One of the big mysteries on the Dallas Cowboys roster right now is offensive lineman Chaz Green. Is he a guard? Is he a tackle? Does he have any shot at being a significant player this season?
A third-round pick in last year's draft, Green was essentially "redshirted" in 2015 with a known hip issue that required surgery. He had that done after the draft and missed all of training camp and preseason. Green was on the Physically Unable to Perform list for as long as is allowed, then was kept inactive the rest of the season.
During those late-season practices, reports had Green getting some work at guard due to struggling at tackle. However, coming into this year, those same sources have Green back to primarily playing at offensive tackle. It makes sense given the Cowboys' situation there compared to the interior line.
Dallas is set for this year and probably most of the next decade at most of their starting offensive line positions. Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin aren't expected to be leaving anytime soon. What's more, Dallas has two veteran interior line reserves in Ronald Leary and newly-signed Joe Looney.
It's right tackle, and the swing tackle role behind it, that give Chaz Green the best opportunity to have a role now and in the future. According to Cowboys insider Bryan Broaddus, however, there won't be any competition for the starting job this season:
"Chaz Green will not beat Doug Free out for his job at right tackle – it just will not happen. Where Green needs to focus is trying to beat Charles Brown out for that job as the swing tackle."
This shouldn't be a surprise or even a disappointment. Green is essentially still a rookie with all of the missed time last year. For whatever flaws he has, Free has experience and chemistry on his side. Free's also a very strong run blocker and that increases his value with Dallas' focus on the rushing attack.
So what about that backup job? After trying several different guys during the 2015 camp and preseason, Dallas eventually signed veteran Charles Brown before Week One. He never had to play much, thankfully, but the Cowboys must have seen enough in practice to want to re-sign him this past March. Brown is playing for the veteran minimum of $760k this season with no guaranteed money.
The Cowboys would love for Green to supplant Brown as the swing tackle this year. Ideally they would only keep three backup linemen; one tackle to go with Leary and Looney as the interior reserves. It frees up a valuable roster spot for some other position.
If Green can't handle the job then Dallas will have a tough decision to make. You'd hate to give up on a third-round pick this soon, especially one who didn't have much of a rookie season. Dallas would have to still think enough of Green's potential to want to carry him all season, likely never putting him on the active gameday roster.
Of course, they could cut Green and try to put him on the practice squad. They may not be worried about him getting poached a year removed from his draft class. Also, frankly, they may not care too much if his value has fallen to the point of being released.
For a few years the third round of the NFL Draft was becoming a good friend to the Dallas Cowboys. From 2011-2013 it yielded DeMarco Murray, Tyrone Crawford, and Terrance Williams. After not having a pick in 2014, Dallas took Green last year and just selected defensive tackle Maliek Collins in this past April's draft.
Both Green and Collins have had tough starts. Collins broke his foot a few weeks ago and could miss all of training camp and most of the preseason. However, third-round picks don't often hit the ground running. Murray and Crawford, and even Jason Hatcher a few years earlier, had slow beginnings before eventually becoming big names. Even if these early years aren't noteworthy for Green, it doesn't mean he won't have a career.
However, there's also plenty of room for Green to be a failed pick. Between Hatcher and the Murray-Crawford-Williams drafts, Dallas drafted offensive linemen James Marten and Robert Brewster in the third round. Both were out of the league within a few years.
So, the mystery around Green is still just that and may linger for another season or two. He's become easily forgotten because of La'el Collins being picked up as a free agent in that same draft class. However, with right tackle still the weak spot of the offensive line and the closest to needing a fresh face, Green is still very relevant to the Cowboys current and future goals.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott
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.
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