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Darren McFadden Could Prove Long-Term Value With Tony Romo

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Staff Blog - Staff Wars: Cowboys Must Stay With Darren McFadden

The 2015 season has been an absolute mess for the Dallas Cowboys. Injuries and really a ton of issues within the media have truly derailed the Cowboys' season. However, one bright spot for the Cowboys this season has been the play of Darren McFadden. And with Tony Romo more than likely returning in Week 11, Cowboys fans will finally get to see if McFadden will be here for the long haul.

When the Cowboys lost DeMarco Murray to the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency, Jerry Jones made a knee-jerk reaction by signing McFadden, a guy who could really never get it going with the Oakland Raiders because of a constant foot and leg injuries. At the start of the year, many thought the Cowboys would go with a committee for their backfield, with McFadden, Joseph Randle, and Lance Dunbar.

Interestingly enough, even though Randle received the bulk of the carries, I had always believed that McFadden fit best in the Cowboys' zone-blocking scheme, but more on that in a bit. For the first six weeks of the year, Randle was the featured guy for the Cowboys, but multiple on-field and off-field problems combined with an injury led to his release.

Over the past weeks, McFadden has handled the bell-cow role extremely well. Despite going against loaded fronts, McFadden has done a good job at moving the chains and keeping the defense off the field. Now going back to my previous point. The reason why McFadden fits better than Randle in this scheme is simple. McFadden has always had excellent vision. He does a job at cutting, and it's the ideal in-between-the-tackles type of runner.

With Tony Romo returning from the clavicle injury, defenses won't be able to load the box to stop McFadden and make Matt Cassel beat them. Instead, they will have to worry about Romo. This will make things much, much easier for McFadden to run the ball and find success.

Over the course of the next seven games, maybe people will start to realize that McFadden could actually be the guy here long-term. After all, he's only 28 years old and he doesn't have a lot of wear-and-tear on his body. The injury history is extremely concerning, but the talent level is there for McFadden to produce with a star on his helmet for a few years.



An online sports writer for about three years now, Ryan is a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan. He writes about his favorite team on Inside The Star. Ryan also writes for other publications like Roster Watch, Rant Sports, and Cuse Nation. Ryan is a freshman at Syracuse University majoring in Information Management and Technology. You can follow him on Twitter @RyanRattyNFL.

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When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott

John Williams

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All-22 Notes: Connor Williams Stands Out in Wild Card Win

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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5 Studs and Duds From the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Season

Brian Martin

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5 Studs and Duds From the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Season 2

I know we are all still little disappointed with the way the Dallas Cowboys 2018 season ended, but if we are completely honest with ourselves it ended a lot better than we initially thought it would. With the season officially over, it's time to start the evaluation process to see what went wrong and what right this past year.

I don't know about you, but I started the evaluation process a lot earlier this year than I have in years past. That is why today I want to share with you five of the Dallas Cowboys players who I believe had a fantastic 2018 season and five that unfortunately didn't quite live up to expectations.

Before we get started, I want to let you know that I tried to stray from pointing out the obvious, especially in the stud category. Instead I went with players who kind of came out of nowhere to have a really good season. I thought that would make it a little more enjoyable instead of pointing out the obvious. I hope you enjoy.

✭ Dallas Cowboys 2018 Studs ✭

Byron Jones

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones

CB, Byron Jones

Byron Jones completely turned around his career this season with the Dallas Cowboys after being moved from safety to cornerback, his more natural position. Many had him pegged as a first-round bust, but he definitely quieted his critics by making his first Pro Bowl and becoming a Second-team All-Pro. I would say that qualifies as stud status.

The Predator and Wolf Hunter

You can't really mention one and leave out the other, which is why you're getting a two-for-one special here with Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. This dynamic duo arguably played like the best LBs in the league, although it's Vander Esch who has received the majority of the attention and got the Pro Bowl not as a replacement. Both definitely had Pro Bowl caliber seasons and that alone speaks volumes to how they played in 2018.

C, Joe Looney

No one could've possibly predicted the kind of season Dallas Cowboys backup Guard/Center Joe Looney would have in 2018 after replacing Travis Frederick in the starting lineup. He became somewhat of an afterthought this past season, which is pretty impressive in itself considering he was replacing one of the best centers in the league. What's even more impressive is the fact he played every single snap on offense. No other Cowboys player accomplished that feat on either side of the ball.

DE, Randy Gregory

You may disagree with me here, but the way Randy Gregory played in the second half of the 2018 season earned him stud status in my opinion. If he would've played that way for the entire year he would've joined DeMarcus Lawrence with double digit quarterback sacks. His ability to turn his speed into power gave opposing left tackles fits. He ended up being among the best at pressuring the QB in the latter part of the season.

DT, Antwaun Woods

Antwaun Woods was viewed as nothing more than a camp body when the Dallas Cowboys picked him up in the offseason after being released by the Tennessee Titans, but it's not always where you start it's where you finish. He went on to earn the starting gig at the 1-tech or nose tackle this past season and was largely responsible for the success Dallas had at shutting down opposing offenses rushing attacks. Unfortunately, as well as he played all season it will probably be forgotten after the way the LA Rams completely dominated Woods and the rest of the Cowboys DL in the playoffs.

✭ Dallas Cowboys 2018 Duds ✭

Sean Lee

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

LB, Sean Lee

The Dallas Cowboys wisely drafted Leighton Vander Esch as insurance if Sean Lee couldn't remain healthy in 2018, and thank the heavens they did. Vander Esch was supposed to be Lee's backup this season, but it ended up being the other way around after #50 once again missed quite a bit of the year with injuries. It looks like the torch has already been passed, making Sean Lee's future in Dallas a mystery moving forward.

DT, David Irving

Remember last offseason when the Dallas Cowboys decided to place just a second-round tender on David Irving and we were worried some other team would snatch him up? Yeah, well it looks as if the Cowboys are the ones who paid too much to keep him around because did basically nothing in 2018 despite all the high expectations we all had for him. After he sustained a high ankle sprain he pretty much went M.I.A. and no one really knows what the heck is going on or what his future holds.

WR, Allen Hurns

The Dallas Cowboys signed Allen Hurns this past offseason to help replace some of the lost production in the passing game after they decided to release Dez Bryant. Unfortunately, he never found his footing in Dallas and finished the year with an unimpressive stat line of 20 receptions for 295 receiving yards and two touchdowns. To add insult to injury (pun intended), his gruesome leg injury might be the only thing we remember about his 2018 season.

S, Jeff Heath

I'm actually a fan of Jeff Heath's, but he didn't particularly play very well this season. He ended up grading out as one of the worst tackling safeties in the NFL this past season. I don't know if it was some kind of fluke or what, but the Dallas Cowboys will surely be looking to upgrade the safety position this offseason either through free agency or the draft, perhaps both. Regardless, his days in the starting lineup may be all but over.

RB/WR, Tavon Austin

There were a lot of high expectations for Tavon Austin when the Dallas Cowboys added him via trade with the Los Angeles Rams. Austin was supposed to provide a different dynamic to the Cowboys offense and help improve their return game as well. Unfortunately a groin injury pretty much wiped out the majority of his season, but even when he was on the field he wasn't as impactful as we'd all hoped. He did show a few flashes of his talent, but for me it wasn't enough.



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Report: Antwaun Woods Played with Torn Labrum in Loss to Rams

John Williams

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HOU 19, DAL 16: Cowboys Lose Tough Defensive Battle in Overtime

Late last night, Ian Rapoport from the NFL Network reported yesterday that Antwaun Woods suffered a torn labrum in the second quarter of the game against the Los Angeles Rams and proceeded to play with the injury for the rest of the game.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys DT Antwaun Woods tore his labrum during the second quarter of the #Rams game and had surgery today to repair it, source said. He played the rest of the game with the ailment. One of Dallas' young talents on the mend.

Woods is a tough player, but there's no way that it didn't affect his play. The labrum is the cartilage in the socket of your shoulder joint. It acts to protect the bones from rubbing together and allows a smooth surface for the shoulder to rotate and extend. The labrum also serves as the location where the tendons and muscles of the rotator cuff attach.

A torn labrum will effect the range of motion and will be painful to use when attempting to perform range of motion. Also, any blows to the shoulder, which is always for a defensive tackle will be painful as well, and it will limit his play strength.

https://twitter.com/AntwaunWoods_/status/1086089237785653248

Antwaun Woods responded to Rapoport's report with confirmation of the injury and surgery.

Woods was a highlight of training camp and a standout this season. His play at the 1-technique defensive tackle position helped the Dallas Cowboys become a top 10 rushing defense and gave the Cowboys something they've struggled to find for years; a penetrating 1-technique defensive tackle.

Woods finished the season with 34 total tackles (15 solo), two tackles for loss, and five quarterback hits according to Pro Football Reference. He also had 16 stops, which Pro Football Focus defines as a play that resulted in a loss for the offense, which was second on the team at defensive tackle to Tyrone Crawford.

Things are looking up for Woods as he'll likely be back with the Cowboys in 2019 and manning the nose tackle position for a defense that is on the rise in the NFL. Injuries are never a good thing, but the Cowboys and Cowboys Nation just learned how tough Antwaun Woods is and how much he's willing to give for his teammates.



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