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.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
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.
Starters Make Cowboys Serious Contenders, But Depth is a Concern
Playing in the National Football Conference, the Dallas Cowboys have a difficult task ahead of them if they are to be serious Super Bowl contenders. Even still, they've become a very underrated football team due to their 9-7 record last season. The Cowboys struggled in many areas and with the Philadelphia Eagles crowned as Super Bowl Champions, everyone has forgotten about America's Team.
2017 was an awful year for the Cowboys. It seemed like a roller coaster of success, putting up an impressive performance one week only to disappoint the next one. Let's be honest with ourselves here and talk about what really ended the Cowboys' last season.
As much as we talk about how there shouldn't be any excuses in football - the Eagles made a huge statement by winning it all with a backup QB and other key starters missing - we can't deny the impact of these injuries.
Anthony Hitchens, Sean Lee, Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliott all missed some time last year, affecting the team's performance week in and week out. Had the starters been healthy, the truth is this team would've been in the playoffs.
Heading into 2018, the Cowboys will face a very similar situation. This year, starters make Dallas a serious contender. Even if they're playing in a conference that will feature a lot of quality teams, the Cowboys are a team that could beat any team in the league if healthy.
Even the dreaded wide receiver position - which has been famous this offseason for the lack of a #1 receiver - won't be as bad as we make it out to be starter-wise. A starting trio of Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup and Cole Beasley doesn't really sound bad.
Heck, not even Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods starting at safety is concerning. They have what it takes to be decent starters. Sure, Heath isn't a guy who will make the Pro Bowl, but his skills will show on the field once the season starts in September.
The Cowboys' starters will do just fine this season. If the team's fate is up to them, they are in a very good spot. The same can not be said about depth, though.
Except for the defensive line, every other position lacks depth. If Sean Lee goes down, the linebackers stop looking like a three-headed monster. Same goes for the cornerbacks. Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis seem like a good group but as soon as one of them suffers an injury, the Cowboys will be in trouble.
We're in for an exciting season with a lot of young talent waiting to breakout. The Cowboys are underrated this year. They may not be among the NFC's favorites, but they truly have what it takes to replicate the success they had in 2016. However, it seems like circumstances have to be ideal for them to make a run for the Lombardi Trophy.
With a little bit of luck, they'll bounce back this season.
The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up
Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.
The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.
As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.
Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.
Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.
Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.
Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.
I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.
All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.
How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?
Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?
With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.
Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.
I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.
I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?
Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.
Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.
Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.
Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.
Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Should Cowboys Regret How They’ve Handled The Safety Position?
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
5 Cowboys From 2017 Who May Not Make Current Roster
Dallas Cowboys4 days ago
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Has Breakout Day in Camp
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
Possible Cowboys Roster Cuts Who Could Have Trade Value
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Don’t Freak Out About The Cowboys Passing Game Just Yet
Game Notes1 week ago
LB Joe Thomas Steals The Show In San Francisco
Star Blog6 days ago
The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up
Star Blog2 weeks ago
DE Taco Charlton Bigger, Stronger, Faster in Year 2?