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Is Dont’a Hightower The “War Daddy” Jerry Jones Is Looking For?

Brian Martin

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Is Dont'a Hightower The "War Daddy" Jerry Jones Is Looking For?

Owner/general manager Jerry Jones knows all too well that one of the top priorities this off-season is to improve the pass rush for their defense. Unfortunately, finding those dominant pass rushers that can take over games are difficult to come by. Which is why I decided to think a little bit outside of the box and find Jones one of those "war daddies" he is looking for. That is where the former New England Patriots linebacker, Dont'a Hightower comes in.

Before I dive into how I think Dont'a Hightower can help the Dallas Cowboys' pass rush, let me share with you what Jerry Jones recently said in an interview when asked about improving arguably the teams biggest off-season need.

"If I have a chance to bring one of these premier pass rusher, one of these war daddies that takes two to block, if I have a chance to get a player like that, I would," Jones told the radio station, via Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

"It's not a question of that. It's a question of, where is he? And who gives him up if he's a veteran, or where is he in the draft, or where is he anywhere. So, yeah we do need pressure. We're going to try to do something about it."

If we take Jerry Jones at his word, then finding a way to bring in a dominant pass rusher is at the top of the list this off-season. Unfortunately, we have already seen a lot of the best free agent defensive ends slapped with the franchise tag, essentially taking them off the market. That narrows down the Cowboys free agent options significantly.

Former Green Bay Packer, Nick Perry, has become the best available pass rusher on the market by default. But as such, the Cowboys might have to get into a bidding war to win his services. That is why I decided to think a little bit outside of the box and focus on a player that probably won't be linked to the Cowboys because of the position he has played so far in his NFL career, Dont'a Hightower.

Why Dont'a Hightower?

I know what a lot of you are probably thinking about right now. Why would the Dallas Cowboys bring in a player that has been a middle linebacker his first five years in the NFL to help with the pass rush?

FA Dont'a Hightower

The answer to that question is simple. I've always believed that Dont'a Hightower would be a fantastic pass rusher, which is exactly what the Dallas Cowboys are looking for.

Hightower has the size (6'3", 265) to be an every down defensive end in a 4-3 defensive scheme. Plus, he has already had success at the NFL level getting after the quarterback as a situational pass rusher, evidenced by his 17 career QB sacks. That's pretty impressive considering he plays the majority of his defensive snaps as a middle linebacker.

How would Hightower be utilize the best?

Dont'a Hightower's versatility to play several positions could be used in a number of different ways in defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's scheme. We all know how much the Cowboys value position flexibility in their defensive players.

FA Dont'a Hightower

Since Jaylon Smith's 2017 status is still somewhat in the air, Hightower could be an insurance policy if things don't go as planned. Hightower would add some much-needed "meat" to the middle linebacker position for the Cowboys. The majority of the linebackers on the roster are probably better suited to play on the weak side, but Hightower would add a little extra thump in the middle due to his size.

The Cowboys would probably prefer to bring Smith along slowly, so Hightower could be the starter for the first couple of downs and then be moved to defensive end in obvious passing situations. That would allow Smith to use his athletic ability in the passing game, while also giving the defense someone who can get after the QB.

Sounds like a win-win situation right?

What is Hightower's market value compared to the top pass rusher?

According to Sportrac.com, Dont'a Hightower's market value is somewhere in the range of four-years, $40 million. That comes out to about $10 million per season. It may seem a little rich and more than the Dallas Cowboys have spent on signing free agents the past several seasons, but his position flexibility could make him well worth the money.

FA Nick PerryI mentioned earlier that Nick Perry is probably the top free agent pass rusher still available on the market. His market value according to Sportrac.com is somewhere in the range of five-years, $40 million. He would be a little bit more affordable at about $8 million per season, but he doesn't provide the same kind of position flexibility that Hightower does. Also, Perry hasn't really been as productive as a pass rusher as Hightower either.

Both players were selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. In their five years in the NFL, Hightower has 17 QB sacks, while Perry has just 23.5. Perry's numbers would be even less impressive if not for his 11 sack season in 2016.

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Of course, all of this is just speculation. Dont'a Hightower would have to be willing to become more of a defensive end with the Cowboys instead of a middle linebacker. Sure, he would probably still play MLB, especially if Jaylon Smith isn't ready to go, but it would still be a position change of sorts. Although, he was kind of used in a similar fashion with the Patriots.

Then, the Cowboys would have to go against their free agent philosophy they adopted the past several years and sign a big name player to a big money contract. I'm not going to rule it out, but it seems unlikely. Although, this team is built to be serious contenders for the next several years, so if Jerry Jones and Company believes Dont'a Hightower is a player that can take them to a higher level, we could see this come to fruition.

Do you think Dont'a Hightower would make a good pass rusher?



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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2 Comments
  • Randy Martin

    As much as I like Hightower I think paying him with the primary purpose of playing DE would be a huge gamble. New England runs a modified 3-4 and Hightower is an ILB. Typically you see a 3-4 OLB bouncing out to be an edge defender in a 4-3. I don’t know if he has the bend and burst you need to play the edge and would be doubtful that Dallas would pay him to find out…but always fun to kick around ideas!

    • Brian Martin

      Randy, I agree it would be a gamble. I still kind of like the idea of adding Hightower. He wouldn’t necessarily have to be an every down DE. He could still play quite a bit at linebacker and it’s that versatility I am drawn to. I do however think he could be a starting DE. Of course, this will probably never happen. He will get paid top dollar to be in MLB for some team.

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Maliek Collins Playing Excellent for Cowboys Defense

John Williams

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Maliek Collins

For the Dallas Cowboys on the interior, a lot of the news consistently surround the availability of Defensive Tackle David Irving, but Maliek Collins is playing excellent right now. While I'm willing to be very patient with Irving because of the elite talent he brings, Maliek Collins should continue to start for the Dallas Cowboys at 3-technique defensive tackle.

Collins has been a player that the Cowboys have bounced between the nose tackle and the 3T position with the hopes of getting their best players on the field, and because of the lack of a consistent presence at the 1-technique or nose tackle position. Well, with Antwaun Woods taking control at the 1T, Collins has been able to play at the position where he's at his best. The 3-tech.

He hasn't put huge numbers in the sack column this season, but that doesn't mean he's been absent from being the disruptive player he's been through his first two and a half seasons.

During the Dallas Cowboys five game winning streak, Maliek Collins has led the Dallas Cowboys defensive tackles in total pressures with 13, according to Pro Football Focus. PFF combines sacks, quarterback hits, and hurries into their "pressures." Collins hasn't recorded a sack during the winning streak, but he has four quarterback hits and nine hurries. He's tied with Tyrone Crawford for third in total pressures behind DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory over the last five weeks.

Over the last five weeks, Collins leads the defensive tackles in solo tackles with five and is tied with Crawford and Antwaun Woods with three run stops on defense, according to Pro Football Focus. Collins has also has two tackles for loss in the last five games and recovered Tyrone Crawford's force fumble on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Collins had six sacks in his rookie season when he played primarily as the 3T, which allowed him to see more one-on-one blocks against opposing interior offensive linemen. Especially with the way the rest of the defensive line is playing.

With the Cowboys on the road to face the Indianapolis Colts this week, Collins is going to have a tough matchup with a very good Colts offensive line, in particular, rookie Quentin Nelson. Collins ability to get pressure on Andrew Luck on the interior is a huge key for the Dallas Cowboys this week. We know that Gregory and Lawrence will get their pressures, but if Andrew Luck is able to step up into a clean pocket, it will make for a much more challenging game for the Cowboys secondary.

Collins has proved to be up to any task over the last five weeks and if he's able to keep playing at such a high level, he'll make the Cowboys coaching staff, and the rest of Cowboys Nation forget about using other defensive tackles. For the Cowboys to make a deep push in the playoffs, they'll need Collins to be a big time player for them moving forward.



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Amari Cooper Wins 2nd NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award of 2018

Jess Haynie

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Amari Cooper

For the second time in just three weeks, Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Cooper scored three touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime, to lead the Cowboys to victory last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has 10 catches for 217 yards, which led all NFL receivers last week.

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After his record-setting performance during week 14, @AmariCooper9 is the FIRST #DallasCowboys to win NFC Player of the Week twice in a season! → https://t.co/kvBDIeOgBd #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote

As the official website stated, Cooper is the first Cowboy to win the award twice in the same year. He's also the first Cowboy to be named Offensive Player of the Week since Ezekiel Elliott in 2016.

Before this year, Elliott was the only Dallas player to win the Offensive award in three seasons. Cooper has now done it twice in three weeks.

Since being traded to the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has amassed 40 catches for 642 yards and six touchdowns.

His wasted time in Oakland may keep Cooper out of the Pro Bowl this year, but he's already become a fan favorite in Cowboys Nation. Congratulations to Amari for another well-deserved award!



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David Irving Out Again for Cowboys, Does Defense Need Him?

Sean Martin

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David Irving Out Again for Cowboys, Does Defense Need Him?

Dallas Cowboys Defensive Tackle David Irving, once a key member of the team's defense, will not make his return after all against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. For the second straight week, Irving was reportedly trending towards suiting up before being ruled out. The Cowboys haven't missed his unique presence for 13 weeks (playing against the Jaguars and Redskins), including through an ongoing four game win streak that began with a win against these Eagles on the road.

In that road win, veteran Tyrone Crawford recorded a sack and three tackles, while Antwaun Woods added two for a Dallas defense that held Philadelphia to 23 first downs and 71 rushing yards. The Eagles managed to cross the Cowboys' 30-yard line just four times.

There are many scenarios in which the Cowboys could have cut ties with Irving for not being worth the off-field trouble he's caused - beginning the season with a four game suspension. The absolute best case scenario is what they've realized amidst this turnaround, with other defensive linemen taking advantage of the opportunity left behind by Irving.

While it can still be true that Irving would make more splash plays than the likes of Crawford, Woods, Maliek Collins, and Caraun Reid, this defensive tackle group deserves praise for their ability to step in. Pass rush ability is one thing teams can't have enough of, and the Cowboys are missing some with Irving, finding ways to win thanks to the other traits these defenders bring to the table.

Cowboys Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard may effectively be the team's defensive coordinator with an emphasis on the back seven, but DC Rod Marinelli's impact is still felt - particularly up front. Regardless of where they're lined up and deployed, the Cowboys front four is expected to be disruptive on every snap, something this scrappy unit excels at.

Prepared once again to play on the edge this season, Crawford is thriving at his original position of 3T-DT. Crawford has two sacks, nine total tackles, and three other hits on the quarterback over the past four weeks. Leading by example with a relentless spirit on every play, Crawford has meant just as much to the Cowboys defensive ends as Irving could.

In a short period of time, the Cowboys have gone from building up Irving thanks to his transcendent ability to make those around him better to simply -- and importantly -- being better across the defense.

Led by DeMarcus Lawrence as their premier rusher, the Cowboys defensive line is a lot for opposing offenses to contain. The "Hot Boyz" work up front has allowed Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch to play fast and make plays all over the field.

Maliek Collins, battling back from his second broken foot in three years, is proving again he's a patented Marinelli guy. Collins' play speaks for itself when considering if the Nebraska product is best as a 3T or 1T tackle. Wherever he's asked to play, Collins creates penetration with an explosive first step and can finish at the quarterback with an array of power rush moves.

At 7-5 and fighting for their playoff lives, the Cowboys are done making excuses on the 2018 season. Their strides on defense speak for themselves, and with a group that keeps Dallas in every game they'll play, the door remains open for David Irving to earn snaps again when ready.

The Cowboys don't know any better than their play without Irving right now, and as winners of four straight, it's worth questioning if we'll see Irving over the last three weeks of the regular season.

Tell us what you think about "David Irving Out Again for Cowboys, Does Defense Need Him?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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