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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?

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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 Ryan Switzer see an Increased Offensive Role in 2018?

Brian Martin

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Will Ryan Switzer see an Increased Offensive Role in 2018?

The Dallas Cowboys clearly had a specific role in mind for Ryan Switzer when they drafted him 133rd overall in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Come to find out, that role didn’t include being involved much on the offensive side of the ball, at least not as a rookie.

After watching the way the Cowboys utilized Ryan Switzer in 2017, it’s pretty obvious the sole purpose he was drafted was to improve the special-teams play in the return game.

They clearly didn’t envision him being a part of the game plan on offense, despite the continuous outcry from fans.

Like most rookies, Ryan Switzer didn’t really get off to a fast start, and took a while to get used to the speed of the NFL. But, once he calmed his nerves and regained his confidence, he proved to be an upgrade in the return game.

Switzer ended up ranking third in kickoff returns, averaging 25 yards per return in 2017 and 12th in punt returns with almost 9 yards per return.

He also became the first Dallas Cowboys player to return a punt for a touchdown since 2013. He accomplished this against the Washington Redskins, in Week 13 when he took an 83-yarder to the house.

Surprisingly enough, using Ryan Switzer solely as a return specialist wasn’t enough for a lot of Cowboys Nation. A lot of fans wanted to see his talents utilized more on the offensive side of the ball as well, but were only left disappointed.

Ryan Switzer

Dallas Cowboys WR Ryan Switzer

Getting Switzer involved in the offensive game plan just wasn’t in the cards in 2017.

He only managed to catch six passes for 41 yards and rushed four times for 5 yards. This isn’t exactly what Cowboys fans envisioned after hearing Switzer was opening a lot eyes in training camp and organized team activities (OTAs). That was the main problem.

He was hyped up so much heading into the season that fans expected to see him involved much more on offense.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, had something else in mind, but I doubt that’s the case for the upcoming 2018 season.

I really think we’re going to see an increased role for Ryan Switzer next season.

The Cowboys coaching staff should have a much better understanding of his strengths and weaknesses now that he has a year in the system under his belt. And, they’ve seen firsthand how explosive he can be with the ball in his hands.

What the Cowboys coaching staff will have to determine this offseason is just how big of a role Switzer will have next year.

Should Switzer take Cole Beasley‘s job?

Cole Beasley, like the rest of the Cowboys receivers, had a down year in 2017. We shouldn’t assume that his job is safe, especially with someone like Ryan Switzer waiting in the wings. But, is Switzer ready to take over full-time?

Tough decisions will have to be made eventually, but such is life in the NFL.

Will Ryan Switzer see an increased offensive role in 2018?

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Will Terrance Williams be Back with Cowboys in 2018?

Brian Martin

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Will Terrance Williams be Back with Cowboys in 2018?

Each offseason tough decisions have to be made by teams around the NFL, and the Dallas Cowboys are no exception. Teams have to decide who to promote, who to demote, and who to cut ties with altogether. For the Cowboys, Terrance Williams fits into one of those three categories, but which one?

It was plainly obvious that the Dallas Cowboys wide receivers all had an extremely disappointing 2017 season.

Everybody has their own opinion as to why this happened, but one thing is for sure, the Cowboys coaching staff will definitely look at ways to get more out of their receiving core. The one player who I think could be affected most by whatever decision the coaching staff ends up making is Terrance Williams.

Williams didn’t do much to make a case for keeping his starting job in 2017, let alone sticking on the roster.

To say he had a disappointing season would be an understatement.

Williams finished the 2017 season with just 53 receptions for 568 receiving yards and absolutely zero touchdowns. The Cowboys were likely hoping for more production from someone they just signed to a four-year, $17-million contract extension back in March [2017].

Now, you can make the argument Williams took a team discount in order to stay in Dallas, but that doesn’t carry much weight when your production leaves so much to be desired. This is especially true when there might be somebody on the roster who can do just as well, and possibly be an upgrade.

Noah Brown

Dallas Cowboys WR Noah Brown (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Yes, if you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m talking about Noah Brown.

I know I’m not alone here, but I think Noah Brown could easily replace Terrance Williams’ production. I understand that there’s not much evidence to back up that statement based on Brown’s rookie season, but he has all the tools required to succeed.

This is really all about potential, and Noah Brown simply has more upside than Terrance Williams.

We all know what Terrance Williams is as a receiver, and what he brings to the table for the Cowboys offense. I believe Noah Brown can do all the things Williams does and has the potential to be even better.

I already think Noah Brown is a better blocker, something the Cowboys coaching staff really values about Williams. I also think Brown is a better pass catcher. He is a natural hands catcher and has a large catching radius, something Williams obviously isn’t (body catcher).

Right now, Williams is only better than Noah Brown in a few areas. He is slightly faster, he’s more advanced as a route runner, and has more experience. That’s about it.

This will obviously be a tough decision for the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff to make. But, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if we see Terrance Williams playing somewhere else when the 2018 season kicks off.

Do you think Terrance Williams will be with the Cowboys in 2018?

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Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?

Sean Martin

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Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 3

Three of the four teams remaining in the NFL playoffs — a win away from the Super Bowl — ranked within the top four defensively in yards per game allowed this season. The other is the defending-champion New England Patriots, who of course were expected to reach yet another AFC Championship game, thanks to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

Somewhere between this field, losing their 2017 hopes at a deep playoff run to injuries, suspensions, and just poor execution at times, are the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys ranked eighth in yards allowed per game at 318.1 this season.

On the surface, all this provides hope that typically springs eternal around the league through the offseason.

It has been far too long since the Cowboys defense matched the skill level of the team’s offense, but Rod Marinelli’s unit (not exactly by design) outplayed that of Scott Linehan’s at times through this 9-7 campaign.

This defensive rebuild in Dallas began with the admission that this group had reached their ceiling in the offseason, as the Cowboys let long-time starters like CB Morris Claiborne, CB Brandon Carr, S Barry Church (now with the Jaguars), and S J.J. Wilcox go in free agency.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense?

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis, CB Chidobe Awuzie, S Xavier Woods (AP Photo / Ron Jenkins)

For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, looking to turn over an entire secondary in a division featuring Carson Wentz, Eli Manning, and Kirk Cousins as quickly as the Cowboys did was a risky move. Their confidence in hitting on draft picks paid off though.

The Cowboys’ bright future is predicated on the likes of CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Jourdan Lewis, and S Xavier Woods.

With two young starters at cornerback, the sky truly is the limit the this Cowboys defense. And they’ll play in support of an offense with more than enough talent to return to form in 2018.

As it stands now under Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys defense is built to keep everything in front of them, and get bodies to the football. This coverage-friendly approach could be taken to new heights with Lewis and Awuzie on the outside, along with Anthony Brown finding a home in the slot. All three cornerbacks have excelled at using their speed, length, and technique to get their hands on passes.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 1

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Of course, games are won in the trenches, where the idea of the Cowboys defensive line ever rising to the level of their offensive line was laughable until recently. Whether it’s with the franchise tag or a long-term extension, sack-artist DeMarcus Lawrence looks to be an all-important member of this entire team moving forward.

A healthy Lawrence was a nightmare for opposing right tackles in 2017. He earned a national spotlight each week on his way to the quarterback 14-and-a-half times. Making it look easy at times, Lawrence is a refined rusher with the speed and power to win inside and out.

The RDE position remains a sore spot in need of talent as this Cowboys defense looks to take the next step, but there’s hope for the likes of Randy Gregory, Charles Tapper, and Taco Charlton to get the job done, along with veteran starter Tyrone Crawford.

With Crawford at RDE for much of 2017, running the ball against the Cowboys front was a tall order. His ability to capture the corner against left tackles came as a pleasant surprise to many, and once in position, the defensive captain chased down plenty of plays.

Tyrone Crawford wasn’t the only pleasant surprise on the Dallas Cowboys defensive line this season.

Rookie Taco Charlton looked like an entirely different player to close a first year in Dallas that began with completely uninspiring results. Charlton — having the physical traits to play at the next level — was never a question out of Michigan.

He may never be a player to take over games for a defense, which the Cowboys couldn’t have expected to find at DE selecting 28th overall, but an improved player at DE and DT could be an incredibly valuable asset for the Cowboys in 2018 and beyond.

This leaves the Cowboys linebacker corps, where we find the best example of young potential on the entire defense. Amazingly playing in all 16 games, LB Jaylon Smith is in line to take a massive step forward in year two.

Smith closed his season looking enticingly close to the player he was at Notre Dame, an encouraging sign as the Cowboys look to become less dependent on Sean Lee on this side of the ball.

Lee and Smith paired together would give the Cowboys a middle-of-the-field presence to rival the best in the league. Both players have exceptional range and awareness to run down plays from sideline to sideline.

Anthony Hitchens, an impending free agent, is another valuable piece at LB with his ready ability to play all three positions at a relatively high level.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 2

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

Stefon Diggs racing to the end zone with no time left to send the Vikings to the NFC Championship game will be the lasting image of this past Divisional Round weekend, an offensive play that will live on forever.

A closer look at these games and the teams that survived them reveals a collective trust in defenses, a trust the Cowboys could be blissfully close to with their own young defense.

The Cowboys are likely losing one of the smarter minds behind their defense in recent years, with Matt Eberflus ticketed for Josh McDaniel’s staff, and are still in need of a secondary coach after not retaining Joe Baker. In a league where better talent typically prevails though, the possibility of the Cowboys building a championship defense for next season and beyond may not be far off.

With defenses in Jacksonville and Philadelphia providing the hope that both teams can pull off the impossible and reach the Super Bowl on Sunday, will defensive potential be enough for Dallas to get through this long offseason and start the even longer path back to their first NFC Championship game in 21 seasons?

Tell us what you think about “Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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