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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 @PepoR99 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

Dallas Cowboys “All or Nothing” Series to Shed New Light on HC Jason Garrett

Sean Martin

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Dallas Cowboys "All or Nothing" Series to Shed New Light on HC Jason Garrett

You likely already know by now that the 2017 Dallas Cowboys season -- by all accounts, a forgettable one for fans, coaches, and big-name players -- will be documented forever thanks to NFL Films' latest All or Nothing series.

Effectively, All or Nothing is a new spin on the popular Hard Knocks series with one major difference. This Amazon Prime exclusive doesn't just follow a team through training camp, as NFL Films gets inside team meetings and games throughout the entire season.

The 2017 Cowboys yielded just nine wins, creating more than enough drama for television along the way. This was yet another season where Head Coach Jason Garrett's job was put on the line, although early reviews of All or Nothing (available to the public April 27th) paint Garrett as the lead antagonist.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Jason Garrett drops at least 10 f-bombs in the first show. Before the Broncos game in Week 2: "You want to quiet the game down? Hand the f---in' ball to 21 and knock their ass off the ball.

Watching the Titanic and expecting a different outcome is a surefire way to set yourself up for disappointment, as will be reliving a frustrating season in Dallas. By the end though, Cowboys fans will have a much better understanding of where the 2018 team stands - particularly in the eyes of a Head Coach they looked to fire once again this offseason.

Jason Garrett has long been described as a "players coach", one that his Cowboys teams want to fight for. Whether or not the Cowboys have gone too far in constantly churning their roster in Garrett's image for little end result will likely be determined this season.

This is a Head Coach that has been in place for the departure of DeMarcus Ware, Tony Romo (serving as a pivotal decision maker for the Cowboys choosing Dak Prescott as their full-time starter in 2016), and most recently Dez Bryant.

An added bonus to All or Nothing will likely be that it captures Dez Bryant's final moments with the Cowboys.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Garrett to Zeke at practice after Broncos loss: "I want that f---in guy at Ohio St. who was running down on that kickoff. Remember after you played your 2nd play in the NFL against the Seahawks, you came over to me and you said, 'Give me the f---in ball!'

The Cowboys did not just lose Ezekiel Elliott in 2017 (serving his six game suspension), and All or Nothing will remind every one of just how much talent came off the field for Garrett's team last season. Coming out at the same time as the Dallas hosted 2018 Draft, Cowboys fans can build their excitement for a 2018 triumph back to the playoffs.

Anything short of this likely costs Jason Garrett his job, although everything he means to the Dallas Cowboys will be put in better-than-ever perspective by All or Nothing.

David Helman on Twitter

I don't wanna spoil the "All or Nothing" TV show more than what you've already seen or heard. But if you watch it, you're going to get a great look at: 1. Jason Garrett's actual persona 2. The dynamics of Dez's relationship within the team 3.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys “All or Nothing” Series to Shed New Light on HC Jason Garrett" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Definiendo la Urgencia por un WR este NFL Draft

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Pre-Playoff 7-Round Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft
Andrew Dieb / USA TODAY Sports

El líder en recepciones de anotación en la historia de la franquicia más emblemática en la historia de los Dallas Cowboys, Dez Bryant, ha visto su tiempo portando la estrella solitaria llegar a su fin. Un fin, por cierto, que dejó a algunos cuantos aficionados, administrativos y jugadores en un estado de descontento.

Por más que me gustaría entrar a detalle de si el veterano receptor merecía ser recortado o no, si el equipo tomó la decisión correcta o no, el NFL Draft está a menos de una semana de distancia. Así que, en vez de hablar de lo que pudo haber sido, hablemos de lo que puede ser. 

Los Cowboys, a pesar de ser conocidos como una potencia ofensiva en las últimas temporadas, necesitan a un wide receiver. Sí, Dallas consiguió al agente libre de Jacksonville Allen Hurns, pero siendo honestos, no parece ser suficiente talento para un equipo que quiere construirle una ofensiva amigable a su quarterback, Dak Prescott.

Si el roster sólo tiene a Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Ryan Switzer, Noah Brown y Deonte Thompson; se necesita un WR. Incluso con Bryant en el equipo, se necesitaba un receptor. Lo cual lleva a la gran pregunta: ¿el despido de Dez significa que a los Cowboys les urge aún más un receptor? ¿Significa que definitivamente buscarán mejorar la posición con su selección de primera ronda?

Algo queda claro, la administración sabía lo que sucedería. Dez Bryant no estaba en los planes para el 2018 y claramente sus planes para abordar el NFL Draft no se verán cambiados por la partida del apasionado #88.

Estas estrategias se plantean por meses y más meses. Los Cowboys se han fijado mucho en la posición de receptor, desde que fue el NFL Combine hasta las visitas privadas que toman lugar a lo largo de Abril.

Es un hecho que tienen en la mira a los receptores. Claramente, quieren añadir más talento a la ofensiva para Dak Prescott.

En una clase de prospectos que cuenta con bastantes receptores, otra pregunta naturalmente, es ¿lo harán en primera ronda o más tarde? Me sorprendería demasiado si el equipo espera hasta la tercera ronda. Sin duda, es algo que tienen que atender con una de sus dos primeros picks.

 1

En el primero, la selección #19 global, podrían encontrar a uno de los tres mejores receptores del año. Calvin Ridley, de Alabama; Courtland Sutton, de SMU; DJ Moore, de Maryland. Si buscarán el "remplazo" de Dez Bryant en uno de estos tres jugadores, definitivamente será uno de estos tres prospectos.

Todos tienen lo suyo. Sutton es un receptor estilo "X" (como Dez Bryant) mientras Ridley, por ejemplo, es claramente un receptor "Z" (como Terrance Williams). DJ Moore brinda un poco de versatilidad entre ambos roles, y podría ser un jugador de impacto en cualquiera que se le juegue, aunque probablemente brillaría más si se le permitiera jugar como un "Z."

Afortunadamente para Dallas, el recién firmado Allen Hurns también es capaz de tomar cualquiera de los dos roles. Esto le da flexibilidad a los Cowboys de tomar al que más les guste, o en su defecto, a quien esté disponible.

En mi segundo Mock Draft del año, simulé a Courtland Sutton, producto de SMU a los Cowboys con el pick #19. Los coaches de la Estrella Solitaria han mostrado bastante interés por el producto local y no me sorprendería nada verlos aterrizar un receptor como él la próxima semana.

Ahora bien, si Dallas decide esperar hasta la segunda ronda para conseguir a un par de manos confiables, encontrarán talento. Definitivamente. James Washington, DJ Chark, Michael Gallup, Anthony Miller, entre otros podrían estar ahí en la selección #50 (segunda ronda).

Cowboys Draft: Should Cowboys Consider WR James Washington?

Oklahoma State WR James Washington (Rob Ferguson / USA TODAY Sports)

Si el equipo quiere tomar talento para otra posición en la primera, lo podrán hacer sabiendo que encontrarán un WR talentoso al día siguiente.

Afortunadamente, esta ofensiva se basa en Ezekiel Elliott y el juego terrestre detrás de la línea ofensiva. Los receptores son importantes, por supuesto, pero no es necesario tener algo tan dominante como lo fue Dez Bryant en el 2013 y el 2014, por ejemplo.

Por ahora, sólo falta esperar como abordan los Cowboys esta necesidad la próxima semana cuando el NFL Draft del 2018 tome lugar en el mismo lugar en el que este equipo juega sus partidos e intenta pelear, el AT&T Stadium.

Con un poco de suerte, estrenaran el campo este 2018 obteniendo su primer victoria del año la próxima semana.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Definiendo la Urgencia por un WR este NFL Draft" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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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Star Blog

Kris Richard Taking Over For Rod Marinelli Earlier Than Expected?

Brian Martin

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How Much Input Will Kris Richard Have in Cowboys Draft?

Believe it or not, a lot of Cowboys Nation has grown tired of Rod Marinelli's simplistic and predictable 4-3 defensive scheme. Dallas Cowboys fans are ready for a change and quite a few of them believe that Kris Richard is the answer.

The Dallas Cowboys hired Kris Richard earlier this offseason to become the new defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator. Almost immediately, rumors and speculation began to circulate that he would be the next defensive coordinator, taking over for Rod Marinelli once he retires.

It's really not that big of a reach to see such a promotion happen, especially since Richard has found previous success as a defensive coordinator with the Seattle Seahawks. But, as things stand right now, Rod Marinelli still has the title of DC in Dallas, but for how long?

Rod Marinelli

Dallas Cowboys DC Rod Marinelli

We have already seen a few changes being made to the Cowboys defense that seem to have Kris Richard's fingerprints on them. Moving Byron Jones from safety to cornerback for instance is a perfect example.

Of course, we could see even more of Richard's imprint on the Cowboys defense next week when the 2018 NFL Draft gets underway. I think he will have a big say in the types of players they select if he is indeed expected to become the next defensive coordinator.

Further evidence Kris Richard will have quite a bit of input on the Cowboys defense this season is the fact that a lot of players have been watching game film of the Seahawks' defense.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Sean Lee said the Cowboys have been watching film of the Seahawks' defense. Said it's been fun being around new DB coach/passing game coordinator Kris Richard

I don't know about you, but for me this is pretty solid evidence the Dallas Cowboys are going to make some changes on the defensive side of the ball and that Kris Richard will have a lot of say in those changes.

I may be reading too much into all this or I may be hitting the nail right on the head. But, there's no denying there seems to be a renewed energy from the Cowboys defensive players. Maybe it's the hiring of Kris Richard or something else, but I personally find it intriguing.

I'm really looking forward to finding out how all of these pieces end up falling into place. I really don't care who holds the title of defensive coordinator in 2018 as long as we see improvement from the Cowboys defense.

For the Cowboys defense to improve from last season it's going to take a collaborative effort from the entire coaching staff, not just Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard. That's just the way things work in the NFL, but it's never going to stop us from speculating when some new blood is brought in.

Do you think Kris Richard is taking over for Rod Marinelli earlier than expected?


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