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.
Time to get FB Jamize Olawale More Involved Offensively?
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off arguably their best and most complete offensive performance of the season after playing the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, but there is still quite a bit of improvement that can be made. The need to get more playmakers involved is apparent, which is why I think it's time to utilize Fullback Jamize Olawale's unique skill set.
I know many of you will argue that getting Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup going is a higher priority, and you wouldn't be wrong, but Jamize Olawale's playmaking ability could be a huge asset for Quarterback Dak Prescott and the offense. I know it sounds a little strange, but hang in there with me for little bit.
As things stand right now, Olawale has only played 38 offensive snaps (10%) in 2018. That's the exact amount of offensive plays Wide Receiver Terrance Williams has played this year and he's missed the majority of the season. It's not exactly the kind of production I was expecting when the Cowboys decided to bring him aboard via trade with the Oakland Raiders earlier this offseason.
I don't know about you, but I was expecting Olawale to be more involved in the offensive game plan. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and isn't too shabby as a runner either. But, we haven't seen him utilized in either fashion this season and I think that's an injustice that needs to be corrected.
Now, I fully understand there are other offensive weapons ahead of him in the pecking order who need to see more targets, but I also really think he can make a difference maker, especially in the passing game. That is where his strengths lie, not as a lead blocking fullback.
Olawale was a bit of a Swiss Army knife during his time with the Oakland Raiders. He played a little running back, fullback, tight end, and even a little slot receiver. I really thought the Cowboys would take advantage of his versatility in the passing game, but as of yet they have failed to do so.
I'd like to see the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan utilize Jamize Olawale's unique playmaking ability a little bit more on offense. I think they should try to utilize him like the San Francisco 49ers use their fullback, Kyle Juszczyk. He's much more involved and has played a total of 263 offensive snaps (63.68%) this year.
Juszczyk is a better lead blocking FB then Olawale, but that's not where he makes the most difference in the 49ers offense. He does it as a receiver and has already caught 17 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown. That's some pretty solid production from a position that is being phased out in the NFL.
Now, just imagine the Cowboys offense getting similar production from Olawale and how that would help open up things for everybody else. It's not out of the realm of possibility because the 49ers offense and the Cowboys isn't all that dissimilar.
Unfortunately, I think Jamize Olawale is pretty much an afterthought in the Cowboys offense right now. It's truly unfortunate because I think he can be a difference maker if given the opportunity. And with a division foe like the Washington Redskins next on the schedule, what better time to unleash a new and unseen element of the offense?
Do you think Jamize Olawale needs to be more involved offensively?
Cole Beasley Key to Cowboys Passing Game Productivity?
What most of us already knew was confirmed last Sunday afternoon against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Wide Receiver Cole Beasley is the Dallas Cowboys best receiver and is the key to the passing game productivity. He is not only the most productive, but the most consistent.
Cole Beasley isn't the tallest or the fastest and definitely doesn't look like a prototypical NFL receiver, but he showed last week against the Jaguars why opposing defenses have to account for him on every single play. He torched Jacksonville's top-ranked passing defense for 101 yards on nine catches and added two touchdowns, and it's that production that could help open up the entire passing game for the Cowboys.
It's painfully obvious Cole Beasley has been Dak Prescott's favorite target in the passing game since he took over the starting duties in 2016. Once opposing defenses figured that out they started to make things extremely difficult by bracketing Beasley in coverage and the passing game hasn't been the same since. But, that could be changing if the Jaguars game was an indication of what we might see moving forward.
Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan did a much better job of moving Beasley around to create favorable matchups against the Jaguars. I think we will see much more of that moving forward, but that likely means opposing defenses will once again try to take away Prescott's favorite target. That actually could end up helping the Cowboys passing game though.
If opposing defenses indeed try to contain Cole Beasley like they've done in the past, it should help provide more opportunities for Dallas' other pass catchers. Spreading the ball around to several different receivers would not only help Prescott and the passing game, but also open up the entire offense.
We haven't really seen much of Allen Hurns or Michael Gallup this season, but both are more than capable of being more productive if they are seeing single coverage more often. That's what's likely to happen if defenses bracket Beasley in coverage once again. Both WRs need to be more involved anyway and Beasley's recent spike in production could help do just that.
Now, if defenses decide to try and cover Beasley one-on-one like the Jaguars did quite a bit of last Sunday, the Cowboys would be wise to take advantage of that mismatch. He simply can't be covered by a single defensive back because of his precise route running ability. He is that good.
Regardless of how opposing defenses try to handle/contain Cole Beasley, he is without a doubt key to the Dallas Cowboys passing game productivity. Just the threat of him on the field changes a defenses approach, which is why he is Dallas' #1 WR in my book. He absolutely has to be more involved moving forward, even if it is as a decoy.
Do you think Cole Beasley is the key to the Cowboys passing game productivity?
How ‘Bout them Cowboys?! Dallas Set to Lasso Redskins in Week 7
Well, what do you think now of America’s Team? Anyone who foresaw Dallas’s evisceration of the league’s No. 1 defense hailing from Jacksonville is a downright soothsayer. In case you were in a coma this past weekend, the Cowboys obliterated the Jaguars’ vaunted defense to the tune of a 40-7 massacre in which Dak Prescott tossed for 183 yards, two passing touchdowns and ran one into the end zone for good measure. When the dust settled Prescott had chewed up 82 yards on the ground and Ezekiel Elliott surpassed the century mark in rushing with 106 yards and a touchdown of his own.
It was a glorious day to be a Cowboys fan and it’s safe to say that America’s Team is back!
Or are they?
Dallas is in a three-way logjam for the top spot in the NFC East with the Redskins and Eagles, but the way they made mincemeat of the Jacksonville defense gives us all hope that more good things are in the cards soon.
Seventh-year WR Cole Beasley blew the doors off of the Jags secondary by catching nine passes on 11 targets for a pair of touchdown receptions and 101 yards. It was a season-high for Beasley and the fact that Prescott has no real top-tier targets after the departures of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten makes it even more special.
This is a team that was not supposed to be able to move the ball through the air and, to be fair, hasn’t done much of it this season as evidenced by their 29th ranked passing game. But a little creative game planning by Head Coach Jason Garrett and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan paid dividends and the lingering specter of their heartbreaking overtime loss to the Texans in Week 5 was exorcised by the dominating victory.
What has gotten lost in the euphoria of Dallas’s week 6 win is their defense, as the Cowboys had three sacks, seven quarterback hits, and an interception by Jeff heath.
Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles was under siege and did not respond well to the pressure after establishing career highs in passing yards over the last two weeks leading up to this contest. But his opportunity to become the fifth NFL QB with three consecutive games of 375 passing yards or more evaporated in the heat of a blistering Dallas defense. Bortles ended the day with 149 yards, a TD and a pick.
As the Cowboys move on to Washington, we see that their success at home is only equaled by their struggles on the road. Dallas is now 3-0 at home and 0-3 on the highway. Buoyed off their stunning blitzkrieg of the Jags, we see that one of the most respected and trusted online sportsbooks in the industry, BetOnline has the Cowboys as 1 ½ point underdogs which is most likely a few points below what they would have been had they not won so convincingly last week.
Those who like to back up their football prognostications with cold, hard cash understand that Dallas is not only losing on the road but losing money for their backers in those contests. In those three losing games, Dallas is 0-2-1 against the spread but this week could be different. Against their divisional foes this week, Dallas is 4-0 straight up and 3-1 ATS versus Washington over the last two seasons.
The way this Cowboys defense is playing and the sudden explosion of Cole Beasley as a focal point of the passing attack, we could very easily see their first road win of the year.
Star Blog1 week ago
If Jason Garrett’s Out, Who’s In? Potential HC Candidates
Star Blog5 days ago
Should the Dallas Cowboys Trade for These 2 Oakland Raiders?
Player News1 week ago
Leighton Vander Esch Lands on List of NFL’s Top 10 Rookies
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Did Garrett’s OT Decision Cost Him More Than Just the Game?
Star Blog1 week ago
Is Jason Garrett Losing the Cowboys Locker Room?
Player News3 days ago
Oakland Raiders’ Wide Receiver Amari Cooper On the Trade Block
Game Notes7 days ago
Jaylon Smith Looks Healthy, And The NFL Should Be Terrified
Dallas Cowboys2 days ago
Report: Jason Garrett “Not Going Anywhere” with Possible Extension Coming Soon