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Are Cowboys December Demons Awaiting Dak Prescott?

Kevin Brady

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Dak Prescott

Tony Romo is beloved among most of Cowboys Nation, and for the most part, it is for good reason.

The former franchise quarterback is the Cowboys' all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns, and quarterback rating. And considering how impressive the history of Cowboys quarterbacks is, those numbers speak to a certain greatness which Romo possessed.

However, his career will always be defined by his lack of playoff success. Failing to win a Super Bowl during the Romo-era, the Cowboys tended to struggle down the stretch in key December games, especially early in Romo's career.

While many would argue that Tony Romo was carrying bad rosters to respectability from 2011-2013, the fact remains that the Cowboys crumbled during the final month of the season for three straight years. Their most notable collapse coming in 2011, falling from 7-4 and in first place to 8-8 and out of the playoff picture.Cowboys Blog - Tony Romo: Cowboys QB To Have Clavicle Plated

This past week, the NFL released their schedule for 2017, and Cowboys fans were immediately infuriated. With three road games in their final four weeks, including trips to Oakland and New York to face the Giants, the Cowboys face their toughest December schedule in years.

Even when they get to return to Texas for some home-cooking, the Cowboys still must face another 2016 playoff team in the Seattle Seahawks.

As great as the young Cowboys were a year ago, they are going to be defined this season by how they perform during the final month of the season. Three playoff teams, two hated rivals, and a cross-country trip from New York to California await them, and it is not going to be easy at all.

And It's All Going To Be Put On Dak Prescott's Shoulders

Like Tony Romo before him, Dak Prescott must perform to his best abilities when the weather is coldest.

Last season, Dak struggled mightily during his December match-up at the Meadowlands, and with the increased difficulty of the Cowboys 2017 schedule, a loss like that this season may put the nail in their NFC East championship coffin.

And if that happens, Dak is going to get killed by the same fans and media which have sung his praises over the last six months.

3 Reasons Why QB Dak Prescott Will Thrive In 2017 2

Dallas' Dak Prescott (4), Brice Butler (19), Terrance Williams (83) and Ezekiel Elliott (21) celebrate after a touchdown during an NFL football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Cincinnati Bengals at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. Dallas won 28-14. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

As fellow Staff Writer Jess Haynie discussed last week, Dak Prescott is already facing increased pressure from fans due to the way he "stole" away Tony Romo's job from him. People are bitter about how Romo was forced out the door, not given a chance to re-gain his starting position due to Prescott's performance.

Of course, these people ignore just how good Prescott was during his rookie season, attributing all successes to the help around him and the failures purely on his shoulders. In fact, Dak played lights out during most of December, especially on Monday night against the Detroit Lions.

But that is how it works for the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.

Not every December collapse was Tony Romo's fault. Not every playoff loss was Tony Romo's fault. But, when the team failed late in the season, it was Tony Romo who took all of the blame.

Dak Prescott now must shoulder this pressure. So far, there is no reason to expect that he cannot handle it and perform admirably in 2017 and beyond.

But with a tough schedule ahead, Dak Prescott will need to step up big time this December.



Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and have been with ITS since 2016.

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Dallas Cowboys: The Case For Regression In 2019

Kevin Brady

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Predicting Dallas Cowboys Roster Locks, Pre-Training Camp Edition
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

It's been a few years since things around the Dallas Cowboys felt this good prior to a season. Coming off a 10-6 year in which Dallas won both the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a one possession road game to the future NFC champions, Cowboys Nation is expecting some big things in 2019.

After all, the Cowboys went out and improved their roster in multiple ways this offseason and brought in some new blood on their offensive coaching staff. Spirits are high among Cowboys Nation, and just about everyone is anticipating a two team race for the NFC East.

But some numbers indicate we should be thinking "not so fast."

The details of the 2018 season are not as pretty as the total picture. Rarely are they ever, of course, but these particular details point towards possible regression for the Cowboys in 2019.

Basically, their point differential a year ago spells out impending doom. (That was dramatic, but let's discuss).

The Cowboys were +15 in 2018, and by pythagorean wins expectation, they were about as strong as an 8-8 team (8.53 wins to be exact). This means they won nearly 2 more games (1.47) than would be expected, fourth most in the entire NFL.

This point is furthered when looking at their record in one possession games. Dallas went 8-2 when the game was decided by 7 points or less, winning close games at a rate that is simply not sustainable year to year.

These numbers make the Cowboys a prime candidate for regression in 2019, as they were in 2017.

Why The Numbers Expect Regression, But Success For Cowboys In 2017

Back in 2016, the Cowboys outperformed their pythagorean expectation by a whole 2 wins. The following season? Dallas finished the year 9-7. The model also indicated that the 7-9 Eagles performed 2 wins under expectations in 2016, meaning they would get back on track in 2017. As we know, they ended up winning 13 games and the Super Bowl the following season.

Of course, this isn't set-in-stone, and the Cowboys very well could outperform these expectations and avoid regression. This would mainly hinge on their coaching staff and quarterback performing at an elite level, carrying them through close games and winning more games by greater than one possession.



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Newly Acquired DE Robert Quinn Brings High Expectations

Kevin Brady

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Robert Quinn
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Winning games in the NFL typically comes down to accomplishing two goals. One, being successful when passing on offense. And, two, stopping the opposing team's passing game.

The Cowboys set out to accomplish that second goal this offseason, re-signing defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and trading for veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn, who tallied 6.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins, is one of the leagues more feared rushers when at his best. The former All Pro has multiple 10+ sack seasons under his belt, including a whopping 19 in 2013.

And, as expected, the Cowboys coaching staff is ecstatic to have such a respected pass rushing specialist on their roster.

“He’s got that first step. He’s an established pass rusher in this league, so he’s going to bring some good stuff for us.” - Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

The Cowboys acquired Robert Quinn for a 2020 6th round pick, which could end up being the steal of the offseason. Quinn has played with some top-notch pass rushers in the past, and each time they have brought out the best in his own game.

Back with the Rams in 2017, when Aaron Donald was on the same defensive line, Quinn got to the quarterback 8.5 times. And, last season, he remained consistent in his sack totals playing alongside Cameron Wake. Now he joins a DeMarcus Lawrence who has 25 sacks over the last 2 seasons.

"I think it was kind of one of those where I get to have fun, pin my ears back and just disrupt the backfield, which is what they want us to do." - Robert Quinn told NFL.com. 

Quinn and the always dominant Lawrence will form an impressive defensive end duo on passing downs, with the potential to be one of the best in all of football. Dallas is also hoping to add Randy Gregory into this mix, a piece which could prove vital late in football games if he is able to return from his current indefinite suspension.

Whether or not Gregory finds his way back onto the field, though, this defensive front will be in good hands. The edge combo of Quinn and Lawrence, combined with a plethora of skilled interior rushers such as Maliek Collins, gives the Cowboys a fearsome defensive line which should keep quarterbacks uncomfortable every Sunday.



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Can Rookie OL Connor McGovern Compete For A Starting Spot?

Kevin Brady

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Connor McGovern

Raising eyebrows in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Cowboys added Penn State offensive lineman Connor McGovern to their already deep OL depth chart.

McGovern, who played guard for the Nittany Lions, was reportedly by-far the best player remaining on the Cowboys draft board when they came on the clock in round three. Still, with seemingly more pressing needs yet to be addressed, Dallas' selection of McGovern was certainly a surprise.

When you watch the tape, though, you immediately see what the Cowboys loved about Connor McGovern.

A "plug-and-play" type guard, Connor McGovern is the type of rookie you'd expect to contribute in year one. On many teams he may be a candidate to start at guard or center from the beginning of his rookie season, but here in Dallas, his role for the 2019 season is somewhat in question.

Clearly, being a day two pick, there's no doubt that McGovern will make the Cowboys roster. But can he compete for a starting job?

During OTA's McGovern took reps at both guard and center, pointing towards the possibility of him being the first interior offensive lineman off the bench if one of the starters were to go down with an injury. Fellow interior linemen Joe Looney and Xavier Su'a-Filo each contributed in big ways during the 2018 season, however, and will be tough to beat out during camp.

Obviously McGovern won't be starting over All-Pros Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, but could he dethrone Connor Williams from his left guard position?

While possible, I would still say it's unlikely. The Cowboys selection of McGovern seems to be more about 2020 and beyond than it is about the 2019 season. With right tackle La'el Collins coming up on a contract year, Dallas might elect to let him walk in free agency, move Williams back to his college position of tackle, and slide McGovern into the left guard slot.

This seems fool-proof in theory, but this many moving parts across the offensive line could spell trouble early on in 2020. Regardless, Connor McGovern's arrival gives Dallas the flexibility to consider all options on their offensive line.

In reality, McGovern strengthened a strength for Dallas, and may be needed to prove himself as early as this Fall if injury issues arise.



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