Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan have rightfully been scrutinized for highly questionable play calling and game management as, among other things, the late game collapses and abandonment of the run may have cost the Dallas Cowboys a spot in the playoffs. Even though this is inexcusable they and general manager Jerry Jones have the offense going in the right direction. With the pieces that are currently in place the Dallas Cowboys offense has an opportunity to be the best that it has been since Tony Romo took over as quarterback. While the Cowboys' window of success is being questioned with aging stars clearly on the decline, it is the new young and talented players that are taking over and should make the last years of Tony Romo's career his best.
Dez Bryant was suspended during his final year at Oklahoma State, and with great uncertainty regarding his off field behavior he managed to drop to 24th when the Dallas Cowboys drafted him. Early on in his career he didn't help his reputation as he continued to find himself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. After some time to mature Dez Bryant has proven that the Cowboys absolutely made the right decision in drafting him. He has posted back to back 90+ receptions 1200+ yards and 12+ touchdown seasons. He has become one of the biggest wide out threats in the NFL and, especially this season, has emerged as an emotional leader of the Dallas Cowboys. With his 67 first downs only 3 behind the league leader in Brandon Marshall Dez Bryant is as reliable as he is talented. Dez Bryant's emotional outburst on the sideline will always be criticized by those too proud to admit he's proving his doubters wrong but it is that same passion that makes him one of the most dominant players in the league.
As great as Dez Bryant is, he can not do it all himself, and in the Cowboys offense he does not have to. It's almost a foregone conclusion that Miles Austin will be released for the salary cap benefits but there's another young receiver on the team that has looked like he is more than capable of taking over as the number two to compliment Bryant. Terrance Williams finished the year with 736 yards and 5 touchdowns. While those numbers are not eye popping they are formidable for a rookie wide out and with Miles Austin out of the picture he will have plenty of opportunities to pad his stats. With 12 receptions of 20+ yards maybe the most impressive stat for Williams this season is his 9.9 yards per target. On that pace all he would need is 27 of Miles Austin's 49 targets and Dez Bryant is teamed up with another 1000 yard receiver. Given that the Broncos and the Bears are the only teams to have a a tandem of wide outs to break 1000 yards, the Cowboys receiving core could be in elite territory. Without Miles Austin the only question would be depth. Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris were a nice surprise this year but if Williams or Bryant fall due to injury, neither one of them have proven that they can be a reliable number two.
Fortunately the Cowboys have one of the most reliable security blankets of all time to fall back on if necessary. Jason Witten is aging but after exceeding 800 yards and finding the end zone 8 times the end is not near. Even if the end is near the Cowboys have already found his replacement. While Escobar's under usage this season infuriated many considering his was drafted in the second round, his talent can not be denied. Climaxing with his incredible flip into the end zone against the Eagles, Escobar has assured Cowboys nation that tight end will be a position of strength for years to come.
The best part of the Cowboys receiving core is, that aside from Jason Witten, Dez Bryant at 25 years of age is the oldest of the bunch. At 33 years old the Cowboys have given Romo one of the best receiving cores in the NFL for the remainder of his career. This passing game alone is enough to make the Cowboys an offensive force to be reckoned with, and yet it may not even be the best unit on the offense.
Bill Callahan, whose been raked over the coals for his job as offensive coordinator, has also coached one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. It's easy to see why Dez Bryant is considered the most talented player on the Dallas Cowboys, but Tyron Smith had a breakout year and may not only have passed Bryant as the best player on the Cowboys but is one of the best in the league. Tyron Smith ended his pro bowl season giving up 1.5 sacks along with 4 penalties (3 false starts and 1 holding). These are impressive stats for any position on the offensive line, but considering he is constantly forced to block the opposing teams top pass rusher at the left tackle position he ended up being the Cowboys most impressive player this season. The best part, Tyron Smith is 23 years old and is in a position to be one of the leagues best left tackles for many years to come. Tony Romo now has a flurry of young talented receivers to throw to with a young offensive line to give him all the time he needs to get them the ball.
When Waters went down with a season ending injury, it was uncertain how the Cowboys offensive line would hold up. By season's end the were the 4th best run blocking unit in the NFL with an adjusted yard line of 4.23. Where Tyron Smith dominated in pass protection, first round draft pick Travis Fredrick managed to match his success in the run game. Pro Football Focus had Fredrick as the third runner up as the offensive rookie of the year and they gave him the second best run blocking grade of all centers in the league, making him more than worth the first round draft pick spent on him.
If Tony Romo and the passing game has an off night, DeMarco Murray has shown the team that i he has the ability to take over the game himself. Running behind Fredrick Murray ranked 3rd in the NFL with 5.2 yards per carry behind only Donald Brown and Andre Ellington, who had almost half as many carries as Murray. When Murray knocked 293 pound Damion Square off his feet in the finale against the Eagles he ensured that no one could ever doubt his toughness and strength. Tie that in with 8 carries of 20+ yards, which was 2 less than the league lead, and Murray becomes one of the more dynamic running backs in the league. At 25 years of age the only issue that can be found with Murray is his health, as he continues to play less than 16 games a season. Fortunately, the Cowboys have an insurance policy in Lance Dunbar. Dunbar also fell to injury and only had 30 carries, but his 5.0 yards per carry and explosiveness on the field gives the Cowboys all they could ask for in the back field.
The Cowboys have the talent to dominate passing the game and running the game and the offensive line to give the protection that is needed for both. The Cowboys youth on offense means that this is an offense as a whole that is poised to be one of the best in the league for years to come. Tony Romo has been a part of a lot of great offensive units in his career and the players surrounding him now could prove to be the best he's ever had. The most exciting part of it all is, given their ages, this is an offense that should continue to get better.
Will DeMarcus Lawrence Be Franchise Tagged Again in 2019?
The deadline for extending players under the franchise tag has come and gone last Monday, in a day in which none of the remaining tagged players reached an agreement with their respective teams. That includes Dallas Cowboy Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who's set to earn $17M in 2018.
The front office and the 26-year old defensive end failed to agree to a new contract before the season's start, but we saw that coming. After all, there was never a point in which we had the classic "X player and his team are close to a new deal" headline.
All of this makes the future of the Cowboys' promising "War Daddy" very uncertain. What lies a head of the player that put on an impressive show in 2018?
Since 2017 was Lawrence's breakout year, racking up 14.5 sacks trough the season, we have leaned towards the narrative of last season being his only good one. His performance last season was impressive and clearly his best one yet, but we tend to overlook 2015.
In his sophomore season, the only other year in which he has played 16 games, he finished the campaign with eight sacks and 35 tackles (55 combined). Really, the idea of 2017 being his only good year is not as accurate as we might think.
That being said, I think it's more likely that we see another great year from him this upcoming season than seeing a disappointing one. This, of course, will end up being the main thing that determines his future in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys front office really took a risk by tagging Lawrence this offseason. #90 was reportedly asking for an average of $17M per year in his long-term contract, which is Olivier Vernon kind of money.
So what if he puts a similar season or an even better one? Lawrence and his agent could end up asking for even more money. Perhaps in the 18 or 20 million dollars per year range. If that ends up being the case, the team will find itself in a tough position when trying to reach an agreement with its promising pass rusher.
Which leads us to the possibility of seeing the Cowboys franchise tagging Lawrence for the second consecutive season. Dallas will already be negotiating a contract extension with QB Dak Prescott, and things will get complicated. Even more if they decide to pursue a big-time free agent in March, such as Earl Thomas.
It would make sense, from a financial perspective, to hand the tag twice in consecutive years to D-Law. However, it shouldn't be the priority. If he plays like he did in 2017, the front office will be more than wise to extend him for good.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Cowboys will have approximately $50.6M. Seemingly, the team's cap woes will be over soon.
Fortunately, Lawrence didn't become a headache by threatening to holdout for offseason programs and even training camp. However, don't expect that to happen if he finds himself under the tag next year.
Careers in the NFL are short, so DeMarcus will surely want to get paid. If he keeps it up, he'll deserve it. As much as he deserves it, though, football is a cold business. If the Jones need to tag him, they will.
Do you think the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence in 2019?
Without Looming Suspension, RB Ezekiel Elliott Should Shine In 2018
NFL Films typically does a good job of exposing some truths around NFL teams. Whether through "Hard Knocks" or Amazon's new "All or Nothing" series, these documentaries do an excellent job of giving fans an inside look of their favorite teams.
If anything was revealed through the Cowboys' All or Nothing series on their 2017 season, it's that Ezekiel Elliott's suspension weighed heavy on his mind all year.
The Pro Bowl running back did not look, act, or play like himself while awaiting decision on his incoming suspension. And, once it was finally announced he would serve the six games, the entire team collapsed in Atlanta.
Despite the clear and detrimental effects Elliott's suspension had on the Cowboys' season, Zeke still put up more-than-respectable numbers; rushing for almost 1,000 yards and averaging a league leading 98.3 yards per game.
Now, Ezekiel Elliott enters a season with no doubts about his own availability. Scott Linehan gets to coach an offense that knows they will have their best player for the entire season barring major injury. And, Jason Garrett can lead his team without addressing questions about Elliott's future day in and day out.
Of course, these effects aren't quantifiable. We can't sit here and say that without the pressure of court appearances and suspensions that Elliott will be worth "X" amount of more yards and "Y" more touchdowns.
But I do believe we can say, without question, that playing with a clear mind and without a looming suspension will breed the type of production we saw from Zeke his rookie year.
We can say that Elliott has had a weight lifted off his shoulders, and could be looking for revenge on a league he feels did him wrong.
And, for the Cowboys sake, I hope this is true. Because they are going to need Ezekiel Elliott to be even better than he ever has been if they hope to make a run at the Super Bowl in 2018.
Cowboys en Español: El Regreso de Randy Gregory
A sólo días de que los Dallas Cowboys aterricen en Oxnard, California para dar inicio a su training camp como todos los años, el equipo recibió excelentes noticias respecto a la selección de segunda ronda del 2015: Randy Gregory. Después de pasar todo el 2017 suspendido, el ala defensiva ha sido oficialmente reintegrado por la NFL.
Gregory, quien tuvo muchos problemas debido al uso de marihuana, ha pasado los últimos meses rehabilitándose para poder volver a vestir la estrella y volver al emparrillado. Los Cowboys, quienes siempre apoyaron a su joven jugador, sin duda estarán felices de verlo de vuelta en el equipo por motivos más allá que el football americano.
Sin duda alguna, antes de estar emocionados y felices por verlo en el campo intimidando a quarterbacks rivales, deberíamos estar alegres por el logro personal de Randy como un ser humano. Realmente hizo un esfuerzo consciente en un lugar en el que muchos se hubieran rendido y dejado sus sueños de ser parte de la NFL. Pero no lo hizo, y ahora, todos sus esfuerzos han valido la pena.
El siguiente paso en su lista por-hacer, es volver al campo y poco a poco, ganarse su puesto en el equipo y después, la titularidad. La última vez que vimos a Gregory en el campo, fue contra Philadelphia, en el final de temporada del 2016.
En este juego, Gregory mostró muchos destellos de lo que sería capaz de hacer semana tras semana en la liga y porque valió la pena nunca dejarlo ir, lo cual no hubiera tenido sentido hacer, dado que los Cowboys no les costaba nada (literalmente) mantenerlo en el equipo.
Sean Martin escribió un artículo recientemente en el que analiza este partido a fondo.
El potencial de Gregory es inmenso, suficiente incluso, para aventurarse a decir que se convertirá en el defensive end (ala defensiva) derecho antes de lo esperado. El reto más grande para el jugador de 25 años será regresar a una condición física óptima para la NFL.
Afortunadamente, a diferencia del 2016, Gregory no estará regresando a media temporada. Su llegada toma lugar justo a tiempo para el training camp, dándole tiempo para regresar a la forma en la que tiene que estar.
Una vez ahí, ¿qué tanto le tomará ganarse un rol más importante que el de Tyrone Crawford y Taco Charlton? A pesar de que prácticamente no lo hemos visto jugar en Dallas, sabemos el potencial que tiene para convertirse en un defensivo de suma importancia para los Cowboys.
Un año después de ver la mejor temporada en la carrera de DeMarcus Lawrence, los Cowboys tendrán el potencial de una estrella similar en el lado derecho de su línea defensiva. Gregory tiene una montaña que escalar para cumplir las expectativas de los aficionados, pero no será una sorpresa si lo logra.
Vaya, no olvidemos que si no fuera por sus problemas fuera del campo, hubiera sido seleccionado en el Top 10 del Draft del 2015. Tiene el potencial de conseguir diez sacks por temporada.
Con un poco de suerte, no nos equivocaremos en tenerle fe al jugador que ha tenido un gran viaje para llegar a este punto. El punto de ponerse el casco e ir a trabajar con su equipo.
Incluso si sólo llega a ser un jugador de rotación, sin duda será importante para el éxito del equipo. Entre DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Randy Gregory y el resto del talento que los Cowboys tienen en la línea defensiva, el equipo podría tener un frente de muy buena calidad.
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