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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.



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.

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Cowboys Defense So Far So Good as Seahawks Up Next

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Cowboys Defense So Far So Good as Seahawks Up Next

Dallas may only be 1-1 on the season, but the Cowboys are officially tied for first-place in the NFC East, and fresh off a workmanlike victory over divisional rivals, the New York Giants. It was a game they should have won, and did win, but the takeaways so early in the season are that, although the offense has not clicked on all cylinders, the defense is getting high praise.

The Cowboys sacked New York’s Eli Manning six times and limited the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Saquon Barkley, to a mere 28 yards rushing. It was also a night in which Dak Prescott not only out-gained Barkley by 17 yards on the ground, but torched the Giants’ secondary on a 64-yard touchdown strike to Tavon Austin which proved New York’s Safety Landon Collins wrong when leading up to this game he remarked that the key to a Giants’ victory would be getting Prescott to throw. When Prescott was made aware of the comment in a midweek interview he replied, "…challenge accepted," and the third-year veteran made good on his word leading to the 20-13 victory.

However, Prescott ended the night with just 160 yards passing yet the ankle injury he sustained in Week 1 showed no signs of rearing its head as Prescott moved seamlessly in the pocket and ran the ball well.

As we move ahead to the Cowboys meeting in Seattle, we take a quick check over to one of the most reputable online sportsbooks in the industry - Intertops according to the reviews - where we can monitor the line on this pivotal NFC clash as the week progresses.

Seattle boasts a talented quarterback of their own in Russell Wilson but one who will find the sledding tough if the Dallas defense continues to shut down All-World wide outs like Odell Beckham Jr. and contain future rushing stars like Saquon Barkley. Outside of Wilson, Seattle is not loaded offensively, with their biggest target, Doug Baldwin, ailing with a knee injury and a backfield which consists of two young rushers in second-year man Chris Carson and a first-round rookie in Rashaad Penny who dealt with nagging injuries throughout the preseason and looked unsettled in Seattle’s 27-24 loss to the Broncos.

The Cowboys defense has already proven its worth in Carolina with Cam Newton under center and again last week against New York. The unit is surrendering an average of 14 ½ points per game and is incorporating more blitz packages than we’ve come to expect.

The difference this year is that the players they have on defense are capable of getting to the quarterback quick enough so that the coverage linebackers and secondary aren’t alone on an island for too long. The one concern is the status of Linebacker Sean Lee, who checked out of the game in the fourth quarter Sunday night and brought to mind his hamstring issues of a year ago, but apparently it was in fact cramping, and not straining, of the hammy which allowed Lee to return.

The bottom line in terms of the Cowboys' upcoming matchup on Sunday afternoon is that they will get the Seahawks coming off a short week, as Seattle played on Monday night and should be relatively healthy for the contest.

Dak Prescott may not have the formidable offensive line that he has had in the past, nor a top-tier arsenal of receivers, but he does have the elusive Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield and is capable of extricating himself from pressure situations when no target is available.

If the Dallas defense continues to play at the current level, it will not only be limiting the opposition on the scoreboard but putting its offense in good field position throughout. So check out Intertops, one of the most trusted and reputable online sportsbooks, to see where this line goes because a Dallas win and an ATS cover are just days away.



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Star Blog

Taco Tuesday: Cowboys DE Taco Charlton Starting to Dominate?

Brian Martin

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Taco Tuesday: DE Taco Charlton Starting to Dominate?
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

There has been quite a bit of talk about what a bad decision it was for the Dallas Cowboys to draft Taco Charlton with their first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Nearly everybody wanted someone different, not a player that needed time to develop.

Well, fast forward a year later and it looks as if the Cowboys made the right decision.

Don't look now, but Defensive End Taco Charlton is starting to live up to that first-round pedigree. In the first two weeks of the 2018 season, Charlton has already looked like a much improved player from what we saw a season ago. Imagine that, a little bit of time to develop and he's turning into a solid player.

I know I may be getting a little bit ahead of myself, especially suggesting that he is starting to dominate, but I can't help myself. I'm that excited about how much he has improved in one offseason. I may be alone here, but I have high hopes he could turn into something special.

In 2017, Taco Charlton failed to start a single game for the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie. That's not really what you want from your first-round draft pick. To makes matters worse, in 16 games he only registered 25 total tackles, four QB sacks, two passes defensed, and one forced fumble. As you can imagine, it didn't sit well with most Cowboys fans.

Luckily, it looks as if Charlton's offseason in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program has paid off. Already in 2018 he has accumulated six total tackles, one QB sack, one pass defensed, and recovered a fumble. If he keeps this pace up, we could be looking at #97 reaching double-digit sacks this year.

Taco Charlton

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton

Now, I wouldn't call what Taco Charlton has accomplished so far this season dominating, but he is proving to be a starting quality DE along the Cowboys defensive line. It's a unit that has looked really good in the first two weeks of the season and is expected to be even better once Randy Gregory and David Irving are able to return to the field.

In the meantime, the Dallas Cowboys are happy to get plays like this from Taco Charlton.

Taco Charlton Eli Manning sack

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This is a play Charlton is expected to make. He was left unblocked, but we've seen players left unblocked before not make the play. So, it may not be as impressive as some QB sacks. But, I'll take the routine tackle any day over someone trying to make a splash play and failing.

If you're looking for an impressive play from Taco Charlton, take a look at what he was able to do against Odell Beckham Jr. in the passing game.

Taco Charlton covering Odell Beckham Jr

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

In case you're wondering, that's Taco Charlton in OBJ's hip pocket 15 yards down the field in pass coverage. It looks as if that's where Eli Manning was wanting to go with the ball, but tight coverage by the Cowboys, and Charlton, across the board ended up resulting in a QB sack.

If you don't find that impressive, I don't know what will. A 275 pound DE covering arguably the best and highest paid wide receiver down the field is almost unheard of. I would count that as impressive.

What do you think of Taco Charlton's play so far in 2018?



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Star Blog

A Look Around The NFC East: Week 2

Kevin Brady

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Film Room: How Dak Prescott Beat The Giants' Blitz

The usually competitive NFC East got off to a shaky start last week, with half the division winning their season opener and the other half falling short.

Now entering week 2, the Eagles and Redskins have a chance to begin to distance themselves from the loser of the Cowboys/Giants game, and both of those 0-1 teams are looking to "save" their season. Yes, that sounds dramatic, but a home loss within the division to fall to 0-2 could be debilitating for the Dallas Cowboys moving forward.

Regardless, let's go around the division and see what each team has on tap for this Sunday.

Philadelphia Eagles

The defending champs opened up their 2018 campaign just as we expected: with a home victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta sort of gave that game away last Thursday night, but if the Eagles can stack Nick Foles-led wins on top of each other they'll put themselves in a great spot to win the East when Carson Wentz returns.

The Eagles will be on the road this week for the first time, traveling to Tampa Bay to play the 1-0 Buccaneers. The Bucs pulled the upset of the weekend last week, defeating New Orleans 48-40. It's hard to imagine that "Fitzmagic" continuing against the vaunted Eagles defense, though.

Philly is a three point road favorite against Tampa Bay this Sunday.

Washington Redskins

My "sleeper" team in the NFC East, and pick to finish second in the division, looked rather impressive in their week one drubbing of the Arizona Cardinals. Of course, Arizona isn't a very good team, and will probably be picking top 5 in the draft next April. Still, it was a good showing for the Redskins to open the season.

Washington got Adrian Peterson going on the ground for nearly 100 yards and a touchdown, and Chris Thompson helped keep them on schedule offensively as well. Washington hasn't been talked about much this offseason, but is sitting at 1-0 with a game against the 0-1 Colts on the horizon.

Washington is a 6 point favorite against Indianapolis this Sunday, and has a good chance of starting 2-0 on the year.

New York Giants

Though we are just one week into the 2018 regular season, an important matchup is brewing within the NFC East. After falling to 0-1 with a home loss in their season opener, the Giants will travel to Texas to face the Cowboys on Sunday night football this week.

With both teams sitting at 0-1, neither can afford to put themselves into a nearly-insurmountable hole with a second straight loss. Since the merger 90% of teams who fall to 0-2 fail to make the playoffs, and it would be back-to-back seasons of missing out for both the Cowboys and Giants.

New York is a three point road underdog on Sunday, and it seems like most of the football world is leaning towards them and their weapons coming away with the victory.

Either way, this game will have massive implications on the 2018 season.



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