We’re getting ever closer to the start of the new football season and you, the fans, have been getting in touch in your droves to help us out with our ‘State of the Franchise‘ series and we have another edition, courtesy of Chris Powles (@BristolAztecs), a big Dallas Cowboys fan.
He takes a look at how his team got on last season and all of the changes made during the off-season to date. Have a read of his thoughts and let us know yours!!
Last Season’s Reflections
After a very successful 13-3 season in 2016, hopes were high that 2017 would see the Cowboys get to, or close to, their first Super Bowl for over 2 decades.
But injuries and suspension doomed last years’ Cowboys to another season of mediocrity, barely scraping a winning mark at 9-7.
The obvious issue was the loss of the previous seasons league leading runner ( 1631 yards, 15 TD ) Ezekiel Elliott to an eventual 6 game absence, and indeed the first 2 Zeke less games the offense failed to show up, maybe due to a false sense of optimism about the O line, as back ups Alfred Morris and Rod Smith actually did a decent job. But in addition to their All pro RB the Cowboys had to deal with injuries to All World Tackle Tyron Smith, whose replacements vs Atlanta made pro Bowlers of whoever was playing Right Defensive End that day, further games lost by Linebacker Sean Lee showed just how valuable ‘The General’ is to the unit, and even the NFL’s most accurate kicker ever, Dan Bailey, missed games.
This with a fading Dez Bryant and a struggling sophomore, Dak Prescott, meant the passing game could not carry the load and teams were not afraid of the once dominant Offensive Line.
Changes During The Off-season
So during the off season it became apparent the Cowboys had gaps to fill, not usually big players in free agency means the Team is built on some really strong recent drafts and the starting 22 are as good as most in the league, but what happens when injuries occur, how deep is the Team?
Demonstrating a desire to get back to the punishing running game the Cowboys went out and grabbed 2 OL in Cameron Flemming and Martin Marcus to come in and provide solid depth, while re signing Joe Looney. They also nabbed another FB with receiving skills in Jamize Olawale.
Wanting to create competition at WR the Boys were able to grab Allen Hurns , in the hope he can return to previous, 1000 yard season form.
The Cowboys always prefer to re sign their own guys rather than bring new guys in so franchising DeMarcus Lawrence after a 14.5 sack season was a given and David Irving ( 7 sacks ) was kept in house to give Rod Marinnelli the pass rushers he covets, in addition to taking a punt on seeing what Kony Ealey has left in the tank.
With the long awaited saga of Dez Bryants status cleared up and the suprising retirement of Jason Witten the Cowboys entered the draft with needs to fill but ever cautious not to draft for need.
A lot of folks wanted them to go WR with DJ Moore or Calvin Ridley sat there when pick 19 came around, but the Top Brass stayed true to their board and grabbed LB Leighton Vander Esch from Boise State, to replace Antony Hitchens and provide security for an often injured Sean Lee and a recovering Jaylon Smith.
Second round saw the Cowboys find their assumed starter at Left Guard in Connor Williams, this allows them to leave La’ell Collins at Tackle and hope to return the line to its previous glory.
So waiting till the 3rd round to find their WR, but not the big body X receiver to replace Dez but a smaller quicker guy Mike Gallup who can compete at both X and Z spots.
Another pass rusher, Dorance Armstrong was added with the first of 2 4th round picks, the second being QB Mike White. A 2 time, 4000 yard passer out of Western Kentucky to compete with Cooper Rush for back up reps behind Dak.
The 5th round brought the possible replacement for legend Jason Witten in a gritty run blocking TE Dalton Shultz to further give proof that the Cowboys plan to get back to their winning formula from 2016 and 2014 of grinding opposing defences down with a soul destroying running attack.
More evidence with the final pick of Bo Scarborough out of Alabama, an outright beast of a power back for short yardage / goal line situations.
A couple of trades brought in speedy Tavon Austin from the Rams, a former first round pick who the Coaches plan to play at RB, to add some juice on Jet sweeps, and passing downs.
And an exchange with the Raiders sent WR Ryan Switzer to the Bay area for much need depth at DT.
The much anticipated trade with Seattle for Earl Thomas failed to happen , the price of at least a second pick and Thomas’ hefty salary too much for the Jones boys.
Predictions For The New Season
With most off season needs addressed except possibly safety the Cowboys have added where they needed to and retain the core players from 2 years ago. With improved depth and a fresh Zeke Elliott with a point to prove the Cowboys should get back to the brutal running game, with no less than 3 All pros on the Line and another 2 with first round grades and an All pro RB, defense’s will need to stack the box creating opportunities in the play action game. With a game plan of run to set up the pass the Cowboys should be able to control game tempo and keep their defense off the field.
Add the extra dimension of Dak running the ball and less attention being able to be focused on Cole Beasely in the slot the Cowboys should be able to keep the score board ticking over, the Cowboys have always paid big money to the offense which is why the defense does not have the big names or big contracts but they are a solid unit with some good young pass rushers and a secondary looking to break out in most of their second year.
I see the Cowboys going 11-5 and winning the NFC East to return to the post season, and if they can stay healthy a trip to the Championship game is possible.
Editor Notes: Cowboys fans, let us know your thoughts and tell us whether you agree with Chris’s reflections and predictions. Leave a comment or contact us via social media below: