The Dallas Cowboys 2017 season didn't quite end the way many of us would have liked. We would all prefer that they were still alive for the playoffs and making a strong push for the Super Bowl, but that just wasn't in the cards for them this season. But, that doesn't mean there aren't some good things that can be taken away from the way this team performed this year.
It's a little difficult to focus on the positives right now after still hurting a little bit with how the Dallas Cowboys season ended.
All they had to do to keep their playoff hopes alive was beat the Seattle Seahawks a few weeks ago, but they decided to beat themselves instead. The pain is real, but only as long as we continue to focus on it.
I think it's time to switch our focus to the future.
That is why I decided to put together a list of five positive things to happen to the Dallas Cowboys now that they are heading into the off-season. Please continue reading below to see my positive outtakes from the 2017 season. And as always, please feel free to use the comment section at the end of the article to voice your own thoughts and opinions on the topic.
Jaylon Smith's Future
The Dallas Cowboys took a chance when they selected Jaylon Smith with their second round pick in the 2016 Draft. No one really knew whether or not he would be able to play again, but it looks as if that gamble is paying off after the year he had in 2017.
If someone would've said to you that Jaylon Smith would play all 16 games and finish the year as one of the Cowboys' leading tacklers before the 2017 season started, would you have believed them? Probably not, but that is exactly what happened.
Smith got out to a slow start, but he continued to progress throughout the year to finish the season with 81 tackles, one QB sack, and two forced fumbles.
The exciting thing about this is Smith said himself that he is finally starting to feel "elite" again, which should make him even better in 2018. He was nowhere close to playing at the top of his game this year, but he should be nearly 100% before the season starts next year.
The Dallas Cowboys could certainly use his play making ability at linebacker, especially with the uncertainty at the position heading into the off-season.
La'el Collins' Move to Right Tackle
I'm not ashamed to admit I was a little bit skeptical with the Cowboys' decision to move La'el Collins from left guard to right tackle. I believed Collins' skill set better fit him as a guard in the NFL, but that he could survive as a RT.
But, he ended up playing above my expectations and really solidified the right side of the offensive line.
What I really admired about La'el Collins this season was his toughness and availability. Like Tyron Smith, Collins was also dealing with a back injury that kept him out of practices towards the end of the season. But, he continued to battle through it and didn't miss a game the entire year.
I commend him for that, especially since some players will shut it down after they receive an extension like he did this season.
It will be really interesting to see what the Cowboys do with Collins next season.
They can continue to play him at RT, but if they draft another tackle, they could kick him back inside to LG. His versatility to play either position could come in handy at draft time, allowing the Cowboys to take a guard or tackle if they choose to do so.
Dallas Cowboys Secondary Makeover
One of the biggest concerns for the Dallas Cowboys heading into the 2017 season was how they were going to replace all of their secondary after pretty much gutting it.
Gone were veterans Barry Church, Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr, and J.J. Wilcox. That's a lot of people walking out the door with no clear answers as to who replaces them. Fortunately, the Cowboys addressed that need through the draft, and did quite well if you ask me.
With their second round draft pick, the Cowboys selected cornerback Chidobe Awuzie out of Colorado, and then followed that up in the third round by taking CB Jourdan Lewis out of Michigan. But, they didn't stop there. They then traded up to take CB/S Xavier Woods and finished off by taking Marquez White in hopes of upgrading their secondary.
No one could have possibly imagined how well these rookies would play.
It took a little while for them to get going, due to injuries, but Awuzie and Lewis look like future studs at the CB position, and Woods proved his versatility is a valuable asset for the defense.
The Cowboys coaching staff couldn't be happier with the way the rookie defensive backs played this season and should feel encouraged about the future of their secondary.
"War Daddy" DeMarcus Lawrence
No one in their right mind could have predicted the year DeMarcus Lawrence would have heading into the 2017 season. In fact, there were several people who had a hard time seeing him even make the final 53 man roster.
It's funny how things can change in a short amount of time. Now nobody wants to see the talented defensive end leave Dallas.
Lawrence couldn't have chosen a better time to break out than in his contract year. He was arguably the best DE in the entire NFL and will likely want to be compensated as such. It's unlikely that will happen since he has already had two back surgeries in his NFL career, but he should and probably will be handsomely rewarded, eventually.
Fortunately, the Dallas Cowboys hold all of the cards right now.
They can try to work out a long-term extension that benefits both parties, but the more likely scenario is they designate him as their franchise player. It's doubtful another team will try to snatch him away if he's franchised, which means Lawrence will be back for at least the 2018 season.
Taco Charlton's Progression
With their first pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected defensive end Taco Charlton out of Michigan.
That selection didn't go over too well with a lot of Cowboys fans. Nearly everyone wanted them to take T.J. Watt instead. That unhappiness continued throughout the season because of the way Watt played.
Taco Charlton was constantly bashed for his lack of impact by a lot of fans, but he continued to improve as the season progressed and finished 2017 strong.
Charlton wasn't a starter like Watt was with the Steelers. He was relegated to backup duty and didn't receive a lot of playing time. But, I find it encouraging that Charlton ended his rookie season with similar stats as the same player Cowboys fans continuously compare him to.
Taco finished his rookie season with 19 tackles, three QB sacks, and one forced fumble. For comparison, T.J. Watt finished his first year in the NFL with 54 tackles, seven QB sacks, one forced fumble, and one interception.
The big difference is Watt probably had nearly double Charlton's playing time. So, maybe the Cowboys scouting department was right about Taco all along. I know I'm excited to see his progression next season.
What positives do you like about the Cowboys heading into the off-season?
Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches
Lamentablemente, la temporada 2018 de los Dallas Cowboys ha llegado a su fin. Lo hizo cuando el equipo visitó Los Angeles para intentar sorprender a los Rams en su propio campo en la Ronda Divisional de los playoffs. Ni siquiera con una invasión exitosa de la afición de Dallas pudieron ganarse un pase al Campeonato de Conferencia. En vez de eso, los Cowboys estarán viendo desde casa y la afición estará preguntándose: ¿qué sigue para los Dallas Cowboys?
Parece ya una tradición anual que no podemos dejar pasar. Este momento en el que comenzamos a cuestionar, una vez más, que entrenador es digno de quedarse en la franquicia y cual debe irse. En esta edición de "Cowboys en Español," hablaremos específicamente de los tres principales coaches en el equipo.
Coordinador Defensivo Rod Marinelli
El futuro del coordinador defensivo de los Dallas Cowboys no se puede tratar sin mencionar a Kris Richard. Fue la defensiva la que llevó al equipo hasta la postemporada y fue la unidad que cargó al equipo en muchas de sus victorias. Incluso con la llegada de Amari Cooper a Dallas, la defensiva fue siempre el pilar de la franquicia esta temporada.
Jaylon Smith y Leighton Vander Esch sorprendentemente se perfilaron como uno de los mejores duos de linebackers en toda la liga, la línea defensiva fue muy exitosa con Randy Gregory y DeMarcus Lawrence en los extremos y con la grata sorpresa que fue Antwaun Woods en el centro. La secundaria vio la mejor temporada en la controversial carrera de Byron Jones e hizo un excelente trabajo con un talento decente, pero no genial.
Todo esto, y el haber terminado como la sexta mejor defensiva en puntos permitidos (20.2) y la quinta mejor contra la corrida (94.6), hace a Rod Marinelli merecedor de una ronda de aplausos. Sin embargo, Richard probablemente merezca más aplausos.
Fue Richard quien revolucionó la defensiva de los Cowboys y la convirtió en un grupo mucho más agresivo. Fue él quien implementó jugadas de "blitz" en el equipo (algo no común con Marinelli) y quien en un punto de la temporada, comenzó a seleccionar las jugadas desde la banda.
En esta posición, me parece que los Dallas Cowboys tienen que enfrentar la dura decisión de decirle a Marinelli que es tiempo de dejarle el puesto a Kris Richard. Si bien no se llevó un trabajo de head coach, es muy probable que le llovieran ofertas a Richard si no se hace con el título de coordinador defensivo en Dallas.
Coordinador Ofensivo Scott Linehan
Con un equipo tan polémico como este, la afición de Dallas no concuerda en muchas cosas. Sin embargo, lo hacen al hablar del pésimo trabajo que Scott Linehan ha realizado mandando las jugadas en ofensiva. Realmente ha sido doloroso de ver y es en mi opinión, el mayor problema que tiene el equipo actualmente.
Semana tras semana, fuimos testigos de pésimas decisiones en la ofensiva de los Cowboys. Vimos como el equipo se aferraba a llenar la caja de defensivos antes de correr el balón con Ezekiel Elliott. Vimos incontables pases pantalla en tercera oportunidad y largo. Pero no solo es lo que vimos, sino lo que no vimos.
A pesar de la innegable habilidad para correr el balón de Dak Prescott, Linehan se rehusó a explotar esta versatilidad de su QB. Vimos pocos "QB sneaks," jugada donde el mariscal toma el balón bajo centro y consigue poco yardage detrás del empuje de su línea ofensiva.
Siendo honestos, los Cowboys llevan dos años sufriendo por este coordinador. Dejarlo volver en el 2019 sería una decisión ridícula. Los comentarios en la radio de Jason Garrett no lucen prometedores, pero realmente sería una sorpresa que fueran ciertos. Linehan no debe volver... punto.
Head Coach Jason Garrett
El futuro en esta posición será muy debatido durante los próximos meses, pero de los tres que hemos mencionado es sin lugar a dudas el más seguro de todos. Nos guste o no, Jason Garrett estará al frente del equipo la próxima temporada.
Garrett está lejos de ser un gran coach y aún le hace falta demostrar que puede cumplir las aspiraciones de los Cowboys de traer un sexto Trofeo Lombardi a casa. Pero siendo honesto, este equipo debería tener suficiente con Garrett y un par de buenos coordinadores. ¿El problema? No hay un par de buenos coordinadores en el equipo.
Sin embargo, Garrett ha demostrado que cuenta con el amor y apoyo de sus jugadores. Ha demostrado que efectivamente, puede ganar la división (lo ha hecho en tres de los últimos cinco años). Este año el equipo le dio la vuelta a la temporada después de comenzar 3-5.
Lo más preocupante en mi opinión, es la falta de urgencia para despedir a Linehan, por ejemplo. Quizá a puerta cerrada Garrett quiere un cambio en su staff, pero nunca lo sabremos.
Jason Garrett no es un coach excelente, pero podría ser suficiente para llevar a los Cowboys a un Super Bowl si tiene un equipo adecuado. Todo parece indicar que su trabajo está seguro (incluso más de lo que pensamos) así que es tiempo de esperar que se arreglen sus coordinadores.
2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch
As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.
It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.
Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.
No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.
Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.
This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.
There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.
Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.
Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.
What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?
Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.
Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.
They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?
Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.
Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.
Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.
Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.
Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.
This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.
The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.
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