Four weeks ago the New Orleans Saints blew out the Cowboys. They were ineffective on offense and non-existent on defense putting forward their worst performance of the year. And yet that was still not the most devastating thing to happen that week. Sean Lee, the Cowboys most important defensive player, went down leaving the Dallas Cowboys an absolute mess on defense.
The combination of the drubbing from the Saints and the numbing loss of Sean Lee left most of the world wondering if the Cowboys would be able to just dust off what happened and focus on re establishing themselves as the leaders of the NFC East.
Now the Cowboys stand on top of the NFC East coming off of back to back wins and, the best news of all, Sean Lee is expected to return. The Cowboys were able to take advantage of what now looks like the best possible timing for Sean Lee to get injured. With one week being the bye the Cowboys rallied without Sean Lee and took down divisional foes in the New York Giants, and gave America a second half treat on Thanksgiving against the Oakland Raiders.
Sean Lee is returning just when the Cowboys need him most. It is still unknown as to whether or not the Bears or the Packers will have their starting quarterbacks, but one thing remains the same. With the Eagles keeping stride the Cowboys know that with only 4 games remaining in the schedule, there’s very little room for error.
Even if Jay Cutler does not play the Chicago Bears is a team that the Cowboys desperately needed Sean Lee for. Matt Forte is one of the most dangerous weapons in the NfL, both in the passing game and in the running game. Sean Lee ranked second in run stop % before getting hurt, and is one of the most effective sideline to sideline linebackers in the NFL and is sure to be much more effective against Matt Forte than his inconsistent replacement Bruce Carter.
With four games left the Cowboys are still in a position where they control their destiny, and they are starting to get healthy at the right time. Morris Claiborne suffered a setback last week, but with Sean Lee returning this is the healthiest the defense has been all season and aside from the absence of Dwayne Harris, who has more of an impact on special teams that offense, the offense has all the necessary weapons for this final playoff push.
With the regular season finale against the Eagles looming and uncertainty as to whether or not Aaron Rodgers will be active against the Cowboys, this Monday night showdown against the Bears is crucial. With the Eagles facing a tough Detroit Lions team the Cowboys may have an opportunity to get a little separation in the NFC East.
Sean Lee is not only the most productive player on the defensive side of the field; he is also the leader and the quarterback of this defensive unit. Sean Lee not only makes the Cowboys better on the field, but also in their minds. Sean Lee’s productivity and leadership can’t be quantified and his return puts the Cowboys in a much better position to keep the Eagles behind them in the standings and end their playoff drought.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Training Camp Preview: Cornerback
The Dallas Cowboys have spent a lot of draft picks the last few years to build up their cornerbacks group. There is a lot of potential heading into 2019, but Dallas needs these young players to take the next step if they want to compete for a championship. This weekend's start to training camp will be an important part of the process.
Dallas' best move to help the cornerback position was switching Byron Jones back there in 2018 after a few seasons at safety. Jones went to his first Pro Bowl and has positioned himself for a big contract extension.
Byron is currently set to play 2019 on his fifth-year option of $6.27 million, which is a steal for a CB of his caliber. Whether or not the Cowboys allow him to enter unrestricted free agency next year, or get a new deal signed, will be something to watch for throughout the upcoming season.
Jones' future may be in question, but we at least know he'll be the team's top corner this season. None of the other Dallas CBs can enjoy that same certainty in 2019, as depth chart positioning and job security are all in flux right now.
Here is the current CB depth chart headed into training camp:
- Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie
- Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis
- Michael Jackson, Donovan Olumba
- C.J. Goodwin, Chris Westry
- Treston Decoud
Will this list hold as is, or will we some shifting over the five weeks of training camp and preseason?
The battle for snaps between Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis will be an intriguing ongoing storyline. Awuzie was the starter last year, and will hopefully make a big developmental leap in his third year.
But Anthony Brown has proven himself a capable player despite being just a 6th-round pick in 2016. Entering the final year of his rookie deal, Brown will certainly be pushing for a significant role this season to hopefully help his free agent marketability in 2020.
If things go like they did last year, both Awuzie and Brown will get plenty of playing time. The true enigma of this bunch is Jourdan Lewis, who is hoping to be more than just the number-four CB in 2019.
Though he was drafted a round later than Awuzie in 2017, Lewis was generally considered the superior talent by most draft analysts. He fell due to a domestic violence accusation a month before the draft for which he was eventually found not guilty.
Jourdan was looking good at the end of his rookie season, but the arrival of Kris Richard as Defensive Backs Coach last year seemed to cause a regression. Lewis only got in on a little over 18% of the total defensive snaps in 2018, while the top three all had 67% or higher.
Despite his few opportunities, Lewis still had one of the biggest plays of the year with his interception that sealed Dallas' stunning upset over the New Orleans Saints. His potential has been noted, with Coach Richard even calling him an "exception" to his general preference for bigger, stronger cornerbacks.
But even if the team likes Jourdan, can he beat Awuzie or Brown? Could he perhaps have more value in a trade, with two years left on that rookie deal, to a team in greater need at CB?
The idea of moving Lewis, which existed prior to the draft, gained steam when Dallas used a 5th-round pick this year acquire CB Michael Jackson out of Miami. He fits that prototypical build at corner, and perhaps the Cowboys are hoping he can show enough early to provide an adequate replacement if they want to trade Jourdan.
If not Jackson, prospect Donovan Olumba is another option. He nearly made the 53 last year but got squeezed out when Dallas only kept four cornerbacks. After a year on the practice squad, Olumba is back and could be ready for a roster spot.
Veteran C.J. Goodwin has bounced around the NFL since 2014 but has some real-game experience. If the young guys aren't in a position to be game-day active, perhaps he would be the best option. Dallas added him in the middle of the 2018 season and he was helping on special teams and as a reserve corner at the end of the year.
Undrafted rookie Chris Westry, listed at 6'4", is another intriguing player to watch in camp. That rare size is something you can't teach, and hopefully Richard can develop Westry enough to get something out of the physical gifts.
This should be a fun 2019 training camp at cornerback, with competition potentially at every spot on the depth chart except the very top. And while secure at number-one, even Byron Jones has his own question marks around his long-term future in Dallas.
We'll start getting some answers in just four more days!
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OTHER 2019 CAMP PREVIEWS
Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence and CB Byron Jones to Start 2019 Camp on PUP
The Dallas Cowboys will be missing two of their defensive leaders when they open 2019 training camp this Saturday. Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence and Cornerback Byron Jones will both start camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List as they recover from offseason surgeries.
Lawrence, who got a new five-year contract in April, immediately underwent shoulder surgery once his deal was finalized. DeMarcus reportedly was waiting for contract negotiations to be completed before he had the procedure.
Jones had hip surgery in late May. He is playing 2019 on the fifth-year option from his original contract, and is no doubt hoping for his own long-term extension sometime in the near future.
Sources: DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones will open Cowboys camp on PUP and won't practice in California https://t.co/jzWV5FjBO6 via @sportsdaydfw
Neither Lawrence or Jones, who are both coming of Pro Bowl seasons in 2018, are expected to be absent once the regular season starts in September. But either participating in this year's training camp is doubtful, and even preseason appearances are in question right now.
With DeMarcus out at DE, newcomers like Robert Quinn and Kerry Hyder will get plenty of chances to show their stuff. It's also a nice opportunity for Taco Charlton, assuming he's recovered from his own offseason surgery, to get some work against the first-team offensive line.
No Byron at CB will give Jourdan Lewis a nice opportunity to work with the starters as well. He was likely stuck at the 4th spot behind Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, and Anthony Brown but should now get more time on the field and against the best competition.
Breaking News: Allen Hurns Released
The Dallas Cowboys are releasing Wide Receiver Allen Hurns after just one season with the team according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Cowboys releasing WR Allen Hurns, per source.
Hurns was brought in as a possible replacement for Dez Bryant considering they had a similar skill set, but that never quite worked out. He only managed 20 receptions for 295 yards and 2 touchdowns in 7 starts. He's coming off a horrific leg injury suffered in the Cowboys playoff win against the Seahawks last season.
This saves the Cowboys 5 million in cap space putting them around 24 million overall heading into the 2019 season currently. This now opens up snaps for some of the younger receivers on the Cowboys roster.
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