There's plenty of question marks surrounding the Dallas Cowboys heading into the 2018 season. Many of which won't be answered until the regular season begins. With training camp just a few weeks away, it finally seems like football is very close and for now, there's nothing but discussing some of the story-lines around teams in the NFL.
The offseason tends to be a time in which many optimistic narratives arise. Some of them should be believed and some should be dismissed.
Today, we take a look at some of those story lines out there and discuss which ones we should be buying and which ones we should be selling. I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments section below! Let me know which narratives you'd buy and which you'd sell.
Let's open up the Cowboys' stock market!
Earl Thomas is Heading to Dallas: Sell
I'm sure most of Cowboys Nation would love to see Earl Thomas wearing a star on his helmet. I would too. Heck, judging by Earl's Cowboys' fanhood, I bet he would too. But I don't think it gets done. Even if the Cowboys do want to get him to Dallas, I doubt Seattle lets him walk this year. They have lost so many players by now, most recently Kam Chancellor, and trading Earl Thomas won't send a positive message to the fans.
That, and the fact that it would be very odd to see the Cowboys' front office give up a second-round pick and extending 29-year old Earl Thomas by handing him what would be one of the top safety contracts in the league, I'm selling on this narrative.
But hey, we know Earl loves the Cowboys. As long as he keeps holding out on the Seahawks, everything is possible. And as a plan B, there's always the 2019 free agency, right?
Dak Prescott's Third Year Will Prove He's a Franchise QB: Buy
Dak has a lot riding on this season. If he plays like the team wants, he gets a juicy long-term extension. If not, his future in Dallas becomes pretty uncertain. After two very different seasons, many have criticized Prescott's play.
But I'm buying it here. Dak Prescott will have a better year in 2018 and prove he's progressed. I truly believe he'll be able to learn from his first two seasons and take advantage of the offense the team has built for him.
In a year in which we already expected the terrifying "sophomore slump", Dak had to carry a team without Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith and Sean Lee. It shouldn't serve as an excuse, but it does help putting things in perspective. It's not Brady, Rodgers or Roethlisberger we're talking about here.
Dak Prescott's third year in the NFL will be his year.
DeMarcus Lawrence Will Keep it Up: Buy
Lawrence's remarkable 14.5-sacks season earned him a $17M franchise tag, but he'll be fighting for much more this season. What's been the story here, though, is whether or not his success in 2017 was nothing but a "contract-year performance."
Time and time again we've seen players play like never before in their final year under contract and then do nothing special after getting paid. I don't think this is case with Lawrence. Which is why I'm buying on the narrative that he'll manage to replicate (hopefully improve) his 2017 success going forward.
2017 has really been the only season in which he has been 100% healthy, and it showed on the field. If he avoids injuries, look forward to watching him bring down QBs repeatedly this season.
Ezekiel Elliott Will Be More Involved in Passing Game: Sell
Even though he missed six games last year, Ezekiel Elliott has proven everything he needed to. He is one of the best running backs in the NFL, sitting in the same tier as Le'Veon Bell, Todd Gurley and David Johnson.
We know what he's able to do running the football, but we're also curious as to what he'd be able to accomplish if he got more involved (à la Le'Veon Bell) in the passing game. We've seen very few passes thrown to him, and once again we wonder whether or not we'll see more of it this time around.
I'm selling on this narrative. The offense is already giving him 25 touches per game. As amazing as Zeke is on the field, the team should be cautious with how they use him, or his career in Dallas could be over in just a handful of years.
I think the Cowboys will keep using him as a workhorse on the running game while limiting him as a receiver.
Jaylon Smith's Time to Shine is 2018: Buy
With his knee brace off, Cowboys Nation is expecting to see 2016 second-round pick Jaylon Smith play at his best in 2018. Although he got on the field last season, he didn't play at his best after being rushed due to Anthony Hitchen's injury early in the season.
Smith's comeback journey has been a long one, and one that can hopefully end this year. I'm buying here.
He did a nice job in his "sophomore" season, despite him being rusty and all. This time, that won't be the case. He even said he wouldn't start training camp with the knee brace. Hopefully, he doesn't need to wear it moving forward. Jaylon really deserves a breakout season in 2018.
What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?
Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.
Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.
They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?
Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.
Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.
Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.
Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.
Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.
This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.
The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.
3 Things We Learned About The Dallas Cowboys In 2018
Coming into the 2018 season, loads of questions surrounded the Dallas Cowboys and the future of their roster.
Could their defense stay intact when the annual Sean Lee injury occurred? Was Kris Richard going to lead the Cowboys young secondary to places we thought they could be? And would Dak Prescott earn a contact extension and become the official franchise quarterback of America's Team.
Of course, there are tons of other questions that may have gone unanswered, but these three critical areas seem to find clarity in 2018.
Leighton Vander Esch And Jaylon Smith Are Legit
The Dallas Cowboys caught a lot of flack for their selection both of these linebackers, each for different reasons.
When they snagged Jaylon Smith in the second round of the 2016 draft, it was still unknown to the public if Smith could ever even play football again. When they took Leighton Vander Esch 19th overall last April, fans questioned how valuable an off-ball linebacker would be on a defense that already had Sean Lee.
Well, after their first full season together, it's easy to say that both Vander Esch and Smith are the linebacker options of the future in Dallas. Named to the Pro Bowl during his rookie season, Vander Esch took the world by storm in 2018. When Lee went down, he was there to not only fill his shoes, but to outplay the veteran all year long.
What is fun to consider is that as good as Vander Esch was this season, Jaylon Smith might be even better. Both posses insane sideline to sideline pursuit ability, and are some of the surest tacklers in all of football.
Watching these two grow together will be a pleasure over the coming seasons.
Their Young Secondary Is Coming Together
Like their linebackers, the Dallas Cowboys secondary is a young group, who fans are excited to watch grow throughout the years. It seemed like more pressure sat on the shoulders of young cornerbacks Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie than of Smith and Vander Esch, however.
With Kris Richard joining the staff and making the decision to move Jones to cornerback full time, it was do-or-die for the former first round pick. Byron Jones answered all the doubters, earning not only a Pro Bowl selection but also First Team All Pro honors for his performance.
Opposite him, Awuzie had a rough start to his sophomore campaign. While typically right there in coverage, wide outs too often made contested catches over him. Over the final few weeks of the year, however, that changed and Awuzie played some of the best football yet.
Xavier Woods, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis (in much fewer snaps) all had fantastic seasons as well, giving the Cowboys great hope and confidence in their secondary moving forward. They may need to add another safety during the offseason, however, though Jeff Heath remains more than just a viable option.
Dak Prescott Is Here To Stay
Whether or not you think it's justified, Dak Prescott is the quarterback of the future in Dallas. And he earned that right the back-half of 2018 and during the postseason. After a shaky start to his 3rd season, Prescott turned things around nicely, leading the Cowboys to a 7-1 finish to the regular season.
Prescott played the best football of his young career down the stretch, and showed just how valuable he is both on the field and in the locker room. It seemed like every game he made 2-3 winning plays that put the Cowboys over the top that afternoon.
Dak is going to get a contract extension, and will be locked in as a Cowboy for the foreseeable future, and with the way he played the final 10 games of his season, I can't second guess this decision much at all.
Jason Garrett Can’t be Serious About Retaining Scott Linehan, Can He?
One of the few positives most of us were looking forward to after the Dallas Cowboys Divisional Round loss to the Los Angeles Rams was the fact that Scott Linehan would no longer be the offensive coordinator for America's Team. Everything was pointing to his dismissal, but that may not be the case according to Head Coach Jason Garrett.
Jason Garrett said on 105.3 The Fan that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will return in 2019. "We don't anticipate any significant changes on our staff," Garrett said.
I can't say that I was happy upon learning Jason Garrett plans on retaining Scott Linehan as the Cowboys OC in 2019. In fact, my first thought was… Well, something better left unsaid. I'm sure many of you can kind of read my mind, because I'm pretty positive you had all that the same thoughts running through your head as well.
In all honesty, I didn't think there was a snowball chance in hell Scott Linehan would return to Dallas after the conclusion of the 2018 season. After all, the Cowboys nearly fired him during the bye week earlier this season, meaning his job security was already on thin ice. He didn't do anything to improve things in my opinion.
I know Jason Garrett has said Scott Linehan will return as the OC in 2019, but not for a second do I believe it. We are less than 72 hours hours removed from the Cowboys exit from the playoffs and I highly doubt any of Dallas' decision-makers has had the time to sit down and discuss who stays and who goes. In fact, I know they haven't.
Stephen Jones says they won't comment on anything with coaching staff but that they need to take a deep look at why they fell short. Says it a little early to speculate about players or coaches. They haven't had a meeting about it yet.
I think once the Cowboys brass sits down and reevaluates the 2018 season, they will come to the conclusion they can do better than Scott Linehan as their offensive coordinator. There were just too many times throughout the season where the playcalling was a problem just. It's just time to move on, despite the vote of confidence by Jason Garrett.
Of course, this could just be me trying to read between the lines hoping and praying Scott Linehan is finally fired. Like many of you, I've grown way too tired of his predictable and dated playcalling. It's time to move on and find someone more innovative who can maximize the talent the Dallas Cowboys have on the roster, much like Kris Richard did with the defense.
You can either choose to believe Jason Garrett or not. I for one have a hard time seeing the Dallas Cowboys staying status quo with their coaching staff, especially their offensive coordinator. But, only time will tell.
Do you think it's time for the Dallas Cowboys to fire Scott Linehan?
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