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Cowboys Defensive Line: Terrell McClain Caught in Numbers Crunch

Jess Haynie

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Terrell McClain

At times this season, especially early on, Terrell McClain looked like the best defensive tackle that the Dallas Cowboys had. He finally delivered after two disappointing years with injury problems. However, now a free agent, McClain may not be able to stay with the Cowboys.

David Irving

David Irving's emergence in 2016 has helped make Terrell McClain expendable.

Dallas already has Tyrone Crawford, Maliek Collins, and Cedric Thornton signed up for 2017. They will certainly bring back David Irving, who can play inside and has earned a much larger role after a breakout season. The Cowboys could also look to re-sign Jack Crawford, whose versatility and work ethic have made him a favorite of defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

Even though Terrell McClain started all 15 games that he played in, his playing time fell more into a rotation with Irving and Thornton as the season went on. When Irving started to break out, the extra snaps came more out of McClain's end than from Maliek Collins' bucket.

Dallas probably likes Terrell McClain more overall than Cedric Thornton. McClain won the starting job over Thornton to start the year and was credited with 500 total snaps over just 291 for Cedric, according to Pro Football Focus. However, money and playing time could be the deciding factors over sheer merit.

When the Cowboys added Cedric Thornton last year he was signed to a four-year, $17 million contract. That's the kind of money you pay for an expected starter. They clearly liked Thornton enough then to pay him and would probably be comfortable with giving him a larger role now.

Cedric Thornton

Dallas signed Cedric Thornton to have a large role and may have to rely on him now.

At the time of signing Thornton, Dallas had no way of knowing if Terrell McClain would finally show up after so many health issues. They also didn't know that Maliek Collins would be drafted, or expect to have a rookie defensive tackle emerge so quickly. It was all a matter of hindsight.

Between Tyrone Crawford ($10.35 million) and Cedric Thornton ($4.25 million), Dallas will have close to $15 million in cap space tied up in just two defensive linemen. This is a steep increase from last year when Crawford and Thornton combined for just about $6.5 million against the cap. With a pass-rushing defensive end already a critical need, the Cowboys can't afford any luxuries elsewhere on the line.

Given their other needs and rising salaries of existing players, it doesn't look like Dallas will have a spot to bring back Terrell McClain. It's a shame given how well he played this year, but roster limits and the salary cap always come with tough decisions.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

Dallas Cowboys

Dak Prescott Ranked as Third Least Consistent QB in NFL

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Jekyll or Hyde: Year 3 "Prove It" Season For Dak Prescott?

Last season could've gone a lot better for Dak Prescott. After a remarkable rookie season, he wasn't able to meet the very high expectations put on him after leading the Dallas Cowboys to the #1 seed in the NFC in 2016.

Inevitably, the "sophomore slump" managed to get to Dak, even though the numbers make it seem worse than it really was. From his 13 interceptions in 2017, not even half can be completely blamed on him. However, even though he made improvements in his game, it's fair to admit that there was indeed, a slump in his second year in the NFL.

Earlier this week, NFL.com published an article listing the most and the least consistent quarterbacks in the league last season. The way the list works is measuring "their average 2017 swing in week-to-week passer rating." In the list, Dak Prescott is listed as the third least consistent QB in the league, with only Cam Newton and Derek Carr behind him.

Just like the Dallas Cowboys' had a roller coaster for a season, constantly shifting between winning and losing, Dak Prescott also struggled at remaining consistent. It makes a ton of sense, of course, for the Cowboys' 9-7 season had a lot of swings throughout the year.

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Ashley Landis / The Dallas Morning News)

At times, the team was missing its most important defender in Sean Lee. At others, Tyron Smith and/or Ezekiel Elliott weren't on the field either. This is not an attempt to excuse Dak, for he is partly at fault here, as is the entire team.

From week 10 to 12, Dak failed to throw for a touchdown but ended up throwing five interceptions. Later in the season, failing once again to get a TD pass in two straight weeks, he threw for two interceptions at Oakland then another two when hosting the Seahawks in Dallas.

In a season that will likely determine his future with the Dallas Cowboys, Dak needs to find a way to be more consistent week after week regardless of circumstance. Hopefully, with an improved offensive line and with Ezekiel Elliott leaving every suspension drama behind him, his offense will put him in position to have his best year yet.

In 2016 and in 2017, his Total Quarterback Rating has been in the top 4 among all quarterbacks, per ESPN. Now, this is not a stat that tells the whole story, but it does give you an idea of each quarterback's play. In a run-first offense and with a safe passer like Dak, I'm sure consistency will not be hard to deal with for the young QB next season.

As long as he takes advantage of the new set of targets he'll have at his disposal and his offense's powerful running back with recently-signed draftee Connor Williams, this offense will look a lot more like the one we saw in 2016.

We know Dak Prescott has a lot to prove. He has to make longer throws, throw more aggressively to get his receivers open, and more. But consistency is just as important. In order to be continuously successful and to be a contender year after year, you need that in your signal-caller. Even if key players on the team are down, he needs to be able to shine. It's a sixteen-game season, after all.

It's time for Dak to prove he can handle that.

Tell me what you think about "Dak Prescott Ranked as Third Least Consistent QB in NFL" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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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Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make the Roster?

Sean Martin

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Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make Cowboys Roster? 2
(Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

The Dallas Cowboys aren't short on numbers at wide receiver on their current 90-man roster. Looking to replace Dez Bryant and reshape their offense, the Cowboys will have to find the right group of pass catchers for Dak Prescott at their upcoming training camp.

This group includes Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Lance Lenoir, Deonte Thompson, Cedrick Wilson, Michael Gallup, KD Cannon, Mekale McCay, and Marchie Murdock.

The odd men out from this group will likely be the ones that can't sustain a consistent level of play, doing so across multiple units if needed. All ten receivers will have their flashes, but with only four being true locks to make the team, new Cowboys Wide Receivers Coach Sanjay Lal will be in on some tough decisions right away.

One such decision may be moving on from last year's seventh round pick Noah Brown out of Ohio State. Vouched for by former Buckeyes teammate Ezekiel Elliott thanks to his blocking ability on the outside, it may now be this strength in the run game and deficiency as a pass catcher that spells the end of Brown's run in Dallas.

Normally, a seventh round pick being on the roster bubble wouldn't be this noteworthy, but Brown clearly showed the potential to outplay this draft status as a rookie. Appearing in 13 games, Brown is a true X receiver, although not the dominant one the Cowboys are searching for.

What Happens if WR Allen Hurns Doesn't Pan Out?

Dallas Cowboys WR Deonte Thompson, Cedrick Wilson, Allen Hurns (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Moving away from fielding a true number one receiver, the Cowboys did sign Allen Hurns to play this spot while prepared to spread the ball around to Williams, Beasley, and Gallup after that.

This leaves Thompson, Wilson, Cannon, Lenoir, McCay, Murdock, and Brown to prove their worth in other ways to make the roster. I've written plenty about the potential rookie Cedrick Wilson has, so I'll be expecting a strong showing from him to earn a role in the Cowboys offense.

Wilson's skill set could push a depth signing like Deonte Thompson off the team, although his ability to back up Cole Beasley/Tavon Austin on special teams is important. The same can be said about Lance Lenoir, who like Brown has the advantage over first year players given his trials through training camp and the preseason a year ago.

Long shots to make the team, Cannon, McCay, and Murdock fall just below this group -- and somewhere in the middle is Noah Brown.

Increasing his role on special teams as the season went on last year, Brown had fans throughout a coaching staff that is now drastically changed for 2018. From their shift to more speed on offense, to drafting of both Gallup and Wilson, calling Brown a fringe player on the Cowboys roster really sets up the fiery competition to come at wide receiver.

Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make Cowboys Roster?

Dallas Cowboys WR Noah Brown (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Should the Cowboys find a spot for Brown, one can only hope it means this new coaching staff has a clear plan for him to contribute on both offense and special teams outside of being a run blocker. A potential niche for Brown is his red zone ability, not afraid to put his body on the line for jump balls and fight through contact in his routes.

It won't be long until we sort out if this is enough to make the Cowboys as a wide receiver ahead of Quarterback Dak Prescott's third season.

Tell us what you think about "Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make the Roster?" 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 Most Important Backups Entering Training Camp

Sean Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Most Important Backups Entering Training Camp
(Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)

In less than two weeks, the Dallas Cowboys will be practicing in Oxnard, their final training camp tune up before the preseason and roster cuts. If last year is any indication, the Cowboys trim down to 53 players from 90 will be eventful as always. However, it was ultimately the depth of this final roster that failed the Cowboys in a 9-7 season falling short of the playoffs.

The loss of Ezekiel Elliott to suspension and Tyron Smith, Jonathan Cooper, and Sean Lee to injury was all too much for the Cowboys to overcome. Starting his career with a playoff appearance at 13-3, Quarterback Dak Prescott now enters a crucial third year, though he can only hope the team's free agent signings and rookies can help patch these holes.

Before the pads come on at training camp, here is a look at a few of the most important depth players the Cowboys have for 2018.

Offensive Tackle Cam Fleming

The Cowboys spent the 50th overall pick at this year's draft on their future Left Guard Connor Williams, making their signing of Cam Fleming more important. Should Williams grab hold of the starting spot left by Jonathan Cooper's departure, Fleming should serve as the Cowboys primary backup to Left Tackle Tyron Smith.

Joined only by Chaz Green and Kadeem Edwards on the depth chart at tackle, Fleming's experience should win out over the rest of the field. Also signing Guard Marcus Martin this offseason, it's clear the Cowboys want to avoid their offensive line breakdown from a year ago.

Cam Fleming needs to be in position to help the Cowboys do just that, unless Smith plays a full 16 games for the first time since 2015.

Tavon Austin, the Cowboys Best Playmaker Not Named Ezekiel Elliott?

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott, WR Tavon Austin

Wide Receiver/Running Back Tavon Austin

Whatever role Tavon Austin finds in the Cowboys offense, this is a play maker the Cowboys will have to get the ball to in a variety of ways. Expected to partially take the load off of Ezekiel Elliott as a running back while also being targeted in the passing game, Austin could very well influence the team's roster decisions at both RB and WR.

Two uncertain positions when it comes to depth, Austin's presence could mean bad news for Running Backs Darius Jackson and Bo Scarbrough, or Wide Receivers Lance Lenoir, KD Cannon, and Noah Brown.

We're still a long way off from knowing if a decision like this will be the right one for the Cowboys, but with so much uncertainty on offense entering 2018, Tavon Austin's importance could grow by the day in Oxnard.

Linebacker Justin March-Lillard

Needing to address the linebacker position heavily this offseason, the Cowboys locked in on Boise State's Leighton Vander Esch with their first round pick and selected him at 19th overall. With the 193rd overall pick, the Cowboys also added Indiana Linebacker Chris Covington.

Expected starters Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Vander Esch will still need quality depth behind them to play to their strengths this season.

A healthy Lee is locked in as this team's starting WILL linebacker, but the Cowboys are expected to test both Vander Esch and Smith at the MIKE position.

"The loser of this battle" moving to SAM linebacker is not so simple, especially considering other athletic options the Cowboys have for this strong side role. Along with Damien Wilson, the Cowboys have also seen strides from Justin March-Lillard.

Capable of contributing on special teams and providing important snaps in Rod Marinelli's defense, March-Lillard should be a hard player for the Cowboys to leave off their final roster. If he survives to the final 53, expect him to also be active on game days in support of the Cowboys LBs.

Quarterback Cooper Rush

What exactly do the Cowboys have in second-year Quarterback Cooper Rush, an undrafted sensation out of Central Michigan? Showing the potential to be Dak Prescott's primary backup or an enticing trade piece to QB-needy teams as a rookie, Rush is now joined by a new rookie on the depth chart.

Drafting Mike White in the fifth round, the Cowboys have plenty of skill at quarterback this season. The scope of this list is not to cover how well the Cowboys are prepared to play without Prescott.

Playing with two quarterbacks or three on the roster will be a looming decision for the Cowboys though. Either Rush or White could prove they deserve the second and last QB spot, with Rush's progress from last year challenged by White's accuracy.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Of course, more Cowboys backups will emerge as ones to keep an eye on, once the Cowboys are back on the field. With several coaches and 'big name' players potentially needing this season to reach the playoffs for the Cowboys, a second straight season of depleted depth won't cut it.

Such is the nature of the Cowboys roster cuts, with the final 53 man roster set on September 1st.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Most Important Backups Entering Training Camp" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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