It is no secret that the Dallas Cowboys offense failed in 2017. As much as these struggles were about who wasn't on the field for the Cowboys, the talent still out there could rarely do enough to win games. With an elite offensive line, young quarterback, and Dez Bryant on the outside, this was unacceptable and prompted changes in Dallas.
The biggest move the Cowboys made prior to the 2018 NFL Draft was moving on from Dez Bryant. The 29-year old wide receiver remains unsigned, as the Cowboys were comfortable entering the draft with a glaring need at the position.
Still waiting until the third round to add Colorado State's Michael Gallup, the Cowboys later drafted Cedrick Wilson and Tight End Dalton Schultz. Filling their biggest needs with great value on these picks, the Cowboys also found their left guard of the future in Connor Williams at 50th overall.
Add in developmental Quarterback Mike White and Running Back Bo Scarbrough and the Cowboys have an intriguing rookie class on offense - full of players that will absolutely need to step in right away, and some that are here to provide depth.
As I did with the Cowboys defense earlier in the week, here is my best projection on the roles the Cowboys draft picks on Scott Linehan's side of the ball will play.
Left Guard Connor Williams
This was the Dallas Cowboys best pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. Keeping Texas Longhorns prospect Connor Williams close to home, ending his draft-week slide at 50th overall to a roar at AT&T Stadium, is more than just a feel good story.
This is a player that fills the Cowboys need for a long-term starter at left guard perfectly. Considered one of the best tackles in the nation prior to injury, Williams will of course benefit from playing between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick.
Bringing his own trademark toughness and athleticism to a new interior position will give the Cowboys arguably their best offensive line since 2014. Ezekiel Elliott has to be a fan of the Connor Williams pick already - as you should be too.
Although the Cowboys did add veteran depth at OT this offseason, Williams is of course another emergency option on the roster to kick outside and handle himself at any position but center. Connor Williams will be a noticeably fun player at LG, creating movement through to the second level on a consistent basis.
Wide Receiver Michael Gallup
Scouting Report: "Film Room: WR Michael Gallup Provides Excellent Value In 3rd Round"
Predictions for what first-year Wide Receiver Michael Gallup will have in store for his rookie season in Dallas have been all over the place. While most are understandably skeptical of the Cowboys "relying" on a third round draft pick to become a force in the passing game, Gallup is a high upside player that fits the Cowboys new approach on offense.
Phasing out the need for a true number one receiver, Gallup is the Cowboys newest "Dak-friendly" asset. Perhaps playing under the radar too much at Colorado State, Gallup has all of the traits needed to explode onto the scene in 2018.
A lengthy athlete with effortless vertical ability and soft hands, Gallup will have no problem separating as a big target on the outside for Prescott. Because of this, I expect him to be the closest thing the Cowboys have to a "WR1" this season - lining up primarily at the X position and putting up numbers better than some of the eight receivers drafted before him.
Tight End Dalton Schultz
Scouting Report: "Sean's Scout: TE Dalton Schultz Fits Cowboys Need as Willing Blocker"
The Cowboys have a Jason Witten sized hole to fill inside The Star at Frisco. While just how much on-field production this constitutes is up for debate, the reality is that no player will mean as much to the Cowboys as Witten did for so long anytime soon.
Especially fourth round pick Dalton Schultz, drafted the day after Witten announced his retirement from the NFL. If given a chance to make a name for himself though, the Stanford tight end may rarely come off the field for the Cowboys.
Joining Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin on the roster - two experienced run blockers that are developing as pass catchers - Schultz has plenty of experience playing in Stanford's pro style offense.
Not the most overwhelming blocker, Schultz understands how to control bigger defenders at the line of scrimmage - never shying away from a chance to show his dominance and finish blocks to the ground.
Limited as a route runner and true receiver, Schultz is going to be eased into the Cowboys offense, but will have plenty of opportunities to stand out this summer in training camp and carve out a role in 12 or 13 personnel packages.
Quarterback Mike White
It's refreshing for the Cowboys to have a young quarterback that has stayed remarkably healthy through his first two seasons, as Dak Prescott will have no competition for the starting job in 2018. The real competition at quarterback will be directly behind him.
With Kellen Moore trading in his helmet for a coaching hat, second-year Quarterback Cooper Rush will be joined by fifth round pick Mike White. A touch thrower with pro-ready size and plenty of workable traits, White was one of the better late-round candidates the Cowboys could have added to their QB room.
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Taking 2018 to soak in as much as he can about Scott Linehan's offense, it truly doesn't matter much if Mike White is QB2 or QB3 this season. If he was worth the 171st overall pick, the Cowboys believe in his potential, and will work to push him as far as he can go up the depth chart this offseason.
Wide Receiver Cedrick Wilson
In 2017, the Cowboys entered the draft with a promise to restock their depleted secondary - doing so by drafting starting cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in the second and third rounds. This year, the wide receiver position felt the same way. Although the Cowboys waited until the sixth round to add their second rookie at WR, Cedrick Wilson is absolutely a player that can make an impact this year and outplay this draft status.
By trading Ryan Switzer at the draft, the Cowboys showed some faith in slot receiver Cole Beasley. Likely not coming off the field much this season, Wilson will have a hard time earning reps on the inside, where he menaces defenders with his length and long speed.
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These are still traits that Cedrick Wilson uses to win on the outside, where every receiver the Cowboys have is going to get a chance. Talented pass catchers are not going to make the final cut on the Cowboys roster, but Cedrick Wilson is one that will earn his spot all summer long.
Look for him to standout in the preseason regardless of who's throwing Wilson the ball, forcing the Cowboys to rotate him into their versatile offense for Prescott to have another big target out wide.
Running Back Bo Scarbrough
Scouting Report: "Film Review: What Bo Scarbrough Brings to the Cowboys Running Game"
Bo Scarbrough has generated plenty of buzz from Cowboys Nation, and mostly because his name is Bo Scarbrough. A recognizable name out of Alabama, Scarbrough became the Cowboys last pick of the 2018 NFL Draft at 236th overall.
For as much as we've discussed the decisions the Cowboys will have to make elsewhere on offense, their faith rests in starter Ezekiel Elliott. Behind Elliott, the Cowboys have a completely new stable of running backs though.
Tavon Austin was acquired during the draft by the Cowboys to fill the void once left (?) by Lance Dunbar, and at least for now it seems like Dallas has big plans for Tavon on offense. Working both Elliott and Austin onto the field won't be a problem for Linehan, but including Rod Smith and Bo Scarbrough very well might be.
With Smith firmly holding his roster spot because of special teams contributions, Scarbrough will have to follow in similar footsteps to secure his spot on America's Team. The idea of the Cowboys keeping a bruising back like Scarbrough to help them finish games is a fun one, but it doesn't feel practical when crunching the roster numbers.
If Scarbrough does make the cut however, he can absolutely spell Elliott in short yardage and goal line situations, running with consistent power and better-than-expected vision.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The Cowboys have way too much invested into their offense to see it sputter like it did a year ago. Instilling optimism with the injured players they'll welcome back, the Cowboys were not complacent in adding talent at the draft either.
While Connor Williams and Michael Gallup may be the only true "starters" the Cowboys found, I expect both rookies to excel. Contributions from Dalton Schultz and Cedrick Wilson could put this offensive draft class over the top - prepared nicely for the long run while featuring five players with high enough floors to play this season.
Cowboys Nation Mailbag: What about Taco Charlton and Ezekiel Elliott?
The 2019 regular season is now less than three weeks away and now is the time when we start getting down to the nitty-gritty. The "dress rehearsal" game is coming this Saturday as the Dallas Cowboys take on the Houston Texans and a lot of the 53-man roster will likely be decided after that game.
As we inch closer to the regular season, the contract status for the Dallas Cowboys' newest version of the triplets and the construction of the 53-man roster will have even greater emphasis in the news.
Thanks for your questions this week. Let's did into this week's Cowboys Nation Mailbag.
How long until all of cowboys twitter completely turns on Zeke? Like immediately after pollards first long td run or????
— E.D.I.T.H. (@cashfeen) August 19, 2019
I guess it depends on what segment of Cowboys Twitter you're talking about.
Contract situations and hold outs always create some tension within the fanbase. They expect players to show up for work as they do. You hear people talk about Elliott fulfilling the agreement of his contract. But what people don't understand is that rookie contracts and the rookie salary scale was negotiated by players already in the league to avoid rookies making Sam Bradford type money. The veterans and to some extent the owners didn't like the idea that rookies could hold out of training camp to negotiate their first contract.
So, when Ezekiel Elliott was drafted fourth overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, he was locked into a contract length (including a team option for a fifth season) and a salary and bonus for the length of that contract.
The other thing to consider is that Elliott is doing exactly what the collective bargaining agreement allows him to do. Though the Dallas Cowboys can fine him, Elliott is permitted by the CBA to seek a contract extension after the third season of his rookie contract, just like you saw Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints do earlier this summer.
I get that fans are frustrated by the idea of a player "not honoring his contract," but in the NFL, that's the way football goes. The owners don't always honor the contracts they've agreed to, cutting a player with guaranteed money left on his deal because his play might have dropped off or simply because he doesn't warrant the cap hit.
But as Mike Leslie of WFAA recently pointed out on Twitter, our jobs aren't like NFL jobs.
There are a lot of folks that understand that there is a business side to all of this. The players, the coaches, and a large segment of Cowboys Nation all understand where Ezekiel Elliott is coming from. Even the "running backs don't matter" truthers aren't throwing Ezekiel Elliott under the bus for holding out for a new contract.
As I've said before, don't get mad at Ezekiel Elliott or even the Dallas Cowboys for the current state of his contract negotiations. Get mad at the Los Angeles Rams for setting a precedent that Ezekiel Elliott is attempting to take advantage of.
Ezekiel Elliott is only doing what's permitted by the CBA. Though the negotiations continue to drag on, there's still three weeks left till the start of the regular season, which is plenty of time to get a deal done.
Until this holdout lasts until the regular season, you shouldn't worry.
Actually John, I do have a question. I haven't reviewed film from Saturday yet (that's my Tuesday deal each week of the season), but your take on Taco? I thought he had maybe his best preseason game in some time. Enough to secure a spot?
— Marlon C Taylor (@MarlonCTaylor) August 19, 2019
Taco Charlton has done some nice things in the preseason thus far. He's been able to create pressure, and by Bobby Belt's splash metric, Taco Charlton is leading the team.
Cowboys leaders in disruptions (sack, TFL, QB hit, INT, PD, FF) through two preseason games:
1. Taco Charlton - 4
2. Donovan Olumba - 3
t3. Ricky Walker - 2
t3. Kerry Hyder - 2
t3. Trysten Hill - 2
t3. Joe Jackson - 2
— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) August 19, 2019
Obviously, this isn't the only way to evaluate talent, but it does give an indication that Taco Charlton has been good this preseason. I've long believed that Taco was going to make the 53-man roster for the sheer fact that he was a first-round draft pick. That may not be a good enough reason for some, but he's a player that the Dallas Cowboys won't give up on lightly. He's doing enough at this point in the preseason to warrant another year.
Cutting Taco Charlton in 2019 actually costs you money. It would cost the Dallas Cowboys roughly $3.5 million in 2019, but they could save $1.3 million in 2020. It's not likely that the Cowboys will pick up his fifth-year rookie option, which would be for 2021. Financially, the only move that would make sense is a trade, which would cost the Dallas Cowboys only $1.3 million in dead money.
While I think Taco Charlton is a player that is destined for the 53-man roster, with reports that DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford are about to be activated from the physically unable to perform (P.U.P) list, it may come down to a numbers game at defensive end.
Players like Dorance Armstrong, Joe Jackson, Kerry Hyder, and even Jalen Jelks may have something to say about Taco Charlton's spot on the 53-man roster, but I believe they give him another year to prove he's worth retaining.
PFF Ranks Dak Prescott As Tier 3, 18th Overall Quarterback
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is the subject of constant debate around the football world. Now that it's getting time to pay him, those debates are even hotter.
As I discussed last week, Prescott has been much better than he's often given credit for, though the narrative continues to be that he is carried by his offensive line and rushing attack.
Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 starting quarterbacks heading into the 2019 season, placing them both in tiers, and in traditional order as well. Prescott clocked in at 18th overall on their list, listed as a tier 3 NFL starting quarterback.
"Tier 3: Volatile or conservative quarterbacks whose production will rely even more heavily on supporting cast and play calling. Tier 3 quarterbacks can post top-10 production in any given year in the right situation."
The other quarterbacks listed in Prescott's tier include Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Jared Goff, Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, and Cam Newton, all ranked in front of him. Prescott is ahead of a couple of tier 3 passers as well, though, including Jimmy Garoppolo and Derek Carr.
"Even with his added rushing ability, Prescott has settled in as a mid-tier quarterback whose production is more dependent on his supporting cast, and this will be a big year to see if he can get back to his rookie levels of efficiency."
Personally, I'd rank Prescott ahead of a decent number of those tier 3 quarterbacks, such as Stafford and Cousins. Overall, though, it's tough to have too big an issue with their assessment of Prescott and the Cowboys offense. He has been somewhat up-and-down during his time as the Cowboys starter, and saw a big spike in his play when given Amari Cooper as a weapon in the passing game a year ago.
While the entire fanbase is hopeful that he will improve on his mechanics and decision making under new leadership on offense, we can't bank on that happening just yet.
Still, Dak Prescott has looked excellent this preseason, and should be poised for a career year in 2019. I think there's a good chance he finds himself closer to Wentz and Watson on these types of rankings than Carr and Stafford by this time next season.
Cowboys RB Tony Pollard Continues Excellent Training Camp
Rookie Running Back Tony Pollard hasn't wasted any time making his mark on the Dallas Cowboys organization. The buzz around the fourth-round pick began to pick up steam back in May during OTAs when he broke a long touchdown run in practice. It was a sneak peek into the speed, change of direction and vision that the former Memphis Tiger possesses.
46.2k Likes, 700 Comments - Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) on Instagram: "Rookie on the run 🌟 #EarnTheStar"
Dak Prescott has been impressed by the rookie since OTAs, confirming his pre-draft thoughts about Pollard. "He's somebody I watched before the draft that I was excited about. I looked up his highlights and they said receiver at first. I was like 'Dang, I thought we were getting a running back.' But then you see him playing running back and he's still having success. You look at Randall Cobb's highlights, it's the same thing he did in college. It's exciting," Prescott told Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News.
Pollard has only added to the hype of what he can bring to the Cowboys offense since first stepping on the field in May. Even in a short sample size against the 49ers a little over a week ago he showed the patience needed to be an effective runner on the pro level. 16 yards on 4 carries won't blow you away but it's all about reps at this point for him and maximizing them before the season starts. Also, he silenced those who doubted he if could run between the tackles in the NFL.
Recently, he showed off a different dimension of his skill set in practice during some one-on-one battles with Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. This shouldn't surprise anyone, though, considering Pollard had 104 receptions for 1,292 yards and 9 touchdowns in college.
Tony Pollard ghosts LVE in 1v1s. Beautiful https://t.co/PEJMw8hmBP
Tony Pollard beats LVE deep down the sideline. Perfect throw by Dak. #Cowboys https://t.co/2dDp0mUSMs
In the first video above, in particular, Pollard does a great job of selling his route to the outside before gaining inside leverage to beat Vander Esch. This is the kind of savvy you want to see from a young running back transitioning to the NFL.
Pollard once again put on a show Saturday when the team played the Los Angeles Rams in Hawaii. The Cowboys went 97 yards on a twelve play drive to take an early 7-0 lead. He would gain 42 yards on 5 carries and add a catch for 9 yards as well, topping it all off with an impressive 14-yard touchdown run.
The NFL really let the Dallas Cowboys draft Tony Pollard in the fourth round. (via @nflnetwork) https://t.co/Hqkd6e4YuE
Three things stand out about this run in my eyes. First, the patience Pollard shows in letting the play develop. Running backs sometimes are too impatient and let potential big plays go to waste. Great job by him setting up his blocks and hitting the hole. Second, the balance he shows after taking a hit early in the run. What you always want to see is your running back(s) have the ability to not go down on the first contact they receive. Lastly, the awareness to cover the ball at the end of the run to avoid a turnover and cross the goal line.
So far in two preseason games, Pollard has 9 carries for 58 yards, an average of 6.4 yards per rush, putting him almost right at his 6.8 yards per rush average in college.
Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones hasn't been quiet about his feelings on what he's seen from Pollard so far. After the first preseason game, Jones said he was confident Pollard could "carry the load" if All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott's holdout goes into the regular season. After Saturday's victory against the Rams, Jones had another raving review of the rookie, but with a slight twist to it.
"What's amazing for him is to come in here and he hadn't done that much," Jones told the Dallas Morning News. "He knows exactly what to do and he knows how to do it. If he goes out there and he plays to that level he's going to be [at] for the next several weeks, he's going to be right in the middle of it early. That will really complement what we're doing with Zeke, not replace that, I mean that, not replace it. Nobody is getting cute here, certainly be a great compliment to have a great running game where I can picture those guys [having] success at the same time out there really giving the defense some fits."
The Cowboys have a one-two punch at running back with the potential to set the NFL on fire. As Elliott continues to work out a long-term deal with the front office, Pollard will keep getting the much-needed reps on order for him to be ready to go on September 8th against the New York Giants, regardless if he's the starter or not. Once Elliott and Pollard are providing their services simultaneously, we could be looking at the NFL's top overall backfield.
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