UA-59049186-1 NFL Team Preview: Dallas Cowboys - Good if it Goes

NFL Team Preview: Dallas Cowboys



Last Year:

Record: 13-3

Offense: 26.3 ppg (5th)

Defense: 19.1 pa (5th)


Key Acquisitions: CB. Nolan Carroll

Key Losses: OT. Doug Free, OG. Ronald Leary, CB. Mo Claiborne, CB. Brandon Carr, S. Barry Church

2017 Draft Picks

1(28) Taco Charlton DE Michigan
2(28) Chidobe Awuzie CB Colorado
3(28) Jourdan Lewis CB Michigan
4(27) Ryan Switzer WR North Carolina
6(7) Xavier Woods S Louisiana Tech
6(33) Marquez White CB Florida State
7(10) Joey Ivie DT Florida
7(21) Noah Brown WR Ohio State
7(28) Jordan Carrell DT Colorado

2017 Outlook 

Coaching Staff

  • HC: Jason Garrett
  • OC: Scott Linehan
  • DC: Rod Marinelli
  • ST: Rich Bisaccia


QB. Dak Prescott, Kellen Moore

RB. Ezekiel Elliott (suspended six games), Darren McFadden

FB. Keith Smith

WR. Dez Bryant, Brice Butler

WR. Terrence Williams, Ryan Switzer

WR. Cole Beasley

TE. Jason Witten, Rico Gathers

LT. Tyron Smith, Emmett Cleary

LG. Jonathan Cooper, Chaz Green

C. Travis Frederick, Joe Looney

RG. Zach Martin, Clay DeBord

RT. La’el Collins, Byron Bell


DE. Demarcus Lawrence, Benson Mayowa

DT. Maliek Collins, David Irving

DT. Cedric Thornton, Stephen Paea

DE. Tyrone Crawford, Taco Charlton

SLB. Damien Wilson, Kyle Wilbler

MLB. Jaylon Smith, Anthony Hitchens

WLB. Sean Lee, Justin Durant

CB. Nolan Carroll, Jourdan Lewis

SS. Jeff Heath, Robert Blanton

FS. Byron Jones, Xavier Woods

CB. Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie

NB. Orlando Scandrick


K. Dan Bailey

P. Chris Jones



The Cowboys struck gold in last year’s draft in the fourth round by selecting Dak Prescott. He ended up having the greatest rookie season for a quarterback in NFL history. Dak appears to be a franchise player in this league. He is incredibly poised and cool under pressure. He has all the makings of a clutch player and his intangibles seem to be off the chart. Another great pick from that draft was fourth overall pick Ezekiel Eliott who was the best offensive rookie in the NFL last season. Zeke led the NFL in rushing last season and after just one season appears to be the best pure runner in the NFL. Unfortunately, Elliott has been suspended six games, pending an appeal, due to some off the field behavior deemed detrimental to the league. The Cowboys should be fine with Darren Mcfadden and Alfred Morris, both former 1,000 yard rushers, for a few weeks splitting the rush load. Dallas also has a strong receiving corps. Dez Bryant has dealt with injury the past two seasons that has limited his overall explosiveness and effectiveness. But make no mistake Dez is still one of the most talented receivers in the league and I expect a very strong season from him in 2017. Terrance Williams will again be the other outside receiver. At this point he pretty much is what he is which is a decent starting receiver but nothing special. In the Cowboys offense he will be the fourth option and not a lot of teams have a fourth option as good as T-Will. Cole Beasley had a breakout year for the Cowboys in the slot. Beasley received the third highest grade among receivers that play regularly in the slot by pro football focus and led the Cowboys in receptions and receiving yards. I expect another big year from him as he appears to be Dak’s favorite target in a way that Witten was for Romo. Speaking of Witten not only is he back at tight end for this season but he signed at four year extension so I guess he will be around a while. He is one of the slowest unathletic players in the league at his position and yet he still is getting it done. He is still one of the best in the game at making contested catches in traffic. The most talked about offensive line in the NFL is the Cowboys line. They are led by three first team all-pro players in Tyron Smith, Zach Martin, and Travis Frederick. When healthy the best of the group and maybe in the entire league is left tackle Smith. Smith is an elite run and pass blocker and though his play slipped a little as he played through injury in 2016 I expect him to return to best in the league status as he was in 2015. Martin is the starting right guard and has been a pro bowler since stepping into the NFL in 2014. The Cowboys lost Leary at left guard to free agency but former first round pick Jonathan Cooper is expected to take over. He has essentially gotten hurt every year of his career up to this point and thus been unable to truly show what he can do but the Cowboys believe if he can stay healthy they can get that potential out of him. Doug Free retired and so the Cowboys will move La’el Collins from guard to right tackle to replace him and quite honestly it could be an upgrade as Free struggled at times last season. Overall the Cowboys offensively got younger and quicker on the O-line and if everyone stays healthy it is possible that they could be even better than they were the last two seasons. All of the skill players are back and so is dak who will be a year older and thus should also be better. The Cowboys will be an elite offense in 2017.


The Cowboys defense has been criticized for years but last year they finished fifth in points allowed and though no one would mistake them as an elite defense they were far and away from a terrible one. The Cowboys lack an elite player on the defensive line that is capable of consistently winning one on one when rushing the passer and being a double digit sack guy. However the Cowboys have one of the deepest d-lines in the league just in terms of players who can at least step onto the field and contribute. The starters in the interior are Cedric Thornton and Maliek Collins. Thornton is a average starter but Collins has a ton of potential and looks to build on his five sack rookie season and blossom into a dominant player. On the edges will be Demarcus Lawerence and Tyrone Crawford. Lawerence has been very inconsistent as a pass rusher and it clearly is not his specialty but he has developed into a good run defender. Crawford is an all-around d-lineman that can play on the edge or in the interior and is a high energy pass rusher. Expect Crawford to be kicked inside some in nickel packages and Benson Mayowa brought in to play end. He is a pass rush specialist and led the Cowboys in sacks last season with six. Where the Cowboys figure to be the strongest is at linebacker. The leader of the group and this defense is Sean Lee who will be the weakside linebacker. He is the best off-line outside linebacker in the NFL. Jaylen Smith was the team’s second round pick in 2016 and he fell because he tore up multiple ligaments in his knee in his final college game and would not be available to play during the 2016 season. However, he was considered the best linebacker prospect in that draft class before getting hurt and is finally ready to play. He should be the starting middle linebacker and if he can return to the form he was at before getting hurt the Cowboys front seven will be a lot better than it was last season. Damien Wilson is the strong side linebacker and he was their second best linebacker last season. He got into a little trouble during the offseason but so far there is no talk of suspension so he should be on the field. The secondary is where the bulk of the question marks and criticism of this defense come into play. Dallas lost three starters in free agency so there is concern. The Cowboys addressed it in the draft by drafting three corners including two in the first three rounds and they signed another corner in Nolan Carroll in free agency. The top corner on the team is Orlando Scandrick who will play on the outside in base packages but primarily play in the slot when they go into their nickel defense. Scandrick missed some games last year due to injury and even when he played he was not always 100%. If he is 100% again I expect him to play up to the level he did back in 2015 where he was one of the top ranked corners in the league. Carroll is expected to start right away given his experience but Carroll was not very good last season with Philly and if he does not play better early with the Cowboys he could find himself on the bench. Anthony Brown was the team’s sixth round pick last season and ultimately ended up starting 10 games due to injuries to Mo Claiborne and greatly exceeded expectations. So much so that he enters camp as the other projected starter ahead of two corners picked in this years draft who were high picks and perhaps have more natural ability than he has. Byron Jones is the team’s top safety and has been really good so far in his short career. As he enters his third season this could be the year Jones makes his first pro bowl. The loss of Barry Church could be a big one for Dallas but the team has faith in Jeff Heath to replace him. Heath has been a valuable contributor for Dallas on special teams and last season when called upon to play some safety he did an ok job. How he will perform as a full-time starter playing 60 or so snaps a game remains to be seen. Overall the Cowboys do not have a great defense. They most likely will not finish top five again in points allowed. But they can play well in spurts if they stay within themselves and the offense keeps them off the field the way they did last season. The Cowboys have an above average defense and if they can just not give up a ton of big plays and give up field goals instead of TDs, essentially being a bend but don’t break defense, then the Cowboys defense can be successful in 2017.

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