It's been a season of ups and downs that saw the 2018 Dallas Cowboys start the season by alternating wins and losses through the first six games before dropping to 3-5 after the eight game mark. Now having won three in a row and leading the NFC East, I think we can all rest assured that these Dallas Cowboys.
Over the last three weeks, the Dallas Cowboys have answered questions that hadn't previously been answered.
Prior to the three game winning streak, they hadn't won a game on the road. Well, now they've done that twice.
They hadn't played a really good offense. Well they outscored the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles and the Super Bowl 51 runner-up Atlanta Falcons on the road.
In 2017, the Cowboys weren't able to overcome the injuries and suspensions to their star players Sean Lee, Tyron Smith, David Irving, and Ezekiel Elliott. Well in 2018, they've weathered the storm and played really good without Tyron Smith, David Irving, Sean Lee, and several other key contributors.
The time has come for us to believe in the Dallas Cowboys again.
I know that's difficult to do as the Cowboys have let us down so many times over the last couple of decades, but for the 2018 Cowboys, things are trending in the right direction and they are playing their best football of the year at the most important time of the year.
Even with a formidable game coming this Thursday night against the 10-1 New Orleans Saints, the Dallas Cowboys give us reason to believe that they could actually come away with a win this week to extend the streak to four. Just a few games ago, I don't think anyone would have thought a W was possible this Thursday.
But that's where we are now and for good reason.
The Dallas Cowboys offense is starting to look dangerous on the ground and through the air.
Over the last three games, Quarterback Dak Prescott has averaged 255.7 yards per game, completed 70.1% of his passes, is averaging 7.75 yards per attempt and 8.35 air yards per attempt. He's thrown three touchdowns and ran for three touchdowns while not turning the ball over; basically two touchdowns per game. Prescott's quarterback rating over the three game winning streak was 100.3. Dak's been sacked 3.3 times per game. That includes being sacked four times in the first half against the Washington Redskins, but not being sacked at all in the second half. All of this occurring while Connor Williams sat out and against the Washington Redskins without Tyron Smith.
Over the first eight games of the season, prior to the three game winning streak, Prescott averaged 207.5 passing yards per game, threw 10 touchdowns and five interceptions, averaged seven yards per attempt and only 6.90 air yards per attempt. During the 3-5 start, Prescott averaged 1.5 total touchdowns per game. His passer rating was 88.9.
There are several things to factor into to the improved play of the offense, but the two biggest reasons are the two big moves they made over the bye week. First, trading for WR Amari Cooper. Then removing Paul Alexander as offensive line coach and replacing him with Marc Colombo.
It’s hard to quantify just how much of an impact Cooper and Colombo have made on the Cowboys since the bye week, but there’s certainly a difference in both the way they run the ball and throw the ball.
Not only has Dak Prescott seen a midseason resurgence to his play, but Ezekiel Elliott and the running game have as well. Elliott has run for 120 yards or more with a touchdown in three straight games. It's the second time in his career that he's had such a stretch. This while playing against two really good defensive fronts in the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins. The Redskins held Elliott to 33 yards on 15 carries in the week seven loss in Washington.
The Amari Cooper trade has added an element to the offense that's been missing this season. Someone who can create separation with his excellent route running ability, but also has the speed to break away from defenders after the catch. As we all saw on Thursday. You can tell when watching that Prescott has a high level of comfort with Cooper and is willing to throw the ball his way often. In fact, since coming over from the Oakland Raiders prior to the Tennessee Titans game, Cooper has led the Cowboys in targets in three out of the four games he's been with the team. He helps everyone on the offense. In only four games, Cooper's already second on the team in receiving yards and first on the Cowboys in receiving touchdowns.
He gets open, which helps Dak, which in turn helps the offensive line. He requires attention from the secondary, which is going to help the rest of the wide receivers in their routes, as well as Elliott. Like we saw on Thursday, he's a threat to score from anywhere on the field. When a team can get one or two big plays a game like that, it provides a huge boost to the entire football team.
The offense's improvement over the last three games shouldn't overshadow what the defense has done. They continue to play really good as a unit.
They've held the Philadelphia Eagles, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Washington Redskins to an average of 20.67 points per game. The Atlanta Falcons were held to one touchdown at home, where they had averaged 30+ points on the road coming into the game.
The Dallas Cowboys defense, who has been pretty good at putting pressure on the passer and against the run, is starting to create turnovers.
They've created a turnover in four straight games, and forced Colt McCoy into three interceptions on Thursday. The Cowboys would have had another interception in the Atlanta game if not for Julio Jones ball-separating hit on Jeff Heath.
If the Dallas defense can continue to force turnovers in each game, it's going to make things a lot easier for the offense. The Cowboys are still in the bottom half of the league in turnovers, but are trending in the right direction with seven in the last four weeks. Against, Tennessee, they were unable to capitalize on the turnovers, but that shouldn't be as much of a problem moving forward.
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It's easy to look at the quality of opponent the Cowboys have played over the last three weeks and discount the three game winning streak, but each of those teams is still in the thick of the wild card race. The Cowboys were under pressure in must-win games and came away with big wins.
No matter what happens on Thursday night against the New Orleans Saints, this team is still one to put our confidence in. They're playing really good football now and I don't see that changing for the rest of the 2018 season. Whether they win this week or not, and I think there’s a good chance they do pull off the upset, this team is on a trajectory to win the NFC East. This is a dangerous team and one to believe in.
2018 In Review: Byron Jones Emerges As CB1
Heading into the 2018 season Byron Jones was being asked to prove himself. The former first round pick had fallen out of the coaches' good graces during his third season, though many of his struggles could be attributed to those very coaches which were then questioning his ability.
Being asked to play out of position, or at least in a spot which did not maximize his natural ability, Jones struggled in 2017. Too often he was playing in the box as a safety where his lack of physicality was exposed by the opponent's run game. This was mostly due to the coaching staff falling in love with his tight-end-erasing ability in man coverage, but backfired when overused as a safety.
Once hired the following offseason, Kris Richard and company decided to move Byron Jones to cornerback full time, allowing him to utilize his excellent coverage skills and athletic ability to the fullest, rather than putting him at a disadvantage in the box.
The results? Well, Jones had one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football, earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his young career.
Byron Jones had a dominant season for Dallas
Pro Football Focus graded Jones as the sixth best cornerback in all of football last season, allowing just 0.79 yards per coverage snap. Despite not having an interception on the season, Jones still earned national recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league.
Down the stretch of the season, Chidobe Awuzie started to play up to the level which fans had hoped for during the preseason. He had been sticky in coverage most of the year, but now he was making plays on the ball at a much better rate, forcing incompletions. This led to an increase in targets to Jones' side, and though the increase resulted in more catches given up by the number one cornerback, I don't think Jones' play faltered as much as some will have you believe.
The fact is, when you get targeted more you are bound to give up more catches and yards. The key is to force them into contested catches, and make things as difficult for the receiver as possible when targeted.
Byron Jones continued to do this all season long, and fans should be excited for the next step of his growth in 2019.
Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial
Por muchos años, el tema del tope salarial ha sido un tema sensible para los Dallas Cowboys. Entre dinero muerto y otros problemas, el equipo ha tenido una situación delicada en este aspecto. Sin embargo, para la temporada del 2019 tienen más espacio de lo que estamos acostumbrados.
Según Over The Cap, los Cowboys tendrán aproximadamente 48 millones de dólares disponibles en 2019. Es importante recalcar que este número no es definitivo y puede cambiar. Año tras año, esta administración ha sido aficionada de reestructurar los contratos de ciertos veteranos para liberar espacio salarial constantemente. Además de esto, hay varios jugadores bajo contrato que el equipo podría decidir cortar para liberar aún más dinero.
Al ver sólo 48 millones disponibles, es complicado imaginar un escenario en que el equipo logre satisfacer todos sus objetivos. Hay bastantes candidatos a grandes extensiones en el equipo, principalmente dos jugadores. En una liga en la que quarterback es la posición más importante, la segunda más importante podría ser la del caza cabezas, cuyo objetivo es ir tras el quarterback contrario.
Pues en Dallas, hoy dos jugadores en estas posiciones que hay que extender. El más urgente sin duda es el defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence se puso el jersey del equipo cuando este lo designó a jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia. Afortunadamente, el atleta de 26 años la hizo de soldado y jugó sin amenazar con faltar a entrenamientos ni pretemporada.
Lo que sí comentó es que no pasaría por lo mismo en 2019. Ahora, el momento está aquí y es tiempo de que los Cowboys lo extiendan. El valor de Lawrence es difícil de predecir, pero es bastante seguro que se acercará a los números de Khalil Mack. Mack hizo historia ganando un contrato que en promedio gana 23.5 millones al año. Si bien no anticiparía que lo supere, la cifra estará cerca al contrato del defensivo de los Chicago Bears.
Además está Dak Prescott, cuyo contrato probablemente estará por encima de los 25 millones anuales. Son contratos caros, pero son piezas fundamentales para el equipo. Definitivamente se les tiene que pagar a ambos. Son pilares que año tras año buscan equipos en toda la NFL.
Además de esto, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley y más podrían tener un impacto en el tope salarial. Algunos buscan un contrato nuevo, otros una extensión. Pero honestamente, me parece que habrá más espacio en el tope salarial de lo que pensamos. Sólo es cuestión de tiempo para que los Cowboys comiencen a reestructurar a sus veteranos para ahorrarse unos cuantos millones para utilizar en agencia libre.
Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford entre otros pueden ser buenas opciones para comenzar este proceso. Antes era Jason Witten uno de los candidatos favoritos para este proceso, pero él ya se encuentra comentando partidos para ESPN. En Inside The Star, continuaremos actualizándote con contenido al día de los Dallas Cowboys.
Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?
Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.
The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.
The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.
Lock Down the Big Guns
Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.
Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.
As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.
Adding New Talent
One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.
Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.
If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.
Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.
Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.
The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.
As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.
Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.
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