Earning a roster spot in the NFL isn't easy, and keeping that roster spot is even harder.
Year in and year out, players are fighting for their NFL lives and they all know that their job security is teetering, knowing that the slightest tip of the scale can end their professional careers. Rookies are just hoping to begin their careers, while some veterans are coming to the end of theirs.
For those players that enter the league as undrafted free agents, this is especially true. They have to fight harder than anybody to prove themselves and hope they get a chance to catch the attention of the coaches.
Well, that is exactly what Lucky Whitehead had to do after he went undrafted in 2015.
The hope was that Whitehead could step in and fill the void left by Dwayne Harris' departure to the division rival New York Giants.
It hasn't been that long ago, but in case you've forgotten Harris was one of the better special teams players for the Cowboys, both as a return man and on coverage units. He never really earned a definitive role as a receiver, but seemed to make plays when it mattered most.
Now, earning the trust of the coaching staff is sometimes difficult for rookies to do and it looks as if that is exactly what happened in Whitehead's case in 2015. The coaching staff was reluctant to use them regularly in the return game until later in the season, but the fact that they did start using him more should provide a little bit of evidence of what kind of an expanded role he can have in his second year.
If you take a good hard look at his statistics from 2015 you can kind of determine for yourself the way he may be used in the upcoming season.
Were you aware that Whitehead had more rushing attempts then receptions? I wasn't until I looked at the statistics.
Okay, are you ready for my bold prediction and the expanded role I think the Cowboys might have for Whitehead in 2016?
Like I mentioned earlier, the hope was that Whitehead would come in and fill the void of Harris' departure, but I think he will actually fill the void of often injured Lance Dunbar.
Dunbar always seems to get injured when he's finally starting to prove that he can be a difference maker on offense, but it's those injuries that might just force Cowboys to go a different direction if someone can prove they can step up.
I know what you're probably thinking, Dunbar is a running back and Whitehead is a wide receiver, so how could a WR take over for a RB?
Well, Dunbar mostly made his impact as a receiver out of the backfield and I think that's how the Cowboys would choose to use Whitehead, but he could possibly be used on gimmicky plays as well.
Dunbar (5'9", 195) and Whitehead (5'8", 183) are roughly about the same size, and both players can be explosive with the ball their hands. They work best in space and that is how they can both hurt opposing defenses.
Whitehead played the majority of the 2015 season somewhere between 170 and 175 pounds, but has put in the work this off-season to add muscle to his frame.
Training harder then ever to be better then I was a year ago!!!
I really think that his hard work might just pay off for him in 2016 and that he can prove to the coaching staff that he is worthy of an expanded role. Maybe that hard work will keep him off of the injury report and he can remain healthy and available for all 16 games.
If I was Lance Dunbar I think I would be doing everything in my power to make sure that I am ready as soon as possible, because he knows that no one's job is set in stone when it comes to the NFL.
So, do you think Lucky Whitehead deserves an expanded role in 2016? Do you think he could be a possible replacement for the often injured Dunbar?
Use the comment section below so that we can further discuss this topic.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott
Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.
In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.
During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...
...of his offensive lineman.
During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.
As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.
It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.
With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.
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