Who could have possibly guessed that the Dallas Cowboys would be hit by the dreaded injury bug in back to back seasons?
America's Team has a winning record of 2-1 so far, despite the injuries to key players on both sides of the ball.
Tony Romo (back), Tyron Smith (stinger/back), Orlando Scandrick (hamstrings), La'el Collins (foot), James Hanna (knee), and even Darren McFadden (elbow) have all missed time due to their injuries. That's quite a long list of players that were expected to be main contributors in 2016.
Of course, you might've noticed that I didn't even mention All-Pro wide receiver Dez Bryant on that list.
Unfortunately, we learned yesterday that Bryant has a hairline fracture in his knee and could possibly miss significant time depending on who you listen to.
I've heard that he has an outside chance of playing this week against the San Francisco 49ers or he could miss up to six weeks. Obviously, we are all hoping for him to return to the field as soon as possible, but we will have to wait and see.
Dez Bryant's injury is particularly concerning because he not only has to be accounted for wherever he lines up on the field by opposing defenses, but this is also the second year in a row where an injury sustained early in the season could cause him to miss time on the field.
That leads us to the question of is Dez Bryant becoming injury prone?
Honestly, you can look at this two different ways: 1). Bryant has reached the stage in his career where his body is starting to break down causing injuries to happen, or 2). Bryant's history of injuries fall into the category of freak accidents.
Personally, I think Bryant's injuries fall more into the category of freaks accidents, which makes it even more frustrating for not only him, but all of us fans as well.
If you take a close look at how he hurt his knee this year and his foot injury last season, you will notice that both of those injuries occurred in very similar ways. Bryant was fighting for extra yards and his body was contorted awkwardly when being tackled.
This has been a big concern of mine ever since Dez Bryant became a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
His competitive nature makes him the player that he is, but he wants to fight for every single yard he can get and it's now starting to hurt his chances of staying on the field due to injuries.
I remember this being a concern of the coaching staff's before, but they have failed to stress to Bryant that he needs to do a better job of choosing his battles when in the game. That sometimes it is simply better to take what you can get and go to the ground.
Of course, this can be a hard habit to break for Dez Bryant. But, if he wants to prevent these types of injuries from occurring, then he is going to have to do a better job of knowing when to fight for extra yards and when not to.
Sounds simple doesn't it?
Maybe so, but it's important to remember that players like Bryant are going to try to make plays regardless of the risk of injury. Case in point, Bryant continuing to play against the Chicago Bears and scoring a touchdown on a crossing route knowing full well he could be hit and hit hard. That's just who he is. Take it or leave it.
So, you may disagree with me, but I don't think Dez Bryant is injury prone. I think these are just freak accidents that could possibly be eliminated if he makes little changes to the way he plays the game.
Do you agree or disagree?
Don't be shy, please feel free to take advantage of the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions about Dez Bryant's injury concerns.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott
Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.
In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.
During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...
...of his offensive lineman.
During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.
As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.
It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.
With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.
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