The Dallas Cowboys have made it clear for most of the last decade that they're determined to dominate in the trenches utilizing a powerful offensive line. From 2014 to 2016, it was not only regarded by most as the top offensive line in the NFL but arguably the best unit on either side of the ball. Injuries and departures have taken their toll on this group in recent years, but with excellent drafting and strategic offseason acquisitions, all signs point to this line taking back the top spot.
The biggest return, hopefully, will be All-Pro Center, Travis Frederick. Having missed all of 2018 battling Guillain-Barre Syndrome, he has made great strides in reclaiming his throne as the game's top center, if he ever fell off it that is, seemingly picking back up where he left off chemistry wise with Dak Prescott when OTA's began. Ultimately, once he's back in full contact in training camp, then we'll really know where he's at.
The Cowboys do have some insurance at the position with veteran backup Joe Looney, who is entering his fourth season with the team. He started all 16 games and performed very solid making all the necessary pre-snap reads like Frederick had done for years before him. Proving just how valuable depth really is in the league.
Zack Martin is going to be his usual all-pro self at right guard, you can pencil that in today, having received such honors whether it be the first or second team in each of his first five seasons. He's not only dominant but durable, starting 78 out of a possible 80 games since 2014. Playing once again alongside Travis Frederick makes the interior of this offensive line that much more powerful.
The left guard spot isn't as edged in stone. 2018 second round pick Connor Williams started 10 games but suffered a knee injury that kept him out for several weeks. His backup Xavier Su'a-Filo played well in his absence logging 8 starts in his first season with the team, making him a lot easier to trust with time served under his belt. Then there's Connor McGovern, drafted in the third in this year draft, a potential plug-in starter who will definitely be in the mix for playing time. This will definitely be one of the more intriguing position battles going forward. The Cowboys are still trying to find the heir apparent to Ronald Leary who was lost after the 2016 season.
Tyron Smith is still one of, if not the best in the league when healthy at left tackle, but health hasn't always been on his side lately. Nine games missed due to several injuries over the past three seasons has called into question whether or not it's time to find the successor for the perennial all-pro. Veteran Cam Fleming, who was picked up via free agency in 2018, provided much-needed experience in Smith's absence. That's been the only knock recently, availability, because it's clear when he's on the field that right side defensive ends would be better off looking for sunshine at midnight than expecting sacks on Sunday's. Entering year nine it's understandable that monitoring his health will be key going forward, but make no mistake about it, Smith is still causing sleepless nights for defensive line coaches league-wide.
La'el Collins is entering a contract year. He hasn't exactly locked down the right tackle spot, at least not to the level that the organization has full confidence that he's the guy. The talent is there, but not necessarily the continued progression you'd like to see. What also makes this position interesting is that the previously mentioned Connor Williams took snaps at left tackle opposite Collins when Tyron Smith had a veterans day off during OTA's. This was an easy switch considering he spent three years as a starter at the position during his days at the University of Texas. Could this mean they are preparing to move Williams to right tackle if Collins isn't brought back in 2020? Putting Connor McGovern in line to secure the left guard spot? Only time will tell.
All the projected starters are under the age of 30. That means there's plenty of football left in these mammoth's, and a lot more lanes for Ezekiel Elliot to run through for the foreseeable future. Former Quarterback Tony Romo had the best season of his career once he finally got the offensive line he needed. Now with Dak Prescott just entering his prime, and youth plus experience on the line of scrimmage, this offense is set to be elite for quite a while.
How important is this unit? They set the tone for the entire team by mauling the opposing defensive line and controlling the clock. This allows your defense to be fresh at all times, especially in fourth quarters when games usually get tight in the NFL. These hogs are the first dominoes to fall and make life easier for their teammates. It starts in the trenches.
Established all-pros? The Cowboys offensive line has three. Reliable backups for depth purposes? They have several of those too. The identity of this team starts with the big boys up front. Offensive line coach Marc Colombo has all the tools he needs in his toolshed, and with the injury god's hopefully in their favor, this line has everything it needs to bully it's way back to the playoffs.
QB Colin Kaepernick to Hold Workout, Cowboys Showing an Interest
Former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is apparently attempting to resurrect his NFL career and will hold a private workout for teams on Saturday in Atlanta according to Adam Schefter.
NFL clubs were informed today that a private workout will be held for Colin Kaepernick on Saturday in Atlanta. Session will include on-field work and an interview. All clubs are invited to attend, and video of both the workout and interview will be made available to clubs.
For fans who believed Colin Kaepernick was blackballed after all of the kneeling during the national anthem fiasco, this is long overdue. For everyone else, they probably couldn't care less. But, where exactly do the Dallas Cowboys stand? After all, that's all we really care about here around Cowboys Nation. Right!?
Well, it appears as if the Dallas Cowboys could be at least a little bit interested. Or, it could just be them doing their due diligence. Either way, it looks as if they will have somebody on hand at the workout.
After speaking to another team from my last tweet, as of now, I'm told there is interest within the #Cowboys organization to send at least one representative to Colin Kaepernick's workout, per source.
If you put aside all of the protest stuff and kneeling during the national anthem, this is a move that actually makes quite a bit of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. And, you can bet that this is an opportunity Kaepernick himself has been waiting for.
I'm just getting word from my representatives that the NFL league office reached out to them about a workout in Atlanta on Saturday. I've been in shape and ready for this for 3 years, can't wait to see the head coaches and GMs on Saturday.
This may be the opportunity Kaepernick has been waiting for, but why should the Cowboys be interested? Well, let me try to lay it out for you little better…
You see, the Dallas Cowboys are going to need another backup quarterback next season. Cooper Rush is in the last year of his rookie contract and is set to become a free agent after the completion of the 2019 season. In Colin Kaepernick they would not only be upgrading Dak Prescott's backup, but also adding a QB with a similar skill set as him as well.
Now, there is a catch of course. There always is. Kaepernick hasn't thrown a pass in the NFL since the 2016 season. Also, he'd have to be willing to accept a backup role. Those are some pretty big red flags, but he could do a lot worse than bringing his talent to Texas as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys could actually be the best spot for him to resurrect his career. The national attention he would receive as a member of America's Team could be the best place for him to put his talents on display and prove he still has something left in the tank, even if it is in a backup role. If he can do that, there's no telling where his career could go from there.
In all honesty, this sounds like a win-win for both the Dallas Cowboys and Colin Kaepernick. Uniting these two could be a match made in heaven. It's very possible both parties are interested in one another, but unfortunately we won't know how things turn out anytime soon. It's a waiting game now…
Do you think Colin Kaepernick would be a good fit with the Dallas Cowboys?
Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Turned Their Back on Prescott’s MVP Performance
The Dallas Cowboys have lost games to the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets and the Minnesota Vikings. Last Sunday Night, the Cowboys hosted the Vikings on primetime and lost in a game that went down to the wire. It felt like the toughest loss of the season. Why? Let's dive in to this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday.
Cowboys Turned Their Back on Dak Prescott's MVP Performance
Cowboys Nation was shocked with the Cowboys' play-calling late in the game and for good reason. After starting the drive backed up at their own five, Prescott completed six of seven passes for 79 yards. Then, on second down and two to go, the Cowboys ran the ball with Ezekiel Elliott for no gain. On a short yardage down, that was comprehensible. Maybe not ideal, but understandable. On third down, though, they handed it off again to Zeke.
In the game in which Dak Prescott was playing at an MVP level, with less than two minutes on the clock, the Cowboys took the ball away from him to put the game on the star running back who was having a rough day with less than 50 yards against a stout Vikings defense.
Now granted, the play on third down seemed to be an RPO concept with Jason Witten as the pass option. But why are you giving Dak one pass option when he's dominated all night? Why are you instead trusting Elliott in a game in which he failed to average three yards per carry? Prescott was unbelievably clutch, throwing for almost 400 yards, three touchdowns and a 100% conversion rate on 3rd & 7+.
This was by far the number one reason why the loss to the Vikings was so frustrating to watch. The Cowboys have a franchise quarterback. But they need to learn to trust him as such and put the games on his hands when needed. Not on their running back, regardless of how much they pay each.
Jason Garrett Must Be More Aggressive in Fourth Down Decisions
It's easy to say this in retrospective, but I believe the Cowboys didn't make the right decisions when facing fourth down last Sunday night. The first notorious decision came in the second quarter, when the Cowboys faced 4th & 4 with the ball on the Vikings' 40 yard-line. Being behind 14-0, they decided to punt.
It turned out fine for the Cowboys in the end, tying the game 14-14 later in the second. But the analytics trend in the NFL really has evidence to back up the fact that Dallas should've gone for it in such a critical spot.
In the fourth quarter, the Cowboys decided to kick the field goal being on their opponents' five. Down 21-28, Brett Maher went out to kick the field goal, which put the Cowboys behind by four points instead of seven. They still needed a touchdown to take the lead with ten minutes left on the game.
Kevin Brady took a deeper look at the Cowboys' win probabilities on this article for Inside The Star.
was working on a post for @InsideTheStarDC on this last night. here's the estimated WP for each scenario on that fourth and goal.
The Baltimore Ravens are taking the league by storm using analytics and making the right decisions in fourth down. Yet, some teams in the NFL are not catching up. The Cowboys are one of those teams.
Cowboys Defense Exposed Again
The main reason the Cowboys lost to the Vikings was coaching and that's clear. But defense earned the second place. Kirk Cousins played a good game versus Rod Marinelli's unit, despite the box score suggesting otherwise. He made a couple of impressive throws at AT&T Stadium while Kyle Rudolph finished night with two touchdown catches and a two point conversion.
Dalvin Cook, one of the toughest offensive weapons to face in this league totaled 183 yards last weekend. It's not easy to face Cook and limit him and the Cowboys failed to do so. The linebackers had a very rough day overall and there wasn't a single performance to point out as a positive.
Slow Starts Won't Stop
Every week. Every week we talk about how this Cowboys team started slow against any opponent. In six games, they haven't scored a TD in the first quarter. Not even at the beginning of the season, when they went 3-0 against poor teams did they start a game on the right foot. Who to blame? Both players and coaches, but I'd lean toward coaching first.
Bottom line, there's a huge problem with the way this football team prepares for gameday and the Cowboys need to figure it out fast. Their backs are against the wall and playing from behind every game costs games. At 5-4 and headed toward tough opponents in the second half of the season, it's time to put an end to such starts.
Are the Dallas Cowboys Letting Ego Affect Offensive Play-Calling?
There is a lot to complain about after the Dallas Cowboys' loss last night to the Minnesota Vikings. But what seems to be the most universally reviled topic is Dallas' stubborn use of Ezekiel Elliott and the run game, and I can't help but wonder if it stems from an ego-driven need to validate Zeke's new contract.
Just before the start of the regular season, the Cowboys made Elliott the NFL's highest-paid running back at $15 million per year. There was no lack of criticism for this decision; many argued that the modern pass-happy NFL doesn't need RBs paid at the franchise level. There were also some direct concerns about Zeke and his ability to endure as a top-tier runner, avoid personal conduct issues, or both.
After nine games in the 2019 season Elliott has given Dallas a decent return on their investment. He is currently ranked sixth in rushing yards per game despite the team's move to a more pass-focused offense. And though it will take doing, Zeke could still make up the roughly 200-yard distance between league leaders Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey.
Even while Dak Prescott is set to have a career-high in passing attempts the Cowboys are still committed to getting Ezekiel Elliott his touches. And that's not bad; you don't spend a 4th-overall draft pick and huge cap dollars on a guy you don't plan to make a focal point of your offense.
But last Sunday night, we saw Dallas keep trying to fit a Zeke-shaped peg into a Dak-shaped hole.
The Vikings were helpless against the Cowboys' passing attack all game long; Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Randall Cobb were having their way with Minnesota's secondary. Meanwhile, Zeke had one of the worst days of his career with only 2.35 yards-per-carry; the lowest production rate he's ever had when getting 20 rushing attempts or more.
Over the course of an entire game you can't completely throw out the run or pass portions of the playbook. You still have to keep the defense honest in either scenario.
And, to be fair, you can understand why Dallas thought Zeke would eventually get it going. After the Vikings got shredded by the Cowboys' passing game most of the night, you would assume they'd eventually start devoting more resources to air defense.
Throughout his time in Dallas, Elliott's best work has often come in the second half. His physical style, coupled with the Cowboys' typically dominant offensive line, is especially brutal for opposing defenses later in games when fatigue sets in.
So yes, the formula was seemingly there for Zeke to break loose. As onlookers, we were as perplexed as I'm sure the Cowboys themselves were at the lack of success Elliott and the run game had as the night went on.
But at a certain point we saw the need to adjust strategy. And as Zeke kept getting repeatedly stymied by the Minnesota defense, the outcry on social media and in living rooms and sports bars got louder by the carry.
And yet the Cowboys wouldn't relent. They wouldn't admit defeat.
Then the final drive came, and despite Dak Prescott playing perhaps the best game of his career the Cowboys handed it to Zeke on 2nd down and 3rd down for -3 yards. He went nowhere or backwards, just like we'd seen most of the night.
And in the end, that stubbornness may have cost them the game.
What concerns me about that loss, and how it unfolded on offense, is that stubborn refusal to adjust strategy. Zeke never should've gotten to 20 carries given how poorly they all went; his longest of the night was only six yards. The run game clearly wasn't working, and leaning on it in those crucial final moments bordered on the cliche definition of insanity.
The concern is that Dallas feels the need to justify Zeke's contract so badly that it's going to distort offensive strategy. And if that does exist, it probably comes from up top.
Jerry Jones has done a lot of great, wonderful things in his ownership and management of the Dallas Cowboys. But it's perfectly fair to say that he allows ego to interfere with logic at times.
Jason Garrett has won way more games than he's lost since becoming Cowboys head coach. But he's prideful; Garrett often references personal and team pride in his public conversations. And he's also proudly loyal to traditional football methodology.
Stephen Jones and Will McClay have done awesome work in their increased handling of the Cowboys' football operations. But rest assured, they also have ego. McClay helped scout Zeke and all of these offensive linemen. Stephen had a huge part in negotiating their big contracts. Their reputations are also tied to the team's success.
I'm not saying that the Joneses or anyone else has handed down an edict on when and how Ezekiel Elliott should be used. I certainly don't think Jerry was in Kellen Moore's ear on Sunday night.
But decision making has many layers, some active and some passive. Even subconsciously, our choices in the heat of the moment are driven by many factors.
Kellen may have been trying to play chess against checkers, calling the run in the face of all logic in the hopes that it would catch Minnesota off guard. But maybe also in that decision was the thought that Zeke is the team's most proven offensive weapon, the reigning NFL rushing champion, and that Moore didn't want to be the guy who didn't give Elliott a chance to do his thing.
I may be grasping at straws here, but I'm just trying to find the logic behind what went down on Sunday night. Because even the more casual football fan could see that Dallas had decision-making disasters throughout that game.
Whatever caused the lapse in judgment, hopefully all involved learned their lesson.
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