Life as a sports fan is a weird one these days. The Masters is over, the NBA Playoffs are looming, and NFL Draft talk is all the rage. We're almost two weeks away from the league's annual draft selection, and it will mark another milestone across the stretch of the year where football isn't played. There are a few of these milestones necessary before football actually begins, and one of them is the Preseason. Open up your calendars because we now know the 2017 Dallas Cowboys Preseason Schedule.
The 2017 #NFL preseason schedule: Dallas vs Arizona in the Hall of Fame Game kicks it off on August 3rd
We've known for a while now that the Dallas Cowboys will be one of two NFL teams playing in five preseason games before the 2017 season begins. Why? As you know, Jerry Jones will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this August, and as a result the Dallas Cowboys will be playing in the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
The 2017 Dallas Cowboys Schedule in terms of the regular season likely won't be released until sometime between April 17th and 21st, but that hasn't stopped a certain Inside The Star Staff Writer from taking a crack at predicting it.
My prediction for the 2017 #Cowboys schedule. Huzzah.
What are the storylines across the Cowboys' preseason games now that we know the schedule? Here is our complete breakdown:
Pro Football Hall of Fame Game: Dallas Cowboys v. Arizona Cardinals
The Cowboys will be playing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game against the Arizona Cardinals, thanks to quarterback Kurt Warner's presence in the 2017 class, with a few different details revolving around the annual game in Canton, OH.
Thanks to 2016's fiasco concerning the turf at what is now the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, the NFL moved the PFHOF Game up in the weeklong schedule. Previously the game took place on Sunday, the day after said enshrinement. For the first time in NFL History the game will take place on Thursday with the weekend festivities to follow.
Preseason Week 1: Dallas Cowboys At Los Angeles Rams
We also know that thanks to the Cowboys' presence in the PFHOF game that they will have an extra week of Training Camp. This is of course the Training Camp that will begin in Oxnard, CA where the Cowboys have been known to conduct many a Training Camp across their storied history. As the Cowboys will already be stationed seaside for a bit, it of course makes sense for them to visit the Los Angeles Rams during Week 1 of the Preseason (which they literally did a year ago). Unlike last year we won't get to see bits and pieces the following Tuesday on HBO's Hard Knocks, nor the pomp and circumstance revolving around "the NFL's return to Los Angeles!", but the NFL will get to milk their golden cow in the Dallas Cowboys for another ratings boost.
It was in Los Angeles against the Rams a year ago that quarterback Dak Prescott got his first official start in the blue and silver, unknowingly partaking in the opening act of what would be a season defined by his storyline. It was only a few months before that game when plenty of Cowboys fans chirped that Jared Goff was the rightful heir to Tony Romo's throne. It's funny how things work out, isn't it?
Preseason Week 2: Dallas Cowboys v. Indianapolis Colts
While the Cowboys will begin their Training Camp period in Oxnard,CA, they will also return home to The Star in Frisco,TX to finish it up. The second and third weeks of their preseason schedule seem to cater to that as the Cowboys will be at home in the middle of August.
The Cowboys will host the Indianapolis Colts, who's last season of serious success coincidentally came in the year that they also last visited Dallas. Andrew Luck and Co. took it on the chin early and often from the Cowboys in the final days of the 2014 regular season, and we'll see if Chuck Pagano and his staff can set the stage for a hopeful 2017 season on what will surely be a muggy night in Texas.
Preseason Week 3: Dallas Cowboys v. Oakland Raiders
The all-important "dress rehearsal" during the preseason period is Week 3. This is when starters and significant players will see a bulk of work, typically a half or even three quarters. As both the Cowboys and Raiders continued to have success across the 2016 season, many speculated as to the spectacle that a Super Bowl between the two teams would be. The Oakland Raiders technically are no more as they have announced an inevitable move to Las Vegas - a move with some interesting impacts on the Cowboys themselves - but the potential for hype explosion still exists between the two squads.
It's harder to ask for a better dress rehearsal than this. The nucleus of offensive talent for the Cowboys gets to go up against the NFL's reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Khalil Mack, and a questionable - that will likely be aided through the NFL Draft - secondary for the Cowboys will try to contain Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. This game will also mark Tight End Jared Cook's - who signed with the Raiders this offseason - first trip back to AT&T Stadium since the infamous 3rd and 20 conversion he made in the Divisional Round as a member of the Green Bay Packers.
It's no coincidence that the Cowboys and Raiders will square off in the dress rehearsal week. The NFL wants to protect its ratings early on, and this is how you do it.
Preseason Week 4: Dallas Cowboys At Houston Texans
It's thanks to former Right Tackle Ralph Neely that the Cowboys and Texans (since the Oilers are now the Titans) meet in the annual Governor's Cup during the preseason period. The little brother Texans fans treat this game as the Super Bowl, and I mean... can you blame them? It's their chance to play against the Dallas Cowboys!
This year the Governor's Cup will take place in the stadium that actually hosted the most recent Super Bowl as it's Houston's turn to host. Had Tony Romo chosen to lend his services to the struggling Texans instead of the cushy lifestyle retirement and broadcasting have to offer, this could have been a Texas-sized week of "What's going to happen?" stories everywhere you looked.
Instead this will just be one of those games you have on in the background as nobody remotely important to either team will play since the season will be ten days away at that point. It will be fun, we'll power through it, and when it's over the next time our 'Boys suit up it'll be for real.
Kicker Matt Bryant Should Be the Final Piece of Cowboys 2019 Offseason
The draft is done, DeMarcus Lawrence is re-signed, and the bulk of free agency activity has passed. The 2019 Dallas Cowboys have more than enough talent to compete this season, but there is still one last move I'd wish they'd make. Veteran kicker Matt Bryant, still one of the NFL's best even at almost 44 years old, could be the final piece to this offseason puzzle.
The Atlanta Falcons' longtime kicker, and franchise scoring leader, was not retained this year despite another standout season. He made 20-of-21 field goals, with a long of 57, in 2018.
Why Atlanta didn't keep Bryant hasn't been confirmed, but perhaps the team was just looking to avoid hanging on one year to late. But Matt, who ranks eight all-time in FG accuracy (86.2%), doesn't think he's done. He tweeted the following from his personal account in February:
"Over this past year I’ve been asked numerous times about retirement and how I feel. Well, I’m not retiring and I feel fine and plan on feeling even better with some changes to my offseason program!
As of now Matt Bryant remains a free agent, and I think the Dallas Cowboys should be very interested.
If you go up and down this Dallas roster, kicker is arguably its biggest liability. Brett Maher had some highlight moments in 2018, and won two Player of the Week awards, but he also was one of the league's worst kickers in overall FG accuracy.
The problem with Maher is that you can't teach his best skill; the accuracy from the high 50s and even low 60s is incredible. It's a true weapon that you have a hard time letting go of, which was evident last year when Dallas dumped Dan Bailey for Maher at final cuts.
But Matt Bryant might be the best of both worlds. He's been a 91% FG kicker overall this last three years and has made 18-of-22 attempts from 50 yards out or more.
Maher only made 80.6% of his kicks in 2018. He went from 6/7 from long range, but that tells you how shaky he was from closer in.
Those closer kicks are worth the same three points that the longer ones are, and how'd you like it if Dallas lost a critical game because their kicker couldn't make a 35-yarder?
I get the fear factor with an older guy like Matt Bryant. Heck, the Cowboys let Dan Bailey go when he was still just 30. But Bryant hasn't shown the red flags that Bailey did; he's still kicking as well as he ever has.
If nothing else, Dallas has the cap space and circumstances to bring in Bryant for a true competition with Maher. If Brett has improved his game and keeps his job, then that's awesome. But why not add some pressure now, though a position battle with one of the all-time greats, and see what Maher's really made of?
Seasons have been made, and shattered, by one kick. Unless the Cowboys have good reason for confidence in Brett Maher's development from last year, they could be carrying a significant liability into a year where they're trying to push for a Super Bowl.
If Matt Bryant could provide even a small amount of additional security, isn't he worth it?
Cowboys RB Mike Weber’s Injury Scare Continues Concerning Trend
Rookie RB Mike Weber had a brief scare earlier this week with a knee injury in practice, but thankfully the MRI came back with a good report. However, as he fights to have a future with the Dallas Cowboys, this health incident is a concerning reminder of Weber's recent history.
One reason that Weber fell to the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft was due to battling injuries during his last two years at Ohio State. He lost his starting job in 2017 due to ongoing hamstring issues and also had to miss time last year because of a foot strain.
Carrying the load for the Buckeyes is a far different workload than being second or third on the Cowboys' RB depth chart. But this latest scare happened in early May, just two weeks after Mike joined the team and well before the more strenuous activities of an NFL offseason.
A practice injury can cost you just as badly as one that happens in a game. And with Dallas already thin at RB, it could leave them severely shorthanded if it occurs during the regular season.
Many have projected that the Cowboys' RB group in 2019 would have Ezekiel Elliott as the obvious starter and then rookies Weber and Tony Pollard behind him. While Pollard was drafted three rounds ahead of Weber, he's not built to take a large number of carries if Zeke were to go out.
If Mike Weber does make the team, he would be expected to take a sizable role if something bad happen with Elliott.
The "injury prone" label is disastrous for any athlete, but especially a guy with no real claim to a roster spot. If Weber causes concern in the front office about his durability, they may go a different way at final cuts.
Remember, Mike's not just up against Pollard and Darius Jackson for a roster spot. There are still plenty of veteran free agent running backs out there that Dallas could turn to if they're not confident about their young prospects.
This isn't too say that one scary moment in May, which ultimately didn't amount to much, is reason to cut bait with Mike Weber. But when you stack it up with his injury history in college, it does make you wonder how he'll do over the course of an entire NFL season.
Hopefully, Weber bounces back from this and has a great summer. Former Buckeye RBs have treated Dallas well the last few years, and it'd be fantastic if Mike can provide the same solid solid depth that Rod Smith did.
But this latest news is just a reminder of why Dallas can't rest easy at running back just yet, and why they may still have another move to make to prepare for 2019.
Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Graduating From Notre Dame
The 2019 season is right around the corner for the Dallas Cowboys, with OTA's and training camp getting ready to kickoff in the coming weeks/months.
Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith made the most of his offseason, going back to Notre Dame to finish out his college degree. Smith is set to graduate from Notre Dame this Saturday, and will walk to earn his degree in Film & Television.
Smith talked to DallasCowboys.com's David Helman about why it was so important for him to graduate and finish what he started at Notre Dame.
“When I left after my junior year, I promised my mom that I would go back and finish...Finishing my third year with the Cowboys, it was time.” - Jaylon Smith
2,025 @NotreDame undergraduates will receive degrees during Commencement Weekend. That contingent includes @thejaylonsmith Yes, the current @dallascowboys & former @NDFootball All-American linebacker, who took 21 credits this spring #4for40 #GraduatingChampions #CEV
Smith continues his leadership on and off the field, and we all send our congratulations to the Cowboys starting MIKE linebacker!
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