Given their rich history at the position, and current resources allocated to the running game, the addition of any running backs to the Dallas Cowboys roster is always noteworthy. Making two-time national champion Running Back Bo Scarbrough their last pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Cowboys did as well as they could at 236th overall.
Naturally, a prospect that played at Alabama has garnered plenty of attention as a potential compliment to Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas. This would of course be exceptional value for the Cowboys to get out of their ninth player drafted.
NFL.com's Lance Zierlein gets much further into the draft than just the recognizable players such as Scarbrough. This is why it's noteworthy to see the rookie back land on his list of "seven late-round picks likely to exceed expectations in 2018".
In his brief overview of the loaded backfield that Scarbrough finds himself in, Zierlein writes that:
"Ezekiel Elliott is clearly capable of handling the lion's share of duties on all three downs, but Scarbrough is a downhill runner who has the size and demeanor to help the Cowboys continue to impose their will on the ground when Elliott is resting. I can envision Scarbrough thriving in a complementary role similar to the one the Titans' Derrick Henry has played behind DeMarco Murray for much of his career. Landing Scarbrough in the seventh round could turn out to be a tremendous steal this season."
The name clearly missing from this quote is Rod Smith. Likely posing the biggest threat to Scarbrough's roster spot, Smith embodies what the Cowboys are looking for in a back that can do it all - spelling Elliott as a capable runner and receiver while also contributing on special teams.
Proving himself on just 55 carries for 232 yards this season, Smith's roster spot feels safe entering 2018. As seventh round picks should have to do in making a contending team's roster, Scarbrough will have to excel in ways he never did at Alabama in order to earn a spot behind Smith.
It's also interesting to see Zierlein mention former Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray in the scheme of two physical running backs coexisting.
If their better understanding of what Rod Smith can do on offense wasn't enough of an indicator, the Cowboys also traded for two backfield additions this offseason in Tavon Austin and Fullback Jamize Olawale.
There is little doubt that the Cowboys will hold true in their commitment to backfield depth again this season. The versatility and overall readiness of this unit is a direct extension of the best positional group in the league, being the Cowboys offensive line.
The idea of handing the ball to Bo Scarbrough late in games against a defense already shredded by Elliott is a great one for Cowboys Nation. It is one that many national writers will continue to mention in their discussions of how the Cowboys can return to form after a surprising 9-7 setback last year.
Unless Scarbrough is able to elevate his game on special teams or as a pass catcher, he faces an uphill battle to live up to nearly any expectations on the table for him right now. Nonetheless, the Cowboys have an exciting player to utilize this summer through the preseason in hopes of maximizing Scarbrough's upside.
In his more in-depth scouting report of Scarbrough, Zierlein sees the player similarly, giving him an overall grade of 5.50. This translates to Scarbrough having a "chance to become an NFL starter," a position happily occupied by Ezekiel Elliott for hopefully years to come in Dallas.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott
Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.
In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.
During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...
...of his offensive lineman.
During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.
As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.
It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.
With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.
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