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Rookie Minicamp: Finding Roles for Cowboys’ Offensive Rookies

Sean Martin

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The Dallas Cowboys stayed true to their commitment of heavily addressing the defense in the 2017 NFL Draft, committing seven of their nine picks to that side of the ball. With their offensive core firmly in place, the draft still presented the Cowboys a chance to bolster the wide receiver position – and potentially much more – in the fourth round with Ryan Switzer and seventh with Noah Brown.

With the full slate of rookies reporting to Minicamp yesterday to #EarnTheStar, let’s attempt to find 2017 roles for Switzer, Brown, and a few of the offensive players Dallas signed after the draft.

WR Ryan Switzer (Round 4 Pick 133)

Cowboys Draft: Scouting 4th Round WR Ryan Switzer

Ryan Switzer has quickly developed into a fan favorite player for many in Cowboys Nation, which is warranted when you look at the wide range of ways Switzer can impact any given game as a rookie for America’s Team.

Already well-known for giving Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan another Cole Beasley-esque slot receiver to utilize in tormenting opposing defenses, Switzer’s name has been mentioned by the Cowboys as a potential replacement to departed running back Lance Dunbar.

This “gadget player” role is currently occupied by Lucky Whitehead, who is limited as a receiver but has value as a kick and punt returner – another position Ryan Switzer can immediately upgrade.

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

Ryan Switzer special teams numbers. #Cowboys

Switzer made it very clear right after his selection that the Cowboys were one of multiple teams that graded him as this draft class’ top return man, giving him a clear spot to make his immediate presence felt.

Additionally, look for Ryan to make the most of his offensive touches both in the slot, on jet sweeps, and from anywhere else the Cowboys find to show off his explosive play ability.

 

WR Noah Brown (Round 7 Pick 239)

Cowboys Draft: Scouting 7th Round WR Noah Brown

Brown’s Ohio State teammate Ezekiel Elliott was a big voice in bringing this dominant blocking receiver to the Cowboys, where Noah will now face an uphill battle in getting on the field in 2017.

As a seventh round pick, the Cowboys should certainly be excited about their long-term potential with Brown, but for now he’ll likely be limited by the receivers ahead of him on the depth chart.

Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, and Ryan Switzer should all be locks to make the roster, leaving the fifth and potentially final WR spot to either Brice Butler, Noah Brown, or a “dark horse” candidate like Quincy McDuffie.

Dallas has already shown some commitment to Butler by re-signing him prior to the 2017 season, and with this confidence should come extra opportunities in training camp. Noah Brown will have his flashes as a physical specimen that can level defenders as a blocker, but it may not be enough to earn meaningful snaps this season.

Undrafted Free Agents

The Cowboys officially signed 13 UDFA players ahead of their Rookie Minicamp, eight of whom will fight for their chances in a nearly complete offense. Here are just a few that I think are worth keeping a closer on eye than the rest.

Rookie Minicamp: Finding Roles for Cowboys' Offensive Rookies

QB Austin Appleby (Florida)

Appleby spent three seasons at Vanderbilt before playing his Senior season with the Florida Gators, completing 127 of 209 passing attempts for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns to seven interceptions.

Doing so while displaying enough intriguing pro traits to earn a spot on the Cowboys following the draft, Appleby’s competition will come in the form of fellow UDFA QB Cooper Rush.

Performing against better competition isn’t the only advantage Appleby has in his fight for either the QB2 spot with Kellen Moore or the developmental third QB position. When given a clean pocket, Appleby will display some flashes of great accuracy with his very strong arm, but struggles to complete the touch throws necessary to be a well-rounded passer or diagnose situations under any pressure.

QB Cooper Rush (Central Michigan)

Cooper Rush was never able to put everything together as a next-level QB prospect over his four years starting at Central Michigan, where he became the MAC’s second leading passer of all time with 12,894 yards.

Rush’s slight upside paired with some intangibles as a pocket passer give him a chance to carve out a role as a QB3 in this league, but he will need to improve his overall mechanics and sloppy footwork to show he can deliver the ball accurately to all levels on a much more consistent basis.

OL Michael Coe (North Dakota)

Dane Brugler on Twitter

OG/C Michael Coe (6-2, 309, North Dakota). Played OT/OG/C in college. Unlocks his hips, mirrors and gets the job done. Some balance issues. https://t.co/2iqh04aamm

Figuring out how the depth chart will fall along the Cowboys’ offensive line at this point in the offseason is a fruitless exercise, but it  goes without saying that undrafted players will likely have a hard time cracking a roster with first-round starters at three positions.

That said, Michael Coe of North Dakota brings an interesting blend of two elements that may give him a chance in Dallas – versatility and technique talent.

Coe gives the Cowboys a chance to sneak more depth onto their offensive line should he earn a spot, experienced at all five positions, approaching tackle, guard, and center with the same toughness that Coe pairs with his length and functional strength to be successful.

G Nate Theaker (Wayne State)

Also experienced as a tackle and guard, Theaker will have to find a home in the NFL at  guard – where the Cowboys currently are considering all options on the left side.

Theaker plays with a visible mean streak on tape – one that unfortunately replaces his technique too often – but holds up just fine at the line of scrimmage and can deal with multiple types of rushers.

Theaker will have his flashes with the Cowboys this summer because of this, but absolutely needs to improve as an aware athlete that can bend his hips and steer defenders if he wants to hold up against next level defenders consistently.

Tell us what you think about “Rookie Minicamp: Finding Roles for Cowboys’ Offensive Rookies” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Pleasant NJ, no we're not how you think we are. Host of "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. You may @ me: @SeanMartinNFL.

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3 Comments
  • Randy Martin

    I think the drafting of Switzer was the stroke of doom for Whitehead. There is no way they make that pick if they weren’t planning cut Whitehead. Whitehead is not a good return man, not a good receiver and we don’t have room on the roster for a guy that is good at jet sweep only. And I don’t believe Dallas signing Butler was any commitment at all. Very low risk. I didn’t want them to sign him. He has caught 28 of his 60 targets the last two seasons and shown no growth in 4 years in the league. That is a horrible catch to target percentage! He is a big body that screams nothing but potential. It is my sincere hope that Brown or Andy Jones will send him packing.

  • John Williams

    Remember when the team called up Vince Mayle and they used him mostly as a blocking wide receiver and it didn’t really work.

    Well, I can see them utilizing Noah Brown this season as a blocking wide receiver mostly until they fine tune his route running and catching abilities. To me he offers way more intrigue than Brice Butler or Lucky Whitehead do, Butler being his biggest competition to a roster spot.

  • dallas1966

    Randy, count me in, on Switzer and Brown, bringing their unique skill set into play to assist the Cowboys, in the organization, quest to exist from the 21 years of being in predatory. More chess players for Linehan, to insert into the offensive scheme of things to come, with Dak Attack!!

Dallas Cowboys

Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

Sean Martin

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Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

After hiring Paul Alexander to fill their vacant OL coaching position, the Dallas Cowboys are continuing to retool their offensive staff below Scott Linehan. Sanjay Lal has been hired to coach the Cowboys’ wide receivers, replacing Derek Dooley.

Lal has experience as a WR coach with four different teams, dating back to 2009 with the Oakland Raiders. He was promoted up to this position after serving as the Raiders’ quality control coach from 2007-08.

David Moore on Twitter

Sources: Cowboys have reached an agreement with Sanjay Lal to become the team’s WR coach. Lal was with Indianapolis last season and replaces Derek Dooley on the staff.

Most recently, Sanjay Lal coached the receivers for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017. He has also been with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.

In this interview with the Colts, Lal mentions being very detail-oriented with a focus on the technical aspects of playing receiver.

Lal beats out former Cowboys WR Miles Austin for this position, earning the right to lead a room of receivers in desperate need of fresh talent. In an offseason that’s been about finding fresh ideas with the coaching staff so far though, the Cowboys have a new voice on offense.

Tell us what you think about “Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Cowboys Losing Linebackers Coach Matt Eberflus to Colts

Jess Haynie

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Matt Eberflus, Sean Lee

Multiple sources are reporting Matt Eberflus — who has been the linebackers coach and passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys — will leave to join the Indianapolis Colts as the new defensive coordinator. Eberflus has been with Dallas since 2011, having joined Rob Ryan’s staff when Ryan become the coordinator for the Cowboys’ defense.

He has been the linebackers coach during his entire Dallas tenure and was also named passing game coordinator in 2016.

Tom Pelissero on Twitter

With Josh McDaniels ticketed for the #Colts, former #Cowboys assistant Matt Eberflus is expected to come along as defensive coordinator, I’m told. Lot of parts falling in place now.

If not the Colts, some thought Matt Eberflus might end up replacing Matt Patricia as the defensive coordinator in New England. Either way, it does not appear Dallas could have kept him around while Rod Marinelli remains in his current position.

Eberflus’ work in Dallas speaks for itself, and primarily through LB Sean Lee.

He has been Lee’s position coach for all but his rookie season, and in that time Lee has been one of the top defensive players in all of football.

Beyond Lee, Eberflus has also been able to get quality play out of mid-round picks like Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson. We also saw Jaylon Smith make significant progress this season.

Given Matt Eberflus has never worked with Josh McDaniels before, the fact he was on the Colts’ radar says a lot.

Make no mistake; the Cowboys lost a good one here.

Don’t panic, however. Coach Marinelli has cast a very wide net during his time in the NFL and there are a lot of potential guys, some with plenty of experience, that Dallas might look to.

It’s entirely possible that Eberflus’ replacement will be someone who Marinelli spends 2018 grooming to take over as the defensive coordinator.

Still, of all the coaching changes so far for Dallas, this one hurts most.

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Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Thus far the 2018 offseason has brought a plethora of change to the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Now it is being reported the Cowboys have hired a brand new offensive line coach, former Cincinnati Bengals’ Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander.

Alex Marvez on Twitter

Source tells @sportingnews that Paul Alexander hired as new @dallascowboys offensive line coach

Alexander coached with the Bengals for over 20 years, and replaces the same man in Dallas who replaces him in Cincinnati, Frank Pollack. Alexander has also been the Bengals assistant head coach since 2003.

The Cowboys recently lost an assistant head coach when Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia left for Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders.

Per usual, the hire has been met with mixed reactions from Cowboys Nation.

Joey Ickes on Twitter

Since 2003, CIN has had only one season where they finished top-10 in Yards per attempt on the ground… They’ve been bottom-5 in the league 5 times in that span… That’s the OL Coach DAL just hired.

The hiring of an offensive line coach who’s rushing attack finished bottom five in the league in rushing yards per attempt five times since 2003 doesn’t look too great on paper. He will also teach with different techniques and styles than previous Cowboys OL coaches, which could potentially set back the offensive line early in the season.

Plus, respected Bengals’ writer Joe Goodberry did not exactly love the hire for the Cowboys.

Goodberry on Twitter

Pretty bad https://t.co/fysjZqCQ6l

Regardless, this is still a very talented offensive line and one which should lead an effective ground attack based on their talent alone. 2017 proved further that coaching matters a lot in the NFL however, and the wrong hire could set back even the most talented of units.

We will just have to wait and see how this 2018 season ends up playing out.

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