Yesterday, ESPN released the picks from their "experts" for the NFL's various annual awards. As you would expect, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott got plenty of love but there were also a few surprises. One of those has me especially peevish; Jason Garrett didn't get nearly enough respect in the Coach of the Year #Cowbpoll.
The only awards where no Cowboys were mentioned were Defensive Player of the Year and the Comeback Player of the Year. I was a bit surprised that Sean Lee didn't get a single vote for DPOY but it was a stacked group this year. Morris Claiborne might have qualified for the Comeback award if he hadn't been injured again, but no other Cowboys would've made sense.
Here are the categories where at least one Cowboy received a vote:
Offensive Player of the Year
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan received the logical first-place finish for this award, He was second to Drew Brees with 4,944 passing yards and second to Aaron Rodgers with 38 touchdowns. What really put Ryan over the top was his 117.1 passer rating, the fifth best in NFL history.
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott finished in second place. He received one first-place vote, five second-place, and one third-place from the 13 ESPN panelists. That means five of the voters didn't pick Elliott at all.
Ezekiel Elliott's rookie season was 178 yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's record for first-year running backs. This is especially impressive given that Elliott sat out the Cowboys' last game to rest for the playoffs. In spite of this, he still led the NFL in rushing by over 300 yards.
Unlike the quarterback-dominated MVP race, running backs tend to do well with the OPOY award. DeMarco Murray won it in 2014 after his monster season with the Cowboys. Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson have also won in recent years.
The OPOY Award tends to be more about statistical production than the MVP Award. That's why Ezekiel Elliott did so well and also why Dak Prescott didn't get a single vote. Dak was not in the Top 10 in yards or touchdowns this year.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
The young Cowboys dominated here, as you might have predicted. Ezekiel Elliott ate up 12 of the 13 possible first-place votes. The one he didn't get went to Dak Prescott. They also split all of the second-place votes; 12 going to Dak and one to Zeke.
The next-closest offensive rookie was Jack Conklin, a tackle from the Tennessee Titans. Saints WR Michael Thomas was close behind him. However, there really was no competition to the Dallas duo.
After starting the year well but falling off later, the Eagles' Carson Wentz received just a single third-place vote. You'll always have September, Philly fans.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Nobody was taking this one from the Charges' Joey Bosa, who had 10.5 sacks in just 12 games and won in a landslide. In second place was Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who many Cowboys fans wanted over Ezekiel Elliott during the NFL Draft.
I assume there was at least one Dallas-area writer on ESPN's panel, because Maliek Collins managed to get one third-place vote. You could argue that it should have been more.
Collins' five sacks this year was equal to star players like Ndamukong Suh and Timmy Jernigan. The most by a defensive tackle was nine sacks from Geno Atkins. Only a few other franchise tackles like Kawann Short and Aaron Donald had more sacks than Maliek.
Coach of the Year
Aye, here's the rub! Jason Garrett came in second place to Bill Belichick. Garrett received three first-place votes, five second-place, and two third-place votes. Belichick dominated with nine first-place votes.
A few things irk me here:
- Garrett received 10 total votes, meaning three panelists didn't vote for him at all. That's a slap in the face for the coach with the best record in the NFC, especially since he'd have likely tied Belichick's 14-2 record if he'd played starters in Week 17.
- Garrett's success came with a rookie quarterback. That's not impressive enough for you? How about a rookie QB who had no expectation of starting until the last week of the preseason? Still not enough? Really?
- Belichick is getting his ass kissed for going 3-1 without Tom Brady. Jimmy Garoppolo is a former second-round pick who's in his third year in the Patriots system. It would be embarrassing if they didn't win with him.
- That one September loss for New England was a 16-0 shutout at home to the Buffalo Bills, who went 7-9 this year. Every team can have a bad day, but that's a pretty glaring blemish for a guy with supposed genius. I don't care who the quarterback was.
- Have I mentioned that whole Tony Romo controversy that Jason Garrett had to deal with?
I'm sorry, but you can't tell me that Bill Belichick was more impressive this season. Garrett faced greater challenges and was equally successful. His team had more internal issues to confront and a far tougher division to get out of. Whatever criteria these panelists went by to pick Belichick, Garrett matched or bettered him in every way.
Thankfully, ESPN's occasional bozos don't decide the award. I hope the Associated Press will have more sense.
Can Jaylon Smith Challenge Vander Esch For Starting MIKE Role?
When the Dallas Cowboys selected Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with their first round pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the whole world basically assumed he would be the starting MIKE linebacker week one of the upcoming season.
After all, the Cowboys lost Anthony Hitchens to free agency and none of the injury replacements had much success during the 2017 season.
Now just a couple of months shy of that week one match up with the Carolina Panthers, a battle for that middle linebacker spot appears to be occurring.
Former 2016 second round pick Jaylon Smith has seemed to find his health, and his movement skills and agility look like they did back when he was at Notre Dame. Whether or not these offseason hype videos will actually mean anything on the field remains to be seen, but just the fact that Smith is working out and playing without the knee brace is obviously a good sign.
Unlike Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith did play for the Dallas Cowboys a year ago. Sure Smith had his share of growing pains, but he seemed to find his groove late in the season. It probably isn't a coincidence, though, that Smith's best games came when coming off the bench in a limited role and when playing beside veteran Sean Lee.
During the offseason activity thus far Jaylon Smith has gotten the majority of snaps at middle linebacker, but Vander Esch has also been sidelined with an injured ankle. Leighton Vander Esch clearly fits the mold of a MIKE both physically and athletically, but at his best Jaylon Smith does as well.
Despite the resurgence of Jaylon Smith and the injury to Leighton Vander Esch, I still do expect Vander Esch to snag that MIKE role moving forward. While showing glimpses of productive play, Smith did not impress enough to earn him the unquestioned starting job last season, and may best fit as a SAM backer and situational pass rusher/blitzer in the current scheme.
Allowing Jaylon Smith to conserve his energy and provide a boost off the bench is the best way for the Cowboys to structure their defense. Of course, this is only true as long as Vander Esch becomes the player they expect him to be, though.
If Jaylon Smith does return to the player he was at Notre Dame prior to his horrific injury, the Cowboys will possess three incredibly rangy, athletic, and talented linebackers on their roster.
Of course, that if is a very big if at this point, however.
Will Cowboys’ Performance VS NFC South Define 2018 Season?
When thinking about how the Cowboys' 2017 season came to an end the day before Christmas after a disappointing loss to the Seattle Seahawks, we often forget the team needed some extra help in order to get to the playoffs. The NFC was a tough conference to play in last year... but it will only be tougher in 2018.
The NFC is way stronger than the AFC right now, at least in terms of depth.
The Cowboys will be sharing a division with the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that only got stronger this offseason and will try to make a run for the NFC East title once again.
As good and promising as the Cowboys' roster is, it's only fair to admit that trying to get to the postseason this year might implicate running for a wildcard spot. Many teams will be fighting for a playoff berth late in the year but fortunately for Dallas, they will be able to control their destiny against a handful of this teams.
The Cowboys will play against the entire NFC South this season. Except for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, every team in the South division was fighting for a chance at January football heading into week 17.
The Saints, Falcons and Panthers all finished the season with double-digit wins last year, and there's little reason to believe they won't come back as strong as they were in 2017.
If the Cowboys are not able to beat the Eagles in the NFC East race, we'll be hearing about a lot of different playoff scenarios that will be needed in order to play in the postseason. Certainly, having the head-to-head advantage against the NFC South teams would go a long way, even if the team will play the Saints, Falcons and Panthers before December comes around.
If the Cowboys do manage to get back to their 2016-selves, no team in the league should be an "impossible" challenge for a powerful running-game based offense and a defense that can rush the passer consistently.
Of course, the NFC South is not the only challenging division in the conference. The NFC West will feature another three football teams that will be winning tons of games. The Rams, 49ers and Seahawks are all very likely to have winning records and be in the hunt once December comes around.
In a season that promises to be a "comeback" year for America's Team, the NFC promises to be a threatening conference from every direction. If the Cowboys will be able to overcome or not remains unknown and will stay that way until the season actually starts.
Cowboys en Español: 3 Escenarios Para el Futuro de David Irving
En la NFL, la falta de noticias en Junio generalmente significa buenas noticias. Los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys saben esto mejor que nadie y en caso de que lo hayan olvidado, David Irving se aseguró de recordarle a Cowboys Nation el porque de esta frase.
La semana pasada, se anunció que David Irving recibirá una suspensión de cuatro partidos por haber violado la política de abuso de substancias de la liga. Es la segunda suspensión que Irving recibe en años consecutivos y lógicamente, esto es preocupante para el equipo de los Dallas Cowboys.
Las últimas dos temporadas hemos visto a Irving convertirse en una pieza de suma importancia para la defensiva. El año pasado, Irving consiguió siete sacks (capturas) en sólo ocho juegos y se convirtió en un caza cabezas muy efectivo.
Demostrando ser uno de los jugadores más talentosos de su posición en la NFL, es difícil imaginar el futuro del #95 en la liga. Tras recibir un tender de segunda ronda hace unos meses (explico que es eso aquí), el futuro de Irving es muy incierto. Por eso, esta semana en Cowboys en Español, exploraremos tres escenarios posibles para el defensivo de 24 años.
#1 David Irving se va de Dallas prematuramente
Hace unos días, me dediqué a defender mi posición de que los Cowboys estarían cometiendo un error al cortar a David Irving. A pesar de que realmente despedirse de un defensivo como Irving parece muy poco probable, es un escenario que debemos discutir.
Irving ha sido un dolor de cabeza para el equipo en más de una ocasión. Dos suspensiones en años consecutivos no es una buena imagen para un jugador que busca un contrato jugoso al terminar el año.
Si Jason Garrett y la administración quieren "dar un mensaje" cortando a David Irving, ¿qué tanto serviría? Esta idea de enviar un mensaje, a la hora de pensarlo fríamente, parece una idea romántica de parte de nosotros los fans. Al final de cuentas, estamos hablando de un locker room lleno de jugadores adultos y profesionales, no de un grupo de niños.
Además, bien sabemos todos que Irving no es el único Cowboy que ha tenido problemas. ¿Será el hecho de que ha ocurrido dos años seguidos razón suficiente para dejarlo ir? Personalmente, no lo creo. Los Cowboys dejarían ir a un jugador muy bueno en una posición de necesidad.
Datone Jones, Jihad Ward y Maliek Collins podrán ser suficiente. Pero David Irving es especial en el campo. Mejor tenerlo por 12 juegos a tenerlo cero.
#2 Irving se queda para el 2018, pero no más allá
David Irving recibió un contrato de un año que le pagaba (antes de ser suspendido) 2.91 millones de dólares. Si hubiera demostrado que no era problemático y que podía mantenerse al 100% toda la temporada, probablemente hubiera recibido un gran contrato de los Cowboys o de otro equipo en la NFL.
Sin embargo, el dicho lo dice todo. "En la NFL, la disponibilidad es la mejor habilidad." Irving no se ha terminado de ganar la confianza necesaria para una gran extensión.
En este punto, Dallas puede esperar a que su tackle defensivo regrese de su suspensión, juegue doce juegos con ellos y les consiga un sack por juego por menos de tres millones de dólares. Después de eso, el equipo pude darse el lujo de dejarlo ir sin una extensión y verlo convertirse en un agente libre.
#3 Irving se queda por más de un año
En este caso, hay dos "sub-escenarios." Suponiendo que, efectivamente, Irving regresa y juega como sabemos que puede hacerlo, no será tan fácil dejarlo ir. Si llega a sorprender y demuestra que realmente es quien creemos que es y consigue diez capturas en sólo doce juegos, ¿realmente no le dará el equipo una oportunidad?
La primera opción sería asignarle la etiqueta franquicia y obligarlo a jugar un año más para un equipo que busca desesperadamente un Super Bowl.
Si se sienten cómodos dándole el salario de una etiqueta franquicia para evitar perderlo, ¿podríamos culparlos después de que les dio por ejemplo, diez capturas? Yo, personalmente, no podría hacerlo.
La otra opción, y una que podría ser la más realista, es más simple. La inmadurez y los problemas de Irving le costarán la confianza y el interés de otros equipos y es posible que en un punto, Dallas sea el único equipo que le pueda brindar seguridad de trabajo.
De esta manera, Dallas podría ofrecerle una extensión de dos, tres o más años a un precio mucho más barato que el de cualquier DT que consiga dos dígitos de sacks.
David Irving sin duda tiene un futuro incierto delante de él. Realmente sería una sorpresa verlo fuera de Dallas en el 2018, pero más allá, quien sabe lo que pueda pasar. Por ahora, esperemos que una vez que vuelva de la suspensión, esté en forma para ir detrás de los quarterbacks oponentes.
Con un poco de suerte, quizá nos olvidaremos de esto en Noviembre.
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