It’s here. Really, it’s finally here! It’s game week and the long, long offseason has concluded and Cowboys Nation is likely excited about what this season has in store.
Think about it. For the past few years the Cowboys have gotten a slew of media attention as “the best team on paper” or “a team that will finally get over the hump”. Now the media isn’t even talking about us, many believe that the Cowboys just don’t have the talent anymore.
This is what we’ve been waiting for.
These Cowboys have consistently faltered to the pressure put on them by coaches, players, owners and media. Now, with minimum expectations, the Cowboys can play loose, play fun and just worry about Sunday.
So what can we expect? What are realistic expectations that we can expect to see from the Cowboys?I’m going to do my best to predict how things will turn this season. Try and stick with me.
Most Valuable Player: Tony Romo, QB
Predicted Stat Line: 4650 yards, 34 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 66% completion percentage
To some this is unrealistic, however, Tony Romo has shown us that he has all the talent and ability to be an elite QB. While this won’t put him at the top of any category, he’ll easily be a top 5 or 6 QB in the league.
Romo finally puts it together this year with a more comfortable offensive line, 12-personnel formation and a new focus on the running game. Romo is smart and savvy, his yardage goes down considerably from 2013 but his overall efficiency will see a great rise.
Offensive Player of the Year: Dez Bryant, WR
Predicted Stat Line: 105 receptions, 1680 yards, 16 touchdowns
Dez Bryant is on the verge of being the best WR in the NFL. This season is the breaking point. Dez won’t achieve his 2000 yards thanks to an increased focus from defensive secondaries. However, the truth is that you can only hope to contain Dez.
Dez will break 100 receptions and because of his tough style of play, he will manage to break quite a few long TD runs.
Defensive Player of the Year: Sean Lee, MLB
Predicted Stat Line: 148 total tackles, 4 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 4 sacks, 1 touchdown.
Bruce Carter is the fan favorite in this defense but Sean Lee is the prototypical middle linebacker for this scheme is a guy whose style of play is transcendent. Lee is physical, blue collar, instinctive and smart. These are traits that would allow him to play in any era.
Lee has been battling injuries but while he’s been on the field, he’s always been among the league leaders at his position. This will be the year that Lee stays healthy and delivers the type of season he’s capable of.
Rookie of the Year: Travis Frederick, C/G
Here’s the bottom line, Travis Frederick has the potential to be a steal of this draft. Offensive lineman don’t always work out (see Jonathan Cooper’s season ending injury) but Frederick has the smarts, size and ability to become a really strong center in this league.
What I like here is that Frederick, paired with Leary and Smith, offer the Cowboys stability and youth in an offensive line that has been a source of weakness for this team. Obviously, based on my Romo prediction, I expect the offensive line to be much improved and that is thanks in large part to Fredericks presence and ability to make calls.
Other Stat Projections:
Jason Witten, TE: 92 receptions, 950 yards, 6 touchdowns
DeMarco Murray: 252 carries, 1080 yards, 8 touchdowns
DeMarcus Ware: 17 Sacks
Team Record, Standings and Finish Prediction
Overall Record: 10-6 (4-2 NFC East)
Division Standing: First, 4th Seed NFC
Playoff Prediction: Lose NFC Championship @ Seattle
(Note: Maybe a little optimistic, but I believe if the Cowboys can get into the tourney they can play with anyone. Seattle becomes too much to handle IN Seattle.)
Dallas Cowboys: The Case For Regression In 2019
It's been a few years since things around the Dallas Cowboys felt this good prior to a season. Coming off a 10-6 year in which Dallas won both the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a one possession road game to the future NFC champions, Cowboys Nation is expecting some big things in 2019.
After all, the Cowboys went out and improved their roster in multiple ways this offseason and brought in some new blood on their offensive coaching staff. Spirits are high among Cowboys Nation, and just about everyone is anticipating a two team race for the NFC East.
But some numbers indicate we should be thinking "not so fast."
The details of the 2018 season are not as pretty as the total picture. Rarely are they ever, of course, but these particular details point towards possible regression for the Cowboys in 2019.
Basically, their point differential a year ago spells out impending doom. (That was dramatic, but let's discuss).
The Cowboys were +15 in 2018, and by pythagorean wins expectation, they were about as strong as an 8-8 team (8.53 wins to be exact). This means they won nearly 2 more games (1.47) than would be expected, fourth most in the entire NFL.
This point is furthered when looking at their record in one possession games. Dallas went 8-2 when the game was decided by 7 points or less, winning close games at a rate that is simply not sustainable year to year.
These numbers make the Cowboys a prime candidate for regression in 2019, as they were in 2017.
Back in 2016, the Cowboys outperformed their pythagorean expectation by a whole 2 wins. The following season? Dallas finished the year 9-7. The model also indicated that the 7-9 Eagles performed 2 wins under expectations in 2016, meaning they would get back on track in 2017. As we know, they ended up winning 13 games and the Super Bowl the following season.
Of course, this isn't set-in-stone, and the Cowboys very well could outperform these expectations and avoid regression. This would mainly hinge on their coaching staff and quarterback performing at an elite level, carrying them through close games and winning more games by greater than one possession.
Newly Acquired DE Robert Quinn Brings High Expectations
Winning games in the NFL typically comes down to accomplishing two goals. One, being successful when passing on offense. And, two, stopping the opposing team's passing game.
The Cowboys set out to accomplish that second goal this offseason, re-signing defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and trading for veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn, who tallied 6.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins, is one of the leagues more feared rushers when at his best. The former All Pro has multiple 10+ sack seasons under his belt, including a whopping 19 in 2013.
And, as expected, the Cowboys coaching staff is ecstatic to have such a respected pass rushing specialist on their roster.
“He’s got that first step. He’s an established pass rusher in this league, so he’s going to bring some good stuff for us.” - Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
The Cowboys acquired Robert Quinn for a 2020 6th round pick, which could end up being the steal of the offseason. Quinn has played with some top-notch pass rushers in the past, and each time they have brought out the best in his own game.
Back with the Rams in 2017, when Aaron Donald was on the same defensive line, Quinn got to the quarterback 8.5 times. And, last season, he remained consistent in his sack totals playing alongside Cameron Wake. Now he joins a DeMarcus Lawrence who has 25 sacks over the last 2 seasons.
"I think it was kind of one of those where I get to have fun, pin my ears back and just disrupt the backfield, which is what they want us to do." - Robert Quinn told NFL.com.
Quinn and the always dominant Lawrence will form an impressive defensive end duo on passing downs, with the potential to be one of the best in all of football. Dallas is also hoping to add Randy Gregory into this mix, a piece which could prove vital late in football games if he is able to return from his current indefinite suspension.
Whether or not Gregory finds his way back onto the field, though, this defensive front will be in good hands. The edge combo of Quinn and Lawrence, combined with a plethora of skilled interior rushers such as Maliek Collins, gives the Cowboys a fearsome defensive line which should keep quarterbacks uncomfortable every Sunday.
Can Rookie OL Connor McGovern Compete For A Starting Spot?
Raising eyebrows in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Cowboys added Penn State offensive lineman Connor McGovern to their already deep OL depth chart.
McGovern, who played guard for the Nittany Lions, was reportedly by-far the best player remaining on the Cowboys draft board when they came on the clock in round three. Still, with seemingly more pressing needs yet to be addressed, Dallas' selection of McGovern was certainly a surprise.
When you watch the tape, though, you immediately see what the Cowboys loved about Connor McGovern.
A "plug-and-play" type guard, Connor McGovern is the type of rookie you'd expect to contribute in year one. On many teams he may be a candidate to start at guard or center from the beginning of his rookie season, but here in Dallas, his role for the 2019 season is somewhat in question.
Clearly, being a day two pick, there's no doubt that McGovern will make the Cowboys roster. But can he compete for a starting job?
During OTA's McGovern took reps at both guard and center, pointing towards the possibility of him being the first interior offensive lineman off the bench if one of the starters were to go down with an injury. Fellow interior linemen Joe Looney and Xavier Su'a-Filo each contributed in big ways during the 2018 season, however, and will be tough to beat out during camp.
While possible, I would still say it's unlikely. The Cowboys selection of McGovern seems to be more about 2020 and beyond than it is about the 2019 season. With right tackle La'el Collins coming up on a contract year, Dallas might elect to let him walk in free agency, move Williams back to his college position of tackle, and slide McGovern into the left guard slot.
This seems fool-proof in theory, but this many moving parts across the offensive line could spell trouble early on in 2020. Regardless, Connor McGovern's arrival gives Dallas the flexibility to consider all options on their offensive line.
In reality, McGovern strengthened a strength for Dallas, and may be needed to prove himself as early as this Fall if injury issues arise.
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