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Is CB Nolan Carroll A Starter Or An Expensive Backup?

Brian Martin



Cowboys Headlines - LISTEN: Jason Garrett Joins ESPN San Antonio's The Blitz

The Dallas Cowboys as an organization have done a really superb job of avoiding chasing some of the "big money" free agents over the past several off-seasons and instead focused on more cost-effective players that can fill specific roles with the team. Dallas followed that formula once again in 2017 with the signing of cornerback Nolan Carroll, but determining his specific defensive role is somewhat cloudy at the moment.

On March 11, 2017, the Dallas Cowboys decided to sign CB Nolan Carroll to a 3-year, $10 million contract. That's not exactly chump change considering he will make a little more than $3 million a season, but that is what middle-of-the-road starting CBs are going for on the open market.

With the departures of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, the Cowboys absolutely had to address the position and they did so in both free agency and the draft. Carroll was likely brought into ensure the cupboard wasn't completely bare if Dallas failed to address the position with a starting caliber CB in the draft. But, we all know now that Dallas not only drafted one potential starting CB, but possibly three.

Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Marquez White all possess the traits you look for in starting CBs in the NFL. But, of the three, Awuzie and Lewis have the best chance to earn starting reps in 2017. At best, White earns one of the last remaining roster spots when the Cowboys get down to their 53-man roster, and at the worst he ends up on the practice squad.

Now, if you're playing the numbers game like I am, then you're trying to figure out how many CBs the Cowboys carry on the roster and who deserves to start? This is something I've put quite a bit of thought into, which is why I started wondering if Nolan Carroll is a starting CB or just an expensive backup?

Nolan CarrollThis is how I see things right now. I have Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown as my surefire locks as the Cowboy starting cornerbacks when the season kicks off. Brown played spectacularly in 2016 as a rookie and deserves a chance to build upon his success as a starter. Scandrick is either going to be the starting slot CB or he could start on the outside instead.

If you're counting, that essentially leaves only one starting CB spot up for grabs between Carroll, Awuzie, Lewis, or White. That is why this is shaping up to be one of the most watched position battles throughout training camp for Cowboys' fans.

Nolan Carroll has been a serviceable CB so far in his NFL career, but he is still going to have to clearly outplay his competition if he wants to be a starter for the Cowboys. That might be easier said than done.

Chidobe Awuzie is a talented player with the versatility to play any position in the Cowboys' secondary. The coaching staff already has him learning several different positions, outside CB be one of them. If he proves he is clearly better than Carroll, he is likely starting opposite Anthony Brown on the outside this season.

Of course, Awuzie's versatility could also have him in play at safety. That would once again open things up for Carroll to become the starting outside CB, but remember what I said before, Orlando Scandrick is still in play there as well.

Jourdan Lewis

Photo by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

Jourdan Lewis could have a lot to say about where Scandrick plays a 2017. Lewis is expected to compete with #32 to become the top dog at the slot CB position, and if he wins out it could push Scandrick to the outside.

So, you can see the confusion about exactly where Nolan Carroll fits in and whether or not he will be a starter this season. But, it is a good problem to have considering the position is pretty much being overhauled.

The Dallas Cowboys can go a number of different directions when determining who the starting cornerbacks will be in 2017 because of all of the versatility they now have. But, we will just all have to wait and see how everything finally shakes out when training camp practices get underway.

Do you think Nolan Carroll is a starter or expensive backup?

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.

  • Jess Haynie

    Considering I wrote this a few weeks ago, I think you know where I stand….

    • Brian Martin

      Great minds think alike

      • Landon Sparkman

        I enjoy reading the work of both of you. This is such a great problem to have given the passing attacks we will face in our own division. We also get to deal with ATL and GB…..possibly once again in January.

        • Brian Martin

          Landon, thanks for the compliment. I agree with you. This is a great problem to have.

  • John Williams

    I think the Rookies and Anthony Brown are going to have to take the job outright from Carroll and Scandrick. It seems that the coaches really like to have veteran presences on the field.

    With as much as this team played that 3-2-6 alignment in 2016, I could see the following scenario take place.

    DL – Irving, Collins, Taco
    LB – Lee and Heath (Good in coverage, also a good blitzer)
    CB – Brown and Awuzie on the outside, Lewis and Scan in the slot
    S – Jones and Woods (both have good range and good ball instincts.

    With as deep as they are in the defensive backfield, I would love to see something like this. Get your best coverage/playmakers on the field as much as you can.

    • Brian Martin

      I could see that scenario playing out.

Star Blog

How Should The Cowboys, And The NFL, Value RBs?

Kevin Brady



Will Cowboys' Offense Improve With Ezekiel Elliott's Return?
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There is no one, stand-alone "best" strategy for winning in the NFL. There are, of course, common themes and ideals which run true year in and year out among the top teams.

Strategy in the NFL is dynamic, or at least it should be. Running in place for too long under the same leadership often breeds mediocrity, and refusing to move with current trends can put you at a severe disadvantage.

Succumbing to those trends without fully analyzing the confounding factors your situation presents, however, can also ruin a team building exercise.

With that being said, should teams pay elite running backs top dollar? Or are those running backs expendable, replaceable, and often forgettable within the NFL machine?

To be honest these aren't very fair ways to pose legitimately interesting questions. You can acknowledge that a running back is important to your offense while also acknowledging that you don't want to break the bank for a position with such injury risk and high turnover year-to-year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently facing this dilemma, as their star running back Le'Veon Bell asks to be paid like an elite "weapon," not as a normal running back. And when you examine how the Steelers deploy Bell within their offense, he clearly has a point.

Bell is not your traditional "running back." He lines up on the boundary, in the slot, and is a passing threat out of the backfield as well. On top of all of this versatility, Bell is an excellent pass protector, something which is often lost among other "versatile" backs.

Bell can quite literally do it all for an offense, but the idea of paying that position elite-level money makes teams cringe. As The Athletic's Marcus Mosher pointed out on Twitter, teams like the New England Patriots have been able to replicate Bell's production by using multiple speciality backs rather than one workhorse.

In theory, this takes away the injury risk component to a certain extent. Rather than giving one player 350-400 touches per season, you spread those touches out and allow for players to do what they do best.

Lately, the NFL has seemed to agree that this is the most efficient way to play offense. But when you have a player like Bell or Ezekiel Elliott, in what way is taking the ball out of their hands "efficient" at all? In addition, how is using three players to mimic the skill set of one efficient?

Yes, the NFL is a passing league, but when you have a playmaker who is of the caliber of a Bell or an Elliott, it is up to the offense to deploy in him ways that maximize his value. Teams should be using the Bells and Elliotts of the world as pass catching threats and as weapons all over the field. Force the entire defense to account for your running back rather than just jamming him between the tackles like it's 1975.

The movement towards "running back by committee" rather than the traditional one-back system can also be credited to the lack of workhorse-worthy backs entering the league.

Ezekiel Elliotts don't grow on trees, they are rare and special players. And when you have one, especially when you spend a premium pick on him, you should get the most out of him that you can. Playing winning offense in the NFL is about more than just "do you run or do you pass," and it often hinges on creating splash plays of 15-20 yards.

If you can get those plays through the use of an elite running back, that player becomes intrinsically valuable to your team. No matter what "position" he is labeled as. Of course you want to be able create mismatches in the passing game all over the field, so when you are able to do this with a running back, shouldn't that be deemed as highly valuable?

We can't say just yet if the Cowboys should re-sign Ezekiel Elliott once he enters free agency. After all, five seasons (and a franchise tag year) where he touches the ball more than most players in the league will almost certainly bring about some wear and tear.

But with the way the Cowboys have chosen to play offense, and the way in which they've built their roster, a workhorse back like Elliott is necessary for success.

Once again, at least it is for now.

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Star Blog

Is DE Kony Ealy At Risk Of Not Making Cowboys Final Roster?

Kevin Brady



Sean's Scout: As Late FA Signing, New DE Kony Ealy Brings Value at DE

As training camp approaches and we draw closer to the 2018 NFL season, fans are beginning to get excited for new faces, old stars, and new beginnings for the Dallas Cowboys.

One player which has been a bit forgotten about over the last few months, and even overlooked when he was first signed back in April, is defensive end Kony Ealy. Of course, some of this overlooking is justified, as Ealy's career has been filled with more valleys than peaks thus far.

With a fresh start in Dallas, though, some expect Kony Ealy to rekindle his career, and look like the player he was during the Panthers' Super Bowl 50 loss just a few seasons ago. The problem is, that game looks like the outlier and not the norm over his professional career.

Originally drafted by the Carolina Panthers, Ealy has had a shaky start to his career. Now joining his third team in the same number of seasons, it's certainly fair to say he hasn't lived up to his second round draft selection.

At 6'4" and 275 pounds, however, Ealy fits the mold of a 4-3 defensive end in the Cowboys' scheme. While he isn't the explosive pass rusher that other players on the roster are (and can be), he could provide solid rotational depth across the defensive line.

With fellow former second round pick Randy Gregory gaining reinstatement to the NFL this week, Ealy could struggle to salvage any real playing time with the Cowboys at all. Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, and Taco Charlton all feel like locks to make the team.

Then there is 2018 day three pick Dorance Armstrong and former fourth round pick Charles Tapper providing competition as well.

Tapper and Armstrong are unproven, but have the athletic profiles to become solid edge rushers at the professional level. For both, especially Tapper, health is of the upmost concern going forward. If Tapper can remain healthy, he has a real shot of making the team and having his impact felt as early as 2018.

That "if" has been a serious one thus far, however.

When the Cowboys first signed Kony Ealy back in April, I really believed he could provide solid and cheap depth along their defensive line. Now in July, I still have those beliefs, but it's become fair to question if he will even find himself on the final 53-man roster based on the competition around him.

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Star Blog

Can Connor Williams Follow in Zack Martin’s Footsteps?

Brian Martin



Can Connor Williams Follow in Zack Martin's Footsteps?

Connor Williams has yet to play a single snap the NFL, but there are already some pretty high expectations for the rookie Guard. That's because he will be sandwiched between two Pro Bowl players in Center Travis Frederick and Left Tackle Tyron Smith. But, it's the Dallas Cowboys third Pro Bowl offensive lineman Williams should try to emulate and follow in the footsteps of.

Yes, I'm talking about Zack Martin.

Zack Martin's career couldn't have gotten off to a better start coming out of Notre Dame. He hit the ground running as a rookie with the Cowboys and put together a dominating performance his first year in the NFL, earning his first Pro Bowl bid as well as being named to the All-Pro team. He continued to play at a high level ever since and has not only turned into the best player at his position, but continued his Pro Bowl streak every season since entering the league.

To ask, or even expect Connor Williams to have the same kind of immediate success as Zack Martin is probably a little unfair, if not impossible. The kind of success Martin has had already in his career is almost unheard of. But, that's not to say Williams isn't going to try to follow in Martin's footsteps and to become the best player he can.

Zack Martin

Dallas Cowboys OG Zack Martin

The footsteps I think Connor Williams should try to follow as it pertains to Zack Martin is how well he made the transition from a collegiate Offensive Tackle to an NFL Guard. I think that should be Williams' main focus right now with training camp coming up.

Williams will be inserted into the starting lineup as the Cowboys new Left Guard. It will be a new position for him after playing mainly Tackle at the University of Texas, that will require an entirely new mindset and technique. But, it's in transition I believe he can make rather smoothly.

Connor Williams should benefit from Zack Martin's similar transition from college OT to an NFL OG. I wouldn't be surprised if we see the rookie shadowing Martin throughout training camp to soak up as much knowledge as possible. It's probably the best way for him to jumpstart his career.

Now, I fully expect to see some growing pains from Williams throughout the 2018 season. It's to be expected from any rookie, especially one transitioning to a new position. But, I do believe he will not only be an upgrade at LG for the Cowboys, but will make the entire OL even better.

I don't know about you, but I'm excited to see what kind of player Connor Williams ends up being this season.

Do you think Connor Williams can follow in Zack Martin's footsteps?

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