Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.
In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.
During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...
...of his offensive lineman.
During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.
As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.
It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.
With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.
What Could the Dallas Cowboys Get for Taco Charlton in a Trade?
Per a report from Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan and 247Sports.com, it seems that the Dallas Cowboys are fielding calls from teams inquiring about Defensive End Taco Charlton. Sources state that teams will be calling the Cowboys during the 2019 NFL Draft about the Cowboys former first round pick.
Source: Teams plan to call #Cowboys on Taco Charlton trade ideas during 'interesting weekend' (vip) https://t.co/lon93QmzIh
It's an interesting turn of events for the former first round pick. Charlton, taken with the Cowboys first pick at the end of the first round hasn't really lived up to first round billing. For a variety of reasons, he hasn't been able to find a consistent role on the field.
With Randy Gregory being suspended indefinitely, there was some thought that Taco would get a chance to earn a role with the starting defensive line, but after the Cowboys traded for former All-Pro Robert Quinn, his path to playing time looks narrow.
With the NFL Draft starting tonight, rumors are swirling on all sorts of players, but it's hard to know which ones are accurate as teams will put out misinformation all over the place. But there's no reason to believe that the Cowboys aren't shopping Taco Charlton.
The question is, what could the Cowboys get in return for Taco Charlton?
Trading Taco Charlton at this point in his Cowboys career would be admitting they made a mistake selecting him in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. That doesn't even begin to touch on the discussion of whether they should have taken Pittsburgh Steelers Outside Linebacker T.J. Watt over Charlton to begin with.
The Watt vs Charlton debate doesn't even matter at that point. If you're trading your former first round draft pick, you're telling the world, and your fans that you made a mistake. That being said, once you are willing to admit your mistake, it's best to move on.
In looking at potential compensation for Taco Charlton, it's important to look back and find players with similar careers who were traded. Thanks to Pro Football Reference, I went all the way back to 2010 to look at every defensive end traded and attempted to find players who have had similar production to Taco through his first two seasons.
In Taco Charlton's first two year's he's registered four sacks and 46 total tackles. He's played in 27 games for the Dallas Cowboys. The following players were traded in the middle of their rookie contracts, and to that point had similar career production to Taco Charlton. They varied in their original draft position. Henry Anderson was a former third round pick of the Indianapolis Colts. Kamalei Correa was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the second round. Jihad Ward was also drafted in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. Lawrence Jackson was a first round draft pick back in 2008 by the Seattle Seahawks and was traded before the 2010 season. Cassius Marsh was traded by the Seattle Seahawks prior to the 2017 season to the New England Patriots after originally being selected in the fourth round.
|Aug 28, 2018||Baltimore Ravens||Kamalei Correa||3||Tennessee Titans||2019 6th round pick (191st overall)|
|Apr 28, 2018||Indianapolis Colts||Henry Anderson||4||New York Jets||2018 7th round pick (235th overall, Zaire Franklin)||2|
|Apr 28, 2018||Oakland Raiders||Jihad Ward||1||Dallas Cowboys||Ryan Switzer||2|
|Sep 2, 2017||Seattle Seahawks||Cassius Marsh||6||New England Patriots||2018 5th round pick (168th overall, Jamarco Jones)|
|Aug 18, 2010||Seattle Seahawks||Lawrence Jackson||5||Detroit Lions||2011 6th round pick (173rd overall, Byron Maxwell)||24|
Four of the five trades of players with similar careers to Taco Charlton included draft compensation. Three of the five trades made were for future draft picks. The trades for Correa, Marsh, and Jackson look to be moves by the original team attempting to get something for a player that they planned on cutting after training camp. Henry Anderson and Jihad Ward were traded for during the NFL Draft.
This gives us a range of pick compensation for Taco Charlton anywhere from the 168th overall pick to the 235th pick in the seventh round. That's a big disparity in value. According to the Trade Value Chart, that's anywhere from 23.8 points to one point in value for Taco. Based on previous trades of similar players, it's possible that the best they could get for their defensive end is a pick at the end of the fifth round.
Trading Taco Charlton isn't as simple as just trading for him. The Cowboys would have to get offers for the player that would make more sense than having the player. If they are able to get someone to give them a fifth round choice or if they're able to use Taco with one of their own draft picks to move up in the draft to get a player they covet, it makes sense to pull the trigger.
If the Cowboys could get an extra fifth, they could use it on a player like Rodney Anderson out of Oklahoma, Kingsley Keke from Texas A&M, or Jalen Hurd from Baylor and have a fresh start with a new player on a rookie contract.
In any trade rumor, it takes two teams to make a deal and if Mike Fisher's source is accurate, then the Cowboys may have several dance partners this weekend.
To me it doesn't make sense to trade him for anything less than a fifth round draft choice. Sure, he hasn't been what the Dallas Cowboys had hoped for when they took him at the end of the first round, but he's still a player that looked to be trending up at the end of his rookie season. In the NFL where rosters turn over quickly, it's best to get something for a player who hasn't lived up to expectations and not ride it out in hopes that they turn it around.
As they say, "hope is not a strategy."
Cowboys to Use 5th-Year Option on Ezekiel Elliott’s Contract
To nobody's surprise, the Dallas Cowboys intend to exercise the fifth-year option on star Running Back Ezekiel Elliott's contract. This will keep Zeke signed with the Cowboys through the 2020 season.
The deadline for teams to use the options years on the draft class of 2016 is Thursday, May 2nd, just a few days following the 2019 NFL Draft.
Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on the team eventually exercising the fifth-year option on Ezekiel Elliott's contract: "Obviously we're gonna do it.
It's appropriate that Stephen said "obviously," because there is no reason for the Cowboys not to utilize this provision. It's one of the perks of drafting a player in the first round; the option does not apply to any other rookie deals.
Right now, the 2020 option year projects to pay Elliott around $10 million. That is a bargain considering other franchise backs like Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell, and David Johnson are all now averaging $13-$14 million per season.
In fact, it may be more of a discount than Zeke is willing to give. He may very well holdout if the team doesn't give him a new contact closer to his market value.
For all we know, the Cowboys have every intention of doing just that. This move is little more than a formality; a placeholder that prevents Elliott from entering unrestricted free agency in 2020 and secures his rights while a new deal is negotiated.
Connor Williams Adding Size and Strength Huge for Cowboys OL
It's no secret that heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, the book on Connor Williams coming out of Texas was that he didn't have enough length to play tackle in the NFL and didn't have enough bulk to play guard. At least not at first.
It was an issue we saw play out early in the 2018 season as he struggled with some of the more powerful defensive tackles. He struggled so much that the team went to Xavier Su'a-Filo during his injury and for a couple games after he was healthy, thinking they had a better option. After having a bit of time to sit back and watch, Williams came back into the starting lineup with a better feel for that power and was much improved over the last half of the season, including the playoffs. He never relinquished his job again.
Though he played better, it was obvious what his number one offseason focus would be; adding size and strength. According to Dallas Cowboys Vice President Stephen Jones, he's done just that.
Speaking to 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday afternoon, Jones gave us some insight into how Williams is looking this offseason.
Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on offensive lineman Connor Williams, last year's second round pick: "My understanding is that he's taken some huge steps in terms of his strength and size. My understanding is that he's put on some really good weight.
Jones then added some lofty expectations on the second year guard from the University of Texas.
Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on @1053thefan: "I think Connor Williams is gonna be a mainstay in our offensive line for many years to come. ... I think we'll be talking about him just like we do several of the other players on our offensive line.
Connor Williams was already proving himself capable of standing up to powerful defensive lineman as late in the season and in the playoffs, but this is very encouraging to hear as we look to 2019.
Against the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams, Williams and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys interior offensive line had big challenges in front of them. Seattle's Jarran Reed and Los Angeles' Aaron Donald were two of the better defensive tackles in 2018. Donald, is considered by many, the best defensive player in the NFL because of his brute strength that is matched by his quickness.
Against both players, Williams performed well. Not perfect, but well enough to be encouraged about what Williams could bring in 2019. Per Pro Football Focus, he only allowed five total pressures during the playoffs, including one in the divisional round against the Rams. There's a reason that everyone is so high on Williams heading into his second year.
The front office included.
Stephen Jones praise is significant. The Dallas Cowboys feature three All-Pro offensive lineman. To say that "we'll be talking about him just like we do several of the other players on our offensive line" is very high praise. There aren't many teams in the NFL that boast as much talent along the offensive line as the Dallas Cowboys do in Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Travis Frederick. For Jones to think Williams cold be that level of player doesn't sound like generic front office speak.
With a full year under his belt, including two playoff starts, Williams should be confident heading into his second year. Adding strength and weight will help him anchor better against the strong interiors he'll face weekly in the NFL. Getting Center Travis Frederick back in the lineup will help him with the mental aspect of the game.
There's a lot to be excited about with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and the offensive line remains one of those things. How Connor Williams improves from year one to year two will be one of the major storylines throughout the offseason heading toward week one. The Cowboys offensive line remains a focal point for America's Team and all eyes will be on Williams as he looks to make the second year jump.
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