Fans of the Dallas Cowboys are rightly concerned about the tight end position following Jason Witten's retirement. The bar is very high, and the unproven guys remaining on the roster have barely played.
That reality has led to some pretty bold statements, mostly the likes of:
"This is the worst TE group in the NFL!"
"You can't win with these guys."
"This season's going to suck!"
True, the current tight ends of the roster haven't shown much in the league. They have nine career catches between them, and those all belong to Geoff Swaim.
But assuming that these players won't be able to perform is just that; an assumption. We haven't seen anything that says these guys can or can't play yet.
One of the few negatives about Jason Witten's time in Dallas is that he buried anyone else on the TE dept chart. Even second-round picks like Martellus Bennett and Gavin Escobar couldn't get the reps needed to make an impact. Jason never left the field.
Geoff Swaim has been stuck behind Witten and some other players for three years, only now getting a chance to really what he has. And no, I don't blame you for being dubious about a former seventh-round pick filling the shoes of a future Hall-of-Famer.
But Swaim isn't like a Terrance Williams or Brice Butler at receiver, who've had opportunities and didn't produce. He's only been targeted 11 times in his NFL career, producing nine catches and 94 yards.
We know what Williams is and what he isn't. He's proven that he can't step into a larger role when WR1 is struggling or injured. Nobody is looking at Dez Bryant's departure as an opportunity for Terrance to shine, because we've already seen that he doesn't have that level to his game.
None of our tight ends have had that opportunity. Blake Jarwin has played in one NFL game, Rico Gathers has lived on the practice squad and injured reserve, and Dalton Schultz is a rookie.
You don't know if you have a diamonds in the rough until you've given them a closer look. They can't shine if they're still buried.
I understand the concern, of course. We're asking a lot of a group that has no Day 1 or 2 draft picks among them, especially considering the standard that Jason Witten set for 15 seasons.
Nobody expects one of these four players to eventually join Witten in Canton. But there's a huge difference between that and being good enough to allow the Cowboys to compete.
Remember, Jason's been in his twilight years for a while. He wasn't playing at his legendary level in 2016, when the Cowboys went 13-3 and were a ridiculous Aaron Rodgers throw away from the NFC Championship Game.
What Dallas needs this year is a guy who can block well for Ezekiel Elliott and capitalize on passing game opportunities when they come. We already know that Geoff Swaim is a good blocker, and he's been efficient the few times he's been thrown to in the passing game.
The question isn't if Swaim will ever be a star, but just is he a guy you can win with?
We don't know, and that's really the point here. Assuming this group will be "the worst" in the NFL is foolish.
Cowboys fans enjoyed a decade of an undrafted quarterback from Eastern Illinois being one of the best in the NFL. Nobody's story is written by where they were drafted, but rather what they do when they finally get to play.
Yes, it's risky to go into the season with such an unproven group at tight end. But if these guys surprise us, then that means they'll also surprise opposing defenses.
The Cowboys offense hasn't surprised anyone in a while. If this group can provide an unexpected spark, it could be far more effective than you think.
Maliek Collins Playing Excellent for Cowboys Defense
For the Dallas Cowboys on the interior, a lot of the news consistently surround the availability of Defensive Tackle David Irving, but Maliek Collins is playing excellent right now. While I'm willing to be very patient with Irving because of the elite talent he brings, Maliek Collins should continue to start for the Dallas Cowboys at 3-technique defensive tackle.
Collins has been a player that the Cowboys have bounced between the nose tackle and the 3T position with the hopes of getting their best players on the field, and because of the lack of a consistent presence at the 1-technique or nose tackle position. Well, with Antwaun Woods taking control at the 1T, Collins has been able to play at the position where he's at his best. The 3-tech.
He hasn't put huge numbers in the sack column this season, but that doesn't mean he's been absent from being the disruptive player he's been through his first two and a half seasons.
During the Dallas Cowboys five game winning streak, Maliek Collins has led the Dallas Cowboys defensive tackles in total pressures with 13, according to Pro Football Focus. PFF combines sacks, quarterback hits, and hurries into their "pressures." Collins hasn't recorded a sack during the winning streak, but he has four quarterback hits and nine hurries. He's tied with Tyrone Crawford for third in total pressures behind DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory over the last five weeks.
Over the last five weeks, Collins leads the defensive tackles in solo tackles with five and is tied with Crawford and Antwaun Woods with three run stops on defense, according to Pro Football Focus. Collins has also has two tackles for loss in the last five games and recovered Tyrone Crawford's force fumble on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Collins had six sacks in his rookie season when he played primarily as the 3T, which allowed him to see more one-on-one blocks against opposing interior offensive linemen. Especially with the way the rest of the defensive line is playing.
With the Cowboys on the road to face the Indianapolis Colts this week, Collins is going to have a tough matchup with a very good Colts offensive line, in particular, rookie Quentin Nelson. Collins ability to get pressure on Andrew Luck on the interior is a huge key for the Dallas Cowboys this week. We know that Gregory and Lawrence will get their pressures, but if Andrew Luck is able to step up into a clean pocket, it will make for a much more challenging game for the Cowboys secondary.
Collins has proved to be up to any task over the last five weeks and if he's able to keep playing at such a high level, he'll make the Cowboys coaching staff, and the rest of Cowboys Nation forget about using other defensive tackles. For the Cowboys to make a deep push in the playoffs, they'll need Collins to be a big time player for them moving forward.
#INDvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction
For once, the Cowboys are not playing what feels like a do-or-die game on Sunday, needing just 1 win over their final 3 to win the NFC East. This week the 8-5 Cowboys go on the road to face the 7-6 Colts, with each times vying for playoff spots in their respective conferences.
Both the Cowboys and Colts have turned around what looked like dead seasons, but there is no doubt the Colts need this one more than the Cowboys do to keep pace for the 6th seed in the AFC.
Cowboys +3, O/U 47 points.
The once 3-5 Cowboys are now head and shoulders above the rest of their division, after winning their fifth straight in thrilling fashion over the Eagles last Sunday. The team which seemed so disjointed and inconsistent through 8 games has found their identity, and is playing complete team football as of late.
Dak Prescott is coming off a career-best game in terms of yardage, and despite some poor turnovers is still playing some of the best football of his career. This is due in large part to two stars in Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott, who have shouldered the production load of this offense the last 5 weeks.
And, of course, there is the defense which continues to make life a living hell for opposing offenses. Randy Gregory is coming into his own as a pass rusher, getting another sack last week and getting flagged for what should have been his second sack of the day.
Dallas is playing the brand of football they told us they would before the season, and are beginning to make their front office and decision makers look very smart in the process.
At 7-6 and fighting for the final AFC playoff spot, the Colts need this one more than the Cowboys do. Getting shut out by the lowly Jaguars two weeks ago may ultimately keep the Colts out of the playoffs, but a win this Sunday and a little help elsewhere could set them up nicely down the stretch.
Indy has quietly one of the best passing offenses in all of the NFL, with star quarterback Andrew Luck playing his best football in quite some time. Luck is healthy and looks like himself again, and the selection of Quenton Nelson to sure-up the offensive line has gone a long way to improving this offense as well.
Defensively the Colts have been even more impressive lately. Though they have a roster comprised of no-names nationally, the Colts defense is 11th in DVOA. Darius Leonard has been a revelation for the Colts at linebacker, and their young defense seems to be improving by the week.
The Colts are coming off of a big road victory over the Houston Texans a week ago, and will look to defeat the Texans' in-state rivals on Sunday to improve to 8-6.
- The Cowboys are 5-0 against the spread their last 5 games, and have won all 5 straight up.
- The score total has hit the over 4 of the Cowboys' last 6 games.
- But the score total has gone under 4 of the Colts' last 5 games.
- The Colts are 4-1 straight up their last 5 home games.
- Dallas is 6-3 their last 9 games against the Colts.
The Cowboys' winning streak has to end at some point, right?
Well, unlike Vegas, I don't expect that ending to happen on Sunday. The Cowboys have been playing desperate football over the last 5 games and they are well aware what a win over Indianapolis would mean.
A victory would clinch them a division title for the third time in five years, and just as they did in 2014, I expect the Cowboys to get that clinching victory over the Colts. Give me the Cowboys and the points this week.
Amari Cooper Wins 2nd NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award of 2018
For the second time in just three weeks, Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Cooper scored three touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime, to lead the Cowboys to victory last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has 10 catches for 217 yards, which led all NFL receivers last week.
After his record-setting performance during week 14, @AmariCooper9 is the FIRST #DallasCowboys to win NFC Player of the Week twice in a season! → https://t.co/kvBDIeOgBd #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote
As the official website stated, Cooper is the first Cowboy to win the award twice in the same year. He's also the first Cowboy to be named Offensive Player of the Week since Ezekiel Elliott in 2016.
Before this year, Elliott was the only Dallas player to win the Offensive award in three seasons. Cooper has now done it twice in three weeks.
Since being traded to the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has amassed 40 catches for 642 yards and six touchdowns.
His wasted time in Oakland may keep Cooper out of the Pro Bowl this year, but he's already become a fan favorite in Cowboys Nation. Congratulations to Amari for another well-deserved award!
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