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Is Kyle Wilber the Front Runner for OLB?

The Cowboys did not add any new talent to the linebacker group for the 2016 season. Free agency came and went without any fresh faces being signed. Though they drafted Jaylon Smith in the second round he is not expected to play this year. To the surprise of some, Dallas will trust in last year’s group to develop and improve. All of those players but one were still under contract; Andrew Gachkar, Anthony Hitchens, Mark Nzeocha, and Damien Wilson.

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Headlines - Is Kyle Wilber the Front Runner for OLB?

The Cowboys did not add any new talent to the linebacker group for the 2016 season. Free agency came and went without any fresh faces being signed. Though they drafted Jaylon Smith in the second round he is not expected to play this year. To the surprise of some, Dallas will trust in last year's group to develop and improve.

Cowboys Headlines - Is Kyle Wilber the Front Runner for OLB? 1All of those players but one were still under contract; Andrew Gachkar, Anthony Hitchens, Mark Nzeocha, and Damien Wilson. Rather than just allow those four to compete, Dallas still elected to re-sign Kyle Wilber to a two-year deal. That decision certainly puts a spotlight on Wilber right now among his peers.

Granted, there's another way to spin the re-signing. Dallas may have seen Wilber simply as a trusted reserve who also offers some pass-rushing skill, which they certainly need. His contract only totaled $3.25 for two seasons, which is backup money. He may not have a leg up on anyone for the third starting job, or even be in consideration for it.

That said, there are several reasons to believe that Dallas could be eyeing Wilber for the job. Consider the following:

1. They Re-Signed Him Before the Draft

Dallas did not wait until after seeing how the draft or free agency unfolded before deciding to keep Wilber. Free agency opened on March 9th and Wilber was signed on March 11th. Dallas didn't even make him wait on the market and try to drive his value down, as they've done with some other veterans in the past. That decisiveness speaks to a certain value they place on the fifth-year veteran.

2. Slower Development

Though he's never emerged as a star, Wilber has remained useful despite having to adjust to the 4-3 scheme after being originally drafted to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. He's had to learn how to play in coverage and the transition has likely slowed his development from what we tend to expect.

Dallas recognizes this and may feel that Wilber's best years are ahead. If he can build on the last four years and reach peak performance now, the Cowboys will be getting quality play at a major bargain.

Cowboys Headlines - Is Kyle Wilber the Front Runner for OLB? 2

Greg Fiume/Getty Images

3. Not a Full-Time Starter

Though it's a starting position in the "base defense," the strongside linebacker gets limited snaps compared to middle and weakside guys. When the Cowboys move to their nickel, it's the strongside LB who leaves the field for that third cornerback to come on. Against passing teams, it's not uncommon for the nickel defense to be used more than the base scheme.

As the Cowboys look to manage their salary cap and keep their resources in the most important positions, perhaps a guy with Wilber's dependability is enough for them in that third LB role. He may not play more than 40% of the snaps in the season, so why not spend your draft picks and cap dollars elsewhere?

4. Pass Rushing Ability

With Orlando Scandrick returning and Byron Jones likely moving to safety, Dallas' confidence in their secondary will likely increase. This could allow for them to utilize more blitzing in the front seven which makes Wilber's strongest attribute even more valuable.

As was mentioned, Wilber started in the league as a 3-4 outside rusher. If the Cowboys don't ask their linebackers to drop back into coverage as much then Wilber could be used to attack the edges more than ever since moving to the 4-3. That versatility will only allow Rod Marinelli to be more creative.

5. The Prototype

If Marinelli sees his strongside linebackers according to the traditional 4-3 textbook, Wilber fits the mold better than the rest. Hitchens, Gachkar, and Wilson are all a little smaller and better suited for the middle and weakside roles. Nzeocha has size but is almost still a rookie after being injured most of last year.

Wilber is best suited to stand up against the run of any of the OLB candidates. He has also proven to have enough coverage skill to not be a major liability. While size isn't everything, it is a good tiebreaker when talent appears to be even.

~ ~ ~

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys Re-Sign Linebacker Kyle WilberRight now, everything seems pretty even among Wilber and his fellow linebacker prospects. Sean Lee and Rolando McClain are the only guys with clear roles and starting jobs. We don't know how the Cowboys have these other players rated against each other and who they're favoring for certain roles at this point.

However, we do know that they thought enough of Wilber to re-sign him. We know that Wilber started as many games last year (nine) as any of the other candidates. Dallas may be most comfortable with Wilber based on his experience and production thus far.

For a position that isn't necessarily critical, just being comfortable is okay. You can live with that. Based on the new contract, Dallas seems okay living with Wilber for a couple more years.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make the Roster?

Sean Martin

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Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make Cowboys Roster? 2
(Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

The Dallas Cowboys aren't short on numbers at wide receiver on their current 90-man roster. Looking to replace Dez Bryant and reshape their offense, the Cowboys will have to find the right group of pass catchers for Dak Prescott at their upcoming training camp.

This group includes Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Lance Lenoir, Deonte Thompson, Cedrick Wilson, Michael Gallup, KD Cannon, Mekale McCay, and Marchie Murdock.

The odd men out from this group will likely be the ones that can't sustain a consistent level of play, doing so across multiple units if needed. All ten receivers will have their flashes, but with only four being true locks to make the team, new Cowboys Wide Receivers Coach Sanjay Lal will be in on some tough decisions right away.

One such decision may be moving on from last year's seventh round pick Noah Brown out of Ohio State. Vouched for by former Buckeyes teammate Ezekiel Elliott thanks to his blocking ability on the outside, it may now be this strength in the run game and deficiency as a pass catcher that spells the end of Brown's run in Dallas.

Normally, a seventh round pick being on the roster bubble wouldn't be this noteworthy, but Brown clearly showed the potential to outplay this draft status as a rookie. Appearing in 13 games, Brown is a true X receiver, although not the dominant one the Cowboys are searching for.

What Happens if WR Allen Hurns Doesn't Pan Out?

Dallas Cowboys WR Deonte Thompson, Cedrick Wilson, Allen Hurns (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Moving away from fielding a true number one receiver, the Cowboys did sign Allen Hurns to play this spot while prepared to spread the ball around to Williams, Beasley, and Gallup after that.

This leaves Thompson, Wilson, Cannon, Lenoir, McCay, Murdock, and Brown to prove their worth in other ways to make the roster. I've written plenty about the potential rookie Cedrick Wilson has, so I'll be expecting a strong showing from him to earn a role in the Cowboys offense.

Wilson's skill set could push a depth signing like Deonte Thompson off the team, although his ability to back up Cole Beasley/Tavon Austin on special teams is important. The same can be said about Lance Lenoir, who like Brown has the advantage over first year players given his trials through training camp and the preseason a year ago.

Long shots to make the team, Cannon, McCay, and Murdock fall just below this group -- and somewhere in the middle is Noah Brown.

Increasing his role on special teams as the season went on last year, Brown had fans throughout a coaching staff that is now drastically changed for 2018. From their shift to more speed on offense, to drafting of both Gallup and Wilson, calling Brown a fringe player on the Cowboys roster really sets up the fiery competition to come at wide receiver.

Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make Cowboys Roster?

Dallas Cowboys WR Noah Brown (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Should the Cowboys find a spot for Brown, one can only hope it means this new coaching staff has a clear plan for him to contribute on both offense and special teams outside of being a run blocker. A potential niche for Brown is his red zone ability, not afraid to put his body on the line for jump balls and fight through contact in his routes.

It won't be long until we sort out if this is enough to make the Cowboys as a wide receiver ahead of Quarterback Dak Prescott's third season.

Tell us what you think about "Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make the Roster?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Cowboys CB Marquez White Facing Assault Charges

Jess Haynie

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Marquez White

Player news this time of year is often not the good kind, and such is true of a new development with Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Marquez White. The second-year CB is facing aggravated assault charges for an incident last October.

According to the report, White displayed a legally owned firearm during a "road rage" incident.

Marquez,  a sixth-round pick of the Cowboys last season, has made his side of the story public. The following account was released by White to The Dothan Eagle, his hometown newspaper:

Cowboys CB Marquez White Facing Assault Charges

Cowboys CB Marquez White Facing Assault Charges 1

Naturally, we're in a wait-and-see situation as to how this case unfolds and impacts White's availability to the Cowboys in 2018. He is one of several players hoping to catch on at the bottom of the CB depth chart, having spent his rookie season on the practice squad.

This latest legal issue is especially unwelcome news after other Cowboys' recent problems. The team has seen David Irving get suspended four games for illegal substances and Terrance Williams' get arrested for public intoxication in the last two months.

Last year, Linebacker Damien Wilson was charged for aggravated assault in a somewhat similar situation to that of Marquez White. Those charges were eventually dropped.

What happens in White's case remains to be seen.



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Deadline for DeMarcus Lawrence Contract Extension Nearing

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Crossroads: Is This a Short-Term or Long-Term Team? 2

NFL teams have until July 16 to work out a long-term extension with any players currently under the franchise tag, which means the Dallas Cowboys have about a week to work something out with Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence. If deals are not signed and approved by the league by 4 P.M. ET July 16, the sides cannot agree to new contracts until after the 2018 season ends.

Along with the Lawrence, Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell, Detroit Lions DE Ziggy Ansah, and Los Angeles Rams S Lamarcus Joyner have franchise tags slapped on them. All of them would love the long-term security a contract extension would provide, but they are all going to have to wait and see what the upcoming week has in store for them.

So, what will the Dallas Cowboys decide to do with DeMarcus Lawrence? Can they come to terms on a long-term contract extension before the deadline on July 16?

Luckily for Lawrence, the Dallas Cowboys seem open about hearing what he believes his market value is. That doesn't mean he will get his asking price, but the talks have to begin somewhere.

DeMarcus Lawrence

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Rumors are already circulating that Lawrence is seeking a five-year extension and wants to make more money than Danielle Hunter, who the Vikings just signed to a five-year $72 million contract. That's probably more money than the Cowboys have in mind at this time. They may prefer to wait and see if he can replicate what he accomplished in 2017.

Last season DeMarcus Lawrence turned into the "War Daddy" Owner Jerry Jones has been seeking for the defense. He accumulated a career-high 14.5 quarterback sacks and finally played an entire 16 game season. But, even that may not be worth the money he is rumored to be seeking right now.

Hunter's five-your $72 million contract extension is the going price right now for someone of Lawrence's caliber, but there are other players in line for a big payday as well. Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, and Jadeveon Clowney are all in the same boat as Lawrence. What kind of extensions they receive could change the going rate, which could cause some hesitance on the Cowboys part.

Fortunately, I kind of doubt DeMarcus Lawrence is going to complain much if he has to play the 2018 season under the franchise tag. He will make a little over $17 million for one year and has a chance to cash in big time if he can replicate what he did a season ago.

Would you sign DeMarcus Lawrence to an extension before the July 16 deadline?



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