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?
Malik McDowell Is Well Worth The Risk For The Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly brining defensive lineman Malik McDowell into The Star this week for a visit, as they decide whether or not to potentially sign him for the 2019 season.
McDowell is a former second round pick of the Seattle Seahawks, who fell to day two because of what scouts call "off the field" or "character" concerns. McDowell did not last long with Seahawks, as he was released in 2017 following an ATV accident in which he reportedly suffered "extensive brain and eye trauma" according to Charles Robinson.
None of us know much about who Malik McDowell is as a person, or what concerns their really should be with his health. But what I do know is that on tape at Michigan State, McDowell was a top 5-10 player in the 2017 draft class. He was a stud, and has the traits to continue to be a stud in the NFL.
The 2017 NFL Draft is chock full of talented, athletic, and productive defensive linemen. While most of the draft pundits have focused on EDGE rushers thus far, the defensive tackle class also possesses some of this year's top NFL prospects. Arguably the best of those defensive tackles is Michigan State's Malik McDowell.
Back in 2017 I wrote a full scouting report on McDowell, detailing why he earned such a high grade on my board. McDowell is a versatile linemen who is explosive off the ball, powerful and rangy against the run, and a skilled pass rusher who plays with a high motor. What more could you really ask for?
"McDowell is a patient pass rusher at times, setting up the blocker how he likes and then beating them with ease. McDowell’s ability to swipe hands off helps him greatly, but his quick swim is his most effective pass rush move.
On this play he uses that swim to perfection, forcing the center to power down to the right before swimming back to the other side."
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
When the Spartans went to a three man pass rushing front, McDowell moved to the EDGE often and made plays with his quick, active hands and impressive swim move. He was much more impressive on the interior, however, and could be a direct replacement for David Irving as an explosive and powerful 3-technique for the Cowboys.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
I love that the Cowboys are bringing McDowell in for a free agent visit. His price will likely be low, as he is yet to play in an NFL game over the last two years, but his ceiling remains very high if he is healthy. It's rare for a player with his college production, natural ability, and measurables to completely fail in the NFL.
Maybe all McDowell needs is a second chance to get his head right and prove that he belongs in the league. Maybe he flames out quickly and can't get on the field due to "off the field" stuff. Or, maybe he simply isn't healthy enough to contribute as an NFL player. Regardless, for the price he'll likely command, McDowell is well worth the risk if the Cowboys are willing to take it.
Though Not A Direct Beasley Replacement, Randall Cobb Would Bring Value To Cowboys’ Offense
When the news broke Monday that veteran wide receiver Randall Cobb was visiting the Dallas Cowboys, most immediately assumed he would be a logical replacement for the departed Cole Beasley.
When you take a look at the film and each of their skillsets, however, you quickly see this is likely not the case.
While Cobb would be able to play in the slot as a receiver for the Cowboys if he signs, his value extends much further than just a slot receiver. Where Beasley makes his mark with precise route running, short area quickness, and 3rd down reliability, Cobb is much more of a threat after the catch. He's not the route runner that Beasley is, and really isn't an upgrade over Beasley as a receiver, but Cobb would be able to help the Cowboys' become more diverse in their offensive schemes.
Similar to Tavon Austin, Randall Cobb can be used in pre snap motion and jet-sweep packages, as well as a traditional running back. A college quarterback, Cobb's versatility is what makes him so attractive to NFL teams. Cobb would actually fit more of the Lance Dunbar "scat back" role of sorts for the Cowboys than that of the Cole Beasley slot receiver role. His versatility, however, allows him to carve out a lane within the offense which they haven't quite had before.
Another area Cobb could help the Cowboys is when the play breaks down. With experience in the Packers offense playing with arguably the greatest improviser we've ever seen in Aaron Rodgers, Cobb would be able to help Dak Prescott down the field when he breaks the pocket and the play is off schedule.
So often last season we talked about how the Cowboys offense is reliant on remaining on schedule, staying in front of the chains and not having to force the ball downfield. Unleashing the Mississippi State version of Dak Prescott, where he can improvise and use his legs to create big plays, tends to be when this offense is at its best, however.
Randall Cobb won't be a Pro Bowler if the Cowboys sign him, and depending on the money he receives, it might not even be a lock that he makes the final roster. But Cobb would be an exciting addition to a Cowboys offense which has lacked "creativity" over the last few seasons, and is looking to reinvent themselves to a certain extent.
A receiving corps headlined by Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, with versatile weapons such as Cobb and Tavon Austin behind them, is a pretty good one to head into draft day with.
Signing Cobb would keep the Cowboys from "needing" to take a wide receiver early in the draft, and would allow them to easily shed Allen Hurns if a receiving weapon did fall to them at 58th overall.
Should Cowboys Inquire About Trading for 49ers DL Solomon Thomas?
When it comes to making trades, the Dallas Cowboys are typically the buyer and not the seller. They proved that last season when they acquired Tavon Austin, Jamize Olawale, and Jihad Ward via trade and could be looking do the same once again this offseason. That's why today I want to talk about the Cowboys putting in a call to the San Francisco 49ers to inquire about potentially trading for Solomon Thomas.
New 49ers Defensive Line Coach Kris Kocurek is rumored to be evaluating Solomon Thomas' film in order to determine his fit and future with the organization moving forward. This is no easy task. In his two years in the league they've tried Thomas at DE and DT, but unfortunately the former No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft has yet to find his footing at either position.
Being a man without a position doesn't bode well for Solomon Thomas, especially after the 49ers acquired Defensive End Dee Ford from the Kansas City Chiefs last week via trade. The 49ers are suddenly stacked along the defensive line. That's not all though, things could actually get worse for Thomas.
To further complicate matters, the 49ers could use their second overall pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft on the either Nick Bosa or Quinnen Williams. If that's what indeed happens, someone is going to be the odd man out. If you haven't guessed it yet, I think that player could be Solomon Thomas.
As a former high first-round draft pick, Thomas would count $7,678,468 against the salary cap in 2019 and $8,958,213 in 2020. That's probably more than the 49ers want to pay for a rotational/backup defensive lineman. And cutting him this season would create $16.6 million in dead money, so a trade is the logical solution.
With all that in mind, it wouldn't surprise me if San Francisco put Solomon Thomas on the trade block any day now. He is only two years into his four-year rookie deal and comes with a fifth-year option as a former first-round draft pick. That means if a team does trade for him they have him under contract for essentially three more years.
If you add all of this up, it makes a lot of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. They need defensive line help and Solomon Thomas needs a fresh start. The Cowboys would get a young versatile defensive lineman and the 49ers get to dump his contract while also receiving some compensation in return. It's a win-win for all parties concerned.
I know what you're thinking though. What would the Cowboys have to give up in the trade? Well, it might not be as much as you think.
Fortunately, Thomas' failure to make an impact his first two years in the NFL favor the buyer, in this case the Dallas Cowboys. He has only four career quarterback sacks, three of which came in his rookie season. Stats of course don't always tell the entire story, but game film does. Unfortunately for Thomas, he can't escape his poor play.
I believe it wouldn't take more than a 2019 fourth-round draft pick to get Solomon Thomas away from the 49ers. Remember, just last season the New England Patriots sent a third-round draft pick to San Francisco and received Offensive Tackle Trent Brown and the fifth-round pick in return. Brown was a more proven player and was in the last year of his contract.
I don't know about you, but I kind of like the idea of Solomon Thomas in a Dallas Cowboys uniform. If anybody can tap into his potential, Rod Marinelli can. Giving up a 2019 fourth-round pick is well worth the gamble in my opinion.
Do you think the Cowboys should inquire about trading for Solomon Thomas?
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