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.
Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración
Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.
Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.
Cambios de Coach
A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.
A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.
Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?
A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.
A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.
En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.
La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.
Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.
Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.
No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.
Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story
Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.
Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.
Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.
Here's why those people are wrong.
Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.
Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).
Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.
There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.
Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.
Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.
Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.
Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.
And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.
Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?
When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.
It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.
Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.
Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.
Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.
The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.
Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating
Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating
As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.
Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
Now, he just has to go out and prove it!
Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?
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