The Dallas Cowboys have a few players that have something to gain personally by having a good 2018 season. A little added incentive to go out and play at their best game after game if you will.
You would think that an NFL player, or any other professional athlete, would want to go out and play at their best every game all season, but a little added incentive seems to improve a players game just a little bit. Usually it's a contract year that lights a fire under players, but there are other reasons as well.
Today, I want to share with you five of the Dallas Cowboys players who I think have the most to gain in 2018. Surprisingly enough, all five of these players could possibly benefit financially if they step up their game this season, but all of them definitely have something to prove.
Defensive End, DeMarcus Lawrence
Heading into the 2017 season the Dallas Cowboys were in search of a true "War Daddy". The phrase got tossed around so much that many of us grew tired of hearing it. Luckily, it's not a phrase we will be hearing much anymore and that is thanks to DeMarcus Lawrence.
Lawrence was pretty much an afterthought heading into 2017, so much so that quite a few of us were wondering if he would even make the final 53-man roster. Fortunately, he not only made the roster, but he completely dominated last season and ended up being one of the best defensive ends in the entire league.
Heading into 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence has a lot to gain by being able to put together back to back dominating seasons. He will be playing under the franchise tag this year, so his future after the season is still up in the air. If he is able to dominate once again, he has a chance to become one of the top paid defensive ends in the NFL.
Defensive Tackle, David Irving
Defensive tackle David Irving emerged as one of the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL in 2017, but surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys were able to retain him by just placing a second-round tender on him to secure his services this year. Many thought this was a mistake at the time thinking that someone would be willing to give up a second-round draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but the Cowboys gamble paid off.
Irving is basically on a one-year rental in 2018, which means he has a lot to gain by performing well this season. It's really difficult to find defensive lineman who are as scheme diverse as Irving. He can dominate from the interior in both a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive scheme due to his rare size and athleticism. Because of that, he will be looking to cash in at the end of the year.
Before David Irving can earn a big money contract, he is going have to prove he can be consistent both on and off the field. If he would've already proven these two things, the Dallas Cowboys likely would have already secured his services for years to come.
Quarterback, Dak Prescott
No one might have more to gain in 2018 then quarterback Dak Prescott. He has a chance to become the next highest paid QB in the NFL, but he is going to have to prove himself first according to many Dallas Cowboys fans.
Cowboys fans are split three ways when it comes to Dak Prescott. Some fans believe he has already earned to the right to be the franchise QB, while others have already seen enough and determined he's not talented enough to be a franchise QB in the NFL. Then, there are those in the middle who are waiting to see how he performs in Year 3 before making up their minds.
It doesn't really matter where you stand on Dak Prescott right now. But, there is no denying he has a lot to gain by going out and performing well in 2018. It will not only determine his future with the Cowboys, but will also determine the overall success of the team this season.
Cornerback, Byron Jones
Many Dallas Cowboys fans have already made their minds up about Byron Jones and labeled him as a first-round bust. I don't know if I would agree, but I understand the disappointment surrounding him considering the high praise he received coming out of the 2015 draft.
I personally believe the Cowboys coaching staff have done him a disfavor and played him out of position due to need his first few seasons in the league. Fortunately though, I think that all changes in 2018 now that he is moving back to his more natural position, cornerback.
The Cowboys may have picked up Jones' fifth-year option, securing his service through 2019, but he still has a lot to gain by performing well this season. If he plays well this year at CB, not only will he shed that" bust" label, but he could convince a Cowboys he's worth sticking around long-term.
Linebacker, Jaylon Smith
Believe it or not, but Jaylon Smith will be entering his third year in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys. It seems strange considering we've only seen him in pads for one season, but time has a way of flying by in the NFL.
Now entering his third season, Smith has an opportunity to go out and prove himself as one of the best linebackers in the league. Fortunately, he is no longer playing with a knee brace and he believes he is back to where he was both physically and mentally when he was at Notre Dame, maybe even better.
This is certainly good news for the Dallas Cowboys and their linebacker position. But, it's even better news for Smith himself. He has a lot to gain by performing well in 2018. If he has a good season, he could be in line for an early contract extension from the Cowboys, much like the previously mentioned Dak Prescott. If nothing else, it could be a really good boost for his confidence moving forward.
Which Dallas Cowboys players do you think have the most to gain in 2018?
Is WR Cole Beasley Being Underutilized?
Like any competitor, Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Cole Beasley wants to play and be as heavily involved as possible when the lights come on and the game is on the line. He's become accustomed to to being heavily involved in the game plan, that is until WR Amari Cooper arrived in Dallas.
Since the arrival of Amari Cooper, Cole Beasley has seen his offensive role dramatically reduced. He is no longer Quarterback Dak Prescott's favorite target in the passing game and it even looks as if he is taken a stumble down the Cowboys WR depth chart. At best, he is their WR3 now behind Cooper and Michael Gallup.
That's quite a fall from grace for a player who was Dallas' top receiver the last few seasons and the most targeted in the first half of this year. I can almost guarantee he's not happy about not being utilized more in the passing game, but he's a team player and will do what it takes to win.
Unfortunately for Beasley, Cooper's arrival has changed the Cowboys offense. He is back to his old role of working the short intermediate routes now with Cooper and Gallup playing on the outside. Because of that his stats have taken a hit. His targets, receptions, and the chance to help his team win has dropped off significantly.
In the two games before Cooper joined the team, Beasley had 16 receptions for 157 yards and two touchdowns on 19 targets. The six games since he only has 17 catches for 138 yards on 26 targets. That's a huge drop in production and has nothing to do with his performance. It's how he's being utilized.
Beasley has been forced to take a backseat in the Cowboys aerial attack. Amari Cooper has been highly targeted, and rightfully so, and Michael Gallup is seeing more passes thrown his way as well. Not to mention, Ezekiel Elliott has been used more as a receiver also.
There are just too many mouths to feed and unfortunately Cole Beasley is the odd man out. The sad thing is, that might not change anytime soon with the way the Cowboys offense is playing right now. It's one of the reasons why they currently have the league's best winning streak going for them.
It's to hard make an argument for Beasley receiving more looks in the passing game with the way the offense is playing, with the exception of in the red zone, but I do believe he needs to be more involved. After all, he is still one of the Cowboys best WRs and can't be covered by anyone in the league one-on-one.
I don't know about you, but I'm hoping things will circle back around and he will once again be more involved in the passing game. His ability to get open is uncanny and it's a shame to not take advantage of that God-given gift.
What do you think, should Cole Beasley start being utilized more?
Time to see What Darius Jackson can do as Zeke’s Backup?
I hate to say it because I really like Rod Smith, but I think it may be time for the Dallas Cowboys to reevaluate the running back position as it pertains to Ezekiel Elliott's primary backup. Smith just hasn't been good this year, which is why I think it may be time to see what Darius Jackson can do if given the opportunity.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting the Dallas Cowboys move on from Rod Smith or demote him right now, but I would promote Darius Jackson from the practice squad to the active roster as insurance in case something were to happen to Zeke. It just seems the right time to make that move after #21's injury scare Sunday afternoon against the Philadelphia Eagles.
You may have forgotten, but Ezekiel Elliott had to spend some time in the medical tent Sunday against the Eagles. He was luckily able to return to the game not long after, but it did shine a spotlight on Rod Smith and the lack of depth behind him.
Despite how much I like Rod Smith, and I do, he just hasn't been the same player this season as he was last year as Zeke's fill-in. He is just not running with any kind of authority and has been too apt to run east and west instead of north and south. I think it's one of the reasons why the Cowboys have continued to give Zeke such a heavy workload, despite him being banged up.
Now, Rod Smith did look a little better against the Eagles, but I still believe it would be wise for the Cowboys to promote Darius Jackson to the active roster. Having more depth at such a physically demanding position is just smart football.
With the Dallas Cowboys playoff spot all but secured, it might be time to start thinking about lightening Ezekiel Elliott's workload just a little bit. Whether it's Rod Smith or Darius Jackson, the Cowboys have to find someone who can step in and be productive.
Rod Smith has had his opportunities this year, but hasn't really been able to capitalize like we believed he could. It might be time to turn to Darius Jackson, a fan favorite, who unfortunately just hasn't been able to prove what he can do as of yet in a meaningful game. I think it's time we change that.
As much as I like Rod Smith, I might like Darius Jackson just a little bit more. I think he is kind of like a poor man's Ezekiel Elliott. He is just as athletically gifted and can be a threat as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. He just needs the opportunity to prove it.
There's really no way of knowing if I'm right or wrong about this, but I believe he is worthy of a roster spot on game day if nothing else. I'd rather have him and not need him then need him and not have him.
Do you think it's time to see what Darius Jackson can do?
Cowboys Lassoing NFC East Title as NFC Dark Horse
Well don’t look now but the Dallas Cowboys are in control of their division and anything short of a catastrophic collapse will see them hosting the first round of the playoffs. Dallas strengthened their grip on the NFC East by knocking off a divisional rival and the reigning Super Bowl champions with a 29-23 overtime win over the Eagles.
Those who have a favorite online sportsbook and wagered on the Cowboys were ecstatic to see Dak Prescott hit Amari Cooper for a 15-yard touchdown pass in overtime, thus covering the 3 ½ point impost that oddsmakers hung on Dallas.
The Cowboys have now won five consecutive games, with three of those over divisional opponents Philadelphia (twice) and Washington. But before we celebrate, we must consider that there's still a mathematical possibility of either Philadelphia or Washington stealing the division crown away from the Cowboys.
The Giants' only hope is an outside shot at a wildcard berth if they win outright but they've been eliminated from contending for a division title due to their 1-4 record against NFC East teams.
Essentially, all the Cowboys must do is win one of their three remaining games in order to celebrate a division crown. If Philadelphia or Washington loses any of their three games they will be out due to tie breakers that go in the Cowboys’ favor.
As of this moment, the Redskins are a disaster with no one under center to captain their rudderless ship, and the Eagles must defeat the Rams in LA, which would be considered a stunning upset seeing as any reputable online sportsbook is offering the Rams as 9 ½ point favorites as of this writing; then they must win at home against Houston and on the road against the Redskins.
Of course, the Cowboys are counting only on themselves to reel in the division title and with games at Indianapolis, home against the Bucs, and wrapping their season in New Jersey against the Giants, at least one win seems likely.
The addition of Amari Cooper to the Dallas offensive arsenal has been a game-changer as the former Oakland Raider hauled in 10 of 13 targets for 217 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner last Sunday against Philadelphia. He was the top-tier receiver Prescott had been lacking and his presence on the field improves both the passing game and running game by virtue of his dynamic playmaking abilities. Ezekiel Elliott has eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards in four of the six games since Cooper has been on the Cowboys roster.
Furthermore, Dallas has averaged 24.4 points per game over their last five wins with Cooper in the lineup, which is more than five points improved from where they were prior to their winning streak without him in a Dallas uniform.
In addition, Prescott has morphed from a game manager at 202 passing yards per game to a game breaker as evidenced by his 285.7 passing yard average in six games with his new target at his disposal.
Ultimately, the Cowboys will be tasked with turning all of this good mojo into a deep run into the postseason. We can now confidently say that there is one other team to consider besides the Rams, Bears, and Saints as this year’s NFC entrant into the Super Bowl. However, Dak Prescott will need to eliminate turnovers and interceptions if Dallas is truly going to contend against the powerhouses they will face in the playoffs.
Last Sunday, Prescott caught fire in the fourth quarter and ended with 455 yards passing, connecting on 42 of 54 passes with three touchdowns, but his two interceptions were converted into nine points by Philadelphia. As we move forward, Prescott will need to lead right from the get-go and understand that one poor decision can cost his team what is now a realistic shot at a championship season.
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