For the Dallas Cowboys to have a successful 2018 season they are going to need some of their young players step up and improve their game from a year ago. Keeping everyone healthy will be a huge help as well, but today I want to focus on a few players who I believe will have a breakout year this season.
In 2017 we saw DeMarcus Lawrence go from a player who a lot of Cowboys Nation was calling to get released, to a player who became one of the best at his position. It's rare to see someone take that kind of jump, but I don't think the Dallas Cowboys or their fans are complaining. The only real complaint I see now is how the Cowboys plan on keeping him around.
To say that Lawrence had a breakout 2017 season would be an understatement. He dominated all year and it's that kind of progress we are hoping from some of the Cowboys youngsters. But, who is ready to take that kind of jump?
Below I've identified three players who I believe are going to have breakout seasons in 2018.
Out of everybody on the Dallas Cowboys roster, I think Chidobe Awuzie is the most likely to have a breakout season like DeMarcus Lawrence did in 2017. Part of that has to do with the hiring of Kris Richard, who I believe will help him develop, but it mostly has to do with Awuzie's talent and how he performed as a rookie.
His rookie season didn't get off to the best start due to reoccurring injuries. He was only able to start six of 10 games and finished the year with 25 tackles, one forced fumble, and one interception. Not terrible numbers for a first year CB, but it could've been much better.
I believe with a full year in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program and a healthy offseason, Awuzie will without a doubt be the best cornerback on the roster. He has all the tools to succeed, now he just has to go out and prove it.
Hopefully changing from #33 to #24 doesn't jinx him. The 24 jersey hasn't been very kind to the last two CBs who wore it.
Out of the entire Dallas Cowboys 2017 draft class, Xavier Woods might have been the most impressive in his first year in the NFL. What makes it even more impressive is the fact that he was a sixth round draft pick, the 191st player selected. And I don't know about you, but I'm really looking forward to see him play this season.
As a rookie, Xavier Woods was used in a variety of roles in the Cowboys secondary and finished the season with 42 tackles and one interception. He played in all 16 games, but only started in for those contests.
I'm really expecting Xavier Woods to take a big jump in his second season with the Dallas Cowboys. I wouldn't be surprised if he is one of the starting safeties. A lot of people say that he's a little undersized to play the position, but he is almost exactly the same size as the safety everybody wants the Cowboys to trade for, Earl Thomas.
I believe if the Cowboys don't take a safety early in the 2018 NFL Draft it's probably because they like what they have in Xavier Woods.
I've actually been predicting a breakout season for Byron Jones these past several years, but unfortunately he hasn't really lived up to those aspirations just yet. I'm going to go out on a limb again and predict he finally proves why he was a first-round draft pick.
The Dallas Cowboys didn't do Byron Jones any favors by continuously having him play different positions in the secondary. I've always believed his best position was at CB, which is why am really excited the Cowboys are no longer going to play him at safety. He played safety out of necessity and has been average, but I think he will be an above average CB.
His size and athleticism should benefit him more at CB than it did at S. At safety he was asked to match up with bigger tight ends in coverage and was out physicaled from time to time, but I don't think that will happen when guarding receivers. I really think we will see a different player in 2018.
* Honorable Mention
Jaylon Smith - I thought about adding Jaylon Smith to the list due to his improved nerve regeneration in his knee/drop foot, but I think he had his breakout season last year. Hopefully he will be even better in 2018 though.
Jourdan Lewis - Jourdan Lewis is another player I contemplated adding to the list, but he is kind of being demoted a little bit and will likely be the Dallas Cowboys nickel cornerback in 2018. I'm still expecting big things from him.
Which Dallas Cowboys players do you think will have a breakout 2018 season?
Starters Make Cowboys Serious Contenders, But Depth is a Concern
Playing in the National Football Conference, the Dallas Cowboys have a difficult task ahead of them if they are to be serious Super Bowl contenders. Even still, they've become a very underrated football team due to their 9-7 record last season. The Cowboys struggled in many areas and with the Philadelphia Eagles crowned as Super Bowl Champions, everyone has forgotten about America's Team.
2017 was an awful year for the Cowboys. It seemed like a roller coaster of success, putting up an impressive performance one week only to disappoint the next one. Let's be honest with ourselves here and talk about what really ended the Cowboys' last season.
As much as we talk about how there shouldn't be any excuses in football - the Eagles made a huge statement by winning it all with a backup QB and other key starters missing - we can't deny the impact of these injuries.
Anthony Hitchens, Sean Lee, Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliott all missed some time last year, affecting the team's performance week in and week out. Had the starters been healthy, the truth is this team would've been in the playoffs.
Heading into 2018, the Cowboys will face a very similar situation. This year, starters make Dallas a serious contender. Even if they're playing in a conference that will feature a lot of quality teams, the Cowboys are a team that could beat any team in the league if healthy.
Even the dreaded wide receiver position - which has been famous this offseason for the lack of a #1 receiver - won't be as bad as we make it out to be starter-wise. A starting trio of Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup and Cole Beasley doesn't really sound bad.
Heck, not even Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods starting at safety is concerning. They have what it takes to be decent starters. Sure, Heath isn't a guy who will make the Pro Bowl, but his skills will show on the field once the season starts in September.
The Cowboys' starters will do just fine this season. If the team's fate is up to them, they are in a very good spot. The same can not be said about depth, though.
Except for the defensive line, every other position lacks depth. If Sean Lee goes down, the linebackers stop looking like a three-headed monster. Same goes for the cornerbacks. Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis seem like a good group but as soon as one of them suffers an injury, the Cowboys will be in trouble.
We're in for an exciting season with a lot of young talent waiting to breakout. The Cowboys are underrated this year. They may not be among the NFC's favorites, but they truly have what it takes to replicate the success they had in 2016. However, it seems like circumstances have to be ideal for them to make a run for the Lombardi Trophy.
With a little bit of luck, they'll bounce back this season.
The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up
Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.
The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.
As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.
Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.
Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.
Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.
Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.
I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.
All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.
How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?
Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?
With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.
Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.
I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.
I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?
Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.
Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.
Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.
Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.
Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?
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