The Dallas Cowboys enter the playoffs winners of two straight, and are healthy at the right time with all the pieces needed to make a run as winners of the NFC East. All that stands in their way of a second trip to the Divisional Round in three years is a familiar opponent in the Seattle Seahawks. This era of recent Cowboys history can't be written without mention of Seattle, where Dak Prescott took over for Tony Romo in the preseason of 2016 and never looked back. For as much motivation as the Cowboys should have for Saturday night at AT&T Stadium, there's an added sense of urgency for Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard.
Richard has already been asked to interview for head coach openings with the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For as much as Richard's passion for coaching with the Cowboys is evident, so too is the indisputable truth that out of eight current openings for HC positions in the NFL, Richard is already a candidate for three of them.
Though he won't entertain these requests until after his current team's playoff game against his former team, the Cowboys are potentially facing losing Richard after just one season.
Ranked 13th in passing yards allowed per game and fifth in rushing yards, Richard's impact has been felt throughout the Cowboys turnaround - lead by a defense that's consistently done it's job all season while waiting for the offense to find its footing.
Dallas did just that in a big way last Sunday, ending the regular season with a 36-35 win at the Giants. If consistency in the passing game was the last thing the Cowboys needed to see before the playoffs, Prescott's four touchdowns (including a fourth down game winner to Cole Beasley) should be enough.
Paired with a defense that has plenty to learn from their previous loss to the Seahawks, the Cowboys are hardly the same team now.
The Cowboys week three loss at the Seahawks was an anomaly for Richard's defense. The Seahawks familiarity with Dallas' new system spurred a Tyler Lockett 52-yard touchdown against the Cowboys Tampa 2 coverage to put the home team up 14-3 in the first half.
After the game, the Seahawks openly said they stole signals from the Cowboys defense to exploit coverage, coming out victorious 24-13. It's worth noting this was one of four games this season where Cowboys Linebacker Sean Lee played at least 50% of the defensive snaps. Dallas is 1-3 in these games, and 2-5 on the season when Lee plays at all.
The 24 points allowed by the Cowboys in this loss came with the offense turning the ball over three times. With the Seahawks averaging 30.4 points a game over their last five, Quarterback Russell Wilson is leading one of the most dangerous offenses in the league, one the Cowboys will need better ball control on offense in addition to adjustments by Richard to contain.
A strong showing by Richard's defense throughout this postseason is the best way for him to remain relevant as a head coach candidate. Starting off against the Seahawks is no easy task, the challenge of which is put into context when considering what they've accomplished in their first season without Richard.
Quietly, Saturday's match up between the Cowboys and Seahawks features two of the best coaching jobs of 2018 lined up across each other. Jason Garrett leads the NFC in wins since 2016, and behind Sean Payton, Seahawks HC Pete Carroll follows closely.
If Garrett won't get the respect he deserves, perhaps it will be left to the next NFL head coach on his staff, with Richard etching another chapter in Seattle vs. Dallas in his first playoff appearance with the Cowboys.
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!
Breaking: Scott Linehan and Dallas Cowboys Part Ways
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is reporting that the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan have mutually agreed to part ways following a tumultuous season that saw the Dallas Cowboys offense finish outside the top 12 three out of his four seasons in Dallas.
Sources: The #Cowboys are firing OC Scott Linehan. Taking their offense in a new direction. An announcement is coming.
Scott Linehan was brought in prior to the 2015 season and saw his offenses finish 31st, fifth, 14th, and 22nd in his four years as the Cowboys play caller. The 2015 season can be excused as the Cowboys rolled out Kellen Moore, Matt Cassell, and Brandon Weeden for 13 starts after Tony Romo was injured twice during the season, but the team 2-11 in those 13 starts and the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs despite a strong performance on the defensive side of the football.
The Cowboys saw an offense that finished fifth in the NFL in points in 2016 decline each of the last two offseasons and Linehan has been continually criticized by analysts, fans, and players as well.
Many believe that the reason that Dez Bryant and Brice Butler weren't brought back in the offseason was because of the public criticism of the offense and the play caller instilling the offense and that criticism has carried over to this season when Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper acknowledged that the Philadelphia Eagles were sitting on the slant routes that they had run all game. Dak mentioned that he changed Amari's route to a go route, which led to a 75 yard touchdown that helped open up the offense.
Cole Beasley has been frustrated with his role for much of the season and deservedly so. He was often non-existent in the offensive game plan until the final five minutes of football games.
In the running game, the offense had become too predictable and reliant upon jumbo formations that led to Ezekiel Elliott having to run against eight in the box anywhere from 25-30% of the time. For perspective, Todd Gurley only ran against eight-man fronts around eight percent of the time. Scott Linehan never looked to attempt to take players out of the box, instead insisting on motioning more players into the box for the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott to run against. It's amazing when you think about it, that Ezekiel Elliott was able to win the rushing title when facing loaded fronts as often as he did.
This was a move that needed to happen and the Dallas Cowboys didn't need to waste anymore time to make it happen. The offense had become stale and frustrating for the players as well as the fans. While Jason Garrett started the offseason saying he "didn't expect any changes," this was a move that absolutely had to happen for the offense to take a step forward. Below, you can read Jason Garrett's announcement on the move.
Cowboys have fired Scott Linehan
Even after the move for Amari Cooper, the offense looked better, but it still struggled at times to move the football.
The Cowboys have a young team with especially young players on the offensive side of the football. They have a quarterback who can throw from the pocket, but has excellent movement skills and capabilities of throwing the ball on the run. He's an excellent runner on designed runs. Despite us knowing all that, Scott Linehan looked reluctant to use him on designed quarterback runs that weren't read options or speed options. What you saw on designed runs in the Seattle game is what this team should be doing five times a game.
Now the question becomes, who should the Cowboys next offensive coordinator be? Our own, Staff Writer Brian Martin, laid out 5 Options to be the Next Offensive Coordinator earlier this week. I suggest you give it a read.
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.
Star Blog1 week ago
Should Tavon Austin’s Role Get Expanded Against His Former Team?
Dallas Cowboys2 days ago
5 Potential Candidates Cowboys Could Target to Replace OC Scott Linehan
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Texas Forever? Kris Richard Appears Closer to Staying with Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys3 days ago
Cowboys Getting Over $30 Million Cap Space from Expiring Dead Money
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
What’s Next for Cowboys Coaching Staff After Divisional Round Loss?
Player News2 weeks ago
Allen Hurns Injury: Status, 2019 Prospects, Teammate Reactions
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
It’s Time To Stop Doubting the Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys2 days ago
Top 5 Offseason Priorities for the Dallas Cowboys