The release of Dez Bryant earlier in the offseason created quite a bit of uncertainty heading into the 2018 season. Bryant had his flaws no doubt, but he was also one of the more passionate leaders on the team and the best red zone threat the Dallas Cowboys had on the roster. The latter is what I want to focus on today.
Who exactly will the Dallas Cowboys choose to replace Dez Bryant with as the main red zone threat? This was the area of Bryant's game where he truly set himself apart from other WRs around the league. His ability to go up and catch the ball at the highest point is one of the reasons he accumulated so many touchdowns over the years.
Unfortunately, Dak Prescott never developed that kind of red zone chemistry with Dez Bryant, which is one of the reasons 88's TD totals declined the past few seasons. But, it's still a good idea to try to find someone who can provide that kind of skill set for the Cowboys offense moving forward.
Now that Bryant is gone, I wanted to share with you four players currently on the Cowboys roster who could help become the next red zone threat in Dallas. It takes a certain kind of skill set to be a consistent red zone threat, and I think all of the players I've listed below have a chance of doing just that.
WR Allen Hurns
I don't know if Allen Hurns can be a threat in the red zone like Dez Bryant was throughout his career with the Dallas Cowboys. I've always thought that Hurns was more of a possession type of receiver during his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars. I never really thought of him as a "go to" guy in the red zone.
However, Hurns does have the size (6'3", 215) to be a threat inside the 20 yard line. Maybe he just didn't get the chance in Jacksonville to be a red zone threat playing second fiddle to Allen Robinson, but he should be given every opportunity to be "that" guy in Dallas.
In order for Hurns to become a red zone threat in Dallas he's going to need to do two things first. First, he is going to have to develop a good bond/relationship with Dak Prescott in the passing game. Then, he is going to have to prove to the coaching staff he can be relied upon in that area of the field. Luckily, he has all of training camp and preseason to accomplish those tasks.
WR Michael Gallup
When studying Michael Gallup's college game tape, one of the first things I noticed was the physicality he brings to the table. He reminds me a little bit of Dez Bryant, although a little smaller, because he plays with the same kind of mindset and physical demeanor.
One of Gallup's best traits as a WR in college was his ability to out physical defensive backs in those contested ball situations. He has a wide catching radius and vice grip like hands to secure the catch. That could come in really handy in the red zone this season.
The bad news though is we really don't know what to expect from him as a rookie. We all hope that he can hit the ground running, but he's still unproven at this point in his career. I know I have high hopes for the first-year WR. In fact, I think he could end up being the leading receiver this season when all is said and done.
WR Noah Brown
At 6'2", 220 pounds, second-year WR Noah Brown is now the biggest receiver the Cowboys currently have on the roster. He also brings a similar skill set to the Cowboys offense that Dez Bryant provided for many years.
Noah Brown's strength is something that really pops out when watching him play. He blocks like a tight end, but plays like a WR. It's that strength could help him pick up some of the slack in the red zone the Cowboys offense lost when Dez Bryant was released. He can use that physicality to his advantage.
Unfortunately, Brown's strength as a blocker may keep him from getting very many targets in the receiving game once the Cowboys get inside the 20 yard line. It's entirely possible Dallas finally leans more on Ezekiel Elliott and the running game, which means Brown may have to stay in and block instead of running routes. But, I believe the skill set is there to be a threat in the red zone if needed.
TE Blake Jarwin
Blake Jarwin may be the underdog at the Dallas Cowboys tight end position to earn a significant role, especially as the starter, but I don't think that will last long. In fact, I think he will set himself apart from all of the other TEs on the roster and start Week 1 of the season.
Jarwin is probably the most athletic TE on the Cowboys roster not named Rico Gathers. Unfortunately, I don't believe Gathers makes the final 53-man roster. He just hasn't been able to develop the way the Cowboys coaching staff envisioned. But, that's okay because Jarwin has already shown more progress in one offseason than Gathers and it's already being noticed in practices.
Not only will Jarwin give the Cowboys offense a threat down the seam, but I think he can be a dangerous weapon in the red zone, which could come in handy with the loss of Dez Bryant. At 6'5" and around 250 pounds, Jarwin has the height and athletic ability to go up and catch the ball at the highest point. The only thing he has to do now is gain Dak Prescott's trust in those situations.
Who do you think will be the Dallas Cowboys next red zone threat?
Dallas Cowboys: The Case For Regression In 2019
It's been a few years since things around the Dallas Cowboys felt this good prior to a season. Coming off a 10-6 year in which Dallas won both the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a one possession road game to the future NFC champions, Cowboys Nation is expecting some big things in 2019.
After all, the Cowboys went out and improved their roster in multiple ways this offseason and brought in some new blood on their offensive coaching staff. Spirits are high among Cowboys Nation, and just about everyone is anticipating a two team race for the NFC East.
But some numbers indicate we should be thinking "not so fast."
The details of the 2018 season are not as pretty as the total picture. Rarely are they ever, of course, but these particular details point towards possible regression for the Cowboys in 2019.
Basically, their point differential a year ago spells out impending doom. (That was dramatic, but let's discuss).
The Cowboys were +15 in 2018, and by pythagorean wins expectation, they were about as strong as an 8-8 team (8.53 wins to be exact). This means they won nearly 2 more games (1.47) than would be expected, fourth most in the entire NFL.
This point is furthered when looking at their record in one possession games. Dallas went 8-2 when the game was decided by 7 points or less, winning close games at a rate that is simply not sustainable year to year.
These numbers make the Cowboys a prime candidate for regression in 2019, as they were in 2017.
Back in 2016, the Cowboys outperformed their pythagorean expectation by a whole 2 wins. The following season? Dallas finished the year 9-7. The model also indicated that the 7-9 Eagles performed 2 wins under expectations in 2016, meaning they would get back on track in 2017. As we know, they ended up winning 13 games and the Super Bowl the following season.
Of course, this isn't set-in-stone, and the Cowboys very well could outperform these expectations and avoid regression. This would mainly hinge on their coaching staff and quarterback performing at an elite level, carrying them through close games and winning more games by greater than one possession.
Newly Acquired DE Robert Quinn Brings High Expectations
Winning games in the NFL typically comes down to accomplishing two goals. One, being successful when passing on offense. And, two, stopping the opposing team's passing game.
The Cowboys set out to accomplish that second goal this offseason, re-signing defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and trading for veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn, who tallied 6.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins, is one of the leagues more feared rushers when at his best. The former All Pro has multiple 10+ sack seasons under his belt, including a whopping 19 in 2013.
And, as expected, the Cowboys coaching staff is ecstatic to have such a respected pass rushing specialist on their roster.
“He’s got that first step. He’s an established pass rusher in this league, so he’s going to bring some good stuff for us.” - Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
The Cowboys acquired Robert Quinn for a 2020 6th round pick, which could end up being the steal of the offseason. Quinn has played with some top-notch pass rushers in the past, and each time they have brought out the best in his own game.
Back with the Rams in 2017, when Aaron Donald was on the same defensive line, Quinn got to the quarterback 8.5 times. And, last season, he remained consistent in his sack totals playing alongside Cameron Wake. Now he joins a DeMarcus Lawrence who has 25 sacks over the last 2 seasons.
"I think it was kind of one of those where I get to have fun, pin my ears back and just disrupt the backfield, which is what they want us to do." - Robert Quinn told NFL.com.
Quinn and the always dominant Lawrence will form an impressive defensive end duo on passing downs, with the potential to be one of the best in all of football. Dallas is also hoping to add Randy Gregory into this mix, a piece which could prove vital late in football games if he is able to return from his current indefinite suspension.
Whether or not Gregory finds his way back onto the field, though, this defensive front will be in good hands. The edge combo of Quinn and Lawrence, combined with a plethora of skilled interior rushers such as Maliek Collins, gives the Cowboys a fearsome defensive line which should keep quarterbacks uncomfortable every Sunday.
Can Rookie OL Connor McGovern Compete For A Starting Spot?
Raising eyebrows in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Cowboys added Penn State offensive lineman Connor McGovern to their already deep OL depth chart.
McGovern, who played guard for the Nittany Lions, was reportedly by-far the best player remaining on the Cowboys draft board when they came on the clock in round three. Still, with seemingly more pressing needs yet to be addressed, Dallas' selection of McGovern was certainly a surprise.
When you watch the tape, though, you immediately see what the Cowboys loved about Connor McGovern.
A "plug-and-play" type guard, Connor McGovern is the type of rookie you'd expect to contribute in year one. On many teams he may be a candidate to start at guard or center from the beginning of his rookie season, but here in Dallas, his role for the 2019 season is somewhat in question.
Clearly, being a day two pick, there's no doubt that McGovern will make the Cowboys roster. But can he compete for a starting job?
During OTA's McGovern took reps at both guard and center, pointing towards the possibility of him being the first interior offensive lineman off the bench if one of the starters were to go down with an injury. Fellow interior linemen Joe Looney and Xavier Su'a-Filo each contributed in big ways during the 2018 season, however, and will be tough to beat out during camp.
While possible, I would still say it's unlikely. The Cowboys selection of McGovern seems to be more about 2020 and beyond than it is about the 2019 season. With right tackle La'el Collins coming up on a contract year, Dallas might elect to let him walk in free agency, move Williams back to his college position of tackle, and slide McGovern into the left guard slot.
This seems fool-proof in theory, but this many moving parts across the offensive line could spell trouble early on in 2020. Regardless, Connor McGovern's arrival gives Dallas the flexibility to consider all options on their offensive line.
In reality, McGovern strengthened a strength for Dallas, and may be needed to prove himself as early as this Fall if injury issues arise.
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