The NFL trade deadline is approaching fast. The Dallas Cowboys took advantage of the trade market in the offseason by acquiring Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore, but fans would like to see the team continue to improve the roster. Unfortunately, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he won’t initiate trade talk before the deadline and is content with the team the Cowboys have.
Jones’ comments signify that any means to improve the productivity of the team will have to come internally, and by internally, that means that the team should demand more from a group of players presently on their roster. Here are three players (actually four as one is represented by two players) the Cowboys need more from after the bye week in what will likely be an inactive trade deadline for the Cowboys.
Jake Ferguson/Luke Schoonmaker, TE
We’re going to combine Jake Ferguson and Luke Schoonmaker because they are seemingly two sides of the same coin. This past April, the Cowboys spent the 58th overall draft pick on Luke Schoonmaker, who was an older tight end prospect. The Schoonmaker selection puzzled many, considering the Cowboys found terrific value in two tight ends they acquired last year. One of those tight ends was Jake Ferguson, who Dallas took in the fourth round of 2022.
Schoonmaker has participated in 35% of the team’s snaps but has only mustered one reception for one yard. Regarding Ferguson, his lack of involvement Is also mystifying. Ferguson has flashed his potential on a few occasions and has shown he’s a quarterback-friendly target. When Prescott throws in his direction, he is averaging nearly two yards of separation.
A change in the offensive philosophy is partially to blame, having taken less emphasis on attacking the middle of the field. Plus, if you factor in the Cowboys’ troubles in the red zone this season, the team needs to feature both of their tight ends in the passing game for two different reasons. One reason is Ferguson deserves more targets, and the other, Schoonmaker, warrants more snaps to justify his selection.
Sam Williams, Edge
In a post on X that has since been deleted, Sam Williams posted a picture of a caged dog with the caption that read “Free me .”While some may have interpreted this as a slight at the coaching staff, it’s more like a player who wants more chances to impact the game. The team has a lot invested in Williams as a second-round pick in hopes of him adding yet another effective pass rusher to a group that features Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Osa Odighizuwa.
Williams’ potential and development hinge upon whether he can keep his head on straight. His off-the-field troubles, which include two arrests, are an alarming personal matter that needs to be sorted out. The Cowboys require consistency from Williams in his personal and professional affairs. The Dallas defense is as complete as it could be, but the emergence of Williams could be the unexpected boon to take this defense to another level.
Last season, Williams had a quarterback pressure roughly once every 24 snaps. This season has been much worse, with one pressure for every 55 snaps. The team needs Williams to pick it up for this season and beyond. Dorance Armstrong is a pending free agent, and DeMarcus Lawrence is aging. Nobody can deny Williams’ potential. However, there is no better time than now for it to come to fruition.
Brandin Cooks, WR
In 2022, the Dallas Cowboys were in desperate need of a wide receiver to shoulder the load alongside CeeDee Lamb. They tried several options, but none had the skills to be relied upon consistently. 2022 was also Michael Gallup’s first season back from an ACL injury suffered at the end of the prior season. The Cowboys traded a day-three draft pick to acquire Brandin Cooks from the Houston Texans to provide a veteran presence to the team.
Michael Gallup has yet to return to his old self entirely, and the Dallas passing game has stagnated because of this and Cooks being drastically underutilized. Gallup and Cooks have an equal target catch rate of 56%. However, Gallup has had a difficult time creating separation from defenders. Conversely, Cooks is the type of receiver that can create separation, line up in the slot, and is strong at the point of the catch.
Against the Los Angeles Chargers, Cooks caught all four of his targets, including a tough catch on third down to set up the game-winning drive.
Where Cooks is best utilized is to unlock the vertical passing game the team desperately needs. Dallas needs a change in philosophy from the offense that’s averse to attacking the middle of the field. This change also extends itself to a lack of vertical passing in the Cowboys’ offense, and deep targets for the speedy Cooks. Dallas needs to use Cooks for the purpose they acquired him.