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5 Questions That Remain Unanswered For The 2017 Dallas Cowboys

Brian Martin

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Ezekiel Elliott Suspension: How The Josh Brown Case Helps Cowboys 2

The Dallas Cowboys still have quite a few unanswered questions looming ahead of the 2017 opener against the New York Giants. It's understandable not everything is set in stone, but as a fan I think we all would like any concerns we might have answered.

Nearly all Cowboys fans, including myself, have high hopes for this 2017 squad. That has a lot to do with the fact they were a serious playoff contender a year ago and have a talented roster from top to bottom. But, even though this is a talented team, the unknown that still surrounds them is a little concerning.

Typically, concerns create questions and not all questions are easily answered. That is why I decided to share with all of you five of my questions that have yet to be answered. Continue to read below to find out the questions I would like to have answers to, and as always feel free to use a comment section at the end of the article to voice yours as well.

How will Ezekiel Elliott vs. NFL turn out?

All of Cowboys Nation has been living under the belief that Ezekiel Elliott was going to see some kind of suspension to start the 2017 season. But, I believe we were all caught off guard when the NFL in their infinite wisdom decided to slap Elliott with a six-game suspension, even though he was never legally charged with anything.

After learning of the length of the suspension, we all knew that an appeal hearing was obviously the next step. Well, that has wrapped up and we are now in the wait and see portion of this entire situation. But, unless the suspension is completely lifted, don't expect this to end anytime soon.

Ezekiel Elliott I believe is fully prepared to take this to the judicial system in order to clear his name fully. I don't believe he will except any reduction in suspension from the NFL, which means this is far from over. He absolutely wants to exonerate himself from any wrongdoing and that is completely understandable. His battle with the NFL may just be starting, but I'm sure all of us would love to fast-forward to see how this all turns out.

OL Chaz Green

OL Chaz Grreen

Who will start at left guard?

The Dallas Cowboys offense is pretty much set in stone across the board, but the one and probably only uncertainty is at left guard. The Cowboys coaching staff probably knows who will start Week 1 against the New York Giants, but from the outside looking in, no one has really stepped up and stood out above the rest.

If I was to guess who would start at LG on opening day, I would probably have to go with Jonathan Cooper. I believe Chaz Green has been the better of the two, but unfortunately he is unable to remain healthy and he can't be relied upon because of that. So, I think Cooper wins the LG starting spot by default.

Cooper hasn't looked terrible, but he hasn't played well enough to earn the starting job out right either. The wild card here is maybe Byron Bell. He has versatility to play guard or tackle, but both Cooper and Green have received more opportunities. It will be really interesting to find out who will lineup between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick to open the season.

CB Chidobe Awuzie

CB Chidobe Awuzie

Will the youth movement in the secondary payoff?

Arguably one of the biggest unknowns surrounding the Dallas Cowboys right now is how their made over secondary will perform with all of the youth they added during the off-season. No one really knows how the rookies will perform after the majority of them missed several weeks due to injuries.

Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods have all missed the last few weeks of practice and preseason with injuries and have missed valuable repetitions to get up to speed. All three are expected to play big roles on defense this season, but no one really knows yet what they are capable of.

Unfortunately, it's not all about the rookies though. Jeff Heath is relatively unknown as a starter, which causes a little bit of a concern. Also, Anthony Brown might have played well as a rookie a season ago, but has he improved in his second-year? The Cowboys secondary will undoubtably have their ups and downs, but hopefully this youth movement pays off in the end.

What's holding up Zack Martin's contract extension?

I'm in no way concerned the Dallas Cowboys and Zack Martin won't eventually agree to terms for a contract extension. But, I am a little bit surprised it hasn't happened yet. In the past, the Cowboys have used training camp to finalize contract extensions with other players like Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith, but as of yet haven't been able to with Martin.

I honestly believe a contract extension is coming soon and could likely be finalized before the 2017 season gets underway. But, what's the holdup? I think there is no time like the present for some good news, especially with all of this Ezekiel Elliott suspension appeal stuff still hanging over everyone's heads. It would provide a good distraction and lock up the best offensive guard in the NFL.

LB Jaylon Smith

LB Jaylon Smith

Is Jaylon Smith ready to start?

Aside from all of the Ezekiel Elliott suspension news, there probably hasn't been any bigger storyline than the Dallas Cowboys second year LB Jaylon Smith. Everyone was anxiously anticipating his return to the field with the hope that he would regain the form he once had at Notre Dame.

Smith was noticeably little rusty in his first preseason game, but the more repetitions he received, the more comfortable/confident he became. Because of the Anthony Hitchens injury last week, Smith could be looking to become the starting MLB as early as Week 1, but I'm just not sure his body is ready to withstand a full football game just yet.

The more likely scenario is Justin Durant will start the season at MLB and Smith will be worked into the lineup here and there. There's no reason to rush him into anything, especially considering he hasn't played in a meaningful football game in a year. He needs to reacclimate himself to physical contact and grow more comfortable with surgically repaired knee/drop foot first.

What are your Dallas Cowboys unanswered question concerns?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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2 Comments
  • Hobbes49

    Really enjoying your articles Brian, very thoughtful and well written. We can only hope we see Smith continue to improve week by week. If that happens, come week 10ish, he could be the beast he was at Notre Dame, or at least in the vicinity. I think the Boys will be looking to upgrade the left guard position if possible after cut down day. Our young d-backs need to grow up fast, and Heath and Brown need to really settle in. The Zeke thing is going to drag on for a long while I am afraid, but we may get a full 16 out of him as a result. The contract with Martin will get done soon enough I am confident.

    • Brian Martin

      Thanks for the positive feedback. It seems the majority of people who like to comment on the articles do so just to spread their negativity. Luckily, I embrace it all ha ha.

Game Notes

Cowboys, Falcons Week 11 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Zack Martin

The Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons are both 4-5 and playing to keep their seasons alive. It's a mutual must-win game, and both will have to try to win it without some key players. Once again, we look at this week's injury reports.

Let's begin with your Cowboys, whose report is getting longer as the season wears on:

Dallas Cowboys

  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
  • DE Taco Charlton (shoulder) - OUT
  • DT David Irving (ankle) - OUT
  • DT Daniel Ross (calf) - OUT
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - OUT
  • DT Antwaun Woods (concussion) - Doubtful
  • G Zack Martin (knee) - Questionable
  • G Connor Williams (knee) - Questionable
  • DT Maliek Collins (knee) - Questionable
  • LB Joe Thomas (foot) - Questionable

The biggest news is the guy who won't miss tomorrow's game; All-Pro guard Zack Martin is expected to play despite his knee injury from last Sunday night. The Cowboys, already dealing with Travis Frederick's absence and now health issues at left guard, could ill afford to go without Martin in such a pivotal game.

Even if he was healthy, rookie Connor Williams might have a hard time getting in the game. Backup Xavier Su'a-Filo looked like an experienced former second-round pick last week, and he may be the better player for now.

The defensive line has been hit hard, particularly in the middle. With Irving and Ross out, Woods doubtful, and Collins uncertain, Dallas called up DT Christian Ringo from the practice squad. They will also be without Taco Charlton, who could play inside some. Veteran Caraun Reid will be seeing a lot of playing time.

Sean Lee's ongoing absence has become almost an afterthought now with the stellar play of Leighton Vander Esch. We've seen in the past when missing Lee meant disaster on defense, but Dallas' first-round rookie has helped mitigate the damage.

Atlanta Falcons

  • LB Deion Jones (foot) - OUT

It's a short list for Atlanta, but the one name on it is a big one. Arguably the team's best defensive player, Deion Jones will miss the game with a foot injury.

The Falcons' injury issues have been more in players suffering season-ending injuries. Both starting guards, Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco, are on injured reserve. Star running back Devonta Freeman is also there, and those losses help explain Atlanta's 30th-ranked rushing offense.

Both starting safeties are also on IR; Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. Atlanta has one of the league's worst passing defense this year without them, ranking 30th in yards allowed and 28th in opponent passer rating.

So yes, the Falcons injury report compared to the Cowboys' may raise some eyebrows. But in terms of who has most of their key guys, Dallas is arguably still better off.



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Dallas Cowboys

4 Best Candidates for Cowboys’ Next Offensive Coordinator

Shane Carter

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Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan

The big word around the Dallas Cowboys lately is about Jason Garrett and the future of the head coaching job. Some have speculated that either Quarterback Dak Prescott or Jason Garrett will get axed, and the other will stay.

Owner Jerry Jones was quoted on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas about his young quarterback, putting to bed at least half of the conflict.

"Dak is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. He’s young and he’s going to get extended."

This shut the door on the idea of Prescott being replaced.

As far as Jason Garrett? Jerry Jones has been less than committed.

"I’m not in the business of backing anybody; the head coach, or offensive coordinator, I just don’t back them publicly." Jerry Jones said.

So it seems that Jason Garrett’s future is up in the air.

But what about offensive coordinator Scott Linehan? What’s held the Cowboys back this year has been the offense, and a lot of it can be contributed to their predictable play calling and inability to adapt to today’s game and its current players.

Whether or not Jason Garrett retains his job, Scott Linehan’s job doesn’t seem near as secure. His scheme doesn’t really mesh with Dak Prescott and how the offense could look. There’s only so many times you can run a three tight end set and not get furious.

Cowboys fans may want Garrett gone but they might have to settle for a new offensive coordinator instead.

The good news is that there are many options out there. Options that not only could work well with Dak Prescott, but could bring the Cowboys offense into the 2010s.

Shane Waldron

Jerry Jones once said how the Cowboys offense was like the LA Rams. If they are able to sign their Co-Offensive Coordinator, then they could be.

When Matt LaFleur left to become the Tennessee Titans OC, the job became a shared job between Waldron and Aaron Kromer. I wonder if Waldron would rather have the job all to himself?

What makes Waldron so appealing is he is also the Rams tight ends coach and passing game coordinator. Those are two areas where the Rams excel and where the Cowboys need help.

Teams are going to start copying the offensive juggernauts of the NFL and the Rams are definitely one of them. The Cowboys should do themselves a favor and get out in front before other teams beat them to it.

Scott Turner

Cam Newton is having one of his best seasons. Not only is he an MVP candidate but he’s set to have career highs in completion percentage and QBR, as well as a career low in interceptions. Cam Newton is a very talented quarterback but some of this has to be attributed to his new Quarterback Coach, Scott Turner.

The son of Norv Turner, Scott has seemingly helped mold Cam into a more accurate passer without compromising who Cam Newton is as an athletic quarterback. That has Dak Prescott written all over it.

He's got NFL lineage and a new, scary Cam Newton to add to his resume. He may not have as impressive a track record as others on here but he looks like he could be a chip off the old block and get the Cowboys where they need to be going.

Lincoln Riley

A popular head coach candidate, Lincoln Riley has shown his creativity and offensive innovation during his short time as Oklahoma’s head coach. It’s uncertain if he’ll get any real offers to be a head coach, but as an OC, he would be a serious grab.

Everyone has seen the work he’s done with Baker Mayfield and now Kyler Murray. How he’s able to incorporate different formations to open up the pass game and have the run game seem unstoppable. Just imagine what he could do with the weapons he would have at his disposal in Dallas.

It's likely that Lincoln Riley is a hot commodity for a head coach position, especially in Cleveland where he could reunite with Baker Mayfield. That shouldn’t stop the Cowboys from trying to lure him to Dallas, though. Lincoln Riley could be the real missing piece that Dallas has been looking for.

Eric Bieniemy

Another product of Andy Reid, Eric Bieniemy is the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. The former running backs coach has the experience under Andy Reid on not only how to run an offense but to use your weapons at your disposal to the fullest.

Maybe I’m over-hyping this man but when you see the work he helped put in with Pat Mahomes and how he uses those weapons around him, it makes me imagine what he can do for the Cowboy offense.

The team has no shortage of weapons and could benefit greatly from a guy like this.

If the Chiefs make it past their first playoff game, Bieniemy could become a more attractive name when it comes time for new head coaches. However, if Jerry Jones comes calling and the right offer is met, who’s to say?

If Kris Richard can be lured from Seattle to fix the Cowboys defense, Eric Bieniemy can be lured from Kansas City to fix the Cowboys offense.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

The Dallas Cowboys play their next three games in 13 days, all critical to their hopes of winning the NFC East despite alternating wins and losses since week one. For the Cowboys to earn consecutive road wins, their first coming on Sunday night at the Eagles, they'll have to come out of Atlanta in much better shape than they did just a year ago.

As expected in the NFL, a lot has changed in this year. The Cowboys 27-7 loss at the Falcons in their first game without Running Back Ezekiel Elliott was the beginning of the end on a season that forced a multitude of coaching changes in Dallas.

The Cowboys stubbornness in allowing Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn to sack Dak Prescott six times by beating Chaz Green and Byron Bell is something they hoped to move past when new positional coaches were brought in at OL, TE, QB, and WR.

It took the team admitting that these moves below Offensive Coordinator Scot Linehan were not all correct two weeks ago for the Cowboys to see any real progress, but with their win last week there's hope that the Cowboys are the improved team expected weeks ago - arrived just in time for Thanksgiving.

Firing Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander was the first move, as the Cowboys named Marc Colombo OL Coach and Hudson Houck his assistant. Colombo told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas this week that he has injured Center Travis Frederick on a headset during games as well.

Colombo, Houck, and Frederick have the Cowboys offensive line confident in their ability to play to their strengths, rewarded with a renewed faith in the zone blocking scheme that was forgotten under Alexander.

If the Cowboys offensive line was their first problem in last year's Falcons loss (it was), it's becoming their biggest strength at the right time in the season.

The Cowboys necessary changes didn't stop here though.

In desperate need of a play maker on the outside, the Cowboys are seeing their investment into Wide Receiver Amari Cooper pay off so far. Cooper is averaging 3.2 yards of separation on his routes this season, ahead of Cole Beasley's 2.6 yards as the next closest pass catcher.

Cooper's presence was a big part of Ezekiel Elliott's 151 yard rushing performance at the Eagles. A player that can win on the outside with ease and dictate coverage has benefited Prescott and the Cowboys game plan on offense enough to send away a first round pick.

It will be up to this "rebuilt" Cowboys offense to match the Falcons on Sunday. Atlanta is averaging 27.1 points per game this season, but a much more dangerous 32.2 at home. After a 1-4 start, the 4-5 Falcons are playing in front of their home fans for the first time in two weeks, losing at the Browns in week ten.

The Cowboys felt they'd be prepared for games like this after their offseason moves, instead needing to show the type of in-season urgency that's been rare for Jason Garrett's team. The same can be said about a Falcons team that's experienced playing with their backs to the wall much sooner than the Cowboys have this season, setting up a big NFC match up in the early slot Sunday.

Dak Prescott will be thankful that Chaz Green nor Byron Bell are protecting him, wanting nothing more than to deliver another win for the Cowboys to take into Thanksgiving against the division-leading Washington Redskins. Not all of the coaches responsible for the lack of adjustment in last year's game are gone. What the Cowboys do have are tangible new ideas from coaches that understand they need more than a win at the defending Super Bowl champions to call this Cowboys season a success.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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