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Cowboys Defense Has Young Foundation Players To Build Around

Brian Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Have Young Foundation Defensive Players To Build Around

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.

Foundation Players

DT Maliek Collins

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

DT David IrvingThe 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?



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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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Kevin Black

    March 21, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Great list. I don’t understand everyone’s frustration with Jones. Darren Woodson loves him and thinks he’s the MVP of the defense. I’d love to see Tapper get his chance at the RDE, but if Dallas drafts an edge rusher in this draft, he might not get his chance. Timing can be everything sometimes.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      March 21, 2017 at 12:41 pm

      Kevin, I couldn’t agree more about Jones. With the exception of Sean Lee, Byron Jones was the MVP on defense. Most people just don’t understand what he’s asked to do defensively. They merely judge him by the amount of interceptions he is able to accumulate. I actually think Tapper has the advantage over any rookie they draft. He has had a year in the system and because of that he will likely get the first shot.

      • Kevin Black

        March 21, 2017 at 12:47 pm

        My worry with Tapper is that a first round pick might get preferential treatment and allowed more opportunities. You think they will be given a fair amount each?

        • Brian Martin

          Brian Martin

          March 21, 2017 at 1:07 pm

          I think it will depend on who is making more plays in practice as to who gets more practice time. The Cowboys can’t afford to give preferential treatment to anyone if they want to improve their pass rush.

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Star Blog

What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?

Kevin Brady

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Can we Believe General Manager Jerry Jones?

Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.

Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.

They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?

Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.

Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.

Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.

Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.

Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.

This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.

The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.



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Star Blog

3 Things We Learned About The Dallas Cowboys In 2018

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals 1
AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

Coming into the 2018 season, loads of questions surrounded the Dallas Cowboys and the future of their roster.

Could their defense stay intact when the annual Sean Lee injury occurred? Was Kris Richard going to lead the Cowboys young secondary to places we thought they could be? And would Dak Prescott earn a contact extension and become the official franchise quarterback of America's Team.

Of course, there are tons of other questions that may have gone unanswered, but these three critical areas seem to find clarity in 2018.

Leighton Vander Esch And Jaylon Smith Are Legit

The Dallas Cowboys caught a lot of flack for their selection both of these linebackers, each for different reasons.

When they snagged Jaylon Smith in the second round of the 2016 draft, it was still unknown to the public if Smith could ever even play football again. When they took Leighton Vander Esch 19th overall last April, fans questioned how valuable an off-ball linebacker would be on a defense that already had Sean Lee.

Well, after their first full season together, it's easy to say that both Vander Esch and Smith are the linebacker options of the future in Dallas. Named to the Pro Bowl during his rookie season, Vander Esch took the world by storm in 2018. When Lee went down, he was there to not only fill his shoes, but to outplay the veteran all year long.

What is fun to consider is that as good as Vander Esch was this season, Jaylon Smith might be even better. Both posses insane sideline to sideline pursuit ability, and are some of the surest tacklers in all of football.

Watching these two grow together will be a pleasure over the coming seasons.

Their Young Secondary Is Coming Together

Like their linebackers, the Dallas Cowboys secondary is a young group, who fans are excited to watch grow throughout the years. It seemed like more pressure sat on the shoulders of young cornerbacks Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie than of Smith and Vander Esch, however.

With Kris Richard joining the staff and making the decision to move Jones to cornerback full time, it was do-or-die for the former first round pick. Byron Jones answered all the doubters, earning not only a Pro Bowl selection but also First Team All Pro honors for his performance.

Opposite him, Awuzie had a rough start to his sophomore campaign. While typically right there in coverage, wide outs too often made contested catches over him. Over the final few weeks of the year, however, that changed and Awuzie played some of the best football yet.

Xavier Woods, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis (in much fewer snaps) all had fantastic seasons as well, giving the Cowboys great hope and confidence in their secondary moving forward. They may need to add another safety during the offseason, however, though Jeff Heath remains more than just a viable option.

Dak Prescott Is Here To Stay

Whether or not you think it's justified, Dak Prescott is the quarterback of the future in Dallas. And he earned that right the back-half of 2018 and during the postseason. After a shaky start to his 3rd season, Prescott turned things around nicely, leading the Cowboys to a 7-1 finish to the regular season.

Prescott played the best football of his young career down the stretch, and showed just how valuable he is both on the field and in the locker room. It seemed like every game he made 2-3 winning plays that put the Cowboys over the top that afternoon.

Dak is going to get a contract extension, and will be locked in as a Cowboy for the foreseeable future, and with the way he played the final 10 games of his season, I can't second guess this decision much at all.



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Star Blog

Jason Garrett Can’t be Serious About Retaining Scott Linehan, Can He?

Brian Martin

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Jason Garrett Can't be Serious About Retaining Scott Linehan, Can He?

One of the few positives most of us were looking forward to after the Dallas Cowboys Divisional Round loss to the Los Angeles Rams was the fact that Scott Linehan would no longer be the offensive coordinator for America's Team. Everything was pointing to his dismissal, but that may not be the case according to Head Coach Jason Garrett.

Todd Archer on Twitter

Jason Garrett said on 105.3 The Fan that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will return in 2019. "We don't anticipate any significant changes on our staff," Garrett said.

I can't say that I was happy upon learning Jason Garrett plans on retaining Scott Linehan as the Cowboys OC in 2019. In fact, my first thought was… Well, something better left unsaid. I'm sure many of you can kind of read my mind, because I'm pretty positive you had all that the same thoughts running through your head as well.

In all honesty, I didn't think there was a snowball chance in hell Scott Linehan would return to Dallas after the conclusion of the 2018 season. After all, the Cowboys nearly fired him during the bye week earlier this season, meaning his job security was already on thin ice. He didn't do anything to improve things in my opinion.

I know Jason Garrett has said Scott Linehan will return as the OC in 2019, but not for a second do I believe it. We are less than 72 hours hours removed from the Cowboys exit from the playoffs and I highly doubt any of Dallas' decision-makers has had the time to sit down and discuss who stays and who goes. In fact, I know they haven't.

Jeff Cavanaugh on Twitter

Stephen Jones says they won't comment on anything with coaching staff but that they need to take a deep look at why they fell short. Says it a little early to speculate about players or coaches. They haven't had a meeting about it yet.

I think once the Cowboys brass sits down and reevaluates the 2018 season, they will come to the conclusion they can do better than Scott Linehan as their offensive coordinator. There were just too many times throughout the season where the playcalling was a problem just. It's just time to move on, despite the vote of confidence by Jason Garrett.

Of course, this could just be me trying to read between the lines hoping and praying Scott Linehan is finally fired. Like many of you, I've grown way too tired of his predictable and dated playcalling. It's time to move on and find someone more innovative who can maximize the talent the Dallas Cowboys have on the roster, much like Kris Richard did with the defense.

You can either choose to believe Jason Garrett or not. I for one have a hard time seeing the Dallas Cowboys staying status quo with their coaching staff, especially their offensive coordinator. But, only time will tell.

Do you think it's time for the Dallas Cowboys to fire Scott Linehan?



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