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?
Travis Frederick’s Return Named Cowboys Biggest Reason For Excitement
Overall, Cowboys Nation feels to be in a positive mood during this year's offseason. Despite early angst over lack of action at the start of free agency, and concern over the Cowboys' draft strategy, most within the fan base seem to have high, yet realistic, hopes for the 2019 season.
Most seem to believe the NFC East will be a two team race, with the last two champions battling for the crown once again down the stretch of the season. Others can see the potential for a dark-horse candidate in Washington, but still believe the Cowboys roster has the edge.
So while Cowboys fans may not think they need a singular reason to look forward to the Fall of 2019, Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski gave them one this week.
NFL Brent Sobleski @@brentsobleski Twitter Logo NFL Analyst The offseason can be as thrilling for NFL fans as the regular season. Player movement constantly refreshes rosters-whether through free agency, the draft or trades. Significant changes inject excitement into franchises, personnel and fanbases. A one-time league doormat can become the league's "it' team simply through a string of acquisitions.
Brent identified the biggest reason for each team to look forward to 2019, with the return of center Travis Frederick being the Cowboys' submission. There's no question that when healthy, Frederick is one of the best centers in the game, and anchors an offensive line many still consider to be at the top of the league.
"A full year with wide receiver Amari Cooper and re-signing Demarcus Lawrence to a long-term deal are both reasons for the Dallas Cowboys to be excited. However, the return of Travis Frederick to man the middle of the offensive line is far more pertinent."
Frederick missed all of the 2018 season after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disease that I am not nearly qualified enough to discuss. What I do know is that it can be very serious, and it kept Frederick out for the entire year.
The Cowboys offensive line suffered during the early part of 2018, largely due in part to Travis Frederick's absence. Yes, Joe Looney filled in and played as well as anyone could have hoped for, but the disconnect in communication across the offensive line was clear without their usual center. Especially during the first couple months of the season.
If Frederick is fully back and healthy, his presence alone will take the Cowboys offensive line back towards their peak. Combine his comeback with a healthy Zack Martin, and a now bulked up Connor Williams, and the interior of this line has the chance to be special.
3 Dallas Cowboys Who Could Make Pro Bowl Debuts this Season
Every year, the Dallas Cowboys send quite a few players to the Pro Bowl. This year, the Cowboys sent eight players to the Pro Bowl with Leighton Vander Esch and Byron Jones being selected to their first Pro Bowl squad.
There is a lot of talent on this year's roster and the Cowboys will likely send someone to the annual all-star game that hasn't been there before. Here are three I think will make a push for Pro Bowl recognition in 2019.
Chidobe Awuzie, Cornerback
In the first half of the season, Chidobe Awuzie got picked on a bit. His coverage was always pretty good, but he allowed a ton of receptions. Awuzie allowed the ninth highest passer rating in coverage, the 12th most receptions, the 10th most yards, and tied for the sixth most touchdowns allowed weeks 1-9 of 2018.
In the second half, including the playoffs, Awuzie was much better and showed a higher level of comfort. His passer rating allowed dropped 50 points and was the 17th lowest in the league among corners who played at least 197 coverage snaps. He allowed fewer receptions, yards, and touchdowns in the 10 games over the second half than he allowed in the first eight games of the season.
Awuzie is one of the tougher players on the team. He plays with a similar edge that DeMarcus Lawrence does on the defensive line.
After spending part of his rookie season injured and rotating in, Awuzie found his stride in the second half of 2018 and was one of the Cowboys better cover players. Going into his third season in the NFL, the Cowboys 2017 second round pick looks to be an ascending player that could make some noise for postseason awards.
Tony Pollard, Running Back/Kick Returner
The Dallas Cowboys went into the 2019 NFL Draft looking to find a gadget player they could use on offense, but just as important, they wanted a player who could contribute in the return game. They got him in Rookie Tony Pollard.
Over the course of three seasons and 87 returns, Pollard averaged 30 yards per kick return and returned seven kickoffs for scores. In 2017, Pollard averaged an insane 40 yards per return. He's an incredibly dynamic player with the ball in his hands and though he wasn't used much on punt returns, shows an ability to make people miss and read his blockers.
As Stephen Jones said, "he's got a little Alvin Kamara to him." As a ball carrier, Pollard averaged 7.7 and 7.1 yards per carry over his final two seasons at Memphis. He was dynamic as a receiver as well averaging more than 12.4 yards per reception over three seasons in college.
With Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys may not give Pollard enough snaps and touches to have an Alvin Kamara like rookie campaign (120 carries for 728 yards, 8 touchdowns and 81 receptions for 826 yards and 5 touchdowns), but if he's given half that workload, plus what he could do on returns, he'll make noise for Pro Bowl consideration.
Jaylon Smith, Linebacker
It was a bit surprising to go back and look at which linebackers made the Pro Bowl and not see Jaylon Smith's name. As good as Rookie Leighton Vander Esch was, Jaylon Smith might have been better. By standard metrics -- tackles, interceptions, tackles for loss -- Vander Esch totaled more. Advanced metrics like defensive EPA (expected points added) and playmaking EPA, favored Jaylon Smith's season.
Overall playmaking EPA rank among all NFL defenders: 5. DeMarcus Lawrence 7. Jaylon Smith 58. Leighton Vander Esch
Jaylon Smith didn't rack up the tackles like Vander Esch, but he was far more impactful over the course of the season. That's not to diminish Vander Esch's contribution to the Cowboys success in 2018. It's important to show Jaylon Smith his due, though.
Smith recorded four sacks, two forced fumbles, four passes defended to go along with his 120 combined tackles in 2018. And that was just his second full season back from the devastating knee injury he suffered in college.
Another season removed from the injury should make Jaylon Smith more confident and more explosive in 2019, which should lead to another outstanding season for the Dallas Cowboys Middle Linebacker.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Don't let anyone tell you that Pro Bowls don't matter. They do. Sure, All-Pro awards are the more highly coveted recognition, but to the players and to their agents, Pro Bowl selections matter. It's not as exclusive, but in a league with 1,696 players being one of 88 is still a really nice honor. To be a Pro Bowl player mean's you're in the top 5% of NFL players.
Obviously, we'd all prefer none of the Dallas Cowboys play in the Pro Bowl. Because that would mean they'd be preparing to play for that elusive sixth Lombardi Trophy. The Cowboys have always provided quite a few participants to the Pro Bowl game, but if the participation was zero in 2020, it wouldn't be all bad.
Will “Rumored” Position Change Help Keep LB Sean Lee Healthy?
Rumors and speculation. That's the point of the offseason we have reached with the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL. That's not necessarily a bad thing because it means players are staying out of trouble, but it's still a slow time nonetheless.
Today, I'd like to dive into some of the rumors and speculation surrounding the Dallas Cowboys right now. I thought I'd start off with Linebacker Sean Lee, and his "rumored" position change heading into the 2019 season. I think it's something worth discussing, as it is just about anything involving General Lee.
If rumors are correct, the Dallas Cowboys are considering a position change for Sean Lee in 2019. He's been their starting weak side linebacker (WILL) pretty much ever since they went to a 4-3 defense, but could be making a move to the strong side (SAM) to replace Damien Wilson. If true, this is interesting on so many different levels.
Sean Lee was initially moved to WILL in the Cowboys 4-3 defense years ago in order to hopefully protect him from the reoccurring injuries he was sustaining year after year. The thought was he would be better protected by not having to fight through so much trash or take on as much contact on the weak side. This was true to some degree, but unfortunately the injury bug continued to bite.
With that in mind, it seems strange the Cowboys are considering moving Sean Lee to SAM since it's considered to be a more physical position to play than he's use to. There is a lot more physicality and contact involved playing on the strong side, which you would think would make him more susceptible to the problem that's plagued his entire career, injuries.
The thought process of having Sean Lee switch to a more physical position seems like a strange one on the surface. A player who has struggled to remain healthy his entire career moving to play a more physically demanding position seems odd, but not if you were to look beyond the obvious.
Yes, the SAM LB position is more physically demanding, but doesn't receive a lot of playing time in the Cowboys 4-3 defense. Damien Wilson only played 30.72% of the defensive snaps in 2017 and 27.93% in 2018. Playing less snaps could actually play in Sean Lee's favor and potentially keep him healthy. That would make the move a win-win for No. 50 and the Cowboys.
A healthy Sean Lee playing SAM would be an upgrade over Damien Wilson. It would also give the Dallas Cowboys arguably the best starting 4-3 linebackers in the entire NFL. You may disagree, but I challenge you to find a better starting trio. I don't think it's possible.
Of course, all of this is just a rumor we are forced to speculate about right now, but it's still interesting to discuss nonetheless. I don't know how all of this will play out in the end, but I can't really think of any reason why Sean Lee shouldn't get the first crack at replacing Damien Wilson as the strong side linebacker in 2019.
Maybe, just maybe this will be the move that will finally keep him healthy.
What do you think? Do you like the idea of Sean Lee making a position change?
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