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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.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

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.



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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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

A Look Around The NFC East: Week 2

Kevin Brady

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Film Room: How Dak Prescott Beat The Giants' Blitz

The usually competitive NFC East got off to a shaky start last week, with half the division winning their season opener and the other half falling short.

Now entering week 2, the Eagles and Redskins have a chance to begin to distance themselves from the loser of the Cowboys/Giants game, and both of those 0-1 teams are looking to "save" their season. Yes, that sounds dramatic, but a home loss within the division to fall to 0-2 could be debilitating for the Dallas Cowboys moving forward.

Regardless, let's go around the division and see what each team has on tap for this Sunday.

Philadelphia Eagles

The defending champs opened up their 2018 campaign just as we expected: with a home victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta sort of gave that game away last Thursday night, but if the Eagles can stack Nick Foles-led wins on top of each other they'll put themselves in a great spot to win the East when Carson Wentz returns.

The Eagles will be on the road this week for the first time, traveling to Tampa Bay to play the 1-0 Buccaneers. The Bucs pulled the upset of the weekend last week, defeating New Orleans 48-40. It's hard to imagine that "Fitzmagic" continuing against the vaunted Eagles defense, though.

Philly is a three point road favorite against Tampa Bay this Sunday.

Washington Redskins

My "sleeper" team in the NFC East, and pick to finish second in the division, looked rather impressive in their week one drubbing of the Arizona Cardinals. Of course, Arizona isn't a very good team, and will probably be picking top 5 in the draft next April. Still, it was a good showing for the Redskins to open the season.

Washington got Adrian Peterson going on the ground for nearly 100 yards and a touchdown, and Chris Thompson helped keep them on schedule offensively as well. Washington hasn't been talked about much this offseason, but is sitting at 1-0 with a game against the 0-1 Colts on the horizon.

Washington is a 6 point favorite against Indianapolis this Sunday, and has a good chance of starting 2-0 on the year.

New York Giants

Though we are just one week into the 2018 regular season, an important matchup is brewing within the NFC East. After falling to 0-1 with a home loss in their season opener, the Giants will travel to Texas to face the Cowboys on Sunday night football this week.

With both teams sitting at 0-1, neither can afford to put themselves into a nearly-insurmountable hole with a second straight loss. Since the merger 90% of teams who fall to 0-2 fail to make the playoffs, and it would be back-to-back seasons of missing out for both the Cowboys and Giants.

New York is a three point road underdog on Sunday, and it seems like most of the football world is leaning towards them and their weapons coming away with the victory.

Either way, this game will have massive implications on the 2018 season.



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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: ¿Qué Sigue Para la Ofensiva de los Cowboys?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys en Español: ¿Qué Sigue Para la Ofensiva de los Cowboys?

En lo que fue una de las actuaciones más decepcionantes de la semana 1, los Dallas Cowboys no fueron capaces de avanzar en la ofensiva más que en una serie en la que anotaron un touchdown y una conversión de dos puntos. Fue un juego en el que nada funcionó más que la defensiva, la cual limitó a Cam Newton y compañía a sólo 16 puntos en un partido que pareció parejo, pero realmente no lo fue.

Ahora, antes de que los Cowboys jueguen su primer partido divisional del año contra los New York Giants, los aficionados del America's Team se preguntan ¿qué sigue para la ofensiva de los Dallas Cowboys? La ofensiva que tanto prometía hace un par de años, cuando Ezekiel Elliott y Dak Prescott lideraron a su equipo al primer sembrado de la NFC como novatos.

No se puede culpar a una sola persona por lo que sucedió el domingo pasado. La actuación fue tan deficiente que se tiene que señalar todo lo que falló. En primera instancia, hablemos del pésimo plan ofensivo de parte del coordinador de esta ofensiva, Scott Linehan.

Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan

Dallas Cowboys coaches Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett

Si algo hemos escuchado decir una y otra vez acerca de la ofensiva de Dak Prescott y los Cowboys es que es una sencilla, pero una difícil de vencer. Naturalmente, eso ha cambiado los últimos dos años. Esta ofensiva ya no debería de ser la misma que tomó a la liga por sorpresa en el 2016, no obstante, lo es.

En varias ocasiones, los Panthers no tuvieron ningún problema "telegrafiando" las jugadas de los Cowboys en cuanto sacaban el balón, resaltando la poca creatividad en la ofensiva de Linehan. Peor aún, en los momentos en los que se podría decir que fue creativo, lo fue en un mal sentido. Después de firmar y obtener a tantos receptores talentosos (que a pesar de no tener un claro #1, hay mucha profundidad), Dallas se alineó con dos tight ends en formaciones con cinco jugadores abiertos. ¿Por qué?

Esto le dio muy pocas oportunidades a Dak Prescott, quien hizo el problema más grande. Cuando tuvo esas pocas ventanas para lanzar profundo, la puntería del QB les costó bastantes series a los Cowboys. La más notable de estas, un pase profundo en la que el TE Blake Jarwin se había desmarcado y pudo haber llegado muy lejos, incluso quizá a la zona de anotación. En cambio, Prescott apenas llegó el balón a sus pies.

Sin embargo, la puntería profunda de Prescott es la menor de mis preocupaciones. Siempre hemos sabido que no es un Aaron Rodgers ni un Tom Brady. Lo que más me sorprende es la falta de calma de Dak. Siempre se le respetó por eso como novato, pero ahora se ve incomodó en el bolsillo, algo que tiene que cambiar inmediatamente puesto que era una de sus fortalezas.

Finalmente, la línea ofensiva, que se supone es una de las unidades más fuertes del equipo, se vio mal. La'el Collins y Tyron Smiths fueron responsables de múltiples castigos de holding, que terminaron matando series ofensivas. Connor Williams tuvo un debut bastante complicado contra el DT Kawann Short. Joe Looney, a pesar de ser un backup, se vio bien.

La pregunta de muchos es, ¿habrá cambios?

 1

La respuesta a corto plazo es un rotundo no. Nada cambiará en el equipo de coaches ni en la posición de quarterback durante este inicio de la campaña 2018. Sin embargo, si el equipo continua perdiendo y se llega a topar con un récord muy perdedor en la semana 8 o 9, preparémonos.

Comenzaré diciendo que el primer cambio que considero más probable es en la posición de coordinador ofensivo. Si bien Dak puede resultar no ser el mariscal franquicia que tantos queríamos, ¿no vale la pena verlo jugar bajo el mando de otro coordinador? Un coordinador que lo ponga en una mejor posición para tener éxito y que se encargue de reducir el aparente miedo que hay a la hora de lanzar a lo largo. Eso sería ideal para el desarrollo de Dak, si es que llega a haber cambios.

Lo mismo para Jason Garrett, quien para mantenerse vivo debe voltear el rumbo de su equipo ya que lo que vimos en la primera semana fue desastroso. Garrett podría estar en peligro si las cosas no cambian pronto, sobre todo considerando la presencia de alguien como el coach de la secundaria defensiva, Kris Richard.

Finalmente, hablemos de lo que le espera a Dak Prescott.

Si Dak no corrige su manera de jugar y continua actuando como lo hizo la primera semana, habrá problemas en su futuro. Considerando que una extensión de contrato se avecina, Dak tiene que demostrar que puede tomar ese siguiente paso. Esperemos que lo logre, porque al final de cuentas, esperamos que todos en el equipo mejoren, pero ¿qué pasa si no es así?

Un juego no es suficiente para quitarle el trabajo, pero una mala temporada podría serlo. Ya sea por agencia libre o por medio del NFL Draft, los Cowboys podrían estar buscando alternativas si Prescott continua con este nivel todo el año.

Personalmente, tengo fe en Prescott. Creo que a pesar de que no será un MVP que cargará al equipo a la gloria, puede hacerlo con un buen apoyo. Y francamente, creo que Dallas tiene justo eso. Simplemente hay que ejecutar. Puede ser la parte más difícil de todas, pero hay mucho talento en el roster como para ser limitados a ocho puntos.

Las primeras impresiones son duraderas, pero no siempre son ciertas. Esperemos que el equipo encuentre una manera de darle la vuelta al barco cuando se enfrenten a los Giants este domingo en el NBC Sunday Night Football que se transmitirá en ESPN 2 en México.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: ¿Qué Sigue Para la Ofensiva de los Cowboys?" 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!



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Star Blog

Film Review: Analyzing The Sacks Given Up Vs. Carolina

Kevin Brady

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Film Review: Analyzing The Sacks Given Up Vs. Carolina

There's no question the Dallas Cowboys passing game failed as a whole on Sunday in their season opener. But, as usual, everyone is looking to assign the blame to someone in particular.

Was it the offensive line? The receivers? The coaching? The quarterback? In reality, it was a little bit of everyone. The stars on the team did not perform to their ability, and the role players looked bad at times.

The Cowboys vaunted offensive line surrendered six sacks, and Dak Prescott appeared to be under duress all afternoon. Of course, this doesn't all fall on the offensive line, though. Prescott could not find open receivers down field often, even when they were there to be found.

So, once the All-22 came out on NFL Gamepass, I decided to take a look and see who's "fault" each of the six sacks was. Of the six (one of which looked more like failed quarterback draw) I placed three "on" the offensive line/pass protection and two "on" Dak Prescott.

Let's examine a few of these sacks in greater detail.

dalvscar2018 sack 1

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The first time the Panthers got to Prescott looked way too easy. Backed up in their own territory the Cowboys came out in the I-formation with a tight end inline on the right side. Prior to the snap Carolina shifts their weakside linebacker over the left tackle, creating a two-over-one situation on the backside.

This should have been a red-alert for a blitz, and should've been communicated across the line of scrimmage. Instead, with veteran center Travis Frederick out, there seemed to be communication issues.

Tyron Smith steps down to take care of his inside gap, allowing the blitzing weakside backer to run free. On paper, this should be Ezekiel Elliott's man, but that is a damn-near impossible block for him to make coming across the formation.

Still, it is his responsibility, and he fails to pick up that block. This sack falls "on" the pass protection, but it really has to do more with poor pre-snap communication.

dalvscar2018 sack 2

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Later on in the game we see one of the sacks which really falls on Dak Prescott. The Cowboys come out in trips to the near side, and Ezekiel Elliott and a tight end stacked to the right. Carolina once again shows two-over-one, this time over the right tackle.

This screams blitz, and Elliott is able to step up and take the blitzer head on this time. The interior is where this pass protection breaks down, as left guard Connor Williams gets flat-out beat by the 3 technique.

Despite being beat relatively quickly, there's no excuse for Prescott to take a sack here. He has his tight end flashing open quickly in the middle of the field, and has the option to tuck it and run with green grass in front of him if he doesn't want to try to fit it between zones as well.

Prescott has to process the coverage and blitz quicker here to avoid the negative play. He also has to run more often, but that's another point for another post.

dalvscar2018 sack 4th qr

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This third sack falls mostly on the offensive line, and once again can be attributed to poor communication on the interior. Carolina brings a bit of a modified cross-dog blitz, with the 2i technique defensive tackle occupying both Williams and Looney, allowing for the blitzing linebacker to run free through the b-gap.

Joe Looney and Connor Williams have to communicate this better. Williams completely turns his hips and shoulders rather than staying square, and is unable to slide off the 2i to the linebacker. Looney should take the down lineman over, allowing Williams to slide off.

This has more to do with lack of familiarity than anything else, and is actually somewhat encouraging. This should get better as the season goes on.

dalvscar2018 sack 4th qr 2

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dalvscar2018 sack 4th qr 2 wide view

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

These final two clips are the same play, just from different angles. I wanted to highlight how sometimes, you just get beat, and I don't think you can really blame any one person alone.

From the end-zone angle you can clearly see Connor Williams get beat by the 3 technique once again, and on first view it appears the sack is his fault. But when you really look at the whole play progression, you see that both the play design and Dak Prescott are also to blame.

Carolina is in two-deep coverage attempting to avoid the big play. Dallas is already down multiple possessions and with time running out, they know they can just sit back and play this type of off-coverage.

Dallas is looking to push the ball vertically down the seams, but both deep safeties are able to sit on the hash and just wait for the receivers to reach them on their route. You could argue that Prescott should have hit the hitch route on the far side, but it doesn't appear to be on his radar.

Overall, Carolina just won on this play. Sometimes that happens, those guys get paid to play too.

If there's a conclusion to be drawn, it's that just about everyone was bad at Sunday. If Dak Prescott, the offensive line, Ezekiel Elliott, the receivers, and the coaches are all this bad going forward, it's going to be a long season.

But, as you can see, simply getting some familiarity with one another and communicating better should help this offense develop throughout the season.



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