At this year's NFL Scouting Combine, Dallas Cowboys VP Stephen Jones spoke about the team's philosophy at the nose tackle or 1T DT position. In just a few sentences, Jones all but slammed the brakes on the hype train for the Cowboys selecting Washington's Vita Vea in the first round of this upcoming draft.
Vea is one of the more intriguing prospects in this entire draft class, quickly becoming a fan favorite of Cowboys Nation this offseason even though he plays the undervalued 1T position. A human wrecking ball at 347 pounds, the hope for Vita Vea having supporters in the Cowboys' war room is once again alive and well.
The Cowboys believe Washington DT Vita Vea is a three-down player...not a typical nose guard. Rod Marinelli told me as much at the combine
The implications of this report are potentially massive on the Cowboys at the 2018 NFL Draft. Even if it doesn't mean a long-overdue upgrade at DT is on the way in the form of Vita Vea, there is a lot to be learned about the pecking order in Dallas when it comes to grading these prospects.
For 68-year old Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli, this is a topic I have discussed before when questioning just how much pull he would carry in draft decisions this month. At the time, Marinelli was seen working out Florida DT Taven Bryan.
Bryan's fit with the Cowboys is much more clear-cut, as he solely played the pass rushing 3T position in college. This is the most important spot in Marinelli's scheme, one that Bryan would fill nicely as "Rod's type of player".
If the Cowboys are interested in Da'Ron Payne at 19, it's because they think he can play some 3-tech, as Stephen Jones said last week at the Combine:
In initially dismissing the idea of selecting a nose tackle early in the draft, Stephen Jones echoed the Cowboys' trust in Rod Marinelli's scheme and need for a better 3T DT - referred to above as the "under tackle".
Regardless of which Cowboys coach or executive pounds the table the hardest for their player on the clock at 19th overall, I believe they are correct in evaluating both Taven Bryan as an ideal scheme fit and Vita Vea as a three down player.
There is no way around the fact that Vea will primarily play the run-stuffing 1T position in the NFL, but this is a prospect with a legitimate chance to change the entire complexion of a front seven in even his first year.
No matter how Vea lined up at Washington, opposing offensive linemen consistently failed at handling his freakish combination of speed, power, and technique.
Vea is an absolute space eater on the interior of the defensive line, collapsing the pocket when necessary while also flashing some get off ability as a down-the-line nose tackle. Committing to Vea as a three down DT in Dallas would greatly benefit the likes of David Irving and Maliek Collins at the other starting spot.
As the Cowboys depth chart stands now, it appears that Maliek Collins would continue playing the 1T position as he did in the latter half of 2017. Showing so much potential as a 3T DT instead his rookie season, Collins could pair up with Vea at his natural position again to bolster the interior of the Cowboys defense.
Of course, this defensive line needs to be led by franchise player DeMarcus Lawrence again in 2018. Creating opportunities for Lawrence off the edge starts with the match ups the Cowboys create on their defensive interior, where their current depth would be filled out nicely by Vita Vea.
So far this offseason, the Cowboys did re-sign DT Brian Price - who was lost for the year early in his first campaign with the team. With limited reps, Price was a serviceable 1T along with Lewis Neal and Richard Ash.
It should go without saying that none of these players are skilled enough to truly stop the Cowboys from upgrading at DT in the draft, as they've shown interest in doing outside of Vita Vea - also hosting Alabama's Da'Ron Payne for an official pre-draft visit (along with Bryan).
Draft factoid of the day: Washington DT Vita Vea's full name is Tevita Tuliakiono Tuipuloto Mosese Va'hae Faletau Vea. So Vita Vea works nicely.
Tony Pollard Should See More Work with Injuries at Wide Receiver
After making it through the preseason relatively unscathed on the injury front to the team's starters and primary role players, the Dallas Cowboys have caught a case of the injury bug in the last week. Already it's been announced that Xavier Woods is going to miss some time with an ankle sprain and Antwaun Woods is dealing with an MCL sprain. Injuries at any point in the season will test a team's depth and the Dallas Cowboys are about to be tested at the wide receiver position with Michael Gallup out for up to a month and Tavon Austin still in the concussion protocol.
Heading into the Cowboys week three matchup with the Miami Dolphins, the team currently only has four healthy wide receivers on the roster; Amari Cooper, Devin Smith, Randall Cobb, and Cedrick Wilson. It's certainly plausible that the team could look at a veteran player, perhaps even one that's been with the team in the past, or they could call up one of their practice squad players like a Jon'vea Johnson or Ventrell Bryant.
The player the Dallas Cowboys should look to incorporate into the passing game, either in week three or beyond, is Running Back Tony Pollard.
Tony Pollard came to the NFL with the reputation of being mostly a receiving threat. In three seasons at Memphis, he caught nearly as many passes (104) as he had rushing attempts (139). In 2018, he had 1,000 yards from scrimmage with nearly half of those yards coming in the passing game. As a pass catcher, Pollard averaged more than 12 yards per reception for his career at Memphis and could be a dynamic weapon for the Cowboys to deploy in the passing game.
We've already seen how Pollard can be an effective runner for the Dallas Cowboys. On Sunday he averaged 5.5 yards per carry on his four attempts and had a touchdown brought back due to a penalty.
The Cowboys love to use jet motion, throw bubble screens, and traditional screen passes, and Pollard can be an effective weapon in addition to his ability as a running back. Now it's not likely that the team will want to put a lot on his plate early in the season or give opposing teams film of how they might use Tony Pollard in the passing game, but if they need to get some snaps at the receiver position from a player they trust, Pollard's your guy.
They showed a lot of faith in Pollard during the preseason, running him exclusively with the first-team offense and giving him a vast majority of the workload. The team's raved about his ability to pick up the playbook and execute the things they're asking him to do. Unleashing his receiving skills will be a difference-maker for the Cowboys and could be huge while Michael Gallup and Tavon Austin are out of action.
The Dallas Cowboys have a weapon that the rest of the NFL is unfamiliar with and it's only a matter of time until Kellen Moore calls his number in a way we haven't seen yet. With only four healthy wide receivers on the roster currently and for the foreseeable future, Tony Pollard could find those opportunities rather soon. Despite the injuries to Gallup and Austin, the depth of playmakers the Cowboys have is very exciting. It's only a matter of time until Tony Pollard creates a little excitement of his own.
Report: Cowboys S Xavier Woods Could Only Miss One Game
The Dallas Cowboys might not be without their rising star at free safety as long as they originally thought. According to DallasCowboys.com's Bryan Broaddus, Xavier Woods could only miss this Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins.
They gave him a physical and didn't sign so that tells me a little something. Xavier Woods is not going to be out 4-6 weeks. Might miss one game... https://t.co/EFcpjlZnPH
Woods suffered a high ankle sprain this past Sunday against the Washington Redskins that was supposed to keep him out 4-6 weeks. If he is only out one game that would be amazing news for the Cowboys with the toughest part of their schedule coming up. Safety Darian Thompson is set to start this Sunday opposite Jeff Heath in place of Woods, with rookie Donovan Wilson and Kavon Frazier also their for insurance. Will Xavier Woods be back against the New Orleans Saints next week? Something to keep an eye on. More details to come.
Cowboys Have to Remain Focused the Next two Weeks, Avoid any Letdowns
It's been seen in the NFL too many times before and it'll be seen again. A superior team letting an inferior team catch them by surprise and the next thing you know an unforeseen loss occurs, and sometimes that can spark a downward spiral. Coming into the 2019 season the Dallas Cowboys knew they had two division games for starters, against teams they were better than on paper. That makes it easy for a letdown or an underwhelming performance to occur, however, the Cowboys showed they have a single-minded focus that needs to continue in the next two weeks.
The New York Giants came out on fire on their first possession week one that was sparked by a 59-yard run from Saquon Barkley that set up an early 7-0 lead, but almost simultaneously, the magic ended after the score. The Giants would score just 3 more points until a late garbage-time touchdown made the final score a little more respectable at 35-17.
Although the Giants had 25 first downs and almost 500 yards of offense they were only 2 of 11 on third down and failed to reach 20 points. Meanwhile, Quarterback Dak Prescott had arguably the best game of his career with 405 yards, 4 touchdowns, and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. They took the Giants best shot early and didn't flinch, just the kind of focus you like to see.
The Washington Redskins were up next in a big early-season NFC East road game. Just like the week before, the Cowboys offense started off slow in finding their groove and they fell behind 7-0 early in the second quarter, and then the flood gates opened. Dak Prescott once again was spectacular going 26 of 30 (ended the game with 18 straight completions, 14 of 14 in the second half) for 269 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The Cowboys scored on five consecutive possessions and at one time lead 31-14 before eventually winning 31-21. Falling behind on the road to a division opponent can be tough to overcome regardless if they are a good team or not. The Cowboys showed great poise and cut the head off the snake so to speak when they smelled blood and improved to 2-0.
This Sunday the Miami Dolphins come to town in your classic "Trap Game". On paper, this matchup isn't even close considering the Dolphins have been outscored 102-10 and have given up 391 rushing yards in the first two games. Smart money says the Cowboys should steamroll this team, but people shouldn't be so confident. Riding a wave of momentum like the Cowboys are currently on into a home game with an inferior opponent has all the ingredients of a letdown if they're not careful.
The defense needs to assert it's dominance this week. They have been excellent only allowing 19 points per game and stopping 16 out of 20 third-down situations. However, they have given up 44 first downs and allowed touchdowns on 5 of 7 red zone opportunities. Plenty of room for improvement and playing a bad offense should help the defense immensely. Offensively, keep riding the Dak-Zeke wave. Prescott is off to his best career start and Ezekiel Elliott is fresh off a 100-yard performance. The defense they are facing is allowing 51 points per game, attack early and often.
After that, the Cowboys travel to New Orleans to face the Saints in a game that was looked at as a premiere regular-season matchup when the schedule was released in April. Unfortunately, at least for the Saints, Drew Brees will miss the next six weeks with ligament damage to the thumb on his throwing hand. Also, the Saints defense is giving up 27.5 points per game so far in 2019.
What the Cowboys don't want is a bad performance in a game they should win on paper just like the Saints did last season, ironically against Dallas. The Saints were on a 10 game winning streak when they rolled into Arlington in week 13. Arguably the NFL's top offense was shut down as the Cowboys won a tough 13-10 battle. Let your defense pin it's ears back and make life miserable for backup Teddy Bridgewater, who while talented, can't operate the offense on the level of Drew Brees. Give Prescott, Elliott, and this high powered offense short fields all night and put points on the board early and quiet what should be a loud crowd down in Cajun Country.
The Cowboys have home games against the Packers and Eagles as well as a road game against the Giants in the month that follows the next few weeks. It's imperative for them to take care of business the next two games with the meat and potatoes of their schedule coming up. They will have to overcome the injury bug, though, as several players went down this past Sunday.
Wide Receiver Michael Gallup is out 2-4 weeks with a meniscus tear, Xavier Woods is out 4-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain, Antwaun Woods is day-to-day with an MCL sprain and Tyrone Crawford is being monitored as he deals with a hip issue. Nonetheless, the Cowboys still have more than enough to beat these two wounded dogs, but that's easier said than done. Will they keep their focus? Only time will tell.
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