2019 NFL Season Preview- Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys went from looking like a middle of the road team, to division champions.
After a 3-5 start to the year, Dallas turned it around in the second half of the season to win the NFC East title. In the playoffs, the Cowboys defeated the Seattle Seahawks 24-22 in the wildcard round, but lost in the divisional round to the eventual NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams 30-22.
The offense finished middle of the pack in most areas, but really struggled in the red zone. Running back Rod Smith displayed a lot of energy, but didn't make many plays as the number two back. The tight ends came nowhere close to making up for the absence Jason Witten who retired in the offseason. Geoff Swaim landed on injured reserve late in the season with a broken bone in his wrist. Blake Jarwin came on strong in the season finale with seven catches for 119 yards and three touchdowns. Rico Gathers continues to be an enigma. Wide receiver Cole Beasley had a bit of a bounce back year, but Tavon Austin missed nine games with injuries. Allen Hurns was a free agency disappointment by setting career lows in every receiving category before breaking his ankle in the wildcard round. The offensive line was forced to shuffle it's starting lineup all season, but was still a capable unit even if they weren't as dominant as they were in previous years. Center Travis Frederick missed the entire season after he was diagnosed with Guillian- Barre Syndrome and Joe Looney was a capable replacement. Guard Xavier Su'a-Filo sustained multiple injuries that took him out of the lineup.
For the first time in years, the team had a championship caliber defense. Defensive tackle David Irving played in just two games before dealing with an ankle injury, but was likely kept out for his off the field substance abuse issues. Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins are a solid duo in the middle. Defensive end Randy Gregory had a bounce back season finishing second on the team with six sacks. Tyrone Crawford remains a high effort/ minimal impact player. Taco Charlton was a disappointment with just one sack in seven starts. Middle linebacker Jaylon Smith had a breakout season with 122 tackles and a fumble recovery touchdown. Weakside Linebacker Sean Lee missed nine games with a hamstring injury, further raising concerns about his durability. Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie had an overall positive sophomore season with 71 tackles, 11 passes defended, and an interception. Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis were solid as the team's nickel and dime corners. The safety spots are the one glaring weakness. Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods are good, but neither are real difference makers.
The team was criticized for cutting kicker Dan Bailey just before the season, but Brett Maher was solid overall. He was especially accurate from long distance, setting a franchise record with a 62-yard made field goal. Punter Chris Jones didn't finish high in the league punting rankings, but he is still a weapon. Long snapper LP Ladouceur has been with the team for 14 seasons and is a steady force.
The team had eight Pro Bowlers in quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott, wide receiver Amari Cooper, left tackle Tyron Smith, right guard Zack Martin, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, strongside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, and cornerback Byron Jones. Prescott remains one of the most durable quarterbacks in the league and finished with 3,885 passing yards and 28 total touchdowns. Elliott led the NFL in rushing for the second time in his three seasons and was the teams top deep threat in the first half of the season as a receiver. The team traded for Cooper midseason and he brought a spark t the offense with 53 catches for 725 yards and six touchdowns in just nine games. Smith remains arguably the best left tackle in football and made his sixth straight Pro Bowl team. Martin made his fifth Pro Bowl trip and fifth All-Pro team in his fifth season. Lawrence is the building block of the defense and finished with 10.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception. Jones switched back to corner from safety and made 67 tackles and 14 passed defended.
The rookie class produced several fulltime starters and offer much hope moving forward. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate after finishing third in the league with 140 tackles and also had two interceptions. Guard Connor Williams had his struggles during the season, but played well in the playoffs. Wide receiver Michael Gallup got better as the year went on and developed into a solid number two option. Defensive end Dorance Armstrong brought depth to the defensive line but had just 13 tackles. Tight end Dalton Schultz started seven games, but didn't make much of an impact. Quarterback Mike White spent the year as the third string quarterback. Running back Bo Scarbrough started the year on the practice squad before being claimed by Seattle.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
With the 10-6 season, head coach Jason Garrett goes into a make or break 2019 as he enters the final year of his contract. He did enough to keep the job last year, but owner and general manager Jerry Jones is expecting him to show he has the team on the brink of a championship.
After the season, the team and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan agreed to part ways. The team then promoted quarterbacks coach Kellen Moore to be the new offensive coordinator and brought in Jon Kitna to be the new quarterbacks coach. Moore and Kitna had each been a Cowboys starting quarterback.
On February 26, defensive end Randy Gregory was suspended indefinitely by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy and the terms of his conditional reinstatement.
On August 8, defensive end Robert Quinn was suspended by the NFL for the first two games of the season for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs.
Notable Additions- RB Alfred Morris, WR Randall Cobb, WR Devin Smith, TE Jason Witten, DE Robert Quinn, S George Iloka, S Tyvis Powell
Notable Departures- RB Rod Smith, WR Cole Beasley, WR Allen Hurns, WR Terrance Williams, TE Geoff Swaim, TE Rico Gathers, DE Datone Jones, DT David Irving
Cowboys 2018 Highlights
2019 NFL Draft
Since the Cowboys traded their first round pick to Oakland for Amari Cooper, they didn't have a pick in the draft until the second round. Without a first round pick, they have to be smart when filling needs at positions like tight end, defensive lineman, and safety.
Even with the return of Jason Witten and Blake Jarwin being the first Cowboys tight end with three touchdowns in a game, long term help is needed.
DeMarcus Lawrence is locked in for the long haul, but Randy Gregory has a looming suspension again and Taco Charlton has underachieved in his two seasons.
The defense has All-Pro talent everywhere except safety. Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, and George Iloka are good, but the backend needs a playmaker.
When it finally came time for them to pick, Dallas selected Central Florida defensive tackle Trysten Hill with their second round pick. Hill was viewed as the most explosive defensive tackle prospect in the draft, but comes with character concerns after run ins with the new coaching staff at Central Florida during his final year.
Other Notable Draft Picks:
Connor McGovern, G, Penn State- High football IQ, needs to get stronger
Tony Pollard, RB/WR/RS, Memphis- Versatile playmaker, slow cutter
Michael Jackson, CB, Miami- Long press corner, heavy footwork
Joe Jackson, DE, Miami- Imposing frame, more quick than fast
Donovan Wilson, S, Texas A&M- Tough as nails, must learn self control
Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State- Low center of gravity, not a flashy runner
Jalen Jelks, DE, Oregon- Long frame, slim lower half
Trysten Hill Highlights
What To Expect
The Cowboys are still a relatively young team and have a lot of room to grow.
Dak Prescott has the second most wins of any quarterback since entering the league in 2016 and should benefit with a more creative offense under Kellen Moore. Ezekiel Elliott has the ability to be a dominating runner and showed last season that he can be a dangerous receiver. Jason Witten is a reliable security blanket, but he is 37 and the rest of the tight ends are widely unproven. Amari Cooper helped stabilize the receiving corps and developed a nice connection with Prescott while Michael Gallup can be a solid number two receiver, Tavon Austin and Randall Cobb man the slot, and Devin Smith can be a dangerous deep threat when healthy. The offensive line looks back on the right path wit the return of Travis Frederick.
The defensive line has a lot of bodies, but DeMarcus Lawrence is currently the only proven pass rusher while the defensive tackles should remain consistent run stoppers. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are one of the top young linebackers tandems in the league and it could be the best corps in the NFL if Sean Lee could stay healthy. The secondary has a solid group of cornerbacks, but are still lacking a game changer at safety.
Dallas has a lot of the right pieces for a championship team, but I still see them in a season long fight with Philadelphia for the NFC East crown.
Best Record The Can Hope For: 10-6