Last week, Pro Football Focus set the Cowboys Twitter world on fire by sending out one simple list.
The Top Offensive Lines in the NFL.
Long story short, they had the Cowboys vaunted offensive line 9th, which sent a large portion of our fan base into a frenzy and led to some serious discussion about the status of the team's offensive line.
PFF's main reason for sending the Cowboys down in their rankings was that they are enduring turnover at two starting positions. Losing longtime starting right tackle Doug Free, and one of the most underappreciated players on the 2016 roster in Ronald Leary, the Cowboys have to get creative in order to fill out the "starting five."
Both Leary and Free were solid starters in Dallas, and were certainly underrated by most of the team's own fan base, but I don't believe the future at right tackle or left guard is as bleak as some are painting it out to be.
Of course, La'el Collins is sliding to right tackle. You know, the same La'el Collins who showed flashes of greatness during his rookie season in 2015, albeit at guard. There are some questions about just how smooth his transition to tackle will be, but I personally have faith that Collins will be fine on the right side.
What I mostly wanted to discuss today, however, was the Cowboys situation at left guard.
Former first round pick turned "bust" in the eyes of many, Jonathan Cooper has been penciled in as the starter there during the early parts of the offseason. After playing in a handful games for the Cleveland Browns in 2016, Cooper was signed by the Cowboys prior to their playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Dallas decided to keep Cooper for the 2017 season, now giving him a chance to compete for and earn that left guard spot.
While there are legitimate questions about how good Cooper really is, or can be, there is no question that he is in the perfect place to reach his full potential.
Whatever that potential may be.
Playing with All-Pro Tyron Smith to his left and All-Pro Travis Frederick to his right, Cooper will be starting at the most comfortable guard spot in the entire league. No, it will not be easy for Cooper, nor do I expect him to be a great player, but I do believe he can be a solid piece amongst this fearsome line.
No, he's not great and will be the 5th best starter for sure. But he proved last year he can operate off doubles, and get to the 2nd level https://t.co/HbflJgxhIn
Plus, I actually liked what I saw when watching the tape on Cooper in 2016. Yes, there were inconsistencies, but Cooper showed the ability to operate off double teams well on both DUO and inside/outside zone blocking schemes.
Plays which the Cowboys use a lot of, by the way.
I write all of that to say, we should still have confidence in the Dallas Cowboys offensive line. They still have three of (arguably) the top ten offensive linemen in the league, and now add two players which were once considered to be top draft prospects.
Sure, it might not work, and it might not be as pretty as it has been since 2014. But, I don't think there is a reason for panic about the changes on this offensive line just yet.
Cowboys & DeMarcus Lawrence Fail to Reach New Contract
DeMarcus Lawrence will definitely be a Cowboy in 2018, but now the future beyond that remains in question. The Dallas Cowboys and their star defensive end did not agree to a long-term contract by today's deadline for franchise-tagged players.
According to NFL rules, teams had until 4:00 pm EST today to reach contract extensions with free agents who'd been assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Players who did not get new deals will have to play the 2018 season on their one-year franchise tenders.
DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys were unable to work out a long-term contract by today's deadline. Lawrence will play the 2018 season under a one-year franchise tag that will pay him $17.1 million
This does not mean Lawrence will be a free agent in 2019. The two parties can still discuss the contract in the months to come, but the deal cannot be made until after the end of the regular season.
Dallas also has the option of giving DeMarcus a second franchise tag next year. However, that would come at a considerably higher price for a second-straight season.
This year, Lawrence will still make plenty with one of the highest cap hits of any DE in the league. He earned the franchise tag last with 14.5 sacks in a breakout season.
Today's news may not really be a big deal in the long run. As long as Tank wants to stay in Dallas after this, the two sides now have over five months to keep talking and will hopefully agree on a new deal for 2019 and beyond.
There is risk on both sides, of course.
Lawrence's leverage could be less if his productions drops or he gets injured. On the other hand, his position could be even stronger with a second-straight year of strong play.
Now everyone, from the team to player to fans, is in wait-and-see mode until the end of the season.
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstatement Decision Due Soon
The Dallas Cowboys should know by the end of this week if Defensive End Randy Gregory will be reinstated by the NFL from his indefinite suspension.
Gregory, who has missed nearly two seasons with drug-related bans, requested in May for Roger Goodell to allow him to return to football. The exact date of the request isn't known, but multiple sources put it somewhere around May 18-20.
According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL has 60 days to rule on a reinstatement request. That would put the approximate deadline no later than this Friday, July 20th.
Gregory was a second-round pick for Dallas in 2015. He was considered to have potentially elite pass-rushing skills but red flags about behavior and drug use hurt his draft stock.
Obviously those warning signs were warranted. Over three seasons, Randy has missed 30 out of 48 games due to suspension.
But reports from around the Cowboys organization and others who've dealt with Gregory rehabilitation efforts are positive. His appeal request appears strong, backed up by several testimonials that he's turned his life around.
Will Roger Goodell agree? Will Randy Gregory return to the Cowboys 2018?
We should know the answer soon.
Dak Prescott Ranked as Third Least Consistent QB in NFL
Last season could've gone a lot better for Dak Prescott. After a remarkable rookie season, he wasn't able to meet the very high expectations put on him after leading the Dallas Cowboys to the #1 seed in the NFC in 2016.
Inevitably, the "sophomore slump" managed to get to Dak, even though the numbers make it seem worse than it really was. From his 13 interceptions in 2017, not even half can be completely blamed on him. However, even though he made improvements in his game, it's fair to admit that there was indeed, a slump in his second year in the NFL.
Earlier this week, NFL.com published an article listing the most and the least consistent quarterbacks in the league last season. The way the list works is measuring "their average 2017 swing in week-to-week passer rating." In the list, Dak Prescott is listed as the third least consistent QB in the league, with only Cam Newton and Derek Carr behind him.
Just like the Dallas Cowboys' had a roller coaster for a season, constantly shifting between winning and losing, Dak Prescott also struggled at remaining consistent. It makes a ton of sense, of course, for the Cowboys' 9-7 season had a lot of swings throughout the year.
At times, the team was missing its most important defender in Sean Lee. At others, Tyron Smith and/or Ezekiel Elliott weren't on the field either. This is not an attempt to excuse Dak, for he is partly at fault here, as is the entire team.
From week 10 to 12, Dak failed to throw for a touchdown but ended up throwing five interceptions. Later in the season, failing once again to get a TD pass in two straight weeks, he threw for two interceptions at Oakland then another two when hosting the Seahawks in Dallas.
In a season that will likely determine his future with the Dallas Cowboys, Dak needs to find a way to be more consistent week after week regardless of circumstance. Hopefully, with an improved offensive line and with Ezekiel Elliott leaving every suspension drama behind him, his offense will put him in position to have his best year yet.
In 2016 and in 2017, his Total Quarterback Rating has been in the top 4 among all quarterbacks, per ESPN. Now, this is not a stat that tells the whole story, but it does give you an idea of each quarterback's play. In a run-first offense and with a safe passer like Dak, I'm sure consistency will not be hard to deal with for the young QB next season.
As long as he takes advantage of the new set of targets he'll have at his disposal and his offense's powerful running back with recently-signed draftee Connor Williams, this offense will look a lot more like the one we saw in 2016.
We know Dak Prescott has a lot to prove. He has to make longer throws, throw more aggressively to get his receivers open, and more. But consistency is just as important. In order to be continuously successful and to be a contender year after year, you need that in your signal-caller. Even if key players on the team are down, he needs to be able to shine. It's a sixteen-game season, after all.
It's time for Dak to prove he can handle that.
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