As I sat at home watching the playoffs over the weekend, I couldn't help but reflect on the Dallas Cowboys' 2017 season and how disappointing things turned out. It was as if anything and everything that could possibly go wrong did, but that's just the way things sometimes go unfortunately.
Things sometimes just don't go our way in life, but we have to continue pushing forward regardless.
I think that's the best way we can summarize the Cowboys' 2017 season. But, for fun, let's take a look back at some of the biggest disappointments and how they helped shape Dallas' season, one way or another.
Losing Back-to-Back Home Games After Leading at Halftime
I think the first real disappointment for the Cowboys in the 2017 season was the back-to-back losing performances at home against the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers in weeks four and five. Both of these games had a huge impact on the end of the season and the Cowboys' playoff chances.
If they would've been able to win one or both of these contests, they probably would still be playing.
Unfortunately, that's not the way things turned out.
After leading both of these games going into halftime, second-half meltdowns resulted in two losses heading into their bye week. The Cowboys had both of these games in their grasp, but couldn't hold on long enough to secure the victory. Both games were decided by last-minute touchdowns, which made it even more heartbreaking.
To me, this was the first big disappointment of the 2017 season.
Injuries to Key Players
Arguably the most disappointing thing to happen to the Dallas Cowboys in 2017 were the injuries sustained to some of their key players.
Both Sean Lee and Tyron Smith missed several games due to injuries, and not having them on the field directly correlated to a few losses for the Cowboys.
It's hard to win games in the NFL when two of your best players keep getting injured.
The Cowboys likely wouldn't have lost both of those back-to-back home games against the Rams and Packers with Sean Lee in the lineup. It's doubtful Todd Gurley puts up 215 total yards and scores the winning touchdown with #50 on the field.
The same can be said about Tyron Smith against the Atlanta Falcons.
I don't know if the Cowboys win that game, but it definitely would have made it a closer contest. The injuries to both of these players likely kept the Dallas Cowboys out of the playoffs.
2017, the Year of the Suspension
As time goes by, the 2017 season might end up being referred to as the "year of suspension" for the Dallas Cowboys. If the injuries to several key players weren't the most disappointing thing that happened to the Cowboys, then the Ezekiel Elliott suspension is.
A suspension, by the way, that probably shouldn't have happened if we are being honest with ourselves. But, the NFL/Roger Goodell thought otherwise, which made Elliott miss six games.
Unfortunately, without Ezekiel Elliott in the lineup, the offense for the Cowboys struggled to find any kind of success or develop an identity.
It all started against the Atlanta Falcons, the first game Tyron Smith missed as well, and continued throughout the rest the season. Dak Prescott no longer had the running game to lean on and struggled to find his receivers in the passing game.
I don't know if having Zeke for those six games he missed would have gotten the Cowboys in the playoffs, but it certainly would've helped.
Scott Linehan and His Play Calling
It's no secret that I haven't been a big fan of Scott Linehan or his play calling since he arrived in Dallas. But, I think he really took a step back in 2017, evidenced by all the Cowboys' wide receivers putting up some of the worst numbers in their careers.
He was predictable and didn't do anything to put his players in a position to succeed for the majority of the season.
What really bothered me most about Scott Linehan in 2017 was the fact he didn't make adjustments to the offense when Ezekiel Elliott was finally suspended. He continued to lean on the run game -- I guess -- thinking Alfred Morris and Rod Smith could do what Zeke does, but it didn't work.
Opposing defenses no longer had any respect for the running game and dropped extra defenders into coverage instead. Those extra defenders ended up taking Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley out of the passing game, which made things extremely difficult for Dak Prescott.
The entire Dallas Cowboys offense suffered as a result.
What was most disappointing about the 2017 Dallas Cowboys?
DL Kerry Hyder Helps Solidify A Re-Tooled Defensive Line
The Cowboys got off to a busy start to week two of free agency on Monday, and capped it off by signing defensive lineman Kerry Hyder to a one year deal.
The former Detroit Lion could be classified as a "one year wonder" of sorts, but when you look closer at his career arc, you see that Hyder can provide upside at multiple positions across the Cowboys' defensive front.
After having 8 sacks and 19 quarterback hits as a defensive end in 2016, Hyder missed all of 2017 with an achilles injury. Last season, under new head coach Matt Patricia, Hyder was moved out of position and forced to play as a nose tackle and 5-technique more often.
So, the last time Hyder was healthy and playing in the role in he will likely fill in Dallas, he was productive. Yes that was a couple of seasons ago but it makes Hyder worth the one year deal he received from the Cowboys.
What exactly is that role, though?
I see Hyder primarily as a rotational 3-technique for the Cowboys. At just 270 pounds Hyder isn't going to play over the center often, and won't be very useful as a 1-technique against the run. He's at his best when lining on the outside shade of an offensive lineman, where he can use his get-off and quickness to create pressure.
Kerry Hyder can also fill in at defensive end if needed, especially when the Cowboys go into a nickel package. Hyder is similar to Tyrone Crawford in his ability to move inside and out, but is a bit better of a pass rusher than Crawford when at his best.
Hyder is a high energy, motor, and character defensive lineman who will fit right in with a Rod Marinelli unit. If it all clicks for Hyder and he regains his 2016 form, the Cowboys will have stolen an impressive pass rushing defensive lineman who can win from multiple positions.
If Hyder is actually a "one year wonder" who is more of his 2018-self with the Cowboys despite being put in a better role to succeed, Dallas can move on rather quickly because he is only on a one year deal.
This is a smart signing by the Cowboys front office as they look to re-tool their defensive line, and avoid being pigeon-holed into over-drafting at a certain position this Spring.
New Cowboys WR Randall Cobb Announces His Signing With A Fantastic GIF
On Tuesday this week it became official the Cowboys would sign former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb to a one year deal worth an estimated $5 million. After his visit Monday morning, speculation around whether and when he would sign was swirling.
Cobb confirmed his intentions to join the Cowboys himself, and did so with some A+ GIF usage on Twitter.
In case you don't know, the GIF Cobb tweeted is Woody from Toy Story, emerging confidently and tipping his cap.
This was Cobb signaling that he his a Cowboy, and he appears excited to be joining America's Team. Cobb also received some social media love from his now former teammates in Green Bay, including wide receiver Davante Adams and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers had some parting words for new Cowboys WR Randall Cobb
Clearly Randall Cobb made an impact in Green Bay, both on and off the field. Let's hope he can replicate some of that in Dallas now that he has joined the Cowboys.
Malik McDowell Is Well Worth The Risk For The Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly brining defensive lineman Malik McDowell into The Star this week for a visit, as they decide whether or not to potentially sign him for the 2019 season.
McDowell is a former second round pick of the Seattle Seahawks, who fell to day two because of what scouts call "off the field" or "character" concerns. McDowell did not last long with Seahawks, as he was released in 2017 following an ATV accident in which he reportedly suffered "extensive brain and eye trauma" according to Charles Robinson.
None of us know much about who Malik McDowell is as a person, or what concerns their really should be with his health. But what I do know is that on tape at Michigan State, McDowell was a top 5-10 player in the 2017 draft class. He was a stud, and has the traits to continue to be a stud in the NFL.
The 2017 NFL Draft is chock full of talented, athletic, and productive defensive linemen. While most of the draft pundits have focused on EDGE rushers thus far, the defensive tackle class also possesses some of this year's top NFL prospects. Arguably the best of those defensive tackles is Michigan State's Malik McDowell.
Back in 2017 I wrote a full scouting report on McDowell, detailing why he earned such a high grade on my board. McDowell is a versatile linemen who is explosive off the ball, powerful and rangy against the run, and a skilled pass rusher who plays with a high motor. What more could you really ask for?
"McDowell is a patient pass rusher at times, setting up the blocker how he likes and then beating them with ease. McDowell’s ability to swipe hands off helps him greatly, but his quick swim is his most effective pass rush move.
On this play he uses that swim to perfection, forcing the center to power down to the right before swimming back to the other side."
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
When the Spartans went to a three man pass rushing front, McDowell moved to the EDGE often and made plays with his quick, active hands and impressive swim move. He was much more impressive on the interior, however, and could be a direct replacement for David Irving as an explosive and powerful 3-technique for the Cowboys.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
I love that the Cowboys are bringing McDowell in for a free agent visit. His price will likely be low, as he is yet to play in an NFL game over the last two years, but his ceiling remains very high if he is healthy. It's rare for a player with his college production, natural ability, and measurables to completely fail in the NFL.
Maybe all McDowell needs is a second chance to get his head right and prove that he belongs in the league. Maybe he flames out quickly and can't get on the field due to "off the field" stuff. Or, maybe he simply isn't healthy enough to contribute as an NFL player. Regardless, for the price he'll likely command, McDowell is well worth the risk if the Cowboys are willing to take it.
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