The Dallas Cowboys took a step back in the 2017 season as they were missed the presence of star running back Ezekiel Elliott for six matches.
The Cowboys endured a middling 8-8 campaign, one term removed from their NFC East title and a 13-3 season in 2016. Dak Prescott came back down to earth after his impressive rookie campaign, while Elliott’s off-the-field behaviour caught up with him, resulting in his suspension by the league.
Dallas struggled without their main men, while injuries on their vaunted offensive line exposed Prescott. None more so than in their defeat to the Atlanta Falcons when Adrian Clayborn had six sacks in the contest, facing up against back up tackle Chaz Green.
Those issues were symptomatic of the Cowboys’ term as their lack of depth throughout their roster was exposed. Dallas have made strides to address their problems, clearing out the deadwood on their team, beginning with former All-Pro Dez Bryant, while future Hall of Famer Jason Witten retired.
Bryant’s skills were on the decline last season as he failed to get separation downfield. His salary was large therefore the club made the decision to release him. Tavon Austin, Allen Hurns and rookie Michael Gallup will attempt to fill the void.
It will be up to Jason Garrett to get a performance from his players on the field as all eyes will be on him after an underwhelming term in 2017.
The Cowboys were rocked by Elliott’s suspension last season. He managed to stave off the ban twice before finally having to miss time during the middle of the campaign. Dallas missed his dynamic approach in the backfield, finding holes and bursting through where other players fail to thrive. The 23-year-old still managed to rack up 983 rushing yards and seven touchdowns along with 269 receiving yards and three scores in 10 matches. Elliott’s is Dallas’ main man on offense. All of their play flows his ability to run the ball and cause defenders to come towards the line of scrimmage.
His absence put the pressure on Prescott to carry the offense. The quarterback is not at the stage of his career when he can put the fortunes of the team on his shoulders. Prescott has ability, but he was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 Draft for a reason. He’s not quite as accurate as his contemporaries Carson Wentz and Jared Goff. Therefore he struggled to fit the ball into tight windows, although the 25-year-old was not supported by his receiving corps. With further time to develop his game and Elliott back in the fold, there’s scope for Prescott to take a step forward in 2018.
The receiving corps has been stripped of experience in the aftermath of Witten’s retirement and Bryant’s release. Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley are the survivors from last season, but are in need of improvement in their performances. Hurns and Austin have potential, particularly the former, while Austin has failed to fire in the NFL after being selected eighth overall in the 2013 Draft. Gallup has received high praise from Jerry Jones during training camp. He could be a surprise emergence should he form a solid rapport with Prescott. Expect more from the offense in 2018 after a below-par effort last term.
Dallas will be without one of their most promising players at least for the start of the season as David Irving was suspended for four matches. He has not reported to camp in light of personal issues, leaving Rod Marinelli’s defense without an important player. However, their move to acquire Jihad Ward from the Oakland Raiders could offset his loss, while there is a lot of talent in the front seven. Taco Charlton had a quiet rookie season in the NFL after being selected in the first round of the 2017 Draft.
There’s plenty of room for improvement from the defensive end, and he should have plenty of opportunities playing alongside DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence has established himself as one of the most dominant edge-rushers in the NFL. He notched 14.5 sacks last season and will draw the majority of the attention from opposing offensive lineman. The rest of the Cowboys’ defensive line have to rise to the occasion to capitalise.
Dallas used a first-round pick on a defensive player for the second year on the bounce. Leighton Vander Esch has the talent to become a superstar in the middle of the defense. The Cowboys were exposed by Sean Lee’s injury last season as much as Elliott’s suspension. Vander Esch was a tackling machine at Boise State, playing all three downs. He will ease the burden on Lee in the anchor role, giving the Cowboys security against the linebacker’s injury problems flare up again. Jaylon Smith continues his development and recovery from his knee injury. Smith could be one to watch now that he is two years removed from the knee problem that sent him down the draft.
The secondary could have issues as they did last season. Byron Jones is the standout among the group, but other than him there are a lot of unknown commodities, including Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, who are both entering their second seasons in the NFL.
Dallas are an up-and-down team. They won eight matches last season, but could return to the post-season especially if the Philadelphia Eagles take a step back. Back the Cowboys to reach the playoffs at odds of +145 and to win over nine matches at odds of +108 with 888Sport. They could be worth a shout to win the NFC East at odds of +320 , although a lot will need to break their way in the division. Second place in the NFC East is probably a fair call at odds of +175 with BetOnline. Beyond that will be a stretch considering that the Cowboys have won one playoff game in the last seven seasons.
Vander Esch is one to watch in the defensive rookie of the year award running. He will have ample opportunities on the field therefore back him at odds of +2000 with TopBet. Elliott will be hungry for the ball on his return to the field with the potential of a full season ahead of him. He’s perhaps the best runner in the NFL and will be desperate to prove a point. Back him to lead the NFL in rushing at odds of +350 with TopBet. Lawrence had 14.5 sacks last term, a similar term or a slight improvement could result in him leading the NFL in sacks at +2000 with 888Sport and to win defensive player of the year at +2500 with BetOnline.
Elliott recorded over 1,600 rushing yards in his first term in the NFL. Back him to reach a similar mark of over 1,376 yards at -115 and over 11 touchdowns at -125 with BetOnline. Prescott should be in line for a stronger season than the last campaign. Take the 25-year-old at over 3,399 passing yards at -115 , over 23 touchdowns at -115 and under 13 interceptions at -115 with BetOnline.
Dallas Cowboys To Reach The Playoffs
Dallas Cowboys To Win Over Nine Matches
Dallas Cowboys To Win NFC East
Dallas Cowboys To Finish Second In NFC East
Leighton Vander Esch To Win Defensive Rookie Of The Year
Ezekiel Elliott To Lead The NFL In Rushing Yards
DeMarcus Lawrence To Lead NFL In Sacks
DeMarcus Lawrence To Win Defensive Player Of The Year
Ezekiel Elliott To Record Over 1,376 Rushing Yards
Ezekiel Elliott To Record Over 11 Touchdowns
Dak Prescott To Record Over 3,399 Passing Yards
Dak Prescott To Record Over 23 Touchdowns
Dak Prescott To Record Under 13 Interceptions