With free agency looming in March, roster turnover isn't far away. However, the majority of the 2019 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, DallasCowboys.com will feature players who are currently under contract for next season, analyzing their past season and their future prospects.
Today, we continue the series with wide receiver Noah Brown.
What's Been Good: It's undeniable that Brown has carved out a role for himself in this offense, and that's mainly due to his blocking ability. In his second-year, he didn't even have a training camp because of a hamstring injury, but that didn't stop the coaching staff from bringing him off injured reserve at the halfway point. Brown's contributions to the passing game – five catches for 54 yards -- were negligible, but it'd be a mistake to assume he didn't have a role. Over the second half of the season, he averaged 12 snaps per game. If you average his snaps out for a full season, it equates to roughly 20 percent of the offensive snaps. For a guy at the back end of the depth chart, he has found a way to show his value to the coaching staff.
What's Been Bad: Obviously, having a role doesn't necessarily mean it was productive. Brown had his struggles after missing so much time due to injury. In his first game back, on the road at Philadelphia, he was hit with two costly penalties. He was hit with another in the playoffs against Seattle. On the receiving end, he never quite got on the same page with Dak Prescott, as the two had several near misses. That was never more obvious than in the postseason. In that win against the Seahawks, Brown was targeted four times after receiving just eight targets during the regular season. The result of those four targets: one six-yard catch and three incompletions – one of which was tipped for an interception. It's easy to argue that some of that falls on play calling. As useful as Brown's blocking might be, it certainly felt like his presence on the field tipped the Cowboys' play call at times. It was one of many factors that contributed to a frustrating season.
2018 Highlight: Noah Brown was at the epicenter of one of the many play calling controversies last season – this one coming on Thanksgiving. With Dallas facing 1st-and-goal from the Washington 4-yard line, Brown motioned inside and ran a drag, moving right to left. His cover man blitzed Prescott, living him literally all alone on the goal line. Unfortunately, that blitz worked, and Prescott threw a bad ball off his back foot to avoid the sack. What should have been an easy touchdown pass was thrown four feet too wide and incomplete. On the next play, Prescott was sacked and the Cowboys wound up kicking a field goal. If the call to Brown had worked, the Cowboys would've scored six and come away looking smart. Instead, they were left with lingering questions about why they don't use their All-Pro running back near the goal line.
What's Next: It's been established that Brown has found a role here. Now, can he improve upon it? At 6-2, 220 pounds, he has the physical frame that most of the Cowboys' other receivers do not. If he can continue to improve, it's logical to think he could find a larger role in the passing game. If he's more well-rounded in that regard, it could only serve to complement his abilities as a blocker. To be completely fair to him, Brown hardly had an offseason in 2018, and that undoubtedly hindered his development. Hopefully he's healthier in 2019, and perhaps that will help him carve out a more meaningful role in his third season.
Noah Brown played a specific, albeit frustrating role after injuries limited his training camp. How can he grow that role heading into his third season?
Bryan Broaddus' Bottom Line: What I remember most about working with Bill Parcells is he used to tell us to worry about those "flash" players. His meaning was: "flash" players are good enough to get you excited and keep you interested, but they never live up to the promise that you need to see on a consistent basis. Now in his third year of the program, this will be a big offseason for Noah Brown. At times he has flashed skills which have given the front office and staff reasons to believe he has a bright future ahead. The question is: is Brown just a "flash" player or is there really something there? I tend to think there is more to Brown's game than just flash. To his credit, he worked extremely hard to get back on the field after his hamstring injury, and that dedication helped him play a role in the playoffs. I believe he has the mental toughness and the talent to be that consistent, down-after-down player this club needs. Either Parcells is once again going to be right or this front office hit on a legitimate talent. It could go either way.