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Identifying The Toughest Adversaries On The Cowboys’ 2017 Schedule

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - A Game Of Survivor: Jason Garrett Stands Tall Among NFC East Coaches 1

On paper, the Dallas Cowboys 2017 schedule certainly looks a lot tougher than what they faced a season ago. That's what happens when you finished dead last in the division one year and win the division the next. But, you won't hear the Cowboys complaining about their 2017 schedule. That's just not there nature.

I previously shared with all of you my 2017 win/loss prediction for the Dallas Cowboys. I thought I would follow that up by identifying the toughest adversaries the Cowboys will face in each game of the 2017 season. Let me know if you agree or disagree with who I identified as being the toughest adversaries the Cowboys will face this season.

Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants

The Dallas Cowboys will open of the 2017 season against the New York Giants at home and see them once again in Week 14. The Giants are arguably the Cowboys toughest NFC East division opponent, which pretty much guarantees these games will be close and hard-fought, ultimately coming down to the final seconds.

Make no mistake, the Giants have a talented team, but I believe the toughest adversary they have on their roster is wide receiver OBJ. Beckham Jr. is one of the best WRs in the entire league and has to be accounted for on every single play. He will be a tough matchup for the Cowboys' young secondary, especially early in the season.

Von Miller, DE, Denver Broncos

In Week 2 of the 2017 season, the Dallas Cowboys will play their first road game against the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are one of the more talented teams in the entire NFL, but the quarterback play is really the only thing holding them back from being a serious Super Bowl contender.

The toughest adversary the Cowboys will see against the Broncos is without a doubt defensive end Von Miller. Miller is arguably the best pass rusher in the entire NFL and I can almost guarantee that he will be matched up against whoever the Cowboys employ at the right tackle position. The Cowboys have to have a plan to help neutralize Miller from putting pressure on Dak Prescott and disrupting the passing game if they want to win this game.

David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

In Week 3, the Dallas Cowboys will play their first back to back road game of the season when they take on the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are a talented team, but they also have quite a few aging players in key positions that could hinder their performance in 2017.

It's no secret running back David Johnson is the key to success for the Cardinals, which makes him the toughest adversary against the Cowboys. Johnson is one of the best all-around RBs in the league and the one player the Cowboys' defense has to keep in check. Fortunately, the defense should be prepared for Johnson after practicing against Ezekiel Elliott.

Wade Phillips, DC, Los Angeles Rams

After back-to-back road games, the Dallas Cowboys return home to take on the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4. This should be one of the most winnable games on the 2017 schedule for the Cowboys, but nothing is a given in the NFL.

The Rams are in the middle of a rebuild, so there's not a lot of individual players Dallas should really have to worry about. I thought about going with Todd Gurley or Aaron Donald here, but I think the toughest adversary is going to be former Cowboys head coach and current Rams defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips.

Phillips is switching the Rams defense from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4, but LA has quite a bit of high draft picks invested on that side of the ball. You can bet Phillips wants to stick it to the team he was the last head coach of, especially since he feels he didn't get a fair chance with to begin with.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

If there is one team on the Cowboys' 2017 schedule I'm tired of seeing, it's the Green Bay Packers. Just about every time these two teams square off there is a controversial call that ultimately decides the outcome of the game, but let's hope it's different Week 5.

The toughest adversary the Cowboys will see from Green Bay is 100% Aaron Rodgers. There simply isn't another player on the entire Green Bay roster that is more important to the team than Rogers. They are going to win or lose by how well Rogers performs in 2017.

San Francisco 49ers Defensive Front

Coming off their bye week, the Dallas Cowboys head out on the road once again to take on the San Francisco 49ers. Like the LA Rams, the 49ers are in the middle of a rebuild with very little talent on either side of the ball that should concern the Cowboys.

The 49ers have invested quite a few of their high draft picks in their defensive line, which likely makes them the toughest adversary for Dallas. Arik Armistead, DeForest Buckner, and Solomon Thomas were all high draft picks and could give the Cowboys talented offensive line some trouble. But, it's nothing the Cowboys' OL shouldn't be able to handle.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins

In Week 7, the Dallas Cowboys play their second back to back games of the 2017 season when they travel to Washington to take on the Redskins. They will play each other once again in Week 13. Just like every other NFC East division game, it's guaranteed to be a hard-fought battle that comes down to the very end.

The Redskins continue to improve their roster and become a more complete team, but their toughest adversary for Dallas has to be quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins will have nearly an entire new set of starting WRs, making the Redskins best chance of winning in 2017 coming from the QBs arm and the connection he develops with his receivers.

Tyreek Hill, WR/KR, Kansas City Chiefs

After back-to-back road games, the Dallas Cowboys finally return home to take on a talented Kansas City Chiefs team in Week 9. The Chiefs were a controversial call away from being one of the final few teams left the playoffs in 2016, and have a roster packed full of talent.

With the team as talented as the Chiefs, it was a little difficult narrowing down the biggest adversary for the Cowboys. But, I finally decided on second-year WR/KR Tyreek Hill. He is dangerous anytime the ball is in his hands and can score from anywhere on the field. He will be a difficult matchup problem for both the Cowboys secondary and special teams units.

Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

The Dallas Cowboys will head out on the road in Week 10 to take on a very talented Atlanta Falcons team. The Falcons have one of the best offenses in the entire NFL and a young defense that shows a lot of promise.

I personally believe the toughest adversary for the Cowboys against the Falcons is none other than wide receiver Julio Jones. Jones is one of the best WRs in the entire NFL and when healthy can take over a game by himself. This will be a tough matchup for the Cowboys young secondary, but hopefully they can come up with a game plan to limit Jones' effectiveness.

Fletcher Cox, DT, Philadelphia Eagles

The Dallas Cowboys play the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 11 and 17 of the 2017 season. This NFC East divisional matchup is always entertaining because these two teams truly hate one another. The Eagles are a very talented team, but not when you compare their roster to the Cowboys.

I think the toughest adversary in this matchup is defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Cox has developed into one of the better DTs in the entire NFL and is effective in both the running and passing game. I would be surprised if he has matched up with Zack Martin very often, instead he will probably be playing against whoever the Cowboys insert at left guard.

Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers

The san diego chargers helmet logo

The Los Angeles Chargers are one of the more confusing teams to analyze on the Cowboys' 2017 schedule. They have a balanced blend of veterans and youth throughout their roster and are talented enough to give the Cowboys some trouble.

The Chargers have a talented pass rushing duo of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, but I still believe the toughest adversary for the Cowboys is quarterback Philip Rivers. This Week 12 matchup will ultimately come down to how Rivers performs and if the Cowboys defense can do enough to keep him out of the end zone. Rivers may be one of the older players on the roster, but he still has plenty left in the tank.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders

In week 15, the Dallas Cowboys travel to Oakland to take on a talented and playoff caliber Raiders team. This team is built much like the Cowboys, which should make for a very entertaining/close ballgame.

The Raiders were able to lure Marshawn Lynch out of retirement to become their featured back and it is a gamble that could pay off huge in 2017. A year away from the game could have benefited Lynch, because he is entering that age were players bodies start to break down. If he returns to anywhere near "Beastmode", the Cowboys defense could have their hands full.

Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

The Dallas Cowboys play their final home game of the 2017 season against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 16. Hopefully the Cowboys have secured their playoff spot by now, but if not this game could have huge implications to their playoff hopes/seeding.

It would've been too easy to go with one of Seattle's talented defensive players, but I think the Cowboys' offense can do enough to put points on the board. I believe quarterback Russell Wilson will be the toughest adversary in this matchup. If the Cowboys defense can fluster and limit Wilson's productivity, they should be able to put enough points on the board to win this game.

Share your thoughts on who you think the toughest adversaries are on the Cowboys' 2017 schedule in the comment section below.



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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3 Comments
  • Donny Cook

    I’ll respectfully disagree about the “easy” schedule last year….Dallas faced some not to shabby defenses..like the Vikings, Eagles, Bengals (yes they have pretty solid players), Pittsburgh….this year, I see the same thing, I see some good defensive fronts that Dallas will face but with questionable offenses such as the Giants…..they still have Eli Manning as QB, which Eli will we see, the wild Eli Manning that gets picked 2,3 times a game or the the Eli that can light up a secondary, same for Kirk Cousins, look, I am not saying there bad QB’s you don’t know what your going to see….there’s 4 games right there, then there’s Denver…who’s gonna be the QB…Chad Kelly? Paxton Lynch? Trevor Siemian? Then the Rams…has Jared Goff developed more this offseason instead of being the 5 TD pass to 7 INT QB? Same for the Chiefs…all due respect to Tyreek Hill…Chiefs said they wont be using him as much in the return game although I agree dangerous anytime he gets the ball in his hands..you don’t know which Alex Smith you’ll get either…then there’s the Falcons..which I am glad you brought up…but I am not even close to being afraid of…are they going to be more balanced….they lost the SB because they went back to passing, Patriots couldn’t stop Freeman….then there’s the chargers…..yes Phillip Rivers can light up a secondary…but he’s also a turnover machine…last 2 years alone 34 interceptions ..I think he’s trending downhill….unless they start using Melvin Gordon more and becoming more balanced….I just don’t see any of these teams as a threat….when you have QB’s turning the ball over…I don’t care how good your defenses are…Zeke and Dak attack will wear them down…but when you want to talk schedules….who have the Patriots faced that they beat that will wow you??

    • Brian Martin

      Donny, I agree with just about everything you said. If I do however think the 2017 schedule is a little tougher than last year’s, but the Cowboys are capable of winning every game.

    • https://InsideTheStar.com/ Bryson Treece

      Also have to go deeper than just who they are (stout D vs weak D, when, where, etc.). Cowboys’ 2016 schedule was based on a 4-12 finish in ’15. It is unreasonable to think it would be as difficult as a schedule earned by a 13-3 season. So yeah, 2017 is a tougher schedule; it’s how the league is played.

      I believe the Cowboys can do with this year’s schedule what they did with last year’s schedule, but it is a tougher schedule. The Vikings were on a roll last year, playing above expectations, as were the Eagles. Pittsburgh is a known entity. The Bengals didn’t play as good as their defense actually is against us last year. Lot of things go into it, even bye weeks and home/away.

      Thanks for reading, Donny!

Star Blog

How Will Safeties Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier Fit Kris Richard’s Secondary?

Sean Martin

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How Will Safeties Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier Fit Kris Richard's Secondary?
(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Unfortunately, David Irving's most recent four game suspension is the main story for a Dallas Cowboys team finished with OTAs and mini camp, left only to wait for training camp now. I've chosen to focus on the players that were on the field for the offseason program, that will continue to contend for starting jobs in Oxnard. Standing out from a lackluster group of safeties, for a Kris Richard led secondary that is off to a fast start, are safeties Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier.

Joined by Jeff Heath, Tyree Robinson, Jameill Showers, and Marqueston Huff, the Cowboys are lacking a dominant force at safety to pair with their young and talented group of cornerbacks. With the likes of Chidobe Awuzie, Byron Jones (the former safety), and Anthony Brown already improving under Richard, the Cowboys hope is that the same will apply to this group of safeties.

It's still entirely too early to know how the Cowboys want to deploy their safeties this season, but the only players that have shown their strengths and weaknesses over any period of time are Heath, Frazier, and Woods. This is sure to cause an uphill battle for the fringe players looking to push this trio of versatile safeties.

Jeff Heath has appeared in 77 games over five seasons with the Cowboys. Frazier and Woods combined? Just 24 games, with 16 of them making up Woods' rookie season a year ago. This makes finding a potential role for both players vital to the Cowboys.

How Will Safeties Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier Fit Kris Richard's Secondary? 2

Dallas Cowboys S Kavon Frazier (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Safety Kavon Frazier

Working mostly as a special teams player through two seasons in Dallas, Kavon Frazier has patiently awaited his opportunity to spark the Cowboys defense as a sixth round pick of 2016. Doing so in a memorable week 13 win over the Washington Redskins, Frazier earned an increased role as an enforcer on defense.

This is a player whose straight line burst and power is ideal for a ST starter, and when Frazier connects coming downhill on defense, the results can be catastrophic for an opposing offense.  Surely these are traits that will remind Kris Richard even slightly of his Super Bowl winning "Legion of Boom" defenses.

The distinction between Frazier being a part-time player or one maximizing his potential to start deep in the Cowboys secondary is an important one. Limited in coverage, Frazier may be at his best when conceding snaps to another safety on the Cowboys roster with more of an all-around game -- which the Cowboys can only hope Xavier Woods continues to be.

Safety Xavier Woods

Xavier Woods may not have the pure stopping power that Kavon Frazier possesses, but as a fellow sixth-round pick there is more than enough to like about what Woods brought to the Cowboys in 2017 out of Louisiana State. With 14 interceptions and six forced fumbles out of college, Woods slid in the draft enough for the Cowboys to trade up for his services.

The team wasn't cheated out of their investment in Woods last season, giving him the "Byron Jones treatment" as Woods lined up all over the field. It was Richard that came to Dallas and almost immediately moved Byron Jones down to cornerback, seeing a better use of his natural size and skills there.

Doing the same for Woods -- while keeping the natural FS free to react -- should be next up on Richard's offseason to-do list. This is a player with sideline to sideline range, enough athleticism to cover down in the slot, and the functional strength to compete in the box.

Amidst this uncertainty for both Frazier and Woods, early reports out of the Cowboys practices thus far have Jeff Heath specifically matching up against the tight end. This is an ideal role for Heath, and one that could compliment Woods very well.

How Will Safeties Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier Fit Kris Richard's Secondary? 1

Dallas Cowboys CB Anthony Brown, S Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath

Regardless of where Heath is on the field, Woods should be able to coexist with him as a similarly instinctive safety.

There is also the possibility that both Heath and Woods struggle to handle these "starting" responsibilities, leaving the Cowboys with very little trusted depth at safety. If there is an area Woods needs the most improvement in, it is the angles he takes against the run to consistently make stops, a weakness also potentially mitigated by the Cowboys improved linebacker play (investing the 19th overall pick at the position).

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Between Frazier and Woods, it feels safe to say the Cowboys must find a starter for a secondary that could still achieve great things in 2018. The Cowboys are entering this season with a loaded group of cornerbacks, all capable of making a safety's job relatively easy, especially while learning under Richard.

Such can be the hope for a raw player like Frazier and, in a sense, Xavier Woods. The second-year player in Woods is a great unknown for the Cowboys right now, as he'll remain that way for some time before next month's training camp.

With this, we'll have much more time to sit around and continue pondering what certain position groups will look like once meaningful Cowboys football graciously returns. I've written before that I'm paying close attention to this team's group of wide receivers, and you can add in the secondary players they'll be competing against too.

Tell us what you think about "How Will Safeties Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier Fit Kris Richard’s Secondary?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Star Blog

No, Cowboys Shouldn’t Cut David Irving

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys' Pass Rush: Who Will Be QB Sack Leader In 2017?
Jeff Hanisch / USA TODAY Sports

For the past five years, Dallas Cowboys fans have gone through painful offseason stories regarding upcoming suspensions for defensive players. It doesn't matter how much talent the front office is able to find through the Draft, there's always one player that ruins what feels like a successful offseason. This time, for the second consecutive year, David Irving is the player to let Cowboys Nation down.

On Friday it was announced that Irving will serve a four-game suspension after violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

Understandably, a lot of Cowboys' fans want to see Irving released by the franchise that has preached the "Right Kind of Guy" philosophy while failing to establish such a thing. It's disappointing to see such a talented player limiting himself  by not "wanting it" bad enough and by making mistakes like this repeatedly.

However, even if it's a very frustrating situation, the Cowboys shouldn't cut David Irving. 

First of all, Irving's hit against the cap space is pretty minimum and nothing to be concerned at all. After being handed a second-round tender earlier in the year, #95 was set to earn $2.91M during the season. With a four-game suspension ahead of him, that number will be even lower.

We're talking about a guy who in eight games managed to get to the quarterback seven times in 2017 and consistently pressured opposing signal callers. Not to mention he's going to be just 25 years old when the season begins.

For the Cowboys, David Irving has the talent needed to average one sack per game. All of this for less than three million.

Irving has proven by now that he's not worth a long-term extension. That much is clear.  In order to get one of those, a player must prove his availability.

Talking specifically about 2018, though, I'm sure the Cowboys will be better off if they count on Irving for the final 12 games of the season. The team counts with pretty decent depth at the position with Maliek Collins, Datone Jones and Jihad Ward, but Irving has the potential to end the season with double-digit sacks.

The team gains nothing by releasing Irving. The team will not even be "sending a message" if they were to release #95. Maybe if the team had consistently sent this kind of "messages" over the years it would make sense.

However, we know this team sticks with their players and supports them in moments like this. They have done just that with Randy Gregory and it seems like it will pay off soon.

Whether we're mad at Irving's actions or not, the truth is letting him go wouldn't be wise at all. The Cowboys are not paying him big-time money, he's young and he'll be productive on the field when the defense needs him to.

We're talking about a football team that wants to make a run for the Lombardi Trophy. They can't be letting starting-caliber players go just like that. They need all the help they can get and even though his situation is far from ideal, David Irving will play a big role on defense.

Tell me what you think about "No, Cowboys Shouldn’t Cut David Irving" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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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Star Blog

Should Cowboys Add Another Safety Before Training Camp?

Brian Martin

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Should Cowboys Add Another Safety Before Training Camp?

The Dallas Cowboys are extremely thin at the safety position. Fact. They haven't really brought in anyone to upgrade the position from last season. Fact. I just wanted to point that out because there's a lot of discussion as to whether or not the Cowboys need to add another safety before training camp.

I don't know where you stand on this debate or how I feel about it personally, but it's definitely something that needs to be discussed from the Cowboys end. It is the one position where there is a lot of unknown and inexperienced. If one of their current safeties were to go down with an injury and miss any time, the whole defense would suffer.

As things stand right now, Jeff Heath is the only one who will reprise his starting role on the backend of the Cowboys defense. Behind him are Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier, but knowing exactly how they fit in at this moment is completely up in the air.

Unfortunately, that's the top three safeties for the Dallas Cowboys heading into the 2018 season. What's even more bothersome is their fourth might be an undrafted rookie, Tyree Robinson. I don't know about you, but I find that very concerning. But, maybe Kris Richard, the defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator, knows something we don't.

Kris Richard

Dallas Cowboys DB Coach Kris Richard

Fortunately, Kris Richard was recently asked if he had any concerns about the safety position on the "Doomsday Podcast" with Matt Mosley and Ed Werder. He said he had "none".

"I'm confident. I feel really good at this point in time and it's because the level of character of our guys," he said. "We're going to get better. That's the deal because our guys are young, focused, I think the hunger's there. I love the look in their eyes. I love how everyone is buying in, is focused and paying attention to detail. It makes a difference when guys care. It makes a difference when each one wants to teach one. We're trying to build something special. We want to be tribe-like. We want to be more than a team."

It certainly sounds like Kris Richard is excited about the Dallas Cowboys current safeties. Of course, he would never just come out and say that this group is terrible or he wished they'd add Earl Thomas another available safety. That's just not how things work. He's here to coach up the guys on the roster and not worry about personnel moves.

I don't know about you, but I know I would feel a lot better if they had one more experienced safety who could come in and compete for a starting job. Maybe someone like Tre Boston or Kenny Vaccaro, who are still unsigned. Maybe make that trade for Earl Thomas? That's a dream that just won't die.

Regardless, the Dallas Cowboys need to do something to address their depth at the safety position. I don't know what their plans are moving forward, but hopefully they have a contingency plan in place. It's just smart business.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys need to add a safety before training camp?



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