sacks through the first six games of the season.

Throw in the contributions of players like Taco Charlton, Tyrone Crawford, and Randy Gregory, among others, and you’ve got the deepest pass rush the Cowboys have had in years.

The team is 7th in the league in sacks and there seems to be no sign of stopping and no shortage of players who can get to the quarterback. These numbers look like they’ll only go up from here and with the amount of players the Cowboys have to do so, Jacksonville looks like it was only a taste of what’s to come.

Creative Play Calling

A little more than a week ago Jerry Jones stated that the Cowboys offense looked similar to the L.A. Rams - a hilarious notion by most accounts, right?

The Cowboys offensive scheme had been mocked all season for being both predictable and out of date. I’m not sure how many times you can run a three tight end set and expect success when it hadn't happened yet.

The team would run then throw on first and second downs, and depending on yardage, would set up a predictable third down attempt.

Against Jacksonville, we saw more read option than we’ve seen all year. Dak Prescott was vintage. His ability to move the ball with his legs made the secondary shaky against the Cowboys receivers - especially Cole Beasley - and that opened up the playbook.

Ezekiel Elliott couldn’t be stopped and just about every receiver got in on the action. Even rookie receiver Michael Gallup got in and showed some of what Cowboy fans had been waiting for.

Hopefully, that game showed just how dangerous the Cowboys can be when they are unpredictable and let their quarterback be himself. If they game planned for today the same as they did against the Jaguars, the rest of the season will be much more winnable.



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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: ¿Dónde Tiene Que Mejorar Dallas?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Jaguars

El mejor juego de los Dallas Cowboys en 2018 vino la semana pasada, cuando recibieron a los Jacksonville Jaguars y los vencieron 40-7. Un resultado que tomó a todos por sorpresa demostró la mejor cara en el año de este equipo que apenas tiene un récord de 3-3.

Por más dominantes que se vieron en el emparrillado el domingo pasado, esa actuación no termina de reflejar lo que realmente son los Cowboys. Son un equipo con potencial en la ofensiva y con una defensiva bastante fuerte, pero ¿pueden ganar constantemente como lo hicieron contra Jaguars?

De entrada, la respuesta a esta pregunta parece ser no. Aún en esa victoria, se vieron problemas evidentes en la ofensiva. Para empezar, la falta de ejecución en la segunda mitad en series ofensivas que incluso llegaron a iniciar en territorio enemigo. De gol de campo en gol de campo se juntan puntos, sin duda, pero en partidos cerrados eso termina costando victorias. Hace falta que Dak Prescott y compañía puedan mover el balón una vez en rango de gol de campo y convertir esas oportunidades a touchdowns.

Otra preocupación que no podemos subestimar es que el juego aéreo sigue sin funcionar apropiadamente. Cole Beasley dominó con nueve atrapadas para 101 yardas y dos touchdowns, pero el resto de los receptores se fueron sin  más de una recepción por cabeza. El único jugador que logró más de una fue el TE Geoff Swaim, quien se llevo dos en todo el juego.

Si bien Beasley tuvo uno de los mejores juegos en su carrera, más receptores tienen que involucrarse para llevar la ofensiva al siguiente nivel. La buena noticia es que en esta ocasión se enfrentaron contra una de las mejores secundarias en la NFL. Los números son malos, pero tienen la oportunidad de demostrar mucho más contra otras defensivas.

Los Dallas Cowboys tienen que repartir más la bola y seguir buscando maneras creativas de utilizar a su RB Ezekiel Elliott. Pases pantallas en tercera y largo no es ser creativo. Lo vemos funcionar dos o tres veces al año pero mandan esta jugada semanalmente. En cuanto a Dak Prescott, hay mucho donde mejorar. Deberíamos estar viendo pases más arriesgados, al centro del campo y mucho mejor posicionados.

Sean's Scout: Measuring Randy Gregory's Potential Impact on Cowboys Defense

Para la defensiva, las cosas se ven muy bien. Puede que veamos la mejor versión de esta unidad esta semana, cuando viajen a Washington. Maliek Collins, Sean Lee, David Irving, y Randy Gregory estarán jugando mucho más sanos y preparados. Este es un frente defensivo lleno de talento que intimidará constantemente a Alex Smith este domingo.

A pesar de que los Redskins no tienen una ofensiva muy explosiva, el área de oportunidad principal para la defensiva de Cowboys está en la profundidad defensiva. Tanto Jeff Heath como Xavier Woods han hecho un trabajo decente, pero tienen sus momentos en los que no logran asegurar una tackleada y permiten jugadas largas.

Hace unos meses no esperábamos que fuera la defensiva y no la ofensiva la que cargaría a este equipo a muchas victorias, pero ese ha sido el caso en las tres victorias de esta temporada. Y en las tres derrotas, la defensiva fue la que mantuvo a los Cowboys en el juego.

Sin duda alguna, lo que tiene que mejorar es la ofensiva. Los receptores tienen que desmarcarse, Prescott debe ser más preciso y tener una mejor conciencia en la bolsa de protección.

Pero sobre todo, es la inconsistencia del equipo. Esto se comienza a sentir como la temporada del año pasado, cuando los Cowboys se fueron 9-7 y nunca terminaron de establecerse como contendientes a los playoffs. Aún en una NFC East donde todos los equipos tienen récords similares y débiles, no pueden continuar perdiendo una semana y  ganando a la otra.

Ganarle a los Redskins sería la primera victoria de Dallas jugando de visita. También sería la primera vez en el año en la que tendrían victorias consecutivas. Por esto y muchas otras razones, incluyendo el potencial liderato de la división, este juego es de suma importancia.

Si ganan, podría ser el momento en el que los Cowboys terminen de darle la vuelta a la página y si pierden, podría ser un indicador de que esta temporada será igual que la del 2017.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: ¿Dónde Tiene Que Mejorar Dallas?" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Time to get FB Jamize Olawale More Involved Offensively?

Brian Martin

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Time to get FB Jamize Olawale More Involved Offensively?

The Dallas Cowboys are coming off arguably their best and most complete offensive performance of the season after playing the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, but there is still quite a bit of improvement that can be made. The need to get more playmakers involved is apparent, which is why I think it's time to utilize Fullback Jamize Olawale's unique skill set.

I know many of you will argue that getting Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup going is a higher priority, and you wouldn't be wrong, but Jamize Olawale's playmaking ability could be a huge asset for Quarterback Dak Prescott and the offense. I know it sounds a little strange, but hang in there with me for little bit.

As things stand right now, Olawale has only played 38 offensive snaps (10%) in 2018. That's the exact amount of offensive plays Wide Receiver Terrance Williams has played this year and he's missed the majority of the season. It's not exactly the kind of production I was expecting when the Cowboys decided to bring him aboard via trade with the Oakland Raiders earlier this offseason.

I don't know about you, but I was expecting Olawale to be more involved in the offensive game plan. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and isn't too shabby as a runner either. But, we haven't seen him utilized in either fashion this season and I think that's an injustice that needs to be corrected.

Now, I fully understand there are other offensive weapons ahead of him in the pecking order who need to see more targets, but I also really think he can make a difference maker, especially in the passing game. That is where his strengths lie, not as a lead blocking fullback.

Jamize Olawale

Dallas Cowboys FB Jamize Olawale

Olawale was a bit of a Swiss Army knife during his time with the Oakland Raiders. He played a little running back, fullback, tight end, and even a little slot receiver. I really thought the Cowboys would take advantage of his versatility in the passing game, but as of yet they have failed to do so.

I'd like to see the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan utilize Jamize Olawale's unique playmaking ability a little bit more on offense. I think they should try to utilize him like the San Francisco 49ers use their fullback, Kyle Juszczyk. He's much more involved and has played a total of 263 offensive snaps (63.68%) this year.

Juszczyk is a better lead blocking FB then Olawale, but that's not where he makes the most difference in the 49ers offense. He does it as a receiver and has already caught 17 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown. That's some pretty solid production from a position that is being phased out in the NFL.

Now, just imagine the Cowboys offense getting similar production from Olawale and how that would help open up things for everybody else. It's not out of the realm of possibility because the 49ers offense and the Cowboys isn't all that dissimilar.

Unfortunately, I think Jamize Olawale is pretty much an afterthought in the Cowboys offense right now. It's truly unfortunate because I think he can be a difference maker if given the opportunity. And with a division foe like the Washington Redskins next on the schedule, what better time to unleash a new and unseen element of the offense?

Do you think Jamize Olawale needs to be more involved offensively?



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