After the amazing 2016 season, a couple of members from the Dallas Cowboys received an award in the 2017 NFL Honors. Jason Garrett was named Coach of the Year and Dak Prescott received the Offensive Rookie of the Year as a fourth rounder, beating the 2016 fourth overall pick, Ezekiel Elliott.
It had been a great season for America's Team despite its playoff run ending prematurely.
Last season, many would've thought DeMarcus Lawrence could've been a contender for the Defensive Player of the Year Award but he wasn't included among the three finalists.
But surely, the team might have an opportunity to make things right in 2018. With the Cowboys trying to get back into the playoffs in this season, there's many talented players who could emerge as candidates for an award at the end of the year.
Here's my list of potential Cowboys' candidates who could earn a trophy in the next NFL Honors! Let me know your thoughts on the comments section below or tweet them @PepoR99 and let's talk football!
Offensive Rookie of the Year: WR Michael Gallup
In 2016, the Cowboys dominated this category with Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott leading the Cowboys' offense. Two seasons later, Dallas will have Michael Gallup trying to become the team's WR1 with his ability to play anywhere on the field.
The Cowboys third-round draft pick will likely be a starter very soon, perhaps even since week 1. With the wide receiver starting jobs wide open in Dallas, it's not far-fetched to see Gallup as a potential Offensive Rookie of the Year.
When it comes to receivers, this year's rookie class will be loaded all around the league but Gallup's biggest challenge might end up being playing in an offense with a run-first identity.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: LB Leighton Vander Esch
The Cowboys' first round pick will play alongside Sean Lee, one of the NFL's best linebackers, and Jaylon Smith, who promises to have his best year since joining the Cowboys. Vander Esch has a lot to prove being the rookie who reportedly was off of many draft boards around the league.
The Cowboys didn't pick another rookie defender until the fourth round of the Draft in Dorance Armstrong, so the in-house competition for Defensive Rookie of the Year won't be very strong for the Boise State product.
If Vander Esch manages to become a starter on the nickel defense over Jaylon Smith, he'll see a lot of snaps and will be on his way to become an award candidate.
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Ezekiel Elliott
Ezekiel Elliott has done enough to be considered one of the NFL's top three running backs. You could even argue he's the best in the league. Being the rushing-yards leader in 2016 and falling just 17 yards short of the 1,000 yards-mark despite missing six games, Elliott will make people remember who he is next season.
Is this the year that he runs for 2,000 yards? If he does, he will not only an Offensive Player of the Year candidate, but an MVP candidate.
However, if there's one thing we've learned from the NFL Honors, is that it's almost impossible to be named the MVP if you play any position other than quarterback.
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Sean Lee
The obvious candidate here would likely be DeMarcus Lawrence, who just last year had an impressive breakout season with 14.5 sacks. Trying to prove his worth for a long-term extension, it only makes sense for Lawrence to keep his 2017 level of play and be a clear candidate for this award.
But we all know how talented and dedicated Sean Lee is. He's only missing one thing to be considered the NFL's best linebacker: full seasons.
Year after year, Sean Lee suffers an injury and is forced to leave the field. If he manages to remain healthy for one and only one year, he'll play like an All-Pro and be a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.
Comeback Player of the Year: LB Jaylon Smith
It seems like the Cowboys don't have any strong candidates for this award. That's mainly because the criteria that the Associated Press uses on this award isn't that clear.
"This is a good spot for a reminder that the Comeback Player of the Year criteria, is, well, not exactly precise. It's presented each season to a player who thrives while overcoming adversity [...]" - Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke, 2016
If the award doesn't "require" that to win this award a player must have had a successful season before, then Jaylon Smith has gone through a lot of adversity. We know that.
If Smith is able to put on a show in 2018 and prove that he was worth the second round pick used on him in 2016, then he could be in the running for Comeback Player of the Year after coming back from an injury that some feared would end his football career.
Most Valuable Player: QB Dak Prescott
Yes, it sounds crazy. Maybe Ezekiel Elliott seems like a more realistic candidate for this award, but Dak Prescott is a quarterback. And the MVP is a quarterback award, if we're being honest. His third year in the NFL will be a very important one, especially since this might be the season that earns him a big-time contract.
Every year, surprise contenders for the MVP title emerge. Playing in the most popular franchise in sports, all Dak Prescott needs to do is take control of his offense and have a great year leading his team into the playoffs. He obviously needs to improve his game in a lot of ways, but he's shown he's able to.
Don't be surprised if Dak's numbers go up during his third year in the NFL.
If he finds a way to shine in a run-first offense with an overhauled set of pass-catchers, Prescott might find himself in the MVP conversation. Hopefully, he does.
Which Cowboys do you think will be candidates for an award in the 2019 NFL Honors?
Dak Prescott Impresses, Draws Compliments All Minicamp Long
Dak Prescott stood before the media Thursday in a Stetson Cowboy hat, answering questions about his upcoming contract extension.
“I’ve got my cowboy hat on, so I’m a Cowboy, we’ll say that.”
Prescott has cemented himself as the franchise quarterback of America's Team, and now it's time for the franchise to pay him like it. Set to earn roughly $34 million per year (according to recent rumors/reports), Prescott is going to be a very rich and comfortable man in the near future.
But, for now, he still plays under his fourth round rookie contract. You wouldn't be able to tell by watching him on the field, however. Though it was just minicamp, Prescott was impressive as ever over the last couple weeks of practice, earning praise from all levels within the organization.
Veteran Jason Witten complimented both Prescott's anticipation and accuracy, saying his throws have been "off the charts" at minicamp. Prescott himself said that this is the best he's felt since he's entered the league, and it certainly makes sense for this to be the case.
"Is it three years under my belt or just seeing defenses a whole lot more clear, being quicker and faster in everything I want to do, having great teammates around me? Who really knows the answer, but I feel great. I feel confident, and my teammates do, as well.” - Prescott to DallasCowboys.com
If Prescott was ever going to be comfortable, hungry, and ready to go, this is likely the time that it would happen. He has three relatively successful seasons under his belt, and ended 2018 on the best stretch of his career. He is the unquestioned starting quarterback for this team, and has the backing of every key decision maker in the building.
Prescott now has an offensive coordinator who he has not only worked closely with (in some capacity) since he entered the league in 2016, but is also being lauded for his creativity as an offensive mastermind. His quarterbacks coach, Jon Kitna, has been receiving similar praise for how he can coach up Prescott and get his footwork consistent, to help him "throw it through a Fruit Loop."
The time is now for Dak Prescott, and it's encouraging to see how he is responding to this increased pressure and responsibility. Then again we should have no doubt that he will respond positively, as he as throughout his entire young career.
Whenever faced with adversity, Prescott has answered the bell. Now he has all the supporters he needs, and just needs to prove them right.
Does RB Ezekiel Elliott Have A Chance At NFL MVP?
Who is the Cowboys best player?
As a running back, it's quite possible that Elliott is both the best of that bunch and the least important to the team's overall success. NFL.com's Adam Schein disagrees with the latter statement, however, placing Ezekiel Elliott among his top ten contenders for 2019 NFL MVP.
"I think the Cowboys are going to challenge for the Super Bowl in 2019 -- and I think Zeke fuels this team. When Elliott runs for 95-plus yards, the Cowboys are 19-4; when he falls below that benchmark, they're 9-8." - Adam Schein
Schein's prediction will no doubt make Cowboys Nation swoon, but does Elliott really have the opportunity to compete for an MVP award?
For one, this would require the Cowboys be among the best teams in the league this season. It's quite possible, as they did win 10 regular season and 1 playoff game a year ago, but it will have to happen once again for Elliott to be considered.
Next, Ezekiel Elliott would have to put up incredible numbers. Well, it's safe to assume this will likely be the case if condition one is met. Elliott is going to get a lot of opportunities to touch the ball each game, and finding himself among the league's rushing leaders has never been an issue for the young running back. Especially if the team has a lead and is running the ball to kill clock.
Even if both these conditions prove true, though, Elliott will still have trouble getting himself in the real MVP discussion. These awards tend to go to certain positions, and running back is not among that list. If Dallas has such a successful 2019, and their offense is clicking, it's more likely Dak Prescott will be the one contending for that MVP honor.
I know to some it sounds crazy, but Prescott will likely need to be closer to MVP level than Elliott if the Cowboys are to contend in the way Adam Schein suggests in his article.
So, likely, Schein should have named Prescott among his top ten MVP contenders, not Elliott.
Amari Cooper Says He’s Focused On Football, Not His Next Contract
It seems like all anyone has talked about this offseason is who the Cowboys should re-sign, and how they can go about doing so.
Wide receiver Amari Cooper, of course, is heavily involved in those conversations. The Cowboys used their 2019 first round pick to trade for the Pro Bowl wide out last season, and Cooper's emergence helped to turn their struggling offense around immediately.
In just 9 games with the Cowboys last season, he caught 53 passes for 725 yards and 6 touchdowns. He quickly gained the trust of quarterback Dak Prescott, and exhibited a chemistry with the young passer that no one else really has to this point. Outside of maybe Cole Beasley in 2016, perhaps.
While the football world seems to be focusing on what Amari Cooper's contract will look like after 2019, the receiver himself claims to be solely focused on the upcoming season. Cooper spoke with ESPN's Todd Archer about this very subject, emphasizing where his mind lies at this time.
"I just handle my business...I'm more anxious about camp and actually playing football." - Amari Cooper.
Amari Cooper has just one year left on his contract as he plays under the fifth year option from his rookie deal. Cooper will make $13.9 million this season, putting him behind some of the league's other WR1s like Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, and DeAndre Hopkins.
There had been speculation around whether any of the Cowboys left with just one year on their contract would hold-out through parts of offseason activity, but Cooper alluded that it never seemed to cross his mind.
"I just want to get better and I love football. That's why I'm here" - Cooper.
Of course, Amari Cooper will play a huge role in the Cowboys offense in 2019. Combining him with a second year version of Michael Gallup, and new versatile threats like Tony Pollard and Randall Cobb, will help make the Dallas passing game as multiple as it's been in years.
The Cowboys will eventually need to get Amari Cooper locked up long term, but for the time being it seems like both he and the franchise are more focused on what will happen on the field in 2019 than in the negotiating room next Spring.
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