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Sean’s Scout: Raw LB Justin March-Lillard Shows Potential

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Raw LB Justin March-Lillard Shows Potential

After discussing earlier if the Dallas Cowboys should sit LB Jaylon Smith with Anthony Hitchens and Sean Lee back on the field right here at Inside The Star, the Cowboys were busy yesterday shuffling their roster ahead of a week six bye. CB Nolan Carroll was released, freeing up a roster spot that was used to add LB Justin March-Lillard.

Signing as a UDFA with the Kansas City Chiefs out of Akron in 2015, March-Lillard spent his first year in the league on IR prior to seeing the active roster for a short time in 2016. This playing time from last year is the last we've seen of the smaller Justin March-Lillard at linebacker, as he's bounced from the Dolphins to the Seahawks so far this season.

Brandon George on Twitter

Cowboys have signed LB Justin March-Lillard. When the Chiefs released him after final cuts, Cowboys did put in a claim for him, but Dolphins signed him. He was in Seattle last week: "It's been a crazy, crazy month. I'm real excited to be here.

Now that the Cowboys have March-Lillard, let's find out what he brings to this team in Sean's Scout.

Justin March-Lillard Vs Chargers - Streamable

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

A raw player, March-Lillard saw reps at all three LB positions with the Chiefs - carrying the same fundamentals and nose for the football through each. Displaying the traits of a natural WILL, March-Lillard glides from sideline to sideline effortlessly with long strides.

Not a player that is going to overwhelm with his physique or powerful play, March-Lillard puts himself in position to make plays on the ball by diagnosing plays quickly and consistently playing with his eyes, feet, and hands in sync.

Taking on blocks is a problem at times for Justin, who is listed at 222 pounds. March-Lillard will get caught playing with a wide base, allowing his blocker to work inside of him and steer. Lacking the hand power to disengage and hold the point of attack, March-Lillard does show flashes of driving his blocker with his balance before finishing plays with solid form as a tackler in space.

Justin March-Lillard Vs Steelers - Streamable

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

In pass coverage, March-Lillard can drop with ideal quickness while reading the quarterback and adjusting smoothly. Setting the edge offensively against him is difficult, as this is a player comfortable at any depth along the front seven. Picking through blocks at the line, holding his own at MIKE or SAM, running to the ball at WILL, and dropping into coverage are all things that Justin March-Lillard showed the potential to do regularly in Kansas City.

Justin March-Lillard Vs Chargers - Streamable

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

If the Cowboys are actually going to reduce Jaylon Smith's workload, it will be because they already have the numbers to put on the field at LB with Hitchens, Lee, and Damien Wilson.

March-Lillard may have a hard time fitting right into the rotation on defense (his impact on special teams could be felt immediately), especially considering another area of weakness in his game.

Justin March-Lillard Vs Chargers - Streamable

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

The true stopping power that linebackers in this league must have at some point is a real issue for Justin March-Lillard, as you see above. Putting March-Lillard at SAM LB on a goal line play like this put him in a bad position pre-snap, and the Chargers run right at him for a touchdown.

Justin March-Lillard Vs Chargers - Streamable

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

In Rod Marinelli's scheme, March-Lillard will have a fighting chance to play his style of football at MIKE and WILL in certain situations, but only if plays like this last one I'll show become less common. As March-Lillard reads this play patiently and shoots the gap, he fails to plant and bring his body into the tackle. Slightly overrunning the play, Justin's arm tackle attempt fails and allows a play that could have been a negative gain to pick up a few on the ground.

John Owning on Twitter

Pro Day numbers for Justin March-Lillard #Cowboys

Overall, the Cowboys roster move yesterday to move on from Nolan Carroll says more about the confidence they have in their young defensive backs. Using the roster spot to address a position of need though, Justin March-Lillard finds himself settled into his third team of the year with a chance to further his game and earn meaningful snaps in Dallas at linebacker.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Raw LB Justin March-Lillard Shows Potential" 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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NFL to Study Marijuana Use, Will It Impact Randy Gregory’s Status?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Headlines - Rubbing Salt In The Wound That Is Randy Gregory

The NFLPA and the NFL have reached an agreement to research alternative pain-management tools for the players. They'll form joint medical committees to study different strategies, among which will be the use of marijuana. It's important to make it clear that said committees will not be exclusively about marijuana, but a lot of different issues related to pain-management in the league. However, it'll likely be one of the most important aspects of their work.

Marijuana continues to be a highly debated topic and it's no different when discussing the NFL. Dallas Cowboys fans should be very familiar with the situation. Earlier this year, David Irving "quit" on football during an Instagram live stream while smoking weed. In the video, Irving talks about how he thinks it's better to be addicted to marijuana rather than certain medications used by NFL teams to treat their players.

Although David Irving is not an authority on substances, that is where all of this debate centers around. Throughout the league, players are given strong medication to deal with injuries and the physical pain of playing pro football. I'm not an expert either, but it's more than fair to say there's a strong argument here. Specially in a country where marijuana has already been legalized in 10 states and the trend points toward legalization continuing.

The current CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) between the NFL and NFLPA will expire after the 2020 season and how the league's drug policy looks like in the new agreement will be a huge factor for reaching a satisfactory CBA for both sides.

Of course, the fact that the NFLPA and the league are working together on such an important task doesn't mean we will see any immediate changes or that the NFL's ban on marijuana will be lifted anytime soon. Many big question marks will have to be answered before we hear about teams implementing this substance as a pain management tool.

For the Dallas Cowboys, this will be a relevant narrative down the line. Pass rusher Randy Gregory was reinstated after serving an indefinite suspension due to substance abuse prior to the 2018 season. After a dominant year, Gregory was suspended again by the NFL and it all points toward him sitting out this upcoming season and perhaps even more.

Even still, the Cowboys are still standing behind their 2015 second round pick. If the league ends up lifting its ban on marijuana, they'll have to decide what they will do with players already serving a suspension for this reason. Guys like Randy Gregory, for instance. If it's decided they'll be reinstated to the NFL, the Cowboys will sure be glad to have supported Gregory all throughout the process.

Last year, the pass rusher proved how effective he could be even with a short period of time training. Hopefully, the Cowboys are able to get him back on the field eventually, where's been consistently dominant. In the meantime, we'll see how recently acquired Robert Quinn does in Dallas.

The NFL won't be lifting its ban anytime soon, but it's good to know they're at least open minded to changing the league's policy and consider alternatives that could benefit the players' health. We'll see how these new medical committees work and keep you updated here at Inside The Star.

Tell me what you think about "NFL to Study Marijuana Use, Will It Impact Randy Gregory’s Status?" 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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Should Cowboys Consider Trading for Disgruntled Packers S Josh Jones?

Brian Martin

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Should Cowboys Consider Trading for Disgruntled Packers S Josh Jones?

Despite their insistence that upgrading the safety position was a top offseason priority, the Dallas Cowboys haven't really done much to improve the backend of their secondary. They did sign former Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals Safety George Iloka as a free agent and drafted Donovan Wilson in the sixth-round in this year's NFL Draft, but neither player looks like a clear-cut upgrade at this point. Fortunately, there's still time to find Xavier Woods' counterpart for 2019.

Xavier Woods is the only clear-cut starter at safety currently on the Dallas Cowboys roster. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine as to who starts opposite him this season. With that in mind, the Cowboys should be keeping all of their options open, including acquiring players who get released or even making a trade for someone they like. The latter is what I want to talk about today.

A potential safety who could be put on the trade block that I'm kind of intrigued with is Josh Jones, who has reportedly requested a trade from the Green Bay Packers.

Rob Demovsky on Twitter

Packers safety Josh Jones is skipping the voluntary OTAs and working out in Florida because he's hoping to be traded, a source told ESPN. The source said the 2017 second-round pick believes it would be best for both parties if they parted ways. Story coming on ESPN shortly.

Josh Jones clearly sees where he stands with the Green Bay Packers after they signed Adrian Amos in free agency and drafted Darnell Savage Jr. 21st overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, thus his absence from OTA's and trade request. He understands the business and knows he's not going to see the field much behind those two, meaning his best chance for playing time would be in a different uniform.

Josh Jones, Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers S Josh Jones

It's not all that shocking Jones has requested a trade. Even before the Packers added Amos and Savage he wasn't receiving a lot of playing time. He's just never seemed to fit into what Green Bay was trying to do on the backend of their defense. It may be in the best interest of both parties to mutually part ways. This is where the Dallas Cowboys come in.

I believe Josh Jones is exactly the type of safety Kris Richard would like to pair Xavier Woods with on the backend of the Cowboys defense. He fits the criteria Richard likes in his defensive backs as far as size, length, and speed are concerned. And, he also has the kind of skill set/mindset to become that Kam Chancellor "enforcer" type of strong safety.

Josh Jones is at his best when he can play around the line of scrimmage, much like Chancellor was during his time with the Seahawks. But, Jones also has the ability to be a factor in coverage as well. The only real question here is whether or not he's an upgrade over the likes of Jeff Heath, George Iloka, and maybe even rookie Donovan Wilson?

In all honesty, I don't have the answer to that question. Josh Jones really hasn't received a fair opportunity to prove himself in his first two years in the NFL. I believe the skill set is there to start in the league, but there's not much there to back up that belief.

Personally, I'd be willing to part way with a late round pick if I were the Cowboys to acquire Josh Jones. I like the idea of bringing him in to work with Kris Richard and allowing him to compete for the starting job next to Xavier Woods. This is exactly the kind of low risk/high reward move Dallas likes to gamble on, and it could potentially pay off in a big way.

Where do you stand? Should the Cowboys consider trading for Josh Jones?



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How Can The Cowboys Force More Turnovers In 2019?

Kevin Brady

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Ranking The Dallas Cowboys Rookies Through Week 8
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

2018 seemed like the beginning of a new era. A defensive era. For the first time in years the Cowboys were able to consistently lean on their defense during games, staying alive even as their offense sputtered and limped through stretches early in the season.

The defense was downright prolific some weeks. They carried the Cowboys to an inspiring home victory over the New Orleans Saints to put them in prime position to make the playoffs. They dominated the Wild Card game in key moments, making key stops and holding the Seahawks to just 22 points in the win. They featured one of the league's best individual pass rushers in DeMarcus Lawrence, an All Pro cornerback in Byron Jones, and one of the league's most exciting young linebacker duos.

For all of this success, this defense still lacked one thing. Takeaways.

The Cowboys forced only 9 interceptions in 2018, ranking 26th across the league. In fact, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was actually tied with Xavier Woods for the team lead in interceptions with just 2. When it comes to total takeaways the Cowboys' defense was a little better off, though, finishing 16th in the NFL.

Part of the "problem" seems to be their philosophy. The Cowboys have finished 26th, 24th, 27th, and 31st in interceptions dating back to 2015. They've also finished 9th, 25th, 18th, and 19th in team defense DVOA over that same stretch. Clearly there was an improvement in total defense in 2018, but neither their team defense nor ability to take the ball away has been strong since 2015.

The bigger problem, really, is a lack of luck. While this sounds like a cop-out, takeaways often do come down to just that. Of course putting yourself in the right place at the right time to benefit from a batted pass or overthrown ball matters, but those bounces finding the right hands is usually a matter of luck.

Anthony Brown's Resurgence A Great Sign for Cowboys Defense

Nov 30, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown (30) returns an interception against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Turnovers are incredibly volatile year to year, and as much as you'd like your players to "make their own luck," randomness does play a part here.

You can certainly argue the Cowboys have done their best this offseason to increase their chances at takeaways, however. By trading for defensive end Robert Quinn, re-signing DeMarcus Lawrence, and adding talented players to the middle of their defensive line as well, Dallas has put an emphasis on getting after the quarterback and corralling the opposing running game. Putting pressure on quarterbacks can force them into quick decision making or bad throws, which could in turn breed interceptions.

This is far from guaranteed, though. Plus the Cowboys play against some of the league's top quarterbacks this year, which hurts their chances of taking the ball away further.

In the end the Cowboys will need both the skill of their pass rushers and defensive backs to put them in good positions, and luck to smile down on them, if they'd like to turn around their takeaway numbers in 2019. And after all, this demoralizing trend has to reverse itself at some point, doesn't it?



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