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Projecting the Cowboys Statistical Team Leaders for 2017

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Dallas Cowboys Have Young Foundation Defensive Players To Build Around
Tom Pennington / Getty Images

The NFL offseason can be a hard time to get through. July is the month when I'll randomly watch any replay of any Cowboys game. It's also the time of the year when, out of nowhere, I'll look up stats from any NFL player just because I'm curious how many tackles he had, or how many touchdowns he scored.

Last week, I was looking through Cowboys stats. This left me wondering, which players would lead each category this year, as the Cowboys try to compete for a Super Bowl.

I thought it would be a fun exercise to predict the Cowboys team leaders for 2017 in each category.

Predicting The Offensive Leaders

Note: I skipped both passing and rushing categories. Even with all the suspension talk going on lately, I still see Ezekiel Elliott leading the team, and frankly, I don't know who wouldn't. As for the passing categories, we all know who Dak Prescott is, right?

Can WR Cole Beasley Replicate His 2016 Production?

Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Cole Beasley #11

Dak's Best Friend: WR Cole Beasley, Receptions

  • 2016 receptions leader: WR Cole Beasley (75)
  • Honorable mention: TE Jason Witten (69)

Last year, Beasley led the team for most receptions with 75. He was a fundamental piece for Dak's development as a rookie and he will step up again this year. For Prescott's sophomore season, I'm picking Beasley to lead the team in this category once again.

I expect the 5'8" WR to have an even better year when it comes to receptions. Dak Prescott will throw a lot more than last year, and there's no reason to believe his favorite target won't remain being Beasley.

Besides, the QB-friendly receiver now has a clone of himself in Ryan Switzer, which could help his game even more. I don't know how defenses will come up with a game plan to stop such a loaded offense.

However, I don't expect him to lead the team in yards as he did in 2016.

Predicting Cowboys Team Leaders for 2017

Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Dez Bryant #88 (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Throw Up The X: WR Dez Bryant, Receiving Yards/Touchdowns

  • 2016 receiving yards leader: WR Cole Beasley (833)
  • 2016 receiving TDs leader: WR Dez Bryant (8)

Remember when Dez had an awesome season in 2014?

88 catches, 1,320 yards, and 16 touchdowns. Then 2015 happened, which ended up knocking him out of the top-5 WR conversation. 2016 though, was not ideal at first, including the fact that he suffered another injury.

When he came back though... well, he came back.

A quick look at the numbers is more than enough. (If the chart below seems familiar to you, that's because you read fellow writer Christopher Wätjen's great article on Dez Bryant. And if you haven't, you should.)

Why Dez Bryant is About to Have His Best Season Ever 1

For Dez, it's all about remaining healthy. This time his quarterback is not a rookie. This time, defenses will respect Cole Beasley way more. And well, we all know you can't forget about the running game when you're facing Ezekiel Elliott.

Only reason why he didn't lead in these categories last year, is the fact that he missed three games.

This year, no one will stop him. ('Specially not you, Josh Norman).

Predicting The Defensive Leaders

Maliek Collins

Dallas Cowboys Defensive Tackle Maliek Collins #96

Inside Pressure: DT Maliek Collins, Sacks

  • 2016 sacks leader: DE Benson Mayowa (6)

This was a tough one. And you may think this is a bold prediction, but is it really?

Collins didn't miss a single game last year. After a very good rookie season, I expect him to be the Cowboys defensive lineman with the most snaps played at the end of the year. Collins had five sacks last year as a rookie. This year, he will be on the field most of the time and is arguably the best DL on the team.

If David Irving hadn't been suspended for four games, he would definitely be my pick. Missing four games may be a little bit too much though.

With such uncertainty among the edge rushers, however, it wouldn't come as a surprise if a defensive tackle ends up leading the sack category. I don't expect the Cowboys to have a great pass rush, but I do see Collins getting 8-10 sacks as well as an improved DL.

Anthony Brown

Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Anthony Brown #30

CB Anthony Brown, Interceptions

Intercepting the ball is something our defense has struggled to do these past years. Right now, our secondary is without a doubt promising. After heavily addressing the position this offseason, the Cowboys now have a group of athletic and young DBs.

However, lots of these players have a lot to prove before we consider them a great secondary.

After being drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Anthony Brown looks to become the CB1 for the Dallas Cowboys. Throughout his rookie year, he made a lot of plays in big moments and was consistently good in coverage. After losing Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr this offseason, Brown will need to step up.

He is the best outside corner on the roster right now. This year, a projected starter, Brown will be around the ball more often and hopefully, he will produce the takeaways this defense so desperately needs.

Also, rookies Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie both show a lot of promise and were known for their takeaways in college. This could end up being a very productive secondary, and a dominant one for years to come.

Sean Lee Receives High Praise From Pro Football Focus

Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Sean Lee #50

Defense General: LB Sean Lee, Tackles/Tackles For Loss

  • 2016 tackles and tackles for loss leader: LB Sean Lee (93/13)

Sean Lee might not be the MIKE of this defense, but he is the most important linebacker on the team.

Last year he led the team with 93 tackles and 52 assists, combining for 145 tackles. He also was the best in tackles for loss, leading the team with 13. Lee was all over the field last year. Not only was he the best LB on the team, but one of the best in the NFL.

In a Cowboys defense which is full of question marks, Sean Lee is one of the most important players on the roster, and the most important on defense.

Picking any other player from the Cowboys to lead this category is an absolute bold prediction.

Byron Jones

Dallas Cowboys Safety Byron Jones #31 (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

Completion Denied: S Byron Jones, Passes Defended

  • 2016 passes defended leader: S Byron Jones (10)

Perhaps Byron Jones hasn't lived up to the hype in the INT department, but he is still one of the best defenders on the team and is an essential piece to this secondary.

He has led the team in passes defended both in 2016 and 2015. Last year he had 10, which is a number that can be improved a lot, and with a group of young and athletic DBs, it's fair to think it will.

Byron Jones is one of my favorite Cowboys right now, as he appears to save the team from a lot of big plays. I expect Jones to have his best season this year and hopefully, he can even add a few interceptions.

Jason Witten

Dallas Cowboys Tight End Jason Witten #82

Life After Doug Free: Jason Witten, Penalties

I added this as a little bonus.

Discussing this article with Inside The Star Staff Writer, Jess Haynie, he came up with including the penalties category. Doug Free seemed to draw a flag every week and after his retirement, we wondered who would be the player with the most penalties this year.

We said the same name at the same time.

Jason Witten is my favorite Cowboys player of all time, I love the guy. But to be honest, he is not the same athletic tight end he once was, and he did draw yellow flags once in a while.

Be it false starts or offensive holdings, I'm picking Mr. Reliable to make Doug Free the most proud. This doesn't mean I expect him to have a bad year at all.

Is September here yet?

Do you agree or disagree with these predictions?

Let us know in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly live show Primero Cowboys!

Tell me what you think about "Projecting the Cowboys Statistical Team Leaders for 2017" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


I love to write, I love football and I love the Dallas Cowboys. I've been rooting for America's team all the way from Mexico ever since I can remember. If you want to talk football, I'm in... You'll find me at @PepoR99.

Star Blog

Should Cowboys Sign This RFA to a Contract Sheet?

Brian Martin

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Should Cowboys Sign This RFA to a Contract Sheet?

Fortune favors the bold. It's a rough translation of an old Latin proverb and the mantra I believe the Dallas Cowboys should indoctrinate this offseason.

I think it's time the Dallas Cowboys start to make a few bold moves. I truly believe they are close to competing for a championship title and one or two offseason moves could increase those odds. One such move would be to sign restricted free agent (RFA) Shaquil Barrett to an offer sheet.

It's expected that the Denver Broncos will place a second-round tender on Barrett and I think the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to explore the possibility of signing him to a contract sheet. If Denver declines to match the offer, the Cowboys would then send them their second round draft pick as compensation.

You on board?

Probably not at this point, but let me try to explain why I believe this is a good move on the Cowboys part, even if it is an uncharacteristic one.

You see, the Cowboys could definitely use someone to play opposite DeMarcus Lawrence and I think Shaquil Barrett could be the solution.

I know it sounds like a lot to give up a second round draft pick, but the Cowboys have been deplorable at drafting players in the second round the past decade. Sean Lee, DeMarcus Lawrence, and possibly Jaylon Smith have really been the only "hits" the Cowboys have found in the second round. That's simply unacceptable!

So, why not use that second rounder to acquire a player who is already a proven commodity in the NFL?

Shaquil Barrett

Denver Broncos OLB Shaq Barrett (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

I know the first thing a lot of you are going to do is to look up Shaquil Barrett's stats to see what he has accomplished in the NFL. But, stats don't always show the big picture.

You see, Barrett has been stuck behind some pretty talented pass rushers in Denver, so his statistics aren't going to jump off the paper. But, when given the opportunity he has proven he deserves a larger role. That's where the Dallas Cowboys come in.

The Broncos probably don't have the money to keep Shaquil Barrett if the Cowboys sign him to a contract sheet. It doesn't necessarily even have to be a big money contract offer. The Broncos simply don't have the salary cap to do much, especially considering they are still looking for a starting quarterback.

I honestly like the idea of the Cowboys going after Barrett. You may have forgotten, but he gave a healthy Tyron Smith fits last season.

With an injured Shane Ray, Shaquil Barrett got the start against the Cowboys in 2017 and finished the game with two quarterback hits, six QB pressures, and five stops. No other player found that kind of success against Tyron Smith all season, even when he was banged up.

Unfortunately, when Shane Ray returned, Barrett's usage on defense declined. That's why you can't always judge a players productivity by statistics. You have to judge him more on a per-snap basis, and if you do that you will discover he was very effective as both a pass rusher and run stopper.

I believe Barrett is ready for a full-time role. Yes, he has been used as a standup 3-4 OLB with the Broncos, but he has the required traits to put his hand on the ground and maintain his effectiveness.

The downside to all of this is the Dallas Cowboys would have to give up their second-round draft pick, but draft picks are sometimes overvalued anyways. Shaquil Barrett is probably better than anybody the Cowboys could draft in the second round, so I say pull the trigger.

Should the Cowboys sign Shaquil Barrett to a contract sheet?


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Could a Former Division Rival be Cowboys’ LG Solution?

Brian Martin

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Could Former Division Rival be Cowboys' OG Solution?

When it comes to prioritizing the Dallas Cowboys offseason needs, offensive guard is definitely near the top of the list. Opinions will certainly vary, but for me, solidifying the offensive line with a new starting left guard is the top priority for the Cowboys.

I know many of you will disagree and believe the Dallas Cowboys need to continue to upgrade their defense. But, this teams success or failure will be determined by how their offensive line performs. That's just the way the Cowboys are built, which is why they have invested so heavily putting this unit together.

Four out of five of the Dallas Cowboys starting offensive line is set in stone, but there is currently no one on the roster to step into the vacant left guard position unless you want to see the coaching staff give Chaz Green another try.

No, I didn't think so.

With the start of the 2018 free agency just a few weeks away, the Dallas Cowboys have certainly narrowed down some of the potential free agents they would be interested in bringing aboard if the price is right. Remember, they have turned into "bargain shoppers".

There are a few intriguing free agent options who I believe could step in to upgrade the LG position for the Cowboys next season, and not break the bank. One such option is a former division rival of the New York Giants, Justin Pugh.

Justin Pugh

New York Giants OL Justin Pugh

The former 19th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft has spent five years in New York while playing out his rookie contract, but that time has come to an end. The Giants aren't likely to re-sign him, which means he will get his first taste of free agency.

Justin Pugh could step in and be an immediate upgrade over what the Dallas Cowboys employed at the left guard position in 2017. He has exceptional mobility. He reaches the second level with ease and plays with good body control and footwork. He is a perfect fit in a zone blocking scheme like the Cowboys employ.

Pugh is also versatile. He has played both right tackle and offensive guard for the Giants. He of course would be asked to play between Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith at LG with the Cowboys, but versatility to play another position is never a bad thing.

Unfortunately, Pugh doesn't come without baggage. He has missed a total of 13 games over the last two seasons with the Giants, including eight last season due to a back injury. This is definitely a huge red flag, especially for the Cowboys after dealing with the same issue with Tyron Smith.

But, this is why Justin Pugh will likely be in the Cowboys price range. Sportrac currently estimates his contract at 4 years at $23,983,847, which equates to $5,995,968 annually. I personally think that's a little low for someone of Pugh's caliber and versatility, but it certainly understandable when you take into account his recent injury history.

I personally think this is a longshot to happen because  the Cowboys would prefer to go younger and cheaper, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Do you think Justin Pugh makes sense for the Cowboys?


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Star Blog

Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition
Andy Lyons / Getty Images

Sadly, we can't wake up on Sundays to NFL football. The Dallas Cowboys are not on TV every week for us to watch them play. To make matters worse, we'll have to wait until September to get real football from our favorite team.

But that doesn't mean there's nothing to talk about until then! For the die-hard Cowboys fan, the offseason should be quite entertaining. Free agency will begin in March, and it should be an intense one for Dallas.

They need to handle a tight salary cap while trying to add a bit of help for this football team. Recently, Inside The Star Contributor John Williams wrote an in-depth piece about the Cowboys' cap situation and how they can manage to get things done, despite having little cap space right now.

Last season, I wrote a weekly Cowboys Wishlist about things I wanted to see for each game. Now there are no games, but I decided to write a special edition for this upcoming free agency.

Cowboys en Español: El Futuro de David Irving y DeMarcus Lawrence

Dallas Cowboys DL David Irving, DeMarcus Lawrence (Kevin Jairaj / USA TODAY Sports)

Wish #1: Keep The Rushmen

The front office will have one hell of a challenge trying to retain all of its free agents. The two most important ones may be their two defensive linemen. If they can keep them, DL won't be a top need heading to the Draft.

Lawrence is one of the biggest names in free agency this 2018, but the Cowboys should find a way to keep him from ever being available.

If they're able to franchise tag him, that'd be the way to go since he's only had one elite season in his four-year career and they may not want to sign him to a huge long-term deal and risk not seeing the same guy next season.

David Irving is a more polarizing player, with off-the-field issues. However, he's been a very disruptive guy and he has the chance to be a unique player. His talent is really out of this world. Keeping him and Irving would give this franchise a top defensive line for the first time in many years.

Anthony Hitchens 1

Dallas Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchens (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Wish #2: Pay Anthony Hitchens

When healthy, Sean Lee is one of the NFL's top linebackers. He is simply an outstanding player who's always around the ball and seems to know where the ball is going before the opposing coach even calls the play.

The problem is, he has a lot of trouble remaining available. Anthony Hitchens is a guy who's found the way to step up every time the General is out, and he's shown a great progression as a player year after year.

Lee will be 32 by the time the season starts, giving Dallas something to think about. Hitchens is a guy capable of starting and competing in the NFL. If the front office finds a way to keep him, they'll be getting closer to being less "Sean Lee-dependent."

Wish #3: Get Seattle Seahawks' Earl Thomas

When we talk about a potential big name addition to the Dallas Cowboys, we're usually a bit pessimistic. This team isn't one that makes splashes like this, but Earl Thomas to Dallas makes a ton of sense. Former Seahawks' defensive coordinator is now the Cowboys' defensive backs' coach.

With Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis (and maybe Byron Jones moving to CB), this team will have a promising secondary. Add Earl Thomas, and it will go from "promising" to "great" in a heartbeat.

The Cowboys could not only have a top DL, but a top secondary if they're able to get this veteran.

Let's hope the Cowboys listen to Thomas and they go get him.

A Case For Dez Bryant Remaining a Dallas Cowboy in 2018

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Wish #4: Get Dez Bryant to Take a Pay Cut

When I started writing this, I wanted to add a "get this wide receiver in FA"... but I won't. A few weeks ago, I wrote a case in favor and one against Dez Bryant remaining a Cowboy in 2018. Personally, I would be fine with him parting ways with the team.

However, I'm aware of how hard it can be finding a replacement for a guy like #88. The biggest issue with Dez is definitely his cap hit. He hasn't justified the money he's being paid on the field as he should be.

If they can get him to take a pay cut, it may end up being the ideal scenario for the Dallas Cowboys.

It'll be a very interesting offseason, and here at Inside The Star we'll continue to provide you with content about it all.

Tell me what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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