While it is easy for Cowboys fans to hang their head in defeat and say, “I knew we would blow it” or “What a disappointing season”, Cowboys fans need to remember how impressive the season, as a whole, truly was. Even with the loss to the Packers on a last second field goal, the Cowboys lost only 4 games this season. To put that into perspective, the Cowboys had as many losses as San Francisco and Cleveland had wins, combined. The catch? Dallas did it with two rookies in the backfield all season long. Had any other team played a full season with two rookies in the backfield, I think it would have been called a growing season as the players went through there maturation process into the league. However, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot looked like seasoned veterans in big games for the Cowboys and led the team to the #1 seed in the NFC with an impressive 13-3 regular season record and winning the NFC East division title. Still not convinced the future is looking up? Let’s take a look at why the Dallas Cowboys are back, and here to stay.
I briefly touched on how impressive Dak and Zeke were this season, but let’s talk about why what they did was so impressive. Starting with Dak, the kid from Sulphur, Louisiana and the star quarterback from Mississippi State, was selected 135th overall in the 4th Round of last year’s draft by the Cowboys. He looked destined to back up Tony Romo for at the very least the next 6 years after Romo signed a massive $108 million contract that featured a $25 million signing bonus, and $55 million guaranteed (SportTrac). For an aging and rather injury prone QB, that is a lot of cash, but when you have Jerry Jones money, I guess you can do what you want. Romo, then, fractured a vertebrae in the preseason that sidelined him until week 8 when he came back… to hold the clipboard. Dak ended the season with a 104.9 Passer Rating, 82.6 QBR, 3,667 passing yards, 29 total TD’s, and a 67.8% completion percentage. As a Rookie thrown into the fire, these stats are outstanding. Leading a team to the playoffs and nearly leading the Cowboys back against the Packers in the playoffs certainly shows the type of player and leader Dak Prescott is. If the Cowboys do the right thing, they will name him the starter moving forward, lock him into a long term contract and never look back. I mean, who else made a former starter basically give a concessional speech after being beaten for the starting job?
On to Zeke, what more could you want from a rookie Running Back? He was explosive, powerful, fast footed, and most of all, elusive against some of the NFL’s top defenses. To top it off, he was able to become the league rushing leader with 1,631 Rushing Yards and was able to rack up 15 rushing TD’s and 1 receiving TD. Zeke finished first in rush yards per game in the NFL with 108.7 a game, and finished 3rd in rushing TD’s with his 15. Averaging 5.1 yards a carry, he has the ability that many teams look for in any RB which is the ability to fall forward and gain the few extra yards on any given play. Their is a huge difference in a play call on 2nd and 5 and on 2 and 10. His Offense Coordinator must love him for that. Having a dominate young back that is able to already have the run of defenses in his first year in the league shows that Zeke has the ability to be a force in Dallas for the coming years. Jason Garrett would only be right to feed this man the ball as much as he can.
Now let’s talk about “The Hog mollies” up front. The unsung heroes of any football team are the Offensive Linemen. No one gives linemen the credit they truly deserve when a running back finds a hole to burst through for a big gain or when a QB has all day to throw in the pocket. The Dallas O-Line was able to give Dak plenty of time to throw and Zeke holes to run through all season long. Led by All-Pros LT Tyron Smith, RG Zack Martin, and C Travis Frederick, the Cowboys line has nothing but all star capable linemen in their trenches. Dallas needs to hold on to the line they have right now due to the chemistry they seem to have and the talent that the entire unit has. Keeping that O-Line will be tough once contracts come up in a year or two, but the Cowboys know who protects their prized assets. Getting rid of that massive Tony Romo contract would go a long way moving forward in re-signing these linemen.
Briefly talking about the Dallas defense, the main issue was the massive contract that Brandon Carr had with the team after a rather underwhelming season, but Carr is signed for a one year extension that makes him just above $2 million in 2017. With that extra bit of cap space cleared up, players like Byron Jones and Morris Claiborne will surely be with the Cowboy defense for many, many years with how the young duo played this season. The defense could use some help which could have come in the way of Randy Gregory had he not been suspended yet another season for marijuana issues.
With the issues of Gregory, Dallas could look to strengthen their LineBacker unit through the NFL Draft in April. Two prospects that could really make a difference for Dallas are Raekwon McMillan from Ohio State and Ryan Anderson from Alabama. McMillan comes across as the more complete LB at his age with the versatile ability to drop into coverage and make any tackle necessary. Anderson is a brilliant player when he rushes the QB; he is a monster. He was disruptive all season long for Alabama and his play in the National Championship game will help his stock immensely. If either player is available for the Cowboys at the 28th spot of the 1st Round, I expect one of them to be taken.
So all in all Cowboys fans, there is nothing to be upset about. A great season with a disappointing end is still a great season. With stars like Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Jason Witten, and Sean Lee on the payroll, and surely more stars to join soon, the Cowboys will not only be back, but will be stronger than ever. So don’t be distraught Cowboys fans, the future is blindingly bright.