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?
Starters Make Cowboys Serious Contenders, But Depth is a Concern
Playing in the National Football Conference, the Dallas Cowboys have a difficult task ahead of them if they are to be serious Super Bowl contenders. Even still, they've become a very underrated football team due to their 9-7 record last season. The Cowboys struggled in many areas and with the Philadelphia Eagles crowned as Super Bowl Champions, everyone has forgotten about America's Team.
2017 was an awful year for the Cowboys. It seemed like a roller coaster of success, putting up an impressive performance one week only to disappoint the next one. Let's be honest with ourselves here and talk about what really ended the Cowboys' last season.
As much as we talk about how there shouldn't be any excuses in football - the Eagles made a huge statement by winning it all with a backup QB and other key starters missing - we can't deny the impact of these injuries.
Anthony Hitchens, Sean Lee, Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliott all missed some time last year, affecting the team's performance week in and week out. Had the starters been healthy, the truth is this team would've been in the playoffs.
Heading into 2018, the Cowboys will face a very similar situation. This year, starters make Dallas a serious contender. Even if they're playing in a conference that will feature a lot of quality teams, the Cowboys are a team that could beat any team in the league if healthy.
Even the dreaded wide receiver position - which has been famous this offseason for the lack of a #1 receiver - won't be as bad as we make it out to be starter-wise. A starting trio of Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup and Cole Beasley doesn't really sound bad.
Heck, not even Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods starting at safety is concerning. They have what it takes to be decent starters. Sure, Heath isn't a guy who will make the Pro Bowl, but his skills will show on the field once the season starts in September.
The Cowboys' starters will do just fine this season. If the team's fate is up to them, they are in a very good spot. The same can not be said about depth, though.
Except for the defensive line, every other position lacks depth. If Sean Lee goes down, the linebackers stop looking like a three-headed monster. Same goes for the cornerbacks. Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis seem like a good group but as soon as one of them suffers an injury, the Cowboys will be in trouble.
We're in for an exciting season with a lot of young talent waiting to breakout. The Cowboys are underrated this year. They may not be among the NFC's favorites, but they truly have what it takes to replicate the success they had in 2016. However, it seems like circumstances have to be ideal for them to make a run for the Lombardi Trophy.
With a little bit of luck, they'll bounce back this season.
The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up
Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.
The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.
As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.
Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.
Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.
Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.
Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.
I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.
All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.
How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?
Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?
With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.
Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.
I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.
I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?
Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.
Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.
Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.
Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.
Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?
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