We’re at the halfway point of the 2017 season for your Dallas Cowboys and there’s already been plenty of drama. There are eight more games to go and no telling how the season will play out from here, but things are definitely trending in the right direction with the Cowboys winning three straight.
With that lets hand out some mid-season hardware to America’s Team.
Most Valuable Player – Sean Lee
The eye test alone shows you the difference that weak side linebacker and 2016 All-Pro Sean Lee has made to this defense. His presence in the run game has been transcendent. A team that looked like a sieve while Lee was out with a hamstring injury, now looks the part of a championship defense.
They’ve done an excellent job rushing the passer all season, but the one weakness that’s been clear was their play in the run game.
Without Sean Lee in the lineup vs the Los Angeles Rams and the Green Bay Packers, the Dallas Cowboys allowed 164 yards rushing per game, while allowing only 80.33 yards per game with Lee in the lineup. The points per game is also drastically different with (18 PPG) and without Lee (35 PPG).
He’s on track for another All-Pro season at this rate, and as long as Lee’s health holds up the Cowboys are on track for playoff contention.
Offensive Player of the Half Year – Dak Prescott
It’s easy to make an argument for Ezekiel Elliott or one of the offensive lineman, but to me it has to be Dak Prescott.
Aside from his poor outing at the Denver Broncos in week two, Dak has been excellent this season. Even in the back to back losses to the Rams and Packers, Dak and the Dallas Cowboys went toe-to-toe with two of the best offenses in the league. Hard to fault him for losing a game while scoring 30+ points.
Dak’s 16 passing touchdowns have him fifth in the NFL, tied with Tom Brady and ahead of notable players such as Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, and Matthew Stafford. His quarterback rating now sits at a very Dak-like 97.6, which is good for eighth in the NFL.
And don’t forget about his four rushing touchdowns. Expect that number to continue rising.
After turning the ball over five times in weeks two through five, Dak has returned to his ball protecting ways with zero turnovers in the last three games. He’s exactly who the Dallas Cowboys thought he was. A franchise quarterback.
LG Jonathan Cooper – Despite not really “winning” the job until week four, left guard Jonathan Cooper has really helped the Dallas Cowboys offensive line and running game find their stride in the 2017 season.
In weeks 1-3, with Chaz Green as the starter at LG, the Cowboys averaged 89.33 yards rushing per game. In the five games since being inserted into the starting lineup, Dallas has averaged 183.6 yards per game.
RB Ezekiel Elliott’s Lawyers – I know we are all pretty wore out on Ezekiel Elliott’s legal news, but without the hard work of Zeke’s legal team, it’s likely Elliott isn’t available for the last couple of games.
Make no mistake, if Elliott has to sit at all this season, it’s going to be a huge loss for the Dallas Cowboys. He’s a generational running back. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Defensive Player of the Half Year – DeMarcus Lawrence
This could have been Lee as well, but to go another direction, let’s go with the guy that could easily be in the discussion for team MVP, DeMarcus Lawrence. His 10.5 sacks are a half a sack behind NFL leader Calais Campbell. In the early stages of the season, there were times when Lawrence absolutely carried this defense.
With tremendous early season success, teams are now paying pretty close attention to where #90 is on the field, which predictably has opened up opportunities for everyone else.
David Irving has progressed quite nicely after an inconsistent 2016 season, and looks to be an absolute diamond in the Kansas City practice squad rough, but without the production that Lawrence gave early in the season, would Irving be having as much success as he is right now. One can never know, but Lawrence’s impact can’t be understated. He’s a big reason why this team is 5-3 and could be 7-1.
Lawrence is the “war daddy” that the Dallas Cowboys front office has been searching for since the other DeMarcus was allowed to leave.
Honorable Mention: David Irving – David Irving’s six sacks and four passes defensed are second on the team in those categories. And he’s only played in four games. By the end of the year, we might be talking about Irving as an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Noah Brown
Noah Brown and Ryan Switzer have been the offensive rookies of note and both have had some good plays for the team. They’ve played the same amount of offensive snaps this season, and Brown has stood out in a positive way much more than Switzer has.
He had a big catch that set up a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals. Against the San Francisco 49ers, his block of two defenders helped spring Ezekiel Elliott on his 72-yard touchdown on the screen pass.
Switzer hasn’t really found a comfort level on returns, which is the primary thing he was brought here for.
Honorable Mention: Cooper Rush – He hasn’t played much, but he gets mentioned for being the guy to push Kellen Moore out the door. Working his way onto the roster after being an undrafted free agent is a pretty awesome accomplishment though.
Defensive Rookie of the Half Year – Jourdan Lewis
Jourdan Lewis was not targeted at all vs KC according to PFF
That says a tremendous amount about the third round draft pick out of Michigan.
Jourdan Lewis has quickly become the best cornerback on the Dallas Cowboys roster. His tenacious tackling ability and sticky coverage in the slot or on the outside have been a bright spot for the 2017 draft class.
He hasn’t been perfect, but rookie cornerbacks rarely are. He’s been really good though and looks the part of a top flight cover corner for years to come.
Jaylon Smith – Let’s be honest, Jaylon Smith has been bad at times. But his presence alone has been important for the team. Imagine what the defense would have looked like without him during Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens’ absences. Smith has found a role recently as a blitzer and has done that effectively. Less is more for the 2016 second round pick and the Dallas Cowboys.
Xavier Woods – Xavier Woods was the steal of the 2017 NFL Draft in many pundit’s minds. Slowly but surely he’s begun to work his way more and more into the lineup and is impressing with his ability to cover multiple spots and show great range as a deep safety. While the team is still in love with Jeff Heath, it’s clear that Woods is the future at safety.
Surprise Players of the Half Year
The Good – Terrance Williams
Despite a couple of underwhelming games, Williams has been pretty good throughout the first eight weeks of the season. He’s now on pace for 60 receptions on 80 targets for 714 yards. Those aren’t elite wide receiver numbers, but they are pretty solid for a number two receiver in a run-first offense. Considering the weapons at Dak Prescott’s disposal, 60 receptions is a good year.
The Bad – Anthony Brown
Anthony Brown’s second year has been a disappointment after his solid rookie season. He’s getting beat an awful lot and without an improved second half of the season, will probably have the Dallas Cowboys looking at CB again in the 2018 NFL Draft.