Yesterday I shared with you who I believe are the Dallas Cowboys top 10 offensive players currently on the roster, and today I want to do the same on the defensive side of the ball. We all know that the Cowboys haven't invested as much in defense as they have on offense, but that doesn't mean they're not talented there as well.
I found it a little bit more difficult to narrow down my top 10 defensive players then I did the offensive one's, and I'm sure you will disagree with how I have some of them ranked. But, that just opens up the discussion to debate. You can use the comment section located at the end of the article to do just that.
#10 - DB, Xavier Woods
Xavier Woods wasn't a starter as a rookie, but that doesn't diminish the impact he made in the Dallas Cowboys secondary in his first year in the NFL. He was kind of a do it all defensive back last year and ended up performing like a player that should've been drafted much sooner than the sixth-round. He is in line to become one of the starting safeties this year and I expect him to have a great season in 2018.
#9 - LB, Jaylon Smith
It may be a little bit of a stretch to put Jaylon Smith in the top 10 considering he's only played one full season in the NFL, but I believe his arrow is trending upward. We saw flashes of the player he once was at Notre Dame last season, which on its own probably makes him one of the best defensive players on the roster. But, his health has improved even more and we should see a much improved player. He could be used as both a traditional linebacker and a pass rusher this season.
#8 - CB, Jourdan Lewis
When coming out of Michigan last year all you heard about Jourdan Lewis was that he was a cornerback who possesses first-round talent, but will slide due to his lack of ideal height/length. Well, that proved to be true, but it didn't stop the Cowboys from drafting him. He went on and had a fantastic rookie season and might just have been the best CB on the roster last year. He is expected to be the nickel CB this year, but he should compete to start on the outside as well.
#7 - S, Jeff Heath
I've been critical of Jeff Heath in the past, but I do believe he is one of the Dallas Cowboys best defensive players currently on the roster. He has the trust of the coaching staff and for good reason. He is reliable and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He's never going to blow you away with his athleticism, but you're not going to find him out of position. Plus, he's not a bad backup kicker either.
#6 - CB, Chidobe Awuzie
I've heard the nonsense of possibly moving Chidobe Awuzie to safety, but I think that would be a mistake because he is a chance to be one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. He struggled to get on the field early as a rookie due to reoccurring injuries, but once he did he proved why he was considered one of the best CBs in the 2017 draft class. He has the height/length to cover any WR in the NFL, but it's his understanding of route concepts that puts him in a position to make a play on the ball.
#5 - CB, Byron Jones
Many Dallas Cowboys fans have already written off Byron Jones and labeled him as a first-round bust, but I believe they are mistaken. Jones has been forced to play out of position at safety due to need since arriving in Dallas, but we will finally be able to see him play where he feels most natural now that he is moving back to cornerback. I expect him to look like an entirely different player in 2018 and prove his doubters wrong.
#4 - DE/DT, Tyrone Crawford
Like Byron Jones, Tyrone Crawford receives a lot of hate from Dallas Cowboys fans. A lot of that has to do with him not really living up to his big money contract, but you can't blame him for taking the money he was offered. His importance to the defense is due to his versatility. He is able to play DE or DT, and has done so at a relatively high level. He is at his best when playing the run, but he does offer a little bit as a pass rusher as well.
#3 - DT, David Irving
David Irving has mostly been a flash player the majority of his career. We would see moments of brilliance from him and then he would kind of disappear for stretches on end. Fortunately, it looks as if he was able to finally put everything together in 2017 and ended up being one of the best defensive tackles in the entire league. He still has to prove he can be consistent both on and off the field, but there is no denying he is one of the best defensive players the Cowboys have.
#2 - LB, Sean Lee
The only thing keeping Sean Lee from being the best Dallas Cowboys defender and possibly the best linebacker in the entire NFL is injuries. Unfortunately, I don't see that changing anytime soon. Typically players start sustaining more injuries the older they get and that didn't bode well for Lee being able to stay healthy. But, his preparation and film study is second to none. He seems to know exactly where the ball is going before it is even snapped.
#1 - DE, DeMarcus Lawrence
For me, DeMarcus Lawrence is the Dallas Cowboys best defensive player. Because of a reoccurring back injury earlier in his career it took him a while to finally put it all together, but there's no denying the Cowboys have finally found their "War Daddy". He was arguably the most dominant defensive end in the NFL last year and I expect him to pick up where he left off.
How would you rank the Dallas Cowboys top 10 defensive players?
Starters Make Cowboys Serious Contenders, But Depth is a Concern
Playing in the National Football Conference, the Dallas Cowboys have a difficult task ahead of them if they are to be serious Super Bowl contenders. Even still, they've become a very underrated football team due to their 9-7 record last season. The Cowboys struggled in many areas and with the Philadelphia Eagles crowned as Super Bowl Champions, everyone has forgotten about America's Team.
2017 was an awful year for the Cowboys. It seemed like a roller coaster of success, putting up an impressive performance one week only to disappoint the next one. Let's be honest with ourselves here and talk about what really ended the Cowboys' last season.
As much as we talk about how there shouldn't be any excuses in football - the Eagles made a huge statement by winning it all with a backup QB and other key starters missing - we can't deny the impact of these injuries.
Anthony Hitchens, Sean Lee, Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliott all missed some time last year, affecting the team's performance week in and week out. Had the starters been healthy, the truth is this team would've been in the playoffs.
Heading into 2018, the Cowboys will face a very similar situation. This year, starters make Dallas a serious contender. Even if they're playing in a conference that will feature a lot of quality teams, the Cowboys are a team that could beat any team in the league if healthy.
Even the dreaded wide receiver position - which has been famous this offseason for the lack of a #1 receiver - won't be as bad as we make it out to be starter-wise. A starting trio of Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup and Cole Beasley doesn't really sound bad.
Heck, not even Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods starting at safety is concerning. They have what it takes to be decent starters. Sure, Heath isn't a guy who will make the Pro Bowl, but his skills will show on the field once the season starts in September.
The Cowboys' starters will do just fine this season. If the team's fate is up to them, they are in a very good spot. The same can not be said about depth, though.
Except for the defensive line, every other position lacks depth. If Sean Lee goes down, the linebackers stop looking like a three-headed monster. Same goes for the cornerbacks. Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis seem like a good group but as soon as one of them suffers an injury, the Cowboys will be in trouble.
We're in for an exciting season with a lot of young talent waiting to breakout. The Cowboys are underrated this year. They may not be among the NFC's favorites, but they truly have what it takes to replicate the success they had in 2016. However, it seems like circumstances have to be ideal for them to make a run for the Lombardi Trophy.
With a little bit of luck, they'll bounce back this season.
The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up
Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.
The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.
As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.
Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.
Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.
Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.
Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.
I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.
All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.
How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?
Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?
With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.
Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.
I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.
I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?
Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.
Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.
Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.
Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.
Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?
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