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'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'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'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.
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.
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?
Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches
Lamentablemente, la temporada 2018 de los Dallas Cowboys ha llegado a su fin. Lo hizo cuando el equipo visitó Los Angeles para intentar sorprender a los Rams en su propio campo en la Ronda Divisional de los playoffs. Ni siquiera con una invasión exitosa de la afición de Dallas pudieron ganarse un pase al Campeonato de Conferencia. En vez de eso, los Cowboys estarán viendo desde casa y la afición estará preguntándose: ¿qué sigue para los Dallas Cowboys?
Parece ya una tradición anual que no podemos dejar pasar. Este momento en el que comenzamos a cuestionar, una vez más, que entrenador es digno de quedarse en la franquicia y cual debe irse. En esta edición de "Cowboys en Español," hablaremos específicamente de los tres principales coaches en el equipo.
Coordinador Defensivo Rod Marinelli
El futuro del coordinador defensivo de los Dallas Cowboys no se puede tratar sin mencionar a Kris Richard. Fue la defensiva la que llevó al equipo hasta la postemporada y fue la unidad que cargó al equipo en muchas de sus victorias. Incluso con la llegada de Amari Cooper a Dallas, la defensiva fue siempre el pilar de la franquicia esta temporada.
Jaylon Smith y Leighton Vander Esch sorprendentemente se perfilaron como uno de los mejores duos de linebackers en toda la liga, la línea defensiva fue muy exitosa con Randy Gregory y DeMarcus Lawrence en los extremos y con la grata sorpresa que fue Antwaun Woods en el centro. La secundaria vio la mejor temporada en la controversial carrera de Byron Jones e hizo un excelente trabajo con un talento decente, pero no genial.
Todo esto, y el haber terminado como la sexta mejor defensiva en puntos permitidos (20.2) y la quinta mejor contra la corrida (94.6), hace a Rod Marinelli merecedor de una ronda de aplausos. Sin embargo, Richard probablemente merezca más aplausos.
Fue Richard quien revolucionó la defensiva de los Cowboys y la convirtió en un grupo mucho más agresivo. Fue él quien implementó jugadas de "blitz" en el equipo (algo no común con Marinelli) y quien en un punto de la temporada, comenzó a seleccionar las jugadas desde la banda.
En esta posición, me parece que los Dallas Cowboys tienen que enfrentar la dura decisión de decirle a Marinelli que es tiempo de dejarle el puesto a Kris Richard. Si bien no se llevó un trabajo de head coach, es muy probable que le llovieran ofertas a Richard si no se hace con el título de coordinador defensivo en Dallas.
Coordinador Ofensivo Scott Linehan
Con un equipo tan polémico como este, la afición de Dallas no concuerda en muchas cosas. Sin embargo, lo hacen al hablar del pésimo trabajo que Scott Linehan ha realizado mandando las jugadas en ofensiva. Realmente ha sido doloroso de ver y es en mi opinión, el mayor problema que tiene el equipo actualmente.
Semana tras semana, fuimos testigos de pésimas decisiones en la ofensiva de los Cowboys. Vimos como el equipo se aferraba a llenar la caja de defensivos antes de correr el balón con Ezekiel Elliott. Vimos incontables pases pantalla en tercera oportunidad y largo. Pero no solo es lo que vimos, sino lo que no vimos.
A pesar de la innegable habilidad para correr el balón de Dak Prescott, Linehan se rehusó a explotar esta versatilidad de su QB. Vimos pocos "QB sneaks," jugada donde el mariscal toma el balón bajo centro y consigue poco yardage detrás del empuje de su línea ofensiva.
Siendo honestos, los Cowboys llevan dos años sufriendo por este coordinador. Dejarlo volver en el 2019 sería una decisión ridícula. Los comentarios en la radio de Jason Garrett no lucen prometedores, pero realmente sería una sorpresa que fueran ciertos. Linehan no debe volver... punto.
Head Coach Jason Garrett
El futuro en esta posición será muy debatido durante los próximos meses, pero de los tres que hemos mencionado es sin lugar a dudas el más seguro de todos. Nos guste o no, Jason Garrett estará al frente del equipo la próxima temporada.
Garrett está lejos de ser un gran coach y aún le hace falta demostrar que puede cumplir las aspiraciones de los Cowboys de traer un sexto Trofeo Lombardi a casa. Pero siendo honesto, este equipo debería tener suficiente con Garrett y un par de buenos coordinadores. ¿El problema? No hay un par de buenos coordinadores en el equipo.
Sin embargo, Garrett ha demostrado que cuenta con el amor y apoyo de sus jugadores. Ha demostrado que efectivamente, puede ganar la división (lo ha hecho en tres de los últimos cinco años). Este año el equipo le dio la vuelta a la temporada después de comenzar 3-5.
Lo más preocupante en mi opinión, es la falta de urgencia para despedir a Linehan, por ejemplo. Quizá a puerta cerrada Garrett quiere un cambio en su staff, pero nunca lo sabremos.
Jason Garrett no es un coach excelente, pero podría ser suficiente para llevar a los Cowboys a un Super Bowl si tiene un equipo adecuado. Todo parece indicar que su trabajo está seguro (incluso más de lo que pensamos) así que es tiempo de esperar que se arreglen sus coordinadores.
2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch
As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.
It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.
Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.
No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.
Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.
This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.
There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.
Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.
Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.
What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?
Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.
Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.
They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?
Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.
Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.
Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.
Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.
Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.
This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.
The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.
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