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Cowboys Offense: Evaluating Options at WR and RB

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Offense: Evaluating Options at WR and RB

For a NFL offense to reach its full potential, the offensive line needs to be consistently playing their best football. For the Dallas Cowboys, who have had the best offensive line in the league since 2014, this part of the offense has begun to feel like an afterthought.

The imposing wall up front offensively that Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Doug Free combine to form gives the Cowboys their offensive identity as a physical football team that will command the game with a steady ground attack.

Ezekiel Elliott is here to provide the majority of Dallas' work in that running game, but the rookie out of Ohio State is not the only intriguing option in the backfield for Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan to employ.

Of course, the running game as a whole will also benefit from strong play out of QB Tony Romo and his weapons out wide. Stretching the field vertically and keeping this offense balanced will be left primarily to Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Brice Butler, and Cole Beasley. However, similar to the situation at running back, the Cowboys have a few different directions that they could go to fill out the rest of the depth chart at wide receiver.

With the team entering a game week - opening up the preseason in Los Angeles against the Rams on Saturday - let's explore further some decisions the Dallas Cowboys will have to make at running back and wide receiver.

Running Backs - Who will take carries away from Zeke?

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Offense: Evaluating Options at WR and RB 1

Ezekiel Elliott is going to be hard to take off the field on Sundays for the Cowboys.

If you draft a running back in the top 5 of the NFL Draft like the Cowboys did, you expect him to be able to play as a workhorse that can immediately be the focal point of an offense.

Elliott can do all of these things as a runner, pass catcher, and blocker. The sky is truly the limit for one of the most complete running back prospects to enter the NFL in years, as his standard will be set by DeMarco Murray's 2014 performance behind this offensive line.

Perhaps being forgotten at this point from the Cowboys 12-4 division winning season of two years ago is the effort that Joseph Randle put in behind Murray. As a slashing change-of-pace back that served as a home run hitting threat, Randle carried the ball 51 times for 343 yards.

With Elliott being a Swiss army knife type of back - combining the physical abilities of Murray and finesse abilities of Randle into one player - it is going to be that much harder for any back behind him currently on the roster to take carries away from him.

Vying for that RB2 spot is last year's leading rusher Darren McFadden, newly signed zone-runner Alfred Morris, rookie Darius Jackson, and Lance Dunbar. If Dallas truly wants to replicate 2014 and use a back that varies in style from Elliott, they should be hoping for Darius Jackson to continue to impress and for Lance Dunbar to retain his usual form as he works back from injury.

While there may only be one game day roster spot for Jackson and Dunbar to occupy, both backs can carry the ball with blazing speed in the open field. Jackson is already becoming a fan favorite for Cowboys Nation, as he has looked good through training camp thus far, and expects to get a heavy workload to prove himself further this preseason.

Personally, while I am all for Darius Jackson playing his way onto this football team, I am hoping the Cowboys get away from the differing styles in the backfield and add more physicality to the offense by making veteran Alfred Morris the primary runner behind Ezekiel Elliott.

With Romo under center with Elliott and Morris primarily lining up in the backfield, the Cowboys offense would truly be feared by defenses on every single snap as one that can blow you off the ball and run it at you while providing the threat of a dynamic passing game at the same time. With the offensive line excelling at getting to the second level, a full speed Ezekiel Elliott followed by a bruising Alfred Morris coming at linebackers and corners is a recipe for total offensive domination in 2016 from the Dallas Cowboys.

Wide Receivers - Finding Romo's Newest Toys

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Offense: Evaluating Options at WR and RB 2

 (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

The WR position on the Cowboys roster is currently full of talent, potential, and future decisions to be made. With the team being so deep all over the roster both offensively and defensively, there is going to be a few "odd men out" when it comes to this current group of 11 pass catchers.

The roster locks, however, are pretty set in stone.

Dez Bryant is ready to get back to doing Dez Bryant things, Terrance Williams and Brice Butler will both make the team and fight for playing time across from Bryant, and Cole Beasley will man the slot once again.

This leaves even last year's fan favorite UDFA Lucky Whitehead on the bubble, competing for one - or at the most two - spots with this year's UDFA class of wide receivers consisting of Ed Eagan, Andy Jones, and Chris Brown.

Vince Mayle, Rodney Smith, and Devin Street are also on the roster, but appear to be on the outside looking in right now at these other young options that are turning heads. Particularly, Ed Eagan and Andy Jones have both put some of their best football onto the Oxnard practice fields through the first week of training camp.

Should the decision come down to these two wide outs for the Cowboys, the winner will tell us a lot about the direction this offense plans on heading.

//insidethestar.com/cowboys-headlines/can-ed-eagan-be-cowboys-next-undrafted-gem/

Should Eagan beat out Jones, we can expect to see plenty of short passes from the Cowboys offense to get the ball out of Romo's hands quickly and into the hands of his play makers. Eagan would likely serve as a slot WR opposite of Beasley, and is shifty with a faster "second-gear" than Beasley in the open field.

While this quick strike offense would certainly be exciting, with Eagan also helping his cause by giving the Cowboys another option at punt returner, the team will also be looking for more red zone threats after struggling in that area through 2015.

Of course, not having Romo and Bryant out there and in sync took away the Cowboys' best red zone connection, but the rest of the receivers called on to make plays for the backup quarterbacks were underwhelming.

Bryan Broaddus on Twitter

Jones has looked the best. Getting reps with the 1s now. https://t.co/jM1D6L1E4s

Enter Andy Jones, a physical stud out of Jacksonville who could make the Dallas red zone offense absolutely unstoppable. While Jones struggles to create separation at the line, his ability to make contested and adjusting catches has caught the eye of coaches enough to get him some reps with the first team offense.

As things stand now, the Cowboys may feel that they have enough speed at the position in Bryant, Williams, Butler, and Beasley, and decide to use their final WR spot on Andy Jones to give them some more versatility.

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys Call Off Immediate Search For Veteran Quarterback

Should this be the case, and they also plan on running mostly Alfred Morris behind Zeke Elliott, the 2016 Dallas Cowboys offense could be one of the greatest displays of power and speed coming together to form something special that we have ever seen.

What do you make of the Cowboys situation at running back and wide receiver? Agree with my picks to make the cut? Disagree? Let's talk about it! Comment below with who YOU will be hoping makes the cut to start the conversation.

 

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Offense: Evaluating Options at WR and RB" 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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2 Comments
  • http://88xfactor.wordpress.com 88xfactor

    Fear the STAR. Keep Romo upright, and the Boys are unstoppable.

    • http://wmscradio.com/show/upon-further-review/ Sean Martin

      You speak the truth. Thanks for reading!

Game Notes

Cowboys, Seahawks Week 3 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Offense: More Hot Sauce Needed From Cole Beasley 3
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas isn't the only guy whose playing status is in question for today's game. Other key players for Seattle and the Dallas Cowboys appear on the teams' Week 3 injury reports.

The Cowboys are looking to move to 2-1 and maintain a slim lead in the NFC East. The Seahawks are still looking for their first win of 2018, and the drama around Thomas isn't helping the fear of a locker room implosion.

What players may not be out there to help their teams to victory?

Dallas Cowboys

  • C Travis Frederick (illness) - OUT
  • DT Maliek Collins (knee) - OUT
  • WR Cole Beasley (ankle) - Questionable
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable
  • S Xavier Woods (hamstring) - Questionable

Frederick remains out as he deals with his neurological disease. Dallas decided to keep him on the 53-man roster, rather than place him on injured reserve, with the hope that he could return before Week 9. There are still several weeks before we'll know if that was a good move.

Maliek Collins will be out today after a minor knee injury suffered last week against the Giants. Taking his spot will be Datone Jones, who returns from his own knee issue after missing the first two games.

You don't like seeing your quarterback's favorite receiver and your defensive leader on the same injury report. Thankfully, though, it appears both Cole Beasley and Sean Lee will be available today.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

For the #Cowboys, WR Cole Beasley (ankle) is expected to play, and LB Sean Lee (hamstring) should be good to go, as well, based on how he moved around in practice on Friday, sources say.

Finally, we come to the ever-intriguing Xavier Woods. While limited in practice all week, Woods is expected to make his season debut in Seattle. We will see if Xavier gets the start at free safety, or if Dallas will ease him back in and keep Kavon Frazier starting for now.

With all of the hype around Dallas' possible acquisition of Earl Thomas, one has to hope that Xavier won't overdo it and make matters worse with his hamstring. Between the enthusiasm just to play and the threat to his starting job, the second-year stud should be pretty amped up.

Seattle Seahawks

  • WR Doug Baldwin (knee) - OUT
  • C/G Ethan Pocic (ankle) - OUT
  • LB K.J. Wright (knee) - OUT
  • C Justin Britt (shoulder) - Questionable
  • LB Mychal Kendricks (ankle) - Questionable
  • S Earl Thomas (???) - ???

Seattle remains without Baldwin, their leading receiver from 2014-2017, and it shows in their offensive play. QB Russell Wilson is currently at career lows in completion percentage and passer rating, plus has already thrown three interceptions in just two games.

The Seahawks have issues up front as well. Starting left guard Ethan Pocic will also miss today's game. With right guard D.J. Fluker returning this week after missing the first two, that will allow backup J.R. Sweezy to flip over to the other side.

If that wasn't enough, starting center Justin Britt missed the entire week of practice with a shoulder issue. He has not been ruled out, though. Regardless, those are a lot of red flags on your offensive line with the Cowboys' emerging defense coming to town.

Also out today will be Pro Bowl linebacker K.J. Wright. That means we could see Mychal Kendricks, who was just recently booted from Cleveland after being charged with insider trading, playing a major role today. Kendricks knows the Cowboys well, having played with the Eagles from 2012-2017.

And lastly, Earl Thomas.

No health or injury-related reason has been given for why Thomas missed practices on Wednesday and Friday. "Personal reasons" is all you're getting from Seattle, fueling rampant speculation that a trade is in the works. Whether or not that trade is with the Dallas Cowboys is pure conjecture at this point.

What we do know is that Seattle is 0-2 and trending down this year. Holding onto Thomas and his expiring contract, only to lose him for nothing next year in free agency, would be foolish.

We'll see if Earl plays at all today. If he doesn't, the trade talk is going to explode.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Wishlist: Dallas Cowboys VS. Seattle Seahawks

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Center Travis Frederick Still Hoping to "Be a Rock" for Teammates Despite GBS Syndrome

It's week 3 of the 2018 NFL season and this match-up already feels like one of the most important ones the Dallas Cowboys will play in the season. The reason why is they need to prove they're good enough to win consistently and that they won't have another year that feels like a roller coaster of wins and losses like 2017 did. As they travel to Seattle to face the 0-2 Seahawks, the 1-1 Cowboys can't miss a perfect opportunity versus one of the weakest units in football: the Seahawks' offensive line.

As every gameday, here is my Cowboys Wishlist for this week's action. As always, I encourage you to share your wishes with me in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!

Meet Brett Maher, the Cowboys Kicker Replacing Dan Bailey for 2018

Dallas Cowboys K Brett Maher (Shanna Lockwood / USA TODAY Sports)

Wish #1: Brett Maher Kicks a 50+ yard FG.

Dan Bailey recently signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Cowboys Nation will experience a very odd feeling when they see their former kicker wear purple. If there's something that can make fans feel better is watching the guy who replaced Bailey nail a long field goal in Seattle.

Brett Maher showed he could kick a 47-yard FG in preseason, but we want to see him pull it off in a kick that will actually go down in the books. The decision to release Dan Bailey won't leave our minds until we see Maher do his job.

Wish #2: Rico Gathers Scores His First Career TD.

It felt like forever, but tight end Rico Gathers was activated for the first time in his career last Sunday. Rico didn't get his first catch even though he was targeted twice by Dak Prescott. The most notable moment was when Gathers seemed to be open in the endzone but Dak missed him.

Although Prescott's pass could've been better, Gathers did stumble a little bit and wasn't where he should've been to catch that touchdown. No worries, Rico's career is only beginning. I wish his first touchdown ever finally comes this week.

Sean's Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals 1

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie (AP Photo / Michael Ainsworth)

Wish #3: Defense Gets Its First Interception of the Year.

Through two weeks of NFL action, the Dallas Cowboys defense has been one of the most impressive units. Ranking as the third best in total points in the league, the Cowboys' defense might begin being the team's best side of the ball. At least, it has been for the first two weeks.

Last week, they limited Odell Beckham Jr. to only 51 yards. Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie have played pretty well so far, but I wish they're able to get their first interception of the year. Dallas has one takeaway from week 1 versus the Panthers, but it came in form of a fumble.

Let's get that interception from Russell Wilson, who will be pressured most of the day by a very productive Cowboys' front seven.

Wish #4: 20+ Point Performance

Despite a very exciting first drive versus the Giants last week, the Cowboys' offense still needs to prove it can be successful enough to win games. Scott Linehan's unit had some good drives but it also failed to maintain a consistent attack all game. That may seem okay, but the Cowboys will have to win against some pretty tough defenses.

Seahawks will present the team with a very interesting challenge and one that I wish they pass. As good as the defense is playing, the offense needs to show up in order to win later games.

Wish #5: Contain Russell Wilson

Wilson is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the NFL. His agility might be the best among every other signal caller in the game, becoming a very tough guy to defend. He can hurt you with his arms and legs and can throw on the run pretty well. All week we've been talking about how sacking the Seahawks' QB is a key to the victory, but it's more than that.

Wilson is good in the pocket, but when he starts scrambling or running out of the pocket only to throw the ball once the defense is out of position, he becomes a pretty painful headache. The Cowboys need to put him on the ground, but they also need to contain him all day long. He's basically his team's entire offense.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Wishlist: Dallas Cowboys VS. Seattle Seahawks" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Game Notes

Kris Richard’s Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond the Defense in Seattle

Sean Martin

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Kris Richard's Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond Defense in Meeting at Seattle 1

Through just two games, the Dallas Cowboys addition of Kris Richard to their revamped coaching staff appears to be the team's best move of the offseason. Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli revealed that Richard is calling the team's plays on defense, which explains their attacking style of play so far.

It was the Cowboys blitzes that disrupted the Giants offense enough for Dallas to earn their first win a week ago. With the schedule set up favorably for the Cowboys to build off this win, Richard must lead his defense past his old team in Seattle for Sunday's week three match up.

On paper, the Cowboys defense should be able to limit the Seahawks thanks to their strong pass rush and lengthy secondary. Welcoming back Xavier Woods at safety, the Cowboys are getting even better in the back end against the Seahawks, allowing Richard to throw even more looks at Seattle with his front seven.

Starting wide receiver Doug Baldwin and guard Ethan Pocic will both miss this game for the Seahawks.

With an offense still trying to find its footing though, Richard' profound impact on the Cowboys staff has extended past the defensive side of the ball this week. Perhaps the most criticized Cowboys coach this season, Offensive Coordiator Scott Linehan has sat down with Richard to study the Seahawks defense - coordinated by Richard against the Cowboys specifically.

Kate Hairopoulos on Twitter

Scott Linehan and Kris Richard have been spending a good chunk of time together this week dissecting Seattle's approach. Richard obviously knows Seahawks well. Linehan said Richard has great recall, taking him through each play of teams' previous games.

At 1-1, the Cowboys are still looking to put a complete game on the field and prove they deserve to sit atop the NFC East. The defense being their strongest unit through an ugly loss in Carolina and grind-it-out win against the Giants, Linehan's offense creating some explosive plays against the Seahawks could be all the Cowboys need to exit CenturyLink field as winners on Sunday.

Since Linehan officially took over as the Cowboys OC, he is 0-2 against Seahawks defenses coordinated by Richard. When Kris left Seattle, it was believed that he got out at the right time, with the Seahawks defense declining in talent ever since 2015 (his first year as DC).

The NFL's top scoring defense in 2015, the Seahawks were a full point per game worse in 2016, and nearly 2.5 points worse than that in 2017. So far this season, the Seahawks have allowed 27 points to Case Keenum's Broncos and 24 to the Mitch Trubisky lead Chicago Bears.

Kris Richard's Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond Defense in Meeting at Seattle

The Cowboys biggest problem against Richard's defenses had been finishing drives, something they improved on against the Giants last week. Both Cowboys losses coming at home, the Seahawks kept Dallas out of the end zone in both week eight of 2015 and week 17 a year ago.

Last year's loss to the Seahawks should still sting those at The Star who saw a desperate push for the playoffs hit a wall against Seattle's defense - holding the Cowboys to 282 yards in Ezekiel Elliott's return from suspension.

Not having to rely solely on motivation for revenge while sitting back and trusting Elliott to carry them, Richard could be the key to the Cowboys passing game finding some rhythm. After all, his official title beyond "offseason steal" is Passing Game Coordinator - a position occupied previously by Linehan himself back in 2014.

With a win, similarly to 2014 when the Cowboys came out of Seattle victorious, Dallas would go a long way in earning respect around the league.

This goes for both the offense, where the Cowboys will remain a work in progress regardless of result, and on defense where Dallas can expect Maliek Collins (knee) and David Irving (suspension) to return in the coming weeks.

Kris Richard's focus has been on bettering the Cowboys since they added him to the organization with a clear path up the ranks. Just how far Richard ascends, and how quickly, will depend on the Cowboys performance - expecting to be more than ready for the challenge ahead this week thanks to the coach responsible for building the "Legion of Boom".

The Cowboys kickoff in Seattle being FOX's game of the week, this team has never been one to back away from the spotlight, and winning under it with Richard on the sideline would give the Cowboys all the momentum they need returning home for week four.

Tell us what you think about "Kris Richard’s Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond the Defense in Seattle" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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