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Mailbag: Which Young Players Might Step Up?

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I keep hearing wide receiver, tight end and backup running back will be free agency and/or draft needs, and I don’t totally disagree. But this is a young team. Do players like Noah Brown, Blake Jarwin and Darius Jackson have a chance to contribute more next season with simply more opportunity? - MATTHEW K / DALLAS, TX

Rob: All three players have talent, and obviously we saw Jarwin take a big step forward against the Giants’ starters in Week 17. Brown flashed his ability as a big receiving target in a few games since returning from IR. I just think you have to look at adding competition at all three positions in the draft if the value is there. This is about surrounding Dak Prescott with as much talent as possible and finding someone who can spell Zeke Elliott for minimal stretches.

Bryan: I’d add defensive tackle to that needs list. Jason Garrett told us after the injury to Geoff Swaim that these young tight ends just needed work and he was right. As a group they improved, so to your point there is no reason that the players you mentioned couldn’t do the same. The guy that they need to step up the most is Taco Charlton. He’s now playing in a critical spot.

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As well as Jaylon Smith played this year, are you a bit surprised that he did not receive any postseason recognition? -FRED LONDON / MORRISTOWN, TN

Rob: A little, yes. I figured he or Leighton Vander Esch would have a serious chance at the Pro Bowl. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think one year both will get in together. It’s just tough because there are only three NFC inside linebacker spots and the outside linebackers are often 3-4 scheme pass rushers with the most sacks. Smith did get nominated for the NFL version of the Butkus Award. Well deserved.

Bryan: I was a little surprised, but that linebacker group around the league is a tough one to crack. With Smith there is no doubt that he’ll use it as motivation for this upcoming season and drive him to receive more consideration going forward.

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