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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 @PepoR99 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

Could a Former Division Rival be Cowboys’ LG Solution?

Brian Martin

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Could Former Division Rival be Cowboys' OG Solution?

When it comes to prioritizing the Dallas Cowboys offseason needs, offensive guard is definitely near the top of the list. Opinions will certainly vary, but for me, solidifying the offensive line with a new starting left guard is the top priority for the Cowboys.

I know many of you will disagree and believe the Dallas Cowboys need to continue to upgrade their defense. But, this teams success or failure will be determined by how their offensive line performs. That's just the way the Cowboys are built, which is why they have invested so heavily putting this unit together.

Four out of five of the Dallas Cowboys starting offensive line is set in stone, but there is currently no one on the roster to step into the vacant left guard position unless you want to see the coaching staff give Chaz Green another try.

No, I didn't think so.

With the start of the 2018 free agency just a few weeks away, the Dallas Cowboys have certainly narrowed down some of the potential free agents they would be interested in bringing aboard if the price is right. Remember, they have turned into "bargain shoppers".

There are a few intriguing free agent options who I believe could step in to upgrade the LG position for the Cowboys next season, and not break the bank. One such option is a former division rival of the New York Giants, Justin Pugh.

Justin Pugh

New York Giants OL Justin Pugh

The former 19th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft has spent five years in New York while playing out his rookie contract, but that time has come to an end. The Giants aren't likely to re-sign him, which means he will get his first taste of free agency.

Justin Pugh could step in and be an immediate upgrade over what the Dallas Cowboys employed at the left guard position in 2017. He has exceptional mobility. He reaches the second level with ease and plays with good body control and footwork. He is a perfect fit in a zone blocking scheme like the Cowboys employ.

Pugh is also versatile. He has played both right tackle and offensive guard for the Giants. He of course would be asked to play between Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith at LG with the Cowboys, but versatility to play another position is never a bad thing.

Unfortunately, Pugh doesn't come without baggage. He has missed a total of 13 games over the last two seasons with the Giants, including eight last season due to a back injury. This is definitely a huge red flag, especially for the Cowboys after dealing with the same issue with Tyron Smith.

But, this is why Justin Pugh will likely be in the Cowboys price range. Sportrac currently estimates his contract at 4 years at $23,983,847, which equates to $5,995,968 annually. I personally think that's a little low for someone of Pugh's caliber and versatility, but it certainly understandable when you take into account his recent injury history.

I personally think this is a longshot to happen because  the Cowboys would prefer to go younger and cheaper, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Do you think Justin Pugh makes sense for the Cowboys?


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Star Blog

Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition
Andy Lyons / Getty Images

Sadly, we can't wake up on Sundays to NFL football. The Dallas Cowboys are not on TV every week for us to watch them play. To make matters worse, we'll have to wait until September to get real football from our favorite team.

But that doesn't mean there's nothing to talk about until then! For the die-hard Cowboys fan, the offseason should be quite entertaining. Free agency will begin in March, and it should be an intense one for Dallas.

They need to handle a tight salary cap while trying to add a bit of help for this football team. Recently, Inside The Star Contributor John Williams wrote an in-depth piece about the Cowboys' cap situation and how they can manage to get things done, despite having little cap space right now.

Last season, I wrote a weekly Cowboys Wishlist about things I wanted to see for each game. Now there are no games, but I decided to write a special edition for this upcoming free agency.

Cowboys en Español: El Futuro de David Irving y DeMarcus Lawrence

Dallas Cowboys DL David Irving, DeMarcus Lawrence (Kevin Jairaj / USA TODAY Sports)

Wish #1: Keep The Rushmen

The front office will have one hell of a challenge trying to retain all of its free agents. The two most important ones may be their two defensive linemen. If they can keep them, DL won't be a top need heading to the Draft.

Lawrence is one of the biggest names in free agency this 2018, but the Cowboys should find a way to keep him from ever being available.

If they're able to franchise tag him, that'd be the way to go since he's only had one elite season in his four-year career and they may not want to sign him to a huge long-term deal and risk not seeing the same guy next season.

David Irving is a more polarizing player, with off-the-field issues. However, he's been a very disruptive guy and he has the chance to be a unique player. His talent is really out of this world. Keeping him and Irving would give this franchise a top defensive line for the first time in many years.

Anthony Hitchens 1

Dallas Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchens (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Wish #2: Pay Anthony Hitchens

When healthy, Sean Lee is one of the NFL's top linebackers. He is simply an outstanding player who's always around the ball and seems to know where the ball is going before the opposing coach even calls the play.

The problem is, he has a lot of trouble remaining available. Anthony Hitchens is a guy who's found the way to step up every time the General is out, and he's shown a great progression as a player year after year.

Lee will be 32 by the time the season starts, giving Dallas something to think about. Hitchens is a guy capable of starting and competing in the NFL. If the front office finds a way to keep him, they'll be getting closer to being less "Sean Lee-dependent."

Wish #3: Get Seattle Seahawks' Earl Thomas

When we talk about a potential big name addition to the Dallas Cowboys, we're usually a bit pessimistic. This team isn't one that makes splashes like this, but Earl Thomas to Dallas makes a ton of sense. Former Seahawks' defensive coordinator is now the Cowboys' defensive backs' coach.

With Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis (and maybe Byron Jones moving to CB), this team will have a promising secondary. Add Earl Thomas, and it will go from "promising" to "great" in a heartbeat.

The Cowboys could not only have a top DL, but a top secondary if they're able to get this veteran.

Let's hope the Cowboys listen to Thomas and they go get him.

A Case For Dez Bryant Remaining a Dallas Cowboy in 2018

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Wish #4: Get Dez Bryant to Take a Pay Cut

When I started writing this, I wanted to add a "get this wide receiver in FA"... but I won't. A few weeks ago, I wrote a case in favor and one against Dez Bryant remaining a Cowboy in 2018. Personally, I would be fine with him parting ways with the team.

However, I'm aware of how hard it can be finding a replacement for a guy like #88. The biggest issue with Dez is definitely his cap hit. He hasn't justified the money he's being paid on the field as he should be.

If they can get him to take a pay cut, it may end up being the ideal scenario for the Dallas Cowboys.

It'll be a very interesting offseason, and here at Inside The Star we'll continue to provide you with content about it all.

Tell me what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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!


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Star Blog

Switzer and Beasley: A Dilemma for Cowboys’ 2018 Offseason

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Switzer and Beasley: A Dilemma for Cowboys' 2018 Offseason

When the Dallas Cowboys drafted Ryan Switzer in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Cowboys Nation rejoiced. By some, including myself, the product out of North Carolina was considered a steal by America's Team. Taking a guy who could contribute from day one for special teams and for the offense was something to be happy about.

At the time, WR didn't look like much of a need. Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley were staying in Dallas and Terrance Williams had just been re-signed (little did we know he'd fail to score a single touchdown in 2017) pushing the receiver position down the team needs list.

But the front office had landed a very productive slot receiver from North Carolina. On top of that, they found a guy to replace Lucky Whitehead as a return specialist. However, offseason hype took over a large amount of Cowboys' fans, writers and analysts and the expectations for Switzer were very big.

Will Ryan Switzer see an Increased Offensive Role in 2018?

Dallas Cowboys WR Ryan Switzer

Naturally, he was compared to Cole Beasley since people started talking about him as an NFL prospect. His height, skills and playing style were similar and with the Cowboy veteran coming off from a big year in 2016, people were excited for what Switzer could do as a professional football player.

But it wasn't just about the rookie returning punts and kickoffs, it was about him contributing to an offense that already had a great slot receiver. Cowboys Nation was excited to see Switzer and Beasley on the field at the same time.

That never happened.

Switzer barely saw playing time in 2017 and when he was on the field as a WR, he was limited to running or faking jet sweeps. The coaching staff misused him and we didn't get to see him get a lot of snaps until the final week of the season, when #11 was injured.

And it was that same week when we saw what he was capable of. Switz showed how talented he is and how he can beat NFL defensive backs when he was asked to do so.

Cowboys Offense: More Hot Sauce Needed From Cole Beasley 3

Dallas Cowboys WR Cole Beasley (Matthew Emmons / USA TODAY)

With a busy offseason and a tight salary cap, the Dallas Cowboys' front office will be considering a lot of possibilities. One of them will be the future of Cole Beasley. Releasing him would free up more than $3M in cap space.

I know a large amount of Cowboys' fans prefer to see Dez Bryant gone over him, but we can't deny that there's already a clear replacement for Beasley in Switzer.

The Cowboys wanted Switzer to be a returner and a receiver for them, but if they're going to use him just as a gadget player on offense... was the fourth-round pick worth it? If you're not going to use one of them, why have two players who are very similar on your roster?

Cowboys Nation loves Cole Beasley, as they should. I for one wouldn't want to see #11 on another team. Even still, it's only fair to admit that it would make sense for Dallas if they were to say goodbye to one of their most beloved players.

Tell me what you think about "Switzer and Beasley: A Dilemma for Cowboys’ 2018 Offseason" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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!


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