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.
Bye Week and Amari Arrive After Cowboys’ Rally Stripped Away by Redskins
Strange things happen when these two NFC East foes tangle and you can add Sunday’s latest chapter to that list. As Dallas was driving late in the fourth-quarter and looking to take their first lead of the game, Dak Prescott was strip-sacked by Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan which was "returned" for a touchdown. That gave the ‘Skins a 20-10 advantage and a lead they would never relinquish.
It didn’t help that in the waning moments Cowboys’ long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur was flagged for moving the ball pre-snap. The attempt was moved back five yards, which certainly didn’t help kicker Brett Maher knock what would have been a game-tying field goal through the uprights.
He missed, Dallas lost, and here we are.
As the Cowboys ride off into the sunset for the next couple of weeks, it should be noted that this is a team that has been as good at home as they have been abysmal on the road. In Jerry’s World, the team is bathed in milk and honey winning all three games at home while on the road their slate stands at 0-4 after their Week 7 loss to Washington.
It’s an interesting dichotomy and one that will be scrutinized by players and coaching staff alike. But one thing the Cowboys have not done is fill the void vacated by Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. The latter retired voluntarily while the former was essentially made an offer he could most definitely refuse, a severe pay cut. As a result, Dak Prescott has yet to find an elite target to call his own.
Cole Beasley has done an admirable job stepping up but he checks in at No. 45 in receiving yards and is essentially a slot receiver as opposed to a speed merchant screaming down the sidelines. The Cowboys are ranked 29th in passing yards and 26th in points scored, which means something had to give - and it finally did.
Dallas swung a deal with Oakland for two-time Pro Bowler Amari Cooper who is struggling through his most difficult season yet. The 24-year-old Alabama product had a stellar rookie and sophomore campaign but 2017 proved to be his first not eclipsing 1,000-yards receiving and this season is even less impressive with only 280 yards and one touchdown thus far.
In return, Dallas sent their 2019 first-round pick to the Raiders who will now have three in the opening round next April.
If the Cowboys were going to make a deal for a skill player then they picked the perfect time. Cooper will have two weeks to get up to speed with the Dallas playbook and foster a relationship with Prescott. Without a legitimate deep threat, the Cowboys were going nowhere and this helps even the playing field.
The question is whether Cooper is a supernova whose time in the league was brief but spectacular or if he merely needed a change of scenery to reignite what was once a promising career. The Cowboys will learn one way or the other and have paid a fairly steep price to find out. However, if this move does bear fruit, it could mean the difference between an early vacation and a postseason invitation. Let’s hope it’s the latter.
As we often do when we turn the chapter on another week in the NFL, we look ahead to see what awaits and there is no better indicator as to which way the wind is blowing than our friends at Bovada, the sports betting industry’s mainstay that is always chief among the best online sportsbooks in the world. Bovada, as well as many other top-rated sportsbooks can be found all in one place, Sportsbook Review, so when in doubt, check them out.
When the Cowboys get back to work they will welcome the Tennessee Titans into AT&T Stadium (it will always be Cowboys Stadium to us) where we will see what the oddsmakers post in terms of the opening point spread. But until then, we will hope that our 'Boys return healthy and ready to roll with a brand-new weapon named Amari Cooper stretching the field and giving Prescott a deep threat… finally!
Dak Prescott: A+ Leader, But “C” Level QB Play
Let me start by saying this: as a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, I love Dak Prescott.
Prescott is everything you want in a franchise quarterback. He's a leader the players seem to respond to, he says all the "right" things in the media and, most importantly, he competes like hell every Sunday. Never, not even when Chaz Green failed him to the tune of 6 Adrian Clayborn sacks, has Dak Prescott quit on the Dallas Cowboys.
But in the National Football League that simply isn't enough, and never was that more clear than during last Sunday's loss to the Washington Redskins.
On the surface, Sunday looks like one of Prescott's better games in 2018. He threw for over 250 yards for just the second time this year, he brought the Cowboys back from down 10 late in the fourth quarter and gave them a chance at overtime, and he battled back from a vicious head shot which Tony Romo immediately said would sideline him the remainder of the game.
As usual Dak Prescott did not quit, and he helped to give the Cowboys a chance to win.
But when you look a bit deeper than just the surface narrative you see that Prescott is more of a reason the team lost Sunday than nearly won.
Repeatedly Prescott made the same types of mistakes he's been making since his miracle rookie season came to an end, and once again they were the downfall of this Cowboys offense. Too often he holds onto the ball longer than he should, fails to recognize open receivers, doesn't trust himself to make tight window throws, and abandons clean pockets when he has seemingly no reason to do so.
The two plays which really lost the Cowboys the game on Sunday occurred back to back. And, ironically, they represent Dak Prescott and his Cowboys career in a nut shell.
The first play was third and medium late in the 4th quarter. Prescott and the Cowboys were down 3 and needed the first down to keep a potential game changing drive alive. Prescott stood firm in the pocket, trusted Cole Beasley, and delivered a strike for a huge first down. The problem? Holding was called on Connor Williams and the play was brought back.
Then came third and long, with Prescott backed up near his own goal line. Despite the longer distance, Dak Prescott had at least one if not two open options down the field to convert the first down, and enough time in the pocket to make the play. Instead, Prescott felt phantom pressure and spun out of a clean pocket, getting disoriented and fumbling the ball in the end zone.
It went from 13-10 first down Cowboys, to 20-10 game over in a split second. And while, of course, the holding was not his fault, that sack fumble was absolutely egregious. Especially in their own end zone and especially as Michael Gallup and Ezekiel Elliott were both open for potential first downs.
While the Cowboys skill position players haven't been particularly good this season, the front office went out and tried to make a change to that this week by trading for wide receiver Amari Cooper. There's no more excuses left for this passing offense.
The Cowboys need to be able to play modern offense in the NFL, and to do so their quarterback has to play better than he has for most of 2018. Now that they are without a first round pick in 2019 Dak probably has another uncontested year ahead as the starter. But beyond that Prescott will need prove that he belongs and deserves franchise quarterback type money.
For the Cowboys sake, I hope he raises his play to that level soon.
The Cowboys Are What They’ve Been Since ’96: Average
Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys have been trafficking in overzealous fan hope for quite some time. For much of the past 20 years they have spent their offseasons making minor roster tweaks, maintaining the same core and swearing they are one of the more talented teams in the NFL.
If we just got one call... If Tony Romo stays heathy...If Sean Lee stays healthy...If Ezekiel Elliott wasn't suspended...
A whole lot of "ifs." That's what the Dallas Cowboys have been characterized by since they last held the Lombardi Trophy in January of 1996. And even in the more recent years, where Jerry Jones has pulled back a bit of his control and allowed Stephen and company to make the roster decisions, the Cowboys have stayed the same average franchise.
So last Sunday when Dak Prescott took an inexcusable sack in the end zone, missing multiple open receivers and handing a key divisional game over to Washington, I wasn't surprised. When Jason Garrett coached scared down the stretch, settling for a 47 yard field goal in the cold and windy weather to tie, I wasn't surprised. And when the Cowboys were called for a snap infraction to back that field goal attempt up over 50 yards, well, that's the same old Cowboys that I have always known.
If there's a way to lose a football game, the Dallas Cowboys of the last two decades will find it.
Sure there's a couple of 13-3 and 12-4 seasons in there, but there are also multiple 4-12 years to offset that. Sure there have been years where the Cowboys seemed to be just a play or two away from taking that next step, but the bottom line is they haven't.
Yes the Cowboys finally attempted to turn over their roster in recent years, but they rode "the hot hand" right into the ground at quarterback. And at this point, there's simply no denying it.
We are the Bengals. We are the Dolphins. We are the Lions. We are every average, middling, quarterback-purgatory-living franchise in the NFL. And, as usual, it starts at the top. If things are going to change and the Cowboys are going to become the Cowboys ever again, I highly doubt Jason Garrett will be the one to do it.
Ironically, all is not lost this season. The Cowboys will probably win their next game against the Titans and get back to .500 before a big game with the Eagles. And they'll probably hang around 7-9 or 8-8 this season, falsely believing they are "in the hunt" all year because that's who they are.
And unless massive, franchise changing decisions are made this offseason, that's who they'll stay.
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