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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!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @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!

Dallas Cowboys

Next Day Rant: Too Many Letdown Games Under Jason Garrett

Jess Haynie

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Jason Garrett

Yesterday's 23-0 shutout in Indianapolis was one of the ugliest losses the Dallas Cowboys have had during Jason Garrett's tenure as head coach. Even though it probably won't cost them a playoff spot this year, let alone the NFC East title, it still reminds us of a painful history with Garrett's teams.

It takes me back to those 8-8 seasons during  Jason's first three years as head coach, when playoff hopes were dashed time and again by that inevitable letdown loss in December.

In 2011, the Cowboys were 8-6 with two games to go. The NFC East was all bunched together, with the division title and playoffs in reach. Dallas fell flat in a 20-7 home loss to the Eagles, then got walloped 31-14 in New York.

2012; Dallas is again 8-6. They lost at home, in overtime, to a Saints team that finished the year 7-9. It robbed them of the chance to make their Week 17 finale against Washington, the eventual division winner, a meaningful game.

2013; Dallas is 7-5 after Thanksgiving. They go 1-3 to finish the year, losing to two teams who finished the year with just 8 wins each.

This loss reminded me of those years, where the team just didn't look hungry or emotionally prepared to play despite having everything to play for. For as much as we've credited Jason Garrett for his work as a motivator and leader, these blemishes can't be ignored.

Colts

The Indianapolis Colts ran over the Dallas Cowboys in their 23-0 shutout victory (Week 15, 2018).

To be fair, yesterday's game was a recipe for a loss. The Cowboys were riding high on their five-game win streak. They knew that all they needed was one win in their next three games to clinch the NFC East.

Meanwhile, the Colts are part of a cluster of teams vying for the last Wild Card spot in the AFC. One loss could be the difference between playing football in January or preparing for the offseason.

One team was comfortable and maybe a little complacent, and the other was desperate. Throw in home field and having a better quarterback, and Indianapolis was rightly favored to win the game.

But that 3-point spread was one thing, and Dallas losing 23-0 is another.

Other than their upset win over New Orleans, the Cowboys haven't exactly been taking on the cream of the NFL crop during this win streak. Atlanta is 5-9 and the Eagles and Redskins are both just 7-7.

This Colts game was a chance for Dallas to show its mettle against a legitimate playoff contender. They'd failed throughout the year, losing to Carolina, Seattle, Houston, and Tennessee. But that was before they got hot and got Amari Cooper going.

This game needed to be different. But instead, it was very familiar.

Once again, Jason Garrett's Cowboys couldn't seal the deal. They got outclassed by a team which, by all appearances, is equal to them in talent.

Is the Cowboys 2018 Season Circling the Drain? 1

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

Panic mode is silly when it comes to Dallas making the playoffs. If they can't get a win over the next two weeks with the Bucs and Giants on the schedule, they don't deserve to be there anyway.

The Cowboys should still win the NFC East regardless of what happened yesterday, but now the concern is if this team is really ready for the playoffs. Because a legit playoff team just made us look like hot garbage.

In the 2014 and 2016 seasons, we've taken solace in how close those games have been. If the Dez catch had been called correctly, or if Aaron Rodgers hadn't pulled that throw to Jared Cook out of his butt, the Cowboys might have very well advanced to the NFC Championship. They were contenders, and they took those games down to the wire.

But is this Dallas team a contender, or are they going to be the champions of a weak division? Will they compete in January?

That's the scary thought that yesterday's disaster leaves me with. On average, Jason Garrett has these guys motivated to play. Even when you question the X's and O's, the team almost always seems to play hard.

But they didn't in Indianapolis. They appeared to be resting on the laurels of their win streak and seemingly inevitable division title, and that's concerning with playoff games on the horizon.

Maybe this game was exactly the kind of wake-up call that this young roster needed. This isn't 2016 again; you're not rolling into the playoffs as a 13-win juggernaut.

A good coach uses a game like this to help his team learn and grow. It's actually great for them if it eradicates any potential complacency that had set in.

But that means Jason Garrett has to overcome his history. We've been let down too many times already.



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Nation, It’s Time To Take a Deep Breath

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Warts And All, Dak Prescott Shows Why It's Not So Easy To Move On

It's difficult to find the words after watching the Dallas Cowboys perform (if you can even call it that) the way they did against the Indianapolis Colts. The team's five-game winning streak came to an end in a disappointing showing in literally every phase of the game. The Cowboys walked away from this game with zero points on the board... zero. It's the first time this franchise is shutout since 2003.

And despite such a bad game, guess what? There's no need to panic. No, the Cowboys' season is not over. No, it's not the end of the world. Even if Cowboys Twitter tries to tell you otherwise. I'm here to ask you to take a deep breath...

The Dallas Cowboys are still one win away from being the 2018 NFC East Champions.

Now, granted, the loss was definitely painful and disappointing. It would've been great to watch Dallas get a statement win on the road against such a hot team. With the defense playing lights out all year, it was odd to watch them get picked apart by Andrew Luck and crushed by Marlon Mack. Tackling was disastrous as was the lack of pressure on the opposing quarterback.

On the other side of the ball, an already concerning unit managed to scare us even more. Play calling remains unbearable to watch, Dak Prescott continues to hold the ball for too long as he refuses to throw it away, and the offensive line's downfall continues With Zack Martin out, Connor Williams didn't really help much as the entire unit got consistently beat by the Colts' defense. Not even Amari Cooper, who had been owning the NFL since week 9, was able to put up a decent showing this time around.

Everything that could have gone wrong, went horribly wrong. And yet, the Cowboys control their own destiny.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Indianapolis 1

They don't depend on the outcomes of any third party as they did in 2017. Sitting at 8-6, abandoning all hope on this team makes no sense. In today's NFL, every football franchise is bound to have a bad game from time to time. That's why the Seattle Seahawks (who currently have a Wild Card spot) fell this week to the 4-10 San Francisco 49ers. That's also why the New England Patriots have suffered losses in back-to-back weeks. Even the Los Angeles Rams, the second seed in the NFC at the moment, were stunned by the Nick Foles-led Philadelphia Eagles!

It's a competitive league. It's as simple as that. If there's one thing we've learned this season is that once January football is on, any given team can beat any other on the Playoffs. The New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, and Los Angeles Chargers have all proven to be beatable teams.

The Cowboys falling on the road against a very legit threat in the AFC is far from the end of the season. It's high time we learn to avoid recency bias and stop making our final judgments on teams or players based on the last game we saw.

The Dallas Cowboys can still run the football. They have an offense capable of controlling the time of possession. And their defense is still a great unit with a quality pass rush and a great set of linebackers.

So, Cowboys Nation, I invite you to take a deep breath and repeat after me: "The Cowboys are still one win away from the NFC East title and are one pretty good football team." Seriously, the season is far from over.

On to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Nation, It’s Time To Take a Deep Breath" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Game Notes

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Indianapolis

Brian Martin

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Indianapolis

In a game we all hoped would clinch the NFC East division, the Dallas Cowboys instead got shut out by the Indianapolis Colts in one of their worst performances of the season. It was a deplorable performance in every aspect of the game and something we hope to never see again.

I knew sooner or later the Dallas Cowboys self-inflicted wounds would catch up to them, and that's exactly what happened against the Colts. They had far too many penalties and mental mistakes once again and it allowed Indianapolis to take over the game. The Cowboys beat themselves plain and simple.

Before I get on a rant about yesterday's game, I better stick to the topic at hand and share with you what I believe to be The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for the Dallas Cowboys. As always, please feel free to use the comment section located at the end of the article to share any of your thoughts and opinions on this topic.

The Good

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

In a game where just about everything went wrong for the Dallas Cowboys it sometimes a little difficult to find any kind of silver lining. That was the case this week after the Cowboys were shut out by the Indianapolis Colts. But, the good for me is that Dallas still holds their playoff fate in their hands, despite the embarrassing loss.

Any thoughts of sitting any of the starters for the Cowboys has now gone out the window. They absolutely have to play to win to close out the 2018 regular-season, because they failed to do what needed to be done against the Colts to secure the NFC East division title. Luckily though, it didn't close the door on their playoff aspirations.

With the Buccaneers and Giants left remaining on their schedule, the Cowboys will have to find some way to get back to their winning ways. Hopefully this was just the slap in the face they needed in order to put things in perspective. They simply can't afford another showing like they had against Indianapolis at any point moving forward.

The Bad

Xavier Su'a-flio

Dallas Cowboys LG Xavier Su'a-flio

I knew exactly what I was going to put in the section as soon as it happened during the game. The bad this week for the Dallas Cowboys against the Indianapolis Colts for me was without a doubt their banged up, patched together offensive line.

The Cowboys were forced to go with a patchwork offensive line for the majority of the game against the Colts yesterday afternoon after Xavier Su'a-flio left the game after an eye injury, forcing the Cowboys to go with their third string offensive guard Adam Redmond. Su'a-flio immediately had to leave the stadium to have his eye examined by an optometrist, suggesting that it was a pretty significant injury.

Unfortunately, another injury on the OL for the Cowboys leaves them severely thin depth wise at the most inopportune time. Hopefully a week of rest has done Zack Martin's injured knee some good and he will be able to return to the lineup as soon as possible. That would allow Connor Williams to move back to LG and hopefully solidify the offensive line once again.

The Ugly

Marlon Mack, Chidobe Awuzie

Indianapolis Colts RB Marlon Mack

Maybe I underestimated the Indianapolis Colts offense or maybe I just overrated the Dallas Cowboys defense, but something was clearly off yesterday afternoon on the defensive side of the ball for the Cowboys. After being so good nearly all season, they were just plain ugly against Indianapolis.

The Cowboys defense didn't have an answer for the Colts offense, especially in the running game. Marlon Mack, a solid runner although not spectacular, completely gashed the Cowboys usually stout run defense. He ran for 139 rushing yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns, something that's been unheard of against Dallas' run D.

I was honestly completely shocked he had so much success. There were far too many missed tackles and blown assignments to my liking and I believe the coaching staff will make sure to focus on clearing that up moving forward. This team can't afford to let opposing offenses control the clock with their rushing attack. That's the Cowboys MO.

What's your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against Indianapolis?



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