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Cowboys Defense, Not Offense Must Carry Team Early in 2018

Brian Martin

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Defense, Not Offense Must Carry Cowboys Early in 2018
(AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

When on the field and healthy, the Dallas Cowboys revamped first-team offense hasn't looked that bad in these first few preseason games. That should be encouraging considering the new faces they have who are expected to play large roles in 2018. But, what is even more encouraging is how the Cowboys first-team defense is performing.

For years now, the Dallas Cowboys have been an offensive driven team. Their mentality has been that "we are going to put more points on the board than our opponents." We can all sit here and debate whether or not that was the right approach to take, but it's looking as if things may need to change this year, especially early on.

The Dallas Cowboys have some pretty big concerns heading into Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers. Unfortunately, those concerns are mostly on the offensive side of the ball.

Travis Frederick

Dallas Cowboys C Travis Frederick

The biggest concern may be how healthy the Cowboys offensive line will be when the season gets underway. We all know Center Travis Frederick is out indefinitely while receiving treatment for Guillain-Barre syndrome, the autoimmune disease he was recently diagnosed with. His timetable to return to the field is unknown, but he's not the only concern regarding the Cowboys OL.

Right Guard Zack Martin unfortunately sustained a bone bruise to his knee in the Week 2 of the preseason against the Cincinnati Bengals, but he is expected be ready to start the season. Whether that will be at 100% or not still remains to be seen.

Then, there is Right Tackle La'el Collins. He did play Sunday night in the Week 3 against the Arizona Cardinals, but he missed practice prior to the contest with an ankle injury and was seen limping noticeably. It's encouraging that he played against the Cardinals, but hopefully there are no lingering effects that would limit him to start the season.

While the Cowboys OL is probably the biggest concern on the offensive side of the ball heading into the season, the unknown about the passing game is a close second. Quarterback Dak Prescott has been able to put together a few impressive offensive drives in the preseason, but a we have yet to see the first-team wide receivers all on the field at the same time due to Cole Beasley's injury that has kept him off the field.

Randy Gregory

Dallas Cowboys DE Randy Gregory

Due to all of these concerns, it's hard to expect the Cowboys offense to get off to a hot start. Preseason is meant to build chemistry, but unfortunately that chemistry may need a little bit more time to develop before its firing on all cylinders. Luckily, it looks as if the defense is ready to carry the offense for a change.

The Dallas Cowboys first-team defense has been really impressive. Their pass rush, led by DeMarcus Lawrence, has been dominant, especially with the way Taco Charlton and Randy Gregory have stepped up their game. Their young secondary has been playing a lot more man-to-man coverage and they look to be primed to have a big season. And, the linebacker group might just be the most improved and that was without Sean Lee on the field for the majority the time.

All in all, the Dallas Cowboys defense may have to play a bigger role in the teams overall success in 2018, especially early in the season until the offense finds their groove. Fortunately, it looks as if all the pieces are there for them to do just that.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys defense can carry the team in 2018?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Reynaldo Laporte

    August 27, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    Mr. Martin, I told myself that the defense would have to hold down the fort before the injuries. I had some sort of ominous hunch and now that 3/5ths of our line is hurt or nursing injuries I would hope that the D is up to task.

    I wish our safety situation wasn’t so iffy but we’ll see soon enough if this season is really “All or Nothing”.

  2. William Pep Hatcher

    September 3, 2018 at 10:55 am

    The D will be good but they don’t have to carry the team. The offense will be explosive as well.

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Dallas Cowboys

Did DC Rod Marinelli Have Increased Role in Cowboys Loss at Rams?

Sean Martin

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Did DC Rod Marinelli Have Increased Role in Cowboys Loss at Rams?

The Dallas Cowboys Divisional Round loss at the Los Angeles Rams is still fresh on the minds of their players, staff, and front office. So much so that the team had to fan the flames on a Jason Garrett comment expecting Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan to return. Garrett himself walked back this "report" once Stephen Jones noted it's still too early for any coaching staff changes. The focus will remain on Linehan's post until it's removed or the Cowboys OC is retained, but one coordinator the Cowboys now expect to keep is Rod Marinelli on defense.

Marinelli himself disputed the season-long belief that this was likely his last as the Cowboys defensive coordinator. With Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard not taking any of the three HC positions he interviewed for, Marinelli doesn't have to worry about shuffling his title to accommodate Richard - who called the plays from week one this season anyway.

Rod's title does include his specialty as defensive line coach though, a unit that the Rams dominated with their offensive line to a historic degree. The Rams' season-high 273 rushing yards was provided by both Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson surpassing 100 yards on the ground, the first time in team history they've had two backs reach this mark in a single playoff game.

Rams HC Sean McVay hardly had to reach into his vaunted 'bag of tricks' to expose the Cowboys defense in a way they hadn't been all year, but there was still an element of brilliance in his offensive game plan. It came out after the game that the Rams picked up on the keys the Dallas defensive linemen used to signal stunts and twists before the snap. While this is nothing more than just great scouting yielding an unforeseen advantage, it's left the Cowboys with more than enough time to ponder what went wrong in the Coliseum.

Danny Heifetz on Twitter

The Rams offensive line knew what the Cowboys defensive line was going to do before the snap on Saturday. https://t.co/oGo6Eiz4av

The answer to this may be nothing other than the coaching questions the Cowboys are already considering. With Richard's interviews in Tampa Bay, Miami, and New York coming at the beginning of the week leading up to game day, it's possible Marinelli had a larger say in the Cowboys preparation on defense.

It was Marinelli's defense that conceded 412 yards to the Rams in 2017 in a loss at AT&T Stadium. Matching him up with McVay leaves a lot to be desired, while Richard helps bridge this gap - something he was seen desperately trying to do on the sideline with a battered Cowboys defense.

As each day of the offseason passes, a change at either coordinator position becomes less likely in Dallas. On offense, the play caller has more than a season's worth of evidence showing the deficiencies of the Cowboys attack. In a league fueled by recency bias however, Marinelli certainly didn't leave his best performance on the field in Los Angeles.

Somewhere in the middle of this is Jason Garrett, safely in place as the head coach that should be personally trying to upgrade his top two assistants however possible. Marinelli signing up for another year makes this hard on defense, though Richard should resume play calling duties next season.

Again, this leaves the onus of the Cowboys improvements for 2019 on the offensive side of the ball, something that'll be realized when the shock of their defense letting them down in the biggest game of the season is gone.

Tell us what you think about "Did DC Rod Marinelli Have Increased Role in Cowboys Loss at Rams?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Getting Over $30 Million Cap Space from Expiring Dead Money

Jess Haynie

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Tony Romo, Dez Bryant

You may have already heard that the Dallas Cowboys will be flush with salary cap space in 2019, and that's very accurate. A huge portion of it comes from over $30 million in expiring cap penalties, otherwise known as "dead money."

Quick explanation; dead money occurs when a player is released or retires prior to the expiration of their contract. Any guaranteed money, such as the original signing bonus or money converted in a restructuring, that has not yet been paid out according to the contract schedule is accelerated.

For example, when Tony Romo retired after 2016, he still had $19.6 million in guaranteed money owed to him. Dallas chose to split this dead money over two years, and thus had a $10.7 cap penalty in 2017 and $8.9 million last season.

But now Romo's dead money, along with Dez Bryant's and several other players, is coming off the Cowboys' books. The result is a roughly $30 million infusion of salary cap space for 2019.

Here were the major culprits for last year's dead money:

(All cap figures are taken from Spotrac.com)

  • QB Tony Romo - $8.9 million
  • WR Dez Bryant - $8 million
  • DT Cedric Thornton - $2.5 million
  • CB Orlando Scandrick - $2.3 million
  • CB Nolan Carroll - $2 million
  • WR Deonte Thompson - $1.8 million
  • DE Benson Mayowa - $1.1 million
  • K Dan Bailey - $800 thousand
  • TE James Hanna - $750 thousand

Those players alone make up a little over $28 million. Another $4 million or so came from over 30 players with lesser penalties that still added up.

Right now, the Cowboys have only $1.76 million in dead money on their 2019 salary cap. Nearly all of that is the $1.6 million still owed to Orlando Scandrick.

That difference is where the cap space comes from, and it will be of tremendous help to Dallas as they have major financial moves coming. They need to re-sign DeMarcus Lawrence, deal with a major salary bump for Amari Cooper, and consider a contract extension for Dak Prescott.

The 2019 number will change, of course, as the offseason rolls on. If Dallas elects to release players like Sean Lee, Tyrone Crawford, or others, some dead money will appear. But that will be offset by whatever cap savings motivated the move in the first place.

This is a good reminder of why the Cowboys' new era of fiscal conservatism is a good thing. After years of what felt like perpetual "salary cap hell," they are finally getting out from under those penalties and have complete flexibility this offseason. They may not even need to cut a guy like Crawford, who they almost would have been forced to in past seasons.

We'll be talking a lot more about individual players and their contracts in the weeks ahead, but this summary helps us see that Dallas isn't nearly up against the financial wall as they have been. We still miss guys like Romo and Dez, but we won't miss that awful dead money in 2019.



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Player News

Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program

Jess Haynie

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Travis Frederick

Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.

After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.

Rob Phillips on Twitter

Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire

While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.

It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.

Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.

That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.

But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.

Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.



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