This is the second of a five-part series looking at decisions the Dallas Cowboys made during the 2017 offseason that they may now regret. On Monday, we looked at the changes on the offensive line.
"With the 28th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select... Taco Charlton... defensive end, Michigan."
Those words from Lord Roger caused immediate debate and even despair among Cowboys fans. Many had clamored for Dallas to take a different pass rusher, T.J. Watt, and they felt Dallas erred by taking Taco Charlton when Watt was still on the board. He went two spots later to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Watt-wanting crowd will quickly tell you that T.J. has five sacks this season compared to just two for Charlton. There's no denying that, but it's worth nothing that Watt has been on the field for 562 snaps compared to just 283 for Taco.
Don't let anyone tell you that Taco Charlton is a bust based on the first 12 games of his NFL career. That's stupid analysis for any player, and especially one who was known to need some time and development when he was drafted.
Greg Ellis, who was taken eighth overall in 1998, started all 16 games as a rookie and only had three sacks. This was a Top-10 player and the guy that Dallas chose over eminent Hall-of-Famer Randy Moss. Ellis got hit with even harder criticism than what Taco's had this year.
Ellis finished his time in Dallas in 2008 with 77 career sacks, putting him third all-time in team history behind DeMarcus Ware and Jim Jeffcoat.
The book is hardly written for Taco Charlton as a Cowboy. He could develop into a double-digit sack man and wind up somewhere around Ellis and Jeffcoat one day on that list (I think D-Ware is safe). He could wind up being great value for a late first-rounder.
But really, this isn't about Taco's future, T.J. Watt, or the price of tea in China. It's about the undeniable fact that the Cowboys, who didn't have the cap space to bring in a high-impact free agent, used their first-round pick on a project player. That's what's hurting them right now.
Taken three picks after Taco Charlton went to Dallas, the 49ers' Reuben Foster is a great example of a guy who could be helping the Cowboys as we speak. After missing the early part of the year with injuries, Foster has recorded 14 and 10 tackles in recent weeks and has taken over the role that Navarro Bowman held for many years.
The Cowboys sure could've used a guy like Foster while Sean Lee's been out. Even if you think Jaylon Smith will eventually be the guy, Foster could help right now and become another star in the middle of the defense in the near future.
Or how about OT Ryan Ramczyk, who has started all 12 games for the Saints at right tackle? Dallas could've replaced Doug Free and kept La'el Collins at left guard. Less moving parts might've helped the run game's efficiency early in the year, perhaps helping Dallas win those close games against the Rams and Packers.
If nothing else, taking Ramczyk or maybe Cam Robinson would mean paying a first-round talent an average of $2.5 million to be their starting right tackle for the next four years. You'd have a key position covered, on the cheap, until the 2021 offseason.
In either case, Dallas would be getting far more immediate benefit from that 28th pick than what Taco Charlton is giving. For a 6-6 team trying to scrape their way into the playoffs, anything that might've tipped a game or two in their favor would have been preferable.
Brett Maher’s 62-yard FG Gives Cowboys 6-0 Halftime Lead over Eagles
Brett Maher drilled a 62-yard field goal, a new Dallas Cowboys record, to give his team a 6-0 lead over the Philadelphia Eagles at halftime.
A holding penalty by Tyron Smith seemingly took the team out of field goal range, but Maher bailed him out with the monster kick.
The lead could be bigger it not for some Dallas mistakes. Dak Prescott threw an interception on an otherwise strong drive, and Maher ended another drive with a missed field goal.
However, the Eagles have also struggled. A strip sack by Tyrone Crawford ended their last drive of the half. Randy Gregory also got a sack on Carson Wentz earlier in the game.
Overall, though, Philadelphia just isn't converting downs and being stifled by this exceptional Cowboys defense. They only have 70 total offensive yards at the half.
Ezekiel Elliott is putting together a big day, already with 72 rushing yards and another 20 yards receiving. Rod Smith also has 24 yards of offense, adding to the major production from the RB position.
Speaking of position production, the Cowboys tight ends have already accounted for six catches for 37 yards. Blake Jarwin has four of those receptions, which is a new career high.
The Eagles will get the ball to start the second half.
Cowboys Vs Eagles Leads NFL in Playoff Leverage for Week 14
The Dallas Cowboys are certainly playing like a playoff team as of late, but aren't in the clear yet when it comes to holding off Sunday's opponent -- nor the Washington Redskins -- in the NFC East. At 7-5, the Eagles and Redskins sit a game behind the Cowboys with identical 6-6 records.
The Cowboys going 5-0 from their first win at the Eagles in week 10 to their third divisional game of this stretch would go a very long way in cementing the Cowboys mid-season turnaround. As has always seemingly been the case in this division though, the same is said of the defending Super Bowl champs.
With a loss, the Cowboys stand just over a 50% chance at the postseason. A win would add 42 percentage points to this figure, setting up the Cowboys favorably through a December schedule that features the Colts, Buccaneers, and Giants.
NFL playoff leverage week 14
The only team with more at stake today is the visitors of AT&T Stadium. The Eagles gain 47 percentage points on their playoff hopes with a win, though even this marginally moves the needle over 50% for them. An Eagles loss all but ends their chances of repeating as NFC East winners.
Though the Redskins are reduced to their third quarterback in Mark Sanchez, their early kickoff at the 4-8 Giants provides hope that they'll remain in contention through the regular season. In a division that will be dictated by the moves made at the trade deadline, it sure feels like the Cowboys and Eagles are pulling away however - with Dallas in prime position to lap the competition starting Sunday.
If the Cowboys and the Giants win today, Dallas would have to lose out, and the Redskins or Eagles would have to win out in order for the Cowboys to lose the division. In other words, Dallas and NYG winning today would mean one more victory and the Cowboys clinch the NFC East.
Wide Receiver Amari Cooper has made a bigger difference than Dallas could have ever hoped for. With the Eagles secondary banged up again for their meeting with the Cowboys, a home team with sights set on playoff football could begin to fine tune their offense to match a defense that set the tone against Philadelphia last time out.
National pundits may be forecasting a "classic" late season collapse for the Cowboys, but fans know better than this. It was in fact early season losses that dug the hole the Cowboys are viciously fighting out of. Asking for this opportunity against the Eagles is as good as it gets for Jason Garrett's young team, once 3-5 after eight weeks that feel like ages ago.
So does any dominant stretch of football from the Eagles, though the Cowboys shouldn't be quick to find out just how much Philly wants to play spoiler.
Cowboys Wishlist: Dak Prescott Exploits Eagles’ Secondary
It's rivalry weekend for the Dallas Cowboys as they get ready to host the Philadelphia Eagles. It will undoubtedly be a special game since the Eagles are practically playing to save their season this time around. Tables have turned for these two teams with now the Cowboys as home favorites for this fun matchup.
As always, here's this week's edition of Cowboys Wishlist. Enjoy!
Wish #1: Get Jourdan Lewis Playing Time
Cornerback Jourdan Lewis did a fantastic job versus the New Orleans Saints last week and I'm intrigued to see if the Cowboys will continue to find a job for him and get him on the field. Lewis had an interception and some other key plays in just eight snaps. Lewis has been an interesting narrative this year.
He's a good player and getting him more involved could result in good things for this team. We'll see if the Cowboys use him in this important divisional game.
Wish #2: Get The Early Big Lead, Rest Elliott
Running Back Ezekiel Elliott has done an amazing job for the Cowboys over the past four weeks. Both in the passing and running game, Zeke has been able to consistently move the chains as he's received a huge workload to carry the offense and control the time of possession. He currently leads the league in touches per game.
If the Cowboys are able to get a big lead early, I wish we get to see a lot of backup RB Rod Smith. As much as we all love to watch Zeke be fed, this time Cowboys Nation should appreciate seeing him on the sideline a bit more than usual. For that to happen, though, an early considerable lead is required.
Wish #3: Improve on Red Zone
So far, the Dallas Cowboys have been able to efficiently move the ball and get first downs. What they have struggled with though, is the red zone. Many times, we've seen the offense settle for three instead of getting seven.
This Saturday I argued why, if the Cowboys are able to improve on red zone, this could be a playoff caliber unit. This team shouldn't struggle as much in this area. With Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, Amari Cooper lined up and a mobile QB, Scott Linehan's squad simply needs to do better.
Wish #4: Dak Prescott Gets 300 Yards
The Philadelphia Eagles have placed CB Jalen Mills on IR. With Ronald Darby out already, the Cowboys are about to face a very injured secondary. Philadelphia ranks 26th in passing defense. Dak Prescott's stats have greatly improved since week 7.
However, a big 300-yard performance has yet to occur. I wish he gets just that against the Eagles. For this, he'll certainly need help from his receivers, including Amari Cooper, who has been outstanding with a Star on his helmet.
What are your wishes for this week's matchup versus the Eagles?
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