Throughout the team’s history, the Dallas Cowboys have never lacked stars, and this year’s team is no different – Dak, Zeke, Cooper, Martin, D-Law, Byron, LVE, Jaylon, and even the return of Witten.
But in the NFL, success often depends on the next layer of talent – players who are a little off the radar but are critical to deep playoff runs – think players like Tony Tolbert, Chad Hennings, and James Washington from the early 1990s. For this upcoming season, I have identified three who may represent the difference between getting into the playoffs (and hopefully beyond) and watching January games from the couch. Michael Gallup, Chidobe Awuzie and Blake Jarwin are three players who can make big strides next season and help Dallas get past the wall that has become the divisional round.
When the Cowboys took Michael Gallup in the third round of the 2018 draft, many thought he could make an immediate impact. Dallas’ receiving corps was weak, and Gallup was Dallas’ answer. Unfortunately, he was not the answer the Cowboys hoped for. The answer was named Amari Cooper and he didn’t arrive until halfway through the season. The good news for Gallup was Amari was the answer to his struggles too. Pre-Amari, Gallup caught seven passes for 109 yards, which is a solid single game stat-line for some guys. After Amari arrived, Gallup’s numbers dramatically improved as he caught 31 passes for 454 yards and two touchdowns. A great example of Gallup’s play improving alongside Amari Cooper was the divisional round of the playoffs against the Rams. Gallup caught for 119 yards while Marcus Peters and the rest of the Rams secondary was focused on Cooper. If Michael Gallup can start next season the way he finished last season, the Cowboys offense will be difficult to defend.
Chidobe Awuzie is poised to break out next season alongside pro-bowler Byron Jones. Awuzie’s numbers improved in a big way from his rookie season to last season. He went from 25 tackles in his first season, to 71 tackles last season. Much of that improvement has to do with the fact he started 14 out of the 15 games he played in. One of his better games was week two against the Giants where he lined up across from Odell Beckham Jr and held him to only 51 yards on 4 catches. Injuries are the only thing that might keep Awuzie from making even bigger strides in 2019. If his health allows him, Chidobe Awuzie will prove himself to be a reliable starter, and the Cowboys defense will get even stronger.
If you looked at Blake Jarwin’s season stats, you would not think this guy can make a difference. But, if you looked at his week 17 stats against the Giants, you could see how he can make a huge difference next year. Jarwin absolutely torched New York’s defense, for 119 yards and 3 touchdowns. Dak threw his way, time and time again, and Jarwin kept making plays. Yes, Jason Witten is back, but he is also 37 years old and has been away from the team for a year. I am not saying that Mr. Reliable won’t make an impact (his final season he had 560 yards and 5 touchdowns…not bad for that old fart), but someone else is going to have to play snaps and contribute at the tight end position, and I think that guy can be Blake Jarwin.
You may notice that in front of all these guys on the depth chart, is a star type player. To win, the Cowboys need to be deep and these guys will have the most to do with that.