As the Dallas Cowboys start training camp this week, a lot of the position questions we've had over the last several months will be answered. When it comes to the Dallas Cowboys secondary, Xavier Woods and his ability to play down in the box and in the slot will be huge for the Cowboys this season.
If you've read much of Inside The Star, you've seen us talk a lot about Earl Thomas and what he could bring if added to the secondary. But adding the Seattle Seahawks All-Pro safety doesn't change the importance of Xavier Woods and his role in the secondary.
Xavier Woods in College
While at Louisiana Tech, Xavier Woods totaled 14 interceptions over his last three seasons, averaging a little more than one interception every three games. In those final three seasons, he also had 16 passes defended.
Going into his second year, Woods could best be described as a ball-hawking safety. He made plays on the ball whether lined up as the deep safety or playing man-to-man in the slot.
In Woods' rookie season, he had one interception and three passes defensed while starting four games and playing in all 16.
Xavier Woods in the NFL
Woods played a little more than 52% of the defensive snaps in 2017. Over the final eight weeks of the season he only played less than 50% of the snaps three times. In those games the Dallas Cowboys were 1-2. In the other five games of the season in which Woods' snap count never dropped below 76%, the team was 4-1.
In the two games in the first half of the season in which Woods played more than 50% of the defensive snaps, the Dallas Cowboys were 2-0. They were 3-2 in the games he played less than 50% of the snaps.
So on the season, when Xavier Woods played more than 50% of the snaps on defense, the Dallas Cowboys were 6-1.
Not sure if we can draw a conclusion from that, but it's an interesting trend to follow in 2018.
Adding Earl Thomas to the secondary shouldn't change your excitement for Xavier Woods, unless it gets you more excited about what Woods can bring to the table.
Think about it.
Woods has already shown a penchant for getting to the football and making plays on it in the air. Creating turnovers is as much about instinct and a natural ability to play the ball as it is about being in the right spot to make a play on the ball.
Woods has that natural ability.
Bringing in Earl Thomas enhances what you can do with Woods.
First, as I mentioned before, adding Thomas would allow you to drop Woods into the box to help with the run or to cover the tight end in what was Byron Jones' role.
Additionally, when the opposition comes onto the field in 11-personnel (3 WR and 1 RB), the Dallas Cowboys can stay in their base 4-3. Now you might be asking yourself, "why would they want to stay in their base 4-3 against a passing formation?" The answer is that teams will run out of 11 personnel on early downs or in obvious running downs. Woods' ability to cover from the slot allows you to stay in a defensive package that can help you defend the run better.
With the NFL playing 11-personnel more than 70% of the time, having the flexibility to stay in base packages is a huge advantage on early downs. Offenses win when they can dictate what personnel groupings you can play, and the Cowboys defense could have an advantage against the run if they can leave three linebackers on the field on first and second down.
We love the potential that Xavier Woods has to offer, and for good reason. So, we should be excited about the opportunity to put Earl Thomas next to Woods in the secondary. Xavier Woods and Earl Thomas in the back-end of an ascending secondary would make life miserable for opposing offenses trying to attack the middle of the field.
That sounds like a super recipe for success.
Maliek Collins Activated From PUP, Cowboys’ Front 7 Looking Great
There are tons of reasons to be excited about the Dallas Cowboys' defense with the regular season less than a month away. The most recent one is Defensive Tackle Maliek Collins is coming off the PUP list after passing his physical and is now activated and practicing.
After suffering another foot injury in May, Collins had to undergo surgery and his return to the roster before the season began was questionable. But things are looking good now as the Cowboys expect him to be ready for week 1 versus the Carolina Panthers.
On the same day he was taken off PUP, Maliek Collins is participating in pre-practice walkthrough. Not sure what that means for his practice regimen, but that's a positive sign #cowboyswire
Collins missed quite some time, so one has to wonder how fast he will be reincorporated to the defense and whether or not he'll get back his starting role or not. The defensive tackle room seems to be loaded with various talent that should be capable of at least giving #96 a tough competition before he can reclaim his spot as if he hadn't been missing any practices.
David Irving may not be a factor on the roster until he comes back from suspension prior to week 5's match-up against the Houston Texans, but there are other young players Collins should be expecting to fight for the starting role.
Antwaun Woods, Jihad Ward, Brian Price and Datone Jones will provide this team with an interesting debate going forward. But even if not one DT emerges as a clear-cut starter above the rest, the Cowboys have serious depth at the position.
To be honest, the entire front seven is very exciting. Not only do the Cowboys count with good DTs, but just take a look at the defensive end room. Led by 2017 second-team All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence, there is also a deep group of DEs.
Randy Gregory is coming back after a long comeback journey and should earn a lot more snaps as the season progressing. Taco Charlton has made a ton of progress and fourth-round rookie Dorance Armstrong isn't far behind. Not to mention captain Tyrone Crawford, who despite being criticized by many due to his huge contract, is a more than decent DE.
Now, let's talk about the linebackers for a moment here. Before the 2018 NFL Draft, this was seen as one of the weakest units on the team. Fast forward to mid-August and this should be one of the most exciting groups on the team.
Sean Lee will be playing alongside a Jaylon Smith that we've never seen before. Smith is doing things that he wouldn't been able to do a season ago. What he's shown in training camp and through one preseason game should have any Cowboys' fan eager to watch him play in a regular season game. The Jaylon Smith the front office envisioned when taking a risk on him in the 2016 NFL Draft has arrived.
Also in the mix is first round pick Leighton Vander Esch. We haven't been able to watch a lot of playing time from him but we'll sure do pretty soon. He's a week 1 contributor who will play behind what could be one of the best LB duos in the entire NFL.
And just like in the defensive line, the depth seems to be great. Joe Thomas and Damien Wilson have shown what they're capable of and they could be more than special team bodies when needed.
The Dallas Cowboys shouldn't be very concerned about their front seven going forward. It's loaded with talent and even if they rotate their players a lot, this seems like a group that will give any offense a big headache.
Dallas Cowboys Sign WR Darren Carrington Following Workout in Oxnard
The Dallas Cowboys have signed another one of the six players worked out on Monday in Oxnard, adding to their already deep group of wide receivers. Most recently with Utah, Pac-12 Wide Receiver Darren Carrington has signed with the team.
Carrington began his college career at Oregon, where he was on track to make it to the NFL before being dismissed from the Ducks for a DUI. This led Carrington to Utah, where he played as a graduate transfer and put up a team high 908 yards and six touchdowns on 70 receptions last season.
Cowboys signing former Utah WR Darren Carrington, per source.
At 6021 (6' 2 1/8") and 199 pounds, Carrington is yet another athletic target with long speed for the Cowboys to work into their new-look offense. He joins Ricky Jeune as the second receiver added to the team in training camp, bringing the number of WRs on the roster to 11.
Marchie Murdock, who had two catches for the Cowboys in their preseason opener, was waived (with an injury designation) prior to these roster moves.
Dallas Cowboys Workout 6 Players, Sign OL Jacob Alsadek
The Dallas Cowboys did not receive good news on first-year offensive lineman Marcus Martin, as his injury suffered in San Francisco will likely require season-ending surgery. Martin was signed this offseason as a backup guard/center, and without him the Cowboys have a need for further depth up front. Working out six players at positions of need today, the team has signed former Arizona lineman Jacob Alsadek.
Congratulations to #TeamDEC client @jacobalsadek on signing with @dallascowboys
This is Alsadek's second stop in the NFL, as he spent most of May with the Green Bay Packers before being released. Alsadek was the cut when the Packers signed former Cowboys Tackle Byron Bell.
Players Cowboys worked out today: Darren Carrington, WR Jacob Alsadek, OL Daronte Bouldin, OL Dominick Sanders, S Ryan Murphy, S Deron Washington, S
The 6'7", 312 pound guard went undrafted in this year's AT&T Stadium hosted draft. He was set to play in the Alliance of American Football League, with an inaugural season scheduled for February.
Now, he's a member of America's Team with a real chance to compete for a backup spot on the best offensive line in the league.
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