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?
QB Dak Prescott Continues To Come Through In Clutch Situations
Dak Prescott is possibly the most criticized quarterback in all of football.
Of course, this comes with the territory of being the Cowboys starting quarterback, but each throw Prescott attempts is placed under an intense microscope, even by NFL standards. We analyze every snap of every game, looking to find where Dak was right or wrong with this reads.
There's no question, though, that Prescott has been inconsistent throughout his young career. Week to week, drive to drive, and even play to play, we seemingly have no gauge on just how Dak Prescott will perform.
One scenario where we can say with confidence he will come through, however, is when it matters most. Last Sunday, in yet another must-win game for the Dallas Cowboys, Prescott orchestrated a game winning drive to lead his team over the favored Atlanta Falcons.
The Cowboys offense was pedestrian for much of the afternoon, but when Prescott got the ball in a tied game, I felt confident he would give Brett Maher a chance to win the game. Even on the road, and even after the offense had struggled a bit through the air all day.
Prescott got the ball late in the fourth quarter, looking to answer former NFL MVP Matt Ryan's game tying touchdown strike to Julio Jones. Dak went for it all on the first play, looking for Michael Gallup deep down the sideline, but the ball fell incomplete. After that throw, Prescott went 4/5 for 45 yards, including a huge completion to Cole Beasley, putting Dallas in game winning field goal range.
This confidence in Dak Prescott is justified, as is shown by his numbers in late game situations. Prescott now has 12 game winning drives, tying him for the league lead over the last three seasons. For comparison sake, Eagles starter Carson Wentz has just 3 game winning drives over that same stretch.
Overall the box score shows a rather quiet day for Prescott, but it was exactly the kind of Sunday they need from him. He completed over 60% of his passes, ran for a touchdown, and avoided the key turnover which could have sung this close game.
He played efficient football, and gave the Cowboys a chance to win it late. Then, he did what he does best, making plays in clutch situations and coming through in the 2 minute drill.
For all of Dak Prescott's flaws, those end-of-half and end-of-game situations have been a clear strength for the young quarterback, and continued to be this week.
Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración
Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.
Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.
Cambios de Coach
A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.
A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.
Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?
A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.
A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.
En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.
La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.
Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.
Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.
No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.
Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story
Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.
Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.
Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.
Here's why those people are wrong.
Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.
Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).
Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.
There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.
Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.
Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.
Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.
Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.
And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.
Star Blog6 days ago
Should Cowboys Stick With Xavier Su’a-Filo at Left Guard?
Star Blog6 days ago
How Cowboys Could Regain a 2019 1st-Round Draft Pick
Player News1 week ago
Legendary Cowboys Quarterback Backs Dak Prescott
Dallas Cowboys2 days ago
4 Best Candidates for Cowboys’ Next Offensive Coordinator
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Next Day Rant: Dak Prescott Shows Big Flaws in Big Win
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Is Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones to be Trusted?
Player News4 days ago
Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room
Star Blog1 week ago
Leighton Vander Esch Is A Stud, And Should Be For A Long Time