La NFC Este siempre encuentra la manera de ponerse interesante. Desde el 2004, la división de los Dallas Cowboys no tiene un campeón por años consecutivos. Al terminar la excelente temporada del 2016, todos los fans de Dallas pensábamos que veríamos a nuestro equipo repetir sin problema alguno y lograr esta hazaña que nadie en la división ha logrado en más de diez años.
Sin embargo, una vez más, la NFC Este tiene intenciones de sorprender. Duele admitirlo, pero los Philadelphia Eagles son el equipo número uno en la división y será un reto enorme quitarles ese título.
Lamentablemente, los Cowboys tuvieron un muy mal inicio de temporada, perdiendo juegos que no esperábamos que perdieran. Antes de la semana 8, Dallas tiene un récord de 3-3 y se sienta en el segundo lugar de la división. ¿El récord de Eagles? 6-1.
Así es, en una división que se pronosticaba entre los Cowboys y los Giants, Carson Wentz y compañía sacaron provecho del lento inicio en Dallas para conseguir una gran ventaja sobre el resto de la división.
En las siguientes tres semanas, los Cowboys se enfrentan a los Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs y a Atlanta Falcons.
Para Eagles, las cosas son un poco diferentes... y más simples. Los 49ers, los Broncos y una semana de descanso es lo que espera a los Eagles.
Después de eso, en la semana 11 veremos un enfrentamiento entre los dos quarterbacks que formarán una rivalidad por muchísimos años. Dak Prescott contra Carson Wentz. Es justo asumir que para este punto Philadelphia irá 8-1 y los Cowboys, en el mejor de los casos, 6-3. Sin embargo, 5-4 para Dallas suena un poco más realista.
Para los Cowboys, vencer a Eagles ambas veces que se enfrenten es necesario si quieren pelear por el título de la NFC Este. Y no sólo eso. De los 10 juegos que tienen por jugar, si ganan menos de 8, lo más probable es que no sea suficiente.
La semana pasada, escribí de como los Dallas Cowboys seguían con vida en la pelea por playoffs. Y de verdad están más que vivos.
Dak Prescott está jugando muy bien. Al contrario de lo que muchos piensan, Dak es mejor este 2017 de lo que fue en el 2016. Tras la misma cantidad de juegos que el año pasado, Prescott tiene el doble de touchdowns por aire que tenía en su temporada de novato.
La línea ofensiva parece haber encajado por fin, sobre todo con Jonathan Cooper como guardia izquierdo. La'el Collins mejora semana tras semana. Dez Bryant comienza a entrar en calor... y Ezekiel Elliott tuvo el juego que necesitaba tener.
Siendo una pieza tan importante para Dallas, Zeke necesitaba un juego en el que explotara como lo hizo contra San Francisco, donde sobrepasó las 200 yardas totales, y anotó tres touchdowns totales. Probablemente, estaremos viendo actuaciones más explosivas de parte del corredor super estrella.
Incluso en la defensiva hay razones para ser optimistas. La unidad de linebackers se ve mucho mejor con Sean Lee y Anthony Hitchens en el campo simultáneamente. Estuvo claro que Jaylon Smith no estaba listo, y contra San Francisco tuvo menos de la mitad de las jugadas defensivas, y resultó ser algo bueno para él y para los Cowboys.
Razones para pensar que Dallas jugará en Enero, hay muchas. Lo difícil será llevarse el título de la NFC Este y el mejor sembrado en playoffs. Pero llegar a los playoffs con un puesto de Wildcard (o comodín) es una gran posibilidad.
Los Eagles también tendrán que enfrentar ciertos retos tras perder a su LT Jason Peters y a su LB Jordan Hicks por toda la temporada. Será interesante ver como reacciona Carson Wentz a esto, la temporada pasada no le fue tan bien al inicio, cuando su otro tackle Lane Johnson estaba suspendido.
Mi predicción, es que los Cowboys se quedan cortos de la división. Creo que el inicio duro que tuvieron que superar les costará esto al finalizar la temporada. Sin embargo, creo que para cuando llegue el momento, serán un mejor equipo que los Eagles.
Poco a poco, nuestros Dallas Cowboys están volviendo (sobre todo ofensivamente) a lo que fueron en el 2016. Y una vez que estén a ese nivel, con un año más de experiencia para Ezekiel Elliott y Dak Prescott en una liga en la que no hay un equipo tan dominante, serán contendientes legítimos al Super Bowl.
Should Cowboys Consider Trading for Disgruntled Packers S Josh Jones?
Despite their insistence that upgrading the safety position was a top offseason priority, the Dallas Cowboys haven't really done much to improve the backend of their secondary. They did sign former Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals Safety George Iloka as a free agent and drafted Donovan Wilson in the sixth-round in this year's NFL Draft, but neither player looks like a clear-cut upgrade at this point. Fortunately, there's still time to find Xavier Woods' counterpart for 2019.
Xavier Woods is the only clear-cut starter at safety currently on the Dallas Cowboys roster. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine as to who starts opposite him this season. With that in mind, the Cowboys should be keeping all of their options open, including acquiring players who get released or even making a trade for someone they like. The latter is what I want to talk about today.
A potential safety who could be put on the trade block that I'm kind of intrigued with is Josh Jones, who has reportedly requested a trade from the Green Bay Packers.
Packers safety Josh Jones is skipping the voluntary OTAs and working out in Florida because he's hoping to be traded, a source told ESPN. The source said the 2017 second-round pick believes it would be best for both parties if they parted ways. Story coming on ESPN shortly.
Josh Jones clearly sees where he stands with the Green Bay Packers after they signed Adrian Amos in free agency and drafted Darnell Savage Jr. 21st overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, thus his absence from OTA's and trade request. He understands the business and knows he's not going to see the field much behind those two, meaning his best chance for playing time would be in a different uniform.
It's not all that shocking Jones has requested a trade. Even before the Packers added Amos and Savage he wasn't receiving a lot of playing time. He's just never seemed to fit into what Green Bay was trying to do on the backend of their defense. It may be in the best interest of both parties to mutually part ways. This is where the Dallas Cowboys come in.
I believe Josh Jones is exactly the type of safety Kris Richard would like to pair Xavier Woods with on the backend of the Cowboys defense. He fits the criteria Richard likes in his defensive backs as far as size, length, and speed are concerned. And, he also has the kind of skill set/mindset to become that Kam Chancellor "enforcer" type of strong safety.
Josh Jones is at his best when he can play around the line of scrimmage, much like Chancellor was during his time with the Seahawks. But, Jones also has the ability to be a factor in coverage as well. The only real question here is whether or not he's an upgrade over the likes of Jeff Heath, George Iloka, and maybe even rookie Donovan Wilson?
In all honesty, I don't have the answer to that question. Josh Jones really hasn't received a fair opportunity to prove himself in his first two years in the NFL. I believe the skill set is there to start in the league, but there's not much there to back up that belief.
Personally, I'd be willing to part way with a late round pick if I were the Cowboys to acquire Josh Jones. I like the idea of bringing him in to work with Kris Richard and allowing him to compete for the starting job next to Xavier Woods. This is exactly the kind of low risk/high reward move Dallas likes to gamble on, and it could potentially pay off in a big way.
Where do you stand? Should the Cowboys consider trading for Josh Jones?
How Can The Cowboys Force More Turnovers In 2019?
2018 seemed like the beginning of a new era. A defensive era. For the first time in years the Cowboys were able to consistently lean on their defense during games, staying alive even as their offense sputtered and limped through stretches early in the season.
The defense was downright prolific some weeks. They carried the Cowboys to an inspiring home victory over the New Orleans Saints to put them in prime position to make the playoffs. They dominated the Wild Card game in key moments, making key stops and holding the Seahawks to just 22 points in the win. They featured one of the league's best individual pass rushers in DeMarcus Lawrence, an All Pro cornerback in Byron Jones, and one of the league's most exciting young linebacker duos.
For all of this success, this defense still lacked one thing. Takeaways.
The Cowboys forced only 9 interceptions in 2018, ranking 26th across the league. In fact, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was actually tied with Xavier Woods for the team lead in interceptions with just 2. When it comes to total takeaways the Cowboys' defense was a little better off, though, finishing 16th in the NFL.
Part of the "problem" seems to be their philosophy. The Cowboys have finished 26th, 24th, 27th, and 31st in interceptions dating back to 2015. They've also finished 9th, 25th, 18th, and 19th in team defense DVOA over that same stretch. Clearly there was an improvement in total defense in 2018, but neither their team defense nor ability to take the ball away has been strong since 2015.
The bigger problem, really, is a lack of luck. While this sounds like a cop-out, takeaways often do come down to just that. Of course putting yourself in the right place at the right time to benefit from a batted pass or overthrown ball matters, but those bounces finding the right hands is usually a matter of luck.
Turnovers are incredibly volatile year to year, and as much as you'd like your players to "make their own luck," randomness does play a part here.
You can certainly argue the Cowboys have done their best this offseason to increase their chances at takeaways, however. By trading for defensive end Robert Quinn, re-signing DeMarcus Lawrence, and adding talented players to the middle of their defensive line as well, Dallas has put an emphasis on getting after the quarterback and corralling the opposing running game. Putting pressure on quarterbacks can force them into quick decision making or bad throws, which could in turn breed interceptions.
This is far from guaranteed, though. Plus the Cowboys play against some of the league's top quarterbacks this year, which hurts their chances of taking the ball away further.
In the end the Cowboys will need both the skill of their pass rushers and defensive backs to put them in good positions, and luck to smile down on them, if they'd like to turn around their takeaway numbers in 2019. And after all, this demoralizing trend has to reverse itself at some point, doesn't it?
Will It Be The Cowboys, Or Another Team, Who Pays Byron Jones After 2019?
After having his fifth year option exercised for the 2019 season, cornerback Byron Jones enters a contract year this Fall.
Jones inarguably had the best year of his career in 2018: earning not only his first Pro Bowl selection but also Second Team All Pro honors for his performance. Doing it all without an impressive stat sheet, Jones was able to let his film speak for itself throughout most of the year, and he became the number one cornerback we'd all hoped he could be when the Cowboys decided to take the freakishly athletic defensive back in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
This contract year is quite unique for Byron Jones, however. Next offseason the Cowboys will be forced to re-sign and extend just about all of their key contributors on both sides of the ball. DeMarcus Lawrence already got his contract, but Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and others still await their deals. Deals which the front office has all-but explicitly promised will come.
This leaves Jones, the former first round pick and now former All Pro, generally considered to be the odd man out. So while 2019 is a contract year for Byron Jones, he may be earning himself a contract from a completely different team.
Jones has had an interesting road to this contract season. One which would be a shame for the Cowboys to waste. Moving between cornerback and safety during the first three years of his career, Jones fell out of the coaches' good graces while playing out of his most natural position. Under Kris Richard's new regime, though, Jones had his best season to date. He looked to finally be comfortable in his role, and was now playing for a coach who believed he could be a special player.
Now that Byron Jones has found his place in the Cowboys defense, and has earned his way into conversations with the league's top cornerbacks, he's likely priced himself out of the Cowboys' future plans.
It's funny how that works out. Of course, Jones should go get paid, and I'd never fault a guy for maximizing his value on the market. But there's a good chance the Cowboys make the mistake of allowing a premier cornerback to walk out of their building next offseason. But if they want to retain players like Elliott and Cooper, they may not have any other choice.
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