No, the 2017 season didn't go as planned for the Dallas Cowboys. In fact, it finished with a bit of a whimper. The injuries, suspensions, drop off by your WR1 and starting QB, the lack of creativity by the coaching staff, and the lack of execution by the players left many fans -- me included -- frustrated at the culmination of it all.
The fact remains, though, that they were a 9-7 team despite the problems. 9-7!!!
If you interact much with the Cowboys fan base in forums, comment sections, Twitter or Facebook, you'd think that this was a repeat of the disastrous 2015 4-12 season. While it has flaws, this team is still much closer to a contender than it is to being a cellar dweller like the Cleveland Browns.
Remember, we still have a quarterback who will be entering just his third year in the NFL in Dak Prescott. If the first two seasons are any indication, he will continue to grow and show improvement.
Dak Prescott, to me, is more the dude we saw in 2016 and the first-half of 2017 than the guy we saw in the last half of 2017. He got annihilated in the Falcons game and didn't trust his protection after that. An offseason to refresh and a healthy Tyron Smith will have him moving the chains with the efficiency we became accustomed to in 2016.
The running game is still in its prime with an offensive line anchored by Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Tyron Smith. La'el Collins will have a second full offseason to work at tackle after a solid first year at the position. Tyron Smith will be healthier, though back issues tend to linger. Rest is his biggest ally right now, and by missing the playoffs, he's getting more of it. The other day Tyron claimed to be in the best shape he's been in a long time.
Ezekiel Elliott should be fairly fresh given his league mandated, midseason six-game vacation. Having upward of 80 fewer carries on his ledger is no small thing for a workhorse running back. With another offseason under his belt, it should only prepare him to be a better runner and player as he enters his third season in the NFL.
Dez Bryant still has game changing ability, though some drops, injuries, emotional outbursts, and mental lapses are what everyone remembers. He'll need to be better in 2018, but I think his 2017 is an outlier. Right now, I stand about 99% certain that Dez will be back.
The unit that has me the most excited for 2018, however, is the defense, especially the secondary.
Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods were all rookie revelations in their first year in the NFL. Now, they're being coached by the guy who helped lead the Seattle Seahawks into the "Legion of Boom" era, Kris Richard. With a lot to work with already, Richard should be able to take their games to another level.
In addition to those guys, Byron Jones, who is a lot better than many want to admit, is moving to what could be his best position, cornerback. Many, including myself, are excited to see what Byron could do as a boundary corner with his athleticism, length, and sticky-coverage ability.
Kavon Frazier found himself a role in the last half of the season, and the defensive backfield is beginning to take shape. Let us not forget the GOAT, Jeff Heath. He isn't the best safety in the world, but he will make some plays for you.
The secondary is full of ascending players and solid depth. Can't wait to see them take the field.
DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving will be retained and continue to be the monstrous pressure producing, quarterback sacking, line of scrimmage disrupting, Duo of Destruction. They torment quarterbacks and ball carriers, and make life a lot easier for Maliek Collins, Tyrone Crawford, Taco Charlton, and whoever else gets snaps on the defensive line.
With another year of growth for the secondary, this group of defensive linemen will get many more opportunities to put quarterbacks on their backsides.
Speaking of Taco, he was a much more productive player in the second half of the season than he was the first half.
As you can see here, most of Taco's production happened week eight and later in his rookie season. I expect that progression to continue.
Jaylon Smith is another year removed from his knee injury and was making a lot of progress in getting his mind, body, and spirit back into the football swing of things. 2018 should be just another year of progress. He still has a long way to go, but the further he gets from his injury, and another offseason to prepare for a full NFL Season, the better he'll be.
They've made some nice additions so far in free agency, as I discussed the other day in my Pre-NFL Draft Offseason Review.
It seems with each draft they get a bit closer to completing their identity as the smash-mouth, run the football and play defense kind of team that they've been trying to become.
The Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, scouting department, and front office have really found their stride when it comes to the draft. At this point, anything less than three or four day-one contributors seems like a draft failure.
With a lot of options at 19 to fit the bill, whether it be a guard in Isaiah Wynn, James Daniels or Will Hernandez, or an EDGE player like Harold Landry or Marcus Davenport, the Cowboys will be able to improve their football team with good football players.
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Despite the way 2017 ended, this team is a lot closer to contending for a Super Bowl than you might think. Who thought that the Philadelphia Eagles would be contenders after the 2016 season? Not many.
I'm not ready to make a prediction just yet, that will come later, but I do believe the Dallas Cowboys will contend for the playoffs once again in 2018.
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.
How The Tables Have Turned for 2019 Dallas Cowboys
The 2018 season was a two-part tale for the Dallas Cowboys. The first is the story of a mediocre 3-5 team that couldn't get it going offensively. The second part is about a football team that turned its season around, made the playoffs, got a win in the postseason and ultimately lost to the team that ended up representing the NFC in Super Bowl LIII, the Los Angeles Rams.
Surely, 2018 didn't go as planned. The storylines leading to last season are actually very different from the ones we're hearing today. Let's take a look at a few examples of how the tables have turned for the Dallas Cowboys.
The need for a true WR1
Last season, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys preached the philosophy of not needing a #1 wide receiver. While that could've sound encouraging at the time, once the season began the team was proven wrong. They did need a WR1. Fortunately, this season we won't have to worry about it. This year, Dez Bryant shouldn't be a discussion topic among Cowboys' fans.
Amari Cooper is in the house. And he's been pretty good since he started playing with a Star on his helmet. If we have conversations about the WR position, they will not be about who's the #1 guy. With Michael Gallup showing up late in the season, it probably won't be about who is #2 either.
Back on top of the NFC East
Last year, the Dallas Cowboys were not really the favorites to win the NFC East. The Philadelphia Eagles had just made history by winning their first Super Bowl ever and it seemed like the Cowboys would have to get a wildcard spot to play in January. Now it's the Cowboys back on top after sweeping the Eagles and turning their once 3-5 season around.
That of course, means a tougher schedule next season. However, it's nice to be back on top of the division. These two teams will surely have an intense race for the division title next season. Maybe we even see them both in the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Sean Lee's uncertain future
I'm pretty sure no one expected Sean Lee to be considered a potential cap casualty for the 2019 season. Even if he was, it would've probably been anticipating an injury or something like that. No one would've imagined that Leighton Vander Esch would be so good to take Sean Lee's job.
The Cowboys' first round rookie truly earned the starting role as the defense's weak linebacker and he should keep it. With Sean Lee set to return to the field, I'm sure we didn't expect him to be a backup by now. We'll have to wait and see if the Cowboys decide to part ways with him. As a fan, it would certainly be painful. But we can't deny it would be a move that makes sense.
It's a crazy franchise on a crazy league. Who knows how things will go from now on, but the Dallas Cowboys certainly look like a promising team heading into the 2019 offseason. Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue to update you with the latest on your favorite NFL team.
Cowboys en Español: Volviendo a la Idea de Earl Thomas
El año pasado, Earl Thomas fue uno de los temas de conversación más frecuentes para los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys. Después de que los Seattle Seahawks no le dieran su deseada extensión de contrato, Thomas se convirtió en un candidato a ser intercambiado de su equipo. Entre los favoritos estaban los Cowboys, quienes tenían una necesidad en su defensiva secundaria. Ahora que la temporada 2018 llegó a su fin, la misma necesidad por un safety de calidad está presente en Dallas.
Sólo que en esta ocasión, Earl Thomas no está bajo contrato con ningún equipo. Su último momento con el uniforme de los Seahawks fue en un carro de lesiones, donde salía lesionado en dirección a su vestidor. Esto mientras se despedía de su equipo con el dedo de en medio extendido hacia sus entrenadores y compañeros. Así concluyó su temporada y su carrera en Seattle.
Ahora, listo para cumplir los 30 años en mayo, Earl Thomas probará la agencia libre cuando comience en marzo. Y sin lugar a dudas, uno de los equipos candidatos a firmarlo serán los Dallas Cowboys. Es un equipo que a pesar de tener una de las mejores defensivas la temporada pasada, se vería muy beneficiada con la llegada de un profundo del calibre de Thomas.
A pesar de su edad y las lesiones, Thomas continúa siendo uno de los mejores en la liga. Su talento es innegable y tendrá toda la disposición de demostrar lo que vale cuando tome el campo la próxima temporada. Cuando llegue el momento, podríamos ver una guerra de ofertas entre varios equipos de la NFL para llevarse al veterano a sus respectivas ciudades.
La pregunta es: ¿estarán los Dallas Cowboys en esa guerra de ofertas?
Los Cowboys tienen espacio en el tope salarial. Sin embargo, este no durará mucho considerando que DeMarcus Lawrence está esperando su merecida y cara extensión después de jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia en 2018. Además, jugadores que aún están bajo contrato también estarán buscando ofertas este offseason.
Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, y Byron Jones están en la lista de quehaceres de la administración. Eso sin mencionar a Cole Beasley, cuyo contrato ya expiró y podría llegar a la agencia libre en marzo.
A pesar de esta complicada situación, los Dallas Cowboys deberían buscar conseguir a Thomas. Siendo sinceros, la defensiva tiene mucho talento y podría mantener su nivel en 2019. Pero hace falta un jugador en la posición de safety para llevar a esta unidad a otro nivel. Un nivel realmente capaz de ganar en postemporada enfrentándose a cualquier tipo de ofensiva. Sin importar que tan explosiva sea. Y además de esto, un jugador que sea capaz de robar el balón y hacer jugadas de impacto constantemente.
Cuando los Cowboys se enfrentaron a Seahawks en temporada regular, Thomas dio un buen ejemplo de esto interceptando en dos ocasiones a la ofensiva de Dak Prescott.
A pasos de un equipo de campeonato, un movimiento agresivo para obtener a Earl Thomas sería algo genial para Dallas. Vimos como los Rams de Los Angeles fueron agresivos al construir su equipo y llegaron hasta el Super Bowl este febrero. Quizá es tiempo de que Jerry Jones y compañía sean igual de agresivos y vayan por ese safety elite que la afición lleva pidiendo desde el offseason del año pasado.
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