Dallas Cowboys: Developing Players Is The Key

Jan 3, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (11) catches a touchdown pass in the second quarter against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (11) catches a touchdown pass in the second quarter against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

 The Dallas Cowboys are drafting the right players, but the key is developing them into starters and major contributors for the future.

Over the last several years, the Dallas Cowboys have drafted really good players who are major contributors to the team. Some of the players are household names like All Pro wide receiver Dez Bryant, linebacker Sean Lee, and offensive lineman Zack Martin.

Those players were expected to produce right away as high draft picks. The aforementioned trio are Pro Bowlers and some of the Cowboys’ best players.

For the Cowboys to be successful, player development is the key to Dallas’ future success.

It’s one thing to draft All American running back Ezekiel Elliott out of Ohio State, a Day 1 starter. However, it’s a different situation when you sign a free agent receiver like Cole Beasley and make him a major contributor to the offense.

Enough can’t be said about the effectiveness of Beasley’s route running, mismatches for linebackers, and reliable hands. Beasley is a third down converter, especially when teams load the box and leave him in man coverage.

Basically, the diminutive wide out is a nightmare for opposing teams.

Beasley was an undrafted rookie receiver out of SMU who the Cowboys developed into a good slot receiver. Not only is Beasley dependable, he’s versatile, too, returning punts for the Cowboys last season.

By signing and developing Beasley, the Cowboys didn’t have to spend a high draft pick on a slot receiver or over pay for one in free agency. In fact, the Cowboys were able to sign Beasley to a nice contract extension and keep him around for awhile.

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Of course, the Cowboys signed free agent wide out Lucky Whitehead last season, another slot receiver/return specialist. Whitehead has a lot of potential and can be another offensive weapon.

If the Cowboys’ coaching staff can develop Whitehead into a legit slot receiver, the Cowboys will be in a luxurious position with two speedsters playing the slot.

The more the merrier, as the saying goes. Plus, it makes for good competition.

The Cowboys have several players in similar situations. Dallas has drafted players who have come into their own or are still in the developmental stage.

Some have made big plays for the team over the years and depending on them to do the same in the future: wide receivers Terrance Williams, Whitehead, Devin Street, Brice Butler, Andy Jones, Ed Eagan, and Chris Brown, running backs Lance Dunbar and Darius Jackson, linebackers Kyle Wilber, Damien Wilson,  and Mark Nzeocha, defensive linemen David Irving, Lawrence, and Ryan Russell, tight ends Geoff Swaim and Rico Gathers, and corners Orlando Scandrick, Anthony Brown and Deju Olatoye.

These players were either drafted, traded for, or signed as free agents by the Cowboys. I must add none of them were high draft choices.

Nevertheless, the Cowboys have seen the fruit of their labor prosper in some of these players.

For example, Terrance Williams, Lance Dunbar, Kyle Wilber, Damien Wilson, David Irving and Brice Butler have been heavy contributors with potential to get even better. Williams, for instance, has potential to be a better receiver than what he showed last season. Dunbar was a lethal receiving threat out of the backfield (before tearing his ACL), not to mention an excellent change of pace back.

Wilber is getting better and better becoming a legit starter in this league. Irving showed so much potential last season that the Cowboys coaching staff have high hopes for him.

If defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli can help Irving reach his full potential, a few defensive lineman will be out of a job.

When it comes to Gathers and Swaim, the Cowboys need to groom one of these players to either complement future Hall of Famer Jason Witten, or one day replace one of the best tight ends in NFL history when he retires.

Developing players like Gathers and Swaim will make the Cowboys offense more lethal and make a smooth transition from Witten when that day arrives. Gathers is a former college basketball player standing 6’8 and is athletic.

If Dallas can get this guy to be the next Antonio Gates and Swaim to develop as well, the Cowboys receiving corps will be unstoppable for the next several years.

The same goes with the other positions, too. Jackson looks the part as a dynamic runner who will make this team as a return specialist at least. Further, he’s another fast runner and third down back like Dunbar. This means that Dunbar could soon be expendable, especially if injuries continue.

That is what happens when you draft players and develop them. It leaves teams with valuable options…Instead of drafting for need or overpaying for free agents, like the New York Giants.

The key to any team being successful is developing your own talent and keeping it.  The Pittsburgh Steelers are a prime example of using this practice.

The Steelers are notorious for allowing good players to walk in free agency and replacing them with home-grown talent. Over the years, the Steelers allowed players to walk like Plaxico Burress, quarterback Neil O’Donnell, wide receivers Yancey Thigpen, and Charles Johnson, and linebacker Chad Brown, to name a few.

The Steelers were able to do that and still compete at a high level because they had developed their own talent behind them. It explains why they’re always contending for division titles and Super Bowl berths.

If the Cowboys can continue to develop players like Beasley, Dunbar, and Scandrick, Dallas will be able to sign their core players and surround it with up and coming, young talent.

It’s a never-ending cycle that nurtures itself, similar to a college football powerhouse recruiting five-star athletes on a yearly basis.

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Hopefully, the Dallas Cowboys can do that, and return to their winning ways, continuing the legacy of this storied franchise.

So far, the Cowboys are on the right path.