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Salary Cap Crunch: Do Cowboys Go With 2-time Pro Bowler Or Former RD1 Pick?

Brian Martin

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Could This Former Pro Bowl Player Be A Cowboys Salary Cap Casualty?

The Dallas Cowboys, like every other team in the NFL have to abide by the salary cap rules whether they like it or not. Sometimes that means they have to make some tough decisions regarding their roster and 2017 should be no different. The Cowboys cap casualties have yet to be announced, but one player that might be feeling a little nervous about his time with America’s Team is coming to an end is backup running back, Alfred Morris.

The former Washington Redskin and two-time Pro Bowl running back was signed to a two-year, $3.5 million contract in 2016 by the Cowboys. Alfred Morris was expected to form a 1-2 punch with the former 2008 first-round draft pick, Darren McFadden.

It probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was short-lived with the selection of Ezekiel Elliott in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Elliott went on to have one of the best seasons for a rookie running back in the history of the NFL. Morris was Elliott’s backup for the majority of the season, but was made inactive once McFadden made his return from his elbow injury that wiped out the majority of his 2016 season.

McFadden is now a free agent, while Morris is in the last year of his contract and could end up being one of the Cowboys cap casualties, saving them $1.6 million in 2017. That $1.6 million savings could be used to bring back Darren McFadden, who seems to be a favorite of the Cowboys coaching staff.

Let’s dive into this little bit deeper though to determine who might be the better fit.

RB Alfred Morris: 2-Time Pro Bowler

Potential Cowboys cap casualties: RB Alfred MorrisAlfred Morris is a two-time Pro Bowl player and has eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark three out of five years in his NFL career. He’s not the biggest or fastest running back in the NFL, but he is a good fit to run in the zone blocking scheme that the Cowboys offense uses the majority of the time.

Morris’ willingness to remain patient in the running game allows the blocks in front of him to develop. When he sees a crease, he puts his foot in the ground and relies on his vision and low center of gravity to pick up his yardage. He’s not going to break many long runs because of his lack of top end speed. Instead, he is more of the type of RB that will wear defenses down throughout the ballgame.

Another plus about Alfred Morris is his ability to stay healthy. He has never missed a game in his NFL career because of injuries.

Unfortunately, Morris really isn’t a three down player. He’s not a very good pass catcher out of the backfield and he also really struggles in pass protection. These are some of his biggest flaws as a player, especially with the Cowboys who like to utilize their RBs in the passing game.

It’s Alfred Morris’ flaws as a player that could make him one of the Dallas Cowboys cap casualties.

RB Darren McFadden: Former First Round Draft Pick

Potential Cowboys cap casualties: RB Darren McFaddenDarren McFadden is the more talented of the two players, which is why he was drafted so highly in the 2008 NFL Draft to begin with.

McFadden has never been voted into the Pro Bowl and has only eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark twice in his NFL career. He is a downhill runner and that would probably be a better fit in a power blocking scheme. But, he has already proven that he can be effective running behind the Cowboys impressive offensive line.

With the exception of Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden is the most complete back the Cowboys have had the last few seasons. He is an underrated receiver out of the backfield and is excellent in pass protection. He may not have the breakaway speed that he once had earlier in his career, but he can still challenge defenses out on the edge.

His biggest flaw is the fact that he has struggled to remain healthy during his nearly decade-long career in the NFL. This is a little bit worrisome because the Cowboys will need a RB that they don’t have to worry about being available when needed.

Despite what his size would suggest, McFadden isn’t going to pick up a lot of those tough yards in short yardage situations. He doesn’t run with a lot of power and tries to run away from defenders instead of delivering the blow.

Which Player Has Most Continued Upside With The Cowboys?

Generally when you compare players and analyze their future upside with their respective team, their age comes into play. Alfred Morris (28) is younger than Darren McFadden (29), but I believe McFadden still has more upside for the Dallas Cowboys.

McFadden is a more complete running back that can stay on the field for all three downs. Plus, he has already proven that he can be the workhorse back for the Cowboys offense. You may have forgotten, but in 2015 he started 10 games for the Cowboys and finished fourth in the NFL with 1,089 rushing yards.

We never really got a chance to see what Alfred Morris could do as the featured back for the Cowboys in 2016. But, given the small sample size we saw last year, he didn’t inspire a lot of confidence that he could handle the job as well as McFadden did in 2015.

Verdict: Darren McFadden

Who Survives The Cowboys Cap Casualties Game In 2017?

As things stand right now, the running back that survives the Cowboys cap casualties has to be Alfred Morris. He is still under contract for the upcoming 2017 season, while Darren McFadden will test his market value and contemplate his offers from other teams in free agency.

Having said all of that, I believe the Dallas Cowboys would prefer to have Darren McFadden return over Alfred Morris. Once McFadden returned to the lineup last year, he pretty much made Morris an afterthought.

The Cowboys coaching staff clearly values McFadden’s ability to be a three down player and his veteran leadership. So, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he is the one they try and make a part of the 2017 plans if they had to decide between the two players.

Verdict: Alfred Morris because he is under contract.

Who do you think the Cowboys should go with, Alfred Morris or Darren McFadden?

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Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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3 Comments
  • Charles

    No contest Dmac is the better more complete back. And Jerry loves his Arkansas alum

    • Brian Martin

      Charles, I agree. We’re just going have to wait and see how free agency goes and if McFadden is in their plans for the future.

  • TD4SPORTS

    Morris is the tougher back and can run between the tackels and get you tough yardage. McFadden likes to run outside and with our line you have got to get up the middle, he doesn’t have that breakaway speed any more. Jerry will try to keep him over Morrison just because of Arkansas ties which he becomes too tunnel visioned when scouting players…COWBOYS4LIFE !!!

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Sean’s Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat

The Cowboys have just one more game to get through without their star running back Ezekiel Elliott, but Alfred Morris and Rod Smith deserve a ton of credit for the way they’ve been able to fill in out of the backfield for Zeke Elliott. Throughout the time Elliott has missed though, the Cowboys have lacked the explosive plays on offense that he can provide – until Rod Smith was given an opportunity last week at the Giants.

Smith complimented Morris exceptionally well, running with quickness and power to prove his case for more of a role on offense behind Elliott moving forward. It was the Ohio State product’s consecutive touchdowns of 81 yards through the air and 15 yards on the ground that sealed the game for the Cowboys in week 14.

Here is a closer look at Rod Smith’s performance from last week in this latest Sean’s Scout.

Smith3 – Streamable

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The Cowboys offensive line was dominant as always against a tough New York defensive front, and this first play is a great look at their execution in space and on the move. Rod Smith’s decisiveness when hitting the hole with speed and balance was the first thing I noticed on the game tape.

The best thing Smith does on this play comes at the second level, where running backs can truly make a difference in Dallas. As RG Zack Martin rides his man out of the play entirely, he gets in front of Smith who is seeing the play develop straight ahead. With his long strides, Smith is able to smoothly get through traffic and continue accelerating up field through arm tackles for a big gain.

Smith2 – Streamable

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These same traits are seen with Rod Smith as a pass catcher – something he does effortlessly to also help fill the void left by Elliott. Watch how quickly Smith commits to his angle up the field after catching this dump pass from Dak Prescott, attacking a defender that has the angle on him after the catch.

Rod subtly leans to the right just enough to make the defender hesitate long enough to allow his burst to evade him and gain extra yards falling forward.

Smith4 – Streamable

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Smith essentially does the same thing without the ball in his hands here, on his 81 yard catch and run for a touchdown. Setting up the safety out of the slot to be beat across his face, Smith separates from him at the stem and then does a great job getting depth on his route into the vacated middle of the field. With blockers to help him reach the end zone, Smith turns this busted coverage by the Giants into the game’s biggest play.

Smith1 – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

 

This last play I chose to show is probably the least well-blocked attempt for Smith out of the ones in this Sean’s Scout, but there is still a lot to like about what Rod does here with the ball in his hands.

The Giants might be a two-win football team, but they still have marquee players up front, particularly DE Olivier Vernon. Smith does well here to keep his feet moving as he cuts this play to the backside. Vernon does well to limit the potential gain on this play by staying away from the block of Jason Witten, as Smith is taken down by Darian Thompson.

The numbers the Giants had to commit to stopping the run was still a huge reason why Prescott had a career day throwing the football, and Rod Smith’s readiness to step in at RB was a deciding factor in getting Dallas to 7-6.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Proving to be one of the Dallas Cowboys most valuable players, considering his cost (under contract through 2018), and ability to contribute on special teams and offense, Rod Smith is the perfect RB3 for this team.

Smith is not elite in any one area, and is not a prototypical RB from a physical standpoint, but his contributions as a runner, pass catcher, and blocker could remain critical to the Cowboys’ hopes of reaching the playoffs behind this offense – even when Ezekiel Elliott is back in the fold.

Tell us what you think about “Sean’s Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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La’el Collins’ Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise

Brian Martin

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La'el Collins' Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise 1

The decision by the Dallas Cowboys to move La’el Collins from left guard to right tackle was met by some skepticism by quite a few members of Cowboys Nation during the off-season. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was one of those skeptical of the move, but I’m not afraid to admit he has exceeded my expectations.

In all honesty, I always believed that La’el Collins’ best position in the NFL is on the interior of the offense of line as a guard. I thought he could use his strength and athleticism to his advantage when working in a phone booth against slower and less athletic defensive tackles. That’s not to say I didn’t think he would make a good right tackle, I just thought he had Pro Bowl potential as a guard.

Strangely enough, Collins has probably put together a Pro Bowl caliber season in his first season starting at the right tackle position for the Cowboys. He has become an upgrade over the previous starter Doug Free, and is really starting to earn high praise from the brass. Stephen Jones in particular has been impressed with Collins, especially considering how he has played after missing two full weeks of practice.

Mark Lane on Twitter

DallasCowboys COO Stephen Jones told @1053thefan La’el Collins has answered the bell after his contract extension.

I personally agree with everything Stephen Jones said about La’el Collins. I’ve really enjoyed watching his progression this season, but I have been really impressed how he played the last two weeks after missing so much practice.

You might not of known, but Collins has missed two full weeks of practice due to a herniated disc in his back. This is put his availability to play against the Washington Redskins and New York Giants in jeopardy, but somehow he has toughened up and played considerably well.

This unfortunately will be something he has to continue to battle through the rest of the season, but I’m not going to bet against him playing. He absolutely makes this offensive line better and I would hate to see Chaz Green or Byron Bell back on the field after the way they played as feel-ins.

La’el Collins has without a doubt earned my respect and I think it’s about time we all recognize the player he is turning into. I know the Dallas Cowboys appreciate all that he does and believe that his recent contract extension is money well spent.

What do you think about La’el Collins?

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Cowboys’ DE DeMarcus Lawrence Fed Up With NFL Officiating

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Crossroads: Is This a Short-Term or Long-Term Team? 2

The Dallas Cowboys were able to come away with a 30-10 victory over the New York Giants Sunday afternoon in what was described as a must-win situation in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. Typically, when these two teams square off against one another there are sure to be some kind of fireworks in the ballgame, but the final volley of explosions didn’t go off until after the completion of the game during an interview with DeMarcus Lawrence.

DeMarcus Lawrence didn’t hold back in his post game interview, especially in regard to the NFL officiating. He let his frustrations known that he is fed up and that he’s not going to take it anymore. At least not quietly that is.

Lawrence, the NFL’s sack leader, ripped the officiating crew after the Giants game Sunday afternoon for not calling any holding penalties. There was actually one holding penalty called against the Giants, but the point Lawrence was trying to make still rings true.

Joe Trahan on Twitter

Cowboys DE Demarcus Lawrence goes on an explosive rant about officiating, in particular, a lack of holding calls by linemen against him. And yes, Lawrence realizes he a fine is coming, whether he’s got a point, or not. And yes, he probably does. https://t.co/UU51xQi05p

DeMarcus Lawrence certainly has a right to be mad and I don’t blame him at all for voicing his frustrations about the lack of holding calls against opposing offensive lineman. This actually adds more fuel to the fire that there is indeed an officiating conspiracy against the Cowboys.

In fact, you may or may not be surprised to learn that there have only been two holding penalties called on Cowboys’ opponents in the last 10 games, including the one against the Giants Sunday afternoon. For comparison sake, the Cowboys offensive line have been flagged 18 times during that time span.

It’s gotta be a coincidence, right? Maybe, maybe not. But, one thing is for sure… DeMarcus Lawrence has had enough!

Of course, Lawrence’s outburst will surely earn him a fine from the NFL, but it may be worth it if it draws more attention to the poor officiating the Cowboys have been receiving. I don’t know about you, but I for one am glad #90 will not “go gentle into that good night“.

Do you think DeMarcus Lawrence’s frustration is justified?

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