The 1981 San Francisco 49ers accomplished a rare feat: starting three rookie defensive backs in season and winning the Lombardi Trophy in the same year. The Cowboys selected four DBs in this past draft, can they emulate the 1981 49ers?
Are the Cowboys willing to go all in like the 1981 49ers?
Awuzie was a four-year starter at Colorado and a two-time second-team All-Pac 12 selection. His game is physicality. He was a hitter in the Lott mold with 273 career tackles. He also broke up 13 passes last season for the NCAA's fifth-ranked pass defense and 35 in his career. He left Colorado with three career interceptions.
Lewis was a two-year starter at Michigan and a first-team All-America last fall. He set a school record for career passes broken up with 45 and left Michigan with six career interceptions. Like Awuzie, he is physical in coverage.
For a secondary in dire need of plays, the Cowboys may have found the right guy in Woods. He was a three-year starter and a two-time All-Conference USA selection at Louisiana Tech. He intercepted 14 career passes and forced six fumbles. When he's around, the ball is up for grabs.
The Cowboys rookies certainly look the part already:
One of those defensive backs is Xavier Woods. Woods was a prospect the Dallas Cowboys staff coveted throughout the draft process. The talented Louisiana Tech defensive back somehow fell into the Cowboys’ laps in the sixth-round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Woods is prepared to make an impact in the Big D.
Since Xavier Woods was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys with the 191st overall pick in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft back in April, the past few months have been a learning curve for the former Louisiana Tech standout safety.
“It was a great experience (being drafted), I’m truly blessed,” said Woods, who was back home in West Monroe talking to local youth Thursday. “Now, it’s kind of over now that we’ve been in practice, OTAs and minicamp. I’m just ready to compete for a spot.
“You definitely have to be a technician of your job. Some guys are faster, some guys are better technical-wise than you are. But you have to get to that point. Just perfect your craft.”
Although overlooked by fellow 2016 draftees Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, Maelik Collins flashed the potential to be a stud along the Cowboys’ defensive line for Rod Marinelli and company. Collins isn’t settling, though. He wants to build on his solid rookie season.
Collins finished the season ranking second on the team in sacks with five and third in QB pressures with 14.
“He just kind of grooved into it and that showed me a lot,” Marinelli said. “That’s really hard to do. He did a good job during the season, in-season and he’s a heck of a practice football player. He practices, now. I think it means the world to him to be a good player.”
There’s no question about that.
Collins, a third-round pick out of Nebraska in 2016, doesn’t have any plans between now and training camp except to get ready for the season. Even though Marinelli praised his rookie season, Collins feels he could have done more.
Dak just put together the greatest rookie season by a quarterback in NFL history. So how is the fourth-round pick turned NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year handling his new found fame?
Prescott's platform and array of endorsement deals has been building steadily since last season and his first major effort in December, when he appeared in a commercial sponsored by Adidas and Champs Sports.
The banners of myriad sponsors hung at the youth camps he offered last week in his college stomping ground of Starkville, Miss., hometown of Haughton, La. and in the Dallas area in Corinth, Texas. His Twitter feed tells part of the tale, with mentions of Nicholas Air, which offers private air travel. Then there's Welch's Fruit Snacks, which supplied some kids with free spots to his camps. The Adidas logo is easy to spot scrolling through. Then there's Prescott holding a Pepsi and a bag of Tostitos. A new deal with Campbell's Chunky Soup was announced last week. You get the idea
“We knew he was capable of doing what he was doing, but no one had any idea this would happen as fast as it did," Jones said. "There were sponsors lining up for the opportunity to work with Dak. We got a great marketing guy, and he knew that he probably needed to wait, to see how things panned out before he decided to go with a particular sponsor. ... A lot of these people tracked his performance in (training) camp, on and off the field. They kind of knew that he could be that guy. They were positioning themselves."
The Cowboys aren’t only confident in their new face of the face of the franchise, they are fully support the man backing him up. Should the Cowboys go into the 2017 season with Kellen Moore as QB2?
No team wants to call on the backup quarterback for any extended work, but in the violent world of the NFL, it is not always avoidable. Now, with Dak Prescott looking to build on his remarkable debut season, the Cowboys are heading to camp with Kellen Moore as his putative backup. That is not exactly a comforting situation.
The problem is the same as it was last year: Moore is simply unproven. Yes, he had one game where he racked up a lot of yards (but not a victory) at the end of 2015. He has a reputation for being an additional coach of sorts due to his understanding of Scott Linehan’s offense. But there is a strong suspicion that his place on the roster is largely due to the faith Linehan has in him rather than his actual ability. And no matter how well he understands what is supposed to happen and can contribute in meetings and on the sideline, that is very different from executing plays on the field when large, hostile men are determined to stop you from doing so.
Training camp will be here before we know it! Matthew Postins over at CowboysHQ looks at the guys vying for a roster spot on America’s Team. Could the Cowboys move on from Brice Butler?
But, as a way of kicking off 1st-and-10 this week, I look at the five players on Ickes’ Final 53 that I believe have the highest chance of being cut when the preseason ends:
WR Brice Butler: This will probably seem strange to you, but I haven’t given up on Lucky Whitehead just yet. I agree with Ickes — Ryan Switzer will make this team, and I know that with Switzer and Cole Beasley, you don’t really need a third player of that type. But I think Whitehead is going to rise to the occasion and make it hard for the Cowboys to cut him. I haven’t been a huge believer in Butler and I’m just not convinced he’ll make the team. I am convinced however, like Ickes, that Noah Brown will make this team, if for no other reason than the Cowboys are afraid he’ll get claimed on waivers — because he will.
Speaking of Maelik, could Collins be the next in line to join the seven other Cowboys on the NFL’s Top 100 list?
Our own YumaCactus is rolling with last year’s third-round pick, Maliek Collins. He’d be my top choice as well. He’s the next big thing in Dallas and had a great rookie campaign last year. He’s explosive off the ball and is exhibiting power up the middle. Early reports are that he’s giving guard Zack Martin fits in camp. Everyone is so focused on generating pressure along the edge, but good things come when you can get pressure up the middle.
Ochoa takes a look at the five major players on the Dallas Cowboys that will have the biggest impact on how the season goes.
The Dallas Cowboys defense is... well you know what it is. Beyond all that though, it does boast Sean Lee who is the unquestioned defensive leader. It’s hard to ask yourself who’s the most important and not circle back to ‘ol #50.
The obvious rebuttal to this idea though is the 2014 season for the Cowboys. “Sean Lee didn’t play that whole season and the Cowboys won 12 games!” Yes, this is true; however, Rolando McClain had not fallen down a purple rabbit hole yet. Justin Durant was playing at a decent level. Matt Eberflus did a lot of great work to compensate for Lee’s absence, but that doesn’t negate Sean’s importance.
While the suspension of David Irving is troubling, the Dallas Cowboys are prepared to handle these difficult situations — for better or for worse.
If anyone knows the drill, therefore, it’s defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Irving, one of the team’s most pleasant surprises a year ago, will have to be replaced.
Which may explain why 17 players are listed as defensive linemen on the 90-man roster as the Cowboys prepare to leave for training camp in three weeks.
Strength in numbers? Maybe. A couple of solid No. 1s would surely make Marinelli smile.