Running Back Duke Johnson was once considered one of the favorites to replace DeMarco Murray. It was believed at the time he was the Dallas Cowboys target with their second-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, but unfortunately the Cleveland Browns beat them to the punch. The Cowboys instead had to settle for Randy Gregory, a consensus top 15 pick who saw his draft stock plummet because of multiple failed drug tests.
Fast forward several years, and the Dallas Cowboys may once again have a shot at adding Duke Johnson to their backfield. Johnson could now be expendable after the Cleveland Browns decided to add Kareem Hunt to their RB room, although there is no indication of such a move being made as of yet. Regardless, this is definitely something the Cowboys and several other teams around the league will be watching closely.
Duke Johnson is one of the "new age" running backs a lot of teams around the NFL are turning to here recently. His versatility to impact a game as both a runner and receiver would add tremendous value to any offense around the league, and could be exactly what the Dallas Cowboys are looking for from their RB2 behind Ezekiel Elliott.
As a runner, Johnson is a perfect fit for the Dallas Cowboys blocking scheme. Their run game is heavily focused on zone schemes (inside and outside zone schemes) with some power schemes (draws, counters, and crack toss) mixed in as well. Almost the exact kind of scheme that turned Johnson into the all-time leading rusher at Miami, which is pretty impressive considering Clinton Portis, Frank Gore, and Willis McGahee all toted the rock ahead of him for the Hurricanes.
It's Johnson's pass catching ability that really endears him to teams around the league though. He is one of the best receiving running backs in the entire NFL, and I'm just not talking about screens and dump off passes. He can split out wide like a receiver and have just as much impact in the passing game. With the Cowboys, he could help replace some of Cole Beasley's production if he leaves via free agency.
All of this sounds good of course, but it will all come down to whether or not the Cleveland Browns decide to part ways with Duke Johnson and if the Cowboys would actually be interested. This is where the speculation part of all this comes in.
Unfortunately, as much as many of us would like to see Duke Johnson in a Dallas Cowboys uniform in 2019, I just don't see it happening. To acquire Johnson the Cowboys would have to surrender a draft pick in this year's draft. If it was nothing more than a fourth rounder, I think they'd be on board, but I think the Browns asking price would likely be more.
Free agency also has a couple of quality RBs the Cowboys could go after without having to give up a draft pick. T. J. Yeldon is someone that comes to mind, and he just so happens to have a skill set similar to Johnson's. Then there is always the draft, which would be even more cost-effective.
I wouldn't rule out the possibility of the Cowboys trying to pry Duke Johnson away from the Cleveland Browns though. Anything's possible I guess, but personally I just don't see it happening.
Would you go after Duke Johnson if you are the Dallas Cowboys?
If Sean Lee’s the Cowboys Starting SAM LB, Who’s his Backup?
If you believe the talk around the water cooler, Sean Lee is going to be the Dallas Cowboys starting strong side (SAM) linebacker in 2019.
On paper this looks like a brilliant move. It puts the Cowboys best three linebackers (Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee) on the field the same time when they are in their base defense. It should also help "General Lee" healthwise since the SAM LB over the last three years (Damien Wilson) never played more than 30% of the defensive snaps.
But, we all know No. 50 has struggled to remain healthy for an entire season pretty much his whole career. What happens if he once again succumbs to the injury bug? Who do the Dallas Cowboys plan on making his backup?
I think second-year LB Chris Covington, not to be confused with DT Christian Covington, could get the first crack at becoming Lee's backup. At 6'2", 245 pounds, he has the size to play SAM, but he's unproven and will have to prove himself in training camp and preseason to become a serious consideration.
There may be a dark course candidate to become Sean Lee's primary backup.
Luke Gifford, an undrafted LB out of Nebraska, was supposedly pretty impressive in previous summer workouts. He's been spoken pretty highly of already, but like Covington needs to prove himself. Could he be another undrafted hidden gem?
Dallas Cowboys Staff Writer Bryan Broaddus seems to like what he's seen so far from Gifford.
"If there is a young linebacker to keep an eye on I have a sneaky feeling about Gifford. This kid has a nose for the ball. He plays well on the move and he's a finisher when he gets into position to make plays. Gifford can play both inside and out which gives him that flexibility coaches covet. Where Gifford is going to have to make his mark is in these padded practices and then in preseason games. I have already seen flashes of traits and instincts and range which makes me believe he could pull this off."
You can't help but like the way Broaddus talks about Luke Gifford. He sounds like the kind of depth player the Cowboys like due to his versatility and skill set, but he's going to have to continue to prove himself when the pads come on if he wants to stick around. That's the life of an undrafted free agent though.
It may seem a little odd to talk abbout backup players this early, but because of Sean Lee's inability to remain healthy it could be an important position battle to keep an eye on once training camp gets underway. I know I'm going to be keeping a close eye on Chris Covington (#59) and Luke Gifford (#57). What about you?
Who do you think will become Sean Lee's primary backup at SAM LB?
Trysten Hill Could Make the Interior Defensive Line Complete
Confusion. Probably the first word that came to minds of Dallas Cowboys fans worldwide when the 58th pick of the 2019 NFL Draft was announced, considering the glaring need at safety. Nonetheless, the team decided to buffer its defensive line by selecting Defensive Tackle Trysten Hill out of Central Florida.
Reports say there was a decision to be made between Hill and Virginia Safety Juan Thornhill at 58, with Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and Defensive Backs Coach/Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard ultimately convincing everyone Hill was the guy. Looking back on the Cowboys playoff loss to the Rams, it isn't hard to understand why this particular decision was made. They were gashed for 273 rushing yards that night, after holding the league's top rushing attack under 80 yards between four ball carriers in their win against Seattle.
Trysten is excellent against the run, racking up 20 career tackles for loss, including an unreal 10.5 in 2018. Even though the NFL is more of a passing league now, stopping the run is a formula that will always work, you want to make teams one-dimensional.
Character concerns were one of the major sticking points against the selection of Hill. He went from a starter in 2017 to a rotation guy in 2018. Even though he played a lot of football, and played well, why was his role reduced? Head Coach Jason Garrett quickly dispelled any questions about Hill's character, after talking with former UCF Head Coach Scott Frost.
"The staff who was there before, Scott Frost and his group, we spent a lot of time with them, talked to them, and they endorsed him highly, both as a player and as a person. He did a good job in that environment. And even though he wasn't a starter this past year, he did play a lot of football for them and played a lot of football for them in critical times," Garret said.
Not only was he one of the 30 guys that came into the team's facility for pre-draft visits, but he also had a sit-down with the Cowboys at the combine in Indianapolis. To top it all off, he had a workout lead by his future Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli at UCF's pro day, where he received high praise.
With that praise came a "Work Ethic" contract signed by Hill between himself and Marinelli. Explaining what is expected of him day in and day out in terms of hard work, preparation and dedication. A very unique approach by Marinelli, and one that Hill is more than willing to honor.
"I can't put into words how important our relationship is with each other. He wants the best out of me and I want to give him everything I've got. Him really taking hold of me this whole process, and me being able to call him and chat with him and hear his voice was huge in this whole ordeal," Hill said.
If that doesn't give you goosebumps I don't know what will.
Antwaun Woods is the starter at the 1-technique defensive tackle position. He was a big reason the Cowboys finished fifth against the run last season. Hill will have to battle it out in camp with Maliek Collins to see who will put his name at the top of the depth chart as the team's starter at the 3-technique. Hill could edge out Collins, but being that he's in a contract year he definitely won't make it easy on the rookie. Throw in Tyrone Crawford, Daniel Ross, and Christian Covington this group can be productive where quarterbacks hate getting pressure from the most, straight up the middle.
He's young, raw and full of potential. A close bond has already been formed with Marinelli, which can only boost the confidence of a 21-year-old kid ready to take the NFL by storm. The lights shine the brightest in Big D, it's all there for him, now it's up to him to become "King of the Hill" so to speak.
The Ringer Names Byron Jones, La’el Collins As Potential Trade Bait
The Ringer's Robert Mays published a piece this week discussing the most realistic blockbuster type trades which could go down in the NFL this summer.
And, as tends to be the case, there were Dallas Cowboys all over his list.
Mays named both cornerback Byron Jones and right tackle La'el Collins as players which could potentially be on the move prior to the season starting.
The reasoning? (You've probably heard) the Cowboys have a lot of players to pay these next two offseasons, both Collins and Jones being on the list, and they have a good amount of talent at their position groups already.
"Dallas is slated to have about $75 million in cap space in 2020, according to Over The Cap, but that number is a bit misleading. A new contract for Dak Prescott is imminent, and even if the Cowboys manage to keep his cap figure relatively low in the deal’s first year, he will probably still cost at least $15 million against the cap next season. Combine that with the fact that Jones, Collins, and linebacker Jaylon Smith all have deals that expire this year, and Dallas’s robust cap space starts to shrink quickly."
The reasoning makes logical sense, though I don't see the trades actually happening. The Cowboys are going for it this year, looking to win their sixth Super Bowl and first in over two decades. Whether or not it'll happen is, of course, up in the air, but their roster is good enough to make you believe they have a real shot at contending. Trading away one, or two, of their returning starters would likely take them farther from their ultimate goal in 2019.
Robert Mays also put the Cowboys in discussions to trade with the Raiders again, this time for safety Karl Joseph.
"Dallas signed George Iloka this spring to bolster its safety depth, but the position remains the biggest weakness on an otherwise strong roster. Dallas has more than $19 million in cap space, so it would have no issue taking on Joseph’s relatively modest deal. Players selected by a departed GM are often excellent trade targets, and it seems like the Cowboys could land Joseph for the right price."
Now this is a deal I could get behind.
Dallas still likely has a hole at safety, though there is reason to be hopeful about the prospects for George Iloka in 2019. If by the middle of the season Dallas is still looking for a suitable starter and upgrade over Jeff Heath, maybe they'll toss a day two or three pick at the Raiders and see if they can snag Karl Joseph.
Trading with the Raiders in 2018 worked out pretty well, after all.
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