The Dallas Cowboys have been active at the running back position over the past few days while keeping their off season theme of re-signing their own free agents going when the speedy Lance Dunbar inked a new one year deal for 2016.
However, on Friday, it was also reported that the Cowboys were bringing in free agent back Alfred Morris for a visit. Morris' contract with the rival Redskins expired at the end of this season, and he hit the open market as a two-time Pro Bowl back who has never missed a game since 2012. Despite his impressive run in the nation's capital, the Cowboys will be his first official visit now weeks into free agency.
Dallas is likely interested in Morris for a number of reasons, as we will see coming up in his film, but most importantly because of his durability. While Darren McFadden was a very pleasant surprise this season, his health and sustainability remain a question entering his contract year. Bringing in a guy like Morris to split carries with McFadden could maximize both players production behind this offensive line.
In fact, Morris reminds me a bit of McFadden when watching his tape. Let's get to it:
This first clip is Morris running on a sweep pitch to the left from Robert Griffin III, which is a play that Dallas ran with great success throughout the season with Tyron Smith and La'el Collins blocking for DMC.
Always falling forward... https://t.co/jkKOqyp5uj
Morris finishes off the run by falling forward, as you'll see in practically every clip here.
I mentioned Morris taking this pitch from RGIII because many believe that his production during his first two seasons was largely due to the attention that Griffin III got as a runner. While that may be the case in the Redskins zone blocking scheme (similar to what the Cowboys run), this next clip certainly shows that Morris has plenty of his own play-making ability.
Another example of his cutting ability along with vision on a short gain - once again falling forward. https://t.co/sgaujIMVAi
While it is a minimal gain, Morris is able to use his vision to find a hole before making a quick stop and bursting for a gain of four - once again falling forward. I compared Morris to McFadden based on his vision, but this is a play that McFadden likely keeps outside the tackle for a lesser gain.
Alfred Morris shows a greater ability to locate and cut through smaller holes, making him the perfect compliment to a guy like Darren McFadden.
The dude just knows how to finish runs. https://t.co/LdcAkUE9h8
This second play here should give Cowboys fans flashbacks to 2014, with the huge running lane that develops for Morris. He takes full advantage of it, showing impressive gears for a bigger back.
Entering 2015, the Cowboys put a lot of faith in Joseph Randle. While it was off the field issues that ultimately led to his downfall, Randle was also caught looking for the cutback on a big run far too often - which normally resulted in a minimal gain that could have been a 2 or 3 yard rush that kept Dallas ahead of the chains.
On this above play though, Morris executes the cutback perfectly, patiently waiting for it to develop before hitting the hole hard and finishing the run by once again falling forward. Cowboys Nation should be very excited about a rushing trio of McFadden, Morris, and Dunbar lining up in the backfield next season.
Morris showing some quickness https://t.co/A1jEocxK8a
Here is another massive running lane for Morris that he bursts through while breaking arm tackles. He could consistently see lanes like this in Dallas, especially with Tony Romo under center keeping defenses honest in the secondary.
Running through more arm tackles https://t.co/AHiap5Y8si
I'll leave you with another hard-nosed run by Alfred Morris, this one coming against the Dallas Cowboys. While Washington not re-signing him means we won't be seeing him twice a year anymore (stay away, Eagles and Giants), it would certainly be great to take that next step and give Morris a shiny new star for 2016!
Have any other potential free agent targets that you want me to take a look at? Who would you LOVE to see in the silver and blue?? Let me know! Reply with a comment below to request more "Free Agency Film Room" pieces, and be sure to catch me on the radio every Wednesday from 1-4 ET with Upon Further Review on 90.3 WMSC-FM (click this banner for listening info and more).
Cowboys Will Tag DeMarcus Lawrence; What’s the Plan?
February 20 is an important day for NFL clubs this year. Why? It's the first day in which teams can franchise tag any player. Since 2015, when the Dallas Cowboys tagged Dez Bryant before they were able to work out a long-term deal, Jerry Jones & Co. haven't used the franchise tag. In 2018, though, that will change.
DeMarcus Lawrence just played his best season yet in 2017, and he's looking to get paid big time. Through three years, he had been able to rack up nine sacks, 52 tackles and three forced fumbles. In just 2017, he sacked opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times, had 35 tackles and managed to force four fumbles.
Not only did Lawrence look like an elite pass rusher, but he also improved as a run defender a lot. The Cowboys have been looking for a "War Daddy" for a long, long time and Lawrence seems to be the answer for this football team.
After such a big year, one would expect the Cowboys to sign him to a multi-year enormous contract. But there's a catch. Lawrence failed to remain healthy early in his career and really didn't make as much of an impact until last season.
There's no question that D-Law will be wearing a star come the 2018 NFL season, but will he be doing it under a long-term deal or under a franchise tag?
Cowboys will not place franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence tomorrow as that window opens but will do so by March 6 w/ understanding the goal is to reach a long-term deal. Both sides have until July 16 to make that happen.
For now, according to David Moore from Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence with the objective of getting a deal done in July. The tag however, is not expected to be placed as soon as possible.
In 2015, the Cowboys didn't place the franchise tag on Dez Bryant until the final deadline day. This year's deadline is March 6th, so it may be two weeks before they make it official with DeMarcus Lawrence. #CowboysNation #DallasCowboys
What would franchise tagging DeMarcus Lawrence mean for this team?
First of all, they'd make sure he doesn't hit free agency in March. This gives the front office time to get to work and restructure players' contracts if they have to in order to open up as much cap space as they can before giving him a deal.
It's worth mentioning as well, cap savings from players who are designated as post-June 1 cuts will already be available. If you want to be more familiarized with the Cowboys' cap situation, I highly recommend you read John Williams' deep dive on the matter.
It'll continue to be a very interesting story for this offseason, as handing a franchise tag to a player tends to become a non-friendly situation for both parties. Let's hope that's not the case for the Cowboys and Lawrence this year and that everything works out fine.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue updating you and the rest of Cowboys Nation throughout the offseason.
Dallas Cowboys OL Fails To Crack NFL.com’s Top 10
Often considered a top unit in football, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line seemed to take a step back in 2017. Mostly due to injuries and free agent departures on the left side, the Cowboys were unable to form the same solid unit we have seen in years past.
Despite their struggles, most would still consider them a top 5-10 offensive line in the NFL. At least, that's what I'd expect considering they still feature three All-Pro caliber players upfront.
Matt Harmon of NFL.com put together a list of the top 10 offensive lines in football based on performance in the 2017 season. The list was strictly developed through the use of next gen stats, which defined pressure as "pass-rushing play in which a defender gets within 2 yards of the opposing quarterback at the time of the throw or sack." In addition, "yards gained before close" was taken into account. This metric is meant to measure "the amount of rushing yards a running back gains before opposing defenders come within 1 yard of the player."
After compiling all of these stats, the Cowboys offensive line was left off of the list completely. Maybe even more surprising, however, was that the Philadelphia Eagles' line failed to crack the top ten as well. That's two lines with 3-4 Pro Bowl caliber players each missing the cut.
According to Matt Harmon the Cowboys allowed a pressure on 28.6% of Dak Prescott's dropbacks, 12th highest in the league. Dallas also ranked 20th in the league in YGBC in 2017.
While I do have some issues with the methodology of these statistics, the final result is actually hard to argue with. Down the stretch the Cowboys offense was downright pathetic at times. Regardless of how highly we thought of them prior to the year, the offense didn't perform to their standards, or the standards of a top ten unit.
Heading into 2018, however, I do expect this offensive line to begin to regain form. La'el Collins should continue to improve on the right side, and he is already an adequate starting right tackle regardless. I also expect Dallas to address their left guard spot, potentially within the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.
In the end the success of this line may hinge on the health of Tyron Smith, though. When healthy, Smith is the best left tackle in all of football. But that "when healthy" caveat has certainly hurt the Cowboys offense.
The way the front office handles their offensive line this offseason will play a huge role in the success, or lack thereof, of the Cowboys in 2018.
Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: CB Bene Benwikere
After playing sparsely for the Dallas Cowboys in 2017, veteran cornerback Bene Benwikere is set to be an unrestricted free agent. Could he stay in Dallas, or will he have to find work elsewhere?
Dallas was concerned about its CB depth with heavy reliance on young players and Jourdan Lewis barely participating in the offseason. Therefore, the Cowboys traded a sixth-round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for Benwikere just before Week One.
After a stellar rookie season with the Carolina Panthers in 2014, Bene had suffered a steep fall before landing in Cincy. Injuries and poor play got him cut midway through 2016 by the Panthers, and then Benwikere bounced from Miami to Green Bay before finally signing with the Bengals in the 2017 offseason.
Though a few years removed from being an All-Rookie Team standout, Bene Benwikere is still just 26 and may still draw interest from scouts who remember his better days. He is likely counting on that, because the Cowboys' secondary is starting to fill up.
The Cowboys currently have exciting sophomores Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis expected to start in 2018. Anthony Brown is back for his third season and will be active on game days.
Orlando Scandrick's future is cloudy, but Dallas won't get much cap relief from releasing him this season. They may elect to keep the veteran for one more year, which would all but fill out the CB depth chart.
Even if Scandrick leaves, talk that Dallas may move Byron Jones back to corner from safety would only leave Benwikere in the same disadvantaged position for finding work.
The best chance that Bene Benwikere has to stay with the Cowboys is if new Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard remembers him from 2014. Coaches often feel that can get more out of a player than the last guy, and Richard may see potential in Benwikere that his last few teams couldn't unlock.
Four years ago may be too long, though, and especially with a fresh new crop of young players coming into the league. Especially if they keep Scandrick, Dallas may want to use the rest of their roster spots on younger prospects.
As it stands, Bene Benwikere is unlikely to return to the Cowboys. However, given the flashes of potential he once showed in the NFL, you can't be certain that Dallas won't want to give him one more chance.
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