In part one of the series on expectations for the 2017 Dallas Cowboys, I talked about the great expectations for Dak Prescott improving on his excellent rookie campaign.
Today, we're looking at one of the 2017 rookies; Ryan Switzer.
The moment Ryan Switzer was drafted the comparisons to Cole Beasley were almost immediate. We know that Beasley isn't going anywhere. He has a great rapport with quarterback Dak Prescott so it's unlikely that Switzer is going to take any of Beasley's snaps.
While Beasley is an obvious comparison, based on their size, I think that Switzer may be more of a Ty Montgomery, Danny Woodhead, Lance Dunbar, and Tyreek Hill (minus the speed) type of player for the 2017 Dallas Cowboys.
Where Will Ryan Switzer's Playing Time Come From?
Ryan Switzer on Offense
As many have already suggested, Switzer -- who was drafted in the fourth round out of North Carolina -- will have a chance to take Lucky Whitehead's job in the offseason and thus take his offensive snaps.
Whitehead was used primarily as a gadget player in the offense. He's had some WOW moments as well as some facepalm moments. It's the facepalm moments that have opened the door to a competition at wide receiver.
Whitehead's offensive role was limited to only 13% of the snaps during the season. Part of that is due to his limitations as a pass catcher and the team's minimal use of five wide receiver sets.
In fact, when they went empty backfield, it was with four wide receivers and Jason Witten lined up as the in-line tight end. Their other empty backfield formation was with Ezekiel Elliott motioning out of the backfield.
Whitehead only received 13 touches on offense in 2016, which is actually down from his 2015 total of 16.
Ryan Switzer comes with more of a pass catching resume than Whitehead, catching 96 passes for over 1,100 yards as the top option for number-2 overall pick, Mitch Trubisky.
Lucky Whitehead's best season saw him catch 76 passes for 706 yards and six touchdowns. In his only other full-time season, he caught nine passes.
Switzer had three seasons with more than 50 catches, including the 96-catch senior season. He also scored offensive touchdowns each of his four seasons at UNC, totaling 19.
The other place in which Ryan Switzer could help the team is in the Lance Dunbar role and his 13% share of the team's offensive snaps. Dunbar is now a member of the Los Angeles Rams and many have been longing for a scat-back type to replace him on the roster.
What if that scat back is actually listed as a wide receiver?
Not sure if you're aware, because I didn't know until after the draft, but Switzer played running back in high school and was really, really, really good.
In 2011 and 2012, he carried the ball 504 times for 5,175 yards (2587.5 per season), and 72 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 30 passes for 402 yards and six touchdowns. And if those numbers aren't incredible enough, he tallied four interceptions his junior year, returning two for touchdowns. Stats taken from 24/7 Sports.
Kinda wish I would have lived in West Virginia to get a chance to watch young Ryan play. He must have been electric in high school.
The Green Bay Packers opened the door to converting running back-turned-wide receiver, back into a running back with what they did with Ty Montgomery in 2016. If they were willing to make him the feature back for a team that went to the NFC Championship game, surely the Dallas Cowboys can carve out some snaps for someone who was a really effective back in high school.
And before you start with the "but that was high school" stuff, lets remember Rico Gathers, who hasn't played football since the eighth grade.
To me, Ryan Switzer is the answer to two positions on the team.
He's the Lucky Whitehead "gadget" guy and the Lance Dunbar "scat-back" guy all rolled into one. Perhaps he is Inspector Gadget.
There is a minimum of 282 offensive snaps available to Switzer to earn, with a shot to take some from receiver Brice Butler as well. As things have been going in OTAs and minicamp, Switzer may just be able to do that.
Ryan Switzer on Special Teams
With an emphasis on special, Switzer was a very special returner for the Tar Heels. He was widely regarded as the best returner in the 2017 NFL Draft, even by himself.
His best season was as a freshmen when he averaged 20.7 yards per punt return and scored five touchdowns. As a junior, he averaged 13.7 yards per punt return and scored two more touchdowns.
Whitehead has much more experience as a kick returner than Switzer does, but hasn't been effective. As a punt returner, Lucky has only averaged 6.9 yards per return on his career.
In college, Switzer averaged 10.9 yards per return for his career.
Between Whitehead and Dunbar there are 208 snaps available on special teams. I'd imagine he'd also get some work on kickoff and punt coverage as well.
With what Switzer can do as a receiver, runner, and returner, it seems that there will be a nice role for him during the 2017 season. I'd expect him to see anywhere from 300-450 snaps this season, even if everyone is healthy.
If one of the wide receivers gets hurt, I expect that number to go up.
Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off their most impressive win of the season, keeping playoff hopes alive on the road with a 27-20 victory at the Philadelphia Eagles. Entering the hostile home of the defending Super Bowl champions with three previous road losses already on their record, the Cowboys performance on Sunday night was truly about getting back to their roots. In their second week with Marc Colombo as the Offensive Line Coach, the Cowboys rushed for 171 yards and protected Dak Prescott very well. It was revealed after the game that Frederick was on a coaches headset with Colombo and his new assistant Hudson Houck.
Travis Frederick just told @BenRogers on @1053thefan that Marc Columbo has him on a coaches headset now helping him and Hudson Houck. That's a smart move from Columbo. Smartest guy on the line
The anchor of the Cowboys offensive line since being drafted in 2013, Frederick is regarded as the smartest linemen on the team. It's his mental edge that's made up for a slight lack of size at the position, regarded as one of the worst first round picks in his draft because of this oversight.
Not only is Frederick a welcome addition to the Cowboys brain trust at offensive line, but he did receive some great news on his battle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) that's kept him out this season. Frederick was placed on injured reserve on October 6th, announcing publicly his GBS diagnosis on August 22nd.
Frederick has a long way to go before he's playing football again, not eligible to do so until week 14 at home against the Eagles. Regaining feeling in his hands is about the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee getting as healthy as possible away from football. If a return to the Cowboys is possible through his recovery, the team would of course welcome Frederick.
Travis Frederick regains sensation in his hands: "There is some light at the end of the tunnel" https://t.co/wvQhB6KUQp
What Frederick has gained in upper body strength, he must remain patient for in the lower body. While pointing out that over 95% of patients make a full recovery from GBS, Frederick is still waiting to feel sensations in his feet.
The Cowboys have been optimistic that Frederick's condition was caught early enough for a full recovery to be probable.
Dallas' schedule doesn't get any easier following their uplifting win. Returning to the site of last year's demoralizing loss at the Falcons, Frederick likely wishes he could make a miraculous return just a bit more this week.
To make matters worse, Left Tackle Tyron Smith did not practice on Wednesday due to back spasms. It's unknown if rookie Connor Williams will reclaim his starting left guard spot on Sunday, or if Xavier Su'a-Filo has earned another opportunity.
Despite the patchwork nature of a Cowboys offensive line once regarded as the best in the league, and still vital to the entire team's success, Dallas has an abundance of hope that Sunday in Atlanta can be much better than 2017. This starts with Frederick's strength to fight GBS and attempt to rejoin his teammates, wisely given some added game day influence on them by Colombo.
If elevating their level of play up front was all it took for the Cowboys to play up to their potential and pull off an upset on prime time last week, the NFC East is certainly still within reach for a team that must now sustain the level of play on offense to match what this defense has given all season.
Cowboys LB Named NFC Defensive Player of the Week Against Eagles
You already knew that Leighton Vander Esch, the Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker, had a great night last Sunday in Philadelphia. Apparently the rest of the football world agreed, and now he's been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
The award is the first of what could be many for Leighton, who has emerged as a defensive leader for the Cowboys. He's been playing more in the absence of veteran Sean Lee, who has been battling hamstring issues all season.
THE. WOLF. HUNTER. Congratulations to #DallasCowboys rookie LB @VanderEsch38 on being named NFC Defensive Player of the Week! → https://t.co/XeSTt2tIpX
This is the second Player of the Week award for a Dallas Cowboys this season. Kicker Brett Maher won the Special Teams version in Week 4 after going 4-for-4 and hitting a game winner over the Detroit Lions.
The Defensive Player award hasn't gone to a Cowboys since Week of 2017, when DeMarcus Lawrence put up three sacks against the Arizona Cardinals.
Leighton's recognition is also well-earned. He led Dallas with 13 tackles and an interception in a pivotal road victory against a division rival. In what was arguably a "must-win" game for the Cowboys, their first-round pick stepped up and stood out.
A few more games like this, and Vander Esch could be in the running for the Defensive Rookie of the Year. But even above personal accolades, Leighton's play could help the Cowboys make a push in the NFC East.
If nothing else, he's making that first-round pick look smarter every week.
Legendary Cowboys Quarterback Backs Dak Prescott
Things have not gone well for Dak Prescott this season. His play has been up and down and he hasn't given the team or Cowboys Nation much reason to believe that he's the future at the quarterback position for the Dallas Cowboys. Speaking to 105.3 FM The Fan in Dallas today, Legendary Dallas Cowboys Quarterback, Ring of Honor and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Roger Staubach offered support for the Cowboys current quarterback, Dak Prescott.
Staubach had this to say when asked about Dak Prescott.
Roger Staubach on @1053thefan said #Dak is a part of the problem with the #Cowboys offense, but he is not the problem.
Roger Staubach didn't start in the NFL until the third year of his career and thinks that's a good time for the quarterback to make the jump. At this point, we are 40 games into Dak Prescott's NFL career and we can see some of the things that he's good at as well as some of the things that he struggles with.
As Staubach points out, Dak Prescott has the intangibles that you look for in a quarterback, even if his play hasn't been what you'd want at the position. Roger admits that Dak shoulders some of the blame for the offensive woes of the last 16 games, but realizes that there are many reasons for the Cowboys offensive failures this season.
Roger Staubach believes that the Dallas Cowboys can win with Dak Prescott as their starting quarterback despite some of the flaws that have crept up over the last 16 games. He's not wrong.
Staubach's pretty accurate in his assessment that there's been more good than bad. If you look at the first 24 games of Dak Prescott's career, he was really good. Through the last 16 games, he's struggled at times. So technically there's been more good than bad. The problem is that over the last 16 games, there's been more bad than good. The NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league and lately Dak hasn't done much. We can debate all day on how much of the struggles Prescott's faced are on him, but everyone should be willing to admit that some of the struggles are on him.
It's plausible that the confidence in Prescott that Jerry Jones has comes from Roger's belief that the Cowboys can win games with Dak Prescott at quarterback; and they have. In Prescott's career, the Dallas Cowboys are 25-15. Though wins are a team stat and not a quarterback stat, it just goes as evidence that Dak Prescott can be a winning quarterback in the National Football League.
Dak has some flaws, but the offense and its play caller haven't helped Prescott much this season. We should be critical of Prescott because he has a big pay day coming, if you believe Jerry Jones. While Dak has some flaws, he also has some traits that can make him a good quarterback in the NFL with the right coaching situation behind him. 2018 may be running out of time for the Dallas Cowboys and their playoff prospects, but the Cowboys have time before they have to make a decision on Prescott.
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