This won't be easy for either of us. The NFL offseason is already a dark place, as our lives are void of Dallas Cowboys football, but the reality of this roster-building portion of the year is that few teams will set themselves up for any long-term success that they may have worked towards in 2016 - the rookie-led, 13 win Cowboys being no exception. I've always considered myself an optimistic personality in Cowboys Nation, and I even planned out my most optimistic 2017 Cowboys offseason as a Valentine's Day gift yesterday.
The goal in that breakdown was not to be wholeheartedly realistic, and that same goal will apply here. This is the last shred of optimism from here on out though, its time to get dark.
Cowboys 2017 NFL Free Agency Approach
Once again facing a tight cap situation paired with a rather daunting list of key free agents, it shouldn't be all that hard to get pessimistic about the departures we could see from the Cowboys in free agency.
In my optimistic approach, I listed the players the Cowboys ideally re-sign, but here are the ones they'll be unhappy to lose.
Cowboys Free Agents Signed Elsewhere
- CB Brandon Carr
- CB Morris Claiborne
- S Barry Church
- S J.J. Wilcox
- WR Terrance Williams
- WR Brice Butler
- DT Terrell McClain
- QB Kellen Moore
- QB Mark Sanchez
Morris Claiborne and Brice Butler were already not re-signed by the Dallas Cowboys in the perfect world that was yesterday, but losing two starters apiece at both cornerback at wide receiver would be disastrous.
Before we even get to drafting potential replacements and developing the players already locked in for 2017, a Cowboys team with desperate needs on the defensive line - that can't possibly be entirely fixed in one offseason - would look drastically different in the secondary, which was the best part of the defense last season.
To make matters worse, the defensive line also loses a high-quality starter in 1T DT Terrell McClain. Pessimism sucks.
On the offensive side of the ball, at least Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley give the Cowboys some stability at WR, but losing Williams and Butler would certainly force this team to address the position pretty early in the 2017 NFL Draft.
This is not a draft strategy that lends itself to bringing in the best talent, and with many fans in agreement that draft capital already needs to be spent on defense no matter what free agents are signed, opening up a glaring need at WR is less than ideal.
Kellen Moore and Mark Sanchez would also exit Wade Wilson's quarterback room, taking with them some of the stability that Dak Prescott thrived on as a rookie.
Backup quarterback issues in Dallas again?? Bleh.
Dallas Cowboys 2017 NFL Draft
Draft night has arrived, and it is time for the Dallas Cowboys to shine from The Star. Will McClay and his brain trust will be tasked with the mission of turning this dreadful offseason around - but with their 2016 draft class is there really any way to mess this up?
Sure there is!
As a draft scout myself, I'm not in the business of naming specific prospects that I think are destined for complete failure at the next level. We do already know however that the Cowboys are entering this hypothetical with a glaring need at WR, so let's go ahead and ignore the Terrell McClain-less defensive line in the first round.
Selecting with the 28th overall pick, our nightmare scenario will pull Clemson WR Mike Williams, Western Michigan WR Corey Davis, and Washington WR John Ross all off the board at this position of need. For good measure, we can rule out bypassing the lackluster receivers remaining for a pass rusher by taking Carl Lawson, Charles Harris, and Takk McKinley out of the equation.
Also realizing their massive need at cornerback, the Cowboys then pull the trigger on their guy with a defensive back like Fabian Moreau out of UCLA. With CB being the deepest position in this draft, Dallas would be best not to reach for one in the first round, and while Moreau is a nice player the Cowboys could do better in the first round.
With an eye for offensive talent, we'll say that the Cowboys scouts land a promising but unproven collegiate WR in this 2017 Draft, but miss out entirely on a big name pass rusher when the likes of Derek Rivers all get their names called before the back end of the 2nd round.
Facing the pressure of replicating their 2016 draft success, the Cowboys fall flat on their face, and draft analysts everywhere are straining to find the impact that these rookies will make for 2017.
Cowboys Player Development
"Ok, the Cowboys still have enough pieces in place to go contend this season, with a few players that will take major steps forward." - You right now, probably.
My Twitter handle is at the bottom of this article, and you can feel free to "@ me", because we're about to throw America's Team off the rails. In my optimistic player development plan, two defensive linemen took big strides in Maliek Collins and David Irving, while the secondary saw Anthony Brown continue to improve as a starter.
Without just reversing that player development with the same names, here is the pessimistic angle on two developing players that will be absolutely critical to the 2017 Cowboys season.
QB Dak Prescott
*Wipes tears off of keyboard*
The one position the Cowboys need to be set at over the coming seasons is quarterback, as they feel they are in the perfect situation with Dak Prescott. The fourth-round pick from 2016 is going to put Tony Romo on the street this offseason, and that is remarkable for so many reasons.
So then what happens? Prescott proves to be a one-year wonder, Mark Sanchez and Kellen Moore are gone, and the Cowboys are a void once again.
Ezekiel Elliott and the running game still keep the Cowboys relevant enough to pick in the middle of the rounds at the draft, but their QB problems get blown open once again with the regression of Dak Prescott.
Can I delete this now?
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to have a lot to prove in 2017, coming off of a 2016 season that was effectively washed away with injuries after a breakout 2015. Already far from the dominant, fear-imposing pass rusher the Cowboys envisioned when they drafted Lawrence in the second round in 2014, Lawrence will be an experienced defensive end potentially playing with a ton of unproven and young talent around him next season.
In a perfect world the Cowboys find edge rushers capable of turning Lawrence into a more rotational player this offseason, and in a more realistic one they watch him take strides in his game. In this realm of pessimism however, Lawrence is going to essentially prove to be a draft bust in the final year of his rookie contract, failing to ever find a true role or make an impact - forced to line up all over a makeshift defensive front with little results.
You made it. Congratulations. This pessimistic view of the 2017 Dallas Cowboys offseason is over, and it is once again important to provide some closing context. No matter how realistic you view this exact scenario to be, understand that the NFL offseason is an exercise like none other - that very few teams navigate flawlessly.
The Cowboys 2017 offseason doesn't need to be flawless, but it does need to be very good, and you can reward yourself with this optimistic plan one more time right here to get back on track with Dallas' quest to Super Bowl LII.
Cowboys WR Terrance Williams Facing Multi-Game Suspension
An arrest last May for public intoxication may finally result in a suspension for Dallas Cowboys Receiver Terrance Williams.
David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, who reported the pending suspension, outlined the details of Williams' case. Charges were ultimately dropped once Terrance completed an alcohol education course and paid damages to the city.
Sources: Cowboys WR Terrance Williams faces suspension stemming from May arrest for public intoxication https://t.co/3RmwQOllim via @sportsdaydfw
However, as Cowboys fans know too well, the NFL reserves the right to suspend players under the Personal Conduct Policy regardless of legal outcomes. The 2017 season was marred by the league's persecution of Ezekiel Elliott for domestic violence despite no arrests or charges coming from any legal or police entity.
In Williams' case, there's no dispute of his guilt. It is unlikely he will appeal any decision the NFL makes.
The potential that Terrance will be missing for 2-4 games helps explain the Cowboys' move earlier this week to bring back WR Brice Butler. With both currently active, Dallas has an unusually high seven receivers on their 53-man roster.
It's already Friday, so the suspension is doubtful to come for this week's game in Seattle. But Terrance could easily be one of the seven inactive players on game day, having received the fewest snaps of any Cowboys WR last week against the Giants.
We'll see soon enough, likely as soon as next week, just what the league has in store for Terrance Williams.
Dallas Cowboys’ Path to Victory Over the Seattle Seahawks
In every game, whether it's a sporting event or a board game there is a path -- and sometimes more than one -- to victory. For the Dallas Cowboys, it's no different. As they get set to face a Seattle Seahawks team that is 0-2 for the first time since 2015, they'll have to win in several areas to bring home the W.
After starting out 0-2 in 2015, the Seahawks finished the season with a 10-6 record and won their wild card game over the Minnesota Vikings before falling in the divisional round to the Carolina Panthers.
The Seahawks are one of those teams that you can get down, but can never count out. If the Dallas Cowboys want to come out on top in their trip to the Pacific Northwest, they are going to have to come ready to play.
In particular, these are the things that the Dallas Cowboys have to achieve to be the victors on Sunday.
Limit Big Plays
The Seattle Seahawks are a very interesting offensive case study. They have one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but have invested very little in trying to protect their most important asset.
They rely on Russell Wilson's improvisational ability and penchant for big plays.
In 2017, Wilson had a quarterback rating of 100.9 on attempts greater than 20 yards down the field, per Pro Football Focus. He threw the ball "deep" 91 times, completing 31 passes for 1,134 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. He had the most deep attempts in the league last season and tied with Alex Smith with the most touchdowns on deep attempts. Wilson's yardage was nearly 200 yards more than the next best in the NFL on deep passing.
Wilson's going to take some deep shots. If you watched the Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bears, you noticed that even though Wilson was getting battered, it didn't deter him from taking shots deep down the field. Sometimes into unfavorable coverages.
The secondary has an advantage over the Seattle Seahawks group of wide receivers, but they'll have to stay disciplined and not allow the big pass plays to beat them.
In a game where they were being dominated for more than three quarters, the Seahawks were able to hang around and had a chance at the end because of their penchant for big plays.
Don't get beat deep.
Wrangling Russell Wilson
The Seattle Seahawks have allowed the most sacks in the league through two weeks. They've allowed six in each of their first two games this season. The Dallas Cowboys are going to have opportunities to sack Russell Wilson this week.
They have to take advantage.
Like Cam Newton in week one, Russell Wilson is a very elusive quarterback. Not only is he really good at making plays with his legs, he can be difficult to bring down. The Dallas Cowboys will have to work to keep Wilson in the pocket and finish when they get an opportunity to bring him down. He's not a physical presence like Newton is, but he's slippery and has some of that Tony Romo elusiveness to him.
If the potential tackler doesn't get Wilson down on first contact, it could lead to big plays both through the air and on the ground. Wilson averages 33.6 yards per game on the ground in his career and 5.7 yards per attempt. In order to get off the field on third down, they're going to have to prevent Wilson from using his legs to pick up third downs.
Establishing the Pass to Set Up the Run
At this point in the Dallas Cowboys offensive approach, everyone in the world knows what the Dallas Cowboys want to do on offense. They want to run the ball.
The Dallas Cowboys did a great job using this knowledge to their advantage on the first series of the game against the New York Giants.
On the first play of the game, they used a Run-Pass Option, with a clear out to the flat by Tight End Geoff Swaim, and found Allen Hurns on a slant to set up a second and short. Then after picking up that second and short with a run by Ezekiel Elliott, they used a straight play action out of a two running back, one tight end set, and hit Tavon Austin for the 64 yard touchdown.
Dak's willingness to throw the ball deep on a couple other occasions helped open up the run. The deep ball has to be a threat in order to back defenses off the line of scrimmage and do what you do best: Run the Ball. If they aren't going to back off, then you have to keep throwing it until you hit the deep ball enough that it forces them to do so.
The Dallas Cowboys were able to run the ball pretty effectively for the rest of the game, even if they didn't hit a lot of big plays. With the New York Giants interior defensive line, it was going to be tough sledding anyway. Getting things going through the air, helped out immensely.
The Seattle Seahawks are going to try to do what everyone does; put the ball in Dak Prescott's hands. If they're going to win on Sunday, it's going to be because Prescott had another efficient game throwing the ball.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
This game sets up really well for the Dallas Cowboys to improve their record to 2-1 and keep pace with the upper tier teams in the NFC. Every win matters, but these NFC games matter even a bit more. No game in the NFL is a cakewalk and this game is no different. If the Dallas Cowboys aren't able to do the above, it could be a long day for America's Team.
Dallas Cowboys May Sit Atop NFC East for a While
If there's one thing we've learned in the past, it's that NFL seasons are unpredictable. Unknown factors, injuries and unexpected "breakout" players can shift the way we saw the league just a month ago, when we were still watching preseason games on TV. After two weeks of regular season action, Cowboys Nation might be surprised to see their Dallas Cowboys sitting on top of the NFC East, but that's precisely the case. Not only that, but they could remain division leaders for a while...
Now, let's not get carried away here. While the team might be on top right now, they're not even 2-0 and it's only week 3. The Cowboys' offense played well on week 2, but terribly on week 1. It's way too early to judge how this season will go based on what we've seen.
However, there is no denying that they seem to be in a very good position to remain the NFC East front runners in the coming weeks. The Cowboys had more reasons to celebrate last Sunday besides their victory over the New York Giants. Both the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins suffered losses in their respective games, giving Dallas the opportunity to control their destiny.
As previously mentioned, though, it's only week 3. But the team's next three opponents aren't as scary as they seemed prior to the season's start. Through two weeks of the NFL season, the Cowboys' next three opponents are winless, sharing a combined record of 0-6.
Starting by the Seattle Seahawks, who have been a dominant team in the NFL landscape for a few years now but that simply don't seem like a very threatening opponent right now. The main reason why is their weak offensive line, which I expect the Dallas Cowboys to exploit just like they did with the Panthers and Giants. Russel Wilson is a tougher guy to contain, being one of the best playmakers in the NFL right now, but I trust the defense to handle him. They've done such a good pressuring quarterbacks, I'll trust they will continue to do so.
Next in the calendar will be the Detroit Lions. Through two weeks, they've struggled more than we expected under the reigns of their new head coach, Matt Patricia. On week 1, Matt Stafford threw four interceptions in a game that was in control of the New York Jets all night long. But it's not the Lions' offense that I think the Cowboys will take advantage of, but their poor run defense. They gave up 169 yards on rushing against the Jets on week 1 and 190 last Sunday, when they faced the San Francisco 49ers.
Ezekiel Elliott will have that defense dreaming nightmares before their matchup in week 4.
Finally, on week 5, the Cowboys will face their in-state rival, the Houston Texans. Surprisingly, the Deshaun Watson-led team is 0-2 after facing the New England Patriots and the Tennessee Titans. This might be the team that hands the Cowboys their second loss of the season. They have a balanced offense that will pose no challenge for the Cowboys' defense, but this could be a dangerous game for the offense.
The Cowboys will rely on Ezekiel Elliott for this one as well. On the defensive side of the ball, Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie will have to replicate their success versus Odell Beckham, only this time they will be facing Deandre Hopkins, one of the best wide receivers in the league.
Even though the Cowboys were terrible in Carolina when they opened their season, the defense has been looking so good that I don't doubt their ability to carry the team to victories for the time being. If the offense continues to improve, then this team might be able to take full advantage of the unexpected head start it got in the NFC East.
I can't say it enough; it's only week 3... but look out. It could take some time before the Cowboys give up that #1 spot in the division.
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