It's rare for a third round pick to come into the league with as much fan-fare as Michael Gallup did in 2018.
A fan favorite before ever putting on the Cowboys uniform, Michael Gallup was expected to be a third round steal by much of Cowboys Nation. And though the start to his rookie season was slow, Gallup finished 2018 strong, catching a touchdown in their Wild Card win and going for over 100 yards receiving in the Divisional Round.
Now entering year two, Michael Gallup is being anointed as the next breakout star for this Cowboys offense. Their future number two across from Amari Cooper, and a trusted target for the young quarterback Dak Prescott.
But is he headed for this breakout year, or will he fall victim to the often discussed "Sophomore slump?"
The Case for a Slump
Let's start with the negative. Or, the potential for negative.
With Amari Cooper in the fold the Cowboys have their true "wide receiver 1," playing on the outside and eating up the passing game targets. The real issue isn't that Cooper will be getting justified targets, though, it's that there won't be many passing targets to go around at all.
Since drafting Ezekiel Elliott, or really since the 2014 season and the emergence of Demarco Murray, the Cowboys' offense has been predicated on running the football. While they take chances and pass when they deem it necessary, running the football to control the clock and inflict "body blows" has been their main priority.
Maybe this doesn't change in the slightest bit in 2019. Elliott leads the league in touches by a mile, while newcomers like Tony Pollard and Randall Cobb eat up any of the non-Cooper/Elliott targets each Sunday. This leaves Gallup to be nothing more than a shot-player on the outside who may catch the occasional pass on a vert or a slant.
The Case for a Breakout Year
It's more fun to envision this scenario, isn't it?
With Kellen Moore as the new offensive coordinator, the Cowboys philosophy on offense shifts a bit. No longer will they run Elliott into the ground and play for third and manageable. Instead, they will value passing on early downs, and get Michael Gallup his deserved opportunities.
With Amari Cooper drawing increased attention from opposing secondaries, and teams needing to account for Elliott and the running game as well, Gallup is left one-on-one with number two cornerbacks every week.
And, he feasts.
Gallup and Prescott continue to develop a rapport, as he uses his precise route running and reliable hands to gain that trust in year two.
So, what's more realistic?
While both are certainly extremes in their own right, Michael Gallup is more likely headed for that breakout year rather than the slump. He began to look more comfortable in the offense as his rookie season went on, and was playing more like the Michael Gallup we saw in college by the time the postseason came along.
If all goes according to plan, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup will be a fearsome 1/2 receiving combination for the Cowboys for the foreseeable future.
Can TE Blake Jarwin Poach Snaps From Jason Witten?
Don't look now, but Tight End Blake Jarwin may be ready to climb out of obscurity and announce to the world his ready for a much larger offensive role with the Dallas Cowboys. With Jason Witten back in the mix though, that could be easier said than done.
Jason Witten is expected to become the Dallas Cowboys starting TE once again, even after sitting out the entire 2018 season due to his short retirement from the NFL. With Witten back as the lead dog, Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz will have to fight over the scraps left over. There's no way of really knowing how much meat will be left on the bone, especially since the Cowboys are expected to put No. 82 on a snap count this season.
Being put on a snap count is something Witten is unaccustomed to, but it does create opportunities for the Cowboys other young TEs to emerge and show what they can do. That's actually really good news for Blake Jarwin, who finished the 2018 regular-season on a strong note.
You may have forgotten, but Jarwin had himself a pretty impressive game in the Week 17 against the New York Giants to close out the 2018 regular-season. He caught seven passes for 119 yards and three touchdowns in that contest, which in my opinion showcased the kind of weapon he can be if utilized more often in in the passing game.
It takes more than one impressive game to earn more playing time though. We all want to believe Blake Jarwin is ready for an increased offensive role, but Jason Witten isn't going to sit idly by as an observer from the sideline. He's a competitor and will want to be on the field as much as possible, despite any kind of snap count the coaching staff tries to limit him to.
Jarwin is really going to have to become a much more consistent player if he wants to poach some offensive snaps away from the future Hall of Famer. I believe the talent and athleticism is there for him to become a key weapon in the Cowboys passing game, but you know what they say… "Seeing is believing".
Luckily, Blake Jarwin still has all of training camp and preseason to push Jason Witten for more playing time in 2019. It shouldn't be all that difficult for a 24-year-old in his prime to put the pressure on someone nearly 20 years his senior. But, we all know Witten is a crafty veteran who knows the all the tricks of the trade to still perform at a high level. Will it be enough though?
That is the question that will be determined here in about a month when training gets underway for the Dallas Cowboys. I may be wrong, but I have high hopes for Blake Jarwin this season and I think he can actually poach some snaps away from Jason Witten. After all, this is a young man's game.
Do you think Blake Jarwin can poach some snaps away from Jason Witten?
Is Kavon Frazier Fighting a Losing Battle With the Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas Cowboys Safety Kavon Frazier has one year remaining on his rookie contract, but may not see the end of it with the same team who drafted him. In fact, it really looks as if he is already fighting a losing battle in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys signed Free Agent George Iloka and drafted Donavan Wilson out of Texas A&M in the sixth-round of the 2019 NFL Draft in the hopes of upgrading the safety position. That doesn't bode well for Kavon Frazier, especially after seeing his defensive snaps take hit in 2018.
After the arrival of Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard, Frazier saw his playing time on defense go from 21.24% in 2017 to 18.07% in 2018. It's not a huge difference, but it's pretty obvious the Cowboys value his special-teams ability, not his defensive play.
The way I see things, Kavon Frazier is a longshot to make the Cowboys final 53-man roster this year. At best, I have him fifth or sixth on the depth chart right now. Since Dallas typically only carries four safeties on the roster, it's looking as if Frazier could inevitably be the odd man out.
I personally have Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, and George Iloka ahead of Kavon Frazier right now on the depth chart. That means he's competing with Darian Thompson, who is also playing on a one-year deal, and rookie Donovan Wilson for that fourth and final roster spot at the safety position. Unfortunately for Frazier, it looks as if the odds are against him.
Donovan Wilson has already had to step into Frazier's shoes while he was out in OTA's after having his knee scoped, and has been pretty impressive doing so. He has supposedly picked up the defensive scheme pretty quickly and is becoming a vocal leader on the backend. Being a younger, cheaper option, Wilson has a better chance of sticking around on the final 53-man roster over Frazier.
As you can see, Kavon Frazier is fighting an uphill battle with the Dallas Cowboys. It of course is nothing new for him. He's had to fight his way onto the roster ever since he joined the Cowboys, but this year just seems a little different in my opinion. It just looks as if the odds are more against him this time around.
I have no doubts Frazier will continue to fight with every ounce of his being, but if I'm being completely honest I think he's fighting a losing battle. It's going to be really interesting to see how this roster battle at the safety position plays out in training camp and preseason.
Do you think Kavon Frazier is fighting a losing battle with the Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas Cowboys: The Case For Regression In 2019
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.
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.
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