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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?

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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.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Losing Linebackers Coach Matt Eberflus to Colts

Jess Haynie

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Matt Eberflus, Sean Lee

Multiple sources are reporting Matt Eberflus — who has been the linebackers coach and passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys — will leave to join the Indianapolis Colts as the new defensive coordinator. Eberflus has been with Dallas since 2011, having joined Rob Ryan’s staff when Ryan become the coordinator for the Cowboys’ defense.

He has been the linebackers coach during his entire Dallas tenure and was also named passing game coordinator in 2016.

Tom Pelissero on Twitter

With Josh McDaniels ticketed for the #Colts, former #Cowboys assistant Matt Eberflus is expected to come along as defensive coordinator, I’m told. Lot of parts falling in place now.

If not the Colts, some thought Matt Eberflus might end up replacing Matt Patricia as the defensive coordinator in New England. Either way, it does not appear Dallas could have kept him around while Rod Marinelli remains in his current position.

Eberflus’ work in Dallas speaks for itself, and primarily through LB Sean Lee.

He has been Lee’s position coach for all but his rookie season, and in that time Lee has been one of the top defensive players in all of football.

Beyond Lee, Eberflus has also been able to get quality play out of mid-round picks like Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson. We also saw Jaylon Smith make significant progress this season.

Given Matt Eberflus has never worked with Josh McDaniels before, the fact he was on the Colts’ radar says a lot.

Make no mistake; the Cowboys lost a good one here.

Don’t panic, however. Coach Marinelli has cast a very wide net during his time in the NFL and there are a lot of potential guys, some with plenty of experience, that Dallas might look to.

It’s entirely possible that Eberflus’ replacement will be someone who Marinelli spends 2018 grooming to take over as the defensive coordinator.

Still, of all the coaching changes so far for Dallas, this one hurts most.

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Thus far the 2018 offseason has brought a plethora of change to the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Now it is being reported the Cowboys have hired a brand new offensive line coach, former Cincinnati Bengals’ Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander.

Alex Marvez on Twitter

Source tells @sportingnews that Paul Alexander hired as new @dallascowboys offensive line coach

Alexander coached with the Bengals for over 20 years, and replaces the same man in Dallas who replaces him in Cincinnati, Frank Pollack. Alexander has also been the Bengals assistant head coach since 2003.

The Cowboys recently lost an assistant head coach when Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia left for Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders.

Per usual, the hire has been met with mixed reactions from Cowboys Nation.

Joey Ickes on Twitter

Since 2003, CIN has had only one season where they finished top-10 in Yards per attempt on the ground… They’ve been bottom-5 in the league 5 times in that span… That’s the OL Coach DAL just hired.

The hiring of an offensive line coach who’s rushing attack finished bottom five in the league in rushing yards per attempt five times since 2003 doesn’t look too great on paper. He will also teach with different techniques and styles than previous Cowboys OL coaches, which could potentially set back the offensive line early in the season.

Plus, respected Bengals’ writer Joe Goodberry did not exactly love the hire for the Cowboys.

Goodberry on Twitter

Pretty bad https://t.co/fysjZqCQ6l

Regardless, this is still a very talented offensive line and one which should lead an effective ground attack based on their talent alone. 2017 proved further that coaching matters a lot in the NFL however, and the wrong hire could set back even the most talented of units.

We will just have to wait and see how this 2018 season ends up playing out.

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Dallas Cowboys

Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates for Cowboys Vacant OL Coaching Job

Sean Martin

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Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates For Cowboys Vacant OL Coach Job 1

By keeping all three top coaches (Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Rod Marinelli) in place for 2018, there isn’t a Dallas Cowboys coaching hire that feels like they “must” get it right to contend next season. This is how it should be.

Producing nine wins, despite missing key players throughout the season, the Cowboys are changing things up at the position coach level to hopefully introduce new ideas and give the talent on this team a better chance at sustained success.

One coaching vacancy that needs to be filled by the right guy above any else is on the offensive line, where things haven’t been the same since the great Bill Callahan departed.

Frank Pollack took his place, and now finds himself with the Cincinnati Bengals after not being retained by Dallas this offseason.

Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates For Cowboys Vacant OL Coach Job

Tom Cable (Stephen Brashear / Getty Images)

The first name that was thrown around in consideration for the Cowboys job was Tom Cable, which sent a panic throughout Cowboys Nation before Cable decided to sign with John Gruden and the Raiders.

Cable had been coaching the Seahawks’ OL, a position that franchise has not valued in some time, and struggled to develop any talent in protection of their franchise QB Russell Wilson.

Now, two new names have emerged as candidates to coach the likes of two-time 1st Team All-Pro LT Tyron Smith, 1st Team All-Pro C Travis Frederick, and two-time 1st Team All-Pro RG Zack Martin.

Mike Solari and Paul Alexander

Paul Alexander has already met with the Dallas Cowboys, looking for work after 23 seasons with the Bengals. During this time, Alexander served as Marvin Lewis’ assistant head coach, in addition to his duties as their OL coach.

Judging on reactions out of Cincinnati to Alexander’s departure, the Bengals offensive line regressed under him in 2017, warranting change from a franchise that is as reluctant as any to move on from coaches.

Goodberry on Twitter

Paul Alexander better be gone

Most recently, Mike Solari has served as the offensive line coach for the New York Giants — far from a renowned unit around the NFL lately. He does have previous experience with the Cowboys, having served as an assistant OL and special teams coach here from 1987-88.

From 2006-07, Solari did reach the rank of offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs, which shows the level of respect that the 30-year NFL coaching veteran has earned.

He will be the Dallas Cowboys’ next interview for their open OL coach position.

Cowboys at Raiders: La'el Collins Faces Toughest Test Yet In Khalil Mack 1

Dallas Cowboys RT La’el Collins, RG Zack Martin

Depth at tackle, a long-term answer at left guard, and an extension for Zack Martin are among the questions facing the Cowboys offensive line moving forward. Whoever is in charge of keeping this unit up to standard in 2018 though, may hold the keys to getting the entirety of the Cowboys’ program back on track.

Whether it’s Alexander, Solari, or another outside candidate yet to emerge, Inside The Star will keep you updated on the Cowboys’ ongoing coaching search.

Tell us what you think about “Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates for Cowboys Vacant OL Coaching Job” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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