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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 @MauNFL.

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24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Randy Martin

    November 22, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    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

      Mauricio Rodriguez

      November 23, 2017 at 11:51 am

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

  2. Zu

    November 22, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    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

      Mauricio Rodriguez

      November 23, 2017 at 11:52 am

      It will be an interesting offseason.

    • Joe Mendoza

      February 28, 2018 at 1:22 am

      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.

  3. Ethan Chazin

    November 22, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    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

      Mauricio Rodriguez

      November 23, 2017 at 11:52 am

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

    • washinma2424

      November 24, 2017 at 8:37 am

      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

  4. Gill Elliott

    November 22, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    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

      Mauricio Rodriguez

      November 23, 2017 at 11:53 am

      We definitely need a TE for the future.

  5. Jonathan McGhee

    November 22, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    Jonathan M

    • Mauricio Rodriguez

      Mauricio Rodriguez

      November 23, 2017 at 11:53 am

      This team has more needs than what we normally think.

  6. Joe Mendoza

    November 22, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    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

      Mauricio Rodriguez

      November 23, 2017 at 11:54 am

      Yeah, Taco was a very questionable pick.

      • David Castle

        November 23, 2017 at 1:31 pm

        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

          November 24, 2017 at 12:29 am

          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

            February 12, 2018 at 12:04 pm

            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

            February 28, 2018 at 12:58 am

            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

            February 28, 2018 at 1:08 am

            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.

  7. Hector Espindola

    November 23, 2017 at 11:36 am

    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

      Mauricio Rodriguez

      November 23, 2017 at 11:54 am

      Agreed. Thanks for reading!

  8. David Castle

    November 23, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    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

      November 25, 2017 at 1:19 pm

      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

      November 25, 2017 at 1:19 pm

      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 ..

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Star Blog

2018 In Review: Byron Jones Emerges As CB1

Kevin Brady

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Byron Jones

Heading into the 2018 season Byron Jones was being asked to prove himself. The former first round pick had fallen out of the coaches' good graces during his third season, though many of his struggles could be attributed to those very coaches which were then questioning his ability.

Being asked to play out of position, or at least in a spot which did not maximize his natural ability, Jones struggled in 2017. Too often he was playing in the box as a safety where his lack of physicality was exposed by the opponent's run game. This was mostly due to the coaching staff falling in love with his tight-end-erasing ability in man coverage, but backfired when overused as a safety.

Once hired the following offseason, Kris Richard and company decided to move Byron Jones to cornerback full time, allowing him to utilize his excellent coverage skills and athletic ability to the fullest, rather than putting him at a disadvantage in the box.

The results? Well, Jones had one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football, earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his young career.

Pro Football Focus on Twitter

Byron Jones had a dominant season for Dallas

Pro Football Focus graded Jones as the sixth best cornerback in all of football last season, allowing just 0.79 yards per coverage snap. Despite not having an interception on the season, Jones still earned national recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league.

Down the stretch of the season, Chidobe Awuzie started to play up to the level which fans had hoped for during the preseason. He had been sticky in coverage most of the year, but now he was making plays on the ball at a much better rate, forcing incompletions. This led to an increase in targets to Jones' side, and though the increase resulted in more catches given up by the number one cornerback, I don't think Jones' play faltered as much as some will have you believe.

The fact is, when you get targeted more you are bound to give up more catches and yards. The key is to force them into contested catches, and make things as difficult for the receiver as possible when targeted.

Byron Jones continued to do this all season long, and fans should be excited for the next step of his growth in 2019.



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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Time to Stop Making Excuses for QB Dak Prescott?

Por muchos años, el tema del tope salarial ha sido un tema sensible para los Dallas Cowboys. Entre dinero muerto y otros problemas, el equipo ha tenido una situación delicada en este aspecto. Sin embargo, para la temporada del 2019 tienen más espacio de lo que estamos acostumbrados.

Según Over The Cap, los Cowboys tendrán aproximadamente 48 millones de dólares disponibles en 2019. Es importante recalcar que este número no es definitivo y puede cambiar. Año tras año, esta administración ha sido aficionada de reestructurar los contratos de ciertos veteranos para liberar espacio salarial constantemente. Además de esto, hay varios jugadores bajo contrato que el equipo podría decidir cortar para liberar aún más dinero.

Al ver sólo 48 millones disponibles, es complicado imaginar un escenario en que el equipo logre satisfacer todos sus objetivos. Hay bastantes candidatos a grandes extensiones en el equipo, principalmente dos jugadores. En una liga en la que quarterback es la posición más importante, la segunda más importante podría ser la del caza cabezas, cuyo objetivo es ir tras el quarterback contrario.

DeMarcus Lawrence, Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Pues en Dallas, hoy dos  jugadores en estas posiciones que hay que extender. El más urgente sin duda es el defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence se puso el jersey del equipo cuando este lo designó a jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia. Afortunadamente, el atleta de 26 años la hizo de soldado y jugó sin amenazar con faltar a entrenamientos ni pretemporada.

Lo que sí comentó es que no pasaría por lo mismo en 2019. Ahora, el momento está aquí y es tiempo de que los Cowboys lo extiendan. El valor de Lawrence es difícil de predecir, pero es bastante seguro que se acercará a los números de Khalil Mack. Mack hizo historia ganando un contrato que en promedio gana 23.5 millones al año. Si bien no anticiparía que lo supere, la cifra estará cerca al contrato del defensivo de los Chicago Bears.

Además está Dak Prescott, cuyo contrato probablemente estará por encima de los 25 millones anuales. Son contratos caros, pero son piezas fundamentales para el equipo. Definitivamente se les tiene que pagar a ambos. Son pilares que año tras año buscan equipos en toda la NFL.

Además de esto, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley y más podrían tener un impacto en el tope salarial. Algunos buscan un contrato nuevo, otros una extensión. Pero honestamente, me parece que habrá más espacio en el tope salarial de lo que pensamos. Sólo es cuestión de tiempo para que los Cowboys comiencen a reestructurar a sus veteranos para ahorrarse unos cuantos millones para utilizar en agencia libre.

Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford entre otros pueden ser buenas opciones para comenzar este proceso. Antes era Jason Witten uno de los candidatos favoritos para este proceso, pero él ya se encuentra comentando partidos para ESPN. En Inside The Star, continuaremos actualizándote con contenido al día de los Dallas Cowboys.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial" 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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Star Blog

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?

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Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason? 2

Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.

The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.

The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.

Lock Down the Big Guns

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?

@Randy81MossRetires, via Twitter

Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.

Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.

As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.

Adding New Talent

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason? 1

@brkicks, via Twitter

One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.

Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.

If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.

Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.

Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.

The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.

As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.

Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.



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