Unfortunately, this is the slow time of year in the NFL. Teams have finished up their organized team activities (OTA's) and minicamp practices, and now are in limbo until everyone reports to training camp. With things so slow news wise, I thought it would be a good idea to share with all of you my pre-training camp 53-man roster prediction, starting with the offensive side of the ball.
I understand it's still way too early to make such predictions, especially since we haven't seen some of these players in pads yet. But, we should all still have a pretty good understanding about which positions are pretty much locked down and which ones are still up for grabs.
Dak Prescott, Kellen Moore
It is really starting to look as if the Dallas Cowboys will only carry two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster in 2017. This is somewhat surprising considering they have carried three in the Jason Garrett head-coaching era, but it does free up an extra roster spot for depth at another position.
Dak Prescott is looking to build upon his impressive rookie season and I personally don't see any reason why he shouldn't. The coaching staff also seems to be comfortable with Kellen Moore as a backup, but scouts will continue to keep an eye out for potential upgrades. Who knows? Maybe they have the recently retired Tony Romo on speed dial just in case.
Running Back/Fullback (4)
Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, Keith Smith, Rod Smith
As things stand right now, I have the Dallas Cowboys caring four running backs on their 53-man roster. But, I only have Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, and Keith Smith down as virtual locks. I think the fourth spot is still up in the air.
I have Rod Smith making the team right now because of his versatility to play fullback, tailback, and special teams. Because of his ability to contribute in several different areas, I think the Cowboys keep him over Alfred Morris. But, I think scouts will be on the lookout for another RB who could possibly be an upgrade.
Wide Receiver (6)
It wouldn't surprise me at all if the Dallas Cowboys decided to just carry five wide receivers on their 53-man roster, but I decided to go little long here. I think Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, and Ryan Switzer are the only names written down in ink, leaving the fifth and possibly sixth spots up for grabs.
Brice Butler isn't guaranteed anything, but he has been receiving some high praise this off-season because of his play on the field. Noah Brown is going to have to clearly outplay Butler, but he can also contribute more in several different ways. Brown plays special-teams, wide receiver, and could be used in the role of a H-back/TE because of his blocking ability. For now, I have both of them making it.
Tight End (3)
Jason Witten, Geoff Swaim, James Hanna
I went with just three tight ends for now, but that could change depending on Geoff Swaim and James Hanna's ability to come back from their injuries. I know I'm going to be heavily scrutinized for not including fan favorite Rico Gathers, but he still needs time in his development before he can be trusted.
This position is impacted by the fact I carried an extra WR, but like I mentioned earlier, I think Noah Brown is capable of filling in if needed. However, the Cowboys may decide to keep Gathers, especially after the time they invested in him. If Swaim or Hanna don't return to their old selves, I have Gathers as the third TE.
Offensive Line (9)
Three out of the five starting offensive lineman are set in stone, and possibly the fourth if La'el Collins sticks at right tackle. But, I still decided to go with nine offensive lineman because the left guard position is still up in the air and the fact that Chaz Green and Jonathan Cooper can't seem remain healthy.
Collins is going to start at either right tackle or left guard, but who the fifth starting offensive lineman is remains up in the air. Cooper, Green, Looney, and Bell are all competing for the LG spot, but none of them really inspire any confidence. The scouting department will be looking long and hard at adding another starting caliber LG or RT, but I think they still go with nine OL because of all of the uncertainties.
Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur
If only all of the positions were as easy to predict as the specialist are for the Dallas Cowboys. This is the one and only position that has any stability and the only one that doesn't require any guesswork. All three of these players are a lock to make the final 53-man roster.
If you're counting, that's 27 out of the 53 roster spots on the offensive side of the ball, including the three specialist. That leaves 26 available roster spots to devote to the defensive side of the ball for the Cowboys. Tune in tomorrow to see who I predicted to fill those final 26 spots on defense.
Do you agree or disagree with my 53-man roster predictions so far?
Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches
Lamentablemente, la temporada 2018 de los Dallas Cowboys ha llegado a su fin. Lo hizo cuando el equipo visitó Los Angeles para intentar sorprender a los Rams en su propio campo en la Ronda Divisional de los playoffs. Ni siquiera con una invasión exitosa de la afición de Dallas pudieron ganarse un pase al Campeonato de Conferencia. En vez de eso, los Cowboys estarán viendo desde casa y la afición estará preguntándose: ¿qué sigue para los Dallas Cowboys?
Parece ya una tradición anual que no podemos dejar pasar. Este momento en el que comenzamos a cuestionar, una vez más, que entrenador es digno de quedarse en la franquicia y cual debe irse. En esta edición de "Cowboys en Español," hablaremos específicamente de los tres principales coaches en el equipo.
Coordinador Defensivo Rod Marinelli
El futuro del coordinador defensivo de los Dallas Cowboys no se puede tratar sin mencionar a Kris Richard. Fue la defensiva la que llevó al equipo hasta la postemporada y fue la unidad que cargó al equipo en muchas de sus victorias. Incluso con la llegada de Amari Cooper a Dallas, la defensiva fue siempre el pilar de la franquicia esta temporada.
Jaylon Smith y Leighton Vander Esch sorprendentemente se perfilaron como uno de los mejores duos de linebackers en toda la liga, la línea defensiva fue muy exitosa con Randy Gregory y DeMarcus Lawrence en los extremos y con la grata sorpresa que fue Antwaun Woods en el centro. La secundaria vio la mejor temporada en la controversial carrera de Byron Jones e hizo un excelente trabajo con un talento decente, pero no genial.
Todo esto, y el haber terminado como la sexta mejor defensiva en puntos permitidos (20.2) y la quinta mejor contra la corrida (94.6), hace a Rod Marinelli merecedor de una ronda de aplausos. Sin embargo, Richard probablemente merezca más aplausos.
Fue Richard quien revolucionó la defensiva de los Cowboys y la convirtió en un grupo mucho más agresivo. Fue él quien implementó jugadas de "blitz" en el equipo (algo no común con Marinelli) y quien en un punto de la temporada, comenzó a seleccionar las jugadas desde la banda.
En esta posición, me parece que los Dallas Cowboys tienen que enfrentar la dura decisión de decirle a Marinelli que es tiempo de dejarle el puesto a Kris Richard. Si bien no se llevó un trabajo de head coach, es muy probable que le llovieran ofertas a Richard si no se hace con el título de coordinador defensivo en Dallas.
Coordinador Ofensivo Scott Linehan
Con un equipo tan polémico como este, la afición de Dallas no concuerda en muchas cosas. Sin embargo, lo hacen al hablar del pésimo trabajo que Scott Linehan ha realizado mandando las jugadas en ofensiva. Realmente ha sido doloroso de ver y es en mi opinión, el mayor problema que tiene el equipo actualmente.
Semana tras semana, fuimos testigos de pésimas decisiones en la ofensiva de los Cowboys. Vimos como el equipo se aferraba a llenar la caja de defensivos antes de correr el balón con Ezekiel Elliott. Vimos incontables pases pantalla en tercera oportunidad y largo. Pero no solo es lo que vimos, sino lo que no vimos.
A pesar de la innegable habilidad para correr el balón de Dak Prescott, Linehan se rehusó a explotar esta versatilidad de su QB. Vimos pocos "QB sneaks," jugada donde el mariscal toma el balón bajo centro y consigue poco yardage detrás del empuje de su línea ofensiva.
Siendo honestos, los Cowboys llevan dos años sufriendo por este coordinador. Dejarlo volver en el 2019 sería una decisión ridícula. Los comentarios en la radio de Jason Garrett no lucen prometedores, pero realmente sería una sorpresa que fueran ciertos. Linehan no debe volver... punto.
Head Coach Jason Garrett
El futuro en esta posición será muy debatido durante los próximos meses, pero de los tres que hemos mencionado es sin lugar a dudas el más seguro de todos. Nos guste o no, Jason Garrett estará al frente del equipo la próxima temporada.
Garrett está lejos de ser un gran coach y aún le hace falta demostrar que puede cumplir las aspiraciones de los Cowboys de traer un sexto Trofeo Lombardi a casa. Pero siendo honesto, este equipo debería tener suficiente con Garrett y un par de buenos coordinadores. ¿El problema? No hay un par de buenos coordinadores en el equipo.
Sin embargo, Garrett ha demostrado que cuenta con el amor y apoyo de sus jugadores. Ha demostrado que efectivamente, puede ganar la división (lo ha hecho en tres de los últimos cinco años). Este año el equipo le dio la vuelta a la temporada después de comenzar 3-5.
Lo más preocupante en mi opinión, es la falta de urgencia para despedir a Linehan, por ejemplo. Quizá a puerta cerrada Garrett quiere un cambio en su staff, pero nunca lo sabremos.
Jason Garrett no es un coach excelente, pero podría ser suficiente para llevar a los Cowboys a un Super Bowl si tiene un equipo adecuado. Todo parece indicar que su trabajo está seguro (incluso más de lo que pensamos) así que es tiempo de esperar que se arreglen sus coordinadores.
2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch
As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.
It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.
Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.
No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.
Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.
This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.
There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.
Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.
Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.
What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?
Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.
Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.
They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?
Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.
Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.
Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.
Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.
Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.
This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.
The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.
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