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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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Cowboys RB Mike Weber’s Injury Scare Continues Concerning Trend

Jess Haynie

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Mike Weber

Rookie RB Mike Weber had a brief scare earlier this week with a knee injury in practice, but thankfully the MRI came back with a good report. However, as he fights to have a future with the Dallas Cowboys, this health incident is a concerning reminder of Weber's recent history.

One reason that Weber fell to the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft was due to battling injuries during his last two years at Ohio State. He lost his starting job in 2017 due to ongoing hamstring issues and also had to miss time last year because of a foot strain.

Carrying the load for the Buckeyes is a far different workload than being second or third on the Cowboys' RB depth chart. But this latest scare happened in early May, just two weeks after Mike joined the team and well before the more strenuous activities of an NFL offseason.

A practice injury can cost you just as badly as one that happens in a game. And with Dallas already thin at RB, it could leave them severely shorthanded if it occurs during the regular season.

Many have projected that the Cowboys' RB group in 2019 would have Ezekiel Elliott as the obvious starter and then rookies Weber and Tony Pollard behind him. While Pollard was drafted three rounds ahead of Weber, he's not built to take a large number of carries if Zeke were to go out.

If Mike Weber does make the team, he would be expected to take a sizable role if something bad happen with Elliott.

Mike Weber

Dallas Cowboys RB Mike Weber

The "injury prone" label is disastrous for any athlete, but especially a guy with no real claim to a roster spot. If Weber causes concern in the front office about his durability, they may go a different way at final cuts.

Remember, Mike's not just up against Pollard and Darius Jackson for a roster spot. There are still plenty of veteran free agent running backs out there that Dallas could turn to if they're not confident about their young prospects.

This isn't too say that one scary moment in May, which ultimately didn't amount to much, is reason to cut bait with Mike Weber. But when you stack it up with his injury history in college, it does make you wonder how he'll do over the course of an entire NFL season.

Hopefully, Weber bounces back from this and has a great summer. Former Buckeye RBs have treated Dallas well the last few years, and it'd be fantastic if Mike can provide the same solid solid depth that Rod Smith did.

But this latest news is just a reminder of why Dallas can't rest easy at running back just yet, and why they may still have another move to make to prepare for 2019.



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Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Graduating From Notre Dame

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: Jaylon Smith Returns Cowboys to NFC East Prominence in Win Over Bucs

The 2019 season is right around the corner for the Dallas Cowboys, with OTA's and training camp getting ready to kickoff in the coming weeks/months.

Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith made the most of his offseason, going back to Notre Dame to finish out his college degree. Smith is set to graduate from Notre Dame this Saturday, and will walk to earn his degree in Film & Television.

Smith talked to DallasCowboys.com's David Helman about why it was so important for him to graduate and finish what he started at Notre Dame. 

“When I left after my junior year, I promised my mom that I would go back and finish...Finishing my third year with the Cowboys, it was time.” - Jaylon Smith

Michael Bertsch on Twitter

2,025 @NotreDame undergraduates will receive degrees during Commencement Weekend. That contingent includes @thejaylonsmith Yes, the current @dallascowboys & former @NDFootball All-American linebacker, who took 21 credits this spring #4for40 #GraduatingChampions #CEV

Smith continues his leadership on and off the field, and we all send our congratulations to the Cowboys starting MIKE linebacker!



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Ezekiel Elliott Snubbed from Top 25 Players Under 25 List

John Williams

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Should Cowboys Start Preparing for Life Without Ezekiel Elliott?

On Tuesday, Pro Football Focus published it's Top 25 Players Under 25, with Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch one of only three linebackers on the list. Oddly, one of the best players on the team was absent from this same list; Running Back Ezekiel Elliott.

The running backs they included were Kareem Hunt, Saquon Barkley, and Alvin Kamara. Pro Football Focus has been very open about their dislike of Elliott's 2018 season, ranking him 30th in the NFL according to their player grades.

Elliott has won the NFL's rushing title in two of his three seasons and likely would have won it in 2017 had he not been served with a league-mandated six-game suspension. Elliott ran for nearly 1,000 yards in the 10 games he played, which put him in 10th place in rushing in 2017. Le'Veon Bell led the NFL in rushing that season with 1,291 yards. Using some basic arithmetic, I've discovered that Elliott finished just 308 yards off the league lead in six fewer games.

https://twitter.com/PFF_Cowboys/status/1128700802422517761

Despite being the most productive back in the NFL in his first three years in the NFL, Elliott gets knocked because he sees such a high volume of carries and targets from the Dallas Cowboys offense.

On Wednesday, Mark Chichester of Pro Football Focus talked about the players who just missed the cut. Here's what he had to say about Ezekiel Elliott.

"There’s no doubt that Ezekiel Elliott is one of the top players at his position, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that his production is, in large part, thanks to the offense that Dallas has built around him. Over the last three years, Elliott ranks first in rushing attempts (868), rushing yards (4048), rushing yards after contact (2567) and first down conversions (219). However, his three-year rushing grade of 80.2 ranks ninth among the 36 backs with at least 300 attempts in that span, while his 0.119 missed tackles forced per attempt ranks tied for 27th among the same group." 

Mark Chichester - Pro Football Focus

Ezekiel Elliott is one of the best running backs in the NFL, if not the best. There can be an argument for Todd Gurley or Le'Veon Bell, and maybe even Saquon Barkley, but if you aren't including Ezekiel Elliott in the discussion, the discussion is a bit flawed.

For three years, under Scott Linehan as the offensive coordinator, every team in the NFL knows that Elliott is going to get the ball and get the ball a lot. Primarily on first downs. Yet, Elliott continues to be productive and grind out his yards, even against heavily stacked fronts.

I understand the argument that Elliott wasn't very efficient with his touches in 2018, but when you are the primary focus for opposing defenses, it makes it difficult to be efficient. Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamar had the benefit of being coached by Andy Reid and Sean Payton who are considered creative offensive minds. Saquon Barkley had the benefit of Odell Beckham Jr keeping safeties honest.

While the Cowboys had Amari Cooper, the passing game still doesn't get near the respect that the Cowboys run game gets from opposing defensive coordinators. With Kellen Moore on board and the talk about presenting multiple formations for opposing teams to figure out, the Cowboys offense could get more creative in 2019.

Heading into his fourth year in the NFL, it's amazing that Ezekiel Elliott apparently still has something to prove to some out there. After winning rushing titles in two of his three seasons and averaging right around 100 yards a game, Elliott still doesn't get the respect he deserves from national observers.



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