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5 Biggest Concerns for Cowboys Heading Into the Off-Season

Brian Martin

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2017 Dallas Cowboys: Who's The Most Indispensable Offensive Player? 1
Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News

The Dallas Cowboys 2017 season is officially over. Kaput. It's not the way a lot of Cowboys Nation envisioned this year going, but we can't say it hasn't kept us on the edge of our seats. Now is the time to start looking toward the future and to start the evaluation process. Yes, the off-season is already underway for the Cowboys.

Honestly, I can't say I'm not looking forward to jumping into the off-season process. Yes, I would prefer the Dallas Cowboys still play and hopefully make a Super Bowl run, but I'm not the type of person who likes to cry over spilt milk.

It's time to move forward.

With that in mind, I thought I would share with you my five biggest concerns for the Dallas Cowboys heading into the off-season.

After a season with so many disappointments, from injuries to suspensions, it wasn't very difficult to narrow down my concerns. And as always, please let me know if you agree or disagree in the comment section located at the end of the article.

Tyron Smith

Dallas Cowboys LT, Tyron Smith

Tyron Smith's Health

I'm the type of person who believes in the trickle effect. I don't believe it was coincidence that when the Cowboys offense started to struggle was also the same time injuries started to hamper Tyron Smith's performance on the field.

For me, Smith's long-term health is the most concerning issue heading into the off-season.

Tyron Smith is regarded as one of the top left tackles in the NFL for a reason. He is equally dominant in the running and passing game due to his strength and athletic ability, but injuries are starting to affect his play. He had to miss a few games in 2016 due to reoccurring injuries and once again missed several games in 2017 for the same reason.

The biggest concern about Tyron Smith is his back injury. It'll will continue to be a problem throughout his career, but if it worsens it could end up putting his future in doubt. This has to be a huge concern for the Dallas Cowboys and their coaching staff.

In fact, it could cause them to look at a possible replacement through this year's draft.

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB, Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott's Regression?

Dak Prescott had an outstanding start to his career, and ended up having arguably the best season for a rookie quarterback in the history of the NFL. He just seemed to have this magic touch in 2016 and could do no wrong, but it looks as if he lost that magic this season.

There are probably several reasons why Prescott regressed in 2017:

  • Tyron Smith had to miss several games due to injuries, which created protection breakdowns.
  • Ezekiel Elliott missed six games while serving his suspension, which hurt the production from the running game.
  • Scott Linehan and his play calling became predictable, causing frustration from both Prescott and his wide receivers.

There has to be some concern about Prescott's play from within the Dallas Cowboys organization.

The Cowboys coaching staff will have to determine whether or not Prescott is a victim of things going bad or if he is the one most responsible. Unfortunately, that means year three is a prove it season for Prescott and could determine his long-term future with the organization.

Dan Bailey

Dallas Cowboys K, Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey's Recent Inconsistency

The Dallas Cowboys have to be concerned with Dan Bailey after the way he finished the last few games of the 2017 season. There was a time when Bailey was pretty much an afterthought when he attempted a field-goal or extra point, but that wasn't the case the last few games.

I'm personally giving Bailey the benefit of the doubt for now because he has been so accurate throughout his career with the Cowboys.

He did suffer a groin injury early in the year that caused him to miss several games. Once he returned to the lineup though, he never looked quite the same.

I don't know if it was because he wasn't fully healthy or if the time away messed with his fundamentals. But, the Cowboys need to figure out what's going on.

DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Dallas Cowboys DE, DeMarcus Lawrence (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

DeMarcus Lawrence's Cowboys Future

DeMarcus Lawrence could have possibly played his last down with the Dallas Cowboys Sunday afternoon in the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles. He is set to become a free agent now, which puts his future with the Cowboys somewhat in doubt.

Lawrence without a doubt became one of the best defensive ends in the entire NFL in 2017. He finished the season with 58 tackles, 14.5 quarterback sacks (possibly 15 after review this week), and four forced fumbles.

He couldn't have chosen a better time to do all this than in a contract year either. Unfortunately, the Dallas Cowboys now have to figure out a way to keep Lawrence on the roster.

They can try to work out a long-term contract with him, but there are concerns about his health since he has had two back surgeries already in his NFL career. There is also the possibility that his season was just a flash in the pan. The most likely scenario is they designate him as their franchise player.

Regardless, the Cowboys need to figure out what Lawrence's future is with the organization.

OC Scott Linehan

Dallas Cowboys OC, Scott Linehan (James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys)

Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan

Play calling became pretty predictable in 2017, and it might cost Scott Linehan his job.

The Dallas Cowboys definitely need to be concerned about the offensive coordinator position moving forward, whether Linehan is a part of the equation or not.

Dallas simply has too many weapons at their disposal to perform the way they did the second half of the season. Yes, Ezekiel Elliott would've helped during that time, but it's not like Alfred Morris and Rod Smith weren't able to find success in his absence.

No, the deficiencies mostly came in the passing game and the lack of production from the receivers.

Linehan failed to find ways to get Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley involved in the passing game. Opposing defenses shouldn't be able to take both of these players out of the game, but that's pretty much what happened.

Offensively, things need to change for next season. Whether or not that means Scott Linehan is out and a new coordinator is brought in is something that will have to be determined here shortly.

What are your biggest concerns for the Cowboys heading into the off-season?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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14 Comments
  • https://InsideTheStar.com/ Bryson Treece

    I’ve been saying for weeks now that Dan bailey might be in trouble. I keep going back to Nick Folk. He was a very good kicker when he started his career in Dallas, not Bailey, but still good. Then he suffered a lower body injury and his accuracy was never the same. We eventually released him and signed Bailey, while Nick bounced around a few other teams. He still hasn’t fully regained his accuracy, though he has gotten better.

    Now, Bailey is saying the same thing. He says he hasn’t been able to find his groove since the injury. I pray he can find it again this offseason, because that would be a terrible way to end his tenure.

  • Hector Espindola

    And now Cooper’s injury makes Tyron’s health more pressing. However the OC issue might, by obvious reasons, impact the more. Time for a new OC has come! Happy New Year for all writers and readers from The Star!!

    • Wayne Davenport

      I agree 100%

  • Wayne Davenport

    Jason Garrett is ok with Linehan’s predictably because he was the same way ie..the season we fired wade Phillips , Garrett should have left two. Offense was the problem. We kicked fg instead of td.that’s why my beat us. Garrett is to soft 2 be H. C.

  • Bill

    It is ok to Be predictable if you can out execute the Defence. Musst fix the o-line. RT, LG, also LT.

    • RandyWhite54Fan

      I don’t agree it’s not OK to be predictable. Teams win by keeping defenses on their heels. The OL did miss Doug Free. We need to up grade LG, RT and better back up to LT Smith. Scott was calling plays like he wants out of Dallas.

  • Stephen L. Holley

    ” SOMEHOW- SOMEWAY” I NEED TO RESOLVE WITH MYSELF AND COME TO PEACE WITH THE FACT THAT THE “GREAT AMERICAS TEAM” I GREW UP WITH IS FOREVER GONE!!!!! SOOOO MISS LANDRY-SCHRAMM !!!!! I NEED TO EXCEPT THAT FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE ( AS LONG AS THAT NARCISTIC JONES OWNS THEM) WE’LL NEVER HAVE A REAL COACH, GM OR TEAM!!!! I WOULDN’T LET THAT BUTT-KISSER GARRETT COACH MY DOG MUCH LESS ANY TEAM!!!!!! HIS CALLS COST US AGAINST GREEN BAY LAST YEAR AND SEATTLE THIS YEAR….MANY MORE!!! “STUPIDITY”!!!! I’M GOING TO RE-NAME HIM “TUMOR”!!!! ” SOOOOO SAD”!!!! ” WISH THE NFL HAD OF MADE JONES SELL”!!!!!

    • Delmer Bowles

      Hey steven i feel your pain

    • RandyWhite54Fan

      That’s what I’ve done. I get harassed when the Cowboys lose. Jones really thinks me build the 1990’s Cowboys and can do it again. He can’t he’s an Oil Man that purchased a toy to play with. He doesn’t care about winning he cares about making money. If he cared about winning he would of fired himself years ago. He said himself if he wasn’t the GM he would of fired the GM.

      There still America’s Team just not the same America’s Team of the past. Garrett played for Jimmy he should know how to be a head coach but he doesn’t. Opie couldn’t command a Boy Scout Troup. That’s my off season first plan Fire Garrett.

      • Stephen L. Holley

        ” AMEN”!!

  • SAMMIE

    How I rather see a new and approved oc and a better lb and a #1 wr

  • Grumpy

    First off, these are your concerns, not the expressed concerns of the Cowboys. Why do you have to stoop to childish ways of making us think we are getting real news FROM the Cowboys???? At least you noted that a lot of the offense’s problems were do to Tryon being hurt or out, something many of your sad writer friends failed to do. One thing many of the writers fail to mention is last year they kept the offense very simple for Dak. This year they may have had to do the same and all the defenses got on to it. Prescot just might not be able to deal with a more involved offensive package. Linehan may have been forced into predictable plays because of injuries, and a not read QB. I wonder if any of you will actually report anything the Cowboys are really concerned about. Otherwise this is just unprofessional crap like women’s talk shows.

  • Russ_Te

    Add the receiver unit struggles to the list of what caused Prescott’s troubles, of course. For me it was the biggest problem with the pass offense, with bad pass protection a close second.

    Those will take any QB’s numbers downward, but with Dak being still on a learning curve at the front end of his pro career, he has to take ownership of things he can do better, when he is in those situations:

    – Don’t throw it into trouble because the offense is sputtering and needs a positive play. You drop back and play after play you’re not seeing an easy strike to be had, you know you have to move the ball, you throw it into a covered spot and hope your player wins on the contested ball. Yes you need a play, but a INT is a disaster. You can’t do it if it’s at all avoidable. Better to punt.

    – Never put the ball at risk on the edge. Again just junk the play and forget it, or tuck it under. Dak had rookie-caliber pick 6’s this year, multiple times. That has to go away.

    – If there was any mental hangup, pressing and the like, then coaches need to get him refocused and back to his mentality of 2016 – where he took what was given by the defense and let the game come to him. Don’t worry about results of the play. Just run the play and let it turn out as it will. Focus on execution and nothing else.

    Fortunately we already know Dak can play that way, we’ve seen it. My chips are still on him as Cowboys franchise QB.

  • Delmer Bowles

    I’ve been a cowboys fan my whole life and will be for the rest of it.Wake up Jerry and smell the crap your oc is shoveling. We have to good of a offense to suck like we did. I would fire him for not running zeke withh a first and goal at the three and he never touched the ball.

Star Blog

Will Terrance Williams’ Run Of Bad Luck Continue?

Brian Martin

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If Suspended, Will Cowboys Cut Ties With Terrance Williams?

To say that Terrance Williams has had a run of bad luck recently would be an understatement. First he breaks his foot, which kept him out of all of the offseason practices so far. Then, he ends up getting arrested on an intoxication charge, a Class C misdemeanor, on May 19 after crashing his Lamborghini into a light pole. Unfortunately for him, his bad luck could continue with training camp approaching because he could be looking at a demotion.

As things stand right now, I have a hard time seeing Williams being any more than the fourth wide receiver on the Dallas Cowboys depth chart. I have him behind Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, and rookie Michael Gallup (in that order) right now, possibly falling even further. For now, I'll pencil him in at WR4 though.

I believe a lot of Dallas Cowboys fans wouldn't be too terribly upset if we don't see a lot of Terrance Williams in 2018. Fans have been unhappy with Williams for quite some time and many voiced their displeasure when the Cowboys signed him to a contract extension last offseason. But, he is still on the roster, which means we should probably expect him to stick around for at least one more season.

There is a cloud still hanging over Williams' head though. His intoxication arrest is still an open case and the league could decide to discipline/suspend him for breaking the NFL's conduct policy. That could impact his availability to start the season, which could ultimately determine where he exactly fits in on offense in 2018.

I know, it's a lot to take in, but that's how things stand right now and I don't things get much clearer when training camp gets underway. But, let's try to dive into this little deeper to try to determine what to expect from T-Will this year.

Did Terrance Williams' Big Game Quiet His Doubters?

Dallas Cowboys WR Terrance Williams

As I mentioned earlier, I believe Hurns, Beasley, and Gallup are the top three Cowboys receivers this year. If that proves to be true, Williams is looking at demotion. He may be nothing more than an insurance policy in case of injury.

Terrance Williams does have something going in his favor though. He has the coaching staffs trust, which means he could reprise the same role we have seen from him in the past. But, that's where his potential suspension comes into play.

If Williams is indeed suspended, that would give more opportunities to other WRs on the roster to prove themselves, particularly Michael Gallup and Noah Brown. I think these are the two receivers who could have the biggest impact on Williams' offensive role this season.

Gallup will without a doubt receive every opportunity to prove he's ready to hit the ground running as a rookie. I think he will be successful, which is why I have him ahead of Williams on the depth chart to begin with. Noah Brown on the other hand is the wild card here.

I'm a big fan of Noah Brown's. I believe he can adequately replace Williams as both a receiver in the passing game and as a blocker in the running game, something the coaching staff really values about Williams. I think he has a chance to leapfrog T-Will on the depth chart, but he's really going to have to have a good training camp to do that.

Having said all that, I still don't know exactly where Terrance Williams will fit offensively for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018, but I think his bad luck will continue. I think he should probably just be an insurance policy in case of injuries, but will have to wait to see if the coaching staff agrees.

Do you think Terrance Williams' bad luck continues?



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Star Blog

Alternate Universe: Where Would Cowboys Be With RB DeMarco Murray?

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Blog - Dez Bryant To DeMarco Murray: "Come On Home" 1

During the Spring of 2015 the Dallas Cowboys faced what most considered a difficult decision.

Following an unexpectedly successful 12-4 season in which the Cowboys won just their second playoff game since 1996, two of the team's main offensive weapons were set to hit free agency.

On one hand was wide receiver Dez Bryant, coming off of a career year and widely considered a top wide out in this talent-rich league. On the other hand was running back DeMarco Murray, also coming off of a career year in which he led the NFL in rushing yards.

Could the Cowboys afford to pay the somewhat aging running back in this NFL economy? Could they place a premier price tag on a wide receiver despite their run-first, ball control mentality?

Of course, this wasn't exactly an either/or situation, but the Cowboys did re-sign Bryant to a lucrative deal and allowed Murray to walk to Philadelphia.

Now Fast forward to 2018.

Neither Murray nor Bryant are on the Cowboys, Tony Romo is broadcasting for CBS, and Dallas has spent a top five overall pick on replacing Murray at running back.

DeMarco Murray announced his retirement from football last week, making much of Cowboys Nation (including myself) think back upon those Romo-era teams.

And it's really hard not to wonder, where would the Cowboys have gone if they decided to keep DeMarco Murray? Where would they be had they re-signed Murray, rather than spending a premium pick on Ezekiel Elliott a year later.

If we're being honest, Elliott is a much more dynamic runner than Murray ever was. He brings more explosion and reliability to the offense, and is arguably the best back in football. Even when Murray was the league's leading rusher, this really couldn't be said about him.

There's not much of a chance that DeMarco Murray would still be a productive RB1 in Dallas heading into 2018. His play significantly dropped over the years in Tennessee, even behind their solid offensive line.

Of course the value of the running back position has been devalued as of late, making the Cowboys selection of Elliott a questionable one to some around the league. Paying the league's leading rusher what they would've had to pay him back in 2015, however, would have been even more questionable.

Plus, the Cowboys were able to replace much of Murray's production in 2015 with Darren McFadden, even if the team didn't win nearly as many games.

There might be an alternative universe out there where Tennessee's Murray and Derrick Henry-led backfield existed in Dallas, but Cowboys fans are certainly not upset about having Ezekiel Elliott in a Cowboys uniform.

Even if it took them a top five pick to seal the deal.



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Star Blog

Considering an Earl Thomas Extension, Age is just a Number

John Williams

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Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When people consider whether the Dallas Cowboys should trade for Seattle Seahawks' Safety Earl Thomas, one rebuttal fans throw out there is his age, and for good reason. People get concerned about handing out contract extensions to players entering their age-29 season.

In the salary cap era of the NFL, it typically isn't good business to pay age as the team often doesn't get the value out of the player that the contract expects.

One position where I feel that isn't necessarily the case is at the safety position. Let's consider Earl Thomas' accolades for a moment and see if we can find some correlations.

Earl Thomas, in his eight-year career, has been to the Pro Bowl six times, missing out his rookie season and in 2016 when he only played 11 games. He's been selected to the NFL All-Pro's first team three times in consecutive years from 2012 to 2015.

So, let's go over to our friends at Pro Football Reference and see which other safeties have been to the Pro Bowl at least six times and have been selected as a first team All-Pro player three times.

Here's the list:

Considering an Earl Thomas Extension, Age is just a Number

The first thing you'll notice is the elite players on the list along with Earl Thomas. The likes of Rod Woodson, Ed Reed, Brian Dawkins, Troy Polamalu, Aeneas Williams, and Charles Woodson. Those are just the players whose career extended into 2000s.

Then if you consider Ronnie Lott and Cliff Harris, that's some amazing company.

The players with an asterisk are the players that are in the Hall of Fame. Reed, Polamalu, and Woodson will be in the Hall of Fame. Cliff Harris not being in the Hall of Fame is still an NFL injustice that needs to be righted as he was one of the key cogs to the success of the Doomsday Defense of the 1970s.

I know Deion Sanders is on the list, and he's only there because he did play some safety toward the tail end of his career, but we know that it was as a corner that Deion made his money. The key though is that Deion's switch to safety at the end allowed him to prolong his career.

Removing Earl from the discussion for a moment, the average length of the careers of the men mentioned above was 13.41 years. The longest career was Charles Woodson at 18 years followed by Deion at 17 and Brian Dawkins at 16 years. The shortest careers were the 10-year careers of Cliff Harris and Joey Browner.

So, if Earl Thomas, having played eight years, played to the short end of the career length, he'd still have another two years left, this season included. If he played to the average length of those listed above, he'd have another five years left.

Considering that half of the players listed above all played longer than the average, there's a good chance that Earl Thomas has another six to seven years left in his career.

So, when we think about an extension for Earl Thomas, we have to consider the fact that for someone who has had the career that he's had to this point, he's going to be able to play at a good to great level for the life of a four-year extension.

Earl Thomas is an elite player and is on track to one day be considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

If the Dallas Cowboys could add that to their young and developing defense for the next four years, they shouldn't worry about his age.

Obviously, anything can happen, and people may point to him missing games in each of the last two seasons, but prior to 2016, Earl Thomas played and started 100% of his team's games. That's a six season stretch of being available for every single game.

For a team that is really close to contention and has the makings of an elite defense, Earl Thomas could be the missing piece that could put them over the top, much like Charles Haley did for the Dallas Cowboys' dynasty of the 1990s.

Don't let the age thing distract you from adding one of the best safeties in the NFL and one of the best players in the league. Earl Thomas to the Dallas Cowboys just makes too much sense not to do it, and for the All-Pro safety, age is just a number.



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