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?
Will DeMarcus Lawrence Be Franchise Tagged Again in 2019?
The deadline for extending players under the franchise tag has come and gone last Monday, in a day in which none of the remaining tagged players reached an agreement with their respective teams. That includes Dallas Cowboy Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who's set to earn $17M in 2018.
The front office and the 26-year old defensive end failed to agree to a new contract before the season's start, but we saw that coming. After all, there was never a point in which we had the classic "X player and his team are close to a new deal" headline.
All of this makes the future of the Cowboys' promising "War Daddy" very uncertain. What lies a head of the player that put on an impressive show in 2018?
Since 2017 was Lawrence's breakout year, racking up 14.5 sacks trough the season, we have leaned towards the narrative of last season being his only good one. His performance last season was impressive and clearly his best one yet, but we tend to overlook 2015.
In his sophomore season, the only other year in which he has played 16 games, he finished the campaign with eight sacks and 35 tackles (55 combined). Really, the idea of 2017 being his only good year is not as accurate as we might think.
That being said, I think it's more likely that we see another great year from him this upcoming season than seeing a disappointing one. This, of course, will end up being the main thing that determines his future in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys front office really took a risk by tagging Lawrence this offseason. #90 was reportedly asking for an average of $17M per year in his long-term contract, which is Olivier Vernon kind of money.
So what if he puts a similar season or an even better one? Lawrence and his agent could end up asking for even more money. Perhaps in the 18 or 20 million dollars per year range. If that ends up being the case, the team will find itself in a tough position when trying to reach an agreement with its promising pass rusher.
Which leads us to the possibility of seeing the Cowboys franchise tagging Lawrence for the second consecutive season. Dallas will already be negotiating a contract extension with QB Dak Prescott, and things will get complicated. Even more if they decide to pursue a big-time free agent in March, such as Earl Thomas.
It would make sense, from a financial perspective, to hand the tag twice in consecutive years to D-Law. However, it shouldn't be the priority. If he plays like he did in 2017, the front office will be more than wise to extend him for good.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Cowboys will have approximately $50.6M. Seemingly, the team's cap woes will be over soon.
Fortunately, Lawrence didn't become a headache by threatening to holdout for offseason programs and even training camp. However, don't expect that to happen if he finds himself under the tag next year.
Careers in the NFL are short, so DeMarcus will surely want to get paid. If he keeps it up, he'll deserve it. As much as he deserves it, though, football is a cold business. If the Jones need to tag him, they will.
Do you think the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence in 2019?
Without Looming Suspension, RB Ezekiel Elliott Should Shine In 2018
NFL Films typically does a good job of exposing some truths around NFL teams. Whether through "Hard Knocks" or Amazon's new "All or Nothing" series, these documentaries do an excellent job of giving fans an inside look of their favorite teams.
If anything was revealed through the Cowboys' All or Nothing series on their 2017 season, it's that Ezekiel Elliott's suspension weighed heavy on his mind all year.
The Pro Bowl running back did not look, act, or play like himself while awaiting decision on his incoming suspension. And, once it was finally announced he would serve the six games, the entire team collapsed in Atlanta.
Despite the clear and detrimental effects Elliott's suspension had on the Cowboys' season, Zeke still put up more-than-respectable numbers; rushing for almost 1,000 yards and averaging a league leading 98.3 yards per game.
Now, Ezekiel Elliott enters a season with no doubts about his own availability. Scott Linehan gets to coach an offense that knows they will have their best player for the entire season barring major injury. And, Jason Garrett can lead his team without addressing questions about Elliott's future day in and day out.
Of course, these effects aren't quantifiable. We can't sit here and say that without the pressure of court appearances and suspensions that Elliott will be worth "X" amount of more yards and "Y" more touchdowns.
But I do believe we can say, without question, that playing with a clear mind and without a looming suspension will breed the type of production we saw from Zeke his rookie year.
We can say that Elliott has had a weight lifted off his shoulders, and could be looking for revenge on a league he feels did him wrong.
And, for the Cowboys sake, I hope this is true. Because they are going to need Ezekiel Elliott to be even better than he ever has been if they hope to make a run at the Super Bowl in 2018.
Cowboys en Español: El Regreso de Randy Gregory
A sólo días de que los Dallas Cowboys aterricen en Oxnard, California para dar inicio a su training camp como todos los años, el equipo recibió excelentes noticias respecto a la selección de segunda ronda del 2015: Randy Gregory. Después de pasar todo el 2017 suspendido, el ala defensiva ha sido oficialmente reintegrado por la NFL.
Gregory, quien tuvo muchos problemas debido al uso de marihuana, ha pasado los últimos meses rehabilitándose para poder volver a vestir la estrella y volver al emparrillado. Los Cowboys, quienes siempre apoyaron a su joven jugador, sin duda estarán felices de verlo de vuelta en el equipo por motivos más allá que el football americano.
Sin duda alguna, antes de estar emocionados y felices por verlo en el campo intimidando a quarterbacks rivales, deberíamos estar alegres por el logro personal de Randy como un ser humano. Realmente hizo un esfuerzo consciente en un lugar en el que muchos se hubieran rendido y dejado sus sueños de ser parte de la NFL. Pero no lo hizo, y ahora, todos sus esfuerzos han valido la pena.
El siguiente paso en su lista por-hacer, es volver al campo y poco a poco, ganarse su puesto en el equipo y después, la titularidad. La última vez que vimos a Gregory en el campo, fue contra Philadelphia, en el final de temporada del 2016.
En este juego, Gregory mostró muchos destellos de lo que sería capaz de hacer semana tras semana en la liga y porque valió la pena nunca dejarlo ir, lo cual no hubiera tenido sentido hacer, dado que los Cowboys no les costaba nada (literalmente) mantenerlo en el equipo.
Sean Martin escribió un artículo recientemente en el que analiza este partido a fondo.
El potencial de Gregory es inmenso, suficiente incluso, para aventurarse a decir que se convertirá en el defensive end (ala defensiva) derecho antes de lo esperado. El reto más grande para el jugador de 25 años será regresar a una condición física óptima para la NFL.
Afortunadamente, a diferencia del 2016, Gregory no estará regresando a media temporada. Su llegada toma lugar justo a tiempo para el training camp, dándole tiempo para regresar a la forma en la que tiene que estar.
Una vez ahí, ¿qué tanto le tomará ganarse un rol más importante que el de Tyrone Crawford y Taco Charlton? A pesar de que prácticamente no lo hemos visto jugar en Dallas, sabemos el potencial que tiene para convertirse en un defensivo de suma importancia para los Cowboys.
Un año después de ver la mejor temporada en la carrera de DeMarcus Lawrence, los Cowboys tendrán el potencial de una estrella similar en el lado derecho de su línea defensiva. Gregory tiene una montaña que escalar para cumplir las expectativas de los aficionados, pero no será una sorpresa si lo logra.
Vaya, no olvidemos que si no fuera por sus problemas fuera del campo, hubiera sido seleccionado en el Top 10 del Draft del 2015. Tiene el potencial de conseguir diez sacks por temporada.
Con un poco de suerte, no nos equivocaremos en tenerle fe al jugador que ha tenido un gran viaje para llegar a este punto. El punto de ponerse el casco e ir a trabajar con su equipo.
Incluso si sólo llega a ser un jugador de rotación, sin duda será importante para el éxito del equipo. Entre DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Randy Gregory y el resto del talento que los Cowboys tienen en la línea defensiva, el equipo podría tener un frente de muy buena calidad.
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