If the Cowboys going to the well one too many times with players that have shown flashes on the defensive side of the ball is like an all-too-familiar horror script playing in your head, I'm here to discuss an offensive player that could share the same faith entering 2017. With Cowboys Nation rightfully expecting the Cowboys' offense to do big things this season, a concern remains at the RB2 spot - currently occupied by veteran Darren McFadden.
McFadden will turn 30 a week prior to Dallas' season opening showdown with the Giants (again with the movie scripts on loop here), and has had an interesting two seasons with the Cowboys on his initial contract in 2015 and 2016, re-signing this offseason for one more year.
The "featured back" for the Cowboys' 22nd ranked offense in 2015, McFadden silenced a lot of critics when he proved once and for all the Space Cowboys could elevate anyone's game at RB. With his first 1,000 rushing season since 2010 with the Raiders, McFadden helped the Cowboys transition from DeMarco Murray - yet still use that season's overall failure to recommit to the running game.
Drafting Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick was absolutely the right choice for the Cowboys. The 2016 NFL rushing champion made his impact felt from the second he strapped on the star.
The Cowboys' production out of the backfield didn't stop with just Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott though, as Darren McFadden came back from his elbow injury to appear in the team's final three regular season games. Garnering just 24 attempts, McFadden showed even more progress on his fresh start with America's Team, as it was injuries that held him down through his Raiders career - but not in limited action with the 2016 Cowboys.
When the Cowboys wanted to take Ezekiel Elliott off the field, something they likely did entirely too much last year, they had the reassurance for a few weeks that McFadden could still keep the offense ahead of schedule. Running to take what the defense and his elite blockers gave him, McFadden was the right veteran for the job...for two seasons.
Now entering year two with Elliott (yay!), and year three with McFadden, the Cowboys would be smart to prioritize finding Zeke's long-term backup to maximize their biggest strength sometime soon. The position was actually addressed in the very draft they selected Ezekiel Elliott in, with Darius Jackson being drafted in the sixth round only to be cut for McFadden to find the active roster, leaving the Cowboys pretty committed to DMC's services in 2017.
What happens if Darren McFadden has hit the end of the line?
With 1,303 career carries, Darren McFadden is 10th amongst active players, and older than two backs ahead of him in LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray. Interestingly enough, these two RBs are both outliers when it comes to how much their 2017 team will actually ask them to do - when compared to the rest of these names:
- Frank Gore (Age: 34)
- Adrian Peterson (Age: 32)
- Matt Forte (Age: 31)
- Chris Johnson (Age: 31)
- DeAngelo Williams (Age: 34)
- Jonathan Stewart (Age: 30)
- Jamaal Charles (Age: 30)
To potentially make matters worse, remember that none of these aging player's teams are as committed to the run as the Cowboys will be for a long time.
Getting Creative to "Replace" Darren McFadden
It is perfectly okay for the Cowboys that McFadden is not a long-term answer at RB. They realize this, and are only trying to get his production as a runner, blocker, and receiver to match the leadership and veteran presence he brings to Dallas for likely one more season.
I already mentioned that Ezekiel Elliott should own even more time on the field for the silver and blue this season, meaning that even a fancy new toy at RB2 would collect some dust.
Where the Cowboys do have a new toy is at slot WR with fourth round pick Ryan Switzer, who is already ready for a significant role in this offense. Sauce master Cole Beasley is going nowhere fast when it comes to manning the majority of the slot duties for Scott Linehan's offense, meaning Switzer's role will likely include plays where he lines up in the backfield (a HS running back) or takes jet sweeps.
Keeping an eye on UDFA RB Jahad Thomas out of Temple would also be wise, as his ceiling projects as a less-explosive but more durable and physical Lance Dunbar.
Thomas toted the rock 563 times in his Owls' career for 2,599 yards - starting his final two seasons after converting to RB from DB as a sophomore.
The Cowboys will be good at running the football in 2017, this is a fact. If they want to sustain their dominance on the ground through a season that hopefully includes 19 games, they'll need a RB that's not always hungry to give them some production - and Darren McFadden may not be that guy anymore.
2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back
To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.
As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.
Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.
These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.
Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.
Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.
Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.
Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.
How The Tables Have Turned for 2019 Dallas Cowboys
The 2018 season was a two-part tale for the Dallas Cowboys. The first is the story of a mediocre 3-5 team that couldn't get it going offensively. The second part is about a football team that turned its season around, made the playoffs, got a win in the postseason and ultimately lost to the team that ended up representing the NFC in Super Bowl LIII, the Los Angeles Rams.
Surely, 2018 didn't go as planned. The storylines leading to last season are actually very different from the ones we're hearing today. Let's take a look at a few examples of how the tables have turned for the Dallas Cowboys.
The need for a true WR1
Last season, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys preached the philosophy of not needing a #1 wide receiver. While that could've sound encouraging at the time, once the season began the team was proven wrong. They did need a WR1. Fortunately, this season we won't have to worry about it. This year, Dez Bryant shouldn't be a discussion topic among Cowboys' fans.
Amari Cooper is in the house. And he's been pretty good since he started playing with a Star on his helmet. If we have conversations about the WR position, they will not be about who's the #1 guy. With Michael Gallup showing up late in the season, it probably won't be about who is #2 either.
Back on top of the NFC East
Last year, the Dallas Cowboys were not really the favorites to win the NFC East. The Philadelphia Eagles had just made history by winning their first Super Bowl ever and it seemed like the Cowboys would have to get a wildcard spot to play in January. Now it's the Cowboys back on top after sweeping the Eagles and turning their once 3-5 season around.
That of course, means a tougher schedule next season. However, it's nice to be back on top of the division. These two teams will surely have an intense race for the division title next season. Maybe we even see them both in the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Sean Lee's uncertain future
I'm pretty sure no one expected Sean Lee to be considered a potential cap casualty for the 2019 season. Even if he was, it would've probably been anticipating an injury or something like that. No one would've imagined that Leighton Vander Esch would be so good to take Sean Lee's job.
The Cowboys' first round rookie truly earned the starting role as the defense's weak linebacker and he should keep it. With Sean Lee set to return to the field, I'm sure we didn't expect him to be a backup by now. We'll have to wait and see if the Cowboys decide to part ways with him. As a fan, it would certainly be painful. But we can't deny it would be a move that makes sense.
It's a crazy franchise on a crazy league. Who knows how things will go from now on, but the Dallas Cowboys certainly look like a promising team heading into the 2019 offseason. Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue to update you with the latest on your favorite NFL team.
Cowboys en Español: Volviendo a la Idea de Earl Thomas
El año pasado, Earl Thomas fue uno de los temas de conversación más frecuentes para los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys. Después de que los Seattle Seahawks no le dieran su deseada extensión de contrato, Thomas se convirtió en un candidato a ser intercambiado de su equipo. Entre los favoritos estaban los Cowboys, quienes tenían una necesidad en su defensiva secundaria. Ahora que la temporada 2018 llegó a su fin, la misma necesidad por un safety de calidad está presente en Dallas.
Sólo que en esta ocasión, Earl Thomas no está bajo contrato con ningún equipo. Su último momento con el uniforme de los Seahawks fue en un carro de lesiones, donde salía lesionado en dirección a su vestidor. Esto mientras se despedía de su equipo con el dedo de en medio extendido hacia sus entrenadores y compañeros. Así concluyó su temporada y su carrera en Seattle.
Ahora, listo para cumplir los 30 años en mayo, Earl Thomas probará la agencia libre cuando comience en marzo. Y sin lugar a dudas, uno de los equipos candidatos a firmarlo serán los Dallas Cowboys. Es un equipo que a pesar de tener una de las mejores defensivas la temporada pasada, se vería muy beneficiada con la llegada de un profundo del calibre de Thomas.
A pesar de su edad y las lesiones, Thomas continúa siendo uno de los mejores en la liga. Su talento es innegable y tendrá toda la disposición de demostrar lo que vale cuando tome el campo la próxima temporada. Cuando llegue el momento, podríamos ver una guerra de ofertas entre varios equipos de la NFL para llevarse al veterano a sus respectivas ciudades.
La pregunta es: ¿estarán los Dallas Cowboys en esa guerra de ofertas?
Los Cowboys tienen espacio en el tope salarial. Sin embargo, este no durará mucho considerando que DeMarcus Lawrence está esperando su merecida y cara extensión después de jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia en 2018. Además, jugadores que aún están bajo contrato también estarán buscando ofertas este offseason.
Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, y Byron Jones están en la lista de quehaceres de la administración. Eso sin mencionar a Cole Beasley, cuyo contrato ya expiró y podría llegar a la agencia libre en marzo.
A pesar de esta complicada situación, los Dallas Cowboys deberían buscar conseguir a Thomas. Siendo sinceros, la defensiva tiene mucho talento y podría mantener su nivel en 2019. Pero hace falta un jugador en la posición de safety para llevar a esta unidad a otro nivel. Un nivel realmente capaz de ganar en postemporada enfrentándose a cualquier tipo de ofensiva. Sin importar que tan explosiva sea. Y además de esto, un jugador que sea capaz de robar el balón y hacer jugadas de impacto constantemente.
Cuando los Cowboys se enfrentaron a Seahawks en temporada regular, Thomas dio un buen ejemplo de esto interceptando en dos ocasiones a la ofensiva de Dak Prescott.
A pasos de un equipo de campeonato, un movimiento agresivo para obtener a Earl Thomas sería algo genial para Dallas. Vimos como los Rams de Los Angeles fueron agresivos al construir su equipo y llegaron hasta el Super Bowl este febrero. Quizá es tiempo de que Jerry Jones y compañía sean igual de agresivos y vayan por ese safety elite que la afición lleva pidiendo desde el offseason del año pasado.
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