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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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PFF Ranks Cowboys Run Defense 13th In The NFL

Kevin Brady

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Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith

The Cowboys duo of young linebackers took the NFL by storm in 2018.

Rookie Leighton Vander Esch and former second round pick Jaylon Smith played well above expectations, as for the first time in years Dallas did not face a significant drop off in defensive production when Sean Lee was out and injured.

These young linebackers are the cornerstone of a run defense which should be among the league's best going forward, and Pro Football Focus agrees. Well, somewhat agrees.

PFF ranked all 32 run defenses heading into the 2019 season, slotting the Cowboys 13th overall. Better than half the league, but not quite top 10.

https://twitter.com/PFF_Cowboys/status/1151155572059717632

PFF's reasoning behind this ranking certainly makes sense, as they credit the young linebacker duo without mentioning much of what will be in front of them helping to stop opposing running games.

"The Cowboys’ run defense begins and ends with the league’s best young linebacker duo. Leighton Vander Esch ranked third in run-stop percentage as a rookie while Jaylon Smith checked in at 29th."

The playoff loss in Los Angeles has left a bad taste about the Cowboys' interior defensive line in a lot of mouths, but I do think they've improved the unit this offseason. Signing Christian Covington and drafting Trysten Hill was a nice start to do so, but having Maliek Collins healthy and Antwaun Woods back for a full season will also go a long way.

Interestingly enough, two of the Cowboys divisional foes came in ranked above them on this list. Washington was slotted as the 12th best run defense, while Philadelphia was placed at number 8. Both teams' units deserve respect, of course, but this further highlights how difficult it could be to run the ball in the NFC East this season.

While I hate simply throwing this term around, analytics suggest that passing is what wins games in the NFL. Passing and stopping the pass, I should say.

With strong run defenses in their division, the Cowboys will need to maximize their passing game efficiency if they want to repeat as NFC East champions.



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3 Reasons Amari Cooper is Primed for an All-Pro Season

Matthew Lenix

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3 Reasons Amari Cooper is Primed for an All-Pro Season

Amari Cooper changed life for the entire Dallas Cowboys offense in 2018. Finally, Quarterback Dak Prescott has the number one option at wide receiver he's desperately needed since his rookie campaign. Now, after half a season and multiple playoff games under his belt in Dallas, Cooper is set to have a monster year. Here are three specific reasons why.

1. Culture

Head Coach Jason Garrett has established a certain way of doing things in Dallas since taking over in 2010. His constant search for the RKG or "Right Kinda Guy" as he puts it has the culture in the locker room at a very positive and productive place. As criticized as he is, justifiably or not, he has his team all on the same page. This is something Cooper has been trying to find since he entered the league in 2015. An organization with the right mindset in order for him to perform and maximize his skill set. After being traded to Dallas, Cooper opened up in November about being unhappy during his days in Oakland.

"I wasn't really happy in Oakland or anything like that. But when I sat and thought about it [Monday} night, I thought about the fact that they traded me away. I don't know how to feel about it," Cooper told Yahoo Sports.

This may seem small to others considering these players make millions of dollars right? Well, it doesn't change the fact that they're human. When you feel unappreciated you don't play to the best of your abilities. Shortly after the trade, Cooper talked about how he's been different since putting a star on his helmet. "I feel like it did change me, as far as having that chip on my shoulder. Not that I wasn't passionate before, but playing with more passion, trying to intentionally have fun out there. It definitely has changed me, in terms of me going out there and just having fun with it," Cooper said. A change of scenery was just what the doctor ordered for Cooper and the Cowboys.

2. The other weapons around him

The Cowboys aren't just Amari Cooper or bust at the wide receiver position. Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb provide more challenges for defenses on a weekly basis. Gallup has firmly locked down the number two spot on the depth chart. It took a while for him to establish chemistry with Dak Prescott, as they would misfire on several big plays during the first half of the season. Nonetheless, by seasons end things started to pick up, and he finished with 33 receptions for 507 yards and 2 touchdowns. In the playoffs, he scored a touchdown in the Cowboys Wild Card win over Seattle. The next week against the Rams he performed well even in defeat, with 6 receptions for 119 yards. He's got speed, size, and versatility. Now with a full season and two games of playoff experience under his belt, I look for even more production from Gallup, as a possible breakout star.

Randall Cobb is a much-needed upgrade in the slot for the Cowboys. Unlike former receiver Cole Beasley, Cobb can line up inside or outside. Giving new Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore a bigger bag of tricks at his disposal. Now, he can lineup Cooper inside or outside and play with a plethora of different looks, keeping defenses off balance because of the uncertainty of how the Cowboys will attack through the air.

Then, of course, there's Ezekiel Elliott. The two-time rushing champion is the tone-setter on offense and dictates how defenses will attack. With Cooper being such a threat in the air you basically have to pick your poison. 8-9 man fronts against the run can make you vulnerable to play action down the field or quick slants with Cooper's exceptional route running. The more productive Elliott is the more honest it keeps opposing defenses, opening up more opportunities in the passing game. Averaging 101.2 yards per game for his career, second all-time to Hall of Famer Jim Brown, Elliott can make create even more opportunities for Cooper in 2019 with a full season of playing time together.

3. Motivation

Amari Cooper is currently looking to sign a long-term deal with the Cowboys. Preferably, both sides would like to get this deal done before the season starts considering he's in the last year of his rookie contract that is set to pay him 13.9 million in 2019. However, it isn't just a new deal that motivates Cooper heading into the new season.

"It's kind of a weird situation, just being that I've never been in this situation before, talking about a contract. But also, I'm under a fifth-year option, so I'm not too familiar with it. I really don't ask my agent many questions. I'm not really worried about it that much. I'm more focused on actually playing and really earning the respect and then the contract," Cooper said.

Being motivated by earning respect is a very mature approach from Cooper. Now, add that to the fact that I'm sure he wants to firmly put his name alongside Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr, and Michael Thomas as the best receivers in the game, you have a fully motivated number one option heading into the new season.

Amari Cooper has already made three pro bowls, but now there's another level for him to reach. In just nine games last year with the Cowboys he caught 53 passes for 725 yards and 6 touchdowns. Also, he caught another 13 on 18 targets in the playoffs for 171 yards and a score. He's in the right culture, he has a number of other weapons around him and he has multiple reasons to be motivated heading in the new season. With a full offseason of building chemistry with Dak Prescott, I see Cooper taking that leap to the All-Pro level in 2019.



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Is La’el Collins Playing For A Contract On A Different Team?

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys at Raiders: La'el Collins Faces Toughest Test Yet In Khalil Mack

How good is La'el Collins?

This is a question that Cowboys fans have disagreed on since his rookie season. Collins, who originally joined the team as their left guard replacing an injured Ronald Leary in 2015, moved out to right tackle in 2017, starting all 32 games there the last 2 seasons.

Collins' play has been somewhat up-and-down, as should be expected when a lineman not only switches from guard to tackle, but from the left side to the right side as well. Still, he's been a solid right tackle and a stable presence for a Cowboys offensive line which has struggled with major injuries at other positions over the last couple of years.

While Collins has not been the "elite" level player fans had hoped for when signed after the 2015 draft, he's been a solid player nonetheless. Dak Prescott has faced more pressure from the right side of the line than the left, but a good portion of that pressure has to do with him struggling to sense pressure from that right side.

The Dallas Cowboys seem rather undecided about La'el Collins' future with the team themselves, though. Dallas went out and draft guard Connor McGovern in the third round of the 2019 draft, starting the whirlwind of rumors that McGovern will be the starting left guard in 2020. This would kick second year player Connor Williams out to right tackle, allowing Dallas to let Collins walk without too much worry.

While this is well and good on paper, on the field the transition will likely not be as smooth. We've already seen how tough it is to move from left guard to right tackle in just one offseason, even if you were a college tackle once upon a time. Connor Williams could face these same struggles, despite possibly even anticipating the change a year out.

Regardless, La'el Collins is now in a contract year and is playing for that new deal come 2020. Dallas may not be looking to extend him, mostly due to the plethora of new deals they'll be handing out to other players, but he will be a hot commodity come free agency if and when he hits the open market.

Collins could very well be playing for a new contract elsewhere this season, as his days in Dallas look to be numbered.



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