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4 Cowboys Who Must Remain Healthy in 2017

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Dez Bryant, Dak Prescott, Offense

If there’s one certainty in this league, it’s that injuries will happen. There’s really no way to get around it. Some may call it bad luck, some may use the phrase “injury prone” to describe consistently injured players, but with how the game is played today, there’s no way that all 22 starters for the Dallas Cowboys’ will play in all 16 games this year.

Whether it’s a torn ACL, a high ankle sprain, or a pulled hamstring, it seems that every year the Cowboys end up missing a player or two due to injury. Dez Bryant has dealt with his fair share of lower body injuries over the last few years; Tyron Smith has dealt with some back injuries; Orlando Scandrick’s hamstrings seem to give him more issues each year.

There are a few players on this 2017 Dallas Cowboys roster who most stay healthy in order for the team to have success.

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys: Ranking Top 5 Most Indispensable Players 5

Dak Prescott – Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

This is the most obvious one.

When a team’s starting quarterback goes down, the team normally struggles a great deal. Cowboys Nation witnessed that in 2015 when Tony Romo went down in week two of the season with a broken collar-bone.

2016 didn’t look much more promising after Romo went down yet again in the third week of the preseason against the Seattle Seahawks.

That’s where the team found out that their future would be safe in the hands of Rayne Dakota Prescott.

Dak Prescott is the heartbeat of this team. Whether by his poise, his ability to escape a broken down pocket, or battling his way into the end zone for a game-tying two-point conversion, Dak Prescott leads this football team.

Ezekiel Elliott, Buccaneers

Ezekiel Elliott

Again, this one shouldn’t surprise many people. Any team in the league would be devastated if they happened to lose the leagues leading rusher for any extended period of time, but the loss of Elliott for the Cowboys would be soul crushing.

Zeke — like Prescott  — is a young and energized leader for this organization. He has the ability to really dominate a game. Elliott grew so much as a player from week one to the NFC Divisional Round game last year, that I can’t wait to see his improvements from year one to year two.

Elliott’s role will likely be expanded this year due to the departure of Lance Dunbar, who was the team’s primary third down back last year. While that opens up opportunities for more touchdowns, yards, and awesome hurdles, it also raises Elliott’s risk of injury.

Luckily, Ezekiel Elliott stayed healthy pretty much his entire rookie season. He did deal with a hamstring injury that kept him out of a lot of training camp and most of the preseason.

While I love the potential of Zeke’s ability in an expanded role, the Cowboys would be smart to give him a play or two off here and there to keep him fresh.

Byron Jones 

Byron Jones doesn’t get the credit he deserves; not from the fans or the national media. Not only has Jones already established himself as one of the better players on the Cowboys’ defense, but he is also becoming a leader in the locker room.

Byron, entering his third year in the league, has grown as a player each year.

His versatility in Rod Marinelli’s defense is one of his best attributes. He has the ability to play free safety, strong safety, cornerback, and has even played linebacker in certain situations.

Byron Jones

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Beyond his play, Jones is one of the smartest players I have ever seen play.

Byron seems to always be in position to make a tackle, knock a ball away, or line the defense up the way he wants because he see’s something nobody else does. This is even more important for the team when you look at how young and inexperienced most of the secondary is.

While he isn’t a flashy player and doesn’t get the interceptions fans might want, Byron Jones is a key piece to this defense, and the whole unit would struggle tremendously if he were to miss time.

Travis FrederickTravis Frederick

With the retirement of Doug Free, the Cowboys not only lost their starting right tackle, but they also lost one of the biggest leaders on the team. Doug Free may have been the weakest link on the offensive line, but the locker room respected Free more than anyone else.

That’s where Travis Frederick comes in.

One thing you notice about this dominant OL is that none of these starters are very vocal leaders. Tyron Smith and Zack Martin are two of the best offensive lineman in the league, but they aren’t outspoken enough to really take over as the head of the Cowboys’ household. La’el Collins is still young and lacks the on-field and locker room experience to really step in and take charge. But Travis Frederick has all that.

Frederick is entering his fifth year and has been one of, if not the best center in the game since he was drafted. Travis has yet to miss a game, playing in all 64 games.

I see Travis Frederick taking on a leadership role this year, and when you look at the center depth on this team, it isn’t the prettiest thing in the world. Frederick is a big reason why the running game and passing game have been so successful over the past few seasons.

To lose a guy with his skill set and ability to step in and be a leader would be a huge setback for the Dallas Cowboys.

Can The Cowboys Survive Without Dez Bryant?

I really went back and forth on whether to put Dez Bryant on this list. When Dez Bryant is healthy, he is one of the best receivers in the NFL.

The reason I left him off is this: I have seen this offense keep its normal pace while Dez was out with an injury. Dez missed three games last year. The Cincinnati game, the 49ers game, and the Green Bay game. The Cowboys beat the two better teams (CIN and GB) rather easily.

Dez is no doubt a difference maker for the Cowboys, but this offense doesn’t rely on Bryant to be that difference maker.

If these players stay healthy I have no problem believing the 2017 Dallas Cowboys will look very similar to the 13-3 2016 Dallas Cowboys, maybe even better.

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Born in 1995, loved Football but more importantly the Dallas Cowboys since day one. Living in Redskins Country flying the Blue and Silver flag as high as possible. Covering the Dallas Cowboys for InsideTheStar.com and CowboysNation.com. Catch me on twitter @connorx147 !

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3 Comments
  • Travis Diggs

    Only 4??? Those four are good selections but I know Cowboys fans remember this average defense without Sean Lee, While Byron may be the heartbeat of the secondary, Sean Lee by far is the heartbeat of this entire unit

    • Charles

      That’s a no brainer Sean Lee is the heart and soul of the defense. The General reads offenses like no other on our defense.

  • Albert Smith

    I for one certainly cheer loudly for BJ because I actually watch the game, I’d like to see more interceptions too but I do see that he almost always on his man except on rare occasions but I’d rather us have him than not have him. People have to remember that much like this year’s draft we picked him late in the 1st round at 27 which is basically the early 2nd round, no he hasn’t been what Marcus Peters has but who’s to say if their roles were reversed Marcus Peters would give us the same production in big D? So you have to love the one you’re with.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Losing Linebackers Coach Matt Eberflus to Colts

Jess Haynie

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Matt Eberflus, Sean Lee

Multiple sources are reporting Matt Eberflus — who has been the linebackers coach and passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys — will leave to join the Indianapolis Colts as the new defensive coordinator. Eberflus has been with Dallas since 2011, having joined Rob Ryan’s staff when Ryan become the coordinator for the Cowboys’ defense.

He has been the linebackers coach during his entire Dallas tenure and was also named passing game coordinator in 2016.

Tom Pelissero on Twitter

With Josh McDaniels ticketed for the #Colts, former #Cowboys assistant Matt Eberflus is expected to come along as defensive coordinator, I’m told. Lot of parts falling in place now.

If not the Colts, some thought Matt Eberflus might end up replacing Matt Patricia as the defensive coordinator in New England. Either way, it does not appear Dallas could have kept him around while Rod Marinelli remains in his current position.

Eberflus’ work in Dallas speaks for itself, and primarily through LB Sean Lee.

He has been Lee’s position coach for all but his rookie season, and in that time Lee has been one of the top defensive players in all of football.

Beyond Lee, Eberflus has also been able to get quality play out of mid-round picks like Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson. We also saw Jaylon Smith make significant progress this season.

Given Matt Eberflus has never worked with Josh McDaniels before, the fact he was on the Colts’ radar says a lot.

Make no mistake; the Cowboys lost a good one here.

Don’t panic, however. Coach Marinelli has cast a very wide net during his time in the NFL and there are a lot of potential guys, some with plenty of experience, that Dallas might look to.

It’s entirely possible that Eberflus’ replacement will be someone who Marinelli spends 2018 grooming to take over as the defensive coordinator.

Still, of all the coaching changes so far for Dallas, this one hurts most.

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Thus far the 2018 offseason has brought a plethora of change to the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Now it is being reported the Cowboys have hired a brand new offensive line coach, former Cincinnati Bengals’ Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander.

Alex Marvez on Twitter

Source tells @sportingnews that Paul Alexander hired as new @dallascowboys offensive line coach

Alexander coached with the Bengals for over 20 years, and replaces the same man in Dallas who replaces him in Cincinnati, Frank Pollack. Alexander has also been the Bengals assistant head coach since 2003.

The Cowboys recently lost an assistant head coach when Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia left for Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders.

Per usual, the hire has been met with mixed reactions from Cowboys Nation.

Joey Ickes on Twitter

Since 2003, CIN has had only one season where they finished top-10 in Yards per attempt on the ground… They’ve been bottom-5 in the league 5 times in that span… That’s the OL Coach DAL just hired.

The hiring of an offensive line coach who’s rushing attack finished bottom five in the league in rushing yards per attempt five times since 2003 doesn’t look too great on paper. He will also teach with different techniques and styles than previous Cowboys OL coaches, which could potentially set back the offensive line early in the season.

Plus, respected Bengals’ writer Joe Goodberry did not exactly love the hire for the Cowboys.

Goodberry on Twitter

Pretty bad https://t.co/fysjZqCQ6l

Regardless, this is still a very talented offensive line and one which should lead an effective ground attack based on their talent alone. 2017 proved further that coaching matters a lot in the NFL however, and the wrong hire could set back even the most talented of units.

We will just have to wait and see how this 2018 season ends up playing out.

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Dallas Cowboys

Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates for Cowboys Vacant OL Coaching Job

Sean Martin

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Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates For Cowboys Vacant OL Coach Job 1

By keeping all three top coaches (Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Rod Marinelli) in place for 2018, there isn’t a Dallas Cowboys coaching hire that feels like they “must” get it right to contend next season. This is how it should be.

Producing nine wins, despite missing key players throughout the season, the Cowboys are changing things up at the position coach level to hopefully introduce new ideas and give the talent on this team a better chance at sustained success.

One coaching vacancy that needs to be filled by the right guy above any else is on the offensive line, where things haven’t been the same since the great Bill Callahan departed.

Frank Pollack took his place, and now finds himself with the Cincinnati Bengals after not being retained by Dallas this offseason.

Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates For Cowboys Vacant OL Coach Job

Tom Cable (Stephen Brashear / Getty Images)

The first name that was thrown around in consideration for the Cowboys job was Tom Cable, which sent a panic throughout Cowboys Nation before Cable decided to sign with John Gruden and the Raiders.

Cable had been coaching the Seahawks’ OL, a position that franchise has not valued in some time, and struggled to develop any talent in protection of their franchise QB Russell Wilson.

Now, two new names have emerged as candidates to coach the likes of two-time 1st Team All-Pro LT Tyron Smith, 1st Team All-Pro C Travis Frederick, and two-time 1st Team All-Pro RG Zack Martin.

Mike Solari and Paul Alexander

Paul Alexander has already met with the Dallas Cowboys, looking for work after 23 seasons with the Bengals. During this time, Alexander served as Marvin Lewis’ assistant head coach, in addition to his duties as their OL coach.

Judging on reactions out of Cincinnati to Alexander’s departure, the Bengals offensive line regressed under him in 2017, warranting change from a franchise that is as reluctant as any to move on from coaches.

Goodberry on Twitter

Paul Alexander better be gone

Most recently, Mike Solari has served as the offensive line coach for the New York Giants — far from a renowned unit around the NFL lately. He does have previous experience with the Cowboys, having served as an assistant OL and special teams coach here from 1987-88.

From 2006-07, Solari did reach the rank of offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs, which shows the level of respect that the 30-year NFL coaching veteran has earned.

He will be the Dallas Cowboys’ next interview for their open OL coach position.

Cowboys at Raiders: La'el Collins Faces Toughest Test Yet In Khalil Mack 1

Dallas Cowboys RT La’el Collins, RG Zack Martin

Depth at tackle, a long-term answer at left guard, and an extension for Zack Martin are among the questions facing the Cowboys offensive line moving forward. Whoever is in charge of keeping this unit up to standard in 2018 though, may hold the keys to getting the entirety of the Cowboys’ program back on track.

Whether it’s Alexander, Solari, or another outside candidate yet to emerge, Inside The Star will keep you updated on the Cowboys’ ongoing coaching search.

Tell us what you think about “Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates for Cowboys Vacant OL Coaching Job” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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