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?
Can Jaylon Smith Challenge Vander Esch For Starting MIKE Role?
When the Dallas Cowboys selected Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with their first round pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the whole world basically assumed he would be the starting MIKE linebacker week one of the upcoming season.
After all, the Cowboys lost Anthony Hitchens to free agency and none of the injury replacements had much success during the 2017 season.
Now just a couple of months shy of that week one match up with the Carolina Panthers, a battle for that middle linebacker spot appears to be occurring.
Former 2016 second round pick Jaylon Smith has seemed to find his health, and his movement skills and agility look like they did back when he was at Notre Dame. Whether or not these offseason hype videos will actually mean anything on the field remains to be seen, but just the fact that Smith is working out and playing without the knee brace is obviously a good sign.
Unlike Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith did play for the Dallas Cowboys a year ago. Sure Smith had his share of growing pains, but he seemed to find his groove late in the season. It probably isn't a coincidence, though, that Smith's best games came when coming off the bench in a limited role and when playing beside veteran Sean Lee.
During the offseason activity thus far Jaylon Smith has gotten the majority of snaps at middle linebacker, but Vander Esch has also been sidelined with an injured ankle. Leighton Vander Esch clearly fits the mold of a MIKE both physically and athletically, but at his best Jaylon Smith does as well.
Despite the resurgence of Jaylon Smith and the injury to Leighton Vander Esch, I still do expect Vander Esch to snag that MIKE role moving forward. While showing glimpses of productive play, Smith did not impress enough to earn him the unquestioned starting job last season, and may best fit as a SAM backer and situational pass rusher/blitzer in the current scheme.
Allowing Jaylon Smith to conserve his energy and provide a boost off the bench is the best way for the Cowboys to structure their defense. Of course, this is only true as long as Vander Esch becomes the player they expect him to be, though.
If Jaylon Smith does return to the player he was at Notre Dame prior to his horrific injury, the Cowboys will possess three incredibly rangy, athletic, and talented linebackers on their roster.
Of course, that if is a very big if at this point, however.
Will Cowboys’ Performance VS NFC South Define 2018 Season?
When thinking about how the Cowboys' 2017 season came to an end the day before Christmas after a disappointing loss to the Seattle Seahawks, we often forget the team needed some extra help in order to get to the playoffs. The NFC was a tough conference to play in last year... but it will only be tougher in 2018.
The NFC is way stronger than the AFC right now, at least in terms of depth.
The Cowboys will be sharing a division with the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that only got stronger this offseason and will try to make a run for the NFC East title once again.
As good and promising as the Cowboys' roster is, it's only fair to admit that trying to get to the postseason this year might implicate running for a wildcard spot. Many teams will be fighting for a playoff berth late in the year but fortunately for Dallas, they will be able to control their destiny against a handful of this teams.
The Cowboys will play against the entire NFC South this season. Except for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, every team in the South division was fighting for a chance at January football heading into week 17.
The Saints, Falcons and Panthers all finished the season with double-digit wins last year, and there's little reason to believe they won't come back as strong as they were in 2017.
If the Cowboys are not able to beat the Eagles in the NFC East race, we'll be hearing about a lot of different playoff scenarios that will be needed in order to play in the postseason. Certainly, having the head-to-head advantage against the NFC South teams would go a long way, even if the team will play the Saints, Falcons and Panthers before December comes around.
If the Cowboys do manage to get back to their 2016-selves, no team in the league should be an "impossible" challenge for a powerful running-game based offense and a defense that can rush the passer consistently.
Of course, the NFC South is not the only challenging division in the conference. The NFC West will feature another three football teams that will be winning tons of games. The Rams, 49ers and Seahawks are all very likely to have winning records and be in the hunt once December comes around.
In a season that promises to be a "comeback" year for America's Team, the NFC promises to be a threatening conference from every direction. If the Cowboys will be able to overcome or not remains unknown and will stay that way until the season actually starts.
Cowboys en Español: 3 Escenarios Para el Futuro de David Irving
En la NFL, la falta de noticias en Junio generalmente significa buenas noticias. Los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys saben esto mejor que nadie y en caso de que lo hayan olvidado, David Irving se aseguró de recordarle a Cowboys Nation el porque de esta frase.
La semana pasada, se anunció que David Irving recibirá una suspensión de cuatro partidos por haber violado la política de abuso de substancias de la liga. Es la segunda suspensión que Irving recibe en años consecutivos y lógicamente, esto es preocupante para el equipo de los Dallas Cowboys.
Las últimas dos temporadas hemos visto a Irving convertirse en una pieza de suma importancia para la defensiva. El año pasado, Irving consiguió siete sacks (capturas) en sólo ocho juegos y se convirtió en un caza cabezas muy efectivo.
Demostrando ser uno de los jugadores más talentosos de su posición en la NFL, es difícil imaginar el futuro del #95 en la liga. Tras recibir un tender de segunda ronda hace unos meses (explico que es eso aquí), el futuro de Irving es muy incierto. Por eso, esta semana en Cowboys en Español, exploraremos tres escenarios posibles para el defensivo de 24 años.
#1 David Irving se va de Dallas prematuramente
Hace unos días, me dediqué a defender mi posición de que los Cowboys estarían cometiendo un error al cortar a David Irving. A pesar de que realmente despedirse de un defensivo como Irving parece muy poco probable, es un escenario que debemos discutir.
Irving ha sido un dolor de cabeza para el equipo en más de una ocasión. Dos suspensiones en años consecutivos no es una buena imagen para un jugador que busca un contrato jugoso al terminar el año.
Si Jason Garrett y la administración quieren "dar un mensaje" cortando a David Irving, ¿qué tanto serviría? Esta idea de enviar un mensaje, a la hora de pensarlo fríamente, parece una idea romántica de parte de nosotros los fans. Al final de cuentas, estamos hablando de un locker room lleno de jugadores adultos y profesionales, no de un grupo de niños.
Además, bien sabemos todos que Irving no es el único Cowboy que ha tenido problemas. ¿Será el hecho de que ha ocurrido dos años seguidos razón suficiente para dejarlo ir? Personalmente, no lo creo. Los Cowboys dejarían ir a un jugador muy bueno en una posición de necesidad.
Datone Jones, Jihad Ward y Maliek Collins podrán ser suficiente. Pero David Irving es especial en el campo. Mejor tenerlo por 12 juegos a tenerlo cero.
#2 Irving se queda para el 2018, pero no más allá
David Irving recibió un contrato de un año que le pagaba (antes de ser suspendido) 2.91 millones de dólares. Si hubiera demostrado que no era problemático y que podía mantenerse al 100% toda la temporada, probablemente hubiera recibido un gran contrato de los Cowboys o de otro equipo en la NFL.
Sin embargo, el dicho lo dice todo. "En la NFL, la disponibilidad es la mejor habilidad." Irving no se ha terminado de ganar la confianza necesaria para una gran extensión.
En este punto, Dallas puede esperar a que su tackle defensivo regrese de su suspensión, juegue doce juegos con ellos y les consiga un sack por juego por menos de tres millones de dólares. Después de eso, el equipo pude darse el lujo de dejarlo ir sin una extensión y verlo convertirse en un agente libre.
#3 Irving se queda por más de un año
En este caso, hay dos "sub-escenarios." Suponiendo que, efectivamente, Irving regresa y juega como sabemos que puede hacerlo, no será tan fácil dejarlo ir. Si llega a sorprender y demuestra que realmente es quien creemos que es y consigue diez capturas en sólo doce juegos, ¿realmente no le dará el equipo una oportunidad?
La primera opción sería asignarle la etiqueta franquicia y obligarlo a jugar un año más para un equipo que busca desesperadamente un Super Bowl.
Si se sienten cómodos dándole el salario de una etiqueta franquicia para evitar perderlo, ¿podríamos culparlos después de que les dio por ejemplo, diez capturas? Yo, personalmente, no podría hacerlo.
La otra opción, y una que podría ser la más realista, es más simple. La inmadurez y los problemas de Irving le costarán la confianza y el interés de otros equipos y es posible que en un punto, Dallas sea el único equipo que le pueda brindar seguridad de trabajo.
De esta manera, Dallas podría ofrecerle una extensión de dos, tres o más años a un precio mucho más barato que el de cualquier DT que consiga dos dígitos de sacks.
David Irving sin duda tiene un futuro incierto delante de él. Realmente sería una sorpresa verlo fuera de Dallas en el 2018, pero más allá, quien sabe lo que pueda pasar. Por ahora, esperemos que una vez que vuelva de la suspensión, esté en forma para ir detrás de los quarterbacks oponentes.
Con un poco de suerte, quizá nos olvidaremos de esto en Noviembre.
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