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.
2018 In Review: Byron Jones Emerges As CB1
Heading into the 2018 season Byron Jones was being asked to prove himself. The former first round pick had fallen out of the coaches' good graces during his third season, though many of his struggles could be attributed to those very coaches which were then questioning his ability.
Being asked to play out of position, or at least in a spot which did not maximize his natural ability, Jones struggled in 2017. Too often he was playing in the box as a safety where his lack of physicality was exposed by the opponent's run game. This was mostly due to the coaching staff falling in love with his tight-end-erasing ability in man coverage, but backfired when overused as a safety.
Once hired the following offseason, Kris Richard and company decided to move Byron Jones to cornerback full time, allowing him to utilize his excellent coverage skills and athletic ability to the fullest, rather than putting him at a disadvantage in the box.
The results? Well, Jones had one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football, earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his young career.
Byron Jones had a dominant season for Dallas
Pro Football Focus graded Jones as the sixth best cornerback in all of football last season, allowing just 0.79 yards per coverage snap. Despite not having an interception on the season, Jones still earned national recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league.
Down the stretch of the season, Chidobe Awuzie started to play up to the level which fans had hoped for during the preseason. He had been sticky in coverage most of the year, but now he was making plays on the ball at a much better rate, forcing incompletions. This led to an increase in targets to Jones' side, and though the increase resulted in more catches given up by the number one cornerback, I don't think Jones' play faltered as much as some will have you believe.
The fact is, when you get targeted more you are bound to give up more catches and yards. The key is to force them into contested catches, and make things as difficult for the receiver as possible when targeted.
Byron Jones continued to do this all season long, and fans should be excited for the next step of his growth in 2019.
Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial
Por muchos años, el tema del tope salarial ha sido un tema sensible para los Dallas Cowboys. Entre dinero muerto y otros problemas, el equipo ha tenido una situación delicada en este aspecto. Sin embargo, para la temporada del 2019 tienen más espacio de lo que estamos acostumbrados.
Según Over The Cap, los Cowboys tendrán aproximadamente 48 millones de dólares disponibles en 2019. Es importante recalcar que este número no es definitivo y puede cambiar. Año tras año, esta administración ha sido aficionada de reestructurar los contratos de ciertos veteranos para liberar espacio salarial constantemente. Además de esto, hay varios jugadores bajo contrato que el equipo podría decidir cortar para liberar aún más dinero.
Al ver sólo 48 millones disponibles, es complicado imaginar un escenario en que el equipo logre satisfacer todos sus objetivos. Hay bastantes candidatos a grandes extensiones en el equipo, principalmente dos jugadores. En una liga en la que quarterback es la posición más importante, la segunda más importante podría ser la del caza cabezas, cuyo objetivo es ir tras el quarterback contrario.
Pues en Dallas, hoy dos jugadores en estas posiciones que hay que extender. El más urgente sin duda es el defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence se puso el jersey del equipo cuando este lo designó a jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia. Afortunadamente, el atleta de 26 años la hizo de soldado y jugó sin amenazar con faltar a entrenamientos ni pretemporada.
Lo que sí comentó es que no pasaría por lo mismo en 2019. Ahora, el momento está aquí y es tiempo de que los Cowboys lo extiendan. El valor de Lawrence es difícil de predecir, pero es bastante seguro que se acercará a los números de Khalil Mack. Mack hizo historia ganando un contrato que en promedio gana 23.5 millones al año. Si bien no anticiparía que lo supere, la cifra estará cerca al contrato del defensivo de los Chicago Bears.
Además está Dak Prescott, cuyo contrato probablemente estará por encima de los 25 millones anuales. Son contratos caros, pero son piezas fundamentales para el equipo. Definitivamente se les tiene que pagar a ambos. Son pilares que año tras año buscan equipos en toda la NFL.
Además de esto, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley y más podrían tener un impacto en el tope salarial. Algunos buscan un contrato nuevo, otros una extensión. Pero honestamente, me parece que habrá más espacio en el tope salarial de lo que pensamos. Sólo es cuestión de tiempo para que los Cowboys comiencen a reestructurar a sus veteranos para ahorrarse unos cuantos millones para utilizar en agencia libre.
Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford entre otros pueden ser buenas opciones para comenzar este proceso. Antes era Jason Witten uno de los candidatos favoritos para este proceso, pero él ya se encuentra comentando partidos para ESPN. En Inside The Star, continuaremos actualizándote con contenido al día de los Dallas Cowboys.
Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?
Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.
The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.
The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.
Lock Down the Big Guns
Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.
Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.
As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.
Adding New Talent
One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.
Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.
If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.
Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.
Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.
The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.
As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.
Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.
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