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.
Cowboys Smart to Wait on Jason Garrett Contract Extension
Before the Cowboys' mood-changing victory over Jacksonville last Sunday, there was a lot of discussion of a possible contract extension coming for Head Coach Jason Garrett. The front office shut down those rumors, and they would be wise to keep doing so through the end of Garrett's current deal.
Jason's contract expires at the end of 2019, as do the current deals for Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan and Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli. If the 3-3 Cowboys continue at their current middling pace, Jerry Jones should feel no incentive to spare Garrett and his assistants "lame duck" status next year.
In my opinion, the stigma against coaches working on an expiring contract is overrated. Players are asked to do it all the time, and often it spurs them to greater performance than once they're comfortable with their job security.
That's not to say that I think Garrett or anyone on the coaching staff doesn't give max effort. And I understand the notion that players might start tuning a coach out if they feel like he won't be around for long.
But this isn't the NBA, where a player's contract is fully guaranteed and replacement coaches are hanging on trees in colleges and international teams across the glove. NFL players don't have the same leverage or luxury to go rogue.
Let's just consider the three scenarios for Dallas the rest of this year; positive, neutral, and negative. They can go one of these ways in 2018, and two of them would suggest Garrett doesn't need to stick around.
The positive outcome would be the Cowboys building on last week's win and getting back to their 2016 form. If they can win the NFC East and get into the playoffs, that's something that Jason Garrett and the front office and build from.
There will be a lot of dead money coming off the books next year from the contracts of Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and a few others. Dallas should be able to get new deals worked out for Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, DeMarcus Lawrence, and still have resources to improve the rest of the roster.
But even if 2018 ends positively, why extend Garrett then? Why not see if he can finally have some sustained success the following season, rather than the up-and-down flow of the last few years?
Granted, Jason couldn't help Romo's injury in 2015 or Elliott's suspension last year. Those were major factors in the team's woes those seasons.
But the great coaches in the NFL consistently find ways to overcome adversity. Unfortunately, Garrett's Cowboys have consistently proven unable to do so.
Moving to the neutral, let's say today's 3-3 record leads to an 8-8 finish or even 9-7 without a playoff appearance. Outside of Travis Frederick's absence, what major issue can the team's failings really be blamed on?
Garrett has benefited from some clear issues that derailed his team in some seasons. 2018 doesn't offer the same scapegoat.
Whether the team holds a round .500 this year or struggles the rest of the way, it's hardly the time to commit to a long-term future with Jason Garrett.
I think Jason has some great qualities as a coach. I like the way he handles the media and seems to inspire his players. You can't question that the Cowboys play hard every week, even if they play poorly.
But at some point, Garrett's system has to be held accountable for the lack of success. This is his eighth season as the head coach, not counting the 2010 interim, and the Cowboys have little to show for his time in the big chair.
Even if the team takes a nosedive the rest of 2018, I see no reason to fire Jason Garrett before the offseason. There is no great option waiting in the wings.
That really makes the point, though; you could make a legitimate case for sending Garrett packing this year if the team falters. Given that, why would you begin to consider a contract extension anytime this year, or even next season, until you see some clear signs of improvement?
Even if "lame duck" status isn't ideal, it's not the devil that some make it out to be. Plenty of players, perhaps even the starting quarterback next year, will be facing the same situation. Maybe it will galvanize the team if Dak Prescott and Jason Garrett are both working to save their jobs.
Garrett has already been given more rope by his owner than a lot of NFL coaches have enjoyed through the years. Jerry Jones' loyalty should only go so far, though. Right now, the businessman in Jerry needs to see that investing more into Jason doesn't make sense based on his current data.
I hope that changes. I hope Garrett and the Cowboys are shining by the end of this year. And if things go well enough to finish 2018, then maybe I can live with a new contract for the head coach.
But now is too soon, and the team too shaky, for any contract extensions. It's time to let things play out with Jason Garrett and not make any moves until you have to, for good or bad.
NFC East Showdown: Cowboys Offense Primed to Dominate Redskins
The Dallas Cowboys are probably as confident as they have been all season as an offense after completely manhandling the Jacksonville Jaguars defense last week. They were able to put up 40 points on the Jaguar's top-ranked defense and now have to do the same against their division rival, the Washington Redskins.
I don't think there would be any argument if I were to say the Washington Redskins defense isn't nearly as talented as the Cowboys faced last week with the Jaguars. In fact, the Redskins are ranked near the bottom of the league in almost every defensive category, which should have Dallas' offensive players primed for this matchup.
As things stand right now, the Washington Redskins are giving up 21.2 points per game which ranks 24th in the NFL. They are also giving up 344 total yards (25th in the NFL) and 227.2 passing yards a game (24th). The lone bright spot of their defense is stopping the run, where they are currently ranked 12th in the NFL and are only allowing 116.8 rushing yards to opposing running backs.
Luckily, the Dallas Cowboys and Quarterback Dak Prescott looked to have found a groove with their passing game last week against the Jaguars top-ranked passing defense. With the Redskins ranked near the bottom of the league in passing defense, I think the Cowboys should and probably will build upon the success they had last week.
Now, I fully expect the Cowboys passing game to find success once again against the Redskins, but I also believe Running Back Ezekiel Elliott to dominate on the ground like he has in the past against Washington.
Zeke only played in one game against the Redskins last season, but absolutely dominated in that contest. He rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns a year ago and I wouldn't be surprised if he is close to that milestone this week as well, even if it is against the strength of Washington's defense.
I'm really hoping I'm not a being a little overconfident here, but I guess I'm just buying into the success the Cowboys had on the offensive side of the ball last week. The offense finally started to do the things that have made them successful in the past and I'm expecting that to carry over into this week.
I believe we will see Prescott using his mobility once again, although I don't know if he will rush for 83 yards. I'm also expecting to see Wide Receiver Cole Beasley heavily involved in the passing game again because Washington doesn't have a defensive back who can cover him. Of course, let's not forget Ezekiel Elliott. I'm expecting him have a big game as well.
Overall, I really don't see the Washington Redskins defense giving the Dallas Cowboys any problems on the offensive side of the ball as long as they execute the way they did last week. I know when these two teams square off against one another it's usually a slobber knocker, but I think the Cowboys are the better team and is the one that comes away with the victory.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys offense will dominate the Redskins defense?
Can Dak Prescott Continue His Washington Domination On Sunday?
There has been a lot of change within the Dallas Cowboys since 2016.
One thing hasn't changed these past two years, however, and that is the Cowboys beating the Washington Redskins. In fact, since Dak Prescott took over as the starting quarterback in Dallas the Cowboys are 4-0 against Washington. Even as the sky was falling in Dallas a year ago, and the Cowboys offense looked like the worst in football, they still found a way to dominate Washington 38-14 and snap their then-three game losing streak.
In his four career games against Washington, Dak Prescott has quarterback ratings of 103.7, 108.9, 82.2, and 93.4. To put this into context, Prescott's average quarterback rating this season is 85.5 and that is really driven by his outlier positive rating of 118.6 against the Detroit Lions. To be fair, however, his 54.5 rating against Seattle was also a heavy outlier.
Prescott isn't the only Cowboy who has exercised this dominance over Washington, though. As Staff Writer John Williams has pointed out, Jason Garrett is 11-4 against the Redskins since becoming the Cowboys head coach, and Dallas has won six of their last eight against Washington since 2014.
So heading into Sunday's rematch with their division foe, history says the Cowboys should be feeling rather confident, right?
Well there's another streak occurring the Cowboys will actually be looking to break on Sunday. That, of course, is their winless start on the road this season.
Ironically the Dak Prescott-led Cowboys have actually been a good road team until now, going a combined 12-4 the past two seasons. And, since the new stadium opened in 2009, the Cowboys have been historically better on the road than at home, making this year's 3-3 start even more bizarre.
To put it simply, "somethings gotta give" on Sunday. Either Dak Prescott and the Cowboys will continue to beat up on the Redskins and get a leg up in the NFC East, or this horrendous road start will continue for another week.
Either way, I'm sure the takes will be hot on Monday morning.
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