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2016 Triplets: Setting Expectations for Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and Ezekiel Elliott

Sean Martin

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When quarterback Tony Romo is on the field for the Dallas Cowboys, anything is possible. The team always has a chance with their leader under center, especially when dynamic wide receiver Dez Bryant is right there with him.

Cowboys Nation was cruelly reminded what happens when both players are sidelined together in 2015, which has only added to the hype for 2016 - with both players set to return at full strength.

Of course, an extra jolt of excitement is expected to be provided by rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was drafted with the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft by the Cowboys to create their modern version of the triplets.

The Triplets. Emmitt Smith. Troy Aikman. Michael Irvin.

Obviously, these three players have a special place in the hearts of every Cowboys' fan, as they delivered three Super Bowl trophies to the organization through the 1990s.

Dallas' modern triplets have a long way to go in cementing a similar legacy of course, but I figured that it would be a fascinating exercise to project the 2016 stats for Elliott, Romo, and Bryant, based on their career paths compared to those of their triplets' counterparts.

Without further adieu, let's dive into the numbers, and more on how they were calculated.

Projecting 2016: RB Ezekiel Elliott

ZekeProjection

A lot is probably going through your head right now, right? Numbers and colors are everwhere, DeAngelo Williams has somehow poked his nose into Cowboys news once again, and Ezekiel Elliott isn't even going to break 1,000 yards in 2016? 

Well, if you've been following any of my other work here at Inside The Star, you know how excited I am to have Elliott on my team, so allow me to explain all of these projections.

Emmitt Smith's rookie season came in 1990, and there's no way to hide that it was not spectacular. You see his numbers there in the top left, which still earned him the 10th highest rushing yard total in the league that year.

Working with Smith's rookie numbers, the next part of this equation called for doing our best to translate those numbers to 2016. To do so, I took the stats of last season's 10th leading rusher, which happened to be Williams.

To further merge the old with the new, you see the averages for how much both backs contributed to their teams when it comes to a percentage of the team's rushing yards and touchdowns. These numbers obviously played the largest role in figuring out Zeke's final projection, but let's pause to remember a few things first.

  • While Williams' percentage of the team's rushing yards is lower due to him starting the season as a backup, Elliott is going to be the undisputed RB1 with the Dallas Cowboys. For further perspective, DeMarco Murray accounted for 78.38% of the Cowboys' rushing yards in 2014, trumping the numbers of both Williams and Smith.
  • Elliott will be doing all of his running behind the best offensive line in football, and as the best scheme fit this offensive front has been able to block for since coming together. Because of this, Elliott's final projections are going to be adjusted at the end of this section. 

ElliottOTA

If Ezekiel Elliott runs for 57.54% of the Cowboys' rushing yards in 2016, and the team rushes for the average that you see above, he will finish with 927 yards. As opposed to trying to make this formula even more complex to get a more suitable number, we're simply going to add 25 yards per game to Ezekiel's production.

This seemed like a fair number when taking into account all of the offensive weapons the Cowboys will feature in 2016. In fact, when you see my projections for Bryant and Romo, you may even be able to make a case for Elliott to put out even more yards and touchdowns than his final projection - which is as follows:

Ezekiel Elliott will rush for 1,327 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2016.

Happy now? Awesome! Let's see what the stats for the quarterback of America's Team are going to look like this season.

Cowboys Colts

Projecting 2016: QB Tony Romo

Tony Romo is entering his 11th season as the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, which means that his projections will be largely based on the 1999 performance of Troy Aikman.

RomoProjections

Aikman's stats in his second to last season translate, in terms of yards, to the 2015 performance of Oakland Raiders' signal caller Derek Carr. With rookie WR Amari Cooper joining the silver and black this season, Carr had somewhat of a breakout year, which of course helped Romo's projected 2016 numbers.

The formula here is exactly the same as the one used for Elliott, except no curve will be applied.

Tony Romo will throw for 3,462 yards in 2016, completing 60.3% of his passes for 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

With these numbers, Romo's return to the field would see him throw for his 7th highest career yards output, lowest completion percentage, 8th most touchdowns, and 7th fewest interceptions.

When put this way, these numbers certainly don't jump out to anyone, but it does serve as a reminder to Cowboys Nation that expectations for Romo should not be impossibly high. While yes, he is fully rested and healthy, the quarterback is aging and is at some point going to slow down.

I still do believe that there is some great football left in Tony Romo however, and the Cowboys have done everything possible to load up his offense for 2016 and beyond. Outside of Elliott and Bryant being here, and Romo also benefiting greatly from this offensive line, targets like Cole Beasley and Brice Butler will look forward to developing further chemistry with their quarterback and making the Dallas passing attack one of the NFL's most potent.

Any Cowboys fan that understands the full impact that Tony Romo has had on this team over the years knows to look beyond the stats, and this projection (while still being pretty solid), could be an example of that.

This leaves us with one question left to answer, and it is how many of these Tony Romo passing yards and touchdowns will go to Dez Bryant. 

IrvinBryant

2016 Projection: WR Dez Bryant

Dez Bryant is the soul of the Cowboys' offense. It pained the star wideout to never truly be at 100% in 2015, which means scary things for opposing defenses facing a motivated Bryant in 2016.

My own expectations for Dez are sky high this year, but let's see what the projected numbers say. Again, the formula remains unchanged, as we'll merge together the production of a 1994 Michael Irvin and his 2015 equivalent.

DezProjection

Dez Bryant will catch 83 passes in 2016 for 1,276 yards, with 8 of those receptions resulting in touchdowns.

With these numbers, Dez Bryant would have the third highest yardage output of his NFL career on his fourth highest receptions total. The touchdowns number obviously seems low, and while I expect more than 8 balls to be caught by Dez Bryant in the painted rectangle on Sundays, it is still so unknown how the Cowboys will attack in the red zone.

Elliott will of course get his touches, and all of the other weapons mentioned above for QB Tony Romo are going to be vying for targets. Still, it has been far too long since we've seen Romo take a snap and immediately lob a fade to #88, who catches it for a score before his defender could even react.

Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan certainly understand this, and will be looking to get the ball into Dez Bryant's hands plenty of times this season. Additionally, Bryant is a team player, and if he accounts for just 8 of Romo's projected 24 touchdowns this season (33.3%) and the team is winning, you won't see any complaints.


Projecting future stats in the NFL is incredibly hard. The game we love so much is a constant balancing act between numbers. Should Elliott blow past my projection and take the league by storm as a rookie, it obviously will have an effect on the stats for Romo and Bryant.

If Bryant finds himself poised to prove he is one of the best play makers in the league again this season, the effects it will have on Elliott are relatively unknown, while Romo will receive a big boost.

Make of these numbers what you will, and get ready to watch the Cowboys put up points, points, and more points in 2016! Thank you for reading, and see below how you can contact me with your thoughts on any and all of these projections.

What are your thoughts on the Cowboys new triplets and their projected 2016 stats? Let's talk about it! Comment below to start the discussion, email me at sean.martin@InsideTheStar.com, or tweet to me @ShoreSportsNJ!

Tell us what you think about "2016 Triplets: Setting Expectations for Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and Ezekiel Elliott" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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5 Comments
  • Damon B

    I think rushing the #'s for Elliott are on the low side… I expect to see closer to 1100 yards and 10-12 TD's, plus another 300+/- receiving yards & 2-3 TD's.

    • http://wmscradio.com/show/upon-further-review/ Sean Martin

      My final Elliott projection was 1,327 yards and 12 touchdowns, which is better than what you have him at (when it comes to yards). Thank you for reading, Damon.

  • http://Inside%20the%20Star robby valentino

    Romo stats. 4080 yards, 34 tds, 9 int Elliott. 1480 yards Dez. 90 cathes. 1350 yars. 14 td's

    • http://wmscradio.com/show/upon-further-review/ Sean Martin

      This would give Romo his 5th highest career yardage output, 2nd most touchdowns (tied), and 2nd fewest interceptions (tied). While I would certainly sign up for that, I just don't see it, but I welcome Romo to prove me wrong haha. I like the numbers you chose for Dez, those look pretty good. Thank you for reading and responding.

  • phuc

    While I agree with the numbers you have with zeke, I have to disagree with romo's numbers. Romo will have over 3800 yards passing and 35+ td's and single digit ints. Let's not forget that while Murray was a good rb, he could not take it to the house like zeke. That's going to open up more passing lanes and help the Cowboys wr's..

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys Hoping to Bring Scouting Combine to The Star in Frisco

Sean Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Hoping to Bring Scouting Combine to The Star 1

When the Dallas Cowboys opened their world-class headquarters in Frisco, affectionately named The Star, the possibilities were endless for the franchise that embraces football being bigger than life in a state where that's certainly the case.

Not only have the Cowboys hosted more football than ever with AT&T Stadium serving as their home and the Ford Center at The Star being a shared practice space with local high schools, but they became the first team to host the NFL Draft from their stadium in April.

Just as the draft has become a spectacle for fans and media alike, the all-important Scouting Combine that leads up to the draft each year is a fully televised event now. Held in Indianapolis since 1987, the Cowboys will have to prove they're well prepared to handle the burden of a Scouting Combine while disrupting the continuity that Lucas Oil Stadium has provided.

The biggest advantage that Indianapolis has held through years of the Combine's development is their stadium's proximity to local hospitals. Any scout or draft analyst will tell you that the most important thing draft prospects go through during the Combine is their medical checks, something they can now do at The Star without setback.

Across the street from The Star is now the Baylor, Scott & White Sports Therapy & Research center, a brand new medical facility that spans 300,000 square feet. The Cowboys will even have their time to work out the kinks of potentially hosting the Combine, with Indianapolis still under contract to host the event through 2020.

The Combine also serves as a key point in the NFL offseason where executives and coaches from every team are together, often leading to trade talks that impact the following draft. Imagination can run wild with the Cowboys hosting the Combine on campus at The Star, and rival head coaches meeting in a Sushi Marquee, Cow Tipping Creamery, or Luxe Eyewear.

Dallas Cowboys Hoping to Bring Scouting Combine to The Star

These are merely three of the hundreds of auxiliary features in place at The Star, ready to take the Combine to the next level, as Dallas already did with this year's NFL Draft.

Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and Left Guard Connor Williams became the first players to be drafted in the stadium they'll call home. Within a few years, prospects fortunate enough to get the call from America's Team may feel an even deeper connection to the Cowboys, going through their job interview that is the Combine at the team's headquarters.

Jerry Jones has stated that The Star was never designed with the thought of hosting a Combine in mind, but this does not mean preparations will not take place for the Cowboys to be ready following two more years in Indianapolis.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Hoping to Bring Scouting Combine to The Star in Frisco" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Dallas Cowboys

How Did the Dallas Cowboys Fare in This Year’s NFL 100?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Ezekiel Elliott, Bears
Matthew Emmons / USA TODAY Sports

Every year, NFL Network releases a "Top 100" list of all the players in the league. What's special about this list is that the voters are actually fellow NFL players. We have tons of rankings from analysts and scouts all year long, so it's fun to see what the persons who actually put on shoulders and helmets week after week have to say about their peers.

However, that's precisely what makes it very controversial among fans. Year after year, we see players getting underrated and players getting ranked way ahead than they should.

Take Dak Prescott in 2017, for example. The young quarterback put on a show as a fourth-round rookie that no one could have expected from him. As impressive as he was, it's hard to defend him being ranked as the fourteenth best player in the NFL, which is how he was ranked in the NFL 100 last year.

This Monday, the 2018 Top 10 will be announced on NFL Network at 7 PM CT, but no Cowboys' name will be mentioned.

So, without getting frustrated about this year's results, let's take a look at how the Dallas Cowboys fared this time around.

What Does Zack Martin Have in Common With Larry Allen?

#71: RG Zack Martin

2017 Ranking: #58.

I'm pretty sure that Zack Martin doesn't even care about the NFL 100 list, especially after he became the highest-paid guard in NFL history just days ago. For the Cowboys, even with Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick on the same offensive line, Zack Martin might be the best lineman on the roster. At the very least, there's an argument to be made.

It's not very surprising to see Martin all the way at #71. Offensive guard is a very overlooked position by many, so it does make a tiny bit of sense for him to be ranked where he is.

What is surprising though, is the fact that Pittsburgh Steeler David DeCastro is ranked at #44. Both players are great guards, but Martin is widely acknowledged as the best at his position. Maybe playoff success came into account?

#54: RB Ezekiel Elliott

2017 Ranking: 7.

Ezekiel Elliott stumbled quite a bit this year, which is completely understandable. First of all, the 2016 season was electric. The narrative of two rookies taking the league by storm and earning the #1 seed in the NFC was unique.

Things changed for the superstar running back in 2017, though. Elliott had to deal with tons of off-field drama while fighting a six-game suspension that ended up being upheld and Zeke had to miss some time.

This is undoubtedly what made Elliott, who is easily a top three running back in the NFL, fall all the way out of the top 50. Despite having had pretty good years, I can assure you that Kareem Hunt (ranked at 33) and Mark Ingram (43) are not even in the same tier as Zeke.

#39: LT Tyron Smith

2017 Ranking: 18.

I'm not going to lie, I'm not complaining about this one. Just like the rest of the offensive linemen, Tyron may be undervalued here. However, he is the best tackle on the list, so it's certainly tough to be mad about this.

Besides, don't forget Tyron didn't play the entire season after being out for three games. Not saying that makes him a worse player or anything, but it helps make sense of his spot on the list.

With former Cleveland Brown Joe Thomas enjoying retirement, it's easier to see Smith as the clear-cut best tackle in the NFL today. He's a beast. If he finds a way to play 16 games next season, I'm sure he will climb the rankings in 2019.

#34: DE DeMarcus Lawrence

2017 Ranking: Unranked. 

Last but not least is the Cowboys' breakout player of the year. Lawrence finally proved his worth getting to the opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times on the year. Not to mention, his game against the run was pretty remarkable and he helped take the defense to another level.

This was the first season in D-Law's career in which he remained completely healthy all along and it showed on the field. Thanks to his performance, the team handed him the franchise tag and hopefully he'll get a big, juicy contract once he continues dominating this year.

https://twitter.com/TankLawrence/status/1003853184782094336

Six defensive ends were ranked ahead of him, so we will have to wait and see if he keeps it up in 2018 after being named a second team All-Pro in 2017.

The Snub: C Travis Frederick

The one thing that is outrageous from this year's list is the absence of Travis Frederick. I understand there aren't any other centers on the list, but they should at least include the best at his position, right?

Frederick is undoubtedly one of the most valuable players on the Cowboys' roster and a player that through five years in the league, has been to the Pro Bowl four times. One of the NFL's finest, he definitely deserves to be on that list.

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But hey, as previously mentioned, this list is meant to be fun. It's cool to hear what the players (teammates and rivals) have to say about one another during this series. Instead of taking it as an official ranking or anything of the sort, it's better to see it as a fun piece of content by NFL Network.

Let me know what your thoughts on these rankings are on the comments section below or tweet me @PepoR99 to talk some football!

Tell me what you think about "How Did the Dallas Cowboys Fare in This Year’s NFL 100?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Dallas Cowboys

5 Winners from Dallas Cowboys OTAs and Minicamp

John Williams

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Cowboys en Español: Caras Nuevas, ¿Tenemos Cornerbacks?, Adiós Ware
James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys have completed the offseason part of their practices and are now eyeing the start of training camp in Oxnard, California on July 26th. The offseason stuff doesn't necessarily show what a team thinks about a player near as much as training camp, so I won't look at any losers because these practices have varying personnel at times.

That being said, there certainly were some winners during the offseason.

1. Jaylon Smith, Linebacker

Every day removed from his injury in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl is another day closer to potentially seeing the All-American linebacker that would have been a top-10 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

With the knee injury, there's always been some doubt about Jaylon returning to that level of play, but as offseason practices wore on it was becoming clear that he's much healthier and much more mobile than he was in 2017.

Both of those things are strong signs in the right direction for the third year pro.

After sitting out his rookie season to rehab and then having some good moments and some really bad moments in 2017, it sounds like he's making progress to be a difference maker in 2018.

During OTAs and minicamp sessions that were open to the media, Jaylon was seen running with the first-team defense every time they took the field. Now, some of that is due to the Cowboys limiting the snaps of veteran All-Pro Sean Lee and rookie first round pick Leighton Vander Esch, who came up with a sprained ankle, but the fact that Smith's snaps weren't limited should only be seen as a good sign.

We still have a long way to go until the Dallas Cowboys strap it on for their week one matchup with the Carolina Panthers, but Jaylon Smith is on an excellent trajectory.

Anyone with a Clear, Eye, View can see that.

2. Anthony Brown, Cornerback

One of the bigger surprises during the offseason practices so far has to be Anthony Brown, and not Jourdan Lewis, running with the first team nickel defense.

Jourdan Lewis proved he was a really good corner in his rookie year, both in the slot and on the outside, while Anthony Brown struggled at times. Knowing that new Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard prefers his corners to be tall, long, and strong has led to some speculation that Lewis may not be a fit in Richard's scheme.

That's certainly a possibility. The more realistic possibility is that Brown, with more seniority, was getting the opportunities first as is often the case with Jason Garrett coached teams during the offseason.

While Brown is a pretty good slot cornerback in his own right, this might only be temporary.

Understanding Cowboys Remaining Offseason "To-Do List"

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

3. Michael Gallup, Wide Receiver

As I read reports from OTAs and minicamp practices, one thing that stood out is that Michael Gallup was winning and winning a lot.

When asked in a mailbag who had been building the best rapport with Quarterback Dak Prescott, Bryan Broaddus from DallasCowboys.com had this to say:

"Bryan: That’s a great question. The guys that come to mind for this [sic] me are Michael Gallup and Blake Jarwin. Those guys have found ways to generate space and have been reliable catching the ball when it’s thrown in their direction."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

Just a few days earlier Broaddus stated that Cole Beasley and Gallup were the only ones getting open with any consistency.

Now, it's still early and it's padless practice, but that's an encouraging sign for the third round pick out of Colorado State.

Typically it takes a year for wide receivers to adjust to the NFL game, especially with how much press coverage is played by NFL defensive backs. One of the byproducts of Kris Richard's existence as the defensive backs coach is that they're playing more press coverage. He's teaching his DB's to be more aggressive and more physical at the line of scrimmage.

For Gallup and the rest of the wide receiver group, that can only help them as they get ready to face opposing defenses. One way to disrupt timing-based routes or an offense that relies on separation and yards after the catch is to disrupt the receiver at the snap. Every practice, these guys are working to beat the press.

As a rookie wide receiver, this can only benefit Gallup -- in particular -- as that will be a big transition from college where defenses are playing off the line of scrimmage against the countless number of spread offenses that exist.

The fact that he's already winning reps during practices against some pretty good corners is a great sign for the Dallas Cowboys.

He may not be a starter in this offense right away, but I doubt it takes long before he's cemented himself in three and four wide receiver personnel groupings.

4. Chaz Green, Guard

I'm sure you aren't a fan of seeing Chaz Green's name anywhere near a "winners" list. As bad as the Atlanta Falcons game was for him, we can't ignore the fact that Green got a lot of first team repetitions during OTAs and minicamp while Zack Martin negotiated his contract extension.

Either that means the Dallas Cowboys haven't given up on their third round pick from 2015 or they're trying to get as many practice snaps out of him as possible to be able to make a clearer decision regarding his future with the team.

Getting to play with the ones is encouraging, but he still has a lot to prove during training camp to keep a spot on the roster. Green's going to get a long leash as a former premium draft pick. We'll see if he takes advantage of it.

5. Jihad Ward, Defensive Tackle

Maliek Collins hurt his foot -- again -- and David Irving was dealing with off the field stuff -- again -- leaving Jihad Ward with a lot of opportunities to play against the first team offensive line as the three-technique defensive tackle.

On June 4th, I asked Bryan Broaddus from DallasCowboys.com who his biggest surprises on offense and defense were during OTAs:

Bryan Broaddus on Twitter

Cedrick Wilson and Jihad Ward https://t.co/kgcgJkTj3U

If Broaddus is encouraged by Ward's progress, I am too.

He's going to have a lot of opportunity to get a strangle hold on the 3T defensive tackle spot with Maliek Collins not set to be back until late in training camp, and David Irving suspended the first four games of the 2018 season.

The Dallas Cowboys liked Ward coming out of college and had him just behind Maliek Collins on their 2016 NFL Draft Big Board.

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There's still a lot of practice reps that have yet to take place, but the Dallas Cowboys have gotten some encouraging contributions from these players. As we look to training camp, who will you be watching to see if the stand-out and can make the Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster?



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