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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

2 Comments

  1. Hobbes49

    September 1, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    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

      Brian Martin

      September 1, 2017 at 3:08 pm

      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.

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys WR Cole Beasley Wants Bigger Role, Blames Front Office

Jess Haynie

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Cole Beasley

With free agency on the horizon, Cole Beasley isn't pulling any punches about his dissatisfaction with his role in the Dallas Cowboys offense. Could this have him wanting a change of scenery in 2019?

Today, Beasley made some big statements on his personal Twitter account. The first was only an appetizer.

Cole Beasley on Twitter

Utilization is more important than money. https://t.co/qP8XoR6uBu

One has to think that Cole sees the success players with his skills have had in a system like New England's, or even just other more proficient passing offenses, and thinks he could do even more elsewhere.

But even when it was suggested that the firing of Scott Linehan could bring some new opportunities for Beasley in Dallas, the receiver dropped this bomb.

Cole Beasley on Twitter

Honestly, the front office pushes who they want to get the ball to. I haven't been a huge priority in that regard. Maybe that will change but I'm not sure. More balls come my way in 2 minute drill where nothing is planned. https://t.co/ioih9BJJv1

Well, there's no denying his frustration there.

Some might be confused by this, given that Beasley was the most-targeted receiver or tight end in the 2018 offense. Only Ezekiel Elliott got more passes thrown his way.

However, Cole's role did diminish once Amari Cooper showed up. And in the Cowboys' playoff loss to the Rams, Beasley only got two targets the whole game. Cooper and Michael Gallup got nine targets each.

You could see where there was some executive agenda behind getting Cooper and Gallup the ball. Dallas wanted their trade of a first-round pick for Amari to be validated. They also are invested in Michael as a future starter. What Cole said isn't without merit.

Despite what he tweeted, though, Beasley did say that he was open to returning to the Cowboys.

Cole Beasley on Twitter

Doesn't mean I'm gone. I'll play anywhere where I can make more of an impact. I would love for that to be Dallas or anywhere else that will give me more pops to make an impact. I just wanna ball. It's hard with 3 to 4 opps a game. https://t.co/zImZKxkAvD

So no, it's not time to put your Beasley jerseys on eBay just yet. But given these comments, it's clear that Cole is looking for more than money in his contract.

Will the Cowboys have a satisfying answer for him? And if Beasley does want a bigger role, will he also want to be paid closer to what he thinks he's worth?

It's easy to say it's not about money, but the two really do go hand in hand.

Free agency may not open until March 13th, but Cole Beasley is already showing his cards. How will the Dallas Cowboys respond?



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Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowlers Show Promise for Future

Sean Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowlers Show Promise for Future

The next class of players to join the Dallas Cowboys may be on the field at Mobile, Alabama this week for the Senior Bowl, but their young core is well represented in front of the Cowboys coaching staff at the Pro Bowl.

With Left Tackle Tyron Smith and Right Guard Zack Martin not participating, the Cowboys have six Pro Bowl participants. The improved health of their offensive line is still one of the best things going for this team in the early part of the offseason, expecting four-time Pro Bowl Center Travis Frederick to rejoin Smith and Martin as soon as OTAs.

A compilation of the best linemen in the NFC will have to do for Quarterback Dak Prescott and Running Back Ezekiel Elliott - making their second Pro Bowl appearance together. It took the addition of Wide Receiver Amari Cooper for the Cowboys offense to find their expected form under Prescott and Elliott in their third season, as Cooper will appear in his fourth Pro Bowl in as many years.

Both times Elliott's made the Pro Bowl, he's done so as the league's rushing champion.

Hardly on track to reach Orlando with the Oakland Raiders, Cooper put up 725 yards and six touchdowns on 53 catches in nine regular season games for the Cowboys. He followed up this resurgent performance with seven catches for 106 yards in the Wild Card Round vs. the Seahawks and six for 65 and a touchdown at the Rams in the Divisional Round.

The Cowboys shouldn't be done adding talent at wide receiver, with Cooper serving as the bold reminder of what Prescott can do with dynamic talent on the outside. Moving on from Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan already this offseason, the next steps towards building the offense around Dak's strengths is yet to be determined.

Meanwhile, their established strengths will be on display, and not just on offense at the Pro Bowl. Making strides as one of the best young defenses in the league this season, Cowboys rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch will be joined by Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence and Cornerback Byron Jones.

Though its unlikely their coaching will match the intensity of the season, the best thing these three defenders have going for them is more time under Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard. One of Richard's first moves with the Cowboys was moving Jones to cornerback, where he became a first-time Pro Bowler.

Unable to reach his full athletic potential at safety, Jones was the elite corner the Cowboys needed at a position still in need of depth. His length and range should make him a fixture in Richard's secondary for a long time.

Vander Esch becomes the 11th Cowboys rookie to make a Pro Bowl, the third on the defensive side of the ball. Surely the Wolf Hunter will look forward to another week of football, going from eight man HS player to one-year starter at Boise State and finally a Cowboys fixture at linebacker.

The Cowboys did what was thought to be proved impossible this season by fielding a competent defense (mostly) without Sean Lee. Vander Esch and teammate Jaylon Smith deserve the credit here, with Leighton making a larger immediate impact than ever expected as the 19th overall pick.

Last but nowhere near least is DeMarcus Lawrence, much closer to the Cowboys top priority in free agency this offseason than an afterthought at his second Pro Bowl. Putting together consecutive seasons with at least ten sacks, the Cowboys don't have to see anything further from their top pass rusher to do whatever it takes to re-sign him.

The rest of the Cowboys "Hot Boyz" have a lot of potential and promise, but Lawrence is a rare proven commodity at defensive end with 25 sacks in his last 32 games. Rushing the passer in the Pro Bowl is a relatively futile task, but the Cowboys know Lawrence is capable of saving his best plays for the biggest moments. Also a dominant run defender, there simply shouldn't be a reality where the Cowboys are forced to field a defense without Lawrence at left end in 2019 and beyond.

The Cowboys at the Pro Bowl will tell you they'd prefer to be missing the game in preparation for the Super Bowl. Getting within two games of this feat after a 3-5 start is still impressive enough for the Cowboys to feel great about their future, in large part because of the six players representing America's Team this week.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowlers Show Promise for Future" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Handing out Hardware for the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Season

John Williams

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Resilience Earns Prescott's 1st Playoff Win, Trip to Divisional Round

The 2018 NFL season for the Dallas Cowboys was literally a roller coaster ride with as many ups and downs as the Texas Giant. Through the first seven games of the season the Cowboys alternated home wins with road losses to get to 3-4. They made as big of a personnel move as they've made in recent years when they traded for Amari Cooper only to all to 3-5 in his debut on Monday Night Football to the Tennessee Titans.

Then the team went on an improbably five game winning streak to put themselves in position to win the NFC East for the third time in five years by mid December. The Cowboys were able to pick up the win in the wild card round over the Seattle Seahawks before being ousted by Todd Gurley, C.J. Anderson, and the Los Angeles -- battering -- Rams' offensive line.

The season always ends with a little disappointment for 31 of the NFL's 32 teams, but this year felt different at the end because of where they were to start the season and after eight games. After the Tennessee game, this team was written off. They were Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant. They stormed back and made the 2018 season a memorable one, even if it didn't end with a sixth Lombardi Trophy.

Let's give out some post season awards to your Dallas Cowboys.

MVP

Dak Prescott, Quarterback

Many will scoff at this choice and think it could be Ezekiel Elliott, and I understand, but nobody had a greater impact on the Dallas Cowboys making the playoffs and winning their matchup with the Seattle Seahawks than Dak Prescott did.

Over the final eight games of the season, Dak averaged 278 passing yards per game, 2 total touchdowns, and threw only three interceptions. His numbers down the stretch over a 16 game pace were phenomenal. On 71.6% passing, he was on pace for 4,450 yards, 24 passing touchdowns, eight rushing touchdowns, only six interceptions on the season, with a passer rating of 103.4.

John Williams ✭ on Twitter

Not to make this about Dak, but I'm going to make this about Dak. 2nd in success rate, 3rd in EPA and EPA/play among playoff QBs. #CowboysNation https://t.co/Evyf73uzJ9

His play in the win over the Seattle Seahawks was instrumental in getting the victory to move on to the divisional round. Though they fell short against the Los Angeles Rams, Dak was able to bring them back from 16 down early in the second half to make it a one score game in the end.

Dak Prescott is still a developing player, and in reality, all players are trying to grow their game. Every season. Prescott is a good quarterback, who is on his way to being great and we saw this season the potential that he has.

He threw for a career high 455 yards against the Eagles and three touchdowns and then threw for 387 yards and four touchdowns against the New York Giants. There's evidence now that Dak can throw the ball, and that should scare teams.

In the playoffs, Prescott stepped up and was a big reason why the Cowboys beat the Seahawks and hung in there against the Rams.

Offensive Player of the Year

Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back

Three years, two rushing titles, and it almost seemed like a "meh" season for Ezekiel Elliott. Sure he had some big games, but only a couple times this season did it feel like Elliott took over the game. Some of that is due to the offensive line injuries and inconsistencies, but some of that may be due to Elliott who saw a much bigger workload than he had in his career to date.

He was much more actively involved in the passing game this season as he more than doubled his previous career high with 77 receptions for 567 yards. Though he won the rushing title, this was the lowest rushing yards per game he's had in his short three-year career. Elliott only scored nine touchdowns this season, which tied with his 2017 total that he accrued in only 10 games.

Elliott struggled some in the red zone because the team struggled in the red zone. Some of those issues related to the offensive line and some because of the play calling, but you'd hope that Elliott would be able to overcome some of that where it mattered most.

Defensive Player of the Year

DeMarcus Lawrence, Defensive End

No player on defense has a bigger impact for the Dallas Cowboys than Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence. Whether it's in the run game or the passing game, DeMarcus Lawrence is elite in both categories and makes life incredibly difficult on the opposing offense.

On the season he had 10.5 sacks, finishing with double-digit sacks for the second year in a row. While that may not be as impressive as his 2017 total of 14.5, he was doing his thing with much less help along the defensive line. There wasn't another player who flirted with double-digit sacks this season. Though Randy Gregory, Maliek Collins, and Tyrone Crawford performed well, teams gave all of their attention to Lawrence in both the run and pass game.

And he was still amazingly effective.

Lawrence finished fifth among EDGE players -- 4-3 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebackers -- in tackles, fourth in the NFL in Pro Football Focus' "stops" measure with 44, and 15th in total pressures. Pro Football Focus ranked Lawrence as the seventh best EDGE defender, ninth best pass rusher, and the 12th best run defender. J.J. Watt and Khalil Mack were the only other EDGE defenders who ranked in the top 12 as both a pass rusher and run defender per Pro Football Focus.

DeMarcus Lawrence is heading into the offseason looking to get a long-term deal done.

Rookie of the Year

Leighton Vander Esch, Linebacker

While Connor Williams and Michael Gallup had really good starts to their NFL career's no rookie for the Dallas Cowboys was as impressive as 19th overall pick Leighton Vander Esch. He led the Dallas Cowboys in tackles and "stops" and had the second highest grade of any defender as graded by Pro Football Focus.

In tackles, he was second only to future Hall of Fame inductee Luke Keuchly and fellow rookie Darius Leonard. Vander Esch did all this while playing a limited number of snaps as the Dallas Cowboys eased him in at the start of the season and then attempted to find a way to have Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, and Sean Lee on the field together.

It was an impressive year for the former Boise St. Bronco and the sky is the limit for Vander Esch. He's now played just his second season as a starter in 11-man football. If you remember, he didn't start for Boise St. till the 2017 season and had played 8-man football in high school.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what kind of progression Vander Esch can make to his game in 2019. He's going to be a great player.

Most Improved Player

Jaylon Smith, Linebacker

The 2017 season was not kind to Jaylon Smith. It was his first attempt at playing football since January of 2016 when he tore his ACL in the Fiesta Bowl. It was amazing that he was even playing, though he didn't play considerably well.

2018, however, was a different story.

Jaylon Smith could make a case for team MVP. He may not have had as many tackles as Vander Esch, or as many sacks, but by playmaking defensive EPA, he was nearly as effective at making big plays on defense as DeMarcus Lawrence.

Cowboys Stats & Graphics on Twitter

Overall playmaking EPA rank among all NFL defenders: 5. DeMarcus Lawrence 7. Jaylon Smith 58. Leighton Vander Esch

EPA measures the effect a play will have on the score. Not all plays are weighted the same, as some weigh heavier because of down and distance, turnovers, etc. Jaylon Smith had an excellent season for the Dallas Cowboys and looks to be the guy that they thought he would be when they selected him at the top of the second round in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Having Smith and Vander Esch roaming around the middle of the field for the Dallas Cowboys moving forward is huge. They're excellent at moving in space and are excellent definitions of "sideline to sideline" players.

Jaylon Smith is one of the players I'm already looking forward to watching again in the 2019 season.

Comeback Player of the Year

Randy Gregory, Defensive End

After sitting out all but two games of the 2016 season and all of last season, Randy Gregory came back this season and had a good year. With only one sack in his career heading into the 2018 season, Gregory had a nice comeback year with five sacks and finished tied for second on the team with 37 pressures according to Pro Football Focus. According to Pro Football Reference, Gregory was second on the team in tackles for loss.

The Cowboys have Randy Gregory under contract for the 2019 season for just under $1 million.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Dallas Cowboys have a lot to feel optimistic about as they look to roster build this offseason in preparation of the 2019 season. They have several ascending players playing key roles for them. This team looks primed to contend again in 2019.



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