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?
Seahawks’ Tight End Will Dissly Flying Under the Radar
The Seattle Seahawks are in need of a big win this weekend to stay a game or two back of the NFC West leading Los Angeles Rams. The Dallas Cowboys hope to extend their one game winning streak to two, but to do that, they'll have to win certain matchups on both sides of the football. One player that the Dallas Cowboys will have to be aware of and contain is rookie Tight End Will Dissly.
With Doug Baldwin injured in week one and out week two, other players have had to step up in their lead wide receiver's absence.
Brandon Marshall and Tyler Lockett are the names that most everyone will recognize, but Dissly, is the name that Cowboys Nation should keep an eye on come Sunday.
Dissly, drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of Washington, came into the season with a reputation as a blocking back. Dane Brugler, of The Athletic, had Dissly ranked 98th overall and as the ninth ranked tight end in the draft. Just one spot behind Dallas Cowboys rookie Tight End Dalton Schultz.
Here is what Brugler had to say in his 2018 NFL Draft Guide.
"A one-year starter at Washington, Dissly spent his first two years at Washington on defense and his final two years on offense, lining up inline and wing in the Huskies’ offense. He was a blocker-first and receiver-second in college, which was a role he embraced with his hard-nosed toughness and competitive edge. Dissly uses his upper body power and base strength in unison to control the point of attack, displaying the core flexibility and length to keep defenders busy. While he flashed reliable hand/eye coordination and run power after the catch, he lacks the route-running experience or athletic deception to consistently uncover. Overall, Dissly is a project as a pass-catcher, but he will contribute early in his NFL career as an inline blocker and sixth offensive lineman."
Dane Brugler - Dane Brugler's 2018 NFL Draft Guide
To say that it comes as a surprise at Dissly's start to his rookie campaign would be a huge understatement. A Brugler notes, there was a chance he'd contribute early as a blocking specialist, but was thought to be a project in the passing game. He's been a big play threat in the first two games of the season, already taking the lead in Seattle Seahawks TE snap distribution at 65%.
Among tight ends, Dissly's is tied for 12th in the NFL in targets with 10, tied for 17th in receptions with six, fourth in the NFL in receiving yards, tied for first with 2 touchdown receptions, third in yards per reception at 24.5, third in yards after the catch with 90, is tied for fifth with five receptions for first downs, sixth in yards per route run, and hasn't dropped a pass this season. He's averaging five targets, three receptions, 73.5 yards, and a touchdown per game. He's been targeted twice out of the slot and has two receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown while playing 46% of his snaps from the slot.
When Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson has targeted his rookie tight end, he has a passer rating of 143.8.
He's been way more than they could have hoped.
Here's what SB Nation' Seattle Seahawks blog Field Gulls had to say about Will Dissly after the Seattle Seahawks week one loss to the Denver Broncos.
"Hot damn! Who saw that coming? Was that Will Dissly or a prime Jeremy Shockey? 3 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown for someone drafted primarily for his blocking abilities. Seattle has a new weapon on offense, and I doubt anyone saw that coming."
Mookie Alexander - Field Gulls, SB Nation
It's likely that nobody, including the Denver Broncos or the Chicago Bears, saw Dissly's breakout coming this soon. Now with it on tape, the Dallas Cowboys will have their eye on Will Dissly.
Russell Wilson doesn't have a ton of established -- or still good -- wide receivers at his disposal, but Will Dissly looks like a fourth round steal for the Seahawks.
The Dallas Cowboys' linebackers will be tested on Sunday.
Four of Dissly's six receptions have come against linebackers, including a 34 yard reception (19 yards after the catch) against Chicago Bears' Linebacker Danny Trevathan and a 66 yard reception (52 YAC) against Denver Broncos Outside Linebacker Bradley Chubb.
The Dallas Cowboys seem fully capable of matching up with good receiving tight ends as Jaylon Smith showed on Sunday. Smith showed an ability to run with Odell Beckham Jr. in coverage on Sunday. No small task. We know that Sean Lee is good in coverage. Leighton Vander Esch's best trait coming out of Boise State is his coverage ability. I also wouldn't be surprised to see the Dallas Cowboys matchup Xavier Woods and Anthony Brown with the athletic tight end when he's lined up in the slot.
How the Dallas Cowboys defense does in coverage against the rookie tight end could be a major key to the game. With names like Brandon Marshall, Tyler Lockett, and Rashad Penny to keep an eye on, someone like Will Dissly could be easily forgotten.
You're going to hear his name called on Sunday. Let's just hope it's more for what he did weeks one and two.
Xavier Woods Among Cowboys with Something to Prove in Seattle
The Earl Thomas trade rumors have been relentless this offseason. We've heard about them. I've written about them, and for better or worse, they just won't stop. No doubt Dallas Cowboys Safety Xavier Woods has heard them as well.
When Woods went down with his hamstring injury and as Earl Thomas continued his hold out, the clamor for Thomas grew louder and louder.
Per reports, it looks like Woods is set to make his 2018 debut. With a good game against the Seattle Seahawks, he can put a silence to the trade rumors.
I've been a proponent of making the deal for Earl Thomas all offseason. From the time he came running down the tunnel toward the Dallas Cowboys locker room, I've been all aboard the Earl Thomas hype train. Opportunities to add All-Pro players don't come along very often and if you're hoping to win football games in the short term, like the Dallas Cowboys are, you make the move.
My opinion isn't a knock on Xavier Woods, who was good as a rookie last year. He was especially good when asked to play in the slot early in the 2017 season. It has more to do with Woods still being a bit of an unknown and Thomas being a known quantity.
Xavier Woods has shown potential to be a really good safety in this league. In college, he played a lot of single high safety and played it very well. He has a knack for making plays on the football and can be a game changer for the Dallas Cowboys.
If the Dallas Cowboys can come away with a victory in Seattle, facing the player that the Dallas Cowboys have been linked to for months, and Woods has a good game in the process, then all of this will go away.
Heading into Sunday, Xavier Woods isn't the only player on the Dallas Cowboys roster who has something to prove.
Two Wide Receivers
The Cowboys added another wide receiver this week when they resigned free agent Brice Butler. I agree with Inside The Star Staff Writer Jess Haynie that adding Butler doesn't make a ton of sense, but it definitely adds question marks to the wide receiver room, in particular wide receivers Terrance Williams and Allen Hurns.
These two wide receivers were expected to be the starters on the outside and the primary targets, aside from Wide Receiver Cole Beasley, and yet, they've failed to have much of an impact in either of the two games in the 2018 season.
Take a look at their stat lines.
- Allen Hurns: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 29 yards, 0 touchdowns, on 55% of the team's offensive snaps.
- Terrance Williams: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 18 yards, 0 touchdowns on 25% of the snaps.
Those two are tied for fifth in receptions through two weeks of the season. Wide Receiver Deonte Thompson has found himself as a favorite target of Quarterback Dak Prescott through the first two games and has seven receptions for 60 yards.
With now seven wide receivers on the roster, there are less snaps to go around and with the increase in playing time for Tavon Austin and Michael Gallup, Terrance Williams may have already found himself as the odd man out. Brice Butler complicates things further for Williams and may eat into Allen Hurns snap count as well.
Now it looks like Terrance Williams is facing a suspension. If the suspension comes down before Sunday, he's going to really have a hard time finding a role on this team when he comes back.
Sources: Cowboys WR Terrance Williams faces suspension stemming from May arrest for public intoxication https://t.co/of11Xlb7wD via @sportsdaydfw
If he comes back.
Defensive End Making a Comeback
Things started out really well for returning Defensive End Randy Gregory. During the preseason he flashed the tools that made him a highly coveted player before his failed drug test at the NFL Combine.
Unfortunately the start of his 2018 season was derailed due to a concussion early in the Carolina Panthers game forcing him to miss week two.
In his place, Taco Charlton emerged as an impact player on the right side of the defensive line. Charlton has played the most defensive snaps of any defensive end through the first two games of the season; DeMarcus Lawrence included. Taco went from a 73% snap share in week one to an 83% snap share in week two. It's obvious that he's earned his snaps and the coaching staff wants to get him on the field.
This doesn't even begin to mention the contributions by rookie fourth round pick Dorance Armstrong, who like Charlton, saw a 10% snap increase from week one to week two and played really well when in the game.
This is a bit of a problem for Randy Gregory. Yes, he flashed in the preseason and early in the Carolina game, but the NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league and Gregory hasn't done much of anything in the regular season, yet.
Coming into the Seahawks game, Gregory is going to have to earn back some of those snaps. By all accounts he has a chance to be an elite defensive end on the right side of the Dallas Cowboys defense, but he has to prove that he can stay on the field and effective when on it.
He needs to shine in week three.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Who are your players with something to prove heading into the week three matchup with the Seattle Seahawks? Let us know in the comment section.
How The Seattle Seahawks Have Increased Importance In Cowboys’ Lore
You can't talk about this decade's Dallas Cowboys without discussing the Seattle Seahawks.
In 2012, when Golden Tate took out Sean Lee on a crack-back block and the Seahawks embarrassed a Cowboys team who had just defeated the defending champion New York Giants, we saw which of the two teams was truly ready for the big stage.
In 2014, as Rolando McClain intercepted Russell Wilson and the Cowboys clinched a critical road victory, we knew that Dallas was a legit contender.
In 2015, when Seattle finally came to Dallas and rendered the return of Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant meaningless in a 13-12 win, the then 2-5 Cowboys were sent further into a Romo-less abyss.
And, in 2017, Dez Bryant's key drops and Dan Bailey's missed field goals during a horrendous home loss to the Seahawks on Christmas Eve might have sealed each of their fates for the following offseason.
The most important moment in this Cowboys/Seahawks history, however, occurred during a preseason game. A meaningless preseason game which turned out to be the most meaningful day in recent Cowboys history.
Cliff Avril dragging Tony Romo down from behind, effectively ending his career, and kicking off the roster massive turnover we have seen the last two offseasons. From Dak Prescott, to a brand new secondary, to the retirement of Jason Witten, and the cutting of Dez Bryant. All of this change, which put an end to the Romo era rosters in Dallas, began with that hit in Seattle.
Since 2012 the Cowboys, and the rest of the NFC really, have been judged by how they play against two teams: the Packers and the Seahawks.
They have been the class of the NFC, and while we like to think that if the "Dez Caught It" game went how it should have Dallas would've handled Seattle, that will forever be an unknown.
Sunday's game is not expected to carry the franchise-changing implications that some of these other match ups have had. The Seahawks are 0-2 and reeling, with a shaky offensive line and reported distrust throughout the organization.The Cowboys, however, can jump-start their season with a big road win over a winless team that they should beat in the minds of many.
But knowing how things between these teams tend to go, Sunday afternoon may end up having major implications on the rest of the Cowboys' season.
Where this could be the case is in a potential Earl Thomas trade. It's been speculated that Seattle has been hesitant to deal Thomas to Dallas before their week 3 match up, but could be more willing to do so after the game.
Especially if that game is a loss which sends them to 0-3. The Cowboys have been actively pursuing Earl Thomas, and Thomas has certainly made it clear that he wants to be in Dallas. The only party not willing to make it happen thus far, are the Seahawks.
So, this weekend, there is a chance another chapter is added to those franchise-changing moments in Cowboys/Seahawks lore.
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