Thanks to Darren McFadden's poor judgment to try to save his phone from dropping and his broken elbow that seems to be made of glass, rookie running back Darius Jackson now has the opportunity to receive more practice repetitions and catch the eye of the coaching staff.
The Dallas Cowboys were intrigued enough by Jackson's athletic ability, that they decided to draft him in the six round of the 2016 NFL Draft, despite already drafting Ezekiel Elliott 4th overall in the first round.
I will admit that when Darius Jackson's name was announced as becoming a member of the Dallas Cowboys, I was a little shocked. I thought to myself where is this guy going to fit in knowing that they just drafted Zeke Elliott and they also signed veteran running back Alfred Morris to a three-year contract in the off-season? Not to mention, the Cowboys still had the fourth leading rusher in 2015 Darren McFadden still on the roster.
Well, we now know that with McFadden nursing his elbow injury and likely to miss the majority of training camp, it gives Darius Jackson a huge opportunity to prove that he's worth keeping around and thus make McFadden expendable.
I hate to say it, but it looks as if McFadden might just be the odd man out now. He had a really good 2015 season with the Cowboys, but I find it really difficult to see a scenario where the organization decides to carry two veteran running backs that don't contribute on special teams.
Due to the contract the Cowboys signed Alfred Morris to, he is set to make a guaranteed of $1.8 million. Money speaks in the NFL and that is unfortunately bad news for McFadden's chances to stick with the team in 2016.
Of course, this all really depends on whether or not Darius Jackson can prove his worth as the third running back on the depth chart, but I for one am not betting against him.
Jackson has an intriguing skill set that with further development could be really beneficial to the entire offense and the Cowboys running game.
He has the size speed ratio that NFL teams seem to covet in their running backs, but he's nowhere near ready to carry the workload if called upon. Fortunately, due to the depth at the RB position for the Dallas Cowboys, he won't have to.
Darius Jackson is 6'0" and 221 pounds, but has the speed of a much smaller running back, as evidenced by his 4.4 40 yard dash time.
Jackson had a breakout senior season at Eastern Michigan and rushed for a total of 1,078 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns. He also added 21 receptions for 201 receiving yards. Of course, that was college and he is now stepping up the level of competition and will be playing against elite players in the NFL.
College statistics mean nothing now and Jackson is starting all over with the Dallas Cowboys. He once again has to prove to the coaching staff that he can be relied upon and that he deserves a roster spot when all is said and done.
We all know that Jackson's opportunities in practice and even on game days will be limited due to the fact that Zeke Elliott will handle the majority of the load at RB and Alfred Morris will get what's left over. He will have to approach each and every repetition as if it may be his last and prove that he can play in the NFL.
I for one can see a role for him in the 2016 season. I think he will be able to be a key member of the special-teams units and make his mark there to begin with. I also think due to his receiving ability, he could perhaps develop into the receiving type back like the Cowboys had with Lance Dunbar before his injury occurred.
The first thing he will have to do though is to become a better pass protector if he ever wants to get on the field, but I don't foresee that being a problem.
Darius Jackson has to prove he's reliable and that the Dallas Cowboys can count on him when given the chance.
I personally think he will take full advantage of this opportunity with Darren McFadden out and that he will end up contributing in several different ways in the 2016 season.
Of all of the different position battles that are going to be taking place in training camp for the Dallas Cowboys, the running back position is one that I think everyone will be paying close attention to.
Will Darius Jackson end up sticking around in 2016 for the Dallas Cowboys?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to provide your thoughts and opinions so that we can discuss this topic further.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott
Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.
In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.
During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...
...of his offensive lineman.
During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.
As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.
It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.
With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.
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