Dallas Cowboys Season Preview
NFC East - Dallas Cowboys
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Round 2 – Defensive tackle, Trysten Hill, UCF
Round 3 – Offensive line, Connor McGovern, Penn State
A trade with the Oakland Raiders for wide receiver Amari Cooper last October cost the Dallas Cowboys their top pick in 2019 leaving them watching the draft from the side lines during round one. When they finally make their first selection, defensive tackle Trysten Hill was something of a surprise selection in round two given his disappointing Junior season at UCF that saw him reduced to a reserve role.
Thanks to his impressive strength and quickness, Hill has the potential to be a force as a run defender and he should see snaps in the defensive line rotation as a rookie. Questions about his character and work ethic surfaced after a coaching change and Hill’s playing time would suffer as a consequence. How much that was a reflection of the player or the new coaching staff remains to be seen, but it is worth noting that Hill had no issues with the previous regime that recruited him and made him a starter as freshman and a sophomore. The young prospect still has much to learn and his potential as a pass rusher may be limited, but he put enough plays on tape at college to suggest he could at least develop into a solid backup.
At 6-foot-5 and over 300 pounds, Connor McGovern has great size for his position and is blessed with the athleticism to function as an effective pulling guard or center. While scouts rave about his talents as a run blocker, there appears to universal agreement that McGovern has work to do as a pass blocker. The former Penn State product is unlikely to see extensive playing time as a rookie behind a strong group of starters but has the look of a future starter who could be a serviceable option if pressed into service as a rookie.
With a number of high-profile names looking for contract extensions this offseason, the focus for the Cowboys has been retaining their own talent in 2019, with defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and linebacker Jaylon Smith the big financial winners so far. A new deal for running back Ezekiel Elliot is expected to be announced very soon and negotiations with quarterback Dak Prescott are still ongoing after he reportedly rejected a deal worth over $30 million a year earlier in this month.
The return of formerly retired tight end Jason Witten might excite Cowboys fans who still own his jersey, but his production on the filed is unlikely to be any better than his last season in Dallas when he recorded 560 yards and five touchdowns. Former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb was the team’s most expensive free agent signing on offense and should more than make up for the loss of Cole Beasley to the Buffalo Bills.
Veteran defensive end Robert Quinn was a notable acquisition via trade from the Miami Dolphins and he will be joined by Christian Covington from the Houston Texans and Kerry Hyder of the Detroit Lions to help provide depth on defense. Quinn will miss the first two game of the season after receiving a suspension relating to his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Former Minnesota Vikings safety George Iloka could take over at strong safety from incumbent Jeff Heath.
As one of the top three running backs in the NFL, Elliott is the clear star player on offense, closely followed by Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick, guard Zach Martin and tackle Tyron Smith. Together they form one of the best offensive lines in the league with La’el Collins an emerging talent at right tackle.
Prescott could be a star of the future at quarterback, but it is far too early to rank him among the elites at this stage of career. The same could be said of Cooper who still has plenty to prove before he can be viewed as one of the great receivers.
Lawrence is the star along the defensive line with a contract to match at $105 million over the next five years, while Smith is quickly becoming a star at linebacker along with Leighton Vander Esch. Pro Bowl cornerback Byron Jones had something of a breakout year after moving over from safety but will need to repeat those efforts in 2019 if he wants to make a claim to be considered as one the best in the NFL.
While the Cowboys will be looking to improve on a 2018 season that saw them fall to the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round of the playoffs, they are likely to be thwarted in their quest to repeat as NFC East champions by a superior Philadelphia Eagles team. It is also worth noting that Dallas has not recorded back-to-back playoff appearances since 2006/07 or successive double-digit win seasons since 1995/96.
Jason Garrett inexplicably remains in charge of the team for his ninth full year despite only four winning seasons and two playoff victories on his resume. With him in control of the team, it is difficult to be confident about their chances against quality opposition and impossible to have any faith in them as a potential Super Bowl candidate.
Dallas has the talent on offense to compete with most teams thanks to their strong running game and powerful offensive line. However, if forced to come from behind, the struggles in the passing game that were evident last year will doom this franchise if they persist again in 2019. It is a similar story on defense with a front seven capable of stopping most teams and a secondary that any good quarterback will be more than happy to face.
Ultimately, the greatest obstacle to success for the Cowboys could be the contract of their star running back, a deal that has yet to be finalized at the time of writing. Elliot has been engaged in a holdout since training camp began and has vowed to sit out the season if an agreement cannot be reached. Without Elliot, the chances of a playoff victory for Dallas are slim.
Oddschecker spokesperson Pete Watt: ““The big narrative of this season for the Cowboys will be whether – and how much – the team are prepared to pay Dak Prescott.”
“It seems certain that their signal-caller will receive huge money, but will it be enough to make him the NFL’s highest-paid star?”
Based on the 2018 record of their opponents, Dallas will theoretically have the 14th ranked schedule in terms of difficulty heading into 2019. They will face teams that accumulated a combined record of 128-126-2 last season for a winning percentage of .504.
Opening the season with matchups against the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins is a nice way to ease into the regular season and the Cowboys should be grateful for a soft start to a year. However, a stretch of games between Week 12 through Week 16 that features only one weak opponent means that Dallas will need to start fast in 2019 if they have any hope of being in contention for the division title come Week 17.