As a member of Cowboys Nation, I think I can speak for everyone in saying that the 2017 season for the Dallas Cowboys has been a roller coaster ride full of emotions. This year's team has looked unstoppable in some games and completely pathetic in others. We have also had to ride out this entire Ezekiel Elliott suspension situation. It's been an interesting season so far to say the least.
Since Thanksgiving is just a few days away, I thought I would put together a list of 5 things I think Dallas Cowboys fans should be thankful for in 2017. I mean, that's what you do on Thanksgiving… Right!?
We eat too much food, visit with friends and family, and watch the Dallas Cowboys play. I know that's what my Thanksgiving has always consisted of. You?
As always, please feel free to take advantage of the comment section at the end of the article to share any of your own thoughts and opinions on the topic. But here are my points.
Dominant Offensive Line
If there is one thing about the Dallas Cowboys we should all be thankful for, it is the offensive line they have built over the past few years. The Cowboys OL is arguably the best unit in the NFL, headlined by their three Pro Bowlers, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin. They are without a doubt the strength/backbone of this team.
Don't expect this unit to change much over the next several years. Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick are already locked up for the foreseeable future, and Zack Martin will likely receive an extension this off-season. And that's not even mentioning La'el Collins also received an extension recently. With the continued continuity, they could even get better.
The Cowboys probably need to find an upgrade at the left guard position, but Collins' position flex could work in their favor come draft time.
They could keep Collins at RT or move him back to LG depending on what they believe is in the best interest of the entire OL. This is great news for the Cowboys offense for years to come.
Dak Prescott is another reason the Dallas Cowboys and fans have reason to be thankful about the team on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys were extremely fortunate to find Prescott in the fourth round in 2016, because making the transition from Tony Romo at quarterback could've gone a lot worse.
Fortunately, the transition from Romo to Prescott went smoothly and Cowboys Nation couldn't be happier with their new signal caller.
Prescott isn't experiencing any kind of sophomore slump in his second year in the NFL, in fact he is putting together yet another Pro Bowl caliber season. There were those doubters out there who believed he wouldn't be able to replicate the numbers he put up as a rookie, but he's doing just that this season.
We will learn a lot about the Dallas Cowboys' young QB while Ezekiel Elliott is out, but I expect him to put the team on his back and keep them competitive. He is one of the few QBs in the league who can hurt you with his arm and his legs, and scary thing is, he will only continue to get better.
In the off-season, Owner/General Manager Jerry Jones really wanted to find the Dallas Cowboys a "War Daddy" to get after opposing QBs. Unbeknownst to him, that player was already on the roster.
DeMarcus Lawrence has been on a tear this season and has become arguably the best pass rushing defensive end in the NFL.
Now, it is a contract year for Lawrence, but don't expect the Cowboys to let him get away.
It's unlikely he receives a long-term contract just yet. They probably want to make sure that this isn't some kind of fluke performance from him and that his previous back injuries won't become an issue. That is why it is much more likely he receives the franchise tag.
Regardless of how the Cowboys keep Lawrence around, I think we can all agree that we are extremely thankful Dallas finally has a pass rusher who can dominate a game. Plus, he will only continue to get better as the Cowboys improve the talent around him on the defensive side of the ball.
DeMarcus Lawrence isn't the only defensive player to kind of come out of nowhere and become a "War Daddy" pass rusher. David Irving has become one of the better defensive tackles in the NFL and is a nightmare for interior lineman across the league. For that, I am extremely thankful.
Irving possesses unique size, speed, and agility for a DT and he uses that to his advantage.
Since returning from his four-game suspension to start the 2017 season, he has been absolutely dominant and continuously makes plays behind the line of scrimmage. He has always shown flashes of this, but has finally become consistent in his play.
Irving won't go anywhere anytime soon. He is a restricted free agent after the season, but the Cowboys will likely place a first-round tender on him to secure his services. But, they could enter into contract negotiations and lock him up for several years to come.
Heading into the 2017 season no one really knew what to expect from the Dallas Cowboys secondary after pretty much cleaning house in the off-season. The Cowboys ended up drafting not one, but four defensive backs in the 2017 NFL Draft and it looks to have paid off.
The Cowboy secondary struggled early in the season because of injuries and inexperience, but have really rounded into shape here of late.
Jourdan Lewis looks like a starting CB and Xavier Woods might have earned the starting job next to Byron Jones at safety. Unfortunately, we haven't seen much of Chidobe Awuzie because of a recurring hamstring injury, but his versatility to play several different positions will be a welcomed addition in the secondary.
The Dallas Cowboys look to have not only upgraded the secondary, but they have managed to do it in just one season. All of these young players will continue to get better the more they play and that means the future is bright for the Cowboys defense.
That's a reason to be thankful. What are you thankful for about the Dallas Cowboys?
#WASvsDAL: Why This Game Holds Increased Importance
It feels incredibly cliche to call the week 7 match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins a "must win." Especially for someone like me who values statistics, logic, and analytics in sports.
But when the analytics agree with the narratives, those narratives do tend to get my attention. And this week that would appear to be the case.
According to Brian Burke of ESPN, the Cowboys's week 7 game has the highest playoff probability leverage in the entire NFC, and is second to only the Houston Texans' big game with Jacksonville around the entire league.
Playoff leverage for week 7. DAL, WAS, PHI, CAR, MIN, CHI with a lot on the line in the NFC. HOU, CIN, and JAX in the AFC.
What does this mean? Well playoff probability leverage is pretty intuitive. Basically it is the difference between a win this week and a loss this week in terms of probability to make the playoffs.
For the Cowboys that number is at 27%, with a win over Washington catapulting their playoff probability over 50%. On the other hand, a loss would take a big hit to their playoff hopes just 7 games into the NFL season.
As you might expect, this game means a lot to the Redskins' playoff probability as well. Their playoff leverage this week is at 14%, but a win would mean "more" to Dallas than Washington based on the probabilities.
Fellow NFC East foe, the Philadelphia Eagles, also have a lot to gain/lose this Sunday, with their leverage sitting at 22%. According to Burke's model, the Eagles and Cowboys have the best chances of making the playoffs at this point, but if each team wins Sunday the Eagles will still have a higher percentage.
Of course a lot can and will change week to week, despite what the metrics say. The Cowboys still have two games remaining with the NFC East favorite Eagles this year, and will get another crack at Washington at home later in the season. Plus the Cowboys have a few NFC wild card and playoff contenders remaining on their schedule, such as the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. (Yes, the 2-4 Falcons are very much alive in this crazy conference).
Still, the difference between 4-3 (2-0 in the division) and 3-4 (1-1 in the division) is huge, as is shown by Brian Burke's playoff probability leverage metric.
Cowboys WR Tavon Austin Skipping Surgery, May Return in 2018
A groin injury sustained last week against Jacksonville won't send Tavon Austin to injured reserve, at least for now. The Dallas Cowboys receiver has elected to forego surgery at this time, giving him a chance to return to action in 2018.
There was concern that Austin could land on IR initially following the Jaguars game, but he sought a second opinion this week. It appears that this new information was enough for Tavon and the Cowboys to decide that surgery can wait.
Sounds like WR Tavon Austin will not have surgery at this time after getting a second opinion on his groin injury. He could miss a few weeks, however. #cowboyswire
Austin should miss this Sunday's game with the Washington Redskins. He has been the team's punt returner this season and a useful tool on offense, playing mostly receiver but also lining up the backfield at times.
Despite his limited opportunities, Tavon is tied with Cole Beasley for the team lead with two receiving touchdowns in 2018.
How long Austin will remain out is unknown at this time. After the Washington game, Dallas will have their bye week and then host the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football.
Both of these are games that the Cowboys, feeling good after a blowout victory over Jacksonville, should be able to win without Austin. But they would certainly like him back for the Week 10 road game with the Philadelphia Eagles.
In Tavon's absence, Cole Beasley will likely field punts. We may see more of Deonte Thompson in the speed routes that Austin ran on offense, though Dallas could also finally see what recently returned Brice Butler has to offer.
With an expiring contract this year, Tavon will likely want to get back soon and trying to improve his stock for the 2019 offseason. Hopefully, he can still have a positive impact on his value and the Cowboys season in the weeks ahead.
Terrance Williams: Details, Impact of 3-Game Suspension
Terrance Williams was already missing games on injured reserve, but now the Dallas Cowboys receivers is going to lose some money as well. Williams was finally hit with a three-game suspension by the NFL, starting immediately, for his public intoxication arrest last May.
Dallas placed Terrance on IR in Week 5 just a day before their game against the Houston Texans. Williams had been struggling with a foot issue since the offseason, which included a surgery that he hadn't fully recovered from.
Many were surprised that Williams wasn't suspended to start the season, given that his arrest occurred several months prior. But when charges were eventually dropped after Terrance took part in some required alcohol education courses, it appeared the league might be letting the issue go.
However, as Cowboys fans know all too well, Roger Goodell's NFL operates its own judicial system.
In Williams' case, the suspension will only result in lost game checks. Players still get paid when on IR, but Terrance will lose that amount of his $3.5 million base salary.
Because he can serve the suspension while injured, Terrance will still be eligible to be recalled from injured reserve in December after sitting the mandatory weeks.
The real issue for Williams now is how this event, and his general fall from grace in the Cowboys offense, will affect him in the next offseason.
Terrance is in just the second season of a four-year, $17 million contract he signed in 2017. If he's released after this year, Dallas would save $2.25 million of his scheduled $4.75 million cap hit in 2019.
Williams' cap hit isn't the issue by itself. That would be a bargain for a significant contributor in your offense, even if he was just the third receiver.
But Terrance appears to have fallen well below that spot on the depth chart. Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, and Michael Gallup are the top three receivers these days, and veteran Deonte Thompson has also been getting looks. Dallas also brought back Brice Butler a few weeks ago, though he hasn't really been worked in yet.
Not only that, but the Cowboys will have the option to recall Noah Brown from IR in just a few more weeks. He was one of their more intriguing young prospects prior to getting hurt.
Dallas could let Terrance come back next year to compete, hopefully with full health and less personal baggage. But after six seasons, they may be ready to move on to players with more room to grow.
For now, though, Terrance Williams is out of action and out some money. We'll see what the future holds.
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