The Dallas Cowboys have already officially played two games, but the rest of the NFL is entering preseason week 2. The Cowboys will be squaring off against the Indianapolis Colts this Saturday afternoon (August 19) and there are certainly no shortage of storylines for Cowboys Nation to watch.
There is no doubt that the Dallas Cowboys have had their ups and downs so far in their first two contests, but now that it is the third preseason game for them maybe the can find some kind of consistency. Continue reading below to see the five Cowboys storylines I will be personally paying close attention to, but that doesn't mean there aren't any others. There is a lot they need to clean up, but thankfully that's what preseason is for
Darren McFadden vs. Alfred Morris
Odds are Ezekiel Elliott is looking at some kind of suspension. But, as of yet the number of games he will miss has yet to be determined. This makes the backup running back position for the Dallas Cowboys all that more important, which in turn means Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris' offensive role becomes more prominent.
McFadden and Morris haven't really inspired a lot of confidence with their play so for the first couple of preseason games for the Cowboys, which means they really need a good showing against the Colts. McFadden is probably the favorite to take over if Zeke is suspended, but Morris is arguably the better fit in the Cowboys zone blocking scheme.
Both players really need to step up their game, because neither is as talented as Zeke Elliott. Maybe the Cowboys will give Rod Smith a chance to work a little bit more with the first team to see what he's capable of.
Kellen Moore vs. Cooper Rush
After two preseason games, I don't know how anyone can claim that Kellen Moore is deserving of the title of backup QB behind Dak Prescott. He may have the advantage of knowing the offense and supposedly being "one of the best" college QBs to play the game, but his play so far leaves much to be desired.
In fact, the argument could be made that undrafted free agent Cooper Rush has played just as well, if not better than Moore. Rush hasn't performed much like a rookie QB and has looked comfortable in the pocket. He is throwing with accuracy and has shown more arm strength than expected. If he is able to put together another strong showing against the Colts, he could just earn himself a roster spot and possibly unseat Kellen Moore.
It is unlikely the Cowboys coaching staff would choose keep Cooper Rush over Kellen Moore as Prescott's backup this season, but stranger things have happened in the past. Moore really needs to step up his game and prove to everyone why he has the coaching staff's confidence.
Will Noah Brown continue to impress?
It's only been two preseason games for the Dallas Cowboys, but their seventh round draft pick Noah Brown has showed up in both as a wide receiver. He has only had three catches for 41 yards, but he has also drawn a pass interference call.
Noah Brown hasn't gotten as many chances as I would like in the passing game, but he has done a lot of dirty work that goes unnoticed. He is an excellent blocker and can be used in that capacity as a split WR and as a situational tight end. Brown could possibly be the best blocking WR currently on the roster.
Noah Brown has already shown enough through two games for the Cowboys to consider keeping him around, but he still needs time to refine his skill set. These next two preseason games could help determine if he makes the active roster or if the Cowboys are willing to try to slip through waivers and add him to the practice squad.
Can Lewis Neal continue to be disruptive?
I don't know about you, but I've been paying a lot of attention to the Dallas Cowboys defensive line play through these first two preseason contests. There really hasn't been very much to inspire a lot of confidence or excitement, but undrafted free agent Lewis Neal is the one player who has seemed to continuously make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
In this preseason week 2 contest against the Indianapolis Colts, Lewis Neal really needs to continue to be disruptive if he wants to gain more playing time and earn himself a defensive role in 2017. Right now I think he could be the favorite to backup Maliek Collins at the 3-technique, but he will have to continue to show up.
If Lewis Neal can put together another impressive/disruptive performance against the Colts, he could go from an unknown undrafted free agent, to a key role player this season.
Jaylon Smith & Jourdan Lewis' NFL debut
The Dallas Cowboys have two players that will be making their NFL debut against the Indianapolis Colts in preseason week 2, Jaylon Smith and Jourdan Lewis. Both players are expected to be key contributors in 2017 and Saturday will be the first chance the majority of us will have to see them in action.
Jaylon Smith's NFL debut might be just the most anticipated debut for an NFL player in the history of the league. There are endless amounts of fans who want to see the talented linebacker back on the field to finally see how he has progressed from his knee injury. We may not get to see a lot of him, but any playing time he does receive is encouraging for not only his future, but for the Cowboys defense.
Jourdan Lewis' NFL debut won't receive as much hype as Smith's, but that doesn't mean it's not nearly as important. Lewis is one of the defensive backs brought in to make over the Cowboys secondary and could possibly have a huge role on defense in 2017. He is a little bit undersized, which could regulate him to the slot, but he possesses undeniable talent.
What Cowboys storylines will you be watching in preseason week 2?
Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?
Since becoming the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, Rod Marinelli hasn't had too many of his former players follow him to Dallas. In fact, I can only think of one… Henry Melton, and we all know how that turned out.
I don't know about you, but I found that a little strange. It's pretty common for coaches to try to bring some of their players with them when they accept a new job. Familiarity goes a long way in the NFL and former players can also help make the transition easier for everyone.
Strangely enough, Rod Marinelli hasn't really been afforded that luxury, whether it was his doing or not. But, there is a free agent who played under Marinelli's tutelage in Chicago who might make sense for the Dallas Cowboys, linebacker Shea McClellin.
Rod Marinelli was the defensive coordinator in Chicago when the Bears decided to draft Shea McClellin 19th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Marinelli likely had a big say in that decision, and if he still feels the same, a reunion could be in order.
Shea McClellin started his career in the NFL as a 4-3 left side defensive end playing opposite Julius Peppers, but was also viewed as a potential Brian Urlacher replacement. He showed flashes of becoming a solid defensive end his first few years in the league, but was eventually moved to linebacker, where he seemed to find a home for himself.
After his contract expired with the Bears, the New England Patriots decided to bring him aboard to help with their linebacker depth. He only ended up starting four games for them in 2016, but made some memorable plays to help the Patriots become the Super Bowl champions.
Unfortunately, the 2017 season wasn't very kind to him. His entire year was wiped out due to a concussion, which probably had a lot to do with why they recently released him.
This of course could be good news for the Dallas Cowboys. They currently need some depth at the linebacker position and Shea McClellin could provide that, if he's healthy. The healthy bit here is key, because he has had problems with concussions in the past.
If McClellin is indeed healthy, he could bring a versatile skill set to the Cowboys defense. His best spot is probably at strong side LB (SAM), but I think he could play middle linebacker (MIKE) as well. He also could provide depth at defensive end, the position he played to start his NFL career.
With the LB depth a concern, Shea McClellin makes quite a bit of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, his past history with concussions is a red flag, but it also drives down his asking price. I think he would definitely fall into that "bargain shopping" mentality the Cowboys have been using these last few offseasons.
He probably wouldn't be viewed as a very important signing, but you still need these types of players on your team in order to succeed in the NFL. Let's see if the Dallas Cowboys agree.
Do you think a Rod Marinelli and Shea McClellin reunion is in order?
Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys
Now that he's signed with the Washington Redskins, cornerback Orlando Scandrick joins a lackluster list of former Cowboys players and coaches who have gone from Dallas to its historic rival. The history of these moves is ugly for Washington, going back over 40 years, and can't have their fans too excited anytime they sign an ex-Cowboy.
The most recent example was just last year with defensive tackle Terrell McClain. After a strong season as a 15-game starter in Dallas, McClain got a four-year, $21 million deal to join the Redskins. He missed four games with injuries and was only credited with two starts; hardly what the team wanted given the money they paid.
Before him it was Jason Hatcher, whose 11-sack season for the Cowboys in 2013 got him a four-year, $27.5 million deal from Washington. Hatcher would battle knee injuries for two season, getting only 7.5 sacks from 2014-2015. His early retirement in 2016 brought an abrupt end to a disappointing tenure.
Continuing the legacy of defensive linemen was Stephen Bowen, who Washington paid a shocking amount of money ($27.5 million over five years) to in 2011 to pick up in free agency. Bowen had a great first year for the Redskins with six sacks and 16 starts, but injuries would soon cost him 14 games from 2013-2014. He was eventually released after only one standout season in four with the team.
Going back even further, DT Brandon Noble joined Washington in 2003 after being a full-time starter for Dallas for over two seasons. He would miss all of 2003 with a knee injury, have an unimpressive year in 2004, and then missed all of 2005 with more health issues. He retired after being released by the Redskins in 2006.
Orlando Scandrick won't be the first cornerback to go from Dallas to Washington, or the best. At age 32, Deion Sanders was released in 2000 by the Cowboys and then got a huge seven-year, $56 million deal from the Redskins. This came less than a year after Daniel Snyder bought the franchise and was desperate to get them relevant again.
The Sanders move backfired horribly. Even after a solid season by his lofty standards, Primetime was disgruntled with both the coaching staff and his increasing struggles as an aging player. He suddenly retired after just one season of the seven-year contract.
Washington also tried to tap into the Cowboys' glory days when they signed receiver Alvin Harper in 1997. Harper had left Dallas in 1995 and spent two years with Tampa Bay, but had not carried over the same success he enjoyed playing in the Dallas offense.
The Redskins hoped that reuniting him with Norv Turner, who had been Harper's offensive coordinator and was now their head coach, would help Alvin get back to form. But between ongoing injuries and the absence of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith as teammates, Alvin Harper was never the same guy as when he won two Super Bowls in Dallas.
The failed poaching attempts go back many more decades, another one being running back Calvin Hill. The fourth-leading rusher in Cowboys history and a four-time Pro Bowler while in Dallas, Hill joined Washington in 1976. He served as a backup only, averaging only 3.8 yards-per-carry as he played behind the likes of Mike Thomas and John Riggins.
The bad history doesn't stop with players. The aforementioned Norv Turner, who was one of the hottest assistant coaches in history after the Cowboys first two Super Bowl wins in the 90s, was hired as the Redskins' head coach in 1994.
Turner's run started with a whimper, drafting quarterback Heath Shuler third overall in that first year. Shuler would go down as one of the biggest QB busts in NFL history
Norv's Redskins never seemed to recover from that blunder. He only had two winning seasons and one playoff appearance from 1994-1999, and was fired midway through the 2000 season.
Far more recently, Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan left the team in 2015 and took the same job in Washington. He didn't get to bring the offensive line or DeMarco Murray with him, though. As such, the Redskins have remained one of the league's worst rushing teams for the last three seasons. They fell to a new low of 28th in the NFL in 2017.
~ ~ ~
Of course, none of this means that Orlando Scandrick won't have success in Washington. But with the Redskins generally the most mismanaged team in the NFC East, all of the Dallas players and coaches who've gone there have not walked into good situations. For all that Cowboys fans love to complain about Jerry Jones, he handles the owner and GM roles better than any pair Washington's had in almost 30 years.
Given the nature of the rivalries, we naturally can't wish success for Scandrick or anyone else who leaves Dallas for a division opponent. With the track record we just discussed for Washington, it's not something I'll be losing any sleep over.
Xavier Woods, the Real Reason Cowboys Didn’t Pursue Tyrann Mathieu?
It's not uncommon for Dallas Cowboys fans to zero in on certain free agents in hopes that they will bring their talents to America's Team. In fact, just about any "big name" player to hit the open market is often linked to the Cowboys in some way or another. That was the case when the Arizona Cardinals decided to move on from Tyrann Mathieu.
Once Tyrann Mathieu became available, Cowboys fans immediately wanted to see him with a star on his helmet. But, despite the fans petitioning, the Cowboys brass seemed to show almost zero interest in the former Cardinal.
The decision to not pursue Tyrann Mathieu certainly didn't sit well with a lot of Cowboys Nation, but I think it was the right decision.
Despite Mathieu's perceived talents and youth (he's just 25), the Cowboys weren't interested in paying the price to bring him to Dallas, especially since they already have a similar player on their roster.
It may sound crazy, but I think the real reason the Dallas Cowboys didn't show much interest in Tyrann Mathieu is because of Xavier Woods.
I honestly believe Xavier Woods and Tyrann Mathieu have a similar skill set. Both players are little undersized to be a full-time safety in the NFL, but each of them have the versatility to play several different roles in the secondary.
Mathieu may have been listed as a safety on the Arizona Cardinals roster, and now the Houston Texans, but the truth is he played mostly out of the nickel/slot in his professional and collegiate career. That is where he is at his best, and the same can be said about Xavier Woods.
As a rookie, Xavier Woods showed his versatility with the Dallas Cowboys by playing a variety of different roles in the secondary. His versatility was one of the reasons the Cowboys decided to trade up in last year's draft to acquire his services.
His name might not carry the same kind of weight as Tyrann Mathieu right now around the league or amongst NFL fans, but I don't think Xavier Woods is that much of a drop off talent wise.
Personally, I believe Mathieu is starting to decline a little as a player. I think injuries are starting to take a toll on his play, although it may be minimal. I actually prefer Xavier Woods' upside, especially when you take into account the difference in salaries between the two.
Surprisingly enough, Xavier Woods might just have been more productive in 2017 then Mathieu. Woods started just four games and finished the season with 42 tackles, three passes defensed, and one interception. Mathieu on the other hand started all 16 games and accumulated 78 tackles, one quarterback sack, one forced fumble, and two interceptions.
As you can see, Xavier Woods was almost just as productive as Mathieu in nearly a third of the playing time. What's even more impressive about this is that Woods accomplish this as a rookie.
Of course, all of this is speculation, but I for one am not all that upset the Dallas Cowboys missed out on Tyrann Mathieu. I'm willing to bet on Xavier Woods being able to do everything Mathieu can and at a fraction of the cost.
Were the Cowboys right not to pursue Tyrann Mathieu?
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