The Dallas Cowboys aren't exactly out of the playoff race just yet. However, the belief of it being real is truly all but gone without the likes of Tony Romo. In the third quarter, Romo was sacked by Thomas Davis and he rolled on the same shoulder he rolled on in Week 2. Romo re-injured his clavicle and is now out for the year.
Going into the season, the Cowboys were a team that was destined to do great things. Sure they didnt have a bell-cow back like DeMarco Murray, but the offensive line improved and pieces were brought in on defense that would make the unit much, much improved.
And despite the Cowboys' 3-8 record, all things have fallen into place for the Cowboys. The offensive line has been good for the majority of the year, Darren McFadden has emerged as a quality running back, Byron Jones has turned into a stud, the combination of Sean Lee and Rolando McClain has been astounding, and the defensive line has progressed. However, the Cowboys have lacked quality quarterback play outside of their Week 1 victory against the New York Giants.
With Romo out for the year, the Cowboys need to start thinking about the future. How can this team improve? What needs to be the emphasis? What moves need to be made for this team to compete in 2016 and in the future? These are all questions that will need to be answered over the offseason.
Romo now has had four major injuries. The herniated disc being one, and the three others being the left clavicle. With that being said, it's time for the Cowboys to look to the draft to find their quarterback of the future. Dallas needs to develop their successor at the quarterback position. Unfortunately, supply doesn't necessarily meet demand in this draft, as there aren't many quarterbacks that are surefire studs.
Next on the list comes at the wide receiver position. Dez Bryant receives too much attention from opposing secondaries. The Cowboys need a receiver that has the ability to take the top off the defense, something similar to a Martavis Bryant, someone I advocated for a few years back. Terrance Williams can't do this. Williams is a body-catcher and the need is there for the Cowboys to improve at the position.
It never hurts to add more pressure. It's yet to be seen what the Cowboys will do with Greg Hardy. They've said time and time again that they'd like to re-sign him, but a lot goes into this equation. Hardy has been a huge headache since he's joined the team and committing to a long-term deal with the player could mean some problems.
Demarcus Lawrence hasn't had as good of a season as I'd like, but he's still a guy that has a ton of potential to be a real good player here for a long time. Randy Gregory is another guy that has shown promise, he just needs time to develop. Tyrone Crawford is a special player in the middle of the defensive line, but he needs help. The Cowboys need to find someone that is simply a bigger force than Nick Hayden.
The Cowboys will have a big decision with Morris Claiborne. The fourth-year veteran has looked good in 2015, but he was horrible for his first three seasons in Dallas. Do the Cowboys want to pay him long-term money? Byron Jones has been impressive, but the goal is to move Jones long-term to free safety. If that's the case, as well as the likely release of Brandon Carr, the Cowboys will be in the market for a cornerback.
The key to sustaining a winning franchise in today's NFL is by drafting players who can make an impact on your team. The Cowboys have a ton of pieces in place, but for them to turn into that team they believe they can be, they need to continue to win in the draft and make the right personnel decisions.
Fortunately, the Cowboys have a realistic shot of winning the Super Bowl next season. However, this team will live and die by their quarterback, as we've seen in 2015. If he is playing, this Cowboys team will be a real tough one to beat.
Dallas Cowboys: The Case For Regression In 2019
It's been a few years since things around the Dallas Cowboys felt this good prior to a season. Coming off a 10-6 year in which Dallas won both the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a one possession road game to the future NFC champions, Cowboys Nation is expecting some big things in 2019.
After all, the Cowboys went out and improved their roster in multiple ways this offseason and brought in some new blood on their offensive coaching staff. Spirits are high among Cowboys Nation, and just about everyone is anticipating a two team race for the NFC East.
But some numbers indicate we should be thinking "not so fast."
The details of the 2018 season are not as pretty as the total picture. Rarely are they ever, of course, but these particular details point towards possible regression for the Cowboys in 2019.
Basically, their point differential a year ago spells out impending doom. (That was dramatic, but let's discuss).
The Cowboys were +15 in 2018, and by pythagorean wins expectation, they were about as strong as an 8-8 team (8.53 wins to be exact). This means they won nearly 2 more games (1.47) than would be expected, fourth most in the entire NFL.
This point is furthered when looking at their record in one possession games. Dallas went 8-2 when the game was decided by 7 points or less, winning close games at a rate that is simply not sustainable year to year.
These numbers make the Cowboys a prime candidate for regression in 2019, as they were in 2017.
Back in 2016, the Cowboys outperformed their pythagorean expectation by a whole 2 wins. The following season? Dallas finished the year 9-7. The model also indicated that the 7-9 Eagles performed 2 wins under expectations in 2016, meaning they would get back on track in 2017. As we know, they ended up winning 13 games and the Super Bowl the following season.
Of course, this isn't set-in-stone, and the Cowboys very well could outperform these expectations and avoid regression. This would mainly hinge on their coaching staff and quarterback performing at an elite level, carrying them through close games and winning more games by greater than one possession.
Newly Acquired DE Robert Quinn Brings High Expectations
Winning games in the NFL typically comes down to accomplishing two goals. One, being successful when passing on offense. And, two, stopping the opposing team's passing game.
The Cowboys set out to accomplish that second goal this offseason, re-signing defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and trading for veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn, who tallied 6.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins, is one of the leagues more feared rushers when at his best. The former All Pro has multiple 10+ sack seasons under his belt, including a whopping 19 in 2013.
And, as expected, the Cowboys coaching staff is ecstatic to have such a respected pass rushing specialist on their roster.
“He’s got that first step. He’s an established pass rusher in this league, so he’s going to bring some good stuff for us.” - Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
The Cowboys acquired Robert Quinn for a 2020 6th round pick, which could end up being the steal of the offseason. Quinn has played with some top-notch pass rushers in the past, and each time they have brought out the best in his own game.
Back with the Rams in 2017, when Aaron Donald was on the same defensive line, Quinn got to the quarterback 8.5 times. And, last season, he remained consistent in his sack totals playing alongside Cameron Wake. Now he joins a DeMarcus Lawrence who has 25 sacks over the last 2 seasons.
"I think it was kind of one of those where I get to have fun, pin my ears back and just disrupt the backfield, which is what they want us to do." - Robert Quinn told NFL.com.
Quinn and the always dominant Lawrence will form an impressive defensive end duo on passing downs, with the potential to be one of the best in all of football. Dallas is also hoping to add Randy Gregory into this mix, a piece which could prove vital late in football games if he is able to return from his current indefinite suspension.
Whether or not Gregory finds his way back onto the field, though, this defensive front will be in good hands. The edge combo of Quinn and Lawrence, combined with a plethora of skilled interior rushers such as Maliek Collins, gives the Cowboys a fearsome defensive line which should keep quarterbacks uncomfortable every Sunday.
Can Rookie OL Connor McGovern Compete For A Starting Spot?
Raising eyebrows in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Cowboys added Penn State offensive lineman Connor McGovern to their already deep OL depth chart.
McGovern, who played guard for the Nittany Lions, was reportedly by-far the best player remaining on the Cowboys draft board when they came on the clock in round three. Still, with seemingly more pressing needs yet to be addressed, Dallas' selection of McGovern was certainly a surprise.
When you watch the tape, though, you immediately see what the Cowboys loved about Connor McGovern.
A "plug-and-play" type guard, Connor McGovern is the type of rookie you'd expect to contribute in year one. On many teams he may be a candidate to start at guard or center from the beginning of his rookie season, but here in Dallas, his role for the 2019 season is somewhat in question.
Clearly, being a day two pick, there's no doubt that McGovern will make the Cowboys roster. But can he compete for a starting job?
During OTA's McGovern took reps at both guard and center, pointing towards the possibility of him being the first interior offensive lineman off the bench if one of the starters were to go down with an injury. Fellow interior linemen Joe Looney and Xavier Su'a-Filo each contributed in big ways during the 2018 season, however, and will be tough to beat out during camp.
While possible, I would still say it's unlikely. The Cowboys selection of McGovern seems to be more about 2020 and beyond than it is about the 2019 season. With right tackle La'el Collins coming up on a contract year, Dallas might elect to let him walk in free agency, move Williams back to his college position of tackle, and slide McGovern into the left guard slot.
This seems fool-proof in theory, but this many moving parts across the offensive line could spell trouble early on in 2020. Regardless, Connor McGovern's arrival gives Dallas the flexibility to consider all options on their offensive line.
In reality, McGovern strengthened a strength for Dallas, and may be needed to prove himself as early as this Fall if injury issues arise.
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