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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

Seahawks’ Tight End Will Dissly Flying Under the Radar

John Williams

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Seahawks' Tight End Will Dissly Flying Under the Radar

The Seattle Seahawks are in need of a big win this weekend to stay a game or two back of the NFC West leading Los Angeles Rams. The Dallas Cowboys hope to extend their one game winning streak to two, but to do that, they'll have to win certain matchups on both sides of the football. One player that the Dallas Cowboys will have to be aware of and contain is rookie Tight End Will Dissly.

With Doug Baldwin injured in week one and out week two, other players have had to step up in their lead wide receiver's absence.

Brandon Marshall and Tyler Lockett are the names that most everyone will recognize, but Dissly, is the name that Cowboys Nation should keep an eye on come Sunday.

Dissly, drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of Washington, came into the season with a reputation as a blocking back. Dane Brugler, of The Athletic, had Dissly ranked 98th overall and as the ninth ranked tight end in the draft. Just one spot behind Dallas Cowboys rookie Tight End Dalton Schultz.

Here is what Brugler had to say in his 2018 NFL Draft Guide.

"A one-year starter at Washington, Dissly spent his first two years at Washington on defense and his final two years on offense, lining up inline and wing in the Huskies’ offense. He was a blocker-first and receiver-second in college, which was a role he embraced with his hard-nosed toughness and competitive edge. Dissly uses his upper body power and base strength in unison to control the point of attack, displaying the core flexibility and length to keep defenders busy. While he flashed reliable hand/eye coordination and run power after the catch, he lacks the route-running experience or athletic deception to consistently uncover. Overall, Dissly is a project as a pass-catcher, but he will contribute early in his NFL career as an inline blocker and sixth offensive lineman."

Dane Brugler - Dane Brugler's 2018 NFL Draft Guide

To say that it comes as a surprise at Dissly's start to his rookie campaign would be a huge understatement. A Brugler notes, there was a chance he'd contribute early as a blocking specialist, but was thought to be a project in the passing game. He's been a big play threat in the first two games of the season, already taking the lead in Seattle Seahawks TE snap distribution at 65%.

Among tight ends, Dissly's is tied for 12th in the NFL in targets with 10, tied for 17th in receptions with six, fourth in the NFL in receiving yards, tied for first with 2 touchdown receptions, third in yards per reception at 24.5, third in yards after the catch with 90, is tied for fifth with five receptions for first downs, sixth in yards per route run, and hasn't dropped a pass this season. He's averaging five targets, three receptions, 73.5 yards, and a touchdown per game. He's been targeted twice out of the slot and has two receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown while playing 46% of his snaps from the slot.

When Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson has targeted his rookie tight end, he has a passer rating of 143.8.

He's been way more than they could have hoped.

Here's what SB Nation' Seattle Seahawks blog Field Gulls had to say about Will Dissly after the Seattle Seahawks week one loss to the Denver Broncos.

"Hot damn! Who saw that coming? Was that Will Dissly or a prime Jeremy Shockey? 3 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown for someone drafted primarily for his blocking abilities. Seattle has a new weapon on offense, and I doubt anyone saw that coming."

Mookie Alexander - Field Gulls, SB Nation 

It's likely that nobody, including the Denver Broncos or the Chicago Bears, saw Dissly's breakout coming this soon. Now with it on tape, the Dallas Cowboys will have their eye on Will Dissly.

Russell Wilson doesn't have a ton of established -- or still good -- wide receivers at his disposal, but Will Dissly looks like a fourth round steal for the Seahawks.

The Dallas Cowboys' linebackers will be tested on Sunday.

Four of Dissly's six receptions have come against linebackers, including a 34 yard reception (19 yards after the catch) against Chicago Bears' Linebacker Danny Trevathan and a 66 yard reception (52 YAC) against Denver Broncos Outside Linebacker Bradley Chubb.

The Dallas Cowboys seem fully capable of matching up with good receiving tight ends as Jaylon Smith showed on Sunday. Smith showed an ability to run with Odell Beckham Jr. in coverage on Sunday. No small task. We know that Sean Lee is good in coverage. Leighton Vander Esch's best trait coming out of Boise State is his coverage ability. I also wouldn't be surprised to see the Dallas Cowboys matchup Xavier Woods and Anthony Brown with the athletic tight end when he's lined up in the slot.

How the Dallas Cowboys defense does in coverage against the rookie tight end could be a major key to the game. With names like Brandon Marshall, Tyler Lockett, and Rashad Penny to keep an eye on, someone like Will Dissly could be easily forgotten.

You're going to hear his name called on Sunday. Let's just hope it's more for what he did weeks one and two.



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Star Blog

Xavier Woods Among Cowboys with Something to Prove in Seattle

John Williams

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The Earl Thomas trade rumors have been relentless this offseason. We've heard about them. I've written about them, and for better or worse, they just won't stop. No doubt Dallas Cowboys Safety Xavier Woods has heard them as well.

When Woods went down with his hamstring injury and as Earl Thomas continued his hold out, the clamor for Thomas grew louder and louder.

Per reports, it looks like Woods is set to make his 2018 debut. With a good game against the Seattle Seahawks, he can put a silence to the trade rumors.

I've been a proponent of making the deal for Earl Thomas all offseason. From the time he came running down the tunnel toward the Dallas Cowboys locker room, I've been all aboard the Earl Thomas hype train. Opportunities to add All-Pro players don't come along very often and if you're hoping to win football games in the short term, like the Dallas Cowboys are, you make the move.

My opinion isn't a knock on Xavier Woods, who was good as a rookie last year. He was especially good when asked to play in the slot early in the 2017 season. It has more to do with Woods still being a bit of an unknown and Thomas being a known quantity.

Xavier Woods has shown potential to be a really good safety in this league. In college, he played a lot of single high safety and played it very well. He has a knack for making plays on the football and can be a game changer for the Dallas Cowboys.

If the Dallas Cowboys can come away with a victory in Seattle, facing the player that the Dallas Cowboys have been linked to for months, and Woods has a good game in the process, then all of this will go away.

Heading into Sunday, Xavier Woods isn't the only player on the Dallas Cowboys roster who has something to prove.

Two Wide Receivers

The Cowboys added another wide receiver this week when they resigned free agent Brice Butler. I agree with Inside The Star Staff Writer Jess Haynie that adding Butler doesn't make a ton of sense, but it definitely adds question marks to the wide receiver room, in particular wide receivers Terrance Williams and Allen Hurns.

These two wide receivers were expected to be the starters on the outside and the primary targets, aside from Wide Receiver Cole Beasley, and yet, they've failed to have much of an impact in either of the two games in the 2018 season.

Take a look at their stat lines.

  • Allen Hurns: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 29 yards, 0 touchdowns, on 55% of the team's offensive snaps.
  • Terrance Williams: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 18 yards, 0 touchdowns on 25% of the snaps.

Those two are tied for fifth in receptions through two weeks of the season. Wide Receiver Deonte Thompson has found himself as a favorite target of Quarterback Dak Prescott through the first two games and has seven receptions for 60 yards.

With now seven wide receivers on the roster, there are less snaps to go around and with the increase in playing time for Tavon Austin and Michael Gallup, Terrance Williams may have already found himself as the odd man out. Brice Butler complicates things further for Williams and may eat into Allen Hurns snap count as well.

Now it looks like Terrance Williams is facing a suspension. If the suspension comes down before Sunday, he's going to really have a hard time finding a role on this team when he comes back.

Brandon George on Twitter

Sources: Cowboys WR Terrance Williams faces suspension stemming from May arrest for public intoxication https://t.co/of11Xlb7wD via @sportsdaydfw

If he comes back. 

Defensive End Making a Comeback

Things started out really well for returning Defensive End Randy Gregory. During the preseason he flashed the tools that made him a highly coveted player before his failed drug test at the NFL Combine.

Unfortunately the start of his 2018 season was derailed due to a concussion early in the Carolina Panthers game forcing him to miss week two.

In his place, Taco Charlton emerged as an impact player on the right side of the defensive line. Charlton has played the most defensive snaps of any defensive end through the first two games of the season; DeMarcus Lawrence included. Taco went from a 73% snap share in week one to an 83% snap share in week two. It's obvious that he's earned his snaps and the coaching staff wants to get him on the field.

This doesn't even begin to mention the contributions by rookie fourth round pick Dorance Armstrong, who like Charlton, saw a 10% snap increase from week one to week two and played really well when in the game.

This is a bit of a problem for Randy Gregory. Yes, he flashed in the preseason and early in the Carolina game, but the NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league and Gregory hasn't done much of anything in the regular season, yet.

Coming into the Seahawks game, Gregory is going to have to earn back some of those snaps. By all accounts he has a chance to be an elite defensive end on the right side of the Dallas Cowboys defense, but he has to prove that he can stay on the field and effective when on it.

He needs to shine in week three.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Who are your players with something to prove heading into the week three matchup with the Seattle Seahawks? Let us know in the comment section. 



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Star Blog

How The Seattle Seahawks Have Increased Importance In Cowboys’ Lore

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys At Seattle Seahawks: 5 Bold Predictions
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

You can't talk about this decade's Dallas Cowboys without discussing the Seattle Seahawks.

In 2012, when Golden Tate took out Sean Lee on a crack-back block and the Seahawks embarrassed a Cowboys team who had just defeated the defending champion New York Giants, we saw which of the two teams was truly ready for the big stage.

In 2014, as Rolando McClain intercepted Russell Wilson and the Cowboys clinched a critical road victory, we knew that Dallas was a legit contender.

In 2015, when Seattle finally came to Dallas and rendered the return of Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant meaningless in a 13-12 win, the then 2-5 Cowboys were sent further into a Romo-less abyss.

And, in 2017, Dez Bryant's key drops and Dan Bailey's missed field goals during a horrendous home loss to the Seahawks on Christmas Eve might have sealed each of their fates for the following offseason.

The most important moment in this Cowboys/Seahawks history, however, occurred during a preseason game. A meaningless preseason game which turned out to be the most meaningful day in recent Cowboys history.

Cliff Avril dragging Tony Romo down from behind, effectively ending his career, and kicking off the roster massive turnover we have seen the last two offseasons. From Dak Prescott, to a brand new secondary, to the retirement of Jason Witten, and the cutting of Dez Bryant. All of this change, which put an end to the Romo era rosters in Dallas, began with that hit in Seattle.

Since 2012 the Cowboys, and the rest of the NFC really, have been judged by how they play against two teams: the Packers and the Seahawks.

They have been the class of the NFC, and while we like to think that if the "Dez Caught It" game went how it should have Dallas would've handled Seattle, that will forever be an unknown.

Sunday's game is not expected to carry the franchise-changing implications that some of these other match ups have had. The Seahawks are 0-2 and reeling, with a shaky offensive line and reported distrust throughout the organization.The Cowboys, however, can jump-start their season with a big road win over a winless team that they should beat in the minds of many.

But knowing how things between these teams tend to go, Sunday afternoon may end up having major implications on the rest of the Cowboys' season.

Where this could be the case is in a potential Earl Thomas trade. It's been speculated that Seattle has been hesitant to deal Thomas to Dallas before their week 3 match up, but could be more willing to do so after the game.

Especially if that game is a loss which sends them to 0-3. The Cowboys have been actively pursuing Earl Thomas, and Thomas has certainly made it clear that he wants to be in Dallas. The only party not willing to make it happen thus far, are the Seahawks.

So, this weekend, there is a chance another chapter is added to those franchise-changing moments in Cowboys/Seahawks lore.



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