The names “Dwight Freeney” and “Cowboys” have been showing up in the same headlines recently - including this one.
There has been some speculation as to how interested the Cowboys are in the veteran defensive end. Stephen Jones said that at this time, the Cowboys are not interested in Freeney, acknowledging that the NFL is a “younger man’s game.” But Jones also stated that Freeney has what it takes to be productive and thinks he's a talented player.
At the moment, the Cowboys are not interested in Freeney, but should the be?
The Cowboys' depth chart currently lists Ryan Russell, Charles Tapper, Benson Mayowa and Caleb Azubike, at right defensive end and DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Michael McAdoo and Zach Wood listed at left defensive end. These are the guys that could potentially play Week 1.
In 2015 those players totaled 9.5 sacks all together. Freeney has had 10 sacks or more in seven seasons.
Of those 9.5 sacks, eight belong to DeMarcus Lawrence who could potentially miss the first four games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Benson Mayowa recorded two last year with the Oakland Raiders and David Irving recorded half a sack.
But those aren't the only players that can rush the passer for the Cowboys. Jack Crawford is listed as a defensive tackle but has also played some defensive end. He has six career sacks, four just last season. Tyrone Crawford, another DT who could possibly switch to DE, has eight career sacks, five last season.
Combine their sacks last season with Lawrence’s eight, Mayowa's two and Irving's half sack, it adds up to 19.5 sacks. Freeney alone had 24 sacks in his first two seasons (2002 and 2003).
Signing Freeney could also help the Cowboys in the absence of Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence, since both could possibly miss the first four games of the season. The contract could be small, too. Last year, Freeney signed a 1 year deal with the Arizona Cardinals for $970,000. It would be ideal if the Cowboys work out an agreement similar to that.
It’s safe to assume the Cowboys are banking on their offense to be their best defense - the more they score and control the ball, the easier it will be for the defense. Thus making a defensive signing, in my opinion, not so likely.
The Cowboys will want to see what they have in the players already signed before they consider dipping their toe back into the free agency pool. Even though their defensive linemen may still be unproven, they do have quantity to work with. 16 defensive linemen are signed to the 90-man roster.
And although he is a former All-Pro in Indianapolis, who last year had eight sacks in 11 games, Freeney is 36 years old. None of the current defensive linemen are over the age of 27. Picking up a player like Freeney would mean they expect him to take a roster spot from one of the younger players already signed.
Other than the 2015 season, the last time he had eight or more sacks was in 2011 with 8.5. In 2012 he had five sacks through 14 games, the following year he recorded half a sack sack through four games and in 2014 he had 3.5 sacks through 16 games.
Sure, he had a good year in 2015 but his numbers in the years before show that he could be on the decline. There’s a chance that 2015 could have been just a brief resurgence for Freeney and that the 10 sacks-a-season Freeney is long gone.
It may be too early to tell whether or not it is in the Cowboys’ best interest to sign him. Just because the team may not be interested in signing Freeney now, it doesn’t mean the Cowboys won’t sign him in late August or September. If the coaching staff isn’t comfortable with the current defensive front, they could still sign Freeney, or another veteran.
As fans, let’s hope that the current pass rush gives the staff enough confidence not to sign Freeney. Bringing Freeney in could mean the Cowboys aren’t thrilled with what they see in their current defensive front - that's a bigger problem that could hinder the Cowboys for a few years. Hopefully the young players are good enough to get it done without the guidance of a veteran the likes of Freeney.
Which Cowboys Benefit From David Irving’s Suspension?
While losing David Irving for the first four weeks of 2018 is a bad thing for the Dallas Cowboys defensive line, it does create opportunities for some of the other defensive tackles. Who has the most to gain from Irving's suspension?
Because he was mostly going to be used inside as the 3-technique DT, David's absence will naturally benefit the guys who are best suited to play that role. Thankfully, Dallas isn't lacking for those types of players.
Veteran Tyrone Crawford can use all the playing time he can get. As a likely salary cap casualty next year, Crawford doesn't want to get buried on the depth chart as Dallas focuses on their younger players who project to stick around beyond 2018.
With Irving out, Dallas will likely lean on Tyrone as they often do when someone is missing on the defensive line. With more talent now at defensive end, Crawford was going to be competing with Irving, Maliek Collins, Jihad Ward, and other younger guys for work at tackle.
But now there's a problem, and it's easy to slide Crawford into the 3-tech role that Dallas once envisioned him being a star at. Remember, it was their projection of Tyrone as a breakout DT that got him his big contract to begin with.
Yes, Irving's only gone for four weeks. Dallas will still be giving him work in camp based on the role he should fill for the majority of the season. But that's why a veteran like Tyrone Crawford is a great temporary plug-in, because he doesn't need all of the practice reps to step in and perform.
Another key beneficiary could be third-year DT Maliek Collins. Last season, Collins got stuck playing 1-technique and not getting the same opportunities to make plays and get noticed that he had his rookie year.
But now Dallas has several guys in Jihad Ward, Richard Ash, and Brian Price who can play the 1-tech role, which will hopefully get Collins back where he belongs. Maliek's athleticism belongs a little further away from center, letting him try to take on guards in single coverage.
Collins is dealing with a foot issue now but should be back for the preseason. That's enough time for him to be where he needs to be Week One, provided he's healthy.
How Dallas would balance playing time between Collins and Tyrone Crawford could be a matter of how much they play certain schemes. One could see Collins, the bigger guy, playing more in the base defense and then Crawford being used in passing situations.
There is always a lot of rotation in a Rod Marinelli line, so discussions about playing time can get a little silly. Unless you're a true stud like DeMarcus Lawrence who you don't want to take off the field, the Cowboys like to keep guys fresh.
But that's why this is a big opportunity; David Irving has that stud potential. He's the kind of talent who could keep solid players like Crawford and Collins out of view if he hits his stride.
For the first four weeks, though, Irving will be in the NFL doghouse and Dallas will likely lean on its two most experienced defensive tackles to fill the void. There will be more reps for guys like Datone Jones and Jihad Ward too, but Crawford and Collins have way more skins on the wall
That trust should keep them on the field more while David Irving's suspended, and perhaps beyond.
BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year
For the second consecutive year, Defensive Lineman David Irving is being suspended for four games by the NFL. This time, the suspension comes after Irving violated the NFL's policy on substance of abuses, as Ian Rapoport reported.
Cowboys DL David Irving is being suspended 4 games for violating @NFL policy on substance of abuses, sources say. Another big-time D-linemen hit with a suspension for Dallas.
Irving will play for the Dallas Cowboys after the team placed a second-round tender on him earlier in the year. Why no team was interested in picking such a talented defensive tackle for a second round pick is becoming clearer and clearer as the time goes on.
In April, when David Irving got hacked by his former girlfriend one of the tweets that stood out the most was one which said "Wait until you all find about his failed drug tests." Now, we're seeing what the tweet was about.
Irving is a very talented player that could have a great career ahead of him. Of course, with this being the second consecutive year in which he receives a suspension to start the season, one could question how much he wants it.
The Cowboys will play the Panthers, Giants, Seahawks and Lions to start the season. They'll have to do it with one of their most promising defensive players in David Irving.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll keep you updated with this story and every Dallas Cowboys news.
Cowboys Offense Finds Rhythm to End Minicamp, Hurns and Gallup Stand Out
The Dallas Cowboys are back in offseason mode, concluding their OTAs and minicamp from The Star. With a hiatus until training camp, it was important for several high-profile players to make a strong first impression on the 2018 season. From the start of mini camp, these impressions were left mostly by Rod Marinelli's defense and -- more specifically -- Kris Richard's young group of cornerbacks.
Still working through significant change on the offensive side of the ball, the Cowboys did rally on day three under Quarterback Dak Prescott to put out a better performance. The Cowboys coaching staff should love their lasting memories of both FA acquisition Wide Receiver Allen Hurns and rookie Michael Gallup.
There is a strong chance that these two receivers will be the Cowboys starters in Oxnard for training camp. We have heard a lot about the impact new WR Coach Sanjay Lal has had on his group, slowing the game down to focus on route running. This will give the team's rotation of unproven receivers a chance with Prescott, as he can focus on throwing to a 'spot' more often.
One spot that Prescott has struggled to hit in two seasons as the starter in Dallas is the back of the end zone for fade routes. A red zone go-to under Scott Linehan, free agent WR Dez Bryant was often the intended target on these missed passes.
Less of a route running technician and closer to the mold of a physical player like Bryant, Allen Hurns emerging as the Cowboys #1 option would solve a lot of uncertainty at the WR position. In yesterday's practice, Hurns was able to haul in a perfect ball from Prescott on the fade as he beat Byron Jones.
It's going to take some time for Jones to readjust to playing cornerback, but the vision for Kris Richard of him and Chidobe Awuzie starting on the outside is a great one. In a battle of proven players, Hurns got the best of Jones to spark the Cowboys offense at the right time.
Overall, there should be no reason to panic about (well, really anything from mini camp) the Cowboys offense right now, and plenty of reasons to be excited about what this defense will develop into.
Once the pads come on at training camp, the players the Cowboys are paying to play at an elite level will start to shine, including their newly re-signed Guard Zack Martin -- the highest paid guard in the league now. There are no doubts that the bread and butter for this offense will be handing the ball to Ezekiel Elliott behind this wall of an offensive line.
From this increase in competition in the trenches, we'll also get more meaningful battles along the defensive line. In shorts and helmets for now, the Cowboys secondary was given their chance at mini camp, and came out solid early.
Another player they've struggled to truly corral though is Michael Gallup. Perhaps pressing a bit thanks to his limited opportunities thus far, Jourdan Lewis was taken across the field by Gallup on a misfire from Cooper Rush.
This is nothing new for Gallup however, who's been ahead of the curve on creating the desired separation as a "violent" receiver on the outside.
A steal with the 81st overall pick in this year's draft, Gallup has a long way to go in beating out the likes of Terrance Williams, Cedrick Wilson (limited through this portion of the offseason with injuries), and even Cole Beasley, who's received some reps on the outside.
With both Hurns and Gallup making plays on the Cowboys final practice until late July, it's easy to let the mind wander with possibilities of the Cowboys offense playing at full strength against a defense that might be up for the challenge better than ever compared to year's past.
As always, the practice fields of Oxnard will serve as a battle ground for a young but deep Cowboys team to earn their spots on the 53-man roster, one that surely won't have room for all of the wide receiver hopefuls seen this week in mini camp.
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