As Mason Crosby's second 50-plus yarder in 30 seconds went through the uprights in Dallas, I was already trying to talk my fellow fans off the cliff with one particular argument: "Did you see how those young guys played? The future is bright."
Most Cowboys fans, and football fans in general, agree with that argument, especially when it is centered around now second-year quarterback Dak Prescott.
In his rookie season, after beginning training camp in a battle for the third string QB job, Prescott was forced into becoming the week one starter after now-former franchise quarterback Tony Romo's injury late in the preseason.
We hoped that Dak could simply steer what we thought was a playoff-bound ship, and do just enough to not screw things up. Instead, he played better than any rookie quarterback has ever played before, throwing 23 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions while completing 67.8% of his passes. If his own rookie teammate didn't just so happen to be the league's leading rusher, Dak would be a shoo-in for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
There are some people in the football world, however, that suggest Dak Prescott's rookie season could be a fluke. They say "well, what about Robert Griffin and Colin Kaepernick? Defensive coordinators figure guys out after their first year."
This argument is incredibly weak in many areas, so let's break down each one.
He Could Be Another RG3...
After bursting onto the scene his rookie season, Robert Griffin suffered set back after set back in terms of injuries. Mike Shanahan ran Griffin's knee into the ground during the final few weeks of 2012, and its fair to ask if he could ever be the same after those grueling injuries. Griffin was out there on one leg against the Cowboys the final week of 2012, still running the read option and still taking hits. Then in the Wild Card playoff game against Seattle, on the awful conditions in Washington, Griffin's knee completely gave out.
So far, there have been no injury concerns whatsoever for Dak Prescott. Behind the Cowboys offensive line, and with the Cowboys run-first (with their running backs) mentality, there shouldn't be too many injuries to worry about in the future either. Of course, there is always a chance, but worrying about any slight chance of injury is not the way to view your football team.
He Could Be Another Colin Kaepernick...
Like Griffin, Kaep took the world by storm in 2012 with a dazzling running ability and a strong arm. Defenses could not figure out how to stop him, and the San Francisco 49ers rode him to a Super Bowl appearance that same season.
The narrative on Kaepernick's career as a whole, and his current skill level has changed a ton, however.
The next season, in 2013, Kaepernick and the '9ers were once again borderline unstoppable, finishing with a 12-4 record and a late loss in the NFC Championship game. This means Kaep was much more than a one-year wonder, but to be honest, he is still playing quality football.
No, the team's record wasn't good in 2016, but Kaep played arguably his best football since that 2013 season. For comparisons sake, if Kaep was surrounded by talent much like Dak is in Dallas, I believe you'd see a much better finish for the team.
How does this all relate to Dak Prescott?
Well, quarterbacks don't fall off the face of the earth as much as people would like to suggest. Injuries happen, coaches change, and sometimes slumps occur, but if a player has talent and remains relatively healthy and supported, they should continue to shine.
There's Nothing For Defensive Coordinators To "Figure Out."
While Griffin and Kaepernick ran a lot of "read option," which was new in the league at the time, the Cowboys come at you with no gimmicks. There is nothing for coordinators to figure out. They know exactly what the Cowboys want to do. Run the ball down their throats, use their big, physical offensive line to their advantage, and throw the ball to their elite weapons when necessary.
People know what Dallas wants to do, stopping it is the problem.
Dak is in the perfect situation in Dallas. He has the full support of his coaching staff and front office, something these previous "one year wonders" did not have, he has the best offensive line in football, he has a top three running back in the backfield, and he has quality weapons on the outside.
There is absolutely no reason to believe any of what we saw from Dak in 2016 was a "fluke." And to be honest, there is no reason to believe he won't continue to play great football for many years to come.
Will DeMarcus Lawrence Be Franchise Tagged Again in 2019?
The deadline for extending players under the franchise tag has come and gone last Monday, in a day in which none of the remaining tagged players reached an agreement with their respective teams. That includes Dallas Cowboy Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who's set to earn $17M in 2018.
The front office and the 26-year old defensive end failed to agree to a new contract before the season's start, but we saw that coming. After all, there was never a point in which we had the classic "X player and his team are close to a new deal" headline.
All of this makes the future of the Cowboys' promising "War Daddy" very uncertain. What lies a head of the player that put on an impressive show in 2018?
Since 2017 was Lawrence's breakout year, racking up 14.5 sacks trough the season, we have leaned towards the narrative of last season being his only good one. His performance last season was impressive and clearly his best one yet, but we tend to overlook 2015.
In his sophomore season, the only other year in which he has played 16 games, he finished the campaign with eight sacks and 35 tackles (55 combined). Really, the idea of 2017 being his only good year is not as accurate as we might think.
That being said, I think it's more likely that we see another great year from him this upcoming season than seeing a disappointing one. This, of course, will end up being the main thing that determines his future in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys front office really took a risk by tagging Lawrence this offseason. #90 was reportedly asking for an average of $17M per year in his long-term contract, which is Olivier Vernon kind of money.
So what if he puts a similar season or an even better one? Lawrence and his agent could end up asking for even more money. Perhaps in the 18 or 20 million dollars per year range. If that ends up being the case, the team will find itself in a tough position when trying to reach an agreement with its promising pass rusher.
Which leads us to the possibility of seeing the Cowboys franchise tagging Lawrence for the second consecutive season. Dallas will already be negotiating a contract extension with QB Dak Prescott, and things will get complicated. Even more if they decide to pursue a big-time free agent in March, such as Earl Thomas.
It would make sense, from a financial perspective, to hand the tag twice in consecutive years to D-Law. However, it shouldn't be the priority. If he plays like he did in 2017, the front office will be more than wise to extend him for good.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Cowboys will have approximately $50.6M. Seemingly, the team's cap woes will be over soon.
Fortunately, Lawrence didn't become a headache by threatening to holdout for offseason programs and even training camp. However, don't expect that to happen if he finds himself under the tag next year.
Careers in the NFL are short, so DeMarcus will surely want to get paid. If he keeps it up, he'll deserve it. As much as he deserves it, though, football is a cold business. If the Jones need to tag him, they will.
Do you think the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence in 2019?
Without Looming Suspension, RB Ezekiel Elliott Should Shine In 2018
NFL Films typically does a good job of exposing some truths around NFL teams. Whether through "Hard Knocks" or Amazon's new "All or Nothing" series, these documentaries do an excellent job of giving fans an inside look of their favorite teams.
If anything was revealed through the Cowboys' All or Nothing series on their 2017 season, it's that Ezekiel Elliott's suspension weighed heavy on his mind all year.
The Pro Bowl running back did not look, act, or play like himself while awaiting decision on his incoming suspension. And, once it was finally announced he would serve the six games, the entire team collapsed in Atlanta.
Despite the clear and detrimental effects Elliott's suspension had on the Cowboys' season, Zeke still put up more-than-respectable numbers; rushing for almost 1,000 yards and averaging a league leading 98.3 yards per game.
Now, Ezekiel Elliott enters a season with no doubts about his own availability. Scott Linehan gets to coach an offense that knows they will have their best player for the entire season barring major injury. And, Jason Garrett can lead his team without addressing questions about Elliott's future day in and day out.
Of course, these effects aren't quantifiable. We can't sit here and say that without the pressure of court appearances and suspensions that Elliott will be worth "X" amount of more yards and "Y" more touchdowns.
But I do believe we can say, without question, that playing with a clear mind and without a looming suspension will breed the type of production we saw from Zeke his rookie year.
We can say that Elliott has had a weight lifted off his shoulders, and could be looking for revenge on a league he feels did him wrong.
And, for the Cowboys sake, I hope this is true. Because they are going to need Ezekiel Elliott to be even better than he ever has been if they hope to make a run at the Super Bowl in 2018.
Cowboys en Español: El Regreso de Randy Gregory
A sólo días de que los Dallas Cowboys aterricen en Oxnard, California para dar inicio a su training camp como todos los años, el equipo recibió excelentes noticias respecto a la selección de segunda ronda del 2015: Randy Gregory. Después de pasar todo el 2017 suspendido, el ala defensiva ha sido oficialmente reintegrado por la NFL.
Gregory, quien tuvo muchos problemas debido al uso de marihuana, ha pasado los últimos meses rehabilitándose para poder volver a vestir la estrella y volver al emparrillado. Los Cowboys, quienes siempre apoyaron a su joven jugador, sin duda estarán felices de verlo de vuelta en el equipo por motivos más allá que el football americano.
Sin duda alguna, antes de estar emocionados y felices por verlo en el campo intimidando a quarterbacks rivales, deberíamos estar alegres por el logro personal de Randy como un ser humano. Realmente hizo un esfuerzo consciente en un lugar en el que muchos se hubieran rendido y dejado sus sueños de ser parte de la NFL. Pero no lo hizo, y ahora, todos sus esfuerzos han valido la pena.
El siguiente paso en su lista por-hacer, es volver al campo y poco a poco, ganarse su puesto en el equipo y después, la titularidad. La última vez que vimos a Gregory en el campo, fue contra Philadelphia, en el final de temporada del 2016.
En este juego, Gregory mostró muchos destellos de lo que sería capaz de hacer semana tras semana en la liga y porque valió la pena nunca dejarlo ir, lo cual no hubiera tenido sentido hacer, dado que los Cowboys no les costaba nada (literalmente) mantenerlo en el equipo.
Sean Martin escribió un artículo recientemente en el que analiza este partido a fondo.
El potencial de Gregory es inmenso, suficiente incluso, para aventurarse a decir que se convertirá en el defensive end (ala defensiva) derecho antes de lo esperado. El reto más grande para el jugador de 25 años será regresar a una condición física óptima para la NFL.
Afortunadamente, a diferencia del 2016, Gregory no estará regresando a media temporada. Su llegada toma lugar justo a tiempo para el training camp, dándole tiempo para regresar a la forma en la que tiene que estar.
Una vez ahí, ¿qué tanto le tomará ganarse un rol más importante que el de Tyrone Crawford y Taco Charlton? A pesar de que prácticamente no lo hemos visto jugar en Dallas, sabemos el potencial que tiene para convertirse en un defensivo de suma importancia para los Cowboys.
Un año después de ver la mejor temporada en la carrera de DeMarcus Lawrence, los Cowboys tendrán el potencial de una estrella similar en el lado derecho de su línea defensiva. Gregory tiene una montaña que escalar para cumplir las expectativas de los aficionados, pero no será una sorpresa si lo logra.
Vaya, no olvidemos que si no fuera por sus problemas fuera del campo, hubiera sido seleccionado en el Top 10 del Draft del 2015. Tiene el potencial de conseguir diez sacks por temporada.
Con un poco de suerte, no nos equivocaremos en tenerle fe al jugador que ha tenido un gran viaje para llegar a este punto. El punto de ponerse el casco e ir a trabajar con su equipo.
Incluso si sólo llega a ser un jugador de rotación, sin duda será importante para el éxito del equipo. Entre DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Randy Gregory y el resto del talento que los Cowboys tienen en la línea defensiva, el equipo podría tener un frente de muy buena calidad.
Star Blog2 weeks ago
4 Decisions That Could Shape Cowboys 2018 Season
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Ex-Giants Coach Ben McAdoo Talks Trash About Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys4 days ago
Noah Brown Takes to Twitter to Call Out ESPN
Star Blog1 week ago
Would Trading La’el Collins for Earl Thomas Make Sense?
Star Blog1 week ago
True or False: Sifting Through the Cowboys Trade Rumors
Dallas Cowboys4 days ago
What’s Left for Cowboys to Offer in Deal for Earl Thomas?
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Kris Richard Allows Cowboys to be Patient on Earl Thomas
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Who Replaces Dez Bryant as Cowboys Red Zone Threat?