The quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys is one of the more pressure-packed and polarizing positions in all of sports. No position in the NFL, and perhaps sports, faces more scrutiny or receives more criticism for their performance than the signal caller for America's Team. This has been true for Dak Prescott. Just like it was true for Tony Romo before him and even Troy Aikman before him.
If you recall, there was a time in Aikman's Hall of Fame career when people were clamoring for Steve Walsh to replace Aikman as the Cowboys quarterback. How different would the 1990s have been for the Dallas Cowboys if they replaced a struggling Aikman with their backup quarterback?
Getting lost in all the contract talk surrounding Dak Prescott is the reality that he's been a really good quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. Perfect? No. Does he have things to work on? Of course. Those things shouldn't negate that he's performed well under pressure and played a part in the Cowboys winning two NFC East Titles and more games than any team other than the New England Patriots since 2016.
2018, despite a slow start, was Prescott's best in the NFL. In the first seven games of the season, Prescott accounted for 10 touchdowns, threw four interceptions, completed only 62% of his passes, while posting a passer rating of 87.4. After the Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders, Dak accounted for 18 total touchdowns, four interceptions, completed 71% of his passes and posted a 103 passer rating. His yards per attempt went up nearly a full yard from 6.88 to 7.71 pre-Amari to post-Amari. Prescott's air yards per attempt (the distance the ball travels on average per attempt) went up 1.33 yards per attempt from the first seven games to the last nine games.
Prescott finished the 2018 season on a positive note and should pick up right where he left off in 2019.
Here are three reasons why Dak Prescott will have a career year in 2019.
Time to Build Chemistry
One of the amazing storylines from the 2018 season is how quickly Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper were able to build a rapport almost immediately after the trade. Cooper and Dak appeared to be an excellent fit for one another and Cooper reestablished himself as one of the 10 best wide receivers in the NFL after a down 2017 and the first half of 2018.
In nine games with the Dallas Cowboys, Cooper accumulated nearly three times as many yards as he did in six games with the Oakland Raiders (725-280). He had six touchdown receptions for the Cowboys in the regular season compared to one for the Raiders.
Cooper was getting wide open almost at will, despite teams sitting on the slant route that was getting called ad nauseum.
With a full offseason with Dak Prescott, Cooper and his quarterback -- sniff, sniff -- will be able to develop an even better rapport for 2019 and beyond.
As good as they were in 2018, it's reasonable to expect that they'll be just as good in 2019 or better. But Amari Cooper isn't the only player who will benefit from a full offseason with the first team and its starting quarterback. Michael Gallup and Blake Jarwin, who are both getting reps with the first team in offseason training activities, are weapons that will be huge for Dak Prescott and the passing offense in 2019.
Gallup, who didn't see regular work through the first half of the season as the Cowboys attempted to lean into their "wide receiver by committee approach," also didn't see many first-team reps last offseason and training camp. He's now entrenched as a starter opposite of Amari Cooper and that will pay huge dividends for his development and his chemistry with Dak Prescott.
The second-year player out of Colorado State, Gallup showed that he was able to get open in several areas of the field as a rookie. This offseason should provide Gallup and Prescott a greater opportunity to build upon a solid 2018.
Like Gallup, Tight End Blake Jarwin didn't see many, if any first-team snaps with the offense last season. It wasn't until late in the season, after a Geoff Swaim injury, that Jarwin began to emerge. It all culminated in the week 17 win over the New York Giants where Jarwin caught seven passes for 119 yards and three touchdowns. Just as important as the stats in that game were, Jarwin showed that he was a threat down the seem. His athleticism was something that had been missing down the middle of the field.
If you liked what you saw from Cooper, Gallup, and Jarwin in 2018, expect some fireworks for Dak Prescott and that trio in 2019.
New Play Caller
If we've learned anything from Scott Linehan, it's that he seemed unwilling to adjust the offense much or find ways to keep defenses off balance. From what we've learned about Kellen Moore and Chris Petersen's philosophy, is that it's all about keeping defenses off-balance.
All indications point to Moore looking to use formations to keep defenses guessing and pre-snap motion to get the defense to tip its hand and find favorable matchups. Kellen Moore's going to bring an offense that won't be so easy to read. The Dallas Cowboys will use a variety of formations and personnel groups to find ways to exploit the defense. For example, when they bring in their big personnel (12, 21, or 13 personnel), they'll look to throw the football. When they're in 11 or 10 personnel, they'll look to run more.
Allan Uy of Cover1.net did an excellent job outlining just how this might look on the field.
That's a far cry from first and 10 and running it straight up the middle under Linehan.
Dak Prescott will benefit from the offensive play-caller attempting to outsmart the defense as opposed to relying on our guys to be better than their guys. That can only take you so far. At some point, you need a good game plan and good in-game coaching to put you over the top, and by the sound of it, Prescott is going to get that this year.
Offensive Line Improvement
The offensive line wasn't bad in 2018, but it wasn't elite either. Joe Looney did an admirable job filling in for Travis Frederick, but he's no Travis Frederick. Frederick has a case for being considered the best center in the NFL. Getting him back can't be understated, even if he's only 80% of what he was in 2017. Frederick is an All-Pro. He's an intelligent leader for that offensive line and his ability to help keep the front of the pocket clean matters a great deal for a quarterback when looking to step up and throw.
Equally as important is Connor Williams' size and strength development this offseason. Though he struggled to start his NFL career, he came on strong in the second half and in the playoffs and played with good leverage limiting the impact by Jarran Reed and Aaron Donald in the postseason. Getting more size and strength this offseason was a huge priority and it will help him a ton in 2019.
Getting Frederick back with an improved Williams is going to provide more clean pockets for Dak Prescott to step up to throw.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Heading into his fourth season as the Dallas Cowboys starter, big things are expected of Prescott and the Cowboys. The Dallas Cowboys look to be a team on the cusp of Super Bowl contention, but will need a big year from their franchise signal caller to help them get over the top. With as good as Dak Prescott's been, I don't think we've seen his absolute best. Knowing the kind of work he puts in and the gamer that he is, I expect we'll see the best year yet for Prescott in 2019.
Can TE Blake Jarwin Poach Snaps From Jason Witten?
Don't look now, but Tight End Blake Jarwin may be ready to climb out of obscurity and announce to the world his ready for a much larger offensive role with the Dallas Cowboys. With Jason Witten back in the mix though, that could be easier said than done.
Jason Witten is expected to become the Dallas Cowboys starting TE once again, even after sitting out the entire 2018 season due to his short retirement from the NFL. With Witten back as the lead dog, Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz will have to fight over the scraps left over. There's no way of really knowing how much meat will be left on the bone, especially since the Cowboys are expected to put No. 82 on a snap count this season.
Being put on a snap count is something Witten is unaccustomed to, but it does create opportunities for the Cowboys other young TEs to emerge and show what they can do. That's actually really good news for Blake Jarwin, who finished the 2018 regular-season on a strong note.
You may have forgotten, but Jarwin had himself a pretty impressive game in the Week 17 against the New York Giants to close out the 2018 regular-season. He caught seven passes for 119 yards and three touchdowns in that contest, which in my opinion showcased the kind of weapon he can be if utilized more often in in the passing game.
It takes more than one impressive game to earn more playing time though. We all want to believe Blake Jarwin is ready for an increased offensive role, but Jason Witten isn't going to sit idly by as an observer from the sideline. He's a competitor and will want to be on the field as much as possible, despite any kind of snap count the coaching staff tries to limit him to.
Jarwin is really going to have to become a much more consistent player if he wants to poach some offensive snaps away from the future Hall of Famer. I believe the talent and athleticism is there for him to become a key weapon in the Cowboys passing game, but you know what they say… "Seeing is believing".
Luckily, Blake Jarwin still has all of training camp and preseason to push Jason Witten for more playing time in 2019. It shouldn't be all that difficult for a 24-year-old in his prime to put the pressure on someone nearly 20 years his senior. But, we all know Witten is a crafty veteran who knows the all the tricks of the trade to still perform at a high level. Will it be enough though?
That is the question that will be determined here in about a month when training gets underway for the Dallas Cowboys. I may be wrong, but I have high hopes for Blake Jarwin this season and I think he can actually poach some snaps away from Jason Witten. After all, this is a young man's game.
Do you think Blake Jarwin can poach some snaps away from Jason Witten?
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.
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