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There’s a Lot at Stake for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018

John Williams

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Doug Pederson's Success Will Make Jason Garrett's Seat Hotter 1
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft is almost two weeks away, which means the best part of the offseason is so close, we can taste it. We are at that point in the offseason where what gets said by the Dallas Cowboys and other teams needs to be taken with a grain of salt as front offices turn into politicians delivering misinformation to the masses.

The Dallas Cowboys, as much as any team in the league, have a lot at stake. Not only in the upcoming NFL Draft, where one wrong evaluation at a premium pick can set you back -- looking at you Randy Gregory and Jaylon Smith -- but also the 2018 season as a whole.

From the front office to the coaching staff to the quarterback, success is almost necessary at this point.

Dallas Cowboys Hold 28th Overall Pick in 2017 NFL Draft 1

Jason Garrett, Charlotte Anderson, Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones of the Dallas Cowboys (James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys)

The Front Office

Things have been changing in the Cowboys front office during the Jason Garrett era. Where the team used to hold onto players a year longer than they should, it now appears they are willing to part with players before they really hit the rock bottom of their decline. Even popular players like Dez Bryant.

Stephen Jones and Will McClay have begun to take on a lot of the decision-making process throughout the organization, and the NFL Draft has become one of the team's strengths in the last several years. The 2016 and 2017 drafts were both very strong for the team and nothing suggests they won't continue to find really good players in the 2018 NFL Draft.

That being said, the decision makers in the front office really went out on a limb with Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones in the Dez Bryant decision.

As we sit here in the middle of April, there's no way to know if it was the right decision.

If Dez Bryant goes to another team and puts up a good year, Jerry Jones will likely take back some of the reigns that he's been slowly handing over to his lieutenants these last eight years.

A favorite of Jerry's who had a hard time being convinced would probably feel like he made a mistake not listening to his gut and going with the voices around him. He's made a life of following his instincts and if his instincts told him to keep Dez but he allowed others to convince him otherwise, that could bring back late 90's and early 2000's Jerry Jones.

And we begged for that Jerry Jones to give away some of his power.

If the Dez decision bites them, he could seize it back, and there could be some turnover in the front office.

As good as they've been in the draft, they can't afford a miss in the first three rounds of the draft this year. Hopefully, 2017 was an indication that they're done gambling their second-round picks.

The Coaching Staff

This very much seems like a win or go home scenario for Jason Garrett and the coaching staff, on offense in particular.

At the start of the 2017 season, things were going fairly well. Though they were only 5-3 in the first half of the season, they'd suffered a couple of losses where they scored 30 points (Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Rams).

The second half of the season was a completely different story.

The wake of the Tyron Smith injury, primarily Dak Prescott getting destroyed in Atlanta, left many to wonder where the coaching adjustments were.

From the Atlanta game on, the offense was a wreck. The team that was scoring 20-30 points per game on a regular basis was struggling to hit double digits.

Rumors are that the offensive staff is working to revamp the offensive system to better suit Dak Prescott's strengths. One of the weaknesses being they weren't getting creative enough in scheming their pass catchers open.

If there is any kind of carry over of the 2017 debacle into the 2018 season, the calls for changes to the coaching staff will be loud and consistent. Even the strongest of Jason Garrett supporters, me included, would have to admit the time has come for a change.

And like the front office, Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan have a lot riding on Dez Bryant's production in 2018. While they won't publicly say it, and maybe in their hearts they hope he has success, in the subconscious part of their mind they have to be hoping for Dez's demise.

The offensive coaches are out on the same limb as Stephen Jones, the difference being Jerry Jones isn't going to fire Stephen. But the Dez Bryant decision really put the coaching staff on the hot seat. Only hindsight will tell us if they were right.

On the defensive side of the ball, the transition from Rod Marinelli to the next defensive coordinator appears to be underway with the hiring of Kris Richard, the former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator.

Marinelli may not be the coach beyond this year, but his heir is already on the staff, and Richard could even be a head coaching candidate if a change has to be made.

I've argued that, with a little luck in the health department, particularly with Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, the Dallas Cowboys defense is championship material. They have two elite pass rushers and several solid to good ones as well. They have an ascending secondary. The only weakness is the health of their top two linebackers, but as we saw in 2017, when Sean Lee plays, this defense can be elite.

While the defense seems ready to play in 2018, the offensive coaches and the head coach have a lot to prove to retain their standing within the organization.

Dak Prescott Should Be In The MVP Conversation

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

The Quarterback

Eight games do not make a career, but the final eight games of the 2017 season left a lot to be desired from the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.

Dak Prescott, who through 24 starts was showing that he was franchise quarterback material, really struggled after his left tackle went down. He wasn't the same player after that unlucky night in Atlanta.

Coming into 2018, he has a lot to prove. And a lot might be an understatement.

He needs to show the Cowboys that he's shaken off the beating he took in the last half of last season. He needs to show that his first 24 games are more indicative of the player he can be than the last eight.

Dak Prescott has been one of the more efficient quarterbacks in the league and, with a little bit of protection, should still be able to move the team down the field with regularity. That being said, he needs to improve his deep-ball consistency so teams can't crowd the line of scrimmage and take away the short chain-moving throws to Beasley & Co. that were his bread and butter in 2016.

The Dallas Cowboys have Dak Prescott at a very reasonable rate over the next two years, but his 2018 season is going to go a long way toward deciding whether they are negotiating an extension in 2019 or looking for his replacement.

Dak Prescott literally has millions riding on his 2018 season.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

As I wrote the other day, I believe the Dallas Cowboys are contenders in the 2018 season. If they don't live up to my and a lot of people's expectations, a lot of changes could be forthcoming.



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

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Dallas Cowboys

Ezekiel Elliott vs Byron Jones Part II: The Case For Paying Zeke

John Williams

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New York Giants are 2-1 Against Cowboys With Ezekiel Elliott

It's a debate that has raged on social media for some time now and it likely won't slow down as the offseason progresses and the Dallas Cowboys begin to hand out massive contracts to their top players. Pay Ezekiel Elliott? Pay Byron Jones? If you could only pay one, which would you pay?

This week fellow Inside The Star Staff Writer, Kevin Brady took to Twitter to poll the populous and his results were a bit surprising to me.

Kevin Brady on Twitter

if you can only pay one it should be

The results inspired me to see what would happen if I put the same poll on my timeline.

John Williams ✭ on Twitter

Inspired by my teammate @KevinBrady88, if you can only pay one, which would it be?

On Monday, Kevin wrote a piece looking at one of the difficult decisions facing the Dallas Cowboys this offseason or next. If the Cowboys could only extend Byron Jones OR Ezekiel Elliott, who should they choose? Kevin, as am I, is a firm believer in Byron Jones ability and says the Cowboys should extend them, and I agree. But let's look at the other side of the argument.

To begin, the Cowboys should and probably will get both guys contract extensions either this offseason or next. It's not impossible with the cap continuing to increase at a rate of about $8-12 million per year that the Cowboys will have the space to get the deals done that they need to get done. Ezekiel Elliott and Byron Jones included.

Byron Jones settled in nicely at cornerback during his first full season at cornerback and knowing what we know about Jones, he won't be satisfied with a second team All-Pro appearance. Expect him to get better. However, if there's a single player that represents the current identity of the Dallas Cowboys, it's Running Back Ezekiel Elliott.

The Cowboys made him the fourth overall pick in 2016 and haven't looked back in their plan to establish the running game. For his career Elliott has averaged 26.9 touches per game over the course of his 40 games.

Here's a look at what Elliott's per game and per 16 game paces look like through the first three seasons of his career.

As you can see from the table above, Ezekiel Elliott is averaging 131.2 total yards per game for his career. In his rookie season he had 1,994 total yards and he sat out the week 17 game against the Philadelphia Eagles when the Cowboys had the NFC and home field advantage locked up. In 2017, Elliott sat out six games and still had nearly 1,000 yards rushing. In 2018, Elliott broke through the 2,000 total yard barrier after seeing a huge increase in his targets and receptions.

Ezekiel Elliott has been everything the Dallas Cowboys could have hoped for and more. With the leadership role he's taken with the team, he's a player that leads both vocally and by example. There are few players on the Dallas Cowboys that give as much effort as he does each snap. How many times has it looked like Elliott was about to get dropped for a two or three yard loss only to grind through tackles to pick up a four yard gain? How many times has he bounced off tacklers to get to the first down marker? Ezekiel Elliott is the human personification of dirty yards, but don't let that fool you into thinking that Elliott can't take it to the house every time he touches the ball. Elliott's is a game breaker who threatens the defense every time he steps on the field.

In 2018, Elliott led the NFL in yards after contact, per Pro Football Focus. His 949 yards after contact in 2018 would have ranked 13th in the NFL in rushing, which was better than David Johnson's 940 yards rushing last season.

Not many running backs effect a football game like Ezekiel Elliott does.

Few players outside of the quarterback position are as much of a focal point for their offense while being an attention grabber for opposing defenses like Ezekiel Elliott is. In 2018, he saw eight or more men in the box on nearly 25% of his carries in 2018. Some of that is related to the Dallas Cowboys insistence on using two tight ends on 50% of their running plays (per Sharp Football), but the other aspect is related to how much they respect the Dallas Cowboys running game. Since the 2014, the Cowboys have been synonymous with running the football. DeMarco Murray, Darren McFadden, and now Ezekiel Elliott have been the faces of that running game behind the Cowboys elite offensive line.

Even in a down year for offensive line play from the Dallas Cowboys, Elliott still managed to lead the NFL in rushing for the second time in three seasons. Elliott made the Pro Bowl for the second time in three years as well. Were it not for the railroad job done by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in 2017, there's a really good chance that Elliott leads the league in rushing three years in a row and that the Dallas Cowboys make the playoffs all three seasons.

Sure, the running back position is undervalued in the NFL and rushing yardage can be replaced, but there are intangibles to Elliott's game that are very difficult to replace. His ability to grind out the dirty yards, break big plays, create yards after contact, pass protect, be a threat as a receiver, and his leadership make him a player that is difficult to replace.

Yes, Byron Jones was really good in 2018 and deserves to get paid by the Dallas Cowboys as well, but you'd be hard pressed to find a player on the Cowboys roster who has been as consistent and dominating week in and week out as Ezekiel Elliott has been over the last three years.



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BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb

Brian Martin

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BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb

According to multiple sources, the Dallas Cowboys have signed former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year deal to help bolster their depth at the WR position and potentially become Cole Beasley's replacement.

Adam Schefter on Twitter

Cowboys are giving former Packers' WR Randall Cobb a one-year, $5 million deal, per source. https://t.co/8KWFPjSP8T

The Dallas Cowboys met with Randall Cobb earlier this week, but he eventually left Dallas without a contract. He must've had a change of heart or just needed time to ponder the Cowboys offer, but regardless of what transpired in that short time he is now part of America's Team.

During his time with the Packers, Cobb accumulated 470 receptions for 5,524 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. The eight-year veteran will now be expected to replace some of Cole Beasley's production out of the slot for the Dallas Cowboys.

After years of watching Beasley as the Cowboys slot WR, it will be really interesting to see Randall Cobb in that role. He's not as quick twitched as No. 11, but can be just as dangerous due to his ability to be more of a down the field receiver. He also brings added value in the return game and could compete with Tavon Austin to become the return specialist.

This could mean the Cowboys forgo drafting a wide receiver early in the 2019 NFL Draft, but I wouldn't put it past them. Regardless of what happens, this is an excellent addition.

Welcome to Cowboys Nation Randall Cobb!



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REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur

Jess Haynie

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L.P. Ladouceur

L.P. Ladouceur is returning for his 15th season as the Cowboys' long snapper. The veteran free agent was re-signed by Dalals today to a one-year deal.

Thanks to Jason Witten's one-year sabbatical with Monday Night Football, Ladouceur has now been with the Cowboys for more consecutive seasons than any current player. He just turned 38 last week, but Louis-Philippe remains one of the top long snappers in football.

Todd Archer on Twitter

The Cowboys have signed long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a one-year deal worth $1.03 million and $90,000 in bonus money, but he will count $735,000 against the cap. This will be Ladouceur's 15th season with the Cowboys, tying Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Mark... https://t.co/2iDsi6RX7e

Retaining Ladouceur is an underrated move for the Cowboys given their situation at kicker.

Brett Maher was only 80% accurate overall on field goals last year. The team could be considering an upgrade in free agency.

Whether they bring Maher back or try someone new, having a long snapper with Ladouceur's performance perfection will make things much easier for them.



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