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Cowboys Draft Four Defensive Backs; Who’s In, Who’s Out?

Jess Haynie

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Jourdan Lewis

We went into the 2017 NFL Draft knowing that the Dallas Cowboys needed to add talent to their secondary. They clearly knew it too, spending four of their top-six picks on defensive backs. Now, the question is what all these new arrivals mean for the current talent and the projected final roster.

To get us started, let's quickly recap the personnel moves since the end of last season. The Cowboys said goodbye to several key players in free agency while adding a couple of veteran replacements.

DEPARTURES

ARRIVALS

RETURNING

  • CB Orlando Scandrick
  • CB Anthony Brown
  • S Byron Jones
  • S Jeff Heath
  • S Kavon Frazier

There are the primary names to be concern with. There are other players under contract, such as cornerback Leon McFadden and quarteback-turned-safety Jameil Showers. However, these guys are likely no more than training camp bodies. We're going to focus on the guys who figure to be on the 2017 roster.

Chidobe Awuzie

CB Chidobe Awuzie was the first of Dallas' four drafted defensive backs.

Draft Impact

As we said at the outset, Dallas clearly recognized their needs and last week's draft reflected it. The Cowboys drafted two  on Friday night with Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in the second and third rounds. On Saturday they spent sixth-round picks on safety Xavier Woods and CB Marquez White.

Generally a team will have 8-10 defensive backs on their 53-man roster. These draft picks in addition to the current talent gives Dallas 11 guys competing for spots. At least one guy, if not a couple more, will be left out.

Now, to be fair, sixth-round picks are hardly guaranteed to make the roster. You might make an exception in the case of Xavier Woods, though, given reports that Dallas had him highly ranked on their board.

Also, after seeing what Anthony Brown did last year as a sixth-round pick, you can be sure that Woods and Marquez White will not be taken lightly in the months ahead. Teams never cut drafted players lightly, so they will get every opportunity to make the team.

Orlando Scandrick

CB Orlando Scandrick

Cornerbacks

The fallout from the talent additions in the draft seems to have already started. On Friday night, just minutes after Dallas drafted Awuzie, reports started that the Cowboys were trying to trade veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Jerry Jones has since denied those reports by Scandrick, but Orlando has made comments through the media that suggest he thought the rumor was true.

For now, we'll take Jerry at his word and assume Scandrick will still be a Cowboys in 2017. It makes more sense; can you really trust Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, and Awuzie to do the heavy lifting with just one year of combined experience? Do you really want Nolan Carroll as your only veteran corner?

The Cowboys' hope will be that Awuzie, Brown, and Lewis develop to the point that Dallas trusts them to be their top three corners in 2018. They can then cut both Scandrick and Carroll for cap relief. Right now, cutting or trading Scandrick would generate more dead money ($6.16 million) than his 2017 cap hit ($5.28 million) counts.

The logical plan is for Dallas to have their top three youngsters and two veterans on this year's roster. I would expect for Marquez White to end up on the practice squad unless and injury opens the door for him.

Jeff Heath

S Jeff Heath

Safeties

If you're a fan of Jeff Heath being a starter next year than this was a good draft week for you. Dallas did not add anyone in the upper rounds who would be expected to come in and compete immediately for the job. If anything, the Cowboys' obvious focus on drafting defensive backs with ball skills speaks to why they are comfortable with Heath moving forward.

The addition of Xavier Woods in the sixth round should be far more concerning to projected backups Robert Blanton and Kavon Frazier. If we assume that there will only be the traditional two backups spots available, someone is going to be left without a chair when the music stops.

Even though he just signed with the team on April 20th, the veteran Blanton should probably be most concerned. We know it was a one-year deal don't have details yet on the money. However, we can safely assume it's a minimal amount and Dallas left themselves able to easily release Blanton depending on how the draft and the remainder of the offseason unfolded.

My current projection is that Heath and Byron Jones will start while Woods and Frazier are the backups. Blanton's hope will be that neither of those young players show that they're ready for major minutes and Dallas leans on the veteran as a primary reserve. However, Frazier will have every chance to earn that role in his second year.



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!

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Dallas Cowboys

Ezekiel Elliott vs Byron Jones Part II: The Case For Paying Zeke

John Williams

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New York Giants are 2-1 Against Cowboys With Ezekiel Elliott

It's a debate that has raged on social media for some time now and it likely won't slow down as the offseason progresses and the Dallas Cowboys begin to hand out massive contracts to their top players. Pay Ezekiel Elliott? Pay Byron Jones? If you could only pay one, which would you pay?

This week fellow Inside The Star Staff Writer, Kevin Brady took to Twitter to poll the populous and his results were a bit surprising to me.

Kevin Brady on Twitter

if you can only pay one it should be

The results inspired me to see what would happen if I put the same poll on my timeline.

John Williams ✭ on Twitter

Inspired by my teammate @KevinBrady88, if you can only pay one, which would it be?

On Monday, Kevin wrote a piece looking at one of the difficult decisions facing the Dallas Cowboys this offseason or next. If the Cowboys could only extend Byron Jones OR Ezekiel Elliott, who should they choose? Kevin, as am I, is a firm believer in Byron Jones ability and says the Cowboys should extend them, and I agree. But let's look at the other side of the argument.

To begin, the Cowboys should and probably will get both guys contract extensions either this offseason or next. It's not impossible with the cap continuing to increase at a rate of about $8-12 million per year that the Cowboys will have the space to get the deals done that they need to get done. Ezekiel Elliott and Byron Jones included.

Byron Jones settled in nicely at cornerback during his first full season at cornerback and knowing what we know about Jones, he won't be satisfied with a second team All-Pro appearance. Expect him to get better. However, if there's a single player that represents the current identity of the Dallas Cowboys, it's Running Back Ezekiel Elliott.

The Cowboys made him the fourth overall pick in 2016 and haven't looked back in their plan to establish the running game. For his career Elliott has averaged 26.9 touches per game over the course of his 40 games.

Here's a look at what Elliott's per game and per 16 game paces look like through the first three seasons of his career.

As you can see from the table above, Ezekiel Elliott is averaging 131.2 total yards per game for his career. In his rookie season he had 1,994 total yards and he sat out the week 17 game against the Philadelphia Eagles when the Cowboys had the NFC and home field advantage locked up. In 2017, Elliott sat out six games and still had nearly 1,000 yards rushing. In 2018, Elliott broke through the 2,000 total yard barrier after seeing a huge increase in his targets and receptions.

Ezekiel Elliott has been everything the Dallas Cowboys could have hoped for and more. With the leadership role he's taken with the team, he's a player that leads both vocally and by example. There are few players on the Dallas Cowboys that give as much effort as he does each snap. How many times has it looked like Elliott was about to get dropped for a two or three yard loss only to grind through tackles to pick up a four yard gain? How many times has he bounced off tacklers to get to the first down marker? Ezekiel Elliott is the human personification of dirty yards, but don't let that fool you into thinking that Elliott can't take it to the house every time he touches the ball. Elliott's is a game breaker who threatens the defense every time he steps on the field.

In 2018, Elliott led the NFL in yards after contact, per Pro Football Focus. His 949 yards after contact in 2018 would have ranked 13th in the NFL in rushing, which was better than David Johnson's 940 yards rushing last season.

Not many running backs effect a football game like Ezekiel Elliott does.

Few players outside of the quarterback position are as much of a focal point for their offense while being an attention grabber for opposing defenses like Ezekiel Elliott is. In 2018, he saw eight or more men in the box on nearly 25% of his carries in 2018. Some of that is related to the Dallas Cowboys insistence on using two tight ends on 50% of their running plays (per Sharp Football), but the other aspect is related to how much they respect the Dallas Cowboys running game. Since the 2014, the Cowboys have been synonymous with running the football. DeMarco Murray, Darren McFadden, and now Ezekiel Elliott have been the faces of that running game behind the Cowboys elite offensive line.

Even in a down year for offensive line play from the Dallas Cowboys, Elliott still managed to lead the NFL in rushing for the second time in three seasons. Elliott made the Pro Bowl for the second time in three years as well. Were it not for the railroad job done by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in 2017, there's a really good chance that Elliott leads the league in rushing three years in a row and that the Dallas Cowboys make the playoffs all three seasons.

Sure, the running back position is undervalued in the NFL and rushing yardage can be replaced, but there are intangibles to Elliott's game that are very difficult to replace. His ability to grind out the dirty yards, break big plays, create yards after contact, pass protect, be a threat as a receiver, and his leadership make him a player that is difficult to replace.

Yes, Byron Jones was really good in 2018 and deserves to get paid by the Dallas Cowboys as well, but you'd be hard pressed to find a player on the Cowboys roster who has been as consistent and dominating week in and week out as Ezekiel Elliott has been over the last three years.



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BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb

Brian Martin

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BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb

According to multiple sources, the Dallas Cowboys have signed former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year deal to help bolster their depth at the WR position and potentially become Cole Beasley's replacement.

Adam Schefter on Twitter

Cowboys are giving former Packers' WR Randall Cobb a one-year, $5 million deal, per source. https://t.co/8KWFPjSP8T

The Dallas Cowboys met with Randall Cobb earlier this week, but he eventually left Dallas without a contract. He must've had a change of heart or just needed time to ponder the Cowboys offer, but regardless of what transpired in that short time he is now part of America's Team.

During his time with the Packers, Cobb accumulated 470 receptions for 5,524 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. The eight-year veteran will now be expected to replace some of Cole Beasley's production out of the slot for the Dallas Cowboys.

After years of watching Beasley as the Cowboys slot WR, it will be really interesting to see Randall Cobb in that role. He's not as quick twitched as No. 11, but can be just as dangerous due to his ability to be more of a down the field receiver. He also brings added value in the return game and could compete with Tavon Austin to become the return specialist.

This could mean the Cowboys forgo drafting a wide receiver early in the 2019 NFL Draft, but I wouldn't put it past them. Regardless of what happens, this is an excellent addition.

Welcome to Cowboys Nation Randall Cobb!



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REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur

Jess Haynie

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L.P. Ladouceur

L.P. Ladouceur is returning for his 15th season as the Cowboys' long snapper. The veteran free agent was re-signed by Dalals today to a one-year deal.

Thanks to Jason Witten's one-year sabbatical with Monday Night Football, Ladouceur has now been with the Cowboys for more consecutive seasons than any current player. He just turned 38 last week, but Louis-Philippe remains one of the top long snappers in football.

Todd Archer on Twitter

The Cowboys have signed long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a one-year deal worth $1.03 million and $90,000 in bonus money, but he will count $735,000 against the cap. This will be Ladouceur's 15th season with the Cowboys, tying Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Mark... https://t.co/2iDsi6RX7e

Retaining Ladouceur is an underrated move for the Cowboys given their situation at kicker.

Brett Maher was only 80% accurate overall on field goals last year. The team could be considering an upgrade in free agency.

Whether they bring Maher back or try someone new, having a long snapper with Ladouceur's performance perfection will make things much easier for them.



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