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5 Cowboys, 5 Games: Who’s In Critical Condition?

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Blog - 5 Cowboys, 5 Games: Who's In Critical Condition?

It's time to look ahead to 2016 for the Dallas Cowboys. Unless Matt Cassel NOW decides to start winning football games, this team with an already very talented roster will own a very high draft pick.

Before we can get into the draft, let's take a look at five upcoming free agents from the Cowboys that really need to prove their worth in the remaining five games.

1. Greg Hardy

For the sake of this exercise, let's forget about all that has happened off the field this season with Greg Hardy. I say this because, if he has any chance to be extended, these things cannot be a factor as he must stay completely clean the rest of the way out.

Other than that, he will need to find some consistency on the field. On two occasions, Hardy has followed up a game in which he recorded a sack with a whopping zero the next week. He also has only half a sack in his last three games.

Greg Hardy has a lot to do if he expects to be a Dallas Cowboy next season.

2. Rolando McClain

Sticking with the defense, Rolando McClain will be another guy to keep an eye on these next five weeks. McClain has been making plays all over the field the last three weeks, including his pick six against Miami.

However, his issue since coming to Dallas has been keeping up mentally - as he has a habit of completely checking out of games at will.

Playing for a 3-8 team, it would be so easy for McClain to pack it in to close the season. If this is the case, he will also be packing his bags come free agency.

3. Jeremy Mincey

This training camp, we were all buzzing with excitement at the overwhelming depth Rod Marinelli had to work with along the defensive line. For the most part, the unit has been a disappointment, especially when it comes to pressure from around the edge.

Demarcus Lawrence's struggles have been well documented, but Jeremy Mincey has quietly failed to record a single sack. This will need to change in a hurry, or the Cowboys will likely look elsewhere for pass rushers while expecting a fully healthy Randy Gregory next season.

Mincey has played 288 snaps along the line this season, which is the least among significant contributors.

Cowboys Blog - Looking Ahead: Free Agents that Need Cowboys Remaining Games 1

4. David Irving

Irving was signed midseason from the Chiefs practice squad, and nobody knew much about him. Now, every Cowboys fan should know his name as the athletic defensive tackle has found his way into the backfield on a consistent basis.

With Tyrone Crawford locked up on a long-term deal, the Cowboys may have found an inexpensive and skilled linemen to play alongside him in the heart of this defense.

Irving has a blocked field goal on the season, proving his worth in multiple ways. He will need to continue to stand out to return to the Cowboys.

5. Robert Turbin

The only offensive player on this list is a running back who has gotten nine carries. The Cowboys backfield has been nothing short of a revolving door this season, and while Darren McFadden has looked good in bursts - he is not the long-term answer for this team.

While no one on the roster currently is, Turbin has shown a lot of potential with a physical running style. If Turbin continues to run well and does not make any critical mistakes, he will find a spot in this backfield next season.

Other Cowboys Free Agents:

Morris Claiborne

Ron Leary

Mackenzy Bernadeau

Matt Cassel

Lance Dunbar

Kyle Wilber

James Hanna

Danny McCray

Jack Crawford

Jeff Heath

Tyler Clutts

Charles Brown

Trey Williams

News & Notes - Upon Further Review Returns to WMSCRadio.com

Tell us what you think about "5 Cowboys, 5 Games: Who’s In Critical Condition?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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11 Comments
  • http://www.pigskinhub.com/forum/index.php?forums/dallas-cowboys/ Jess Haynie

    Who's ready to start talking about the offseason? I know I am! LOL

    Simple enough question… Which player of significance is least likely to return to Dallas in 2016?

    Some good choices are:

    Doug Free
    Greg Hardy
    Rolando McClain
    Brandon Carr
    Morris Claiborne

    Feel free to pick from these or suggest anyone else. I'll add my pick soon.

  • https://insidethestar.com/ Bryson Treece

    Brandon Carr is not coming back. It ended up being a bit of a godsend that we kept him this year since Scandrick is out, but can't justify that again. Scandrick, Jones, Claiborne, Patmon are the CBs. Lot of talk about Jones at FS but that's just because Wilcox is stinking it up, which brings me to my second most likely to be cut, JJ Wilcox. I prefer Heath over Wilcox the way they've been playing this year. Apparently Wilcox is just better in zone. Carr, Claiborne, and Scandrick are not.

  • http://PigskinHub.com Zac Fields

    Agreed on Brandon Carr being the most likely, 110%.

    He will count $14M against the cap next season if he's on the roster, and about $7M if he's not. There's no chance they will pay him that kind of money. They *might* work out a deal to keep him here at a substantially reduced salary, but I'm not sure how likely that is. The only benefit there is if they could work out a deal that keeps him in Dallas for less than the $7M he'll count if they cut him. If that were possible, I'd much rather them go that route because you can't ever have too many quality cornerbacks and despite his flaws, Carr is at least worthy of a roster spot. Just not worthy of what he's being paid.

    I also think Carr could be a better safety and they might be able to give him a shot at that position if they can get his cap figure down to a reasonable "experimental safety" type deal… $3-4M. That would free up Byron Jones to play cornerback where I think he belongs. You don't stick a guy with his athleticism (4.3 forty and can long jump/vert jump a car) at safety. You want him covering top receivers, not tight ends…. unless of course the tight end is the top receiver 😉

    I'd like to say Free is next. They can save a couple million by cutting him and he is easily the weak link on the offensive line. I think they can do better for the $5.5M he will count on the cap next year.

  • http://www.pigskinhub.com/forum/index.php?forums/dallas-cowboys/ Jess Haynie

    I see things a little differently in the secondary. I think Jones becomes the full-time FS and they go spend some money on the other starting safety. Some of those funds will come from cutting Barry Church (about $3 million). Wilcox will play the final year of rookie deal as a cheap backup with experience and versatility.

    CBs will be Scandrick and then some combination of Patmon, a re-signed Claiborne (maybe), and some other veteran addition. Carr is definitely getting cut unless he takes a Doug Free paycut.

  • call4randy

    I think both Hardy and McClain are going to be gone. Unless Hardy is currently out of shape, he looks slow to me. While 4.5 sacks leads the team, which is pitiful in and if itself, we expected more and you cannot discount the off the field stuff. I believe in second chances but geez every time this guy posts to social media, or opens his mouth he steps in it! We really don't need the negativity. McClain is simply a head case. I don't know who we can look at for the very late date of his knee scraping but it resulted in him coming in with no camp to speak of and out of shape. He looks fat and slow and it's taken most of the season for him to be in shape. And yet I have read again recently where he might be ready to hang em up again. Man if you don't want to play, we don't need you. We need passionate players. There is no doubt about David Irving. On a team that has been hard to find bright spots, he has been a jewel. He needs to be signed to an extension as he is a missing piece on this line. I'm kind of wishy washy on Mincey. Sometimes I see him make a play and I say yes .And other times I just shake my head. I guess it doesn't matter to me what they do with him. I would like to see consistency from him. Turbin has been a bit of a surprise. While he only has 9 carries for 46 yards, if used correctly he certainly could be a piece of the puzzle. McFadden is still 28 and according to the 30 year wall, could have 2 years left. We still need to draft an RB but unless they go first round on Derrick Henry, or Ezekiel Elliot, I think we keep DMC and draft a guy like Devontae Booker, Alex Collins, or CJ Prosise in a later round.

  • http://PigskinHub.com Zac Fields

    I edited my above post, but I absolutely hate the idea of Byron Jones getting pigeonholed into being a career safety. If he's a better safety than he is a corner, then fine, but I can't fathom that being the case.

    The way I see it: This guy has insane athletic talent. Insane. Unlike Claiborne and Carr, he has the speed to run with speedy receivers and the athleticism to cover the big receivers. I would love to see Jones in a position one day to mirror the opposing team's top receiver, whether that be a tight end like Gronkowski or a wideout like Calvin Johnson. I just think he has the potential to be a great cornerback. And usually, if you have the potential to be a great cornerback, that's the position you play.

    I'd love to experiment with a couple of our guys (Mo and Carr) at FS, especially seeing how well Charles Woodson went from aging cornerback to top safety. I'd just hate to see Jones get stuck with that job when he has the ability to be a top flight cornerback. I really think him being used at safety this season was more about Carr and Claiborne having the cornerback positions pretty locked down and Wilcox/Church struggling in coverage. I think when you lose Carr and/or Claiborne, Jones is going to end up back at corner.

    That's just my armchair GM POV, though.

  • https://insidethestar.com/ Bryson Treece

    Good point on Carr, @Pigskin Zac. I wouldn't mind seeing Carr tried out at safety for $4mil.

    Doug Free is a liability and has been my least favorite Cowboy since he started displaying his love of false starts years ago, but 5 O-linemen in as many years? idk. I think he stays put and Leary gets cut, plus a mid round pick to compete. Free has played G before so he can be the rotational backup as needed. Leary is a G, not a T.

    Jones has to be a CB. He's just too much of a beast not to be a CB in this league. That said, we don't really know where he fits in yet because he's been played in several position as a rookie, which definitely tells us how smart the guy is. Either position he plays will be better for having him there. Should be getting my Byron Jones jersey tomorrow!!! He's a badass.

    They're not cutting Church until they have his replacement. He plays solid enough to warrant that, at least.

  • SilverandBlueSpirit

    Well the two dbs on there I wouldn't mind getting rid of but since i've been told if we get rid of one we are keeping the other one. I guess for age reasons and maybe contract if I have to keep one and boot one i'd keep Mo and boot Brandon Carr.

  • http://PigskinHub.com Zac Fields
    SilverandBlueSpirit

    Well the two dbs on there I wouldn't mind getting rid of but since i've been told if we get rid of one we are keeping the other one. I guess for age reasons and maybe contract if I have to keep one and boot one i'd keep Mo and boot Brandon Carr.

    I'd agree if it was a one-or-the-other kind of thing. Ideally you'd figure out some way to keep both since they're both at least worthy of having a roster spot and getting some playing time. With Claiborne, you can actually get him back here on whatever terms you'd like since his contract is up. With Carr, that's an unknown. I won't pretend to be a "capologist" but I hate having him cost $7 million against the cap to not play for the team ALMOST as much as I'd hate paying him $14 million to play. If there were a 3rd option where we could extend Carr's contract by a few years but pay him something more like $3-4 million per season, that would be ideal. Then like I've said, you could give him a shot at safety… I feel like I remember reading that he has lined up at safety before either with the Chiefs or in college. I just think his speed (actually… lack of top line speed), durability, and tackling ability would suit him better at the safety position.

  • http://wmscradio.com/sportsteam/ Sean Martin
    Bryson T.

    Brandon Carr is not coming back. It ended up being a bit of a godsend that we kept him this year since Scandrick is out, but can't justify that again. Scandrick, Jones, Claiborne, Patmon are the CBs. Lot of talk about Jones at FS but that's just because Wilcox is stinking it up, which brings me to my second most likely to be cut, JJ Wilcox. I prefer Heath over Wilcox the way they've been playing this year. Apparently Wilcox is just better in zone. Carr, Claiborne, and Scandrick are not.

    I like the element that Church and Heath provide as a safety combo. Think that could work very well.

  • http://wmscradio.com/sportsteam/ Sean Martin
    InsideTheStar.com User

    I think both Hardy and McClain are going to be gone. Unless Hardy is currently out of shape, he looks slow to me. While 4.5 sacks leads the team, which is pitiful in and if itself, we expected more and you cannot discount the off the field stuff. I believe in second chances but geez every time this guy posts to social media, or opens his mouth he steps in it! We really don't need the negativity. McClain is simply a head case. I don't know who we can look at for the very late date of his knee scraping but it resulted in him coming in with no camp to speak of and out of shape. He looks fat and slow and it's taken most of the season for him to be in shape. And yet I have read again recently where he might be ready to hang em up again. Man if you don't want to play, we don't need you. We need passionate players. There is no doubt about David Irving. On a team that has been hard to find bright spots, he has been a jewel. He needs to be signed to an extension as he is a missing piece on this line. I'm kind of wishy washy on Mincey. Sometimes I see him make a play and I say yes .And other times I just shake my head. I guess it doesn't matter to me what they do with him. I would like to see consistency from him. Turbin has been a bit of a surprise. While he only has 9 carries for 46 yards, if used correctly he certainly could be a piece of the puzzle. McFadden is still 28 and according to the 30 year wall, could have 2 years left. We still need to draft an RB but unless they go first round on Derrick Henry, or Ezekiel Elliot, I think we keep DMC and draft a guy like Devontae Booker, Alex Collins, or CJ Prosise in a later round.

    If McClain continues to play at this level, even if the team falls out of this "race", I think he stays. What does everyone else think?

Game Notes

Cowboys, Falcons Week 11 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Zack Martin

The Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons are both 4-5 and playing to keep their seasons alive. It's a mutual must-win game, and both will have to try to win it without some key players. Once again, we look at this week's injury reports.

Let's begin with your Cowboys, whose report is getting longer as the season wears on:

Dallas Cowboys

  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
  • DE Taco Charlton (shoulder) - OUT
  • DT David Irving (ankle) - OUT
  • DT Daniel Ross (calf) - OUT
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - OUT
  • DT Antwaun Woods (concussion) - Doubtful
  • G Zack Martin (knee) - Questionable
  • G Connor Williams (knee) - Questionable
  • DT Maliek Collins (knee) - Questionable
  • LB Joe Thomas (foot) - Questionable

The biggest news is the guy who won't miss tomorrow's game; All-Pro guard Zack Martin is expected to play despite his knee injury from last Sunday night. The Cowboys, already dealing with Travis Frederick's absence and now health issues at left guard, could ill afford to go without Martin in such a pivotal game.

Even if he was healthy, rookie Connor Williams might have a hard time getting in the game. Backup Xavier Su'a-Filo looked like an experienced former second-round pick last week, and he may be the better player for now.

The defensive line has been hit hard, particularly in the middle. With Irving and Ross out, Woods doubtful, and Collins uncertain, Dallas called up DT Christian Ringo from the practice squad. They will also be without Taco Charlton, who could play inside some. Veteran Caraun Reid will be seeing a lot of playing time.

Sean Lee's ongoing absence has become almost an afterthought now with the stellar play of Leighton Vander Esch. We've seen in the past when missing Lee meant disaster on defense, but Dallas' first-round rookie has helped mitigate the damage.

Atlanta Falcons

  • LB Deion Jones (foot) - OUT

It's a short list for Atlanta, but the one name on it is a big one. Arguably the team's best defensive player, Deion Jones will miss the game with a foot injury.

The Falcons' injury issues have been more in players suffering season-ending injuries. Both starting guards, Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco, are on injured reserve. Star running back Devonta Freeman is also there, and those losses help explain Atlanta's 30th-ranked rushing offense.

Both starting safeties are also on IR; Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. Atlanta has one of the league's worst passing defense this year without them, ranking 30th in yards allowed and 28th in opponent passer rating.

So yes, the Falcons injury report compared to the Cowboys' may raise some eyebrows. But in terms of who has most of their key guys, Dallas is arguably still better off.



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Dallas Cowboys

4 Best Candidates for Cowboys’ Next Offensive Coordinator

Shane Carter

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Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan

The big word around the Dallas Cowboys lately is about Jason Garrett and the future of the head coaching job. Some have speculated that either Quarterback Dak Prescott or Jason Garrett will get axed, and the other will stay.

Owner Jerry Jones was quoted on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas about his young quarterback, putting to bed at least half of the conflict.

"Dak is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. He’s young and he’s going to get extended."

This shut the door on the idea of Prescott being replaced.

As far as Jason Garrett? Jerry Jones has been less than committed.

"I’m not in the business of backing anybody; the head coach, or offensive coordinator, I just don’t back them publicly." Jerry Jones said.

So it seems that Jason Garrett’s future is up in the air.

But what about offensive coordinator Scott Linehan? What’s held the Cowboys back this year has been the offense, and a lot of it can be contributed to their predictable play calling and inability to adapt to today’s game and its current players.

Whether or not Jason Garrett retains his job, Scott Linehan’s job doesn’t seem near as secure. His scheme doesn’t really mesh with Dak Prescott and how the offense could look. There’s only so many times you can run a three tight end set and not get furious.

Cowboys fans may want Garrett gone but they might have to settle for a new offensive coordinator instead.

The good news is that there are many options out there. Options that not only could work well with Dak Prescott, but could bring the Cowboys offense into the 2010s.

Shane Waldron

Jerry Jones once said how the Cowboys offense was like the LA Rams. If they are able to sign their Co-Offensive Coordinator, then they could be.

When Matt LaFleur left to become the Tennessee Titans OC, the job became a shared job between Waldron and Aaron Kromer. I wonder if Waldron would rather have the job all to himself?

What makes Waldron so appealing is he is also the Rams tight ends coach and passing game coordinator. Those are two areas where the Rams excel and where the Cowboys need help.

Teams are going to start copying the offensive juggernauts of the NFL and the Rams are definitely one of them. The Cowboys should do themselves a favor and get out in front before other teams beat them to it.

Scott Turner

Cam Newton is having one of his best seasons. Not only is he an MVP candidate but he’s set to have career highs in completion percentage and QBR, as well as a career low in interceptions. Cam Newton is a very talented quarterback but some of this has to be attributed to his new Quarterback Coach, Scott Turner.

The son of Norv Turner, Scott has seemingly helped mold Cam into a more accurate passer without compromising who Cam Newton is as an athletic quarterback. That has Dak Prescott written all over it.

He's got NFL lineage and a new, scary Cam Newton to add to his resume. He may not have as impressive a track record as others on here but he looks like he could be a chip off the old block and get the Cowboys where they need to be going.

Lincoln Riley

A popular head coach candidate, Lincoln Riley has shown his creativity and offensive innovation during his short time as Oklahoma’s head coach. It’s uncertain if he’ll get any real offers to be a head coach, but as an OC, he would be a serious grab.

Everyone has seen the work he’s done with Baker Mayfield and now Kyler Murray. How he’s able to incorporate different formations to open up the pass game and have the run game seem unstoppable. Just imagine what he could do with the weapons he would have at his disposal in Dallas.

It's likely that Lincoln Riley is a hot commodity for a head coach position, especially in Cleveland where he could reunite with Baker Mayfield. That shouldn’t stop the Cowboys from trying to lure him to Dallas, though. Lincoln Riley could be the real missing piece that Dallas has been looking for.

Eric Bieniemy

Another product of Andy Reid, Eric Bieniemy is the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. The former running backs coach has the experience under Andy Reid on not only how to run an offense but to use your weapons at your disposal to the fullest.

Maybe I’m over-hyping this man but when you see the work he helped put in with Pat Mahomes and how he uses those weapons around him, it makes me imagine what he can do for the Cowboy offense.

The team has no shortage of weapons and could benefit greatly from a guy like this.

If the Chiefs make it past their first playoff game, Bieniemy could become a more attractive name when it comes time for new head coaches. However, if Jerry Jones comes calling and the right offer is met, who’s to say?

If Kris Richard can be lured from Seattle to fix the Cowboys defense, Eric Bieniemy can be lured from Kansas City to fix the Cowboys offense.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

The Dallas Cowboys play their next three games in 13 days, all critical to their hopes of winning the NFC East despite alternating wins and losses since week one. For the Cowboys to earn consecutive road wins, their first coming on Sunday night at the Eagles, they'll have to come out of Atlanta in much better shape than they did just a year ago.

As expected in the NFL, a lot has changed in this year. The Cowboys 27-7 loss at the Falcons in their first game without Running Back Ezekiel Elliott was the beginning of the end on a season that forced a multitude of coaching changes in Dallas.

The Cowboys stubbornness in allowing Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn to sack Dak Prescott six times by beating Chaz Green and Byron Bell is something they hoped to move past when new positional coaches were brought in at OL, TE, QB, and WR.

It took the team admitting that these moves below Offensive Coordinator Scot Linehan were not all correct two weeks ago for the Cowboys to see any real progress, but with their win last week there's hope that the Cowboys are the improved team expected weeks ago - arrived just in time for Thanksgiving.

Firing Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander was the first move, as the Cowboys named Marc Colombo OL Coach and Hudson Houck his assistant. Colombo told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas this week that he has injured Center Travis Frederick on a headset during games as well.

Colombo, Houck, and Frederick have the Cowboys offensive line confident in their ability to play to their strengths, rewarded with a renewed faith in the zone blocking scheme that was forgotten under Alexander.

If the Cowboys offensive line was their first problem in last year's Falcons loss (it was), it's becoming their biggest strength at the right time in the season.

The Cowboys necessary changes didn't stop here though.

In desperate need of a play maker on the outside, the Cowboys are seeing their investment into Wide Receiver Amari Cooper pay off so far. Cooper is averaging 3.2 yards of separation on his routes this season, ahead of Cole Beasley's 2.6 yards as the next closest pass catcher.

Cooper's presence was a big part of Ezekiel Elliott's 151 yard rushing performance at the Eagles. A player that can win on the outside with ease and dictate coverage has benefited Prescott and the Cowboys game plan on offense enough to send away a first round pick.

It will be up to this "rebuilt" Cowboys offense to match the Falcons on Sunday. Atlanta is averaging 27.1 points per game this season, but a much more dangerous 32.2 at home. After a 1-4 start, the 4-5 Falcons are playing in front of their home fans for the first time in two weeks, losing at the Browns in week ten.

The Cowboys felt they'd be prepared for games like this after their offseason moves, instead needing to show the type of in-season urgency that's been rare for Jason Garrett's team. The same can be said about a Falcons team that's experienced playing with their backs to the wall much sooner than the Cowboys have this season, setting up a big NFC match up in the early slot Sunday.

Dak Prescott will be thankful that Chaz Green nor Byron Bell are protecting him, wanting nothing more than to deliver another win for the Cowboys to take into Thanksgiving against the division-leading Washington Redskins. Not all of the coaches responsible for the lack of adjustment in last year's game are gone. What the Cowboys do have are tangible new ideas from coaches that understand they need more than a win at the defending Super Bowl champions to call this Cowboys season a success.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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