The month of July is the peak of off-season. Training camp will soon open up and then we all will get our first glimpses of the 2018 Dallas Cowboys in the pre-season. Not too long after that, the season begins. This Cowboys team has been defined by their past two seasons, from the successes and surprises of 2016 to the disappointments and setbacks of 2017. The team has gone 22-10 in that time span and is now a team expected to make the playoffs every year.
It’s probably unfair to expect so much of a team, and even more unfair to expect serious output from their players. But this is the Dallas Cowboys, and the expectations blow the roof off AT&T Stadium.
What can we expect from the 2018 Cowboys? It features a complete offensive line, a fully-loaded Ezekiel Elliott, a talented secondary, and a deep core of pass rushers. Maybe fans expect too much of the Cowboys, but maybe they expect so much because they know it’s entirely possible.
These predictions are bold, but very much a possibility. The team has the skills to make it happen, and if they accomplish what’s written, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
Dak Prescott will have a top 5 QBR AGAIN!!!
In Dak Prescott’s rookie year, he had the third-highest QB Rating in the league. Unfortunately, 2017 was a setback. He was asked to target Dez Bryant and Jason Witten more often, instead of spreading the ball as evenly as he prefers.
This may surprise you, but Dak Prescott actually had the 4th highest QBR in the league last season.
Despite throwing 13 interceptions, QBR is a stat that’s able to decipher not only the numbers put up, but the plays the quarterback was responsible for. Meaning, if his QBR was that high in a “down year,” it means the bulk of the turnovers (interceptions/fumbles) were not his fault.
The Cowboys will go into the 2018 season with an almost brand new group of tight ends and receivers. There is probably no true number one threat among the pass catchers, but that is a perfect world for Prescott. The more the merrier. In 2016, Prescott had three players with 90 targets or more. In, 2017 he only had one.
Dak Prescott will win games through his accuracy, mobility, will to win, and by not exclusively throwing it to just one or possibly two players. Big things are on the horizon for number 4.
There WILL be a 1,000-yard receiver
Even though Dak Prescott will have more weapons to spread the ball around, it doesn’t mean one of them won’t eventually click with Prescott more than anyone else and become the most reliable weapon.
But who will it be? The team has options.
The obvious choices are Cole Beasley and Allen Hurns. Hurns has a 1,000-yard receiving season under his belt and will likely be moved back outside where he thrived.
Beasley is one of Dak’s favorite and most dependable targets, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Beasley could have a Jarvis Landry or Julian Edelman-type of season.
Terrance Williams and Michael Gallup are the other logical choices. While Williams has left a lot to be desired, he is currently listed as a starter along with Beasley and Hurns. Following a season of scrutiny and off the field issues, he may end up playing for his life.
Gallup is the question mark. He’s got a lot of upside and is probably the second best route runner on the team next to Beasley. Including his big-play ability and large catch radius, Gallup could be in for a surprise rookie season and become Prescott’s favorite new toy.
Multiple Cowboys will have 6 or more sacks
A good problem to have is when you have too many good players at one position. Who would’ve thought that group would be the pass rushers?
Two years ago, the Cowboys had a serious need. Their sack leader was Benson Mayowa, who had six sacks all year. Present day, the Cowboys have an All-Pro in DeMarcus Lawrence, the return of Randy Gregory, and a slew of dependable defensive linemen.
The Cowboys have players like David Irving, Maliek Collins, Tyrone Crawford, Taco Charlton, Charles Tapper, Lewis Neal, and Datone Jones returning. New additions Dorance Armstrong Jr., Jihad Ward, and Kony Ealy complete a ridiculously stacked defensive line.
Lawrence, Irving, Collins, Charlton, Crawford and Gregory all look like the most likely players to get 6+ sacks, but with the talented depth the Cowboys have, don’t be surprised if even more names end up here.
Cowboys will send 5 O-linemen to the Pro Bowl
Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick are virtual locks each season. They are among the best at their positions and are always a safe bet to be elected to the Pro Bowl. They are three of the key components to the core of the team and they haven’t disappointed.
La’el Collins moved to right tackle full-time last season and had a mixed bag of a season.
The first half of the season, he showed potential but with a lot of growing pains. In the second half of the season, Collins seemed to finally get comfortable and played up to par with his talent. It’s arguable that he was a Pro Bowl snub last season, even as an alternate. This season, I think he makes that mark.
Finally, the Cowboys got a 1st round talent in 2nd round offensive lineman, Connor Williams, from the University of Texas. Many Cowboys fans are also Longhorn fans, so much of the state was elated at the 50th overall pick.
Aside from Quenton Nelson, who was picked at 6 overall, Williams was arguably the 2nd best lineman prospect, allowing only one sack during his time in college. He’ll be plugged in at left guard and start immediately, completing The Great Wall of Dallas.
Jaylon Smith will be the best player on the defense
I must be insane right? With players like Sean Lee, DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, and 1st rounder Leighton Vander Esch on the team, why Jaylon Smith?
For starters, he’s healthy.
If we just go simply off each prospect based on how they were coming out of college, Jaylon Smith was the best. Had he not torn his ACL and MCL, he might’ve been picked at 4 overall in 2016 instead of Ezekiel Elliott.
The first half of the 2017 season, Jaylon Smith was a bit of a liability. He couldn’t move laterally and was picked on in coverage. As the season progressed, his movement and speed got back to normal and he was tackling everyone with much more ease.
2018 will be Jaylon Smith’s breakout year and a sign of seasons to come. The Cowboys defense will be much better in 2018, and Smith will be a big reason why.
The rookie receivers will shine brightest
Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson were both receivers that I was very high on going into the draft. So obviously, I was elated when they were both selected by the Cowboys.
Michael Gallup is an eventual-number one receiver in an offense where route running is essential for Dak Prescott. Not only is Gallup a fantastic route runner, he has some of the best hands of this year’s rookie class. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a Pro Bowl receiver but I do know his upside is that of a potential game-breaker in this offense.
Cedrick Wilson has a lot of similarities with Gallup; he’s quick, a good route runner, and has good hands. One area where Wilson has the advantage is his down-the-field ability. He made a lot of big plays at Boise State and I hope he gets chances to showcase it his rookie year.
By the end of the year, at least one of these two will be a starter. By the end of next season, I expect the other to as well.
The Cowboys will have the best secondary in the NFL
Hiring Kris Richard was the best off-season moves the Cowboys made.
Richard helped create the Legion of Boom in Seattle, but that took time to gather the talent and make it all work. The new secondary coach — and eventual successor of the defensive coordinator job — already has a built machine. It just needs to run.
In Dallas, he’s got plenty of talented players already. Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, and Jourdan Lewis give him maybe the best young trio of corners in the league. At safety, he’s got more potential than skills. Xavier Woods is the ballhawk they need, Kavon Frazier is the hard-hitter, and then there’s the G.O.A.T. himself, Jeff Heath.
After the Cowboys complete the trade with Seattle to obtain Earl Thomas by giving them a player (possibly Terrance Williams) and a 3rd round pick, the secondary will be complete and become the next elite group in the NFL. It will be scary good.