Roster projections feel eerily like fantasy football rosters, and I’m no fan of fantasy football. There’s no bigger beating than some bloke at work outwardly wrestling in self-debate over whether to start Ryan Tannehill or Carson Palmer. If you’re said bloke, trust me on this, NOBODY CARES……EVER.
That said, I readily admit that roster projections hit closer to home when it comes to our team, especially right now, a mere 18 scorching days from Showtime. It’s good fun to guess along with what the coaches are thinking.
Fascinating machinations are taking place across the league, as position coaches fight for their respective units and guys. Every team is different, heavy in certain positions and dangerously thin in others. The defensive front seven is the painfully obvious worry here, so my list carries the more obvious legal disclaimer: “Ain’t all our dudes here yet.”
And so, my would-be 53…
Quarterbacks (2): Tony Romo, Brandon Weeden
Romo looks like Romo right now. How long that will continue lies in the dastardly mood of a surgically repaired disc that we all hope takes about a six-month spasm nap. Weeden’s tools are apparent, although it remains mysterious if a quarterback can actually be cured from Brown Syndrome. I feel just fine if he has to manage a couple of games this year. Dustin Vaughan would be kept on a better team, but too many holes elsewhere won’t allow such luxury, so it’s practice squad hopes for him here.
Running backs (5): DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar, Joseph Randle, Ryan Williams, Tyler Clutts
J.C. Copeland is this year’s Adrian Hamilton, an overhyped internet phenomenon that simply can’t play in the NFL. Clutts is a decent lead blocker who also has some usefulness as a pass catcher, and this offense needs a fullback to go with the road-graders up front. Dallas is going to be one of the best running and screen teams in the league, as weird as that is to write. I simply can’t cut Ryan Williams. I find a way to keep him and Randle, especially with the injury histories of Murray and Dunbar. However, the needs at defensive line might make this a pipe dream. Personally, I keep a good back over a nobody defensive lineman, but they likely won’t think that way.
The Rubik’s Cube at defensive line will prevent it, but I think the Cowboys would like to go six receivers. Unfortunately, there are some good receivers that have to be cut, including Jamar Newsome and LaRon Byrd (and others). Thankfully, the top five keepers are young, versatile, dynamic, and trusted by the QB. Even Street seems to have the sense when it comes to running routes and knowing what to do, for a young guy. That far exceeds talent in the NFL; just ask Dez, who took time to earn Romo’s trust.
Tight ends (3): Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, James Hanna
Much uncertainty still, but much hope, too. Escobar shows hints that he is going to arrive soon as a big weapon in an expansive arsenal at Linehan’s disposal. Hanna is in a crux year because he hasn’t done a thing to earn a bigger veteran check. All flash and no sustained substance so far, and that drop Saturday was cankles ugly.
The days of old are returning. Time to maul some people. This group gives me hope that Romo, in fact, can play a good while longer because the run and screen game could be the best in the business soon. Jermey Parnell is the odd man out, especially if Weems returns healthy soon. Parnell isn’t worthy of the salary he now commands, and he’s not developing at all. Same dude as before, with younger, cheaper players with more upside on hand. Plus, Martin can play tackle, and Bernadeau can play center, so versatility accents what has become a reliable strength of this team. In fact, if needed, this unit could open the season with only eight lineman. Kudos to the rebuilding of this unit.
Defensive line (9): George Selvie, Anthony Spencer, Jeremy Mincey, Tyrone Crawford, Henry Melton, Terrell McClain, Nick Hayden, Ken Bishop, Davon Coleman
I'm afraid that immediate need will force Dallas to put DeMarcus Lawrence on short-term injury, so he’s out six games. The waiver wire offers some hope to a question-laden group of almosts, coulda-beens, and never-wases. Making the cut won’t mean much until these guys see kickoff on September 7th, because the personnel department will be working overtime scouring cuts around the league. My hope is that they pick the right eight guys by then, and then we see a gradual IMPROVEMENT as the season wears on. The return of Spencer and Lawrence will obviously help (and perhaps Josh Brent), but the other guys have to get better as this season wears on. My only optimism lies in that somewhat logical improvement. Sounds eerily like peace in the Middle East.
Linebacker (6): Justin Durant, Kyle Wilber, Rolando McClain, Bruce Carter, DeVonte Holloman, Anthony Hitchens
Dallas desperately needs Rolando McClain to continue to return to the player he was before. It looks promising, but a lot of work and commitment still to go. Durant is having the best camp of any linebacker, but he needs to be somewhere other than the middle in my opinion. Bruce Carter might be headed for backup status, and ultimately off this team next year altogether. He’d better show big soon and consistently. Still, I do think this could be a decent group in the end, and it’s ultra critical that they are.
Cornerback (6): Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick, Morris Claiborne, Sterling Moore, Terrance Mitchell, B.W. Webb
Scandrick’s suspension might have saved Webb’s bacon for now, and it’ll be interesting to find out if Tyler Patmon can win Webb’s spot in the next two weeks. Still, I think Webb holds on, especially if he can show up in special teams. The waiver wire won’t offer much because teams simply don’t cut good corners these days. When healthy and unsuspended, this is a more than serviceable group.
Safety (5): Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Jakar Hamilton, Ahmad Dixon, Jeff Heath
I like this unit when it’s healthy because I’m a believer in Church and Wilcox. They’re going to get better and better. Heath and Dixon will be critical special teamers, but you just don’t want them on the field in anything other than dime packages. Most teams are thin at safety beyond their starters, too, so the same thing generally rings true around the NFL.
Specialists (3): Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur
Rock solid here, though I wouldn’t mind a more dynamic punter. Bailey is a godsend to this team, and Ladouceur might be long-snapping here for the next two decades. Why didn’t I learn how to do that? Best gig on the planet.
Cowboys Defense is Ready to Win Now, Time for Offense to Prove the Same
The Dallas Cowboys lead the NFC East at 1-1, and have a favorable schedule ahead of them. With such an inexperienced roster, early season growing pains were expected, and likely should be still as the team comes off their first win to play in Seattle on Sunday.
Through a season opening clunker in Carolina and hard-earned divisional win against the Giants, the Cowboys have exceeded already high expectations on defense.
With the currently 0-2 Seahawks, Lions, and Texans awaiting Dallas, the time is now for Scott Linehan's offense to hit their stride. It will take more than a five week assessment to determine if the Cowboys are truly playoff contenders for 2018, but it could take even less than that for Cowboys Nation to realize this team is fighting an uphill battle at QB and WR.
Following Dak Prescott's 64-yard touchdown pass to Tavon Austin against the Giants, the Cowboys punted on four of their remaining seven drives. The Cowboys did a better job mixing up their early down play calling to remain ahead of the chains for most of the night, but even still their execution was lacking. Finishing three of ten on third downs, the Cowboys didn't sustain the type of originality on offense that earned them an early cushion.
Thankfully, the Cowboys turning back the clock to 2016 on a clinching touchdown drive of 14 plays would be all the defense needed. Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott would both convert a pair of first downs on the ground. The Cowboys took a 20-3 lead, and more importantly the game clock down to 5:45 with an eight minute and 23 second march.
As such, the Cowboys offense is an enigma. With the return of Brice Butler, the team is currently carrying seven wide receivers and four tight ends.
On defense, the Cowboys are expecting reinforcements in Xavier Woods, Randy Gregory, and David Irving to further bolster this aggressive, blitzing unit in the coming weeks. For the offense, Dallas must make the most out of the unknown depth they have, without any drastic change in style around the corner.
The Cowboys record under Prescott proves they're at their best when Dak is efficient. The ceiling for a new-look Cowboys offense built for Dak is not as high for this reason. Through just two weeks, it's clear that the Cowboys offense will be as good as the sum of its parts - instead of relying on any individual talents.
Cowboys' record when Dak Prescott ... Doesn't throw an interception: 20-4 Records at least a 100.0 passer rating: 15-1 Commits no turnovers: 18-1
After a strong preseason from rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup, the third-round pick has played less than half his team's offensive snaps through two games. Cole Beasley has seemed to regain his connection with Prescott, snagging a team high nine catches so far. Terrance Williams has been a non-factor, and the same is surprisingly said about FA acquisition Allen Hurns.
Regardless of what the Cowboys do over the coming weeks, a few narratives and lingering questions about the team feel evident. With the defense set to tee off against the Seahawks sub par OL this week, Rod Marinelli's unit will still likely not receive the credit it deserves heading into week four.
With the task at hand being maintaining their standing atop the division, the Cowboys must also be out to prove they can sustain success without a consistent passing game.
All of this to effectively say, the Cowboys are going to Seattle expecting to control the game on defense. To finish off Russell Wilson in his home opener (already at 0-2), it will take a sharper performance for a full four quarters on offense too.
A win at the Seahawks might not mean as much as it has in past seasons, but in improving the Cowboys record to 2-1 on the way back to AT&T Stadium, it could be all the confidence they need to understand the NFC East is theirs for the taking while continuing to truly find their identity.
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Cowboys Defense So Far So Good as Seahawks Up Next
Dallas may only be 1-1 on the season, but the Cowboys are officially tied for first-place in the NFC East, and fresh off a workmanlike victory over divisional rivals, the New York Giants. It was a game they should have won, and did win, but the takeaways so early in the season are that, although the offense has not clicked on all cylinders, the defense is getting high praise.
The Cowboys sacked New York’s Eli Manning six times and limited the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Saquon Barkley, to a mere 28 yards rushing. It was also a night in which Dak Prescott not only out-gained Barkley by 17 yards on the ground, but torched the Giants’ secondary on a 64-yard touchdown strike to Tavon Austin which proved New York’s Safety Landon Collins wrong when leading up to this game he remarked that the key to a Giants’ victory would be getting Prescott to throw. When Prescott was made aware of the comment in a midweek interview he replied, "…challenge accepted," and the third-year veteran made good on his word leading to the 20-13 victory.
However, Prescott ended the night with just 160 yards passing yet the ankle injury he sustained in Week 1 showed no signs of rearing its head as Prescott moved seamlessly in the pocket and ran the ball well.
As we move ahead to the Cowboys meeting in Seattle, we take a quick check over to one of the most reputable online sportsbooks in the industry - Intertops according to the reviews - where we can monitor the line on this pivotal NFC clash as the week progresses.
Seattle boasts a talented quarterback of their own in Russell Wilson but one who will find the sledding tough if the Dallas defense continues to shut down All-World wide outs like Odell Beckham Jr. and contain future rushing stars like Saquon Barkley. Outside of Wilson, Seattle is not loaded offensively, with their biggest target, Doug Baldwin, ailing with a knee injury and a backfield which consists of two young rushers in second-year man Chris Carson and a first-round rookie in Rashaad Penny who dealt with nagging injuries throughout the preseason and looked unsettled in Seattle’s 27-24 loss to the Broncos.
The Cowboys defense has already proven its worth in Carolina with Cam Newton under center and again last week against New York. The unit is surrendering an average of 14 ½ points per game and is incorporating more blitz packages than we’ve come to expect.
The difference this year is that the players they have on defense are capable of getting to the quarterback quick enough so that the coverage linebackers and secondary aren’t alone on an island for too long. The one concern is the status of Linebacker Sean Lee, who checked out of the game in the fourth quarter Sunday night and brought to mind his hamstring issues of a year ago, but apparently it was in fact cramping, and not straining, of the hammy which allowed Lee to return.
The bottom line in terms of the Cowboys' upcoming matchup on Sunday afternoon is that they will get the Seahawks coming off a short week, as Seattle played on Monday night and should be relatively healthy for the contest.
Dak Prescott may not have the formidable offensive line that he has had in the past, nor a top-tier arsenal of receivers, but he does have the elusive Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield and is capable of extricating himself from pressure situations when no target is available.
If the Dallas defense continues to play at the current level, it will not only be limiting the opposition on the scoreboard but putting its offense in good field position throughout. So check out Intertops, one of the most trusted and reputable online sportsbooks, to see where this line goes because a Dallas win and an ATS cover are just days away.
Taco Tuesday: Cowboys DE Taco Charlton Starting to Dominate?
There has been quite a bit of talk about what a bad decision it was for the Dallas Cowboys to draft Taco Charlton with their first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Nearly everybody wanted someone different, not a player that needed time to develop.
Well, fast forward a year later and it looks as if the Cowboys made the right decision.
Don't look now, but Defensive End Taco Charlton is starting to live up to that first-round pedigree. In the first two weeks of the 2018 season, Charlton has already looked like a much improved player from what we saw a season ago. Imagine that, a little bit of time to develop and he's turning into a solid player.
I know I may be getting a little bit ahead of myself, especially suggesting that he is starting to dominate, but I can't help myself. I'm that excited about how much he has improved in one offseason. I may be alone here, but I have high hopes he could turn into something special.
In 2017, Taco Charlton failed to start a single game for the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie. That's not really what you want from your first-round draft pick. To makes matters worse, in 16 games he only registered 25 total tackles, four QB sacks, two passes defensed, and one forced fumble. As you can imagine, it didn't sit well with most Cowboys fans.
Luckily, it looks as if Charlton's offseason in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program has paid off. Already in 2018 he has accumulated six total tackles, one QB sack, one pass defensed, and recovered a fumble. If he keeps this pace up, we could be looking at #97 reaching double-digit sacks this year.
Now, I wouldn't call what Taco Charlton has accomplished so far this season dominating, but he is proving to be a starting quality DE along the Cowboys defensive line. It's a unit that has looked really good in the first two weeks of the season and is expected to be even better once Randy Gregory and David Irving are able to return to the field.
In the meantime, the Dallas Cowboys are happy to get plays like this from Taco Charlton.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
This is a play Charlton is expected to make. He was left unblocked, but we've seen players left unblocked before not make the play. So, it may not be as impressive as some QB sacks. But, I'll take the routine tackle any day over someone trying to make a splash play and failing.
If you're looking for an impressive play from Taco Charlton, take a look at what he was able to do against Odell Beckham Jr. in the passing game.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
In case you're wondering, that's Taco Charlton in OBJ's hip pocket 15 yards down the field in pass coverage. It looks as if that's where Eli Manning was wanting to go with the ball, but tight coverage by the Cowboys, and Charlton, across the board ended up resulting in a QB sack.
If you don't find that impressive, I don't know what will. A 275 pound DE covering arguably the best and highest paid wide receiver down the field is almost unheard of. I would count that as impressive.
What do you think of Taco Charlton's play so far in 2018?
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