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.
Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off their most impressive win of the season, keeping playoff hopes alive on the road with a 27-20 victory at the Philadelphia Eagles. Entering the hostile home of the defending Super Bowl champions with three previous road losses already on their record, the Cowboys performance on Sunday night was truly about getting back to their roots. In their second week with Marc Colombo as the Offensive Line Coach, the Cowboys rushed for 171 yards and protected Dak Prescott very well. It was revealed after the game that Frederick was on a coaches headset with Colombo and his new assistant Hudson Houck.
Travis Frederick just told @BenRogers on @1053thefan that Marc Columbo has him on a coaches headset now helping him and Hudson Houck. That's a smart move from Columbo. Smartest guy on the line
The anchor of the Cowboys offensive line since being drafted in 2013, Frederick is regarded as the smartest linemen on the team. It's his mental edge that's made up for a slight lack of size at the position, regarded as one of the worst first round picks in his draft because of this oversight.
Not only is Frederick a welcome addition to the Cowboys brain trust at offensive line, but he did receive some great news on his battle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) that's kept him out this season. Frederick was placed on injured reserve on October 6th, announcing publicly his GBS diagnosis on August 22nd.
Frederick has a long way to go before he's playing football again, not eligible to do so until week 14 at home against the Eagles. Regaining feeling in his hands is about the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee getting as healthy as possible away from football. If a return to the Cowboys is possible through his recovery, the team would of course welcome Frederick.
Travis Frederick regains sensation in his hands: "There is some light at the end of the tunnel" https://t.co/wvQhB6KUQp
What Frederick has gained in upper body strength, he must remain patient for in the lower body. While pointing out that over 95% of patients make a full recovery from GBS, Frederick is still waiting to feel sensations in his feet.
The Cowboys have been optimistic that Frederick's condition was caught early enough for a full recovery to be probable.
Dallas' schedule doesn't get any easier following their uplifting win. Returning to the site of last year's demoralizing loss at the Falcons, Frederick likely wishes he could make a miraculous return just a bit more this week.
To make matters worse, Left Tackle Tyron Smith did not practice on Wednesday due to back spasms. It's unknown if rookie Connor Williams will reclaim his starting left guard spot on Sunday, or if Xavier Su'a-Filo has earned another opportunity.
Despite the patchwork nature of a Cowboys offensive line once regarded as the best in the league, and still vital to the entire team's success, Dallas has an abundance of hope that Sunday in Atlanta can be much better than 2017. This starts with Frederick's strength to fight GBS and attempt to rejoin his teammates, wisely given some added game day influence on them by Colombo.
If elevating their level of play up front was all it took for the Cowboys to play up to their potential and pull off an upset on prime time last week, the NFC East is certainly still within reach for a team that must now sustain the level of play on offense to match what this defense has given all season.
Cowboys LB Named NFC Defensive Player of the Week Against Eagles
You already knew that Leighton Vander Esch, the Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker, had a great night last Sunday in Philadelphia. Apparently the rest of the football world agreed, and now he's been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
The award is the first of what could be many for Leighton, who has emerged as a defensive leader for the Cowboys. He's been playing more in the absence of veteran Sean Lee, who has been battling hamstring issues all season.
THE. WOLF. HUNTER. Congratulations to #DallasCowboys rookie LB @VanderEsch38 on being named NFC Defensive Player of the Week! → https://t.co/XeSTt2tIpX
This is the second Player of the Week award for a Dallas Cowboys this season. Kicker Brett Maher won the Special Teams version in Week 4 after going 4-for-4 and hitting a game winner over the Detroit Lions.
The Defensive Player award hasn't gone to a Cowboys since Week of 2017, when DeMarcus Lawrence put up three sacks against the Arizona Cardinals.
Leighton's recognition is also well-earned. He led Dallas with 13 tackles and an interception in a pivotal road victory against a division rival. In what was arguably a "must-win" game for the Cowboys, their first-round pick stepped up and stood out.
A few more games like this, and Vander Esch could be in the running for the Defensive Rookie of the Year. But even above personal accolades, Leighton's play could help the Cowboys make a push in the NFC East.
If nothing else, he's making that first-round pick look smarter every week.
Legendary Cowboys Quarterback Backs Dak Prescott
Things have not gone well for Dak Prescott this season. His play has been up and down and he hasn't given the team or Cowboys Nation much reason to believe that he's the future at the quarterback position for the Dallas Cowboys. Speaking to 105.3 FM The Fan in Dallas today, Legendary Dallas Cowboys Quarterback, Ring of Honor and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Roger Staubach offered support for the Cowboys current quarterback, Dak Prescott.
Staubach had this to say when asked about Dak Prescott.
Roger Staubach on @1053thefan said #Dak is a part of the problem with the #Cowboys offense, but he is not the problem.
Roger Staubach didn't start in the NFL until the third year of his career and thinks that's a good time for the quarterback to make the jump. At this point, we are 40 games into Dak Prescott's NFL career and we can see some of the things that he's good at as well as some of the things that he struggles with.
As Staubach points out, Dak Prescott has the intangibles that you look for in a quarterback, even if his play hasn't been what you'd want at the position. Roger admits that Dak shoulders some of the blame for the offensive woes of the last 16 games, but realizes that there are many reasons for the Cowboys offensive failures this season.
Roger Staubach believes that the Dallas Cowboys can win with Dak Prescott as their starting quarterback despite some of the flaws that have crept up over the last 16 games. He's not wrong.
Staubach's pretty accurate in his assessment that there's been more good than bad. If you look at the first 24 games of Dak Prescott's career, he was really good. Through the last 16 games, he's struggled at times. So technically there's been more good than bad. The problem is that over the last 16 games, there's been more bad than good. The NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league and lately Dak hasn't done much. We can debate all day on how much of the struggles Prescott's faced are on him, but everyone should be willing to admit that some of the struggles are on him.
It's plausible that the confidence in Prescott that Jerry Jones has comes from Roger's belief that the Cowboys can win games with Dak Prescott at quarterback; and they have. In Prescott's career, the Dallas Cowboys are 25-15. Though wins are a team stat and not a quarterback stat, it just goes as evidence that Dak Prescott can be a winning quarterback in the National Football League.
Dak has some flaws, but the offense and its play caller haven't helped Prescott much this season. We should be critical of Prescott because he has a big pay day coming, if you believe Jerry Jones. While Dak has some flaws, he also has some traits that can make him a good quarterback in the NFL with the right coaching situation behind him. 2018 may be running out of time for the Dallas Cowboys and their playoff prospects, but the Cowboys have time before they have to make a decision on Prescott.
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