The general belief around The Star -- echoed by most of Cowboys Nation -- is that the 2017 Dallas Cowboys were a good team handicapped by an unfortunate lack of depth. Finishing just outside the NFC playoff picture at 9-7, the Cowboys' offseason approach will look similar to years past. Searching for depth on the fringes of free agency as well as in this upcoming draft, the Cowboys have some intriguing names from their 2017 draft class that could fill major needs for 2018.
Defensive tackles Joey Ivie and Jordan Carrell, seventh round picks that had the support of DC Rod Marinelli, failed to make the cut in their first season in Dallas. Ivie did land on the Cowboys' practice squad before being signed by the Atlanta Falcons.
This leaves WR Ryan Switzer, S Xavier Woods, CB Marquez White, and WR Noah Brown as the Cowboys' 2017 draft picks outside of the top 100.
The impact that all four young players will make on this team remains in question, and could go a long way in deciding the NFC East for years to come.
So far this offseason, the position that has come under the most fire is certainly the Dallas Cowboys wide receivers. Starters Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley all project to return to these roles in 2018, leaving less room than fans may expect for sweeping changes to Dak Prescott's pass catchers.
Investing heavily into fresh talent at WR may have been done a year early in Dallas though. Ryan Switzer's usage on offense left a lot to be desired in 2017. His four catches for 32 yards in the Cowboys' meaningless week 17 win at the Eagles showed off the potential that Switzer flashed as a dynamic player at North Carolina.
In his rookie season, Ryan Switzer's biggest impact was felt on special teams, serving as the Cowboys' primary punt returner and averaging 8.83 yards per return. Should Switzer find a larger role in Scott Linehan's offense in his second year, he can absolutely be the "Dak-friendly" receiver with big-play ability that the Cowboys are currently "missing".
A much different player with a skill set that also fits what the Cowboys do on offense nicely, WR Noah Brown was endorsed by Ohio State teammate Ezekiel Elliott thanks to the blocking ability that earned him some meaningful playing time as Dallas' 239th overall pick in 2017.
Brown will never be a player that drastically improves the Cowboys' passing game, but he is one that could see even more snaps moving forward. Preparing to center their offense around Elliott for a full 16 games, Brown's prowess as a blocker out on the edge with above-the-rim ability as a receiver make him an early breakout candidate for the Cowboys moving forward.
This leaves two secondary players that new Cowboys passing game coordinator Kris Richard should be eager to get his hands on.
While Cornerback Marquez White didn't get the opportunities that Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods received to turn this Cowboys secondary around, the Florida State product earned a spot on Dallas' practice squad for 2017. Given his size, length, and physicality, White projects as an ideal boundary cornerback in Richard's scheme - coming over from Seattle and the "Legion of Boom".
At worst, Marquez White is a backup secondary player with a lot of upside in 2018 for the Cowboys.
As mentioned, the versatile Xavier Woods played every role asked of him in the Cowboys' new-look secondary in 2017, bringing his composed game to the safety and Nickel cornerback spots as just a rookie.
Exactly where Woods fits best moving forward is a topic for another time, but I believe the safety will ultimately find a home as a third-level defender with the range to make plays on the ball. The Cowboys could understandably address the safety position early in the 2018 Draft, but figuring out who will line up where at this position starts with setting expectations for Xavier Woods.
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Back in January, I wrote out the positions the Cowboys could actually use new starters at for a 2018 season that should have all the makings of a bounce back campaign. Listing only four spots, with the Cowboys relying on their most recent draft class to add the necessary depth for this team to stay afloat, the patience Dallas has used in constructing this roster is set to pay off soon.
Stop me if you've heard this one before...but the Dallas Cowboys are close to where they want to be. That is to say they have the players to be legitimately excited about watching develop, progress, and earn starting roles for years to come.
Still months away from sharing in the excitement of who the Cowboys add in the 2018 NFL Draft, the potential that 2017's rookies provided will have to do for a while.
2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back
To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.
As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.
Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.
These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.
Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.
Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.
Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.
Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.
How The Tables Have Turned for 2019 Dallas Cowboys
The 2018 season was a two-part tale for the Dallas Cowboys. The first is the story of a mediocre 3-5 team that couldn't get it going offensively. The second part is about a football team that turned its season around, made the playoffs, got a win in the postseason and ultimately lost to the team that ended up representing the NFC in Super Bowl LIII, the Los Angeles Rams.
Surely, 2018 didn't go as planned. The storylines leading to last season are actually very different from the ones we're hearing today. Let's take a look at a few examples of how the tables have turned for the Dallas Cowboys.
The need for a true WR1
Last season, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys preached the philosophy of not needing a #1 wide receiver. While that could've sound encouraging at the time, once the season began the team was proven wrong. They did need a WR1. Fortunately, this season we won't have to worry about it. This year, Dez Bryant shouldn't be a discussion topic among Cowboys' fans.
Amari Cooper is in the house. And he's been pretty good since he started playing with a Star on his helmet. If we have conversations about the WR position, they will not be about who's the #1 guy. With Michael Gallup showing up late in the season, it probably won't be about who is #2 either.
Back on top of the NFC East
Last year, the Dallas Cowboys were not really the favorites to win the NFC East. The Philadelphia Eagles had just made history by winning their first Super Bowl ever and it seemed like the Cowboys would have to get a wildcard spot to play in January. Now it's the Cowboys back on top after sweeping the Eagles and turning their once 3-5 season around.
That of course, means a tougher schedule next season. However, it's nice to be back on top of the division. These two teams will surely have an intense race for the division title next season. Maybe we even see them both in the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Sean Lee's uncertain future
I'm pretty sure no one expected Sean Lee to be considered a potential cap casualty for the 2019 season. Even if he was, it would've probably been anticipating an injury or something like that. No one would've imagined that Leighton Vander Esch would be so good to take Sean Lee's job.
The Cowboys' first round rookie truly earned the starting role as the defense's weak linebacker and he should keep it. With Sean Lee set to return to the field, I'm sure we didn't expect him to be a backup by now. We'll have to wait and see if the Cowboys decide to part ways with him. As a fan, it would certainly be painful. But we can't deny it would be a move that makes sense.
It's a crazy franchise on a crazy league. Who knows how things will go from now on, but the Dallas Cowboys certainly look like a promising team heading into the 2019 offseason. Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue to update you with the latest on your favorite NFL team.
Cowboys en Español: Volviendo a la Idea de Earl Thomas
El año pasado, Earl Thomas fue uno de los temas de conversación más frecuentes para los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys. Después de que los Seattle Seahawks no le dieran su deseada extensión de contrato, Thomas se convirtió en un candidato a ser intercambiado de su equipo. Entre los favoritos estaban los Cowboys, quienes tenían una necesidad en su defensiva secundaria. Ahora que la temporada 2018 llegó a su fin, la misma necesidad por un safety de calidad está presente en Dallas.
Sólo que en esta ocasión, Earl Thomas no está bajo contrato con ningún equipo. Su último momento con el uniforme de los Seahawks fue en un carro de lesiones, donde salía lesionado en dirección a su vestidor. Esto mientras se despedía de su equipo con el dedo de en medio extendido hacia sus entrenadores y compañeros. Así concluyó su temporada y su carrera en Seattle.
Ahora, listo para cumplir los 30 años en mayo, Earl Thomas probará la agencia libre cuando comience en marzo. Y sin lugar a dudas, uno de los equipos candidatos a firmarlo serán los Dallas Cowboys. Es un equipo que a pesar de tener una de las mejores defensivas la temporada pasada, se vería muy beneficiada con la llegada de un profundo del calibre de Thomas.
A pesar de su edad y las lesiones, Thomas continúa siendo uno de los mejores en la liga. Su talento es innegable y tendrá toda la disposición de demostrar lo que vale cuando tome el campo la próxima temporada. Cuando llegue el momento, podríamos ver una guerra de ofertas entre varios equipos de la NFL para llevarse al veterano a sus respectivas ciudades.
La pregunta es: ¿estarán los Dallas Cowboys en esa guerra de ofertas?
Los Cowboys tienen espacio en el tope salarial. Sin embargo, este no durará mucho considerando que DeMarcus Lawrence está esperando su merecida y cara extensión después de jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia en 2018. Además, jugadores que aún están bajo contrato también estarán buscando ofertas este offseason.
Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, y Byron Jones están en la lista de quehaceres de la administración. Eso sin mencionar a Cole Beasley, cuyo contrato ya expiró y podría llegar a la agencia libre en marzo.
A pesar de esta complicada situación, los Dallas Cowboys deberían buscar conseguir a Thomas. Siendo sinceros, la defensiva tiene mucho talento y podría mantener su nivel en 2019. Pero hace falta un jugador en la posición de safety para llevar a esta unidad a otro nivel. Un nivel realmente capaz de ganar en postemporada enfrentándose a cualquier tipo de ofensiva. Sin importar que tan explosiva sea. Y además de esto, un jugador que sea capaz de robar el balón y hacer jugadas de impacto constantemente.
Cuando los Cowboys se enfrentaron a Seahawks en temporada regular, Thomas dio un buen ejemplo de esto interceptando en dos ocasiones a la ofensiva de Dak Prescott.
A pasos de un equipo de campeonato, un movimiento agresivo para obtener a Earl Thomas sería algo genial para Dallas. Vimos como los Rams de Los Angeles fueron agresivos al construir su equipo y llegaron hasta el Super Bowl este febrero. Quizá es tiempo de que Jerry Jones y compañía sean igual de agresivos y vayan por ese safety elite que la afición lleva pidiendo desde el offseason del año pasado.
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