The Dallas Cowboys rookie class from 2016 is one that will be difficult to top for a long time. Naturally, after having so much rookies have an impact a season ago, Cowboys Nation was truly excited to see what the 2017 class could bring to the table this year.
Some rookies have been pretty good, some not as much, but the Cowboys do have a young team that is very promising on both sides of the ball.
There are promising players in just about every position of the team. Now, there're a lot of things to work on, but the talent is there. This is a team in development rather than a team in "reconstruction mode." Yes, including the defense.
Last year, it was all about Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. Of course, Maliek Collins and Anthony Brown had pretty good seasons themselves, but the hype around Zeke and Dak took everyone's attention.
But what about this year? Eight weeks into the season and seven Cowboys games later, how has this rookie class fared so far? Who's been the best and the worst so far?
Let's go ahead and rank every Cowboys rookie who has played significant football this year. (No Cooper Rush on the list, sorry Cowboys Nation.)
#6 DE Taco Charlton
From the moment he was drafted back in April, we all had doubts about Taco Charlton. To some, he was a player with second-round talent at best. A lot of fans would've preferred someone like T.J. Watt or even a cornerback over him.
But the front office went for Taco Charlton and eight weeks into the season, the Michigan product has been disappointing.
Can he develop and become a legit pass rusher down the road? Maybe, but while we didn't expect him to be a player with double-digit sacks, we certainly didn't expect him to have no sacks after seven games and only four tackles.
Charlton's impact on this defense has been close to none. I would've thought that at this point of the season, we would already be seeing some positive flashes by the rookie DE, but he still has a very, very, very long way to go.
He's ranked as the worst Cowboy rookie of the season because of his play, and because he is a first round draft pick who hasn't even helped this defense in a small way.
#5 WR Ryan Switzer
It pains me to put Ryan Switzer in this spot. I hate to do so. When he was drafted by the Cowboys a lot of us were excited. He was considered a steal.
The thing about Switzer, is that we all knew he was going to come to Dallas to replace Lucky Whitehead as a returner on special teams. But we also expected to see him involved on the offense someway, and that hasn't happened.
It feels like every time Switzer is on the field, he fakes or runs a jet sweep. He is always used in gadget plays. The rookie wide receiver from North Carolina could be contributing to this offense way more than he is now.
Weren't we all excited about this offense exploring the use of 10 personnel and seeing Beasley and Switzer on the field simultaneously?
Finally, he hasn't been impressive returning kicks either, and has made a lot of questionable decisions when fielding punts and kicks. Switzer has a lot to improve on, and I'm sure he will. I know most of Cowboys Nation is rooting for him.
#4 WR Noah Brown
If you'd told me that I would be ranking Noah Brown ahead of Ryan Switzer through eight weeks, I wouldn't have believed you. But here I am.
Another rookie wide receiver who was expected to be a steal after being taken in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft has had some impressive plays as a Dallas Cowboy.
As any seventh rounder, he wasn't expected to come in here and have a big role on offense with a WR-loaded depth chart. But he's been there a few times, and he's stood in a couple of plays.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
Noah Brown's biggest strength is his blocking game. In the above play, we can see a hell of a block by the rookie, creating a lane for Ezekiel Elliott on what resulted on a 72-yard touchdown. He's shown us excellent blocking on a few other plays as well, and he could very well see an increased role on this offense in the future.
Brown has also made a couple of plays on special teams, which is another reason why I put him above Ryan Switzer on this list. Props to the seventh-rounder!
#3 CB Chidobe Awuzie
The Cowboys' second round pick was expected to have an instant impact on this Cowboys' secondary, but injuries have gotten in the way for Chidobe Awuzie.
Awuzie has looked pretty good and pretty promising when he's played. Unfortunately, he hasn't been there a lot for Dallas. He's played in only three games this season. Here are his defensive snap counts in each of those games, per Pro Football Reference:
- vs NY Giants: 39
- @ DEN Broncos: 5
- vs GB Packers: 9
He's only played one full game.
However, I think Awuzie has looked good in the small amount of playing time he's had, and he will be a very important piece for this secondary as soon as he gets back. He will see snaps at CB and probably will get the chance to see some playing time as a safety.
#2 S Xavier Woods
Speaking of safeties, Xavier Woods confirmed what we all thought when he was drafted in the sixth round earlier this year. He was a steal!
Woods has impacted this defense most of the time he's on the field, and he should be taking over the starting job soon. Xavier Woods provides this defense with a play-making ability that this unit could use.
He's made some stops on key moments and he's flashed a lot of potential.
Cowboys in Cover 1: Xavier Woods shows off impressive range. Beautiful play from the rook. Hard to beat DAL deep with XW playing single-high https://t.co/ucQuIvyhHO
Woods is better than Jeff Heath. And I would love to see what Byron Jones and him can do when on the field at the same time.
It's fair to say that Heath has been disappointing through eight weeks, and I would think that giving the rookie the nod would be a nice change for this defense. Even if the Cowboys think Heath is better, I don't think there's enough difference between the two to ignore the upside that Woods brings to the table.
#1 CB Jourdan Lewis
Finally, the best Cowboy rookie so far... third round draft pick Jourdan Lewis.
The fact that the Cowboys were able to draft him on the third round is amazing. If Lewis hadn't been dealing with a domestic violence trial, the Michigan cornerback would've been drafted in the second, if not the first round.
Jourdan Lewis has been outstanding in just about every aspect of the game. He's been good in coverage and close to perfect in open-field tackling. As every rookie, he has a lot to work on, but none of the other Cowboys' rookies have had nearly the same impact than Jourdan after seven games.
Heading into week 9, Lewis is becoming this team's #1 cornerback. Dallas Cowboys Rookie of the Year.
Where In The World Is DE Taco Charlton?
Over pretty much the last decade, the Dallas Cowboys have been rock solid with their first round picks. With selections of Ezekiel Elliott, Travis Frederick, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Leighton Vander Esch (just to name a handful), Dallas has rebuilt the core of their roster through the NFL Draft.
It's nearly impossible to bat .1000 in any round of the draft, however, and this appears to be the current case with the Cowboys' 2017 first round pick.
Defensive end Taco Charlton has not had the sophomore season that he, or anyone, had hoped for. A healthy scratch last Sunday, Charlton has only been active for 1 of the Cowboys' last 5 games, and has not recorded a sack or tackle since week 9.
Prior to disappearing with injuries and "attitude issues," Charlton had only recorded 1 sack on the season and was beginning to fall behind his Hot Boy-brethren. Defensive end Randy Gregory has reached his form over the last few weeks, Tyrone Crawford is having arguably a career year, and DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the best ends in all of football.
This doesn't leave much room for Charlton, who's now having issues even getting on the gameday roster. Rod Marinelli dodged questions about Taco Charlton earlier this week, vaguely saying they are "moving forward" and that he'd like to talk about other players on his defensive line who are performing.
Rod Marinelli on Taco Charlton's benching and being inactive last week: "We just keep moving along keep going forward. It's kinda been out there I'd leave it at that. I'd rather talk about our two tackles.
Charlton has not been quiet about his displeasure as of late, either. He's taken to Twitter to voice his frustrations, saying that not only is his shoulder fine but that the Dallas media is making up stories about his absence. He's also posted some cryptic tweets such as this one, with a picture of Allen Iverson and a caption reading "Every players needs that one coach to believe in them."
Maybe Taco is right. Maybe he just needs increased opportunity and a support system/coach that believes in him whole-heartedly. After all, Charlton has faced nothing but doubters and detractors since the second he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.
But in the NFL, the ultimate "what have you done for me lately" sport, it's hard to imagine he'll get that unwavering support anywhere in the league. He's going to have to "earn" his playing time, as head coach Jason Garrett spoke to earlier in the week. But with the plethora of talent the Cowboys are already putting out there on the defensive line, it's becoming difficult to see exactly where Taco Charlton can fit in on this defense.
It's possible, and fine, if it is simply not a fit between Charlton and the Cowboys at this point. But I'd also be wary of giving up on your first round pick in just his second NFL season. Another offseason with the team, working on his craft and getting fully healthy, should do Charlton wonders, and hopefully allow us to get a better read on his future with the Cowboys going forward.
Until then, we are all left to scratch out heads and wonder what in the world is going on with the Cowboys and Taco Charlton, and if the former first round pick will have a future in Dallas at all.
Cowboys, Bears Proving Defense Can Win the NFC
2018 has seen the emergence of high-powered offenses in both NFL conferences. The Kansas City Chiefs sit atop the AFC and the NFC is spearheaded by the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. Through 14 weeks, these three teams are the top three offenses in the NFL, each averaging over 30 points per game. This year, for the first time in NFL history, two teams scored more than 50 in the same game.
Thanks to this consistent impressive offensive performances, you would think "offense" is the name of the game for the 2018 NFL season. Well, not so fast, my friend. Despite sitting atop the NFC, the Saints and the Rams have recently suffered losses that indicate hope is anything but lost for defensive teams in the league.
The Chicago Bears were able to bring down the Rams last Sunday Night 15-6. The same offense that averages 33 points per game was limited to six points. Sean McVay's remarkable offense went home with no touchdowns to talk about on the plane back home. Instead, they probably discussed Jared Goff's four interceptions.
Weeks earlier, the Dallas Cowboys shocked the world when they brought down the Saints. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas simply couldn't move the ball against Leighton Vander Esch, DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones. 13 points were all the Cowboys needed to score to beat an offense that was averaging 37 per game heading into week 13 but was only able to put up 10 in Dallas.
The Cowboys are the #4 seed with the Bears slightly ahead of them as the #3 seed in the NFC. Together, these teams have defeated the top two in the conference. Now granted, playoffs will definitely be different.
For starters, if they are to advance to the divisional round, they'll be on the road. Chicago was surely benefited by playing in such a cold weather versus a Los Angeles team. As far as the Cowboys are concerned, few times has AT&T Stadium been as loud as when they beat the Saints.
Hopefully, we'll get to see both of these elite defenses advance to the Divisional Round to square off against this couple of high-powered offenses again. We will not only be witnessing amazing football games, but a great discussion regarding the everlasting debate between offense and defense.
For years, "defense wins championships" has been a widely accepted statement in football. The Cowboys and Bears have made that same statement resound recently with their impressive wins.
Can they do it again in January football? Can they do it on the road?
Cowboys en Español: Los Colts No Son Cualquier Rival
Al igual que el resto de la afición de los Dallas Cowboys, parte de mí se siente confiada respecto a este equipo visitando a Indianapolis Colts y resultando victoriosos. ¿El problema? Los Colts no son un rival sencillo de vencer. Si crees que la racha de los Cowboys los intimidará, piensa de nuevo. Los Houston Texans llevaban nueve victorias al hilo antes de enfrentarse a este equipo.
Siendo objetivos, este puede ser el partido que evite que los Cowboys cierren su temporada con ocho victorias al hilo para terminar el año con un récord de 11-5. Ni los Tampa Bay Buccaneers ni los New York Giants deberían presentar amenaza alguna contra Dallas. Lo mismo no se puede decir de Indianapolis.
Por primera vez en mucho tiempo, Andrew Luck está realmente de vuelta. Gracias a una reconstrucción de su línea ofensiva, su nivel de juego a regresado al nivel que conocíamos de él desde que llegó a la NFL. Afortunadamente para los Colts, Luck se ha mantenido sano toda la temporada y no se ve rastro alguno de sus lesiones anteriores en el emparrillado.
T.Y. Hilton está teniendo un muy buen año y sin duda alguna presentará un reto para Byron Jones y el resto de la secundaria de los Cowboys. Eric Ebron en la posición de tight end también será un dolor de cabeza para la defensiva.
Lo más interesante se dará en las trincheras. Los Cowboys han hecho un muy buen trabajo presionando quarterbacks opuestos en la temporada, pero si el centro de los Colts, Ryan Kelly está sano el domingo, se enfrentarán al mejor duo de centro-guardia en la liga actualmente. Con Quenton Nelson al lado, Luck estará muy bien protegido.
Sin embargo, Kelly no ha jugado debido a una lesión y aún está por verse si tomará el campo el domingo por la mañana. Los Cowboys hicieron un muy buen trabajo a la entonces ofensiva #1 de la liga, los New Orleans Saints, pero eso no significa que la ofensiva #8 que tienen los Colts no los retará.
Promediando 27 puntos por juego, la defensiva necesitará ayuda de Dak Prescott y compañía para ganar el partido. Dallas continúa moviendo el balón efectivamente, pero es tiempo de anotar touchdowns y no goles de campo.
Ezekiel Elliott será, una vez más, clave para la victoria. Enfrentándose a una defensiva Top 10 contra el juego terrestre, mover las cadenas con Zeke no será tan fácil. El novato Darius Leonard como linebacker ha sido algo espectacular otra temporada al igual que Leighton Vander Esch. Liderando a toda la NFL en tackleadas, estará listo para recibir a los Cowboys al Lucas Oil Stadium.
Lo más importante de este partido...
Por más impresionante que sea la racha de cinco victorias consecutivas, los Cowboys tienen que demostrar que pueden ganarle a un equipo fuerte estando de visita. Porque hay que admitirlo, Jason Garrett y su equipo no han tenido éxito fuera de casa. Claro, le ganaron a un equipo debilitado de Philadelphia Eagles y a unos Atlanta Falcons que va 4-9.
Este equipo "nuevo" de los Cowboys no ha ido contra un rival de calidad siendo el visitante. Es tiempo de demostrar que lo pueden hacer, ya que si quieren contender en postemporada, es justo lo que necesitarán... jugar bien de visita.
Sinceramente creo que los Cowboys ganan este partido. Principalmente gracias a su defensiva, pero también veo a la ofensiva dominar el tiempo de posesión en un juego de pocos puntos. Es tiempo de mantener esa racha.
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