As the 2017 NFL season draws near, the Dallas Cowboys will be increasingly scrutinized by fans and the media. This article is the first installment of a series in which I will set out some realistic expectations for various Cowboys players.
The first player up is the face of the franchise, the newest starting quarterback to wear the Dallas Cowboys star on his helmet; Dak Prescott.
What a Rush!
Rushed into action due to injuries for the incumbent starter, Tony Romo, and first backup QB, Kellen Moore, Dak Prescott won 2016 NFL Rookie of the Year honors and turned in a rookie season for the ages.
Prescott tied Ben Roethlisberger's NFL record for wins by a rookie quarterback with 13.
His quarterback rating was third in the NFL in 2016, behind Tom Brady and Matt Ryan -- you know, the guys who played in the Super Bowl last year. Prescott was just ahead of Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, two guys who will likely have their own gold jackets and shrines in Canton within the next decade. Dak's quarterback rating (QBR) of 104.9 set a new rookie record, besting Robert Griffin III's 2012 season.
He played with a poise that is uncommon for rookies in this league, and the determination to successfully lead the Cowboys to several comeback victories.
What he displayed in the playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers is something that should excite Dallas Cowboys fans around the world.
Getting down 25-3 early to the Packers, Dak Prescott was able to rally the team and slowly chip away at the lead. They were eventually able to tie the game and, if not for an epic Jared Cook catch that will be a feature in Aaron Rodgers' Hall of Fame highlight video, your Dallas Cowboys would have had a shot in overtime.
But the past is the past.
It's behind us.
So What do we Have to Look Forward to in Year Two?
The games in which Dak Prescott struggled most were against the New York Giants -- both losses, the Philadelphia overtime win, and the Minnesota Vikings win. In both losses to New York, Prescott had them close enough to win. It wasn't great play by him, but Dallas was there with a chance to win in the final few minutes of each game.
Against the Eagles and the Vikings, he and the offense started off slow. But as the game went on, Prescott was able to make big plays to help the team shrug off the slow start and come away with a victory.
Throughout the season, he showed he can make adjustments, battle back from slow starts, and have his team in position to win the game.
Dak Prescott seems to be a natural leader who has already won over the locker room.
Since year one was such an overwhelming success for Dak Prescott, we have to ask: just how high is his ceiling in year two?
Whatever you do, don't fall into the trap of the "sophomore slump" narrative.
Yes, defenses have more tape on Prescott entering his second season. But in turn, Prescott has more tape too, tape of himself against NFL competition and tape on that NFL competition. Prescott knows what needs to improve in his second season. And if 2016 is any evidence, we got a glimpse of the kind of work ethic and commitment he has.
I don't foresee a drop in performance from Dak. He was incredibly efficient and seemed to move the team down the field at will.
A Statistical Jump?
Statistically, he was really good.
He put up a passer rating of 104.9, threw for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns, only four interceptions, and he also ran for 282 yards and six touchdowns. I don't anticipate much, if any decline statistically for Prescott in his second year, and here's why...
The Dallas Cowboys are a run-first team.
They are one of the few whose goal at the outset of every game is to get the run game established. This allows them to control time of possession, get a lead, and then use the run game to keep it.
This offense caps Dak Prescott's passing output a bit.
It's definitely possible the numbers see an increase, if only because he will likely play in all 16 games in 2017 (remember he only played a drive in the season finale).
Remember that Tony Romo also played 15 games in a run-first offense -- in 2014 -- and had just over 3,700 passing yards. Romo threw for more touchdowns (34) than Prescott (23), but if you include Prescott's rushing touchdowns, his 29 total touchdowns wasn't far behind Romo's total.
Because Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys earned a first-place schedule for 2017, there's a good chance they don't see a 13-3 finish this season.
Vegas sports book, Westgate Superbook, has Dallas set at 9.5 wins for this season.
If I were a betting man, I'd take the over.
I do think that nine wins is a solid floor for a team that looks to be getting better despite several key offseason departures. While nine wins is the floor, I think that 12 wins is the ceiling, which would be a good season by anyone's standards.
Where Can He Improve His Game?
Inside The Star Staff Writer Brian Martin described three reasons why Dak Prescott will thrive in 2017. In addition to that, Prescott will improve because he has a few areas with room for improvement.
- First, Prescott showed a lack of awareness at times when facing pressure coming from the right side. He was very good at sensing pressure from his blind side, but struggled from the front side pressure (which is weird, should be the opposite). A full offseason to review 2016 film will allow him to work with quarterback coach Wade Wilson to detect that pressure with better efficiency.
- Secondly, as the season wore on, the team gave Prescott more freedom to use his legs. While I would prefer not to see many designed runs for the quarterback, such as they like to do in Carolina, I would like to see Dak scramble for yards when nothing is available down field.
- The final thing that he can improve on is his accuracy. Don't get me wrong, he was an accurate passer in 2016, but he can be better. Has to figure out how to lead his receivers better so that they will have opportunities for yards after the catch.
The Great Expectations for Dak Prescott
Dak Prescott improves upon his 2016 season and is in the conversation for NFL MVP honors, while leading Dallas to its first Super Bowl victory in more than 20 years.
Realistic Expectations for Dak Prescott
Prescott repeats his 2016 campaign, statistically speaking, while Dallas makes the playoffs as a division winner. The team advances to at least the NFC Championship Game.
The sky is the limit for Dak Prescott in his second year with the Cowboys. A few years down the road we may be talking about the organization shelling out the money to make him the top paid quarterback in the NFL.
What kind of expectations do you have for Dak Prescott in 2017?
Cowboys Offseason: Landon Collins Cleaned Out Locker, Set to be FA
It's no secret that the Dallas Cowboys are heading into the 2019 offseason looking to upgrade at the safety position on a defense that finished inside the top 10 in 2018. With much of the focus on Earl Thomas, New York Giants Safety Landon Collins has become the center of attention in the last couple of days.
Per a report by Josina Anderson, Collins cleaned out his locker on Wednesday as he gets ready to go into free agency for the first time.
I'm told that Giants S Landon Collins cleaned out his locker today at the team facility and said his goodbyes to teammates, coaches and trainers. It doesn't seem like Collins expects to be a Giant for much longer, per sources.
After Paul Schwartz attempted to assert that there was no claim to the report...
Attention those who care about the New York Giants: Landon Collins HAS NOT cleaned out his locker at the team facility. Repeat: Landon Collins HAS NOT cleaned out his locker at the team facility. Go about your business and have a nice day.
And Landon Collins had this to say...
If cleaning out a locker is any kind of evidence, then Collins is prepared to hit the market when free agency opens on March 13th. He joins a loaded safety group that includes Thomas, Houston Texans Safety Tyrann Mathieu, Los Angeles Rams Safety LaMarcus Joyner, Glover Quin of the Detroit Lions, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix formerly of the Green Bay Packers, but most recently of the Washington Redskins, and several others who could find new homes this offseason.
The Cowboys are very familiar with Landon Collins, as they've seen him nearly twice a year over the last four years. The three time Pro Bowler was one of the best players on the Giants defense. They would line him up in the box and at time use him to cover Cole Beasley.
Collins ranked first in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus in run stop percentage at 7.2%. Meaning on running snaps, he made a tackle that rendered the running play ineffective 7.2% of the time.For further reference, Jeff Heath made a run stop on 4.2% of his run plays, which was 15th in the NFL among safeties.
The only positions to have more of an impact on the running game were linebackers and the defensive line. Even if you include linebackers, his run stop percentage was 31st in the NFL. Leighton Vander Esch led the Dallas Cowboys with a run stop percentage of 11.3%, which was third among linebackers. Collins number nearly matched the run stop percentage of Jaylon Smith at 7.6%.
Add Collins to a defense that stops the run as well as the Dallas Cowboys did last season and you take your team to another level against the run.
Landon Collins will probably get the most money this offseason. He's only 25 and has had success in the NFL. Many teams will be reaching out to Collins when free agency opens and the Dallas Cowboys should certainly be one of those teams. Collins would be an excellent addition to the Dallas Cowboys defense and would allow Xavier Woods to stay in his role as the free safety.
We're just under three weeks away from the start of NFL free agency and the drama will only get bigger as the Cowboys look to add to their team.
Report: Free Agent DL David Irving Not in Dallas Cowboys’ 2019 Plans
The Dallas Cowboys and troubled Defensive Lineman David Irving appear to be at an impasse. According to a report from David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, the team has "no intention" of trying to re-sign Irving and will allow him to become an unrestricted free agent.
Irving started the 2018 season with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He only appeared in two games after that, registering one sack and four tackles.
Source: Cowboys have no intention of keeping DT David Irving at this time https://t.co/vqMNZty6Aq via @sportsdaydfw
Despite reports of David's ongoing issues with an ankle injury, Dallas never placed him on injured reserve. Then came the reports that Irving was missing practices and team meetings while dealing with personal issues related to the custody of his daughter.
The team stayed pretty mum on the subject of Irving's status throughout the year, falling back on the ankle injury when pushed. But after months, it became clear that either David, the team, or both parties were disinterested in his return to football.
The Cowboys had high hopes after 2017, when Irving posted seven sacks in just eight games. They placed a second-round tender on him last offseason as a restricted free agent and were surely ready to give him a long-term deal if he'd built on that success.
But David's issues, physical or otherwise, have clearly done the opposite.
Dallas is known for working with troubled players, as we've recently seen with Randy Gregory. That they're closing the book on Irving suggests there's an issue with his desire towards football.
It's a sad loss for both. David's potential is enormous, as evidenced by his productivity when he actually does play. But he appears more likely to hit the Commissioner's exempt list in 2019 than the football field, given the reports of multiple failed drug tests over the last year.
Hopefully David Irving can turn things around one day and capitalize on his talent. But if it ever happens, it appears that it won't be with the Dallas Cowboys.
BREAKING: WR Terrance Williams Gets Dropped by Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys have ended their six-year relationship with Wide Receiver Terrance Williams. According to multiple sources, they have declined a team option on Williams' contract and he will now be an unrestricted free agent in 2019.
The move will reportedly save the Cowboys $2.25 million in salary space this year.
Williams was the team's third-round pick in 2013 and started 68 of the 83 games he played in. He developed into a solid number-two receiver by the end of his rookie deal in 2016 and was given a new four-year contract that offseason.
Terrance Williams career w/ the Cowboys is done. Sources say the club has declined the WR's option for 2019, making him a free agent. The move is no surprise. He caught just 2 passes for 18 yards last season. His departure frees up $2.25 million on the cap.
After another decent year in 2017, things took a bad turn for Terrance last season. It started with an offseason arrest for public intoxication that eventually led to a three-game suspension, although Williams served that while on injured reserve.
The Cowboys already appeared to be giving Williams' spot away when they made several offseason acquisitions at WR; Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin all were brought in even before Terrance's arrest.
While Williams did start in two of Dallas' first three games in 2018, he only had three passes his thrown his way. The team finally put him on IR due to ongoing complications with a surgically-repaired foot.
While it didn't end well, Terrance Williams' time in Dallas was ultimately a solid return for a third-round pick. He made a few big plays and was a proficient run-blocker, good enough to start in almost 75% of the team's games since he was drafted.
The Cowboys now hope that another third-round pick, Michael Gallup in 2018, will do bigger and better things.
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