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 Bow to Seahawks – Hoping to Tame Lions in Week 4
The Cowboys are now sharing space in the NFC East cellar with the Giants but are hoping to move out next week with a win against the Detroit Lions. Before they can do that, there is quite a bit that needs to be fixed and most of it comes on the offensive side of the ball.
Dak Prescott was 19-of-34 for 168 yards and it was the ninth time over the past 11 games, dating back to last season, that Dallas failed to pass for 200 yards. In a league where 300-yard passing games are not uncommon, and young guns like Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes are tossing four touchdowns a game, it's quite concerning that Dallas’s aerial attack is more like a mild affront.
Ezekiel Elliott has done his fair share of the heavy lifting for the offense this season and chewed up 127 yards of real estate in Sunday’s game with an almost eight yards per carry average. But even Elliott is experiencing his share of brain cramps in this offense after he was flagged for stepping out-of-bounds before making what would have been a touchdown reception, and then coughing up the ball in the fourth quarter causing a momentum-killing shift that sealed the deal for the Seahawks.
After three weeks of play, Dak Prescott has just two touchdown passes and both were to Tavon Austin. The offensive line, once regarded as the league’s gold standard, has struggled with rookie Guard Connor Williams, a second-round pick out of Texas, getting schooled more than a few times thus far after making the shift from college tackle to NFL guard.
Center Travis Frederick’s absence is being felt as well but the glimmer of hope is that once he gets back to feeding the ball to Prescott, the offensive line will more closely resemble the impenetrable unit to which we’ve become accustomed.
Dwelling on a bad loss and wringing our hands about a lack of offensive production will only get us so far, therefore, whenever we look ahead to what awaits we check over a review of Bovada one of the most trusted and reliable online sportsbook in the industry. The oddsmakers are already dealing lines on next week’s game with the Lions and despite Detroit’s impressive win over New England and Dallas’s disappointing defeat to the Seahawks, we see that the Boys are 3 ½ point home favorites in the early betting.
That’s an odd number considering the Week 3 results but the Dallas passing attack has to get better because it can’t get much worse.
As long as Zeke can move the chains the Cowboys have a chance, but their offense has become too predictable, as has their play calling. Head Coach Jason Garrett has to get more creative and make his players accountable for bone-head penalties of the variety that Defensive End Randy Gregory took when he shoved Seahawks’ Center Joey Hunt’s head directly in front of the referee’s line of vision. It was a 15-yard flag shortly before the first-half and allowed the Seahawks to tack on another three points instead of punting the ball away.
"You have to keep your poise regardless of what anybody did to you, said to you. You cannot respond like that. Typically what the officials see is the second thing and obviously that drew the flag. That was a poor play for us prior to the half."
Hopefully the line next week at Bovada is a good omen for the Cowboys. Dallas is back at home and the last time they met the Lions, December of 2016, the Cowboys won in a romp by the score of 42-21. In addition, let’s not forget that Detroit may get caught in a letdown situation after a huge win over the Patriots and a game looming with divisional foe Green Bay after their Week 4 showdown in Dallas.
It’s a good spot for the Cowboys in what is shaping up as a trap game for the Lions. Expect a big bounce back performance from Dallas as they roll over their Motown rivals this Sunday afternoon.
Next Day Rant: NFL is Killing Football to Protect Quarterbacks
Over just three weeks of the 2018 season, the NFL's new rule about hitting quarterbacks has stirred up as much controversy and angst as any amount of anthem kneeling ever did. Tyrone Crawford and the Dallas Cowboys can now add themselves to the list of perplexed victims of the league's misguided legislation.
On the Seattle Seahawks' first offensive series yesterday, Crawford made what in past years would have been a clean, textbook hit on Russell Wilson just as the ball was released. But out came the flag, claiming that Tyrone didn't make enough effort to avoid putting all his weight into the quarterback as he brought him down.
This flag came on a 3rd-down play with Seattle backed up on their own 12. Instead of punting, and likely giving Dallas excellent field position for their next series, the Seahawks got to continue the drive and eventually punt it from midfield.
That consequence may not sound like a big deal, but it robbed the Cowboys of their earned opportunity to get points on the board early. It changed the tone of the game early, and who knows what ripple effect that had the rest of the way.
The real issue here, though, is that that call can even be made. The NFL has finally taken QB protection too far, to the point that defensive players are left with no logical or physically possible way to do their jobs.
Before the Dallas game came on, I watched as the Packers' Clay Matthews got flagged yet again for the same type of call. It was the second time in as many games that Matthews has been given a foul for a clean hit.
Matthews' frustration after he saw that flag was clear. He looked disheartened, and part of me wondered if he might just walk right out of the stadium. In fact, I almost wanted him to pull a Vontae Davis just to help make the point to the league.
The NFL wants the best of both worlds. They want these players to go max effort when the rules allow and then pull it back in very specific, split-second situations. It's more than the human mind and body can do.
You can't ask these defenders to use everything they've got to get through a blocker, and then immediately rein it in once they get their hands on the quarterback.
You can't ask them to avoid going high on the QB, and then always know when the ball has been released. They don't have eyes in the top of their heads.
You can't ask them to come full force on a blitz or rush and then cool their jets within a second or less. Forget mind and body, even the basic laws of inertia don't work that way.
The NFL is asking for the impossible; a safe form of violence. That's like asking for non-toxic poison.
I understand the league's current global dilemma. They are looking down the barrel of rising CTE awareness, lawsuits from former players, and the diminishing participation in youth football. They're trying to save the game from extinction, or at least from falling off the throne as America's modern pastime.
But this rule isn't about that. This is about trying to keep star quarterbacks healthy so that fan engagement and TV ratings don't go down when an Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady gets injured.
The NFL is in the entertainment business, so I get their concern. Quarterbacks are the lead actors of the sport. You'd be disappointed if the next Mission Impossible movie was mostly Ving Rhames.
Protecting quarterbacks, given their vulnerability at times on the field, has its place. Some of the rules make sense, even if at times they lead to frustrating penalties.
But now they're messing with the core formula of football. If the Colonel got rid of one of his eleven herbs and spices, KFC chicken might not taste the same anymore. Coca-Cola might suddenly be worse than Pepsi (hard to imagine, I know) if they started changing the syrup.
The NFL isn't tweaking here. They're changing games and putting the burden on defensive players, in the heat of battle, to try to have machine-like precision.
Again, they're asking for the impossible.
Tyrone Crawford is no Vontaze Burfict. He's not a loose cannon. He's one of the genuine good guys in the NFL, who does everything the right way on and off the field.
You can only imagine his frustration right now, or that of Clay Matthews and anyone else hit with one of these penalties. Imagine what some of these guys, who aren't a Crawford or Matthews, might do if that frustration boils over.
You could hear it even in the commentary yesterday. Troy Aikman and Joe Buck were clearly disgusted by the calls, both in the Cowboys-Seahawks game and what's been happening so far this year. This was FOX's premier broadcast team openly bashing the NFL in a nationally televised game.
And if you think the players and commentators are frustrated, imagine how that translates to fan response.
The league is trying to avoid losing viewers from quarterback injuries. In the process, they may lose a lot more by damaging the game we love.
Playing football is an accepted risk. Players get it. Fans get it.
The NFL has to get it, and soon, before this conversation takes over in a way that past controversies haven't. The anthem kneeling was an overblown, media-driven story that never hit the bottom line they way they wanted you to believe. None of it mattered once the ball was kicked off.
But now the game is being damaged. Football is becoming less fun; a game of rules and penalties rather than action and intensity.
If something doesn't change, the NFL's self-preservation efforts just might lead to its demise.
Seahawks’ Tight End Will Dissly Flying Under the Radar
The Seattle Seahawks are in need of a big win this weekend to stay a game or two back of the NFC West leading Los Angeles Rams. The Dallas Cowboys hope to extend their one game winning streak to two, but to do that, they'll have to win certain matchups on both sides of the football. One player that the Dallas Cowboys will have to be aware of and contain is rookie Tight End Will Dissly.
With Doug Baldwin injured in week one and out week two, other players have had to step up in their lead wide receiver's absence.
Brandon Marshall and Tyler Lockett are the names that most everyone will recognize, but Dissly, is the name that Cowboys Nation should keep an eye on come Sunday.
Dissly, drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of Washington, came into the season with a reputation as a blocking back. Dane Brugler, of The Athletic, had Dissly ranked 98th overall and as the ninth ranked tight end in the draft. Just one spot behind Dallas Cowboys rookie Tight End Dalton Schultz.
Here is what Brugler had to say in his 2018 NFL Draft Guide.
"A one-year starter at Washington, Dissly spent his first two years at Washington on defense and his final two years on offense, lining up inline and wing in the Huskies’ offense. He was a blocker-first and receiver-second in college, which was a role he embraced with his hard-nosed toughness and competitive edge. Dissly uses his upper body power and base strength in unison to control the point of attack, displaying the core flexibility and length to keep defenders busy. While he flashed reliable hand/eye coordination and run power after the catch, he lacks the route-running experience or athletic deception to consistently uncover. Overall, Dissly is a project as a pass-catcher, but he will contribute early in his NFL career as an inline blocker and sixth offensive lineman."
Dane Brugler - Dane Brugler's 2018 NFL Draft Guide
To say that it comes as a surprise at Dissly's start to his rookie campaign would be a huge understatement. A Brugler notes, there was a chance he'd contribute early as a blocking specialist, but was thought to be a project in the passing game. He's been a big play threat in the first two games of the season, already taking the lead in Seattle Seahawks TE snap distribution at 65%.
Among tight ends, Dissly's is tied for 12th in the NFL in targets with 10, tied for 17th in receptions with six, fourth in the NFL in receiving yards, tied for first with 2 touchdown receptions, third in yards per reception at 24.5, third in yards after the catch with 90, is tied for fifth with five receptions for first downs, sixth in yards per route run, and hasn't dropped a pass this season. He's averaging five targets, three receptions, 73.5 yards, and a touchdown per game. He's been targeted twice out of the slot and has two receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown while playing 46% of his snaps from the slot.
When Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson has targeted his rookie tight end, he has a passer rating of 143.8.
He's been way more than they could have hoped.
Here's what SB Nation' Seattle Seahawks blog Field Gulls had to say about Will Dissly after the Seattle Seahawks week one loss to the Denver Broncos.
"Hot damn! Who saw that coming? Was that Will Dissly or a prime Jeremy Shockey? 3 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown for someone drafted primarily for his blocking abilities. Seattle has a new weapon on offense, and I doubt anyone saw that coming."
Mookie Alexander - Field Gulls, SB Nation
It's likely that nobody, including the Denver Broncos or the Chicago Bears, saw Dissly's breakout coming this soon. Now with it on tape, the Dallas Cowboys will have their eye on Will Dissly.
Russell Wilson doesn't have a ton of established -- or still good -- wide receivers at his disposal, but Will Dissly looks like a fourth round steal for the Seahawks.
The Dallas Cowboys' linebackers will be tested on Sunday.
Four of Dissly's six receptions have come against linebackers, including a 34 yard reception (19 yards after the catch) against Chicago Bears' Linebacker Danny Trevathan and a 66 yard reception (52 YAC) against Denver Broncos Outside Linebacker Bradley Chubb.
The Dallas Cowboys seem fully capable of matching up with good receiving tight ends as Jaylon Smith showed on Sunday. Smith showed an ability to run with Odell Beckham Jr. in coverage on Sunday. No small task. We know that Sean Lee is good in coverage. Leighton Vander Esch's best trait coming out of Boise State is his coverage ability. I also wouldn't be surprised to see the Dallas Cowboys matchup Xavier Woods and Anthony Brown with the athletic tight end when he's lined up in the slot.
How the Dallas Cowboys defense does in coverage against the rookie tight end could be a major key to the game. With names like Brandon Marshall, Tyler Lockett, and Rashad Penny to keep an eye on, someone like Will Dissly could be easily forgotten.
You're going to hear his name called on Sunday. Let's just hope it's more for what he did weeks one and two.
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