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How Will Lewis Neal Fit Dallas Cowboys Defensive Line?

Sean Martin

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#DALvsIND: 5 Cowboys Storylines To Watch In Preseason Week 2

The Dallas Cowboys added depth to the strong interior of their defense this week, calling up preseason standout Lewis Neal and signing Joe Vellano to the practice squad. These moves were made to replace 1T DT Brian Price, who's season came to an end with his knee injury suffered against the Chiefs.

Maliek Collins and David Irving have stood out as starters at DT for the Cowboys thus far, and I profiled Collins' ability to transition to the 1T position vacated by Price in this Sean's Scout. When studying Dallas' win over Kansas City, the drop off in ability on Rod Marinelli's defensive line when Irving or Collins were spelled by Richard Ash was very visible.

This is likely just part of the reason why the Cowboys, who rank 12th in rushing yards allowed per game, added Lewis Neal as a unique athletic player that can translate his talents to both the 3T and 1T positions with equal impact.

Lewis Neal Vs Raiders - Streamable

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Neal's ability to explode into his blockers with controlled power and balance stood out all preseason, as he sacks Connor Cook by overpowering the right guard to eventually disengage and finish the play.

Across the board, the Cowboys have capable run defenders starting up front, with Tyrone Crawford excelling in this role as a right defensive end. Neal has a real chance to fit this rotation as early as this week against the Falcons.

Lewis Neal Vs Rams - Streamable

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Stuffing a run against the Rams in the preseason here, Neal again shows off his rare combination of power and speed to win inside against the guard and make the play.

Lewis Neal had a case to make the Cowboys roster out of training camp, turning heads as an undrafted rookie out of LSU. Neal was able to outperform two draft picks at his position, as the Cowboys moved on from seventh round selections Joey Ivie and Jordan Carrell.

Jori Epstein on Twitter

Cowboys activated rookie DT Lewis Neal from practice squad this week. NeaI's proof he's strong: He broke @LSUfootball's school record power-cleaning 391 pounds in July 2016 (Video via @ImBallinNeal18) https://t.co/t5KTyh3fN7

Now, injury has created opportunity for Lewis Neal, who will be a factor whenever given the chance to line up in Rod Marinelli's front.

Maliek Collins and David Irving will rarely come off the field at both positions that Neal has previously played, but when they do the rookie can instantly be a high-motor upgrade over Richard Ash - primarily on passing downs.

Preparing to play their next six games without Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys know that their defense will have to be at full strength to continue winning games and contending for the NFC East. A suddenly productive defensive line that is helping the Cowboys win the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball will help, and Lewis Neal expects to be part of this unit now.

Tyrone Crawford Vs Redskins - Streamable

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Getting combination plays like the one above from Collins and Crawford via the depth on their defensive line down to Taco Charlton, Benson Mayowa, and Lewis Neal will go a long way these coming weeks.

Tell us what you think about "How Will Lewis Neal Fit Dallas Cowboys Defensive Line?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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1 Comment
  • georgemachock

    Did the NFL fine the KC lineman that took out Prices knee? The lineman came all the way over from the end area to leg whip Prices knee while Price was engaged up top be another KC lineman. Total penalty and obvious purposeful move to damage another’s knee.

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Cowboys G Marcus Martin Needs Surgery; Impact on 53-Man Roster

Jess Haynie

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Marcus Martin
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Martin, the veteran guard Dallas signed as a free agent last March, suffered a potential season-ending injury in the team's preseason opener last Thursday night. Just how long he'll be out is still be determined, but it still should impact the Cowboys' final 53-man roster this season.

Martin tore ligaments in his right big toe against the 49ers. However, as of yesterday, it was not decided if he would pursue surgery.

Brandon George on Twitter

The Cowboys don't expect backup OG Marcus Martin to play this season after he tore ligaments in his big toe in the preseason opener, but he's seeking a 2nd opinion before deciding whether to have surgery. Martin signed a 1-year deal with Dallas as a free agent this offseason.

A former third-round pick in 2014, the 24-year-old was brought in as a potential reserve at both guard at center. He was still in competition with Joe Looney and others for a roster spot, though, and his minimal one-year contract suggested nothing was guaranteed.

Even if Martin doesn't have surgery, he is almost sure to miss the start of the season. Dallas would likely place him on injured reserve, but still have the option to recall him after Week 8.

Marcus' absence all but guarantees that Looney will return in 2018. This will be his third year in the system and his ability to play center is critical.

In my 53-man roster projection last week, I had both Looney and Martin making the team. So if I had that right, that means a spot has opened up for probably fifth-year veteran Kadeem Edwards, who was playing with the second unit in the preseason opener.

The notorious Chaz Green, who has played guard at times, could also be the beneficiary of the open roster spot.

Damien Mama, an undrafted free agent in 2017 who Dallas added this offseason, is the only other guard currently on the roster. We should get to see more of him as the preseason continues.

Marcus Martin's availability, or lack thereof, and how it ultimately impacts the roster will be determined in the coming weeks.



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LB Jaylon Smith 100% Healthy Entering 2018 Season

Brian Martin

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#DALvsIND: 5 Cowboys Storylines To Watch In Preseason Week 2 1

If you need any more reason to be excited about the Dallas Cowboys upcoming 2018 season, then look no further than their 2016 second-round draft pick, Jaylon Smith. His comeback story from the devastating knee injury he sustained in his last collegiate game at Notre Dame has been well-documented, but recent news suggests his journey has finally come full circle.

Once considered a top-five pick, Smith saw his draft stock plummet due to concerns he may never be able to step foot on the field ever again. Fortunately, the Dallas Cowboys were willing to gamble he would be able to make a full recovery and once again become the player he was with the Fighting Irish.

The long and grueling rehab process couldn't have been easy to endure. Jaylon Smith was forced to pretty much redshirt his rookie season and played on a pitch count Year 2 while he continued to rehab, waiting for nerve regeneration that may never fully heal.

Luckily for him, he joined a team with a really good support system both on and off the field. A support system that just so happened to include his brother, Running Back Rod Smith. It's that support system that could have made a huge difference in his approach to rehab. An approach that may have finally paid off.

Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith

Dallas Cowboys LBs Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith

All reports indicate Jaylon Smith is 100% healthy once again, or as close to it as possible. Rod Smith, his brother, said Jaylon is back to being as good as he was at Notre Dame. Jaylon however said he is even better than he was. But, they are not the only ones weighing in on Smith's health.

Scouting Director Will McClay went on 103.3 FM ESPN Radio Monday morning and declared LB Jaylon 100 percent healthy from the injury he suffered in college that kept him out his rookie season in 2016 and had him on a pitch count in 2017.

Will McClay isn't the only one that has noticed a difference in Jaylon Smith. Head Coach Jason Garrett has said Smith has grown leaps and bounds from last year and are treating him like a player with no limitations.

"Again, he worked hard in his rehab. Coming into this off-season he was able to take that brace off. I think that's freed him up a little bit," Garrett said.

"And he just looks much more natural. So again, you'll have to ask him that very question, but from our point of view, he looks like he's moving around really well, changing direction really well, making a lot of plays. I think he's gaining more confidence with each day. We really don't have a plan for him right now. He's full-go and ready to practice every day with no limitation."

All of these accounts certainly make it sound like Jaylon Smith's arrow is trending upwards and that he is as healthy as he has been since joining the Dallas Cowboys.

Luckily, we don't have long to see him in action. I don't know about you, but Thursday night when the Cowboys take on the San Francisco 49ers in the Week 1 of the NFL Preseason can't get here soon enough.

Are you excited to see a 100% healthy Jaylon Smith this season?



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Anthony Brown’s Resurgence A Great Sign for Cowboys Defense

Sean Martin

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Anthony Brown's Resurgence A Great Sign for Cowboys Defense
(Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

The Dallas Cowboys currently have two players competing for one spot on their defense. They are third-year Cornerback Anthony Brown and second-year Cornerback Jourdan Lewis, both looking to earn the starting position in the slot.

What makes this a tough, looming decision for the Cowboys is the development of both players. Brown and Lewis have both appeared to play well beyond their years at times. For Lewis, this was last year's rookie campaign, and for Brown you have to go back to his first season in 2016.

The progression of Brown and Lewis is a reflection of why the Cowboys should be so excited about the addition of Kris Richard. Great coaches need equally talented players to truly be successful, as the Cowboys building a top secondary has been in the works for years.

To discredit Brown's role in this turnover because of Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones' presence on the outside would be unfair to not only him, but a Cowboys coaching staff criticized for not knowing how to utlize their players best. Once Brown was moved to the slot last year, he was able to regain the form that made him a sixth round steal back in 2016.

David Helman on Twitter

Two-straight days with a pick for Anthony Brown. Just cut in front of a comeback route to intercept Cooper Rush #cowboyswire

Brown is coming into his own out in Oxnard. From "the player keeping Jourdan Lewis off the field" to the cornerback Richard and the Cowboys want out there, both young players are hungry to prove themselves further.

It may very well be Lewis' physical limitations that are keeping him from getting the same opportunity that Brown has earned. The ball skills and awareness that Brown displayed in his first year were rare to Dallas at the time, but not anymore thanks in large part to Lewis.

Even with a culture built on competition firmly in place before adding Richard, the Cowboys new passing game coordinator has found a way to bring his trademark passion and intensity to coaching this defense. A player that's always needed confidence instilled in him, Brown is thriving under Richard while Lewis should be expected to not trail too far behind.

Wearing his third-round draft status as a chip on his shoulder (I'm choosing to forget that Brown has a literal tattoo of a chip on his shoulder), Lewis was an exuberantly confident player a year ago. As far as anyone can tell, this hasn't changed at training camp.

Having too much depth at cornerback is rare in today's NFL. Only when considering long shots like Donovan Olumba, Kam Kelly, and Charvarius Ward does this become the case for the Cowboys. I expect both Brown and Lewis to make this team's roster and contribute in 2018.

In their short time with the team, both defenders have dealt with injuries that make depth in the slot more important. It's also possible that Brown and Lewis will be on the field at the same time together in Dime packages.

Kate Hairopoulos on Twitter

Animated Kris Richard coaching up Anthony Brown. https://t.co/B8mRhDahB8

Still pretty early into training camp, Brown's resurgence is a great problem for the Cowboys to have. It could be the key to getting the absolute most out of this secondary, given Brown's experience paired with the young talent around him.

Such talent was absent during Brown's best season yet, meaning the best may be still to come for the Purdue product that's been tough to beat all summer on the practice fields. If this holds up in game action, like the Cowboys will see Thursday at the 49ers, the Cowboys defense is going to live up to their hype and then some.

Tell us what you think about "Anthony Brown’s Resurgence A Great Sign for Cowboys Defense" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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