Today's NFL is changing. We continue to see an influx of more speed and more open-field within an offense. Coaching philosophies are becoming focused primarily on how speed and how an offense can beat a defense in the open-field. Speed is the key to success for an offense.
Sometimes, an offense needs a guy who can be a wild card, but also play a pivotal role in an offense. One guy I look at is Tavon Austin. While he isn't the No. 1 option, Austin has the ability to score six whenever he touches the football.
The Dallas Cowboys have lacked this component of their offense for the past few years. Dez Bryant is a true No. 1 receiver and a real good one at that, Jason Witten is a chains-mover and one of the most reliable players in football, and Cole Beasley is a guy who can cause matchup-nightmares. However, it's been a been awhile since the Cowboys have had a player like Lucky Whitehead on their roster.
Despite going undrafted out of FAU and standing at just 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, Whitehead is a guy that can cause a defense fits. He's lightning-quick and when he gets the football in his hands, he may just be the most dangerous weapon the Cowboys have on their roster. With a guy like Whitehead, the Cowboys can be extremely creative. Let's take a look at some highlights from Whitehead over the course of the 2015 season.
Week 7 at New York Giants
The Cowboys know that Whitehead is at his best when he has the ball in open space. That said, the Cowboys do an excellent job at scheming up the play to make it seem like they're rushing the opposite way. Because the Cowboys' offensive line is so talented, defenses load the box to follow the line, only to get beaten by Whitehead around the outside. Here's the start of the play:
After Whitehead is given the football, look at the real estate he has to work with on the outside. From my count, there are currently seven members of the New York Giants already beaten in this screenshot alone. This play is what we know of as an "f-rip reverse". The point of the "f-rip" is to catch the defense off guard and get the ball to your playmaker with speed.
Another way they've utilized Whitehead is by making defenses honest. The next play was run about a quarter after Whitehead's first carry. Because Whitehead burned the defense on the first play, this fake reverse makes the linebackers hesitate. In the meantime, the offensive line is setting up for a screen:
This touchdown play was brought back due to a bogus offensive pass interference call on Devin Street. Nevertheless, because the defense follows out Whitehead's fake, it leaves a ton of room for Darren McFadden to work with.
The next play is one of my personal favorites from this list. Matt Cassel pitches the football off to McFadden. As McFadden and the offensive line go right, Whitehead comes back around for a pitch-reverse:
This play is extremely deceptive. Because of the over-pursue from the Giants' defensive end. It allows Cassel to go out and actually block a defensive back. Having athletic linemen like Tyron Smith and La'el Collins is obviously extremely helpful as well, as they have the ability to take out two, if not three men.
Week 9 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Cowboys continue to use deception with this play right here. By selling the fake left to McFadden, Whitehead runs behind the offensive line to get out in the flat. Cassel rolls out right and finds Whitehead, whose speed is simply too much for the Philadelphia Eagles' outside linebacker to stick with him.
Perhaps the best thing about this play is that it's an easy pass for a guy like Cassel to make. With Tony Romo back, we won't have to worry about confidence. But Cassel struggled with consistency all season, and a throw like this makes things easier on him.
Week 13 at Washington Redskins
I'd love to see the Cowboys expand their subpackages when utilizing Whitehead. Here's a play that they used against the Giants. Again, we see the "f-rip" reverse where Cassel turns and immediately gives the football to Whitehead. The Cowboys sell out the sweep left to McFadden and it makes the linebackers hesitate.
The Cowboys ran this play twice in this game and it worked both times. Here they ran it the opposite way behind Smith and Collins. As the Whitehead gets the football, Collins takes on that right defensive end, which frees up Smith to take on the right outside linebacker.
We see the blocks of Collins and Smith in the screenshot below. Also notice how Jason Witten pushes the defensive back outside, giving Whitehead a clear field of vision of the endzone to run through. Cole Beasley also pushes his man to the sideline, which further lengthens that gap between the sideline and the middle of the field.
Week 15 vs. New York Jets
It's no secret that the New York Jets have an aggressive defense. To counteract that, the Cowboys used the "pitch-reverse" on the first drive to get Whitehead in space. See No. 77 and No. 71, that's Smith and Collins literally creating a wall for whomever gets in their way.
Again, we see Cassel get downfield and throw a block. The open space spurns Whitehead for a 33-yard gain.
Because of his speed and home-run ability, the Cowboys have added a solid element in both their pass-catching and running game. Whitehead obviously isn't a guy who will catch 80 passes, but he's a player that teams need to gameplan for as well as one that an offense can deploy many wrinkles for.
In 2016, I'm excited to see how the Cowboys can continue to get Whitehead involved in their offense. His explosiveness alone tells me the Cowboys should be feeding him the ball at least six times a game. Whitehead is a real intriguing player. The common mantra is to get the ball in the hands of your playmakers. Whitehead has established himself on offense as just that this season.
Where Does Dak Prescott Rank Among NFL Quarterbacks?
The quarterback position is one of the most difficult positions to evaluate in the NFL. As hard as it can be for a quarterback to understand and execute an offense against a defense that is trying to keep them off balance, it can be equally difficult to try and determine where each quarterback ranks compared to his peers.
Last week, The Sporting News attempted to do just that with their 2019 Quarterback Rankings. It's a pretty good list, and I highly recommend checking it out.
This was the criteria for how Vinnie Iyer,
"These rankings are based on how each QB performed last season and the upside of how each might perform in 2019. No matter how many Super Bowl rings or MVP awards a QB has won, or the number of efficient passing seasons he has posted in the past, history is a small part of the equation. We thought about where each QB ended up last season in terms of effectiveness, production and durability, and then we thought even more about how his talent and offensive support set him up for success (or lack thereof) this season."
Vinnie Iyer - The Sporting News
Dak Prescott came in at number 14 on the list, three spots behind NFC East counterpart Carson Wentz.
Here's what NFL Analyst Vinnie Iyer had to say:
"Prescott dazzled as a rookie in 2016 and slumped as a sophomore in 2017. Last season, he was closer to his rookie form in a year that largely landed between both extremes. Prescott got hot in the second half of the season once he clicked with new No. 1 wideout Amari Cooper, creating a trickle-down effect that should continue with more legitimate overall weapons in 2019."
Vinnie Iyer - The Sporting News
While these lists are rather subjective and it can be a difficult task, I think Vinnie's pretty close on where Dak Prescott sits in the NFL at this point in his career.
It's hard to argue with his top five. Each could have an argument for being the best quarterback in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes just won the NFL MVP, Tom Brady has won all the Super Bowls, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers put up ridiculous numbers year in and year out, and Russell Wilson was just made the highest paid player in NFL history.
While I think Dak probably sits in the 9-15 range, here are the five quarterbacks ranked ahead or Prescott.
9. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
10. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
11. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
12. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
13. DeShaun Watson, Houston Texans
I feel there's an argument to be made that Prescott is a few spots to low.
As an avid Oklahoma Sooners homer, I find it a bit presumptuous to have Baker Mayfield as one of the 10 best quarterbacks in the NFL. Mostly because he's only played 14 games at this point in his NFL career. Mayfield had a tremendous rookie season and has given Cleveland Browns fans hope that the franchise is finally headed in the right direction. As much as I love Baker Mayfield and think he's going to be a great NFL quarterback, it's hard for me to put him in the top 10 at this point in his career.
Ben Roethlisberger is easily a top 10 quarterback. He has skins on the wall and over the last several seasons has been a prolific passer in the NFL. Some of the games he plays in the offseason talking about retirement aren't great, but it's hard to argue he hasn't had a borderline Hall of Fame career.
The most difficult argument I think comes when you compare Dak Prescott and DeShaun Watson. The two seem to be on similar career trajectories at this point.
Watson has a better passer rating, a slightly better completion percentage and has more total touchdowns per game than Dak Prescott for his career. If Watson had played as many games as Dak Prescott to this point, at his current touchdown rate, he'd have 108 total touchdowns. 23 more than Dak Prescott.
The two that I have the biggest issue with on this list are the two he gets compared to the most because they were taken first and second overall in the same draft that Dak Prescott was taken in the fourth round; Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.
Dak Prescott's thrown for near as many touchdowns as Carson Wentz, who leads the three, but if you consider how many touchdowns Prescott's rushed for in his career, he sits 13 total touchdowns ahead of Wentz and 16 total touchdowns more than Jared Goff. Dak Prescott has a better career passer rating than both of those quarterbacks and is right there in yards per attempt with both guys.
Dak Prescott can claim more team success than Carson Wentz. One could argue that Jared Goff didn't play his best on the way to representing the NFC in the most recent Super Bowl. Dak Prescott has started every game of his NFL career while Carson Wentz has missed eight games due to season-ending injuries each of the last two seasons. Durability is a huge issue for Wentz at this point. I'd rather have the guy who you know will be on the field.
If I were going to rerank Dak Prescott with the five quarterbacks ranked directly ahead of him, I'd go:
9. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
10. DeShaun Watson, Houston Texans
11. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
12. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
13. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
14. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
Of course, this is my attempt to be as unbiased as possible and would completely understand if you wanted to rank them differently. There's no perfect way to rank players in the NFL and I applaud the Sporting News guys for giving it this effort. I can see arguments for Ben Roethlisberger, Baker Mayfield, and DeShaun Watson ahead of Dak Prescott, but that's as far as I'm willing to go.
Dak Prescott is a top 12 quarterback in the NFL and an ascending player in this league.
If you were going to rank the six quarterbacks listed above, how would you rank them? Let us know in the comment section.
Dallas Cowboys Should Pursue Recently Released DT Gerald McCoy
The Dallas Cowboys have been reinforcing their defensive interior all offseason and look to be in a good position as they get ready to begin offseason training activities and minicamp. Yesterday, I wrote about the possibility of trading for New York Jets Defensive Tackle Leonard Williams. Another defensive tackle has now become available, long-time Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy.
Per a report from Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs are going to release McCoy after nine seasons with the club.
BREAKING: DT Gerald McCoy has been informed by the Bucs of their plans to release him after nine seasons. The team decided not to pay him the $13-million salary he was owed for 2019.
McCoy is the definition of a cap casualty as he was set to make $13 million on the cap this year. At age 30 in 2018, McCoy still had six sacks as the Buccaneers 3-technique defensive tackle.
Throughout his career, he's been one of the more productive defensive tackles in the league. From 2012 to 2017 he was selected to the Pro Bowl six times and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2013.
Since 2012, McCoy's averaged 7.2 sacks, 36.8 total tackles, 9.85 tackles for loss, and 17.85 quarterback hits a season. Over the last three seasons, McCoy's averaged just under seven sacks a season. In 2018, he finished with 38 total pressures, which was 19th among all interior defensive linemen. Only Tyrone Crawford from the Cowboys had nearly as many total pressures on the interior with 37.
Though the Cowboys have brought in Christian Covington, Kerry Hyder, and Trysten Hill to fortify a defensive interior with Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods, and Tyrone Crawford, Gerald McCoy would make an excellent addition to their rotation. Mike Fisher of 247 Sports is reporting that the Cowboys currently have "very little interest" in the defensive tackle.
That's plausible. The Dallas Cowboys have a ton of depth on the defensive line at the moment, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't pursue a talented player such as Gerald McCoy. McCoy has been an excellent 3-tech but also has the size to contribute at 1-tech on passing downs if you need him to.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive line has a ton of depth and it may not make sense to bring in a guy like McCoy, but they should. Much like the trade for Robert Quinn, you're putting your eggs in the 2019 Super Bowl basket and trying to maximize the talent that you have on the roster this year. They're a team primed to make a deep run in January and McCoy can help them do that.
As in everything, it will come down to the price tag. However, given that the Dallas Cowboys currently have just under $20 million available on the 2019 salary cap, they can get a deal done with McCoy and continue working on the long-term contracts for their star core of players.
Gerald McCoy makes the defense better. He's another guy along the defensive line, in addition to DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn, that the offensive line has to think about. He makes things easier for everyone at every level of the defense and shouldn't cost a ton to sign on a one-year deal.
BREAKING: Ezekiel Elliott Handcuffed After Incident with Security Guard
TMZ has released footage of Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott being handcuffed and escorted by police after an altercation with security at a Las Vegas music festival over the weekend.
Elliott was not arrested and no charges have been filed.
Ezekiel Elliott handcuffed but not charged after incident at Las Vegas music festival https://t.co/NJQ6csGgnv
The video shows Zeke engaged in what appears to be an argument with a female companion. Elliott is seen following her through the crowd, and then security starts to get involved after Zeke moves his body to block her from walking away.
One of the security guards says something that attracts Elliott's attention, causing him to move in closer. The guard falls backward from minimal contact. It as soon after that police get involved.
There isn't much here that would cause trouble for the average player, but that's hardly Elliott's situation. He's one of the most prolific stars in the NFL and already has history with the league for domestic violence and personal conduct issues.
Remember, no charges were filed when the NFL gave Elliott a six-game suspension in 2017 after accusations from an ex-girlfriend of domestic violence.
We will have to wait and see how Roger Goodell chooses to treat this latest issue.
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