The 2017 NFL season has certainly been full of ups and downs for the Dallas Cowboys. Injuries and suspensions have been at the forefront of the Cowboys problems this season, but despite that they still have a chance to make it into the postseason. It's strange isn't it?
Cowboys Nation has been taken on a roller coaster ride in 2017, and strangely enough the ride isn't quite over yet. There are still two regular-season games left on the schedule this year and a possible playofff berth. But despite everything that has already happened, the off-season evaluation process should be much easier.
You see, the Dallas Cowboys and the coaching staff should have a better understanding of their "true needs" because of everything that's happened throughout the 2017 season. They have had to deal with multiple suspensions and injuries, which has caused them to dive deeper into their depth chart than they probably would have liked. Fortunately though, this could end up being a blessing in disguise.
The roster depth on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball has been exposed this season in particular probably more than any in years past. The Dallas Cowboys have had to depend on their backups more than usual, which has really exposed their off-season needs. Let's dive into this a little deeper and try to determine some of the Cowboys off-season needs.
The Dallas Cowboys wide receivers have been a huge disappointment this season and I think it's time to insert some new blood. Opposing defenses have found ways to pretty much take Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley out of the game and unfortunately nobody else has really stepped up. This became an even bigger problem without Ezekiel Elliott in the lineup.
I wouldn't at all be surprised if the Cowboys decided to draft a wide receiver early. Dez Bryant isn't getting any younger and it might be time to find his eventual replacement. Dak Prescott needs more help from his WRs in the passing game, and a young new weapon might help improve the team more than any other position.
Four out of five of the Dallas Cowboys offensive line is pretty much set in stone, but the left guard position is still up in the air. Jonathan Cooper finally won the starting job in 2017, but he is a free agent after the season. The Cowboys could choose to re-sign him once again, but finding a long-term solution would probably serve them better.
Zack Martin will without a doubt receive a contract extension after the season, which means the Cowboys already have a lot invested in their offensive line. This probably means they won't draft an OG early, but you never know how things will play out. But regardless, the LG position could stand to be upgraded.
Tyron Smith and La'el Collins should be the starting tackles for the Dallas Cowboys for years to come, but both players have dealt with back problems in 2017. Smith has even had to miss a few games because of injuries, which exposed the Dallas Cowboys lack of depth at the position.
Not a single Cowboys fan wants to see Chaz Green or Byron Bell on the roster next season. Both players have been exposed as an extreme liability, which means this is definitely an area in need of upgrading in the off-season. Again, like OG, I doubt they draft a player early with so much already invested in the OL, but never say never.
Honestly, having Ezekiel Elliott available for an entire season makes the running back position less of a concern, but one slip-up could put that availability in jeopardy. With Alfred Morris set to become a free agent after the 2017 season, the Dallas Cowboys could use another young RB capable of becoming Elliott's backup.
We can argue that Rod Smith might be able to handle that role, but we really haven't seen him be the primary back in 2017. There are still questions how he would be able to hold up, which means finding an upgrade might be more of an off-season need than we think.
The linebacker position might just be the Dallas Cowboys biggest off-season need. Sean Lee has proven time and time again that he is incapable of staying healthy and Anthony Hitchens is set to become a free agent after the season. There are also still questions about whether or not Jaylon Smith is capable of becoming a starting caliber LB.
The Cowboys are without a doubt in need of depth at the position, but they need to start to prepare themselves for life without Sean Lee in the lineup. Unfortunately, we have all witnessed how production dips without him in the lineup and it's probably time to find his replacement.
The Dallas Cowboys don't really value the defensive tackle position very much, but that kind of came back to haunt them this season. Right now, they are depending on players they have called up from the practice squad and the lack of talent there is really hurting them.
They could really use a big bodied/space eating 1-technique, someone who would command double teams and clog up the middle. They haven't really had that type of player in some time now, and it might be past time to address the position.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive end position is a huge question mark after the 2017 season. I don't think they will let DeMarcus Lawrence getaway, but I'm not sure they can afford to sign him to a long-term contract. He will likely receive the franchise tag, but the depth behind him is concerning as well.
Taco Charlton has continued to improve throughout the season, but he still relatively unknown. The Cowboys will have Charles Tapper and Randy Gregory returning next year, but they are still young unproven players, much like Charlton. Pass rushers are hard to come by, so drafting one early might be a top priority.
The Dallas Cowboys pretty much had a complete makeover in their secondary this season and for the most part it has paid off. But, they probably took a step back at the safety position. Byron Jones has seen his playing time recently decreased and he might be better as a CB from here on out. Jeff Heath on the other hand has continued to make plays, but is probably still best as a reserve player.
Finding a difference making safety is just about as hard to do as finding a dominant pass rusher. They are a rarity in the NFL and typically drafted early. That is what the Cowboys will likely have to do if they want to upgrade the safety position, but it has become a need based on the way their players have performed this season.
Which positions do you think have been exposed in 2017?
Is Kavon Frazier Fighting a Losing Battle With the Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas Cowboys Safety Kavon Frazier has one year remaining on his rookie contract, but may not see the end of it with the same team who drafted him. In fact, it really looks as if he is already fighting a losing battle in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys signed Free Agent George Iloka and drafted Donavan Wilson out of Texas A&M in the sixth-round of the 2019 NFL Draft in the hopes of upgrading the safety position. That doesn't bode well for Kavon Frazier, especially after seeing his defensive snaps take hit in 2018.
After the arrival of Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard, Frazier saw his playing time on defense go from 21.24% in 2017 to 18.07% in 2018. It's not a huge difference, but it's pretty obvious the Cowboys value his special-teams ability, not his defensive play.
The way I see things, Kavon Frazier is a longshot to make the Cowboys final 53-man roster this year. At best, I have him fifth or sixth on the depth chart right now. Since Dallas typically only carries four safeties on the roster, it's looking as if Frazier could inevitably be the odd man out.
I personally have Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, and George Iloka ahead of Kavon Frazier right now on the depth chart. That means he's competing with Darian Thompson, who is also playing on a one-year deal, and rookie Donovan Wilson for that fourth and final roster spot at the safety position. Unfortunately for Frazier, it looks as if the odds are against him.
Donovan Wilson has already had to step into Frazier's shoes while he was out in OTA's after having his knee scoped, and has been pretty impressive doing so. He has supposedly picked up the defensive scheme pretty quickly and is becoming a vocal leader on the backend. Being a younger, cheaper option, Wilson has a better chance of sticking around on the final 53-man roster over Frazier.
As you can see, Kavon Frazier is fighting an uphill battle with the Dallas Cowboys. It of course is nothing new for him. He's had to fight his way onto the roster ever since he joined the Cowboys, but this year just seems a little different in my opinion. It just looks as if the odds are more against him this time around.
I have no doubts Frazier will continue to fight with every ounce of his being, but if I'm being completely honest I think he's fighting a losing battle. It's going to be really interesting to see how this roster battle at the safety position plays out in training camp and preseason.
Do you think Kavon Frazier is fighting a losing battle with the Dallas Cowboys?
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.
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