The Dallas Cowboys' approach to this offseason has been no secret.
They have searched for bargains in the open market, adding youthful and athletic players with presumably high upsides but very little production to this point in their professional careers.
Defensive End Benson Mayowa fits this blueprint to a "T."
The former Seattle Seahawk, but more recently former Oakland Raider, joined the Cowboys after the Raiders failed to match the Cowboys' offer sheet to Mayowa during free agency.
The questions surrounding the Cowboys' pass rush and defensive end situation are clear, but the addition of Mayowa seemed to not mean much for the immediate future at first. Fans believed the team had added a rotational player who would see occasional snaps, and would have a chance to gain more playing time week by week.
Instead, Mayowa may be asked to start as soon as week one for the team, and will be forced to fill a big role for the first time during his early career in the league.
So, the team must now figure out what everyone around the Cowboys from fans to coaches wants to know, is Benson Mayowa up to the challenge?
Of course, only time will tell if Mayowa is truly ready to contribute as a consistent pass rusher this season or at anytime during his career.
We can take an educated guess about what to expect from Mayowa from his past performances, however.
After receiving only one offer out of high school, Benson signed on to the Idaho Vandals and made the most of his chance, finishing his college career with 10 sacks and 70 tackles.
It is important to note that Mayowa entered college just under 200 pounds, but left Idaho at a stout 6'3" 240. He turned himself into the player he had always wanted to be because he had a chip on his shoulder, and this chip has followed him into the NFL.
After leaving Idaho Mayowa was once again overlooked, this time during the NFL Draft. As an undrafted free agent, Mayowa signed with the Seattle Seahawks in 2013 before joining the Raiders in 2014.
Mayowa entered the league as a 4-3 defensive end, the exact role he will be asked to play in Dallas. After joining the Raiders, however, he was asked to play as the 3-4 edge rushing outside linebacker at times as well. This speaks to Mayowa's versatility and athleticism, showing that he is comfortable in space, but more importantly to the Cowboys, has experience playing with his hand on the ground.
With the Raiders a year ago Mayowa played 376 snaps in 12 games, averaging about 31 snaps per game. In his 30 career games played, Mayowa has only recorded two sacks.
No, that is not a good number to look at if you are a hopeful Cowboys fan, but it is the truth.
Of course, it is hard to find time in Oakland as an edge rusher with all of the high draft picks the franchise has invested into the position.
He won't have this problem in Dallas, that much is guaranteed.
While he has gained over 40 pounds since entering college, Mayowa is still rather undersized for the position. This of course makes you wonder if he can be strong enough to take on offensive tackles in the 4-3 scheme, set the edge, and shed blockers to make plays.
What Mayowa does have going for him, however, is his arm length. Similar to his teammate, rookie defensive end Charles Tapper, Mayowa can make up for his lack of weight with a quick first step and getting hands-on the offensive lineman immediately. Because of these long arms, Mayowa can create separation from the offensive tackle and win the leverage battle at the line of scrimmage.
Mayowa also ran a 4.65 40 yard dash at the combine, which speaks more to his athleticism and comfortability in space. While Mayowa is certainly not a bruiser at defensive end, and is light for the position, his arm length and athleticism impress teams, and give him a chance in the league.
There are certainly more questions than answers with Mayowa's game in Dallas as of right now. What we do know, however, is that he is young, long, lanky, and athletic. All qualities which defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli seems to value in his defensive ends.
Turning just 25 years old this season, Benson Mayowa will have the opportunity early in the season to claim the starting defensive end position full time while filling in for Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence.
Benson Mayowa is yet another athletic edge rusher who fits the blueprint the Cowboys have laid out for their defensive linemen. Hopefully, he can fulfill the Cowboys needs from game one against New York.
Leighton Vander Esch To Top Rookie Season With Pro Bowl Trip
Dallas Cowboys' rookie Leighton Vander Esch has done enough to prove every single doubter wrong. When Roger Goodell called his name during the 2018 NFL Draft in Arlington, Texas, many in Cowboys Nation rejoiced at the thought of having a young linebacker for a defense surrounded with uncertainty. However, many analysts doubted the draft pick. For a lot of people (sadly, I include myself in this category), the pick should've been used on another player. For most, despite acknowledging his raw talent, Vander Esch wouldn't be able to provide the Cowboys with an instant impact player. Ah, well.
After a remarkable season, Vander Esch (a.k.a. Wolf Hunter) has earned a spot on this season's second-team All-Pro. When the Pro Bowl voting began, Vander Esch was snubbed from the ballot itself. It didn't took the NFL long to realize their mistake and add the Cowboys' linebacker to the list. Despite missing the cut at first, Vander Esch will be heading to Orlando to play in this year's Pro Bowl on January 27th.
DallasCowboys linebacker @VanderEsch38 has been added to the 2019 Pro Bowl Roster. 🐺 Congratulations, rookie! → https://t.co/AYqEUy2tZx
The former Boise State Bronco will be replacing Carolina Panthers' LB Luke Kuechly, who won't be participating because of an injury.
Vander Esch racked up 140 tackles (per Pro Football Reference), ranking third in the league in this category. He finished the season as the fifth best linebacker in Pro Football Focus' rankings.
But numbers aren't really enough to fully appreciate what Vander Esch did for the Dallas Cowboys. A team that was used to seeing its defense break when veteran Sean Lee went down injured, did not only get someone to fill in for Lee. Vander Esch actually upgraded the Cowboys' defense. It didn't matter where the ball went, he was always around when opponents were tackled. His speed and chance of direction allowed him to run sideline to sideline, covering a huge portion of the field.
Along Jaylon Smith, Dallas managed to have one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL.
The last time a defensive rookie from the Cowboys went to the Pro Bowl was in 1981, when Everson Walls made the team. Vander Esch is the 11th rookie in team history to be selected to the Pro Bowl. This year, the rookie will be accompanied by DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Ezekiel Elliott.
Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program
Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.
After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.
Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire
While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.
It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.
Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.
That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.
But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.
Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.
For Cowboys to Beat the Rams, Dak Prescott must Lead the Way
In the NFL wins and losses often come down to quarterback play. That isn't to say that if a team wins, it was all because of the quarterback and inversely, if a team loses that it was all on the quarterback. Teams win or lose games. Generally speaking, however, the quarterback has the highest amount of influence on the outcome of an NFL game. This will be no different for the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in the LA Coliseum. For America's Team to make their first trip to the NFC Championship Game since 1996, Dak Prescott has to have a good game.
This looks to be a good matchup for the Dallas Cowboys offense, which should allow Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to take advantage in certain areas.
A few Rams Passing Game Notes
- The Los Angeles Rams were middle of the pack against the pass this season, allowing the 14th fewest passing yards in the league this season.
- The Rams allowed 7.7 yards per attempt. Dak Prescott is averaging 7.6 yards per attempt since week 10 of the season.
- The Rams allowed the eighth most passing touchdowns in the NFL this season. They and the New Orleans Saints are the only teams in the top 10 of passing touchdowns allowed in the playoffs this season.
- The Rams were 15th in the NFL in sacks, with 41, but Aaron Donald accounted for half of that with 20.5 sacks on the season. No other player had more than five sacks.
- They were third in the NFL in interceptions, collecting 18.
- The Rams allowed the ninth highest yards per completion on the season at 11.8. So on average, every completion went for a first down.
Dak Prescott is playing as well as any quarterback in the playoffs at the moment. Over the last nine games, he's averaging 272 passing yards, two total touchdowns, was only intercepted four times, and was sacked on average 3.2 times per game.
On Saturday night, we saw Scott Linehan put the ball in his hands on a couple designed runs that nearly scored touchdowns. It was an excellent addition to the offense that could help fix the Cowboys red zone woes. Getting Dak Prescott running on some designed runs or quarterback draws could help slow down Aaron Donald and the pass rush.
The Cowboys needed every bit of Dak Prescott magic to overcome a stingy Seattle Seahawks defense in their Wild Card win and they'll need him to step up again this week against the Rams. Every team is going to attempt to take away the running game to make Dak beat you and as he continues to mature, he's getting more and more comfortable doing that. He's comfortable with the big stage and the big moments.
Dak Prescott Since 2016, including playoffs * 15 game-winning drives (Most in NFL) * 13 primetime QB wins (Most in NFL) * 19 rush TD (Most in NFL by QB) #DallasCowboys @dak
No Quarterback in the NFL has more game winning drives, rushing touchdowns, or wins in primetime than Dak Prescott. When we talk about Dak Prescott, we talk a lot about the things that he can't do as a passer and deservedly so, he still has some growing to do in that area, but in the things that you can't objectively quantify -- mental toughness, resiliency, clutchness, will, determination -- Dak is one of the best in the NFL. He's as mentally tough as they come in the NFL and he doesn't let the spotlight or the game situation phase him. He has that stuff that's hard to put your finger on.
The Dallas Cowboys will need more of that on Saturday night in Los Angeles. The Rams can score and can score in bunches and if the Cowboys defense starts sluggish or has an off night, they'll need Dak Prescott to keep them in the game. Even if the defense has a good game, Dak still has to come through in the passing game and on the ground to give the Cowboys a chance to pull off the upset.
The Dallas Cowboys are going to try to run the ball against the Rams on Saturday. That's their identity; run the ball, control the clock, and be efficient in the passing game. Prescott, either with his legs or with his arm will have to make some plays to extend drives and keep the Rams offense on the sideline. He'll need to be sharp in the red zone to convert those opportunities into touchdowns. Settling for field goals against the Rams is how the Cowboys get beat.
This matchup with the Rams looks to set up nicely for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys, yet how things look on paper doesn't mean much when the lights go on and the whistle blows. It's a big stage and it's another win-or-go-home game for the Cowboys (like every game has been over the last nine weeks). In a big game, you need big time players, and the Cowboys have one in quarterback Dak Prescott.
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