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Which Cowboys Veterans are at Risk of Losing Their Starting Job?

Brian Martin

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Which Cowboys Veterans are at Risk of Losing Their Starting Job?

The Dallas Cowboys roster looks pretty set from the outside looking in, which means there's not very many starting positions up for grabs heading into the 2018 season. This of course should be good news, but that doesn't necessarily mean everyone's job is secure.

Every season we see veterans end up getting replaced by younger/cheaper players. It's just the nature of the business and something the Dallas Cowboys, and their players, are well aware of. Even though the majority of the roster can be written in ink, there are still a few names probably written in pencil.

With that in mind, I decided to share with you a few of the Dallas Cowboys veterans who could lose their starting job in 2018. Continue reading below to see which veteran players I believe should be looking over their shoulder the remainder of the offseason.

Defensive End, Tyrone Crawford

Tyrone Crawford

Dallas Cowboys DE Tyrone Crawford (Photo by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys)

Don't look now, but the Dallas Cowboys suddenly have quite a bit of depth all along the defensive line and it could end up being a difference maker in 2018. Unfortunately, that also means some veteran players could lose their starting gig to some of these young up and coming prospects.

DeMarcus Lawrence isn't in jeopardy of losing his starting job, but the other Boise State Bronco, Tyrone Crawford, should probably be looking over his shoulder. He has never quite lived up to his contract, but he has been a valuable piece along the defensive line these past several years playing both defensive tackle and the defensive end.

Crawford was asked to drop weight, so it looks as if he will be playing DE this season. Unfortunately for him, there are some young guns anxiously awaiting for their shot as a starter. Taco Charlton, Charles Tapper, rookie Dorance Armstrong, and possibly Randy Gregory (if reinstated) could prove to be a better option opposite Lawrence. By the way, this is a good problem to have.

Linebacker, Damien Wilson

Damien Wilson

Dallas Cowboys LB Damien Wilson

As things stand right now, it certainly looks as if Damien Wilson is on the outside looking in among the Dallas Cowboys linebackers. Sean Lee will without a doubt continue to be the starter on the weak side (WILL), but it's almost 100% guaranteed we will see new LBs playing in the middle (MLB) and the strong side (SAM).

The Cowboys drafted Leighton Vander Esch in the first-round for a reason. Despite only really having one full season as a starter at Boise State, he is an ascending player who is expected to become the starting MLB as a rookie. That means Jaylon Smith is probably going to push Wilson out of his starting spot at SAM.

Of course, Smith may be used in a variety of different roles this season, even as a situational pass rusher. But, that still likely pushes Wilson down the depth chart. There could of course be some kind of rotation like we've seen Rod Marinelli do with the defensive line, but that's yet to be seen.

Safety, Jeff Heath

Jeff Heath

Dallas Cowboys S Jeff Heath

Out of all of the positions on the Dallas Cowboys roster, the safety position is without a doubt the thinnest. This is especially true now that Byron Jones is finally moving back to his more natural position, cornerback. So, it's a little difficult to imagine much changing in 2018.

Without any new faces coming in at the safety position, except undrafted free agents, we can probably expect Jeff Heath to once again start the season. But, there could be a wrench thrown into the machinery because of the hiring of Kris Richard, the Cowboys new defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator.

Richard is a new set of eyes who might decide he wants something entirely different in his safeties. It's very possible Jeff Heath gets demoted and we see someone like Kavon Frazier take over the Cam Chancellor role and Xavier Woods play the Earl Thomas role. This will be one of the more interesting position battles to watch the remainder of the offseason.

Tight End, Geoff Swaim

Geoff Swaim

Dallas Cowboys TE Geoff Swaim

I know Geoff Swaim wasn't technically a starter last year, but he is the only tight end currently on the Dallas Cowboys roster who has any kind of significant playing time. With Jason Witten and James Hanna out of the picture, he's expected by many to step up and become the next starter.

Swaim may be sitting atop the TE depth chart right now, but I highly doubt his name is written ink. He only has nine receptions for 94 receiving yards in his three-year career with the Cowboys, which by no means justifies him a starting gig.

I think the Dallas Cowboys fourth-round draft pick out of Stanford, Dalton Schultz, has a good chance of outplaying Swaim and becoming the only TE to start for the Cowboys other than Jason Witten. He definitely has some big shoes to fill, but he will probably be given every chance to prove he's up to the task.

Which Dallas Cowboys veterans do you think might lose their starting job in 2018?


Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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8 Comments
  • Hammer33

    The author has been trying to get Heath to the bench for two seasons. It’s entirely possible that Richard LIKES Heath beyond what the press sees. In all honesty, the writer is purely speculating based on his own bias.

    • Brian Martin

      I’m actually a fan of Jeff Heath for your information. I do however think he could be in jeopardy of losing his starting job as I stated in the article. So, don’t try putting words in my mouth. Try reading more carefully next time because there was not one bad thing said about Heath.

      • Hammer33

        I’ve read your comments. Often. I wouldn’t put you in the Jeff Heath fan club. If woods can handle the FS spot he will be paired with Heath. Frazier struggles in coverage. If he can’t it will be Heath and Frazier.

        It’s a fact that the staff likes Heath a lot. Marinelli is a big Heath fan. Richard is the dB coach and passing game coordinator. He’s not the DC yet.

        It’s easy to speculate Heath will lose his starting spot. The reality is he just gets more playing time.

        I don’t have to put words in your mouth. They’re in black and white.

        • Brian Martin

          I don’t see Woods being paired with Heath. They are both free safeties, which is why Byron Jones played SS last season. And, I may not be the biggest Jeff Heath fan, but I do support him as a starter until an upgrade comes along. Also, we are going to see a lot of Richard’s influence on the defense this season. It’s already started.

          • Hammer33

            You may not see it. But the two starters as of right now are Heath and woods. According to the feedback I get.

            Byron was moved up because he struggles with route concepts in zone. They wanted him at FS and Heath at SS. It didn’t happen because Heath struggled at SS. Though in reality he did have issues at the beginning of the year.

            Also, Heath’s coaches grades came out pretty high. I think you along with all press need to understand how Heath is viewed in the organization. You assume he’s on the edge of the depth chart. That’s not the case.

            But I guess we’ll wait for the season to determine who’s right.

          • Hammer33

            And if you’re wondering where this comes from. I scout for his agent along with others. I do get some information I believe to be accurate since it’s based on current and future contracts.

            It’s not purely speculation.

  • winstar

    Agree with the first two depending on what we have with LVE, Covington and Lanning. Definitely Crawford…..send his ass back to Canada or Boise State. What has he ever showed to get the money he gets. Heath will stay even if it is only for ST. I think Heath has a little of Bill Bates in him. Swaim will have to compete but I think he is safe. Only TE on the roster with a catch……I think.

  • Will

    Agree on Craw. He should be cut already. Heath stays, Swaim could easily go, but Wilson is a decent ST guy, so he sticks I think

Star Blog

Should Cowboys Pursue Recently Released LB Mychal Kendricks?

Brian Martin

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Should Cowboys Pursue Recently Released LB Mychal Kendricks?

After failing to find a trade partner for Linebacker Mychal Kendricks, the Philadelphia Eagles decided to release the six-year veteran instead. Should the Dallas Cowboys come calling?

Twitter

Eagles releasing veteran LB Mychal Kendricks, per source. Kendricks spent six years with Eagles; he's not expected to be unemployed long.

As Adam Schefter states, Mychal Kendricks isn't expected to be unemployed very long. It's very rare that someone as talented and consistent as Kendricks hits the open market this late in the offseason, but someone is going to scoop him up pretty quickly.

The Dallas Cowboys could definitely use someone of Kendricks pedigree to add to their mix of linebackers in 2018. There are a lot of questions surrounding the position and Kendricks' addition would without a doubt fortify the position moving forward.

Mychal Kendricks

Free Agent LB Mychal Kendricks

Right now, there is only one linebacker whose role is 100% set in stone, Sean Lee. He will once again start on the weak side (WILL), but we all know it probably won't be for an entire season. His struggles to remain healthy are a concern, especially now Anthony Hitchens has moved on.

There are also questions surrounding where Jaylon Smith and the Cowboys rookie first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch will play. Many believe Smith will move to the strong side (SAM) and Vander Esch will start in the middle (MIKE). But, there are still concerns about Smith's health and if Vander Esch is ready to start right away.

That is where Mychal Kendricks would definitely help. I believe he can play all three LB positions in the Cowboys 4-3 defensive scheme. And, his starting experience would allow the coaching staff to take the cautious approach with Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch.

I believe the Dallas Cowboys should absolutely be interested in a player of Kendricks caliber, but in the end it's going to come down to money, as it always does. Unfortunately, Kendricks' asking price is probably going to be too steep for the Cowboys.

Dallas has been more frugal with the way they spend their money these past few years. This likely means Cowboys fans shouldn't get their hopes up that Mychal Kendricks will be wearing silver and blue anytime soon. But, it doesn't hurt to pick up the phone to see what it would take to make him a Dallas Cowboy.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys pursue LB Mychal Kendricks?


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Star Blog

Dallas Cowboys Position Groups to Watch During OTAs

John Williams

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Less Is More For Sean Lee And Cowboys' LBs?

With the Dallas Cowboys set to begin their Off-season Training Activities (OTAs), there are still some questions to answer about a team trying to improve on a 9-7 record from 2017. There has been a lot of noise this offseason from The Star related to the Cowboys transaction wire, but during the draft is where you saw your favorite team make the most dramatic improvement.

As we get ready for OTAs, let's look at the most intriguing position groups to watch during the preseason for the Dallas Cowboys.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense?

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis, CB Chidobe Awuzie, S Xavier Woods (AP Photo / Ron Jenkins)

Defensive Backs

With the addition of Kris Richard and immediate move of Byron Jones to cornerback, this defensive backfield is the group of players I'm most excited to see this season. Richard brings an energy that is contagious. If you watched the draft via DallasCowboys.com's The Draft Show, you got to see the excitement Kris Richard brings to the room.

Everyone from Rod Marinelli to Byron Jones has raved about Richard as a coach and person, but the thing that's exciting to me is the style that Richard is bringing from his days in Seattle.

Bringing an aggressive and in-your-face style to the coverage unit, Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, and Jourdan Lewis are going to be unleashed on NFL wide receivers. Those three bring some fight and edge to their game that will leave Cowboys Nation thoroughly satisfied. 

No longer will we be screaming at our televisions because the corners are playing 10 yards off the line of scrimmage on 3rd and 5. 

The players on the team have heard the message from Rod Marinelli about creating turnovers. Now they have a passing game coordinator asking them to be aggressive even before the football is snapped. Not allowing wide receivers much room will allow the corners to make more plays on the football. 

I believe this is the year we see the Dallas Cowboys take a step forward in the interception department. The DB group may not have the skins on the wall that the "Legion of Boom" does, but they have the potential to be that good. 

Linebackers

This group brings a lot of intrigue with Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch.

For two years we've been following along as Jaylon Smith has been recovering from the devastating knee injury he suffered in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl. After an up and down 2017, where he still required the use of a brace for foot drop, Jaylon has been working out this offseason without the brace. Word is he's continuing to progress in the health of his knee and the feeling in his foot. 

Watch: Jaylon Smith working out without his brace.

All good things for the most optimistic NFL player ever. 

Getting another year of Sean Lee should have Cowboys fans optimistic as well, though we're never sure what we're gonna get from the former All-Pro. The only thing that has ever held Sean Lee back is his ability to stay on the field. Hopefully this year The General gets a little bit of injury good luck on his side.

The Dallas Cowboys were 2-1 before losing back to back games in which the offense scored 30 points against the Los Angeles Rams and the Green Bay Packers. Had they split those two games, the team is probably 6-2 at the midway point. Even with a similar record in the second half, that puts them at 10-6 on the season and probably in the playoffs.

Sean Lee is a huge difference maker on this defense and they've potentially found some insurance if Lee isn't able to play 16 games in 2018 with their first round pick, Leighton Vander Esch. 

Vander Esch out of Boise State University, may not be the most physical player in this year's rookie class, but if you watch some of his work in college, the thing that's evident is the kid has a knack for coverage. 

You never know what a rookie is going to bring to the table until you see them with the pads on and in real games, but LVE certainly has the ability to be a difference maker. Coverage is as much about instincts and athletic ability as it is about technique and preparation, and Vander Esch has the instincts and athletic ability covered.

I'd bet that he and Jaylon rotate snaps at MLB with LVE being the second linebacker on passing downs next to Lee. We may see them line up in more 3-3-5 formations during passing situations. This is where they go with three defensive lineman, three linebackers, and five defensive backs. A formation like this allows them to mix up who the fourth rusher is and where they are coming from.

Lee, Smith, and Vander Esch all have proven rushing ability that could make for some fun packages deployed by defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

Now with better depth at each level of the defense, the personnel combinations are endless. However they deploy this trio is going to create problems for opposing defenses. 

Cowboys Land Small School WR In Latest PFF Mock Draft

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post)

Wide Receivers

Coke Beasley, Terrance Williams and Allen Hurns are the only wide receivers with skins on the wall on the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver depth chart. Aside from Hurns' 1,000-yard season in 2016 and Beasley's Cowboys-leading 2016, the skins are pretty thin. 

Now, considering Terrance Williams' recent run in with the law, his status with the team could be in jeopardy depending on what the NFL decides to do. They could suspend him under the personal conduct policy which would allow Dallas some cap relief if they were to release him.

If he isn't suspended, he'll be with the team as it will cost the Dallas Cowboys money to cut him. Inside The Star Staff Writer Jess Haynie took a detailed look at Terrance Williams' contract status with the team.

With Michael Gallup's selection at pick 81 in this year's draft, the Dallas Cowboys have begun overhauling their wide receiver group. Gallup has a chance to assert himself early and carve out a role as soon as week one, especially if Williams is suspended and/or released. 

They don't have Jason Witten or Dez Bryant to lean on -- it's arguable if they could lean on them last year -- and will be deploying players who have a knack for getting open.  

Seeing how the coaching staff deploys the wide receivers during OTAs will give us a hint at what the week one starting lineup looks like.

This doesn't even begin to touch on the addition of Sanjay Lal, whose philosophy is for guys to get open if they want the ball. Imagine every wide receiver on the roster being able to get open with Cole Beasley's type of efficiency...

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

There are still some questions to be answered, like tight end, the defensive tackle deployment, or -- for pure entertainment purposes -- the offensive line with second-round pick Connor Williams inserted in the lineup. There are several intriguing position groups to watch during the preseason, but these are the positions I'm most interested in following during OTAs and training camp.

What will you be watching for?


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Star Blog

5 Cowboys Players Who Have The Most To Gain In 2018

Brian Martin

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Mr. Steal Your Job; Dak Prescott Replaces Cam Newton With Dannon Yogurt

The Dallas Cowboys have a few players that have something to gain personally by having a good 2018 season. A little added incentive to go out and play at their best game after game if you will.

You would think that an NFL player, or any other professional athlete, would want to go out and play at their best every game all season, but a little added incentive seems to improve a players game just a little bit. Usually it's a contract year that lights a fire under players, but there are other reasons as well.

Today, I want to share with you five of the Dallas Cowboys players who I think have the most to gain in 2018. Surprisingly enough, all five of these players could possibly benefit financially if they step up their game this season, but all of them definitely have something to prove.

Defensive End, DeMarcus Lawrence

DeMarcus Lawrence

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

Heading into the 2017 season the Dallas Cowboys were in search of a true "War Daddy". The phrase got tossed around so much that many of us grew tired of hearing it. Luckily, it's not a phrase we will be hearing much anymore and that is thanks to DeMarcus Lawrence.

Lawrence was pretty much an afterthought heading into 2017, so much so that quite a few of us were wondering if he would even make the final 53-man roster. Fortunately, he not only made the roster, but he completely dominated last season and ended up being one of the best defensive ends in the entire league.

Heading into 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence has a lot to gain by being able to put together back to back dominating seasons. He will be playing under the franchise tag this year, so his future after the season is still up in the air. If he is able to dominate once again, he has a chance to become one of the top paid defensive ends in the NFL.

Defensive Tackle, David Irving

David Irving, Redskins

Dallas Cowboys DL David Irving

Defensive tackle David Irving emerged as one of the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL in 2017, but surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys were able to retain him by just placing a second-round tender on him to secure his services this year. Many thought this was a mistake at the time thinking that someone would be willing to give up a second-round draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but the Cowboys gamble paid off.

Irving is basically on a one-year rental in 2018, which means he has a lot to gain by performing well this season. It's really difficult to find defensive lineman who are as scheme diverse as Irving. He can dominate from the interior in both a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive scheme due to his rare size and athleticism. Because of that, he will be looking to cash in at the end of the year.

Before David Irving can earn a big money contract, he is going have to prove he can be consistent both on and off the field. If he would've already proven these two things, the Dallas Cowboys likely would have already secured his services for years to come.

Quarterback, Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

No one might have more to gain in 2018 then quarterback Dak Prescott. He has a chance to become the next highest paid QB in the NFL, but he is going to have to prove himself first according to many Dallas Cowboys fans.

Cowboys fans are split three ways when it comes to Dak Prescott. Some fans believe he has already earned to the right to be the franchise QB, while others have already seen enough and determined he's not talented enough to be a franchise QB in the NFL. Then, there are those in the middle who are waiting to see how he performs in Year 3 before making up their minds.

It doesn't really matter where you stand on Dak Prescott right now. But, there is no denying he has a lot to gain by going out and performing well in 2018. It will not only determine his future with the Cowboys, but will also determine the overall success of the team this season.

Cornerback, Byron Jones

Byron Jones

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones (Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports)

Many Dallas Cowboys fans have already made their minds up about Byron Jones and labeled him as a first-round bust. I don't know if I would agree, but I understand the disappointment surrounding him considering the high praise he received coming out of the 2015 draft.

I personally believe the Cowboys coaching staff have done him a disfavor and played him out of position due to need his first few seasons in the league. Fortunately though, I think that all changes in 2018 now that he is moving back to his more natural position, cornerback.

The Cowboys may have picked up Jones' fifth-year option, securing his service through 2019, but he still has a lot to gain by performing well this season. If he plays well this year at CB, not only will he shed that" bust" label, but he could convince a Cowboys he's worth sticking around long-term.

Linebacker, Jaylon Smith

Jaylon Smith

Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

Believe it or not, but Jaylon Smith will be entering his third year in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys. It seems strange considering we've only seen him in pads for one season, but time has a way of flying by in the NFL.

Now entering his third season, Smith has an opportunity to go out and prove himself as one of the best linebackers in the league. Fortunately, he is no longer playing with a knee brace and he believes he is back to where he was both physically and mentally when he was at Notre Dame, maybe even better.

This is certainly good news for the Dallas Cowboys and their linebacker position. But, it's even better news for Smith himself. He has a lot to gain by performing well in 2018. If he has a good season, he could be in line for an early contract extension from the Cowboys, much like the previously mentioned Dak Prescott. If nothing else, it could be a really good boost for his confidence moving forward.

Which Dallas Cowboys players do you think have the most to gain in 2018?


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