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Who Will Replace DT Stephen Paea?

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Who Will Fill Stephen Paea's Role At Defensive Tackle? 3

In the last few days a lot of news has been swarming around the Dallas Cowboys. Whether it's Jerry Jones' comments on the anthem, Nolan Carroll getting cut, or Ezekiel Elliott's ruling coming from the court, there has been plenty to talk about with the Cowboys. One thing I didn't mention, from yesterday, is the announced retirement of Defensive Tackle Stephen Paea.

Adam Schefter on Twitter

Cowboys' DT Stephen Paea told Dallas coaches today that he is retiring, per source.

Paea was one of the Cowboys' biggest free agent signings from a need point of view. After Terrell McClain signed with the division rival, Washington Redskins early in free agency, the Cowboys were left with no answer at the one-technique position.

Stephen Paea was supposed to be that guy. Unfortunately for him and the team things didn't work out.

In four games with the Cowboys, Paea had four starts under his belt. In those starts he racked up four total tackles. Paea obviously wasn't as productive as the Cowboys had hoped for and that was primarily due to a knee injury that eventually led to his retirement.

With Stephen Paea's retirement the Cowboys have a big hole in their defensive line at the one-technique spot.

Internal DT options for the Cowboys:

  1. David Irving
  2. Lewis Neal (Practice Squad)
  3. Richard Ash (Practice Squad)

Who Will Fill Stephen Paea's Role At Defensive Tackle?

David Irving played a majority of his snaps at the one-technique position last Sunday versus the Green Bay Packers.

While he did have a productive game disrupting the pass, the Packers gunning game seemingly had its way with the Dallas Cowboys front seven.

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Who Will Fill Stephen Paea's Role At Defensive Tackle? 1

Lewis Neal is currently on the Cowboys' practice squad and had one of the better training camps and preseason of anyone along the team's defensive line.

Neal is really a three-technique, and an undersized one at that (6-foot-0, 298lbs).

The rookie from LSU is primarily known for his ability to rush the QB and get into the backfield on a consistent basis. What he needs to do at one-tech is eat up double teams and keep offensive linemen from getting to the second level. That's something we haven't seen him do much.

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Who Will Fill Stephen Paea's Role At Defensive Tackle? 2

Richard Ash may be the least flashy player, but could potentially be the best man for the job. Ash, at 6-foot-3, 320lbs is a monstrous body in the middle of the defensive line. He does an excellent job of eating double teams and holding his ground at the point of attack.

Ash isn't a flashy player and likely will never see the stat sheet, but he will allow others to have success.

Now when we look at what this defensive line has done so far in the 2017 season, it's clear that they've exceeded most people's expectations when rushing the passer. Through five weeks, the Cowboys are currently sixth in the league in sacks and have the NFL's sack leader in DeMarcus Lawrence.

What they haven't done very well the last few weeks is stop the run, and that's where Stephen Paea will be missed most.

When you look at our three options to take over, Richard Ash makes the most sense. But Lewis Neal will probably help you out in other aspects of the game. It's a tough decision and it's really a 50/50 chance on which decision the team will make, but if it we're me I'd go with Lewis Neal.

The Cowboys have Brian Price to be a space eater, which is exactly what Richard Ash is. They also have David Irving and Maliek Collins who can play one-technique when asked. I think Lewis Neal would upgrade this defensive line in both the run game and the passing game.

Lewis Neal is much more explosive than Brian Price and will probably spend more time in the backfield. Using both Price and Neal at the one-technique will give the Cowboys a fresh set of legs and a different skill set for different parts of the game.

Who do you think is the best fit to fill Stephen Paea's role?



Born in 1995, loved Football but more importantly the Dallas Cowboys since day one. Living in Redskins Country flying the Blue and Silver flag as high as possible. Covering the Dallas Cowboys for InsideTheStar.com and CowboysNation.com. Catch me on twitter @ConnorNFLDraft!

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3 Comments
  • Jonathan Young

    Lewis Neil and Marquez White both needs to be brought up from the practice squad. Trade T.Will, J. Heath & A. Morris to who ever will take them for draft picks.

  • Michael Bragunier

    I would like to see the Cowboys switch Jarron Jones back to DT. He was very good and is a big tall player. I bet he would do good under Marinelli. If not bring back Cedric Thornton.

  • Michael Bragunier

    The Cowboys are only going to go as far as the young defense take them.

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Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?

Sean Martin

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Despite Late Push in Year One, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See the Field in 2018? 1
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.

These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.

Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.

Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton, DT Maliek Collins (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.

This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.

Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.

The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.

It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.

Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.

As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.

For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.

Tell us what you think about "Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys OT La’el Collins Could Become Major Bargain

Jess Haynie

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La'el Collins

When you talk Cowboys offensive line, you always think of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin first. Right Tackle La'el Collins still has to prove he belongs in the same sentence with his elite teammates. If he does that in 2018, Collins could become one of the best bargains on the roster.

Making the move from left guard to right tackle last year, Collins improved with time and was playing his best football at the end of the year. This was despite ongoing back issues that had him on the injury report most weeks.

La'el started all 16 games at right tackle and did enough that the Cowboys committed to keeping him there in 2018, even despite a big hole back at left guard. They are hoping consistency and stability will allow Collins to really blossom this season, building on the strong progress shown last year.

For 2018, Collins has a $5.76 million cap hit. According to Spotrac, that makes him the 13th-most expensive right tackle in the NFL this year.

That middle-of-the-pack expense is consistent with where La'el currently rates among NFL right tackles. Bleacher Report ranked Collins as the 16th-best RT in football last year.

But that ranking was based on the season as a whole. If La'el plays all of 2018 the way he was playing towards the end of last year, he will have emerged as one of the better right tackles in the game.

La'el Collins' Position Flex Could Come in Handy for Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys OT La'el Collins

If Collins develops as we hope, that salary suddenly becomes a major bargain. The most expensive right tackles in the NFL are making $7-$9 million this season.

But this can go a couple of ways. With his 2019 cap hit rising to $7.9 million, La'el needs to next step forward.

If Collins were to struggle this year, it could make him a potential cap casualty next offseason. Dallas can save $6.5 million in cap space if Collins is released or traded in 2019.

Dallas could elect to give Connor Williams, their second-round pick this year, a look at right tackle next season. It's the position he played in college.

They could also consider veteran backup Cameron Fleming, who will still be just 26-year-old. Fleming has two Super Bowl rings and several starts, including in the postseason, from his time with the Patriots.

While we think of La'el Collins as a first-round talent, it's important to remember that he was ultimately an undrafted free agent. Dallas did not have to invest anything to acquire him, and ultimately that makes it easier to let him go.

Naturally, we prefer the other side of this coin. If Collins builds on 2017, he will join the upper echelon of right tackles in the league. And if the Cowboys' offensive line isn't already the best in the NFL, that would only cement them as the best unit in football.

If La'el makes the leap, it could mean huge things for the Cowboys' offense and team success this year.



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Dallas Cowboys

How Cowboys Could Benefit From Randy Gregory’s Suspension

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Randy Gregory Withdraws Suspension Appeal, Cannot Return Until Week 15

Randy Gregory is back! His suspension is officially over and he will be able to join the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California when training camp gets underway less than a week from now.

Speculation has already started as to what this could mean for the Dallas Cowboys defense this season, and shockingly expectations are rather high for a player who hasn't stepped foot on the field in over a year. But, that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to focus on Gregory's mess of a contract, because it is rather interesting.

Randy Gregory was signed to a four-year contract after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gregory's rookie deal was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season, but his multiple suspensions have now changed that expiration date.

You see, Gregory has only played in a total of 14 games in his career, 12 as a rookie and two in Year 2. His third year in the NFL was completely wiped out due to his year-long suspension. If you were to add that all up, it equates to just one accured season in the NFL. Remember that, because it could have a huge impact on his contract down the road.

Randy Gregory

Dallas Cowboys DE Randy Gregory

What all of this means is that the Cowboys can pretty much stretch out Gregory's contract now that they are three years in on the deal and have only gotten one accured season out of the agreement. That basically means they can push his contract back a year, meaning his 2017 salary ($731,813) gets pushed back to 2018, his 2018 salary ($955,217) gets pushed to 2019. That would essentially make him a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in 2020.

Or does it?

Depending on how the Dallas Cowboys handled paying Randy Gregory during his suspension could actually make him an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (EFA). This is a similar situation in which David Irving found himself in after the 2017 season. The Cowboys placed a second-round tender on him in order to secure his services for another season, albeit at a $2.91 million price tag.

As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys pretty much hold all the cards when it comes to Randy Gregory's contract situation. It's all a little confusing, but that's what makes it such a unique and interesting situation.

Of course, the Cowboys could decide to extend Gregory early if he completely dominates upon his return this season. It's highly doubtful though considering his past suspensions, but still technically a possibility. If it does happen, you can go ahead and ignore everything I've written previously.



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