Former Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Bill Parcells used to break up each 16 game season into four quarters with a goal of winning each quarter. The idea that if you win each quarter, you'll put yourself in position to make the playoffs and have a home game.
Well, the Dallas Cowboys finished the first quarter of the season 2-2 and have another huge road test this Sunday as they travel to face Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans.
Before we get to what's coming, let's take a look back and hand out some first quarter of the season awards to your Dallas Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys offense has struggled for the most part, and if it weren't for the efforts of Ezekiel Elliott and the offensive line in the running game, this offense would be the worst in the league.
It's gone hot and cold at times, but the running game has been really stinking good. Ezekiel Elliott is leading the NFL in rushing while averaging 106.5 yards per game as well as 31.3 yards receiving per game.
Those numbers are above his career averages to start the season, which is very impressive given how much focus the running game gets from opposing defenses. Through three weeks of the season, the Dallas Cowboys passing game hadn't really been effective, yet the running game was still able to pick up yards on the ground through the first four weeks.
Elliott's play on Sunday vs the Detroit Lions shows just how much of an impact he can make week-to-week. He set a career high in total yards with 240 yards and caught a touchdown pass. He's the first player in the NFL in 2018 to go over 200 yards from scrimmage.
A big blow to the offense in the preseason was Travis Frederick being sidelined with Guillain-Barré Syndrome. In stepped backup Joe Looney and he's held up really well on the offensive line. Unlike the backups did in 2017.
When the Dallas Cowboys were down offensive lineman in 2017, the performances from the backup offensive lineman were awful. So, to see Looney step in without having played much in the two seasons prior, is a big relief. Much of the reason the Dallas Cowboys are running the ball so well is because Joe Looney hasn't allowed much of a drop off from All-Pro Travis Frederick.
The time-table on Frederick remains unknown and so having Looney playing as well as he has, is a huge boost for the Dallas Cowboys moving forward.
Who else would we give it to but the guy who has the biggest impact on the defensive side of the field every play; DeMarcus Lawrence.
Lawrence is leading the NFL in sacks with 5.5, is second in the NFL among EDGE players in tackles with 14, and second in the NFL in "stops," which are defined by Pro Football Focus as "tackles that constitute a "loss" for the offense."
There's a reason that Lawrence is going to get paid a lot of money this offseason. He's one of the best 4-3 defensive ends in the NFL.
The Detroit Lions came into the game on Sunday having allowed only three sacks as a team in 2018 and DeMarcus Lawrence doubled that with his one epic performance. He's the best player on the defense and has played as the best player on the defense through the first four games of the season.
The only player on defense that has been as good as DeMarcus Lawrence has been is corner back Byron Jones. Only two regular corner backs in the NFL have allowed fewer receptions than Byron Jones; San Francisco 49ers' Corner Back Richard Sherman and Washington Redskins Corner Back Fabian Moreau.
On Sunday against the Detroit Lions, he wasn't even targeted after allowing only three receptions for 10 yards week three against the Seattle Seahawks.
Respect is growing for the fourth-year player and he's been one of the best corners in the NFL in 2018. That's huge considering the clear holes throughout the rest of the secondary.
PFF's initial grade of DAL-DET says that they did not identify either of the two passes towards Byron Jones side as passes targeting him in coverage. He played 54 snaps, 34 in coverage and was not officially tested a single time. As I said last week during 1st half... he's CB1.
Rookie of the Quarter
Leighton Vander Esch
Rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has only played 49.61% of the defensive snaps and yet is tied for 16th in the NFL in solo tackles. Pro Football Focus has credited him with nine stops on the season and he hasn't missed a tackle yet. He's leading the Dallas Cowboys in tackles through the first four games of the year.
Filling in for injured All-Pro Linebacker Sean Lee, Vander Esch was excellent and earned himself a place in Pro Football Focus' Team of the Week for week four.
After much gnashing of teeth after the draft about taking Leighton Vander Esch with the 19th overall pick, he's been everything the Dallas Cowboys could have hoped for. Yes, they could have made other picks that would have worked out well, but this guy is -- to steal some Jason Garrett speak -- going to be a good player in this league for a long time.
Leighton Vander Esch is the truth and he's not only the future at WILL linebacker, but he's the now.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Yes, there are 16 games to go this season, but some Dallas Cowboys have already made a big impact on the 2018 NFL season.
Who would you give the above awards to through the first quarter of the season?
Could Loaded FA Safety Market Drive Down Earl Thomas’ Value?
It's no secret the Dallas Cowboys and Earl Thomas share a mutual interest in one another. Thomas has publicly stated his desire to join America's Team and the Cowboys did their darndest to make that happen last offseason. Nothing ever materialized a year ago, but it's looking as if the stars have finally aligned and a union between the two could merely be just weeks away.
Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys may have dodged a bullet last year when the Seattle Seahawks refused to part ways with their All-Pro safety. Not only would they have had to surrender a high draft pick, but they would've also had to extend Thomas' contract. Fortunately, timing is everything and now the Cowboys might just have to do the latter.
A potential contract between the Cowboys and Thomas is of course what I want to dive in today. I'm not going to get into numbers right now, because it's nearly impossible to project any kind of contract for any safety this offseason, especially for the former Seahawk, Earl Thomas.
Right now, it's a little difficult to know who might have the advantage in contract negotiations, Earl Thomas or the Dallas Cowboys. A lot of times the one that has the leverage, however slight, is the one that gets the better of the deal. As surprising as it may be, the Cowboys might just have the advantage here and I'll tell you why.
First off, this year's market for free agent safeties is pretty stacked with starting caliber players. See below:
- Earl Thomas
- Landon Collins
- Lamarcus Joyner
- Tyrann Mathieu
- Adrian Amos
- Clayton Geathers
- Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
- Glover Quinn
- Tre Boston
- Kenny Vaccaro
- George Iloka
- Jimmie Ward
- Adrian Phillips
Earl Thomas is obviously the headliner here amongst the free agent safeties, but having so many starting caliber players available could drive down Thomas' market value just a bit. This is especially true when you take into consideration the market for FA safeties just a year ago. It was almost a complete standstill last year, with only Kurt Coleman signing a three-year $16.5 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. Not even the "Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu could get more than a one-year deal.
With all of these safeties available in free agency, we could be looking at another stingy market. This of course could be good or bad news for the Dallas Cowboys, especially as it pertains to Earl Thomas. Since he is the top FA safety available, everything could once again be at a standstill until he is signed.
Of course, we all know this will ultimately come down to determining Earl Thomas' market value. There is no denying he is still arguably the best free safety in the game today, but there are concerns about his age (30) and the two lower leg injuries he's sustained in the past three years.
Even with the loaded free agent market of starting caliber safeties and Thomas' age and recent injury history, he's still likely to receive a contract that earns him $10 million annually, give or take. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he gets another four-year deal worth $40 million, $25.7 million guaranteed, with a $9.5 million signing bonus like he signed with the Seahawks back in 2014.
The Cowboys of course would probably find a four-year $40 million deal for Earl Thomas acceptable. They would more than likely frontload the contract with a lot of protection in the details. They have the cap space to make this happen and still be able to sign their own, so money shouldn't be a problem.
Now, whether or not Thomas' market value may dip a little due to all of the above mentioned reasons will be something we will have to wait and find out. Regardless, I'd be a little shocked if Earl Thomas doesn't finish his career with the Dallas Cowboys.
Do you think Earl Thomas' market value will take a little hit this offseason?
Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors
What a difference a receiver makes, right? As Dallas fans, we know the impact of a player who can shake coverage, get open, and catch the ball. How was the season going before the Cowboys pulled the trigger for Amari Cooper in the deal with the Raiders? Cooper proved to be the lightning rod and a turning point in a season that was growing increasingly dismal. Dak Prescott and Cooper went together like peanut butter and jelly, while the Cowboys stormed to a division title and a postseason berth.
Now, imagine all of that times two… maybe even two and a half if Antonio Brown could be had from the Steelers. Scary right? We understand there’s only one ball to go around but that didn’t stop Kevin Durant from joining the Warriors, did it?
As of this writing, the best online sportsbooks like Intertops, are dealing Dallas as the seventh of 16 choices to win the NFC championship at odds of 12-1. Imagine how those odds would shrink if Brown wore a Cowboys uniform next season, giving Prescott the luxury of not one upper echelon wideout but that plus an elite receiver. Hut, hut, hut and a few clouds of smoke later the Cowboys would be moving the chains or celebrating in the endzone.
Brown and Cooper would be a devastating combination with Ezekiel Elliott coming out of the backfield. Brown was made for Dallas, it gives him an even grander stage than the one he shared with Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh.
Despite the fact that the 'Boys haven’t won a Super Bowl since Barry Switzer was roaming the sidelines in the mid-90s, America’s Team still resides in Dallas. But we need a game-changer and Brown is just such an athlete. But what do we give in return and will that cost be worth whatever productive years Brown has left after this one? Let’s not forget that the mercurial Miami native will be 31 when the season begins and men who make a living with their legs don’t get better at that age. But Brown is so good and so unique that, even if he drops half a click, he's still amongst the best in the game.
That level of talent is hard to replicate and it could be the missing piece which allows Dallas to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season and the year after.
However, up to this point, we’ve been very good at dreaming of a Brown to Dallas trade but haven’t quite worked out the details. It takes two to tango and if we expect to get the Steelers’ attention we need to give them something valuable in return. Dallas surrendered their first-round pick (27th) this season when they traded for Cooper so that’s no longer an asset.
Pittsburgh would be vying for a first-round pick (and likely more) for Brown's services but some have speculated Dallas would consider dealing rookie-standout Leighton Vander Esch.
Wait... what? We know, you’re clutching your pearls, and the words are stuck in your gasp. We get it. The kid was a home run this past season, leading the Dallas defense in tackles and earning a Pro Bowl invitation in his inaugural NFL season. But this would be a Faustian deal.
The Cowboys give up a player who is poised to be a stud for years to come for a playmaker in Brown that could render a Super Bowl in the immediate future. Brown's expiration date will surely turn his milk sour sooner rather than later, but in the here and now, Antonio Brown could be the bell cow who leads the Cowboys to the promised land before he’s put out to pasture.
Just something to think about...
2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back
To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.
As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.
Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.
These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.
Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.
Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.
Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.
Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.
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