The Dallas Cowboys are headed to San Francisco for Week 7 after resting up during their bye week. Today, I thought we'd take a quick look at how the Cowboys have fared in the game following their bye week during Jason Garrett's tenure as head coach.
Yesterday, CheatsheetWarRoom.com sent me some data about the last five years of Cowboys' performances immediately after their bye week. I looked up 2011 also to get the full range of games since Jason Garrett took over in Dallas.
- 2016 - Cowboys 29, Eagles 23 (OT)
- 2015 - Giants 27. Cowboys 20
- 2014 - Cowboys 31, Giants 28
- 2013 - Cowboys 24, Giants 21
- 2012 - Ravens 31, Cowboys 29
- 2011 - Patriots 20, Cowboys 16
It's probably not a big surprise to see that Garrett is 3-3 after bye weeks. This is the same coach who went 8-8 for three straight seasons, and who went 4-12 after going 12-4. A cosmic balancing act has seemingly followed Jason throughout his time with the Cowboys.
What's really important to look at here is the quality of these opponents. Did the bye week really factor in to the outcome? Should Garrett's record following bye weeks encourage or discourage us for this Sunday's game? Does it really matter?
The 2011 Patriots and 2012 Ravens were no slouches. New England went 13-3 that season and reached the Super Bowl, losing to the Giants. 2012 was Baltimore's championship season with Joe Flacco.
Despite their 8-8 record those seasons and both games being on the road, Dallas was competitive in these contests. The 2011 loss came on a last-minute touchdown drive by Tom Brady. The 2012 loss to the Ravens was by just a two-point margin.
Did the extra rest and preparation time from the bye week make Dallas more competitive in these games?
It's arguable, given how the rest of those seasons went. Dallas was still trying to rebuild following the change from Wade Phillips to Jason Garrett and significant roster turnover. As I've said many times, the fact that Garrett even had this team at 8-8 during those years is an accomplishment. They were not on the level of conference and Super Bowl championship teams at that time.
So yes, given how close those contests were, I'll say that the bye week had a positive effect even in losses. It's a reasonable assumption that the Cowboys would've fared worse against those high-caliber opponents without the time off the week before.
2013-2015 gave us three-straight meetings with the New York Giants coming off our bye week. 2013 was another 8-8 season for the Cowboys but the Giants were only 7-9 themselves. With Tony Romo healthy and under center, Dallas took that game despite it being in New Jersey. They'd won a narrow 36-31 meeting against the Giants in the season opener that year, so getting another win on the road was impressive.
In 2014, Dallas had their breakout season under Garrett and went 12-4 on the way to the playoffs. The Giants were only 6-10. Given that, Dallas only winning 31-28 in that year's game is a little disappointing. You'd have expected a more decisive victory, but division games do often take a life of their own. In this case, the bye week didn't seem to matter much.
2015 was, of course, the abysmal season of Romo's collarbone injury and Dallas going 4-12 with Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore at quarterback. That year's post-bye game came during Cassel's run at QB and was actually one of the better showings Dallas had that year; a 27-20 loss on the road. If not for three interceptions by Matty Yikes, the Cowboys might've stolen that game.
These three years give us a mixed bag of evidence. The bye week seemingly helped in 2013 and 2015 but appeared inconsequential in 2014. The fact that all of these games came against a division rival taints things as well; the usual metrics and principles tend to go out the window in rivalry games.
Last year's bye week follow-up was at home against the Eagles, and it was an overtime thriller with the Cowboys winning 29-23 on a Dak Prescott touchdown throw to Jason Witten.
In this case, it's arguable that the bye week actually hurt the young Cowboys. They'd taken a five-game winning streak into the bye and then came out flat in a division game at home. Dak Prescott threw only his second interception in seven games and Dallas was down 23-13 in the third quarter. They finally rallied to force overtime and get the victory, but it definitely took them some time to wake up following the bye week.
Obviously, the circumstances of that game and this year's meeting with the 49ers are very different. Dallas limped into their 2017 bye week after consecutive narrow defeats to the Rams and Packers. They are a 2-3 team desperate to get their season back on track. There's no room for complacency to set in, which could improve their post-bye performance from what we saw last year.
One thing that's clear from this six-year history is that Dallas' success after bye weeks had been consistent with the quality of their opponents. They weren't as good as 2011 Patriots or 2012 Ravens and lost those games. They got beat in 2015 with Matt Cassel at quarterback, as they did in almost every other game without Tony Romo. In the other three years, they were victorious when even or superior to their NFC East rivals.
That's good news for this 2017 game as the 49ers are, seemingly, a much worse team than the Cowboys. They've just changed starting quarterbacks after going 0-6 and seem to already be thinking about the future. They haven't been total pushovers in their losses but there is no excuse, even on the road, for the Cowboys to lose this game.
Based on everything we've considered, I think the bye week will help Dallas in this game. The extra preparation may not help much given the QB change in Frisco, but the rest and opportunity to reset mentally was much needed following two difficult losses. The Cowboys will also get back Sean Lee, whose absence may have been the deciding factor in those defeats.
Will Jason Garrett be over or under .500 in games following bye weeks? We'll find out on Sunday!
Cowboys Have Had Quiet, Yet Successful, Free Agency
Yet another free agency without a big splash by the Dallas Cowboys. What a surprise. Despite entertaining Earl Thomas rumors for a long, long time, the Cowboys' front office has stuck with its philosophy of not overpaying free agents and building the team mainly through the NFL Draft. However, they've actually had some pretty good signings over the last few days that will really benefit the Cowboys when the season comes around.
They've done so with inexpensive free agents who will contribute at a high level on their respective positions. Sure, top free agent signings are fun. But many times, they end up backfiring to teams for spending so much money in one single player. At the end of the day, the Cowboys' way has gotten the team three NFC East Championships since 2014. Many factors come into play, but their team building philosophy can't be as bad as many claim it to be.
The most recent acquisition came in form of former Cincinnati Bengal and Minnesota Viking Safety George Iloka. The Cowboys had a desperate need at the defensive backfield and finally they've done something about it. On a heavy safety market, the Cowboys sat tight while watching the top free agents get top contracts around the league, including Landon Collins' record breaking deal with the Washington Redskins.
Now, they've gotten a guy who can play both safety positions. I'll be surprised if he doesn't take Jeff Heath's job. He's played as a free safety most of his career but being a good tackler, he should do a good job in the box. Iloka will also shine on special teams in Dallas.
So far, my favorite signing may be that of former Green Bay Packer, Randall Cobb. The Cowboys had an important need at the wide receiver position despite counting with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup leading the room. Cole Beasley is a tough guy to replace and although Cobb may not be a better slot receiver than him, he certainly has the experience and the skill set to be a starting slot WR. What's more, he'll only cost the Cowboys five million while Beasley got a four year deal with which he'll earn $17M over the first two years.
Cole Beasley will be missed, but the good thing is the front office did a pretty good job at filling the concerning hole on offense. Cooper, Gallup and Cobb are definitely not a bad starting trio to have.
Other under the radar moves will also help the Cowboys. Kerry Hyder may not be a well-known in the NFL but he'll surely contribute to this defensive line as a rotational player. Hyder had eight sacks in 2016 with the Detroit Lions before suffering an Achilles injury in 2017 and dealing with a scheme change last season. Hyder will surely be happy about being back to a 4-3 defense in Dallas.
Christian Covington was another overlooked signing. Covington will help on the interior of the defensive line and although he'll likely not be a starter, he'll be an important piece in the rotation for a very reasonable contract ( also a one-year deal).
For a football team that's constantly criticized for not being active in free agency, the Cowboys have done something at pretty much every position where they need help. Safety, defensive end, defensive tackle, wide receiver and tight end have all been addressed this offseason prior to the NFL Draft. This will give them great flexibility in April and could lead to a pretty good "best player available" strategy.
Now granted, there are still concerns regarding the young "to be extended" group of players. DeMarcus Lawrence hasn't reached an agreement with the Cowboys and will continue to postpone surgery until he does. If the front office doesn't strike a contract with the star pass rusher, it won't be possible to consider this offseason a good one no matter what happens. Dallas can't let him leave.
In the meantime though, they've had a pretty quiet yet successful March. And they're not done yet. Robert Quinn could end up wearing the Star if a trade with the Miami Dolphins does end up taking place. We'll see if the Cowboys continue to build on an already pretty good free agency.
BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign Free Agent Safety George Iloka
The Dallas Cowboys have reached a one-year agreement with Safety George Iloka, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Iloka spent 2018 with the Vikings after six years with the Bengals.
He's started 79 of his 99 career games since being a fifth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012. Iloka turns 29 years old next week.
The Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with safety George Iloka, according to a source. Iloka met with the Cowboys on Friday and was the third safety to meet with the club during the week along with Clayton Geathers and Eric Berry. The Cowboys have... https://t.co/JB5nJLWepc
This isn't the safety that most Cowboys fans wanted. After over a year of pining for Earl Thomas, sights turned to Eric Berry after his free agent visit in Dallas last week.
However, it makes sense that Iloka would be attractive to the Cowboys. At 6'4" and 225 lbs, he fits the physical mold of what Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard likes in his players. He also is younger than Berry and Thomas without the same recent injury issues.
Iloka becomes one of many Boise St. products on Dallas' roster, joining Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, and others. He entered the league with college teammates Crawford and Kellen Moore, the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator, in 2012.
We'll have to wait and see how George Iloka fits into the current mix at safety with Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. He spent most of 2018 as a backup with Minnesota, but Dallas will likely give him a chance to start.
What to Expect from Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Group in 2019
In a span of a week, the Dallas Cowboys have solidified their wide receiver group with the resigning of Tavon Austin to a one year deal and the signing of former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb. Despite the loss of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys have a created a really good group of receivers for Quarterback Dak Prescott to throw to.
Cobb joins a really nice group of players that includes incumbent starters on the outside in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup as well as solid depth players in Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Throw in Cedric Wilson, the Dallas Cowboys sixth round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft and the Cowboys may have one of the deeper receiving corps in the NFL.
The question is, how will the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff delineate the roles?
Let's take a look.
As I mentioned before, the Dallas Cowboys are returning their top two options on the outside in Amari Cooper, who is the X wide receiver and Michael Gallup, the Z receiver. Both players will go into week one as the starters at their respective positions in two-wide receiver formations.
Despite some of the overthrows from Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup, Gallup had a really nice rookie season and got better as the year went along, even leading the Cowboys in receiving in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. In that game, Gallup recorded the first 100 yard game of his career. Sure, it was in an attempt to comeback by the Dallas Cowboys, but it is impressive nonetheless. His touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks the week before was clutch. The Cowboys needed that to take the lead at the end of the first half. 2018 was only the beginning for Michael Gallup. He showed an ability to win with a full offseason to work with Dak Prescott, their chemistry and connection should only improve.
As for Cooper, his presence was felt right away as the offense just looked different once he stepped on the field. It's no coincidence that Dak Prescott's two best career games in terms of passing yardage came with Cooper in 2018. He's such a threat that he opens up space for the rest of the wide receiver group. His route running, speed, ability to run after the catch make him a threat to score any time he's targeted.
Behind Cooper and Gallup, you have options in the event that one of them gets hurt. Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Noah Brown are all players who took snaps on the outside for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 and did so with effectiveness. Hurns best game of the year came just before the Cooper deal was made as he went for five receptions for 75 yards.
Tavon provided down field speed on several occasions and provides some gadget quality that the Dallas Cowboys love to have. Noah Brown is a player that the Dallas Cowboys love to deploy as a blocker in the running game. While it looked like he might get more run in the passing game in 2019, the depth additions will limit him again to a specialty role. If needed, though, he could be an option to take snaps on the outside as his big frame allows him to box out defensive backs down the field.
There will be snaps on the outside for someone when the Cowboys go to 11 personnel, because of Amari Cooper's ability to slide into the slot.
Obviously, the writing is on the wall with who the Dallas Cowboys are planning on deploying in the slot as things stand right now, and that's Randall Cobb.
While Cobb should be penciled in as the starter in the slot, I doubt that he's going to get 100% of the snaps there in 11 or 10 personnel groupings. Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson could all push for playing time from the slot.
Last month, I wrote a piece about Allen Hurns and his effectiveness in the slot and why the Cowboys should feature him there. With Cobb coming off an injury laden season, the Cowboys would be wise to give some snaps to Hurns along with Tavon Austin.
In Jacksonville, Hurns was incredibly effective from the slot running posts, slants, and ins and outs. His size and route running made him an effective mismatch against linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks alike. Remember, it wasn't long ago that Hurns had a 1,000 yard season with Blake Bortles at the helm.
Tavon Austin's quickness is an asset that could be very effective in the slot as well. Though he lacks size, he's a player that opposing defenses have to account for because of his ability to make big plays once the ball's in his hands.
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The Cowboys haven't been shy about carrying seven wide receivers on their 53-man rosters and it's possible, though unlikely that they could do it again in 2018. As things stand now, I see Noah Brown and Cedric Wilson as the potential odd men out. Of course, this could all get reshuffled if the Dallas Cowboys use a top 100 pick on a wide receiver in the draft.
With Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Randall Cobb only under contract through the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to invest at the position despite the strength of the position in 2019.
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