The Dallas Cowboys offense will mostly remain the same in terms of players. However, a big change is coming with new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore taking over the talented unit. In a special edition of Cowboys Wishlist, I'll share the three big things I want to see in Moore's offense in 2019.
Let me know what you want to see in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Frequent Read Option
Despite Dak Prescott's skills as a runner, rarely did we see the Cowboys run read option plays. For a team that seems to have the perfect duo for these plays, they certainly seemed to have wasted it over the last few years. This is an offense that has plenty of talent to be struggling as much as they did in the red zone last year.
Imagine being concerned about Ezekiel Elliott getting the ball and Dak Prescott keeping it at the same time? Not to mention the play action threat with a group of receivers led by Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb... oh, and a veteran tight end in Jason Witten who might be older but whose hands are very reliable.
The Athletic's Bob Sturm pointed out Prescott's average of 4.46 yards per carry and 18 touchdowns in the red zone between 2016 and 2018. The league average for all players is 2.64 and there's no one close to over four yards and over 10 touchdowns in the league. Dak has been dangerous when using his legs and yet, the Cowboys haven't used the read option as much. I hope that changes with Kellen Moore taking over.
Wish #2: Use Tight Ends More
I'm still impressed by how little the Cowboys utilized their tight ends in 2018. In fact, as Bobby Belt noted on Twitter a few months ago, this has happened consistently in Scott Linehan's career.
One thing you consistently see when Scott Linehan takes over an offense is a drop in the starting tight end's production. Randy McMichael, Byron Chamberlain, and Jason Witten all saw drops in yards per catch, receptions per game, and yards per game once Linehan took over.
Last year, Blake Jarwin had only three games with more than three targets. In those games, he racked up 56, 45 and 119 yards. This makes me wonder if the real problem at tight end last season was more about how they were utilized rather than the players at the position.
With Jason Witten back, Jarwin and the future Hall of Famer could split the snaps. Hopefully, Kellen Moore gives them a more active role on the offense. I really think we'll see way more from them.
Wish #3: Pre-Snap Motion
Pre-snap motion is truly a thing of beauty. The simple fact of getting a player in motion before the ball is snapped can go a long way to keep a defense in its toes and cause confusion to set up a successful play. In Boise State, Moore ran an offense that heavily relied on pre-snap motions.
The first year offensive coordinator won't turn the Cowboys into the new L.A. Rams but he can add this kind of trickery to help Dallas take the next step offensively. Dak Prescott will be playing his fourth year of professional football and adding this to the offense will only help the young QB by making his reads even easier.
Predicting Dallas Cowboys Roster Locks, Pre-Training Camp Edition
With the Dallas Cowboys training camp just around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to draw attention to their current roster. From top to bottom, the Cowboys have one of the deepest rosters at their disposable heading into the 2019 season. But in order to get under the league mandated 53-man roster Dallas will have to release quite a few talented players.
With that in mind, I thought I'd take a shot at predicting which Dallas Cowboys players should be considered roster locks right now. I tried to narrow down to the players who I am the most confident in right now, not the ones who can eventually secure a roster spot at some point in training camp or preseason.
I should probably warn you right now… I tried to avoid any "pet cats", roster bubble guys, or players I would personally pound the table for. The players listed below are the ones I'm nearly 100% sure make the Dallas Cowboys final 2019 53-man roster.
Dallas Cowboys 35 Roster Locks
|RB||Ezekiel Elliott||Tony Pollard|
|WR||Amari Cooper||Michael Gallup||Randall Cobb|
|OL||Tyron Smith||Connor Williams||Travis Frederick||Zack Martin||La'el Collins||Cameron Fleming||Connor McGovern|
|DE||DeMarcus Lawrence||Robert Quinn||Dorrance Armstrong||Tyrone Crawford|
|DT||Antwaun Woods||Maliek Collins||Tryston Hill|
|LB||Sean Lee||Jaylon Smith||Leighton Vander Esch||Joe Thomas|
|CB||Byron Jones||Chidobe Awuzie||Anthony Brown||Jourdan Lewis|
|S||Xavier Woods||Jeff Heath||George Iloka||Donovan Wilson|
|ST||Chris Jones||L.P. Ladouceur|
35 out of 53 may seem like a low number of Dallas Cowboys players who I believe have already locked up a roster spot, but with the depth this team has it's really not. There's no way of really knowing how many players the Cowboys will keep at each position, which makes predicting these roster locks that much more difficult. Regardless though, the 35 players listed above are the ones I am the most confident about.
Biggest Surprise Roster Locks
If you look over the 35 players who I believe have locked up a roster spot already, there's not a whole lot of surprises. I think the only player I would consider a surprise would be Safety Donovan Wilson. As a rookie, and a sixth-round pick at that, Wilson seems like a longshot to even make the final 53-man roster, but not if you look at the current the depth at the position. I believe all he has to do is beat out Kavon Frazier, which shouldn't be that difficult.
The only other player that could possibly be a surprise is Cornerback Jourdan Lewis. The only reason I mention him is because the Cowboys "supposedly" put him on the trade block last year. I think they've learned though he is someone who needs more playing time, which is why I have him listed above.
Biggest Surprise Roster Snubs
You may have noticed a few names who I snubbed as roster locks for the Dallas Cowboys, but which ones were the biggest surprises?
The first player you may have noticed missing was WR/RB Tavon Austin. He's a dynamic player when he can get the ball in space, especially in the return game, but in no way do I view him as a roster lock this year. Tony Pollard, the Cowboys third-round pick this year, is a similar player that could make Austin expendable.
The next player you may have noticed missing is C/OG Joe Looney. He filled in nicely for Travis Frederick last year and quite possibly saved the Cowboys 2018 season. His versatility to play along the OL could be important, but rookie C/OG Connor McGovern could fill that role as well. Despite that though, Looney still has a good chance to make the final 53-man roster.
The last player I think who might be a surprise is Defensive End Taco Charlton. He is entering the ever important Year 3 with the Dallas Cowboys, but despite being a former first-round pick he's no sure bet that to make the roster. The Cowboys have some talented depth at DE who could push Charlton off the roster.
Who would be your Dallas Cowboys roster locks ahead of training camp?
Should Cowboys Consider Bringing Back Alex Tanney as Backup QB?
If the Dallas Cowboys aren't happy about their quarterback depth by the end of preseason, they should be looking to add someone from other teams' roster cuts. One player that could become available is a former Cowboy, Alex Tanney, and he may be one of the best options they'll have.
Tanney is currently with the New York Giants and served as Eli Manning's backup last year. He's floated around the NFL since going undrafted in 2012, being part of eight different teams.
Alex's tenure in Dallas came in 2013 when the Cowboys signed him just before training camp. Tanney flashed his potential during the preseason but it wasn't enough to get him on the 53-man roster. Dallas kept just two QBs that year, Tony Romo and Kyle Orton, and signed Tanney to their practice squad.
In November of that season, the Cleveland Browns poached Alex and signed him to their roster. Then came a series of stops with other teams' practice squad before finally landing with the Tennessee Titans, where he got his first and only playing time in a regular season game.
In 2015, Tanney finished the Titans meaningless regular-season finale. He completed 10-of-14 passes for 99 yards and one touchdown.
After spending last year with the Giants as the backup QB but never having to play, Tanney re-signed with New York for a two year deal this past March. But that was before the Giants spent their first-round pick on QB Daniel Jones
New York has kept three quarterbacks on the roster the last two years, but only kept two in 2016. With a clear top-two of Manning and Jones, and Daniel obviously their QB of the future, could they decide to let their other passers go at final cuts?
By only giving Tanney $75,000 in guaranteed money on his new contract, the Giants certainly left themselves the option of cutting him.
Alex Tanney now has seven years of NFL experience with multiple teams. He'll have just spent a full year and a second offseason with one of the Cowboys' division rivals, perhaps offering some insights into Pat Shurmur's system.
Ideally, the Cowboys will be content at quarterback if Cooper Rush or Mike White can earn their confidence over the next two months. But after reported struggles from both during mini-camps and OTAs, there is reason for concern.
This will all be moot, of course, if the Giants decide to keep Alex as a their third quarterback. But there is reason to think he could hit the open market, and if so he may be one of the few decent options that Dallas has to try and improve their QB depth.
In the end, Alex Tanney may not be a better option than Rush or White. But if the Cowboys find themselves desperate by September, he should at least be worth a second look.
Saints WR Michael Thomas Will Drive Up Price for Cowboys’ Amari Cooper
Since he became part of the Dallas Cowboys, Amari Cooper has proved himself worthy of a long-term contract extension. The offense saw a complete turnaround once the former Oakland Raider arrived, picking up way more first downs and moving the ball down the field. With a solid #1 wide receiver, Dak Prescott's game improved and with it, the rest of the offensive performance. At this point, most of Cowboys Nation agrees on how important Amari Cooper is for the Cowboys' future.
At only 25 years old, Cooper has an entire career ahead of him. He's young, yet experienced. The front office is aiming to make Dak Prescott the team's quarterback in the long-term and it only makes sense to give him such a strong weapon in the passing game.
However, if the Cowboys are to keep Cooper, they are to pay a price tag. An expensive one. And the more time they take to sign him, the more they'll have to pay. Of course, this is true in just about every position in the NFL. But when it comes to WR, there's a bit more urgency.
Both Julio Jones and Michael Thomas, two of the best in the game, are seeking long-term extensions. Now granted, these two players may be in different scenarios given their ages (Julio is 30, Michael is 26) and the fact that Jones still has two remaining years on his current contract. Even still, both are in the discussion for being the top receiver in the NFL. In other words, they could be asking to become the highest paid receivers in the league.
In fact, Michael Thomas is reportedly asking for $22M per year. To put it in perspective, Odell Beckham's contract with the Browns, which made him the top paid receiver, averages $18M annually. Thomas is absolutely great, but he's asking for too much money. Whether he'll get it or not remains to be seen.
As much as we love Amari Cooper, he isn't in the conversation for being the best wide receiver in the NFL like Thomas is. Despite that, he'll surely land among the highest-paid. For Cooper, it seems like the floor for his deal is Adam Thielen's contract with the Minnesota Vikings, which averages $16.2M per year. He isn't getting paid anything less than that.
The ceiling though, could drastically change. He's not going to become the top paid in the league, but he could be very close. The thing is, that number could change quickly. At the moment, Odell Beckham sits atop the NFL pass-catchers averaging 18 million. We can only guess, but that could lead to Cooper getting paid around $17M per year.
But if Michael Thomas or Julio Jones get their deals done before, that price could drastically go up. If Thomas gets what he wants (and it's a big if), the ceiling for Cooper's annual salary would have become $4M more expensive.
Hopefully, the Dallas Cowboys get a deal done quickly. Amari Cooper is a great player, and in less than a season he clicked with Dak Prescott, who's also waiting for payday. Right now, we can only be glad neither is threatening to hold out and both are excited for training camp.
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