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Tank Support: Who Else Will Lead the 2018 Cowboys in Sacks?

Jess Haynie

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Maliek Collins

Sacks have become a precious commodity for the Dallas Cowboys defense. After several years of poor production, things are finally looking up. The 2018 defense has a great shot of producing more total sacks than any since the days of DeMarcus Ware.

A big reason for that is DeMarcus "Tank" Lawrence, whose 14.5 sacks last season made him a breakout star and earned the franchise tag. Lawrence returns looking to prove he's no one-year wonder, and it's a safe bet that he will again lead the Cowboys in sacks in 2018.

But whose name will be below his when the season's over? Who is most likely to be second in sacks this year?

In 2017 it was David Irving, who had seven sacks despite playing in only eight games due to a mix of suspension and injury. That ratio, nearly a sack-per-game, makes him the easy favorite to be second again this year.

But Irving will once again four weeks due to suspension, and his latest issues and impending free agency bring his long-term future into question. They could even make David a candidate for a trade at some point this year.

Even if he's on the roster all year, Irving may not be in the team's plans for next season. That could cut into how much playing time he gets, and this his opportunities for sacks.

Taco Charlton, Rams

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton

The next best guess is Taco Charlton, who enters his second season after putting up three sacks as a rookie. Taco got off to a slow start, not getting his first QB takedown until his 8th game, but then had two more over the rest of season.

If Charlton continues to develop, he would hopefully be able to at least double that production in 2018. If DeMarcus Lawrence is demanding more attention on the other side of the line, even more opportunities could open up for Taco.

Another candidate is Tyrone Crawford. The veteran had four sacks last season and will likely benefit most from David Irving's suspension in terms of additional playing time. Getting to play more defensive tackle on passing down, where his athleticism is more threatening, will help Crawford produce.

From there it's a pretty open field. A guy like Maliek Collins could break out in his third year, especially if he isn't stuck playing as the run-stuffer again. But until someone new else steps up into that role, Collins may not get to be a pass-rusher the way he was as a rookie.

And while it may be hard to have much confidence, you'd be wise not to sleep on Randy Gregory. If he reinstatement goes through as expected, Gregory has the athleticism and skill set to best compliment Lawrence on the other side of the line. If Randy can get back to that talent level that had him as a first-round prospect in 2015, he could be the secret weapon if the defense this year.

Thankfully, the days of a guy leading the team with just six or seven sacks appear to be over. With more talent on the line and in other parts of the defense, the Cowboys should put up some strong numbers in 2018.

We're confident that DeMarcus Lawrence will lead the pack once again. Who backs him up, though, will be interesting to see develop.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Dallas Cowboys

WR Randall Cobb Named Cowboys “Surprise Standout” for Offseason

Jess Haynie

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Randall Cobb

NFL teams have wrapped up their offseason activities with the close of OTAs, especially where the players are concerned, and await the start of training camps next month. In reviewing the last few months, ESPN had their local reporters each pick a surprise standout from their team's practices. Todd Archer, who covers the Dallas Cowboys full time, selected veteran receiver Randall Cobb.

Cobb is in his first season with Dallas after signing as a free agent last March. He's spent the last eight years with the Green Bay Packers and was a Pro Bowler in 2014, but has struggled with injuries the last few seasons.

Here were Archer's observations on how Randall is doing so far with the Cowboys:

Normally a player with Cobb's résumé -- 470 catches for 5,524 yards and 41 touchdowns during his career -- would not be considered for a category like this. But injuries limited him to only nine games and 38 catches for Green Bay in 2018, and it was hard to know what the Cowboys were getting in the veteran receiver.

If the offseason work is any indication, they have found a replacement for Cole Beasley. Cobb's versatility can expand the offense for others, such as Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Cobb looked quick in and out of his breaks and fast enough to make plays down the field. Will he put up the 1,287 yards he had in 2014? No, but he gives Dak Prescott a security blanket in the slot who can turn a small gain into a big one.

The notion of Cobb replacing Beasley is a big one. While we'd like to think that Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup will provide plenty of firepower for the Cowboys offense, Dak Prescott has enjoyed a reliable threat from the slot position since he arrived.

Randall Cobb, when healthy, can do more than just make clutch catches. He has good run-after-catch skills and perhaps bring more big play potential than Beasley did.

If Cooper and Gallup do emerge as a dangerous starting duo on the outside, Cobb should have even more opportunities to punish defenses than Beasley did.

If nothing else, it's very encouraging to hear that one of the Cowboys' few 2019 free agent moves is already reaping benefits. Cobb still needs to bring it over a full season to really justify the move, but these early reports are cause for excitement.



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BREAKING: Cowboys TE Rico Gathers Receives One-Game Suspension

Jess Haynie

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Rico Gathers

Tight End Rico Gathers already had an uphill climb to return to the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster in 2019. But that climb just got even steeper; the NFL handed down a one-game suspension to Gathers today for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

If he does make the team this year, with Dallas or anyone else, Rico will have to sit out Week One of the season without pay.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys TE Rico Gathers is suspended without pay for the first game of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse. This is from his arrest in 2018 for marijuana possession.

Gathers' chances of returning in 2019 were already hurt by Jason Witten's reversed retirement. He dropped to fourth on the TE depth chart behind Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz, and Dallas only kept three tight ends last year.

The Cowboys also added Codey McElroy as a developmental player during the offseason.

While the suspension is news, the incident that led to it is not. Dallas already knew about the arrest, which occurred in early September of 2018, and have kept Gathers around up until now.

The NFL's substance abuse system is pretty formulaic, so the Cowboys likely anticipated this suspension all along. This may not change anything about how they value Rico Gathers for the 2019 season.

Nevertheless, a player who can't help you in Week One and is a liability for ever longer suspensions down the road is definitely a red flag against Gathers' job security.



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Antwaun Woods: Cowboys DT is Just Getting Started

Matthew Lenix

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Antwaun Woods is just getting started

Antwaun Woods went undrafted in 2016 coming out of USC. After two years with the Tennessee Titans, he would only see one game of action. In May of 2018, the Cowboys signed Woods to a two-year contract worth 1.05 million. Probably seen as nothing more than a practice squad guy, Woods would quickly show he was much more than that.

The newly acquired Woods started his climb to stardom in Oxnard during training camp, and not for making plays. One day during practice he got into a friendly game of fisticuffs with All-Pro Center Travis Frederick. The team even posted the video on social media, which had fans buzzing and wanting to know who he was.

All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott echoed those thoughts when he saw Woods during camp. "Honestly, when we first got him, we were like, 'Who is this guy?'. He was giving Travis Frederick, one of our best players, hell all camp. Just trying to figure out where this guy came from," Elliott said.

Once the regular season started it was clear the Cowboys had found a hidden gem. Although the sack numbers won't dazzle you, seeing as he only registered 1.5, you could forget about running the ball anywhere near him. Woods has amazing quickness for a 300 pounder which allows him to extend his arms before offensive lineman can get a hand on him.

How significant is that? It becomes that much easier to bull rush and blow running plays up in the backfield.

When you can get your hands on an offensive lineman immediately when the ball is snapped, he's basically under your control. You can move him around like a puppet on a string. Essential for a 1-technique nose tackle. With that being said, there should be no surprise the Cowboys finished fifth against the run in 2018 with Woods manning the middle.

Woods draws a lot of double teams, and he handles them well. Having the ability to take on multiple linemen frees up your other playmakers. As the anchor in the middle, Woods made life a lot easier for not only his fellow defensive linemen but the team's two young star Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Allowing them to roam freely like Lions in the Serengeti makes running backs essentially Zebra's carrying the ball, cooked food. So much so that both tallied over 120 tackles and were the only teammates in the NFL to rank in the top 15 in that category.

There's nothing but upside with Antwaun Woods. He's only had 18 games of experience in three years. He's already a stud, but with limited snaps, it can only mean he'll be even more formidable going forward.

The Cowboys have a loaded defensive lineman group with around 15 bodies, plenty of competition. All signs point to him remaining the starter, but it's not guaranteed. Even with that being said I don't expect a complacency from Woods, especially with DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn looking like the only sure starters on the defensive line. Plus this is a contract year for him, so you know he'll be even more motivated as he tries to maximize his dollars. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg from this raw talent, setting up for a potential breakout year for him in 2019.



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