Following a 9-7 season, the effectiveness of the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff has once again come into question. Changes at head coach, offensive coordinator, or defensive coordinator have felt imminent on the heels of a 13-3 NFC East-winning campaign just a year ago.
Through the highs and lows this coaching staff again endured, and after clearing the air of reports surrounding the likes of WR Coach Derek Dooley's future in Dallas, Jerry Jones has all but reassured Cowboys Nation that Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Rod Marinelli will still lead the Cowboys in 2018.
The Cowboys have also made it known that the coaching changes they do make will occur below Garrett and his two play callers, in an overdue admission of stubbornness.
The first of these more minor changes became official yesterday, as Jason Garrett announced in his season-concluding press conference that TE Coach Steve Loney is retiring.
No #Cowboys coaching decisions have been made by Jason Garrett or the front office, yet. The only change that is known - TE Coach Steve Loney is retiring.
Loney filled the shoes of long-time TE Coach Mike Pope in 2017, his first at this position for the Cowboys. He served as the Assistant OL Coach and as Senior Offensive Assistant in 2016.
There is, of course, a larger theme here.
With the lasting image of the 2017 Dallas Cowboys being a hard-to-justify 6-0 win in Philadelphia, Rod Marinelli's defense has earned rightful praise for their performance this season. The same cannot be said about Scott Linehan's "predictable" offense.
It comes as no surprise that this is where the Cowboys' ongoing search for new perspectives begins.
What we do know so early into this offseason process is that the Cowboys have at least backed Linehan's approach for QB Dak Prescott's third year.
Dak Prescott on Scott Linehan: "I have 120 percent belief in him, 200 percent belief in him. He [deserves] a lot of credit for my success in this league. Everything that I've done, teaching the game, breaking the game down...He means a lot to me.
Retaining Scott Linehan is a move to keep Prescott's successful support system around him.
After so many important voices to their rookie QB departed ahead of his 2017 slump, the Cowboys can justify keeping their play caller. Not only will Linehan remain in place at offensive coordinator, but WR coach Derek Dooley is considering jobs elsewhere in the NFL and NCAA.
This is a pretty strong indication of the confidence this organization has in Scott Linehan.
Where Will Jerry Jones' Promised Changes Come From?
As Linehan continues in the same role, with him again comes QB Kellen Moore -- who may be in consideration to change roles and join the offensive coaching staff. Should this be the most team-efficient way to keep Moore in support of Prescott, it is a smart move by the Cowboys.
FishTips #Cowboys Coaching Carousel 5) Want evidence of Linehan shifting from hot seat to throne? Sources tell me he's already working to examine ways to fill some of the six spots on staff, and that practice-squad QB Kellen Moore is among the names to watch.
Current Cowboys QB Coach Wade Wilson is one of the Cowboys assistants on an expiring contract. He is reportedly considering his retirement after starting his coaching career with the Cowboys in 2000.
He has served in his second stint as the team's quarterbacks coach since 2007.
This leaves RB coach Gary Brown as the only other coach on offense with an expiring contract that would entice change. This is not to say that any positions on this Cowboys staff below the "big three" are irreplaceable.
Yes, it was ultimately the constant uncertainty surrounding RB Ezekiel Elliott's status prior to serving his six-game suspension that will define this team's frustrating season. Short of Brown going rogue and calling plays for his RBs himself though, there is little reason to think that he won't return.
Another area where the Cowboys' future looks bright is in their young secondary, where rookies Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie played major roles as starting CBs. This is still a Rod Marinelli defense in need of starting caliber players, but finding cheap talent to shine in his scheme this year was a great start.
The Cowboys will have another great opportunity to further their defensive depth at the NFL Draft.
Joe Baker has coached in this Cowboys' secondary since 2012, switching to safety coach in 2014 before being named the secondary coach in 2016. When Baker was promoted, Michigan secondary coach Greg Jackson was brought in to coach the team's safeties.
The contributions that both Baker and Jackson have made on this defense will be weighed by the Cowboys to decide who will lead this secondary into 2018.
Also having a say in all of this is the widely respected Matt Eberflus, who has served as the Cowboys' LB Coach since 2011. Developing talent at LB ever since then for the Cowboys, Eberflus also became the team's defensive passing game coordinator in 2016.
He is another coach that denied an extension with the team last season, as his stock continues to rise around teams that may consider him for a Defensive Coordinator position.
Again, the Cowboys appear to be locked into Rod Marinelli in this position, something that hasn't stopped them from retaining Eberflus thus far -- a task that will remain a priority in Dallas.
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To summarize, the Cowboys' "fresh ideas" will come from a new TE coach along with potential replacements at WR, QB, RB, LB, CB, and S coaching positions. Whether or not this is enough to justify the level of consequence expected on a team that missed the playoffs following a season they reached it in for the second time in three years is entirely subjective.
There is plenty of time upcoming for every team in the NFL to evaluate their rosters and coaching staffs, as the Cowboys are already doing. Assessing the coaching talent that may be available is the most immediate way for the Cowboys to improve their outlook for 2018.
That is, if you're ready to buy into the Dallas Cowboys truly returning to where they want to go -- lacking an NFC Championship Game appearance since 1996 -- in year number nine of HC Jason Garrett.
Such is another offseason with America's Team -- so far.
SEA 24, DAL 13: Cowboys Offensive Woes Continue
Inefficient passing and turnovers cost the Dallas Cowboys today, leading to a 24-13 loss to the previously winless Seahawks in Seattle.
Dallas's offense produced just a single field goal by halftime, with Dak Prescott only completing two of his first nine passes for just four yards. He got better as the game went on, but still finished with just 168 passing yards and a single touchdown.
The box score will say Prescott threw two interceptions, but one was a bobbled catch by Michael Gallup. The other was not a good throw, trying to find Blake Jarwin in traffic. Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner went up and caused a tipped ball.
Both picks ended up in the hands, and ankle, of Seattle safety Earl Thomas. He drew a taunting penalty for bowing at the Dallas sideline on his second INT, almost as if mocking the team for not giving up enough to trade for him.
Ezekiel Elliott did have a big day on the ground; 127 yards on just 16 carries. It's his first 100-yard game of 2018. But the fact Dallas couldn't capitalize on Zeke's production was just further indication of their offensive dysfunction.
Hurry home, Travis Frederick. Who knew you were our Offensive MVP?
- While Zeke did have a strong rushing performance, two critical errors were big parts of the Cowboys' loss. An early TD catch was called back because Zeke stepped out of bounds before making the reception. Also, Elliott's fumble in the 4th quarter squandered a strong drive that could have started Dallas' comeback attempt sooner.
- Dallas' defense looked good early but clearly wore down over time. Seattle RB Chris Carson ground out 102 rushing yards on 32 carries. Russell Wilson took advantage of some miscues in the secondary for two touchdown passes and 192 passing yards.
- Tyrone Crawford got called for another bogus "roughing the passer" penalty after a clean hit on Wilson early in the game. The NFL has to get this figured out, because it's becoming a bigger eyesore for the league than any amount of kneeling ever did.
- Tavon Austin got his second touchdown catch this year, the only Cowboy to record a receiving TD so far this year. Tight end Geoff Swaim had five catches for 47 yards, reminding the world that Dallas actually has TEs on their roster.
- Speaking of which, as Troy Aikman commented on during the game, Rico Gathers was not used in redzone passing situations. Why is Gathers dressing for games and not being utilized in the one situation where he's not a liability?
- Sean Lee left the game after reaggravating the hamstring injury he suffered last week. It meant more playing time for first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch, who reminded you of Lee with how he was getting to the ball. Both finished the game credited with 11 tackles each.
- Rookie guard Connor Williams continues to struggle when up against powerful defensive tackles. It's not a surprise for a converted college tackle, but growing pains still cost you on game day. Dallas may have to consider starting Joe Looney at guard once Travis Frederick comes back.
- Kicker Brett Maher went 2/2 today on field goals, including a 50-yarder. He has hit four straight after missing his one attempt against Carolina in Week 1.
- The rest of the NFC East won their games today. That puts Philly and Washington at 2-1 and now evens up the Cowboys and Giants at 1-2.
- Dallas returns home next week to host the Detroit Lions, who are currently 0-2. They play the Patriots tonight.
Why The Seahawks Will Be Looking Into A Mirror Against The Cowboys Sunday
For the better part of the last decade one defense has reigned supreme over the NFC. One defense has continually put their offense and team in position to win big games, including a dominant Super Bowl win over one of the more productive offenses in recent memory.
That defense, of course, belonged to the Seattle Seahawks.
With a secondary deemed as the "Legion of Boom" and a defensive line which rotated through Pro Bowl level talent routinely, the Seahawks bolstered one of the best defenses the NFL has ever seen. A defense which perfectly complimented the physical, run first philosophy their offense lived by.
Players like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, and Bobby Wagner will arguably be Hall of Famers one day, and they wreaked havoc on the conference for a strong 3-5 year stretch.
Now, however, things are changing.
Gone are many of the elite players which once bolstered the Seattle defense to top-tier status, and while some big names remain, the talent level simply isn't the same. The Seahawks missed the postseason a year ago, and now sit at 0-2 before their home opener today against the Cowboys.
Their window looks to be closed, while their opponent today is looking to build their defense (and team) in the mold of what once was in Seattle.
Former Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard has come to Dallas and brought with him a more aggressive defensive philosophy, one which he deployed successfully with the Seahawks. Under Richard the Cowboys are blitzing more often on third down than they have in the past under Rod Marinelli, they're utilizing more single high safety looks, and they are allowing their long and talented corners to do what they do best in coverage.
The Seahawks once leaned on a deep pass rush and long, physical secondary. The 2018 Cowboys are looking to do the same thing.
The Seahawks once leaned on a mobile quarterback to make plays with his feet while relying on a strong running game and one of the league's best backs. The 2018 Cowboys are looking to do the same thing.
Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie look like they were molded in a 2013-Seahawks lab as cornerbacks, and DeMarcus Lawrence is as productive as any pass rusher those defenses had. Of course, we aren't able to say the Cowboys have the consistent front four depth that those Seattle teams did or that they have the single high safety of Earl Thomas' caliber, but the preliminary pieces are clearly in place.
Today the Cowboys look to improve to 2-1 with a conference road win. But, they also look to bury the Seahawks in the past and take another step towards cementing themselves as one of the elite defenses in the NFC.
It won't happen over night, but anyone can see that the potential is there.
Could Cowboys DT Datone Jones Earn Starting Role with Maliek Collins Out?
Dallas Cowboys Defensive Tackle Maliek Collins is out for Sunday's game at the Seahawks with a sprained knee, further opening the door for Datone Jones to earn his spot among the "Hot Boyz". The moniker given to the Cowboys front seven this season, the team's depth up front has been a strength in totaling nine sacks through two games.
Last season, Datone Jones was a part of this rotation late in the year. Coming on strong at the 3T position while Maliek Collins played at the 1T, Jones is the type of versatile defender with veteran experience that Rod Marinelli can get the most out of.
Returning from a knee injury himself, Jones may take some time to be the disruptive interior player we saw at the end of 2017. Through two games, the Cowboys had played Collins at his original position of 3T, with Antwaun Woods doing more than enough to continue playing at 1T.
This potentially makes Collins and Jones two players fighting for one spot. Collins followed up his performance at the Panthers with a sack of Cam Newton by constantly playing in the Giants' backfield last week.
Guessing that means no Irving, I'd say Tyrone Crawford then Antwaun Woods. I have high hopes for Datone Jones once he returns though. https://t.co/9frjFK2J9J
A player determined to not let his team's misuse slow down his progress, after an incredible rookie season at 3T, Collins is returning from his second broken foot in three years.
Through his five years in the NFL, Jones has only played a full 16 games once.
The most games Datone has started in a season is four. Maliek Collins should like his chances of playing over Jones once both are healthy, and the Cowboys should be equally thrilled with the opportunity to keep both fresh in rotation.
Following Sunday's game in Seattle and next week against the Lions, the Cowboys can return David Irving from suspension to play all over their defensive line - his best position also being at three technique.
Without the wealth of talent they now have at all four positions up front, the Cowboys have had too many bodies to fill similar roles in the past. Thanks to the addition of Kris Richard along with strong edge play from Taco Charlton and rookie Dorance Armstrong, the Cowboys defensive line can do no wrong in 2018, and using Jones in week three and beyond should only add to this.
The Cowboys biggest key to success against the Seahawks will be containing Russell Wilson. Pressuring him in his face to collapse the pocket gives Dallas a chance to really slow the Seahawks offense, something they'll be relying on Jones to help them do as DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory also work with favorable match ups at defensive end.
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