The Dallas Cowboys have their work cut out for them this off-season in regards to upgrading the roster, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Cowboys defensive players over the past several seasons have been pretty much Band-Aids until the organization can build the defense much like they did with the offense. But surprisingly enough, the Cowboys defense have sneakily added some young foundation players over the last few years.
Yes, you read that right. The Cowboys have some young foundation players on the defensive side of the ball. That should encourage all of us things are headed in the right direction and should only continue to get better from here on out.
For the longest, linebacker Sean Lee has been the only foundation player to build around, but for some reason the Cowboys failed to do so. But, things could be looking up with several other players they have added over the past few drafts.
I think it's important that we all remember that the Cowboys offense wasn't built overnight, but they have become one of the best units in the entire NFL. I personally think things are starting to head that direction on the defensive side ball as well. Continue reading below to see what I mean.
The Dallas Cowboys defense has been mediocre for far too long. Fortunately, things are starting to look up with several players they have added recently that should be the foundation for which the defense is built upon.
Byron Jones, Safety
Byron Jones will be entering his third full season with the Dallas Cowboys. As a rookie he was used in a variety different ways, but in 2016 he was finally able to focus his attention on the safety position.
Now, I know a lot of you will disagree, but Byron Jones had a fantastic first year as a safety on the back end of the Cowboys defense. I know we all want to see more interceptions from him, but his versatility to play the deep safety and cover tight ends really improved the defense in 2016.
Jones is only going to continue to get better and I honestly think he is on the verge of becoming a Pro Bowl caliber player.
Maliek Collins, Defensive Tackle
You may have forgotten, but defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was absolutely ecstatic when the Dallas Cowboys drafted defensive tackle Maliek Collins last year in the 2016 NFL Draft. Now we know why.
Collins made his impact felt from the middle of the Cowboys defensive line as a rookie and finished the year with 23 tackles, five quarterback sacks, and one forced fumble. By the way, he was just one QB sack away from tying the team high last year.
I expect things to improve for Collins in year two in the NFL, especially with a full off-season in the Cowboys strength and conditioning program.
Anthony Brown, Cornerback
It's extremely rare that teams find sixth round draft picks that are able to come in and play as well as Anthony Brown did for the Dallas Cowboys last season. As a rookie in 2016, he finished the season with 55 tackles, one forced fumble, and one interception.
What is it more impressive about what Brown was able to accomplish as a rookie is that he did it as an injury fill in the most part. Brown will no doubt start on the outside at one of the CB positions in 2017 and he is a big reason why the Cowboys decided to move on from Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr.
Potential Foundation Players
The Dallas Cowboys defense may have a few foundation players already, but I believe there are a few that are right on the cusp of possibly turning into these types of players. These are the types of players that need to become more consistent or actually get on the field, but they have the characteristics to be really good for the Cowboys defense.
David Irving, Defensive Tackle
David Irving had a few games last season where he was absolutely dominant, but there were others that we was a complete non-factor. It's this inconsistency that we as fans find frustrating, but hopefully he can put everything together in 2017 and become the player we all think he can be.
He can be a destructive force in the middle of the Cowboys defense as a 3-tech because of his quickness off the ball and his length, but he also has the versatility to play defensive end. Hopefully he is able to put things together in 2017 and become a foundation player on the Cowboys defense for years to come.
Jaylon Smith, Linebacker
Jaylon Smith isn't quite back to 100%, and might never be, but he could still become a foundation player for the Cowboys defense. He is one of the more physically gifted linebackers to come out of college in probably the past decade, but his unfortunate injury has kept him from making an impact in the NFL.
Nearly all Cowboys fans are anxiously waiting to see what Smith looks like once he is finally able to take the field. If he can ever reach the kind of level he played at during his time at Notre Dame, then he should be the starting middle linebacker for the Cowboys for years to come.
Charles Tapper, Defensive End
I am probably in the minority here, but I think Charles Tapper could end up being the defensive end that Dallas Cowboys fans have wanted since DeMarcus Ware left. He has all of the physical traits you look for in a dominant pass rusher, but a back injury ended his rookie season before it even started.
It may be wishful thinking, but I personally have high hopes for Tapper. If he can turn into the defensive player I think he is, then the Cowboys have a foundation quality player to get after the quarterback.
Do you Agree or Disagree?
Dallas Cowboys: The Case For Regression In 2019
It's been a few years since things around the Dallas Cowboys felt this good prior to a season. Coming off a 10-6 year in which Dallas won both the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a one possession road game to the future NFC champions, Cowboys Nation is expecting some big things in 2019.
After all, the Cowboys went out and improved their roster in multiple ways this offseason and brought in some new blood on their offensive coaching staff. Spirits are high among Cowboys Nation, and just about everyone is anticipating a two team race for the NFC East.
But some numbers indicate we should be thinking "not so fast."
The details of the 2018 season are not as pretty as the total picture. Rarely are they ever, of course, but these particular details point towards possible regression for the Cowboys in 2019.
Basically, their point differential a year ago spells out impending doom. (That was dramatic, but let's discuss).
The Cowboys were +15 in 2018, and by pythagorean wins expectation, they were about as strong as an 8-8 team (8.53 wins to be exact). This means they won nearly 2 more games (1.47) than would be expected, fourth most in the entire NFL.
This point is furthered when looking at their record in one possession games. Dallas went 8-2 when the game was decided by 7 points or less, winning close games at a rate that is simply not sustainable year to year.
These numbers make the Cowboys a prime candidate for regression in 2019, as they were in 2017.
Back in 2016, the Cowboys outperformed their pythagorean expectation by a whole 2 wins. The following season? Dallas finished the year 9-7. The model also indicated that the 7-9 Eagles performed 2 wins under expectations in 2016, meaning they would get back on track in 2017. As we know, they ended up winning 13 games and the Super Bowl the following season.
Of course, this isn't set-in-stone, and the Cowboys very well could outperform these expectations and avoid regression. This would mainly hinge on their coaching staff and quarterback performing at an elite level, carrying them through close games and winning more games by greater than one possession.
Newly Acquired DE Robert Quinn Brings High Expectations
Winning games in the NFL typically comes down to accomplishing two goals. One, being successful when passing on offense. And, two, stopping the opposing team's passing game.
The Cowboys set out to accomplish that second goal this offseason, re-signing defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and trading for veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn, who tallied 6.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins, is one of the leagues more feared rushers when at his best. The former All Pro has multiple 10+ sack seasons under his belt, including a whopping 19 in 2013.
And, as expected, the Cowboys coaching staff is ecstatic to have such a respected pass rushing specialist on their roster.
“He’s got that first step. He’s an established pass rusher in this league, so he’s going to bring some good stuff for us.” - Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
The Cowboys acquired Robert Quinn for a 2020 6th round pick, which could end up being the steal of the offseason. Quinn has played with some top-notch pass rushers in the past, and each time they have brought out the best in his own game.
Back with the Rams in 2017, when Aaron Donald was on the same defensive line, Quinn got to the quarterback 8.5 times. And, last season, he remained consistent in his sack totals playing alongside Cameron Wake. Now he joins a DeMarcus Lawrence who has 25 sacks over the last 2 seasons.
"I think it was kind of one of those where I get to have fun, pin my ears back and just disrupt the backfield, which is what they want us to do." - Robert Quinn told NFL.com.
Quinn and the always dominant Lawrence will form an impressive defensive end duo on passing downs, with the potential to be one of the best in all of football. Dallas is also hoping to add Randy Gregory into this mix, a piece which could prove vital late in football games if he is able to return from his current indefinite suspension.
Whether or not Gregory finds his way back onto the field, though, this defensive front will be in good hands. The edge combo of Quinn and Lawrence, combined with a plethora of skilled interior rushers such as Maliek Collins, gives the Cowboys a fearsome defensive line which should keep quarterbacks uncomfortable every Sunday.
Can Rookie OL Connor McGovern Compete For A Starting Spot?
Raising eyebrows in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Cowboys added Penn State offensive lineman Connor McGovern to their already deep OL depth chart.
McGovern, who played guard for the Nittany Lions, was reportedly by-far the best player remaining on the Cowboys draft board when they came on the clock in round three. Still, with seemingly more pressing needs yet to be addressed, Dallas' selection of McGovern was certainly a surprise.
When you watch the tape, though, you immediately see what the Cowboys loved about Connor McGovern.
A "plug-and-play" type guard, Connor McGovern is the type of rookie you'd expect to contribute in year one. On many teams he may be a candidate to start at guard or center from the beginning of his rookie season, but here in Dallas, his role for the 2019 season is somewhat in question.
Clearly, being a day two pick, there's no doubt that McGovern will make the Cowboys roster. But can he compete for a starting job?
During OTA's McGovern took reps at both guard and center, pointing towards the possibility of him being the first interior offensive lineman off the bench if one of the starters were to go down with an injury. Fellow interior linemen Joe Looney and Xavier Su'a-Filo each contributed in big ways during the 2018 season, however, and will be tough to beat out during camp.
While possible, I would still say it's unlikely. The Cowboys selection of McGovern seems to be more about 2020 and beyond than it is about the 2019 season. With right tackle La'el Collins coming up on a contract year, Dallas might elect to let him walk in free agency, move Williams back to his college position of tackle, and slide McGovern into the left guard slot.
This seems fool-proof in theory, but this many moving parts across the offensive line could spell trouble early on in 2020. Regardless, Connor McGovern's arrival gives Dallas the flexibility to consider all options on their offensive line.
In reality, McGovern strengthened a strength for Dallas, and may be needed to prove himself as early as this Fall if injury issues arise.
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