In just a few nights the Dallas Cowboys will be set to take on the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. With the amount of turnover the team has had over the past few seasons, we have consistently seen new "starters" almost every year.
So far from what we've seen this offseason, Stephen Paea, Nolan Carroll, and Jeff Heath will likely be new "starters" in the defense. Chaz Green or Jonathan Cooper will be a new look starter on the offensive side of the ball at LG.
But when we sit back and look at the way the Cowboys do things, what does the word starter really mean to the team?
All of Cowboys Nation has gotten used to the way Rod Marinelli rotates his defensive lines in certain parts of a game. In 2016, we saw packages where players who "started" the game would play significantly less snaps than some of the players who came of the bench.
I have a feeling we will see a similar plan in 2017 with these positions and players.
Right Defensive End
DeMarcus Lawrence - DeMarcus Lawrence is by far the team's most talented pass rusher. Injuries have unfortunately forced him to miss significant time over his first four years in the NFL. This is the first offseason that Lawrence has participated fully in since his rookie year. While DeMarcus is likely the opening day starter at right end, the Cowboys have multiple options behind him that will be chomping at the bit.
Benson Mayowa - The Cowboys sack leader in 2016 will likely play a similar role this year that he did last year. Mayowa came on hot down the home stretch in 2016 serving as the team's late game rotational pass rusher. When Tyrone Crawford went down in training camp, my idea was to start Mayowa on the right side and flip DeMarcus Lawrence over to the left side. Thankfully, Crawford looks like he's good to go and Benson Mayowa can stay as a rotational pass rusher on money downs. That is what he does best.
Left Defensive End
Tyrone Crawford - Tyrone Crawford is now the longest tenured defensive lineman on the team and he will likely be the starter when the defense takes the field this Sunday. Crawford is by no means a difference maker, but he plays his position well and is a force against the run. Don't be surprised though if his teammates comes off the bench and receive more snaps than he does.
Taco Charlton - Cowboys Nation is very familiar with first round pick Taco Charlton. Some (including myself) were not a fan when the Cowboys selected Taco with the 28th overall pick in the 2017 Draft. After a very slow start, Charlton has improved each week and looks like a completely different player than he was at Michigan. Even with the improvements, Charlton still has a long ways to go before being ready to start at defensive end, but he can be a nice rotational player that may end up seeing the field more often than the starter, Tyrone Crawford.
Jaylon Smith - One of the biggest stories surrounding the team this offseason has been Jaylon Smith. Can he start? That question still needs to be answered, but one things is for sure. He is going to be active, and he's going to play a lot, especially while Anthony Hitchens is out. If he can't, his teammate can.
Justin Durant - While he's not a new, young, or shiny toy, Justin Durant is a very good football player. He won't wow you with his speed, power, or coverage ability, but he will be where he's supposed to be 90% of the time. Justin Durant appears to be a lackluster player yet is still efficient on the field.
The cornerback position is a tricky one. In base defense packages the Cowboys' two starting cornerbacks will likely be Nolan Carroll and Orlando Scandrick. When the Cowboys play in nickel and dime packages things will look much different.
- Orlando Scandrick - For the second year in a row, Scandrick will likely be the team's starting outside corner. Scandrick, like Durant, is an older veteran who year after year does his job at a very high level.
- Nolan Carroll - After a mediocre offseason, it seems as if Nolan Carroll still has a starting job on the Cowboys defense. That has a lot to do with the lack of availability from the rest of the corners this entire offseason. Carroll will have his first big test of the season this Sunday with both Brandon Marshall and possibly Odell Beckham Jr. standing across from him.
- Anthony Brown - If not for a hamstring injury that sidelined Brown for a majority of the offseason, Anthony Brown is likely one of the starting base corners for week one. Unfortunately for him, that's not the case. Fortunately for the team, Anthony Brown will see plenty of the field in week one and the entire season. His versatility to play the nickel will make Brown a hot commodity for the team's third cornerback spot in base and starting nickel corner.
When taking a look around the Cowboys defense, the only players that resemble the word starter are: Sean Lee, Maliek Collins, and Byron Jones. These are the only three players who will likely start the game and not be replaced all that often no matter what the opposing offense is doing.
Leaving the question: What does starter really mean for the Dallas Cowboys?
Is Kavon Frazier Fighting a Losing Battle With the Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas Cowboys Safety Kavon Frazier has one year remaining on his rookie contract, but may not see the end of it with the same team who drafted him. In fact, it really looks as if he is already fighting a losing battle in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys signed Free Agent George Iloka and drafted Donavan Wilson out of Texas A&M in the sixth-round of the 2019 NFL Draft in the hopes of upgrading the safety position. That doesn't bode well for Kavon Frazier, especially after seeing his defensive snaps take hit in 2018.
After the arrival of Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard, Frazier saw his playing time on defense go from 21.24% in 2017 to 18.07% in 2018. It's not a huge difference, but it's pretty obvious the Cowboys value his special-teams ability, not his defensive play.
The way I see things, Kavon Frazier is a longshot to make the Cowboys final 53-man roster this year. At best, I have him fifth or sixth on the depth chart right now. Since Dallas typically only carries four safeties on the roster, it's looking as if Frazier could inevitably be the odd man out.
I personally have Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, and George Iloka ahead of Kavon Frazier right now on the depth chart. That means he's competing with Darian Thompson, who is also playing on a one-year deal, and rookie Donovan Wilson for that fourth and final roster spot at the safety position. Unfortunately for Frazier, it looks as if the odds are against him.
Donovan Wilson has already had to step into Frazier's shoes while he was out in OTA's after having his knee scoped, and has been pretty impressive doing so. He has supposedly picked up the defensive scheme pretty quickly and is becoming a vocal leader on the backend. Being a younger, cheaper option, Wilson has a better chance of sticking around on the final 53-man roster over Frazier.
As you can see, Kavon Frazier is fighting an uphill battle with the Dallas Cowboys. It of course is nothing new for him. He's had to fight his way onto the roster ever since he joined the Cowboys, but this year just seems a little different in my opinion. It just looks as if the odds are more against him this time around.
I have no doubts Frazier will continue to fight with every ounce of his being, but if I'm being completely honest I think he's fighting a losing battle. It's going to be really interesting to see how this roster battle at the safety position plays out in training camp and preseason.
Do you think Kavon Frazier is fighting a losing battle with the Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas Cowboys: The Case For Regression In 2019
It's been a few years since things around the Dallas Cowboys felt this good prior to a season. Coming off a 10-6 year in which Dallas won both the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a one possession road game to the future NFC champions, Cowboys Nation is expecting some big things in 2019.
After all, the Cowboys went out and improved their roster in multiple ways this offseason and brought in some new blood on their offensive coaching staff. Spirits are high among Cowboys Nation, and just about everyone is anticipating a two team race for the NFC East.
But some numbers indicate we should be thinking "not so fast."
The details of the 2018 season are not as pretty as the total picture. Rarely are they ever, of course, but these particular details point towards possible regression for the Cowboys in 2019.
Basically, their point differential a year ago spells out impending doom. (That was dramatic, but let's discuss).
The Cowboys were +15 in 2018, and by pythagorean wins expectation, they were about as strong as an 8-8 team (8.53 wins to be exact). This means they won nearly 2 more games (1.47) than would be expected, fourth most in the entire NFL.
This point is furthered when looking at their record in one possession games. Dallas went 8-2 when the game was decided by 7 points or less, winning close games at a rate that is simply not sustainable year to year.
These numbers make the Cowboys a prime candidate for regression in 2019, as they were in 2017.
Back in 2016, the Cowboys outperformed their pythagorean expectation by a whole 2 wins. The following season? Dallas finished the year 9-7. The model also indicated that the 7-9 Eagles performed 2 wins under expectations in 2016, meaning they would get back on track in 2017. As we know, they ended up winning 13 games and the Super Bowl the following season.
Of course, this isn't set-in-stone, and the Cowboys very well could outperform these expectations and avoid regression. This would mainly hinge on their coaching staff and quarterback performing at an elite level, carrying them through close games and winning more games by greater than one possession.
Newly Acquired DE Robert Quinn Brings High Expectations
Winning games in the NFL typically comes down to accomplishing two goals. One, being successful when passing on offense. And, two, stopping the opposing team's passing game.
The Cowboys set out to accomplish that second goal this offseason, re-signing defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and trading for veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn, who tallied 6.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins, is one of the leagues more feared rushers when at his best. The former All Pro has multiple 10+ sack seasons under his belt, including a whopping 19 in 2013.
And, as expected, the Cowboys coaching staff is ecstatic to have such a respected pass rushing specialist on their roster.
“He’s got that first step. He’s an established pass rusher in this league, so he’s going to bring some good stuff for us.” - Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
The Cowboys acquired Robert Quinn for a 2020 6th round pick, which could end up being the steal of the offseason. Quinn has played with some top-notch pass rushers in the past, and each time they have brought out the best in his own game.
Back with the Rams in 2017, when Aaron Donald was on the same defensive line, Quinn got to the quarterback 8.5 times. And, last season, he remained consistent in his sack totals playing alongside Cameron Wake. Now he joins a DeMarcus Lawrence who has 25 sacks over the last 2 seasons.
"I think it was kind of one of those where I get to have fun, pin my ears back and just disrupt the backfield, which is what they want us to do." - Robert Quinn told NFL.com.
Quinn and the always dominant Lawrence will form an impressive defensive end duo on passing downs, with the potential to be one of the best in all of football. Dallas is also hoping to add Randy Gregory into this mix, a piece which could prove vital late in football games if he is able to return from his current indefinite suspension.
Whether or not Gregory finds his way back onto the field, though, this defensive front will be in good hands. The edge combo of Quinn and Lawrence, combined with a plethora of skilled interior rushers such as Maliek Collins, gives the Cowboys a fearsome defensive line which should keep quarterbacks uncomfortable every Sunday.
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