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Cowboys WR Michael Gallup is Team’s Most Important Rookie

Jess Haynie

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Will Rookie WR Michael Gallup Make an Immediate Impact? 1

Almost any other season, a team's first-round draft pick is going to be the most important rookie on the roster. Often, they are drafted to the position with the greatest immediate need. But for the 2018 Dallas Cowboys, third-round Wide Receiver Michael Gallup is the guy that the team needs most.

Dallas drafted Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in the first round of last April's draft. In the second round they took Offensive Lineman Connor Williams. The Cowboys hope both will have starting roles on this year's team.

But given the other talent at those positions, it's receiver where Dallas most needs a rookie to excel.

For Vander Esch in 2018, his ceiling is probably to start in the base 4-3 defense and then rotate in the nickel scheme. That means pushing Damien Wilson to the bench, but still having to push for reps with Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith when the team only has two linebackers on the field.

That's no small role, and especially if Leighton end up as the starting middle linebacker. But Dallas, like most NFL teams, uses their nickel scheme more than any other.

Vander Esch's importance is almost more about potential injury to Sean or Jaylon, where he can hopefully step in and perform quickly. But if those two stay healthy, Vander Esch may not have a much bigger role than Damien Wilson did last year.

For Connor Williams, Being Shoulder to Shoulder with Tyron Smith is Nothing New

Dallas Cowboys G Connor Williams

Second-round pick Connor Williams is going to get the first crack at being the team's new starting left guard. You could easily make a case that that's more important than the role Vander Esch will have this year.

But Dallas has a lot of options if Williams doesn't immediately excel.

They could flip Right Tackle La'el Collins back to guard and try Connor at his college position of tackle. They might also start veteran Cameron Fleming at RT and make Williams a versatile reserve.

Dallas also has veterans Chaz Green, Joe Looney, and Marcus Martin on the roster competing at guard.

These options make Williams' success less critical to the 2018 Cowboys. As with Vander Esch, there's a cushion for if the rookie doesn't show up right away.

Given the state of things at receiver, Michael Gallup doesn't have that same cushion.

Cowboys Offense Finds Rhythm to End Minicamp, Hurns and Gallup Stand Out 1

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

Without the rookie, Dallas has Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Deonte Thompson, as the only established players on the WR depth chart. Each one has a red flag.

Hurns has never succeeded as the top receiver in an offense. His best years in Jacksonville were when Allen Robinson was WR1 and Hurns could do damage with less attention. He needs other guys to keep defenses honest to be effective.

The same goes for Beasley, who had a strong season in 2016 but then wilted last year when teams realized he was the bigger threat than Dez Bryant or Jason Witten. Cole was effectively taken out by opposing defensive coordinators, dropping to the fourth on the team in catches.

Terrance Williams is the guy Dallas probably wish they could cut but whose contract makes it unprofitable. His recent personal issues, on top of years of underwhelming play, don't inspire confidence that he can help balance the offense.

Deonte Thompson broke out a little with the Buffalo Bills last year despite their overall passing issues, but he's 29 and didn't do anything between 2012-2016. He's a vertical threat who might help in some situations, but is doubtful as a major piece of the offense.

This is why Dallas needs Michael Gallup to show up right now. Without some new spark in the passing game, next season could be unfortunately similar to 2017.

While a full season from Ezekiel Elliott will hopefully make life easier for Dak Prescott this year, the Cowboys' quarterback still needs receiver who can make defenses nervous. None of the players we just talked about will do that, lacking the cache of Bryant or Witten from a few years ago.

 

While a full season from Ezekiel Elliott will hopefully make life easier for Dak Prescott this year, the Cowboys' quarterback still needs receiver who can make defenses nervous. None of the players we just talked about will do that, lacking the cache of Bryant or Witten from a few years ago.

Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

Of course, we recognize that Michael Gallup is just a third-round draft pick. Expecting him to come in and immediately change the fortune of the offense could be asking way too much.

That doesn't change need, though. Dallas can afford for Leighton Vander Esch or Connor Williams to take a year to develop. But if Gallup doesn't show up right away, we could see a lot more of guys not getting open and Prescott getting flustered.

Hopefully, the absence of Dez and Jason this year will make the Cowboys less predictable. It will keep defenses guessing enough to help all of these players take advantage.

But nothing will help more than an infusion of new, exciting talent. If Michael can make an early impact, teams will have to adjust. That will open the door much wider for his teammates.

Again, it may be asking too much. We get that.

But that's reality for the 2018 Dallas Cowboys. They just lost two future Ring of Honor members from the passing game and the two most targeted players from last year's offense.

Do you really want Terrance Williams trying to fill that void? Of course not.

While Leighton Vander Esch, Connor Williams, or even fourth-round rookie Tight End Dalton Schultz could make major impacts on the 2018 Cowboys, there is less risk if they don't. It's at receiver where Dallas suffers most if their rookie addition doesn't perform.

Therefore, for 2018, Michael Gallup is the most important rookie on the Dallas Cowboys.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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11 Comments
  • Chuck Wright

    Conner Williams most important for 2018 and it’s not close

    Sorry

    • Sexcdex Xfact

      It is close,,,,,
      ,,,,,,even if Conner is the most important rookie
      I, myself would have to say LVE
      Simply because we’re thinnest at the LB position

      I will say Gallup second, simply because we’re most unproven at WR

      Conner Williams has quite a bit of quality depth should he struggled or is injured which is the context of the article

      But if you’re saying Conner as far as securing the O line to wit everything evolves, then I understand you
      Although I disagree

      • Jess Haynie

        I agree that the margin is slim between LB and WR depth. But my premise isn’t just about depth. If Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith are healthy and balling, we’re not asking LVE to be anything more than a part-time player this season. But our other WRs don’t have that kind of upside.

        • Sexcdex Xfact

          I don’t think we have enough on them to say what’s what
          That’s the down side of the unknown WR’s is the exact upside
          Nonone knows what to expect for the Dez & Witten plays are out & there has to be an organic, if you will, approach now by defenses instead of game-planning for our 2 Prime targets
          If the scouts, coaches, Dak Prescott & Will McClay all feel good about the WR Corp as a whole
          & we all know how Noah Brown & Lance Lenoir have constantly been coming on,,,, ,
          ,,,,our receiving corp isn’t in a negative at all
          It’s simply perception
          But
          I’m too ignorant currently to discern the quality of the WR corp

          We all have very valid points, perceptions, & facts we’re basing our opinions

    • Jess Haynie

      I can understand that opinion given the critical nature of the offensive line. But as I outlined, Dallas has a lot of other options to fill that LG vacancy. I feel way better about Joe Looney starting at LG than Terrance Williams or Deonte Thompson as a starting WR. That’s why I lean towards Gallup.

  • Ethan Chazin

    Jess, I really like your writing but this article is just way too flawed and frankly expect more from your coverage. You fail to address the receiving abilities of our RBs esp. Elliott, Smith & Austin. When Dak targets 8+ WRs his QBR is 116, when he targets 7 or less WRs his QBR drops down to 86. He needs receivers who can be counted on to run precise routes thus your failure to mention Sanjay Lal as new WR coach already paying dividends in teaching WRs how to run routes. Beasley said he was never taught routes, Gallop and Cedric Wilson were BOTH great value draft picks as they excel in route running. Dak needs to read through progressions, Dez had a 52% catch rate and greatly interfered with Dak’s progress in 2017. So…NO with all due respect Gallop doesn’t have to be great but he DOES have to contribute as do all the other WRs. You also fail to mention Noah Brown, Lance Lenoir, AND our TEs although unproven may surprise in certain RECEIVING skills that Witten couldn’t such as ability to stretch the field, Run After Catch, get open down field!

    • Jess Haynie

      Ethan, your argument is based on a lot of things we haven’t seen yet. Scott Linehan hasn’t used ours RBs the way you described, so until he does you can’t count on that. Tavon Austin failed with the Rams, so until he succeeds here you can’t count on him. The stuff about Sanjay Lal teaching routes sounds great, but we haven’t the results yet. The new TEs could be surprisingly effective, but the key word there is “surprise.” That can go both ways.

      The point here is that we KNOW what Hurns, Beasley, and Williams are. They’re all good players but swap Dez for Hurns and we had the same trio last year. We need a spark that opens things up and Gallup has the most potential to provide it. He has the best opportunity to positively impact the entire team.

      • Sexcdex Xfact

        Agreed
        But Cedric Wilson college tape # raves are just as impressive
        Then we have Thompson’s deep threat speed

        I’m basing my assessment on the spread the ball around aspect
        Even Gallup has yet to be used if we reverse your last take on the yet to be proven

        So IF their approach manifest it will lessen Gallup production unless they’re wrong in raving about the other WR rookies etc

  • Ethan Chazin

    True but if we think really if th top 3 rookies LVE is not expected to have the same impact as Gallup or Williams unless Jaylon or Sean lee gets injured not actually so unrealistic. I believe Williams is the more important rookie as the O line is the heart and soul of the team.

  • Frank McGriff

    I believe Connor will be fine. Vander esch is my worry. I think Gallup will be good at times. But give him a year or two, he will be a terror.

  • Travis Diggs

    Most important rookie is LVE because of what happens to this defense when Sean Lee goes out is typically the story of this defense most years.

Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Poor Execution, Timely SEA Passing Game Doom Cowboys

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Poor Execution on Offense, Timely Seahawks Passing Game Doom Cowboys in Seattle
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The Dallas Cowboys have yet another disappointing loss to put behind them, or at least attempt to, as their struggles on offense carried into Seattle for week three. A desperate team in search of their first win at home, the Seahawks took full advantage of the Cowboys lack of preparation in the first half before capitalizing on mistakes to pull away 24-13.

The Cowboys dropping their second game in three weeks, both in similarly lackluster fashion, this will be a long week at The Star before Dallas kicks off against the Detroit Lions at home on Sunday.

Perhaps the Cowboys need not look any further than their next opponent to realize not all hope is lost for 2018. Like the Seahawks, the Lions were fighting to save their season yesterday, and did so with a home win against the now 1-2 New England Patriots.

If the Cowboys are going to reclaim their status atop the NFC East at any point this season though, some drastic changes are needed on offense. As always, here are my immediate notes on a Cowboys team that relied on their defense a few too many times in this latest loss.

  • I understand the Cowboys plan to use heavy personnel on offense against a defense with as much lateral speed as the Seahawks, but once again the execution from their wide receivers and tight ends was very poor.

By inviting defenders near the line of scrimmage, the Cowboys were challenging their offensive line to beat the Seahawks off the ball and potentially create some big plays for Ezekiel Elliott on the ground. Elliott did find some success as the game became further out of reach for his team, partially because of his own miscues.

The Cowboys' offseason approach at WR is yielding no immediate results, but so too is their confidence in Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, and Rico Gathers to step up in the absence of Jason Witten. While Witten isn't the missing piece for the Cowboys pushing the ball down the field, their lack of a threat at tight end is a serious detriment to Dak Prescott.

An early second half sequence that really hurt the Cowboys in this game began with a Gathers false start, the team's second straight penalty. Byron Jones' holding penalty on a Seahawks punt backed the offense up to their eleven yard line, and Gathers' ensuing procedural penalty had Dallas driving from their own six.

The Cowboys would do well to earn a manageable third down, despite a predictable run for no gain on first and 15, but Michael Kendricks' sack of Prescott forced a three and out.

  • This will do little to take the heat off Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan, but the Cowboys bigger issue on offense was execution compared to play calling in this loss.

Yes, execution is also part of coaching, which makes not only Linehan but the rest of the Cowboys coaches along with Head Coach Jason Garrett responsible for the team's floundering 1-2 start.

The Cowboys finally saw Elliott involved in the passing game on an apparent second quarter touchdown, only to have Elliott step out of bounds before the catch. Settling for early field goals with good field position is typically a sign that a team is in for a long day on the road, and this is exactly the type of afternoon it was for Dallas.

Adding another Elliott fumble and two Dak Prescott interceptions only provides further context on how well the Cowboys defense is playing, keeping this game within reach until the closing minutes.

The Cowboys offense is a house of cards right now, deliberately played by those that should have been held to higher standards as early as last season. With enough talent on this side of the ball to turn things around, the Cowboys must quickly figure out the right layers to peel away before discovering the root of their offensive woes.

Whether or not this ends up being Linehan, or if he simply becomes the scapegoat for a team that's never truly wavered in their commitment to Prescott, it's hard to argue with a change in philosophy for a Cowboys offense still searching for identity.

The Cowboys certainly weren't more creative in this loss, even on their deceptive pitch to Tavon Austin for his second touchdown in as many weeks. That exact play has been used by plenty of teams in that situation this season. With each successful conversion, more teams will add it to their arsenal - the Cowboys being the latest, with nothing to truly show for it.

Cowboys Nation on Twitter

That Tavon Austin TD? Yep, it's a copycat league. https://t.co/ggILr2TRGi

  • The Seahawks first touchdown came as a result of two of the worst defensive plays of the year for the Cowboys. 

After being a great blitzing team through two weeks, the Cowboys poorly executed an aggressive third down blitz with the Seahawks on their 35-yard line. The result was a 19-yard conversion to running back Chris Carson. Both Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith were picked up easily by the Seahawks pass protection on the play.

On the very next snap, the Seahawks' speed beat the Cowboys as Jaron Brown freed himself for a 16-yard touchdown. Of course, Seattle would never look back after this second quarter score to open a 7-0 advantage.

The Cowboys issues in coverage didn't stop here either, with Russell Wilson making the timely plays that Prescott left on the field. On Tyler Lockett's touchdown, pushing the Seahawks lead to 14-3, Kavon Frazier was beat to the spot in helping Chidobe Awuzie down the sideline.

Expecting the safety help to be there as it had been with Jeff Heath or even Xavier Woods (playing in his first game of the season), Awuzie still struggled to slow down Lockett, giving a below average cover player like Frazier no chance to get back in the play.

The Cowboys are committed to rotating their linebackers and safeties this season, and while the results have mostly been positive, they simply got caught with the wrong safety in the wrong spot here.

To make matters even worse, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas made these gaffs a "what could have been" moment for the Cowboys, turning the game with two interceptions against a team that may still make a push for his services.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Earl Thomas said a couple of Cowboys coaches said to him before the game, "You ready for the trade tomorrow?

  • It took a rough outing from Chidobe Awuzie to be fully appreciated, but Byron Jones was able to show why he's the best cornerback on the Cowboys right now.

On a positive note, the Cowboys are absolutely being rewarded for moving former first-round pick Byron Jones back to cornerback. This was one of the first decisions Kris Richard made upon his arrival to Dallas, looking to bring the Seahawks model to the Cowboys secondary.

Jones size and frame gave him a great chance to succeed under Richard before ever suiting up, but his awareness at cornerback has been off the charts. As opposed to dealing with players already at full speed or at the catch point when he was a safety, Jones is embracing being able to break on the ball and make more plays.

When the Seahawks needed a play through the air, they picked on Awuzie, who was exposed a bit for his tendency to sit on deep routes and react late to anything across his face. To start the game though, the Seahawks learned quickly that targeting Jones was a losing battle, unable to get anything behind him.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Week three was a great example of how much the NFL is a week-to-week league. Before kickoff in Seattle, the Cowboys were perceived to be entering an easier stretch to their season. Now, the Seahawks look like a team that can climb back into the playoff race, as do next week's opponent in the Lions for the Cowboys returning to AT&T Stadium.

It feels safe to say that at least two things are true of the Cowboys through these trying three games however. The Cowboys defense is already one of the best in the league, with the potential to get even better. Meanwhile, their offense is objectively one of the worst.

Whether or not the Cowboys offense is fixable is a question this staff must answer between now and next Sunday. As mentioned, it may feel like a long time until then, but for a team with as many issues as Dallas right now there will be little reprieve from salvaging relevancy (or trying to) in week four.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Poor Execution, Timely SEA Passing Game Doom Cowboys" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Player News

REPORT: Cowboys LB Sean Lee to Miss Games with Hamstring Injury

Jess Haynie

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REPORT: Cowboys LB Sean Lee to Miss Games with Hamstring Injury

Dallas Cowboys Linebacker and Captain Sean Lee will likely miss time with a hamstring injury suffered during the team's Week 3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Lee, who'd hurt his other hamstring in Week 2 against the Giants, had to leave yesterday's game with a new injury to the alternate leg. His status was reported on today by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

REPORT: Cowboys LB Sean Lee to Miss Games with Hamstring Injury 1

Hamstring issues also bothered Sean Lee last year. He missed five games in 2017.

As Rapoport mentioned, the presence of rookie Leighton Vander Esch now takes far greater importance. The 2018 first-round pick looked good yesterday in relief of Sean, registering 11 tackles.

Another season of injury problems could put Lee's future with the Cowboys in jeopardy. In fact, it may only cement what was already a strong possibility.

Sean can be released next season for about $7 million in salary cap savings, and his replacement is already on the roster.

Lee is still a top NFL linebacker when healthy. But "when healthy" has been said far too often, and the Cowboys used their first-round pick this year to prepare for such a problem.

We'll see how long the 32-year-old has to sit out, and what impact that has on his career going forward.



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Game Notes

3 Stars from Dallas Cowboys Loss to the Seattle Seahawks

John Williams

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3 Stars from Dallas Cowboys Loss to the Seattle Seahawks

After an impressive all around performance a week ago against the New York Giants, here we are again looking for answers after a deflating 24-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

The Seahawks were the better team Sunday, but they weren't ten points better. The Dallas Cowboys hurt themselves -- with the officials help -- with a lot of mental miscues. Whether it was a drop that led to an interception or a blown coverage or a penalty that stalled or extended a drive, the Dallas Cowboys didn't really give themselves a shot at winning this football game.

Every game matters and in a week where every other NFC East team won, this loss hurts even more. There were several stand outs from Sunday's game, and here are this week's 3 Stars.

First ✭

Earl Thomas, Safety

This one hurts to write as I've been in the camp hoping that Earl Thomas would have a star on his helmet for months now.

The drama surrounding the Earl Thomas saga has been relentless, yet he put on an incredible performance in front of the Dallas Cowboys that should assuage any distraction or drama-filled narratives out there.

It was a heck of a game from the All-Pro safety that showed what kind of impact he can have on the outcome of a football game. Thomas was the best Seahawks player on the field today and certainly answered any question of whether he's motivated or not.

The guy is a player and the Dallas Cowboys might have messed around and hurt their chances at signing him in the offseason by not going to get him this year.

Second ✭

Seattle Seahawks Offensive Line

For a team that had allowed the most sacks in the NFL through the first two weeks of the season, the Seattle Seahawks' Offensive line did an amazing job of protecting Quarterback Russell Wilson.

After allowing six sacks in each of their first two games, they only allowed Wilson to get sacked twice. The Dallas Cowboys had come into the game second in the NFL in sacks. They handled the Cowboys' blitz packages and stunts very well and Russell Wilson helped himself by getting the ball out of his hands quickly.

The Seahawks offensive line paved the way for Running Back Chris Carson to run for 102 yards on 32 carries. Not a huge number when you look at his yards per carry (3.18), but they were tough effective yards that kept the Dallas Cowboys defense on their heels and extended drives.

Third ✭

Ezekiel Elliott

Where would this team be without Ezekiel Elliott?

Terrible, that's the answer.

I know that there is still gnashing of teeth when people talk about the 2016 NFL Draft and who the Dallas Cowboys selected at number four overall. A lot of people wanted Jalen Ramsey, and for good reason, but Ezekiel Elliott is a game changer in his own right. Even when everyone is looking to stop him, he makes things happen to move the ball down the field.

Elliott ran for 127 yards on 16 carries (7.94 yards per carry), and aside from the fumble was the best player for the Dallas Cowboys tonight.

Honorable Mention

Byron Jones

If you haven't figured it out by now, Corner Back Byron Jones is the Dallas Cowboys' best corner. After Russell Wilson tried Jones' side of the field in the first half, with little success, he began looking elsewhere to get the ball moving through the air.

Any success they had through the air was to the middle of the field or to the left side of the defense.

Looking at you Chidobe Awuzie. 

Frank Clark

Was it just me, or did it seem like Seattle Seahawks Defensive End Frank Clark was in Dak Prescott's face a lot?

You saw that too? 

I would have thought that he would have had more than just one sack in the game. On the Dallas Cowboys first possession of the second half, Clark beat Left Tackle Tyron Smith on a straight speed rush with a little fake inside before getting past Smith in an instant. Tyron isn't typically beaten that easily and though Clark didn't come away with a sack, he certainly provided pressure to keep Prescott off balance.

Leighton Vander Esch

Rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch led the Dallas Cowboys in tackles with 11 (9 solo) and a tackle for loss. He played a really good game with family and friends on hand.

Anthony Brown

Earlier this week, I relayed a stat on Twitter that Anthony Brown had allowed the fewest receptions per slot coverage snap in the NFL in the first two weeks of the season.

Brown stood out to me several times in this game. On special teams and in his defensive role, he made several open field tackles that either went for a loss or no gain. He's a gamer.

Brown may not be the best corner on the team or in the league, but he's got the drive and tenacity that you need from a slot corner.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Who were your 3 Stars of the game? 



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