Star Evaluation: Antwaun Woods’ Sudden Rise

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While free agency officially begins on March 13, roster turnover isn’t too far away. The Cowboys will indeed add and presumably release players, along with letting some go without a new contract.

However, the majority of the 2018 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will preview those players, analyzing where they’ve been and where they’re going.

Today, we’ll continue the series with defensive tackle Antwaun Woods.         

What’s Been Good: About a week into camp, he was “the guy who fought with Travis Frederick,” but before too long Woods started to get some recognition for his play. By the end of the year, he was a household name for the Cowboys and one of the biggest surprises of the season. The Cowboys haven’t always had a big-bodied, run-stuffing tackle such as Woods, but was able to provide a presence in the middle, along with some pass-rushing skills. With the Cowboys playing most of the year without David Irving, and suffered injuries to both Tyrone Crawford and Maliek Colllins at times, Woods offered the Cowboys some quality depth at the position.

What’s Been Bad: For a guy that was considered more of a camp-body to start the year and then wind up as a key component to the “Hot Boyz” success, Woods didn’t have a lot of “bad” moments. What could be better for him is plays behind the line of scrimmage. That’s not always easy for a guy that has his size and will command a double-team. But in the regular season, he had just 1.5 sacks and only one tackle for loss. Those are numbers that can certainly increase, even if he gets a lot of attention inside.

2018 Highlight: Woods had one of his better games of the season in the playoffs, helping stuff the Seattle running game all night. Woods registered three tackles, including one for a loss and brought the pressure on Russell Wilson throughout the game. Actually, Woods had two of his best games of the season against the Seahawks. Back in Week 3, he recorded a career-high six tackles in the loss in Seattle.

What’s Next: For starters, Woods just needs to get healthy again. He played the majority of the Rams playoff game with a shoulder injury that required surgery in the offseason to repair a torn labrum. The timing of the surgery (mid-January) suggests Woods will be fully recovered by training camp, if not able to do some things on the field for the summer minicamps at The Star. With Irving not expected to return, the Cowboys will lean on Woods as a primary option for the 1-technique (nose tackle) position. Even with some added depth through the draft or free agent, look for Woods to be a big part of the Cowboys’ defensive plans in 2019.

Bryan’s Bottom Line: One of the best surprises of the 2018 season was the emergence of Antwaun Woods. What is unique about Woods was during the OTAs and mini camps he wasn’t much of a player. It was when the full pads came on in Oxnard where he showed impressive brute power and strength. When Woods was winning one-on-one battles with Travis Frederick and Zack Martin we all stood up and took notice. Rod Marinelli and Leon Lett began to give him more and more responsibility as part of the rotation and he turned it into a starting job. One of the main reasons that this defense was defending the run well was due in large part to Woods and his ability to mesh with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. To be strong against the run, you have to be good up the middle and Woods was able to do just that. Going forward I expect that we will continue to see Antwaun Woods at that nose tackle spot but maybe a draft pick or two to help with the depth of the position.

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