Every offseason there’s a ton of hype surrounding the Dallas Cowboys and their potential to reach the postseason and make a deep run to the Super Bowl. This offseason’s been no different as this team is possibly the most talented team that Jason Garrett’s ever coached. Up and down the lineup the Cowboys have star power, depth, and ascending talent that has the potential to carry the Dallas Cowboys to their sixth Super Bowl.
Of course, all of this is on paper and the Dallas Cowboys will get the opportunity to put that hype to the test when the regular season starts a week and a half from now. For now, however, there’s a lot to be excited about with the Dallas Cowboys.
1. Dak Prescott has Evolved as a Passer
Going into his fourth year as the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys there were things Dak Prescott needed to work on. Prescott needed to improve his deep passing, his anticipation, his footwork when under pressure, and getting rid of the ball quicker.
Through three preseason games, it appears as though Dak Prescott has made the improvements necessary to take his game to the next level. His deep ball accuracy has been better thanks to a better rapport with Wide Receiver Michael Gallup. His footwork looks more settled under pressure and Prescott’s getting rid of the ball much faster this preseason than he did in 2018.
This preseason, Prescott’s 11 of 14 for 109 yards, one touchdown pass, and a passer rating of 122.9.
Obviously, we need to see this carry over into the regular season, but there’s a lot to be encouraged and excited about with the continued development of Dak Prescott.
2. Maliek Collins is About to Feast
On the defensive side of the ball, there hasn’t been a player that’s been as dominant as Maliek Collins has looked during training camp. After a really good rookie year, Collins has dealt with injuries that hurt his preparation for his second and third seasons in the NFL, limiting his production as a pass rusher.
Now fully healthy heading into a contract year in 2019, Collins has a huge opportunity to make a name for himself and make himself some money. If the last month is any indication, the Dallas Cowboys finally have a 3-technique wrecking ball that they can rely on.
Maliek Collins was given the second-best defensive line grade among interior defenders through three games of the preseason. Coming into 2019 healthy, Collins will have the best season of his career.
3. Michael Gallup is Ready to Ascend
As I mentioned above, one of the encouraging signs of Dak Prescott’s training camp and preseason is the improved chemistry with second-year Wide Receiver Michael Gallup. The two of them have gotten on the same page and looked to be primed and ready to go in 2019.
Gallup has looked like a more fluid and nuanced route runner. He’s been able to beat press coverage with more consistency and has shown a really nice ability to win 50-50 balls in the air. He’s been the offensive stand out of training camp, constantly winning deep and being the highlight of practices.
In limited action this preseason, Michael Gallup has been given the seventh-highest receiving grade overall and it’s the third-highest among players who have played in three preseason games. He’s averaging 15.5 yards per reception on four receptions (six targets) and has converted three first downs and a touchdown.
Amari Cooper is the lead wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, but with the way that Michael Gallup is playing, he’s not far behind.
4. Xavier Woods is the Safety We’ve Been Looking For
The Dallas Cowboys have had good safety play during the Jason Garrett era, but they haven’t had someone who is a game-changer on the back end of the defense. Now they have that in Xavier Woods. His ability to play the deep middle of the field with range and create havoc via turnovers and physicality are the missing elements to a defense that has great players on the defensive line and excellent coverage on the boundary.
Woods really started to come on over the last half of 2018 and became a force in the middle of the secondary. He tied for the team lead in interceptions, but it was his physicality that was something we hadn’t seen from a free safety since maybe Darren Woodson.
5. Hot Boyz Bringing That Fire
In addition to Maliek Collins, the Dallas Cowboys defensive line has the best depth of players that I’ve ever seen one team have. Seriously.
They have six players who’ve put up a five sack season in the NFL; DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Kerry Hyder, Maliek Collins, Randy Gregory, and Robert Quinn. Now, five sacks may not sound like a lot but remember back in 2014 when Jeremy Mincey led the Cowboys with six sacks. Yeah, that’s how good this group is.
Even with Robert Quinn and Randy Gregory likely sitting out, the Dallas Cowboys can bring in ascending players like Dorance Armstrong and a currently hot Taco Charlton off the bench to supplement what the starters are doing at defensive end.
In addition to those guys mentioned, Antwaun Woods goes into his second season as the starting 1-technique defensive tackle with a reliable backup in Christian Covington to spell him from time-to-time. Per Pro Football Focus, Covington has the best pass rush grade among interior defensive linemen this preseason.
This doesn’t even begin to touch on the potential the Dallas Cowboys have in second-round draft pick Trysten Hill and fifth-round draft pick Joe Jackson.
With this kind of talent up and down the defensive line, the Dallas Cowboys can feel really good about any of the 10 guys that they deploy on a given snap. With DeMarcus Lawrence leading the way, the Hot Boyz are going to be on fire all season long.
6. Best Linebacker Group in the NFL
It’s not a stretch to say that the Dallas Cowboys linebacker group is the best in the NFL. Seriously. With Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Sean Lee, and Joe Thomas, they have the deepest and most talented group of linebackers of any team in the NFL.
Lee, when healthy is an All-Pro player. Vander Esch is coming off of an impressive rookie season that landed him on the All-Pro’s second-team, and most analytics people would argue that Jaylon Smith had a better 2018 than his rookie counterpart.
Toss in Joe Thomas, who can play each of the linebacker positions as well as special teams and would likely start on most 4-3 teams in the NFL and you’ve got a talented bunch that is going to make life incredibly difficult on opposing offenses.
7. The Return of Jason Witten
As excited as I am to see if Blake Jarwin can build on his 2018 finish, it’s nice having another reliable target back in the fold in Jason Witten. Sure, he’s not the player of his prime, and potentially he’s not even the player he was a couple of years ago but in this offense, he doesn’t need to be.
With Amari Cooper, the emergence of Michael Gallup, the addition of Randall Cobb, and the running game, Jason Witten doesn’t have to be the focal point of the offense to be an important piece to the offense. His reputation as a receiver will help draw some of the attention away from other players in the middle of the field, especially on third down and in the red zone. Witten can still get open and make plays in the passing game, and if he’s quicker as has been reported, it will allow him to stretch the field a bit more than he was capable of in 2017.
Getting back a veteran presence and a target that Dak Prescott trusts to be in the right spot at the right time will be huge for this team’ third-down and red zone efficiency. Given the injuries that Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz are dealing with only amplifies Witten’s value to this team. Witten’s been as durable of a player as there’s ever been in the National Football League. Being able to rely on him being available week in and week out will pay huge dividends in 2019.
8. Offensive Stars Unavailable During the Preseason
Though they were unavailable for different reasons, Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott didn’t take a snap with the first-team offense during the preseason and they still did a tremendous job moving the football. Tyron Smith and Zack Martin were limited to one offensive series during the first game of the preseason and it didn’t seem to phase the Cowboys offense in the second and third preseason games.
Dak Prescott was accurate and efficient moving the football in all three preseason appearances. Just imagine what the team will be like when they have their All-Pro left tackle, right guard, running back, and the guy who made the offense go in 2018, Amari Cooper.
Get them all together and the Dallas Cowboys offense in 2019 is primed to return to top-tier status in the NFL.
9. Tony Pollard a Steal of the 2019 NFL Draft
I’m a firm believer that Ezekiel Elliott will get his contract extension and that he’ll be lining up as the Dallas Cowboys starter week one. That doesn’t change the fact that the Dallas Cowboys got a heck of a talent in fourth-round rookie Running Back Tony Pollard.
It’s obvious that the kid has some serious skills when it comes to lining up in the backfield and taking a handoff. We shouldn’t be surprised, vision, burst, patience, balance, and running through contact are all necessary traits for being an effective kick returner, which Pollard was at Memphis.
Even if he only gets a handful of carries a game, he’s a player that has the capability of making big things happen on limited touches. He’s not a volume runner that needs to feel his way into a game. He’s got the capability of breaking big runs every time he touches the football. Regardless of Ezekiel Elliott’s status for 2019, Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore is going to find a way to get the football in Pollard’s hands.
After he scores a handful of touchdowns this season, we’ll see that pick as what it was, an absolute goldmine.
10. Kellen Moore
Last but certainly not least is the guy who’s been tasked with renovating a Dallas Cowboys offense, which had become stale and predictable. The scheme isn’t going to change much, but how they deploy their offensive philosophy won’t be as easily detectable as it was in 2017 and 2018.
Kellen Moore’s desire to use a lot of play-action, presnap motion and a variety of formations is going to help the team be more deceptive.
Though they had some success during Scott Linehan’s tenure as offensive coordinator, there was too much of a reliance on an “our guy beating their guy” philosophy. Yes, that approach can work and work for the Dallas Cowboys in 2014 and 2016, but eventually, talent catches up if there isn’t much variation and smart coaches can figure out what you’re trying to do.
That’s why what Kellen Moore brings to the table is so exciting. He’s taking a very talented offense that has had a lot of success in this scheme and employing some things that will make it much more difficult for the defense to detect what they’re trying to do.
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The time for speculation is coming to an end and soon, we’ll have real-life, regular season football to watch and evaluate. Though a lot of the national media believe the Philadelphia Eagles are the team to beat in the NFC East, but the Dallas Cowboys should certainly be in the discussion.
They’re as talented a group as there is in the NFL and if all falls right, that talent will be playing for a championship in February.