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Will Any Cowboys Compete for 2018 Awards & Pro Bowl Spots?

Jess Haynie

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Dallas Cowboys: Ranking Top 5 Most Indispensable Players 4
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

At this midseason point in the 2018 season, you might be wondering how some of your Dallas Cowboys are faring in the races for NFL awards and Pro Bowl spots. I thought we'd take a moment today to assess their positioning now and what some could do the rest of the way to improve it.

Before we get to the contenders, though, let's just take a moment to eliminate some from the discussion. While there may still be half a season to go, some of these awards are clearly out of reach for our team.

For example, the awards for MVP and Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year aren't going to any Cowboys in 2018. Even Ezekiel Elliott is trailing behind Todd Gurley at his own position, and those offensive awards usually go to quarterbacks anyway.

On defense, we have a lot of solid performers but nobody who's really standing out. DeMarcus Lawrence hasn't had the same high volume sacks of this year, and he was probably our only shot at the DPOY award.

Two years after being the Coach of the Year, Jason Garrett is hardly in the running now. Some thought he might win the "First Coach Fired" award a few weeks ago, but the Browns settled that one earlier this week.

And unlike last season, when Jaylon Smith had a great case to be the Comeback Player of the Year, no Dallas players really have that story in 2018.

But enough with the negative.

Leighton Vander Esch

Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch

Defensive Rookie of the Year: LB Leighton Vander Esch

He isn't the front-runner right now; that would be Colts rookie LB Darius Leonard. But Leighton is in the hunt for this award with his strong player so far in 2018.

Leonard had been more of a playmaker, adding four sacks and three forced fumbles to his high total of 88 tackles. He's one of the best linebackers in the NFL right now, rookie or otherwise.

If Darius were to get injured or have some other drop in production, though, Leighton isn't too far behind. He has 54 tackles currently and has been praised more than once for his presence in the middle of the field. He's been able to fill in the shoes of Sean Lee surprisingly well.

But Lee is coming back now, and that may be a deterrent to LVE's chances at the award. Less time on the field means less chances to make plays.

What's more, Darius Leonard is far from the only competition. Safeties Derwin James (Chargers) and Jessie Bates (Bengals), cornerback Denzel Ward (Browns), and LB Tremaine Edmunds (Bills) are also putting up strong numbers in starting roles.

So no, Leighton isn't probably getting this award. But at least he's in the conversation, which is more than most Cowboys can say this year.

Ezekiel Elliott, Pro Bowl

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

Pro Bowlers: Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin
DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Brett Maher

Last year, only five Cowboys made it to the Pro Bowl. This season could be even less based on the current numbers.

Some guys have little to fear. Ezekiel Elliott should return this season, missing last year's Pro Bowl only thanks to Roger Goodell's shenanigans. Even though he's almost 200 yards behind Todd Gurley in rushing, Zeke is still the second-highest in the NFC and the league as a whole.

Zack Martin and Tyron Smith will probably get their annual invites. Cowboys offensive linemen have always had an edge in Pro Bowl voting thanks to the size of the fanbase. But if the team really tanks the rest of the way, that could change.

Even though he's not as hot as last year, DeMarcus Lawrence is still in the mix for the Pro Bowl. His 5.5 sacks this season is sixth-best among NFC players right now. There are generally six spots for defensive linemen on the team.

Even though he's been great this year, Byron Jones will need some interceptions to get the votes among other cornerbacks. His reputation isn't strong to make it without the stats, but if he gets some picks soon then he could be in the conversation.

Lastly, Brett Maher isn't unreasonable to make it as the NFC kicker. Along with the strength of the Cowboys fans voting for him, his 16-of-18 is a strong number thus far. Only Mason Crosby (Packers) and Aldrick Rosas (Giants) have made more field goals in the conference.

~ ~ ~

It shouldn't be a surprise that a team with a 3-4 record isn't looking too good right now for end-of-year accolades. And of course, we care way more about the wins and losses than any of these awards.

But as fans of the team, we always like to see our players' names in lights. Hopefully, more Cowboys step up the rest of this season both for their own recognition and the good of the team.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys Head Toward NFL Draft with No Glaring Needs

John Williams

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Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten Retiring, Joining MNF Broadcast Booth

When the offseason began after the Dallas Cowboys fell to the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round of the playoffs, it was clear that they were a team on the rise, but had several areas they needed to address as free agency and the draft approached.

The team had holes or depth issues at safety, defensive tackle, swing tackle, wide receiver, defensive end, and tight end. Through the first two weeks of free agency, the Dallas Cowboys have taken care of each of those areas.

With the signings of George Iloka, Christian Covington, Cameron Fleming, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Kerry Hyder, and Jason Witten, The Dallas Cowboys have set themselves up to approach the draft with “clear eyes and a full heart.”

As they head into April with the NFL Draft looming, the Cowboys won’t be held back by positional need and can allow their draft board to do the work for them and just add good players. It’s an excellent position to be in as they don’t have to reach for a player at a position of need they may not like as much because they have a veteran presence filling that need.

Backup running back appears to be the only position where the Cowboys could use some depth, but that player for this team is more of a special teams player who gets limited snaps on offense because of the greatness of Ezekiel Elliott. It’s generally a position where there is a lot of talent deep in the draft and undrafted free agent pool, which allows the Cowboys to be patient filling that need behind the NFL’s leading rusher.

Mother than that, if the Dallas Cowboys has to go play a football game and win today, they’d be in great shape to do so.

On the flip side, however, the Cowboys can still add players at defensive tackle, wide receiver, tight end, safety, and defensive end because they aren’t restricted by big contracts to those veteran players. Each of them came to the Cowboys on one-year deals. The veterans that they signed would prohibit them from drafting at that same position, and that’s the point.

The Cowboys have created a formula that works really well for them. Sometimes it get frustrating watching the team not make any big splashes in free agency, especially that first week when other teams are bringing in big-name players to add to their rosters. That formula has led them to a 48-32 record over the last five seasons with three NFC East titles, and two playoff wins, and three divisional round appearances.

And the playoff runs could have been deeper with a bit of luck and correct officiating.

The Dallas Cowboys have set themselves up really well as they now set their sights on the NFL Draft at the end of April. Though they won’t have a first round pick to add to their talent pool, the Cowboys have shown that they can find talent in the second round and beyond. This year will be no different.

Now it’s time to sit back and trust the process.



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Have Had Quiet, Yet Successful, Free Agency

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones

Yet another free agency without a big splash by the Dallas Cowboys. What a surprise. Despite entertaining Earl Thomas rumors for a long, long time, the Cowboys' front office has stuck with its philosophy of not overpaying free agents and building the team mainly through the NFL Draft. However, they've actually had some pretty good signings over the last few days that will really benefit the Cowboys when the season comes around.

They've done so with inexpensive free agents who will contribute at a high level on their respective positions. Sure, top free agent signings are fun. But many times, they end up backfiring to teams for spending so much money in one single player. At the end of the day, the Cowboys' way has gotten the team three NFC East Championships since 2014. Many factors come into play, but their team building philosophy can't be as bad as many claim it to be.

George Iloka

The most recent acquisition came in form of former Cincinnati Bengal and Minnesota Viking Safety George Iloka. The Cowboys had a desperate need at the defensive backfield and finally they've done something about it. On a heavy safety market, the Cowboys sat tight while watching the top free agents get top contracts around the league, including Landon Collins' record breaking deal with the Washington Redskins.

Now, they've gotten a guy who can play both safety positions. I'll be surprised if he doesn't take Jeff Heath's job. He's played as a free safety most of his career but being a good tackler, he should do a good job in the box. Iloka will also shine on special teams in Dallas.

So far, my favorite signing may be that of former Green Bay Packer, Randall Cobb. The Cowboys had an important need at the wide receiver position despite counting with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup leading the room. Cole Beasley is a tough guy to replace and although Cobb may not be a better slot receiver than him, he certainly has the experience and the skill set to be a starting slot WR.  What's more, he'll only cost the Cowboys five million while Beasley got a four year deal with which he'll earn $17M over the first two years.

Cowboys en Español: La Afortunada Llegada de Randall Cobb

Cole Beasley will be missed, but the good thing is the front office did a pretty good job at filling the concerning hole on offense. Cooper, Gallup and Cobb are definitely not a bad starting trio to have.

Other under the radar moves will also help the Cowboys. Kerry Hyder may not be a well-known in the NFL but he'll surely contribute to this defensive line as a rotational player. Hyder had eight sacks in 2016 with the Detroit Lions before suffering an Achilles injury in 2017 and dealing with a scheme change last season. Hyder will surely be happy about being back to a 4-3 defense in Dallas.

Christian Covington was another overlooked signing. Covington will help on the interior of the defensive line and although he'll likely not be a starter, he'll be an important piece in the rotation for a very reasonable contract ( also a one-year deal).

For a football team that's constantly criticized for not being active in free agency, the Cowboys have done something at pretty much every position where they need help. Safety, defensive end, defensive tackle, wide receiver and tight end have all been addressed this offseason prior to the NFL Draft. This will give them great flexibility in April and could lead to a pretty good "best player available" strategy.

Now granted, there are still concerns regarding the young "to be extended" group of players. DeMarcus Lawrence hasn't reached an agreement with the Cowboys and will continue to postpone surgery until he does. If the front office doesn't strike a contract with the star pass rusher, it won't be possible to consider this offseason a good one no matter what happens. Dallas can't let him leave.

In the meantime though, they've had a pretty quiet yet successful March. And they're not done yet. Robert Quinn could end up wearing the Star if a trade with the Miami Dolphins does end up taking place. We'll see if the Cowboys continue to build on an already pretty good free agency.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Have Had Quiet, Yet Successful, Free Agency" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign Free Agent Safety George Iloka

Jess Haynie

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George Iloka

The Dallas Cowboys have reached a one-year agreement with Safety George Iloka, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Iloka spent 2018 with the Vikings after six years with the Bengals.

He's started 79 of his 99 career games since being a fifth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012. Iloka turns 29 years old next week.

Todd Archer on Twitter

The Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with safety George Iloka, according to a source. Iloka met with the Cowboys on Friday and was the third safety to meet with the club during the week along with Clayton Geathers and Eric Berry. The Cowboys have... https://t.co/JB5nJLWepc

This isn't the safety that most Cowboys fans wanted. After over a year of pining for Earl Thomas, sights turned to Eric Berry after his free agent visit in Dallas last week.

However, it makes sense that Iloka would be attractive to the Cowboys. At 6'4" and 225 lbs, he fits the physical mold of what Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard likes in his players. He also is younger than Berry and Thomas without the same recent injury issues.

Iloka becomes one of many Boise St. products on Dallas' roster, joining Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, and others. He entered the league with college teammates Crawford and Kellen Moore, the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator, in 2012.

We'll have to wait and see how George Iloka fits into the current mix at safety with Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. He spent most of 2018 as a backup with Minnesota, but Dallas will likely give him a chance to start.



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