I'm an optimist. One may call me an eternal optimist.
Even as the game seemed to be getting out of hand with your local heroes getting down 21-3, I felt like I was one of only a few people who still had hope our Dallas Cowboys could turn things around.
More than 7 minutes to play in the half. Get a score. Get a stop. Get a score. Asking a lot I know, but I'm still a believer.
Remember when we gave up 21 in the first half to Detroit and then shut em out in the second half. I do. D has been great at adjustments.
Think about it. There was a ton of time left in the game after Green Bay scored its third touchdown, and some were already conceding.
I saw tweets that said "ballgame" and "It's over." But what had we seen from the Dallas Cowboys all season? They repeatedly showed an ability for Dak Prescott and the offense to respond and the ability for the defense to make adjustments.
Dallas was down 18 points, and then outscored the Green Bay Packers 25-7 to tie it at 28 before trading field goals. That led to one of the most heartbreaking finishes to a sports game that I have witnessed.
The only games that can compete with that heartbreak were:
- Dallas at Green Bay in 2014 (Dez Bryant caught it)
- 2011 Texas Rangers to clinch the World Series in Game Six (Nelson Cruz didn't catch it).
Dallas' comeback in the game on Sunday, though it ultimately wasn't enough, raised a lot of eyebrows in Cowboys Nation, mine included. The eternal optimist, while disappointed in the loss, can only see a great and mighty future coming for the Dallas Cowboys.
Much To Look Forward To The Future Has Arrived
So much has already been said about our rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott, but he passed another test in my eye.
What do you do when you're down by three scores?
Rally the troops. You make the plays that are available to make and get points where you can get points, while at the same time realizing you can't do it all yourself.
The quarterback of the next 10 to 15 years has arrived
We won't have to live through another batch of QBs like Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson, or Ryan Leaf for some time. We have the next Franchise quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. An esteemed list that includes; Roger Staubach, Don Meredith, Danny White, Troy Aikman, Tony Romo, and now Dak Prescott.
Prescott showed the ability to win games in the NFL when teams made him do it.
Defenses attempted to take Ezekiel Elliott away and make Dak Prescott beat them all season long. And on many occasions, including Sunday, he did just that; beat the defense in front of him.
We saw a quarterback who can not only make plays with his arms and his legs, but also win the mental side of the game. He made adjustments to what the defense was throwing at him. The biggest thing -- to me -- that showed a ton of maturity was "living to fight another day."
For Dak Prescott, punts aren't a bad thing.
Let's also give the coaching staff a ton of credit as well. When they got him on the field, they saw in him the reason to pass on Nick Foles and Josh McCown. They and the other quarterbacks on the roster got him prepared to play every week and he did that pretty much every week.
Only the New York Giants were able to "figure out" the offense. Every other NFL team left scratching their head about the way they played against the Dallas Cowboys offense.
No Longer an Identity Crisis
Over the last several years, the Dallas Cowboys have found an identity as a physical run-first football team.
They've committed serious resources to the offensive front and established the Dallas Cowboys as the premiere running team in the NFL. And everything that the Cowboys are about is built on the foundation of that offensive line.
The core of the offensive line is still very young in offensive line years. They'll be protecting Prescott and paving the way for Elliott for years to come. They will likely replace Ronald Leary with La'el Collins and have to find someone to replace Doug Free, but the core of the line, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin, will be here for a long time.
Solid Building Blocks
The defense, while showing flaws, has some really nice pieces to be excited about.
Anthony Brown has a chance to be a player on this team for years. Maliek Collins is looking like the three-technique the team's been looking for since the beginning of the Rod Marinelli era. Don't forget about Sean Lee and his first-team All-Pro performance.
Byron Jones, who admittedly played his worst game at the worst time, is still a heck of a player. J.J. Wilcox is likely going to return and showed marked improvement as the year went on; he may have a chance to unseat Barry Church at the strong safety position.
And guess what?
The defense will receive an injection of talent from a couple of 2016 draft picks. Projected middle linebacker Jaylon Smith and defensive end Charles Tapper (who I'm really looking forward to seeing) look like they will be ready to go at least by training camp.
Still Got Those X-Factors
While there's a good chance Terrance Williams and Brice Butler are with another team in 2017, the team will return its two leading receivers in Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley. Bryant has always been great, and he showed it again on Sunday with his best game of the season, and at the most important time.
Cole Beasley, who led the team in receiving in 2016, is now considered one of the best slot wide receivers in the NFL. I expect him to continue to get better. He is now the second receiving option for the Dallas Cowboys.
Continuity is Key
The coaching staff continues to get better, and with maintained continuity they will continue to grow in their communication, game planning, and execution. It doesn't seem like Marinelli or Scott Linehan are going anywhere and I think that's for the best. For Dak Prescott, having continuity in the coaching staff can be huge to his development.
After years of the front office bungling the draft and free agency, I now have high expectations and a high amount of confidence in the front office. Every offseason they're going to make the right moves and the right draft picks to make the team better.
Jerry Jones, Will McClay, Stephen Jones, and Jason Garrett have figured out how to balance the scouting reports with the coaching desires. And they're just getting started if 2016 is any indication of what's to come.
A Bright Future
The organization as a whole is getting better and that is translating to success on the field.
Be disappointed in the outcome of the game. Be disappointed that a team who looked ready for a deep run got beat by a future hall of Famer who played his tail off. Losses happen, but the winners learn and grow from their setbacks.
With Dak, Dez, the OL, Elliott, and the coaching staff, I have a ton of belief that by this time next year the Dallas Cowboys will be poised for yet another deep playoff run.
Only this time with a much different result.
What is your dream scenario for the 2017 offseason to help the Dallas Cowboys contend again next season?
Should Cowboys Consider Trading for Disgruntled Packers S Josh Jones?
Despite their insistence that upgrading the safety position was a top offseason priority, the Dallas Cowboys haven't really done much to improve the backend of their secondary. They did sign former Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals Safety George Iloka as a free agent and drafted Donovan Wilson in the sixth-round in this year's NFL Draft, but neither player looks like a clear-cut upgrade at this point. Fortunately, there's still time to find Xavier Woods' counterpart for 2019.
Xavier Woods is the only clear-cut starter at safety currently on the Dallas Cowboys roster. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine as to who starts opposite him this season. With that in mind, the Cowboys should be keeping all of their options open, including acquiring players who get released or even making a trade for someone they like. The latter is what I want to talk about today.
A potential safety who could be put on the trade block that I'm kind of intrigued with is Josh Jones, who has reportedly requested a trade from the Green Bay Packers.
Packers safety Josh Jones is skipping the voluntary OTAs and working out in Florida because he's hoping to be traded, a source told ESPN. The source said the 2017 second-round pick believes it would be best for both parties if they parted ways. Story coming on ESPN shortly.
Josh Jones clearly sees where he stands with the Green Bay Packers after they signed Adrian Amos in free agency and drafted Darnell Savage Jr. 21st overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, thus his absence from OTA's and trade request. He understands the business and knows he's not going to see the field much behind those two, meaning his best chance for playing time would be in a different uniform.
It's not all that shocking Jones has requested a trade. Even before the Packers added Amos and Savage he wasn't receiving a lot of playing time. He's just never seemed to fit into what Green Bay was trying to do on the backend of their defense. It may be in the best interest of both parties to mutually part ways. This is where the Dallas Cowboys come in.
I believe Josh Jones is exactly the type of safety Kris Richard would like to pair Xavier Woods with on the backend of the Cowboys defense. He fits the criteria Richard likes in his defensive backs as far as size, length, and speed are concerned. And, he also has the kind of skill set/mindset to become that Kam Chancellor "enforcer" type of strong safety.
Josh Jones is at his best when he can play around the line of scrimmage, much like Chancellor was during his time with the Seahawks. But, Jones also has the ability to be a factor in coverage as well. The only real question here is whether or not he's an upgrade over the likes of Jeff Heath, George Iloka, and maybe even rookie Donovan Wilson?
In all honesty, I don't have the answer to that question. Josh Jones really hasn't received a fair opportunity to prove himself in his first two years in the NFL. I believe the skill set is there to start in the league, but there's not much there to back up that belief.
Personally, I'd be willing to part way with a late round pick if I were the Cowboys to acquire Josh Jones. I like the idea of bringing him in to work with Kris Richard and allowing him to compete for the starting job next to Xavier Woods. This is exactly the kind of low risk/high reward move Dallas likes to gamble on, and it could potentially pay off in a big way.
Where do you stand? Should the Cowboys consider trading for Josh Jones?
How Can The Cowboys Force More Turnovers In 2019?
2018 seemed like the beginning of a new era. A defensive era. For the first time in years the Cowboys were able to consistently lean on their defense during games, staying alive even as their offense sputtered and limped through stretches early in the season.
The defense was downright prolific some weeks. They carried the Cowboys to an inspiring home victory over the New Orleans Saints to put them in prime position to make the playoffs. They dominated the Wild Card game in key moments, making key stops and holding the Seahawks to just 22 points in the win. They featured one of the league's best individual pass rushers in DeMarcus Lawrence, an All Pro cornerback in Byron Jones, and one of the league's most exciting young linebacker duos.
For all of this success, this defense still lacked one thing. Takeaways.
The Cowboys forced only 9 interceptions in 2018, ranking 26th across the league. In fact, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was actually tied with Xavier Woods for the team lead in interceptions with just 2. When it comes to total takeaways the Cowboys' defense was a little better off, though, finishing 16th in the NFL.
Part of the "problem" seems to be their philosophy. The Cowboys have finished 26th, 24th, 27th, and 31st in interceptions dating back to 2015. They've also finished 9th, 25th, 18th, and 19th in team defense DVOA over that same stretch. Clearly there was an improvement in total defense in 2018, but neither their team defense nor ability to take the ball away has been strong since 2015.
The bigger problem, really, is a lack of luck. While this sounds like a cop-out, takeaways often do come down to just that. Of course putting yourself in the right place at the right time to benefit from a batted pass or overthrown ball matters, but those bounces finding the right hands is usually a matter of luck.
Turnovers are incredibly volatile year to year, and as much as you'd like your players to "make their own luck," randomness does play a part here.
You can certainly argue the Cowboys have done their best this offseason to increase their chances at takeaways, however. By trading for defensive end Robert Quinn, re-signing DeMarcus Lawrence, and adding talented players to the middle of their defensive line as well, Dallas has put an emphasis on getting after the quarterback and corralling the opposing running game. Putting pressure on quarterbacks can force them into quick decision making or bad throws, which could in turn breed interceptions.
This is far from guaranteed, though. Plus the Cowboys play against some of the league's top quarterbacks this year, which hurts their chances of taking the ball away further.
In the end the Cowboys will need both the skill of their pass rushers and defensive backs to put them in good positions, and luck to smile down on them, if they'd like to turn around their takeaway numbers in 2019. And after all, this demoralizing trend has to reverse itself at some point, doesn't it?
Will It Be The Cowboys, Or Another Team, Who Pays Byron Jones After 2019?
After having his fifth year option exercised for the 2019 season, cornerback Byron Jones enters a contract year this Fall.
Jones inarguably had the best year of his career in 2018: earning not only his first Pro Bowl selection but also Second Team All Pro honors for his performance. Doing it all without an impressive stat sheet, Jones was able to let his film speak for itself throughout most of the year, and he became the number one cornerback we'd all hoped he could be when the Cowboys decided to take the freakishly athletic defensive back in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
This contract year is quite unique for Byron Jones, however. Next offseason the Cowboys will be forced to re-sign and extend just about all of their key contributors on both sides of the ball. DeMarcus Lawrence already got his contract, but Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and others still await their deals. Deals which the front office has all-but explicitly promised will come.
This leaves Jones, the former first round pick and now former All Pro, generally considered to be the odd man out. So while 2019 is a contract year for Byron Jones, he may be earning himself a contract from a completely different team.
Jones has had an interesting road to this contract season. One which would be a shame for the Cowboys to waste. Moving between cornerback and safety during the first three years of his career, Jones fell out of the coaches' good graces while playing out of his most natural position. Under Kris Richard's new regime, though, Jones had his best season to date. He looked to finally be comfortable in his role, and was now playing for a coach who believed he could be a special player.
Now that Byron Jones has found his place in the Cowboys defense, and has earned his way into conversations with the league's top cornerbacks, he's likely priced himself out of the Cowboys' future plans.
It's funny how that works out. Of course, Jones should go get paid, and I'd never fault a guy for maximizing his value on the market. But there's a good chance the Cowboys make the mistake of allowing a premier cornerback to walk out of their building next offseason. But if they want to retain players like Elliott and Cooper, they may not have any other choice.
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