In seven days the Dallas Cowboys will take on the New York Giants in their 2019 season opener. Not only does that game mark the beginning of the regular season, but it also marks the end of the talk and speculation about how the 2019 season will go for the Dallas Cowboys. Largely because of the 7-1 run the team went on to finish the 2018 season, which featured a division title and a playoff win, the expectations have risen to heights we haven't seen around here in a long time.
The Cowboys are taking a team into 2019 that is the most talented roster they've had during Head Coach Jason Garrett's eight-years at the helm. Most observers believe this team has the talent to make a Super Bowl run and Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett have put it out there all offseason and training camp that a Super Bowl is the goal.
It's rare to hear this team talk about anything other than the next practice or the next game. In years past when Garrett is asked about the expectations surrounding the team, he typically gives generic Garrett coach-speak and talks about how they need to worry about the next game or just focus on the things they can control. This year is a different kind of Garrett.
It could be that Garrett's coaching 2019 on the last year of his contract with an expectation that the Dallas Cowboys will make a serious run in the playoffs. From the top of the organization to the coaching staff, to a man, they've placed high expectations on the 2019 Dallas Cowboys and this looks like a team and a coaching staff that could make that happen.
Though there weren't many changes in the offseason to the squad, what they did change has a lot of people excited about the team's prospects this season.
Kellen Moore takes over as the offensive coordinator for Scott Linehan and everyone believes this will have a positive impact on the offense as a whole, but most importantly the passing game. Moore brings aggressive creativity to an offense that became a little too set in their ways. Moore's use of pre-snap motion, play-action passing, and a vertical passing game should make the Cowboys more aggressive on offense and help them find their way back into the top 10 offenses in the NFL.
The Cowboys return four of five starters along the offensive line, with the center position being the only difference from week one of last year to this year. Travis Frederick returns after a year-long lay off and immediately upgrades the offensive line from a skill and communication standpoint. Frederick's presence makes everything work better on the offense. Dak Prescott can trust the front of his pocket will be there when he drops back to pass and more importantly needs to step up to make a throw. Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard can expect consistent excellence from the center position, which will upgrade the interior run blocking in 2019. They'll be able to get a better push in short-yardage situations with Frederick in the middle.
Another veteran who's returning after a year off is Jason Witten. Witten makes his return to the playing field after spending 2018 in the Monday Night Football booth. He may not be the explosive player he was in his prime, but he's as reliable a target as there is in the NFL. Witten still has the ability to win his matchups more often than not and gives Dak Prescott another weapon he can trust in the passing game.
Speaking of weapons, the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver group looks about as deep as any in the NFL. Prescott has developed a nice rapport with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. The addition of Randall Cobb and Devin Smith to a group with Tavon Austin gives the Dallas Cowboys a wide receiver group that has a ton of potential for explosive plays. Top to bottom, this is the best group of wide receivers that the Dallas Cowboys have had in a really long time.
Dak Prescott is about to be the beneficiary of the most talented offense he's had the pleasure of playing with, but the offense is going to thrive more also because of Dak Prescott's growth and development. Almost everyone who watched Prescott at training camp believes that he made significant improvements in his footwork under pressure and his deep passing ability. If he's improved those things even slightly when the Dallas Cowboys open the regular season, it makes the offense so much better moving forward.
With reports coming out yesterday that the Dallas Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott have intensified negotiations with the hopes of having the NFL's leading rusher available for the start of the season, the Dallas Cowboys could have almost their entire roster available for the start of the season.
Aside from Robert Quinn and Randy Gregory who will be sitting out due to suspension, the Dallas Cowboys aren't missing any major pieces to their defense. They're bringing back pretty much everyone in their starting lineup from the end of the 2018 season. That was a defense that was one of the 10 best units in the NFL. They've upgraded the depth through free agency and the draft, and when Robert Quinn returns, the Cowboys should have one of the more feared pass-rushing duos in the NFL.
It's a defense that looks ready to take the next step. If they can create more turnovers in 2019, they'll move from being a very good group to one of the best defenses in the NFL.
They have a team that is coming into the regular season relatively healthy. While Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Amari Cooper have been dealing with injuries lately, they don't sound serious enough to keep them out of action for week one. DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, and Tyrone Crawford are working into game shape but should be ready to go when the Cowboys face the Giants next Sunday afternoon.
Though many in the national media still believe the Philadelphia Eagles are the team to beat in the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys have a team just as capable of winning the division and making a serious run in the NFC. They're a team coming off an 8-2 finish to the season, including the playoffs, which would give any team confidence that they can make a run the next year. If the Cowboys are able to maintain a relative level of health, they'll be competitive in every game they play this season.
While the schedule looks tough, especially in the back half, there isn't a game on their schedule that isn't winnable for them. They've got all the pieces in place to play with every team in the NFL, including the New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots, and Philadelphia Eagles. Though it's unlikely they'll win them all, they're a team that has what it takes to be a legit contender in the NFC.
Early in the offseason, I wrote that the Dallas Cowboys needed to take an all-in approach to the 2019 season and it looks like they're taking that approach. The trade for Robert Quinn and the signing of veteran free agents like Randall Cobb, Kerry Hyder, and Christian Covington make it evident that the Dallas Cowboys front office believes this team has what it takes to make a serious run to capture Lombardi number six. And for good reason. Though they're one of the youngest teams in the NFL, their stars have experienced a lot of success early in their careers in the regular season, they just need for that success to translate into playoff success.
Generally, I feel optimistic about the Dallas Cowboys, and at times probably more optimistic than I should be. It's far more difficult to find reasons not to be excited about the Dallas Cowboys in 2019. They've got a group that's built to win a lot of games this season and I think they'll do that. The Cowboys have a team that has the talent, the depth, and the potential for talent growth to be a real force in the NFL this year. The Dallas Cowboys will go on a deep run through the playoffs this year. Because of the schedule they have in the back half of the season, they'll reach the playoffs battle-tested and ready to withstand any challenges in the NFC Playoffs.
This is a really good football team with the potential to be the NFL's best in 2019. To answer the question above, the Dallas Cowboys can win the Super Bowl in 2019. It's nearly an impossible task to predict who will win the Super Bowl unless you're picking the New England Patriots, so I won't make that sort of prediction. The first step is for the Dallas Cowboys to make the playoffs and I think they will accomplish that goal. Once they're in, they'll have as good a chance as anyone to win the Super Bowl.
But because the regular season is about to start, here's my prediction for the Dallas Cowboys. They'll go 11-5 and become the first back-to-back winner of the NFC East since 2004.
Loss to Minnesota Could be the Final Nail in Jason Garrett’s Coffin
The 2019 NFL season kind of seemed like a do or die situation for the Dallas Cowboys current Head Coach Jason Garrett. He is currently in the last year of his contract and his future with the Cowboys organization could be hanging in the balance, especially after the devastating loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
If Jason Garrett isn't extended beyond this season, this loss to Minnesota could possibly be where his career with the Dallas Cowboys started to circle the drain. There are still several games left on the Cowboys schedule this season, but this one loss could be the one that ends up knocking them out of the playoffs. If that's true, it's hard to believe JG will be retained.
Jerry Jones, and son Stephen, have both fully supported Jason Garrett since he became the Cowboys full-time head coach back in 2011 after serving as the interim HC for Wade Phillips in 2010. That's nearly a decade of the Jones' sticking by JG through all of the thick and thin over years. That unwavering support however could be coming to an end though.
The proof is in the pudding as they say. As a head coach Jason Garrett is slightly above average according to his all-time win/loss record. His regular-season record as the HC with the Cowboys is 82-62 (.569) and he's 2-3 (.400) in the postseason. Add all of that up and he's 84-65 (.564) in his career… slightly above average.
If I know anything about the Jones', I know getting the Dallas Cowboys back to the promised land as one of the best teams in the NFL is at the top of their list. That's why we've seen them over the years take chances on players other teams wouldn't in order to put together the most competitive roster they possibly could. Now that attention might need to be shifted from the players to the head coach.
Much like the Jones', I've supported and stood by Jason Garrett over the years. That support is dwindling though after each and every loss this season, at least on my part. Personally, I'm ready to find some new blood and move on. What the Jones' end up doing though is completely up in the air.
I want to believe the Dallas Cowboys are ready to move on from JG, but I'm not completely convinced. The fact that his current contract is about to expire after the season suggests they're at least considering parting ways, but that's all it does. I think how the rest of season turns out after the devastating loss to the Vikings will end up determining his fate.
If JG somehow sneaks the Cowboys into the playoffs it could save his job. That unfortunately is no easy thing to do with the teams they have left to play this season. Because of that, the Week 10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings could end up being the final nail in Jason Garrett's coffin.
What do you think? Is it time to part ways with Jason Garrett?
Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s Status Still Unknown for Cowboys Game
The Dallas Cowboys are headed to Detroit this Sunday for a Week 11 meeting with the Lions. As Dallas tries to get back to winning games, they may get a boost from the absence of Lions' Quarterback Matthew Stafford. After missing last week's game with a back injury, Stafford's status for this week remains unclear.
Stafford was a limited participant in practices all of Week 10 for Detroit and went into their game with the Chicago Bears as a game-time decision. He was ultimately ruled out due to fractures in his back; the first start Stafford's missed for the Lions since the 2010 season.
Jeff Driskel got the start as the Lions fell in Chicago. He is 1-5 as an NFL starter overall, going 1-4 in games for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018.
The Lions are now 3-5-1 on the year and at the bottom of the NFC North. They are also far behind in the Wild Card race, which leads to speculation that they could shut Stafford down for the season to preserve his long-term health. Based on Matthew's contract, the earliest Detroit can easily get out from his contract is after the 2020 season.
For his part, Matthew Stafford has said he has no plans on staying out this season as long he's medically cleared to play. He certainly would love to be active this Sunday against the Cowboys, the team of his youth, after playing his high school football in Dallas.
Even if Stafford plays, Dallas has done solidly overall against opposing quarterbacks in 2019. They are sixth in passing yards allowed per game and 14th in opponent passer rating.
Detroit is fourth in passing offense right now in the NFL but that was based on eight games with Stafford at QB. Jeff Driskel will not perform at that same level, and the Lions' rushing attack has been very weak since Kerryon Johnson went on injured reserve.
We'll see in the coming days if Matthew Stafford is at practice for Detroit and to what extent. But even if he does practice some, as he did last week, it could once again be a last-minute decision for the Lions if Stafford actually plays on Sunday.
With the Cowboys desperate for a win, they'll take all the help they can get.
The Time has Come to See More of Tight End Blake Jarwin
When Jason Witten made his triumphant return from the Monday Night Football booth to the Dallas Cowboys' locker room, the addition was met with a bit of reserved optimism. On the one hand, it was awesome to get one of the best players in the history of the franchise back on the field and in the locker room. On the other hand, it meant that he would eat into the snap counts of Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, or any rookie they potentially drafted in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Though, upon arrival, the Cowboys and Witten stated the future Hall of Famer would only play roughly 25 snaps a game, it didn't take long to figure out that Witten was the starting and full-time player at tight end. In training camp, Witten got a majority of the first-team snaps. In the first nine games of the 2019 season, Witten's played nearly twice as many snaps as Blake Jarwin.
It's an unfortunate turn from the narrative we were being fed in the offseason as Blake Jarwin provides a receiving dynamic that no other tight end for the Dallas Cowboys can. He's quicker, more agile, and has much more athleticism than Jason Witten.
On a per snap basis, Blake Jarwin is offering more in yards per snap and in yards per route run. Jarwin has accrued 0.811 yards per snap to Jason Witten's 0.711. Basically, if you prorate Jarwin's yards per snap total of 0.811 to Jason Witten's snap count of 475, Jarwin would theoretically have nearly 50 more receiving yards than Witten while providing another downfield threat to the passing game.
If we look at yards per route run, Jarwin's outpacing Witten 1.97 to 1.37 per Pro Football Focus. If you were to give Jason Witten's number of routes run to Blake Jarwin and prorated based on Jarwin's production in 2019, he would have roughly 484 receiving yards or 150 more receiving yards than Jason Witten.
Obviously, Jarwin's still got some development that needs to happen as a run blocker to be able to get on the field more. The Cowboys coaching staff, however, has still elected to roll with Jason Witten over Blake Jarwin even in pass-heavy situations as we saw on Sunday Night Football. This is the first game of the year where the Cowboys needed to be in heavy passing mode, but they continue to keep one of their more athletic weapons on the sideline when they need to get chunk plays.
Jarwin's ability to attack up the seam can help open everything up for everyone else in the offense. Just having another vertical threat on the field can create space for Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb underneath.
Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff isn't going to flip their snap counts anytime soon, but the time has come for Blake Jarwin to get more of the situational passing work. When the Cowboys get into obvious passing situations -- 3rd and longs or in two-minute situations -- Blake Jarwin needs to be the tight end on the field.
We've seen each of the last two weeks what Jarwin can do once he gets the ball in his hands. Against the New York Giants, he ripped off a game-changing 42-yard touchdown run and catch. On Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, Jarwin had a big 26-yard reception that helped get the Cowboys going offensively.
Jason Witten will go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor. It's time he and the coaching staff recognizes that the Dallas Cowboys could be an even more dynamic offensive team by getting the more athletic Blake Jarwin on the field more.
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