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?
#WASvsDAL: Why This Game Holds Increased Importance
It feels incredibly cliche to call the week 7 match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins a "must win." Especially for someone like me who values statistics, logic, and analytics in sports.
But when the analytics agree with the narratives, those narratives do tend to get my attention. And this week that would appear to be the case.
According to Brian Burke of ESPN, the Cowboys's week 7 game has the highest playoff probability leverage in the entire NFC, and is second to only the Houston Texans' big game with Jacksonville around the entire league.
Playoff leverage for week 7. DAL, WAS, PHI, CAR, MIN, CHI with a lot on the line in the NFC. HOU, CIN, and JAX in the AFC.
What does this mean? Well playoff probability leverage is pretty intuitive. Basically it is the difference between a win this week and a loss this week in terms of probability to make the playoffs.
For the Cowboys that number is at 27%, with a win over Washington catapulting their playoff probability over 50%. On the other hand, a loss would take a big hit to their playoff hopes just 7 games into the NFL season.
As you might expect, this game means a lot to the Redskins' playoff probability as well. Their playoff leverage this week is at 14%, but a win would mean "more" to Dallas than Washington based on the probabilities.
Fellow NFC East foe, the Philadelphia Eagles, also have a lot to gain/lose this Sunday, with their leverage sitting at 22%. According to Burke's model, the Eagles and Cowboys have the best chances of making the playoffs at this point, but if each team wins Sunday the Eagles will still have a higher percentage.
Of course a lot can and will change week to week, despite what the metrics say. The Cowboys still have two games remaining with the NFC East favorite Eagles this year, and will get another crack at Washington at home later in the season. Plus the Cowboys have a few NFC wild card and playoff contenders remaining on their schedule, such as the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. (Yes, the 2-4 Falcons are very much alive in this crazy conference).
Still, the difference between 4-3 (2-0 in the division) and 3-4 (1-1 in the division) is huge, as is shown by Brian Burke's playoff probability leverage metric.
Cowboys WR Tavon Austin Skipping Surgery, May Return in 2018
A groin injury sustained last week against Jacksonville won't send Tavon Austin to injured reserve, at least for now. The Dallas Cowboys receiver has elected to forego surgery at this time, giving him a chance to return to action in 2018.
There was concern that Austin could land on IR initially following the Jaguars game, but he sought a second opinion this week. It appears that this new information was enough for Tavon and the Cowboys to decide that surgery can wait.
Sounds like WR Tavon Austin will not have surgery at this time after getting a second opinion on his groin injury. He could miss a few weeks, however. #cowboyswire
Austin should miss this Sunday's game with the Washington Redskins. He has been the team's punt returner this season and a useful tool on offense, playing mostly receiver but also lining up the backfield at times.
Despite his limited opportunities, Tavon is tied with Cole Beasley for the team lead with two receiving touchdowns in 2018.
How long Austin will remain out is unknown at this time. After the Washington game, Dallas will have their bye week and then host the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football.
Both of these are games that the Cowboys, feeling good after a blowout victory over Jacksonville, should be able to win without Austin. But they would certainly like him back for the Week 10 road game with the Philadelphia Eagles.
In Tavon's absence, Cole Beasley will likely field punts. We may see more of Deonte Thompson in the speed routes that Austin ran on offense, though Dallas could also finally see what recently returned Brice Butler has to offer.
With an expiring contract this year, Tavon will likely want to get back soon and trying to improve his stock for the 2019 offseason. Hopefully, he can still have a positive impact on his value and the Cowboys season in the weeks ahead.
Terrance Williams: Details, Impact of 3-Game Suspension
Terrance Williams was already missing games on injured reserve, but now the Dallas Cowboys receivers is going to lose some money as well. Williams was finally hit with a three-game suspension by the NFL, starting immediately, for his public intoxication arrest last May.
Dallas placed Terrance on IR in Week 5 just a day before their game against the Houston Texans. Williams had been struggling with a foot issue since the offseason, which included a surgery that he hadn't fully recovered from.
Many were surprised that Williams wasn't suspended to start the season, given that his arrest occurred several months prior. But when charges were eventually dropped after Terrance took part in some required alcohol education courses, it appeared the league might be letting the issue go.
However, as Cowboys fans know all too well, Roger Goodell's NFL operates its own judicial system.
In Williams' case, the suspension will only result in lost game checks. Players still get paid when on IR, but Terrance will lose that amount of his $3.5 million base salary.
Because he can serve the suspension while injured, Terrance will still be eligible to be recalled from injured reserve in December after sitting the mandatory weeks.
The real issue for Williams now is how this event, and his general fall from grace in the Cowboys offense, will affect him in the next offseason.
Terrance is in just the second season of a four-year, $17 million contract he signed in 2017. If he's released after this year, Dallas would save $2.25 million of his scheduled $4.75 million cap hit in 2019.
Williams' cap hit isn't the issue by itself. That would be a bargain for a significant contributor in your offense, even if he was just the third receiver.
But Terrance appears to have fallen well below that spot on the depth chart. Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, and Michael Gallup are the top three receivers these days, and veteran Deonte Thompson has also been getting looks. Dallas also brought back Brice Butler a few weeks ago, though he hasn't really been worked in yet.
Not only that, but the Cowboys will have the option to recall Noah Brown from IR in just a few more weeks. He was one of their more intriguing young prospects prior to getting hurt.
Dallas could let Terrance come back next year to compete, hopefully with full health and less personal baggage. But after six seasons, they may be ready to move on to players with more room to grow.
For now, though, Terrance Williams is out of action and out some money. We'll see what the future holds.
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