The story is just beginning for the Dallas Cowboys 2018 draft class, but based on the first chapter it's hard to imagine them having any kind of sophomore slump. Now that it's time to turn the page to see what's in store in chapter 2 for last year's rookie class heading into their second-year in the NFL.
With that in mind, I decided to take a deeper look at the Dallas Cowboys 2018 draft class to see how they not only played last season, but how they could factor into the teams plans this season. I was actually pretty surprised with my findings, which leads me to believe there is a lot of promise with these second-year players.
Let's take a closer look at the Dallas Cowboys 2018 draft class and the potential roles they could play this season…
LB, Leighton Vander Esch - 1st round (19th overall)
Leighton Vander Esch without a doubt highlighted the Dallas Cowboys 2018 draft class, and should continue to do so for years to come. It's funny, because nearly all of Cowboys Nation booed or at least questioned the Cowboys decision to take him in the first-round last year. But, everybody is singing a different tune now after the way he played his rookie season.
Personally, I have very little concerns Vander Esch has any kind of sophomore slump in 2019. I would go as far as predicting he does the opposite, and plays even better. I think we could see a much improved "Wolf Hunter" this season due to the work he's put in this offseason. He should benefit from the Cowboys strength and conditioning program and has a real chance to be bigger, stronger, and faster this year.
LG, Connor Williams - 2nd round (50th overall)
Connor Williams had an up-and-down rookie season for several reasons, but there's no denying his upside makes him one of the more intriguing players out of the Dallas Cowboys 2018 draft class. Quite a bit of Cowboys Nation didn't like the fact he struggled against power players last year or the injury he sustained which caused him to miss time, but overall he had a really good rookie season if you care to go back and watch the tape.
Fortunately though, the things he struggled with a season ago shouldn't cause him as much trouble, if any, in 2019. For that reason alone, I don't think he will have a sophomore slump. He has already added some much-needed weight and strength to his frame, which he credits to the Cowboys strength and conditioning program and fellow guard Zack Martin. That should help him anchor down against powerful players this year and turn him into a much better offensive lineman overall.
WR, Michael Gallup - 3rd round (81st overall)
A lot of Cowboys Nation believed Michael Gallup was the steal of the Dallas Cowboys 2018 draft class, and I think I would have to concur. Gallup was just as talented and perhaps had more upside than just about any of the wide receivers to be drafted last year, and to get him in the third-round in the draft was an answer to a prayer for the Cowboys.
Gallup was expected to come in and help replace some of the production they were losing on offense after they decided to part ways with Dez Bryant. He may not have lived up to those lofty expectations, but he did have an above average rookie season, and it could have been even better if his chemistry with Dak Prescott would've been just a slight bit better. Regardless though, there's no reason to believe he will have a sophomore slump this year. In fact, he should be close to an 800 yard, double-digit touchdown WR in 2019.
DE, Dorance Armstrong - 4th round (116th overall)
One of the players I'm expecting to see the most improvement from out of the Dallas Cowboys 2018 draft class is Defensive End Dorance Armstrong. He finished his rookie season with a combined 13 tackles and half a quarterback sack, which isn't eye-popping by any means, but I think his intangibles and talent should keep him from having a sophomore slump this season.
As things stand right now, I believe Armstrong will be DeMarcus Lawrence's primary backup at left defensive end in 2019. He does have some rookies (Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks) to compete with, but I believe he's the better player of the bunch and should benefit from an entire offseason in the Cowboys strength and conditioning program. I wouldn't be surprised if we see a much improved player this upcoming season, one that factors into the Cowboys pass rush/DL rotation.
TE, Dalton Schultz - 4th round (137th overall)
Dalton Schultz steadily progressed throughout his rookie season as both a run blocker and a receiving threat in the passing game, and I expect him to pick up where he left off in 2019. Unfortunately, with the return of Jason Witten, Schultz currently sits third on the tight end depth chart, which makes predicting his role and playing time this year a little difficult.
The way I look at it, the Dallas Cowboys didn't draft another TE, which to me indicates they like the progression of both Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz. Both players came on towards the end of the 2018 season last year and they should both factor into the offensive game plan in some form or fashion this season. If Witten doesn't quite pan out, Schultz could be looking at an expanded role in his sophomore season.
QB, Mike White - 5th round (171st overall)
Quarterback Mike White was nothing more than the third-string QB and a clipboard holder his rookie season, but he has a real shot to become the QB2 in 2019. It's hard to predict a sophomore slump for him, but I'm expecting a better player this year after spending a year in the Cowboys system. New Dallas Cowboys QB coach, Jon Kitna, has said that the backup position behind Dak Prescott is undetermined as of right now and both QBs, Mike White and Cooper Rush, have a "clean slate" as far as the competition is concerned.
With a "clean slate", I believe Mike White will become the QB2 for the Dallas Cowboys in 2019. Cooper Rush showed flashes his rookie season, but endured a sophomore slump and hasn't shown nearly the promise he once did. This could be the edge White needs to win the QB competition. Plus, he is both younger and signed to a longer contract than Rush, and that could be a key factor when roster cuts are made.
LB, Chris Covington - 6th round (193rd overall)
As a rookie, Linebacker Chris Covington only appeared in five total games in 2018. He should be in line for a much larger role this upcoming season though. If not for the rumored move of Sean Lee to the strong side LB position, I believe it would be Chris Covington getting the first shot to replace Damien Wilson. But, with quite a bit of the offseason remaining, that remains to be seen.
Regardless of what happens the remainder of the offseason, Chris Covington should see an increase in playing time this season. For that reason alone, I don't think we will see a sophomore slump, especially since he didn't play much last year. I believe he will be a core special-teams player and a backup LB at the worst, but if things fall just right could be in line for a starting job.
WR, Cedrick Wilson - 6th round (208th overall)
Cedrick Wilson unfortunately had a redshirt rookie season after sustaining a shoulder injury in training camp that eventually required surgery. He spent his entire first-year in the NFL on Injured Reserve, which was truly unfortunate because he was catching the attention of the coaching staff with his play in practice. 2019 will essentially be his NFL debut, so I don't think he would technically qualify for a sophomore slump.
With the depth at the wide receiver position, Wilson will once again have to catch the eye of the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff. He has a few things going in his favor though. His ability to play on the outside or out of the slot could come in handy when it's time to start making roster cuts. It's not going to be easy though due to the depth and young talent currently on the roster, but if he plays his cards right he could carve out a role for himself this season.
RB, Bo Scarbrough - 7th round (236th overall)
Bo Scarbrough is the only player from the Dallas Cowboys 2018 draft class no longer on the roster, so a sophomore slump is meaningless as far as the Cowboys are concerned. A lot of Cowboys Nation though had high hopes he could become the future backup to Ezekiel Elliott and bring with him some of that success he had during his time at Alabama, but unfortunately that never really materialized.
Sadly, he didn't make the final 53-man roster out of training camp, but was re-signed to the practice squad to replace RB Darius Jackson after he was poached by the Green Bay Packers. He was released once again by the Cowboys and signed to the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad. He spent about a week with the Jaguars before being signed by the Seattle Seahawks, where he currently remains.
Report: Amari Cooper Likely out for the Rest of the Preseason
Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Amari Cooper is likely out for the remainder of the preseason according to ESPN's Todd Archer. He is currently dealing with a form of plantar fasciitis that has kept him out of practice since August 6th.
The three-time pro bowler changed life in Dallas last season as the team went 7-2 in it's final nine games after he was acquired to win the NFC East. Cooper isn't worried about any long term effects, though, as this is something he's familiar with.
"I'm not worried about it at all, because I know if it does linger, it doesn't matter," Cooper said. "I had 1,000 yards when I played on plantar fasciitis before."
The Cowboys host the Houston Texans this Saturday in what is known as the "dress rehearsal" game before the regular season. Starters normally play about a half of football to get the juices flowing for when games really count in September. Ideally, the plan would be for Cooper and Dak Prescott to get a rhythm of sorts before the season starts but that will have to wait until the team prepares to take on the New York Giants on September 8th.
However, the good thing here is this issue doesn't seem to be serious and Cooper will be ready for the start of the 2019 season.
Report: Cowboys Agree To Contract Extension With LB Jaylon Smith
The Cowboys are neck-deep in contract negotiations with some of their team's most important players, but it appears they have gotten one key guy signed this afternoon.
ESPN's Todd Archer is reporting that the Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with middle linebacker Jaylon Smith, though the exact terms of the contract have yet to be announced.
The Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with linebacker Jaylon Smith, according to sources. Smith was set to be a restricted free agent after this season but the Cowboys and his representatives started talks in the spring and they ramped up once camp began. Smith, a...
Of course, the Cowboys drafted Jaylon Smith early in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft despite the horrific leg injury he suffered in Notre Dame's college bowl game. Some didn't think Smith would ever recover to be the same player he once was, but in 2018 Smith emerged as an excellent middle linebacker once again. Smith finished the 2018 season with 121 combined tackles and 4 sacks, and has looked just as imposing thus far in the preseason.
Smith regained his athleticism and sideline to sideline speed, while retaining his impressive hit power and sound tackling to become one of the league's best. Combining Smith with Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys have put together arguably the best linebacker group in the NFL.
And now, there's no end in sight for the dynamic duo.
Report: 2 Dallas Cowboys to be Activated off of P.U.P. List
Per a report from ESPN's Todd Archer, the Dallas Cowboys will soon activate Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence off of the Physically Unable to Perform (P.U.P.) List.
"The Cowboys are planning to activate defensive linemen DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford from the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday, according to a source. They will work through individual drills in their first steps on the field before going through full practices. Lawrence had shoulder surgery not long after signing a five-year, $101 million contract in April. Crawford has been working his way through a hip issue that kept him out of the offseason program. Safety Byron Jones (hip) and receiver Noah Brown (knee) remain on PUP."
Todd Archer - ESPN.com
This report comes after DeMarcus Lawrence had offseason shoulder surgery in April and signed his five-year deal making him the highest-paid player in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, at least for now. It looks as if Lawrence will be ready for a week one return.
It's long been believed that Lawrence would be available for week one of the regular season and hasn't suffered any setbacks to this point that should lead you to believe otherwise. With Robert Quinn suspended for the first two games of the regular season and Randy Gregory's status still up in the air (he still hasn't applied for reinstatement), getting Lawrence and Crawford back for the first two weeks of the season becomes instrumental.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive line has looked really good through the first two games of the preseason, but as good as they've been, they'll need Lawrence and Crawford once the regular season starts. Lawrence will slot back in as the left defensive end and Tyrone Crawford will split snaps at right defensive end with Dorance Armstrong and 3-technique defensive tackle with Maliek Collins, Trysten Hill, and Kerry Hyder.
While the additions of DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford will help the defense tremendously, there still isn't a timeline on the return of Pro Bowl Cornerback Byron Jones. Jones has been out since having hip surgery this offseason.
With as good as the Dallas Cowboys defense has looked this offseason, there's reason to believe that they can be even better once each of these guys are back in the lineup full-time. For a defense that was one of the 10 best defenses in the NFL in 2019, they'll need Lawrence, Crawford, and Jones to make the jump into the elite stratosphere of NFL defenses.
With the Dallas Cowboys' eyes set on capturing that sixth Lombardi Trophy, getting Lawrence and Crawford back in time to be ready for the regular season is vital to starting the 2019 season off right.
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