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?
Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches
Lamentablemente, la temporada 2018 de los Dallas Cowboys ha llegado a su fin. Lo hizo cuando el equipo visitó Los Angeles para intentar sorprender a los Rams en su propio campo en la Ronda Divisional de los playoffs. Ni siquiera con una invasión exitosa de la afición de Dallas pudieron ganarse un pase al Campeonato de Conferencia. En vez de eso, los Cowboys estarán viendo desde casa y la afición estará preguntándose: ¿qué sigue para los Dallas Cowboys?
Parece ya una tradición anual que no podemos dejar pasar. Este momento en el que comenzamos a cuestionar, una vez más, que entrenador es digno de quedarse en la franquicia y cual debe irse. En esta edición de "Cowboys en Español," hablaremos específicamente de los tres principales coaches en el equipo.
Coordinador Defensivo Rod Marinelli
El futuro del coordinador defensivo de los Dallas Cowboys no se puede tratar sin mencionar a Kris Richard. Fue la defensiva la que llevó al equipo hasta la postemporada y fue la unidad que cargó al equipo en muchas de sus victorias. Incluso con la llegada de Amari Cooper a Dallas, la defensiva fue siempre el pilar de la franquicia esta temporada.
Jaylon Smith y Leighton Vander Esch sorprendentemente se perfilaron como uno de los mejores duos de linebackers en toda la liga, la línea defensiva fue muy exitosa con Randy Gregory y DeMarcus Lawrence en los extremos y con la grata sorpresa que fue Antwaun Woods en el centro. La secundaria vio la mejor temporada en la controversial carrera de Byron Jones e hizo un excelente trabajo con un talento decente, pero no genial.
Todo esto, y el haber terminado como la sexta mejor defensiva en puntos permitidos (20.2) y la quinta mejor contra la corrida (94.6), hace a Rod Marinelli merecedor de una ronda de aplausos. Sin embargo, Richard probablemente merezca más aplausos.
Fue Richard quien revolucionó la defensiva de los Cowboys y la convirtió en un grupo mucho más agresivo. Fue él quien implementó jugadas de "blitz" en el equipo (algo no común con Marinelli) y quien en un punto de la temporada, comenzó a seleccionar las jugadas desde la banda.
En esta posición, me parece que los Dallas Cowboys tienen que enfrentar la dura decisión de decirle a Marinelli que es tiempo de dejarle el puesto a Kris Richard. Si bien no se llevó un trabajo de head coach, es muy probable que le llovieran ofertas a Richard si no se hace con el título de coordinador defensivo en Dallas.
Coordinador Ofensivo Scott Linehan
Con un equipo tan polémico como este, la afición de Dallas no concuerda en muchas cosas. Sin embargo, lo hacen al hablar del pésimo trabajo que Scott Linehan ha realizado mandando las jugadas en ofensiva. Realmente ha sido doloroso de ver y es en mi opinión, el mayor problema que tiene el equipo actualmente.
Semana tras semana, fuimos testigos de pésimas decisiones en la ofensiva de los Cowboys. Vimos como el equipo se aferraba a llenar la caja de defensivos antes de correr el balón con Ezekiel Elliott. Vimos incontables pases pantalla en tercera oportunidad y largo. Pero no solo es lo que vimos, sino lo que no vimos.
A pesar de la innegable habilidad para correr el balón de Dak Prescott, Linehan se rehusó a explotar esta versatilidad de su QB. Vimos pocos "QB sneaks," jugada donde el mariscal toma el balón bajo centro y consigue poco yardage detrás del empuje de su línea ofensiva.
Siendo honestos, los Cowboys llevan dos años sufriendo por este coordinador. Dejarlo volver en el 2019 sería una decisión ridícula. Los comentarios en la radio de Jason Garrett no lucen prometedores, pero realmente sería una sorpresa que fueran ciertos. Linehan no debe volver... punto.
Head Coach Jason Garrett
El futuro en esta posición será muy debatido durante los próximos meses, pero de los tres que hemos mencionado es sin lugar a dudas el más seguro de todos. Nos guste o no, Jason Garrett estará al frente del equipo la próxima temporada.
Garrett está lejos de ser un gran coach y aún le hace falta demostrar que puede cumplir las aspiraciones de los Cowboys de traer un sexto Trofeo Lombardi a casa. Pero siendo honesto, este equipo debería tener suficiente con Garrett y un par de buenos coordinadores. ¿El problema? No hay un par de buenos coordinadores en el equipo.
Sin embargo, Garrett ha demostrado que cuenta con el amor y apoyo de sus jugadores. Ha demostrado que efectivamente, puede ganar la división (lo ha hecho en tres de los últimos cinco años). Este año el equipo le dio la vuelta a la temporada después de comenzar 3-5.
Lo más preocupante en mi opinión, es la falta de urgencia para despedir a Linehan, por ejemplo. Quizá a puerta cerrada Garrett quiere un cambio en su staff, pero nunca lo sabremos.
Jason Garrett no es un coach excelente, pero podría ser suficiente para llevar a los Cowboys a un Super Bowl si tiene un equipo adecuado. Todo parece indicar que su trabajo está seguro (incluso más de lo que pensamos) así que es tiempo de esperar que se arreglen sus coordinadores.
2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch
As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.
It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.
Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.
No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.
Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.
This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.
There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.
Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.
Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.
What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?
Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.
Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.
They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?
Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.
Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.
Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.
Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.
Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.
This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.
The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.
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