Saturday night's Division Round loss was met with mixed reaction among Cowboys Nation.
Some fans, claiming they are the rational ones who hold the Cowboys to a higher standard, believe this might end up being their best chance at a Super Bowl for some time. The young players this roster is built around will only get older and more expensive as the years go by, and 2018 ends with yet another Jason Garrett-led playoff loss.
Other fans, claiming they are the rational ones, said that Dallas accomplished a lot this season, climbing back from a 3-5 start to win the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a competitive game to one of the league's best. This group believes that the Cowboys championship window is as open as it has been in years, with young talent galore on Dallas' roster.
Whether this is true, however, hinges on the shoulders of two individuals. One of which, ironically, hasn't even been named yet and the other a source of constant debate among those same segmented fans.
Those people, of course, are quarterback Dak Prescott and whoever ends up as the offensive coordinator in 2019.
Dak Prescott is a good quarterback.
Let's start there. I firmly believe that Dak Prescott did enough during his third season to earn the contract extension he will likely receive from the Cowboys within one of the next two offseasons. Especially once the Cowboys acquired wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Clearly, Prescott is far from "perfect" is a passer. He makes mistakes in decision making, he sails some throws, and he sometimes exhibits inconsistent footwork when the pocket breaks down. But we focus too much on his mistakes while simply glossing over his accomplishments, talents, and upside.
Not only is Dak Prescott someone that the team responds to and believes in, but he is also a good football player. Prescott finished the 2018 season 12th in total Expected Points Added, ahead of quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and Baker Mayfield. He's also finished 3rd and 4th in raw QBR during his first two seasons in the NFL respectively. And, despite his slow start to 2018, Dak Prescott ended his third season on the best run of games in terms of QBR he has ever had.
Prescott is improving, and this is evident each week. He played more comfortably in the pocket over the last 6 games of the season, panicking less, taking fewer dumb sacks, and abandoning his technique fewer and fewer. And, while he doesn't run as often as many would like, the times Prescott does carry the ball often change drives and games.
And while I despise "QB Wins" as a determining statistic, the fact remains that bad quarterbacks don't win at the rate Dak Prescott does. Three straight winning seasons has been rare in Dallas over the last 15 years, and Prescott orchestrated this his first three seasons as a starter.
Passing Wins Championships.
Though very different than the old cliche, this appears more accurate by the season. The final four teams remaining in the NFL are each top 5 in passing DVOA, while not a single one has a top 10 defense by DVOA.
Neither the Chiefs nor the Rams have had a good run defense at all this season, but stopping the run doesn't matter as much as stopping the pass most weeks in today's NFL. I know this sounds absurd after the Cowboys run defense got abused by Los Angeles, but the numbers often bear this out.
The Cowboys have to do everything in their power to aid Dak Prescott and the passing offense this offseason. They need to draft another pass catcher, preferably with their second round pick. They need to continue to improve the chemistry between Prescott, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.
And, maybe most importantly, they need to hire an offensive coordinator who can maximize this passing game.
Scott Linehan simply is not the answer. And if the Cowboys are going to make the most out of whatever title window they may have, the offensive play caller will be the most critical man in the building going forward.
Unfortunately, latest reports point to Linehan returning in 2019.
NFC East QB Picture Could Look Very Different After the Draft
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Draft Day. One of the most wild days in the NFL calendar that surprises us year after year. Fake storylines and rumors fill our social media feeds, surprising trades ruin every Mock Draft available, and things that we believe to be true change at the last second. Of course, one of the most intriguing things to watch during the Draft is the search from a handful of teams for a franchise quarterback.
While the Dallas Cowboys are worried about paying their guy, a couple of teams in their division are concerned about getting a quarterback for the future. The New York Giants should be ready to prepare for life after Eli Manning and the Washington Redskins need to find an exciting young player if they don't want to depend on Case Keenum and/or Colt McCoy.
This year's QB class doesn't look as good as last year's, but there are a few intriguing prospects worth considering. Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) is expected to go to Arizona at the first pick but he isn't the only QB expected to be drafted in the first round. Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State), Drew Lock (Missouri) and Daniel Jones (Duke) have all made appearances in many first round mock drafts.
So what could the Redskins and Giants do to change how the four starting quarterbacks of the division look like?
New York Giants
Holding the sixth overall pick in today's NFL Draft, the Giants look like the perfect candidate to draft a quarterback. Last year, they had a similar opportunity sitting at number two but decided to go for the surefire prospect in RB Saquon Barkley. A year later, fans and analysts still question whether that was the right call or not. They took a top-tier player but didn't address the most important position in football. The bottom line is Barkley killed it in his first year in the NFL and even won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
This year though, it could be time for them to stop passing on quarterbacks and take advantage of their position in the Draft. The name that's been the most linked to the Giants is Dwayne Haskins. Matt Miller from Bleacher Report has even said the Giants have done more work on him than any other team out there. A big surprise in the mock draft universe came a few days ago when Daniel Jeremiah mocked Daniel Jones at #6 to the Giants instead of Haskins.
The Giants could not have an easy task ahead of them if they do want Haskins. The Oakland Raiders at #4 are a threat to draft a QB along with many other teams that could be willing to trade up for the Ohio Sate product. Don't be surprised if the Giants need to move up to secure their guy.
The question remains: Does Giants GM Dave Gettleman want to be aggressive and draft a signal-caller even with Eli Manning still playing? Some say he will, some say he won't. We'll have to wait and see.
The Redskins are far more intriguing than the Giants. First of all, they hold the 15th pick. If they want to draft a first round quarterback, chances are they'll be forced to trade up. Although every year we think quarterbacks won't go early, there's a reason why most are taken by teams that traded up to get in position.
Just talked to a Redskins source who told me Dan Snyder has "taken over the first round of the draft." The last time that happened the Redskins traded two future No. 1's and a No. 2 to move up for Robert Griffin.
If the Raiders end up pulling a big-time trade during the Draft to get into the Top 5, we know what position they'll be looking at. Whether it's Haskins at the top of the round or Lock or Jones a bit later, make no mistake about it. The Redskins could be searching for a QB. Keenum isn't the answer and neither is McCoy. With Alex Smith's playing career being in question, looking for a quarterback only makes sense.
Then there's Josh Rosen. Assuming the Cardinals do what has been expected all along and take Murray, Rosen is going to get traded. Both the Giants and the Redskins could be among the potential destinations for the 2018 first-round pick.
The Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys are the favorites to be the contenders within the NFC East division. However, we can't ignore the fact that the Redskins were doing pretty well prior to Alex Smith's injury in 2018. The Giants didn't do well, but they've gone a long way in improving their offensive line and count with a great running back in Saquon. Both teams could look very different with a change at QB.
If they do end up drafting a rookie QB or going after Josh Rosen, the NFC East QB picture could become one of the most intriguing and promising ones in the entire NFL. Then we'd be talking about one of the most competitive divisions in the league.
The Cowboys Don’t Pick In Tonight’s 1st Round, And They’re Fine With That
The first round of the 2019 NFL Draft gets underway tonight. On ABC primetime this year, the draft is as popular and flashy as it ever has been. Thousands will watch the commissioner read names from a card Thursday night, but the Dallas Cowboys likely won't be involved whatsoever.
And they're totally ok with that.
The Cowboys, of course, used their 2019 first round pick on former Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper helped to awake an offense which had been abysmal prior to his arrival, opening up the passing offense and unlocking quarterback Dak Prescott's best abilities.
Stephen Jones spoke to the Dallas Morning News this week, giving his reasoning for why he is comfortable with not having a first round pick this year.
"I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody that would’ve made a difference on our roster like Amari made last year and like we feel like he’s going to make as me move forward" - Stephen Jones
Of course, he's correct. At least partially. Dallas went 7-2 after the Amari Cooper trade, winning a home playoff game while Cooper put up dominating statistics. Cooper quickly became the Cowboys' most prolific target in the passing game and added an element they so dearly missed during the first half of 2018.
Still, though, not having four (plus one) years of a first round pick on a rookie deal is never ideal. You'd like to have the chance to add that young talent on the cheap. Instead, the Cowboys will need to give Amari Cooper a big payday quickly.
There's no debating that the Amari Cooper trade has been a success for the Dallas Cowboys, however. He's the undisputed WR1 in Dallas, and had instant chemistry with young quarterback Dak Prescott.
You can't help but be excited to see how those two grow together moving forward.
Are Ezekiel Elliott And Dak Prescott A Package-Deal?
Dak and Zeke went viral again this week. Once again, together.
It was yet another fun Twitter moment from the Cowboys' star backfield duo, as they have enjoyed more success in their first three seasons together than most fans ever could have imagined back in 2016.
The honeymoon is just about over, though. It's year four for both Prescott and Elliott. Time to take the next step in the postseason and start competing for championships. This also means it's nearing contract time as well.
Elliott knows he'll be a Cowboy for at least two more seasons. The front office picked up his fifth year option earlier this week, ensuring they'd have the elite-level running back through the 2020 season. Prescott's contract, on the other hand, currently expires after 2019. And despite all of the success he's had at quarterback during his young career, he's still on that fourth round salary.
Both Jerry and Stephen Jones has made it known the Cowboys believe in Prescott moving forward. Both have repeatedly said he will be extended in the near future. And if all goes according to plan, Prescott will be the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys for a very long time.
They've also fully backed Elliott. And while just about no one would argue that Prescott is better at his position than Elliott is at his, his position is much less valuable to the offense. Yes, even to this offense. One which is predicated on running the football and controlling the clock.
Quarterbacks are still king, and the money Prescott is set to receive proves that point even further.
It's no secret these two players are great friends, and each heralded leaders in the Cowboys locker room. It would be a tall task for this front office to extend one, while bailing on the other. And by all accounts, the Cowboys have no plan on doing so.
Prescott and Elliott seem like a package-deal in the Cowboys backfield. Quarterback and running back next to one another for as long as they are apart of America's Team.
At least, that's the plan.
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