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Finding 2017 Roles For Cowboys Defensive Rookies

Sean Martin

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Finding Roles For Cowboys Defensive Rookies

It is often said that any NFL team is at its best when younger players can push those ahead of them on the depth chart for starting jobs and snaps. With seven of the Dallas Cowboys’ nine 2017 NFL Draft picks going towards the defensive side of the ball, this will likely certainly be the case for Rod Marinelli’s defense this season – looking to make improvements through continued returns on quality free agent additions, trusted veterans, and of course these seven new rookies.

After exploring how Ryan Switzer, Noah Brown, and some of the intriguing Cowboys UDFAs on offense could help this team in 2017, let’s do the same on defense.

DE Taco Charlton (Round 1 Pick 28)

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Despite not being the most fan-favorite pick on the first night of the 2017 Draft, projecting what Taco Charlton will do for the Cowboys in his first season is pretty simple to an extent – line up at defensive end and rush after opposing quarterbacks.

A pass rusher is exactly what the Cowboys have lacked in the past few seasons, featuring two playoff exits to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, and they now have a solid one to mold in Charlton. Dallas is committed to letting Taco develop by working against Tyron Smith at the currently lackluster RDE spot, but naturally were also attracted to him because of his versatility to play on the left side (where he made most of his flashes at Michigan) and inside at defensive tackle.

Wherever Taco Charlton lines up across the Cowboys’ defensive line in 2017, expect him to log plenty of snaps and be disruptive against the run while flashing as a pass rusher that should only get stronger as the season progresses.

CB Chidobe Awuzie (Round 2 Pick 60)

DB Chidobe Awuzie Brings Versatility, Competitiveness To Cowboys Secondary (Film Review)

If Charlton’s role is easy to project for the Cowboys in his rookie season, Colorado defensive back Chidobe Awuzie’s is anything but – which is exciting.

The best thing the Cowboys did in this draft was completely turnover a secondary that lost cornerstone players in free agency, replacing these starters with younger, athletic studs.

Awuzie is a magnet for the football and should mesh perfectly into Dallas’ new defensive backfield, playing with the likes of Anthony Brown, Nolan Carroll, Orlando Scandrick, and third round pick Jourdan Lewis at CB.

His experience at safety only adds to what Joe Baker and Greg Jackson are looking for in the secondary with versatility and athleticism, but I fully expect the Cowboys to work Awuzie at cornerback and trust what they currently have at safety.

This doesn’t mean that Awuzie won’t line up in off coverage, with the ability to rally to the football downhill and tackle, but in need of starting cornerbacks the Cowboys got one with their second pick in this draft.

CB Jourdan Lewis (Round 3 Pick 92)

2017 NFL Draft: Reviewing Michigan CB Jourdan Lewis – Slant Sports

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Rightfully so, it seems that the draft-weekend Orlando Scandrick trade rumors surrounding the Cowboys were just that, as the veteran CB is still an important part of this secondary.

Jourdan Lewis is the reason these rumors made sense though, as one of the stickiest cover guys available in the entire draft – slipping to the third round partially because of his size along with a domestic violence incident during the draft process.

As the 92nd overall pick, Lewis became a steal for the Cowboys, where he can make the smooth transition from primarily a slot CB at Michigan to a Nickel CB in Dallas.

Its clear the Cowboys built this new secondary with the idea of defending more passes and creating more turnovers, both areas that Lewis can help them improve in with his elite cover and ball tracking skills.

S Xavier Woods (Round 6 Pick 191)

Safety Xavier Woods Provides Incredible Value For a 6th Rd. Pick (FIlm Review)

If I had to pick a Cowboys draft pick that I expect to outplay their drafted position the most, it would undoubtedly be Louisiana Tech’s Xavier Woods.

Along with seeing starting cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr move on in free agency this offseason, the Cowboys lost safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox. As mentioned, I still feel the team is confident in what they have at safety with cornerstone player Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, and veteran Robert Blanton.

Woods could play a major role in this safety rotation too, as the Cowboys were at their best defensively when they changed looks with their safeties in coverage last season. A solid replacement to Barry Church in his line of scrimmage enforcer role, Woods already gives the Cowboys more flexibility at this spot as a rangy safety that can patrol sideline to sideline with fluidity, hitting power, and a knack for creating turnovers.

Woods may remind some fans of J.J. Wilcox when he comes downhill to hit as well, making him a ridiculous value in the sixth round for the Cowboys. Look for him to truly line up all over the field in 2017.

CB Marquez White (Round 6 Pick 216)

Cowboys Draft: Scouting 6th Round CB Marquez White

Over the course of one draft weekend, the Cowboys’ secondary went from a major concern to a unit that may not have a spot for this very draft’s 216th overall pick. Drafted for his traits after making the transition from basketball to football at Florida State, White has the size and length to become a solid player in this league.

Whether or not he puts everything together and improves his overall awareness at the CB position in time to make an impact on the Cowboys in 2017 will be an interesting development to follow through training camp, but White certainly has the upside to become another late-round starter that Dallas needs to add even more depth defensively.

There’s little question on tape that White can turn and run with all types of receivers in man coverage, but his limited ball skills and concerns with his back to the play could stand out significantly if fellow rookies like Awuzie and Lewis continue to make the plays they did in college with the Cowboys on the football.

DT Joey Ivie (Round 7 Pick 228)

Cowboys Draft: Scouting 7th Rd. DL Joey Ivie

The strength of the Cowboys’ much-maligned defensive line is on the interior at DT. This did not stop them from using two of their last three picks in this draft on extra bodies for Rod Marinelli to work with at DT, both of whom have the traits to legitimately fight for their roster spots.

Florida’s Joey Ivie projects best as a 3T DT, winning inside with initial quickness and some developed hand work that made up for enough of his lower body limitations and functional strength on tape in the SEC to warrant this pick.

At this position, Ivie will have to compete with second-year player Maliek Collins – a developing star playing at the most important spot in Marinelli’s scheme – along with veteran Tyrone Crawford and David Irving.

I expect Ivie to have his flashes through the preseason, but ultimately find a hard time sustaining a high enough level of play against the Cowboys offensive line in training camp to make the game day roster in 2017.

DT Jordan Carrell (Round 7 Pick 246)

Colorado’s Jordan Carrell was an unheralded player in college, putting in work against the spread schemes seen throughout the PAC 12 as he excelled at freeing up other talented players around him to get to the ball and make plays.

Always playing with the high motor and down-the-line effort that the Cowboys covet, Carrell could be the perfect player to keep around on the practice squad and even push for a spot on the 53-man roster as the Cowboys’ last pick in the 2017 Draft.

Carrell will happily eat up all of the reps the Cowboys will need from him in the preseason to keep their starters fresh, and likely free himself to make some stops against the run along the way.

✭✭✭✭✭

As you see, the buzz around what the Cowboys defense could evolve into this season certainly seems warranted, as they’ll add as many as four day one starters to an already solid unit that is expecting contributions from last year’s redshirted picks in MIKE LB Jaylon Smith and DE Charles Tapper.

The Cowboys 2016 draft class has already been called their best ever, and if this 2017 class is going to closely follow this success the Dallas defense will be significantly improved with a fantastic young core in place for the future.

This year’s Cowboys training camp projects to be full of key positional competitions, most of which will feature the players above looking to #EarnTheStar in a big way.

Tell us what you think about “Finding 2017 Roles For Cowboys Defensive Rookies” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Pleasant NJ, no we’re not how you think we are. Host of “Upon Further Review” on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. You may @ me: @SeanMartinNFL.

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2 Comments
  • Thomas Williams

    I LIKE THIS CLASS OF DRAFT PICKS

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      As do I, excited to see them all get to work. Thanks for reading!

Game Notes

DAL 20, OAK 17: Cowboys and Playoff Hopes Survive Wild Game

Jess Haynie

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Jason Witten, Dak Prescott

On a night when almost everything seemed to bounce the Raiders’ way, the final crucial play went in Dallas’ favor. That proved to be all the difference, allowing the Cowboys to improve to 8-6 and keep their playoff hopes alive in a pivotal road game in Oakland.

After a 55-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Jourdan Lewis moved Oakland 15 yards from the endzone, Oakland had a few shots at a game-winning touchdown before they’d attempt a tying field goal. On 3rd-and-3, Derek Carr scrambled and went for the score. He dived along the sideline and stretched the ball out toward the pylon, only to lose control. The ball left his hands, crossed the goal line, and went out the side of the endzone.

Cowboys ball. Cowboys wins.

That fumble was Oakland’s fourth of the night. Cordarrelle Patterson fumbled on two of his kick returns but both times the ball rolled out of bounds. Michael Crabtree also fumbled after a catch, but Dallas failed to recover it before the receiver could get back on top of the ball.

Both teams were playing for their playoff lives. When the game was tied 10-10 in the 3rd quarter, Dallas faked a punt from their own 24-yard-line as Chris Jones kept the ball and ran 24 yards. The very next play, the Cowboys attempted a flea-flicker to Terrance Williams that was incomplete. It was perhaps the most aggressive series of calls we’ve seen from Dallas all year.

It was a tough, ugly game. There were 21 total penalties, 14 of which surprisingly belonged to the Raiders. Oakland’s offense executed more consistently while the Cowboys still made crucial stops when needed.

In the end, Dallas survived and advanced in their efforts to sneak back into the NFC playoffs.

Other Notes

  • Dak Prescott had a rough night with two interceptions and no passing touchdowns. One of those picks was due to contact on the throw, but he also missed some opportunities with errant throws and bad reads. He did run one in, though, and had 32 rushing yards total for the game.
  • Alfred Morris and Rod Smith combined for a woeful 74 yards on 23 carries. After a few weeks of big production, this was a good reminder of why we’re so happy to have Ezekiel Elliott returning next week.
  • While Dallas was unable to sack Derek Carr tonight, they applied a lot of pressure and forced several bad throws. Carr only completed 55% of his passes thanks to consistent heat from DeMarcus Lawrence, Sean Lee, and even Taco Charlton on a few plays.
  • It was another solid night from the Cowboys’ young cornerbacks. Despite the big penalty on Oakland’s final drive, Lewis had a solid night all around along with Chidobe Awuzie. Anthony Brown also showed up, having a few nice deflections in crunch time.
  • The Cowboys will head back to Dallas to reunite to with Ezekiel Elliott and prepare a welcoming party for the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday. Seattle was humiliated at home today, losing 42-7 to the visiting Rams. With the Cowboys and Seahawks now tied at 8-6, Dallas can bury them next week with a victory.

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Game Notes

Cowboys and Raiders Offer Many Parallels

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott, Derek Carr

For only the 12th time since their first meeting in 1974, the Dallas Cowboys and the Oakland Raiders will face off tonight in what will likely be a season-ending game for the loser. Two of the NFL’s premiere franchises, the Cowboys and Raiders have lived almost entirely separate lives throughout their history. Despite that, the two organizations in many ways seem like mirror images of each other.

The Raiders are up by one game, 6-5, in the previous 11 games between Dallas and Oakland. The Cowboys have won the last two matchups, both of which were in Dallas. This will be the first they’ve played in the Raiders’ stadium since 2005.

Oakland is one of only a few NFL franchises the Cowboys have a losing record against. Dallas is .500 or better against 26 the 31 other teams in the league. The only other franchises with winning records against the Cowboys are the Baltimore Ravens (4-1), Cleveland Browns (17-14). Denver Broncos (8-5), and the Green Bay Packers (19-17).

Throughout NFL history, perhaps now two owners have challenged the establishment more than the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones and the late Al Davis of the Raiders. Davis sued the NFL in 1980 when his efforts to most the team to Los Angeles were blocked. This year, Jerry Jones threatened litigation against the league for how the commissioner’s contract negotiations were being handled.

in 2017, the Cowboys and Raiders were both Super Bowl contenders who have had disappointing the seasons. They go into this week at 7-6 and 6-7 respectively, nearly even, and with similarly slim hopes of still making the playoffs. Both may be still be able to sneak in if they keep winning, but help from other teams is also needed.

Even their quarterbacks can be compared. Dak Prescott and Derek Carr are two of the top young stars at QB in the game but have had adversity this year.  Carr has been trying to bounce back from a major leg injury last year that cut short his breakout season. Prescott, a rookie sensation in 2016, has had to fight the sophomore slump while also dealing with the loss of offensive MVP Ezekiel Elliott.

If that wasn’t enough, both their first names start with a “D” and end with a “K.” Mind-blowing stuff, huh?

All kidding aside, both Dallas and Oakland entered 2017 with championship goals and have had tough blows along the way. Both will be without key players tonight; Dallas still missing Elliott while the Raiders won’t have franchise receiver Amari Cooper. These personnel issues have plagued their seasons and left both on the brink of playoff elimination.

Who stays alive tonight? For two teams that only see each other every four years, this reunion is of incredible importance to both their immediate futures.

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Game Notes

Cowboys, Raiders Week 15 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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David Irving

Tonight’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders features two teams still hanging on to slim playoff hopes. Both will have to try to keep their seasons alive without some key players, according the final injury report for Week 15.

Dallas Cowboys

  • WR Brice Butler (foot) – OUT
  • TE James Hanna (knee) – Questionable
  • OT Tyron Smith (back) – Questionable
  • OT La’el Collins (back) – Questionable
  • DL David Irving (concussion) – OUT
  • DT Maliek Collins (foot) – Questionable
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring/back) – Questionable
  • LB Justin Durant (concussion) – OUT
  • CB Orlando Scandrick (back) – OUT

Don’t be worried by any of the key “questionable” players. They’re all dealing with nagging injuries and will likely be on the injury report the rest of the year. There is no indication that Sean Lee, Maliek Collins, or either of the starting offensive tackles will miss the game.

Brice Butler will miss his return game against his former team, which is more sad for him than any real issue for the Cowboys. Ryan Switzer and Noah Brown could see some more usage on offensive as a result.

Missing David Irving will hurt as Dallas needs to get pressure on Derek Carr. Coupled with Orlando Scandrick’s absence, the Raiders could be dangerous with their passing game. Thankfully, some of this is offset by their star receiving also missing the game.

Oakland Raiders

  • WR Amari Cooper (ankle) – OUT
  • TE Clive Walford (concussion/neck) – OUT
  • C/G Jon Feliciano (concussion) – Questionable
  • DL Mario Edwards Jr (ankle) – OUT
  • DL Denico Autry (hand/ankle) – Questionable
  • CB David Amerson (foot) – Questionable
  • S Ofi Melifonwu (hip) – OUT
  • DB Keith McGill (knee) – Questionable

The big news here is obviously Cooper being out. Michael Crabtree can still ball but Cooper is one of the top receivers in the game. Dallas’ young corners can breathe easier now.

The big injury on defense is Edwards, the son of the former Cowboys cornerback. He’s started all 13 games this year for Oakland. They also could be without starting corner David Amerson due to a foot injury. That could help Dak Prescott to keep the momentum going from his statistical breakthrough last week.

The rest of the players on the Raiders’ report are all backups.

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