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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.

Cowboys Blog - Is There A Player Development Problem? 5

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.

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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

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!

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Cowboys en Español: ¿Estará Dez Bryant de Vuelta en el 2018?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys en Español: ¿Estará Dez Bryant de Vuelta en el 2018?

Dez Bryant es ese jugador que incontables veces me hizo gritar y saltar de alegría con sus excepcionales recepciones y su manera de pelear el balón en el aire. Tantos momentos tan memorables con Tony Romo e incluso algunos con Dak Prescott lo han vuelto uno de mis jugadores favoritos…

Pero ahora, después de una difícil temporada de los Dallas Cowboys, los sentimientos están encontrados.

En muchos momentos, no parece que estamos viendo al Dez Bryant de antes. Claro, podemos decidir recordar esa recepción de touchdown que rompió el récord de la franquicia contra los Redskins, o esa escapada de 50 yardas en New York en la semana 14.

Pero Dez no ha sido el mismo las últimas tres temporadas. Y este 2017, todos los momentos de frustración culminaron en el partido que eliminó a los Cowboys de la temporada.

Cuando los Cowboys se enfrentaron a los Seattle Seahawks, un fumble acompañado por un pase soltado de Dez que resultó en una intercepción, todos nos pusimos a pensar.

La cosa no es que Dez Bryant sea un mal receptor. El talento está ahí, y es fácil verlo en ciertas jugadas. A veces es visible cuando atropella a algún defensivo, a veces cuando busca el balón y consigue atraparlo de una manera impresionante.

Quizá el próximo año se sacuda la mala racha que ha tenido los últimos años y encuentre una manera de ser el jugador que alguna vez fue… el problema es la cantidad de dinero que se le paga.

Después de la temporada del 2014, cuando Bryant terminó el año con 16 touchdowns y más de 1,300 yardas, el receptor estrella firmó un contrato por $70M.

Los Dallas Cowboys tienen frente a ellos una pregunta muy importante que resolver este offseason.

 

¿Deberían Deshacerse de Dez Bryant?

A pesar de tener una mala racha, la razón por la cual Dallas le diría adiós a Dez es su contrato. Dez está listo para cobrar $16.5M en el 2018 y otros 16 millones y medio en el 2019. De ser cortado, los Cowboys se ahorrarían ocho millones y medio la próxima temporada.

Suficiente dinero para firmar a un jugador que realmente haga impacto esta agencia libre.

Takeaway Tuesday: Awuzie and Lewis Impress, Concerns Around Dez Bryant

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (Brad Penner / USA TODAY Sports)

Normalmente, cuando hablamos de jugadores como él, hay muchos conflictos para los aficionados. Vaya, yo mismo acabo de plantear que es uno de mis jugadores favoritos, pero quizá a veces el cambio es necesario.

Sí, la producción de Dez Bryant no ha sido la misma desde la última temporada que tuvo con Tony Romo. Pero ¿es eso excusa suficiente?

Basta pensar en jugadores como Larry Fitzgerald y DeAndre Hopkins para darse cuenta de que no. Aún con quarterbacks mediocres, ambos se mantienen como receptores de elite en la NFL.

Es cierto que Dak Prescott no es el mismo QB que Romo era, y no es un jugador que vaya a lanzar pases profundos tan frecuentemente como Tony lo hacía, pero eso tampoco significa que sea algo malo necesariamente.

Este equipo le construyó un equipo a su ex-mariscal para sacarle todo el provecho al #9. Es hora de hacer lo mismo por Dak Prescott.

Insisto en que los Cowboys tienen que buscar a un WR tan pronto como en la primera ronda del NFL Draft o incluso hasta en agencia libre.

Los Dallas Cowboys tienen tantas cosas que hacer antes de la próxima temporada y decidir que hacer con uno de sus jugadores más emblemáticos de la actualidad, Dez Bryant, es una de ellas.

¿Les gustaría ver a Dez Bryant de vuelta en el 2018?

Tell me what you think about “Cowboys en Español: ¿Estará Dez Bryant de Vuelta en el 2018?” 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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Will Ryan Switzer see an Increased Offensive Role in 2018?

Brian Martin

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Will Ryan Switzer see an Increased Offensive Role in 2018?

The Dallas Cowboys clearly had a specific role in mind for Ryan Switzer when they drafted him 133rd overall in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Come to find out, that role didn’t include being involved much on the offensive side of the ball, at least not as a rookie.

After watching the way the Cowboys utilized Ryan Switzer in 2017, it’s pretty obvious the sole purpose he was drafted was to improve the special-teams play in the return game.

They clearly didn’t envision him being a part of the game plan on offense, despite the continuous outcry from fans.

Like most rookies, Ryan Switzer didn’t really get off to a fast start, and took a while to get used to the speed of the NFL. But, once he calmed his nerves and regained his confidence, he proved to be an upgrade in the return game.

Switzer ended up ranking third in kickoff returns, averaging 25 yards per return in 2017 and 12th in punt returns with almost 9 yards per return.

He also became the first Dallas Cowboys player to return a punt for a touchdown since 2013. He accomplished this against the Washington Redskins, in Week 13 when he took an 83-yarder to the house.

Surprisingly enough, using Ryan Switzer solely as a return specialist wasn’t enough for a lot of Cowboys Nation. A lot of fans wanted to see his talents utilized more on the offensive side of the ball as well, but were only left disappointed.

Ryan Switzer

Dallas Cowboys WR Ryan Switzer

Getting Switzer involved in the offensive game plan just wasn’t in the cards in 2017.

He only managed to catch six passes for 41 yards and rushed four times for 5 yards. This isn’t exactly what Cowboys fans envisioned after hearing Switzer was opening a lot eyes in training camp and organized team activities (OTAs). That was the main problem.

He was hyped up so much heading into the season that fans expected to see him involved much more on offense.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, had something else in mind, but I doubt that’s the case for the upcoming 2018 season.

I really think we’re going to see an increased role for Ryan Switzer next season.

The Cowboys coaching staff should have a much better understanding of his strengths and weaknesses now that he has a year in the system under his belt. And, they’ve seen firsthand how explosive he can be with the ball in his hands.

What the Cowboys coaching staff will have to determine this offseason is just how big of a role Switzer will have next year.

Should Switzer take Cole Beasley‘s job?

Cole Beasley, like the rest of the Cowboys receivers, had a down year in 2017. We shouldn’t assume that his job is safe, especially with someone like Ryan Switzer waiting in the wings. But, is Switzer ready to take over full-time?

Tough decisions will have to be made eventually, but such is life in the NFL.

Will Ryan Switzer see an increased offensive role in 2018?

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