It’s been a couple of months since the Cowboys released Dez Bryant and the fact that he is still roaming around unsigned in Free Agency isn’t what we are here to talk about today—though I think Dez would fit in nicely in Green Bay. What we are here to talk about is what this 2018 offense looks like without him.
It’s true that Dez Bryant unjustly took the brunt of the blame when things went south with Ezekiel Elliott out. Dak Prescott had more than a few issues when his cornerstone, his rock, Zeke Elliott was on the sidelines.
He hit the dreaded sophomore slump. But is that behind him?
Going into year three with more experience under his belt, will he be able to lead the team in any given situation?
Although this remains to be seen, I believe the short answer is yes.
Last season was a fantastic learning experience, and even though the receiving corps lacks a wideout that you could call a #1 Guy at this point, the unit seems to suit Dak’s style of play. There are more 'inside' receivers now, which is, despite Dak’s solid arm strength, how he plays; inside to outside.
The organization drafted Stanford’s star Tight End, Dalton Schultz to try to make up for the fact that Jason Witten was on his way out. But if there is one thing in the offense right now that we can call a 'hole,' it's the gap Jason Witten leaves behind.
I’m sure he will develop nicely, but Schultz won’t be a crafty, mismatch creator like Witten right out of the gate.
But as we said before, the corps of receivers are solid.
Cole Beasley has 250 career receptions, Terrance Williams has 230, newcomers Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns have 194 and 189 respectively, Deonte Thompson now has 77 under his belt, and the Cowboys drafted Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, picked up KD Cannon, and they get a young Noah Brown back this season.
Tavon Austin adds another facet to the offense. He is explosive and works well as a specialist running back out of the slot. Reverses and Jet Sweeps are sure to keep the linebackers guessing when he is out on the field.
Allen Hurns is a veteran who brings a team-first attitude and toughness to the team. His selfless play was seen with the Jaguars when he crawled to the sidelines to avoid the 10-second runoff after suffering a severe high ankle sprain.
The Cowboys have doubled down on creating one of the best offensive lines in the league. They drafted Connor Williams with the 50th pick, and it looks like he will be starting at left guard. And Zack Martin just became the all-time highest paid offensive lineman in league history. He just signed a contract extension to the tune of $84 million with $40-million guaranteed that secures him through the 2024 season.
The offensive line is still improving, which is great news for the 2018 season. With Zeke in the backfield and these new receivers, we should see a little bit better of a balance in the passing attack even without the presence of Witten. Opposing defenses will be kept honest, both near and far.
So what are the Cowboys’ chances? According to Las Vegas, the Eagles are still the odds-on favorites to win the NFC East at -175, with the Cowboys as the second most likely with odds of +320. If you don’t understand these odds, you can learn to bet on sports and the basics of odds in a matter of minutes.
Losing Jason Witten hurts, but I feel like Dez Bryant is a non-factor with the way the offense is shaping up. And though life without them will be different, we have a strong team coming into this campaign.
Dak Prescott Impresses, Draws Compliments All Minicamp Long
Dak Prescott stood before the media Thursday in a Stetson Cowboy hat, answering questions about his upcoming contract extension.
“I’ve got my cowboy hat on, so I’m a Cowboy, we’ll say that.”
Prescott has cemented himself as the franchise quarterback of America's Team, and now it's time for the franchise to pay him like it. Set to earn roughly $34 million per year (according to recent rumors/reports), Prescott is going to be a very rich and comfortable man in the near future.
But, for now, he still plays under his fourth round rookie contract. You wouldn't be able to tell by watching him on the field, however. Though it was just minicamp, Prescott was impressive as ever over the last couple weeks of practice, earning praise from all levels within the organization.
Veteran Jason Witten complimented both Prescott's anticipation and accuracy, saying his throws have been "off the charts" at minicamp. Prescott himself said that this is the best he's felt since he's entered the league, and it certainly makes sense for this to be the case.
"Is it three years under my belt or just seeing defenses a whole lot more clear, being quicker and faster in everything I want to do, having great teammates around me? Who really knows the answer, but I feel great. I feel confident, and my teammates do, as well.” - Prescott to DallasCowboys.com
If Prescott was ever going to be comfortable, hungry, and ready to go, this is likely the time that it would happen. He has three relatively successful seasons under his belt, and ended 2018 on the best stretch of his career. He is the unquestioned starting quarterback for this team, and has the backing of every key decision maker in the building.
Prescott now has an offensive coordinator who he has not only worked closely with (in some capacity) since he entered the league in 2016, but is also being lauded for his creativity as an offensive mastermind. His quarterbacks coach, Jon Kitna, has been receiving similar praise for how he can coach up Prescott and get his footwork consistent, to help him "throw it through a Fruit Loop."
The time is now for Dak Prescott, and it's encouraging to see how he is responding to this increased pressure and responsibility. Then again we should have no doubt that he will respond positively, as he as throughout his entire young career.
Whenever faced with adversity, Prescott has answered the bell. Now he has all the supporters he needs, and just needs to prove them right.
Does RB Ezekiel Elliott Have A Chance At NFL MVP?
Who is the Cowboys best player?
As a running back, it's quite possible that Elliott is both the best of that bunch and the least important to the team's overall success. NFL.com's Adam Schein disagrees with the latter statement, however, placing Ezekiel Elliott among his top ten contenders for 2019 NFL MVP.
"I think the Cowboys are going to challenge for the Super Bowl in 2019 -- and I think Zeke fuels this team. When Elliott runs for 95-plus yards, the Cowboys are 19-4; when he falls below that benchmark, they're 9-8." - Adam Schein
Schein's prediction will no doubt make Cowboys Nation swoon, but does Elliott really have the opportunity to compete for an MVP award?
For one, this would require the Cowboys be among the best teams in the league this season. It's quite possible, as they did win 10 regular season and 1 playoff game a year ago, but it will have to happen once again for Elliott to be considered.
Next, Ezekiel Elliott would have to put up incredible numbers. Well, it's safe to assume this will likely be the case if condition one is met. Elliott is going to get a lot of opportunities to touch the ball each game, and finding himself among the league's rushing leaders has never been an issue for the young running back. Especially if the team has a lead and is running the ball to kill clock.
Even if both these conditions prove true, though, Elliott will still have trouble getting himself in the real MVP discussion. These awards tend to go to certain positions, and running back is not among that list. If Dallas has such a successful 2019, and their offense is clicking, it's more likely Dak Prescott will be the one contending for that MVP honor.
I know to some it sounds crazy, but Prescott will likely need to be closer to MVP level than Elliott if the Cowboys are to contend in the way Adam Schein suggests in his article.
So, likely, Schein should have named Prescott among his top ten MVP contenders, not Elliott.
Amari Cooper Says He’s Focused On Football, Not His Next Contract
It seems like all anyone has talked about this offseason is who the Cowboys should re-sign, and how they can go about doing so.
Wide receiver Amari Cooper, of course, is heavily involved in those conversations. The Cowboys used their 2019 first round pick to trade for the Pro Bowl wide out last season, and Cooper's emergence helped to turn their struggling offense around immediately.
In just 9 games with the Cowboys last season, he caught 53 passes for 725 yards and 6 touchdowns. He quickly gained the trust of quarterback Dak Prescott, and exhibited a chemistry with the young passer that no one else really has to this point. Outside of maybe Cole Beasley in 2016, perhaps.
While the football world seems to be focusing on what Amari Cooper's contract will look like after 2019, the receiver himself claims to be solely focused on the upcoming season. Cooper spoke with ESPN's Todd Archer about this very subject, emphasizing where his mind lies at this time.
"I just handle my business...I'm more anxious about camp and actually playing football." - Amari Cooper.
Amari Cooper has just one year left on his contract as he plays under the fifth year option from his rookie deal. Cooper will make $13.9 million this season, putting him behind some of the league's other WR1s like Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, and DeAndre Hopkins.
There had been speculation around whether any of the Cowboys left with just one year on their contract would hold-out through parts of offseason activity, but Cooper alluded that it never seemed to cross his mind.
"I just want to get better and I love football. That's why I'm here" - Cooper.
Of course, Amari Cooper will play a huge role in the Cowboys offense in 2019. Combining him with a second year version of Michael Gallup, and new versatile threats like Tony Pollard and Randall Cobb, will help make the Dallas passing game as multiple as it's been in years.
The Cowboys will eventually need to get Amari Cooper locked up long term, but for the time being it seems like both he and the franchise are more focused on what will happen on the field in 2019 than in the negotiating room next Spring.
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