After a deflating 9-7 season that felt like things went south every two weeks, it's hard to look into 2018 with optimistic eyes. Even still, Dallas Cowboys fans should really be optimistic about next year. The team that had a ton of needs just months ago, has made a tremendous job of filling up the roster with capable talent.
A solid free agency and a pretty outstanding Draft class will put the Dallas Cowboys in position to bounce back from 2017 and replicate the success they had in 2016. Despite being in a division featuring the defending Super Bowl champions, the Cowboys will have what it takes to fight for the NFC East Title.
The concerns that surrounded this football team have been very reduced since the free agency period began. On offense and on defense, the holes the team had felt for a brief moment pretty insurmountable, specially when Dez Bryant was expected to be released.
Now, wide receiver is a position that has Cowboys Nation feeling confident. Sure, Bryant's gone, but the WR room in Dallas is currently loaded and will feature a handful of players that promise to be productive under Dak Prescott's offense.
From the signing of Allen Huns to the third-round rookie Michael Gallup, the Cowboys have done their best to forget about Bryant's departure. With veterans like Cole Beasley on the roster and other young talents like Noah Brown and even late-round draftee Cedrick Wilson, the Cowboys WR group is in a pretty good place. Having said this, I wonder where Terrance Williams will fit. He could end up being a backup.
Despite being one of the strongest units on the team, offensive guard went from being a need to a priority after the team let Jonathan Cooper walk in free agency. Perhaps the best pick in the Draft, at least from a value perspective, was Connor Williams. The Texas product was, in the eyes of many, a first-round talent who could play as a tackle or a guard.
After stealing him with the 50th overall selection, the Cowboys offensive line will return as one of the best in the league with arguably five first-round talent players.
The one position that should be a concern for the Dallas Cowboys on offense is tight end. With Jason Witten unexpectedly retiring, the team will have to move on from one of the most reliable players in NFL history to a young guy. Whether it'll be Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim, rookie Dalton Schultz or Rico Gathers, it's impossible to know.
The tight end battle will be fun to watch during the offseason, specially since these are promising yet unproved players.
There are veteran free agents on the market, such as Antonio Gates, Coby Fleener and Marcedes Lewis. If the front office feels like they need some help, they could always turn to one of these guys. On the other hand, if they trust their young talent, why bring a progress stopper?
From a defensive perspective, safety and the interior defensive line might be the bigger concerns.
They seem to be set at cornerback, with Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis coming off from very promising rookie seasons. With Byron Jones moving to cornerback full-time and new coordinator Kris Richard in town, I dare say CB will be a strength for Dallas.
Safety, though, feels like a big need. The Earl Thomas story-line might not be over yet, but at the end of the day, it'll be tough to get a deal done there.
It seems like the Cowboys will head into 2018 with Xavier Woods as a starting safety, which has Cowboys Nation excited. Woods was a fan-favorite prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft process and a guy many had high hopes for in his rookie season.
Woods has what it takes to develop into a capable starter. Kavon Frazier and Jeff Heath will also be fighting for the starter role during training camp. Last season, Heath started in the 15 games he played, so it's easy to think he has the edge on this battle.
As for the front seven, the Cowboys linebacker position remains a question mark because of Jaylon Smith's and Sean Lee's health issues. With both of them healthy and first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch on the field, big things await the Dallas Cowboys defense.
The defensive line counts with a pretty good group of talent, specially from a depth point of view. With David Irving and DeMarcus Lawrence coming off of career years, the question is whether or not they'll have enough supporting cast.
The defensive tackle room is loaded with talent. Irving has been able to show off his talent haunting opposing QBs and stopping the run. Maliek Collins has been a starter in 30 of his 32 games in the NFL, but still has to take that next step to make a bigger impact. Datone Jones showed plenty of flashes and could earn a more important role in 2018.
Not to mention unproven Brian Price and new Cowboy Jihad Ward.
Although not having a clear-cut starter, Rod Marinelli should have some fun rotating his talented DTs to own the trenches next season.
For the 2018 Dallas Cowboys, it'll be anything but an easy ride. However, the roster is actually pretty talented, they have what it takes to be an actual contender next season. The NFL offseason is underestimated by many fans, but it shouldn't be.
This year, the front office made America's Team one of the offseason winners and it'll show on the field next September. Hopefully, it's enough to get back in the playoffs.
Is it Too Late For Dallas to Fire OC Scott Linehan?
Grab your pitchforks and your torches, it's time to run the Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan out of town. His playcalling has been absolutely atrocious season and it's time for him to hit the road, even if there are only two regular-season games left on the schedule.
It's completely unorthodox for an NFL team to fire an offensive coordinator this late in the season, but just last week we saw the Minnesota Vikings do just that when they parted ways with John DeFilippo. It was definitely a bold move to make considering the Vikings are still in playoff contention, but it was something they believed was in the best interest of their team.
I believe if the Dallas Cowboys want to do what's best for their team right now and not later, then they should go ahead and cut ties with Scott Linehan. His predictability and un-creativeness as a play caller is holding back a talented offense, which is hurting the overall team as a result. He's been given every opportunity to turn things around, but enough is enough.
I'd personally be on board with Jason Garrett taking over the playcalling duties. He has the experience and held the position with the Cowboys from 2007 until Linehan was hired. I'd even consider giving Kellen Moore a shot as the OC. He knows the system and has worked closely with Quarterback Dak Prescott. Regardless, the Cowboys need to find some way to increase their offensive productivity.
Right now the Cowboys offense is the 26th scoring offense in the NFL and are averaging just 19.7 points per game. To make matters worse they are the 31st ranked Red Zone offense in the league. I don't know about you, but I think that is completely unacceptable with the talent they have on the offensive side of the ball.
Firing Linehan has been a long time coming. The Cowboys flirted with the idea earlier this season during the bye week and should've pulled the trigger then, but for some reason or another decided to let him stick around. They are definitely still paying for that mistake now.
The Cowboys mistake not to replace Linehan could mean yet another early exit in the playoffs, something we have unfortunately become accustomed to. Scoring just 19 points a game isn't going to get them very far, which is truly unfortunate considering the talent they've acquired this season.
Unfortunately, as much as we would love to see Scott Linehan tarred and feathered and run out of town, I just don't see the Cowboys doing that before their season is officially over. But, in no way should he be allowed to retain his position beyond this season. He clearly isn't the answer any longer.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys should fire Scott Linehan?
Despite Embarrassing Showing, Health Remains Biggest Cowboys Concern
What is it about the AFC South with these Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas' five game winning streak came to a close on Sunday, as they got straight-up embarrassed by the now 8-6 Indianapolis Colts on the road. The loss was the first since the Cowboys were embarrassed by a different AFC South competitor, the Tennessee Titans, on Monday night football earlier this season.
Though the final was 23-0, and not a single phase (or really even a single player) showed much fight or promise, the biggest concern I have for the Cowboys moving forward didn't change because of the putrid performance. It didn't change because the defense was gashed play after play or the offense failed to finish a single drive. And it didn't even change because both the Redskins and Eagles secured season-saving victories on the same day Dallas was dismantled.
The biggest concern is still their health, particularly across the offensive line.
That was not a playoff caliber interior offensive line the Cowboys put out their on Sunday. Not even close.
With their backup center in Joe Looney, backup guard in Connor Williams, and the very last interior offensive linemen on their roster in Adam Redmond playing for basically the entire game, this offense never had a chance. Dak Prescott wasn't any more inaccurate or indecisive than normal, but all those who like to scream "step up in the pocket" whenever he is sacked did not seem to have an argument this week.
There often was no pocket to step into, as those interior three, specifically Looney and Redmond, failed to provide much protection or confidence for Prescott at all. Joe Looney has actually been rather solid this season, but Sunday felt like one of his worst games of the entire year.
The Cowboys absolutely need Zack Martin to get healthy if they are to make any noise whatsoever in the postseason. At the very least, the need Xavier Su'a-Filo to come back and replace Redmond, and regain the form he displayed during his debut against the Eagles back in November.
Prescott already has issues with his pocket presence and footwork when pressured, so throwing three backup-level linemen right in front of him is not a recipe for success for the Cowboys.
I'm not jumping out of the window over this loss, and I don't think any of you should be either. Dallas had won three straight incredibly emotional and important home games to extend, save, and solidify their season respectively before this loss. They had also just about clinched the NFC East a week ago with their win over Philadelphia, and they played like a team that was due a flat performance
A letdown loss on the road, against a good team I might add, is not the end of the world. The bigger issue here is their health, because if Martin can return to anchor this offensive line, the offense should look a whole lot better than they did against Indianapolis.
It's time to move on from Sunday, go beat Tampa Bay, officially clinch the division, and get ready for Wild Card Weekend.
Where In The World Is DE Taco Charlton?
Over pretty much the last decade, the Dallas Cowboys have been rock solid with their first round picks. With selections of Ezekiel Elliott, Travis Frederick, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Leighton Vander Esch (just to name a handful), Dallas has rebuilt the core of their roster through the NFL Draft.
It's nearly impossible to bat .1000 in any round of the draft, however, and this appears to be the current case with the Cowboys' 2017 first round pick.
Defensive end Taco Charlton has not had the sophomore season that he, or anyone, had hoped for. A healthy scratch last Sunday, Charlton has only been active for 1 of the Cowboys' last 5 games, and has not recorded a sack or tackle since week 9.
Prior to disappearing with injuries and "attitude issues," Charlton had only recorded 1 sack on the season and was beginning to fall behind his Hot Boy-brethren. Defensive end Randy Gregory has reached his form over the last few weeks, Tyrone Crawford is having arguably a career year, and DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the best ends in all of football.
This doesn't leave much room for Charlton, who's now having issues even getting on the gameday roster. Rod Marinelli dodged questions about Taco Charlton earlier this week, vaguely saying they are "moving forward" and that he'd like to talk about other players on his defensive line who are performing.
Rod Marinelli on Taco Charlton's benching and being inactive last week: "We just keep moving along keep going forward. It's kinda been out there I'd leave it at that. I'd rather talk about our two tackles.
Charlton has not been quiet about his displeasure as of late, either. He's taken to Twitter to voice his frustrations, saying that not only is his shoulder fine but that the Dallas media is making up stories about his absence. He's also posted some cryptic tweets such as this one, with a picture of Allen Iverson and a caption reading "Every players needs that one coach to believe in them."
Maybe Taco is right. Maybe he just needs increased opportunity and a support system/coach that believes in him whole-heartedly. After all, Charlton has faced nothing but doubters and detractors since the second he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.
But in the NFL, the ultimate "what have you done for me lately" sport, it's hard to imagine he'll get that unwavering support anywhere in the league. He's going to have to "earn" his playing time, as head coach Jason Garrett spoke to earlier in the week. But with the plethora of talent the Cowboys are already putting out there on the defensive line, it's becoming difficult to see exactly where Taco Charlton can fit in on this defense.
It's possible, and fine, if it is simply not a fit between Charlton and the Cowboys at this point. But I'd also be wary of giving up on your first round pick in just his second NFL season. Another offseason with the team, working on his craft and getting fully healthy, should do Charlton wonders, and hopefully allow us to get a better read on his future with the Cowboys going forward.
Until then, we are all left to scratch out heads and wonder what in the world is going on with the Cowboys and Taco Charlton, and if the former first round pick will have a future in Dallas at all.
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