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.
CB Byron Jones Not Expected To Return Until Week 1 Against NYG
Coming off what was clearly the best season of his career thus far, Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones underwent surgery to hopefully fix a nagging hip injury.
While he earned both his first All Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 2018, his first season as a full-time cornerback, Jones still has a lot to prove in the upcoming season. Some still criticize him for his lack of interceptions, and there's no doubt his stellar play slowed down a bit towards the end of the year.
I'm willing to wager that the slight decline had a lot to do with his hip troubles, but nonetheless he must come up with his elite level play once again to earn himself a nice contract somewhere in 2020.
Oh, did I forget to mention it's also a contract year for Byron Jones? As it is for so many important Dallas Cowboys, it seems.
So when will Byron Jones be able to return to the Cowboys' lineup? Well, the initial date reportedly set by Jones and the team was late July, giving him a chance to practice and play a bit before the season opener in September. But, according to the Team Site this week, that date may be pushed back a bit, and we might not see Byron Jones until that season opening game against the Giants.
"As for Jones, all along the Cowboys have been targeting his return for the season opener, but hopefully at that. So, don’t expect to see much of Jones in training camp, and if so, certainly no more than individual and walk-through drills." - Mickey Spagnola
Ultimately, as long as Byron Jones is good to go when the regular season starts, that's all that matters, but the fear of rust when Jones returns is a real one.
It's tough to go from no live football straight to the meaningful games, but if anyone would be able to do it it would be the guy with the freakishly athletic traits. The guy who can get out of the bed in the morning and set athletic records at the Combine.
And, of course, that guy is Byron Jones.
Dak Prescott: Calm Under Pressure
When the 2016 NFL Draft came around the Dallas Cowboys were in search of the heir apparent to Tony Romo. Unfortunately, coming off an injury-plagued 2015 season, Romo would find himself on the shelf again after suffering a broken bone in his back during a preseason game against the Seahawks. However, the Cowboys had an ace in the hole, in the form of Dak Prescott who they drafted in the fourth round.
The idea was the groom him for a few years before taking the keys to the car so to speak from Romo, but fate had another idea in mind. Prescott would be thrust into the starting lineup against one of the Cowboys most hated rivals to start the season, the New York Giants. Added to that, was the pressure of living up to Romo's stellar resume as the franchise's all-time leading passer. After struggling in a tough 20-19 loss, no surprise there for a rookie quarterback, Prescott began to take flight.
Over the next eleven games he wouldn't suffer a single loss as the Cowboys were sitting pretty at 11-1. What made this streak more impressive was the efficiency of Prescott. He threw 19 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions over that span. In the process, he set an NFL record for the most passing attempts to start a career without an interception with 176. This broke the previous record held by Tom Brady of 162. It didn't stop there, as he also set a rookie record for completion percentage (67.8), was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and was selected to the Pro Bowl.
The Cowboys would finish 13-3 and win the NFC East. With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and the franchise only winning two postseason games in 21 years, Prescott was definitely under the microscope. After the offense struggled to produce points in the first half and fell behind 21-3, Prescott lead a furious comeback. Helping the team storm all the way back to tie the game at 28 and again at 31. He finished with 302 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first playoff start against future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. Even though the team lost 34-31, Prescott proved how much of a gamer he was as he basically went yard for yard and point for point with one of the NFL's elite signal-callers. It was clear the Cowboys were in good hands going forward.
2017 started off well as the Cowboys were 5-3 and firmly on pace for another playoff run. Unfortunately, All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott lost his fierce battle with the NFL over domestic violence allegations, and Dak along with the offense struggled. After a 9-7 season and falling one game short of a Wild Card berth, the pressure on Prescott heading into the next season was immense.
Once 2018 came about Prescott had more pressure than ever with Elliott back for a full season. After a slow 3-4 start the Cowboys traded for Pro-Bowl Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, providing the team with it's first true number one receiver since Dez Bryant. Putting even more expectations on Prescott to turn things around, and boy did he ever.
He would complete 71.6% of his passes in the final eight games of the season, and the Cowboys won seven to finish 10-6. Now, with another division title under his belt, came a playoff matchup with Super Bowl-winning Quarterback Russell Wilson.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were hanging on to a 17-14 lead. They faced a 3rd and 14 inside the redone with just over two minutes left. After dropping back a few steps, Prescott scrambled for 16 yards setting up a first and goal from the one-yard line. The team held on for a 24-22 victory but here's why that scramble was so important.
If the Cowboys don't convert that 3rd and long that would've set up a field goal attempt. Assuming it would have been successful, that would've only put them up 20-14. Giving Seattle a chance to more than likely win with a touchdown and an extra point or two-point conversion. Prescott essentially won the game with that 3rd down run. Proving once again there's no situation he can't handle.
He's set an NFL record for completion percentage in the first three years of a quarterbacks career at 66.1 percent. No quarterback has won more games than him since 2016 except Tom Brady. No one has more game-winning drives than him since he entered the league. His 13 primetime victories are tops in the NFL over the last three seasons. Simply put, Dak Prescott is a winner and doesn't fold under pressure, instead, he embraces it. There are no bigger lights in the NFL than the ones that shine in Dallas. With those lights come huge expectations and pressure, and it's clear this young man is made of the right stuff to handle it.
Cowboys en Español: ¿Qué Le Espera a Connor McGovern?
El pasado abril, los Dallas Cowboys nos sorprendieron más de una vez durante el NFL Draft 2019. Desde la segunda ronda, sus selecciones no fueron malas, pero nos dejaron con una ceja arriba. La más sorprendente tomó lugar en la tercera ronda, cuando se anunció el nombre de un guardia ofensivo proveniente de la universidad de Penn State, Connor McGovern.
La selección no fue sorprendente por el nivel del jugador. Durante su carrera colegial, McGovern demostró ser un muy buen liniero ofensivo interior y seguramente merecía salir dentro de las primeras tres rondas.
Sin embargo, la línea ofensiva era una unidad que el equipo no necesitaba atender tan pronto. Después de todo, los Cowboys son reconocidos por tener una de las mejores líneas ofensivas en toda la NFL. Hay algunas dudas debido a lesiones o ausencias con las que el equipo ha tenido que lidiar, pero los titulares son muy buenos. Liderados por Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick y Zack Martin, esta unidad no le pide nada a nadie.
Y aún así en aquella ocasión, los Cowboys anotaron el nombre de Connor McGovern en la tarjeta que entregaron en la tercera ronda. Se dice que el equipo realmente ve mucho potencial en él y que era su mejor jugador disponible en ese momento. Todos los equipos en la liga tienen filosofías diferentes, pero si los Cowboys decidieron ir por el mejor jugador en vez de atender una necesidad, es una decisión más que válida.
Pero ahora la pregunta es, ¿cómo y cuándo se utilizará a McGovern? La posición queda más que clara. McGovern tomará el lugar de guardia izquierdo ya que el otro lado está más que cubierto por el mejor guardia derecho en la NFL, Zack Martin. La mejor pregunta es ¿cuándo?
Como sabrán, todo parece indicar que al comenzar la temporada del 2019, McGovern estará en la banca y no en la alineación titular. El pick de segunda ronda del año pasado es el favorito a ser el titular. Connor Williams no tuvo el mejor inicio a su carrera, pero fue mejorando conforme avanzó la temporada y se vio mucho mejor después del despido del ex-coach de línea ofensiva Paul Alexander.
De una manera u otra, la incertidumbre continúa dentro de la unidad. Muchos especulan sobre lo que podría pasar en el futuro. El tackle La'el Collins solo está bajo contrato por el 2019 y no ha demostrado lo suficiente para justificar un enorme contrato a largo plazo. No ha jugado mal, pero ¿cuánto pedirá para quedarse en Dallas?
Cuando llegue el momento, el equipo tendrá que tomar una decisión depende de la actuación de Collins en el emparrillado la próxima temporada. ¿Pagarle a Collins? ¿O hacer un movimiento fuerte en la línea ofensiva? Recordemos que este equipo tiene espacio en el tope salarial ahora, pero este se irá rápidamente con futuras extensiones a jugadores clave como Dak Prescott.
Sabemos que Connor Williams tiene lo necesario para jugar como tackle. Una opción será mover a Williams al extremo derecho y dejar que McGovern tomé su lugar en el interior de la línea ofensiva.
Quizá suene problemático mover tantas piezas, pero tendría sentido financieramente. McGovern y Williams seguirían en contratos de novato mientras que Collins pedirá una buena paga al terminar este año.
Pase lo que pase, el futuro próximo de Connor McGovern dependerá de muchos factores ajenos a él mismo. Su talento le da lo necesario para jugar desde su primer año en la liga, pero tendrá que recibir la oportunidad.
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