Last Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys defense had one of the most important tests they've faced all season. Dan Bailey had just kicked a field goal to extend the lead 26-20, with 2:58 remaining. Lots of us even wanted Jason Garret to go for it on fourth down so they could score seven points and end the game, just to not put the game on the defense (probably remembering how a lot of the 2015 games ended).
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got the ball, the pass rush forced a quick three and out. Tampa managed to stop the Cowboys and get the ball once again, this time with 1:36 on the clock.
On fourth and 12, Orlando Scandrick sealed the win with the third INT of the night. All season long, I've been worried about how this defense will hold up against playoff teams. But as I watched that game, even though they surrendered 20 points, I realized this defense will be good enough in January.
Doug Martin (a top-tier RB) was limited to 42 yards on the ground, Mike Evans (a top-tier WR) was limited to four receptions for a mere 59 yards and Jameis Winston (a QB on the rise) ended the night with three interceptions.
The secondary has been playing good football, and have produced four INTs in the last two weeks. Byron Jones, Jeff Heath and Anthony Brown were the last players I thought could get an interception, and they each have one now.
Brandon Carr has gotten a lot of hate throughout the season, but he's actually played great against some quite good WRs. Morris Claiborne, who was playing the best football in his career will come back and give this defense a big improvement. JJ Wilcox will also be back. This secondary will be able to matchup against a playoff WR group. They won't shut the air attack down, but with these players they'll be able to do just enough.
Sean Lee is playing out of his mind, and should be in the talk for Defensive Player of the Year. He is the main reason why the Cowboys have the number 1 defense against the run. Hitchens and Durant are no Sean Lee, but they do their job and with Wilson I'd say the depth is good enough at the position. Le'Veon Bell, Doug Martin and every other running back that has faced the Cowboys defense haven't been able to surpass the 100-yard mark.
Now for the defensive line
This is truly a complicated topic. The pass rush is not great, we've known that all year. Even though, I think it'll be fine. They've been doing a good job against decent offensive lines. There are no stars in this group but the position is deep.
This week Randy Gregory is back and he's reportedly in great shape to play, and DeMarcus Lawrence is aiming to return soon. The Jack and Tyrone Crawford, Benson Mayowa, David Irving, Maliek Collins, all of these guys bring this group great depth that will be able to do what they accomplished last Sunday Night.
David Irving came late in the second half with fresh legs and he was a beast. He ended the night with two sacks, four hurries and he got a piece of Winston's arm on Jeff Heath's interception (these are Khalil Mack kind of numbers). This defensive line has great depth to make changes late in the game to get fresh legs and make plays when they really matter.
This defense has shown up all year long, and they will do the same in January.
When the Cowboys face up against the playoff teams with high-powered offenses, they'll play good enough. Rod Marinelli is a great defensive coordinator and he'll know what to do when the playoffs come. I don't think they can put the game on their backs, but with the offense working, they shouldn't have a problem.
With Ezekiel Elliot picking up first downs, and eating the time of possession, the well-rested Cowboys defense will be able to make the plays necessary to win games and get to Houston in February.
Cowboys en Español: El Futuro Incierto de David Irving
En una agencia libre muy callada de parte de los Dallas Cowboys, como es costumbre, lo más interesante hasta ahora se revuelve alrededor de un talento increíble en la línea defensiva: David Irving. El joven de la línea defensiva de Dallas recibió un tender de segunda ronda (con un costo de casi tres millones de dólares) de parte de los Cowboys, lo cual significa que vestirá la Estrella Solitaria un año más... ¿o no?
No, no es tan sencillo.
A diferencia de la etiqueta franquicia que recibió DeMarcus Lawrence hace unas semanas, un tender permite a un jugador recibir ofertas de otros equipos. Si Irving llega a recibir una oferta externa, sin embargo, los Cowboys tienen la oportunidad de igualarla.
Pero no sólo eso, sino que si no quieren igualar la oferta, pueden dejar ir al jugador y en cambio, el otro equipo tiene que compensar a los Cowboys con una selección de segunda ronda. Así como el tender de segunda ronda que se le otorgó a David Irving, hay tender de primera ronda o tender de "selección original."
Sin embargo, Irving no fue seleccionado en el NFL Draft, así que esta última opción hubiera tenido poco sentido.
Ahora, pensando en el 2018 y una temporada ya incierta, nos sentamos preguntando: ¿No valía la pena cubrir a Irving con un tender de primera ronda? Al final de cuentas, sólo hay aproximadamente un millón de diferencia entre ambos. Irving es un jugador lleno de talento, y podría llegar a estar entre los mejores en su posición próximamente.
Sin embargo, si somos honestos, es una buena decisión de la administración. Irving ha tenido sus cuantos problemas y quizá este tender ayude a definir su valor en el mercado. Si ningún equipo alrededor de la liga se atreve a ofrecerle un contrato, los Cowboys mejoran su posición en las negociaciones y quien sabe, quizá consigan un acuerdo más amigable para el equipo.
Además, si un equipo decide llevárselo... ¿qué tan malo sería?
Con el pick #19 en la primera ronda del Draft de la NFL, no están en una posición muy cómoda. Como bien algún jugador talentoso como el DT Vita Vea o el WR Calvin Ridley pueden caer a las manos de Stephen Jones, Will McClay y compañía, bien puede estar vacía la tabla.
Con jugadores como el S de Florida State Derwin James o el LB de Georgia Roquan Smith, deberían considerar realizar un trade para subir algunas selecciones y llevarse a uno de estos talentos que no estarán disponibles en el #19.
Con las selecciones globales 19, 50 y una segunda ronda extra que conseguirían por Irving, es fácil visualizar a este equipo dispuesto a hacer un movimiento así el día del Draft.
A pesar de una mala temporada en el 2017, los Dallas Cowboys son un equipo que están cerca de ser contendientes.
Cowboys Free Agency: FB Keith Smith Signing with Raiders
The Cowboys have lost an important role player from the offense as fullback Keith Smith is reportedly signing with the Oakland Raiders.
The #Raiders and FB Keith Smith have agreed to terms on a 2-year worth $4.2million, source said.
Smith, who has been with Dallas for four seasons, was the team's fullback the last two seasons. He started as a linebacker after going undrafted in 2014.
Whether on offense or defense, Keith has been a regular part of the special teams units. The Cowboys' previous special teams coach, Rich Bisaccia, just left this offseason to join the coaching staff in Oakland. That is a likely cause for Smith heading to the Raiders.
Dallas elected not to give Smith a restricted free agent tender, which made sense given his position. Even the lowest tender of $1.9 million would have been too rich for a part-time player.
Even with Keith gone, Dallas may not need to sign a new fullback. Backup RB Rod Smith has experience in that role. They could also use tight ends James Hanna or Geoff Swaim.
Fullback is obviously not the position it used to be in the days of Daryl Johnston, but there are still times you need that lead blocker out of the backfield. Given their reliance on the run game and the success that Ezekiel Elliott had with Keith Smith, Dallas will have to find a solid replacement plan.
Will Another Team Snag David Irving Away From Cowboys?
It was somewhat surprising to learn that the Dallas Cowboys only placed a second-round tender on David Irving. A first-round tender would have likely dissuaded any other team from signing him to a contract and giving up a first-round draft pick, but signing Irving to a contract and giving up a second-draft pick is much more plausible.
I can almost guarantee there are teams around the league right now who are discussing the pros and cons of trying to acquire David Irving. The Dallas Cowboys likely know this which means one of two things:
- The Cowboys are hoping someone sets David Irving's market value with the hopes of matching.
- The Cowboys are willing to part ways with Irving for a second-round draft pick.
There are teams out there who have more salary-cap space than the Dallas Cowboys who could easily sign him to a contract the Cowboys can't match. And, giving up a second-round draft pick for a dominating, yet inconsistent, defensive tackle is probably better than anyone they can draft.
It's not completely out of the realm of possibility Cowboys fans have seen the last of David Irving with a star on his helmet. But, it seems like a risk Dallas is willing to take, whether fans agree or not.
In 2017, David Irving recorded 22 tackles, seven quarterback sacks, six passes defensed, and one forced fumble. He did this after missing the first four games of the season due to a suspension and the last four due to a concussion. That's pretty impressive!
There is no denying Irving's impact when he's on the field, but it's all the other stuff that makes Dallas hesitant to commit fully to the 24-year-old DT.
I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I know what kind of person David Irving is in the locker room or off the field, but his past behavior and inconsistencies are concerning. Yes, he has immense upside, but that doesn't look as if it's enough for the Dallas Cowboys, at least not yet.
I think this ultimately comes down to the Cowboys not fully trusting David Irving just yet. Placing the second-round tender on him is more of a "prove it" kind of deal, if another team doesn't sign him away. The Cowboys probably want to see he has his head on straight and more consistency before fully committing. It's completely understandable.
It just doesn't seem as if David Irving is in the long-term plans for the Dallas Cowboys right now. I think they would be perfectly content receiving a second-round draft pick, but that decision might not sit well with a lot of Cowboys fans.
There is really no way of knowing if another NFL team will snag David Irving away, but I think the possibility of that happening is pretty high.
Will David Irving remain in Dallas in 2018?
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