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Dallas Cowboys’ 2017 Rookies Need to Avoid Sophomore Slumps

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Ranking The Dallas Cowboys Rookies Through Week 8
Dustin Bradford / Getty Images

Right now, it's pretty tough to predict how the 2018 Dallas Cowboys' season will turn out. Even with Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli all returning for next season, there's a lot of change going on in Dallas. The Cowboys will have to deal with a lot of new position coaches as they try to get back to the top after a 9-7 season in 2017.

Obviously, there are a lot of things that'll impact the outcome of this season.

One of those questions hasn't been discussed much. That question is: how will the 2017 rookie class fare in their sophomore seasons? 

In 2016 and 2017, rookies were very important for this franchise.

Two years ago, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott took the NFL by storm, ending the season with a 13-3 record and the #1 seed in the NFC. Anthony Brown looked to be the Cowboys' future shutdown cornerback, and Maliek Collins looked very promising.

Last season, the Cowboys didn't have rookie seasons as spectacular as Dak and Zeke had in 2016 (I don't think we'll see anything similar in the NFL for a long time), but the rookie class ended up being a very important one for sure.

After letting a lot of veteran players walk in free agency, the team went ahead and fixed the secondary by drafting Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in consecutive rounds, and trading up to get Xavier Woods in the sixth.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense?

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis, CB Chidobe Awuzie, S Xavier Woods (AP Photo / Ron Jenkins)

Jourdan Lewis made his presence felt early in the season, while we had to wait a bit to see Chidobe Awuzie in action. Both of them had surprising rookie seasons and they truly look like the future in Dallas' secondary.

Both have shown what they're capable of; we've seen them make plays and turn their heads to the ball... really, something we hadn't seen in a long time.

Ryan Switzer didn't get a chance to play as a wide receiver that much, but he was very impressive as a returner. He still has a long way to go, but I'm betting on Switzer to remain among the NFL's best returners for a long time. After seeing him replace Cole Beasley in the season finale, I'll be shocked if Dallas doesn't give him more playing time on offense next year. He deserves a more important role.

Taco Charlton still has a lot to improve on, but surprisingly, he did a nice job during the final games of the season. It's always premature to call a player a "bust" after a single season, and Taco's been called a bust since the moment he was drafted. Let's give him a chance.

For 2017, we set the bar high for the Cowboys' sophomores.

We thought Dak Prescott would be among the best QBs in the league, that Ezekiel Elliott would pass the 2,000-yard mark, that Anthony Brown would be an ideal CB1, and that Maliek Collins could even lead the team in sacks as a defensive tackle.

There are a lot of reasons this team struggled in 2017, and some of those reasons still preoccupy us when thinking about next season.

The Cowboys will definitely need their 2017 rookies to continue playing quality football. It will be key if they want to leave a painful 9-7 season behind and get back to winning this year.

Here's to hoping the Cowboys' 2018 sophomores avoid the "inevitable slumps." In a season filled with uncertainty, they'll sure be needed.

Tell me what you think about "Dallas Cowboys’ 2017 Rookies Need to Avoid Sophomore Slumps" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



I love to write, I love football and I love the Dallas Cowboys. I've been rooting for America's team all the way from Mexico ever since I can remember. If you want to talk football, I'm in... You'll find me at @PepoR99.

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2 Comments
  • Kevin Black

    Dallas needs to solve their 1-tech issue. Malik Collins will never be a pro bowl 1-tech. That’s not his game. He’s a 3-tech and could be a multi-pro bowler if allowed to play there. I also heard he had a foot issue. The 1-tech will expose those weaknesses fast and probably created the problem since Collins doesn’t have the weight to handle 1-tech on a every play basis.

    I was surprised at Brown’s slippage. He started playing better later in the year, but he definitely lost his confidence. He has the skills and athleticism. He just needs to get his head in the game and forget the bad plays.

    Dak will be fine. Teams learned that he likes open windows to throw to, something just about every college QB prefers. Once defenses found ways to make those openings much tighter, Dak struggled a bit, especially when pressured. Without pressure, he learned to deal with it, but he will get better. He seems to have the work ethic, mindset and ability to get better.

    Zeke needs to mature off-the-field and he will be golden. Of course we could say the same thing about Randy Gregory, but at least Zeke’s issues are addictive, at least to a substance.

    One person not mentioned here is Gathers. I’m hoping the new TE coach will make him a starter this year. I love Witt and can’t wait to see him inducted into the Hall of Fame, but without a true take the top off Z on the squad, we are going to need some crazy athleticism at the TE spot to help out the passing game. Gathers can provide that.

    As for Taco, I was not a fan of the pick, preferring to get Watt, but I never thought Taco would be a bust. I also didn’t think he’d stand out this year. He needed so much technique work it’s amazing he did as well as he did down the stretch. Make no mistake about this though, Taco is not a weak-side pass rusher like Watt. Taco is another strong-side pass rusher who will back up Tank Lawrence, who we will give a seven digit salary too shortly. Seems kind of odd to have a 1st round pick be a backup when Watt would have been a starter, but that’s just me. I think he coaches envisioned Taco as a David Irving starter kit.

    Love the secondary kids. Kind of leaves a question about what to do with Byron if Woods is your real free safety. Jones is not an in the box safety type. I like Frazier and if he can get better, then perhaps we have a solid safety group with Heath in the mix. I doubt a CB will be drafted this year, especially with White on the practice squad, but it’s always a possibility. I think the secondary is solid enough though.

    Can’t wait to see year three Jaylon Smith at MLB. I know a lot of people are worried about Hitchens leaving. I’d be surprised if he stayed. I fully expect a team with a lot of cap space to use it up and snatch Hitchens. With Smith at MLB though, Hitchens becomes a bit of a third wheel. He could definitely man the SAM or have Smith slide over to the SAM, but at what price. If Hitchens leaves, we should get a good compensation pick next year for him, so it wouldn’t be a total loss if he signed elsewhere.

    This draft might end up being more critical than people might imagine. Having McClay stick around is a major coup here. He’s so ready to be a GM it’s not funny, but perhaps he doesn’t like the contract side of things and likes how his job allows him to do what he likes best. This draft will be important for his legacy. it could put the Cowboys in the playoff hunt for years to come or get Garrett fired. I like Garrett and I’m glad he’s still out head coach, but if he has another bad season, he won’t be, and that’s how it should be. You stumble, let’s see how you fix it. Can’t fix it and it’s time to get someone else. That’s how important this draft could be.

    I’ve rambled enough. Great story about the rookies. Enjoyed it.

  • Steve

    I agree KB with alot of what u said, I wasn’t as high on Brown as some, but maybe we draft 1 CB/SS this year. I believe it would be beneficial to try our best to keep Hitch, because he can play all 3 LB spots and play them well but I agree at what cost? I’m thinking a DT in 1st round or WR unless someone we covet drops into our laps at 19 but that’s a long way to drop. I look at this year as a make or break for Garrett and Co. but I do like alot of the position coach changes that were needed. Richards could prove to be a huge pickup this yr and I do believe if we are to make a jump we need to be active and make at least 1 plunge into free agency and show that we are building thru the draft but all along keeping our eyes open for that 1 to make out team so much better. Who it is? I don’t know that answer Maybe trade for Thomas or Vac of the saints so that we can have that proven leader that’s needed in the secondary while Lee can take care of the rest. Alot of questions to be answered and I hope that we continue to improve without jeopardizing our window of opportunity!

Star Blog

Should the Dallas Cowboys Trade for These 2 Oakland Raiders?

John Williams

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Should the Cowboys Make a Trade for These Oakland Raiders?

The trade deadline on October 30th will be here faster than we know. It's the final opportunity that NFL teams will have an opportunity to make a significant upgrade to their roster. And if you're a frequent reader of the Dallas Cowboys, then you know that the Dallas Cowboys could use some help, especially on the offensive side of the football.

On Thursday, Marcus Mosher from The Raiders Wire on USA Today posed a hypothetical trade involving the Dallas Cowboys. In his scenario, he has the Dallas Cowboys trading for Wide Receiver Amari Cooper and thinks that Cooper could net the Raiders a top 75 draft selection.

Amari Cooper is a good wide receiver, but he's not a receiver I would trade a top-75 pick for. Cooper is a player that has a lot of talent, but has struggled with drops and inconsistency. Even now, with the Raiders he's having a hard time getting consistent opportunities.

Cooper's second on the team in targets, but third on the team in receptions behind a tight end and a running back. Cooper's also third on the team in yardage behind the two guys that I'd be way more interested in trading for; Tight End Jared Cook and Wide Receiver Jordy Nelson.

Yes, these guys are on the wrong side of 30, but they are guys that have been around a long time and can help your offense this season. Both would be upgrades at the position, even at their advanced NFL age.

Jared Cook - Tight End

You've heard the adage, "if you can't beat em, join em." Well, this is the reverse of that. "If he always beats you, acquire him."

That's what Oakland Raiders Tight End Jared Cook is to the Dallas Cowboys. Point of evidence.

Game Winning Jared Cook Catch Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys

Uploaded by Kafin Walker on 2017-01-16.

That remarkable catch by Jared Cook still haunts me and many of you in Cowboys Nation. It was a perfectly thrown ball by Aaron Rodgers and Cook made an incredible catch along the sidelines that led to Mason Crosby's game-winning field goal at the end of regulation.

Jared Cook's Oakland Raiders team isn't going anywhere this season. They're already four games back of the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs and the AFC is looking deeper than it has in recent years. The Raiders and the Indianapolis Colts are the only teams in the NFC with less than two losses. That means there are 14 teams with better records than Jon Gruden's Oakland squad. This week the Raiders face a Seattle Seahawks team that beat the Dallas Cowboys and lost by only a couple of points to the undefeated Los Angeles Rams.

Cook has been one of the better tight ends in the NFL this season and would be a veteran presence that the Dallas Cowboys could add if they felt like they could make a run at the playoffs.

At 31, Cook is averaging six catches and 78 yards receiving per game. He'd give the Dallas Cowboys someone they could run on post, corner, and seam routes to challenge safeties deep. Something that they're lacking from the tight end position at the moment. Cook is leading the Oakland Raiders in targets, receptions, yards, and is second on the Raiders in touchdowns in 2018.

No offense to Geoff Swaim, who's been surprisingly good this year, but Jared Cook makes this offense better. He allows you to make Rico Gathers your TE3, which would allow Rico to continue learning the game without the responsibility of being a primary target on certain pass plays.

Jared Cook is in the last season of his deal, so you wouldn't have to be committed to him beyond 2018. The perfect rental who could step in and play pretty quickly.

Jordy Nelson - Wide Receiver

I know this team is allergic to adding veteran players, especially veterans over 30, but Jordy Nelson is another name that they should take a long look at.

At 33 years of age, Nelson leads the Raiders in receiving touchdowns and is second on the team with 15.9 yards per reception. He's also third in receptions and second in yards.

His numbers -- 20 receptions for 317 yards and three touchdowns -- would lead the Dallas Cowboys in all receiving categories.

Nelson's still got some juice left and he's always been a good route runner with good hands.

Here are some highlights from Jordy's week three performance against the Miami Dolphins.

Jordy Nelson Can't Be Stopped w/ 173 Yards & 1 TD vs. Miami!

Check out Jordy Nelson highlights, racking up 173 yards receiving! The Oakland Raiders take on the Miami Dolphins during Week 3 of the 2018 NFL season. Subscribe to NFL: http://j.mp/1L0bVBu Check out our other channels: NFL Vault http://www.youtube.com/nflvault NFL Network http://www.youtube.com/nflnetwork NFL Films http://www.youtube.com/nflfilms NFL Rush http://www.youtube.com/nflrush #NFL #Raiders #JordyNelson

Nelson doesn't have any guarantees left on the deal he signed this past offseason so if you cut him in the 2019 offseason, you'd get zero dead money added to your 2019 salary cap, but would get $7.2 million in savings.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Because of their age and the fact that they'd likely be one-year rentals, I don't imagine that you'd have to give up much more than a fifth round pick for either of these guys. And while I don't think the Dallas Cowboys would take a look at trading for either veteran, it's something they should do if they have aspirations of making the playoffs in 2018.

The Dallas Cowboys offense could use a boost.

What's the most you'd be willing to offer for either Jordy Nelson or Jared Cook?

 



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Cowboys’ Issues Are Deeper Than The Division Race

Kevin Brady

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Are The Cowboys' Players Unhappy With Their Playbook?
Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News

Yesterday, Inside The Star staff writer Jess Haynie posed an interesting question: "could the wide-open NFC East help Jason Garrett's job security?"

The Dallas Cowboys started off their season a disappointing 2-3, but despite this rough start, they are right in the thick of things in the NFC East. The defending champion Eagles, who most expected to run away with the division, are now just 3-3. The lowly New York Giants are probably done at 1-5, and the Washington Redskins looked pathetic on Monday night, dropping to 2-2.

This division looks average at best, though I still somewhat expect the Eagles' talent to take over at some point and allow them to make a run. Still the Cowboys are alive, and if they can pull off the upset at home this Sunday, they may even be in first place come Monday morning.

So, Jess fairly asks, could this help Jason Garrett and the Cowboys' coaching staff keep their jobs? After all, it's rare you see an owner change coaches after remaining competitive within the division throughout most of the prior season. And given Jason Garrett's relationship with Jerry Jones, it might take an awful season to see any real change occur.

Here's the thing: this team could win the division at 9-7, and it would still be time for changes. Incompetence of others does not mean that you are competent, even if you are competent in comparison to those others.

The Cowboys have players openly questioning play calls, alluding to lack of trust in the quarterback, and pretty consistent drama swirling around the locker room. Yes, some of that is the media created Cowboy drama we always see, but there is disfunction within the organization without a doubt.

As a franchise the Cowboys need new blood in the building. To be honest, they could use a general manager separate from the Jones family name, but that is very unlikely to ever happen. So we focus on the coaching staff, specifically on the offensive side of the ball where the Cowboys have struggled the most.

Dallas is 29th in passing yards, 28th in passing yards per attempt, and tied for 26th in passing touchdowns through five weeks. Plainly put, they're horrible, and bringing back an offensive minded head coach and/or offensive coordinator who oversaw this terrible passing offense is counterproductive.

Regardless of where the Cowboys stand within this average division, they need to look themselves in the mirror this offseason. They need to be seriously comparing themselves to teams like the Rams (and not by lying to themselves like Jerry Jones did), not the 1-5 Giants.

The Cowboys should be striving for more than just being the best of a group of average football teams, and if that means cutting ties with Jason Garrett, then so be it.



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Opposition Outlook: Versatile T.J. Yeldon Too Much for Dallas Cowboys?

John Williams

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Opposition Outlook: TJ Yeldon Will be a Problem for the Dallas Cowboys

If you haven't heard the news yet, then let me be the first to tell you. Jacksonville Jaguars Running Back Leonard Fournette has been ruled out of this week's matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Jaguars. Don't let his absence fool you, though, T.J. Yeldon is a back that can hurt the Cowboys in many ways.

T.J. Yeldon was the Jaguars second round pick out of Alabama in the 2015 NFL Draft and was expected to be a featured back for them. That never really materialized and the Jaguars then went out and selected Fournette early in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Yeldon is now more of a passing game back for the AFC South contender, but with Fournette out, he's getting an opportunity in a full-time role. He's not at all the same back as Fournette, as Yeldon has much more ability in the passing game.

Already in 2018, Yeldon's caught 22 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns, which is more than any Dallas Cowboys wide receiver this season. T.J. Yeldon's averaging 8.8 yards per reception to go along with his 4.4 yards per carry on the season.

He's averaging 90 total yards per game on 16 touches and a touchdown a game. Even when Fournette was active in weeks one and four, Yeldon still received 17 and 21 touches in those games.

He's not at all an afterthought in the Jaguars offense and shouldn't be as the Dallas Cowboys defense prepares to stop them in week five.

Here's how he ranks among running backs with at least 24 targets:

  • Tied for second in receiving touchdowns.
  • 11th in receiving yards.
  • 14th in reception percentage.
  • Eighth in targets
  • 10th in receptions
  • Fourth in yards per reception
  • Seventh in yards after catch
  • Fifth in yards after catch per receptions.
  • Sixth in receptions that led to a first down.
  • Second in drops.
  • He has the 10th highest quarterback rating among running backs when targeted.

T.J. Yeldon isn't the best back in the NFL, but as a dual purpose back, he's really good. He's 15th in the NFL in total yards and for two of those games he was sharing the load with a former top five pick.

The Dallas Cowboys have been really good against the run this season. They've allowed the 11th fewest rushing yards and their 3.4 yards per carry allowed ranks tied for second in the NFL. Where they've struggled is with running backs in the passing game.

Through five weeks this season, they've allowed running backs to go for 47.6 yards per game. In weeks one, two, and five, they allowed 66 yards receiving to Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and Alfred Blue.

If there's an area where the Jaguars can exploit the Dallas Cowboys defense, it will be in targeting T.J. Yeldon in the passing game. Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and (hopefully if he plays) Sean Lee will be enough to slow him down and make Blake Bortles take chances down the field.



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