The Dallas Cowboys have a little bit extra time on their hands to evaluate the roster now that the Week 4 preseason game with the Houston Texans has been canceled. That doesn't necessarily mean they will make cuts early, it just means they have a little extra time to evaluate every single position.
It may just be me, but I still have some concerns with a few positions and believe the Cowboys could stand to find some upgrades. They can do this in one of two ways: 1) they can work out a trade with another team, or 2) put in a waiver claim for someone who was recently cut by their ball club.
Now, the Dallas Cowboys depth chart is pretty talented from top to bottom, but if you continue reading below you will see the positions I believe might still need to be upgraded. As always, feel free to agree or disagree.
The linebacker position for the Dallas Cowboys became a real concern when Anthony Hitchens went down with an injury against the Indianapolis Colts. Fortunately, it wasn't as serious as believed and he will only be out for approximately eight weeks. But, it is a serious hit to the depth of the position.
Right now, Sean Lee might be the only sure thing. Justin Durant will likely step in at MLB for Hitchens and Damien Wilson will probably start at SAM. But, Durant has yet to get a lot of practice repetitions and Wilson still faces a possible suspension. Things are even more cloudy regarding second-year LB Jaylon Smith and his availability. Is he ready to take on a full-time workload?
The Dallas Cowboys will undoubtably keep a close eye on the waiver wires once cuts are made and possibly explore a trade for more linebacker depth. Unfortunately, there are just too many unknowns at this point to fill secure in what they currently have on the roster. The linebacker position might just be the one position on the entire team that needs an upgrade the most.
If you look at the depth chart at the defensive end position you will notice the Dallas Cowboys currently have enough bodies to make it through the entire season. But, like the LB position, there are concerns because of availability. We already know about the players that are suspended to start the year (Damontre Moore and David Irving), but there are concerns with some of the other DEs as well.
Two DEs have back concerns that are worrisome (Lawrence and Tapper) and there has still not been any word of when Tyrone Crawford might be able to return to the field. It's hard to believe the Cowboys are relying on Taco Charlton to be a huge difference maker as a rookie, but at least he's been healthy so far.
DEs are really difficult to come by, but the Dallas Cowboys have to be keeping a close watchful eye out for someone who can come in and at least help get them through the first month of the season until they can get their suspended players back on the field. If they are looking for an upgrade they will probably have to do it via trade because of how far down they are the waiver wire.
As things stand right now, I think there are only three DTs who are guaranteed a roster spot: Maliek Collins, Cedric Thornton, and Stephen Paea. With as much as defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli likes to rotate his DL, depth is definitely a concern.
I think Lewis Neal has a chance to start the season as Collins' backup at the 3-technique, but he might just be a fill-in until suspensions are served. Both Tyrone Crawford and David Irving can kick inside DT, but neither may be available to start the season. Depth at DT isn't really a top priority, but finding an upgrade isn't out of the question.
The Cowboys did draft two DTs, but neither is expected to make the final 53-man roster. They will probably try to sign them back to the practice squad, but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see them put in a waiver claim or work out a trade for a player they believe may be an upgrade.
Through all of the off-season practices and four preseason games, the Dallas Cowboys still probably don't know who will start at LG on opening day of the season. Jonathan Cooper and Chaz Green have received the most opportunities to prove themselves, but neither has really stood out.
Green simply can't remain healthy, so there's no way they can feel comfortable with him as a starter. Cooper probably gets the nod because of that, but even he has had a history of injuries in his NFL career. Byron Bell is a wild card here, but even he hasn't been able to stand out.
The Dallas Cowboys will probably stick with status quo here, but that doesn't mean they won't be looking for an upgrade. They can't afford to let the LG position negatively affect one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. If I'm the Cowboys, I'm exploring all possibilities and leave no stone unturned.
What positions do you think might still need an upgrade?
Jaguars Waive Barry Church; Could Cowboys Bring Him Back?
Veteran safety Barry Church was released today by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Could he return home to the Dallas Cowboys, where he spent his first seven seasons?
Despite his leadership and consistency on defense, Dallas allowed Church to leave in free agency when Jacksonville gave him a lucrative deal. But if he clears waivers, could the Cowboys consider bring him back for depth and support during their likely playoff run?
Jane Slater of the NFL Network reported on this potential reunion:
Cowboys haven't reached out to S Barry Church but I'm told they are discussing the possibility of bringing him back to Dallas according to a source informed. Church, 30, was released by the Jags today and is familiar with the system having played there from 2010-2016.
The Cowboys have had solid play from their current starting safeties, Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. Neither is a star, but the duo has not been a liability during the team's current five-game winning streak.
Church was a similar player, reliable if never exceptional, during his time in Dallas. He could be a nice insurance policy for the playoffs if something happened to one of the starters.
Barry knows the system. He never played for Kris Richard, but he was with Rod Marinelli for three seasons before leaving in free agency.
According to reports out of Jacksonville, Church is being released because the team wants to go with younger, cheaper players now that their season is over. There is no known injury keeping Barry from playing.
Of course, Dallas would have to make room on the roster to pick Church up. They could third-year prospect Darian Thompson, who is the current fourth man at safety.
Barry Church must now go through the 24-hour waiver process. A team may claim him, including the Cowboys. We'll see what the future holds.
How the Dallas Cowboys Can Win the NFC East This Week
It's only Week 15, but the Dallas Cowboys could become the 2018 NFC East Champions this week through a couple of scenarios. I thought we'd take a moment today to break down how the Boys can win their division and assure their spot in the playoffs.
With three weeks left in the regular season, most of the divisional games have already been played. The only two left to play are the Week 17 finales; Cowboys at Giants and Eagles at Redskins.
Here are the current standings:
- Dallas Cowboys 8-5 (4-1 in division)
- Philadelphia Eagles 6-7 (3-2 in division)
- Washington Redskins 6-7 (2-3 in division)
- New York Giants 5-8 (1-4 in division)
The Giants have been scrappy lately, winning four of their last five, but it's too late for them to try to win the division. Even if the Cowboys were to fall to 8-8, the best New York could do is tie them in overall record. They would have also split their head-to-head series, negating that tiebreaker.
At that point, it would come down to the record within the division. New York would improve to 2-4 with a win over Dallas in Week 17, but the Cowboys would still be 4-2 against the NFC East. Dallas would still be the division champion.
So, that knocks out New York. Technically, the Eagles and Redskins are still alive. But their margin is about as slim as it gets.
Both Philadelphia and Washington need the Cowboys to lose their last three games, and then to also win out themselves, to steal the NFC East crown.
For the Redskins, it's about their record against division opponents. The best they can finish is 3-3, assuming they'd win their last game against the Eagles. With the head-to-head series against Dallas split this year, they would have to finish 9-7 overall and have the Cowboys drop to 8-8 to become NFC East Champions.
The Eagles also need to finish one game ahead of Dallas, but for a different reason. Philadelphia lost both their games with the Cowboys this year, so Dallas has the head-to-head tiebreaker.
So that really makes thing simple for Dallas; win just one of your last three games and you're the division champion.
Not only that, but even if Dallas were to fall this week against the Indianapolis Colts, they could still clinch the division with losses by the Eagles (@ Rams) and Redskins (@ Jaguars).
It would certainly behoove the Cowboys to get the division locked up now. They could then use the last two weeks of the season to get ready for the playoffs.
Dallas would have the freedom rest banged up players like Ezekiel Elliott and Zack Martin. It would also allow them to work in returning players such as Sean Lee and Tavon Austin and figure out their new rotations without pressure to win.
Beating the Colts on Sunday isn't a given; they're at home and desperate to stay alive in the AFC playoff picture. They are the toughest opponent Dallas has left until January.
But despite that, with the Eagles facing a juggernaut team and Washington trying to play football without a quarterback, there's a great chance that the Cowboys will be the NFC East Champions by Sunday night.
#INDvsDAL: How The Game May Be Decided In The Red Zone
In many ways the Dallas Cowboys offense has found their stride in recent weeks. Over this five game win streak they have "found their identity" playing ball control offense and trusting their quarterback to make big throws when needed most. Of course the defense has been the star most weeks, but this offense should not be slept on either.
This doesn't mean the offense has been without their fair share of struggles, however, particularly in the red zone. Struggles that the numbers say could cost the Cowboys this weeks' game in Indianapolis if they don't get it cleaned up.
In terms of red zone offensive efficiency the Cowboys have been downright horrendous. In fact, they are dead-last in the league in success rate inside the 10 yard line, last in first-and-goal success rate, and 21st in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.
There's no sugar-coating those numbers, they are bad. Especially when you consider that this team has arguably the league's best running back and a quarterback with the size and athleticism you might expect from a linebacker.
For as bad as the Cowboys are inside the red zone, the Colts are equally as good. Indianapolis is top 10 in terms of success rate inside the 10, at the goal line, and in first-and-goal success rate. They are also 11th in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.
Despite not having the individual running back the Cowboys have, the Colts offensive line and skill players as a whole set them up a bit better when the field is shortened. Tight end Eric Ebron has been rather incredible in terms of production this season, catching 12 touchdowns on 58 receptions. Andrew Luck is also a more accurate quarterback than Dak Prescott, though Prescott should be a much more dangerous red zone threat than he currently is.
I am working on the Cowboys 32nd ranked Goal-to-Go offensive numbers. They have run 35 of their 59 total plays out of Shotgun-11 Personnel. In those 35 plays, the average gain per snap is....12 INCHES. I am not kidding. They could out-gain that by running QB sneaks. I am amazed.
Of course, some of the Cowboys red zone struggles can be pinned on offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Linehan has failed to scheme open the "easy" red zone touchdowns we see so often around the league. As pointed out by Bob Sturm on Twitter this week, the Cowboys' personnel groupings and play calls when in goal-to-go situations have been questionable to say the least. But while blame does fall on the coaches' shoulders, the players need to execute better as well.
Games in the NFL often come down to just a handful of plays, and red zone efficiency plays a key role in deciding the outcome of close games every week. If this is once again the case on Sunday, based on past performance, the Dallas Cowboys could be in trouble against the efficient Colts.
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