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.
Ezekiel Elliott vs Byron Jones Part II: The Case For Paying Zeke
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper 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.
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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