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?
Jaguars Waive Barry Church; Could Cowboys Bring Him Back?
Veteran safety Barry Church was released today by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Could he return home to the Dallas Cowboys, where he spent his first seven seasons?
Despite his leadership and consistency on defense, Dallas allowed Church to leave in free agency when Jacksonville gave him a lucrative deal. But if he clears waivers, could the Cowboys consider bring him back for depth and support during their likely playoff run?
Jane Slater of the NFL Network reported on this potential reunion:
Cowboys haven't reached out to S Barry Church but I'm told they are discussing the possibility of bringing him back to Dallas according to a source informed. Church, 30, was released by the Jags today and is familiar with the system having played there from 2010-2016.
The Cowboys have had solid play from their current starting safeties, Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. Neither is a star, but the duo has not been a liability during the team's current five-game winning streak.
Church was a similar player, reliable if never exceptional, during his time in Dallas. He could be a nice insurance policy for the playoffs if something happened to one of the starters.
Barry knows the system. He never played for Kris Richard, but he was with Rod Marinelli for three seasons before leaving in free agency.
According to reports out of Jacksonville, Church is being released because the team wants to go with younger, cheaper players now that their season is over. There is no known injury keeping Barry from playing.
Of course, Dallas would have to make room on the roster to pick Church up. They could third-year prospect Darian Thompson, who is the current fourth man at safety.
Barry Church must now go through the 24-hour waiver process. A team may claim him, including the Cowboys. We'll see what the future holds.
How the Dallas Cowboys Can Win the NFC East This Week
It's only Week 15, but the Dallas Cowboys could become the 2018 NFC East Champions this week through a couple of scenarios. I thought we'd take a moment today to break down how the Boys can win their division and assure their spot in the playoffs.
With three weeks left in the regular season, most of the divisional games have already been played. The only two left to play are the Week 17 finales; Cowboys at Giants and Eagles at Redskins.
Here are the current standings:
- Dallas Cowboys 8-5 (4-1 in division)
- Philadelphia Eagles 6-7 (3-2 in division)
- Washington Redskins 6-7 (2-3 in division)
- New York Giants 5-8 (1-4 in division)
The Giants have been scrappy lately, winning four of their last five, but it's too late for them to try to win the division. Even if the Cowboys were to fall to 8-8, the best New York could do is tie them in overall record. They would have also split their head-to-head series, negating that tiebreaker.
At that point, it would come down to the record within the division. New York would improve to 2-4 with a win over Dallas in Week 17, but the Cowboys would still be 4-2 against the NFC East. Dallas would still be the division champion.
So, that knocks out New York. Technically, the Eagles and Redskins are still alive. But their margin is about as slim as it gets.
Both Philadelphia and Washington need the Cowboys to lose their last three games, and then to also win out themselves, to steal the NFC East crown.
For the Redskins, it's about their record against division opponents. The best they can finish is 3-3, assuming they'd win their last game against the Eagles. With the head-to-head series against Dallas split this year, they would have to finish 9-7 overall and have the Cowboys drop to 8-8 to become NFC East Champions.
The Eagles also need to finish one game ahead of Dallas, but for a different reason. Philadelphia lost both their games with the Cowboys this year, so Dallas has the head-to-head tiebreaker.
So that really makes thing simple for Dallas; win just one of your last three games and you're the division champion.
Not only that, but even if Dallas were to fall this week against the Indianapolis Colts, they could still clinch the division with losses by the Eagles (@ Rams) and Redskins (@ Jaguars).
It would certainly behoove the Cowboys to get the division locked up now. They could then use the last two weeks of the season to get ready for the playoffs.
Dallas would have the freedom rest banged up players like Ezekiel Elliott and Zack Martin. It would also allow them to work in returning players such as Sean Lee and Tavon Austin and figure out their new rotations without pressure to win.
Beating the Colts on Sunday isn't a given; they're at home and desperate to stay alive in the AFC playoff picture. They are the toughest opponent Dallas has left until January.
But despite that, with the Eagles facing a juggernaut team and Washington trying to play football without a quarterback, there's a great chance that the Cowboys will be the NFC East Champions by Sunday night.
#INDvsDAL: How The Game May Be Decided In The Red Zone
In many ways the Dallas Cowboys offense has found their stride in recent weeks. Over this five game win streak they have "found their identity" playing ball control offense and trusting their quarterback to make big throws when needed most. Of course the defense has been the star most weeks, but this offense should not be slept on either.
This doesn't mean the offense has been without their fair share of struggles, however, particularly in the red zone. Struggles that the numbers say could cost the Cowboys this weeks' game in Indianapolis if they don't get it cleaned up.
In terms of red zone offensive efficiency the Cowboys have been downright horrendous. In fact, they are dead-last in the league in success rate inside the 10 yard line, last in first-and-goal success rate, and 21st in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.
There's no sugar-coating those numbers, they are bad. Especially when you consider that this team has arguably the league's best running back and a quarterback with the size and athleticism you might expect from a linebacker.
For as bad as the Cowboys are inside the red zone, the Colts are equally as good. Indianapolis is top 10 in terms of success rate inside the 10, at the goal line, and in first-and-goal success rate. They are also 11th in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.
Despite not having the individual running back the Cowboys have, the Colts offensive line and skill players as a whole set them up a bit better when the field is shortened. Tight end Eric Ebron has been rather incredible in terms of production this season, catching 12 touchdowns on 58 receptions. Andrew Luck is also a more accurate quarterback than Dak Prescott, though Prescott should be a much more dangerous red zone threat than he currently is.
I am working on the Cowboys 32nd ranked Goal-to-Go offensive numbers. They have run 35 of their 59 total plays out of Shotgun-11 Personnel. In those 35 plays, the average gain per snap is....12 INCHES. I am not kidding. They could out-gain that by running QB sneaks. I am amazed.
Of course, some of the Cowboys red zone struggles can be pinned on offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Linehan has failed to scheme open the "easy" red zone touchdowns we see so often around the league. As pointed out by Bob Sturm on Twitter this week, the Cowboys' personnel groupings and play calls when in goal-to-go situations have been questionable to say the least. But while blame does fall on the coaches' shoulders, the players need to execute better as well.
Games in the NFL often come down to just a handful of plays, and red zone efficiency plays a key role in deciding the outcome of close games every week. If this is once again the case on Sunday, based on past performance, the Dallas Cowboys could be in trouble against the efficient Colts.
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