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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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Dallas Cowboys

WR Randall Cobb Named Cowboys “Surprise Standout” for Offseason

Jess Haynie

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Randall Cobb

NFL teams have wrapped up their offseason activities with the close of OTAs, especially where the players are concerned, and await the start of training camps next month. In reviewing the last few months, ESPN had their local reporters each pick a surprise standout from their team's practices. Todd Archer, who covers the Dallas Cowboys full time, selected veteran receiver Randall Cobb.

Cobb is in his first season with Dallas after signing as a free agent last March. He's spent the last eight years with the Green Bay Packers and was a Pro Bowler in 2014, but has struggled with injuries the last few seasons.

Here were Archer's observations on how Randall is doing so far with the Cowboys:

Normally a player with Cobb's résumé -- 470 catches for 5,524 yards and 41 touchdowns during his career -- would not be considered for a category like this. But injuries limited him to only nine games and 38 catches for Green Bay in 2018, and it was hard to know what the Cowboys were getting in the veteran receiver.

If the offseason work is any indication, they have found a replacement for Cole Beasley. Cobb's versatility can expand the offense for others, such as Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Cobb looked quick in and out of his breaks and fast enough to make plays down the field. Will he put up the 1,287 yards he had in 2014? No, but he gives Dak Prescott a security blanket in the slot who can turn a small gain into a big one.

The notion of Cobb replacing Beasley is a big one. While we'd like to think that Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup will provide plenty of firepower for the Cowboys offense, Dak Prescott has enjoyed a reliable threat from the slot position since he arrived.

Randall Cobb, when healthy, can do more than just make clutch catches. He has good run-after-catch skills and perhaps bring more big play potential than Beasley did.

If Cooper and Gallup do emerge as a dangerous starting duo on the outside, Cobb should have even more opportunities to punish defenses than Beasley did.

If nothing else, it's very encouraging to hear that one of the Cowboys' few 2019 free agent moves is already reaping benefits. Cobb still needs to bring it over a full season to really justify the move, but these early reports are cause for excitement.



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BREAKING: Cowboys TE Rico Gathers Receives One-Game Suspension

Jess Haynie

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Rico Gathers

Tight End Rico Gathers already had an uphill climb to return to the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster in 2019. But that climb just got even steeper; the NFL handed down a one-game suspension to Gathers today for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

If he does make the team this year, with Dallas or anyone else, Rico will have to sit out Week One of the season without pay.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys TE Rico Gathers is suspended without pay for the first game of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse. This is from his arrest in 2018 for marijuana possession.

Gathers' chances of returning in 2019 were already hurt by Jason Witten's reversed retirement. He dropped to fourth on the TE depth chart behind Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz, and Dallas only kept three tight ends last year.

The Cowboys also added Codey McElroy as a developmental player during the offseason.

While the suspension is news, the incident that led to it is not. Dallas already knew about the arrest, which occurred in early September of 2018, and have kept Gathers around up until now.

The NFL's substance abuse system is pretty formulaic, so the Cowboys likely anticipated this suspension all along. This may not change anything about how they value Rico Gathers for the 2019 season.

Nevertheless, a player who can't help you in Week One and is a liability for ever longer suspensions down the road is definitely a red flag against Gathers' job security.



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Antwaun Woods: Cowboys DT is Just Getting Started

Matthew Lenix

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Antwaun Woods is just getting started

Antwaun Woods went undrafted in 2016 coming out of USC. After two years with the Tennessee Titans, he would only see one game of action. In May of 2018, the Cowboys signed Woods to a two-year contract worth 1.05 million. Probably seen as nothing more than a practice squad guy, Woods would quickly show he was much more than that.

The newly acquired Woods started his climb to stardom in Oxnard during training camp, and not for making plays. One day during practice he got into a friendly game of fisticuffs with All-Pro Center Travis Frederick. The team even posted the video on social media, which had fans buzzing and wanting to know who he was.

All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott echoed those thoughts when he saw Woods during camp. "Honestly, when we first got him, we were like, 'Who is this guy?'. He was giving Travis Frederick, one of our best players, hell all camp. Just trying to figure out where this guy came from," Elliott said.

Once the regular season started it was clear the Cowboys had found a hidden gem. Although the sack numbers won't dazzle you, seeing as he only registered 1.5, you could forget about running the ball anywhere near him. Woods has amazing quickness for a 300 pounder which allows him to extend his arms before offensive lineman can get a hand on him.

How significant is that? It becomes that much easier to bull rush and blow running plays up in the backfield.

When you can get your hands on an offensive lineman immediately when the ball is snapped, he's basically under your control. You can move him around like a puppet on a string. Essential for a 1-technique nose tackle. With that being said, there should be no surprise the Cowboys finished fifth against the run in 2018 with Woods manning the middle.

Woods draws a lot of double teams, and he handles them well. Having the ability to take on multiple linemen frees up your other playmakers. As the anchor in the middle, Woods made life a lot easier for not only his fellow defensive linemen but the team's two young star Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Allowing them to roam freely like Lions in the Serengeti makes running backs essentially Zebra's carrying the ball, cooked food. So much so that both tallied over 120 tackles and were the only teammates in the NFL to rank in the top 15 in that category.

There's nothing but upside with Antwaun Woods. He's only had 18 games of experience in three years. He's already a stud, but with limited snaps, it can only mean he'll be even more formidable going forward.

The Cowboys have a loaded defensive lineman group with around 15 bodies, plenty of competition. All signs point to him remaining the starter, but it's not guaranteed. Even with that being said I don't expect a complacency from Woods, especially with DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn looking like the only sure starters on the defensive line. Plus this is a contract year for him, so you know he'll be even more motivated as he tries to maximize his dollars. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg from this raw talent, setting up for a potential breakout year for him in 2019.



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