There are few areas of the 2009 Dallas Cowboys that can be depicted as being "soft", but there is one area in particular that is of great concern, moving forward. The offensive line of the Cowboys must be better next year in order for this team to continue to progress.
Last Sunday in Minnesota, Tony Romo spent the majority of the afternoon running for his life, and the rest of the day on his back. To put it mildly the Cowboys offensive line played miserably in every way.
The players would probably say they just had a bad day, and they would be wrong. Marc Colombo, Doug Free, Andre Gurode, Kyle Kosier, and Leonard Davis were outplayed, out worked, and just downright beaten.
I've heard fans discussing their displeasure with the play calling of Jason Garrett, and specifically his supposed fascination with the delayed runs. Jason Garrett fell in love with that type of running play for only one reason—it was/is the best way he could think of to disguise the Cowboys' problems along the line.
For being one of the largest lines in the league this line plays extremely soft and lacks a nasty streak.
Marc Colombo was supposed to be a big lift for this unit, if for no other reason than his nasty streak. Unfortunately, for everyone involved, that did not happen. Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards (a solid DE, but far from being All Pro) repeatedly blew past Colombo like he was a street walker begging for change. And let's be honest, as well as Doug Free played in his absence, he would have no chance against Jared Allen.
The Cowboys tried to slow the bleeding by keeping extra blockers in—the Vikings just pinned their ears back and attacked the soft interior of the Dallas line.
The Cowboys have some work to do here, and that work is going to start with upgrading the tackle position.
Flozell Adams has been one of the best left tackles in the game for a long time, but his best years are far behind him. The time is now to find his successor.
Marc Colombo has been great for the Cowboys (outside of last week in Minnesota) but his spot will be heavily evaluated by the coaching staff.
Last year Dallas drafted Robert Brewster with the hope that he could come in and eventually take over one of those tackle spots. However, Brewster went down early with an injury and never played a snap in 2009.
The Offensive line will most assuredly be addressed in this year’s draft. But just who are the most viable players?
Let's take a look...
Russell Okung - Senior Tackle from Oklahoma State 6'5" 300 lbs.
Graded by many as the best Tackle in this year’s draft, some throughout this year even said that he may have a shot at being the first overall selection. While he was not the starter at the beginning of his freshman season at OSU, by game 6 of that year he was and he never looked back. Okung is an athletic tackle with quick feet. He's able to handle the edge-speed rushers, yet still strong enough to handle the bull rush. Coming from the pass happy Big 12 afforded him the opportunities to hone his pass protection skills, but don't think for a second that he's a one-trick-pony.
He is an excellent run blocking tackle and his agility and quickness allow him to get out in front and open huge holes.
Russell will be long gone by the time the Cowboys make their first selection as it stands now, but if management feels that they need to replace Flo quickly, this would be the guy to move up in the draft for.
Anthony Davis - Junior Tackle from Rutgers 6'6" 325 lbs.
Anthony Davis is one of the top offensive linemen in the nation, and before that he was one of the top prep offensive linemen in the nation, and odds are very good that he will be a top offensive lineman in the NFL.
Davis has been a man among boys in the Big East conference.
As a sophomore in 2008 he was second team all conference. As a freshman he was a First Team Freshman All America at Rutgers.
Anthony Davis is the Prototypical NFL Left Tackle—he is big, strong, agile, and moves extremely well for a big man. Davis will likely be on the board in the vicinity of where Dallas selects in the first round, and if he is there, Dallas would have a very difficult time letting him get away.
Bryan Bulaga - Junior Tackle from Iowa 6'6" 312 lbs.
Bryan Bulaga is just another outstanding offensive lineman to come out of Lineman U. (Iowa). Bryan began his collegiate career as a Guard and he started five games at that spot as a freshman.
The following spring he became the starting left tackle at Iowa, where he has remained the last two years.
Bulaga is big and has exceptionally quick feet for his size. He has very long arms which he uses superbly to run speed-rusher’s right of the play. While he is not as strong as a Joe Thomas or Jake Long, he's still very young and has the body to accommodate some added bulk. Bulaga is an excellent pass blocker—his main priority will be to focus on his run blocking. As with Anthony Davis, he will be in the Cowboys area code and it'll be hard to pass him by.
Trent Williams - Senior Tackle from Oklahoma 6'5" 318 lbs.
Trent Williams is a very large human being. He has all the physical attributes that one would look for in a Left Tackle. Trent started his career at Oklahoma as a right Tackle, and was only just moved to left tackle before the 2009 season. He's a very solid Tackle but in my opinion he's an underachiever.
This was the year he was supposed to be a dominant force for Oklahoma, but if any of you watched any Sooner games this year what you saw was an extremely porous line, and it was Trent Williams leading the charge.
Trent Williams will more than likely be drafted among the first four or five linemen taken, and will more than likely never make any kind of contribution. Please Dallas, stay away.
Charles Brown - Senior Tackle from USC 6'5" 290 lbs.
Charles Brown is yet another athletic lineman to emerge from USC.
While at USC he played as a "light" tackle (light as far as NFL standards go) but he has the frame to accommodate some extra bulk without it affecting his athleticism. He's very fast and agile coming out of his stance, and has above average mobility, body control, balance, and change of direction skills.
His major flaw, however, is his lack of physicality, power, and mass.
He struggles with holding his ground against the bull rusher. Brown has a ton of upside and could step right in and perform well in pass protection. But it will take time, bulk, and strength to improve his run blocking. He could be a very nice 2nd or 3rd round selection for Dallas.
Bruce Campbell - Senior Tackle from Maryland 6'7" 310 lbs.
Campbell has all the tools—length, athleticism, size, and good footwork—to be an exceptional tackle in the NFL.
He sets up quickly, is able to correct and recover, gets to the second level, and is exceptional in space.
As a run blocker he seals very well and get this folks, he is the perfect tackle fit for a team that likes to run screens and delayed runs! However, where there is good there is always bad. Campbell is still pretty raw. Yes, he is an elite pass blocker, but his run blocking needs quite a bit of work.
He's just not aggressive enough in the run game.
He sometimes gets lazy with his technique and has been known to lose the leverage battle. There were a few times at Maryland that he appeared to have a case of the don’t want to's but that team was awful and he was young. But he'll have to prove his dedication. This guy is the wild card of the bunch, he could be a top 20 pick or he could fall to the 3rd or 4th round.
2020 RB Options for the Cowboys if Things Turn Ugly With Ezekiel Elliott
The Dallas Cowboys could have a Le'Veon Bell-type situation on their hands in regards to Ezekiel Elliott. It's been reported Zeke is contemplating a holdout until his financial demands are met by way of a contract extension. This could put the Cowboys between a rock and a hard place.
Ezekiel Elliott is technically still under contract for two more seasons because of the fifth-year option he carries as a former first-round draft pick. Threatening to hold out seems a little premature, but Zeke has the Cowboys by the short hairs right now, meaning the leverage is on his side.
This is a situation that could, unfortunately, turn ugly, and quickly.
Check out Ep. 6 of Cowboys Weekly - Segment 1 for more discussion from Inside The Star on Ezekiel Elliott's Hold-Out situation:
The Cowboys have several other mouths to feed and Zeke may not be at the top the list considering his continued immaturity issues off the field. His on-field production is undeniable, but so are the red flags that keep popping up. It may be time for Dallas to look for his successor and fortunately, the 2020 running back draft class is a pretty good place to start.
Let's take a look…
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
Jonathan Taylor (5'11", 219) would probably be the ideal candidate to replace Ezekiel Elliott for the Dallas Cowboys. He is one of the more productive collegiate running backs expected to enter the 2020 NFL Draft and has the intangibles that are eerily similar to Zeke as far as size, speed, and power are concerned. Unfortunately, that likely makes him a top 10 selection, putting him out of reach of the Cowboys.
Taylor doesn't come without his warts though. As a true Junior, he's seen a lot of action in his three years as the starting RB for the Badgers. That wear-and-tear is a cause for concern because it could lead to durability issues once in the NFL. He also has struggled with his ball security. He's put the ball on the ground 12 times in the last two seasons, which will need to be cleaned up at the next level. But, there's no denying his talent.
D'Andre Swift, Georgia
D'Andre Swift (5'9", 215) is one of my favorite RB options in the 2020 draft class to replace Ezekiel Elliott if things turn ugly with the Dallas Cowboys. He doesn't have the same kind of production as Jonathan Taylor and is still somewhat under the radar because he's been stuck in a committee with the Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and Elijah Holyfield the last two years. But mark my words, he will be the next great RB to enter the NFL out of Georgia. Swift could be as ideal of a candidate to replace Zeke as there is.
Dallas likes an inside runner with zone vision as well as someone who can be a threat in the passing game, and D'Andre fits the bill. Despite being a little smaller in size than Zeke, he still possesses the power to run inside. Then throw in his receiving ability, 32 catches for 297 yards and three touchdowns last season, and you have someone who is more than capable of replacing #21's offensive production. He's projected to be a late first-round pick, which could put him within striking distance of the Cowboys.
J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State
J.K. Dobbins (5'10", 214) could be someone who is already on the Dallas Cowboys' radar as a potential Ezekiel Elliott replacement. They seem to have a liking for Ohio State running backs (Zeke, Rod Smith, Mike Weber) and could turn to another Buckeye to carry the rock. Dobbins, an all-purpose back and native Texan (Houston, TX) checks all of the boxes the Cowboys typically look for in their featured back.
Dobbins has the size, speed, and vision to be a featured back in the NFL. He has rushed for over 1,000 yards his last two seasons while splitting time with Mike Weber and has averaged about 200 receiving yards during that time span as well. He's not the most physical back, but he keeps moving his feet upon contact. He also needs to improve in pass protection in order to become a true three-down RB in the NFL. But his vision, shorter area quickness, elusiveness, and patience as a runner are all top-notch.
Travis Etienne, Clemson
The breakout season of Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, unfortunately, overshadowed the Heisman-worthy year Travis Etienna (5'10", 200) had in 2018. In his first year as a starter, he rushed for 1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns, all the while averaging an impressive 8.1 yards per carry. If he can follow that up in 2019 he could become the most coveted back in the 2020 draft class and become a really intriguing option for the Dallas Cowboys.
Etienne will probably need to add a little bit more "good weight" and muscle to his frame if he wants to be considered a featured back in the NFL. If he can accomplish that and not lose any of his elusiveness or speed he should climb up draft boards. If not, he may not be of much interest to the Cowboys because they already have a similar RB in Tony Pollard. He does possess plug-and-play talent though, making him a potential Ezekiel Elliott replacement.
Najee Harris, Alabama
Najee Harris (6'2", 230) is yet another big, physical running back who has had to remain patient and wait his turn at Alabama, but 2019 could be his breakout season. With Bo Scarbrough, Josh Jacobs, and Damien Harris ahead of him on the depth chart the last two years, Najee saw limited playing time. But, when he did receive the opportunity to showcase his skill set he didn't disappoint. His physical talent could make him a top-5 running back come draft time.
Despite his limited playing time last the two seasons, he averaged over 6 yards a carry. He rushed for a career-high 783 yards and four touchdowns on just 117 carries in 2018 and should easily surpass those totals this season. In doing so he should become one of the more sought after RBs in the 2020 draft class. With the Cowboys, as Zeke's potential replacement, his physicality would pair nicely with Tony Pollard's slashing style. A Harris/Pollard duo could be just as productive as the Cowboys running game has been in the past.
The above five running backs are all potential Ezekiel Elliott replacements who I really like and will likely receive the most national attention due to the programs in which they play. But, they are only a few in what looks like a really strong 2020 RB draft class. Here a few honorable mentions you should also keep a close eye on as well.
- Cam Akers, Florida State
- Eno Benjamin, Arizona State
- Kennedy Brooks, Oklahoma
- Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt
- Kylin Hill, Mississippi State
I believe any of these running backs mentioned above at any point in the article could be in play for the Dallas Cowboys if they choose to play hardball with Ezekiel Elliott over his want for a contract extension. The 2020 running back draft class has a plethora of potential starters and this could be in the back of the Cowboys mind when they're determining where they want to spend their money. Paying top dollar for an RB might not fit in their budget, even for one as talented as Zeke.
Do you like any of these potential RBs as replacements for Ezekiel Elliott?
Cowboys Draft: Reviewing Kansas DT Daniel Wise
Throughout the post draft media process, the Cowboys' decision makers have been adamant that they found multiple draft-able players in undrafted free agency this year. Each of which, of course, will have an opportunity to compete for a roster or practice squad spot this summer.
One of those players who almost certainly had a draft-able grade despite fall through all seven rounds, is Kansas defensive tackle Daniel Wise.
At 6'3" and 290 pounds, Wise projects as a 3-technique in the NFL, and should compete for that very role on the Cowboys defense. Wise is not an overly bendy or athletic player, but he has a good initial quickness which allows him to penetrate gaps well. Wise plays with excellent effort, having the type of motor that I'm sure Rod Marinelli valued highly during the pre-draft evaluations.
A strong and powerful interior presence, Wise can offer some upside as a pass rusher as well. He has quick, active, and heavy hands. When combining his hands with his get-off, Wise is a real threat as a pass rusher. Maybe his most impressive pass rushing quality, however, is the effort which he plays with. Never giving up on a play, you'll have to block Wise until the final whistle or he will threaten for effort sacks.
In college, Wise was often asked to be a two-gap defender from the 5-technique, but that's just not where he'll be at his best. Rather, he should be used in the role the Cowboys likely envision for him, allowing him to play with power at the point of attack and disrupt the running game.
But what are Daniel Wise's chances of even making the team?
The Cowboys made a concerted effort to improve their defensive line this offseason, specifically on the interior. By adding free agents like Kerry Hyder and drafting Trysten Hill 58th overall, Dallas has improved what was considered a weakness during the postseason a year ago.
Not all of these talented defensive tackles will make the team, though, it's simply a numbers a game. And cutting an undrafted free agent will certainly be easier to do than cutting someone who will be owed real money, or was acquired through premium draft capital.
Regardless, Daniel Wise will have the chance to prove his worth during training camp and the preseason. And based on how he projects through his college tape and physical attributes, he'll likely make those final decisions very difficult on the Cowboys' staff.
Pre-Draft Visitors Highlight Dallas Cowboys 2019 Rookie Class
The Dallas Cowboys are "officially" adding 21 rookies to their roster, eight of which they drafted and the remaining 13 are undrafted free agents. The number of rookies the Cowboys are bringing in isn't all that surprising, but what did surprise me was how many of them were pre-draft visitors.
You may or may not know, but the NFL allows 30 allotted pre-draft visits for each team around the league. Teams don't have to use all 30 visits of course, but the majority of them take advantage of the opportunity and generally use up all 30 visits. It's a chance to introduce these rookies into the atmosphere they could be playing in and work them out in more of a one-on-one basis.
The Dallas Cowboys of course are known as a team who take their 30 pre-draft visits very seriously. Over the past several years they've drafted several players who were brought in for pre-draft visits, and 2019 was no exception.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, paying attention to the Dallas Cowboys 30 pre-draft visits is a good idea because the odds of them drafting one or more of them is pretty high. That's why I decided to run a pre-draft tracker this year, and because of it I was able to confirm 27 of the possible 30 pre-draft visitors for the Cowboys.
Here are 2019 pre-draft visitors currently on the Cowboys roster:
- DT, Trysten Hill
- RB, Tony Pollard
- RB, Mike Weber
- WR, Jon'Vea Johnson
- CB, Chris Westry
If you're doing the math, 5 out of 30 equates to 17% of the players the Dallas Cowboys brought in as pre-draft visitors. But, if Dallas only brought in 27 that percentage rises to 19%. To say that the Cowboys value these pre-draft visits would be an understatement, at least as far as 2019 is concerned.
The first three of Trysten Hill, Tony Pollard, and Mike Weber were of course all draft picks and have the best chance to stick around on the final 53-man roster, but I wouldn't rule out Jon'Vea Johnson and Chris Westry. Both were draftable players, but somehow fell through the cracks right into the lap of the Cowboys as UFAs.
I don't really know if it's a good idea the Dallas Cowboys are so transparent with how valuable the treat these 30 pre-draft visits. We've seen teams time and time again trade up right in front of them to draft a player the Cowboys could've possibly been eyeing, and this year was no exception.
After drafting Running Back/Wide Receiver Tony Pollard with the first of their fourth-round draft picks, it looked like the Dallas Cowboys had their sights set on small school Defensive End/Defensive Tackle John Cominsky out of Charleston with their second pick in the fourth. Unfortunately, the Atlanta Falcons traded up a spot ahead of them to draft Cominsky.
This of course isn't the first time the Falcons have done this, which begs the question as to how they knew the Cowboys could have possibly been targeting Cominsky. We can throw a conspiracy theory out there that Atlanta might have been inside source, but that's highly unlikely. More plausible theory is they were paying attention to Dallas' 30 pre-draft visitors as well.
It may be time for the Dallas Cowboys to deploy a little more smoke and mirrors when it comes to who they bring in for pre-draft visits in the future. But regardless, there's no denying the Cowboys pre-draft visitors highlight their 2019 rookie class.
Are you surprised the Dallas Cowboys added so many pre-draft visitors to the roster?
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