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Should Linebacker Be Among Cowboys’ Top Needs?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Last offseason, while trying to find Dallas' next "War Daddy" and future secondary, the Cowboys might have overlooked one important need they had on defense. With Sean Lee and promising Jaylon Smith on the team, it seemed liked everything was fine at the linebacker position.

11 weeks into the regular season, things are starting to look different.

Just like every year, it's a fact that the Cowboys will need to continue their search for a right defensive end. And if we're being real, this team has a larger list of needs than what we all like to think. When April comes around, we'll be talking about a lot of positions being a need. Even on offense, this team might be looking at the wide receiver and the guard position closely.

Sean Lee's Absence Leaves Huge Hole

Obviously, when it comes down to the linebacker corp, Sean Lee is the man in D-Town. When healthy, he's one of the best there is in the NFL. Although it's very frustrating to see how much difference there is when he's off the field, it also shows you just how amazing Lee is at what he does.

It's not only about his skills as a player, but the way he leads his defense into battle.

Sadly, there's always a but. In this case, the "but" is about health. Recently, fellow Inside The Star Staff Writer Brian Martin wrote about Lee's injuries:

"Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think he’s played an entire season in his NFL career. He has sustained multiple concussions, an ACL tear, a neck injury where there was ligament damage, plantar fascia tear in his foot, a fractured wrist, and a smorgasbord of hamstring injuries."

Sean Lee is 31-years old. The Cowboys have to start thinking about life without Lee, especially considering that the veteran is injury-prone. Dallas has failed to attend the depth of this position, and I'd be surprised if they don't do something about it next offseason.

Is it possible that the front office had higher expectations for Jaylon Smith? At least fans did. Including myself. While I didn't expect him to be 100% ready to open the season, I certainly  thought that by now he'd be starting.

But we all know he's had a lot of struggles when he has spent most of the time on the field. However, on limited snaps, Jaylon has shown pretty impressive flashes. Even still, I think his situation will remain a question mark for a bit longer.

Anthony Hitchens 1

Dalllas Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchens. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Anthony Hitchens is a guy who tends to be underrated by Cowboys Nation. He may not be anywhere close to what Sean Lee is, but the guy is a pretty solid linebacker. I even believe that if Hitchens isn't ready to go this Thursday, the Cowboys might lose what looks like a simple game versus the Chargers.

Those are the biggest names at the position in Dallas right now, but there are a few others who should be mentioned, too.

Justin Durant and Damien Wilson have been this team's rotational linebackers, who've seen more playing time because of injuries throughout the season.

Wilson is another guy who some members of Cowboys Nation thought would have a bigger role. Through 11 games, Wilson has only been on the field for a bit more than 31% of the defensive snaps, per Pro Football Reference.

As for Durant, although he's contributed as a back-up, we don't even know if he'll play football after 2017.

Of course, these are not the only LBs on the team, but they are the main ones.

There's a long way to go before next offseason comes around, but the Cowboys can't make the same mistake they made this season. It's fair to say that the front office underestimated the need for depth in the linebacker position.

Cowboys en Español: LB Damien Wilson Arrestado ¿Ahora Qué? 1

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Damien Wilson. (James D. Smith via AP)

If the Dallas Cowboys are to bring both David Irving and DeMarcus Lawrence back next year, they might just be willing to take a chance on a linebacker high in the Draft. Who knows, they may even go for it with a first-round pick.

For now, let's hope Hitchens and Lee get back healthy soon enough to try and save this season and do their best to make this defense work.

Tell me what you think about "Should Linebacker Be Among Cowboys’ Top Needs?" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL 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!



I love to write, I love football and I love the Dallas Cowboys. I've been rooting for America's team all the way from Mexico ever since I can remember. If you want to talk football, I'm in... You'll find me at @PepoR99.

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24 Comments
  • Randy Martin

    I absolutely think LB is a big need as well as WR, and G/OT, depending on how they plan the O-Line for next season. If they don’t take a LB in the first 3 rounds I would be shocked, and maybe disappointed.

    • Mauricio Rodriguez

      I would be too. I wouldn’t like it if they miss on this need once again. Thanks for reading, Randy!

  • Zu

    LB/Receiver/RB in that order of need. I think it’s a toss up between LB/WR. BOTH positions are incredibly bad. LBs don’t have a clue & receivers I could go on for hours. Lack speed, body catchers, poor route running, etc. I don’t like any of our RBs other than Zeke. Didn’t understand their plan all along.

    • Mauricio Rodriguez

      It will be an interesting offseason.

    • Joe Mendoza

      I agree but I am certain 2nd rd pick will be on UTEP’s Hernandez or Ohio state C/G price available too . Calvin Ridley only 1st I can see worth it and he is too small at 5’10. Better with Colorado State WR in 2nd. Probably trading back for G and WR/LB. Our strength remains OL and last years injury bug and lack of depth killed us. We are a ball control team and our denfensive draft needs are greater without this pick. Best defense is a very good offense . Another average predictable offensive showing and our defense will never get off the field. 1st rd pick will be Vita if available or a trade back. Round 3 will be interesting as I see us using compensatory picks/ trade ups to grab talent that has slipped . Somewhere Stanford or Wisconsin TE if available in late rounds.

  • Ethan Chazin

    yes. Lee unreliable, Hitchens is a gamer but Wilson is a wildcard whos looks like a head case most o f the time. Jaylon is not a full time player, so that means LB is a draft day need, to go along with DT/NT, OT, WR, RB.

    • Mauricio Rodriguez

      I agree, thanks for reading, Ethan! I’d say RB is a third day need. Maybe a second.

    • washinma2424

      I agree with everything you said but if you watch closely. Jaylon is starting to look like a player. Meaning reacting more quickly to plays

  • Gill Elliott

    We need receivers first trade Dez or cut him second we need CBs please get rid of Brown next we need DT if we are able to keep Lawrence bottom line we need alot PS don’t forget TE!! Written is done

    • Mauricio Rodriguez

      We definitely need a TE for the future.

  • Jonathan McGhee

    Jonathan M

    • Mauricio Rodriguez

      This team has more needs than what we normally think.

  • Joe Mendoza

    They had one in Watt but reached for a rotten Taco. Team tries to justify that he is not a 4-3 guy. Supposed to pick the best available player. Opted to draft for need and “Needs” to step up. A 1st rounder is supposed to be able to play immediately and this guy looks average. This bad choice now impacts is more as we need a play making receiver. Dez needs to guy too much money tied up for low production he simply is not elite only his ego.

    • Mauricio Rodriguez

      Yeah, Taco was a very questionable pick.

      • David Castle

        Taco Charlton will be a very good player if you give him time to develop . He was taken with the 28th pick of the draft . I can see people being disappointed if he had been taken in the top 10 , those players are usually NFL ready . Think David Irving when you think Charlton . Irving was on KC’s practice squad when we claimed him . Why ? Because he wasn’t ready yet and needed a little time to develop . It costs a boatload of cash to get a pass rusher in the NFL . Jerry is now trying to develop our pass rushers to save money elsewhere . Hopefully to keep our OL intact . JJ Watt didn’t fit the scheme we run , it’s not worth changing the whole defensive scheme for 1 player . Our CB’s are young and will be fine now we are getting pressure on the QB .

        • Joe Mendoza

          Irving was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Kansas City Chiefs after the 2015 NFL Draft . Either you conveniently left out this fact or are not as football savy as you would like us to to think. So your post is flawed when compared to a team using a 1st round pick. So there was no risk for KC and there was time to develop him. Also referring to TJ not JJ Watt now a starting linebacker for the Steelers with 24 solo tackles, 4 sacks and 1 interception. Avery Moss of the Giants has identical rookie stats and he was drafted in the 5th round. Vikings UDFA Tashawn Bower 1 game played 1 sack same sack total as Taco for the year. Patriots UDFA Adam Butler 7 solo 4 assisted 1 sack. Saints 3rd Rd pick Trey Hendrickson 6 solo 6 assisted 2 sacks. Raiders 7th Rd pick Treyvon Hester 6 solo 3 assisted. Jahuars 3rd Rd pick Dawuane Smoot 7 solo 4 assisted. Lions UDFA Jeremiah Valoaga 5 solo 1 assisted. Bengals 3rd round pick Jordan Willis 10 solo 7 assisted 1 sack. Patriots 4th round pick Deatrich Wise 12 solo 4 assisted 3 sacks. All these DE’s play in 4-3 schemes and highlight Taco’s miserable performance to date. His 1st round pick status also includes more guaranteed money and years against the the cap so please stop being a Cowboy Cheerleader and be a real Cowboy fan with brains.

          • David Castle

            David Irving was on KC’s practice squad when we claimed him on our 53 , he wasn’t even starting . He took time to develop .

          • Joe Mendoza

            What is your point comparing the Chiefs low investment UDFA we stole from their practice squad to spending a 1st round pick on a below average performing DE. Can not spend draft picks cultivating thats what UDFA’s are for or 6th round picks like Rico Gathers

          • Joe Mendoza

            Must be a friend or family member because you make no sense. Completely different scenarios with Irving and Taco. So as I said back when, look where the Cowboys are now … Looking for a linebacker and DT and placing tender on Irving. Franchising Lawrence. Keeping mum on Taco to hide draft mistake ( the guy just cant bwnd around rhe edge) and a pothead DE thinking he can make it in the nfl. Our asses have been saved by UDFA’s for many years.

  • Hector Espindola

    Totally agree, the FO is urged to find a reasonable replacement for Lee or next season anything would work -again- and that kind of player won’t come cheap in FA. What scares me is that Dallas has never won a game without Lee, so it’s clear what the major problem is, between the many problems popping out. Since years ago, this team is about to be a couple of players distance of the SB and I must insist that there are core positions which need more than roster depth or having the defense the least time in the field, till young players pan out. Hitchens is alone there.

    • Mauricio Rodriguez

      Agreed. Thanks for reading!

  • David Castle

    first off , i consider round 1-4 in the draft our Premium picks , so with that being said i think that OT (swing tackle) LB , and S as our biggest needs as of right now . Hopefully with our 1st round pick , 1 of those 3 positions will match up with our current needs . Just don’t see us taking a WR unless one will slide to us in the 1st that was rated higher then we pick and would be considered a value at that draft position . I would love to see us get a BIG middle linebacker with the first round pick . But if a pass rusher falls to us then it’s always hard to pass on that . I love Taco Charlton and believe that he will be a 10 sack guy in this league but it will take a couple of years for him to develop like it did David Irving . That being said , during the offseason i would tag DeMarcus Lawrence (i like the guy , but want him to prove himself 1 more time before i throw big money at him) . I resign OG Martin , and i resign David Irving .
    I am not as happy at our Safety position as most people seem to be . Jeff Heath is a great special teams player but in no way should be in the starting lineup . I don’t think Byron Jones is as good as people think . Maybe Kevon Frazier or Zavier Woods can replace Heath as a starter next season with some experience under their belt . But i think we have to throw a premium draft pick at that position to improve it maybe a 1st if the right guy falls to us . I want a Landon Collins type of player back there . At MLB , we need a big guy that can take the hits that comes with playing that position . We are having to play Sean Lee there and his body cannot take the damage . I love Sean Lee but don’t LOVE how many games he has to miss due to injury . Move him to strong or weak side and free him up more . Draft a Burfict sized player with a premium pick at that position . And Chaz Greene should NOT be on this team . He cannot stay healthy and when he does get to play is a detriment to the offensive line . We have to upgrade the swing tackle position by drafting an OT to groom to start because Tyron Smith is starting to get hit by injuries and we have to run the ball to give this team a chance to win .

    • Jorge Gonzalez

      Leo lo que muchos escriben sobre las diferentes pocisiones que necesita el equipo, estoy de acuerdo con todos pero quien menciona lo desastroso que son los HC y JG que no tienen un plan de cambio en los juegos si hemos perdido es por ellos por la falta de planes para solventar esas carencias es ahi donde deberiamos reclutar nuevos coordinadores, si eso no pasa esperemos otra temporada ganadora y otra perdedora como la de ahora, dallas es un equipo de promedio a malo y no es por falta de buenos jugadores si no por que no tenemos un Bilk Bellichik de jefe dandole una identidad a este equipo.
      el equipo juega con la misma actitud de JG un mediocre… saludos de un fan enojado que se da cuenta que tenemos material humano pra estar mejor..

    • Jorge Gonzalez

      I read what many write about the different positions that the team needs, I agree with everyone but who mentions how disastrous the HC and JG are that they do not have a change plan in the games if we have lost it because of the lack of plans to solve these shortcomings is where we should recruit new coordinators, if that does not happen we hope another winning season and another loser as now, dallas is a team from average to bad and it is not for lack of good players but because no we have a Bilk Bellichik boss giving an identity to this team.
      the team plays with the same attitude of JG a mediocre … greetings from an angry fan who realizes that we have human material to be better ..

Star Blog

Where In The World Is DE Taco Charlton?

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: Defense Comes Alive In Loss At LA Rams 2
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Over pretty much the last decade, the Dallas Cowboys have been rock solid with their first round picks. With selections of Ezekiel Elliott, Travis Frederick, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Leighton Vander Esch (just to name a handful), Dallas has rebuilt the core of their roster through the NFL Draft.

It's nearly impossible to bat .1000 in any round of the draft, however, and this appears to be the current case with the Cowboys' 2017 first round pick.

Defensive end Taco Charlton has not had the sophomore season that he, or anyone, had hoped for. A healthy scratch last Sunday, Charlton has only been active for 1 of the Cowboys' last 5 games, and has not recorded a sack or tackle since week 9.

Prior to disappearing with injuries and "attitude issues," Charlton had only recorded 1 sack on the season and was beginning to fall behind his Hot Boy-brethren. Defensive end Randy Gregory has reached his form over the last few weeks, Tyrone Crawford is having arguably a career year, and DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the best ends in all of football.

This doesn't leave much room for Charlton, who's now having issues even getting on the gameday roster. Rod Marinelli dodged questions about Taco Charlton earlier this week, vaguely saying they are "moving forward" and that he'd like to talk about other players on his defensive line who are performing.

Calvin Watkins on Twitter

Rod Marinelli on Taco Charlton's benching and being inactive last week: "We just keep moving along keep going forward. It's kinda been out there I'd leave it at that. I'd rather talk about our two tackles.

Charlton has not been quiet about his displeasure as of late, either. He's taken to Twitter to voice his frustrations, saying that not only is his shoulder fine but that the Dallas media is making up stories about his absence. He's also posted some cryptic tweets such as this one, with a picture of Allen Iverson and a caption reading "Every players needs that one coach to believe in them."

https://twitter.com/TheSupremeTaco/status/1072203745868554240

Maybe Taco is right. Maybe he just needs increased opportunity and a support system/coach that believes in him whole-heartedly. After all, Charlton has faced nothing but doubters and detractors since the second he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.

But in the NFL, the ultimate "what have you done for me lately" sport, it's hard to imagine he'll get that unwavering support anywhere in the league. He's going to have to "earn" his playing time, as head coach Jason Garrett spoke to earlier in the week. But with the plethora of talent the Cowboys are already putting out there on the defensive line, it's becoming difficult to see exactly where Taco Charlton can fit in on this defense.

It's possible, and fine, if it is simply not a fit between Charlton and the Cowboys at this point. But I'd also be wary of giving up on your first round pick in just his second NFL season. Another offseason with the team, working on his craft and getting fully healthy, should do Charlton wonders, and hopefully allow us to get a better read on his future with the Cowboys going forward.

Until then, we are all left to scratch out heads and wonder what in the world is going on with the Cowboys and Taco Charlton, and if the former first round pick will have a future in Dallas at all.



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Cowboys, Bears Proving Defense Can Win the NFC

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys, Bears Proving Defense Can Win the NFC

2018 has seen the emergence of high-powered offenses in both NFL conferences. The Kansas City Chiefs sit atop the AFC and the NFC is spearheaded by the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. Through 14 weeks, these three teams are the top three offenses in the NFL, each averaging over 30 points per game. This year, for the first time in NFL history, two teams scored more than 50 in the same game.

Thanks to this consistent impressive offensive performances, you would think "offense" is the name of the game for the 2018 NFL season. Well, not so fast, my friend. Despite sitting atop the NFC, the Saints and the Rams have recently suffered losses that indicate hope is anything but lost for defensive teams in the league.

The Chicago Bears were able to bring down the Rams last Sunday Night 15-6. The same offense that averages 33 points per game was limited to six points. Sean McVay's remarkable offense went home with no touchdowns to talk about on the plane back home. Instead, they probably discussed Jared Goff's four interceptions.

Weeks earlier, the Dallas Cowboys shocked the world when they brought down the Saints. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas simply couldn't move the ball against Leighton Vander Esch, DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones. 13 points were all the Cowboys needed to score to beat an offense that was averaging 37 per game heading into week 13 but was only able to put up 10 in Dallas.

The Cowboys are the #4 seed with the Bears slightly ahead of them as the #3 seed in the NFC. Together, these teams have defeated the top two in the conference. Now granted, playoffs will definitely be different.

For starters, if they are to advance to the divisional round, they'll be on the road. Chicago was surely benefited by playing in such a cold weather versus a Los Angeles team. As far as the Cowboys are concerned, few times has AT&T Stadium been as loud as when they beat the Saints.

Hopefully, we'll get to see both of these elite defenses advance to the Divisional Round to  square off against this couple of high-powered offenses again. We will not only be witnessing amazing football games, but a great discussion regarding the everlasting debate between offense and defense.

For years, "defense wins championships" has been a widely accepted statement in football. The Cowboys and Bears have made that same statement resound recently with their impressive wins.

Can they do it again in January football? Can they do it on the road?

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys, Bears Proving Defense Can Win the NFC" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL 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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Cowboys en Español: Los Colts No Son Cualquier Rival

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Fantasy Football - Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings - Week 2 2
Andy Lyons / Getty Images

Al igual que el resto de la afición de los Dallas Cowboys, parte de mí se siente confiada respecto a este equipo visitando a Indianapolis Colts y resultando victoriosos. ¿El problema? Los Colts no son un rival sencillo de vencer. Si crees que la racha de los Cowboys los intimidará, piensa de nuevo. Los Houston Texans llevaban nueve victorias al hilo antes de enfrentarse a este equipo.

Siendo objetivos, este puede ser el partido que evite que los Cowboys cierren su temporada con ocho victorias al hilo para terminar el año con un récord de 11-5. Ni los Tampa Bay Buccaneers ni los New York Giants deberían presentar amenaza alguna contra Dallas. Lo mismo no se puede decir de Indianapolis.

Por primera vez en mucho tiempo, Andrew Luck está realmente de vuelta. Gracias a una reconstrucción de su línea ofensiva, su nivel de juego a regresado al nivel que conocíamos de él desde que llegó a la NFL. Afortunadamente para los Colts, Luck se ha mantenido sano toda la temporada y no se ve rastro alguno de sus lesiones anteriores en el emparrillado.

T.Y. Hilton está teniendo un muy buen año y sin duda alguna presentará un reto para Byron Jones y el resto de la secundaria de los Cowboys. Eric Ebron en la posición de tight end también será un dolor de cabeza para la defensiva.

Lo más interesante se dará en las trincheras. Los Cowboys han hecho un muy buen trabajo presionando quarterbacks opuestos en la temporada, pero si el centro de los Colts, Ryan Kelly está sano el domingo, se enfrentarán al mejor duo de centro-guardia en la liga actualmente. Con Quenton Nelson al lado, Luck estará muy bien protegido.

Sin embargo, Kelly no ha jugado debido a una lesión y aún está por verse si tomará el campo el domingo por la mañana. Los Cowboys hicieron un muy buen trabajo a la entonces ofensiva #1 de la liga, los New Orleans Saints, pero eso no significa que la ofensiva #8 que tienen los Colts no los retará.

Promediando 27 puntos por juego, la defensiva necesitará ayuda de Dak Prescott y compañía para ganar el partido. Dallas continúa moviendo el balón efectivamente, pero es tiempo de anotar touchdowns y no goles de campo.

Ezekiel Elliott será, una vez más, clave para la victoria. Enfrentándose a una defensiva Top 10 contra el juego terrestre, mover las cadenas con Zeke no será tan fácil. El novato Darius Leonard como linebacker ha sido algo espectacular otra temporada al igual que Leighton Vander Esch. Liderando a toda la NFL en tackleadas, estará listo para recibir a los Cowboys al Lucas Oil Stadium.

Lo más importante de este partido...

Por más impresionante que sea la racha de cinco victorias consecutivas, los Cowboys tienen que demostrar que pueden ganarle a un equipo fuerte estando de visita. Porque hay que admitirlo, Jason Garrett y su equipo no han tenido éxito fuera de casa. Claro, le ganaron a un equipo debilitado de Philadelphia Eagles y a unos Atlanta Falcons que va 4-9.

Este equipo "nuevo" de los Cowboys no ha ido contra un rival de calidad siendo el visitante. Es tiempo de demostrar que lo pueden hacer, ya que si quieren contender en postemporada, es justo lo que necesitarán... jugar bien de visita.

Sinceramente creo que los Cowboys ganan este partido. Principalmente gracias a su defensiva, pero también veo a la ofensiva dominar el tiempo de posesión en un juego de pocos puntos. Es tiempo de mantener esa racha.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Los Colts No Son Cualquier Rival" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL 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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