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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.

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Could NY Giants Be a Surprise Threat in the NFC East?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Could Giants Be a Surprise Threat in the NFC East?

The NFC East is a wild, wild division. Since 2004, the division that hosts some of the most popular franchises in the NFL hasn't seen the same team winning the NFC East title two years in a row. It's crazy! Who expected the Dallas Cowboys to become the #1 seed in the conference in 2016 after seeing Tony Romo go down during the preseason? Who was able to predict the Philadelphia Eagles' amazing run for the Super Bowl last year?

It's an unpredictable league, but the NFC East side of things can really amaze you on a yearly basis.

Heading into 2018, it all seems to be about the Eagles and the Cowboys. Being the last two teams to win the title, it's only logical to expect them to be the only teams in the division that have what it takes to own the NFC East crown.

But maybe, just maybe, we are overlooking the New York Giants.

Coming from a 3-13 record in 2017, the Giants have quite a bit to prove if they want to become a winning team once again and return to playoff contention. With Odell Beckham missing most of the season and with good ol' Ben McAdoo calling the shots, the team was never able to get a break.

Listen, we all know Eli Manning has been struggling lately. Many thought the Giants should've drafted a quarterback when they held the #2 overall pick back in April. But whether we like it or not, New York seems to have a plan: take advantage of Manning's last years on the field.

Instead of taking a young QB for the future, they drafted the best player available to take the load off Manning's shoulders. Saquon Barkley will probably be able to do what Ezekiel Elliott was able to do in 2016: lead the offense by running the football 20 times a game and have several 100-yard performances.

Could NY Giants Be a Surprise Threat in the NFC East?

New York Giants OG Will Hernandez

Not only that, but the front office did make an effort to re-build a disastrous offensive line by bringing in a talented left tackle in Nate Solder and by stealing the UTEP product, Will Hernandez in the second round of the draft. If the Giants are able to finally groom Ereck Flowers into a decent starter at right tackle, this could be a pretty solid offensive line.

Of course, Manning will not only be benefited from the running game, but his superstar wide receiver will be back on the field. Beckham is one of the NFL's best wide receivers and will surely be back at terrifying opposing secondaries week in and week out.

The Giants are bringing in Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher, who did a nice job for the Arizona Cardinals' defense over the last few years. With some talented defensive players, the team might not have the best squad in the league, but it doesn't seem like a defense that will struggle throughout the season.

Last but not least, the Giants will have a new head coach in form of Pat Shurmur. He's had some success in the league, lately as an offensive coordinator for a Minnesota Vikings team that managed to get to the NFC Championship with Case Keenum at QB. It was a good hire for the team, and I'm pretty sure it will be easy to do a better job than McAdoo's work with the Giants.

If I was to make a prediction, I'd say the Giants will have a handful of wins in 2018. However, I don't see them getting back into the postseason just yet. An 8-8 record sounds about right. Having said that, though, it really seems like a team that could surprise everyone and emerge as a surprise contender in the NFC East.

Do you think the New York Giants could be a surprise threat in 2018?

Tell me what you think about "Could NY Giants Be a Surprise Threat in the NFC East?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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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Star Blog

Where Cowboys CB Marquez White Fits In 2018

Kevin Brady

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Dallas Cowboys Draft CB Marquez White at #216

In the 2017 NFL Draft the Dallas Cowboys selected four new defensive backs, three of which saw significant playing time during their rookie season.

Those three, of course, are Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, and Xavier Woods. That fourth defensive back, however, should not be forgotten about as we enter the beginning stages of the 2018 season. That player is former Florida State cornerback Marquez White.

Rather than playing alongside his rookie counterparts in the secondary, White spent time on the Cowboys practice squad in 2017. The former sixth round pick was signed to a futures contract at the end of 2017, however, and now has a chance to compete in camp once again.

Entering their sophomore seasons the starting secondary already appears to be taking shape. Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones are just about locked in to the outside cornerback jobs, Xavier Woods is expected to start at safety beside Jeff Heath, and Jourdan Lewis is battling with now third year player Anthony Brown for the slot corner role.

So where does Marquez White fit into all of this?

Cowboys CB Marquez White Could Emerge in 2018

Dallas Cowboys CB Marquez White

Well, the aforementioned players are locks to make the 53-man roster, but Marquez White should be the favorite to win the 5th cornerback spot going forward. White's raw talent is undeniable, and he has the ability to play under both man and zone responsibilities.

The main reason we should be optimistic about Marquez White's chances to land on the final roster, however, is his athletic profile. At 6'0" tall, just under 200 pounds, and long arms White fits the mold for what new secondary coach and passing game coordinator Kris Richard tends to look for in his cornerbacks.

And, for better or for worse, Richard clearly values these measureables highly. This is evident in how second year corner Jourdan Lewis has been used thus far in mini camp and offseason activities; being relegated to second team and the slot rather than allowed to compete for an outside cornerback job with Awuzie and Jones.

So with the arrival of Kris Richard, the departure of Orlando Scandrick, the underwhelming play of Anthony Brown, and the raw talent he already possesses, Marquez White has a very strong chance of making the final 53-man roster in Dallas.



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Star Blog

Can Jaylon Smith Challenge Vander Esch For Starting MIKE Role?

Kevin Brady

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In Season For Youth, Cowboys Must Make Tough Decision On Jaylon Smith

When the Dallas Cowboys selected Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with their first round pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the whole world basically assumed he would be the starting MIKE linebacker week one of the upcoming season.

After all, the Cowboys lost Anthony Hitchens to free agency and none of the injury replacements had much success during the 2017 season.

Now just a couple of months shy of that week one match up with the Carolina Panthers, a battle for that middle linebacker spot appears to be occurring.

Former 2016 second round pick Jaylon Smith has seemed to find his health, and his movement skills and agility look like they did back when he was at Notre Dame. Whether or not these offseason hype videos will actually mean anything on the field remains to be seen, but just the fact that Smith is working out and playing without the knee brace is obviously a good sign.

Unlike Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith did play for the Dallas Cowboys a year ago. Sure Smith had his share of growing pains, but he seemed to find his groove late in the season. It probably isn't a coincidence, though, that Smith's best games came when coming off the bench in a limited role and when playing beside veteran Sean Lee.How Will LB Jaylon Smith Best be Utilized in 2018?

During the offseason activity thus far Jaylon Smith has gotten the majority of snaps at middle linebacker, but Vander Esch has also been sidelined with an injured ankle. Leighton Vander Esch clearly fits the mold of a MIKE both physically and athletically, but at his best Jaylon Smith does as well.

Despite the resurgence of Jaylon Smith and the injury to Leighton Vander Esch, I still do expect Vander Esch to snag that MIKE role moving forward. While showing glimpses of productive play, Smith did not impress enough to earn him the unquestioned starting job last season, and may best fit as a SAM backer and situational pass rusher/blitzer in the current scheme.

Allowing Jaylon Smith to conserve his energy and provide a boost off the bench is the best way for the Cowboys to structure their defense. Of course, this is only true as long as Vander Esch becomes the player they expect him to be, though.

If Jaylon Smith does return to the player he was at Notre Dame prior to his horrific injury, the Cowboys will possess three incredibly rangy, athletic, and talented linebackers on their roster.

Of course, that if is a very big if at this point, however.



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