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Cowboys Defense: Finding Roles for 2018 NFL Draft Picks

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Defense: Finding Roles for 2018 NFL Draft Picks

Looking to build a defense that matches the skill level of their star-studded offense, the Dallas Cowboys spent three of their nine draft picks on Rod Marinelli's side of the ball. Addressing arguably their biggest need at linebacker with the 19th overall pick, the Cowboys came away from the 2018 NFL Draft with two players for new LB Coach Ben Bloom to work with.

Leighton Vander Esch and Chris Covington will be joined by Kansas Defensive End Dorance Armstrong as a trio of rookie defenders in Dallas - all looking to solidify a deep and versatile front seven.

Here is my best projection of the roles these Cowboys rookies will play in 2018.

Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch

Scouting Report:  "Sean's Scout: Leighton Vander Esch Adds Range, Instincts to Cowboys Defense"

A controversial first-round selection out of Boise State, figuring out where Leighton Vander Esch helps the Cowboys defense is obvious. Losing Anthony Hitchens to free agency, the Cowboys would be reckless to enter this season with Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith as their only true plan at linebacker.

This is where the team's fixation with Vander Esch comes from, although determining his actual fit with Dallas is not as clear-cut.

Sean Lee is the Cowboys starter at WILL for every game he's available in, often lining up with only one other LB next to him. In these Nickel packages, I believe the Cowboys are hopeful that their 19th overall pick can join Lee on the field.

Leighton Vander Esch's DC has already compared the rookie to former Chicago Bears great Brian Urlacher. With similar range and athleticism, LVE can help the Cowboys significantly in pass coverage.

Vander Esch's biggest weakness, his play strength against the run, can be covered up for by a healthy Jaylon Smith. Playing without his AFO brace and expecting to take another massive step towards stardom in 2018, Smith will reportedly do so from the SAM position.

Seen as a lesser role by some, Smith can excel as a strong side player in Dallas, earning more snaps as he progresses. Whether or not this also increases the Cowboys' usage of Base 4-3 looks is yet to be determined, and will directly play into how big of a role LVE can find.

The Cowboys have big plans for Vander Esch to step in right away and begin reaching his ceiling as a prospect. Following where he can best handle this responsibility as a rookie will be one of the biggest story lines of this offseason.

Sean's Scout: Defensive End Dorance Armstrong Has Upside to Fill Marinelli's Rotation

Dallas Cowboys DE Dorance Armstrong

Defensive End Dorance Armstrong

Scouting Report: "Sean's Scout: DE Dorance Armstrong Has Upside to Fill Marinelli's Rotation"

On paper, the Cowboys are entering the 2018 season with one of their deepest defensive lines in years. Reinforcing this in the fourth round of the draft, the Cowboys took another defender ready to take the field in year one - DE Dorance Armstrong.

With last year's 28th overall pick Taco Charlton finding his home at left end near the end of his rookie campaign, the Cowboys have formidable depth on that side with franchise player DeMarcus Lawrence.

Framing Armstrong as the Cowboys solution at right end would be unfair for the rookie. With the team carefully preparing for a Randy Gregory reinstatement however, Armstrong could fit nicely into this pass rush rotation.

For the first time in a long while, roster spots will be hard to come by for just any defensive lineman working in Dallas this summer. Close to a top 100 pick, Dorance Armstrong's roster spot is likely secure, and I expect him to prove enough when the pads come on to get on the field.

Flashing the ability to win on the edge with speed and bend at Kansas, Armstrong has all of the traits needed to develop as a right end that will have no problem staying on the field as a run defender either - handling blocks with ideal leverage and power.

Dallas Cowboys Select LB Chris Covington With the 193rd Pick in the 2018 NFL Draft

Dallas Cowboys LB Chris Covington (Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times)

Linebacker Chris Covington

Scouting Report: "Sean's Scout: LB Chris Covington Likely Finds Home on Special Teams"

As far as value goes for their draft picks, Cowboys Linebacker Chris Covington is unfortunately near the bottom of this list. Partially due to the exceptional value the Cowboys found in Connor Williams and Michael Gallup on day two, there is a clear path ahead for Covington to help this team in 2018.

While I have a hard time believing it will be on defense as a LB that lacks the reactionary ability or strength to fit any of the three positions, Covington should be viewed as a replacement for both Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber.

Ready to contribute on special teams as both Smith and Wilber did so well, Covington is of course further depth entering the roster-building process for Dallas at one of their weakest positions (as of just a few weeks ago).

This is hardly a bad thing for a team that also grabbed Wide Receiver Cedrick Wilson 15 picks after drafting Covington.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The level of competition on the Cowboys roster has only increased with each passing draft class, as the organization has shifted to primarily building with young talent. Acquiring three talented rookies to help their defense take the "next step", standing out and earning the star won't come easy for Vander Esch, Armstrong, or Covington.

Come week one in Carolina though, I expect all three to be active players for the Cowboys against the Panthers, with Vander Esch and Armstrong playing key roles in an incredibly deep front seven.

Stay posted here to Inside The Star throughout the week, as I'll have a similar breakdown for the Cowboys draft picks on offense.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Defense: Finding Roles for 2018 NFL Draft Picks" 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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Cowboys en Español: La Afortunada Llegada de Randall Cobb

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys en Español: La Afortunada Llegada de Randall Cobb

Tras la partida del veterano Cole Beasley, los Dallas Cowboys tenían un hueco preocupante en la posición de receptor abierto. Incluso después de obtener a Amari Cooper la temporada pasada y el tener a un jugador joven y talentoso en Michael Gallup, el equipo tenía que hacer algo para reemplazar a Beasley como el receptor de slot en la ofensiva. Beasley fue increíble en su trabajo durante su carrera en Dallas, pero la administración nunca estuvo cerca de igualar las ofertas que recibió de los Buffalo Bills. Afortunadamente, ya encontraron el hombre para el trabajo.

A pesar de estar muy callados en la primera semana de agencia libre, los Cowboys empiezan a verse involucrados con varios jugadores disponibles. Su contratación más importante hasta el momento es sin duda la del ex WR de los Green Bay Packers, Randall Cobb.

Hace unos años, Cobb atrapó el balón que terminó el partido de playoffs entre los Packers y los Cowboys minutos después de que la recepción de Dez Bryant fuera revocada. En 2019, vestirá la estrella.

Si bien es difícil argumentar que en este momento Cobb es mejor jugador que Cole Beasley, el contrato que la administración le dio al nuevo integrante del equipo es muy razonable. El ex-Packer jugará bajo un contrato por un año y cinco millones de dólares. Lo que preocupa a muchos sobre Cobb es su salud, ya que en 2018 sólo jugó nueve partidos. Sin embargo, su carrera no ha estado plagada de lesiones como muchos lo asumen.

Cobb será un titular en esta ofensiva que utilizará su habilidad para ganar en rutas rápidas. Sus manos son muy confiables y le dará a Dak Prescott otra arma en el juego aéreo. Simple y sencillamente una muy buena contratación de los Dallas Cowboys.

Robert Quinn

¿Robert Quinn, Por Favor?

Esta semana se reportó que el defensive end Robert Quinn estaba de visita en The Star, las instalaciones de los Dallas Cowboys. El DE no es un agente libre, siendo que aún está bajo contrato con los Miami Dolphins. Sin embargo, ambos equipos están en discusiones para llevar a cabo un trade por el caza cabezas de 28 años.

Después de que Randy Gregory volviera a recibir una suspensión, DE apareció entra las necesidades más urgentes del equipo y si no logran atender dicha necesidad previo al NFL Draft, tendrán que utilizar uno de sus primeros picks para conseguir un jugador que juegue opuesto a DeMarcus Lawrence.

Quinn, quien había jugado la mayoría de su carrera con los Rams, aún es joven y productivo. En las últimas dos temporadas ha logrado conseguir 15 sacks. De conseguirlo, los Cowboys tendrían que trabajar en una extensión para él.

Con un año en su contrato actual, no debe de ser muy caro conseguir un trade por él. Me atrevería a decir que la compensación que los Dolphins buscan por Quinn debe de estar en el rango de una selección cuarta y quinta ronda.

Parece un movimiento probable, pero no es difícil imaginar a otro equipo estando interesado en el jugador. Por lo pronto, sabemos que Quinn disfrutó su tiempo con Rod Marinelli y con el equipo de los Cowboys esta semana. Habrá que esperar para saber su destino.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: La Afortunada Llegada de Randall Cobb" 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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DL Kerry Hyder Helps Solidify A Re-Tooled Defensive Line

Kevin Brady

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DL Kerry Hyder Helps Solidify A Re-Tooled Defensive Line

The Cowboys got off to a busy start to week two of free agency on Monday, and capped it off by signing defensive lineman Kerry Hyder to a one year deal.

The former Detroit Lion could be classified as a "one year wonder" of sorts, but when you look closer at his career arc, you see that Hyder can provide upside at multiple positions across the Cowboys' defensive front.

After having 8 sacks and 19 quarterback hits as a defensive end in 2016, Hyder missed all of 2017 with an achilles injury. Last season, under new head coach Matt Patricia, Hyder was moved out of position and forced to play as a nose tackle and 5-technique more often.

So, the last time Hyder was healthy and playing in the role in he will likely fill in Dallas, he was productive. Yes that was a couple of seasons ago but it makes Hyder worth the one year deal he received from the Cowboys.

What exactly is that role, though?

I see Hyder primarily as a rotational 3-technique for the Cowboys. At just 270 pounds Hyder isn't going to play over the center often, and won't be very useful as a 1-technique against the run. He's at his best when lining on the outside shade of an offensive lineman, where he can use his get-off and quickness to create pressure.

Kerry Hyder can also fill in at defensive end if needed, especially when the Cowboys go into a nickel package. Hyder is similar to Tyrone Crawford in his ability to move inside and out, but is a bit better of a pass rusher than Crawford when at his best.

Hyder is a high energy, motor, and character defensive lineman who will fit right in with a Rod Marinelli unit. If it all clicks for Hyder and he regains his 2016 form, the Cowboys will have stolen an impressive pass rushing defensive lineman who can win from multiple positions.

If Hyder is actually a "one year wonder" who is more of his 2018-self with the Cowboys despite being put in a better role to succeed, Dallas can move on rather quickly because he is only on a one year deal.

This is a smart signing by the Cowboys front office as they look to re-tool their defensive line, and avoid being pigeon-holed into over-drafting at a certain position this Spring.



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New Cowboys WR Randall Cobb Announces His Signing With A Fantastic GIF

Kevin Brady

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New Cowboys WR Randall Cobb Announces His Signing With A Fantastic GIF

On Tuesday this week it became official the Cowboys would sign former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb to a one year deal worth an estimated $5 million. After his visit Monday morning, speculation around whether and when he would sign was swirling.

Cobb confirmed his intentions to join the Cowboys himself, and did so with some A+ GIF usage on Twitter.

Randall Cobb on Twitter

Randall Cobb on Twitter

https://t.co/9H9xfApFqe

In case you don't know, the GIF Cobb tweeted is Woody from Toy Story, emerging confidently and tipping his cap.

This was Cobb signaling that he his a Cowboy, and he appears excited to be joining America's Team. Cobb also received some social media love from his now former teammates in Green Bay, including wide receiver Davante Adams and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

https://twitter.com/tae15adams/status/1108158105957920770

RJ Ochoa on Twitter

Aaron Rodgers had some parting words for new Cowboys WR Randall Cobb

Clearly Randall Cobb made an impact in Green Bay, both on and off the field. Let's hope he can replicate some of that in Dallas now that he has joined the Cowboys.



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