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?
QB Dak Prescott Continues To Come Through In Clutch Situations
Dak Prescott is possibly the most criticized quarterback in all of football.
Of course, this comes with the territory of being the Cowboys starting quarterback, but each throw Prescott attempts is placed under an intense microscope, even by NFL standards. We analyze every snap of every game, looking to find where Dak was right or wrong with this reads.
There's no question, though, that Prescott has been inconsistent throughout his young career. Week to week, drive to drive, and even play to play, we seemingly have no gauge on just how Dak Prescott will perform.
One scenario where we can say with confidence he will come through, however, is when it matters most. Last Sunday, in yet another must-win game for the Dallas Cowboys, Prescott orchestrated a game winning drive to lead his team over the favored Atlanta Falcons.
The Cowboys offense was pedestrian for much of the afternoon, but when Prescott got the ball in a tied game, I felt confident he would give Brett Maher a chance to win the game. Even on the road, and even after the offense had struggled a bit through the air all day.
Prescott got the ball late in the fourth quarter, looking to answer former NFL MVP Matt Ryan's game tying touchdown strike to Julio Jones. Dak went for it all on the first play, looking for Michael Gallup deep down the sideline, but the ball fell incomplete. After that throw, Prescott went 4/5 for 45 yards, including a huge completion to Cole Beasley, putting Dallas in game winning field goal range.
This confidence in Dak Prescott is justified, as is shown by his numbers in late game situations. Prescott now has 12 game winning drives, tying him for the league lead over the last three seasons. For comparison sake, Eagles starter Carson Wentz has just 3 game winning drives over that same stretch.
Overall the box score shows a rather quiet day for Prescott, but it was exactly the kind of Sunday they need from him. He completed over 60% of his passes, ran for a touchdown, and avoided the key turnover which could have sung this close game.
He played efficient football, and gave the Cowboys a chance to win it late. Then, he did what he does best, making plays in clutch situations and coming through in the 2 minute drill.
For all of Dak Prescott's flaws, those end-of-half and end-of-game situations have been a clear strength for the young quarterback, and continued to be this week.
Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración
Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.
Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.
Cambios de Coach
A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.
A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.
Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?
A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.
A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.
En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.
La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.
Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.
Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.
No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.
Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story
Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.
Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.
Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.
Here's why those people are wrong.
Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.
Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).
Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.
There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.
Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.
Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.
Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.
Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.
And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.
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