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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 @MauNFL.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Kevin Black

    January 20, 2018 at 10:53 am

    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.

  2. Steve

    February 18, 2018 at 7:02 am

    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!

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Star Blog

Could Loaded FA Safety Market Drive Down Earl Thomas’ Value?

Brian Martin

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Could Loaded FA Safety Class Drive Down Earl Thomas' Price Tag?

It's no secret the Dallas Cowboys and Earl Thomas share a mutual interest in one another. Thomas has publicly stated his desire to join America's Team and the Cowboys did their darndest to make that happen last offseason. Nothing ever materialized a year ago, but it's looking as if the stars have finally aligned and a union between the two could merely be just weeks away.

Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys may have dodged a bullet last year when the Seattle Seahawks refused to part ways with their All-Pro safety. Not only would they have had to surrender a high draft pick, but they would've also had to extend Thomas' contract. Fortunately, timing is everything and now the Cowboys might just have to do the latter.

A potential contract between the Cowboys and Thomas is of course what I want to dive in today. I'm not going to get into numbers right now, because it's nearly impossible to project any kind of contract for any safety this offseason, especially for the former Seahawk, Earl Thomas.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Right now, it's a little difficult to know who might have the advantage in contract negotiations, Earl Thomas or the Dallas Cowboys. A lot of times the one that has the leverage, however slight, is the one that gets the better of the deal. As surprising as it may be, the Cowboys might just have the advantage here and I'll tell you why.

First off, this year's market for free agent safeties is pretty stacked with starting caliber players. See below:

  • Earl Thomas
  • Landon Collins
  • Lamarcus Joyner
  • Tyrann Mathieu
  • Adrian Amos
  • Clayton Geathers
  • Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
  • Glover Quinn
  • Tre Boston
  • Kenny Vaccaro
  • George Iloka
  • Jimmie Ward
  • Adrian Phillips

Earl Thomas is obviously the headliner here amongst the free agent safeties, but having so many starting caliber players available could drive down Thomas' market value just a bit. This is especially true when you take into consideration the market for FA safeties just a year ago. It was almost a complete standstill last year, with only Kurt Coleman signing a three-year $16.5 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. Not even the "Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu could get more than a one-year deal.

With all of these safeties available in free agency, we could be looking at another stingy market. This of course could be good or bad news for the Dallas Cowboys, especially as it pertains to Earl Thomas. Since he is the top FA safety available, everything could once again be at a standstill until he is signed.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Of course, we all know this will ultimately come down to determining Earl Thomas' market value. There is no denying he is still arguably the best free safety in the game today, but there are concerns about his age (30) and the two lower leg injuries he's sustained in the past three years.

Even with the loaded free agent market of starting caliber safeties and Thomas' age and recent injury history, he's still likely to receive a contract that earns him $10 million annually, give or take. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he gets another four-year deal worth $40 million, $25.7 million guaranteed, with a $9.5 million signing bonus like he signed with the Seahawks back in 2014.

The Cowboys of course would probably find a four-year $40 million deal for Earl Thomas acceptable. They would more than likely frontload the contract with a lot of protection in the details. They have the cap space to make this happen and still be able to sign their own, so money shouldn't be a problem.

Now, whether or not Thomas' market value may dip a little due to all of the above mentioned reasons will be something we will have to wait and find out. Regardless, I'd be a little shocked if Earl Thomas doesn't finish his career with the Dallas Cowboys.

Do you think Earl Thomas' market value will take a little hit this offseason?



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Star Blog

Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors

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Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors

What a difference a receiver makes, right? As Dallas fans, we know the impact of a player who can shake coverage, get open, and catch the ball. How was the season going before the Cowboys pulled the trigger for Amari Cooper in the deal with the Raiders? Cooper proved to be the lightning rod and a turning point in a season that was growing increasingly dismal. Dak Prescott and Cooper went together like peanut butter and jelly, while the Cowboys stormed to a division title and a postseason berth.

Now, imagine all of that times two… maybe even two and a half if Antonio Brown could be had from the Steelers. Scary right? We understand there’s only one ball to go around but that didn’t stop Kevin Durant from joining the Warriors, did it?

As of this writing, the best online sportsbooks like Intertops, are dealing Dallas as the seventh of 16 choices to win the NFC championship at odds of 12-1. Imagine how those odds would shrink if Brown wore a Cowboys uniform next season, giving Prescott the luxury of not one upper echelon wideout but that plus an elite receiver. Hut, hut, hut and a few clouds of smoke later the Cowboys would be moving the chains or celebrating in the endzone.

Brown and Cooper would be a devastating combination with Ezekiel Elliott coming out of the backfield. Brown was made for Dallas, it gives him an even grander stage than the one he shared with Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh.

Despite the fact that the 'Boys haven’t won a Super Bowl since Barry Switzer was roaming the sidelines in the mid-90s, America’s Team still resides in Dallas. But we need a game-changer and Brown is just such an athlete. But what do we give in return and will that cost be worth whatever productive years Brown has left after this one? Let’s not forget that the mercurial Miami native will be 31 when the season begins and men who make a living with their legs don’t get better at that age. But Brown is so good and so unique that, even if he drops half a click, he's still amongst the best in the game.

That level of talent is hard to replicate and it could be the missing piece which allows Dallas to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season and the year after.

However, up to this point, we’ve been very good at dreaming of a Brown to Dallas trade but haven’t quite worked out the details. It takes two to tango and if we expect to get the Steelers’ attention we need to give them something valuable in return. Dallas surrendered their first-round pick (27th) this season when they traded for Cooper so that’s no longer an asset.

Pittsburgh would be vying for a first-round pick (and likely more) for Brown's services but some have speculated Dallas would consider dealing rookie-standout Leighton Vander Esch.

Wait... what? We know, you’re clutching your pearls, and the words are stuck in your gasp. We get it. The kid was a home run this past season, leading the Dallas defense in tackles and earning a Pro Bowl invitation in his inaugural NFL season. But this would be a Faustian deal.

The Cowboys give up a player who is poised to be a stud for years to come for a playmaker in Brown that could render a Super Bowl in the immediate future. Brown's expiration date will surely turn his milk sour sooner rather than later, but in the here and now, Antonio Brown could be the bell cow who leads the Cowboys to the promised land before he’s put out to pasture.

Just something to think about...



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Star Blog

2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back

Kevin Brady

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Anthony Brown's Resurgence A Great Sign for Cowboys Defense
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.

As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.

Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.

These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.

Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.

Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.

Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.

Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.



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