Though they may not have been the moves that many in Cowboys Nation were hoping for heading into the offseason, the Dallas Cowboys were very active after the initial free agent spending spree the first week of free agency. While several teams paid a ton of money to during the initial stages, the Cowboys took a breath and continued to execute their game plan.
The Cowboys' front office stuck to their game plan of filling their needs in the free agent pool to allow them to stay true to their draft board. When the NFL Draft comes at the end of the month, the Cowboys won't be locked into needing to draft any particular position.
As far as free agency the Cowboys are concerned, mission accomplished.
So, before the draft comes, let's take a look at each move and the significance of the acquisition power rankings style.
1. Robert Quinn, Defensive End
Robert Quinn comes to the Dallas Cowboys with 69 sacks over his eight year career and is a starter at right defensive end day one. Yes, he comes with some injury concerns, but over the last couple of years, he's only missed two games (in 2017), while compiling 15 sacks combined.
In the five seasons in which Quinn started at least 14 games, he's averaged 11 sacks a season. Even if you take away the 19 that he had in 2012, Quinn still averaged nine sacks a season in the other four years where he started at least 14 games.
He brings speed, agility, bend, and finish to the right side of the defensive line and is a player that demands attention in addition to Cowboys All-Pro Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence.
When the Cowboys line up in September, they'll feature one of the best pass rush duos in the NFL. Getting Quinn for a 2020 sixth round pick and a reduced contract, is a huge get for the Cowboys front office. No other move will have as much of an impact as Quinn will on the Dallas Cowboys in 2019.
2. Kerry Hyder, Defensive Line
They say that you can never have too many pass rushers, and while many would point to Randall Cobb as the next most important signing to Robert Quinn, I'd argue that it's Defensive Lineman Kerry Hyder.
YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY PASS RUSHERS!!!
Hyder comes over from the Detroit Lions where he spent 2018 playing nose tackle for Matt Patricia's 3-4 defense. At 270 pounds.
I don't know what Hyder did to Matt Patricia for the Lions head coach to play him that out of position, but Hyder was incredibly undersized to play the 0-tech defensive tackle position.
In 2017, Hyder tore his achilles and that was a year after he exploded for eight sacks in 2016 after playing a full season for the first time in his career. Eight sacks are nothing to sneeze at. In Hyder, you have a player who can play inside at 3-tech and then also play defensive end on both ends of the line.
If he can find some of that pass rush magic from 2016, the Cowboys are getting another pass rusher with inside and outside ability like Tyrone Crawford. With Hyder's ability to play inside, you could potentially see a third and long situation with Quinn, Hyder, Crawford, and Lawrence all playing together.
That gives me visions of the 2007 New York Giants team that would rush four defensive ends on passing downs.
3. Randall Cobb, Wide Receiver
Is Randall Cobb as good as Cole Beasley in creating separation? No. Is Randall Cobb a good slot wide receiver? Absolutely.
Cobb's a different player than Beasley, but he's every bit the player. Cobb is a good route runner. He's not necessarily as quick as Beasley is, but he finds a way to make things happen in the slot and can beat one-on-one coverage and find holes in the zone.
Per Next Gen Stats, Randall Cobb and Cole Beasley both created 2.9 yards of separation at the catch point in 2018.
What Cobb brings to the table is a player who can play on the outside of the formation as well as in the slot. This allows you to move Amari Cooper around the formation more, which gives your WR1 more favorable matchups.
4. Christian Covington, Defensive Tackle
It was clear in the Los Angeles Rams game that the Dallas Cowboys defensive interior struggled against the Rams interior offensive line. Some of it was the matchup, but some of it was related to injuries and an illness to Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins. They were overmatched on the night and the Dallas Cowboys defense had a difficult time slowing down the Rams running game.
The Cowboys have made strides to rectify that by bringing in Christian Covington who played for the Houston Texans in 2018. Playing defensive end in the Texans 3-4, Covington had 3.5 sacks. At more than 300 pounds, he projects to join Woods in the 1-tech defensive tackle rotation.
For a defense that played really well all season and especially against the run, it was a let down. Now with two legit run stoppers, and Covington bringing some pass rush ability to the 1-tech spot, the Cowboys will have more waves of lineman to throw at opposing offenses and will be able to stay fresh.
5. Cameron Fleming, Offensive Tackle
Amidst all the new players coming to town, one of the more underrated moves this offseason was bringing back Cameron Fleming to be the swing tackle for 2019 and potentially be the starting right tackle in 2020.
Over the last three seasons, Left Tackle Tyron Smith has missed games. In 2017, not having an adequate replacement for the All-Pro pretty much ruined the season for the Dallas Cowboys.
Fleming, who wasn't perfect in 2018, is a reliable back up that can play both sides of the offensive line and with La'el Collins set to be a free agent in 2020, the Cowboys have some veteran insurance if they decide to move on from their starting right tackle.
Having the ability to call upon a reserve offensive lineman who has started a Super Bowl is a really nice luxury to have for the Dallas Cowboys. If they do suffer an injury at tackle, the Cowboys may not have an equal replacement, but they have an adequate replacement to fill in.
6. Jason Witten, Tight End
Admittedly, I've had reservations about bringing Jason Witten back. Particularly as it relates to the snap counts of Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz. Witten is no doubt at the end of his career in the NFL and there's no telling how the year-long lay off will impact his play in 2019, but having one of the most important leaders this franchise has had in the 21st century can't be a bad thing.
The reports are that Witten will only play around 20-30 snaps a game and while that potentially cuts into the development of Jarwin and Schultz, Witten is still a player that can impact the game for you. Especially on third downs and in the red zone.
More importantly, he's veteran insurance if the draft doesn't fall how the Cowboys like to select a tight end or in the event that Jarwin or Schultz don't take a step forward in 2019. Having a future Hall of Famer and one of the best tight ends to ever play the position as insurance is an amazing luxury for a team that will contend for the playoffs again in 2019.
7. George Iloka, Safety
The Dallas Cowboys safety group needed an infusion of new blood at the position and so far, it comes in the form of veteran George Iloka. Now, he doesn't move the needle near as much as Landon Collins or Earl Thomas would have, but he's a solid player to put in the safety rotation with Jeff Heath and has some flexibility to back up at free safety as well.
The thing about the Iloka move is that it doesn't prevent the Dallas Cowboys from drafting a safety in the second or third round with the hopes they will be a starter in the NFL .
8. Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver/Returner
I know this didn't get met with as much fanfare as some of the other moves, but I really like the resigning of Wide Receiver Tavon Austin. Especially, if they make Tavon Austin the full-time kick and punt returner.
He showed way too much flash in the Seattle game returning five punts for 75 yards, including one that nearly went for a touchdown. Why the coaching staff seemed reluctant to let Austin field all of the punts in 2018 is beyond me. They didn't really play him much otherwise.
He's a dynamic weapon with the ball in his hands, so it would stand to reason that you want to give him opportunities to have the ball in his hands. As the full-time returner, he'd get 3-5 touches in the punt return game.
The only reason I have him so low on my list is fear that the Cowboys may not give him a full shot at being a full-time returner. If there was a known commitment to that, then I'd easily bump him up a few spots, because he has that kind of game-changing ability.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
There's a lot of time left for the Dallas Cowboys roster to take shape and six picks to make in the 2019 NFL Draft that will have an impact on how the final 53-man roster looks come September, but the work they've done so far this offseason has been pretty good.
This team still has some holes, but every team in the NFL does. The Dallas Cowboys continue to minimize weaknesses through free agency while not breaking the bank to do so. As we sit here in early April, there's no doubt that the Dallas Cowboys are a better team now than they were in January.
The Brady Report: Cowboys’ Fast Start Dooms Eagles
It's been nothing but doom and gloom around the Dallas Cowboys in recent weeks. After a 3-0 start propelled them towards the top of the league's elite, three straight disappointing losses had fans wondering if it was time for a regime change at head coach.
They went into Sunday night's game with the Eagles needing a win to salvage hope at earning a playoff spot, and boy did they answer the bell. The Cowboys dominated the Philadelphia Eagles from the opening snap, routing their hated rivals 37-10 and improving to 4-3 on the season.
Let's get into my game notes from this overwhelmingly positive performance.
- Let's start with the quarterback. Dak Prescott was tremendous yet again on Sunday night, and we're getting to the point where his sample size of positive play is too large to ignore. Prescott was 21 of 27 for 239 yards and a touchdown (and an interception as well), but he also had a rushing touchdown to add to his totals. Prescott has complete control of the offense, and even checked out of a negative box count to exploit the Eagles blitz look down in the red zone. He leads the league in QBR this season, and he is the unquestioned franchise quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. As he should be.
- Sticking with praise on offense, Ezekiel Elliott looked like Zeke on Sunday night. From his very first carry you could tell Elliott was running with a different burst and energy than we'd seen in recent weeks, and he later ran right over Malcolm Jenkins to set up the team's second score of the game. Elliott was impossible to bring down all night, to the tune of 111 yards and a touchdown on 5 yards per carry.
- La'el Collins has been incredible this season, and Sunday was no different. The Cowboys recently extended right tackle shut Brandon Graham down for basically the entire night, and kept Prescott upright and comfortable in the pocket. Tyron Smith was clearly not healthy or himself on the other side, but the rest of this offensive line picked up the slack and had their best performance since the season opener.
- Connor Williams deserves a shoutout as well. He was getting off double teams to the second level and cutting linebackers off to clear rushing lanes for Zeke all night long.
- Defensively, the Cowboys had their best performance of 2019. They hadn't been able to force turnovers all season, but they came away with four in this week's win. Xavier Woods' interception of Wentz might've spoken the loudest, as it proved how good this defense can be when the game script is working in their favor. When things go according to plan early for this team, they have the talent to take total control and dominate.
- Jourdan Lewis was inserted into the starting lineup due to injury, and he was awesome from the opening snap. Lewis came away with a big sack on Caron Wentz and had 4 tackles overall as well. Byron Jones returned from the injury he suffered a week ago, and was back to his old shutdown ways. Jones is clearly the best cornerback on this team, and is one of the better corners in all of football. When he's healthy and playing as he did during Sunday's win, few have an argument over him.
- DeMarcus Lawrence also had his best game of 2019, creating consistent pressure on Wentz throughout the night. His biggest play, of course, was his sack fumble which set the Cowboys up for a 14-0 lead just two possessions into the game. Lawrence has been taking a lot of heat from the fanbase in recent weeks, but he responded in a big way on Sunday.
- Those are the linebackers I remember from 2018. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch were all over the field during this game, and Sean Lee had a pretty nice game as well once Vander Esch went down. Lee and Smith each finished with 7 tackles, and Smith forced the Eagles' first fumble of the night on their opening drive. Lee made a nice play on the ball on a late fourth down throw that easily could've been an interception as well.
Cowboys K Brett Maher’s 63-Yard Field Goal Sets New NFL Record
After hitting a 63-yard field goal last night in the Dallas Cowboys' win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Kicker Brett Maher now owns the NFL record for most field goal made at 60 yards or longer. It was the third 60-plus FG of his career and second so far this season.
Maher hit a 62-yarder last week in Dallas' loss to the New York Jets. That kick tied him with Sebastian Janikowski and Greg Zuerlein for having two career field goals of 60 or more.
Now Brett stands alone in that category. Last night's kick also was just one yard shy of Matt Prater's record for the NFL's longest field goal; Maher hit from 64 yards in 2013.
If Brett Maher ever gets a chance to kick in Denver, he may have a great shot at breaking Prater's record as well. According to NBC's data from last night, Maher's kick would have been good from 66 yards out.
It was a good night overall for the Cowboys kicker. Maher had two other makes from 26 and 29 yards.
Despite his heroics at times, Brett Maher has been one of the least accurate kickers in the NFL the last two years. Even after last night Brett is hitting just 71.4% of his field goals so far in 2019; that ties him for 25th in the league.
The most puzzling aspect of all with Maher is how much he struggles with shorter range kicks. You almost have more confidence in him kicking from 60 yards out than attempting an extra point.
Few kickers could survive that kind of performance and uncertainty, but few can do what Maher can with his long range ability. It's a risk/reward situation that the Cowboys are continuing to work with.
For today, at least, Maher and his team are basking in the glory of a great game. Let's hope both can keep up the positive momentum.
Cowboys Defense Dominates in Crucial Win vs Eagles
Coming into yesterday's battle for NFC East supremacy against the Philadelphia Eagles the Dallas Cowboys defense was looking to regain some swagger. The Green Bay Packers were led by Aaron Jones who had a career day with 182 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns two weeks ago in a 34-24 beatdown of the Cowboys. Last week at Metlife Stadium, the New York Jets got a career day themselves from their former third overall pick in Sam Darnold who threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns in his return from Mononucleosis that kept him out since Week one. The Cowboys were handed their third consecutive loss 24-22 and their season was headed down the drain.
It would be paramount for the Cowboys defensive unit to set a tone and they didn't waste any time doing so. The Eagle's first possession would only last five plays as Jaylon Smith forced a fumble by Tight End Dallas Goedert that was recovered by Maliek Collins. Just two plays into their second drive, Carson Wentz was strip-sacked by All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence inside the Eagles own 15 which was recovered by Antwaun Woods. Both turnovers led to scores for the Cowboys as they took an early 14-0 lead in the games first six minutes.
After the Eagles scored on a seven-play 87-yard drive with a little over four minutes to go in the first quarter they would only run 12 plays the rest of the first half, and the Cowboys went into the locker room with a commanding 27-7 lead.
The second half would be a continuation of the first 30 minutes of play. After an exchange of field goals in the third quarter, the Eagles were simply out of their misery early in the fourth. Wentz was intercepted by Safety Xavier Woods and he committed his second fumble of the game on the very next drive. In the end, the Cowboys whipped the Eagles from start to finish 37-10 and claimed outright first place in the NFC East.
There were several encouraging signs defensively for the Cowboys vs the Eagles. Maliek Collins matched his season total with five tackles and also recovered a fumble. Both starting defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn each had a sack showing exactly why the Cowboys put this combo together, to terrorize quarterbacks. Cornerback Jourdan Lewis had four tackles and a sack, a great follow up to his four tackle performance with an interception a week earlier, further making his case to be the top guy at nickel corner in this defense. The old veteran Sean Lee didn't go unnoticed either as his seven tackles were tied for of the team lead. He got more snaps due to Leighton Vander Esch's early exit with a neck injury.
You expect an offense like the Eagles to make plays and score points eventually, but the Cowboys defense wasn't having any of it in this contest. In addition to giving up under 300 yards of total offense, they only allowed the Eagles to convert three third downs, go 0 for 2 in the red zone and forced four turnovers. That's a recipe for victory any Sunday.
Now, the Cowboys go into the bye week sitting on top the NFC East throne. This is the perfect time to get guys fully healthy with a clash against the New York Giants on the road awaiting them in two weeks. The Cowboys defense played with their backs to the wall and pulled out a big-time performance when they needed it the most. Consistency is what has kept them from looking like the top seven unit they were in 2018. Was this game the turning point? We shall see, but nonetheless, this showing by them was exactly what the doctor ordered.
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