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Dallas Cowboys: Is There A Player Development Problem?

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Cowboys Blog - Is There A Player Development Problem?

Think about all of the players the Cowboys have drafted over the past few years... Sure, there have been plenty of players that have turned out to be really good. There have also been quite a few that have fallen flat.

It seems like there is one of two extremes: a player either comes in and just gets it immediately, or the player needs development and never finds it.

If we go back to 2010, it is alarming how awful the Cowboys have been at developing players that they draft after the third round. The only players that have turned out to be impactful have come from the top three rounds really.

Dez Bryant (1st), Sean Lee (2nd), Tyron Smith (1st), DeMarco Murray (3rd), Tyrone Crawford (3rd), Travis Frederick (1st), Zack Martin (1st), and DeMarcus Lawrence (2nd) have been the big players from the Cowboys drafts since 2010. I didn't include anyone from 2015 because it is a bit harsh to judge them so rapidly. You can make arguments for other players, but that is the real core.

Cowboys Blog - Is There A Player Development Problem? 4

Then you look at some other players that were either drafted early and failed, or were mid-round projects that they haven't been able to make work.

Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (4th), Bruce Carter (2nd), David Arkin (4th), Josh Thomas (5th), Dwayne Harris (6th), Kyle Wilber (4th), Danny Coale (5th), Gavin Escobar (2nd), JJ Wilcox (3rd), B.W. Webb (4th), Devin Street (5th), Ben Gardner (7th), Ken Bishop (7th), and Terrance Mitchell (7th).

The list is much larger than that, but those are some of the mid-round talents that I thought showed potential. The Cowboys haven't really gotten much from them. Some players like Carter, Wilber, Wilcox, and Street have a ton of talent, but they haven't been able to refine their weaknesses to become great players.

Is this a drafting problem or a player development problem?

It used to be a pretty good skill for the Cowboys to take mid-late round players, or even undrafted players, and make them into viable starters. For instance, your starting quarterback went undrafted.

If you look around the league, you HAVE to hit on some mid-late prospects or undrafted talents. Chris Harris Jr. went undrafted. Richard Sherman was a 5th round pick a couple picks before the Cowboys selected Josh Thomas. Josh Norman was also a 5th round pick.

JJ Wilcox was a running back turned safety in his final season in college. There is a ton of talent in the player, but he can't grip the mental side of the game. He often looks lost and has the worst understanding of angles I have seen.

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JJ Wilcox was a running back at Georgia Southern until his final season

Bruce Carter is an athletic freak. He has the makings of one of the best linebackers in football, but he also can't grip the mental side of the game. He often is at the wrong spot at the wrong time and loses in coverage. His drops in zone were bad and his coverage in man was awful.

Gavin Escobar is a long tight end with amazing hands, yet the Cowboys could never figure out how to get him heavily involved through the passing game, even with the loss of Dez Bryant.

Cowboys Blog - Is There A Player Development Problem? 6

Gavin Escobar's career highlight, flipping into the end zone against the Eagles

Kyle Wilber has shown signs, but he seems to be a man without a position for the Cowboys. Something that hurts when there was potential for him to be an impact player.

Devin Street was advanced in route-running for a kid coming out of college, yet the Cowboys haven't gotten much of anything out of him.

Dwayne Harris isn't really considered a bust, but the Cowboys never used him as anything other than a gadget player and a special teams player. In one season with the Giants, we saw him used far more as a wide receiver with some decent results.

If you add undrafted signees into the mix, this looks even worse for the team. They have signed some really talented projects after the draft, but most fail to make the team or have little impact. You can't really include La'el Collins in this, because that was a special circumstance.

If the Cowboys want to take steps forward, they need to hit somewhere other than the top of the draft. While it is great that they have hit on so many great prospects early, it is hard to have any depth when your team adds one to two players every year through the draft. The team must draft better in the middle and back end of the draft, sign the right players afterward, and have a plan to develop these players.



I've been blogging about sports and music for almost eight years now. I also work in media relations for a New York sports team, so I understand the bridge between the outlets writing about a team and the team monitoring content. I hope to bring something new to Inside The Star, getting deep into draft work, breakdowns and I always come with a strong and passionate opinion. I'm very active on Twitter, so ask questions, comment on stuff, etc. and I will almost definitely respond to you in some sort of debate!

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3 Comments
  • James Howerton

    It seems to me to be more of a coaching problem than draft-talent problem. Ex-Cowboy's players are all over the NFL. Just one example is Danny Amendola. We drafted him, released him and NE has utilized his skills very well. Every Sunday I'd see an opponent's player making a play and many times that player was a former Cowboy. I know prior to 2010 we had a terrible problem with judging talent. Much of that had to do with Jerry's ego, IMO. He wants to win SB so bad (and get all the credit for it) that Dallas used to reach for players consistently. He finally wised up a bit and surrounded himself with Player-Personnel people and that has helped quite a bit. It's like when he and Jimmy couldn't fit their heads into the same locker room. If Jerry had contented himself with taking home Lobardi Trophies and kept Johnson around, there's no telling how many they could have won together. And Jerry would have waltzed into the HOF as an Owner. But Jimmy went to Miami and failed and Jerry stayed in Dallas and failed. Jerry's a great owner but a terrible GM. I do think he's improved as a GM lately, like hiring Marinelli as DC. That is a great defensive coordinator. As was stated in the article, the top 3 players drafted each year are usually pretty good players. But GREAT teams hit on at least one or two of their 4-7 picks each year. I also believe that Dallas lets some players go too quickly instead of keeping them and developing them. I know Jerry was considered too faithful to aging stars so he's started letting them go. But sometimes, you NEED to keep older players around. IMO, letting Ware go was a mistake. You have to do player's evaluation and the decision to release/retain a player on a case-by-case basis. DeWare had a great history of avoiding injuries. He still has a few good years left in him and we wouldn't really have a big pass rush problem if we had kept him AND added a few more like Gregory, whom I think will be pretty good. Ware would have been a much better mentor and model for him than the Cracked-in.

  • http://www.dallascowboyschat.com cowboysdude

    Is there a problem? Hell yes there's a problem. I could write a story longer than this one with the problems but I'll keep it short… The puppet "HC" and ALL the position coaches are nothing more than yes men. The owner "GM" likes them and they say what he wants to hear so they keep them. The players are not complaining and why would they? There's NO accountability in this organization and there's no one to blame but the owner.

  • R Bell

    Where do I start? How in the hell do you let your offensive line coach go (Bill Callahan,) and keep that no good for nothing quarterbacks coach (Wade Wilson)? The organisation is a complete joke from top to bottom. The o-line suffered without Callahan, and Wade Wilson couldn't coach a pee wee team. How badly did the qb position suffer when Romo went down because Wilson couldn't do his job preparing any of the multitude of back-ups? Brandon Weeden sucked in Dallas, but played pretty good in Houston. Coincidence? Don't get me started on the secondary coach… Year after year, one of the biggest needs in the draft is Safety, and/or Cornerback. Every Fricken Year! If the Cowboys had a good secondary coach, they wouldn't go into the NFL Draft needing secondary help. I could go on and on about how stupid the front office is. (Jerry and Stephen Jones… How nice is it that your father owns an NFL team, automatically gets you a vip position.) A team CANNOT go 4-12 and everybody keeps their job, that's just STUPID! Keep Garrett, Marinelli and Linehan, but fire the hell out of somebody! You have to look at every position coach and ask them, Did you do your JOB? OB's, hell to the no! must be Fired! WR's, okay to keep. RB's, okay to keep. OL, not good, but keep. DL, not really must make a change LB's, not bad. keep. S/CB's hell no! must be fired! GM, Must be fired! Jerry Jones himself said last year, "As the owner of the team, if he had another GM, he would have fired him by now" What does that say about Jerry Jones the GM? You stink as an owner, and you stink as a general manager! No offence.

Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Can we Believe General Manager Jerry Jones?

Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.

Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.

Cambios de Coach

A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.

A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.

Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?

El Draft

A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.

A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.

En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.

Decisiones difíciles

La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.

Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.

Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.

No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración" 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!



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Star Blog

Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story

Kevin Brady

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Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence's League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.

Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.

Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.

Here's why those people are wrong.

Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.

Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).

Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.

There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.

Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.

Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.

Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.

Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.

And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.



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Star Blog

Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?

Brian Martin

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Can Dak Prescott Regain His Mojo Against Atlanta?
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.

It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.

Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.

Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.

Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.

Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:

24 starts
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating

Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:

17 starts
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating

As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.

Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

Now, he just has to go out and prove it!

Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?



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