By Yusuf Nakhooda
The Cowboys went 13-3 last season on the strength of great rookie seasons from Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Going into 2017 with the NFL’s best young quarterback running back duo gives Dallas a high ceiling in 2017.
To balance out the amazing Cowboys offence, the Cowboys need to get younger and hungrier on the defensive side of the ball. The spotlight will fall on several players selected in the past two drafts.
Lets analyze how this defense will play out .
It’s nice that rookie first- round end Taco Charlton got a great endorsement deal from Taco Bueno. Now comes the hard part. He has to come through as a bonafide pass rusher right away. He was a must draft after Randy Gregory and his off field issues was further removed from action, and Charlton become a Critical draft pick after David Irving was suspended for four games for violating the leagues substance abuse policy.
The Cowboys can still be a deep and effective defensive unit, but a few things need to fall into place. Charlton d Benson Mayowa need to push each other hard in practice so the right side of the rotation remains strong. Charlton allows Demarcus Lawrence to go back to his usual spot at left end and lets Tyrone Crawford move around on the front four.
The guys who could be steals are Charles Tapper, and the well travelled Damontre Moore. Moore has had trouble shaking off some baggage from his time with the Giants, but he has always had great potential to be dominant force off the edge. Tapper is trying to rebound from rookie season lost to a back injury. He’s got a big, quick frame to have an immediate impact. The Cowboys were middle of the pack in sacks last season with Mayowa leading the group. With Irving out for a while, a fast start by Charlton is key .
Sean Lee is coming off a brilliant All-Pro season on the weak side. He is coming the healthiest and most active season of his career. After Lee on the depth chart Anthony Hitchens, is a reliable playmaker in the middle. Last week Strongside linebacker Damien Wilson was arrested on aggravated assault charges putting his future with the team in doubt.
That means the Cowboys really need Jaylon Smith to keep progressing from the knee injury that wiped out his rookie season. Wilson’s unreliability puts more urgency on Smith getting back to full speed and range. From all indication he should be ready come Week 1. Smith’s health is the difference between the Cowboys being average or great at the linebacker position.
The only holdover at Safety from last year is Byron Jones. The Cowboys said bye to veteran cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr. They also didn’t bring back Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox. The Cowboys still have veteran nickel back Orlando Scandrick.
With two rookies, in second-round corner Chidobe Awuzie and nickel Jourdan Louis that puts a lot of pressure on Anthony Brown, who,emerged as a solid starter in his rookie season. He was better overall then most of the Cowboys secondary last year with his coverage skills. The Cowboys need him to be a young leader and to raise his game to the next level.
At strong safety next to Byron Jones, Church is hard to replace. Jeff Heath is first in line but he is inconsistent. Former Vikings starter Robert Blanton and rookie Xavier Woods form the new competition.
The Cowboys got youth to serve them well in the backfield. They will need similar results from the defensive secondary in to transform a overachieving unit into one that makes impact plays against the pass.
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