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Could This Free Agent RB Backup Ezekiel Elliott In 2017?

Brian Martin

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Could This Free Agent RB Be Ezekiel Elliott's Backup In 2017?

The Dallas Cowboys have one of the best, if not the best, running backs in the entire NFL in Ezekiel Elliott. But, the cupboard behind him is pretty bare and likely needs to be addressed at some point with either a free agent or a rookie.

Adding depth to the running back position isn’t necessarily a top priority because Ezekiel Elliott will rarely come off the field, but you have to have a good contingency plan in place for emergency situations.

Could This Free Agent RB Backup Ezekiel Elliott In 2017?I personally believe the Cowboys will go bargain shopping this off-season and find a capable free agent RB to back up Elliott for the 2017 season. A player that makes sense to me is former Cincinnati Bengal, Rex Burkhead.

Yes, that white running back that used to play at the University of Nebraska.

That seems to be all that anybody knows about Burkhead or at least the only thing I ever hear when his name pops up. It may sound racist, but it’s true.

Now, before you cast this idea to the side, you have to give me a chance to explain why this makes a lot of sense for the Cowboys.

Burkhead isn’t the biggest or fastest running back in the league, but his value lies in all of the different ways he can contribute to the team.

Burkhead isn’t what you would consider an every down type of RB, but he is more than capable of toting rock given the opportunity.

Could This Free Agent RB Backup Ezekiel Elliott In 2017? 1In fact, the only time Burkhead really got to show his stuff was towards the end of the year in 2016 against the Baltimore Ravens. He took full advantage of his opportunity and ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns on just 27 carries. That was against one of the best run defending defenses in the entire league.

He is a decisive runner and doesn’t shy away from contact. He also has good vision and is more elusive than a lot of people give him credit for.

With the Cowboys he would likely be the change of pace back and take over Lance Dunbar’s role on offense. But, unlike Dunbar, Burkhead is much more suited to run the ball between the tackles.

Rex Burkhead would also likely be an upgrade over Alfred Morris. He is better in pass protection and is also a better receiver out of the backfield as well. It’s debatable whether or not he’s a better runner because there’s such a small sample size so far in his career. But, it wouldn’t completely surprise me if he comes in and makes Morris expendable.

Of course, that’s not the only way Burkhead can contribute. He was mostly a special teams player with the Bengals and would likely continue to contribute in that capacity with the Cowboys as well.

Rex Burkhead is the definition of “value” when it comes to what the Dallas Cowboys want in a backup running back.

You add him, Ezekiel Elliott, and a rookie RB at some point in the draft, and you have a pretty good versatile group of players that have restocked the cupboard in a short amount of time.

If the Cowboys stick to their bargain shopping approach to free agency, adding Rex Burkhead just makes too much sense not to happen.

Do you think Rex Burkhead would make a good backup for Ezekiel Elliott?

Please feel free to use the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions on this topic.

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Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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8 Comments
  • Billie Battoni

    Rex Burkhead is really good and will be in a rotation somewhere. Probably one of the top three most versatile free agent backs this year. Crazy high level athlete

    • Brian Martin

      Billie, I completely agree with you. I’m just hoping that is for the Dallas Cowboys.

  • Russ_Te

    Darren McFadden
    Football running back
    Darren McFadden is an American football running back for the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League. He played college football for the University of Arkansas, and was picked fourth overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 2008 NFL Draft.
    Wikipedia
    Born: August 27, 1987 (age 29 years), North Little Rock, AR
    40 yard dash time: 4.33 seconds
    Height: 6′ 2″
    Current team: Dallas Cowboys (#20 / Running back)

    • Russ_Te

      I see no changes to the above, so can’t agree with the idea of bare in the unit. I might want Burkhead or a similar player to challenge Morris in camp, but only if inexpensive in FA.

      Similar to the WR speculations, the Cowboys getting distracted from RDE, CB, OL and maybe TE, is something they can’t afford to do.

      • Brian Martin

        Russ, I’m not sure what you meant mentioning Darren McFadden in your previous comment. He is a free agent now, which leaves Elliott and Morris as the only two running backs on the roster to receive a carry in 2016. The position needs to be addressed with either a cost-effective free agent or draft pick, possibly both. But, I did mention that it probably isn’t a top priority because Elliott will rarely come off the field.

    • Brian Martin

      McFadden is a free agent and is probably a long shot to return.

      • Russ_Te

        You’re right it puts him at large, but all depends on his offers and also his career goals of course.

        Jerry likes him and he’s a perfect fit to spell Elliott and bring firepower – so to me that makes him worth at least what would be spent on another RB in free agency.

        For McFadden, if he gets a close and not insulting offer (like Jones gave Murray) – much better to stay. Less wear as a backup extends his career by years, plus a chance for Lombardi’s.

        Anyway, I hope he’s retained.

        • Brian Martin

          I personally wouldn’t mind McFadden returning, but the Cowboys like their backups to play special teams. I don’t think that’s part of McFadden’s game anymore.

Star Blog

Will Terrance Williams be Back with Cowboys in 2018?

Brian Martin

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Will Terrance Williams be Back with Cowboys in 2018?

Each offseason tough decisions have to be made by teams around the NFL, and the Dallas Cowboys are no exception. Teams have to decide who to promote, who to demote, and who to cut ties with altogether. For the Cowboys, Terrance Williams fits into one of those three categories, but which one?

It was plainly obvious that the Dallas Cowboys wide receivers all had an extremely disappointing 2017 season.

Everybody has their own opinion as to why this happened, but one thing is for sure, the Cowboys coaching staff will definitely look at ways to get more out of their receiving core. The one player who I think could be affected most by whatever decision the coaching staff ends up making is Terrance Williams.

Williams didn’t do much to make a case for keeping his starting job in 2017, let alone sticking on the roster.

To say he had a disappointing season would be an understatement.

Williams finished the 2017 season with just 53 receptions for 568 receiving yards and absolutely zero touchdowns. The Cowboys were likely hoping for more production from someone they just signed to a four-year, $17-million contract extension back in March [2017].

Now, you can make the argument Williams took a team discount in order to stay in Dallas, but that doesn’t carry much weight when your production leaves so much to be desired. This is especially true when there might be somebody on the roster who can do just as well, and possibly be an upgrade.

Noah Brown

Dallas Cowboys WR Noah Brown (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Yes, if you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m talking about Noah Brown.

I know I’m not alone here, but I think Noah Brown could easily replace Terrance Williams’ production. I understand that there’s not much evidence to back up that statement based on Brown’s rookie season, but he has all the tools required to succeed.

This is really all about potential, and Noah Brown simply has more upside than Terrance Williams.

We all know what Terrance Williams is as a receiver, and what he brings to the table for the Cowboys offense. I believe Noah Brown can do all the things Williams does and has the potential to be even better.

I already think Noah Brown is a better blocker, something the Cowboys coaching staff really values about Williams. I also think Brown is a better pass catcher. He is a natural hands catcher and has a large catching radius, something Williams obviously isn’t (body catcher).

Right now, Williams is only better than Noah Brown in a few areas. He is slightly faster, he’s more advanced as a route runner, and has more experience. That’s about it.

This will obviously be a tough decision for the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff to make. But, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if we see Terrance Williams playing somewhere else when the 2018 season kicks off.

Do you think Terrance Williams will be with the Cowboys in 2018?

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Star Blog

Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?

Sean Martin

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Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 3

Three of the four teams remaining in the NFL playoffs — a win away from the Super Bowl — ranked within the top four defensively in yards per game allowed this season. The other is the defending-champion New England Patriots, who of course were expected to reach yet another AFC Championship game, thanks to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

Somewhere between this field, losing their 2017 hopes at a deep playoff run to injuries, suspensions, and just poor execution at times, are the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys ranked eighth in yards allowed per game at 318.1 this season.

On the surface, all this provides hope that typically springs eternal around the league through the offseason.

It has been far too long since the Cowboys defense matched the skill level of the team’s offense, but Rod Marinelli’s unit (not exactly by design) outplayed that of Scott Linehan’s at times through this 9-7 campaign.

This defensive rebuild in Dallas began with the admission that this group had reached their ceiling in the offseason, as the Cowboys let long-time starters like CB Morris Claiborne, CB Brandon Carr, S Barry Church (now with the Jaguars), and S J.J. Wilcox go in free agency.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense?

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis, CB Chidobe Awuzie, S Xavier Woods (AP Photo / Ron Jenkins)

For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, looking to turn over an entire secondary in a division featuring Carson Wentz, Eli Manning, and Kirk Cousins as quickly as the Cowboys did was a risky move. Their confidence in hitting on draft picks paid off though.

The Cowboys’ bright future is predicated on the likes of CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Jourdan Lewis, and S Xavier Woods.

With two young starters at cornerback, the sky truly is the limit the this Cowboys defense. And they’ll play in support of an offense with more than enough talent to return to form in 2018.

As it stands now under Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys defense is built to keep everything in front of them, and get bodies to the football. This coverage-friendly approach could be taken to new heights with Lewis and Awuzie on the outside, along with Anthony Brown finding a home in the slot. All three cornerbacks have excelled at using their speed, length, and technique to get their hands on passes.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 1

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Of course, games are won in the trenches, where the idea of the Cowboys defensive line ever rising to the level of their offensive line was laughable until recently. Whether it’s with the franchise tag or a long-term extension, sack-artist DeMarcus Lawrence looks to be an all-important member of this entire team moving forward.

A healthy Lawrence was a nightmare for opposing right tackles in 2017. He earned a national spotlight each week on his way to the quarterback 14-and-a-half times. Making it look easy at times, Lawrence is a refined rusher with the speed and power to win inside and out.

The RDE position remains a sore spot in need of talent as this Cowboys defense looks to take the next step, but there’s hope for the likes of Randy Gregory, Charles Tapper, and Taco Charlton to get the job done, along with veteran starter Tyrone Crawford.

With Crawford at RDE for much of 2017, running the ball against the Cowboys front was a tall order. His ability to capture the corner against left tackles came as a pleasant surprise to many, and once in position, the defensive captain chased down plenty of plays.

Tyrone Crawford wasn’t the only pleasant surprise on the Dallas Cowboys defensive line this season.

Rookie Taco Charlton looked like an entirely different player to close a first year in Dallas that began with completely uninspiring results. Charlton — having the physical traits to play at the next level — was never a question out of Michigan.

He may never be a player to take over games for a defense, which the Cowboys couldn’t have expected to find at DE selecting 28th overall, but an improved player at DE and DT could be an incredibly valuable asset for the Cowboys in 2018 and beyond.

This leaves the Cowboys linebacker corps, where we find the best example of young potential on the entire defense. Amazingly playing in all 16 games, LB Jaylon Smith is in line to take a massive step forward in year two.

Smith closed his season looking enticingly close to the player he was at Notre Dame, an encouraging sign as the Cowboys look to become less dependent on Sean Lee on this side of the ball.

Lee and Smith paired together would give the Cowboys a middle-of-the-field presence to rival the best in the league. Both players have exceptional range and awareness to run down plays from sideline to sideline.

Anthony Hitchens, an impending free agent, is another valuable piece at LB with his ready ability to play all three positions at a relatively high level.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 2

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

Stefon Diggs racing to the end zone with no time left to send the Vikings to the NFC Championship game will be the lasting image of this past Divisional Round weekend, an offensive play that will live on forever.

A closer look at these games and the teams that survived them reveals a collective trust in defenses, a trust the Cowboys could be blissfully close to with their own young defense.

The Cowboys are likely losing one of the smarter minds behind their defense in recent years, with Matt Eberflus ticketed for Josh McDaniel’s staff, and are still in need of a secondary coach after not retaining Joe Baker. In a league where better talent typically prevails though, the possibility of the Cowboys building a championship defense for next season and beyond may not be far off.

With defenses in Jacksonville and Philadelphia providing the hope that both teams can pull off the impossible and reach the Super Bowl on Sunday, will defensive potential be enough for Dallas to get through this long offseason and start the even longer path back to their first NFC Championship game in 21 seasons?

Tell us what you think about “Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Can Rico Gathers Make Cowboys Offense More “Dak-Friendly”?

Brian Martin

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Rico Gathers, Rams

The Dallas Cowboys unfortunately face all kinds of questions heading into the 2018 offseason. Right now, there are no answers to those questions, which means we’ll just have to sit back and take a wait-and-see approach. But, one question that absolutely has to be answered is how to make the Cowboys offense more Dak Prescott friendly.

Offensively, the Dallas Cowboys had an extremely disappointing year in 2017. Suspensions and injuries are the main culprits for the disappointment, but the Dallas Cowboys haven’t really changed things much in the scheme or personnel to help Dak Prescott succeed.

The sad truth is, the Dallas Cowboys are still operating as if Tony Romo is the starting quarterback. It’s pretty much the same personnel and scheme, but it really doesn’t suit Prescott.

It’s time for that to change. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that will happen overnight.

The Cowboys spent years putting together the personnel to help Romo. Just when they thought they had the missing piece — by drafting Ezekiel Elliott, Romo sustained a back injury, pretty much ending his career.

Anyway you look at it, the offensive personnel needs to improve in order to make this team more “Dak-friendly”.

Enter Tight End Rico Gathers.

Rico Gathers

Dallas Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

The Dallas Cowboys have invested two years in Rico Gathers’ development, but with the exception of a few flashes in preseason, they haven’t benefited from the fruits of their labor. The 2018 season should be Gathers’ coming-out party.

We all witnessed what the Cowboys offense looks like when they are forced to rely on the passing game. Dak Prescott struggled to find any kind of consistency throwing the ball — with the options he had at his disposal in 2017 — while Ezekiel Elliott served a six-game suspension.

Defenses decided to take Prescott’s favorite target out of the equation by bracketing Cole Beasley in coverage. Then, they also devoted extra attention Dez Bryant‘s way, making it difficult to get him the ball.

The only other option left really was Jason Witten on simple check downs.

And that is what the future Hall of Famer has been reduced to.

Jason Witten is no longer the threat he once was. Yes, he is still a reliable target, but his age is starting to catch up to him, which has unfortunately robbed him of some of his athleticism. We will no longer see Witten stretch the field down the seam, or run many routes further than 10 yards.

That’s why I think Rico Gathers could be a difference maker in 2018, especially for Dak Prescott.

Prescott needs more than an outlet receiver at the TE position. No offense to Jason Witten, but that’s pretty much what he has become at this point in his career.

Rico Gathers on the other hand is not only different from Witten, but also provides a different skill set than any other TE on the Cowboys roster. He’s a big target with athleticism, who cannot only move the chains, but stretch the field and break tackles in the open field.

Gathers’ sheer size alone creates mismatch problems against smaller defensive backs and linebackers, but his athleticism should allow him to create separation, something which fits into what Prescott needs from his receivers.

There is no reason why the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff can’t find a way to incorporate Rico Gathers’ unique skill set into the offense. They may not truly trust him to be an every down player, but that’s not happening anyway, not with Jason Witten on the roster.

If it was me, I would have a few packages in the playbook specifically designed for Gathers. I not only think this will help him grow as a player, but help the Cowboys offense become more “Dak-friendly”.

Can Rico Gathers make the Cowboys offense more “Dak-friendly”?

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