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Should Linebacker Be Among Cowboys’ Top Needs?

Mauricio Rodriguez



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.

  • 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

The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up

Brian Martin



Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle Heating Up 1

Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.

The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.

As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.

Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.

Terrance Williams

Dallas Cowboys WR Terrance Williams

Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.

Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.

Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.

I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.

All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.

How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?

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Star Blog

Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?

Brian Martin



Decision not to Play Dan Bailey against the 49ers a Concern? 1

With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.

Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.

I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.

I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?

Dan Bailey

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.

Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.

Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.

Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.

Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?

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Star Blog

Week 1 NFC East Predictions and Cowboys Season Outlook



Week 1 NFC East Predictions and Cowboys Season Outlook

Let me start this article with a strong opening statement: The Cowboys will be better in 2018 than they were in 2017. There's been a lot of talk about the lack of a true No. 1 receiver. But when we break it down, the current setup will most likely play out better for Cowboys QB Dak Prescott.

The Dak Stats

Certain quarterbacks shine when they have that go-to playmaker. We're talking about guys like Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Calvin Johnson, Ocho Cinco, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, and Dez Bryant. But other QBs do better at reading the defense and quickly adapting to what is given. Dak Prescott is the latter breed of QB.

Let’s do a quick numbers exercise to prove this.

When Prescott is targeting 8 or more receivers throughout the game, his passer rating jumps from 86.1 (targeting less than 8) to 104.5. He passes for almost 50 yards more per game and his touchdown to interception ratio drastically improves from 21-13 to 24-4.

Most importantly, when he targets at least 8 different receivers, the Cowboys are 14-2. When he targets less than 8, the team is just .500 at 8-8.

Without a doubt, Prescott is much better at adjusting to what the defense is giving him. He just isn’t one of those guys who can successfully "force" the ball (like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees). Not feeling the pressure of having to get the ball into the hands of the star playmaker will give this offense a new kind of depth in 2018.

Yes, losing Jason Witten hurts, much more so in my opinion than not having Dez.

Questions Still Loom

This is still the Cowboys' biggest concern on offense. There is some great depth. We have Rico Gathers, Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim, and the young stud out of Stanford, Dalton Schultz. But between the three who have any NFL experience, there are only 9 catches between them. I must say that Dalton, with his 4.75 40-yard dash, has a legitimate shot at seeing a lot of playing time in his rookie campaign and could become an impact player with his size (6’5”, 244-lbs) and speed.

But despite the battle for TE being wide open, and debates about whether or not the team needs a No. 1 receiver, the Cowboys are still expected to give the Eagles a run for their money in the NFC East. Here are the odds on the defending NFC East champions and how (although early) it is expected to shake out:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles -167
  2. Dallas Cowboys +350
  3. New York Giants +650
  4. Washington Redskins +750

NFC East Week 1 Predictions

The Cowboys open the season in a difficult road game against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have been listed as 2.5-point favorites (follow the Cowboys NFL Odds here all season long) which isn’t surprising considering they are a tough team playing at home. You might be thinking, "crap, we're opening up as underdogs?" Don’t worry too much; it actually bodes fairly well because the lines-makers generally give a 3-point advantage to the home team. This means that they actually handicap the Cowboys to be a half-point favorite on a neutral field and a 3.5-point favorite in Arlington.

The Redskins open their season in Arizona against the Cardinals. The line is set at a pick ‘em (meaning there is no point spread; it's anyone's game). But, looking at the 'Skins and Cardinals, I think Washington gets disappointed in Week 1 and starts their season with a loss.

The Giants get to test their new offensive line and see if they were right in continuing to place their faith in Eli Manning against the best defense in the league. The Jags are 3-point favorites at MetLife stadium. This means the Jags are actually 6-points better. I do think that the Giants will be vastly improved this season, but they are also going to open with a loss.

The Eagles don’t have it easy either, but they will probably pull out the win at home as 4-point favorites against the Dirty Birds on Thursday Night Football. Their defense is just too good. Atlanta's road offense scored just 21 points per game last year while Philly scores 28 on average at home. The Eagles' home defense has been downright nasty, only allowing 12 points per game in Philadelphia.

This will be a two-horse race for the division between the Eagles and Cowboys. And even if the Eagles win the East, the Cowboys will wildcard into the playoffs.

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