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Sean’s Scout: CB Bene Benwikere An Active Addition to Secondary

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Acquired CB Bene Benwikere An Active Addition to Secondary 1

One of the most surprising roster moves the Dallas Cowboys made yesterday was waiving rookie cornerback Marquez White, a move that became possible after the team traded for experienced CB Bene Benwikere prior to the cut down deadline.

When I originally scouted Marquez White right here at Inside The Star, I thought he could quickly prove to be a fifth round steal thanks to his size and scheme fit for Rod Marinelli. Instead, with Jourdan Lewis still sidelined with his hamstring injury, the Cowboys felt better about Nolan Carroll, Anthony Brown, Orlando Scandrick, Chidobe Awuzie, and Bene Benwikere being their five cornerbacks on the 53-man roster.

Benwikere has bounced around plenty of teams after being cut by the Carolina Panthers in 2016, where I went back to his tape to scout what the Cowboys added to their secondary in this newest edition of Sean's Scout.

Sean's Scout: Acquired CB Bene Benwikere An Active Addition to Secondary

26 NOV 2015: Carolina Panthers Cornerback Bene Benwikere (25) [11854] rips the ball loose, but Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Cole Beasley (11) [18238] is ruled down during the NFL Thanksgiving game between the Carolina Panthers and the Dallas Cowboys played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. (Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire)

CB Ben Benwikere: Strengths

Like White, Bene Benwikere was a fifth round draft pick back in the 2014 Draft. Selected by the Carolina Panthers out of San Jose State, Benwikere was thought of highly by the organization as they traded up to take him.

Despite moving on from Benwikere after an infamous performance by the Panthers defense at the Falcons in week four of this season - where they allowed over 500 yards passing - there is plenty to like on the tape from this 5110, 195 pound defensive back.

Bene Benwikere Cowboys - Streamable

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The first thing that jumped out when studying Benwikere was his quick twitch movement ability and balance. This is an incredibly active player that can diagnose routes developing in front of him with adequate break on the ball.

As a sideline to sideline defender, Benwikere makes up for lack of pure, straight-line speed with the controllable burst to use the sideline to his advantage and funnel throws into coverage. His raw measurements may not be ideal for the NFL at cornerback, but the traits are there for Benwikere - as seen in the interception above as he finds a way to finish the play with his length, fluid athleticism, and balance in zone coverage.

It is this zone coverage that Benwikere was mostly asked to play in Carolina, and it is something we can expect to see more of from Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli in 2017.

While his technique and coverage assignments made it hard to solely evaluate Benwikere without the talent around him, his ability to create leverage in coverage and make up for any lapses with incredible change of direction skills is something the Cowboys can look forward to adding.

CB Bene Benwikere: Weaknesses

Bene Benwikere Cowboys - Streamable

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As mentioned, Benwikere is an incredibly active player with his foot speed. This naturally causes him to overrun some plays - particularly in run defense as Bene was asked to play in the box as a Nickel defensive back quite often.

I did see Benwikere meet opposing running backs in the hole with some stopping power on a few occasions, but his angles often left a lot to be desired when filling against the run.

Assuming for a second the Cowboys want to use Benwikere as a boundary cornerback with slot experience, relying on Orlando Scandrick inside, they are getting a player that has little experience getting physical with wide receivers and jamming their route.

Playing through any contact at all is a concern for Benwikere, as he'll get caught with his weight and momentum going backwards too often. This not only allows blockers to control Benwikere, but receivers entering his zone can easily undercut him and create separation that Bene will struggle to close up with the ball in the air.

There just aren't many plays where Bene Benwikere is being a disruptive player, something the Cowboys are looking for more of in their defensive backs.

Bene Benwikere Cowboys - Streamable

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CB Bene Benwikere: Summary

Since the moment he was drafted, everyone has realized that the Cowboys will need big things out of their second round pick Chidobe Awuzie out of Colorado. With the cut down day acquisition of Bene Benwikere, who has spent time with the Dolphins, Packers, and Bengals since his release by the Panthers in 2016, this remains the truth as Awuzie remains one of this team's top four cornerbacks.

As a depth piece to provide comfort and experience at the fifth cornerback position, it doesn't get much better than Bene Benwikere though.

A player that should fit this Dallas scheme well enough to contribute if called upon and not allow big plays, with the traits to flash around the ball occasionally, Bene Benwikere is a quality addition to a still-uncertain Cowboys secondary.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: CB Bene Benwikere An Active Addition to Secondary" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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1 Comment
  • Russ_Te

    More unsettled questions, & moving parts on defense to start this year than usual. Not getting much from the secondary rookies in pre-season, means little margin of error for the Jones’s, Scandrick’s & Heath’s until they can get help.

    Marinelli’s guys are organized & play with intensity, which is IMO the only likely saving grace for the 1st half of the season. On paper, this defense is heading for early-season problems both in pass-rush and in coverage.

    You’ve got to limit their reps with the run offense / TOP, and when it’s a big 3rd down I think Marinelli will blitz more than he likes to normally. I certainly do not want the Eli’s of the league, to stand unmolested when they need a big play.

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Leighton Vander Esch Is A Stud, And Should Be For A Long Time

Kevin Brady

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Leighton Vander Esch Is A Stud, And Should Be For A Long Time

The Cowboys took their fair share of heat for selecting linebacker Leighton Vander Esch 19th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. But through just over half a season, Dallas is looking vindicated in their decision.

Vander Esch was arguably the best defensive player on the field during Dallas' 27-20 win in Philadelphia Sunday night, and made the two biggest defensive plays of the game as well. Finishing with a game-high 13 tackles, Vander Esch was all over the field in both run and pass defense.

The first of his two massive plays came in the first quarter. After the Cowboys offense stalled deep in their own territory, the Eagles looked to be in prime position to strike first with a short field. On Carson Wentz' first pass attempt of the drive, however, Leighton Vander Esch was there to intercept him and return the ball back 28 yards.

Those return yards proved key as well, giving the Cowboys the short field and an easy path to their first three points of the night. And with the way their offense looked early in this game, Dallas could use all the help they could get.

The biggest play of the game, though, came late in the fourth quarter. With the Eagles facing a third and short and down seven points, they absolutely needed a conversion to keep pace with the surprisingly hot Cowboys offense. Philadelphia tried to beat Dallas with a running back screen to the backside, inviting the pass rush and getting blockers out in front.

There seemed to be nothing but blockers and green grass ahead for the Eagles on this play, with "Next Gen Stats" expecting a 22 yard gain after the catch. Then, Leighton Vander Esch eluded two blockers and tracked down the running back for a loss of 3.

Next Gen Stats on Twitter

Leighton Vander Esch made a game-saving tackle late in the 4th quarter to preserve the Cowboys 27-20 win. Corey Clement was expected to gain 22 yards after the catch (gained 3), -19 YAC Below Expectation, the most yards saved on a pass play this season. #DALvsPHI #DallasCowboys https://t.co/0DF7jhPQzH

If not for this tackle, who knows how both that Eagles' drive and the game would have ended. Vander Esch saved the day for Dallas, and forced the Eagles into a tough fourth and long situation with the game on the line.

I know it is still early in Vander Esch's career, and even relatively early in this season as well, but it's become clear the Cowboys hit a home run with their 2018 first round selection. Vander Esch is fitting in beside Jaylon Smith with ease, and with those two athletic freaks together, the Cowboys look to have one of the brightest defensive futures in all of football.

Of course, there are now legitimate questions about what the Cowboys should do with their captain Sean Lee. But as of right now, it should be Leighton Vander Esch's job to lose.



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Star Blog

Can Cowboys LB Vander Esch Do Enough to Win DROY?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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LB Leighton Vander Esch Rare Bright Spot In Cowboys Disappointing Loss

At 3-5, there are very few positive things to point out when discussing the 2018 Dallas Cowboys. One of those few things has been first-round rookie Leighton Vander Esch, whose play at linebacker has taken the league by surprise. Seen as a raw talent who could develop into an elite player with time as a prospect, Vander Esch's impact on the field has been immediate.

Through nine weeks in the NFL season, the Boise State product should definitely be in the Defensive Rookie of the Year discussion. As much as Sean Lee's injury will hurt the Cowboys' defense, it will get the rookie more playing time and a big opportunity to put his name in the minds of NFL Honors voters.

Sean Lee will miss some time after re-injuring his hamstring for the second time this season. Earlier in the year, Jaylon Smith and Vander Esch were able to keep the defense from crumbling without their veteran captain. Even with all the offensive struggles, that should continue to be the case for the linebackers.

Vander Esch has only played in 65% of the Cowboys' defensive snaps, yet he's tied for ninth place in solo tackles in the entire league with 49. He's at 64 total tackles and two pass deflections and has been a magnet to opposing ball carriers every time he's been on the field.

He's the third highest graded rookie LB for Pro Football Focus. Most times, rookies find success like this by being rotational players or simply splitting snaps with other players. But as previously mentioned, Lee has already been out for a handful of games in 2018 and Vander Esch has lived up to the hype.

Simply put, Leighton's play as a rookie has already put Sean Lee's future on the Cowboys in question. With such an injury history and a two young studs ready to take over the reigns, Dallas could very well release Lee prior to the 2019 season.

Now granted, the race for Defensive Rookie of the Year will not be an easy one to win for Vander Esch. Fourth overall pick Denzel Ward has been an impressive cornerback for the Browns and fifth-overall pick Bradley Chubb has been one of the best pass rushers on Sundays. Not to mention the NFL leader in solo tackles, Colts' LB Darius Leonard.

Despite a great start to his season, the Cowboys young LB will have to play way better for his name to be called when the Defensive Rookie of the Year is revealed at the NFL Honors event in February. There are some pretty big names he has to catch up with in order to make this happen.

Tell me what you think about "Can Cowboys LB Vander Esch Do Enough to Win DROY?" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Star Blog

Dak Prescott/Carson Wentz Is No Rivalry, And There’s Only One Side To Blame

Kevin Brady

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Dak Prescott/Carson Wentz Is No Rivalry, And There's Only One Side To Blame

It feels like an eternity has passed since 2016, yet somehow, it was only 2 seasons ago.

The Dallas Cowboys were riding high, en route to a 13-3 season and an NFC East crown. They had drafted the league's leading rusher Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in the previous draft, and believed to have found their franchise quarterback over 100 picks later.

Up in Philadelphia things weren't going as smoothly, but they were certainly on the upswing. After trading up to select Carson Wentz in that same 2016 draft, the Eagles also believed they had their quarterback of the future.

Cowboys/Eagles. Dak/Wentz. A debate between two hated rivals which began in 2016 and seemed like it would go on for the next decade. It was almost too perfect.

Countless articles and blog posts were written about the birth of a quarterback rivalry which would span for the foreseeable future. Which team had the better draft haul in 2016? Which team was better set up for the future behind their young quarterback?

The two met for the first time on Sunday Night football back in 2016, and for much of the night neither was very good. They both looked like rookies, but at the end of the game Dak Prescott was the one who came through in the clutch, throwing the game winner in overtime to Jason Witten. The rivalry was born, and the Cowboys had the upper hand.

Fast forward to today and things are much, much different. Prescott and Wentz have only really played each other one other time since that first match-up, a game which the Eagles dominated and Dak Prescott threw 3 interceptions.

The other two games have been meaningless and ugly, two adjectives which could describe every Cowboys game the past calendar year.

Simply put, there is no rivalry. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys have not held up their end of the bargain since that first match-up in 2016. Prescott's play has fallen off considerably, as he has fallen victim to just about every piece of lazy analysis Eagles fans gave during his miraculous 2016 season.

Doug Pederson has become the anti-Jason Garrett, quite literally making his name off being aggressive on critical downs and refusing to punt on fourth and short in plus territory. The Eagles front office has become the anti-Cowboys, going after pricey trade targets and free agents to ensure they are making the most of their young quarterback's rookie contract window.

The Cowboys have failed just about everywhere that the Eagles have succeeded. And, Dak Prescott has failed just about everywhere Carson Wentz has excelled.

Maybe things will turn around this Sunday for Dallas, and if they are able to win, they'd still be very much alive in the division race. But all of that seems highly unlikely. There is no longer a Dak/Wentz rivalry. There's barely even a reason for Eagles fans to have Dak Prescott on their radar.

Let's hope Prescott and the Cowboys can begin to change things this Sunday.



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