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What Holes do the Dallas Cowboys Need to Fill?

John Williams

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Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense?
AP Photo / Ron Jenkins

The Dallas Cowboys got a lot accomplished in the first two parts of player acquisition opportunities; the initial phase of free agency and the NFL Draft. However, they still have some holes to fill on the depth chart.

Tight End

With the imminent retirement of future Hall of Famer Jason Witten to join the Monday Night Football crew, there is a sizable hole at tight end. Sure, even I have spoken of the decline of one of the best to ever play the position, but that doesn't change the fact that he was the best player on the roster at the tight end position, even entering his 16th season.

Rico Gathers has some raw natural ability for the position, but hasn't earned enough trust from the coaching staff for them to consider him a viable long-term option at the position.

Geoff Swaim is a really good depth player at tight end, but at this point it would only be speculation to assume he could be a starter in the NFL.

The team really likes the potential of Blake Jarwin, who they signed as a UDFA after the 2017 NFL Draft, but at this point, we're still just talking potential. He spent most of 2017 on the practice squad.

Dalton Schultz, the rookie tight end out of Stanford, could very well be the guy to take the lead as he has very refined blocking skills from playing in Stanford's pro-style offense. Schultz didn't get many opportunities in the passing game, but that's not because he didn't have the ability. Stanford's offense just didn't throw the ball a ton in their run-first scheme.

There is some nice potential for the Dallas Cowboys at tight end, but they're lacking anyone with experience. I'd look to add a veteran free agent to compete with the young guys and see what shakes out.

Stephen Paea, Maliek Collins

Dallas Cowboys DT Stephen Paea, DT Maliek Collins

Defensive Tackle

The Dallas Cowboys went into the draft with David Irving and Maliek Collins as their primary interior defensive line players. On passing downs, that's a pretty solid twosome. Collins played through injuries in 2017 but was solid when asked to play as the 1T defensive tackle. Ideally, you'd play him at 3T.

They added Jihad Ward, the former second round pick of the Oakland Raiders, in a trade for Ryan Switzer, but he hasn't shown the consistency at the position to live up to where the Raiders selected him.

In his rookie season, Ward started 13 games and played in all 16, and registered 30 combined tackles. He didn't register a sack. His 2017 was derailed by injuries.

He has good size at 6-5, 295 lbs, but needs to develop his game and get some injury good luck. He could be another David Irving-like diamond in the rough for the front office. As a rotational player, it should allow him the ability to shine.

After those three, we're talking about David Ash, Datone Jones, and Brian Price. The Dallas Cowboys like to throw numbers at the defensive line to see who will flash and stick with the team. We all clamored for them to add a 1T defensive tackle this offseason, and they still can in the next wave of free agency, or after training camp cuts take place.

Safety

The Dallas Cowboys passed on the opportunity to add Pro Bowl Safety Earl Thomas when they declined the Seattle Seahawks' offer of Thomas for Dallas' second round pick. It's easy to say they should have pulled the trigger, but by keeping pick #50 and selecting Offensive Lineman Connor Williams, the Dallas Cowboys solidified their offense to be a contender in 2018.

No Earl Thomas only leaves three viable safety options on the current roster with the move of Byron Jones to cornerback confirmed by new secondary coach Kris Richard. Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, and Xavier Woods are a pretty solid threesome at safety, but teams typically carry at least four.

Now, they could move Chidobe Awuzie to safety, but I think that would be a mistake given his play in 2017. He's an aggressive corner who will make plays on the football.

Jones could go back to safety in a pinch, but you want to be able to put a guy at a position and leave him there. Jones has been moved around a lot throughout his career, it's time to see what he can do at cornerback. For better or worse.

The Dallas Cowboys could still make a move for Earl Thomas. Until the Seahawks extend him or take him off the trading block, he remains an option for the Cowboys.

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As Stephen Jones and Will McClay like to say, player acquisition is a 365 day a year business. While the team looks pretty solid at the moment, the Dallas Cowboys still have some areas they can address, and it wouldn't surprise me to see them add veterans to address those areas.



I didn't start out as a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quickly as I could. I grew up a Joe Montana fan when he was with the 49ers and followed him to the Chiefs, until we moved to Texas. I've now been a Fan of the Boys since the Dark Days of the Post-Aikman, Pre-Romo era of abysmal quarterback play, now relishing in more than a decade of franchise quarterbacking for America's Team.

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9 Comments
  • Travis Diggs

    The safety position will be the difference between a top defense and a middle of the pack one

  • Travis Diggs

    No 8 sounds great in all but look at how many big plays they gave up. All the playoff teams had good safety play throughout the season. Xavier Woods and Jeff Heath are just not going to cut it, lets be real here

    • Chet

      I disagree. Both players played well last year and they will only be better this year. That being said yes I would love to see Earl Thomas in a Cowboys uniform. The Cowboys finished 11th in the league in passing defense last year with a bunch of rookies and first time starters except for scandrick.

  • Chet

    I disagree with your assessment.

    No expected Jason Witten to be a superstar when he was drafted. He went in the 3rd round. Swaim has played a lot the last few years including passing downs and has proven he isn’t a liability in any part of his game. Given the opportunity he will do a good job and so will Jarwin and the rookie. Gathers is the question mark. This is a running offense and if they make it to the playoffs it will be because of their running game not how well the TE’s catch the ball but I think they will do well in the passing game.

    We are in good shape at DT. I never wanted the Cowboys to draft or sign a high dollar DT. Collins is good, he held his own with a broken foot all year. He will have a really good year this year. Also, the Cowboys have Richard Ash 6-3 333, Brian Price 6-3 303, and Daniel Ross 6-4 325 as backup 1 techniques. Price and Ash both held their own as backups/rotational players and now they have Ward to throw in the mix. Not to mention UDFA Osborne 6-0 300.

    As far as safety goes… Would I love to see Earl Thomas in a Cowboys uniform heck yeah I would but Woods, Frazier, and Heath will do fine. I think Heath is highly underrated he runs a 4.3 40 and showed it several times last year. They also signed a S and a few CB’s that could be moved to S.

    The Cowboys finished with the number 8 defense in the NFL last year and they only got better in the offseason with the new additions.

    • Tommy Davis

      All the players you mentioned are below average NFL players, Ash, Price, Ward, Ross and Swaim, All have been cut or released by other teams. The exception is Gathers, and you listed him as a question mark which is rediculous. Gathers was awesome in the preseason but was not put on the active roster because Witten was getting all the reps. Gathers is so talented that the Super Bowl Champion Eagles tried to steal him away from Dallas a couple of years ago. In order to have a successful team you have to utilize your talent, an area where Dallas has fallen short in recent years. It was not until the losses started piling up last year that they started playing talented Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods. Removing slow footed, late reacting Jeff Heath from the lineup and inserting Awuzie and Frazier shored up the secondary. When D.Lawerence and D.Irving played together along with S. Lee and Jaylon Smith the defense became a formidable, talented defense. You win with talent, let go of the favortism and personal feelings which has hindered the Cowboys. There is enough talent on the roster to be a force in the division, it just has to be utilized properly. GM’s and coaches for teams like the Eagles, Falcons, Rams, Jaguars, are realizing this and are building winning programs.

    • Tommy Davis

      Jeff Heath never has and never will run a 4.3, not in this lifetime.

      • Chet

        http://draftscout.com/ratings/dsprofile.php?pyid=97368&draftyear=2013&genpos=fs

        He runs between a 4.38 and 4.48 40 per the reference above. He didn’t lose his job last year Jones did. Heath started throughout the year and was in a majority of the defensive snaps and played really well. He had a game winning tackle due to his speed and quickness.

        Also, Swaim was drafted by the Cowboys in 2015. Swaim played really well when Witten was out. Gathers is a question mark – Swaim is A LOT better TE at this point. Maybe Gathers will develop into a complete TE maybe he will never be more than a backup/special teams player he hasn’t done anything yet but pre-season games and training camp. So it remains to be seen if he will pan out which makes home a question mark. I hope he does pan out though.

        Collins is above average NFL player as a 1 technique and def as a 3 technique. Ash and Price play well when they get their opportunities. The Cowboys have 1 good 1 technique DT and at least 2 backup 1 techniques that aren’t a liability and possibly more with the UDFA and Ross.

  • Chuck Wright

    Dallas doesn’t really need “Defensive tackle”, they need a 1 Tech, that player who is between the C and OG and forces a double team, clogs up the middle. We got LOADS of outside tackles, 3 techs or 5 techs, we needed a 1, we could have had (this later in the draft) Tim Settle, Foley F UConn, kid from Tenn and POONA Ford. All very productive 1 techs in college. Yes sorry, I’m still ranting. . . but the draft was SO CLOSE to a home run

Star Blog

Can Jaylon Smith Challenge Vander Esch For Starting MIKE Role?

Kevin Brady

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In Season For Youth, Cowboys Must Make Tough Decision On Jaylon Smith

When the Dallas Cowboys selected Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with their first round pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the whole world basically assumed he would be the starting MIKE linebacker week one of the upcoming season.

After all, the Cowboys lost Anthony Hitchens to free agency and none of the injury replacements had much success during the 2017 season.

Now just a couple of months shy of that week one match up with the Carolina Panthers, a battle for that middle linebacker spot appears to be occurring.

Former 2016 second round pick Jaylon Smith has seemed to find his health, and his movement skills and agility look like they did back when he was at Notre Dame. Whether or not these offseason hype videos will actually mean anything on the field remains to be seen, but just the fact that Smith is working out and playing without the knee brace is obviously a good sign.

Unlike Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith did play for the Dallas Cowboys a year ago. Sure Smith had his share of growing pains, but he seemed to find his groove late in the season. It probably isn't a coincidence, though, that Smith's best games came when coming off the bench in a limited role and when playing beside veteran Sean Lee.How Will LB Jaylon Smith Best be Utilized in 2018?

During the offseason activity thus far Jaylon Smith has gotten the majority of snaps at middle linebacker, but Vander Esch has also been sidelined with an injured ankle. Leighton Vander Esch clearly fits the mold of a MIKE both physically and athletically, but at his best Jaylon Smith does as well.

Despite the resurgence of Jaylon Smith and the injury to Leighton Vander Esch, I still do expect Vander Esch to snag that MIKE role moving forward. While showing glimpses of productive play, Smith did not impress enough to earn him the unquestioned starting job last season, and may best fit as a SAM backer and situational pass rusher/blitzer in the current scheme.

Allowing Jaylon Smith to conserve his energy and provide a boost off the bench is the best way for the Cowboys to structure their defense. Of course, this is only true as long as Vander Esch becomes the player they expect him to be, though.

If Jaylon Smith does return to the player he was at Notre Dame prior to his horrific injury, the Cowboys will possess three incredibly rangy, athletic, and talented linebackers on their roster.

Of course, that if is a very big if at this point, however.



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Star Blog

Will Cowboys’ Performance VS NFC South Define 2018 Season?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Dak Prescott Weighs in on Cowboys "Dak-Friendly" Offense Approach

When thinking about how the Cowboys' 2017 season came to an end the day before Christmas after a disappointing loss to the Seattle Seahawks, we often forget the team needed some extra help in order to get to the playoffs. The NFC was a tough conference to play in last year... but it will only be tougher in 2018.

The NFC is way stronger than the AFC right now, at least in terms of depth.

The Cowboys will be sharing a division with the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that only got stronger this offseason and will try to make a run for the NFC East title once again.

As good and promising as the Cowboys' roster is, it's only fair to admit that trying to get to the postseason this year might implicate running for a wildcard spot. Many teams will be fighting for a playoff berth late in the year but fortunately for Dallas, they will be able to control their destiny against a handful of this teams.

The Cowboys will play against the entire NFC South this season. Except for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, every team in the South division was fighting for a chance at January football heading into week 17.

The Saints, Falcons and Panthers all finished the season with double-digit wins last year, and there's little reason to believe they won't come back as strong as they were in 2017.

If the Cowboys are not able to beat the Eagles in the NFC East race, we'll be hearing about a lot of different playoff scenarios that will be needed in order to play in the postseason. Certainly, having the head-to-head advantage against the NFC South teams would go a long way, even if the team will play the Saints, Falcons and Panthers before December comes around.

If the Cowboys do manage to get back to their 2016-selves, no team in the league should be an "impossible" challenge for a powerful running-game based offense and a defense that can rush the passer consistently.

Of course, the NFC South is not the only challenging division in the conference. The NFC West will feature another three football teams that will be winning tons of games. The Rams, 49ers and Seahawks are all very likely to have winning records and be in the hunt once December comes around.

In a season that promises to be a "comeback" year for America's Team, the NFC promises to be a threatening conference from every direction. If the Cowboys will be able to overcome or not remains unknown and will stay that way until the season actually starts.

Tell me what you think about "Will Cowboys’ Performance VS NFC South Define 2018 Season?" 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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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: 3 Escenarios Para el Futuro de David Irving

Mauricio Rodriguez

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- David Irving, #95

En la NFL, la falta de noticias en Junio generalmente significa buenas noticias. Los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys saben esto mejor que nadie y en caso de que lo hayan olvidado, David Irving se aseguró de recordarle a Cowboys Nation el porque de esta frase.

La semana pasada, se anunció que David Irving recibirá una suspensión de cuatro partidos por haber violado la política de abuso de substancias de la liga. Es la segunda suspensión que Irving recibe en años consecutivos y lógicamente, esto es preocupante para el equipo de los Dallas Cowboys.

Las últimas dos temporadas hemos visto a Irving convertirse en una pieza de suma importancia para la defensiva. El año pasado, Irving consiguió siete sacks (capturas) en sólo ocho juegos y se convirtió en un caza cabezas muy efectivo.

Demostrando ser uno de los jugadores más talentosos de su posición en la NFL, es difícil imaginar el futuro del #95 en la liga. Tras recibir un tender de segunda ronda hace unos meses (explico que es eso aquí), el futuro de Irving es muy incierto. Por eso, esta semana en Cowboys en Español, exploraremos tres escenarios posibles para el defensivo de 24 años.

#1 David Irving se va de Dallas prematuramente

Hace unos días, me dediqué a defender mi posición de que los Cowboys estarían cometiendo un error al cortar a David Irving. A pesar de que realmente despedirse de un defensivo como Irving parece muy poco probable, es un escenario que debemos discutir.

Irving ha sido un dolor de cabeza para el equipo en más de una ocasión. Dos suspensiones en años consecutivos no es una buena imagen para un jugador que busca un contrato jugoso al terminar el año.

Si Jason Garrett y la administración quieren "dar un mensaje" cortando a David Irving, ¿qué tanto serviría? Esta idea de enviar un mensaje, a la hora de pensarlo fríamente, parece una idea romántica de parte de nosotros los fans. Al final de cuentas, estamos hablando de un locker room lleno de jugadores adultos y profesionales, no de un grupo de niños.

Además, bien sabemos todos que Irving no es el único Cowboy que ha tenido problemas. ¿Será el hecho de que ha ocurrido dos años seguidos razón suficiente para dejarlo ir? Personalmente, no lo creo. Los Cowboys dejarían ir a un jugador muy bueno en una posición de necesidad.

Datone Jones, Jihad Ward y Maliek Collins podrán ser suficiente. Pero David Irving es especial en el campo. Mejor tenerlo por 12 juegos a tenerlo cero.

#2 Irving se queda para el 2018, pero no más allá

David Irving recibió un contrato de un año que le pagaba (antes de ser suspendido) 2.91 millones de dólares. Si hubiera demostrado que no era problemático y que podía mantenerse al 100% toda la temporada, probablemente hubiera recibido un gran contrato de los Cowboys o de otro equipo en la NFL.

Sin embargo, el dicho lo dice todo. "En la NFL, la disponibilidad es la mejor habilidad." Irving no se ha terminado de ganar la confianza necesaria para una gran extensión.

En este punto, Dallas puede esperar a que su tackle defensivo regrese de su suspensión, juegue doce juegos con ellos y les consiga un sack por juego por menos de tres millones de dólares. Después de eso, el equipo pude darse el lujo de dejarlo ir sin una extensión y verlo convertirse en un agente libre.

Does DT David Irving Have a Future With Cowboys?

Dallas Cowboys DT David Irving (Albert Pena / CSM)

#3 Irving se queda por más de un año

En este caso, hay dos "sub-escenarios." Suponiendo que, efectivamente, Irving regresa y juega como sabemos que puede hacerlo, no será tan fácil dejarlo ir. Si llega a sorprender y demuestra que realmente es quien creemos que es y consigue diez capturas en sólo doce juegos, ¿realmente no le dará el equipo una oportunidad?

La primera opción sería asignarle la etiqueta franquicia y obligarlo a jugar un año más para un equipo que busca desesperadamente un Super Bowl.

Si se sienten cómodos dándole el salario de una etiqueta franquicia para evitar perderlo, ¿podríamos culparlos después de que les dio por ejemplo, diez capturas? Yo, personalmente, no podría hacerlo.

La otra opción, y una que podría ser la más realista, es más simple. La inmadurez y los problemas de Irving le costarán la confianza y el interés de otros equipos y es posible que en un punto, Dallas sea el único equipo que le pueda brindar seguridad de trabajo.

De esta manera, Dallas podría ofrecerle una extensión de dos, tres o más años a un precio mucho más barato que el de cualquier DT que consiga dos dígitos de sacks.

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David Irving sin duda tiene un futuro incierto delante de él. Realmente sería una sorpresa verlo fuera de Dallas en el 2018, pero más allá, quien sabe lo que pueda pasar. Por ahora, esperemos que una vez que vuelva de la suspensión, esté en forma para ir detrás de los quarterbacks oponentes.

Con un poco de suerte, quizá nos olvidaremos de esto en Noviembre.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: 3 Escenarios Para el Futuro de David Irving" 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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