Connect with us

Player News

Cowboys Offseason: Linebacker Justin March-Lillard Stands Out Early

Sean Martin

Published

on

Cowboys Offseason: Linebacker Justin March-Lillard Stands Out Early

In more ways than one, the Dallas Cowboys are going in a new direction with their linebackers this season. Ben Bloom has taken over as the primary coach at the position, while Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard also expects to heavily influence the unit. Short on numbers and proven talent prior to the draft, the Cowboys added 19th overall pick Leighton Vander Esch and 193rd overall pick Chris Covington.

Also signing veteran Joe Thomas to join projected starters Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, one journeyman player has caught the eye of those around The Star for the Cowboys OTAs. With only mini camp standing in the way of the Cowboys and another competitive training camp, Justin March-Lillard has made a strong impression in staking his claim for a fringe roster spot.

March-Lillard was a mid-season addition by the Cowboys in 2017, as Dallas became his fourth team since the start of last September. Appearing in seven games, more than he ever did in one season for the Chiefs, Dolphins, or Seahawks since 2015, March-Lillard was exclusively a special teams player for the Cowboys.

This role bodes well for a spot on the current Cowboys roster, as their 90-man squad still leaves plenty of intrigue for who will replace former ST aces like Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber. Both players were of course also backups at linebacker.

Covering the Cowboys OTAs with his usual scout's eye for detail, Bryan Broaddus listed March-Lillard as one of ten "offseason surprises", for being counted on to, "always be around the ball".

Going all the way back to my original scouting report on March-Lillard, his Sean's Scout described him as follows:

"Not a player that is going to overwhelm with his physique or powerful play, March-Lillard puts himself in position to make plays on the ball by diagnosing plays quickly and consistently playing with his eyes, feet, and hands in sync."

Shaking off the rust of a long offseason without pads on during OTAs is the perfect time for a player like March-Lillard to shine, and he was able to do just that before the competition ramps up.

It may not be the other linebackers on the Cowboys roster that March-Lillard is competing with, so much as any fringe players on the roster, all working towards spots on a final 53-man team. If March-Lillard makes the 53, there is no reason not to think he doesn't continue making the 46-man active roster for the Cowboys on game days.

David Helman on Twitter

OTA 9. Shouts out Justin March-Lillard, who had himself a day running with the first-team D. Recovered a Dak Prescott fumble in the red zone, and broke up a goal line pass to get a big stop for the defense #cowboyswire

A linebacker that can cover ground in a hurry and react against the pass with sound tackling form, March-Lillard's skill set is ideal for the Cowboys developing approach at the position. As mentioned, both coach Bloom and Richard will mold this unit led by Sean Lee - who simply does it all when available for this Cowboys defense.

The same will hopefully be said about Jaylon Smith for the remainder of the offseason, as the Notre Dame product is off to a solid start in his continued return from injury.

Hinting at a move to the strong side, while working Smith as a pass rusher in practices too, the Cowboys are honing in on how to best utilize the physical specimen that is Jaylon.

If this means a reduced role for Smith, playing as an enforcer against the run while conceding Nickel snaps to first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch, it means only good things for Justin March-Lillard.

Comparing the 19th overall pick of this draft to an undrafted player out of Akron from 2015 would be unfair to both, but when the Cowboys deploy just two linebackers there will be plenty of players fighting for one spot.

Instinctive athletes like LVE or March-Lillard lining up alongside Lee is an ideal way for the Cowboys to improve their overall passing defense -- consistently expecting to create pressure with their front four while keeping everything in front of Richard's talented back seven.

It is a linebacker and secondary group with so much talent for the Cowboys that good players, with a real chance to stick elsewhere, will undoubtedly have to be moved on from. Such would be nothing new for Justin March-Lillard, who is also set on making Dallas his first real landing spot in the NFL.

March-Lillard will be fighting for this at the perfect time, entering his fourth season in the league for a team whose only other LBs with as much experience are Sean Lee and Damien Wilson.

We're still a long way from knowing what most of the Cowboys roster will look like for the 2018 season. With a first round pick invested at linebacker, this is going to be a group that gets extra attention from now until week one though - as players like Justin March-Lillard fight to keep their name in contention.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Offseason: Linebacker Justin March-Lillard Stands Out Early" 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.

Advertisement
Comments

Player News

Where Does Dak Prescott Rank Among NFL Quarterbacks?

John Williams

Published

on

Cowboys Wishlist: Wild Card Round Edition

The quarterback position is one of the most difficult positions to evaluate in the NFL. As hard as it can be for a quarterback to understand and execute an offense against a defense that is trying to keep them off balance, it can be equally difficult to try and determine where each quarterback ranks compared to his peers.

Last week, The Sporting News attempted to do just that with their 2019 Quarterback Rankings. It's a pretty good list, and I highly recommend checking it out.

This was the criteria for how Vinnie Iyer,

"These rankings are based on how each QB performed last season and the upside of how each might perform in 2019. No matter how many Super Bowl rings or MVP awards a QB has won, or the number of efficient passing seasons he has posted in the past, history is a small part of the equation. We thought about where each QB ended up last season in terms of effectiveness, production and durability, and then we thought even more about how his talent and offensive support set him up for success (or lack thereof) this season."

Vinnie Iyer - The Sporting News

Dak Prescott came in at number 14 on the list, three spots behind NFC East counterpart Carson Wentz.

Here's what NFL Analyst Vinnie Iyer had to say:

"Prescott dazzled as a rookie in 2016 and slumped as a sophomore in 2017. Last season, he was closer to his rookie form in a year that largely landed between both extremes. Prescott got hot in the second half of the season once he clicked with new No. 1 wideout Amari Cooper, creating a trickle-down effect that should continue with more legitimate overall weapons in 2019."

Vinnie Iyer - The Sporting News

While these lists are rather subjective and it can be a difficult task, I think Vinnie's pretty close on where Dak Prescott sits in the NFL at this point in his career.

It's hard to argue with his top five. Each could have an argument for being the best quarterback in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes just won the NFL MVP, Tom Brady has won all the Super Bowls, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers put up ridiculous numbers year in and year out, and Russell Wilson was just made the highest paid player in NFL history.

While I think Dak probably sits in the 9-15 range, here are the five quarterbacks ranked ahead or Prescott.

9. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
10. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
11. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
12. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
13. DeShaun Watson, Houston Texans

I feel there's an argument to be made that Prescott is a few spots to low.

As an avid Oklahoma Sooners homer, I find it a bit presumptuous to have Baker Mayfield as one of the 10 best quarterbacks in the NFL. Mostly because he's only played 14 games at this point in his NFL career. Mayfield had a tremendous rookie season and has given Cleveland Browns fans hope that the franchise is finally headed in the right direction. As much as I love Baker Mayfield and think he's going to be a great NFL quarterback, it's hard for me to put him in the top 10 at this point in his career.

Ben Roethlisberger is easily a top 10 quarterback. He has skins on the wall and over the last several seasons has been a prolific passer in the NFL. Some of the games he plays in the offseason talking about retirement aren't great, but it's hard to argue he hasn't had a borderline Hall of Fame career.

The most difficult argument I think comes when you compare Dak Prescott and DeShaun Watson. The two seem to be on similar career trajectories at this point.

Totals Table
Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Rush Rush
Player From To G QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Rate Int Sk Y/A Yds TD
Dak Prescott 2016 2018 48 32-16-0 975 1475 66.1 10876 67 96.0 25 113 7.4 944 18
Deshaun Watson 2017 2018 23 14-8-0 471 709 66.4 5864 45 103.1 17 81 8.3 820 7
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2019.

Watson has a better passer rating, a slightly better completion percentage and has more total touchdowns per game than Dak Prescott for his career. If Watson had played as many games as Dak Prescott to this point, at his current touchdown rate, he'd have 108 total touchdowns. 23 more than Dak Prescott.

The two that I have the biggest issue with on this list are the two he gets compared to the most because they were taken first and second overall in the same draft that Dak Prescott was taken in the fourth round; Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.

Dak Prescott's thrown for near as many touchdowns as Carson Wentz, who leads the three, but if you consider how many touchdowns Prescott's rushed for in his career, he sits 13 total touchdowns ahead of Wentz and 16 total touchdowns more than Jared Goff. Dak Prescott has a better career passer rating than both of those quarterbacks and is right there in yards per attempt with both guys.

Totals Table
Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Rush Rush
Player G QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Rate Int Sk Y/A Yds TD
Jared Goff 38 24-14-0 772 1243 62.1 9581 65 94.7 26 84 7.7 175 4
Dak Prescott 48 32-16-0 975 1475 66.1 10876 67 96.0 25 113 7.4 944 18
Carson Wentz 40 23-17-0 923 1448 63.7 10152 70 92.5 28 92 7.0 542 2
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/17/2019.

Dak Prescott can claim more team success than Carson Wentz. One could argue that Jared Goff didn't play his best on the way to representing the NFC in the most recent Super Bowl. Dak Prescott has started every game of his NFL career while Carson Wentz has missed eight games due to season-ending injuries each of the last two seasons. Durability is a huge issue for Wentz at this point. I'd rather have the guy who you know will be on the field.

If I were going to rerank Dak Prescott with the five quarterbacks ranked directly ahead of him, I'd go:

9. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
10. DeShaun Watson, Houston Texans
11. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
12. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
13. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
14. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

Of course, this is my attempt to be as unbiased as possible and would completely understand if you wanted to rank them differently. There's no perfect way to rank players in the NFL and I applaud the Sporting News guys for giving it this effort. I can see arguments for Ben Roethlisberger, Baker Mayfield, and DeShaun Watson ahead of Dak Prescott, but that's as far as I'm willing to go.

Dak Prescott is a top 12 quarterback in the NFL and an ascending player in this league.

If you were going to rank the six quarterbacks listed above, how would you rank them? Let us know in the comment section. 



Continue Reading

Player News

Dallas Cowboys Should Pursue Recently Released DT Gerald McCoy

John Williams

Published

on

Dallas Cowboys Should Pursue Recently Released Gerald McCoy

The Dallas Cowboys have been reinforcing their defensive interior all offseason and look to be in a good position as they get ready to begin offseason training activities and minicamp. Yesterday, I wrote about the possibility of trading for New York Jets Defensive Tackle Leonard Williams. Another defensive tackle has now become available, long-time Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy.

Per a report from Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs are going to release McCoy after nine seasons with the club.

Rick Stroud on Twitter

BREAKING: DT Gerald McCoy has been informed by the Bucs of their plans to release him after nine seasons. The team decided not to pay him the $13-million salary he was owed for 2019.

McCoy is the definition of a cap casualty as he was set to make $13 million on the cap this year. At age 30 in 2018, McCoy still had six sacks as the Buccaneers 3-technique defensive tackle.

Defense & Fumbles Table
Game Def Def Fumb Fumb Fumb Tack Tack Tack Tack Tack
Year Age Tm GS Int PD FF Fmb FR Sk Comb Solo Ast TFL QBHits
2010 22 TAM 13 0 5 2 0 0 3.0 27 21 6 7 12
2011 23 TAM 6 1.0 11 10 1 3 3
2012* 24 TAM 16 0 2 1 0 1 5.0 30 23 7 9 15
2013*+ 25 TAM 16 0 4 0 0 1 9.5 50 35 15 15 21
2014* 26 TAM 13 0 3 1 0 0 8.5 35 28 7 13 13
2015* 27 TAM 15 0 1 8.5 34 26 8 8 17
2016* 28 TAM 15 0 5 2 0 2 7.0 34 25 9 5 14
2017* 29 TAM 15 0 1 6.0 47 33 14 13 24
2018 30 TAM 14 0 1 6.0 28 17 11 6 21
Care Care 123 0 22 6 0 4 54.5 296 218 78 79 140
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/20/2019.

Throughout his career, he's been one of the more productive defensive tackles in the league. From 2012 to 2017 he was selected to the Pro Bowl six times and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2013.

Since 2012, McCoy's averaged 7.2 sacks, 36.8 total tackles, 9.85 tackles for loss, and 17.85 quarterback hits a season. Over the last three seasons, McCoy's averaged just under seven sacks a season. In 2018, he finished with 38 total pressures, which was 19th among all interior defensive linemen. Only Tyrone Crawford from the Cowboys had nearly as many total pressures on the interior with 37.

Though the Cowboys have brought in Christian Covington, Kerry Hyder, and Trysten Hill to fortify a defensive interior with Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods, and Tyrone Crawford, Gerald McCoy would make an excellent addition to their rotation. Mike Fisher of 247 Sports is reporting that the Cowboys currently have "very little interest" in the defensive tackle.

That's plausible. The Dallas Cowboys have a ton of depth on the defensive line at the moment, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't pursue a talented player such as Gerald McCoy. McCoy has been an excellent 3-tech but also has the size to contribute at 1-tech on passing downs if you need him to.

The Dallas Cowboys defensive line has a ton of depth and it may not make sense to bring in a guy like McCoy, but they should. Much like the trade for Robert Quinn, you're putting your eggs in the 2019 Super Bowl basket and trying to maximize the talent that you have on the roster this year. They're a team primed to make a deep run in January and McCoy can help them do that.

As in everything, it will come down to the price tag. However, given that the Dallas Cowboys currently have just under $20 million available on the 2019 salary cap, they can get a deal done with McCoy and continue working on the long-term contracts for their star core of players.

Gerald McCoy makes the defense better. He's another guy along the defensive line, in addition to DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn, that the offensive line has to think about. He makes things easier for everyone at every level of the defense and shouldn't cost a ton to sign on a one-year deal.



Continue Reading

Player News

BREAKING: Ezekiel Elliott Handcuffed After Incident with Security Guard

Jess Haynie

Published

on

No Preseason Work Hurt Ezekiel Elliott's Early Season Production?

TMZ has released footage of Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott being handcuffed and escorted by police after an altercation with security at a Las Vegas music festival over the weekend.

Elliott was not arrested and no charges have been filed.

ProFootballTalk on Twitter

Ezekiel Elliott handcuffed but not charged after incident at Las Vegas music festival https://t.co/NJQ6csGgnv

The video shows Zeke engaged in what appears to be an argument with a female companion. Elliott is seen following her through the crowd, and then security starts to get involved after Zeke moves his body to block her from walking away.

One of the security guards says something that attracts Elliott's attention, causing him to move in closer. The guard falls backward from minimal contact. It as soon after that police get involved.

There isn't much here that would cause trouble for the average player, but that's hardly Elliott's situation. He's one of the most prolific stars in the NFL and already has history with the league for domestic violence and personal conduct issues.

Remember, no charges were filed when the NFL gave Elliott a six-game suspension in 2017 after accusations from an ex-girlfriend of domestic violence.

We will have to wait and see how Roger Goodell chooses to treat this latest issue.



Continue Reading



Enjoy 40% commissions on officially licensed products as a FanPrint affiliate. You can even make your own, fully licensed Cowboys and player designs! Get started here

Trending