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The Dallas Cowboys Are Legit Contenders

Mauricio Rodriguez



The Dallas Cowboys Are Legit Contenders
Matthew Emmons / USA TODAY Sports

In just a few weeks, the Dallas Cowboys went from being a 3-5 team to a 7-5 division leader that has recently beaten arguably the best team in the NFL. Dallas was a 7 point underdog last Thursday against the New Orleans Saints, a game in which no one gave them a chance at winning. But they did. And just like that, perception surrounding such a controversial team has changed.

Now, the question is not whether or not the Cowboys will make the playoffs and play January football, but rather, are they legit contenders in a dangerous NFC?

At first, one can be quick to dismiss such a statement. The Dallas Cowboys, contenders? Sounds crazy, right? After all, it's the same team that only had three victories through nine weeks of football. The same team that continues to struggle on offense with inconsistent quarterback play and play-calling.

But make no mistake about it. The Dallas Cowboys are legit contenders in the NFL.

They're far from being Super Bowl favorites, of course. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they are the best team in the league. But they did just beat the best team. Not only that, but they held the #1 scoring offense to 10 points and 176 total yards.

Despite all of the criticism Jason Garrett receives, it's clear that the players do believe in him as the the head coach. You don't win this way against such a strong team without players who believe in their coach. And a win like this can change a football team midseason.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Jerry Jones: "This team won't be the same again. I'm serious. You win something like this against...a caliber of team like that...the mirror knows you've done it, you change. This is a changer in here. These guys, they're different cats now as they go forward.

Clearly, the defense is worthy of playing on Super Sunday. That much has been confirmed after last Thursday's game. We had seen this defense dominate against other teams, and they continued to do so against the high-powered Saints' offense. One led by MVP candidate Drew Brees.

The defense is allowing 18.6 points per game. Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith are playing better than any other linebacker duo in the league. Byron Jones is shutting down one half of the field gameday after gameday. As impressive as the Cowboys' win over the Saints was, don't forget that for the defense, it wasn't a one game accomplishment. It's been consistent performances every week.

The offense is another story, though. Dallas ranks 24th in scoring offense and continues to be inconsistent in the passing game. Not to mention play-calling has been far from ideal for the Cowboys in many occasions this season.

Cowboys en Español: Victoria Defensiva Ante Saints, ¿Qué Sigue?

But there's actual signs of improvement. Since Amari Cooper's arrival, the passing game has notably improved. Cooper has been responsible for many first down catches in key moments and has opened up receivers like Michael Gallup as well as the running game for Ezekiel Elliott.

This is a unit capable of controlling the time of possession. A team that can efficiently run the football, averaging 132 yards per game (sixth in the NFL). If the Cowboys are able to improve in red zone efficiency, this team could be scoring over 20 points per game.

With this defense and controlling the time of possession, 24 or 28 points should get you wins. The Cowboys are an uncomfortable opponent, and they just proved the league that they can beat any team in the NFL.

Yes, it does sound crazy. But that team that beat the Saints earlier this week showed us why they should be in the conversation. The Cowboys started the year with their left foot, but they're simply not the same team they were then. Since then, they fired their OL coach and watched the unit dramatically improve. They got a true #1 receiver. And their first-round rookie linebacker has improved weekly. This team? This team is for real.

It's a long shot, but the Dallas Cowboys are legit contenders in the 2018 NFL season.

Tell me what you think about "The Dallas Cowboys Are Legit Contenders" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL 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!

I love to write, I love football and I love the Dallas Cowboys. I've been rooting for America's team all the way from Mexico ever since I can remember. If you want to talk football, I'm in... You'll find me at @MauNFL.



  1. Steve

    December 2, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    Maybe in the conversation, but and this is coming from a DIEHARD Dallas fan I feel that out defense is top 5 and with the additions off Irving,Lee will only increase the chaos for opposing offenses. However our offense isn’t there yet and I feel that they continue to have ups and downs for that reason we aren’t ready just yet! We are getting there but we NEED to have more consistent play from Dak and our offensive line! The line is doing awesome considering there only 2 starters playing and if we can get all that to line up your right M. Rodriguez 20/24 points a game and we can win most Sundays!!!

  2. David Anthony

    December 2, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    The Dallas Cowboys defense may be the best in the league. Those players and coaches are certainly the reason the team is winning. The offense isn’t bad, in fact most of the players are doing a great job. However, Dak routinely misses simple throws and struggles getting past the first read even when the O-line holds solid. Once Beasley was his go-to guy. Now he misses him frequently. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, Dak’s biggest strength is running the ball.

    Equally limiting issues with the team include: 1) poor management of time-outs and the clock in general by J.G.; 2) Hit and miss offensive play calling; and 3) DAK NEEDS A REAL QB COACH!

    • Bruce Hood

      December 2, 2018 at 7:21 pm

      I agree with you about Dak to a degree, but every QB misses some easy throws. I’ve seen quarterbacks just this weekend Miss easy throws who generally would make those throws. Dak miss one throw the gallop but let’s also remember he hit Gallup on a long throw as well. Tom Brady in the Minnesota game, Julian Edelman was open and instead of hitting them he threw an interception. It was an easy throw he just made a bad one. Don’t give me Tom Brady has Super Bowl wins which I know he does but point I’m making is that QB’s season QB’s still miss some easy throws.

      • David Anthony

        December 2, 2018 at 7:46 pm

        Sure. Great QBs miss throws. Sometimes. But they don’t miss at the frequency of a mediocre qb like Dak. And they don’t struggle with basics like getting through reads when they’re not under duress. They don’t fail to position their feet before throwing on the move.

        I’m a Dak fan. He is where he is in his development. We can’t blame him for that. We can blame J.G. for not giving him a real QB coach.

        Maybe in 10 years it might make sense to compare Dak to Brady… but at this point to do so implies a completely novice level of understanding of the game… Not to mention basic stats

        • Bruce Hood

          December 2, 2018 at 7:57 pm

          Please Read my post again! Wasn’t comparing Dak to brady at all. I just used Brady as a polished QB who will and has missed throws throughout his career. What’s not fair is you are expecting and comparing Dak to QB who have a longer tenure than him. 2 1/2 years in the league, I do expect him to get better with a real QB coach and an OC that plays to his strengths. Please read mu post again!

  3. Bruce Hood

    December 2, 2018 at 8:12 pm

    Also to call Dak mediocre is so premature. You’re talking about him missing throws, not planting his feet etc. Your comment insinuate he at his ceiling and he’s a finished product and WILL never improve. The guy has thrown for over 3,000 in every season he’s played in and Hall of famer Troy Aikman best year was a little over 3,500 yards. My point is stop condemning Dak, comparing him to accomplished QBS who didn’t come out of the QB matrix knowing everything firing on all cylinders! Tom Brady would tell you in his 2nd or 3rd year he was still developing in making proper reads and understanding defensive schemes. So was Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Rivers, Elite in their 2 or 3 year of playing? Probably not! Give our QB a chance to flourish like any other quarterbacks. Cowboys for life!

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Linebacker

Jess Haynie



Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch's Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion

One of the brightest spots on the Dallas Cowboys' projected 2019 roster is linebacker. The young pair of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have already emerged as one of the league's best duos. But that doesn't mean that the Cowboys have no work to do at the position this offseason.

Having Jaylon and Leighton does take a lot of pressure off. Most teams utilize their nickel scheme more than any other these days, which generally utilizes just two linebackers, in the increasingly pass-focused NFL. And thankfully, both Smith and Vander Esch have shown great skills in pass defense.

But there's still a semi-starting role to get figured out in the base 4-3 scheme. Damien Wilson has held the strong-side or "SAM" position for the last few years and has an expiring contract.

What's more, Dallas has a big decision to make regarding the contract of Sean Lee, which is ripe for terminating with $7 million in salary cap savings possible.

It's highly unlikely that the Cowboys would keep both Lee and Wilson. If they decide to re-sign Damien, Lee will be cut to help fund that move and others. If Sean is kept on, Wilson will almost surely be looking for a starting role somewhere else in free agency.

Even if the Cowboys do make Lee a cap casualty between now and March 13th, they may still allow Wilson to test free agency and then try to re-sign him later at a discount. He's unlikely to attract the same attention that Anthony Hitchens got last year.

How Does LB Joe Thomas Fit Into Cowboys' 2019 Plans?

Dallas Cowboys LB Joe Thomas (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Another factor in all of this is Joe Thomas, a free agent addition last year who provided good depth and could potentially start in 2019. He is scheduled to count $2.2 million against the cap, which is fine for a primary reserve but a bargain for an occasional starter.

A core of Smith, Thomas, and Vander Esch gives the Cowboys a good foundation to build from. Smith can play the SAM in the base scheme and Thomas can be the primary backup to Jaylon and Leighton in the nickel.

However, going that route would deplete the depth chart. Chris Covington, a sixth-round pick last year, would be the only noteworthy player under contract. Dallas would need to find at least two more guys to fill out the group for 2019.

They could look at re-signing backup Justin March-Lillard, who would at least bring some familiarity and veteran experience. But that might still leave them looking for more of a primary reserve, which would be especially vital if Thomas is promoted to a starting role.

The projected LB free agent pool for 2019 should make it a buyer's market. Dallas may be able to re-sign Damien Wilson or even add an upgrade, like perhaps the Vikings' Anthony Barr, at a relative bargain. There should be ample options for depth as well.

Barring an extremely favorable value opportunity, don't expect the Cowboys to spend a significant draft pick at linebacker. The fourth-round is the earliest I could see one going based on other needs, and even then it would need to be someone they really like.

Good drafting is why Dallas has flexibility and leverage this offseason. The picks they invested in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch appear to have made LB a strength of the team for the next several years.

There is still business to attend to, but the Cowboys won't have to be too concerned with linebacker in 2019 thanks to their young stars.

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Dallas Cowboys

Xavier Woods Versatility Key in Dallas Cowboys FA Safety Pursuit

John Williams



Cowboys Safety Xavier Woods Is Getting Better By The Week

There has been a debate going on among Cowboys Nation for more than a year now about the prospects of bringing in Seattle Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas. Now with free agency approaching, there are several other names that the Dallas Cowboys could consider when looking to upgrade the safety position. Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu, and Tre Boston are several of the many quality and really good safeties that are hitting the free agent market in a few weeks. It's a group with varied skill sets and abilities, which makes the debate even more interesting. The Dallas Cowboys, however, will be able to take a look at all of them when free agency opens March 13th because of one player; Xavier Woods.

Xavier Woods, the Cowboys fifth round draft pick from the 2017 NFL Draft just finished his first full season as a starter for the Cowboys and played really well. In two years he's shown the ability to cover from the slot, play deep, play in the box, be a force over the middle, and make plays on the football. He's one of the more versatile players on the defense with his ability to play all over the field. That versatility allows the Dallas Cowboys' front office an advantage when approaching the names mentioned above.

The Dallas Cowboys don't have to be locked in to one particular type of safety. When people talk about Landon Collins, they label him a "box safety." Earl Thomas is a traditional free safety. Tre Boston is a similar player to Earl Thomas and Tyrann Mathieu is like Collins. The Cowboys can go into free agency with the freedom to explore their options and do their due diligence when it comes to these players.

That's a distinct difference from this offseason to last.

Last offseason, the feeling was that the Dallas Cowboys had to go get Earl Thomas. The safety position was so weak that the Cowboys were going to be playing at a disadvantage in the high-flying, pass-heavy NFL. Xavier Woods proved in his first full season that he can be a productive, play making starter in the NFL and should only continue to improve.

According to Pro Football Focus, Xavier Woods was sixth in the NFL in passer rating against among safeties with at least 352 coverage snaps. His 62.8 passer rating allowed in his coverage was tied with Eric Weddle, better than Derwin James, Reshad Jones, Adrian Amos, and Maliek Hooker. Of the safeties drafted in the 2017 draft class, only Eddie Jackson from the Chicago Bears had a better passer rating against than Xavier Woods.

The Dallas Cowboys got a really good player in Xavier Woods and as they get ready to potentially make a run at a big name safety, they can feel confident that whoever they end up signing will be a good fit with Woods. He can play in the box or cover receivers and tight ends. You can run more two deep safety looks, because he has the range to play it.

This year, as opposed to last, they have more certainty at the safety position because of Xavier Woods and the strides he took in 2018. There's no reason to believe that he can't continue to take a step forward for the Dallas Cowboys. His ability to play all over the field allows the Cowboys to be smart and patient in their pursuit of a safety upgrade this offseason.

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Dallas Cowboys

3 Free Agent Targets From Cowboys NFC East Rivals

John Williams



3 Free Agent Targets From Cowboys NFC East Rivals

The free agency period in the NFL will be here in a little more than three weeks and the Dallas Cowboys will begin the annual tradition of trying to put together the best 53-man roster that they can come up with. Free agency is just one part of the equation that includes the draft, the signing of undrafted free agents, adding and subtracting from the roster during training camp, and picking up players after the final cut down day.

You can rest assured that Will McClay and the entire pro scouting department is doing their due diligence in anticipation of the March 13th start to the 2019 free agency period. They'll look high and low for players that can come in and be contributors for the Cowboys. Even within their own division.

Between the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins, there are some interesting names to consider as the Cowboys peruse the free agent aisles of the NFL superstore. Some of those players like Landon Collins, Ronald Darby, Nick Foles, and Brandon Graham will be new releases that will cost you a pretty penny at the check out stand. Others like Haloti Ngata will be in the used and refurbished section. And then there are those who could be had at a reasonable or discounted rate.

Here are three from within the NFC East that the Cowboys could have their eye on.

Mario Edwards, Defensive Line, New York Giants

The former Oakland Raiders second round pick out of Florida State University has already played for two teams in his young four-year career. That isn't a good sign for Mario Edwards as he approaches free agency for the first time. You don't generally see many top 100 picks get released from the team that originally drafted as they usually wait as long as they can to see if the player is going to hit.

For Mario Edwards, he found himself caught in a numbers game and outplayed by two rookies in Oakland's training camp in 2018, leading to his release. It also sounds like the Raiders couldn't quite figure out where to put him on their defensive line.

We know that the Dallas Cowboys love looking around the league for those reclamation projects. Edwards could be the next David Irving or Antwaun Woods. A player that isn't highly thought of, but in the right situation and with the right coaching could flourish.

Edwards has played 14 or more games in three of his first four seasons, missing his second season with a hip injury. He totaled more than two sacks a season in those three seasons. He isn't by any stretch of the imagination someone who is going to come in and replace DeMarcus Lawrence or Randy Gregory, but he could be a nice depth piece with potential to see significant snaps both at defensive end and 3-technique defensive tackle.

Edwards could be the next Rod Marinelli special.

Jordan Matthews, Wide Receiver, Philadelphia Eagles

The Dallas Cowboys could be in the market for a slot wide receiver this offseason if Cole Beasley is allowed to walk in free agency, which seems like a near certainty. There are several intriguing options on the roster in Allen Hurns and Cedric Wilson that could play in the slot some, or play on the outside allowing Amari Cooper to play in the slot. They could also look to the draft for Beasley's replacement as well. In the free agent pool, there are several interesting names, one of which is Jordan Matthews.

Jordan Matthews just finished his second stint in Philadelphia and while he didn't have huge production in Philly in 2018 -- 20 receptions on 28 targets for 300 yards and two touchdowns, he's a player with a track record in the NFL and could be a "big slot" option.

In Matthews first three seasons in the NFL, he averaged 75 receptions on 115 targets for 891 yards and 6.3 touchdowns in his first stint with the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2014, Matthews caught 64 of his 67 receptions from the slot, which was second in the NFL that season. In 2015, he led the NFL in receptions from the slot with 81, while also scoring eight touchdowns. In 2016, his final year with the Eagles, he was ninth in the NFL with 53 receptions. So, in those first three seasons in the league, he averaged 67 receptions, 796.3 yards, and six touchdowns. He caught eight touchdowns in each of his first two seasons for the Eagles in the slot.

He's not the same player that Cole Beasley is, but he's a player that knows how to win in the slot and because of the past couple of years could be a cheaper option to try and replace Cole's production.

Jamison Crowder, Wide Receiver, Washington Redskins

If Jordan Matthews is the inexpensive option for the Dallas Cowboys in the slot, Jamison Crowder would require paying a pretty penny. estimates that Crowder could be worth $8 million per year over four years on the open market.

Interestingly enough, he's never been as productive as Cole Beasley or Jordan Matthews, but because of his age and his work the last couple of seasons, injuries not withstanding, he's seen in a more positive light than Matthews.

Crowder is cut from a similar cloth as Beasley. Smaller in stature and uses quickness and speed to win games. As Cowboys fans, we know all to well the effect that he has in game. Crowder, however, has never had more than 66 receptions in a season and has only scored more than three touchdowns once in his four seasons in the NFL; back in 2016 when he scored seven.

Crowder is coming off of an injury this season that limited him to just nine games, 29 receptions for 388 yards and two touchdowns. In his three full seasons prior to 2018, Crowder averaged 64 receptions on 93 targets for 746 yards and four touchdowns.

If for some reason, his market comes in less than the $8 million per year that is projecting, I'd be very interested in bringing Crowder to Dallas.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Each of these guys offers something intriguing that the Dallas Cowboys could use. Whether it's a defensive lineman or a slot wide receiver, they all bring something to the table. The Dallas Cowboys need to approach this offseason with a "go for it" mentality, but if they continue to follow their free agency philosophy, Mario Edwards and Jordan Matthews could be nice pieces to add to the team that offer a lot of upside.

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