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The Dallas Cowboys 2016 Season Wrap-Up and Outlook
- Updated: January 27, 2017
Brought to you by: Big Shucks
By Zach Walker
Another playoff run ended by ended by the Packers. At least this time, there’s more pride in the defeat. This Cowboys’ team showcased out to the world that they won’t fade. They were down early, and down well, 18 points and the outlook was bleak. The found answers, shifted into game mode and had game tied with under a minute to go. They lost, but they lost on their feet. The offense started slow, but once fuel flowed through their carburetors, they were as hot as the opposing quarterback. Dak Prescott played sharp down the stretch, and looked like a franchise quarterback in the process. Zeke Elliott is just a beast, he could have gotten more touches and had an even bigger impact, but that spin move will live on for a long while. Dez was DEZ. The X was out to win, and he was a terror on the outside. These Cowboys are “to be continued” because it’s such a young offense and overall quite young team.
This season was great. No doubt about it. Besides going three and three in the division, that’s the weirdest part of the season. We know who will follow in the epic footsteps of Tony Romo. Dak Prescott shattered expectations this year. He looked cool and comfortable the entire year, and looked like a team leader out there. We know that the Cowboys have truly have struck gold with Ezekiel Elliott. He just runs with more carry per carry entertainment valve and explosiveness than any back for a long time. He’s a true three down back too, being exceptional at every task he’s charged with. With the offensive line that he’s working with and his vision and explosive ability matched with understated patience, he’s going to be a treat to watch for a long, long time. And that spin move… What needs to be said about Jason Witten? The team will try and replace him, but it’d just be another burned draft pick. The Hall-of-Famer is going to be around for much longer than the rest of us. Dez Bryant couldn’t have finished stronger. Is playoff performance was scorching, and he finished with what looked like a solid connection with Dak Prescott. Cole Beasley started out as Dak’s safety valve, with his crisp route running, but cooled late, but that’s no indication of lack of connection between the two. The Cowboys must address the remaining corps of wide receivers. Terrence Williams is above average at running slants, outside of that he’s really up and down and inconsistent. Lucky Whitehead is more a decoy than a threat. Brice Butler is better overall than Williams, but really could stand to be upgraded, because everyone is going to remember that drop in the endzone over his season portfolio. I’m mighty curious what’s going to happen with the offensive line in the offseason. Ron Leary is an upper echelon guard, and could pull a tasty contract in the offseason. Think of it this way, Jeremy Parnell pulled a thirty million dollar contract for playing “not bad” in ten games, so Leary can get that, I believe he’s a special piece, and a better suited guard than even the ultra-talented La’el Collins. I want Leary at guard, Collins to take up right tackle when Doug Free is ready to be replaced. But if Leary takes his skills and grabs some money elsewhere, who could blame him? He plays a position that hardly gets the shine that is rewarded. Whatever happens, it’s really not a bad direction. Chaz Green looked better than what was expected of him, in his spot duty before his injury. Perhaps he’s the long con at right tackle. The three All-Pros, what needs to be said…
This might be the youngest and most potent offense that the Cowboys have had in quite some time, maybe in my lifetime. They have true triplets, a badass offensive line, a hall-of-fame tight end, and serious momentum heading into next year. What holds the offense back is lack of quality depth behind Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley, then the play callers. They coached safe and scared at the end of that playoff game. That spike. Then back to back throws that cooked basically ZERO time off of the clock, preserving some time for Rodgers to vampire the game from them. The coaching staff’s lack of sticking with a hot running game is full-on enraging. That must change or the ceiling for this team is going to continue to be the first game they reach in the playoffs. In the offseason, the drama of what is the fate of Tony Romo is going to linger over the metroplex until action is taken. Finding a dance partner is going to be tricky. Finding a contender that is a quarterback away is slim, pretty much Arizona, Denver, or Buffalo. But are they willing to absorb that cap number? There are a few outliers that could be interested. I could see the Jets, the Dolphins, Browns, or the team I feel is most ideal the Los Angeles Rams. None of these would be bad spots, and Romo could crush in any of team’s situations, but the chance at playoffs are pretty darn slim, even with Romo. In free agency, the Cowboys aren’t likely to be buyers on the offensive side of the ball. In the draft, I’ve got my eye on a couple of legacy players to help stabilize the wide receiving corps. Beyond the pass catchers, the Cowboys shouldn’t be looking a premium additions in the draft.
It’s pretty much groundhog’s day. Some problem, different season. They aren’t generating turnovers. The defense is definitely not as bad as any outsider would mock it as being, but it could do with some upgrading at some positions. Now, I know that help is on the way, and is already in house, with linebacker Jaylon Smith. I know in my bones that he’s going to be a difference maker, a true star of the Cowboys’ defense. The defensive line is coached strong by, likely, the best going in the league, and he gets so much out of his guys. They have studs in David Irving and Malik Collins, and an offseason to get Tyrone Crawford back to one hundred percent. I want to believe in DeMarcus Lawrence, but he’s just got to get healthy, a year that he’s on the field every week. Randy Gregory, he’s out, not in future plans. Jack Crawford is a free agent. The Cowboys need more heat. Same problem, different season. The linebackers, like I said, are going to be an improved group in 2017, with Jaylon Smith joining Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens to create a very strong three-man mid-field defense corps. With Kyle Wilber, Damien Wilson, and Mark Nzeocha rounding out the linebackers, I’d say that this is the only group on defense that’s nailed down. The secondary is a mixed bag. They played well enough to go thirteen and three, and play well in spots, then they go and drop it the following week. The secondary is going to lose players. Barry Church, JJ Wilcox, and Morris Claiborne are all impending free agents. I want JJ Wilcox back, but a change of scenery would probably benefit the other two. Lots of openings for the Cowboys.
In free agency, there’s fish in the sea, at positions of need (unless they get hit with the franchise tag). In the draft, the deepest high end talent positions are at positions that the Cowboys desperately need to upgrade. Defensive end and cornerback. Corners go ten to fifteen deep with starting ability, and at D-End it’s more of the same. Both positions have their share of sleepers: Josh Carraway and Deatrich Wise at D-End; Marquez White and Ashton Lampkin at corner. In this draft, the Cowboys need to buckshot the defensive side of the ball, reserve two picks for offense, then hit the gas on defense. There are all sorts of quality players at the Cowboys’ draft position late in each round. The Cowboys just need a few tweaks here and there to optimize on defense. With how the offense is built, the attractiveness of the Cowboys’ hasn’t been this high in ages, and for free agents thinking about it, they could be key parts towards something great.