One of the biggest improvements a player can make is his career is in-between his rookie and sophomore seasons in the NFL. They call it the “jump” and if the Dallas Cowboys get significant boosts from their second-year players, the team will be in a position to surprise a lot of people.
Here are the candidates to make the jump:
WR Noah Brown
Let’s begin with a player who might be getting overlooked in the wide receiver shuffle, Noah Brown. The Ohio State product will be 22 years old for the entirety of the season and there has been talk about his impressive offseason preparation. Brown worked with route guru David Robinson and got first-team work in OTAs. He has the size the Cowboys love (6-2, 225) and Brown is a devastating blocker in the run game, a favorite trait for the coaches in Dallas. Brown will be a real player for the Cowboys at some point in his career and despite it being a crowded receiver room, I don’t believe he is on the roster bubble.
TE Blake Jarwin
Blake Jarwin is another second-year player who may make waves in the passing game. The Cowboys have a need at tight end and Jarwin will be one of the guys vying to replace Jason Witten. Jarwin didn’t do much of anything last year, but the organization has talked him up all offseason and he could be in line for a breakout campaign in 2018. He was the number one tight end in OTAs and minicamp, so Jarwin’s development is something to watch in training camp.
Defensively is where we might see the biggest impact in the second year pros. The Cowboys have a number of young defenders whose improvement could elevate the defense.
DL Taco Charlton
Taco Charlton had a better rookie year than most expected and he appeared to progress as the season wore on. Now, Charlton says he’s “faster, stronger” and he now knows what it takes to improve as a pass rusher. Taco also mentioned the light has gone on and he is ready to become a better pass rusher and player than he was last year. If Charlton can make significant strides, offenses will have to deal with a second pass rusher aside from DeMarcus Lawrence. For a team that wants to get the lead and tee-off on the quarterback, Taco’s development could make a critical difference.
Three secondary pieces will all be in their sophomore campaigns in 2018: Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods can all take the jump to the next level. Awuzie had an impressive rookie season and the team expects a lot out of him in year two. The former Colorado Buffalo says he feels more comfortable now and Awuzie is ready to keep getting better after hamstring an ankle injuries slowed him at the beginning of his rookie year. Dallas likes his physical presence and he looks like the ideal fit for defensive backs coach Kris Richard.
His counterpart, Jourdan Lewis, is also primed to breakout in his second year. It looks like a slow start to the offseason for Lewis since he doesn’t have the body type that fits Richards’ style and he didn’t line up as the top nickel corner in minicamp, but the play of Lewis will speak for itself when camp comes around. Lewis is a pit bull who doesn’t shy away from competition, something that will shine through when the pads come on for real. If he can make expected improvements in year two, he will be one of the best players in the Dallas secondary.
Finally, Xavier Woods is someone who can really stand out this season. Woods didn’t make as big an impression as Awuzie or Lewis last year, but his development will be something to watch in 2018. The Cowboys have been linked to Earl Thomas for most of the offseason, but aside from a small push on draft day, they have held tight to their draft capital and money because they like what they see in Woods. Cowboys resident scout Bryan Broaddus mentioned the team wants to find ways to get him on the field, even play some slot if he has to. That’s the sign of a player who is developing well and a guy who the Cowboys really like. No Thomas means there’s potential in Xavier Woods.
We might also throw Jaylon Smith into this category since he’ll technically be in just his second year of being on the field. However, Smith was in the weight room for a full offseason already and that is one of the big benefits of the jump from year one to year two.
The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of youth right now and it will shine if these second-year players make the “jump.” If that happens, watch out for these Cowboys in 2018!
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