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.
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.
Placing Value on Cowboys Slot Receiver Position this Offseason
Another offseason, another Dallas Cowboys wide receiver ominously discussing his status with the team - this time ahead of free agency with Cole Beasley. His impact on the Cowboys offense had been inconsistent at best under Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan, and with the Cowboys moving in a new direction at OC, it may also be time for a new look at Cole's slot position.
Beasley took to Twitter on Tuesday to discuss his role with the team and some of the behind the scenes decisions that went into each week's offensive game plan. Among his quotes, "utilization is more important than money," and, "I haven't been a huge priority in that regard (the front office pushing who they want to get the ball to)".
Honestly, the front office pushes who they want to get the ball to. I haven't been a huge priority in that regard. Maybe that will change but I'm not sure. More balls come my way in 2 minute drill where nothing is planned. https://t.co/ioih9BJJv1
All signs point towards Kellen Moore being the next Cowboys OC, opening up the game planning to include further input from Jason Garrett and Doug Nussmeier. "Dak friendly" was the buzz word of last year's offseason, and now after another Pro Bowl season from Prescott, the Cowboys are taking real strides to accommodate their quarterback. Former Cowboys QB Jon Kitna is also in agreement to join the coaching staff, potentially as the QB Coach if Moore is promoted.
Beasley had at least five receptions in each of Prescott's first three career games, the connection between the rookie QB and reliable receiver evident. 2016 was a career high in receptions, yards, and touchdowns for Beasley.
The new direction of the Cowboys offense should put a priority on the tight end in the passing game, but it was Beasley that became Prescott's security blanket as Jason Witten was to Tony Romo.
Doesn't mean I'm gone. I'll play anywhere where I can make more of an impact. I would love for that to be Dallas or anywhere else that will give me more pops to make an impact. I just wanna ball. It's hard with 3 to 4 opps a game. https://t.co/zImZKxkAvD
A more recent example of the impact Beasley can make out of the slot came in week six this season. Exploiting a talented Jacksonville Jaguars defense, the Cowboys put up a season-high 40 points in a blowout win. Beasley had nine receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns, just the second time he's eclipsed 100 yards in his Dallas career and seventh game with multiple scores.
The offseason is a time to look at all possible upgrades, and though the Cowboys hand may be forced if Beasley departs in free agency for a better opportunity, there are more dynamic and cheaper options available in the draft.
Options already on the roster include second-year player Cedrick Wilson, futures contract addition Devin Smith, and practice squad receiver Lance Lenoir.
Even still, electric players like Andy Isabella have become early fan favorites in the draft. Out of UMASS, Isabella is at the Senior Bowl this week, making quick work of defensive backs with tight footwork and effortless separation ability.
Andy Isabella's quickness and precise route running are as good as advertised. #SeniorBowl https://t.co/WXN1aczXL0
Chris Hogan, Adam Humphries, and Jordan Matthews are potential free agency targets for the Cowboys at this position as well.
With Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup tabbed to start on the outside again next season, the Cowboys shouldn't be done looking for depth at wide receiver, but have a decision to make on if they'll be players for a new starter in the slot.
Paying a premier price for a player expected to exceed the production of Beasley, who puts up numbers whenever given the chance to, would at least give a sense of direction to the Cowboys offense in 2019. Without Linehan's input on whether Beasley is retained or not though, Cowboys Nation is no closer to knowing if he'll be a part of the offense or not moving forward.
Just one of the major personnel decisions that could come down in the next months, along with a contract extension for Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and DeMarcus Lawrence, Stephen Jones has promised a "busy" offseason and Beasley's helped assure this by stirring things up on social media.
Dallas Cowboys Stay Competitive Amidst Roster Turnover
Since the start of the 2014 season, the Dallas Cowboys have won three NFC East titles, have been to the divisional round three times. and have gone 2-3 in playoff games all the while turning over an enormous amount of their roster over the last five years.
Roster turnover is normal. We see it every offseason. The amount of roster turnover that's occurred since the 2014 season is pretty incredible.
Dan Rogers, of Blogging the Boys put this out on Twitter on Sunday. It displays just how much the roster has changed in just five seasons as only two players started all three divisional round playoff games; Tyron Smith and Zack Martin.
Not only have the Cowboys won the East in three of the last five seasons, but they've done it with three different teams. Only two players have started all three divisional playoff games.
In addition to the above note, only six players who started the divisional game for the Dallas Cowboys in 2016 started for the Cowboys in the matchup with the Los Angeles Rams; Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Maliek Collins, and Byron Jones.
Tyrone Crawford is the only other player that was available for all three games, though he didn't start the 2016 divisional round game.
It highlights the amazing job that the Cowboys have done at building their roster and "rebuilding on the fly." Every year, save for 2015, the Dallas Cowboys have been competitive because they've been able to turnover the roster efficiently and effectively. This team has become one of the best drafting teams in the NFL and will look to add to that legacy this April in Nashville, Tennessee.
18 of the 22 "starters" for the Cowboys this season were draft picks or undrafted free agent (UDFA) signings for the team. If you include players with a significant role like Cole Beasley, Randy Gregory, and Sean Lee, you see that the Cowboys have done an amazing job at building their team through the draft and have found significant contributions from free agents -- or in Amari Cooper's case, players they traded for -- here and there.
Of the top 10 players in snap percentage on offense from the 2018 season, Joe Looney was the only player that wasn't drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. If you look at the top 15 players in snap percentage for the defense, Defensive Tackle Antwaun Woods was the only player that wasn't drafted by the Cowboys.
We also shouldn't forget to underscore just how awesome Zack Martin and Tyron Smith are. Their availability has been incredible. Tyron Smith has sat out games each of the last three seasons for various issues, but has always been their come playoff time. Martin had never missed a game until this season when he sat out two related to knee and hip issues. But again, Martin was there in the playoffs helping Joe Looney and Connor Williams deal with Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh.
We're going to see some turnover this season and there's a chance that a player or two who started the divisional round game this season won't be starting in the divisional round a year from now. If all goes well with Travis Frederick, he'll be back manning the center position in place of Joe Looney in 2019. Randy Gregory could start in front of Tyrone Crawford next season. Gregory will probably add some weight this offseason, now that he's able to practice and work out with the team. Jamize Olawale may not be back and Cole Beasley looks to be headed out the door. And here's hoping the Cowboys are able to land a prized safety. Either Earl Thomas from the Seattle Seahawks or Landon Collins of the New York Giants works for me.
The Dallas Cowboys are one of the youngest teams in the NFL and will continue to build their roster through the draft. With a lot of cap space and compensatory picks coming their way to supplement their draft, the Cowboys front office can make significant strides this offseason to put their team in position to contend again in 2019.
Is 2019 Pro Bowl Kellen Moore’s Audition for Cowboys’ OC Job?
The Cowboys coaching staff is already in Orlando, FL working with the NFC team for the 2019 Pro Bowl. One of those staffers is Kellen Moore, who is a heavy favorite to become Dallas' new offensive coordinator. Could this weekend's game be his audition?
Moore's previous job as the quarterbacks coach has already been given to former QB Jon Kitna, who is with the team this week working at the Pro Bowl. The previous OC, Scott Linehan, is not there after being fired early last Friday.
With Kitna as the QB coach and no official OC announced, it appears Moore is serving in the coordinator role this week.
Kellen Moore is installing the offense for the NFC Pro Bowl team
Cowboys coaches Kellen Moore and Jon Kitna working with the quarterbacks at Pro Bowl. Dak Prescott is not at practice at the moment. Neither is Ezekiel Elliott
Moore will have several of his Cowboys players to work this weekend. Ezekiel Elliott was part of the original Pro Bowl roster, and Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper were named to the team recently as alternates.
Dallas may not be using this week to learn anything about Kellen Moore, who they clearly already have a high opinion of. But it will still serve as a good experience for him before potentially taking the reins of the Cowboys offense in 2019.
If nothing else, it's an added level of intrigue for Cowboys fans this weekend.
Dallas Cowboys7 days ago
5 Potential Candidates Cowboys Could Target to Replace OC Scott Linehan
Dallas Cowboys4 days ago
3 Reasons Not to Hate Kellen Moore Becoming Offensive Coordinator
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Texas Forever? Kris Richard Appears Closer to Staying with Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Cowboys Getting Over $30 Million Cap Space from Expiring Dead Money
Dallas Cowboys3 days ago
7 Free Agents the Cowboys Should Target
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
Tony Romo Won’t Be the Next Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator
Player News5 days ago
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Top 5 Offseason Priorities for the Dallas Cowboys