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 Will Tag DeMarcus Lawrence; What’s the Plan?
February 20 is an important day for NFL clubs this year. Why? It's the first day in which teams can franchise tag any player. Since 2015, when the Dallas Cowboys tagged Dez Bryant before they were able to work out a long-term deal, Jerry Jones & Co. haven't used the franchise tag. In 2018, though, that will change.
DeMarcus Lawrence just played his best season yet in 2017, and he's looking to get paid big time. Through three years, he had been able to rack up nine sacks, 52 tackles and three forced fumbles. In just 2017, he sacked opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times, had 35 tackles and managed to force four fumbles.
Not only did Lawrence look like an elite pass rusher, but he also improved as a run defender a lot. The Cowboys have been looking for a "War Daddy" for a long, long time and Lawrence seems to be the answer for this football team.
After such a big year, one would expect the Cowboys to sign him to a multi-year enormous contract. But there's a catch. Lawrence failed to remain healthy early in his career and really didn't make as much of an impact until last season.
There's no question that D-Law will be wearing a star come the 2018 NFL season, but will he be doing it under a long-term deal or under a franchise tag?
Cowboys will not place franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence tomorrow as that window opens but will do so by March 6 w/ understanding the goal is to reach a long-term deal. Both sides have until July 16 to make that happen.
For now, according to David Moore from Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence with the objective of getting a deal done in July. The tag however, is not expected to be placed as soon as possible.
In 2015, the Cowboys didn't place the franchise tag on Dez Bryant until the final deadline day. This year's deadline is March 6th, so it may be two weeks before they make it official with DeMarcus Lawrence. #CowboysNation #DallasCowboys
What would franchise tagging DeMarcus Lawrence mean for this team?
First of all, they'd make sure he doesn't hit free agency in March. This gives the front office time to get to work and restructure players' contracts if they have to in order to open up as much cap space as they can before giving him a deal.
It's worth mentioning as well, cap savings from players who are designated as post-June 1 cuts will already be available. If you want to be more familiarized with the Cowboys' cap situation, I highly recommend you read John Williams' deep dive on the matter.
It'll continue to be a very interesting story for this offseason, as handing a franchise tag to a player tends to become a non-friendly situation for both parties. Let's hope that's not the case for the Cowboys and Lawrence this year and that everything works out fine.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue updating you and the rest of Cowboys Nation throughout the offseason.
Watch: Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Goes Bowling for First Time Since College Injury
Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Jaylon Smith did not just defy all odds and return to normalcy in 2017, starting as the Cowboys' middle linebacker for a full 16 games. He became one of the team's and NFL's brightest success stories, earning the right to celebrate everyday activities returning to his life - as football did this season.
This is exactly what Jaylon Smith did on Twitter Friday afternoon, posting a Snapchat video of himself bowling. The caption on Twitter adds that Smith was enjoying his time at the lanes for the first time in two years.
It was January 1st, 2016 when Jaylon Smith's injury in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame changed his outlook forever. In that moment, Smith went from a projected top ten pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to a LB that would need a team to take a chance on him - and be patient.
The Dallas Cowboys proved to be that team, using the 34th overall pick on the Notre Dame star and supporting his efforts to return to the field from day one. The entire Cowboys' organization was rewarded by Smith remarkably playing every game this season, inspired by his constant determination to do just that.
So, a normal offseason for Jaylon Smith is anything but right now. Still battling the drop foot condition (one that is reportedly healing well and "fading") which limits his movement ability in the lower body, Smith is a normal Dallas Cowboys football player from this point forward.
He can say he's already defined all odds, can expect to take an even bigger stride forward in 2018, and Jaylon Smith can go bowling again. You can't help but be happy for #54.
Dak Prescott’s Accuracy Stands Out in Final 2017 Stats
2017 was a season that left the Dallas Cowboys with a ton of questions to think about. Dez Bryant's contract, Sean Lee and Tyron Smith's availability, and the future of DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving are some of those questions.
But there's another more pressing question for the Cowboys. How can they get the most out of Quarterback Dak Prescott and avoid another struggling year for him?
Also, what if he has another rough year? At what point does quarterback become a position that needs to be evaluated if he continues to struggle?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that will be the case. In fact, I have a lot of faith in Dak. I think he's shown a lot to be excited about and I definitely believe there's a "quarterback curve" in the NFL. Hopefully, #4 finds a way to get back on track in 2018.
A reason to be optimistic about Prescott's future is an impressive stat from NFL Next Gen Stats. Turns out, Dak Prescott ranked first in the NFL in "tight window throws" completion percentage with 45.8%.
According to Matt Harmon from NFL.com, a "tight window throw" is defined as a pass in which the intended receiver has less than a yard of separation from the defender.
Dak Prescott is far from a perfect quarterback and he's constantly bashed about his throwing accuracy. Just recently, he took part in a passing competition with David Carr before the NFL Honors and well... it's fair to say Carr completely beat him.
David Carr 6, Dak Prescott 1 pic.twitter.com/rV532Q3Cob
— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) 6 de febrero de 2018
Cowboys Twitter was anything but forgiving for the young quarterback, but at the end of the day, I'm not sure a casual passing competition at an event like that one is the way you judge an NFL starting quarterback who has a 22-10 record in his career.
Dak has a long way to go before being considered an excellent quarterback in the league, but a bad season like 2017 doesn't mean it's the end of his career and that the Dallas Cowboys should start Cooper Rush over him.
It's not the first quarterback who struggles one year and he won't be the last one to bounce back from one. As of right now, Dak Prescott rightfully is the Dallas Cowboys QB1. Hopefully he has a better year next season.
Want to help make Inside The Star better?
We’re collecting feedback from our readers about the site. It only takes <2 minutes to complete, and can be done from any device.
Don’t worry, your information will not be shared with anyone but me (Bryson T.).
NFL Draft2 weeks ago
Cowboys Mock Draft: Dallas Adds Starters At 3 Positions
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Deep Dive: Inside the Dallas Cowboys’ 2018 Salary Cap
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Dallas Cowboys Sign Converted QB Jason Thompson to Play Safety
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Cowboys CB Marquez White Could Emerge in 2018
NFL Draft1 week ago
Star Defensive Talent Falls to Cowboys in Latest Round of Mock Drafts
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Blaine Gabbert Could Provide QB2 Competition for Cowboys
NFL Draft2 weeks ago
How Much Input Will Kris Richard Have in Cowboys Draft?
NFL Draft5 days ago
The 1 Player Cowboys Should Consider Trading Up For