Just the other day, The Ringer named one "x-factor" for each NFL team. For the Dallas Cowboys, they named recently reinstated Defensive End Randy Gregory. It's definitely a good choice as Gregory has amazing ability to bend the corner and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. It's probably not wise to have such huge expectations for Gregory at this point in his comeback, but if he were to have that kind of an impact, it would absolutely transform the defense.
Here's what The Ringer's Danny Kelly had to say about Randy Gregory and the Dallas Cowboys.
"After missing all of last year to suspension following a series of violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy, Gregory has been fully reinstated and looks ready to get his career back on track. The 2015 second-rounder has grabbed just one sack in 14 games, but still boasts the length and first-step explosiveness to develop into a productive pass-rusher. With David Irving set to miss the first four games to suspension and the team’s 2017 first-rounder, Taco Charlton, still developing, a Gregory breakout would be just what the Cowboys’ defense needs to contend in a tough NFC East."
Danny Kelly - The Ringer
Kelly's reasoning is sound. The Dallas Cowboys could really use another pass rusher, especially early in the season with Irving set to miss the first four games. If Gregory can get on the field and give pressure in the passing game, it'll help everyone along the defensive line and the pass defense to get the defense off the field.
There's still a lot to see out of Gregory before the team would be willing to give him a significant snap count. Not because Tyrone Crawford is a much better player, but because Crawford is a trusted player.
Gregory will thankfully have a full training camp and preseason to get up to speed for the team, but I could see them limiting him to situational pass rushing early in the season. Situations like second and long, third and long, or when the team has a sizable second half lead.
Otherwise, it'll still be Crawford on the field a lot until they feel they can trust Gregory with a big snap count.
If Gregory is the Defensive X-factor, What About the Offense?
In this analyst's humble opinion, it's Allen Hurns.
We know that Cole Beasley is going to get his targets; he's Quarterback Dak Prescott's favorite weapon through his first two seasons, but one thing we saw in 2017 is when team's take Beasley away, it makes things difficult on Prescott and the offense. Dak needed another wide receiver to step up and make plays in 2017 and for a lot of it, he was left wanting.
If Allen Hurns can stay healthy and on the field, he should be able to open things up for Cole Beasley in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field.
Hurns is a lot to handle out of the slot. His route running, toughness, and catching ability make him a tremendous weapon for Prescott in the middle of the field. If they can build a rapport during training camp and again, if Hurns can stay healthy, he'll be a consistent weapon in the passing game.
For the offense, Dak Prescott, and Cole Beasley to flourish, the Dallas Cowboys need Hurns to be a guy that can get open and make plays. They need someone to keep the defense from being able to double Beasley underneath.
So far, the early returns in training camp have been impressive and Hurns has the look of a guy who could lead the team in receiving in 2018. For both Gregory and Hurns, however, staying on the field is a huge factor.
Who is your X-Factor on offense and defense heading into the 2018 season?
Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program
Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.
After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.
Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire
While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.
It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.
Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.
That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.
But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.
Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.
For Cowboys to Beat the Rams, Dak Prescott must Lead the Way
In the NFL wins and losses often come down to quarterback play. That isn't to say that if a team wins, it was all because of the quarterback and inversely, if a team loses that it was all on the quarterback. Teams win or lose games. Generally speaking, however, the quarterback has the highest amount of influence on the outcome of an NFL game. This will be no different for the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in the LA Coliseum. For America's Team to make their first trip to the NFC Championship Game since 1996, Dak Prescott has to have a good game.
This looks to be a good matchup for the Dallas Cowboys offense, which should allow Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to take advantage in certain areas.
A few Rams Passing Game Notes
- The Los Angeles Rams were middle of the pack against the pass this season, allowing the 14th fewest passing yards in the league this season.
- The Rams allowed 7.7 yards per attempt. Dak Prescott is averaging 7.6 yards per attempt since week 10 of the season.
- The Rams allowed the eighth most passing touchdowns in the NFL this season. They and the New Orleans Saints are the only teams in the top 10 of passing touchdowns allowed in the playoffs this season.
- The Rams were 15th in the NFL in sacks, with 41, but Aaron Donald accounted for half of that with 20.5 sacks on the season. No other player had more than five sacks.
- They were third in the NFL in interceptions, collecting 18.
- The Rams allowed the ninth highest yards per completion on the season at 11.8. So on average, every completion went for a first down.
Dak Prescott is playing as well as any quarterback in the playoffs at the moment. Over the last nine games, he's averaging 272 passing yards, two total touchdowns, was only intercepted four times, and was sacked on average 3.2 times per game.
On Saturday night, we saw Scott Linehan put the ball in his hands on a couple designed runs that nearly scored touchdowns. It was an excellent addition to the offense that could help fix the Cowboys red zone woes. Getting Dak Prescott running on some designed runs or quarterback draws could help slow down Aaron Donald and the pass rush.
The Cowboys needed every bit of Dak Prescott magic to overcome a stingy Seattle Seahawks defense in their Wild Card win and they'll need him to step up again this week against the Rams. Every team is going to attempt to take away the running game to make Dak beat you and as he continues to mature, he's getting more and more comfortable doing that. He's comfortable with the big stage and the big moments.
Dak Prescott Since 2016, including playoffs * 15 game-winning drives (Most in NFL) * 13 primetime QB wins (Most in NFL) * 19 rush TD (Most in NFL by QB) #DallasCowboys @dak
No Quarterback in the NFL has more game winning drives, rushing touchdowns, or wins in primetime than Dak Prescott. When we talk about Dak Prescott, we talk a lot about the things that he can't do as a passer and deservedly so, he still has some growing to do in that area, but in the things that you can't objectively quantify -- mental toughness, resiliency, clutchness, will, determination -- Dak is one of the best in the NFL. He's as mentally tough as they come in the NFL and he doesn't let the spotlight or the game situation phase him. He has that stuff that's hard to put your finger on.
The Dallas Cowboys will need more of that on Saturday night in Los Angeles. The Rams can score and can score in bunches and if the Cowboys defense starts sluggish or has an off night, they'll need Dak Prescott to keep them in the game. Even if the defense has a good game, Dak still has to come through in the passing game and on the ground to give the Cowboys a chance to pull off the upset.
The Dallas Cowboys are going to try to run the ball against the Rams on Saturday. That's their identity; run the ball, control the clock, and be efficient in the passing game. Prescott, either with his legs or with his arm will have to make some plays to extend drives and keep the Rams offense on the sideline. He'll need to be sharp in the red zone to convert those opportunities into touchdowns. Settling for field goals against the Rams is how the Cowboys get beat.
This matchup with the Rams looks to set up nicely for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys, yet how things look on paper doesn't mean much when the lights go on and the whistle blows. It's a big stage and it's another win-or-go-home game for the Cowboys (like every game has been over the last nine weeks). In a big game, you need big time players, and the Cowboys have one in quarterback Dak Prescott.
Cowboys Place WR Allen Hurns on IR, Promote Practice Squad Player
We all knew that Allen Hurns' season was over after the ugly ankle injury he suffered last Saturday night against the Seahawks. The Dallas Cowboys made it official today, placing the receiver on injured reserve.
Hurns' spot on the 53-man roster will go to Lance Lenoir, who Dallas has called up from the practice squad for the second time this year.
Cowboys officially placed Allen Hurns on IR and called up Lance Lenior Jr. Cowboys signed WR Brandon Reilly to practice squad.
Lenoir was on the roster from Week 10 to Week 16 during Tavon Austin's injury. He was waived and returned to practice squad when Austin came back a few weeks ago.
Tavon's health may be why Lenoir is back on the roster. The veteran return man appeared to injure himself on his 51-yard punt return in the 4th quarter. Seattle punted it one other time after that play, and Cole Beasley fielded that one.
Lance Lenoir can both return kicks and do some of what Tavon Austin provided on offense.
His spot on the practice squad goes to Brandon Reilly, a second-year player who went undrafted in 2017 out of Nebraska. Reilly was with the Buffalo Bills as a practice squad player and was on the active roster in December of that year, but didn't make final cuts this season.
He also spent time on the Detroit Lions' practice squad this year.
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