In order to hopefully improve the production in the secondary, the Dallas Cowboys decided to pretty much completely overhaul the entire backend of their defense. With all of the new faces expected to play key roles in the secondary, no one really knew how things would turn out. It is still somewhat of a mystery considering the mixed bag of results through the first three weeks of the season, but there are signs things are indeed improving.
Of course, not everything has been rainbows and sunshine for the Dallas Cowboys secondary. Injuries have hit them pretty hard through the first three weeks, but that has also created opportunities for some of their younger players, such as rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis.
The former Michigan standout cornerback, Jourdan Lewis, was the Dallas Cowboys third round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Despite arguably having first-round talent, he slid right into the Cowboys lap in the third round for two reasons.
First, he had a domestic violence charge filed against him and that didn't even go to court until after the draft and before preseason. Teams were probably wary of drafting him because of the unknown of the DV charge, but fortunately he was acquitted. Secondly, due to his size he was believed to be regulated only to the slot in the NFL and slot CBs typically don't get drafted very highly.
Due to Lewis' previous mentioned court date for domestic violence, he had to show up after the Dallas Cowboys training camp was already underway. This already put him behind the eight ball, but things got even worse when he sustained a hamstring injury that kept him out all of training camp and preseason. This also carried over into the season and forced him to miss the Week 1 match up with the New York Giants.
Jourdan Lewis was finally active for the first time in his NFL career in Week 2 against the Denver Broncos and unfortunately it was kind of baptism by fire for the rookie. The Cowboys were forced to play Lewis due to injuries, but despite missing so much time during the off-season, he performed above expectations. Lewis finished the game with six tackles and his first career interception in the NFL.
Lewis was once again thrust into action due to injuries the following week against the Arizona Cardinals and once again held his own. QB Carson Palmer targeted Lewis nine times, but was only able to complete five of those passes for 33 yards. Lewis finished the game with six tackles, one tackle for loss, and a pass defensed.
Now, I don't know how much credibility Pro Football Focus has with their grading, but they awarded Lewis an 87.6 grade against the Cardinals. They also have him graded out as the 11th best CB in the NFL, with a score of 83.8. That puts him in some pretty good company among cornerbacks around the NFL.
With two pretty good games under his belt, it's hard to argue that Jourdan Lewis' playing time won't increase. He's played so well in fact that he could be looking at earning a starting role.
Now, I know this may be jumping the gun a little because it is really early in the season still. But, injuries have already given him a leg up on the competition. Nolan Carroll had to miss last week because of a concussion and unfortunately didn't play very well prior to that injury. Injuries have also been a problem for Chidobe Awuzie and Orlando Scandrick this season.
The fact Lewis has stepped up when needed and proved to be capable of handling a starting role probably hasn't gone unnoticed by the coaching staff. I personally believe Lewis can start in the slot or on the outside, much like the Cowboys second year CB Anthony Brown. Both Brown and Lewis are roughly the same size, and both already have one INT under their belt this season.
Jourdan Lewis still has a ways to go in order to lock down a starting role, but it's comforting to know that he is more than capable of doing so if needed.
Do you think Jourdan Lewis deserves to be a starter?
#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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