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NFC East Outlook: Tight Ends

Kevin Brady

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Jason Witten

After evaluating the quarterbacks of the NFC East last week, we now move onto the tight ends. While the Cowboys have dominated this portion of the division for years with future hall of famer Jason Witten, age and an influx of talent elsewhere have threatened Witten's crown.

Let's check out the tight end position group for each team in the NFC East.

Dallas CowboysJason Witten

Per usual, Jason Witten enters the season as the starting tight end of the Dallas Cowboys. While Witten has earned an incredible amount of accolades over his career, and is still a valuable player, he has seen a decline in his performance over the years. Especially when it comes to blocking.

Behind Witten there are question marks. While many, including myself, are extremely excited to see what second year player Rico Gathers can do this year and beyond, the competition between James Hanna and Geoff Swaim will also be important.

Still, in the context of their entire offense, I like the Cowboys' tight end situation.

New York Giants

Evan Engram

TE Evan Engram, now a New York Giant.

The New York Giants spent some early draft capital on this position group, taking Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram late in round one. While I liked now Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku more than Engram at that point in the draft, Engram will still be a valuable receiving threat in the Giants' offense.

Behind Evan Engram, there isn't much.

Veteran Will Tye is the assumed TE2 in New York, and Jerell Adams will most likely be third on that depth chart. Neither of these players offer much in terms of receiving, and aren't great as inline blockers either. Though, they are considered to be stronger blockers than Engram is.

Washington Redskins

Cowboys Headlines - The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly For Cowboys Against Washington 2

Nov 24, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed (86) runs the ball against Dallas Cowboys strong safety J.J. Wilcox (27) in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The most talented tight end in the entire division, Jordan Reed, resides in Washington and plays for the Redskins. Despite dealing with some serious concussion issues which have put a question mark over the future of his career, Reed is the most versatile and dangerous receiving tight end in this division when healthy.

There is some real talent behind Reed on the depth chart as well. Veteran tight end Vernon Davis revived his career a bit in 2016, and remains in Washington this season. Paul Niles and 2016 draft pick out of Arkansas Jeremy Sprinkle round out this position group for the Redskins.

Philadelphia Eagles

NFC East Outlook: Tight Ends

Sep 11, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz (86) leads his team onto the field during player introductions before action against the Cleveland Browns at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles won 29-10. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Last, but probably not least, the Philadelphia Eagles feature a few veteran tight ends atop their depth chart.

Though it seems like he's been an Eagle forever, Brent Celek returns in 2017 for his tenth NFL season. In that group with Celek is a player which the fans in Philly have been waiting for to take that next step and become an elite-level tight end in Zach Ertz.

Ertz has had solid seasons during his NFL career, but comes into 2017 with a sky-high expectations from Eagles' fans. Expectations that I don't believe he can truly meet, however.

How I Rank Them

While I love Jason Witten and everything he's done for the Cowboys organization, the Cowboys tight end group comes in second on my rankings for 2017. The team with the best tight end group, however, is the Washington Redskins.

Jordan Reed is an absolute freak, making a Gronk-like impact at times. And, as long as he can stay healthy, is the best starting tight end in the NFC East.

Coming in third to me are the Philadelphia Eagles, with two rather solid pieces atop their depth chart. Last are the New York Giants, though I do think Evan Engram will be a valuable receiving threat out of the slot for them this season.

Overall, there are some pretty good tight ends in the NFC East.



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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Malik McDowell Is Well Worth The Risk For The Dallas Cowboys

Kevin Brady

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Malik McDowell, Michigan State

The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly brining defensive lineman Malik McDowell into The Star this week for a visit, as they decide whether or not to potentially sign him for the 2019 season.

McDowell is a former second round pick of the Seattle Seahawks, who fell to day two because of what scouts call "off the field" or "character" concerns. McDowell did not last long with Seahawks, as he was released in 2017 following an ATV accident in which he reportedly suffered "extensive brain and eye trauma" according to Charles Robinson.

None of us know much about who Malik McDowell is as a person, or what concerns their really should be with his health. But what I do know is that on tape at Michigan State, McDowell was a top 5-10 player in the 2017 draft class. He was a stud, and has the traits to continue to be a stud in the NFL.

2017 NFL Draft: Scouting Michigan State DL Malik McDowell - Slant Sports

The 2017 NFL Draft is chock full of talented, athletic, and productive defensive linemen. While most of the draft pundits have focused on EDGE rushers thus far, the defensive tackle class also possesses some of this year's top NFL prospects. Arguably the best of those defensive tackles is Michigan State's Malik McDowell.

Back in 2017 I wrote a full scouting report on McDowell, detailing why he earned such a high grade on my board. McDowell is a versatile linemen who is explosive off the ball, powerful and rangy against the run, and a skilled pass rusher who plays with a high motor. What more could you really ask for?

"McDowell is a patient pass rusher at times, setting up the blocker how he likes and then beating them with ease. McDowell’s ability to swipe hands off helps him greatly, but his quick swim is his most effective pass rush move.

On this play he uses that swim to perfection, forcing the center to power down to the right before swimming back to the other side."

nfldraft malik mcdowell 3

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When the Spartans went to a three man pass rushing front, McDowell moved to the EDGE often and made plays with his quick, active hands and impressive swim move. He was much more impressive on the interior, however, and could be a direct replacement for David Irving as an explosive and powerful 3-technique for the Cowboys.

nfldraft malik mcdowell 4

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I love that the Cowboys are bringing McDowell in for a free agent visit. His price will likely be low, as he is yet to play in an NFL game over the last two years, but his ceiling remains very high if he is healthy. It's rare for a player with his college production, natural ability, and measurables to completely fail in the NFL.

Maybe all McDowell needs is a second chance to get his head right and prove that he belongs in the league. Maybe he flames out quickly and can't get on the field due to "off the field" stuff. Or, maybe he simply isn't healthy enough to contribute as an NFL player. Regardless, for the price he'll likely command, McDowell is well worth the risk if the Cowboys are willing to take it.



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Though Not A Direct Beasley Replacement, Randall Cobb Would Bring Value To Cowboys’ Offense

Kevin Brady

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Not A Direct Beasley Replacement, Randall Cobb Would Bring Value To Cowboys' Offense

When the news broke Monday that veteran wide receiver Randall Cobb was visiting the Dallas Cowboys, most immediately assumed he would be a logical replacement for the departed Cole Beasley.

When you take a look at the film and each of their skillsets, however, you quickly see this is likely not the case.

While Cobb would be able to play in the slot as a receiver for the Cowboys if he signs, his value extends much further than just a slot receiver. Where Beasley makes his mark with precise route running, short area quickness, and 3rd down reliability, Cobb is much more of a threat after the catch. He's not the route runner that Beasley is, and really isn't an upgrade over Beasley as a receiver, but Cobb would be able to help the Cowboys' become more diverse in their offensive schemes.

Similar to Tavon Austin, Randall Cobb can be used in pre snap motion and jet-sweep packages, as well as a traditional running back. A college quarterback, Cobb's versatility is what makes him so attractive to NFL teams. Cobb would actually fit more of the Lance Dunbar "scat back" role of sorts for the Cowboys than that of the Cole Beasley slot receiver role. His versatility, however, allows him to carve out a lane within the offense which they haven't quite had before.

Another area Cobb could help the Cowboys is when the play breaks down. With experience in the Packers offense playing with arguably the greatest improviser we've ever seen in Aaron Rodgers, Cobb would be able to help Dak Prescott down the field when he breaks the pocket and the play is off schedule.

So often last season we talked about how the Cowboys offense is reliant on remaining on schedule, staying in front of the chains and not having to force the ball downfield. Unleashing the Mississippi State version of Dak Prescott, where he can improvise and use his legs to create big plays, tends to be when this offense is at its best, however.

Randall Cobb won't be a Pro Bowler if the Cowboys sign him, and depending on the money he receives, it might not even be a lock that he makes the final roster. But Cobb would be an exciting addition to a Cowboys offense which has lacked "creativity" over the last few seasons, and is looking to reinvent themselves to a certain extent.

A receiving corps headlined by Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, with versatile weapons such as Cobb and Tavon Austin behind them, is a pretty good one to head into draft day with.

Signing Cobb would keep the Cowboys from "needing" to take a wide receiver early in the draft, and would allow them to easily shed Allen Hurns if a receiving weapon did fall to them at 58th overall.



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Should Cowboys Inquire About Trading for 49ers DL Solomon Thomas?

Brian Martin

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Should Cowboys Inquire About Trading for 49ers DL Solomon Thomas? 1

When it comes to making trades, the Dallas Cowboys are typically the buyer and not the seller. They proved that last season when they acquired Tavon Austin, Jamize Olawale, and Jihad Ward via trade and could be looking do the same once again this offseason. That's why today I want to talk about the Cowboys putting in a call to the San Francisco 49ers to inquire about potentially trading for Solomon Thomas.

New 49ers Defensive Line Coach Kris Kocurek is rumored to be evaluating Solomon Thomas' film in order to determine his fit and future with the organization moving forward. This is no easy task. In his two years in the league they've tried Thomas at DE and DT, but unfortunately the former No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft has yet to find his footing at either position.

Being a man without a position doesn't bode well for Solomon Thomas, especially after the 49ers acquired Defensive End Dee Ford from the Kansas City Chiefs last week via trade. The 49ers are suddenly stacked along the defensive line. That's not all though, things could actually get worse for Thomas.

To further complicate matters, the 49ers could use their second overall pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft on the either Nick Bosa or Quinnen Williams. If that's what indeed happens, someone is going to be the odd man out. If you haven't guessed it yet, I think that player could be Solomon Thomas.

Solomon Thomas

San Francisco 49ers DL Solomon Thomas

As a former high first-round draft pick, Thomas would count $7,678,468 against the salary cap in 2019 and $8,958,213 in 2020. That's probably more than the 49ers want to pay for a rotational/backup defensive lineman. And cutting him this season would create $16.6 million in dead money, so a trade is the logical solution.

With all that in mind, it wouldn't surprise me if San Francisco put Solomon Thomas on the trade block any day now. He is only two years into his four-year rookie deal and comes with a fifth-year option as a former first-round draft pick. That means if a team does trade for him they have him under contract for essentially three more years.

If you add all of this up, it makes a lot of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. They need defensive line help and Solomon Thomas needs a fresh start. The Cowboys would get a young versatile defensive lineman and the 49ers get to dump his contract while also receiving some compensation in return. It's a win-win for all parties concerned.

I know what you're thinking though. What would the Cowboys have to give up in the trade? Well, it might not be as much as you think.

Fortunately, Thomas' failure to make an impact his first two years in the NFL favor the buyer, in this case the Dallas Cowboys. He has only four career quarterback sacks, three of which came in his rookie season. Stats of course don't always tell the entire story, but game film does. Unfortunately for Thomas, he can't escape his poor play.

I believe it wouldn't take more than a 2019 fourth-round draft pick to get Solomon Thomas away from the 49ers. Remember, just last season the New England Patriots sent a third-round draft pick to San Francisco and received Offensive Tackle Trent Brown and the fifth-round pick in return. Brown was a more proven player and was in the last year of his contract.

I don't know about you, but I kind of like the idea of Solomon Thomas in a Dallas Cowboys uniform. If anybody can tap into his potential, Rod Marinelli can. Giving up a 2019 fourth-round pick is well worth the gamble in my opinion.

Do you think the Cowboys should inquire about trading for Solomon Thomas?



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