The frustrating reality when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys' approach in roster building is -- at certain positions -- they seem set on bargain-hunting for quick fixes and players with untapped potential to do the job. For years now, linebacker has been one of those positions, with the Cowboys failing far too many times at adding a true starter next to Sean Lee.
With free agency approaching on the league calendar, the Cowboys will now have a decision to make on one of their most promising linebackers. After four years of solid production at all three LB spots, Anthony Hitchens is set to hit the open market.
|1||W||1-0||New York Giants||13||233||198||35||1|
|4||L||2-2||Los Angeles Rams||24||412||244||168|
|5||L||2-3||Green Bay Packers||25||342||182||160||1|
|7||W||3-3||@||San Francisco 49ers||23||290||187||103||3|
|9||W||5-3||Kansas City Chiefs||17||323||255||68||1|
|12||L||5-6||Los Angeles Chargers||25||515||434||81|
|14||W||7-6||@||New York Giants||21||330||228||102||2|
Hitchens' contract year did not start off as cleanly as the team hoped, injured against the Oakland Raiders in the preseason. Recovering faster than expected, Hitchens made his 2017 debut against the Green Bay Packers. You can see the improvements in the Cowboys' overall numbers on defense once Hitchens returned to the field.
One thing the Cowboys do have going for them entering 2018 is the status of LB Jaylon Smith. The Cowboys deserve to parade around Jaylon Smith as a draft risk that worked out, and that's exactly what it feels like they'll do.
Relying on Smith and Lee to be the team's primary linebackers, on the field together in Nickel sets, is a solid start for the Cowboys. Anthony Hitchens as depth behind both of these starters, a role he excels in, creates much less of a need at LB in Dallas though.
Anthony Hitchens was a fourth round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The 2018 Draft class features plenty of depth at his position, meaning the Cowboys' could allocate the money Hitchens would warrant elsewhere - replacing him with a cheaper, younger option.
While slightly limited in pass coverage, Hitchens serves an important role as a read-and-react defender for the Cowboys that brings physicality against the run. This is the type of player that Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli loves.
The likes of Kris Richard and Ben Bloom have added say in what the Cowboys' defense will look like moving forward now however. Richard will coordinate the back seven of this defense, as he did brilliantly in Seattle, while Bloom is the Cowboys' new LB Coach.
Just how much they value a quality, starting-caliber LB on this roster will say a lot about the direction the Cowboys want to go in free agency this offseason. While it is understood that they won't be big spenders on outside players, signing their own has become a priority.
Taking this approach in free agency allows freedom come draft day, as the Cowboys can focus on adding talent anywhere on the roster.
Regardless of where Anthony Hitchens is next year, linebacker is a position the Cowboys should be looking to build on, and it may be best if they let Hitchens walk.
Amari Cooper Wins 2nd NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award of 2018
For the second time in just three weeks, Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Cooper scored three touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime, to lead the Cowboys to victory last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has 10 catches for 217 yards, which led all NFL receivers last week.
After his record-setting performance during week 14, @AmariCooper9 is the FIRST #DallasCowboys to win NFC Player of the Week twice in a season! → https://t.co/kvBDIeOgBd #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote
As the official website stated, Cooper is the first Cowboy to win the award twice in the same year. He's also the first Cowboy to be named Offensive Player of the Week since Ezekiel Elliott in 2016.
Before this year, Elliott was the only Dallas player to win the Offensive award in three seasons. Cooper has now done it twice in three weeks.
Since being traded to the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has amassed 40 catches for 642 yards and six touchdowns.
His wasted time in Oakland may keep Cooper out of the Pro Bowl this year, but he's already become a fan favorite in Cowboys Nation. Congratulations to Amari for another well-deserved award!
David Irving Out Again for Cowboys, Does Defense Need Him?
Dallas Cowboys Defensive Tackle David Irving, once a key member of the team's defense, will not make his return after all against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. For the second straight week, Irving was reportedly trending towards suiting up before being ruled out. The Cowboys haven't missed his unique presence for 13 weeks (playing against the Jaguars and Redskins), including through an ongoing four game win streak that began with a win against these Eagles on the road.
In that road win, veteran Tyrone Crawford recorded a sack and three tackles, while Antwaun Woods added two for a Dallas defense that held Philadelphia to 23 first downs and 71 rushing yards. The Eagles managed to cross the Cowboys' 30-yard line just four times.
There are many scenarios in which the Cowboys could have cut ties with Irving for not being worth the off-field trouble he's caused - beginning the season with a four game suspension. The absolute best case scenario is what they've realized amidst this turnaround, with other defensive linemen taking advantage of the opportunity left behind by Irving.
While it can still be true that Irving would make more splash plays than the likes of Crawford, Woods, Maliek Collins, and Caraun Reid, this defensive tackle group deserves praise for their ability to step in. Pass rush ability is one thing teams can't have enough of, and the Cowboys are missing some with Irving, finding ways to win thanks to the other traits these defenders bring to the table.
Cowboys Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard may effectively be the team's defensive coordinator with an emphasis on the back seven, but DC Rod Marinelli's impact is still felt - particularly up front. Regardless of where they're lined up and deployed, the Cowboys front four is expected to be disruptive on every snap, something this scrappy unit excels at.
Prepared once again to play on the edge this season, Crawford is thriving at his original position of 3T-DT. Crawford has two sacks, nine total tackles, and three other hits on the quarterback over the past four weeks. Leading by example with a relentless spirit on every play, Crawford has meant just as much to the Cowboys defensive ends as Irving could.
In a short period of time, the Cowboys have gone from building up Irving thanks to his transcendent ability to make those around him better to simply -- and importantly -- being better across the defense.
Led by DeMarcus Lawrence as their premier rusher, the Cowboys defensive line is a lot for opposing offenses to contain. The "Hot Boyz" work up front has allowed Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch to play fast and make plays all over the field.
Maliek Collins, battling back from his second broken foot in three years, is proving again he's a patented Marinelli guy. Collins' play speaks for itself when considering if the Nebraska product is best as a 3T or 1T tackle. Wherever he's asked to play, Collins creates penetration with an explosive first step and can finish at the quarterback with an array of power rush moves.
At 7-5 and fighting for their playoff lives, the Cowboys are done making excuses on the 2018 season. Their strides on defense speak for themselves, and with a group that keeps Dallas in every game they'll play, the door remains open for David Irving to earn snaps again when ready.
The Cowboys don't know any better than their play without Irving right now, and as winners of four straight, it's worth questioning if we'll see Irving over the last three weeks of the regular season.
QB Dak Prescott Named Cowboys’ Nominee For Walter Payton Man Of The Year Award
As the quarterback of America's Team, Dak Prescott is faced with a level of criticism each week that few athletes have to deal with. He is constantly questioned for his play, and even when things are going well, Prescott must answer his critics. But one area absolutely no one can question Prescott is his leadership, both on and off the field.
Dak Prescott is the perfect role model for children and adults alike. He is constantly doing fantastic work in his communities and making sure he uses his platform for good to his best ability.
This week it was announced Dak Prescott was nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, and will be the Cowboys' candidate in the race.
@Dak Prescott has been announced as the #Cowboys nominee for Walter Payton Man of the Year - for 'commitment to philanthropy and community impact.' DAL past winners of the NFL-wide honor: Staubach, Aikman, Witten. @1053thefan
Of course, Prescott is well-worthy of the honor, and I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up being both a finalist and the recipient of the award this year. As mentioned by Mike Fisher in the above tweet, three Cowboys have won the award previously; Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Jason Witten. Each of which is deserving, as is Prescott.
Considering the award is given out for "commitment to philanthropy and community impact," I can't think of many more worthy players around the league than quarterback Dak Prescott. We can see this impact in the locker room and on the field as well, as Prescott was voted a captain in just his sophomore season. The Cowboys clearly respect Prescott, despite some of the flaws in his game, and seem to play hard beside him every week.
Congratulations to Dak Prescott on this nomination.
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