Five Reasons the Cowboys Match 2016 Success/5 Reasons the Cowboys Do Not Match 2016 Success
When Starting QB Tony Romo went down prior to the 2016 season, the success of the Dallas Cowboys was uncertain. Could Rookie 4th Round QB Dak Prescott handle the daunting task of being the starting QB for the Dallas Cowboys?
Initially, it was understood that Prescott would just be a band-aid until Romo could return. Prescott played lights out and a QB controversy was brewing. His poise, decision-making, and mistake free play earned his the starting job and affirmation from the former Cowboy QB. Prescott – along with Ezekiel Elliott – were a breath of fresh air to Cowboy Nation.
The rookie duo didn’t look like rookies at all. Behind one of the best offensive lines in football, the pair was able to show off their skills and win a lot of football games. The franchise future never looked brighter since the days of the triplets. The Cowboys earned the number 1 seed in the NFC and were favorites to reach the Super Bowl. All of this achieved during the rookie campaigns of Dak and Zeke.
Then, that guy from Green Bay made the playoffs.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers went to Dallas and were rolling. They jumped ahead big and the bright lights seemed to be too much for the rookie QB. However, the second half shootout was one of the most historic playoff games seen in quite sometime. After an exchange of late game field goals, the Packers would come out on top and the Cowboys season would come to a close.
Fast forward to 2017, the Cowboys look to prove last season wasn’t a fluke. The lost a pair of vets on the offensive line, Zeke is facing suspension, and the secondary is very, very young. How much will the production drop off from last year, if at all?
How about the…Giants? The New York Giants handed Dak and company two of their three losses last season. They also added Brandon Marshall in the offseason. Add rookie TE Evan Engram to the mix. The Cowboys secondary will be put to the test – especially against the Giants who pose the biggest threat to the ‘Boys in the NFC East.
News of Sterling Shepard’s injured ankle helps the Cowboys chances, as he would have likely benefited the most with the addition of Marshall and Engram. With him out, Dallas just has to worry about covering Odell Beckham Jr. and Marshall.
Both will be on the field at the same time. That’s a problem for seasoned defensive backs. Imagine what it will do to the confidence of rookie defensive backs?
Can Dallas overcome these changes and make a run at the Super Bowl?
5 Reasons the Cowboys Match 2016 Success
Offensive Line Stays Consistent
The Dallas Cowboys are known for having one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. They lost two contributors in Ronald Leary and Doug Free. The Cowboys’ La’el Collins will replace Free at Tackle and should do fine. Collins replaced Leary at Left Guard in 2015 and his play earned him the starting job in 2016. Collins was lost for year due to a toe injury, but is looking to bounce back in 2017. Free’s unexpected retirement will push Collins to play Right Tackle. The Cowboys will put their faith in either Chaz Green, Byron Bell, or former 1st round pick Johnathan Cooper to fill the hole at Guard. If Collins can avoid injury and hold it down from the RT spot – and the Cowboys can’t get Cooper to play up to his draft selection – the offensive line could remain one of the league’s best.
The 4th Round pick proved to be the best Quarterback to come out of the 2016 Draft – at least that’s what it looks like so far. Seven QBs were selected high – Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch, Christian Hackenberg, Jacoby Brissett, Cody Kessler, and Conner Cook. Add those selected after – Cardale Jones, Kevin Hogan, Nate Sudfeld, Jake Rudock, Brandon Allen, Jeff Driskel, and Brandon Doughty. You may not know half of those players. With the Rookie of the Year trophy sitting atop his fireplace, Prescott looks to duplicate his success and make teams like LA, Philly, Denver, and Cleveland regret passing on the franchise QB. Prescott’s biggest strength is his ability to avoid mistakes. He’s smart with the football and will not sacrifice a possession by going for the home run. He has to show that having a good offensive line and a star running back helped – but his skill set shouldn’t be overlooked.
Elliott Runs Wild
Elliott – like Dak – was in the running for Rookie of the Year, as well as league MVP. He proved to be worthy of the 4th pick as his physical play translated well into the NFL. I remember watching him go toes up with the Seahawks Kam Chancellor. That’s when I said this guy is going to be special. And he was. He was a big reason for the overall success of the Cowboys in 2016. If he can find his groove early, look for Elliott to contend for NFL rushing title for a second consecutive season.
Rookies Have an Impact
The Cowboys secondary lost Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Barry Church, and JJ Wilcox and will look to rookies to fill the void. They will count on production from Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods, and Marquez White to compete for the starting vacancies. If the four rookie additions to the secondary can shine and avoid being a defensive liability, the ‘Boys will be Super Bowl contenders. Rookie Ryan Switzer hopes to have an impact on offense and special teams. The potential for him is high – assuming his latest injury is a non-issue. Taco Charlton can be a disruption for opposing offenses. If his production can translate to the Pros, the entire defense will benefit.
Off-field Issues Stop
The picture above is not a face Dallas fans hope to see this fall. But if off field problems continue to generate national buzz, they just might see the jovial Stephen A. Smith and his “told you so” self on television.The Cowboys have been in the news a lot – but not for the right reasons. Ezekiel Elliott is facing possible suspension. Jourdan Lewis has settled his court case and hopefully that is behind him. Lucky Whitehead is off the team – although his name was cleared. Dallas also have to wonder the consequences for Nolan Carrol and Damien Wilson. The Cowboys have had too many headaches in dealing with the Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory, Rolando McClain, and the list goes on. If they can avoid negative media attention for things unrelated to football, it will pay dividends because it eliminates distractions.
5 Reasons the Cowboys Will Not Match 2016 Success
Elliott Pulls a Gurley
Two years ago, Todd Gurley took the league by storm. He racked up 1,106 rushing yards in only 13 games. Gurley finished 3rd in rushing yards and some believed that in his sophomore season, Gurley could lead the league in rushing. Well, Elliott did so – but he had a way better offensive line than Gurley had in LA. Elliott is facing suspension and will likely miss a few games. If the games missed – and the new faces on the offensive line – throw Elliott off his rhythm, his production could be affected. Sophomore slumps are real. For running backs – unless you are Adrian Peterson – it’s difficult to repeat a successful season. Ask Doug Martin, Chris Ivory, and DeMarco Murray.
Dak Loses Magic
As mentioned above, sophomore slumps exist. Notable names of QBs that struggled in their second season include unemployed Robert Griffin III, Sam “Fragile” Bradford, and “Matty Ice” Matt Ryan. Dak is in a fortunate position because he’s surrounded by more talent than those mentioned when they played their sophomore NFL season. Like Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, and Russell Wilson – Prescott has the tools needed to have another great season. Will it be as special as next season? Maybe – but if he falls off, it can’t be that big of a drop off. Remember, Jerry has Tony Romo’s number on speed dial if Dak’s season turns into a nightmare. Yes, that is a stretch – but to think Romo wouldn’t want to come in and play the hero in case of an emergency is not.
Free and Leary Gone Causes Problems
Two seasoned vets were a big reason for the success of the offensive line. They’re gone. A big factor in production from the offensive line is continuity. If Collins struggles at tackle and no one can fill the void at Guard, this team could really suffer. Yes – Pro Bowlers Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, and Tyrone Smith are returning and that cannot be ignored. They’ll produce. But Smith’s lingering back issues is already a cause for concern. If they sideline him for a few games in 2017, Edge Rushers will have a field day testing his replacement. This would put Dak in danger and maybe leave Zeke with less room to work with. The offensive line production means everything to this team.
The Cowboys’ are putting faith in a lot of their rookie defensive backs this season. A vote of confidence can do wonders – and veterans Orlando Scandrick and Byron Jones will lead by example. But what if they can’t produce or another injury hampers Scandrick’s production? Can the rookies keep the secondary from being the team’s biggest liability? That question will soon be answered. It’s a lot of responsibility to put on a rookie’s shoulders. Put to put that responsibility on multiple rookies is tremendous pressure. If the rookies struggle early in the secondary, would Dallas bring in a veteran defensive back? If it meant salvaging the season, I’m sure they would.
Unable to Generate Pass Rush
Dallas took a huge chance on Randy Gregory to be a big help in contributing to the pass rush. That plan failed as Gregory couldn’t leave the weed alone. Demarcus Lawrence raises concerns after not only a prior suspension, but following a second back surgery. His production is unknown. Charles Tapper’s back injury kept him from doing what the Cowboys hoped he’d do for them last season, but will try to prove he was worth the wait. Taco Charlton was selected in the 1st round to bring some of his Wolverine production to Texas. Will he be enough? A crew of Tyrone Crawford, Lawrence, Tapper – along with free agent acquisitions Stephen Paea and Damontre Moore – need to produce in order for the defense to balance the offensive production.
Where do I see the Cowboys in 2017? I see them doing just enough to hold off the Giants for 1st place in the NFC East. They’ll host a playoff game and win. Dallas’ season will end in the division round as I think their secondary is too suspect. The defensive line cannot be underwhelming as they’ll have to generate a pass rush that caused for play disruption, which will allow for the secondary to recover. Playoff football is different. A liability in the secondary is not something any team wants in the playoffs. That is the difference in giving up big plays and big points. NFC Playoff teams will have tough receivers like Julio Jones to deal with – among others. This season, that will be too much for the Cowboys to handle when it matters most.
Ceiling – 12-4. Floor 9-7.
The Cowboys will play in the post season, the just won’t play in the Super Bowl.
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