Oddsmakers at PointsBet are currently giving the Dallas Cowboys a 17-1 chance at concluding the upcoming season as Super Bowl Champions, the 6th best odds in the league.
One still can’t help but marvel at how much different things looked just a few short months ago, but few would argue today against the Dallas Cowboys being serious contenders on paper. Super Bowls however are not won in the month of June, and rosters do not hoist Lombardi trophies all by themselves.
Some Super Bowl champions never see it coming, catch fire in late fall, and ride the blaze all the way to the promised land. Other teams are well aware of their potential, and enter the season with “Super Bowl or bust” aspirations.
The Cowboys look to be much more the latter, and could apply a few tweaks to really commit to a Super Bowl championship as the goal for 2020.
Here are a few adjustments the Cowboys could apply to truly go “all-in” for 2020.
Pay Dak, Let Dak Cook
Dak Prescott has nothing left to prove concerning his worth as an NFL franchise quarterback. You can haggle over his placement among the NFL’s best, but when you have a 27 year old, ascending QB in the upper third or even upper quartile of NFL quarterbacking, you open your checkbook and ask him what he wants.
The Cowboys and Prescott should, and likely will get a deal done by the July 15th deadline. When that happens, you let the uneasy pressure out of the room at long last. No more “prove it” cloud hanging over the QB or the team. Dak Prescott then unquestionably becomes your man for the foreseeable future, everybody knows it, and everyone can work without that tense feeling that seems to be currently lingering in the air at The Star.
Pay your QB, and lean on him like you paid him. Dak Prescott has given his coaching staff no reason to believe he won’t continue to ascend as a signal caller, and the Cowboys should plan as if he will do just that. Keep that usage up. Let’s have Dak up around 600 pass attempts again. Run him wisely and opportunistically. Give him his motion, his play action, and all of the things he likes. Let him attack downfield and for goodness sake don’t take the ball away from him when he is baking with the game on the line.
Pay the quarterback what he deserves, and depend on him the way his salary suggests you should.
Sign Everson Griffen or Jadeveon Clowney
Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will have a plethora of interior defensive line talent at his disposal. One edge position will be manned by Demarcus Lawrence, whom despite a misleadingly low 2019 sack total is still one of the game’s premier pass rushers. The other end is a big blinking “service engine soon” light. Rather than count on the shaky likelihood of big contributions from guys returning to the game after lengthy suspensions (Randy Gregory, Aldon Smith), or being hopeful about getting a nice surprise from rookie Bradlee Anae, why not go get a proven commodity and lock DL in as a boisterous strength this season?
Sign Clowney or Griffen to a 1-year deal, and simultaneously raise the ceiling and floor of the EDGE room. If Gregory and Smith do in fact turn out to be the impact players the Cowboys were hoping for, fantastic. Now you have waves of rushers to deploy, and you have likely freed up the spot by setting free a player of little proven worth like Dorance Armstrong.
The Cowboys’ secondary is young. Protect them with a chaotic pass rush as they find their sea legs. Make pass rush a calling card of the 2020 Cowboys, and be rewarded with a substantial compensatory selection after the newly signed pass rusher walks in a year.
Acquire a Punter
We have been over it many times, and I will gladly beat that horse until rigor mortis has fully taken hold. No reason to waste a lot of characters here. Chris Jones was by any measure a bottom 3 NFL punter last season. The Cowboys special teams were abysmal across the board. They made a change which looks to be for the better at kicker (Kai Forbath, late season), and new ST coordinator John Fassell can come in and shuffle his chess pieces on return and coverage units.
The remaining weed left to cull is Chris Jones. The Cowboys had better be watching the waiver wire like hawks for a punter to shake free when teams cut down to 53 at the conclusion of the preseason. There must be 32 guys on planet earth who can best a 41.6 average. The Cowboys need to have one of them on their roster when they kick-off 2020.
Count Zeke’s Calories
“Feed Zeke” may have been a reasonable philosophy when Dak Prescott was in the embryonic stages of his career, but momma, that boy is a man now. It’s time for the Cowboys to port themselves into the present day and leave the 1990’s behind with Jason Garrett now in New York.
It’s a quarterback driven league. There are short term anomalies, but teams to do not find sustained success basing their identity on a ball carrier. Ezekiel Elliot is a useful player, and still one of the best at his position, but it’s time to look at him more as the hood ornament than the engine. Less carries total. Less maddeningly predictable carries on early downs, leaving your quarterback to bail you out of unfavorable situations after multiple unsuccessful rush attempts.
Hopefully the combination of the young, creative Kellen Moore, and the wise and polished Mike McCarthy can figure out a way to use Elliott in an efficient manner. A player of Elliott’s caliber will still on occasion be instrumental in victory, but the issue can’t be forced. The days of ramming Zeke incessantly into a brick wall to the tune of less than 3 yards a carry when things aren’t working need to be over for good.
Unleash the Lamb
The Cowboys got a gift from the heavens when WR CeeDee Lamb unexpectedly fell to them with the 17th selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. If you are going to use that type of capital on a weapon of that magnitude, you may as well maximize the bang for your buck. Shorten CeeDee Lamb’s learning curve.
If he’s not as nuanced as you would like him to be fresh out of the wrapper, then get him involved in the quick game as he learns. Throw him the smoke/bubble stuff. Let him work the jet sweeps and simple routes as he grows into a complete wideout. Let him handle every returnable punt.
Honestly, it was when the Cowboys took Lamb at #17 that I first began to wonder if the front office was in “win now” mode. You don’t spend that kind of capital on a guy to keep the training wheels on him for the better part of the season. CeeDee Lamb is a demon with the football in his hands. Get it to him as many ways as you possibly can and let him help your football team.
The Cowboys are no strangers to high expectations, they are in fact the Dallas Cowboys.
With a few tweaks of personnel and approach, maybe the team can parlay expectations into results for the first time in a long time.
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