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Cowboys Need Depth of 2017 Draft Class to Shine in 2018

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Need Depth of 2017 Draft to Shine in 2018 2

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.

Dallas Cowboys Wishlist at Philadelphia Eagles

Dallas Cowboys WR Ryan Switzer (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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.

Rookie CB Marquez White Could Have Bigger Role Than Expected

Dallas Cowboys CB Marquez White

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.

Cowboys Need Depth of 2017 Draft to Shine in 2018 1

Dallas Cowboys S Xavier Woods

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.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Need Depth of 2017 Draft Class to Shine in 2018" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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1 Comment
  • Travis Diggs

    The biggest thing for me is personnel issues, The coaching staff needs to gives these guys reps. Lets start with Marquez White who played well in preseason but was edged out by Nolan Carroll and Bene B(how idk), Switzer could of been used more with Beasley in a down year, It only took a couple of games to see Xavier Woods should of seen more of the field than Jeff Heath, and Noah Brown was only used for blocking. Give the guys reps and you might see more out of your rookie class

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Is WR Cole Beasley Being Underutilized?

Brian Martin

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Is WR Cole Beasley Being Underutilized?

Like any competitor, Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Cole Beasley wants to play and be as heavily involved as possible when the lights come on and the game is on the line. He's become accustomed to to being heavily involved in the game plan, that is until WR Amari Cooper arrived in Dallas.

Since the arrival of Amari Cooper, Cole Beasley has seen his offensive role dramatically reduced. He is no longer Quarterback Dak Prescott's favorite target in the passing game and it even looks as if he is taken a stumble down the Cowboys WR depth chart. At best, he is their WR3 now behind Cooper and Michael Gallup.

That's quite a fall from grace for a player who was Dallas' top receiver the last few seasons and the most targeted in the first half of this year. I can almost guarantee he's not happy about not being utilized more in the passing game, but he's a team player and will do what it takes to win.

Unfortunately for Beasley, Cooper's arrival has changed the Cowboys offense. He is back to his old role of working the short intermediate routes now with Cooper and Gallup playing on the outside. Because of that his stats have taken a hit. His targets, receptions, and the chance to help his team win has dropped off significantly.

Cole Beasley

Dallas Cowboys WR Cole Beasley

In the two games before Cooper joined the team, Beasley had 16 receptions for 157 yards and two touchdowns on 19 targets. The six games since he only has 17 catches for 138 yards on 26 targets. That's a huge drop in production and has nothing to do with his performance. It's how he's being utilized.

Beasley has been forced to take a backseat in the Cowboys aerial attack. Amari Cooper has been highly targeted, and rightfully so, and Michael Gallup is seeing more passes thrown his way as well. Not to mention, Ezekiel Elliott has been used more as a receiver also.

There are just too many mouths to feed and unfortunately Cole Beasley is the odd man out. The sad thing is, that might not change anytime soon with the way the Cowboys offense is playing right now. It's one of the reasons why they currently have the league's best winning streak going for them.

It's to hard make an argument for Beasley receiving more looks in the passing game with the way the offense is playing, with the exception of in the red zone, but I do believe he needs to be more involved. After all, he is still one of the Cowboys best WRs and can't be covered by anyone in the league one-on-one.

I don't know about you, but I'm hoping things will circle back around and he will once again be more involved in the passing game. His ability to get open is uncanny and it's a shame to not take advantage of that God-given gift.

What do you think, should Cole Beasley start being utilized more?



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Star Blog

Time to see What Darius Jackson can do as Zeke’s Backup?

Brian Martin

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Will RB Darius Jackson Stick With Cowboys Second Time Around?

I hate to say it because I really like Rod Smith, but I think it may be time for the Dallas Cowboys to reevaluate the running back position as it pertains to Ezekiel Elliott's primary backup. Smith just hasn't been good this year, which is why I think it may be time to see what Darius Jackson can do if given the opportunity.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting the Dallas Cowboys move on from Rod Smith or demote him right now, but I would promote Darius Jackson from the practice squad to the active roster as insurance in case something were to happen to Zeke. It just seems the right time to make that move after #21's injury scare Sunday afternoon against the Philadelphia Eagles.

You may have forgotten, but Ezekiel Elliott had to spend some time in the medical tent Sunday against the Eagles. He was luckily able to return to the game not long after, but it did shine a spotlight on Rod Smith and the lack of depth behind him.

Despite how much I like Rod Smith, and I do, he just hasn't been the same player this season as he was last year as Zeke's fill-in. He is just not running with any kind of authority and has been too apt to run east and west instead of north and south. I think it's one of the reasons why the Cowboys have continued to give Zeke such a heavy workload, despite him being banged up.

Rod Smith

Dallas Cowboys RB Rod Smith

Now, Rod Smith did look a little better against the Eagles, but I still believe it would be wise for the Cowboys to promote Darius Jackson to the active roster. Having more depth at such a physically demanding position is just smart football.

With the Dallas Cowboys playoff spot all but secured, it might be time to start thinking about lightening Ezekiel Elliott's workload just a little bit. Whether it's Rod Smith or Darius Jackson, the Cowboys have to find someone who can step in and be productive.

Rod Smith has had his opportunities this year, but hasn't really been able to capitalize like we believed he could. It might be time to turn to Darius Jackson, a fan favorite, who unfortunately just hasn't been able to prove what he can do as of yet in a meaningful game. I think it's time we change that.

As much as I like Rod Smith, I might like Darius Jackson just a little bit more. I think he is kind of like a poor man's Ezekiel Elliott. He is just as athletically gifted and can be a threat as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. He just needs the opportunity to prove it.

There's really no way of knowing if I'm right or wrong about this, but I believe he is worthy of a roster spot on game day if nothing else. I'd rather have him and not need him then need him and not have him.

Do you think it's time to see what Darius Jackson can do?



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Star Blog

Cowboys Lassoing NFC East Title as NFC Dark Horse

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Cowboys Lassoing NFC East Title as NFC Dark Horse

Well don’t look now but the Dallas Cowboys are in control of their division and anything short of a catastrophic collapse will see them hosting the first round of the playoffs. Dallas strengthened their grip on the NFC East by knocking off a divisional rival and the reigning Super Bowl champions with a 29-23 overtime win over the Eagles.

Those who have a favorite online sportsbook and wagered on the Cowboys were ecstatic to see Dak Prescott hit Amari Cooper for a 15-yard touchdown pass in overtime, thus covering the 3 ½ point impost that oddsmakers hung on Dallas.

The Cowboys have now won five consecutive games, with three of those over divisional opponents Philadelphia (twice) and Washington. But before we celebrate, we must consider that there's still a mathematical possibility of either Philadelphia or Washington stealing the division crown away from the Cowboys.

The Giants' only hope is an outside shot at a wildcard berth if they win outright but they've been eliminated from contending for a division title due to their 1-4 record against NFC East teams.

Essentially, all the Cowboys must do is win one of their three remaining games in order to celebrate a division crown. If Philadelphia or Washington loses any of their three games they will be out due to tie breakers that go in the Cowboys’ favor.

As of this moment, the Redskins are a disaster with no one under center to captain their rudderless ship, and the Eagles must defeat the Rams in LA, which would be considered a stunning upset seeing as any reputable online sportsbook is offering the Rams as 9 ½ point favorites as of this writing; then they must win at home against Houston and on the road against the Redskins.

Of course, the Cowboys are counting only on themselves to reel in the division title and with games at Indianapolis, home against the Bucs, and wrapping their season in New Jersey against the Giants, at least one win seems likely.

The addition of Amari Cooper to the Dallas offensive arsenal has been a game-changer as the former Oakland Raider hauled in 10 of 13 targets for 217 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner last Sunday against Philadelphia. He was the top-tier receiver Prescott had been lacking and his presence on the field improves both the passing game and running game by virtue of his dynamic playmaking abilities. Ezekiel Elliott has eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards in four of the six games since Cooper has been on the Cowboys roster.

Furthermore, Dallas has averaged 24.4 points per game over their last five wins with Cooper in the lineup, which is more than five points improved from where they were prior to their winning streak without him in a Dallas uniform.

In addition, Prescott has morphed from a game manager at 202 passing yards per game to a game breaker as evidenced by his 285.7 passing yard average in six games with his new target at his disposal.

Ultimately, the Cowboys will be tasked with turning all of this good mojo into a deep run into the postseason. We can now confidently say that there is one other team to consider besides the Rams, Bears, and Saints as this year’s NFC entrant into the Super Bowl. However, Dak Prescott will need to eliminate turnovers and interceptions if Dallas is truly going to contend against the powerhouses they will face in the playoffs.

Last Sunday, Prescott caught fire in the fourth quarter and ended with 455 yards passing, connecting on 42 of 54 passes with three touchdowns, but his two interceptions were converted into nine points by Philadelphia. As we move forward, Prescott will need to lead right from the get-go and understand that one poor decision can cost his team what is now a realistic shot at a championship season.



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