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Well that was awful. In a way it summed up the season, 16 games where we’ve seen the best and the worse of the 2017 Dallas Cowboys. A 5&1 record in the division looks great but the 4&6 record away from the division doesn’t.
Anyway, instead of looking back let’s look forward to what could be a very interesting off season. I’ve added my preferred outcome and what I think will be the likely outcome to a quick position review.
Coaching Staff –
Let’s get one thing clear, Jason Garrett is not going anywhere. This was always going to be a long-term plan (10 years) to get the franchise built for a long-term future. The reliance on building through the draft rather than spending in free agency and making the most of the salary cap have been the cornerstones for team development since Garrett took over and started working with Stephen Jones, so nothing is going to change any time soon.
Year on year Coach Marinelli has got the best out of what could easily be described as a poor bunch. Looking ahead, the defense is getting younger and faster, that was evident in the secondary this year, and the defensive talent should improve again following the draft.
The failure of the offense has to sit with Coach Linehan. I’m not just talking about the performance this season, this has been an ongoing issue for the last 3 years. When the team is leading by a score or two, and the play calling is easier, everything looks fine. However, when the team is trailing or looking for a drive to get a little breathing room, that’s when the cracks start to appear. I realise that if we play our game then it’s up to the opposition to stop us, but when that happens (and it’s happened far too frequently this season) there’s no plan to proactively change. It’s all reactive, and by that time it’s too late and our running game is abandoned in favour of a series of poor play calling that more often than not suits the opposition
My preferred outcome: The OC has to go. The HC and the DC stay and there’s greater responsibility for Matt Eberflus within the coaching setup
Likely outcome: Nothing will change with the HC, OC & DC. Other teams will start looking at some of the coaching staff and we’ll have to backfill
Offensive Line –
This area had the biggest on field impact on the team this year. Losing 40% of the starters and not filling all the spots adequately caused issues in the running and passing game. Chaz Green struggled wherever he played, and when he deputised for Tyron Smith it not only showed his limitations but also that of LG, Jonathan Cooper. Cooper looks good at the position but needs to have Smith and Frederick either side to feel comfortable. Frederick and Martin were outstanding again as was the Cowboys ‘new’ RT La’el Collins. Collins has been up against some of the league’s top pass rushers all season and has hardly put a foot or hand wrong.
My preferred outcome: A decent LT/LG is a must to challenge Green, Bell and Looney
Likely outcome: A decent LT/LG is drafted to challenge Green, Bell and Looney
Dak had his good moments and there’s plenty to be optimistic about going forward and Zeke showed why he’s the main weapon on offense. The will Zeke/won’t Zeke be suspended thing rumbled on until he eventually was suspended. In his absence Rod Smith and Morris both played well when they were brought in, Keith Smith was solid when required but unfortunately for McFadden there was very little playing time and he called it a day on his playing career.
My preferred outcome: There’s not much to say about the QB position, it’s Dak with Cooper Rush backing up. There’s likely to be some camp bodies, one of who will be a vet, brought in but when the season starts it’ll be Prescott and Rush.
Morris leaves and is replaced by a draft pick on the roster and the two Smiths continue to play in 2018
Likely outcome: There’s no change, the team re-sign Morris. A draft pick comes in but unless he’s an exceptional prospect it’ll be Elliott, Smith (R), Morris and Smith (K)
The WR position has been poor for the last 3 years. From a financial standpoint T-Will was worth keeping but not as the Z receiver, his productivity is poor and he finds it hard to get separation. Don’t get me started about his woeful end zone productivity! Dez has his fair share of drops, his overall production wasn’t good, although this may have been because of injury, I’m convinced that it was more because he was ‘Tony’s guy’. I don’t mean that Dez and Dak don’t get on, it’s more the mechanics of the pass. If Dez is going to more productive in 2018 he needs to work on his connection with Dak. Overall, it’s been a poor season for the receivers and the ability to move the chains has been a regular issue.
TE will only be a worry when Witten decides to call it a day. The blocking of all the TE’s has been good this season and there have been some great receptions made by Hanna and Swain
My preferred outcome: WR, one of them has to go if the Cowboys are to draft a speedy wideout. My moneys on Brice Butler to be the one to leave. No change at TE. I’m not sure how long the team persevere with Rico Gathers and at some point there has to be a season without Witten…but not next season.
Likely outcome: A change at the lower end of the WR depth chart but no change at TE
Defensive Line –
The D-Line performed well this season, Tank Lawrence was obviously the standout but Crawford played well and Taco came on strong late in the season. David Irving missed a lot of playing time, some of it through injury but some of it his own doing. Maliek Collins had a steady year as did Benson Mayowa
My preferred outcome: Lawrence isn’t going anywhere, he’ll either get a new deal or he’ll be Franchise Tagged. I expect a 1st or 2nd to be placed on Irving and if another team bites I’ll let him walk. If a D lineman falls into the Cowboys lap early in the draft then I’ll take him
Likely outcome: Lawrence stays and so does Irving
There was an improvement with the play of Hitchens and Jaylon Smith was a bonus very few expected. What this season showed was how dependant the team are on Sean Lee, there’s no natural replacement for the General and moving Hitchens over to the Will takes something away from his play. Wilber was released prior to the final game
My preferred outcome: No change to those currently on the roster but a high draft pick is a must if the team are to improve in 2018
Likely outcome: No change to those currently on the roster and a high draft pick is taken
The change in the personnel of the secondary has been incredible over the last 12 months and the upside is it’s made the unit instantly younger and faster. The downside has been some inconsistency but some of that was due to Anthony Brown having a second-year season. Lewis, Awozie and Woods have all looked good and the change to more rotation at safety has shown the talents of Kavon Frazier. Jeff Heath played safety and kicker but will be remembered for his hit on Derek Carr of the Raiders to seal an unlikely Cowboys win in week 15
My preferred outcome: No change to those currently on the roster but a high-ish draft pick is a must if the team are going to continue to improve their coverage
Likely outcome: No change to those currently on the roster and a high-ish draft pick is taken
Special Teams –
Chris Jones has been outstanding this year and absolutely deserved to go to the Pro-Bowl. LP is a machine and is ridiculously consistent. However, the same can’t be said about the kicking game. Bailey started well and was replaced by Jeff Heath when he picked up an injury. Mike Nugent came in until Bailey was fit but he hasn’t been the same since the injury and it looked like he was over compensating and it was throwing his kicking mechanics off.
My preferred outcome: No change to LP and Jones, although there might be some competition in camp for Bailey I can’t see there being anyone better
Likely outcome: No change
King Dak and his troops returned to castle at&t having beaten the lowlifes of House Philadelphia. King Dak, Prince Zeke, Dez the X, the Colossus and all the other warriors of House Dallas must now lick their wounds and look ahead. Most will stay, some will leave and some fresh faces will arrive. Emperor Jerry will make some changes and hope that his Cowboys can make the tournament next year.
In the battles of the Bastards *The ‘battles of the Bastards’ take place whenever the Houses of Washington, Philadelphia and New Jersey face each other in combat. The overall victor is known as the Right Bastard, the most defeated is known as the Poor Bastard.
House Philadelphia were crowned Right Bastards, House New Jersey and House Washington were both crowned Poor Bastards
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