The Dallas Cowboys 2017 rookies have some pretty big shoes to fill after what the 2016 draft class was able to accomplish a season ago. It will be a little bit more difficult for them, because there are very few of them that are expected to start or see a significant role this season, but you never know what will happen.
We have already seen injuries become a problem, which has forced a few of the Cowboy's rookies into a more prominent role already this season. Fortunately, the majority of them have performed well and a few of them have exceeded expectations so much that they might have just earned themselves more playing time. These are the rookies I want to focus on in this article.
Now, before I get started I want to clarify that I don't think the Dallas Cowboys first two draft picks have done anything yet to see an increased workload. I think Taco Charlton has done well, but is probably best in a situation role until he develops more. Unfortunately, Chidobe Awuzie continues to battle the injury bug and hasn't been able to stay on the field long enough to prove himself.
Keeping all of that in mind, continue to read below to see the Dallas Cowboys rookies that I believe could possibly see more playing time based on the way they have played so far this season.
Dallas Cowboys rookie Jordan Lewis' off-season mostly consisted of a pending domestic domestic violence case and injuries. Those two things have kept him off the practice field and hindered his development. Fortunately though, he made his NFL debut against the Denver Broncos and ended up having to play quite a bit as an injury replacement.
In Lewis' first career game in the NFL, he was able to make six tackles, and pick off QB Trevor Siemian, returning it for 25 yards. Unfortunately, it didn't have much of an impact in the game, but it was a positive sign of the player he can become.
Jourdan Lewis was once again thrust into action in Week 3 against the Arizona Cardinals due to injuries and followed up his impressive performance from the week prior. He was sticky in coverage the entire game against the Cardinals WRs and made some key open field tackles.
Lewis' performance over these first two games have likely earned him more playing time and possibly a starting position. At the worst, he could be the slot CB when the Cowboys defense plays nickel. Regardless of where he plays, there is no doubt that he has earned the right to be on the field more often.
Cowboys Nation have been chomping at the bit to see the Cowboys rookie WR Ryan Switzer see more of a role on offense. Unfortunately, that has yet to happen and he has only seen a few snaps on the offensive side of the ball. But, after seeing him have some success in the return game, you can see why an increased role on offense could be in the cards rather soon.
Switzer will no doubt be compared to Cole Beasley because of their similar size, but #10 is just a little bit bigger and more explosive with the ball in his hands. We did see him involved on offense a little bit against the Cardinals when he lined up in the backfield and was on the receiving end of a quick toss, but it only left us wanting more.
With so many mouths to feed on the offensive side of the ball, it's going to be difficult to increase Switzer's role. But, I can foresee where offensive coordinator Scott Linehan gets him more involved and has specific packages in place just for Switzer. Hopefully, it sooner rather than later.
Dallas Cowboys rookie Xavier Woods is kind of a do it all defensive back. He can play safety, cornerback, and can play in the slot as well. It's that versatility that has gotten hbm on the field already, and he has done nothing to dissuade me from thinking he deserves more playing time. In fact, I would pound the table for it if I was on the coaching staff.
Jeff Heath hasn't really done anything wrong, but he hasn't been overly impressive either. Xavier Woods however is more athletic and could possibly be an upgrade when paired next to Byron Jones. Now, I don't think this will happen anytime soon, but it is something to keep in mind.
I do however believe Xavier Woods needs to be on the field more often. His versatility to play any position in the secondary allows defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to get really creative with his coverages, something we saw against the Cardinals Monday night. There were several instances where he had six defensive backs on the field and just three down lineman. It's something we could see more of as the season progresses.
It's no secret that I've been a big fan of Noah Brown's dating back before the draft. I was personally ecstatic to see him drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round, because I personally had a fourth-round grade on him.
Brown is still raw as a WR, but the skill set he has right now could be extremely valuable on offense for the Cowboys. After being inactive the first week of the season, the coaching staff decided to add them to the active roster the last two weeks. And, if you were watching him like I was, you probably noticed why.
Brown's ability to block in the running and passing game is a tremendous asset. The Cowboys have been lining him up in the slot and having him crash down and seal off the linebacker on outside zone plays and tosses. He may be a WR, but he blocks like a TE. I believe this particular skill set will get him on the field more often and help the offense. And, that's not been mentioning that he is another surehanded WR in the passing game.
Which Cowboys rookies do think deserve more playing time?
Cowboys & DeMarcus Lawrence Fail to Reach New Contract
DeMarcus Lawrence will definitely be a Cowboy in 2018, but now the future beyond that remains in question. The Dallas Cowboys and their star defensive end did not agree to a long-term contract by today's deadline for franchise-tagged players.
According to NFL rules, teams had until 4:00 pm EST today to reach contract extensions with free agents who'd been assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Players who did not get new deals will have to play the 2018 season on their one-year franchise tenders.
DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys were unable to work out a long-term contract by today's deadline. Lawrence will play the 2018 season under a one-year franchise tag that will pay him $17.1 million
This does not mean Lawrence will be a free agent in 2019. The two parties can still discuss the contract in the months to come, but the deal cannot be made until after the end of the regular season.
Dallas also has the option of giving DeMarcus a second franchise tag next year. However, that would come at a considerably higher price for a second-straight season.
This year, Lawrence will still make plenty with one of the highest cap hits of any DE in the league. He earned the franchise tag last with 14.5 sacks in a breakout season.
Today's news may not really be a big deal in the long run. As long as Tank wants to stay in Dallas after this, the two sides now have over five months to keep talking and will hopefully agree on a new deal for 2019 and beyond.
There is risk on both sides, of course.
Lawrence's leverage could be less if his productions drops or he gets injured. On the other hand, his position could be even stronger with a second-straight year of strong play.
Now everyone, from the team to player to fans, is in wait-and-see mode until the end of the season.
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstatement Decision Due Soon
The Dallas Cowboys should know by the end of this week if Defensive End Randy Gregory will be reinstated by the NFL from his indefinite suspension.
Gregory, who has missed nearly two seasons with drug-related bans, requested in May for Roger Goodell to allow him to return to football. The exact date of the request isn't known, but multiple sources put it somewhere around May 18-20.
According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL has 60 days to rule on a reinstatement request. That would put the approximate deadline no later than this Friday, July 20th.
Gregory was a second-round pick for Dallas in 2015. He was considered to have potentially elite pass-rushing skills but red flags about behavior and drug use hurt his draft stock.
Obviously those warning signs were warranted. Over three seasons, Randy has missed 30 out of 48 games due to suspension.
But reports from around the Cowboys organization and others who've dealt with Gregory rehabilitation efforts are positive. His appeal request appears strong, backed up by several testimonials that he's turned his life around.
Will Roger Goodell agree? Will Randy Gregory return to the Cowboys 2018?
We should know the answer soon.
Dak Prescott Ranked as Third Least Consistent QB in NFL
Last season could've gone a lot better for Dak Prescott. After a remarkable rookie season, he wasn't able to meet the very high expectations put on him after leading the Dallas Cowboys to the #1 seed in the NFC in 2016.
Inevitably, the "sophomore slump" managed to get to Dak, even though the numbers make it seem worse than it really was. From his 13 interceptions in 2017, not even half can be completely blamed on him. However, even though he made improvements in his game, it's fair to admit that there was indeed, a slump in his second year in the NFL.
Earlier this week, NFL.com published an article listing the most and the least consistent quarterbacks in the league last season. The way the list works is measuring "their average 2017 swing in week-to-week passer rating." In the list, Dak Prescott is listed as the third least consistent QB in the league, with only Cam Newton and Derek Carr behind him.
Just like the Dallas Cowboys' had a roller coaster for a season, constantly shifting between winning and losing, Dak Prescott also struggled at remaining consistent. It makes a ton of sense, of course, for the Cowboys' 9-7 season had a lot of swings throughout the year.
At times, the team was missing its most important defender in Sean Lee. At others, Tyron Smith and/or Ezekiel Elliott weren't on the field either. This is not an attempt to excuse Dak, for he is partly at fault here, as is the entire team.
From week 10 to 12, Dak failed to throw for a touchdown but ended up throwing five interceptions. Later in the season, failing once again to get a TD pass in two straight weeks, he threw for two interceptions at Oakland then another two when hosting the Seahawks in Dallas.
In a season that will likely determine his future with the Dallas Cowboys, Dak needs to find a way to be more consistent week after week regardless of circumstance. Hopefully, with an improved offensive line and with Ezekiel Elliott leaving every suspension drama behind him, his offense will put him in position to have his best year yet.
In 2016 and in 2017, his Total Quarterback Rating has been in the top 4 among all quarterbacks, per ESPN. Now, this is not a stat that tells the whole story, but it does give you an idea of each quarterback's play. In a run-first offense and with a safe passer like Dak, I'm sure consistency will not be hard to deal with for the young QB next season.
As long as he takes advantage of the new set of targets he'll have at his disposal and his offense's powerful running back with recently-signed draftee Connor Williams, this offense will look a lot more like the one we saw in 2016.
We know Dak Prescott has a lot to prove. He has to make longer throws, throw more aggressively to get his receivers open, and more. But consistency is just as important. In order to be continuously successful and to be a contender year after year, you need that in your signal-caller. Even if key players on the team are down, he needs to be able to shine. It's a sixteen-game season, after all.
It's time for Dak to prove he can handle that.
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