Continuing our look of the Dallas Cowboys 2018 roster, part two will focus on the defense. How much change will take place on that side of the ball as former linebacker coach, Matt Eberflus, departs to Indianapolis, and newly acquired defensive back coach/passing game coordinator, Kris Richard, takes reign?
Defensive Line (10)
A very interesting group for the Cowboys in terms of potential. Lawrence has finally shown the NFL what he is capable of when being healthy, and Irving a force to not be dealt with in the middle. Though Collins suffered a broken foot, as similar to his rookie season, possibly the hopes of Datone Jones at NT could render Collins into his more natural role as a UT. The DE additions of Kony Ealy and rookie Dorance Armstrong makes this the deepest unit we have seen for Dallas in years. Ealy, who has been questioned if he is more than just his Super Bowl 50 performance, does well at the LOS in batting ball downs, and Armstrong is a former Kansas Jayhawk that dominated when asked to put his hand in the dirt. Add to Charlton’s progression that was seen as the season moved along and a slimmer Crawford, Marinelli has to be excited. Now the biggest headline out of the group, will Gregory be back? The trust is minimal for some people, but in his time out, it has been reported that he has passed plenty of drug tests, and plans to try to get reinstated.
#Cowboys suspended DE Randy Gregory, who recently spent more than 6 weeks in intensive drug and alcohol rehab in addition to counseling, will submit his application for reinstatement to the @NFL tomorrow, sources say. 60 days from now is mid-July — right before training camp.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 16, 2018
Then to complete the unit, Ward was the player received from Oakland in the Ryan Switzer trade, that Marinelli has absolutely loved since his college days and should find himself in a battle with Brian Price.
Lee is an All-Pro caliber player in this league that does everything right other than staying on the field from injuries. Smith is taking headlines after reports detail that he is no longer dependant upon his AFO brace to play. Then, though many desired other players at the moment, rookie Vander-Esch was a very productive leader at Boise State, that should be the starting MIKE come day one. It is a trio that will play off each other strengths and weaknesses.
I’ve kept saying: Cowboys needed 3 to play 2. Vander Esch is good enough to start. He’s also a hell of an insurance policy for both Jaylon Smith & Sean Lee. He could also let you do some fun stuff with Jaylon, whether that’s as a SAM or a situational pass rusher.
— David Helman (@HelmanDC) April 27, 2018
Vander-Esch, who is being tabbed to struggle against taking on blocks, has the quickness to run across sideline to sideline and surety of taking runners down, allowing Smith to kick down as SAM and take on a pass-rushing role as well.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 16, 2017
Although Wilson had his fair share of struggles last season, expect him to be first into the rotation, and now Cowboys ILB Joe Thomas, who gets credited on his pass coverage and special teams’ skills, to follow suit.
— Patrik Walker (@VoiceOfTheStar) March 22, 2018
Lastly, if there is any team in the league that gives UDFA a chance, it is Dallas, and that is where Dallas fans should meet Kyle Quiero.
A versatile, long, athletic group, is the way new coach Kris Richard would want it be. Second year player Chidobe Awuzie leads the group on the outside, and the move all fans have been waiting for since he was drafted, Byron Jones will line up on the opposite side. This then bumps Jourdan Lewis down to nickel corner, which many thought would be his more natural position in the league, and has the intangibles to be one of the best. Although in OTAs, Anthony Brown was seen as the starter here, and it should be a battle to follow throughout the offseason. Finally making his appearance from the practice squad, White comes in able to press wide receivers off the LOS with his combination of length and aggressiveness.
As for the backend, do not expect much different other than Woods being the full-time starter at free safety. Heath seems likely to maintain his spot on the field, leaving Frazier to continue to proving himself. The anomaly remains as to who will be the backup for Woods, and it is something Dallas continues to look for. Look out for UDFA, Kam Kelly, though he has been getting some time at corner, his natural fit is safety and he has been drawing much interest from the right people .
Barring no sudden change, or injury:
Dan Bailey – K
Chris Jones – P
L.P Ladouceur – LS
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