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Notes on Scout’s Eye from Day Two of Cowboys OTA’s

John Williams

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Reviewing Notes from Dallas Cowboys Day Two of OTA's
James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

One of my favorite things to read in the offseason and preseason is anything DallasCowboys.com writer and former NFL Scout Bryan Broaddus has to say about what transpired during these practices. He has an excellent perspective when discussing football. As a former scout turned Dallas Cowboys insider, his stuff is must-read material. It's gold every single time.

Definitely go check out the Scout's Eye from Bryan Broaddus, but here are a few notes that I found very interesting.

The Newest OL Addition

Connor Williams is going to be a huge upgrade from Jonathan Cooper. Don't get me wrong, Cooper played well and was able to turn that into a one-year $5 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers. Though he played well, he had limitations, primarily in his mobility as a blocker. Because he was limited, the running game was limited in what they could do. That won't be the case with second round pick Connor Williams.

"It might have had to do with the scheme, but I noticed plenty of running plays where Connor Williams was used as a puller. Williams was primarily working to his right. He had a couple of those pulls where his path appeared good and right where he needed to be at the contact point. Given his athletic ability, we might be getting a little taste what the coaching staff has planned for Williams by getting him in space."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

Athletic enough to play tackle and strong enough to play guard, he is going to make life very difficult on opposing defenses in the run game. The Dallas Cowboys are going to be able to run pull, stretch, zone, or power plays wherever they want because of the physicality and athletic ability across the offensive line.

The Defensive Backfield

One thing that has been clear from Byron Jones' game is that even if he looks beat, he isn't really beat. Whether it's Rob Gronkowski or AJ Green, Jones has great ability to make up the separation that wide receivers can sometimes get on him.

"Really nice job by Byron Jones recovering on a deep ball to Deonte Thompson. Jones tried to force Thompson to the sideline but couldn’t cut him off. With a little bit of separation Jones had to rally hard to close the gap. Dak Prescott put the ball in a spot where Thompson had a chance to bring it in, but just at the last moment Jones reached in with his off-hand and knocked it away."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

Byron has always used his length and athleticism to knock passes away, and with the technique that defensive backs coach Kris Richard is teaching these guys, Jones will have a lot of opportunities to get his hands on the football.

Richard wants them forcing players to the outside on their routes, keeping themselves between the receiver and the football. In addition to Jones' ability to make plays on the ball underneath the route, this could be a big year for him in his fourth year with the Dallas Cowboys.

Another note on the defensive back group.

"Just a note on how the defense lined up in first nickel: Chidobe Awuzie, Byron Jones on the outside and Anthony Brown in the slot. With Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods at safety. Jourdan Lewis played both on the outside and in the slot with the second group. I was worried that with the new secondary coach that maybe Lewis would not get enough opportunities, but I thought he was outstanding."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

What's interesting to note from this is that Anthony Brown got the first team reps ahead of Jourdan Lewis. It's early in the preseason and so this could change, but perhaps it's not as much of a foregone conclusion that Lewis will be the primary slot cornerback.

With what we've seen from Anthony Brown in the slot in his first two years, he's pretty good from that spot himself. Lewis is the better all-around cornerback, but this will be an interesting battle to watch throughout the preseason.

Lewis had his own shining moment during practice against fifth round draft pick, Tight End Dalton Schultz.

"You have to give Jourdan Lewis some credit. Lewis drew the much bigger Dalton Schultz and fought him in the air to knock away a ball from Cooper Rush. Schultz had the position to make the play, but Lewis wasn’t going to let him have the ball. If Lewis is going to play in the slot there are going to be some days where he is going to have to deal with a tight end playing the inside."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

Jourdan Lewis isn't the biggest cornerback on the team and doesn't fit Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard's size profile, but he's a gamer. He has enough length and fight to make things difficult for receivers in the middle of the field.

This defensive backfield is going to be really, really good.

Unsung WR Selection

One of the more underrated moves from the 2018 NFL Draft was the selection of sixth rounder Cedric Wilson from Boise State University. In two seasons with the Broncos, Wilson combined for 18 touchdowns while averaging 19 yards per reception. He topped 1,100 yards both seasons with a high of 1,511 yards in 2017 on 83 catches.

He had a tremendous career, but because he doesn't have a strong athletic profile, dropped to late in the draft.

Could he be this year's Anthony Brown or Xavier Woods?

The Dallas Cowboys have done an excellent job in the later rounds finding good football players. Wilson seemed to have a pretty good day at practice yesterday.

"Cedrick Wilson sure is smooth running routes. I liked what I saw from him driving Anthony Brown off the ball, then turning outside as Brown continued up the field. Cooper Rush put the ball in a perfect spot for Wilson to secure the first down. He also had a nice block on Duke Thomas to Trey Williamson a long run. Sanjay Lal came over and slapped him on the back after he was able to finish that one."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

Anthony Brown is no slouch defending the pass. He had a really good 2016 and recovered in the second half of 2017 to put together a nice season. Yes, it's only the off-season and they aren't even in pads yet, but these are two really encouraging notes on Wilson's practice. If he can continue to win reps and flash as a run blocker, he'll be on the roster.

In 2019, the Dallas Cowboys be looking at a WR depth chart of Michael Gallup, Allen Hurns, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson, as your top four.

Reviewing Notes from Dallas Cowboys Day Two of OTA's 1

Dallas Cowboys' LB Jaylon Smith

Clear Eye View

The last thing I want to touch on is Jaylon Smith. For two years he's been one of the top stories for the Dallas Cowboys as we've watched and waited to see what his knee was going to do. It seems like things are progressing really well for Smith and he's going to be a better player in 2018 because of it.

"Jaylon Smith has some pass rush moves as a blitzer. He put a nice little side step move past Ezekiel Elliott in order to put some pressure on Dak Prescott. Elliott is one of the better pass blockers in the league and after the move, he had to scramble a bit just to get his hands on Smith."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

The thing I find intriguing with the combination of Smith, Sean Lee, and rookie Leighton Vander Esch is that they all have shown a penchant for blitzing in their careers, even if it was just in college.

This is going to allow for a versatile defense that can line up in a variety of defensive fronts. Whether they are in a base 4-3 or in a nickel 3-3-5, Rod Marinelli is going to be able to mix up his blitz packages, especially if Jaylon shows a marked improvement in his lateral movement. Coverage was a weakness for Smith last year, but if he can improve, the linebacker versatility will be a strength for the defense.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

There are a lot of practices still to come and some very interesting training camp battles to watch. What's the most intriguing camp battle for you?



I didn't start out as a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quickly as I could. I grew up a Joe Montana fan when he was with the 49ers and followed him to the Chiefs, until we moved to Texas. I've now been a Fan of the Boys since the Dark Days of the Post-Aikman, Pre-Romo era of abysmal quarterback play, now relishing in more than a decade of franchise quarterbacking for America's Team.

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13 Comments
  • Albert Smith

    Byron is in his 4th yr and they’ve picked his 5th year option.

  • Travis Diggs

    To me the most intriguing position is the safety position. I like Xavier Woods, i think he will take the next step and get better. I don’t believe the same thing can be said for Jeff Heath .While he is serviceable at times, i don’t believe he is a starter in this league, for the cowboys he is, but no other team in the NFL would employ him as a starter .Whether it’s Kavon Frazier, UDFA Tyree Robinson, or somebody else.
    Cowboys fans and writers love Jeff Heath for some reason but let’s be honest, Name a NFL team other than us he would start for?? Loyalty to these under performing players has been a problem with us for a while now .

    • Fingaz

      I thought Frazier would start at SS and Woods at FS… we shall see.
      Unless Richard sees something we haven’t, Heath has been a good back up and ST guy.

    • oneputter

      i’m with you on this one. 38 has done a decent job but way to often is out of position. he’s a good ST player and as a back up.

      frazier is a down in the box player who can lay the wood. woods is the back end guy who can also bring the pop but his size might be a concern with the new coach, he likes them long and lean.

      i would like to see one of the new guys step up. as you mention Robinson or even k kelly over into the FS spot, both long and lean and ball hawks.

    • John Williams

      It’s likely you’ll see a Three man rotation at Safety. Heath and Frazier on Run downs and Woods and Heath on Passing downs or when teams go to 11 – personnel.

      • Travis Diggs

        Im guessing your one of the Writers/Fans i was mentioning in my post. Three man rotation with Heath on passing downs??? What game tape are you watching, good offenses take advantage of him. I asked a question in my post, What other NFL team would employ Jeff Heath as a starter besides the Cowboys?? Somebody answer this question for me .I got two names for you, Tyree Robinson and Kam Kelly

        • John Williams

          Heath isn’t as much of a liability when asked to cover deep like he’s been asked to do many times. He isn’t the best safety out there, but also it’s really hard to find elite safety play in the NFL.

          You aren’t going to play Frazier over Heath on passing downs. Perhaps Robinson can take Heath’s job, but that’s asking a lot of an undrafted rookie.

          Last year when the defense was bad, it wasn’t because of Heath, it was because of the linebackers. Jaylon and Damien Wilson got picked apart in the Green Bay and Los Angeles games.

          Heath is a popular whipping boy, but he’s a solid presence on the defense.

          • Sexcdex Xfact

            Agreed
            There’s just too much and to go around on both sides of the ball, coaching, players, owners getting in the way & distractions from players & owner alike
            My God, we’re blessed to have had as decent of a year as we did
            But could’ve /should’ve had better by all accounts

  • LD Jackson

    Has anyone seen Charles Tapper? I wondered if he was involved in the OTAs.

    • John Williams

      Tapper has been out there at OTAs running with the second team at Left Defensive End.

      • LD Jackson

        I’m hopeful that he can stay healthy this year. I think he has a tremendous amount of upside if he does.

        • John Williams

          I agree. He would provide some nice depth on the defensive line. They may be forced to keep six defensive ends if Tapper is healthy and Gregory is reinstated.

        • John Williams

          I think so too. It’s really hard to produce sacks in the quick passing, quick tempo Big 12.

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Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?

Sean Martin

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Despite Late Push in Year One, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See the Field in 2018? 1
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.

These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.

Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.

Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton, DT Maliek Collins (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.

This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.

Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.

The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.

It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.

Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.

As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.

For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.

Tell us what you think about "Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Cowboys OT La’el Collins Could Become Major Bargain

Jess Haynie

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La'el Collins

When you talk Cowboys offensive line, you always think of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin first. Right Tackle La'el Collins still has to prove he belongs in the same sentence with his elite teammates. If he does that in 2018, Collins could become one of the best bargains on the roster.

Making the move from left guard to right tackle last year, Collins improved with time and was playing his best football at the end of the year. This was despite ongoing back issues that had him on the injury report most weeks.

La'el started all 16 games at right tackle and did enough that the Cowboys committed to keeping him there in 2018, even despite a big hole back at left guard. They are hoping consistency and stability will allow Collins to really blossom this season, building on the strong progress shown last year.

For 2018, Collins has a $5.76 million cap hit. According to Spotrac, that makes him the 13th-most expensive right tackle in the NFL this year.

That middle-of-the-pack expense is consistent with where La'el currently rates among NFL right tackles. Bleacher Report ranked Collins as the 16th-best RT in football last year.

But that ranking was based on the season as a whole. If La'el plays all of 2018 the way he was playing towards the end of last year, he will have emerged as one of the better right tackles in the game.

La'el Collins' Position Flex Could Come in Handy for Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys OT La'el Collins

If Collins develops as we hope, that salary suddenly becomes a major bargain. The most expensive right tackles in the NFL are making $7-$9 million this season.

But this can go a couple of ways. With his 2019 cap hit rising to $7.9 million, La'el needs to next step forward.

If Collins were to struggle this year, it could make him a potential cap casualty next offseason. Dallas can save $6.5 million in cap space if Collins is released or traded in 2019.

Dallas could elect to give Connor Williams, their second-round pick this year, a look at right tackle next season. It's the position he played in college.

They could also consider veteran backup Cameron Fleming, who will still be just 26-year-old. Fleming has two Super Bowl rings and several starts, including in the postseason, from his time with the Patriots.

While we think of La'el Collins as a first-round talent, it's important to remember that he was ultimately an undrafted free agent. Dallas did not have to invest anything to acquire him, and ultimately that makes it easier to let him go.

Naturally, we prefer the other side of this coin. If Collins builds on 2017, he will join the upper echelon of right tackles in the league. And if the Cowboys' offensive line isn't already the best in the NFL, that would only cement them as the best unit in football.

If La'el makes the leap, it could mean huge things for the Cowboys' offense and team success this year.



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Dallas Cowboys

How Cowboys Could Benefit From Randy Gregory’s Suspension

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Randy Gregory Withdraws Suspension Appeal, Cannot Return Until Week 15

Randy Gregory is back! His suspension is officially over and he will be able to join the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California when training camp gets underway less than a week from now.

Speculation has already started as to what this could mean for the Dallas Cowboys defense this season, and shockingly expectations are rather high for a player who hasn't stepped foot on the field in over a year. But, that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to focus on Gregory's mess of a contract, because it is rather interesting.

Randy Gregory was signed to a four-year contract after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gregory's rookie deal was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season, but his multiple suspensions have now changed that expiration date.

You see, Gregory has only played in a total of 14 games in his career, 12 as a rookie and two in Year 2. His third year in the NFL was completely wiped out due to his year-long suspension. If you were to add that all up, it equates to just one accured season in the NFL. Remember that, because it could have a huge impact on his contract down the road.

Randy Gregory

Dallas Cowboys DE Randy Gregory

What all of this means is that the Cowboys can pretty much stretch out Gregory's contract now that they are three years in on the deal and have only gotten one accured season out of the agreement. That basically means they can push his contract back a year, meaning his 2017 salary ($731,813) gets pushed back to 2018, his 2018 salary ($955,217) gets pushed to 2019. That would essentially make him a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in 2020.

Or does it?

Depending on how the Dallas Cowboys handled paying Randy Gregory during his suspension could actually make him an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (EFA). This is a similar situation in which David Irving found himself in after the 2017 season. The Cowboys placed a second-round tender on him in order to secure his services for another season, albeit at a $2.91 million price tag.

As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys pretty much hold all the cards when it comes to Randy Gregory's contract situation. It's all a little confusing, but that's what makes it such a unique and interesting situation.

Of course, the Cowboys could decide to extend Gregory early if he completely dominates upon his return this season. It's highly doubtful though considering his past suspensions, but still technically a possibility. If it does happen, you can go ahead and ignore everything I've written previously.



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