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Terrance Williams Color Rush Jersey

    • 587 posts
    July 8, 2019 9:58 AM HKT

    After each game during the Cowboys 2018 season we posted grades on each position group. Now we’re handing out final grades. We covered the secondary last week and this week we look at the linebacker unit. First Terrance Williams Color Rush Jersey , let’s recognize that unlike the team’s secondary unit, the Cowboys have invested significant resources in the linebacker group:The Cowboys top trio of Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee were all premium draft picks, taken in the first or second round. While Smith and Vander Esch are still on relatively cheap rookie deals, Sean Lee had the third highest cap hit on the team in 2018 ($10.1M).Lee’s inability to stay on the field severely compromised the team’s 2017 season and the Cowboys aggressively addressed that situation in the 2018 draft. At the time, it seemed like a move that was looking more towards 2019 and beyond but the decision proved prescient as Lee was again injured and his play declined in the 2018 season. As a result, Smith and LVE are now the entrenched starters going into 2019. StatisticsSmith and Vander Esch combined for 261 tackles which is a monster number for a linebacker tandem. LVE’s 140 tackles ranked third in the entire NFL (behind fellow rookie Darius Leonard and Green Bay’s Blake Martinez), earning him second-team All-Pro honors. This, despite LVE starting only 11 games. By comparison, Sean Lee topped 104 tackles exactly once in his career - in 2016 when he earned All-Pro honors with 145 tackles.Jaylon Smith continued his miraculous return from a devastating injury many thought had ended his career. One of the unappreciated accomplishments of Smith has been his ability to stay healthy. He has now started 34 games in two seasons. Many athletes returning from major injury will suffer nagging, soft-tissue injuries when they return. Smith, instead, has been plug-and-play reliable. His 120 tackles doesn’t capture all he contributed as he frequently rushed the passer on passing downs (negating the ability to record tackles on such plays). Luckily, splash play statistics do reflect Smith’s contributions from rushing the passer. Bob Sturm of The Athletic keeps track of splash plays and I’ve charted out his numbers from the season:Here we see Smith’s impact as he recorded virtually every type of splash play possible:Fumbles caused: 2Fumbles recovered: 2Sacks: 4Passes defensed: 5Runs stuffed: 3Holding penalties drawn: 2Fourth-down stops: 1 (he actually had two, one against Houston and one against Philadelphia but I’m using Sturm’s stats here)Finally, he recorded the team’s only defensive touchdown of the season on this scintillating play against Tampa Bay:In total, Smith recorded 23 splash plays on the season or about 1.5 per game. Vander Esch claimed 18 splash plays and, due to fewer snaps played, had a similar snaps per splash (42) to Smith (44). Not all splash plays are equal. An interception is obviously worth more than a tipped pass and a fourth-down stop more valuable than a run stuff. Let’s look at the unit’s splash points:The splash points again illustrate Smith’s dynamic contributions. His 30 splash points ranked second on the team (DeMarcus Lawrence led with 51) and was 13 full points over Jeff Heath’s third ranked 17 splash points. LVE ranked fourth with 16 splash points https://www.dallascowboysfanshop.com/Brett-Maher-Jersey , driven by his two interceptions. Those turnovers helped him earn NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month in November. In short, both LVE and Jaylon Smith contributed play after play, evidenced by their tackle numbers, but they also were wreaking havoc creating splash plays that can be game-changers. Here’s how it looks in chart form:We see that on a per-play basis all the linebackers were making plays. There’s serious reasons for fans to be optimistic about this group, particularly Smith and Vander Esch. Both are under 25 and only entering the prime of their careers. The prospect of these two patrolling sideline-to-sideline together for the next 4+ years, frankly, leaves me drooling. Just a reminder of some of their contributions:One thing to consider when evaluating this (or any) group is what resources has the team invested in this group? The following shows each player’s:Draft value (using commonly defined values found at places like Ourlads Scouting Services)2018 salary cap numberNumber of defensive snaps playedPercent of defensive snaps playedApproximate Value as defined by Pro Football Reference (for an in-depth insight into this metric and it’s strengths and weaknesses I encourage you to read One Cool Customer’s great post)We also see what PFR’s AV metric thought of the group. The following table (shout out to OCC) is a useful guide when looking at AV:As we see, PFR’s AV metric graded both Smith and LVE to be at the high end of the “starter quality” range. As AV is a counting metric, they’re really saying LVE played at an All Pro/Pro Bowl level. This corresponds with the eye test which certainly left most of us thinking both were Pro Bowl caliber players. Having two players in the same position unit ranking so high is a luxury; having both of them on rookie contracts is a lavish luxury. Damien Wilson and Sean Lee should not go unmentioned here. They both contributed given their opportunities. Weekly GradesNow we’ll look at the unit’s weekly grades as assigned by yours truly. Obviously, these grades are only one man’s opinion and your mileage may vary. Here’s the grades and a “points” system I developed for this effort:There’s a lot to like here, unfortunately, the season ended on a bummer performance for this unit. The group enjoyed all As and Bs for most of the season (except for a 2-game blip against Washington and Tennessee) until heading to December for a week 15 game.But in the final month of the season the linebackers twice struggled mightily. First, in what should have been a warning of what could come, the Colts simply steamrolled the entire Cowboys’ defense and the LB unit was a prime culprit. Then again in the team’s playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams this unit simply had no answers.In both cases opponent’s simply ran at will and the young linebackers never seemed to catch their balance. Sometimes they read plays wrong; sometimes they reacted too slow, sometimes they got beat one-on-one. It kind of felt like these were students who worked hard and progressed throughout the year but then came up short on the final exam. Final Grade: BIf we average the linebacker’s play over the entire season we come up with a grade of 3.5, which is right between a B and a B-. I’ll round up in this case and give this very young, promising group a well-deserved B. Going into 2019 it’s clear the LVE/Smith duo are the top two backers who should expect to be on the field for virtually every snap. It would be nice to have Sean Lee as insurance but to do so he’ll have to take a significant pay cut (something I think is very possible). I assume Damien Wilson has played his last play as a Cowboy as I expect he’ll attract a significant contract the Cowboys will not be willing to match. I expect Joe Thomas - who impressed in preseason but saw little regular season action - to be back next season on an inexpensive deal.Chris Covington, drafted in 2018, should also be in the mix. I also expect the Cowboys will draft a LBer in the fourth through seventh rounds because you pretty much always need such players as depth and for special teams. He’s a summary of the two units we’ve looked at thus far Jeff Heath Jersey , graded by week:And here’s an overview of these two units:You see the difference in resources invested as the Cowboys’ secondary ranked dead last in NFL spending and also had small draft investment. Next up, we’ll look at the defensive line.Cowboys should have demoted coach Paul Alexander, or his techniques, during the bye week What is happening to the Cowboys offensive line? Who is this guy posing as Tyron Smith? What in the world is up with La’el Collins’ footwork? Why is Zack Martin pointing out a blitzing linebacker and failing to pick it up? Somebody save Connor Williams from being flattened! Can this line just not function without Travis Frederick?These are common phrases uttered by anyone who has watched the Cowboys offensive line play football in this 2018 season. We’ve beaten up the players themselves for their hand in this but what about the offensive line coach, Paul Alexander? What role has he played in the turbulent performances by this offensive line? More importantly, should the Cowboys minimize his role going forward?When Alexander was hired, he was one of four offensive position coach changes made with Gary Brown being the only holdover from 2017. Alexander had spent 25 years as the line coach for the Bengals. His last two seasons were his undoing as the Bengals surrendered the 11th-most sacks last season and 8th-most the year prior. This offseason, the Cowboys and Bengals basically swapped line coaches as Frank Pollack left Dallas and took that job immediately. Right now, it’s looking like the better coach walked out the door because the Cowboys line is very inconsistent from week to week.In three home games, the Cowboys have only allowed six sacks total. In four away games, that number spikes to 17 sacks allowed. In comparison, the Bengals have made a turnaround in the sacks-allowed department going from 11th-most to 10th-least so far this season. The Cowboys gave up 22 sacks in the last eight weeks of last season and have given up 23 in the first seven games this year. Now, Dak Prescott has stepped into a hefty portion on his own with poor decisions and holding the ball too long. Still there is no denying the fact that this line just hasn’t found any consistency whatsoever. Could the hand techniques that Alexander has implemented have had adverse effects on these guys finishing their blocks? Sacks aren’t the full story though because so many variables contribute to that, but can we talk about these drive-killing penalties? The communication in road games is just awful as we saw this past week with four penalties charged to the Cowboys offensive line. In 2017, the line was penalized only 24 times, drawing 1.5 flags per game. Through seven games, the Cowboys offense has accrued 20 penalties, 14 of which have been charged to the line. The worst offenders have been the two starting tackles. Smith averages seven per season, he’s already got four. Collins has eight which is two-times his average per season. Zack Martin and Joe Looney are the only two of the five to not get flagged yet. This line is on pace for 32 penalties Tyrone Crawford Color Rush Jersey , which would be the most since that awful 2015 season when they hit 37.Last season, La’el Collins really found his groove at right tackle and took on some of the best pass rushers in the league. This season, Collins has regressed and his technique has been unreasonably poor in some games. Tyron Smith hasn’t been close to resembling that two-time All-Pro, and five-time Pro Bowl, left tackle that we’re accustomed to seeing. Travis Frederick’s absence is clearly a big blow but Joe Looney hasn’t been a liability, except maybe in identifying and communicating blocking schemes. Connor Williams is a rookie that lacks strength but that should be expected. What’s not expected is their better players struggling like this. Zack Martin is the only guy that will likely receive Pro Bowl or All-Pro consideration and even that may be a stretch.What we’ve witnessed is an offensive line with plenty of talent deteriorate at an alarming pace. Now, are we to believe that it’s just the end of the road for Tyron Smith, who’s only 27-years old? Sure, he’s had nagging injuries in the past but he’s apparently not dealing with any health issues at the moment. What’s caused La’el Collins, a guy who was praised for technique last season to fall off the cliff this year? Like many areas on offense, what is causing this unit to seesaw from week to week?This is the one component of this team where the Cowboys have to be able to hang their hats. Great offensive line play is the foundation of this team, there are so many spent resources in that area. Even with a rookie left guard and journeyman center, at-worst this line should still be above average. Right now, they can’t be trusted and that’s an indictment on their line coach because his group has more established talent than any position on the roster. Even with a big missing link, this line has more talent than most in the league. It’s clear that the offensive line hasn’t gelled and just seem uncomfortable playing Alexander’s style of technique. It’s imperative that they improve as quick as possible. That means they need to go with what they know works for them and Paul Alexander doesn’t seem to fit that picture.

     

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