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Maliek Collins: Minor Setback, Major Comeback?

A few weeks ago, I explored how the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive line could still create pressure and wreak havoc even without the presence of a big time pass-rushing end. My plan focused on the interior of the defensive line shrinking the pocket and getting into the face of the quarterback. This would eliminate any chance of stepping up in the pocket, and would force either a quick throw or a failed escape attempt. Maliek Collins, Cedric Thornton, Tyrone Crawford, and Terrell McClain would be featured in a fearsome interior rotation that would bring hope to an otherwise questionable defensive line. It all seemed so perfect.

Kevin Brady



Cowboys Headlines -  48

A few weeks ago, I explored how the Dallas Cowboys' defensive line could still create pressure and wreak havoc even without the presence of a big time pass-rushing end.

My plan focused on the interior of the defensive line shrinking the pocket and getting into the face of the quarterback. This would eliminate any chance of stepping up in the pocket, and would force either a quick throw or a failed escape attempt.


Maliek Collins, Cedric Thornton, Tyrone Crawford, and Terrell McClain would be featured in a fearsome interior rotation that would bring hope to an otherwise questionable defensive line.

It all seemed so perfect.

Of course, things don't always work out how you planned.

This week, rookie defensive tackle Maliek Collins suffered a broken foot during OTA's, which could force him to miss upwards of 10-12 weeks.Cowboys Draft - Draft Film Review: Maliek Collins

While I, as well as all of Cowboys Nation, feels terribly for Collins, the show must go on until he can return.

Not that any time for an injury is a "good" time, but if Collins' foot break would've occurred any further along the offseason process, it would have had a much bigger impact on both Collins and the Cowboys.

With still just under 100 days to go until the season opener against the New York Giants, there is little doubt that Maliek Collins' foot will be healed in time for the regular season.

The real questions which must be asked are about where his conditioning and "professional-readiness" will be after being sidelined for such a long period of time.

It is no easy task for a rookie, especially a third round defensive lineman, to be physically and mentally ready for the season opener with a full offseason and training camp to work with. So, imagine how difficult it will be without that offseason?

If Collins was to miss most of or all of training camp and/or some preseason games, he may not be ready to make an impact come week 1 like we thought he would be able to prior to the injury.

A sort of secondary impact Collins' injury will make comes with how we view the 2016 draft class as a whole.

Going into the draft, just about everyone thought that Dallas would focus their draft on defensive help, with the exception of taking a quarterback or a running back at some point. While they did add three straight defensive players from rounds 2-4, and then two more defensive backs in the 6th, there is a strong possibility only two or three of those players will be on the roster and ready to play come week 1 of this season.

After all the speculation about adding a potential defensive stud like Jalen Ramsey, Dallas may be left with a 4th rounder and 2 6th rounders as their only healthy rookies defensively.

Down the line, Maliek Collins will certainly be fine and Jaylon Smith may be as well, but if you're looking for immediately impactful defensive rookies, you might have come to the wrong place.

I am not suggesting the Cowboys drafted, or should have drafted, with only 2016 in mind. The draft is a tricky business where you try to add players who will produce as soon as possible, while also "building for the future." But I definitely don't believe that, as fans, we expected only three late round defensive picks to be healthy contributors week 1 of this season.

With all of that being said, let's not overreact too much here.

We all thought Collins would be a player for the Cowboys, and he still will be. A broken foot during the early days of June is not going to change that.

It is a minor setback for Collins, but once he is healthy and comfortable in the system, he will be absolutely fine.

Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and have been with ITS since 2016.

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Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick

Jess Haynie



Devin Smith

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:

Jason Bernstein on Twitter

Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back.

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!

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DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class

Kevin Brady



Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence's League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

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. 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.

ig: josinaanderson on Twitter

ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures.

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.

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When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott

John Williams



All-22 Notes: Connor Williams Stands Out in Wild Card Win

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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