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?
Cowboys’ Patience With DE Randy Gregory Finally Paying Off?
Say what you want about Randy Gregory and his past struggles, but he might just be turning into the player the Dallas Cowboys envisioned when they drafted him in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. All I can say is, it's about time!
Randy Gregory is just one of many players Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones has gone out of his way to help in the hopes of improving his football team, but very few have received as much patience and personal attention as Gregory. Jerry has continued to stand by him through all of his off the field issues and suspensions, despite not getting much in return.
It's been somewhat confusing for a lot of Cowboys Nation. Many fans have been ready to move on from the troubled defensive end, but not Jerry Jones. This was his pick back in 2015 and he was bound and determined to see it through. That's exactly what he's done and he might actually see some return on his investment.
Randy Gregory isn't exactly blowing things up like Linebacker Leighton Vander Ecsh or some of his other defensive teammates, but he's quietly strung together some good games these past several weeks. In the last four games he has three quarterback sacks, three quarterback hits, and a tackle for a loss. That's not even mentioning how he's consistently applying pressure to the QB as well.
I know it doesn't look like much from the outside looking in, but to me he's starting to look like a player who's finally finding his groove. I don't know about you, but I will take any silver lining I can get when it comes to Randy Gregory. Even if it is the small sample size.
We all knew it might take him a while to get things going after missing all 2017 and parts of 2016 due to suspensions. That's a lot of football to miss for a young player and it's kind of hurt his development. That's probably one of the reasons the Cowboys brought him along a little slowly this season.
I don't think there's any reason to pull back the reins any longer though. Gregory looks as if he has acclimated to the game once again and is ready, willing, and able to start opposite DeMarcus Lawrence from here on out. The Cowboys defense is just better with him in the lineup.
Randy Gregory has had to overcome a lot of personal demons to reach this point in his career, and for that I commend him. It couldn't have been an easy road to go down, but the work he has put in is paying off and he can finally see the fruits of his labor for himself. That could pay huge dividends not only from a confidence standpoint, but also as a sense of validation.
Now, he just needs to keep his nose to the grind stone and continue to do what he's been doing. I think everything else will work itself out and both he and the Cowboys will be better for it.
Do you think Randy Gregory is finally hitting his stride?
QB Dak Prescott Continues To Come Through In Clutch Situations
Dak Prescott is possibly the most criticized quarterback in all of football.
Of course, this comes with the territory of being the Cowboys starting quarterback, but each throw Prescott attempts is placed under an intense microscope, even by NFL standards. We analyze every snap of every game, looking to find where Dak was right or wrong with this reads.
There's no question, though, that Prescott has been inconsistent throughout his young career. Week to week, drive to drive, and even play to play, we seemingly have no gauge on just how Dak Prescott will perform.
One scenario where we can say with confidence he will come through, however, is when it matters most. Last Sunday, in yet another must-win game for the Dallas Cowboys, Prescott orchestrated a game winning drive to lead his team over the favored Atlanta Falcons.
The Cowboys offense was pedestrian for much of the afternoon, but when Prescott got the ball in a tied game, I felt confident he would give Brett Maher a chance to win the game. Even on the road, and even after the offense had struggled a bit through the air all day.
Prescott got the ball late in the fourth quarter, looking to answer former NFL MVP Matt Ryan's game tying touchdown strike to Julio Jones. Dak went for it all on the first play, looking for Michael Gallup deep down the sideline, but the ball fell incomplete. After that throw, Prescott went 4/5 for 45 yards, including a huge completion to Cole Beasley, putting Dallas in game winning field goal range.
This confidence in Dak Prescott is justified, as is shown by his numbers in late game situations. Prescott now has 12 game winning drives, tying him for the league lead over the last three seasons. For comparison sake, Eagles starter Carson Wentz has just 3 game winning drives over that same stretch.
Overall the box score shows a rather quiet day for Prescott, but it was exactly the kind of Sunday they need from him. He completed over 60% of his passes, ran for a touchdown, and avoided the key turnover which could have sung this close game.
He played efficient football, and gave the Cowboys a chance to win it late. Then, he did what he does best, making plays in clutch situations and coming through in the 2 minute drill.
For all of Dak Prescott's flaws, those end-of-half and end-of-game situations have been a clear strength for the young quarterback, and continued to be this week.
Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración
Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.
Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.
Cambios de Coach
A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.
A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.
Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?
A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.
A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.
En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.
La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.
Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.
Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.
No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.
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