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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.


I didn't start out as a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quickly as I could. I grew up a Joe Montana fan when he was with the 49ers and followed him to the Chiefs, until we moved to Texas. I've now been a Fan of the Boys since the Dark Days of the Post-Aikman, Pre-Romo era of abysmal quarterback play, now relishing in more than a decade of franchise quarterbacking for America's Team.

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11 Comments
  • Zac H

    “Looking at you Randy Gregory and Jaylon Smith”!?!?

    He has been a solid contributor and is expected to continue to return to form. Randy Gregory I get…but don’t disrespect what Jaylon Smith has gone through by grouping him with Randy…

    • John Williams

      Yeah, you’re right. Lumping the two together was probably not the best idea.

      Jaylon and Randy could both still contribute, but, my major point was that they took major risks with a premium pick.

      Jaylon’s made some plays, but he was also a liability when given an extended run last year. He hasn’t developed enough health or confidence to be able to effectively play when he has to change directions.

      He was excellent as a Blitzer though and I’d love to see them use him on the weakside of the defensive line sometimes.

      • Matthew England

        He definitely shouldn’t have gotten the extended time he did last year. They knew he wasn’t going to be ready yet, but when injuries strike. Hopefully this year those 2 really pay off man. Their drafts have been solid the past 4 to 5 years.

        • John Williams

          Yeah, I’m hopeful that another year removed from the injury, another offseason to get stronger and more confident, and another year in the scheme will only help him.

          • Matthew England

            I am a huge nd fan and Jaylon is my favorite irish player ever. When we got him I was so worried though, he was the most instinctive player I have ever seen and so fast laterally. I was worried he would never be the same player. I really really hope his knee is getting better because he could be an all pro if he gets healthy again.

          • John Williams

            Has to get confidence in the knee holding up under the strain of cuts. If he can get stronger and more confident, the sky’s the limit.

        • John Williams

          It wasn’t Jaylon’s fault that they put him out there before he was physically ready to handle the workload, they just didn’t have any other options.

  • Matthew England

    I agree with zac about the jaylon comment, sure we could have taken something in the 2nd to contribute that year but he still could end up being a steal if his knee is truly regenerating

    • John Williams

      He could still and I hope he does, but to this point you’ve gotten next to nothing out of 2 second rounders. Where Chido was able to come in and play meaningful snaps from week one, you had to wait a year on Jaylon and we’re still waiting on Gregory.

      • Matthew England

        I guess I just don’t view 81 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1 sack and a pass deflection as next to nothing.

        • John Williams

          He had moments throughout the season that showed a guy who could be a productive player. But the Rams game and the Packers game pretty much were decided when those two offensive play callers decided to take advantage of his lack of lateral movement.

          As a run defender he was pretty good. But the NFL is a passing league now and with teams lining up in 11 personnel 70% of the time, he has to be able to run with backs and tight ends to be an effective linebacker in today’s NFL. Otherwise, it’s not a good pick.

          I still think he can be something, but it all depends on how much he can get out of his knee. That’s always been the question.

          Like they say, hope isn’t a strategy.

Dallas Cowboys

REPORT: Cowboys DL David Irving’s Accuser Retracts Claims Of Domestic Violence

Kevin Brady

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David Irving

After what was a rather crazy day which resulted in reports the Frisco Police Department were investigating Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving for domestic violence, the accuser has now retracted her claims.

https://twitter.com/DCBlueStar/status/988527577915674624

This retraction comes after the mentioned reports of domestic violence claims against David Irving earlier in the day. Irving was neither arrested nor charged for the incidents, though two separate allegations were made.

Jobin Panicker on Twitter

BREAKING @FriscoPD confirms allegations made against Cowboys player David Irving were reported on April 22nd. At two separate times: 5pm & 10pm. Allegations made by girlfriend @wfaa

Irving has claimed through his own social media account that his accuser is an ex-girlfriend looking for retaliation over a breakup. Irving has already said he has changed the locks on his house in attempt to change behavior moving forward.

Whether or not Irving abused his reported ex-girlfriend is not for me to say, but it will be interesting to see how Roger Goodell handles the matter after she retracted her claims later in the day. As we know very well, the NFL can claim violation of the personal conduct policy even if the justice system pursues no charges.

And the results of both the Frisco PD's investigation and that of the league office will be intriguing over the coming weeks and months.


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Player News

REPORT: Cowboys DE/DT David Irving Suspected of Domestic Violence

Jess Haynie

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David Irving

[4/24/18 UPDATE: Irving's accuser has since recanted with police. However, the NFL could still investigate under their domestic violence policy.]

ORIGINAL STORY

Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving is under investigation by Frisco, TX police for charges of domestic violence, according to a report by Jobin Panicker of WFAA-ABC in Dallas.

The following was tweeted from Panicker's account not long ago:

Jobin Panicker on Twitter

BREAKING @FriscoPD confirms it is investigating serious allegations against Cowboys player David Irving. No arrests. Assault-Bodily Injury, Unlawful Restraint, & Assault-Impeding Breath and Circulation @wfaa

Jobin Panicker on Twitter

BREAKING @FriscoPD confirms allegations made against Cowboys player David Irving were reported on April 22nd. At two separate times: 5pm & 10pm. Allegations made by girlfriend @wfaa

The veracity of the accusations are certainly not ours to judge, but other recent events on Irving's social suggest he is in the middle of a breakup with his girlfriend. Posts early this morning on his Twitter account appeared to be from an unauthorized user, and David later posted on both Twitter and Instagram that someone had hacked him.

Furthermore, Irving shared that he was already taking steps due to the volatile situation.

David Ja Rodd Irving on Twitter

@DCBlueStar Changed the locks yesterday

While personal lives should stay that way, Cowboys fans are understandably concerned after what happened last year with Ezekiel Elliott. As we saw then, Roger Goodell's "justice" system allows for just an accusation to lead to a suspension. There is no burden of proof on the accuser.

And as in that case, even if the police dismiss the allegation, the NFL can still pursue the matter under the personal conduct and domestic violence policies.

It would be nice to just say "let the process play out," but the NFL commissioner doesn't hold himself to that standard. Therefore, we have to report this as it could mean consequences for David Irving and the Dallas Cowboys no matter how legitimate the claims are.


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Player News

Jaylon Smith Practicing Without AFO Brace

John Williams

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Jaylon Smith Voted Cowboys' Ed Block Courage Award Winner 1

A lot of the talk circling the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL Draft is the need for the Cowboys to draft a linebacker as insurance to Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith's injury issues.

One of the questions, Sean Lee, will always be a question. When he's on the field, he's as good a linebacker as there is in the NFL. In 2016, he finally got in a near full season and rewarded the Dallas Cowboys with an All-Pro season that led the team to the playoffs. Talent has never been the issue with Lee. Keeping him on the field has been.

Jaylon Smith's question isn't his health as much as it is his recovery. The surgery to repair his ACL and MCL that he suffered at the end of his final season at Notre Dame was considered a success. There was a caveat, however, that there was no telling how much functionality would return because of the massive nerve injury that occurred.

Last year, Jaylon Smith actually played football games. No small step. In some games he made some plays and in other games, it was clear that he was still struggling with changing directions and running with receivers and running backs in coverage.

Time is Jaylon's biggest ally and another offseason removed from his injury should only help him get stronger and more confident in his recovering knee.

Lost in all of the Dez Bryant hoopla was a beautiful little nugget that Jaylon Smith teased Cowboys Nation with last week.

Jaylon provided a great look at his training regimen on the first day of team workouts and if you look closely, you'll see with a Clear Eye View that Jaylon Smith isn't wearing a brace, tape, or any other kind of support. On his knee or foot.

Jaylon Smith on Twitter

Focused vision, Determined belief, Earned dreams. #ClearEyeView

Remember that even after Jaylon was playing and practicing without a knee brace, he was still requiring an AFO brace to help with his foot drop.

Oh, how much one offseason can change things.

Mike Fisher, now of 247Sports.com, quoted Smith as saying, "I have more power and more flexibility now. And the dropfoot (issue) is fading. Absolutely!'' over on Scout.com, and there was this:

"As our colleague Bryan Broaddus has previously noted, it does seem that some of the testing is behind him, that the nerve is regenerating, that the repaired knee is stronger than ever and that more improvement is ahead of him. Smith's 6-2, 245-pound body is about as sculpted as is imaginable. His mind is sculpted, too, the result of his faith and his intellect and his personality and more. He suggests now that more improvement is inevitable, and that includes the medical improvement that is now, to him, simply "a matter of timing.'''

Mike Fisher - 105.3 The Fan and 247Sports.com

There is still a lot of hope around The Star and Cowboys Nation that Jaylon Smith can return to the All-American form that was projecting him as a top-five talent in the 2016 NFL Draft. If he's healthy and moving with better lateral movement and agility than he was in 2017, that's a huge step forward for Jaylon Smith and the Dallas Cowboys.

The progression of his knee and his confidence in said knee is going to be a huge determining factor in Dallas' plans to draft a linebacker. If they feel confident that he will be a more functional linebacker in 2018 than he was in 2017, then perhaps they could wait until day two or three to address the linebacker position.

We can't fully know their intentions as we get closer to draft day. How they address the linebacker position in the 2018 NFL Draft could give us an excellent indication of how they feel about Jaylon Smith's progression.

What we do know is that Jaylon Smith will never give up working toward being an elite middle linebacker. Let's hope he can realize his dreams. Everyone will be better for it.


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