Expectations Too High But Also Too Low

I’m not a writer but have too much to say on this topic for the comments section. In forums across the multiverse I read the same acquisition opinions again and again. We sign a player who once had high pedigree and it’s shot down. Tavon Austin, Jihad Ward and Kony Ealy are such players.

A very high first rounder and two second round players once thought to be great prospects. None have lived up to the hype in the NFL. So the comments when we pick them up fall back on their past expectations. Rather than what are likely the current expectations. From our front office and coaches at least.

Let me be clear, these are simply my opinions. I have no inside information. To this point, the Cowboys have not responded to my applications for GM or Head Coach. I don’t think I’m either. OK, on to the opinions.

Tavon Austin was not brought here to be the eighth overall pick. He was not brought here to be a primary weapon and rack up 1,000 receiving yards and twelve touchdowns. He’s a sixth round pick for us, that is it. Let’s look at the types of players he was brought in to replace.

Lance Dunbar, Dwayne Harris, Lucky Whitehead and Ryan Switzer. These are the types of roster spots he’s here to fill. Dunbar was the only one who was very successful in our offense but was often injured. 2015 was when we figured out how to use him and he was great, for 3.5 games. He racked up 76 all-purpose yards per game in that stretch. He did this without a single start and in limited use other than Atlanta.

We’ll likely keep fourteen skill players. Does not matter what we list Austin as, RB, WR, TE, FB, I think we keep fourteen total. Austin’s high end expectation should be 800 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns on offense. His low end should be 400 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. The latter assumes his missing some games. The desire is for him to last 12-14 regular season games and consistently be a unique weapon in space.

If we get that from a sixth round pick, it’s excellent ROI. This does not even take into consideration how many fumbles, I mean yards he’ll have on returns. He’s got a fumbling issue on returns so I’m not sure he can win that job. Perhaps set your expectation on the sixth we gave up for him, not where he was drafted in 2013. Perhaps set them on what you expected Ryan Switzer to deliver this year. That’s the job he’s fighting for.

Jihad Ward is very interesting. The knock on him coming into the league was he needed time to develop. He did not play football until his sophomore year in high school. He played wide receiver and safety that year. We’re talking about a kid who did not play on defense until his junior year in high school.

He then went to a tech school for two years to improve his grades. This means he only played two years of college ball after sitting out two years. He had a knee scope his rookie year and missed most of OTA’s. Foot surgery held him to 5 games last year. No wonder he did not take the NFL by storm his first two years.

He took Switzer’s spot on the roster due to the trade. With the new kick off rules, Switzer’s role as a returner is less valuable. I know he had potential and many thought he could replace Beasley. I think that’s a long shot but we’ll see how his career plays out. I don’t expect a huge impact from Ward this year. I don’t like his injury issues to start his career. BUT! We sure do focus on developing pass rushers here and getting the most out of them. If he makes the team, I think he can be a solid back up this year. He’s got the ability to develop and be pretty good in the future. Maybe more than that.

Bottom line from his draft profile: "Above average athleticism for a man his size and he has the effort level that should lead to continued improvement. He might need a position coach to draw that out of him while he continues to develop." Sounds like the perfect project for our staff.

Kony Ealy may be my favorite free agent pick up in a while. I think it’s important to note his failure with New England and the Jets is based on the 34 defense they both run. Yup, even Belichick makes bad trades and decisions. Two teams kicked the tires to see if he could play 34 DE or outside linebacker and found out he’s not a great fit there.

He’s at least a very good rotational DE in a 43 defense however. With only 15 starts he’s got 14 sacks, one interception, five pass deflections, six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 43 tackles. That’s pretty good for your first three years.

For a little perspective, Lawrence started 16 games his first three years. He had nine sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 52 tackles. Additionally, Lawrence has one career pass deflection. Ealy has 14 in only 19 starts.

Last year both Benson Mayowa and Charles Tapper made the game day team. Mayowa even started two games! In 14 games with two starts he accomplished one sack and 13 tackles. That’s it. Tapper added a sack and two tackles.

If he makes the team, Ealy is being charged with providing two sacks and 15 tackles. If he does that, he effectively replaced two players while freeing up a roster spot. I think he can do a lot better than that. I think he can push for Crawford’s starting job.

I expect Ealy to provide at least five sacks, two pass deflections, two forced fumbles and twenty tackles this year. That would be a hell of a pickup for 1.2 million. If he fails to make the team, it’s because somebody else really stepped up.

He might be a perfect one year rental while Gregory earns his job back and Taco proves he’s a player. If Gregory is able to play, I expect we carry at least nine and maybe ten defensive line players. We have some talent with health or trust issues so it makes sense to carry a spare or two.

To wrap up, it appears many assume the front office brings in these guys thinking they are what they were drafted to be. If that were the case, they’d have given up more than a 6th for Austin and more than Switzer for Ward. Ealy would also have a bigger contract.

In actuality, I think they are bringing in these guys to upgrade the bottom of the roster. Austin is better than Switzer, Ealy is better than Mayowa and Ward is better than Tapper. Judge them on what we gave for them, not what we thought they were 2-5 years ago. Judge them on what they were really brought here to do, not what they were drafted to do years ago. If we do this, I think it’s easy see the logic behind the moves.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.