My life of sports fandom has made me a bit of a pessimist. I'll admit to that.
Outside of the Dallas Cowboys, I am a die hard fan of the New York Mets in baseball and the New York Knicks in basketball. Neither of which have given me much to be excited about during my years on this earth.
Typically, when one of my teams has a successful year, the next year ends in some brutal heartbreak. The last time the Cowboys had a somewhat-successful season (prior to 2016), they followed it up with injury-riddled heartbreak during 2015.
This very well could be the root cause for why I have been pumping the brakes a bit on the 2017 Dallas Cowboys hype over the last several weeks. Or, I could actually have some valid points.
I'll let you guys be the judge of that.
There has to be some regression, right?
The Dallas Cowboys offense maintained most of its key pieces from a year ago, and even added a dynamic threat in rookie wide out Ryan Swizter. But even as great as we expect them to be, it is reasonable to expect some regression from last season, right?
Dak Prescott was an absolute phenomenon in 2016, and while I expect him to be a great quarterback in this league for years to come, we do often see second year quarterbacks struggle coming out of the gate.
If the Cowboys are without running back Ezekiel Elliott, whether for suspension or some other reason, those first couple of games might spell trouble for the Dallas Cowboys. The first three defenses they face are all fierce units. Including the New York Giants, who defeated the Cowboys twice just last season.
The Cowboys will also be replacing two starters on the offensive line from 2016 with inexperienced players. While I have faith those holes will be filled, it is still fair to ask some questions.
Still, the Cowboys have three of the best offensive linemen in football, an elite receiving corps, the league's leading rusher, and an excellent young quarterback. They should be fine on that side of the ball.
What will the Cowboys be defensively?
This is a crucial question for the 2017 season. Despite losing key contributors to their defense from last season, I do think the Cowboys re-loaded for the future.
Drafting players like Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods, Dallas now has a versatile and athletic young secondary to build their defense around. Plus, they are (in all likelihood) adding the best linebacker prospect from the 2016 NFL Draft in Jaylon Smith to their starting front-seven.
So, things should be looking up.
Despite all of this good news for the Cowboys defense, it will still be an incredibly inexperienced unit across the board. Youth can be an advantage in a lot of respects, but it also could produce some uncomfortable growing pains throughout the season.
There's only one way to know what will happen though, and that's to play the games.
Could close games bring different outcomes this time around?
This right here is my main reason of concern.
In 2016, the Cowboys were 7-2 in "close games," defined as decided by one score (7 or less points). On top of that, seven of their thirteen wins came against teams which finished at .500 or under.
With the schedule they will face this year, they will be less likely to play as many as seven .500 or less teams. Plus, close games are rarely sustainable in the NFL. Even just anecdotally, you can remember that many of those close games could have gone either way.
If one call or play went differently in Minnesota, the Cowboys would have lost that game. If Carson Wentz didn't falter down the stretch on Sunday Night Football, the Cowboys probably would have lost that game as well.
Typically, teams with this great of a record in close games suffer some regression to the mean the very next season. This could very well explain why many, including Vegas, have the Cowboys at 9 or 10 wins in 2017 instead of 12 or 13.
With all of this being said, I still expect the Cowboys to either win, or at least challenge for, the NFC East crown this season. I expect them to get to 10 wins, and potentially host a playoff game.
This roster is too good for any drastic regression in my opinion, and they are the best/most talented team in the division.
Still, I wonder if as a fan base we should back off the Super Bowl hype train we seem to currently be on. But when I look around the rest of the conference, I don't see a team the Cowboys can't beat.
So, at least for now, keep on riding the hype train. It's more fun that way.
2018 In Review: Byron Jones Emerges As CB1
Heading into the 2018 season Byron Jones was being asked to prove himself. The former first round pick had fallen out of the coaches' good graces during his third season, though many of his struggles could be attributed to those very coaches which were then questioning his ability.
Being asked to play out of position, or at least in a spot which did not maximize his natural ability, Jones struggled in 2017. Too often he was playing in the box as a safety where his lack of physicality was exposed by the opponent's run game. This was mostly due to the coaching staff falling in love with his tight-end-erasing ability in man coverage, but backfired when overused as a safety.
Once hired the following offseason, Kris Richard and company decided to move Byron Jones to cornerback full time, allowing him to utilize his excellent coverage skills and athletic ability to the fullest, rather than putting him at a disadvantage in the box.
The results? Well, Jones had one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football, earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his young career.
Byron Jones had a dominant season for Dallas
Pro Football Focus graded Jones as the sixth best cornerback in all of football last season, allowing just 0.79 yards per coverage snap. Despite not having an interception on the season, Jones still earned national recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league.
Down the stretch of the season, Chidobe Awuzie started to play up to the level which fans had hoped for during the preseason. He had been sticky in coverage most of the year, but now he was making plays on the ball at a much better rate, forcing incompletions. This led to an increase in targets to Jones' side, and though the increase resulted in more catches given up by the number one cornerback, I don't think Jones' play faltered as much as some will have you believe.
The fact is, when you get targeted more you are bound to give up more catches and yards. The key is to force them into contested catches, and make things as difficult for the receiver as possible when targeted.
Byron Jones continued to do this all season long, and fans should be excited for the next step of his growth in 2019.
Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial
Por muchos años, el tema del tope salarial ha sido un tema sensible para los Dallas Cowboys. Entre dinero muerto y otros problemas, el equipo ha tenido una situación delicada en este aspecto. Sin embargo, para la temporada del 2019 tienen más espacio de lo que estamos acostumbrados.
Según Over The Cap, los Cowboys tendrán aproximadamente 48 millones de dólares disponibles en 2019. Es importante recalcar que este número no es definitivo y puede cambiar. Año tras año, esta administración ha sido aficionada de reestructurar los contratos de ciertos veteranos para liberar espacio salarial constantemente. Además de esto, hay varios jugadores bajo contrato que el equipo podría decidir cortar para liberar aún más dinero.
Al ver sólo 48 millones disponibles, es complicado imaginar un escenario en que el equipo logre satisfacer todos sus objetivos. Hay bastantes candidatos a grandes extensiones en el equipo, principalmente dos jugadores. En una liga en la que quarterback es la posición más importante, la segunda más importante podría ser la del caza cabezas, cuyo objetivo es ir tras el quarterback contrario.
Pues en Dallas, hoy dos jugadores en estas posiciones que hay que extender. El más urgente sin duda es el defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence se puso el jersey del equipo cuando este lo designó a jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia. Afortunadamente, el atleta de 26 años la hizo de soldado y jugó sin amenazar con faltar a entrenamientos ni pretemporada.
Lo que sí comentó es que no pasaría por lo mismo en 2019. Ahora, el momento está aquí y es tiempo de que los Cowboys lo extiendan. El valor de Lawrence es difícil de predecir, pero es bastante seguro que se acercará a los números de Khalil Mack. Mack hizo historia ganando un contrato que en promedio gana 23.5 millones al año. Si bien no anticiparía que lo supere, la cifra estará cerca al contrato del defensivo de los Chicago Bears.
Además está Dak Prescott, cuyo contrato probablemente estará por encima de los 25 millones anuales. Son contratos caros, pero son piezas fundamentales para el equipo. Definitivamente se les tiene que pagar a ambos. Son pilares que año tras año buscan equipos en toda la NFL.
Además de esto, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley y más podrían tener un impacto en el tope salarial. Algunos buscan un contrato nuevo, otros una extensión. Pero honestamente, me parece que habrá más espacio en el tope salarial de lo que pensamos. Sólo es cuestión de tiempo para que los Cowboys comiencen a reestructurar a sus veteranos para ahorrarse unos cuantos millones para utilizar en agencia libre.
Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford entre otros pueden ser buenas opciones para comenzar este proceso. Antes era Jason Witten uno de los candidatos favoritos para este proceso, pero él ya se encuentra comentando partidos para ESPN. En Inside The Star, continuaremos actualizándote con contenido al día de los Dallas Cowboys.
Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?
Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.
The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.
The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.
Lock Down the Big Guns
Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.
Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.
As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.
Adding New Talent
One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.
Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.
If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.
Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.
Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.
The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.
As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.
Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.
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