The Dallas Cowboys have pretty much rolled out the red carpet for rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, at least until Tony Romo returns to 100%. That's not exactly bad news considering how well Prescott has exceeded expectations and performed on the field during the first three preseason games for the Cowboys.
There is still a lot of optimism surrounding this Cowboys team, even though their projected starter (Tony Romo) and backup (Kellen Moore) are both dealing with injuries causing them to be out for an unspecified amount of time.
Normally, we would hear a lot of talk about tanking the season in order to have a top draft pick, but things have changed. And that has everything to do with the belief Dak Prescott can keep this high-powered Cowboys offense firing on all cylinders.
Tony Romo is said to be out anywhere from 4-8 weeks to 6-10 weeks. Because of this I decided to breakdown the schedule with Prescott at the helm to determine what the record might look like heading into their Week 7 bye.
By then, we should know if Romo could possibly return after the Cowboys bye week, or if we will see more of Prescott.
Here is a quick look at the Dallas Cowboys' opponents over the first six weeks of the 2016 season and my win/loss prediction.
|Opponent||Could Dak Prescott win?|
|New York Giants||No|
Would you be satisfied at .500 heading into the bye?
Well, that's how I see things possibly breaking down, as of right now, if Dak Prescott continues to play the way he has been.
It's always tough to predict NFL matchups because there is so much turnover year after year; it's really hard to figure out what the team will look like based on what they have been able to accomplish in the preseason.
Having said that, let me try to break this down a little further by examining each individual opponent.
New York Giants - Week 1
When the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants face off against one another, you can pretty much guarantee that the outcome will come down to the final seconds on the clock. I don't predict that to change any, not even with Dak Prescott leading the Cowboys' offense.
The Giants used the offseason to try to upgrade their defense and spent heavily to bring in some of the top free agents to accomplish that. Whether it pays off or not is still the question, but I think they'll throw everything (including the kitchen sink) at Prescott trying to confuse/harass him.
I do, however, think the Cowboys can win this game if they can find success in the running game and control the clock with Ezekiel Elliott.
Ultimately, I give a slight advantage to the Giants, which unfortunately means Dak Prescott loses his first regular-season game in the NFL.
@Washington Redskins - Week 2
I don't know who was in charge of coming up with the 2016 schedule, but they didn't do the Dallas Cowboys any favors by scheduling back-to-back division opponents in the first two weeks of the season.
Fortunately, I think the Cowboys match up really well against the Redskins, and even though they're playing their first away game of the season, I see them coming away with their first win in 2016.
Kirk Cousins played surprisingly well in 2015, but whether he can have a repeat performance has yet to be seen. Even the Redskins are waiting to see what he does before they offer him a long-term extension, so you can read whatever you want to into that.
This game will be particularly interesting because we'll get to see Dez Bryant and Josh Norman face off against one another. I think the Cowboys will impose their will with their offensive line and running game.
Chicago Bears - Week 3
The Dallas Cowboys will play their first non-division game at AT&T Stadium against the Chicago Bears in Week 3 of the 2016 season.
The Cowboys' and Bears' 2015 seasons were oddly similar and they both finished last in their respective divisions. But fortunately for the Cowboys, they aren't really in a transitional phase like the Bears.
Head coach John Fox is entering his second year with the Bears and he is still transitioning his defense from the 4-3 to the 3-4. I think the high-powered Dallas Cowboys offense will be too much for the Bears' defense, and quarterback Dak Prescott will have his best professional game in prime-time on Sunday night.
If there is a must-win game during the first six weeks of the season for the Cowboys, I believe this is the one. This game alone could have huge playoff implications and for that reason I think the Cowboys' coaching staff will do everything in their power to ensure a W.
@San Francisco 49ers - Week 4
There is absolutely nothing about the San Francisco 49ers that scares me, not one bit, and I think this could possibly be the safest bet for the Dallas Cowboys to win with Dak Prescott playing quarterback.
On both offense and defense, the 49ers really lack players that can make a big difference in the game. New head coach Chip Kelly has yet to make the kind of impact in the NFL that both he and everyone else might have expected.
The Dallas Cowboys know what to expect from Chip Kelly and should come out and completely dominate this game in all phases. I fully expect the Cowboys to have their highest scoring game of the season and come away with their third win of the year.
Cincinnati Bengals - Week 5
The Cincinnati Bengals are perhaps one of the better balanced teams on both offense and defense in the entire NFL.
They are projected to make a strong push to make the playoffs in 2016 and could possibly be the toughest defense that Dak Prescott has faced to this point.
On offense, the Bengals have the play-makers to make the game miserable for the Cowboys defense. Andy Dalton throwing to AJ Green will really test the Cowboys secondary, but the Bengals also like to be physical at the point of attack, and will try to be dominate up front with the running game, led by Jeremy Hill.
This is going to be a really tough test for the Dallas Cowboys, in all phases of the game. Unfortunately, I don't think Dak Prescott can do enough to come away with a victory at home.
@Green Bay Packers - Week 6
Any team traveling to Lambeau Field and secure with the thought they can come away with a victory are either delusional or know something I don't. Lambeau Field is arguably the toughest venue to play at and that doesn't bode well for the Dallas Cowboys in their Week 6 matchup with the Green Bay Packers.
A Packer offense led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers is always dangerous, but after an injury-plagued 2015 season, Jordy Nelson should be back to 100% to pick up where he left off pre-injury. This should make the Packers' offense one of the best in the NFL and is the sole reason why I think they beat the Dallas Cowboys.
As talented as I think Dak Prescott is, I don't believe he can match Aaron Rodgers touchdown for touchdown. And I don't even want to think about how the Cowboys defense will look against the Packers offense at home.
If you're stoked about Dak Prescott, the Dallas Cowboys Pro Shop just got his jerseys in. Check it out, and get your new Dak Prescott jersey today!
Can Dak Prescott do better than 3-3 before the bye week?
Please take advantage of the comment section below and tell us your prediction of Dak Prescott's win/loss record in the first six weeks of the 2016 season.
Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?
It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.
These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.
Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.
Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.
This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.
Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.
The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.
It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.
Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.
As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.
For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.
Cowboys OT La’el Collins Could Become Major Bargain
When you talk Cowboys offensive line, you always think of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin first. Right Tackle La'el Collins still has to prove he belongs in the same sentence with his elite teammates. If he does that in 2018, Collins could become one of the best bargains on the roster.
Making the move from left guard to right tackle last year, Collins improved with time and was playing his best football at the end of the year. This was despite ongoing back issues that had him on the injury report most weeks.
La'el started all 16 games at right tackle and did enough that the Cowboys committed to keeping him there in 2018, even despite a big hole back at left guard. They are hoping consistency and stability will allow Collins to really blossom this season, building on the strong progress shown last year.
For 2018, Collins has a $5.76 million cap hit. According to Spotrac, that makes him the 13th-most expensive right tackle in the NFL this year.
That middle-of-the-pack expense is consistent with where La'el currently rates among NFL right tackles. Bleacher Report ranked Collins as the 16th-best RT in football last year.
But that ranking was based on the season as a whole. If La'el plays all of 2018 the way he was playing towards the end of last year, he will have emerged as one of the better right tackles in the game.
If Collins develops as we hope, that salary suddenly becomes a major bargain. The most expensive right tackles in the NFL are making $7-$9 million this season.
But this can go a couple of ways. With his 2019 cap hit rising to $7.9 million, La'el needs to next step forward.
If Collins were to struggle this year, it could make him a potential cap casualty next offseason. Dallas can save $6.5 million in cap space if Collins is released or traded in 2019.
Dallas could elect to give Connor Williams, their second-round pick this year, a look at right tackle next season. It's the position he played in college.
They could also consider veteran backup Cameron Fleming, who will still be just 26-year-old. Fleming has two Super Bowl rings and several starts, including in the postseason, from his time with the Patriots.
While we think of La'el Collins as a first-round talent, it's important to remember that he was ultimately an undrafted free agent. Dallas did not have to invest anything to acquire him, and ultimately that makes it easier to let him go.
Naturally, we prefer the other side of this coin. If Collins builds on 2017, he will join the upper echelon of right tackles in the league. And if the Cowboys' offensive line isn't already the best in the NFL, that would only cement them as the best unit in football.
If La'el makes the leap, it could mean huge things for the Cowboys' offense and team success this year.
How Cowboys Could Benefit From Randy Gregory’s Suspension
Randy Gregory is back! His suspension is officially over and he will be able to join the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California when training camp gets underway less than a week from now.
Speculation has already started as to what this could mean for the Dallas Cowboys defense this season, and shockingly expectations are rather high for a player who hasn't stepped foot on the field in over a year. But, that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to focus on Gregory's mess of a contract, because it is rather interesting.
Randy Gregory was signed to a four-year contract after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gregory's rookie deal was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season, but his multiple suspensions have now changed that expiration date.
You see, Gregory has only played in a total of 14 games in his career, 12 as a rookie and two in Year 2. His third year in the NFL was completely wiped out due to his year-long suspension. If you were to add that all up, it equates to just one accured season in the NFL. Remember that, because it could have a huge impact on his contract down the road.
What all of this means is that the Cowboys can pretty much stretch out Gregory's contract now that they are three years in on the deal and have only gotten one accured season out of the agreement. That basically means they can push his contract back a year, meaning his 2017 salary ($731,813) gets pushed back to 2018, his 2018 salary ($955,217) gets pushed to 2019. That would essentially make him a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in 2020.
Or does it?
Depending on how the Dallas Cowboys handled paying Randy Gregory during his suspension could actually make him an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (EFA). This is a similar situation in which David Irving found himself in after the 2017 season. The Cowboys placed a second-round tender on him in order to secure his services for another season, albeit at a $2.91 million price tag.
As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys pretty much hold all the cards when it comes to Randy Gregory's contract situation. It's all a little confusing, but that's what makes it such a unique and interesting situation.
Of course, the Cowboys could decide to extend Gregory early if he completely dominates upon his return this season. It's highly doubtful though considering his past suspensions, but still technically a possibility. If it does happen, you can go ahead and ignore everything I've written previously.
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