With the NFL trade deadline coming and going yesterday without the Dallas Cowboys making a move, their roster for the remainder of the 2017 season is effectively set, sitting at 4-3 with the strong possibility that RB Ezekiel Elliott will not play again until week 15 at the Oakland Raiders.
The Cowboys' young roster is still in a good position to compete, with a 2-0 NFC East record and both meetings with the division leading Eagles ahead.
Ahead of their week nine return home to face the Chiefs, here is how I would rank the Cowboys' roster by position on offense and defense.
1. Offensive Line
This part is easy. The Cowboys' offensive line got off to a slow start on the season in sparking this running game, but both Jonathan Cooper at LG and La'el Collins at RT have transitioned nicely as new starters to open things up on the ground.
The Cowboys offensive line is still the best in the NFL by a decent margin.
In Dak Prescott I trust. Prescott has accounted for 17 touchdowns in seven games, proving that the Cowboys truly found a franchise quarterback in last year's draft. Prescott's yards per attempt may be down from 2016, but #4 has been surgical in the pocket, putting the ball where it needs to be and mostly keeping Dallas ahead of the chains.
Whether or not they play with Ezekiel Elliott for the next six weeks should do little to slow down Dak Prescott's outstanding play, and adding rising QB2 Cooper Rush along with film-room extraordinaire Kellen Moore firmly places quarterback near the top of this list.
3. Defensive End
If you told me that I would be writing this article on October 31st (Happy Halloween!) and putting the Cowboys' edge rushers as their third best unit, I would have been dumbfounded at where the sack production was coming from.
With a healthy DeMarcus Lawrence accounting for 10.5 of the Cowboys' 25 sacks thus far, this team is pressuring opposing quarterbacks with a deep rotation off the edge.
Across from Lawrence at LDE, Tyrone Crawford has amazingly been active as a RDE. It is the consistent production from both of these starters paired with the expected contributions that David Irving, Benson Mayowa, Taco Charlton, and perhaps even Charles Tapper later in the year will make that puts DE at number three on this list.
4. Running Back
Just how far down to slide RB on these rankings was one of the hardest decisions, as we simply don't know how the Cowboys' offense will respond to a probable running back by committee approach.
Should their workhorse, three-down player in Ezekiel Elliott be taken off the field, the Cowboys can turn to a trio of Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, and Rod Smith to replace his skills in different ways.
McFadden is the proven veteran that's been held by Dallas for the better part of two years in the wake of Elliott facing league discipline. Becoming the featured back in 2015, McFadden ran for 1,089 yards but only three touchdowns.
Only a bulk of carries will tell Cowboys Nation if McFadden still has some of that burst and elusiveness left to be effective. If not, it likely means more of Alfred Morris, who has done little in his frustrating efforts taking Elliott off the field again this season.
Brought in because of his scheme fit, Morris has appeared run down ever since transitioning from the Redskins to Cowboys - leaving only Rod Smith as a "change of pace" back with some solid downhill rushing ability and ample talent as a pass catcher.
Will the Cowboys win games without Ezekiel Elliott at RB? Nobody knows.
Will they still be able to run the football with some success? I think so, making RB my fourth strongest unit on the squad.
The story of the Cowboys' 2017 season thus far is told pretty well through the numbers they've had available at the linebacker position. Without Sean Lee, Rod Marinelli's defense is simply lost.
These past two weeks, Dallas has been able to put both Lee and Anthony Hitchens back on the field together, and as a result they've allowed less than 300 total yards in both games.
Just a few weeks ago, I was one of the loudest critics for Jaylon Smith to be taken off the field for his own protection, but even he has taken some strides in his confidence and MIKE LB ability to help the middle of the Cowboys defense.
So long as the Cowboys offense does what they set out to do each week, a defense that has their full linebacker corps will win them games.
6. Wide Receiver
This is a position of need for the Dallas Cowboys. Dez Bryant is still the leader of the Cowboys passing offense at WR, but getting him the ball consistently has been difficult for Scott Linehan. Bryant has 19 career games with two catches or less, three of which have come this season.
Last year's leading receiver, Cole Beasley, has also not been utilized the same way - catching just 18 passes thus far, after snagging 37 through seven games in 2016.
Terrance Williams has been Terrance Williams once again, and fan-favorite Brice Butler has not shown the Dallas coaches enough consistency to take Williams off the field for Butler more.
This leaves rookie WR Ryan Switzer, who has only been thrown the ball twice for two short receptions. Switzer has carried the ball three times for insignificant gains of three yards each time as well.
Dez Bryant being one of the best red zone targets in the entire NFL certainly elevates this unit as he helps them finish drives with touchdowns, but as the Cowboys passing attack opens up these next few weeks it will be fascinating to see who can step up out of this group of pass catchers that have all settled into niche roles.
7. Defensive Tackle
It is here that we find the single most important position in Rod Marinelli's scheme, the 3T DT. With turnover for consecutive seasons at the spot and the lack of a productive 1T though, it is hard to put defensive tackle higher on this list despite the ridiculous numbers David Irving is putting up while lining up inside.
Irving's five sacks in three games at DT have forced Maliek Collins, a perceived breakout star at the position, to slide over to the 1T position. This is not a position that suits Collins' skills all that well, as he is much better working up the field and disengaging blockers on his way to the quarterback.
In a perfect world, Stephen Paea doesn't retire mid-season due to recurring knee injuries, leaving Dallas with a formidable 1T to rotate Collins and Irving at the three. Without Paea however, the likes of Brian Price and Richard Ash have performed as well as the Cowboys could hope inside at defensive tackle.
David Irving is going to continue being a game wrecker at DT for the Cowboys, but the same can't be said for any of the other rotational players here.
When you lose two veteran starters at CB in one offseason, it is hard to fill in a secondary quickly and expect things to work. Amazingly, the Cowboys have been decent at the CB position without being able to rely on sophomore Anthony Brown.
Brown's frequent struggles in coverage is the main reason CB falls so far down this list, as he has left Orlando Scandrick and Jourdan Lewis as the team's two capable cornerbacks.
When healthy, Scandrick has mostly been his usual self in the slot, and the best sign of hope for the Cowboys at CB is the play of rookie Jourdan Lewis. Getting fellow rookie Chidobe Awuzie on the field has been a nightmare for Dallas though, limiting their numbers in the back end defensively.
The Cowboys knew that this would be a transitional year at the CB position, and this transition is going better than expected. Jourdan Lewis is a star in the making.
For now, their lack of depth and experience here slides cornerback down the list.
9. Tight End
Jason Witten could walk into Canton and get a bust and jacket from the Pro Football Hall of Fame anytime he wants. This is of course the leader at TE for the Cowboys once again in 2017, and behind Witten the team has worked James Hanna and Geoff Swaim into regular roles as run blockers.
As a rookie, Dak Prescott had Cole Beasley as his perceived security blanket, but this role has shifted back towards Jason Witten this season.
Geoff Swaim is still a promising young player that is developing well for the Cowboys, but my concern at TE has been with James Hanna. Getting him back on the field as an extra blocker was critical for the Cowboys, but he has not been the same player at the end of the line of scrimmage.
It is highly unlikely that Rico Gathers will contribute on offense this season, leaving these three tight ends as the guys to get it done for the Cowboys.
It says a lot about the overall state of the Cowboys roster when I had such a hard time putting any position last on this list. Another spot that was depleted through free agency, the Cowboys surprising pass rush has made up for some problems in the back end with continuity at safety.
Rotating three safeties in different packages worked brilliantly for Dallas in 2016, but this rotation has yet to be set the same way this season. Finding Byron Jones a reliable partner at safety has not gone as planned, as Jeff Heath quickly proved that he is solely a rotational player.
Without being able to rely on Heath as a "starter", the Cowboys have had to put a ton of warranted confidence into rookie Xavier Woods. Naturally, Woods has his shortcomings as well with failed opportunities to tackle in space and stop the run.
Perhaps unexpectedly, it is the Cowboys front seven carrying their secondary at the moment, and it is a struggle to offer opposing offenses varying looks in the back end right now due to the situation at safety.
This is how I see the 2017 Dallas Cowboys roster breaking down by position. A concluding thought on these rankings should be that the Cowboys are pretty well off, with their main problem at some key positions being lack of proven experience.
Young players are getting opportunities to prove themselves all over the field, making it an exciting time for the Cowboys as a whole despite the Ezekiel Elliott situation.
The Cowboys pass rush has finally arrived, and with it they have a defense that can certainly support an elite offense led by their franchise quarterback Dak Prescott and league-best offensive line.
Let me know where you agree or disagree with these rankings by leaving a comment below!
Dallas Cowboys “All or Nothing” Series to Shed New Light on HC Jason Garrett
You likely already know by now that the 2017 Dallas Cowboys season -- by all accounts, a forgettable one for fans, coaches, and big-name players -- will be documented forever thanks to NFL Films' latest All or Nothing series.
Effectively, All or Nothing is a new spin on the popular Hard Knocks series with one major difference. This Amazon Prime exclusive doesn't just follow a team through training camp, as NFL Films gets inside team meetings and games throughout the entire season.
The 2017 Cowboys yielded just nine wins, creating more than enough drama for television along the way. This was yet another season where Head Coach Jason Garrett's job was put on the line, although early reviews of All or Nothing (available to the public April 27th) paint Garrett as the lead antagonist.
Jason Garrett drops at least 10 f-bombs in the first show. Before the Broncos game in Week 2: "You want to quiet the game down? Hand the f---in' ball to 21 and knock their ass off the ball.
Watching the Titanic and expecting a different outcome is a surefire way to set yourself up for disappointment, as will be reliving a frustrating season in Dallas. By the end though, Cowboys fans will have a much better understanding of where the 2018 team stands - particularly in the eyes of a Head Coach they looked to fire once again this offseason.
Jason Garrett has long been described as a "players coach", one that his Cowboys teams want to fight for. Whether or not the Cowboys have gone too far in constantly churning their roster in Garrett's image for little end result will likely be determined this season.
This is a Head Coach that has been in place for the departure of DeMarcus Ware, Tony Romo (serving as a pivotal decision maker for the Cowboys choosing Dak Prescott as their full-time starter in 2016), and most recently Dez Bryant.
An added bonus to All or Nothing will likely be that it captures Dez Bryant's final moments with the Cowboys.
Garrett to Zeke at practice after Broncos loss: "I want that f---in guy at Ohio St. who was running down on that kickoff. Remember after you played your 2nd play in the NFL against the Seahawks, you came over to me and you said, 'Give me the f---in ball!'
The Cowboys did not just lose Ezekiel Elliott in 2017 (serving his six game suspension), and All or Nothing will remind every one of just how much talent came off the field for Garrett's team last season. Coming out at the same time as the Dallas hosted 2018 Draft, Cowboys fans can build their excitement for a 2018 triumph back to the playoffs.
Anything short of this likely costs Jason Garrett his job, although everything he means to the Dallas Cowboys will be put in better-than-ever perspective by All or Nothing.
I don't wanna spoil the "All or Nothing" TV show more than what you've already seen or heard. But if you watch it, you're going to get a great look at: 1. Jason Garrett's actual persona 2. The dynamics of Dez's relationship within the team 3.
Cowboys en Español: Definiendo la Urgencia por un WR este NFL Draft
El líder en recepciones de anotación en la historia de la franquicia más emblemática en la historia de los Dallas Cowboys, Dez Bryant, ha visto su tiempo portando la estrella solitaria llegar a su fin. Un fin, por cierto, que dejó a algunos cuantos aficionados, administrativos y jugadores en un estado de descontento.
Por más que me gustaría entrar a detalle de si el veterano receptor merecía ser recortado o no, si el equipo tomó la decisión correcta o no, el NFL Draft está a menos de una semana de distancia. Así que, en vez de hablar de lo que pudo haber sido, hablemos de lo que puede ser.
Los Cowboys, a pesar de ser conocidos como una potencia ofensiva en las últimas temporadas, necesitan a un wide receiver. Sí, Dallas consiguió al agente libre de Jacksonville Allen Hurns, pero siendo honestos, no parece ser suficiente talento para un equipo que quiere construirle una ofensiva amigable a su quarterback, Dak Prescott.
Si el roster sólo tiene a Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Ryan Switzer, Noah Brown y Deonte Thompson; se necesita un WR. Incluso con Bryant en el equipo, se necesitaba un receptor. Lo cual lleva a la gran pregunta: ¿el despido de Dez significa que a los Cowboys les urge aún más un receptor? ¿Significa que definitivamente buscarán mejorar la posición con su selección de primera ronda?
Algo queda claro, la administración sabía lo que sucedería. Dez Bryant no estaba en los planes para el 2018 y claramente sus planes para abordar el NFL Draft no se verán cambiados por la partida del apasionado #88.
Estas estrategias se plantean por meses y más meses. Los Cowboys se han fijado mucho en la posición de receptor, desde que fue el NFL Combine hasta las visitas privadas que toman lugar a lo largo de Abril.
Es un hecho que tienen en la mira a los receptores. Claramente, quieren añadir más talento a la ofensiva para Dak Prescott.
En una clase de prospectos que cuenta con bastantes receptores, otra pregunta naturalmente, es ¿lo harán en primera ronda o más tarde? Me sorprendería demasiado si el equipo espera hasta la tercera ronda. Sin duda, es algo que tienen que atender con una de sus dos primeros picks.
En el primero, la selección #19 global, podrían encontrar a uno de los tres mejores receptores del año. Calvin Ridley, de Alabama; Courtland Sutton, de SMU; DJ Moore, de Maryland. Si buscarán el "remplazo" de Dez Bryant en uno de estos tres jugadores, definitivamente será uno de estos tres prospectos.
Todos tienen lo suyo. Sutton es un receptor estilo "X" (como Dez Bryant) mientras Ridley, por ejemplo, es claramente un receptor "Z" (como Terrance Williams). DJ Moore brinda un poco de versatilidad entre ambos roles, y podría ser un jugador de impacto en cualquiera que se le juegue, aunque probablemente brillaría más si se le permitiera jugar como un "Z."
Afortunadamente para Dallas, el recién firmado Allen Hurns también es capaz de tomar cualquiera de los dos roles. Esto le da flexibilidad a los Cowboys de tomar al que más les guste, o en su defecto, a quien esté disponible.
En mi segundo Mock Draft del año, simulé a Courtland Sutton, producto de SMU a los Cowboys con el pick #19. Los coaches de la Estrella Solitaria han mostrado bastante interés por el producto local y no me sorprendería nada verlos aterrizar un receptor como él la próxima semana.
Ahora bien, si Dallas decide esperar hasta la segunda ronda para conseguir a un par de manos confiables, encontrarán talento. Definitivamente. James Washington, DJ Chark, Michael Gallup, Anthony Miller, entre otros podrían estar ahí en la selección #50 (segunda ronda).
Si el equipo quiere tomar talento para otra posición en la primera, lo podrán hacer sabiendo que encontrarán un WR talentoso al día siguiente.
Afortunadamente, esta ofensiva se basa en Ezekiel Elliott y el juego terrestre detrás de la línea ofensiva. Los receptores son importantes, por supuesto, pero no es necesario tener algo tan dominante como lo fue Dez Bryant en el 2013 y el 2014, por ejemplo.
Por ahora, sólo falta esperar como abordan los Cowboys esta necesidad la próxima semana cuando el NFL Draft del 2018 tome lugar en el mismo lugar en el que este equipo juega sus partidos e intenta pelear, el AT&T Stadium.
Con un poco de suerte, estrenaran el campo este 2018 obteniendo su primer victoria del año la próxima semana.
Kris Richard Taking Over For Rod Marinelli Earlier Than Expected?
Believe it or not, a lot of Cowboys Nation has grown tired of Rod Marinelli's simplistic and predictable 4-3 defensive scheme. Dallas Cowboys fans are ready for a change and quite a few of them believe that Kris Richard is the answer.
The Dallas Cowboys hired Kris Richard earlier this offseason to become the new defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator. Almost immediately, rumors and speculation began to circulate that he would be the next defensive coordinator, taking over for Rod Marinelli once he retires.
It's really not that big of a reach to see such a promotion happen, especially since Richard has found previous success as a defensive coordinator with the Seattle Seahawks. But, as things stand right now, Rod Marinelli still has the title of DC in Dallas, but for how long?
We have already seen a few changes being made to the Cowboys defense that seem to have Kris Richard's fingerprints on them. Moving Byron Jones from safety to cornerback for instance is a perfect example.
Of course, we could see even more of Richard's imprint on the Cowboys defense next week when the 2018 NFL Draft gets underway. I think he will have a big say in the types of players they select if he is indeed expected to become the next defensive coordinator.
Further evidence Kris Richard will have quite a bit of input on the Cowboys defense this season is the fact that a lot of players have been watching game film of the Seahawks' defense.
Sean Lee said the Cowboys have been watching film of the Seahawks' defense. Said it's been fun being around new DB coach/passing game coordinator Kris Richard
I don't know about you, but for me this is pretty solid evidence the Dallas Cowboys are going to make some changes on the defensive side of the ball and that Kris Richard will have a lot of say in those changes.
I may be reading too much into all this or I may be hitting the nail right on the head. But, there's no denying there seems to be a renewed energy from the Cowboys defensive players. Maybe it's the hiring of Kris Richard or something else, but I personally find it intriguing.
I'm really looking forward to finding out how all of these pieces end up falling into place. I really don't care who holds the title of defensive coordinator in 2018 as long as we see improvement from the Cowboys defense.
For the Cowboys defense to improve from last season it's going to take a collaborative effort from the entire coaching staff, not just Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard. That's just the way things work in the NFL, but it's never going to stop us from speculating when some new blood is brought in.
Do you think Kris Richard is taking over for Rod Marinelli earlier than expected?
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