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The Cowboys Defense Is Close, And We Should Be Excited

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys en Español: Construyendo una Defensiva de Campeonato en Dallas

The second half of the 2017 season has left much of Cowboys Nation questioning just how good this roster actually is. Fans are now wondering very loudly if Dak Prescott really is the quarterback of the future, if Scott Linehan deserves to still be employed, and if there is enough talent in the receiving corps to threaten opposing defenses.

And, for the most part, rightfully so.

The Cowboys faltered weekly offensively during Ezekiel Elliott's suspension, and things didn't get better when he did return against Seattle. While I still sit firmly on the Dak Prescott bandwagon, 2018 remains a "prove-it" year for much of the offensive personnel and coaching staff.

But for the first time in a long time, we enter a new season with hope on the other side of the ball. For years, it has been the defense which has "failed" great Cowboys offenses. During the 8-8 years we often saw heroics from Tony Romo and the offense, only for the opposing team to have one last possession to win the game.

For far too long the Cowboys secondary has been average at best, their linebackers have been inconsistent (besides Sean Lee), and their pass rush has been nearly nonexistent. But while the offense faltered at the end of 2017, the defense shined.

And this defense, with the right development and decisions, is very close to being at the top of the league.

Of course there is the pass rush. Led by DeMarcus Lawrence the Cowboys defensive line was able to cause disruption all throughout the 2017 season, and with David Irving returning healthy and available things should be the same this season. Taco Charlton has another year of work under his belt as well, and if Randy Gregory can get reinstated this defensive line is suddenly a scary unit for opposing offenses.

In the back end the Cowboys have completely revamped their roster, and now look to begin to take their final form. By hiring former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard, the Cowboys are beginning to fit their players to their coaches to create a long and athletic secondary group.

Sunday Morning Wishlist: DAL Cowboys @ NY Giants 1

Dallas Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie

Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones could play the roles of 2013 Seattle cornerbacks in a movie about their Super Bowl run, and hopefully they can emulate their play style on the actual field as well. Jourdan Lewis possesses the versatility to play in the slot and on the outside, Xavier Woods has a chance to be this team's future free safety, and both Jeff Heath and Kavon Frazier made strides in 2017.

While the Cowboys were shoring up the two most important position groups on a defense over the past few years, they've also made an attempt to turnover their linebacker group as well. Sean Lee remains the glue that holds the unit together, but the Cowboys have made an effort to improve their linebackers this offseason.

Of course, they drafted Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch 19th overall in the 2018 draft, but Jaylon Smith's development will be vital to their success as well. Both of these players are fast, athletic, and rangy when at their best, giving the Cowboys some flexibility in their front seven.

The Cowboys made smart, cost-efficient moves to improve their offense this offseason, and I am certainly hopeful in the development of quarterback Dak Prescott.

But for the first time in a long time, when Cowboys fans look for a reason to be excited about the upcoming season, they may want to look at their defense first. Because the front office is in the middle of building a monster unit.



Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and am currently a college student. Lets get going.

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4 Comments
  • Travis Diggs

    While i am excited to see this defense Im still concerned about Jeff Heath being a starting safety for this team. While he is serviceable at times i do believe he only starts for the cowboys, he wouldn’t start on any other team in this league. I believe once Richard sees Tyree Robinson or one of these other UDFA’s in action, Jeff Heath will become a back up where he should be

    • Tommy Davis

      I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Diggs on Jeff Heath, he has been a sore spot on the Cowboys defense for way too long, it’s like I’ve been saying, Dallas has a problem with playing the most talented. There is no way Heath should have been playing ahead of Xavier Woods who has better cover and tackling skills than Heath. The cornerbacks are left on an island alone because Heath can’t get over to help, heck he can’t even cover the middle of the field.

  • Chuck Wright

    I see the biggest needs in the 2019 draft as LB, FS, 1 Tech and WR.

    Yes WR, Cole and T Will at the end of their run, Hurns will be on the last year of his deal.

    But this D on the verge of being special. Need to find Lee’s replacement, a top flight FS to round out the secondary and a legit 1 Tech which remains the most glaring hole on the D.

  • Tommy Davis

    Byron Jones could not cover the tight ends well, he certainly won’t be able to cover wide receivers, that experiment failed in his rookie year. Awuzie is the Cowboys most physical corner but his coverage skills are suspect. He tries to make of for his lack of coverage skills by attempting to dislodge the ball after the catch, a tactic that does not often work in the NFL. The best cover corner on the team is Jourdan Lewis by far, coach Richard says Lewis is a fantastic corner. Good QB’s will take advantage of the lack of cover skills of Brown, Jones, and Awuzie. You can get by with Awuzie if you employ a safety with excellent coverage ability. As far as the offense, read the latest bleacher report article on Dak Prescott. He ranks better by far than Brees, Favre ,Manning, and all of Dallas’s quarterbacks during their first 2 years in the league. His stats only suffered during the final 8 game span when several key components were missing, left guard, left tackle, resulting in 14 sacks and countless hurries from pressure coming from the left side of the line. Add playing without Zeke and the inability of the wide receivers to create space results in the offense struggling. No QB, Aaron Rogers or Tom Brady included would look good under those circumstances.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys 2018 Preview: Which Offensive Starting Jobs Are Open?

Jess Haynie

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Michael Gallup

We're still about a month away from the start of the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Training Camp. However, even now, we have a good sense of what starting jobs are open and which ones have already been decided for the upcoming season.

Before we get into the open positions, let's look at the ones that appear to already set. Barring injuries or some other unpredictable occurrence, here are the guys who you can bet on starting this season:

OFFENSE

Even with these probable and assured starters, there are a few considerations to be made.

For example, Allen Hurns may be the team's highest-paid receiver and the assumed replacement to Dez Bryant. But he's still brand new to this team, so chemistry with Dak Prescott and system familiarity make him a little risky early one.

La'el Collins will be a starter, but are we sure it's at right tackle? If nobody impresses at left guard, Dallas could still elect to move Collins back inside and start veteran Cam Fleming at tackle.

Still, these aren't likely. So, of the 22 primary positions on both sides of the ball, we have 12 players who are safe bets to start. What about the other 10 spots? What's are the possibilities and probabilities there?

Today, we'll focus on the offense.

Dak Prescott, Cole Beasley

QB Dak Prescott and WR Cole Beasley (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Wide Receiver

Given his previous success and chemistry with Dak Prescott, Cole Beasley could seem an easy bet for the WR2 position. But there are several factors to consider.

Third-round rookie Michael Gallup is more of an all-around receiver and his play already in OTAs and minicamp has impressed. He also gives the Cowboys a young WR to form a new trio with Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott; an offensive nucleus they would hope to build on for years to come.

If Gallup keeps excelling, Dallas won't hesitate to give him a starting job. Beasley is a free agent next year and the rookie is locked up for four seasons.

There's also Terrance Williams to consider, all of his recent personal shenanigans aside. He offers system familiarity and exceptional run blocking, which is good for a starting role. You want Williams on the field when the ball is going to Ezekiel Elliott on early downs.

This speaks to the reality that being the starter may not necessarily lead to getting the most targets. Beasley could be the slot receiver and still easily get more passes than the WR2 by the end of the season.

The good news is that the Cowboys have options, which should also mean depth once things shake out.

Blake Jarwin

Dallas Cowboys TE Blake Jarwin (Kevin Terrell via AP)

Tight End

Arguably the most wide open position on the whole roster, tight end is a massive crater in the offense with the impact of Jason Witten's retirement. Who will fill the void?

While veteran Geoff Swaim is getting the early deference, he's hardly locked in as the starter. Swaim's nine career catches give him hardly any cache over rookie Dalton Schultz or prospects Rico Gathers and Blake Jarwin.

It truly is a four-man race for the starting role, which makes things fun but also tense for the next two months. The reality that none of these guys will likely be able to perform on Jason Witten's level is also scary.

Thankfully, though, they may not have to. Dallas appears to be moving to more of a spread offense better suited to Dak Prescott's style, which may reduce the expectations of the TE position from the last 15 years of Witten.

As we mentioned before with Terrance Williams, Geoff Swaim is a proficient run blocker. Couple that with his experience and he's the best bet to start, but we could see a steady rotation throughout the year as Dallas tried to figure out which guy is best suited for the long term.

For Connor Williams, Being Shoulder to Shoulder with Tyron Smith is Nothing New

Dallas Cowboys G Connor Williams

Left Guard

Second-round pick Connor Williams will get the first crack at being the new starter at left guard, but rookies rarely have a guarantee when it comes to any first-year role. Throw in that he'll be transitioning from tackle to guard, and Connor has some clear question marks.

As mentioned already, Dallas could decide to flip La'el Collins back to LG and start someone else at right tackle. Ironically, that could also be Connor Williams. The Cowboys might decide that the rookie is better at his college position. It could also be the aforementioned Cam Fleming.

Also competing for the job at guard will be veterans Joe Looney and Marcus Martin. Both have position flex as centers or guards, meaning one could start and the other could be your top interior reserve. That versatility is nice for them and for the Cowboys, allowing the best man to win.

Chaz Green is also still hanging around, and surprisingly got first-team reps ecently when Zack Martin was missing camp. The Cowboys have invested a lot in Green and are understandably desperate to still get something for their trouble. He may get more of a chance to compete here than we'd have guessed.

But still, this should be Connor Williams' job to lose. A second-round pick is no small thing, especially for a guy expected to play interior line. Those picks are made with the goal of finding a starter, and Williams will get every chance to prove if he can handle it or not.

~ ~ ~

As you can see, there's going to be some real turnover in the Cowboys offense this year. But this is only half the roster, and there's even more opportunity on the other side of the ball.

Come back tomorrow for a breakdown of the open starting jobs on defense.



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Dallas Cowboys Hoping to Bring Scouting Combine to The Star in Frisco

Sean Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Hoping to Bring Scouting Combine to The Star 1

When the Dallas Cowboys opened their world-class headquarters in Frisco, affectionately named The Star, the possibilities were endless for the franchise that embraces football being bigger than life in a state where that's certainly the case.

Not only have the Cowboys hosted more football than ever with AT&T Stadium serving as their home and the Ford Center at The Star being a shared practice space with local high schools, but they became the first team to host the NFL Draft from their stadium in April.

Just as the draft has become a spectacle for fans and media alike, the all-important Scouting Combine that leads up to the draft each year is a fully televised event now. Held in Indianapolis since 1987, the Cowboys will have to prove they're well prepared to handle the burden of a Scouting Combine while disrupting the continuity that Lucas Oil Stadium has provided.

The biggest advantage that Indianapolis has held through years of the Combine's development is their stadium's proximity to local hospitals. Any scout or draft analyst will tell you that the most important thing draft prospects go through during the Combine is their medical checks, something they can now do at The Star without setback.

Across the street from The Star is now the Baylor, Scott & White Sports Therapy & Research center, a brand new medical facility that spans 300,000 square feet. The Cowboys will even have their time to work out the kinks of potentially hosting the Combine, with Indianapolis still under contract to host the event through 2020.

The Combine also serves as a key point in the NFL offseason where executives and coaches from every team are together, often leading to trade talks that impact the following draft. Imagination can run wild with the Cowboys hosting the Combine on campus at The Star, and rival head coaches meeting in a Sushi Marquee, Cow Tipping Creamery, or Luxe Eyewear.

Dallas Cowboys Hoping to Bring Scouting Combine to The Star

These are merely three of the hundreds of auxiliary features in place at The Star, ready to take the Combine to the next level, as Dallas already did with this year's NFL Draft.

Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and Left Guard Connor Williams became the first players to be drafted in the stadium they'll call home. Within a few years, prospects fortunate enough to get the call from America's Team may feel an even deeper connection to the Cowboys, going through their job interview that is the Combine at the team's headquarters.

Jerry Jones has stated that The Star was never designed with the thought of hosting a Combine in mind, but this does not mean preparations will not take place for the Cowboys to be ready following two more years in Indianapolis.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Hoping to Bring Scouting Combine to The Star in Frisco" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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How Did the Dallas Cowboys Fare in This Year’s NFL 100?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Ezekiel Elliott, Bears
Matthew Emmons / USA TODAY Sports

Every year, NFL Network releases a "Top 100" list of all the players in the league. What's special about this list is that the voters are actually fellow NFL players. We have tons of rankings from analysts and scouts all year long, so it's fun to see what the persons who actually put on shoulders and helmets week after week have to say about their peers.

However, that's precisely what makes it very controversial among fans. Year after year, we see players getting underrated and players getting ranked way ahead than they should.

Take Dak Prescott in 2017, for example. The young quarterback put on a show as a fourth-round rookie that no one could have expected from him. As impressive as he was, it's hard to defend him being ranked as the fourteenth best player in the NFL, which is how he was ranked in the NFL 100 last year.

This Monday, the 2018 Top 10 will be announced on NFL Network at 7 PM CT, but no Cowboys' name will be mentioned.

So, without getting frustrated about this year's results, let's take a look at how the Dallas Cowboys fared this time around.

What Does Zack Martin Have in Common With Larry Allen?

#71: RG Zack Martin

2017 Ranking: #58.

I'm pretty sure that Zack Martin doesn't even care about the NFL 100 list, especially after he became the highest-paid guard in NFL history just days ago. For the Cowboys, even with Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick on the same offensive line, Zack Martin might be the best lineman on the roster. At the very least, there's an argument to be made.

It's not very surprising to see Martin all the way at #71. Offensive guard is a very overlooked position by many, so it does make a tiny bit of sense for him to be ranked where he is.

What is surprising though, is the fact that Pittsburgh Steeler David DeCastro is ranked at #44. Both players are great guards, but Martin is widely acknowledged as the best at his position. Maybe playoff success came into account?

#54: RB Ezekiel Elliott

2017 Ranking: 7.

Ezekiel Elliott stumbled quite a bit this year, which is completely understandable. First of all, the 2016 season was electric. The narrative of two rookies taking the league by storm and earning the #1 seed in the NFC was unique.

Things changed for the superstar running back in 2017, though. Elliott had to deal with tons of off-field drama while fighting a six-game suspension that ended up being upheld and Zeke had to miss some time.

This is undoubtedly what made Elliott, who is easily a top three running back in the NFL, fall all the way out of the top 50. Despite having had pretty good years, I can assure you that Kareem Hunt (ranked at 33) and Mark Ingram (43) are not even in the same tier as Zeke.

#39: LT Tyron Smith

2017 Ranking: 18.

I'm not going to lie, I'm not complaining about this one. Just like the rest of the offensive linemen, Tyron may be undervalued here. However, he is the best tackle on the list, so it's certainly tough to be mad about this.

Besides, don't forget Tyron didn't play the entire season after being out for three games. Not saying that makes him a worse player or anything, but it helps make sense of his spot on the list.

With former Cleveland Brown Joe Thomas enjoying retirement, it's easier to see Smith as the clear-cut best tackle in the NFL today. He's a beast. If he finds a way to play 16 games next season, I'm sure he will climb the rankings in 2019.

#34: DE DeMarcus Lawrence

2017 Ranking: Unranked. 

Last but not least is the Cowboys' breakout player of the year. Lawrence finally proved his worth getting to the opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times on the year. Not to mention, his game against the run was pretty remarkable and he helped take the defense to another level.

This was the first season in D-Law's career in which he remained completely healthy all along and it showed on the field. Thanks to his performance, the team handed him the franchise tag and hopefully he'll get a big, juicy contract once he continues dominating this year.

https://twitter.com/TankLawrence/status/1003853184782094336

Six defensive ends were ranked ahead of him, so we will have to wait and see if he keeps it up in 2018 after being named a second team All-Pro in 2017.

The Snub: C Travis Frederick

The one thing that is outrageous from this year's list is the absence of Travis Frederick. I understand there aren't any other centers on the list, but they should at least include the best at his position, right?

Frederick is undoubtedly one of the most valuable players on the Cowboys' roster and a player that through five years in the league, has been to the Pro Bowl four times. One of the NFL's finest, he definitely deserves to be on that list.

✭✭✭✭✭

But hey, as previously mentioned, this list is meant to be fun. It's cool to hear what the players (teammates and rivals) have to say about one another during this series. Instead of taking it as an official ranking or anything of the sort, it's better to see it as a fun piece of content by NFL Network.

Let me know what your thoughts on these rankings are on the comments section below or tweet me @PepoR99 to talk some football!

Tell me what you think about "How Did the Dallas Cowboys Fare in This Year’s NFL 100?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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