Waiting for training camp is no fun, it’s a dead time in the NFL offseason. While the football world holds its collective breath, our minds start to wonder about what could happen during the season. Here are some things I wonder about for the Dallas Cowboys (stealing a from Todd Archer here).
Will Dak Prescott bounce back? This might be the biggest things on most Cowboys fans minds. Prescott had a scintillating rookie campaign and his follow up season was just as good before losing Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith. To this day, the biggest thing that continues to stick out in my mind is that Dak’s play changed after the Atlanta Falcons game. Perhaps the quarterback got too banged up, became gun shy or possibly lost some confidence, but those eight sacks took their toll; Dak never really recovered in the final half of the season. Prescott works incredibly hard and has taken control as a leader this offseason, there should be little doubt that he is ready to bounce back.
Will Ezekiel Elliott rush for 2,000 yards? (More on this subject coming) It might be a tad premature to ask this question, but there is little doubt it’s possible if Zeke plays all 16 games. The word is that Elliott was very focused on preparing for 2018 this offseason and he’s in the best shape of his life. All the drama last offseason and having football taken away from him last year may have given Zeke a new view on his football life. We know the Cowboys are dedicated to feeding him the ball, the offensive line looks better than it did last year and if the unit stays healthy, 2,000 yards is attainable. If Zeke was able to rush for two-grand this season, he’d be the youngest 2,000-yard rusher in league history at 23-years old.
Who will be the leader at wide receiver? This doesn’t necessarily mean who will have the most catches, yards or touchdowns from the receiving group, I’m guessing that might be a different player for each category. We’re talking about on third and eight with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, who is Dak Prescott throwing at to make a play? It’s a vastly different wide receiver room than it was last year and without a true number one receiver, they might not have the ‘go-to’ guy. The Cowboys don’t think they need that one top option, we’ll see if they’re right.
How nasty will Jaylon Smith be? This season will be two full years removed from the horrific injury that threatened Smith’s playing career. Now playing without the brace on his foot and with a year of seasoning under his belt, just how good will Smith be? In workout videos and via word of mouth from those who see him every day, there is a growing buzz about Smith’s prospects this season. Jaylon Smith looks on track to be the monster linebacker he was in college and the Dallas defense might be much better than advertised with Smith back to full health.
Can Chidobe Awuzie take the next step? There has also been a ton of buzz about this second-year cornerback this offseason. Many expect Awuzie to be the top corner on the roster and people are projecting him to make a run at the Pro Bowl in 2018. The skill, experience, and confidence are there for Awuzie, now all we need to see is the improvement from year one to year two. Can he live up to the hype?
Will the new coaches make a difference? There was some considerable turnover on the coaching staff this offseason, which needed some change. In are Kellen Moore, Sanjay Lal, Kris Richard and Paul Alexander, all of whom have made a favorable impression so far (except Moore, who we haven’t heard much chatter about). This is a group that could make a major difference.
Expect the receivers to run an expanded route tree with more discipline under Lal. The days of running your best route and predictable alignments are over, Lal is a detail-oriented coach who should get the most out of this underrated group.
Alexander brings some new and exciting concepts to the game’s best offensive line. The veteran line coach has had success in Cincinnati, now he’s working with a group that’s as talented as they come. Dallas’ offensive line underachieved last year, but if Alexander can reenergize the group, the offense will take off.
Richards’ reputation precedes him and big things are expected from the secondary under his tutelage. The Cowboys have a young, talented secondary, and the move of Byron Jones might make this a much stronger unit. Richards has a lot to work with and we are expecting good results from the secondary.
Kellen Moore was not a hire many pundits liked, but we’ll find out if they were right or wrong. The Cowboys like his mind for the game and Prescott’s familiarity may ease the transition. The jury is still out on this hire.
We’ll start to get some answers in a few weeks, but the rest test awaits in September. What are your thoughts about the upcoming season?
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