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The Untouchables: 5 Players the Dallas Cowboys Can’t Trade

John Williams

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Cowboys Expansion Draft: Protecting America's Team's Future
AP Photo/James D Smith

The other day, Marcus Mosher of Bleacher Report and the Locked on Cowboys Podcast posted a very interesting hypothetical:

Marcus Mosher on Twitter

Late night #Cowboys hypothetical....Dallas has the most CB depth they've had in years. What would the compensation need to be for you to trade Jourdan Lewis?

Cowboys Nation had a lot of thoughts on the matter. From Earl Thomas to Corey Coleman to draft pick compensation to, "get outta here."

While on the surface, trading Jourdan Lewis -- arguably the best corner on the Dallas Cowboys depth chart -- seems crazy, you have to also think about it. Really, you should be thinking about almost every player on your roster and their tradability.

With Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, and Anthony Brown the top three corners -- at the moment --  in nickel situations, the team could have an opportunity to use their depth to acquire a player who helps them at a position of need. Say a TE or a WR or an interior defensive lineman...

It's these kinds of thoughts that have kept the New England Patriots as the best team in football for nearly two decades. Aside from Tom Brady, they explore everything. Everyone is tradable. Super Bowl winners, leaders on the team, star players. Everyone.

But it did have me thinking, who are the players on the Dallas Cowboys that are untouchable. I'll give you five.

1. Dak Prescott, Quarterback

As I outlined in my 2018 projection for Dak last week, I think he's a franchise quarterback that's capable of leading this team to the Super Bowl. You don't trade him and you don't think about trading him unless someone is offering you a superior quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, which they aren't.

You just don't trade young franchise caliber quarterbacks this early in their career unless they aren't working out for you anymore.

Now, the wide receiver group is devoid of the sort of gravitational pull Dez Bryant had, but Dak will be as efficient as he was in 2016 at getting the ball to the open man.

Dak is going to have his best season yet in 2018 and the Dallas Cowboys will reap the rewards.

2. Zack Martin, Guard

As he prepares to become the highest paid guard in the NFL, Zack Martin is an anchor on an offensive line that is the best in the NFL.

He was the final piece to the puzzle when they drafted him in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft and he hasn't disappointed. Here's the resume:

  • Two-time First Team All-Pro
  • Two-time Second Team All-Pro
  • Four-time Pro Bowler

Yes, the contract is rich, but he pretty much sums up your identity as the Dallas Cowboys. Big, strong, athletic, and physical in a run game that has become the bread and butter of this team over the last four seasons.

Going into his fifth season at right guard, there's no sign that he's slowing down in his play and production.

He's the best in the NFL at his position and you don't trade that away willy-nilly.

DeMarcus Lawrence, Broncos

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence

3. DeMarcus Lawrence, Defensive End

Finding elite pass rush is about as difficult as it is to find elite tackle play. Make no mistake about it, DeMarcus Lawrence is elite. After 2018, the rest of the NFL will think so too.

Lawrence's ability to rush the passer and play the run with equal effectiveness is what makes him so good. He was on the field for 67% of the team's defensive snaps, and nobody along the defensive line played more than he did.

In 2017, Lawrence received his first All-Pro selection after a 14.5 sack season. He did that while only having David Irving for eight games last season. Imagine if Irving isn't suspended or concussed.

The two seasons "Tank" has played all 16 games, Lawrence had eight sacks in 2015 and 14.5 in 2017. Once you find an elite pass rusher, you don't let him walk away.

Get ready to pay out some cash in the 2019 offseason.

4. Tyron Smith, Tackle

Sure, Tyron Smith has dealt with back injuries that have limited his play some over the last several years, but even in a limited capacity, he's better than all but a few offensive tackles in the NFL.

In his career he's only missed seven games, though six have come in the last two seasons combined. He's only 28 years old and has several years of his prime left to make a significant impact for the Dallas Cowboys.

5. Travis Frederick, Center

While not nearly as valuable as the offensive tackle on your football team, and perhaps not as dominant as Zack Martin, Travis Frederick is elite in his own right.

Keeping the front side of the pocket clean for a quarterback to step into is so valuable, and Frederick does an amazing job at that.

Sam Monson on Twitter

Travis Frederick has surrendered one sack over the past four seasons. The end.

As the leader of the offensive line, his intelligence and defensive recognition helps everyone along the line.

Having an elite center isn't something you usually think of when it comes to roster construction priorities, but when you don't have it, you notice it. You may not notice Frederick's greatness on every play, but that's probably a good thing. He does his job and the offense flourishes with him at the center of it.

Cowboys Defense Better Or Worse Then Last Season?

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Honorable Mentions

Sean Lee, Linebacker

Though he's 32, we saw what the defense looked like without him last season. Given that the rest of the linebacking options are unproven, you don't want to move his leadership ability and talent level.

Jourdan Lewis, Cornerback

Like I said earlier, he may be the best corner on the team, and with the NFL employing three wide receiver sets more than 70% of the time and using quick-hit passes over the middle to move their offense down the field, Lewis is very valuable.

He's sticky and aggressive, both things that make a slot corner very important to a defense. While he may be behind Anthony Brown at the moment, don't expect that to continue.

Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back

The general perception around the league is that the running back position has become devalued. I'd argue that the second contract at the running back position has become devalued. Team's still want elite runners like Ezekiel Elliott or Todd Gurley, they're just becoming less likely to pay them elite money for their second contract. Elliott's about to turn 23 and will have three more seasons before he hits the dreaded 27-year-old RB decline.

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I do think the Dallas Cowboys -- like the Patriots -- should look at most of their players as opportunities to upgrade, but these are a few that I'd be less likely to deal.

Who are your Dallas Cowboys untouchables?



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

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Next Day Rant: NFL is Killing Football to Protect Quarterbacks

Jess Haynie

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Next Day Rant: NFL is Killing Football to Protect Quarterbacks
Shaban Athuman/The Dallas Morning News

Over just three weeks of the 2018 season, the NFL's new rule about hitting quarterbacks has stirred up as much controversy and angst as any amount of anthem kneeling ever did. Tyrone Crawford and the Dallas Cowboys can now add themselves to the list of perplexed victims of the league's misguided legislation.

On the Seattle Seahawks' first offensive series yesterday, Crawford made what in past years would have been a clean, textbook hit on Russell Wilson just as the ball was released. But out came the flag, claiming that Tyrone didn't make enough effort to avoid putting all his weight into the quarterback as he brought him down.

This flag came on a 3rd-down play with Seattle backed up on their own 12. Instead of punting, and likely giving Dallas excellent field position for their next series, the Seahawks got to continue the drive and eventually punt it from midfield.

That consequence may not sound like a big deal, but it robbed the Cowboys of their earned opportunity to get points on the board early. It changed the tone of the game early, and who knows what ripple effect that had the rest of the way.

The real issue here, though, is that that call can even be made. The NFL has finally taken QB protection too far, to the point that defensive players are left with no logical or physically possible way to do their jobs.

Next Day Rant: NFL is Killing Football to Protect Quarterbacks 1

Green Bay Packers LB Clay Matthews has become the poster boy for the NFL's new hit rule.

Before the Dallas game came on, I watched as the Packers' Clay Matthews got flagged yet again for the same type of call. It was the second time in as many games that Matthews has been given a foul for a clean hit.

Matthews' frustration after he saw that flag was clear. He looked disheartened, and part of me wondered if he might just walk right out of the stadium. In fact, I almost wanted him to pull a Vontae Davis just to help make the point to the league.

The NFL wants the best of both worlds. They want these players to go max effort when the rules allow and then pull it back in very specific, split-second situations. It's more than the human mind and body can do.

You can't ask these defenders to use everything they've got to get through a blocker, and then immediately rein it in once they get their hands on the quarterback.

You can't ask them to avoid going high on the QB, and then always know when the ball has been released. They don't have eyes in the top of their heads.

You can't ask them to come full force on a blitz or rush and then cool their jets within a second or less. Forget mind and body, even the basic laws of inertia don't work that way.

The NFL is asking for the impossible; a safe form of violence. That's like asking for non-toxic poison.

5 NFL Rule Changes That Need to Happen

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell

I understand the league's current global dilemma. They are looking down the barrel of rising CTE awareness, lawsuits from former players, and the diminishing participation in youth football. They're trying to save the game from extinction, or at least from falling off the throne as America's modern pastime.

But this rule isn't about that. This is about trying to keep star quarterbacks healthy so that fan engagement and TV ratings don't go down when an Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady gets injured.

The NFL is in the entertainment business, so I get their concern. Quarterbacks are the lead actors of the sport. You'd be disappointed if the next Mission Impossible movie was mostly Ving Rhames.

Protecting quarterbacks, given their vulnerability at times on the field, has its place. Some of the rules make sense, even if at times they lead to frustrating penalties.

But now they're messing with the core formula of football. If the Colonel got rid of one of his eleven herbs and spices, KFC chicken might not taste the same anymore. Coca-Cola might suddenly be worse than Pepsi (hard to imagine, I know) if they started changing the syrup.

The NFL isn't tweaking here. They're changing games and putting the burden on defensive players, in the heat of battle, to try to have machine-like precision.

Again, they're asking for the impossible.

Tyrone Crawford

Dallas Cowboys DT Tyrone Crawford

Tyrone Crawford is no Vontaze Burfict. He's not a loose cannon. He's one of the genuine good guys in the NFL, who does everything the right way on and off the field.

You can only imagine his frustration right now, or that of Clay Matthews and anyone else hit with one of these penalties. Imagine what some of these guys, who aren't a Crawford or Matthews, might do if that frustration boils over.

You could hear it even in the commentary yesterday. Troy Aikman and Joe Buck were clearly disgusted by the calls, both in the Cowboys-Seahawks game and what's been happening so far this year. This was FOX's premier broadcast team openly bashing the NFL in a nationally televised game.

And if you think the players and commentators are frustrated, imagine how that translates to fan response.

The league is trying to avoid losing viewers from quarterback injuries. In the process, they may lose a lot more by damaging the game we love.

Playing football is an accepted risk. Players get it. Fans get it.

The NFL has to get it, and soon, before this conversation takes over in a way that past controversies haven't. The anthem kneeling was an overblown, media-driven story that never hit the bottom line they way they wanted you to believe. None of it mattered once the ball was kicked off.

But now the game is being damaged. Football is becoming less fun; a game of rules and penalties rather than action and intensity.

If something doesn't change, the NFL's self-preservation efforts just might lead to its demise.



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Seahawks’ Tight End Will Dissly Flying Under the Radar

John Williams

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Seahawks' Tight End Will Dissly Flying Under the Radar

The Seattle Seahawks are in need of a big win this weekend to stay a game or two back of the NFC West leading Los Angeles Rams. The Dallas Cowboys hope to extend their one game winning streak to two, but to do that, they'll have to win certain matchups on both sides of the football. One player that the Dallas Cowboys will have to be aware of and contain is rookie Tight End Will Dissly.

With Doug Baldwin injured in week one and out week two, other players have had to step up in their lead wide receiver's absence.

Brandon Marshall and Tyler Lockett are the names that most everyone will recognize, but Dissly, is the name that Cowboys Nation should keep an eye on come Sunday.

Dissly, drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of Washington, came into the season with a reputation as a blocking back. Dane Brugler, of The Athletic, had Dissly ranked 98th overall and as the ninth ranked tight end in the draft. Just one spot behind Dallas Cowboys rookie Tight End Dalton Schultz.

Here is what Brugler had to say in his 2018 NFL Draft Guide.

"A one-year starter at Washington, Dissly spent his first two years at Washington on defense and his final two years on offense, lining up inline and wing in the Huskies’ offense. He was a blocker-first and receiver-second in college, which was a role he embraced with his hard-nosed toughness and competitive edge. Dissly uses his upper body power and base strength in unison to control the point of attack, displaying the core flexibility and length to keep defenders busy. While he flashed reliable hand/eye coordination and run power after the catch, he lacks the route-running experience or athletic deception to consistently uncover. Overall, Dissly is a project as a pass-catcher, but he will contribute early in his NFL career as an inline blocker and sixth offensive lineman."

Dane Brugler - Dane Brugler's 2018 NFL Draft Guide

To say that it comes as a surprise at Dissly's start to his rookie campaign would be a huge understatement. A Brugler notes, there was a chance he'd contribute early as a blocking specialist, but was thought to be a project in the passing game. He's been a big play threat in the first two games of the season, already taking the lead in Seattle Seahawks TE snap distribution at 65%.

Among tight ends, Dissly's is tied for 12th in the NFL in targets with 10, tied for 17th in receptions with six, fourth in the NFL in receiving yards, tied for first with 2 touchdown receptions, third in yards per reception at 24.5, third in yards after the catch with 90, is tied for fifth with five receptions for first downs, sixth in yards per route run, and hasn't dropped a pass this season. He's averaging five targets, three receptions, 73.5 yards, and a touchdown per game. He's been targeted twice out of the slot and has two receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown while playing 46% of his snaps from the slot.

When Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson has targeted his rookie tight end, he has a passer rating of 143.8.

He's been way more than they could have hoped.

Here's what SB Nation' Seattle Seahawks blog Field Gulls had to say about Will Dissly after the Seattle Seahawks week one loss to the Denver Broncos.

"Hot damn! Who saw that coming? Was that Will Dissly or a prime Jeremy Shockey? 3 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown for someone drafted primarily for his blocking abilities. Seattle has a new weapon on offense, and I doubt anyone saw that coming."

Mookie Alexander - Field Gulls, SB Nation 

It's likely that nobody, including the Denver Broncos or the Chicago Bears, saw Dissly's breakout coming this soon. Now with it on tape, the Dallas Cowboys will have their eye on Will Dissly.

Russell Wilson doesn't have a ton of established -- or still good -- wide receivers at his disposal, but Will Dissly looks like a fourth round steal for the Seahawks.

The Dallas Cowboys' linebackers will be tested on Sunday.

Four of Dissly's six receptions have come against linebackers, including a 34 yard reception (19 yards after the catch) against Chicago Bears' Linebacker Danny Trevathan and a 66 yard reception (52 YAC) against Denver Broncos Outside Linebacker Bradley Chubb.

The Dallas Cowboys seem fully capable of matching up with good receiving tight ends as Jaylon Smith showed on Sunday. Smith showed an ability to run with Odell Beckham Jr. in coverage on Sunday. No small task. We know that Sean Lee is good in coverage. Leighton Vander Esch's best trait coming out of Boise State is his coverage ability. I also wouldn't be surprised to see the Dallas Cowboys matchup Xavier Woods and Anthony Brown with the athletic tight end when he's lined up in the slot.

How the Dallas Cowboys defense does in coverage against the rookie tight end could be a major key to the game. With names like Brandon Marshall, Tyler Lockett, and Rashad Penny to keep an eye on, someone like Will Dissly could be easily forgotten.

You're going to hear his name called on Sunday. Let's just hope it's more for what he did weeks one and two.



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Xavier Woods Among Cowboys with Something to Prove in Seattle

John Williams

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1

The Earl Thomas trade rumors have been relentless this offseason. We've heard about them. I've written about them, and for better or worse, they just won't stop. No doubt Dallas Cowboys Safety Xavier Woods has heard them as well.

When Woods went down with his hamstring injury and as Earl Thomas continued his hold out, the clamor for Thomas grew louder and louder.

Per reports, it looks like Woods is set to make his 2018 debut. With a good game against the Seattle Seahawks, he can put a silence to the trade rumors.

I've been a proponent of making the deal for Earl Thomas all offseason. From the time he came running down the tunnel toward the Dallas Cowboys locker room, I've been all aboard the Earl Thomas hype train. Opportunities to add All-Pro players don't come along very often and if you're hoping to win football games in the short term, like the Dallas Cowboys are, you make the move.

My opinion isn't a knock on Xavier Woods, who was good as a rookie last year. He was especially good when asked to play in the slot early in the 2017 season. It has more to do with Woods still being a bit of an unknown and Thomas being a known quantity.

Xavier Woods has shown potential to be a really good safety in this league. In college, he played a lot of single high safety and played it very well. He has a knack for making plays on the football and can be a game changer for the Dallas Cowboys.

If the Dallas Cowboys can come away with a victory in Seattle, facing the player that the Dallas Cowboys have been linked to for months, and Woods has a good game in the process, then all of this will go away.

Heading into Sunday, Xavier Woods isn't the only player on the Dallas Cowboys roster who has something to prove.

Two Wide Receivers

The Cowboys added another wide receiver this week when they resigned free agent Brice Butler. I agree with Inside The Star Staff Writer Jess Haynie that adding Butler doesn't make a ton of sense, but it definitely adds question marks to the wide receiver room, in particular wide receivers Terrance Williams and Allen Hurns.

These two wide receivers were expected to be the starters on the outside and the primary targets, aside from Wide Receiver Cole Beasley, and yet, they've failed to have much of an impact in either of the two games in the 2018 season.

Take a look at their stat lines.

  • Allen Hurns: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 29 yards, 0 touchdowns, on 55% of the team's offensive snaps.
  • Terrance Williams: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 18 yards, 0 touchdowns on 25% of the snaps.

Those two are tied for fifth in receptions through two weeks of the season. Wide Receiver Deonte Thompson has found himself as a favorite target of Quarterback Dak Prescott through the first two games and has seven receptions for 60 yards.

With now seven wide receivers on the roster, there are less snaps to go around and with the increase in playing time for Tavon Austin and Michael Gallup, Terrance Williams may have already found himself as the odd man out. Brice Butler complicates things further for Williams and may eat into Allen Hurns snap count as well.

Now it looks like Terrance Williams is facing a suspension. If the suspension comes down before Sunday, he's going to really have a hard time finding a role on this team when he comes back.

Brandon George on Twitter

Sources: Cowboys WR Terrance Williams faces suspension stemming from May arrest for public intoxication https://t.co/of11Xlb7wD via @sportsdaydfw

If he comes back. 

Defensive End Making a Comeback

Things started out really well for returning Defensive End Randy Gregory. During the preseason he flashed the tools that made him a highly coveted player before his failed drug test at the NFL Combine.

Unfortunately the start of his 2018 season was derailed due to a concussion early in the Carolina Panthers game forcing him to miss week two.

In his place, Taco Charlton emerged as an impact player on the right side of the defensive line. Charlton has played the most defensive snaps of any defensive end through the first two games of the season; DeMarcus Lawrence included. Taco went from a 73% snap share in week one to an 83% snap share in week two. It's obvious that he's earned his snaps and the coaching staff wants to get him on the field.

This doesn't even begin to mention the contributions by rookie fourth round pick Dorance Armstrong, who like Charlton, saw a 10% snap increase from week one to week two and played really well when in the game.

This is a bit of a problem for Randy Gregory. Yes, he flashed in the preseason and early in the Carolina game, but the NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league and Gregory hasn't done much of anything in the regular season, yet.

Coming into the Seahawks game, Gregory is going to have to earn back some of those snaps. By all accounts he has a chance to be an elite defensive end on the right side of the Dallas Cowboys defense, but he has to prove that he can stay on the field and effective when on it.

He needs to shine in week three.

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Who are your players with something to prove heading into the week three matchup with the Seattle Seahawks? Let us know in the comment section. 



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