The Cowboys have had over two decades of problems with their second-round picks in the NFL Draft. For the last 22 years they have struggled to find solid contributors, let alone standout players, from among the upper layers of available talent. It is a disturbing trend that, hopefully, will soon see a reversal.
In the second round of the 1994 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected guard Larry Allen from little Sonoma State University. Allen would go on to become arguably the greatest guard in NFL history, inducted to the Ring of Honor and the Hall of Fame.
Perhaps the Larry Allen pick was the Cowboys doom. It's almost like the universe has been punishing them ever since for getting such a legendary player with a second-round pick.
As this following historical record shows, our second round additions since L.A. have been nothing short of ugly.
|1995||RB Sherman Williams
TE Kendell Watkins
G Shane Hannah
|1996||KB Randall Godfrey
DE Kavika Pittman
|1997||NO PICK - Traded out of the 2nd Round for extra picks later|
|1998||OT Flozell Adams|
|1999||G Solomon Page|
|2000||CB Dwayne Goodrich|
|2001||QB Quincy Carter
S Tony Dixon
|2002||G/C Andre Gurode
WR Antonio Bryant
|2003||G/C Al Johnson|
|2004||RB Julius Jones
OT Jacob Rogers
|2005||LB Kevin Burnett|
|2006||TE Anthony Fasano|
|2007||NO PICK - Traded out of the 2nd Round for extra picks later|
|2008||TE Martellus Bennett|
|2009||NO PICK - Traded out of the 2nd Round for extra picks later|
|2010||LB Sean Lee|
|2011||LB Bruce Carter|
|2012||NO PICK - Traded to move up for Morris Claiborne|
|2013||TE Gavin Escobar|
|2014||DE DeMarcus Lawrence|
|2015||DE Randy Gregory|
|2016||LB Jaylon Smith|
Ready for some disturbing numbers?
Out of the 24 total second-round players drafted by Dallas since 1995, only three of them (Flozell Adams, Andre Gurode, Sean Lee) have ever gone to the Pro Bowl as Cowboys. That is a stunningly low number given the perceived talent that these guys all had on draft day.
It gets worse. Of the 21 players drafted from 1995 to 2013, a seven of them never even finished their rookie contracts. Another ten guys played out their four-year rookie deals and were not re-signed.
Only the three Pro Bowlers we just mentioned had sustained careers in Dallas with new contracts. The one oddball was Sherman Williams, who was re-signed due to injuries in 1999 and appeared in one game before being released again.
Think about that. We view the second round as the spot where potential stars and solid, long-time starters are drafted. By that standard the Cowboys have failed on almost 90% of their picks over the last two decades.
We have three second-round guys still on the team whose stories aren't fully written yet: DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, and Jaylon Smith. Unfortunately, the early chapters are not looking good.
Other than a stretch in 2015 when he had seven sacks in eight games, Lawrence has been a disappointment. He has struggled with injuries and missed 18 games in three years. Now entering the final year of his rookie contract, D-Law will need a major improvement to avoid becoming yet another second-round Cowboy who didn't get a second contract.
The tale of Randy Gregory is certainly the most woeful. Injuries limited him as a rookie and a drug suspension knocked him out of most of 2016. He is expected to miss all of the 2017 regular season for a repeated drug policy violation. The Cowboys have not cut ties yet, though, so it remains to be seen if he can get things turned around.
Jaylon Smith was a top-five talent in the 2016 draft who fell because of a major knee injury during his last college game. He is expected to debut this year and has the potential to become one of the few bright spots in the team's history with second-round picks. If Jaylon's knee remains a problem, though, it could quickly become yet another failed attempt.
2017 NFL Draft
It is widely expected that in this year's draft, which occurs just a few days from now, Dallas will pursue a defensive end in the first round and a cornerback in the second. Players like Washington's Kevin King, Florida's Teez Tabor, and UCLA's Fabian Moreau are among the possible options for the Cowboys at the 60th overall pick.
In what is widely considered a deep draft class, and especially at cornerback, one of these players will have a great opportunity to be a success story. They will be joining a Cowboys team coming off a 13-3 season and putting the pieces in place for sustained success. Many of our past rookies weren't so fortunate, joining the team when it was in a state of flux or even dysfunction.
As we've seen with franchises like the Browns and Jaguars, that constant culture of failure rubs off on players. They are expected to be part of the solution but, young and impressionable, quickly become part of the problem. There's nobody there to teach them how to become winners.
The Cowboys have leaders on both sides of the ball. They have one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the game. Dallas has been to the playoffs twice in the last three years. If the rookies they add in 2017 don't show up then it's probably on them far more than the organization.
Or, if nothing else... blame Larry Allen.
Ezekiel Elliott Productive in Cowboys Blowout Loss to Colts
It was as ugly of a performance as we’ve seen from the Dallas Cowboys in the Jason Garrett era. For the first time in a decade and a half, the Cowboys were shut out and it was a game full of bad pretty much everywhere you looked. Everywhere accept Ezekiel Elliott.
What a waste!
Elliott and the Cowboys offensive line played well for much of the game even with All-Pro Right Guard Zack Martin missing his first career start and losing starting Left Guard Xavier Su’a-Filo went out with an eye injury.
On the day, Ezekiel Elliott carries the ball 18 times for 87 yards and added another seven receptions for 41. 25 touches for 128 total yards is a good game, but with nothing else going right for the Cowboys it was a game that ultimately didn’t matter.
The one play where Elliott and the offensive line failed to come through was early in the game in a fourth and one that the Colts defense seemed to have snuffed out and blew up from the start. Elliott was able to convert a fourth and one later in the game. It looked like Elliott was close to breaking one for a long run several times but got tripped up at the end of the runs. He was his typical self this week. Taking runs that looked to be going for a loss and turning them into positive gains.
In the race for the NFL's rushing title, Elliott has extended his lead on Todd Gurley to nearly 100 yards rushing. At 1,349 rushing yards on the season, Elliott will have a great shot to set a career high in rushing yards with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants remaining on the schedule. The Bucs have allowed the sixth most rushing yards and the fourth most rushing touchdowns in the NFL this season while the Giants have allowed the fifth most rushing yards and the seventh most rushing touchdowns in 2018.
It was a horrendous loss at a time when the Cowboys could have locked up the NFC East and there is zero excuse for it. They got out coached, out played, and were beaten physically on both sides of the ball and that doesn't happen very often, especially to the defense.
But if we're looking for something positive to take away from this game, it's that with all the offensive line injuries and the poor play of the passing game, Ezekiel Elliott and the running game continues to find ways to shine. With as bad as the loss was, that's something to hang your hat on.
All the Cowboys need to do moving forward is Feed Zeke!
Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Can’t Finish Drives, Division Clinch with Shutout Loss at Colts
What is there to say about the Dallas Cowboys week 15 performance? After five straight wins, the last three coming at home, the Cowboys have only a return home to look forward to, facing the 5-9 Buccaneers on Sunday after a 23-0 defeat at the Colts.
Shutout for the first time since 2003, the Cowboys playoff hopes didn't take a hit despite the Redskins and Eagles winning on the road. Washington's last-second win went final just before the Colts ran the clock out on a game the Cowboys simply weren't ready for.
The Cowboys moved the ball well at times but failed to ever come away with points, opening the door for the Colts to expose this defense like it hasn't been all season. The Cowboys front four was hardly a factor on defense, allowing Colts Running Back Marlon Mack to average 5.1 yards a carry. Scoring the Colts only touchdowns, Mack and Andrew Luck assured the Cowboys running game wouldn't be a factor with their 10-0 halftime lead. Down to three backups at LG, C, and RG, Quarterback Dak Prescott stood little chance to bring the Cowboys back as the second half quickly got away from Dallas.
Internally, the Cowboys will have much more to say about their effort on Sunday, but here are just a few of my observations in the first somber edition of Sean's Scout since week nine.
- The Cowboys defensive problems up front extended well into the second level, with Linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith both playing one of their worst games of the season.
The Colts took a blocked Brett Maher field goal 44 yards for the game's opening score. Mack accounted for 34 of these yards and the touchdown. On his seven yard run to set up first and goal, Smith was caught taking a poor angle on Mack. The Cowboys were aggressive rushing up the field on the play, with Smith ending up being in the best position to slow Mack.
Vander Esch was sealed and couldn't fight to get off, which happened again three plays later on third and goal. Leighton looking like a rookie for the first time was just the start of the Cowboys problems, and with Sean Lee being active yet conceding starting snaps to him, it shouldn't take long for Vander Esch to figure things out again.
- Jamize Olawale's dropped touchdown on third and goal to bring up a failed fourth and one was the moment the Cowboys were taken out of this game.
This sequence was particularly deflating because the Cowboys did a great job getting down the field to have an opportunity to score. The fourth down decision to run out of a heavy formation, inviting extra defenders to the line of scrimmage, looks especially egregious when stacked against the Amari Cooper rush that picked up the Cowboys initial first down. Rookie Tight End Dalton Schultz got involved, Elliott ripped off a 24 yard run, and the Cowboys still came away empty on this drive.
A year removed from coaching the Cowboys linebackers, Colts Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus had his way with Scott Linehan's offense all afternoon, stymieing their most promising drive after Olawale should have scored easily.
- The Cowboys only chance to get back in the game was taken away from them by a Joe Looney holding call, just another example of players that had carried them through a winning streak not playing up to standard.
The Colts took the second half kickoff down the field to extend the lead to 17-0. On fourth and two on the ensuing possession, Prescott hit an injured Cole Beasley for 18 yards to the Colts' 23-yard line. The Cowboys red zone offense certainly doesn't provide the confidence that Dallas would finish the drive, but Looney's hold negated Beasley's catch and forced a punt.
The Colts tacked on a field goal and finished out the game without the Cowboys threatening again. Looney played down to the level of Adam Redmond to his left, who replaced Xavier Su'a-Filo, and Connor Williams in for Zack Martin - though I thought Williams held up fairly well and should be in play to earn more snaps wherever needed.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The Cowboys can regroup and still accomplish everything they set out for this season, forced to make this loss to the Colts and afterthought like their last one to the Titans became. A five game win streak as a response is out of reach, but a streak of just one is all Dallas needs to clinch the NFC East and focus on improvements for the playoffs.
Next Day Rant: Too Many Letdown Games Under Jason Garrett
Yesterday's 23-0 shutout in Indianapolis was one of the ugliest losses the Dallas Cowboys have had during Jason Garrett's tenure as head coach. Even though it probably won't cost them a playoff spot this year, let alone the NFC East title, it still reminds us of a painful history with Garrett's teams.
It takes me back to those 8-8 seasons during Jason's first three years as head coach, when playoff hopes were dashed time and again by that inevitable letdown loss in December.
In 2011, the Cowboys were 8-6 with two games to go. The NFC East was all bunched together, with the division title and playoffs in reach. Dallas fell flat in a 20-7 home loss to the Eagles, then got walloped 31-14 in New York.
2012; Dallas is again 8-6. They lost at home, in overtime, to a Saints team that finished the year 7-9. It robbed them of the chance to make their Week 17 finale against Washington, the eventual division winner, a meaningful game.
2013; Dallas is 7-5 after Thanksgiving. They go 1-3 to finish the year, losing to two teams who finished the year with just 8 wins each.
This loss reminded me of those years, where the team just didn't look hungry or emotionally prepared to play despite having everything to play for. For as much as we've credited Jason Garrett for his work as a motivator and leader, these blemishes can't be ignored.
To be fair, yesterday's game was a recipe for a loss. The Cowboys were riding high on their five-game win streak. They knew that all they needed was one win in their next three games to clinch the NFC East.
Meanwhile, the Colts are part of a cluster of teams vying for the last Wild Card spot in the AFC. One loss could be the difference between playing football in January or preparing for the offseason.
One team was comfortable and maybe a little complacent, and the other was desperate. Throw in home field and having a better quarterback, and Indianapolis was rightly favored to win the game.
But that 3-point spread was one thing, and Dallas losing 23-0 is another.
Other than their upset win over New Orleans, the Cowboys haven't exactly been taking on the cream of the NFL crop during this win streak. Atlanta is 5-9 and the Eagles and Redskins are both just 7-7.
This Colts game was a chance for Dallas to show its mettle against a legitimate playoff contender. They'd failed throughout the year, losing to Carolina, Seattle, Houston, and Tennessee. But that was before they got hot and got Amari Cooper going.
This game needed to be different. But instead, it was very familiar.
Once again, Jason Garrett's Cowboys couldn't seal the deal. They got outclassed by a team which, by all appearances, is equal to them in talent.
Panic mode is silly when it comes to Dallas making the playoffs. If they can't get a win over the next two weeks with the Bucs and Giants on the schedule, they don't deserve to be there anyway.
The Cowboys should still win the NFC East regardless of what happened yesterday, but now the concern is if this team is really ready for the playoffs. Because a legit playoff team just made us look like hot garbage.
In the 2014 and 2016 seasons, we've taken solace in how close those games have been. If the Dez catch had been called correctly, or if Aaron Rodgers hadn't pulled that throw to Jared Cook out of his butt, the Cowboys might have very well advanced to the NFC Championship. They were contenders, and they took those games down to the wire.
But is this Dallas team a contender, or are they going to be the champions of a weak division? Will they compete in January?
That's the scary thought that yesterday's disaster leaves me with. On average, Jason Garrett has these guys motivated to play. Even when you question the X's and O's, the team almost always seems to play hard.
But they didn't in Indianapolis. They appeared to be resting on the laurels of their win streak and seemingly inevitable division title, and that's concerning with playoff games on the horizon.
Maybe this game was exactly the kind of wake-up call that this young roster needed. This isn't 2016 again; you're not rolling into the playoffs as a 13-win juggernaut.
A good coach uses a game like this to help his team learn and grow. It's actually great for them if it eradicates any potential complacency that had set in.
But that means Jason Garrett has to overcome his history. We've been let down too many times already.
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