Dallas fans can hopefully look forward to a .500 season
By George Kurtz
It’s funny, or at least to me it is, Scott Engel and I play this game each week. He will ask me to submit a few column ideas, I will, then he will give me a different topic to write about. Sometimes he even likes to try stoking the fire. He asked me to write about why the Yankees won’t make the playoffs before the baseball season started. I’m a Yankee fan, but although I do believe the Yankees aren’t the best team in the American League (Houston), it’s difficult to find four other teams that are better than they are to knock them out of the playoffs. Still, it was a fun exercise.
This week, Scott has asked me to write about why my favorite NFL team, Dallas, won’t make the playoffs. This one I’m completely on board with. I think you can make an argument that Dallas is the worst team in the NFC East.
The Cowboys finished 9-7 last season. Impressive in some ways when you consider that they lost their best player, Ezekiel Elliott, to a suspension for six games. How exactly are they a better team this season? Their receiving corps could very well be one of the worst in the NFL. Jason Witten has officially retired, which leaves them paper thin at tight end. Their wide receiver group consists of Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, Deonte Thompson, Cole Beasley, and third-round draft pick Michael Gallup. While you really can’t say that releasing Dez Bryant was the wrong thing to do, as he certainly was not worth $16 million per season, they are now loaded with WR3 types. Passing on Calvin Ridley or whoever was their top choice at WR in the NFL draft could very well prove to be a huge mistake. There is no one that will force defenses to pull their safety out of the box.
Elliott will see a truckload of eight-man fronts this season. As for Witten retiring, say what you want about the future Hall of Famer (yes, he’s slow), but he was a reception machine and someone who was adept at moving the chains. Rico Gathers may end up being someone who can make bigger plays, but he will be nowhere near as consistent as Witten was. Once again Dallas likely made a mistake in the draft by not securing one of the TEs available, most notably Dallas Goedert. Yes, they couldn’t stop Philadelphia from trading ahead of them, but perhaps with all of the extra draft picks that they had, Jerry Jones should’ve given up a lower pick to make sure he acquired what may have been the best overall TE in the draft. This offense will have trouble moving the ball consistently and big plays in the passing game may become non-existent. It’s tough to win in today’s NFL without an above-average passing game.
As for the defense, they passed on Ridley to take LB Leighton Vander Esch. This move may pay off in future years but LVE is unlikely to make any kind of impact this season. They weren’t able to acquire Earl Thomas from Seattle, so the secondary is still a work in progress. It’s not a bad defense, but far from a lockdown one also. The defense will thrive if Elliott and the running game can keep them off the field, but with defenses likely going all out to stop the run and forcing Dak Prescott and what’s left of the passing game to beat them, this will be easier said than done
Six teams make the playoffs in each conference. The easiest way for Dallas to make the playoffs would be to win the NFC East. Can anyone really say with a straight face that the Cowboys are a better team than the Super Bowl champion Eagles? I’m not saying Philadelphia is a world-beater, but outside of running back and possibly offensive line (Dallas’ OL underachieved last season), what position group does Dallas have an edge at? Are the Cowboys even a better team than the Giants or Redskins? Yes, I believe the Giants made a huge mistake in taking Saquon Barkley over a possible franchise quarterback, but by taking Barkley they have made themselves a better team this season. If Eli Manning still has something left and that OL can just be average, that is an extremely dangerous offense on all levels. Washington may have a more reliable QB in Alex Smith and finally should have some semblance of a running game if Derrius Guice can toe the line. Sure, for over a decade now no team has won the NFC East two straight seasons and that may even hold true again this season (I’ll still pick Philly), but that doesn’t mean Dallas is next in line.
There are two wildcard spots that are available in the conference. Let’s say for argument’s sake that you say Minnesota, New Orleans, and the Rams will win their respective divisions. That leaves Dallas to battle with not only the Giants and Redskins, but also the Packers, Falcons, Panthers, and Seahawks for a spot. I’m not even counting teams that could drastically improve like Chicago and San Francisco. Can we really say Dallas is in the Top Two of this group? Really?
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 6, 2018
Dez Bryant has been released. Jason Witten has retired. Jerry Jones has proven repeatedly that he is a poor general manager and the next time Jason Garrett out-coaches the opposing head coach will be the first time. Dallas is heading for yet another season of .500 football. They will tease their fans with some great performances but there is just not enough talent on the team to be a true threat in the NFC East, let alone the entire conference.
Featured Image: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, left, and head coach Jason Garrett introduce first-round draft pick Leighton Vader Esch, right, at a press conference in Frisco, Texas. (AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)