You can never have too many pass rushers in today's NFL. In a league where the rules are geared towards quarterbacks putting up video game numbers, you better have soldiers on the line scrimmage ready for battle weekly.
Robert Quinn was acquired via trade in March from the Miami Dolphins. Before his one year on South Beach, he spent seven years with the Rams, where he made his name known. By his second year in the league, he started to show flashes of being a big-time defensive end, with 10.5 sacks. This would start a string of three consecutive seasons of double-digit sacks, highlighted by his 19 in 2013 which earned him his only All-Pro selection.
He hasn't reached ten or more sacks since 2014, with injuries playing a huge role in him falling short of that mark. He would log only fifteen starts from 2015 to 2016. However, he has played in 31 of a possible 32 games the last two seasons. It should also be noted that he's played in at least fifteen games in every season except two. Despite a few setbacks he's been pretty durable which is huge considering he plays such a physical position.
At first, there were rumblings that this signing was preparation for a potential divorce from All-Pro Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who at the time was trying to negotiate a long-term deal. However, just a few weeks later Lawrence signed a five year 105 million dollar contract, and it was clear the organization's intentions were to pair the two.
This isn't foreign territory for Quinn. In 2017, when Aaron Donald was making his third of four consecutive All-Pro teams, he registered 8.5 sacks in his last season with the Rams. Proving he's ideal as a number two pass rusher, who can easily be a one on any given Sunday. It's key to remember that Quinn will lineup at right defensive end. Most quarterbacks are right-handed, so his pressure will be from the blind side. Nothing frightens a quarterback more than pressure he can't see.
An impactful season from Quinn will also make life easier for the interior pass rush. With Lawrence drawing double teams a lot, and himself getting chipped by back running backs while being engaged with left tackles in pass protection, your beast on the inside will have a lot of one-on-one opportunities. Guys like Antwaun Woods, Trysten Hill, and Maliek Collins could potentially have a field day only battling one offensive lineman on passing downs for the majority of a game. You control the line of scrimmage, you win games in the NFL, it's just that simple.
He's not just getting help from his coaches and fellow defensive linemen, but rather a teammate on the other side of the ball, All-Pro Left Tackle Tyron Smith. The advantage of going up against that kind of competition every day as you prepare for the season is extremely beneficial, and Quinn recognizes that.
"To go against that type of player each and every day only elevates my game. I give it my all, and you can’t take any plays off. I think both of us are making each other better, day in and day out," Quinn said.
The real big win is the price it took to get Quinn, which wasn't much. Stephen Jones dipped into his bag of tricks with this one, only giving up a 2020 sixth round pick. The money figures are even more to salivate over. His original 11.8 million dollar salary will be reduced to 8 million in a reworked one year deal, maxing out at 9 million with incentives. Also, it put about 4 million extra dollars in the Cowboys piggy bank. Considering what the organization did with the deals of Randall Cobb and George Iloka as well in free agency, the front office is finding value for pennies on the dollar.
What can't be taken for granted either is the high level of production Quinn has had when you really breakdown the numbers. He has 69 sacks in eight seasons, an average of just under nine per year, but let's peel back the numbers even further. He's missed the equivalent of about one season due to injuries. Now, an average season from Quinn when healthy means he would be close to 80 sacks right now without any setbacks. Oh, and did I mention that he won't be 30 for another year? Safe to say, there's plenty of miles left on this vehicle.
He's joining a top seven defense from a year ago, with a great mix of youth and experience. The hope here is that he can regain his Pro Bowl level of production from 2014, and simultaneously make himself and DeMarcus Lawrence one of the top pass-rushing combinations in the league.
Tony Pollard, Supporting Cast or a Co-lead with Ezekiel Elliott?
Since the Dallas Cowboys drafted Running Back Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in the first-round of the 2016 NFL Draft he's been the star of the show. Any of their other offensive weapons have been nothing more than supporting cast the past three years, but rookie RB/WR Tony Pollard could prove to be more than just supporting cast and become more of a co-lead in Zeke's show.
Suggesting Tony Pollard has a chance to be more than just supporting cast with Ezekiel Elliott is a lot to put on a rookies shoulders, but that's the kind of hype he's receiving already. He hasn't even put on the pads yet with the Dallas Cowboys, but he's already receiving Alvin Kamara type comparisons due to the versatility he's expected to bring with him to the NFL.
Living up to those Alvin Kamara comparisons might be even more difficult than becoming anything more than just an extra behind Zeke anytime soon, but it's doable. After all, Kamara immediately stepped in as a rookie and became a costar with Mark Ingram in New Orleans. It's certainly feasible to think Pollard can do the same.
There's of course only one problem with this way of thinking. Mark Ingram is no Ezekiel Elliott. And, no RB on the depth chart behind Zeke the last three years has been good enough to cut into #21's heavy workload. Is the hype surrounding Tony Pollard justified? Is he talented enough to cut into Zeke's playing time?
Those are some really big questions we don't have an answer to as of yet. Training camp could help determine the type of role Tony Pollard will have with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and beyond, but even that can be thrown out the window once games start to matter in the regular season.
Personally, I think Tony Pollard will be part of a supporting cast behind Ezekiel Elliott this year. I just don't think he's ready to step in and costar with Zeke just yet. I think he will be more of a comedic relief that will be used from time to time to keep things interesting. That's not necessarily a bad thing though considering his versatility to contribute in the running or passing game.
In time though, Pollard could prove worthy of an increase in playing time and become more of a co-lead with No. 21. It may very well be in his rookie season, but he's really going to have to prove himself and that will need to start this week when the Dallas Cowboys kick off their training camp in Oxnard, California.
What do you think? Is Tony Pollard supporting cast or a co-lead with Zeke?
Randy Gregory can Make the Perimeter Pass Rush Extremely Formidable
Randy Gregory showed flashes last season of the potential he has as a pass rusher. Even though he only managed one start he did see action in 14 games. Had registered 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, 7 tackles for loss and 15 hits on the quarterback. That's very good production with limited opportunities. Now, this sets up the Dallas Cowboys on the edge getting to the quarterback, and here's how.
The Cowboys acquired Defensive End Robert Quinn via trade from the Dolphins back in March. He is set to start at right defensive end opposite All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence. Gregory, who lines up on the right side as well, can potentially make said side a huge problem for offenses on 2019.
Let's just take a typical season from Quinn which is between 8-9 sacks. If Gregory can give at minimum what he did last season, that's around 15 sacks just between the two of them alone. Now, as we all know, Lawrence can be penciled in for double-digit sacks routinely at this point. So given this information that's a potential 25-30 sacks just from these three players. This is without including guys such as Taco Charlton, Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder, and rookies Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks (assuming they make the final roster).
Why is Gregory's potential impact so important? For me, it's simply where he lines up at defensive end, on the right side. Most quarterbacks are right-handed, which means when they drop back to pass they face left side defensive ends, with their backs to defensive ends coming off the right side. If you can consistently pressure a quarterback from his blindside the opportunities for sacks and fumbles increase. Regardless of how skilled a quarterback is you can't avoid what you can't see.
Of course, this all depends on what the NFL does regarding the reinstatement of Gregory. He was suspended indefinitely in February for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, a situation he is all too familiar with. My guess is Gregory and the Cowboys will ask for a conditional reinstatement like he was given by the NFL in 2018. What this would do is allow Gregory to participate in meetings and condition work until he's a full participant. He is set to apply for that reinstatement within the next few days.
The only thing Randy Gregory can do now is play the waiting game. The league is currently considering the possibility of softening their stance on marijuana use. If they are serious about it I can see Gregory getting reinstated even if it's on a conditional basis. If this is granted the Cowboys will be getting big-time pressure off the edge with Lawrence, Quinn, and Gregory in 2019.
CB Jourdan Lewis Getting Ready For Bounce-Back 2019 Season
For a third round pick, cornerback Jourdan Lewis sure did come to Dallas with his fair share of hype.
In fact, much of Cowboys Nation was more excited about Lewis joining the Cowboys than they were about either of the team's first two selections in that same draft, Taco Charlton and Chidobe Awuzie. But while Awuzie has soared to starting cornerback levels with Dallas during his first two seasons, Jourdan Lewis has been forced to take a back seat.
After a promising rookie season, Jourdan Lewis didn't get much playing time at cornerback in 2018. Anthony Brown took over as the starting slot corner, while Byron Jones and Awuzie manned the outside. This left Lewis as the odd man out, despite what many consider to be impressive cover skills.
Lewis is not allowing this down season to eat away at him too much, though. While speaking with the media last week at SportsCon in Dallas, Lewis gave his thoughts on how his year spent behind the other young Cowboys corners is only fueling him for the future.
"As a competitor it's always tough, especially as a rookie and you're playing all of the time. It's definitely when you take a step back it humbles you. Sometimes you gotta understand that you have to wait your turn and work on your craft. Understand that you always have to stay a professional no matter your situation. And that's what I learned last year."
Considered undersized by the standards typically used by Cowboys secondary coach Kris Richard, some have argued that Lewis was never given a fair shot to earn playing time once Richard took over in 2018. Whether or not this is true can't ever be said for sure, and the level of play Anthony Brown exhibited from the slot in 2018 didn't leave much room for substitutions either.
Still, Jourdan Lewis says he appreciates that time he spent on the bench, and he hopes that it will only drive him towards bigger and better things down the road.
"I appreciate the time that I sat last year honestly...Because it made me a better player, maybe a better person honestly."
The Cowboys cornerback situation didn't get any less crowded this offseason. Not only is Dallas bringing back all three of the aforementioned starters from a year ago, but they also drafted Miami's Michael Jackson in the fifth round of the 2019 draft.
That cornerback room is full of talent. Not only does this create a luxury for the Cowboys at one of the league's most important positions, but it also breeds immense competition between the corners come training camp.
Which, if you didn't know, begins on July 26th.
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