Last year the Cowboys learned a hard lesson about the value of Tony Romo. The starting quarterback played in just two full games in 2015 and left injured in two others. The result was utter catastrophe; the team went 4-12 in one of the worst seasons of the modern era.
Sadly, in 2016 Dallas faces another year in which Romo will miss time. They now turn to Dak Prescott, a fourth-round rookie with one of the best preseason tapes in history.
How much difference can Prescott make over what happened last season?
The combination of Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore could only win one game that Romo didn't play in. They went 1-11 as starters and had a combined 75.9 passer rating. Here were their combined statistics:
- 251 completions, 406 attempts (61.8%)
- 2793 passing yards (6.88 yards per attempt)
- 11 touchdowns, 15 interceptions
- 27 sacks allowed
Those are obviously bad numbers and they get worse if you dig deeper. The 61.8% completions is middle of the road for the NFL, but it's offset by the low 6.88 yards per attempt. That tells you, as we all watched, that the QBs were checking down and going to bail-out options and not really making plays.
Also, 27 sacks in 12-13 games is still a pretty low number. It tells us that teams weren't sending a lot of pressure, but instead sitting back on defense and waiting for these guys to beat them. Obviously, they never could.
Dak Prescott doesn't have a high bar to get over to improve on last year's backup QB play. What's more, he will get the benefit of a healthy Dez Bryant. None of the 2015 Poo-Poo Platter had that work with.
Dak has already proven that he's willing to put the ball in the air and let a great receiver go make a play on it. That's a huge difference from the kind of hesitant, low-impact play we got from the position last year.
Prescott's willingness to throw it deep will not only lead to some bigger plays but also open things up for the running game. Last year Dallas was still one of the most productive rushing teams in the league despite the lack of a passing threat. Now, assuming that Ezekiel Elliott brings even more to the RB position than Darren McFadden did, there could be exponentially better results.
What's more, Prescott's own running ability will make things tougher on opposing defenses. He can punish them for bringing the blitz as much by taking off with the ball as by lobbing it up against single coverage. Scott Linehan may have whole pages of his playbook that he can now use, or even written some new ones, because of the tools that Prescott offers.
Some may be comforted by the mere thought that Dak Prescott, at worst, can't do any poorer than the 2015 backups. That's probably true, and all signs so far are that he will at least be a moderate improvement.
In the 11 losses in which Weeden, Cassel, or Moore were the starters, the Cowboys lost by an average margin of about 8.5 points. If Prescott can add a little more electricity to the passing game and improve ball control with his running ability, that's not much ground for the team to make up.
Obviously, the season will be decided by more than just the quarterback. There are plenty of concerns about the defense, Dez Bryant's continued health, and other factors.
However, there's no denying that quarterback dominated last year's conversation and will do the same in 2016. Will Dak Prescott be a hero, a disappointment, or something in between?
We start finding out this Sunday!
Jimmy Johnson Could Be Next Cowboys Ring of Honor Inductee
According to reports, former Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jimmy Johnson may finally be joining the team's Ring of Honor.
Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram reported this morning, per a source, that Johnson could be among the next group of inductees to the franchise's version of the Hall of Fame.
The other potential candidates mentioned were former scouting guru Gil Brandt from the Tom Landry era and Tight End Jay Novacek, who won three Super Bowls in Dallas in the 1990s.
Novacek would join Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Charles Haley, and Darren Woodson as Ring of Honor members acquired during Jimmy Johnson's brief but historic run as Cowboys coach.
It is that heavy presence of Johnson's players in the Ring, not to mention the three championships that crew won from 1992-1995, that has long merited Jimmy's inclusion in the Cowboys' most exclusive club.
Jimmy was only personally on had for two of three titles, but even that ties him with Tom Landry for Super Bowl wins in Cowboys history. And as many would argue, that 1995 championship team was still running on what Johnson put together.
Jimmy's place among the Cowboys' greatest contributors is irrefutable. But whether he'd ever get into the Ring of Honor has always been questioned due to his contentious breakup with team Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones.
Johnson left the Cowboys after the 1993 championship season as he and Jones could no longer have a working relationship. Jerry's bitterness over the credit that Jimmy got for building the 90s dynasty, and Jimmy's refusal to pass any of that along to his Jones, led to Johnson's resignation as egos drove a wedge between friends.
Time appears to have healed the wounds, for the most part. As pictured above, Jimmy was in attendance for Jerry's 2017 Hall of Fame induction and public comments between them have become far more cordial in recent years.
At ages 75 and 74, respectively, Jerry and Jimmy should close this book while they still can. There is no better way to do than by Johnson taking his rightful place in the Ring of Honor.
Not only will that move bring a resolution to their story, but it will also help Jimmy in his pursuit of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to be recognized on the team level.
Jimmy Johnson belongs with Troy, Emmitt, Playmaker, and the rest who he brought together. He was responsible for the most successful era of Dallas Cowboys football in the team's history. He also provided the catchphrase that has endured for almost 30 years now, "how 'bout 'dem Cowboys?"
You can't tell the story of the Dallas Cowboys without Jimmy Johnson. It's time to give his chapter a happy ending.
Which Cowboys Benefit From David Irving’s Suspension?
While losing David Irving for the first four weeks of 2018 is a bad thing for the Dallas Cowboys defensive line, it does create opportunities for some of the other defensive tackles. Who has the most to gain from Irving's suspension?
Because he was mostly going to be used inside as the 3-technique DT, David's absence will naturally benefit the guys who are best suited to play that role. Thankfully, Dallas isn't lacking for those types of players.
Veteran Tyrone Crawford can use all the playing time he can get. As a likely salary cap casualty next year, Crawford doesn't want to get buried on the depth chart as Dallas focuses on their younger players who project to stick around beyond 2018.
With Irving out, Dallas will likely lean on Tyrone as they often do when someone is missing on the defensive line. With more talent now at defensive end, Crawford was going to be competing with Irving, Maliek Collins, Jihad Ward, and other younger guys for work at tackle.
But now there's a problem, and it's easy to slide Crawford into the 3-tech role that Dallas once envisioned him being a star at. Remember, it was their projection of Tyrone as a breakout DT that got him his big contract to begin with.
Yes, Irving's only gone for four weeks. Dallas will still be giving him work in camp based on the role he should fill for the majority of the season. But that's why a veteran like Tyrone Crawford is a great temporary plug-in, because he doesn't need all of the practice reps to step in and perform.
Another key beneficiary could be third-year DT Maliek Collins. Last season, Collins got stuck playing 1-technique and not getting the same opportunities to make plays and get noticed that he had his rookie year.
But now Dallas has several guys in Jihad Ward, Richard Ash, and Brian Price who can play the 1-tech role, which will hopefully get Collins back where he belongs. Maliek's athleticism belongs a little further away from center, letting him try to take on guards in single coverage.
Collins is dealing with a foot issue now but should be back for the preseason. That's enough time for him to be where he needs to be Week One, provided he's healthy.
How Dallas would balance playing time between Collins and Tyrone Crawford could be a matter of how much they play certain schemes. One could see Collins, the bigger guy, playing more in the base defense and then Crawford being used in passing situations.
There is always a lot of rotation in a Rod Marinelli line, so discussions about playing time can get a little silly. Unless you're a true stud like DeMarcus Lawrence who you don't want to take off the field, the Cowboys like to keep guys fresh.
But that's why this is a big opportunity; David Irving has that stud potential. He's the kind of talent who could keep solid players like Crawford and Collins out of view if he hits his stride.
For the first four weeks, though, Irving will be in the NFL doghouse and Dallas will likely lean on its two most experienced defensive tackles to fill the void. There will be more reps for guys like Datone Jones and Jihad Ward too, but Crawford and Collins have way more skins on the wall
That trust should keep them on the field more while David Irving's suspended, and perhaps beyond.
BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year
For the second consecutive year, Defensive Lineman David Irving is being suspended for four games by the NFL. This time, the suspension comes after Irving violated the NFL's policy on substance of abuses, as Ian Rapoport reported.
Cowboys DL David Irving is being suspended 4 games for violating @NFL policy on substance of abuses, sources say. Another big-time D-linemen hit with a suspension for Dallas.
Irving will play for the Dallas Cowboys after the team placed a second-round tender on him earlier in the year. Why no team was interested in picking such a talented defensive tackle for a second round pick is becoming clearer and clearer as the time goes on.
In April, when David Irving got hacked by his former girlfriend one of the tweets that stood out the most was one which said "Wait until you all find about his failed drug tests." Now, we're seeing what the tweet was about.
Irving is a very talented player that could have a great career ahead of him. Of course, with this being the second consecutive year in which he receives a suspension to start the season, one could question how much he wants it.
The Cowboys will play the Panthers, Giants, Seahawks and Lions to start the season. They'll have to do it with one of their most promising defensive players in David Irving.
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