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?
What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?
Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.
Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.
They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?
Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.
Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.
Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.
Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.
Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.
This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.
The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.
3 Things We Learned About The Dallas Cowboys In 2018
Coming into the 2018 season, loads of questions surrounded the Dallas Cowboys and the future of their roster.
Could their defense stay intact when the annual Sean Lee injury occurred? Was Kris Richard going to lead the Cowboys young secondary to places we thought they could be? And would Dak Prescott earn a contact extension and become the official franchise quarterback of America's Team.
Of course, there are tons of other questions that may have gone unanswered, but these three critical areas seem to find clarity in 2018.
Leighton Vander Esch And Jaylon Smith Are Legit
The Dallas Cowboys caught a lot of flack for their selection both of these linebackers, each for different reasons.
When they snagged Jaylon Smith in the second round of the 2016 draft, it was still unknown to the public if Smith could ever even play football again. When they took Leighton Vander Esch 19th overall last April, fans questioned how valuable an off-ball linebacker would be on a defense that already had Sean Lee.
Well, after their first full season together, it's easy to say that both Vander Esch and Smith are the linebacker options of the future in Dallas. Named to the Pro Bowl during his rookie season, Vander Esch took the world by storm in 2018. When Lee went down, he was there to not only fill his shoes, but to outplay the veteran all year long.
What is fun to consider is that as good as Vander Esch was this season, Jaylon Smith might be even better. Both posses insane sideline to sideline pursuit ability, and are some of the surest tacklers in all of football.
Watching these two grow together will be a pleasure over the coming seasons.
Their Young Secondary Is Coming Together
Like their linebackers, the Dallas Cowboys secondary is a young group, who fans are excited to watch grow throughout the years. It seemed like more pressure sat on the shoulders of young cornerbacks Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie than of Smith and Vander Esch, however.
With Kris Richard joining the staff and making the decision to move Jones to cornerback full time, it was do-or-die for the former first round pick. Byron Jones answered all the doubters, earning not only a Pro Bowl selection but also First Team All Pro honors for his performance.
Opposite him, Awuzie had a rough start to his sophomore campaign. While typically right there in coverage, wide outs too often made contested catches over him. Over the final few weeks of the year, however, that changed and Awuzie played some of the best football yet.
Xavier Woods, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis (in much fewer snaps) all had fantastic seasons as well, giving the Cowboys great hope and confidence in their secondary moving forward. They may need to add another safety during the offseason, however, though Jeff Heath remains more than just a viable option.
Dak Prescott Is Here To Stay
Whether or not you think it's justified, Dak Prescott is the quarterback of the future in Dallas. And he earned that right the back-half of 2018 and during the postseason. After a shaky start to his 3rd season, Prescott turned things around nicely, leading the Cowboys to a 7-1 finish to the regular season.
Prescott played the best football of his young career down the stretch, and showed just how valuable he is both on the field and in the locker room. It seemed like every game he made 2-3 winning plays that put the Cowboys over the top that afternoon.
Dak is going to get a contract extension, and will be locked in as a Cowboy for the foreseeable future, and with the way he played the final 10 games of his season, I can't second guess this decision much at all.
Jason Garrett Can’t be Serious About Retaining Scott Linehan, Can He?
One of the few positives most of us were looking forward to after the Dallas Cowboys Divisional Round loss to the Los Angeles Rams was the fact that Scott Linehan would no longer be the offensive coordinator for America's Team. Everything was pointing to his dismissal, but that may not be the case according to Head Coach Jason Garrett.
Jason Garrett said on 105.3 The Fan that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will return in 2019. "We don't anticipate any significant changes on our staff," Garrett said.
I can't say that I was happy upon learning Jason Garrett plans on retaining Scott Linehan as the Cowboys OC in 2019. In fact, my first thought was… Well, something better left unsaid. I'm sure many of you can kind of read my mind, because I'm pretty positive you had all that the same thoughts running through your head as well.
In all honesty, I didn't think there was a snowball chance in hell Scott Linehan would return to Dallas after the conclusion of the 2018 season. After all, the Cowboys nearly fired him during the bye week earlier this season, meaning his job security was already on thin ice. He didn't do anything to improve things in my opinion.
I know Jason Garrett has said Scott Linehan will return as the OC in 2019, but not for a second do I believe it. We are less than 72 hours hours removed from the Cowboys exit from the playoffs and I highly doubt any of Dallas' decision-makers has had the time to sit down and discuss who stays and who goes. In fact, I know they haven't.
Stephen Jones says they won't comment on anything with coaching staff but that they need to take a deep look at why they fell short. Says it a little early to speculate about players or coaches. They haven't had a meeting about it yet.
I think once the Cowboys brass sits down and reevaluates the 2018 season, they will come to the conclusion they can do better than Scott Linehan as their offensive coordinator. There were just too many times throughout the season where the playcalling was a problem just. It's just time to move on, despite the vote of confidence by Jason Garrett.
Of course, this could just be me trying to read between the lines hoping and praying Scott Linehan is finally fired. Like many of you, I've grown way too tired of his predictable and dated playcalling. It's time to move on and find someone more innovative who can maximize the talent the Dallas Cowboys have on the roster, much like Kris Richard did with the defense.
You can either choose to believe Jason Garrett or not. I for one have a hard time seeing the Dallas Cowboys staying status quo with their coaching staff, especially their offensive coordinator. But, only time will tell.
Do you think it's time for the Dallas Cowboys to fire Scott Linehan?
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