In part one of this series we discussed how we see things shaking down amongst the over populated line backing corps.
This next group some might say is the most critical to the Cowboys success, and I would be one of those people. As far as the defense goes this unit holds all the keys to success!
This very potent and powerful defense cannot do the things it wants without solid secondary play. The Cowboys have spent a lot of time and draft picks on shoring up the secondary, from first on the depth chart down to the last man on the chart.
So let’s take a look at what they have going to camp!
Terrence Newman – Will be the starting Left Corner (barring Injury)
Mike Jenkins – Heading into camp as the leading candidate to start at Right Corner, but will have to battle to keep the spot.
Orlando Scandrick – The leading candidate to replace Jenkins if he stumbles, and most assuredly the best Nickel corner on the team.
Alan Ball – Alan has a leg up on the rest of the competition heading into camp based off of the solid year he had in 2008 with the boys.
Mike Mickens – By most accounts the steal of the draft, thought by many to be a top of the 2nd round guy the Cowboys were able to wait and pick him up in the middle of the 7th. Should be able to contribute in special teams right away.
Ken Hamlin – Will be the starting Free Safety again this year for the Cowboys, and thanks to an upgrade at Strong safety Hamlin should be able to get back to his 2007 Pro Bowl form.
Gerald Sensebaugh – One of the Cowboys top free agents acquisitions this year should add a much needed dimension to the Cowboys secondary.
Courtney Brown – Originally a Corner but made the switch to Safety at the start of 2007. Brown has the ability to be a ball hawking safety, this being his third year with the team and at safety means that this is a make or break year for him. Could also see some time at corner.
Pat Watkins – Is a big athletic, rangy player the Cowboys had high hopes for this young man, unfortunately that has not come to fruition just yet. Pat is a solid special teams player (has gotten lost a few times however) Special teams play will not keep him on the team this year, he must prove his worth as a safety.
Jerome Carter – Former 4th round selection of the St.Louis Rams in 2005 and spent all of last year out of work, was signed to a futures contract by the Cowboys in January.
DeAngelo Smith – The Cowboys used the first of two 5th round picks on Mike Mickens collegiate teammate. DeAngelo was a top cornerback in college but the Cowboys have moved him over to safety, giving themselves more options at the position. In the early stages of his career could see some opportunities at corner as well.
Michael Hamlin – The second of two 5th round selections Hamlin is a pure Free Safety, while lacking a little in the pure speed department he makes up for in instincts and awareness, hard hitting safety that has a nose for the ball and an exceptional leader.
Last year the Cowboys kept seven Cornerbacks and 4 Safeties, and I think those are probably pretty decent figures to go with this year. So with that in mind the coaching staff will have some major decisions to make.
With eleven spots available and 12 players vying for those spots the competition could get very heated in San Antonio.
My belief is that the Cowboys will end up releasing Jerome Carter, and then use DeAngelo Smith, and Courtney Brown as “Tweeners” leaving the secondary looking something like this.
Terrence Newman , Orlando Scandrick
Mike Jenkins , Alan Ball
Courtney Brown , DeAngelo Smith
Ken Hamlin , Courtney Brown , DeAngelo Smith
Gerald Sensebaugh , Michael Hamlin , Pat Watkins
I would however like to say that I would not be a bit surprised if Pat Watkins was released as well. Pat has gotten several opportunities to claim a spot on this team and has simply not capitalized on those opportunities.
Who stays and who goes in your view?
Why The Seahawks Will Be Looking Into A Mirror Against The Cowboys Sunday
For the better part of the last decade one defense has reigned supreme over the NFC. One defense has continually put their offense and team in position to win big games, including a dominant Super Bowl win over one of the more productive offenses in recent memory.
That defense, of course, belonged to the Seattle Seahawks.
With a secondary deemed as the "Legion of Boom" and a defensive line which rotated through Pro Bowl level talent routinely, the Seahawks bolstered one of the best defenses the NFL has ever seen. A defense which perfectly complimented the physical, run first philosophy their offense lived by.
Players like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, and Bobby Wagner will arguably be Hall of Famers one day, and they wreaked havoc on the conference for a strong 3-5 year stretch.
Now, however, things are changing.
Gone are many of the elite players which once bolstered the Seattle defense to top-tier status, and while some big names remain, the talent level simply isn't the same. The Seahawks missed the postseason a year ago, and now sit at 0-2 before their home opener today against the Cowboys.
Their window looks to be closed, while their opponent today is looking to build their defense (and team) in the mold of what once was in Seattle.
Former Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard has come to Dallas and brought with him a more aggressive defensive philosophy, one which he deployed successfully with the Seahawks. Under Richard the Cowboys are blitzing more often on third down than they have in the past under Rod Marinelli, they're utilizing more single high safety looks, and they are allowing their long and talented corners to do what they do best in coverage.
The Seahawks once leaned on a deep pass rush and long, physical secondary. The 2018 Cowboys are looking to do the same thing.
The Seahawks once leaned on a mobile quarterback to make plays with his feet while relying on a strong running game and one of the league's best backs. The 2018 Cowboys are looking to do the same thing.
Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie look like they were molded in a 2013-Seahawks lab as cornerbacks, and DeMarcus Lawrence is as productive as any pass rusher those defenses had. Of course, we aren't able to say the Cowboys have the consistent front four depth that those Seattle teams did or that they have the single high safety of Earl Thomas' caliber, but the preliminary pieces are clearly in place.
Today the Cowboys look to improve to 2-1 with a conference road win. But, they also look to bury the Seahawks in the past and take another step towards cementing themselves as one of the elite defenses in the NFC.
It won't happen over night, but anyone can see that the potential is there.
Could Cowboys DT Datone Jones Earn Starting Role with Maliek Collins Out?
Dallas Cowboys Defensive Tackle Maliek Collins is out for Sunday's game at the Seahawks with a sprained knee, further opening the door for Datone Jones to earn his spot among the "Hot Boyz". The moniker given to the Cowboys front seven this season, the team's depth up front has been a strength in totaling nine sacks through two games.
Last season, Datone Jones was a part of this rotation late in the year. Coming on strong at the 3T position while Maliek Collins played at the 1T, Jones is the type of versatile defender with veteran experience that Rod Marinelli can get the most out of.
Returning from a knee injury himself, Jones may take some time to be the disruptive interior player we saw at the end of 2017. Through two games, the Cowboys had played Collins at his original position of 3T, with Antwaun Woods doing more than enough to continue playing at 1T.
This potentially makes Collins and Jones two players fighting for one spot. Collins followed up his performance at the Panthers with a sack of Cam Newton by constantly playing in the Giants' backfield last week.
Guessing that means no Irving, I'd say Tyrone Crawford then Antwaun Woods. I have high hopes for Datone Jones once he returns though. https://t.co/9frjFK2J9J
A player determined to not let his team's misuse slow down his progress, after an incredible rookie season at 3T, Collins is returning from his second broken foot in three years.
Through his five years in the NFL, Jones has only played a full 16 games once.
The most games Datone has started in a season is four. Maliek Collins should like his chances of playing over Jones once both are healthy, and the Cowboys should be equally thrilled with the opportunity to keep both fresh in rotation.
Following Sunday's game in Seattle and next week against the Lions, the Cowboys can return David Irving from suspension to play all over their defensive line - his best position also being at three technique.
Without the wealth of talent they now have at all four positions up front, the Cowboys have had too many bodies to fill similar roles in the past. Thanks to the addition of Kris Richard along with strong edge play from Taco Charlton and rookie Dorance Armstrong, the Cowboys defensive line can do no wrong in 2018, and using Jones in week three and beyond should only add to this.
The Cowboys biggest key to success against the Seahawks will be containing Russell Wilson. Pressuring him in his face to collapse the pocket gives Dallas a chance to really slow the Seahawks offense, something they'll be relying on Jones to help them do as DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory also work with favorable match ups at defensive end.
Could a Cowboys Win VS Seahawks Spark an Earl Thomas Trade?
As we enter week 3 of the 2018 regular season, we might be entering the next important date in the Earl Thomas conversation. It's been such a wild narrative ever since the Seattle Seahawks' safety asked Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett to "come get him" and the end of this talk is not close. The trade deadline won't come until October 30th. Only then will we be able to put this conversation aside until the 2019 Free Agency arrives.
After all that's happened, including the Cowboys offering a second round draft pick for Thomas, it may come off as optimistic to expect Thomas will wear the Star in 2018. However, when the Dallas Cowboys visit Seattle today, a victory on the road could spark the trade we've been discussing since December.
The #Cowboys and #Seahawks haven't spoken about Earl Thomas since before he return. Some in the Cowboys organization hope to restart talks today. Seattle would have to be blown away to even consider it. https://t.co/dhbSNPeiiF
Ian Rapoport reported today that trade talks ended between both teams after Thomas returned to the team just before the season began. The Cowboys, according to the NFL Network reporter, "hope to restart talks today."
It only makes sense, right?
The Seattle Seahawks are not re-signing the All-Pro safety. It's not happening. Thomas is clearly unhappy with the situation and hasn't been afraid to show it in social media. Shortly after returning to the Seahawks, he went as far as posting that "the disrespect has been well noted and will not be forgotten."
If the Seahawks lose today against the Dallas Cowboys, they'd be 0-3 in a division where the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers are the favorites. It'd be really difficult to bounce back into the playoffs if they open their year with three straight losses. Even more with a very bad offensive line.
If their season comes to a point where all seems lost, why keep Earl Thomas? Why would they wait until free agency next year to let him go instead of getting compensation now? The Dallas Cowboys have already offered them a second round pick earlier this month, according to reports from ESPN's Adam Schefter. It'd be very hard to understand if they open their season with three losses and still refuse to trade him for a second rounder, considering they don't want to give Thomas an extension.
The Cowboys and the Seahawks' front offices will be in the same building today, making this even more intriguing. The Seahawks will have the Cowboys out of their way, meaning they wouldn't face their All-Pro safety if they trade him after today's game. This is without a doubt a very important chapter in the Earl Thomas' trade discussion.
So far, the Dallas Cowboys defense has looked legit, ranking as the NFL's third best in points allowed. However, the team is familiar with losing in key moments against elite quarterbacks. Thomas could take this unit to the next level, and put the defense in a very good position to lead the Cowboys to the playoffs and beyond.
For now, Thomas will wear a Seahawks uniform and play against the team in which he might eventually end up. As if the game that's going to be played on the field wasn't enough action, Cowboys Nation will be wondering what's being talked about by both front offices inside CenturyLink Field.
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