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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

The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up

Brian Martin

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Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle Heating Up 1

Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.

The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.

As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.

Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.

Terrance Williams

Dallas Cowboys WR Terrance Williams

Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.

Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.

Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.

I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.

All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.

How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?



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Star Blog

Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?

Brian Martin

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Decision not to Play Dan Bailey against the 49ers a Concern? 1

With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.

Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.

I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.

I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?

Dan Bailey

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.

Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.

Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.

Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.

Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?



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Star Blog

Week 1 NFC East Predictions and Cowboys Season Outlook

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Week 1 NFC East Predictions and Cowboys Season Outlook

Let me start this article with a strong opening statement: The Cowboys will be better in 2018 than they were in 2017. There's been a lot of talk about the lack of a true No. 1 receiver. But when we break it down, the current setup will most likely play out better for Cowboys QB Dak Prescott.

The Dak Stats

Certain quarterbacks shine when they have that go-to playmaker. We're talking about guys like Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Calvin Johnson, Ocho Cinco, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, and Dez Bryant. But other QBs do better at reading the defense and quickly adapting to what is given. Dak Prescott is the latter breed of QB.

Let’s do a quick numbers exercise to prove this.

When Prescott is targeting 8 or more receivers throughout the game, his passer rating jumps from 86.1 (targeting less than 8) to 104.5. He passes for almost 50 yards more per game and his touchdown to interception ratio drastically improves from 21-13 to 24-4.

Most importantly, when he targets at least 8 different receivers, the Cowboys are 14-2. When he targets less than 8, the team is just .500 at 8-8.

Without a doubt, Prescott is much better at adjusting to what the defense is giving him. He just isn’t one of those guys who can successfully "force" the ball (like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees). Not feeling the pressure of having to get the ball into the hands of the star playmaker will give this offense a new kind of depth in 2018.

Yes, losing Jason Witten hurts, much more so in my opinion than not having Dez.

Questions Still Loom

This is still the Cowboys' biggest concern on offense. There is some great depth. We have Rico Gathers, Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim, and the young stud out of Stanford, Dalton Schultz. But between the three who have any NFL experience, there are only 9 catches between them. I must say that Dalton, with his 4.75 40-yard dash, has a legitimate shot at seeing a lot of playing time in his rookie campaign and could become an impact player with his size (6’5”, 244-lbs) and speed.

But despite the battle for TE being wide open, and debates about whether or not the team needs a No. 1 receiver, the Cowboys are still expected to give the Eagles a run for their money in the NFC East. Here are the odds on the defending NFC East champions and how (although early) it is expected to shake out:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles -167
  2. Dallas Cowboys +350
  3. New York Giants +650
  4. Washington Redskins +750

NFC East Week 1 Predictions

The Cowboys open the season in a difficult road game against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have been listed as 2.5-point favorites (follow the Cowboys NFL Odds here all season long) which isn’t surprising considering they are a tough team playing at home. You might be thinking, "crap, we're opening up as underdogs?" Don’t worry too much; it actually bodes fairly well because the lines-makers generally give a 3-point advantage to the home team. This means that they actually handicap the Cowboys to be a half-point favorite on a neutral field and a 3.5-point favorite in Arlington.

The Redskins open their season in Arizona against the Cardinals. The line is set at a pick ‘em (meaning there is no point spread; it's anyone's game). But, looking at the 'Skins and Cardinals, I think Washington gets disappointed in Week 1 and starts their season with a loss.

The Giants get to test their new offensive line and see if they were right in continuing to place their faith in Eli Manning against the best defense in the league. The Jags are 3-point favorites at MetLife stadium. This means the Jags are actually 6-points better. I do think that the Giants will be vastly improved this season, but they are also going to open with a loss.

The Eagles don’t have it easy either, but they will probably pull out the win at home as 4-point favorites against the Dirty Birds on Thursday Night Football. Their defense is just too good. Atlanta's road offense scored just 21 points per game last year while Philly scores 28 on average at home. The Eagles' home defense has been downright nasty, only allowing 12 points per game in Philadelphia.

This will be a two-horse race for the division between the Eagles and Cowboys. And even if the Eagles win the East, the Cowboys will wildcard into the playoffs.



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