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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

9 Comments

  1. Travis Diggs

    May 3, 2018 at 8:33 am

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

  2. Travis Diggs

    May 3, 2018 at 9:48 am

    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

      May 3, 2018 at 9:54 am

      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.

  3. Chet

    May 3, 2018 at 9:50 am

    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

      May 5, 2018 at 9:52 am

      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

      May 5, 2018 at 9:59 am

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

      • Chet

        May 5, 2018 at 12:07 pm

        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.

  4. Chuck Wright

    May 3, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    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

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Star Blog

Jason Garrett Can’t be Serious About Retaining Scott Linehan, Can He?

Brian Martin

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Jason Garrett Can't be Serious About Retaining Scott Linehan, Can He?

One of the few positives most of us were looking forward to after the Dallas Cowboys Divisional Round loss to the Los Angeles Rams was the fact that Scott Linehan would no longer be the offensive coordinator for America's Team. Everything was pointing to his dismissal, but that may not be the case according to Head Coach Jason Garrett.

Todd Archer on Twitter

Jason Garrett said on 105.3 The Fan that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will return in 2019. "We don't anticipate any significant changes on our staff," Garrett said.

I can't say that I was happy upon learning Jason Garrett plans on retaining Scott Linehan as the Cowboys OC in 2019. In fact, my first thought was… Well, something better left unsaid. I'm sure many of you can kind of read my mind, because I'm pretty positive you had all that the same thoughts running through your head as well.

In all honesty, I didn't think there was a snowball chance in hell Scott Linehan would return to Dallas after the conclusion of the 2018 season. After all, the Cowboys nearly fired him during the bye week earlier this season, meaning his job security was already on thin ice. He didn't do anything to improve things in my opinion.

I know Jason Garrett has said Scott Linehan will return as the OC in 2019, but not for a second do I believe it. We are less than 72 hours hours removed from the Cowboys exit from the playoffs and I highly doubt any of Dallas' decision-makers has had the time to sit down and discuss who stays and who goes. In fact, I know they haven't.

Jeff Cavanaugh on Twitter

Stephen Jones says they won't comment on anything with coaching staff but that they need to take a deep look at why they fell short. Says it a little early to speculate about players or coaches. They haven't had a meeting about it yet.

I think once the Cowboys brass sits down and reevaluates the 2018 season, they will come to the conclusion they can do better than Scott Linehan as their offensive coordinator. There were just too many times throughout the season where the playcalling was a problem just. It's just time to move on, despite the vote of confidence by Jason Garrett.

Of course, this could just be me trying to read between the lines hoping and praying Scott Linehan is finally fired. Like many of you, I've grown way too tired of his predictable and dated playcalling. It's time to move on and find someone more innovative who can maximize the talent the Dallas Cowboys have on the roster, much like Kris Richard did with the defense.

You can either choose to believe Jason Garrett or not. I for one have a hard time seeing the Dallas Cowboys staying status quo with their coaching staff, especially their offensive coordinator. But, only time will tell.

Do you think it's time for the Dallas Cowboys to fire Scott Linehan?



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Star Blog

Cowboys Rammed Out of Playoffs but 2019 is Bright

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Cowboys Rammed Out of Playoffs but 2019 is Bright

If you were to have clicked over to Sportsbook Review, you could have seen what all the premier online sportsbooks were dealing on the Cowboys/Rams game before kickoff. Sites like Bovada, which incidentally you can read a Bovada Review at Sportsbook Review as well, had the Rams favored in every quarter, in both halves, and installed LA as seven-point favorites over Dallas. As is often the case, the number was nearly spot on as the Rams bounced our 'Boys out of the postseason 30-22. It was a heart-wrenching loss for Dallas fans everywhere but for those who put their money where their mouths were, it was particularly painful in what turned out to be a one-point difference between losing and pushing.

Let’s look on the bright side, though. The Cowboys not only copped the division crown but the draft picks from April bore fruit this season. Linebacker and No. 19 overall pick Leighton Vander Esch is a certified stud while third-round pick Michael Gallup proved he is a bona fide NFL receiver. Second-round offensive lineman Connor Williams had difficulties at left guard, but at the very least, has a season under his belt at the next level and could turn into a legitimate bodyguard for Prescott in 2019.

And let’s not forget about the trade for Amari Cooper, which turned Dallas from a squad struggling to find its identity to an NFC East champ in winning seven of its last nine games since Cooper arrived. This year’s edition also bested a tough Seahawks team in the first-round of the playoffs.

Let’s face it, folks, no one expected the Cowboys to win a Super Bowl this season and what we got was about as much as we could have hoped with the current roster as it is presently constructed.

Dak Prescott has one more year on his rookie contract and will be looking to score a big payday at the end of next season, if not sooner. The Cowboys could enter negotiations and lock Prescott up for the foreseeable future, but it might be best for both parties to see what 2019 brings and go from there. Either way, Dallas will pay beaucoup bucks to keep Prescott in a Cowboys uniform so watching and waiting will most likely be the tact management takes with their star quarterback, with a franchise tag in 2020 as an option as well.

In the team’s immediate future will be signing their second-round pick in 2014, DeMarcus Lawrence. The talented defensive end provided the Cowboys with the edge rusher they needed for parts of this season and his combined 25 sacks over the last two seasons would be nearly impossible to replace. Dallas franchised him this season but will most likely put together a long-term deal for Lawrence in the offseason.

Ezekiel Elliott has also reportedly been hinting at his own contract extension even though he is contractually committed to the Cowboys for next season with a team option in '20.

Ironically, one of the strengths of the Dallas Cowboys in recent years was a relatively weak link this season. The offensive line was decimated by injuries and Pro Bowler Travis Frederick missed the entire season. But those wounds will heal for next season and the old gang will be back together again.

The Cowboys have loads of cap space but are without a first-round pick due to the trade for Amari Cooper. Nevertheless, the young blood on the team looks poised to contribute for many years and there will be money available to woo free agents to a club now viewed as a legitimate contender.

If you want to look at next season’s odds, make sure to educate yourself on which online sportsbooks are the most reputable, trusted, and reliable. Read the Bovada Review over at SBR and see what customers are saying about one of the industry’s top sportsbooks. Then, when the lines come out on next season’s division, conference, and Super Bowl winners, you can be informed and maybe throw a few bucks on the 'Boys from Dallas!



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Star Blog

Cowboys’ Window Depends On Maximizing, And Helping, Dak Prescott

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Future Hinges Heavily On Dak Prescott And Their Future Offensive Coordinator

Saturday night's Division Round loss was met with mixed reaction among Cowboys Nation.

Some fans, claiming they are the rational ones who hold the Cowboys to a higher standard, believe this might end up being their best chance at a Super Bowl for some time. The young players this roster is built around will only get older and more expensive as the years go by, and 2018 ends with yet another Jason Garrett-led playoff loss.

Other fans, claiming they are the rational ones, said that Dallas accomplished a lot this season, climbing back from a 3-5 start to win the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a competitive game to one of the league's best. This group believes that the Cowboys championship window is as open as it has been in years, with young talent galore on Dallas' roster.

Whether this is true, however, hinges on the shoulders of two individuals. One of which, ironically, hasn't even been named yet and the other a source of constant debate among those same segmented fans.

Those people, of course, are quarterback Dak Prescott and whoever ends up as the offensive coordinator in 2019.

Dak Prescott is a good quarterback.

Let's start there. I firmly believe that Dak Prescott did enough during his third season to earn the contract extension he will likely receive from the Cowboys within one of the next two offseasons. Especially once the Cowboys acquired wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Clearly, Prescott is far from "perfect" is a passer. He makes mistakes in decision making, he sails some throws, and he sometimes exhibits inconsistent footwork when the pocket breaks down. But we focus too much on his mistakes while simply glossing over his accomplishments, talents, and upside.

Not only is Dak Prescott someone that the team responds to and believes in, but he is also a good football player. Prescott finished the 2018 season 12th in total Expected Points Added, ahead of quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and Baker Mayfield. He's also finished 3rd and 4th in raw QBR during his first two seasons in the NFL respectively. And, despite his slow start to 2018, Dak Prescott ended his third season on the best run of games in terms of QBR he has ever had.

Prescott is improving, and this is evident each week. He played more comfortably in the pocket over the last 6 games of the season, panicking less, taking fewer dumb sacks, and abandoning his technique fewer and fewer. And, while he doesn't run as often as many would like, the times Prescott does carry the ball often change drives and games.

And while I despise "QB Wins" as a determining statistic, the fact remains that bad quarterbacks don't win at the rate Dak Prescott does. Three straight winning seasons has been rare in Dallas over the last 15 years, and Prescott orchestrated this his first three seasons as a starter.

Passing Wins Championships.

Though very different than the old cliche, this appears more accurate by the season. The final four teams remaining in the NFL are each top 5 in passing DVOA, while not a single one has a top 10 defense by DVOA.

Neither the Chiefs nor the Rams have had a good run defense at all this season, but stopping the run doesn't matter as much as stopping the pass most weeks in today's NFL. I know this sounds absurd after the Cowboys run defense got abused by Los Angeles, but the numbers often bear this out.

The Cowboys have to do everything in their power to aid Dak Prescott and the passing offense this offseason. They need to draft another pass catcher, preferably with their second round pick. They need to continue to improve the chemistry between Prescott, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.

And, maybe most importantly, they need to hire an offensive coordinator who can maximize this passing game.

Scott Linehan simply is not the answer. And if the Cowboys are going to make the most out of whatever title window they may have, the offensive play caller will be the most critical man in the building going forward.

Unfortunately, latest reports point to Linehan returning in 2019.



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