For the Dallas Cowboys, the 2020 regular season has gotten off to a dreadful start. It seems like everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong, and Dallas sits with an unimpressive 2-4 record six games in.
The Dallas defense is making history, in all the wrong ways. The unit has given up the fifth most points in NFL history in the first six games, giving up 35 plus points five games in a row.
So if you’re the Cowboys where do you go now? Well, lucky enough for Dallas, there are some players potentially on the market that could make an instant impact on their team. Before the NFL trade deadline on November 3rd, here are three players Dallas could add to their team to help turn this thing around.
Quinnen Williams, DT New York Jets
The first potential target would likely cost the most, but he also has the most upside. Just a year and a half ago, Quinnen Williams was selected third overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Alabama defensive lineman received high praise before and after the draft, via SB Nation.
Williams is so good and so unique that I don’t think I can come up with a current or former NFL player to compare him to. I’ve already said I don’t think its fair to compare any young defensive lineman to Aaron Donald, and that holds true for Williams as well. Hell, for as great as Williams’ 4.83 40 was, Donald ran his in a blazing 4.68!
But that doesn’t mean Williams isn’t a freak in his own right. I want you to try to think of a guy who was/is a big-time run stopper as a nose tackle in the NFL, who was also as much of a threat as a pass rusher as Williams is. Your list is probably going to be very, very short.
Despite coming into the league with tons of hype, Williams has not been able to live up his his high expectations during his brief NFL career. For a guy who received praise for his pass rush ability, the defensive tackle has recorded just 4.5 sacks in 19 career games. Williams has not graded out well as a pass rusher, receiving a rather pedestrian pass rush grade of 62, according to PFF.
Williams has not been awful, but when you take a guy third overall in the draft, you expect him to consistently get to the quarterback. Despite his inconsistencies in pass rush, there is one thing Williams has done well in his short NFL career, stopping the run. The 22-year-old tackle has recorded eight tackles for loss in 19 games, and PFF has him graded an above average run defender. Last season, Williams graded out with PFF run defense grade of 72.9 for the season, and through six games this year he has an even higher grade of 76.7.
Quinnen Williams is second among DTs in run stops and run stop percentage. Williams has tagged 13 total run stops and has a 13.3 stop percentage. This play is a great example of how he dominates the run. Did I mention he's 27th in run snaps played? Elite. pic.twitter.com/2GuPI7EDrb— Kyle Fahey (@KyleFaheyNFL) October 20, 2020
If there’s one thing the Cowboys desperately could use on their defense, it’s someone who can help stop the run. Free agent acquisition Dontari Poe has been nonexistent, and the Cowboys’ defensive tackles as a whole have been dreadful. The Cowboys have given up the second-most rushing yards and yards per attempt in all of football, and have surrendered 10 rushing touchdowns in just six games. You’re not going to win many games giving up over five yards per rush, and Williams would provide a much needed reinforcement to help lower this number.
Williams would be an outstanding talent, but his price tag will likely be extremely high, but Chase Hughes of The Athletic reported today that the Jets “probably” couldn’t turn down a second-round pick for him.
The Jets “probably” couldn’t turn down a second-round pick for Quinnen Williams according to @Connor_J_Hughes, but haven’t had a serious offer. yikes— Gregg Rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) October 22, 2020
If the a second-round pick is the price tag, the Cowboys should jump all over this deal. For being just 22-year-old and 19 games into his NFL career, Dallas would be able to have Williams under team control for the next three seasons, giving them a controllable player on defense who is trending upwards.
Tramon Williams, CB Free Agent
This next target is a guy Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy is very familiar with. Tramon Williams played under McCarthy with the Green Bay Packers from 2007-2014. During that eight-year period, Williams recorded a remarkable 28 interceptions. Williams was one of the best ball hawks in football, constantly taking the ball away from opposing offenses.
Now, six years later, Williams is obviously not the same guy he was at his peak, but he still could be valuable for Dallas in a number of ways. The first is his production on the field. Williams last saw the field in 2019, during his second stint with the Green Bay Packers. In that season he still was able to record two interceptions, more than the entire Dallas defense has this season, and PFF rewarded him with an outstanding 78 coverage grade on the season.
There’s reason the believe Williams still has something left in the tank, and in reality, just how much worse could he be than the product the Cowboys are putting on the field? The veteran would also provide some needed leadership to the cornerback room. There’s something to be said about playing 13 years in the NFL, and Williams could possibly help the struggling Cowboys’ secondary get adjusted to their new scheme.
Two months ago Williams made it clear he is not retired, but stated some concerns about the NFL’s COVID-19 policies.
He said he has NOT retired. He made it sound like he had some opportunities earlier in the offseason, but he's concerned about health issues and "how are they really going to protect you?" https://t.co/syzayLqvs2— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) July 27, 2020
There’s really no down side if Dallas acquired Williams. If he plays well, great, if not, just part ways at the end of the year.
Earl Thomas, S Free Agent
Ah yes, now we get to the man who has had more rumors involving the Dallas Cowboys surrounding him than any other player in NFL history, Earl Thomas. The rumors linking Thomas to Dallas date back over three years, and Dallas has not made a move from him since he hit the open market over a month ago. It should be time they change that now.
Sure, Thomas is not the same guy he was when he made five straight Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro three times in a row from 2012-2014, but he has to be better than anything the Cowboys currently have on their roster. Dallas is giving tons of playing time to Darian Thompson and Steven Parker. No knock on those two, but even at age 31 Thomas surely could provide better performance on the field than they are.
When he last saw the field in 2019, he still was good in coverage, posting a 86.1 PFF coverage grade, and allowed just a 42.9% reception percentage. Thomas didn’t surrender a pass longer than 15 yards, something the Cowboys’ defense has done multiple times a game for the last five weeks this season.
Now the questions about Thomas’s impact on the locker room are legit, but honestly, how much worse can things get? After Monday’s loss, NFL Network’s Jane Slater reported on Monday afternoon that there is “discontent” among the players and that they had some choice words about their coaching staff.
#Cowboys players initially bought into keeping things internal. Now as they sit 2-4 the discontent is leaking out. On the coaching staff “totally unprepared. They don’t teach. They don’t have any sense of adjusting on the fly.” Another “they just aren’t good at their jobs”— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) October 20, 2020
With the players already dissatisfied with the coaching staff, discontent is already present in the locker room. If you sign Thomas now and he causes more of a rift in the team, you can cut him and move on.
Since he has been on the open market for so long if he wants to play football again, you probably could get Thomas to sign on a one-year deal. That provides no real risk for your team. If it keeps going as poorly as it has, you let him play out the stretch and part ways at year’s end. If he plays well, you have a chance to sign him to a longer-term deal after the season.
It’s clear the Cowboys need outside help if they want to turn their 2020 season around. It may not be one of these three players, but if Dallas wants to get out of the deep hole they’ve dug themselves in, they’ll need help from outside their organization.