Through four weeks of the season, the Dallas Cowboys have taken care of business. They sit at 3-1, capitalizing on a stretch of winnable games to start the season.
That's not to say the team hasn't impressed thus far. They can be considered one of the league's surprises through the first quarter of the season.
They continue to dominate up front offensively, boasting an elite rushing attack led by rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliott.
Dak Prescott continues to improve on a weekly basis, and most importantly, remains turnover free.
The moment has never seemed too big for either first-year player. But now things get tougher.
Five of the next six games for Dallas are against tough opponents. Luckily for Dallas, a tilt with the league-worst Cleveland Browns is thrown in the mix. We will learn much more about what this team is made of in the coming weeks.
Here are some thoughts about the team as they face their toughest stretch of games on the year.
Surviving Key Injuries/Suspensions
When I look at how the Cowboys are built, it is clear who the most important players are on this team. Outside of the obvious importance on the quarterback position, it can be argued that Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith are the next up in terms of importance for this team's success.
With injuries to key slot coverage corner Orlando Scandrick and left guard La'el Collins, it was a rather impressive victory this past Sunday, considering. Not to mention missing their two best pass rushers as well.
The fact Dallas has survived these injuries and suspensions, all while looking pretty good in the process, says a lot about the team.
I get Prescott is the main difference from the play of last year's quarterbacks, but this team clearly has a different aura about it. The fact Dallas will get some of their key guys back in the coming weeks should provide a big boost as the schedule gets tougher.
Either way, their play with a depleted lineup last week was encouraging.
Pass Rush Must Improve
If Dallas wants to be for real and hang with some of the teams coming up on their schedule, the pass rush must improve now.
Getting DeMarcus Lawrence back next week will help the team, but this unit ranks towards the bottom of the league in sacks with six. This is the biggest question mark and scare for this team moving forward. Yes the team is 3-1, but the skill of opposing quarterback play on the schedule will rise in the coming weeks.
Facing off against some of the league's best quarterbacks in the coming weeks, some in their house, will be truly tough tests. Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger will shred Dallas if the pass rush does not improve.
When you look at some of the other upcoming match-ups too, Dallas has other good quarterbacks coming up that could perform well if not pressured by our front. Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, and even Carson Wentz cannot be allowed to get comfortable in the pocket.
How Will Dallas Look If Forced Off-Script?
This one is an interesting one for me to analyze.
I love Dak Prescott. I appreciate and respect everything he has accomplished thus far this year. I get that he hasn't had to be the guy to carry the team, make the big plays down the field, and bring this team back out of huge deficits. So there is an unknown element there as to where he stands in that portion of his game.
But it will be intriguing to see how Dallas looks if their run game is taken away or if Prescott is forced to carry the team offensively. Yes, the team fell behind 14-0 on Sunday, but it was still early enough to stick with their game plan.
This will most likely present itself in the coming weeks against better teams and some potent offenses. Not saying Prescott can't do it, but this is the main thinking that goes into bringing a guy like Tony Romo back in for the front office.
You have to ask yourselves this...
If Dallas gets in a high-scoring game or falls behind, are they truly built to hang around in these types of games without Tony Romo at the helm?
Just some food for thought.
Do you think the Cowboys will continue to win games and surprise in the coming weeks -- weather the storm -- or fall victim to this tough stretch of games? Test number one starts this Sunday against Cincinnati.
Though Promising, We Need To Relax About Safety Kavon Frazier
With the addition of former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard to the Cowboys' defensive coaching staff, fans are hoping that Dallas will create their own "Legion of Boom." Of course this is a lofty goal, but one worth pursuing nonetheless.
If the Cowboys are to recreate the Legion of Boom they will need their version of two vital pieces: Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
The Seahawks defense works, in many ways, because of these two players. Thomas' ability to play centerfield and literally defend sideline to sideline gives the Seahawks the freedom to use Chancellor where he's best, as a box safety. Chancellor is a big, physical safety who defends the run effectively in the box and can blanket tight ends in man coverage with his size and athleticism.
These safeties are arguably the most critical pieces to the Legion of Boom, though having a shutdown corner in Richard Sherman certainly doesn't hurt.
Realizing Chancellor's importance, Cowboys fans are hoping that current safety Kavon Frazier can fulfill this role in Dallas. Since being drafted by the Cowboys in 2016 Frazier has made his home on Special Teams. As an impressive tackler in both punt and kick coverage, Frazier earned himself time at safety down the stretch of the 2017 season.
All in all, Frazier played rather well. Against the Washington Redskins he stepped in and made a few splash plays at the line of scrimmage, causing Cowboys Nation to lose their minds. After that impressive Thursday night game, however, Kavon Frazier didn't really reach that same level of performance.
Frazier is still a liability when asked to cover, especially when asked to play as a two deep safety. He also struggles when taking angles at times, though playing downhill as a tackler is his best attribute. Frazier actually reminds me a bit of Barry Church, though over time Church became more refined in coverage than Frazier currently is.
Some have argued that Kavon Frazier's presence should stop the Cowboys from considering a first round safety. I would disagree, and actually believe that if Florida State's Derwin James is available, the Cowboys should consider making that pick.
If you could combine the athleticism and coverage abilities of Byron Jones with the physicality and "box safety" qualities of Kavon Frazier, you'd have a fantastic safety. Unfortunately, this isn't the Marvel Universe and we are left without any super heroes in the back-end.
Hopefully Kris Richard will figure out how to correctly place all of these pieces in the Dallas Cowboys secondary going forward.
Maverick Carter: LeBron James Considered Cowboys During NBA Lockout
Maverick Carter is a pretty important man in the world of sports. As a business man, entrepreneur, and manager of one of the best basketball players of all time in LeBron James, Maverick Carter is certainly used to making headlines.
This week, while on former NFL running back Arian Foster's podcast "Now What? with Arian Foster," Carter claimed that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones once attempted to negotiate a contract with LeBron James.
During the 2011 NBA lockout, Carter claims that Jones contacted LeBron James and discussed bringing him in as a Cowboy while the NBA was without games.
"Jerry Jones, being the smart marketer he is...one day out of the clear blue sky LeBron got a contract I think it was for like one year, a couple million bucks to play for the Dallas Cowboys." - Maverick Carter.
Carter then states that LeBron may have the paperwork framed in his house to remember these discussions with Jerry Jones. LeBron's fandom for the Cowboys has been well documented, as has been his high school football prowess.
We may never know how "real" these discussions were, and of course it is long over now, but just imagining LeBron James getting a chance to play for the Dallas Cowboys would break the internet.
You can check out the full episode of the podcast here, and I highly suggest listening to the other episodes Arian Foster has to offer.
Cowboys Will Tag DeMarcus Lawrence; What’s the Plan?
February 20 is an important day for NFL clubs this year. Why? It's the first day in which teams can franchise tag any player. Since 2015, when the Dallas Cowboys tagged Dez Bryant before they were able to work out a long-term deal, Jerry Jones & Co. haven't used the franchise tag. In 2018, though, that will change.
DeMarcus Lawrence just played his best season yet in 2017, and he's looking to get paid big time. Through three years, he had been able to rack up nine sacks, 52 tackles and three forced fumbles. In just 2017, he sacked opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times, had 35 tackles and managed to force four fumbles.
Not only did Lawrence look like an elite pass rusher, but he also improved as a run defender a lot. The Cowboys have been looking for a "War Daddy" for a long, long time and Lawrence seems to be the answer for this football team.
After such a big year, one would expect the Cowboys to sign him to a multi-year enormous contract. But there's a catch. Lawrence failed to remain healthy early in his career and really didn't make as much of an impact until last season.
There's no question that D-Law will be wearing a star come the 2018 NFL season, but will he be doing it under a long-term deal or under a franchise tag?
Cowboys will not place franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence tomorrow as that window opens but will do so by March 6 w/ understanding the goal is to reach a long-term deal. Both sides have until July 16 to make that happen.
For now, according to David Moore from Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence with the objective of getting a deal done in July. The tag however, is not expected to be placed as soon as possible.
In 2015, the Cowboys didn't place the franchise tag on Dez Bryant until the final deadline day. This year's deadline is March 6th, so it may be two weeks before they make it official with DeMarcus Lawrence. #CowboysNation #DallasCowboys
What would franchise tagging DeMarcus Lawrence mean for this team?
First of all, they'd make sure he doesn't hit free agency in March. This gives the front office time to get to work and restructure players' contracts if they have to in order to open up as much cap space as they can before giving him a deal.
It's worth mentioning as well, cap savings from players who are designated as post-June 1 cuts will already be available. If you want to be more familiarized with the Cowboys' cap situation, I highly recommend you read John Williams' deep dive on the matter.
It'll continue to be a very interesting story for this offseason, as handing a franchise tag to a player tends to become a non-friendly situation for both parties. Let's hope that's not the case for the Cowboys and Lawrence this year and that everything works out fine.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue updating you and the rest of Cowboys Nation throughout the offseason.
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