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Sean’s Scout: How Cowboys DTs Handled David Irving’s 2017 Absence

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: How Cowboys DTs Handled David Irving's 2017 Absence

For the second consecutive season, the Dallas Cowboys will be without the services of Defensive Tackle David Irving for their first four games. When Irving has been on the field, he's been a disruptive force at the all-important under tackle position, something the Cowboys can only hope he'll continue to be for at least 12 regular season games in 2018.

In his absence last year, the Cowboys allowed 107.5 rushing yards per game and another 231.75 through the air. While these numbers aren't far off from the team's final total of 104 rushing yards and 214 passing yards allowed per game, Irving's presence was surely missed on Rod Marinelli's defense.

I put on the tape to study how the Cowboys handled Irving's prior suspension, primarily watching the likes of Stephen Paea, Brian Price, Maliek Collins, and Tyrone Crawford play in rotation at defensive tackle.

With Paea no longer in the league and Collins dealing with another broken foot that expects to sideline him through most of training camp, the Cowboys will have to find a mostly new approach at DT starting next month in Oxnard.

Here is what I took away from the players still on the roster for 2018 that will have their chance to step in for David Irving.

DT Maliek Collins

DT4

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Any talks of the Cowboys maintaining a high level of play at defensive tackle without Irving has to start with Maliek Collins. Drafted as the starter at 3T-DT in 2016, Collins flashed incredible potential at this position despite missing most of camp as a rookie.

Last season, Collins was forced to play more as a one technique (1T) once Irving returned to the lineup, making up for the loss of both Paea and Price. Using his strength and stocky frame well as a 1T, Collins filled in admirably at this new spot -- though some fans still believe he was held back from developing further as a pass rusher.

When I watched Collins in the first four weeks of 2017 on tape, I didn't see the same technician of a pass rusher at the 3T position. Particularly in week one against the New York Giants, Collins struggled mightily with his pad level. This made is easy for interior offensive linemen to knock Collins off-balance, where he's effectively removed from the play due to a lack of recovery speed.

Collins best plays were produced when he was able to quickly shoot a gap to get up the field, or play with his hands above his eyes in overpowering his blocker to flow down the line. These are all desirable traits for a 1T tackle, which the Cowboys played with two of for the majority of snaps in weeks one through four.

Rod Marinelli was able to make a combination of Collins and Stephen Paea work on the interior. Similarly to Collins, there were flash plays from Paea, but overall this duo struggled to push the pocket much more than expected.

Keeping contain and creating penetration were two areas the Cowboys played at a below average level without David Irving last year.

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Just how much they'll allow Maliek Collins to change this, depending on the position he lines up at, will go a long way in how well the Cowboys are prepared for this season's dilemma of not having #95.

DT Tyrone Crawford

I can see why Tyrone Crawford was a fan of moving out to the right defensive end position later in 2017, after watching his limited reps at DT from the start of the season. This is a team captain, veteran player that's always competing on every single snap.

With that said, Crawford took a beating when trying to rush against double teams and get up the field. If Crawford's initial rush move is stopped, he has a hard time freeing himself up to make a play, getting drawn into his blocker's frame.

It remains unknown if Randy Gregory will be reinstated to play RDE for the Cowboys this season, but the team also feels good about rookie Dorance Armstrong and FA signing Kony Ealy at this spot. This depth, paired with their immediate need at 3T, means that Tyrone Crawford could be a likely candidate to kick back inside.

DT3

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The Cowboys won't have to worry about Crawford not doing everything he can to make an impact at this spot, but the difference from his reps to David Irving's will be noticeable should this be the Cowboys plan.

DT Brian Price

Brian Price finds himself in an interesting position for the 2018 season, re-signed by the Cowboys after losing 2017 to injury after just eight games. Price is solely a 1T-DT, which as previously mentioned is a spot that feels occupied by Maliek Collins.

Still a potentially valuable piece of the Cowboys rotation up front, it's hard to imagine Brian Price giving the Cowboys any of what they'll be missing from Irving. These are simply two completely different players.

DT1

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Price did impress on tape from the first four weeks of the season, disengaging quickly to play with impressive range for a bigger "nose tackle" type.

The Cowboys priority at DT without Irving should be tightening up against the run, something Price undoubtedly helps them with.

 ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

We've heard plenty of great things about newly acquired DT Jihad Ward, a converted defensive end from the Oakland Raiders, as a player that was unavailable to the Cowboys last season. With his new defensive coordinator being a fan, Ward has a chance to turn heads at 3T while allowing the rest of the Cowboys DTs to slide into place.

There's a reason David Irving is worth the setbacks he's caused the Cowboys, and it's because athletic DTs like him that get to the quarterback at a high rate are so hard to find. This is evident by the fact that the Cowboys defensive line, as currently constructed, features sufficient depth at 1T but lacks 3T players behind Ward.

Putting this much pressure on a player traded for on the third day of the draft is never ideal roster building, but Ward could potentially be aided by both Tyrone Crawford and Maliek Collins as the Cowboys patch things together against the Panthers, Giants, Seahawks, and Lions to open 2018.

Other options further down the roster include Datone Jones, Daniel Ross, Lewis Neal, and Richard Ash.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: How Cowboys DTs Handled David Irving’s 2017 Absence" 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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Star Blog

Should the Dallas Cowboys Trade for These 2 Oakland Raiders?

John Williams

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Should the Cowboys Make a Trade for These Oakland Raiders?

The trade deadline on October 30th will be here faster than we know. It's the final opportunity that NFL teams will have an opportunity to make a significant upgrade to their roster. And if you're a frequent reader of the Dallas Cowboys, then you know that the Dallas Cowboys could use some help, especially on the offensive side of the football.

On Thursday, Marcus Mosher from The Raiders Wire on USA Today posed a hypothetical trade involving the Dallas Cowboys. In his scenario, he has the Dallas Cowboys trading for Wide Receiver Amari Cooper and thinks that Cooper could net the Raiders a top 75 draft selection.

Amari Cooper is a good wide receiver, but he's not a receiver I would trade a top-75 pick for. Cooper is a player that has a lot of talent, but has struggled with drops and inconsistency. Even now, with the Raiders he's having a hard time getting consistent opportunities.

Cooper's second on the team in targets, but third on the team in receptions behind a tight end and a running back. Cooper's also third on the team in yardage behind the two guys that I'd be way more interested in trading for; Tight End Jared Cook and Wide Receiver Jordy Nelson.

Yes, these guys are on the wrong side of 30, but they are guys that have been around a long time and can help your offense this season. Both would be upgrades at the position, even at their advanced NFL age.

Jared Cook - Tight End

You've heard the adage, "if you can't beat em, join em." Well, this is the reverse of that. "If he always beats you, acquire him."

That's what Oakland Raiders Tight End Jared Cook is to the Dallas Cowboys. Point of evidence.

Game Winning Jared Cook Catch Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys

Uploaded by Kafin Walker on 2017-01-16.

That remarkable catch by Jared Cook still haunts me and many of you in Cowboys Nation. It was a perfectly thrown ball by Aaron Rodgers and Cook made an incredible catch along the sidelines that led to Mason Crosby's game-winning field goal at the end of regulation.

Jared Cook's Oakland Raiders team isn't going anywhere this season. They're already four games back of the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs and the AFC is looking deeper than it has in recent years. The Raiders and the Indianapolis Colts are the only teams in the NFC with less than two losses. That means there are 14 teams with better records than Jon Gruden's Oakland squad. This week the Raiders face a Seattle Seahawks team that beat the Dallas Cowboys and lost by only a couple of points to the undefeated Los Angeles Rams.

Cook has been one of the better tight ends in the NFL this season and would be a veteran presence that the Dallas Cowboys could add if they felt like they could make a run at the playoffs.

At 31, Cook is averaging six catches and 78 yards receiving per game. He'd give the Dallas Cowboys someone they could run on post, corner, and seam routes to challenge safeties deep. Something that they're lacking from the tight end position at the moment. Cook is leading the Oakland Raiders in targets, receptions, yards, and is second on the Raiders in touchdowns in 2018.

No offense to Geoff Swaim, who's been surprisingly good this year, but Jared Cook makes this offense better. He allows you to make Rico Gathers your TE3, which would allow Rico to continue learning the game without the responsibility of being a primary target on certain pass plays.

Jared Cook is in the last season of his deal, so you wouldn't have to be committed to him beyond 2018. The perfect rental who could step in and play pretty quickly.

Jordy Nelson - Wide Receiver

I know this team is allergic to adding veteran players, especially veterans over 30, but Jordy Nelson is another name that they should take a long look at.

At 33 years of age, Nelson leads the Raiders in receiving touchdowns and is second on the team with 15.9 yards per reception. He's also third in receptions and second in yards.

His numbers -- 20 receptions for 317 yards and three touchdowns -- would lead the Dallas Cowboys in all receiving categories.

Nelson's still got some juice left and he's always been a good route runner with good hands.

Here are some highlights from Jordy's week three performance against the Miami Dolphins.

Jordy Nelson Can't Be Stopped w/ 173 Yards & 1 TD vs. Miami!

Check out Jordy Nelson highlights, racking up 173 yards receiving! The Oakland Raiders take on the Miami Dolphins during Week 3 of the 2018 NFL season. Subscribe to NFL: http://j.mp/1L0bVBu Check out our other channels: NFL Vault http://www.youtube.com/nflvault NFL Network http://www.youtube.com/nflnetwork NFL Films http://www.youtube.com/nflfilms NFL Rush http://www.youtube.com/nflrush #NFL #Raiders #JordyNelson

Nelson doesn't have any guarantees left on the deal he signed this past offseason so if you cut him in the 2019 offseason, you'd get zero dead money added to your 2019 salary cap, but would get $7.2 million in savings.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Because of their age and the fact that they'd likely be one-year rentals, I don't imagine that you'd have to give up much more than a fifth round pick for either of these guys. And while I don't think the Dallas Cowboys would take a look at trading for either veteran, it's something they should do if they have aspirations of making the playoffs in 2018.

The Dallas Cowboys offense could use a boost.

What's the most you'd be willing to offer for either Jordy Nelson or Jared Cook?

 



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Star Blog

Cowboys’ Issues Are Deeper Than The Division Race

Kevin Brady

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Are The Cowboys' Players Unhappy With Their Playbook?
Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News

Yesterday, Inside The Star staff writer Jess Haynie posed an interesting question: "could the wide-open NFC East help Jason Garrett's job security?"

The Dallas Cowboys started off their season a disappointing 2-3, but despite this rough start, they are right in the thick of things in the NFC East. The defending champion Eagles, who most expected to run away with the division, are now just 3-3. The lowly New York Giants are probably done at 1-5, and the Washington Redskins looked pathetic on Monday night, dropping to 2-2.

This division looks average at best, though I still somewhat expect the Eagles' talent to take over at some point and allow them to make a run. Still the Cowboys are alive, and if they can pull off the upset at home this Sunday, they may even be in first place come Monday morning.

So, Jess fairly asks, could this help Jason Garrett and the Cowboys' coaching staff keep their jobs? After all, it's rare you see an owner change coaches after remaining competitive within the division throughout most of the prior season. And given Jason Garrett's relationship with Jerry Jones, it might take an awful season to see any real change occur.

Here's the thing: this team could win the division at 9-7, and it would still be time for changes. Incompetence of others does not mean that you are competent, even if you are competent in comparison to those others.

The Cowboys have players openly questioning play calls, alluding to lack of trust in the quarterback, and pretty consistent drama swirling around the locker room. Yes, some of that is the media created Cowboy drama we always see, but there is disfunction within the organization without a doubt.

As a franchise the Cowboys need new blood in the building. To be honest, they could use a general manager separate from the Jones family name, but that is very unlikely to ever happen. So we focus on the coaching staff, specifically on the offensive side of the ball where the Cowboys have struggled the most.

Dallas is 29th in passing yards, 28th in passing yards per attempt, and tied for 26th in passing touchdowns through five weeks. Plainly put, they're horrible, and bringing back an offensive minded head coach and/or offensive coordinator who oversaw this terrible passing offense is counterproductive.

Regardless of where the Cowboys stand within this average division, they need to look themselves in the mirror this offseason. They need to be seriously comparing themselves to teams like the Rams (and not by lying to themselves like Jerry Jones did), not the 1-5 Giants.

The Cowboys should be striving for more than just being the best of a group of average football teams, and if that means cutting ties with Jason Garrett, then so be it.



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Star Blog

Opposition Outlook: Versatile T.J. Yeldon Too Much for Dallas Cowboys?

John Williams

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Opposition Outlook: TJ Yeldon Will be a Problem for the Dallas Cowboys

If you haven't heard the news yet, then let me be the first to tell you. Jacksonville Jaguars Running Back Leonard Fournette has been ruled out of this week's matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Jaguars. Don't let his absence fool you, though, T.J. Yeldon is a back that can hurt the Cowboys in many ways.

T.J. Yeldon was the Jaguars second round pick out of Alabama in the 2015 NFL Draft and was expected to be a featured back for them. That never really materialized and the Jaguars then went out and selected Fournette early in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Yeldon is now more of a passing game back for the AFC South contender, but with Fournette out, he's getting an opportunity in a full-time role. He's not at all the same back as Fournette, as Yeldon has much more ability in the passing game.

Already in 2018, Yeldon's caught 22 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns, which is more than any Dallas Cowboys wide receiver this season. T.J. Yeldon's averaging 8.8 yards per reception to go along with his 4.4 yards per carry on the season.

He's averaging 90 total yards per game on 16 touches and a touchdown a game. Even when Fournette was active in weeks one and four, Yeldon still received 17 and 21 touches in those games.

He's not at all an afterthought in the Jaguars offense and shouldn't be as the Dallas Cowboys defense prepares to stop them in week five.

Here's how he ranks among running backs with at least 24 targets:

  • Tied for second in receiving touchdowns.
  • 11th in receiving yards.
  • 14th in reception percentage.
  • Eighth in targets
  • 10th in receptions
  • Fourth in yards per reception
  • Seventh in yards after catch
  • Fifth in yards after catch per receptions.
  • Sixth in receptions that led to a first down.
  • Second in drops.
  • He has the 10th highest quarterback rating among running backs when targeted.

T.J. Yeldon isn't the best back in the NFL, but as a dual purpose back, he's really good. He's 15th in the NFL in total yards and for two of those games he was sharing the load with a former top five pick.

The Dallas Cowboys have been really good against the run this season. They've allowed the 11th fewest rushing yards and their 3.4 yards per carry allowed ranks tied for second in the NFL. Where they've struggled is with running backs in the passing game.

Through five weeks this season, they've allowed running backs to go for 47.6 yards per game. In weeks one, two, and five, they allowed 66 yards receiving to Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and Alfred Blue.

If there's an area where the Jaguars can exploit the Dallas Cowboys defense, it will be in targeting T.J. Yeldon in the passing game. Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and (hopefully if he plays) Sean Lee will be enough to slow him down and make Blake Bortles take chances down the field.



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