As if the offseason wasn't frustrating enough, the Dallas Cowboys have further complicated things by the way they are attempting to upgrade the wide receiver position.
First, they attempt to acquire Sammy Watkins through free agency, but luckily that never materialized. Then they sign not one but two free agent WRs, Deonte Thompson and Allen Hurns.
Things have definitely gotten a lot more interesting and confusing at the WR position for the Dallas Cowboys. Surprisingly enough, it's looking as if things could get even more frustrating because the Cowboys are doing their due diligence in scouting this upcoming 2018 WR draft class as well.
The overabundance of WRs on the roster is of course a good and bad thing for the Dallas Cowboys. They can pretty much pick and choose who they want to carry on the team for the 2018 season, but that would mean making some tough decisions.
As a Cowboys fan, on the outside looking in, there seems to be no clear plan about how the Cowboys want to deploy their WRs for next season. The coaching staff surely knows what they're doing, which means we have to remain patient until decisions are finalized.
But until then, we can speculate and try to sort through the confusion in order to try and figure out exactly what the Dallas Cowboys have in mind for their wide receiver position heading into 2018 season.
Below is how I personally have the WR depth chart. I also tried to share with you what I think the Cowboys could be thinking with each player, plus my personal opinion.
The Dallas Cowboys still haven't really confirmed what they plan on doing with Dez Bryant, and the recent Allen Hurns signing only further complicates things. There has already been speculation that Hurns is Bryant's replacement, but apparently the Cowboys like the idea of keeping them both as well.
There are several things the Cowboys can do. They can choose to keep him on the roster in 2018 at his current salary, ask him to take a pay cut, or possibly extend him a few more years. They could also outright cut him if they are ready to move on and willing to absorb his $8 million cap hit this season. A trade is also a possibility.
As you can see, until the Dallas Cowboys finally announce what they intend to do with Bryant, the WR position will continue to be a hot topic this offseason. Personally, I don't think they should move on yet. I think Allen Hurns' addition will actually help Bryant this season.
Cole Beasley is another unknown right now. Many fans around Cowboys Nation have speculated that Ryan Switzer is ready to surpass him on the depth chart, which would mean Beasley becomes expendable for the Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys could save $3.25 million by releasing or trading Cole Beasley. It makes sense in a way because Beasley is entering the last year of his contract, but then the offense is relying on Switzer, who didn't receive a lot of offensive snaps last year in his rookie season. It's a gamble.
I personally believe it would be a mistake to move on from Beasley right now. He is the most "Dak friendly" WR currently on the Cowboys roster. But, he has a few things working against him though. The Cowboys can create more cap space without him and his heir apparent might already be on the roster.
There is no denying it, the Allen Hurns signing was a huge one for the Dallas Cowboys. His addition gives the Cowboys more leverage in any negotiations they may have with Dez Bryant, something they didn't have before hand. He's also an upgrade at the WR2 position.
The Dallas Cowboys pursuit of Sammy Watkins in the first week of free agency luckily failed, and it ultimately led to the signing of Hurns. Strangely enough, Hurns has nearly the same kind of production as Watkins throughout their careers in the NFL. Hurns however cost a fraction of what the Cowboys would have had to pay for Watkins.
I think this was a really good addition for the Dallas Cowboys offense. If nothing else, he is a WR2 upgrade, but could end up being the WR1 if the Cowboys move on from Dez Bryant.
I'm not ashamed to admit it, but I've been a fan of T Will, despite what the majority of the Cowboys fan base believes. I think he is underrated for what he does for the offense, but it definitely doesn't go unnoticed by the coaching staff. That is why they re-signed him last offseason.
Unfortunately, I think it's time to move on. As much as I like Williams, I didn't think re-signing him last year was the right move for the Cowboys. I think his skill set would be better suited in a different offensive scheme, but that's neither here nor there now.
I don't think the Cowboys will outright release Williams. It would just create too much dead money this season. A trade on the other hand is a possibility, although a small one. It would reduce his cap hit a little bit. I'd personally explore T Will's market value and try to work out a trade.
Ryan Switzer should be much more involved in the offensive game plan in 2018. It should have probably happened last season, but the Cowboys thought it best to simplify things for him as a rookie and make him return specialist.
Switzer's roster spot is secure. There is no way he is going anywhere and he could take the biggest jump up the depth chart. He has already shown how dangerous he can be when the ball is in his hands, now he just has to do it as a receiver rather than a returner.
I think he could adequately replace Cole Beasley as the Cowboys slot receiver. He doesn't have the advanced route running skills as Beasley, but he is bigger and more explosive. There may be a little bit of a drop off in production, but I don't think it would be all that much.
I personally have Noah Brown ahead of Deonte Thompson on the depth chart right now. I really like how he contributed to the offense last year as a rookie and wish he would have received more opportunities in the passing game.
Brown fits the Cowboys prototypical parameters they look for in their outside WRs and can do the dirty work Terrance Williams is so highly regarded for doing. He is still a work in progress, but someone that shows a lot of promise. I don't think it's time to give up on him just yet.
Not only can Brown provide depth at the WR position, but he has the skill set to play a little tight end as well. He may look like a WR, but he blocks like a tight end. That could come in handy next season, especially for a team who has a run first mentality.
Deonte Thompson has to prove himself before he is able to secure a roster spot. He does provide the speed element that is lacking from the Cowboys offense after Brice Butler departed via free agency, but he's still an unknown.
I believe he is an upgrade over Butler however. He is a better route runner and looks more comfortable catching the ball. It will be interesting to see what kind of role the Cowboys have in mind for him, but he's not exactly a lock to make the team yet.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys have a plan for their wide receivers?
DAL 22, ATL 19: Elliott, Maher Carry Cowboys to Season-Saving Win
A last-minute field goal by Brett Maher lifted the Dallas Cowboys to a 22-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. On the strength of 201 yards of total offense out of Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas improved to 5-5 and arguably saved their 2018 season.
Elliott had 122 yards rushing and 79 receiving today, plus scored one touchdown, to make up well over half of the team's offensive production. Dak Prescott was also solid, throwing for over 200 yards and committing no turnovers.
Dallas and Atlanta traded field goals in the first half, and the Falcons took a 6-3 lead into the locker room. But the Cowboys answered with a tying field goal on their first second-half possession, then scored a touchdown on their next drive.
Maher was 3/3 on his field goals today, which included a 50-yarder. A missed extra point created concern, but the Cowboys kicker delivered in the biggest moments.
Once again, Dallas' defense was impressive and played a major part in the win. The Falcons never got into the endzone until their last possession.
- Leighton Vander Esch had another interception, securing a tipped ball that lucked its way into his grasp. He also made some big tackles and continued last week's exceptional play.
- DeMarcus Lawrence was credited with 1.5 sacks, getting him back among the league leaders with 8.0 on the year.
- Elliott was Dallas' leading receiving today. Next up was Cole Beasley with five catches for 51 yards, and Cole's day could've been better if not for a dropped touchdown pass.
- Jeff Heath nearly had his second interception of the year, but Falcons WR Julio Jones made an impressive play to hit Heath and break up the catch.
- Tyron Smith left the game on the final drive with an injury, but Cam Fleming came in and the team didn't suffer for it. We'll have to see what the short Thanksgiving week means for Smith's status against the Redskins.
- Speaking of Washington, the NFC East leaders fell to 6-4 today at home against the Houston Texans. Even worse for them, QB Alex Smith suffered a nasty ankle injury is almost assuredly out for weeks to come. Colt McCoy will be their starting QB on Thursday against Dallas.
- If Dallas wins next week, they will pull even with Washington in overall record, division record, and split the head-to-head series. With the Eagles facing a tough road game today in New Orleans, and with Alex Smith going down for Washington, the NFC East may have just become the Cowboys' to control.
Cowboys Wishlist: Snap Julio Jones’ Hot Streak
The Dallas Cowboys will try to get their second road win of the season against another inconsistent Atlanta Falcons team. As both try to get back to .500, this game will be filled with interesting matchups and implications. After upsetting the Philadelphia Eagles 27-20 last Sunday, the Cowboys need to get another upset win to keep being relevant in the league this year.
Here's this week's edition of Cowboys Wishlist! I hope you enjoy and I encourage you to let me know what your wishes are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Stop Julio Jones' 100-Yard Game Streak
With the Atlanta Falcons sitting at 4-5, many have overlooked Wide Receiver Julio Jones' hot streak. In each of his last four games, Jones has accounted for more than 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Totaling 476 yards in his last four games, Jones is ready to face Cowboys' Cornerback Byron Jones.
Byron has certainly been a pleasant surprise in 2018, playing at a great level right now. He has faced Odell Beckham and DeAndre Hopkins this year and made a good job of defending these "Tier 1" pass-catchers. It's worth noting the Cowboys are not making him "travel" with these players but rather keep him on a specific side of the field. That shouldn't change against the Falcons.
Wish #2: Contain WR Calvin Ridley
Back in April, Cowboys Nation eyed Calvin Ridley as a prospect who could end up wearing the Star on Sundays. However, Dallas passed on him and the Alabama product fell right unto the Falcons' lap. He's had a pretty good season and despite sharing the field with Julio Jones, he's done a great job as a rookie averaging 14 yards per reception.
The Cowboys need to contain him. While Dallas should feel comfortable with Byron doing his job, the truth is Chidobe Awuzie has struggled at times. Not that he's suddenly a bad player, but he needs to step up his game. Lining up against Ridley today will be a great test and one I wouldn't expect him to pass easily.
Wish #3: Score 28+ Points
The Cowboys have the huge advantage of going against a defense that ranks 29th in scoring defense. They did a nice job on Philadelphia last week and should continue to build on that success to do something they haven't done much this year: score a lot of points.
Scott Linehan's unit needs to do a better, more consistent, job. They've shown us they're capable of scoring, but they've also shown us their remarkable ability to seemingly forget how to do so. Blame it on play-calling, QB play, poor offensive line or whatever you prefer, it's a flawed unit.
They need to capitalize versus a poor defense like the Falcons' to find a steady rhythm.
Wish #4: Dak Makes This Falcons' Game a Turning Point
Last year, when Dak Prescott was sacked six times in Atlanta (five times by Adrian Clayborn) something changed for the Cowboys' young quarterback. Missing RB Ezekiel Elliott and LT Tyron Smith that day, Prescott had one of the worse days in his career. It was a turning point for him as a QB and the public eye.
Now he has a chance at redemption. A shot at putting the Cowboys at .500 and reviving playoff hopes, as unlikely as it sounds.
I wish that's the case for the Cowboys young passer in Atlanta. As flawed as he is, I'm a fan of his. The kid leaves it all on the field.
Final Thoughts on Cowboys Matchup with the Atlanta Falcons
This week, like every week for the rest of the 2018 NFL season, is a must-win game for the Dallas Cowboys. Getting ready to face an Atlanta Falcons team that took the heart and soul of the Cowboys offense in last year's matchup, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys have a lot to prove as they attempt to get back to the .500 mark for the fourth time this season.
It feels like the Philadelphia game was forever ago. Now that it's finally game day, here are some final thoughts on the Cowboys matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.
Amari Cooper Breaks Century Mark
Amari Cooper has proven his worth in his first two games since coming over to the Dallas Cowboys from the Oakland Raiders. He's had 11 catches in the first two weeks and has made an instant rapport with Quarterback Dak Prescott. I believe they take another step forward this week and Amari Cooper goes for 100 yards in just his third game with America's Team.
Cooper had 75 yards against the Eagles and 58 against the Titans. He's trending toward the 100 yard mark. If Prescott and Cooper could have connected on just one of the deep shots they missed on, Cooper goes for 100 last week. This week, Dak and Coop get another weak defense.
The Atlanta Falcons pass defense is one of the worst in the NFL. They have the sixth highest net yards per attempt number in the NFL and the sixth most yards allowed. They've also allowed the fourth most passing touchdowns; 21.
Since the Atlanta Falcons can score and move the ball with their passing attack, the Cowboys will have to throw to win this game.
Can Xavier Su'a Filo Continue to be an X-Factor
The Cowboys offensive line had their best game of the season on the ground on Sunday as they gashed the Philadelphia Eagles -- who were second in rushing heading into the game -- for 171 rushing yards. They did it by going right at the Eagles defense and were most successful when they used Su'a-Filo to get to the next level of the defense.
There's been a lot of talk about whether Su'a-Filo should continue to start when Connor Williams comes back and for me, it depends. Williams has had some problems with the strength that defensive tackles bring on the inside, but he's been getting better too.
If Su'a-Filo and the Cowboys offensive line plays well during this stretch that Williams is healing, then it would be a shock to see the rookie second round pick reinserted into the starting lineup.
Check out this week's film review on Xavier Su'a-Filo.
Dominant Defensive Duo
Jaylon Smith and DeMarcus Lawrence has been exceptional this season. Jaylon Smith looks to be healthy and progressing to be what the NFL thought he would be coming out of college. A transcendant middle linebacker.
DeMarcus Lawrence sack numbers may not be as high as they were this time last season, but he continues to show that he's a dominant player on both pass and rushing downs.
Cowboys playmaking EPA, now with snap counts! The most efficient playmakers have been Jaylon Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence, Sean Lee, Daniel Ross and Jourdan Lewis. "Playmaking EPA" = total EPA on failed plays forced through sacks, QB hits, turnovers, passes deflected, tackles, etc.
As you can see from our friend Daniel Houston, who manages Cowboys Stats and Graphics on Twitter points out, Smith and Lee have been the best playmakers on the team on a per snap basis. By just about every measure out there, those two have been worthy of Pro Bowl and perhaps All-Pro selections.
Playing for his Life
Chidobe Awuzie has been struggling this season. And that's stating it kindly to the second-year corner back. He's had decent positioning for much of the year, typically being right where he's supposed to be, but he's not making any plays of the football, which is something he was known for coming out of college.
There's something not quite right with his game this season as he's become the focal point for opposing passing attacks and for good reason. He can't stop anyone.
Well, this is the week to turn all of that around. The Dallas Cowboys need him to have a big week this week.
As humans, we know that when our interior isn't right, it doesn't matter what else we have going on on the outside, we don't function as well. The same is true for defense. If your interior isn't right, your defense isn't right. The Dallas Cowboys defensive interior is struggling with some health issues.
On the final injury report of the week, Defensive Tackles David Irving and Daniel Ross have already been ruled out, Antwaun Woods is doubtful, and Maliek Collins is questionable. If for some reason Maliek Collins isn't able to go, then it's probable that the team will go into the game without a functional one-technique defensive tackle. Even with Collins in the lineup, being down Woods and Ross means the Cowboys have to run Collins at 1T and Tyrone Crawford is your primary 3T defensive tackle.
With Crawford having to play inside this week it means a three-man rotation at defensive end of DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, and Dorance Armstrong. They should be alright on the outside, but Crawford is one of their best run defending defensive ends. He's good on the inside, but you want to save him for your passing situations.
This is one of those games that I'm having a difficult time getting a read on. The Cowboys haven't been good on the road this season until last week at Philadelphia, one of the more difficult places to play in the NFL. In that game, they finally got their offense clicking through the air and on the ground.
This week looks like an opportunity for the Cowboys to continue to prove themselves offensively against an average to below average opponent.
On the defensive side of the ball, they're going to have their hands full with an Atlanta Falcons offense that is averaging more than 30 points a game at home and has one of the best receivers in the NFL in Julio Jones.
I think this is going to be a close game where both teams get into 20's in point scored and it comes down to who plays better offensively at the end.
My heart leans Cowboys, but my gut leans Falcons. So it should be a 20-20 tie. Really though, I'm going with the...
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