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?
Will DeMarcus Lawrence Be Franchise Tagged Again in 2019?
The deadline for extending players under the franchise tag has come and gone last Monday, in a day in which none of the remaining tagged players reached an agreement with their respective teams. That includes Dallas Cowboy Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who's set to earn $17M in 2018.
The front office and the 26-year old defensive end failed to agree to a new contract before the season's start, but we saw that coming. After all, there was never a point in which we had the classic "X player and his team are close to a new deal" headline.
All of this makes the future of the Cowboys' promising "War Daddy" very uncertain. What lies a head of the player that put on an impressive show in 2018?
Since 2017 was Lawrence's breakout year, racking up 14.5 sacks trough the season, we have leaned towards the narrative of last season being his only good one. His performance last season was impressive and clearly his best one yet, but we tend to overlook 2015.
In his sophomore season, the only other year in which he has played 16 games, he finished the campaign with eight sacks and 35 tackles (55 combined). Really, the idea of 2017 being his only good year is not as accurate as we might think.
That being said, I think it's more likely that we see another great year from him this upcoming season than seeing a disappointing one. This, of course, will end up being the main thing that determines his future in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys front office really took a risk by tagging Lawrence this offseason. #90 was reportedly asking for an average of $17M per year in his long-term contract, which is Olivier Vernon kind of money.
So what if he puts a similar season or an even better one? Lawrence and his agent could end up asking for even more money. Perhaps in the 18 or 20 million dollars per year range. If that ends up being the case, the team will find itself in a tough position when trying to reach an agreement with its promising pass rusher.
Which leads us to the possibility of seeing the Cowboys franchise tagging Lawrence for the second consecutive season. Dallas will already be negotiating a contract extension with QB Dak Prescott, and things will get complicated. Even more if they decide to pursue a big-time free agent in March, such as Earl Thomas.
It would make sense, from a financial perspective, to hand the tag twice in consecutive years to D-Law. However, it shouldn't be the priority. If he plays like he did in 2017, the front office will be more than wise to extend him for good.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Cowboys will have approximately $50.6M. Seemingly, the team's cap woes will be over soon.
Fortunately, Lawrence didn't become a headache by threatening to holdout for offseason programs and even training camp. However, don't expect that to happen if he finds himself under the tag next year.
Careers in the NFL are short, so DeMarcus will surely want to get paid. If he keeps it up, he'll deserve it. As much as he deserves it, though, football is a cold business. If the Jones need to tag him, they will.
Do you think the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence in 2019?
Without Looming Suspension, RB Ezekiel Elliott Should Shine In 2018
NFL Films typically does a good job of exposing some truths around NFL teams. Whether through "Hard Knocks" or Amazon's new "All or Nothing" series, these documentaries do an excellent job of giving fans an inside look of their favorite teams.
If anything was revealed through the Cowboys' All or Nothing series on their 2017 season, it's that Ezekiel Elliott's suspension weighed heavy on his mind all year.
The Pro Bowl running back did not look, act, or play like himself while awaiting decision on his incoming suspension. And, once it was finally announced he would serve the six games, the entire team collapsed in Atlanta.
Despite the clear and detrimental effects Elliott's suspension had on the Cowboys' season, Zeke still put up more-than-respectable numbers; rushing for almost 1,000 yards and averaging a league leading 98.3 yards per game.
Now, Ezekiel Elliott enters a season with no doubts about his own availability. Scott Linehan gets to coach an offense that knows they will have their best player for the entire season barring major injury. And, Jason Garrett can lead his team without addressing questions about Elliott's future day in and day out.
Of course, these effects aren't quantifiable. We can't sit here and say that without the pressure of court appearances and suspensions that Elliott will be worth "X" amount of more yards and "Y" more touchdowns.
But I do believe we can say, without question, that playing with a clear mind and without a looming suspension will breed the type of production we saw from Zeke his rookie year.
We can say that Elliott has had a weight lifted off his shoulders, and could be looking for revenge on a league he feels did him wrong.
And, for the Cowboys sake, I hope this is true. Because they are going to need Ezekiel Elliott to be even better than he ever has been if they hope to make a run at the Super Bowl in 2018.
Cowboys en Español: El Regreso de Randy Gregory
A sólo días de que los Dallas Cowboys aterricen en Oxnard, California para dar inicio a su training camp como todos los años, el equipo recibió excelentes noticias respecto a la selección de segunda ronda del 2015: Randy Gregory. Después de pasar todo el 2017 suspendido, el ala defensiva ha sido oficialmente reintegrado por la NFL.
Gregory, quien tuvo muchos problemas debido al uso de marihuana, ha pasado los últimos meses rehabilitándose para poder volver a vestir la estrella y volver al emparrillado. Los Cowboys, quienes siempre apoyaron a su joven jugador, sin duda estarán felices de verlo de vuelta en el equipo por motivos más allá que el football americano.
Sin duda alguna, antes de estar emocionados y felices por verlo en el campo intimidando a quarterbacks rivales, deberíamos estar alegres por el logro personal de Randy como un ser humano. Realmente hizo un esfuerzo consciente en un lugar en el que muchos se hubieran rendido y dejado sus sueños de ser parte de la NFL. Pero no lo hizo, y ahora, todos sus esfuerzos han valido la pena.
El siguiente paso en su lista por-hacer, es volver al campo y poco a poco, ganarse su puesto en el equipo y después, la titularidad. La última vez que vimos a Gregory en el campo, fue contra Philadelphia, en el final de temporada del 2016.
En este juego, Gregory mostró muchos destellos de lo que sería capaz de hacer semana tras semana en la liga y porque valió la pena nunca dejarlo ir, lo cual no hubiera tenido sentido hacer, dado que los Cowboys no les costaba nada (literalmente) mantenerlo en el equipo.
Sean Martin escribió un artículo recientemente en el que analiza este partido a fondo.
El potencial de Gregory es inmenso, suficiente incluso, para aventurarse a decir que se convertirá en el defensive end (ala defensiva) derecho antes de lo esperado. El reto más grande para el jugador de 25 años será regresar a una condición física óptima para la NFL.
Afortunadamente, a diferencia del 2016, Gregory no estará regresando a media temporada. Su llegada toma lugar justo a tiempo para el training camp, dándole tiempo para regresar a la forma en la que tiene que estar.
Una vez ahí, ¿qué tanto le tomará ganarse un rol más importante que el de Tyrone Crawford y Taco Charlton? A pesar de que prácticamente no lo hemos visto jugar en Dallas, sabemos el potencial que tiene para convertirse en un defensivo de suma importancia para los Cowboys.
Un año después de ver la mejor temporada en la carrera de DeMarcus Lawrence, los Cowboys tendrán el potencial de una estrella similar en el lado derecho de su línea defensiva. Gregory tiene una montaña que escalar para cumplir las expectativas de los aficionados, pero no será una sorpresa si lo logra.
Vaya, no olvidemos que si no fuera por sus problemas fuera del campo, hubiera sido seleccionado en el Top 10 del Draft del 2015. Tiene el potencial de conseguir diez sacks por temporada.
Con un poco de suerte, no nos equivocaremos en tenerle fe al jugador que ha tenido un gran viaje para llegar a este punto. El punto de ponerse el casco e ir a trabajar con su equipo.
Incluso si sólo llega a ser un jugador de rotación, sin duda será importante para el éxito del equipo. Entre DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Randy Gregory y el resto del talento que los Cowboys tienen en la línea defensiva, el equipo podría tener un frente de muy buena calidad.
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