Connect with us

Star Blog

Impact Of Jason Witten’s Absence May Be Greater Than Expected

Kevin Brady

Published

on

Jason Witten

The Cowboys have experienced a lot of turnover on their roster since infamously losing at Green Bay during the 2014 Divisional Round. Most of these changes have been voluntary, as the Cowboys looked to revamp their aging roster with youth and athleticism, particularly in the secondary.

One of the most recent departures wasn't voluntary on the Cowboys' part, however, as veteran tight end Jason Witten decided to retire after 15 incredible seasons. Of course, Witten's retirement leaves a giant hole in the locker room, but most fans had accepted that his exit won't have too much effect on the field.

After all, Jason Witten's play has clearly been declining over the last few seasons, especially his ability as a run blocker. The Cowboys haven't had a "seam busting" tight end whatsoever, and as the league move towards more wide open offense, Witten's archetype may die off.

Despite that decline, I believe Witten's retirement will be felt more than most seem to expect. Even in his later years Witten remained the reliable third down option who can get to the sticks and find a way to get open. Sure, Witten only tallied 63 catches for 560 yards a season ago, but he also finished second on the team in touchdown receptions with 5. (Ironically, the Cowboys top two players in receiving touchdowns last season are both now off of the roster heading into 2018).

The Cowboys offense is one built on running the football, but their glaring weakness through the air shined a ton in 2017. Losing Dak Prescott's only real reliable target is not exactly ideal.

Since Witten's retirement, the Cowboys have added a new tight end through the draft. Stanford tight end Dalton Schultz was selected by the Cowboys in the fourth round of this years' NFL draft, but as a day three pick with limited receiving experience it's fair to wonder how much he can bring to the 2018 roster.

They also enter the season with veteran Geoff Swaim as TE1 and hype swirling around current TE2 Blake Jarwin. Then there is, of course, the Rico Gathers hype train which refuses to die in spite of the loads of evidence that maybe it should.

The player which may need to pick up Witten's slack in the passing game isn't a tight end, however, it's wide receiver Cole Beasley. Prescott and Beasley seemed to develop a Romo/Witten-like chemistry during Dak's rookie season, but in 2017 their connection went completely missing.

If the Cowboys offense is going to get back on track, and Witten's shoes are going to be filled, Beasley could be become a key piece in the passing game.

Especially on those all-important third downs, where Prescott needs to get the ball out quickly and decisively.



Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and have been with ITS since 2016.

Advertisement
Comments

Star Blog

Dallas Cowboys: The Case For Regression In 2019

Kevin Brady

Published

on

Predicting Dallas Cowboys Roster Locks, Pre-Training Camp Edition
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Why The Numbers Expect Regression, But Success For Cowboys 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.



Continue Reading

Star Blog

Newly Acquired DE Robert Quinn Brings High Expectations

Kevin Brady

Published

on

Robert Quinn
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

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.



Continue Reading

Star Blog

Can Rookie OL Connor McGovern Compete For A Starting Spot?

Kevin Brady

Published

on

Connor McGovern

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.

Obviously McGovern won't be starting over All-Pros Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, but could he dethrone Connor Williams from his left guard position?

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.



Continue Reading



Enjoy 40% commissions on officially licensed products as a FanPrint affiliate. You can even make your own, fully licensed Cowboys and player designs! Get started here

Trending