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.
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.
Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story
Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.
Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.
Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.
Here's why those people are wrong.
Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.
Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).
Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.
There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.
Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.
Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.
Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.
Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.
And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.
Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?
When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.
It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.
Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.
Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.
Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.
The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.
Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating
Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating
As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.
Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
Now, he just has to go out and prove it!
Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?
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