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What Have These Playoffs Taught Us About the Dallas Cowboys?

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Cowboys Blog - What Have These Playoffs Taught Us About the Cowboys? 2

I couldn't help but watch Sunday's games in awe. With the exception of Arizona, these teams seemed absolutely brilliant, both from a personnel and strategic standpoint.

Could the Cowboys have played with these teams? That is a tough question to answer.

My problem with the Dallas Cowboys is their unpredictability. When completely healthy, the common theme for a while now is that the Cowboys will play with some of the league's elite teams and shock you, but they'll struggle, surprisingly, against some of the bad teams.

This makes me think that the Cowboys could have played with these teams this weekend. They play up to their opponents.

Take that out of the equation. Pretend they aren't the Dallas Cowboys. Imagine that personnel, with Jason Garrett and company coaching. Is that a team that can make a deep playoff run? What makes us think they can? What makes us think they can't?

My first observation is that their defense isn't ready yet. It's showing the makings of what some of these teams have, but it isn't there yet. I watched these games and kept thinking to myself how the Cowboys have the infant version of some of these defenses.

I can totally see this Cowboys defense developing into what Denver or Carolina has now. They are kind of lurking in the shadows. From a defense that most said would be historically bad just a year ago, they now have a lot of young and promising talent.

Sean Lee is our Luke Kuechly.

Cowboys Blog - What Have These Playoffs Taught Us About the Cowboys?

Sean Lee is an absolute playmaker. Keep him healthy and prosper

Can Demarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory and Tyrone Crawford develop into a defensive line that strikes fear? Lawrence is that technical guy on the end and Gregory has insane speed and bend. Can those two be a defensive end tandem like Ware and Willer? What will come of David Irving? How about some Terrell McClain?

Byron Jones has all the makings of a rangy free safety and Orlando Scandrick brings that passion and energy to the cornerback position.

If the Cowboys can add more talent to their defensive backfield and re-sign Rolando McClain, they can become a really scary unit.

How about the offense?

I watch the Carolina Panthers and just can't believe what they have. On paper, their offense should be completely mediocre. Their offensive line isn't anything special, their wide receivers are no-names and Jonathan Stewart is far from a running back that garners admiration.

Their offense as a unit...they are unstoppable. This is what intrigues me so much. Their offense clicks and they have a perfect game plan for every game. Plus, Cam Newton is just so good, he elevates the games of everyone around him.

The Cowboys offense needs more cohesion. Find an identity and commit to it. The Cowboys offensive line is the biggest strength of the team and is one of the best units in the entire NFL.

With a healthy Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, coupled with DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys offense looked great in 2014. This is what they should look for going forward. Rely heavily on the run game. This is a zone blocking offensive line, so find a running back that fits that rather than adjust your offensive line to your running back. Darren McFadden should be a complimentary piece as Dallas gets a running back that an entire game flows through.

Cowboys Blog - What Have These Playoffs Taught Us About the Cowboys? 1

The Cowboys offense should be all about their offensive line. Let them completely control the pace of the game.

Let Tony Romo work off of the running game to use Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and company to hit defenses when they least expect it. This offense could be surgical when employed correctly.

Like Carolina does, find something you're great at, use it and then make everything a result of that strength.

In conclusion, the Cowboys aren't too far away from the football we saw this weekend. But in order to make this happen, they must commit to an offensive identity and that means upgrading at the running back position to a guy that can have an entire offense on his shoulders. Whether that guy is Lamar Miller or someone in the draft, a better fit can be had than Darren McFadden.

Defensively, the Cowboys need to continue the development of their promising young players as well as add to their defensive backfield. Forcing turnovers should be an offseason priority. You can get that through several avenues, like improved pass rush from the young players forcing bad quarterback decisions, new talent in the secondary that can force turnovers or scheme changes to trick quarterbacks into mistakes.

The talent is on the Cowboys roster. If they can remain healthy and plug some holes they could find themselves playing deep into the postseason.



I've been blogging about sports and music for almost eight years now. I also work in media relations for a New York sports team, so I understand the bridge between the outlets writing about a team and the team monitoring content. I hope to bring something new to Inside The Star, getting deep into draft work, breakdowns and I always come with a strong and passionate opinion. I'm very active on Twitter, so ask questions, comment on stuff, etc. and I will almost definitely respond to you in some sort of debate!

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Cowboys Twitter Tuesday: Addressing the 2019 53-Man Roster

John Williams

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Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make Cowboys Roster?

For the Dallas Cowboys, the NFL, and the NFL fanbase, the waiting game for the start of training camp has begun. As Tom Petty says, "the waiting is the hardest part." The Dallas Cowboys go open training camp in about five weeks. The first preseason game is 53 days away and week one is less than three months away at this point. It's so close we can taste it.

Each week, I'll gather questions from you the Cowboys Nation community. Each week, we'll hone in on a specific topic based on your questions. So whether it's roster related, salary cap focused, or you have a fantasy football question, don't hesitate to send it to me on Twitter.

This week, we're going to take a look at the Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster.

jesus flores on Twitter

@john9williams Who contributed to last year's team that won't make this year's team?

The 53-man roster will be one of the more debated topics over the next couple of months as the Dallas Cowboys get ready for training camp and the preseason. Every year there are surprises and we should expect the same this year. The Dallas Cowboys have incredible depth through the roster and so there will be at least one name that doesn't make the final 53-man roster who had an impact in 2018.

To answer Jesus' question, I think the easy answer is one of the wide receivers be it Noah Brown, Allen Hurns, or Tavon Austin. This might be a hot take, but I'm going to go a different direction and say guard Xavier Su'a-Filo.

In 2018, Su'a-Filo started eight games for the Dallas Cowboys and though he started out strong for them midseason, his play tailed off before he was injured allowing Connor Williams to regain his starting spot at left guard. The Dallas Cowboys coaching staff loves position flexibility, especially along the offensive line. Su'a-Filo, though he's a solid backup guard option, doesn't have the ability to play multiple positions along the line like his teammates.

Connor Williams can play guard and tackle. Connor McGovern will get snaps at guard and center, and to hear him talk, he can play tackle as well, though that's probably a bit of a stretch. Joe Looney, the Dallas Cowboys starting center for 2018, has the ability to flex out to guard if you need him to.

Because the Dallas Cowboys will have difficult decisions to make at wide receiver and defensive line, they can afford to go light along the offensive line because of the flexibility of players like Williams, Looney, and McGovern.

Tommy on Twitter

@john9williams #CowboysQuestions do we extend Dak before game #1? How many WRs on 53?

I'm gonna leave the Dak Prescott question for another day and address the wide receiver question as several people asked about that position group in particular.

The wide receiver group is a really deep group. With Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, and Allen Hurns, it features three guys who've had at least one 1,000 yard season in their career. Michael Gallup is an ascending player. Tavon Austin is a really nice punt returner and offensive puzzle piece that can take the top off the defense with his downfield speed. I think four of those five are locks to make the roster.

According to Jeff Cavanaugh from 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, the team really likes Allen Hurns and his ability to play inside and outside in the formation. He's solid veteran depth at a low cost.

Then if you include Noah Brown's ability as a receiver and as a blocker, I think you have a very versatile and dangerous group in the passing game. Though the coaches really like Brown's ability to block in the run game, if they don't use him in the passing game, it tips their hand to the defense that the team is going to run. If they're going to keep him on the roster, they have to use him. It's a waste otherwise.

Brown and Hurns to me are on the roster bubble at wide receiver. Talented players like Cedric Wilson, Devin Smith, Jon'vea Johnson, Jalen Guyton, and Reggie Davis have all stood out at one point in time or another during OTAs and minicamp and will make the decision difficult for the coaching staff.

In my most recent roster projection, I had the Dallas Cowboys keeping six wide receivers; Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Being a team on the verge of contending for a Super Bowl, I think they go with veterans who can help them win now.

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That'll do it for this week's edition. Make sure to get your questions in via Twitter, or you can leave them in the comment section for next week's post. Also, don't forget to check out Inside The Star's newest podcast, Cowboys Weekly featuring Managing Editor Bryson Treece and Senior Writer Jess Haynie.



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Does Darius Jackson Have A “Puncher’s Chance” Of Landing On Final Roster?

Kevin Brady

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Darius Jackson, Bengals

Remember Darius Jackson?

The sixth round running back was an instant fan favorite of Cowboys Nation, as the fanbase hoped Dallas had found the explosive RB2 behind Ezekiel Elliott they needed in the very same draft. Jackson, however, had an up-and-down preseason in 2016 and ended up being waived from the team to make room for Darren McFadden later in the year.

Jackson has bounced around the league a bit since then, joining both the Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers at different points. He's back with the Cowboys, however, looking to fight his way onto the team's final roster.

But does the fourth year running back have more than a puncher's chance to do so?

The Cowboys spent much of the 2019 NFL Draft rebuilding their running back depth. First, they drafted Memphis back Tony Pollard hoping to find a versatile and dynamic threat to compliment the workhorse that is Ezekiel Elliott. Then, in the seventh round, Dallas took another Ohio State running back in Mike Weber who fits more of the "traditional" running back form.

So with two new touted rookies behind the veteran Elliott, and fullback Jamize Olawale more than likely having a roster spot as well, there doesn't seem to be room for Darius Jackson on the Dallas Cowboys.

That didn't stop him from competing at OTAs, however. DallasCowboys.com named Darius Jackson one of their top ten "head turners" from the OTA practices, and considering that Mike Weber is banged up at the moment, Jackson will certainly have his opportunities to fight for that spot.

Still, the odds suggest that Darius Jackson will not be with the Cowboys come the Fall of 2019. Though he entered the league with some fanfare for a day three pick, his production has been more fitting of his draft grade than of his fan hype.

Jackson hasn't been the explosive player/receiving back that they're hoping Tony Pollard will be, nor has he been the every-down type backup runner that they seem to hope Mike Weber will be.

In the end, the Cowboys-Darius Jackson story is likely to close during this year's training camp.



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Cowboys Camp: Strong Safety Battle One to Watch

John Williams

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Sean's Scout: Secondary Play, Improved OL Play Stand Out in Cowboys Win Vs. Giants

When the Dallas Cowboys head to Oxnard, California for the start of training camp in late July, they'll have most of the roster settled. On paper, they're a team that doesn't have many holes on the depth chart.

They've added depth at every position and added playmakers on both sides of the football. On defense, there appears to be only one position where the starter heading into training camp may not be the starter come week one. Strong safety.

Veteran Safety Jeff Heath is currently running with the first team defense through the offseason portion of practices. George Iloka and Donovan Wilson were added to the strong safety depth chart featuring Heath and special teams ace Kavon Frazier.

While most teams would be excited about having a returning starter at the position, Heath's 2018 left a lot to be desired. Per Pro Football Focus, Heath missed 19 tackles on the season, which was second in the NFL. It seemed that Heath became more interested in attempting to strip the ball out of the ball carrier's hands than actually making the tackle, which became increasingly frustrating as he forced only a single fumble all season long. Though he had a lot of missed tackles, Heath did finish 15th in the NFL in Pro Football Focus' "stops," which are defined as a "play that results in a loss for the defense." Heath was third on the team in total tackles with 85 and tied with Jaylon Smith for third in tackles for loss with six.

The biggest competition for Heath at strong safety will be veteran George Iloka.

Signed to a one-year contract after spending time with the Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings, Iloka comes to the Dallas Cowboys adding depth at free safety behind Xavier Woods. He also creates competition for Heath at strong safety, which should help Jeff Heath raise his game and get more consistent with his tackling. Iloka has experience and brings good size and length to the secondary, which should help them defend tight ends in the passing game.

Because of his injury, Kavon Frazier could see his playing time evaporate heading into 2019. If he's unable to get healthy and make an impression early, Frazier could miss out on the 53-man roster when the team makes their final roster cuts.

The player that stands to benefit the most from Kavon Frazier's injury, and the one I'm most interested in watching in the Dallas secondary the rest of the preseason is sixth-round draft pick, Donovan Wilson. The rookie from Texas A&M has made several plays in the secondary that stood out during OTAs. Here's what Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com had to say about Donovan Wilson during last week's minicamp.

"I haven’t written much about Donovan Wilson since rookie minicamp, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to mention a nice play he had during the two-minute drill. Kris Richard came with a blitz, which forced Cooper Rush to throw “hot” to Dalton Schultz. Wilson, from several yards away, saw Schultz look up and drove on the ball, arriving at the exact time it hit Schultz’s hands. With his left hand Wilson was able to drag the ball away, knocking it to the ground."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

Wilson will be a player to watch in training camp. The Cowboys have had success finding defensive backs in the late rounds of the draft. Anthony Brown was a fifth-round pick in 2016 and Xavier Woods was a sixth-round selection in 2017. Now Wilson, with his aggressive and physical demeanor will have an opportunity -- this year or next -- to carve out some playing time in a secondary that needs more players who can create turnovers.

Strong safety is one of the few starting spots where there is actual competition for the incumbent starter. Pretty much every other position has returning starters locked into the starting lineup or, in Travis Frederick's and Robert Quinn's cases, a significant talent upgrade that makes them day-one starters.

The competition at strong safety should help everyone be better for the Cowboys in 2019. If Heath is able to hold off Iloka and Wilson to remain the starter, then he will have once again earned it. With the depth they have this season, including two guys who won't be liabilities in pass coverage, the Cowboys have options if Heath misses tackles in 2019 as he did in 2018.



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