The Dallas Cowboys sit at 2-2 through the first quarter of the 2017 NFL season, and we figured we would gather up some of our Dallas Sports Fanatics and discuss where they stand at this point in the young season. The team has shown flashes of the team we saw last season, but there are plenty of wrinkles that need to be ironed out in order to see any type of improvement from just a year ago.
Who do you feel needs the most improvement on the offensive side of the ball?
Ryan Wilson: It has to be the offensive line. We can all sit and point to individuals throughout the offense, but it’s the unit that has long been considered the best in the game by far. Through the first four games of the season, it’s failed to live up to that expectation. It showed some signs of life in the running game last week against the Rams, but we aren’t seeing the consistency that this unit has delivered in past seasons. The holes are much smaller, and Prescott seems to be having to move around quite a bit in the pocket, and doesn’t have the time to go through his progressions on a lot of occasions.
Selena Sixtos: This is going to sound like I’m picking on Dak and I promise I’m not, however, I can sincerely say that as the leader of this team his continuous progress and development is vital to how far this team will go. The hesitation he’s been expressing has got to stop. #4 should stop focusing on where the receivers are and start focusing on where they will be down the field.
Jared Wingate: The offense as a whole has not looked like the unit that took the league by storm in 2016. Put simply, all fazes of the offense can improve. However, I’ll go ahead and put the onus on the offensive line to return to dominance. We’ve seen a lot more pressure on Dak Prescott in the pocket this season, and we’ve also seen running lanes close up in front of Ezekiel Elliott. I think if the interior offensive line can keep the front of the pocket clean, the entire offense will rebound.
Corey Douglass: It is easy to point the finger at individuals on the offensive side of the ball. You can say Dak needs to improve, you can say Dez needs to catch more of his targets; you can say Ezekiel Elliott needs to improve. To me, the Cowboys offensive line has to improve. Without the offensive line, it’s hard for the skill players to do what they need to do.
Jacie Scot: I think the Cowboys still have most of the tools necessary to be the offensive force they were in the 2016 season. I say “most” because Tyron Smith has had that nagging back issues that’s messed with his play a bit, and we’ve seen flashes of last year’s Ezekiel Elliott this season, but it hasn’t been consistent. CONSISTENCY! That’s the word.
Then, there’s been so much pressure for the Dak Prescott – Dez Bryant connection/chemistry to be dynamic, and it just hasn’t been. I think we should lay off the pressure there, and maybe that will help Dak to do so, as well. Because of Dez’s reputation, he will be up against elite corners. We’ve seen Dak overthrow him or Dez not be able to make a play on the ball. They have to play smart when it comes to that connection. Don’t force it for the sake of doing so. Let it grow naturally.
What or who is the biggest problem surrounding the 2-2 start for the Cowboys?
Ryan: The biggest problem is that the Cowboys went 13-3 last season, and I think a lot of the players on this team started drinking the proverbial “kool aid”. This team has to understand that last year was just one season, and that they aren’t entitled to just being considered a great team until they show it on a year in and year out basis. Get back to what worked. Get the offensive line in sync. Start pounding the ball, and taking the clock. The passing game will open up and the Cowboys offense will keep their own defense off the field for longer periods of time.
Selena: It’s on both sides of the ball, really. Penalties continue to be a lingering issue that we can’t seem to shake off. Aside from that, the quarterback hasn’t been as accurate as we became used to last season. Then there’s the problem with run blocking. These are all problems that have an identifiable solution and it’s definitely still too early to think of these as long-term.
Jared: I believe the biggest problem for the team in 2017 is the lack of consistency on offense. We’ve seen plenty of three-and-out drives this season, and we’ve seen more turnovers on offense, as a result of being in comeback mode in their 2 losses. Committing to the run game will help return the offense to the highly efficient unit it was a season ago.
Corey: The biggest holes I see so far for the Cowboys is the offensive line, which we touched on but also in the two losses the tackling has been an issue. There have been numerous times where guys are either, not taking the right angles to make the plays or are caught out of position and that is leading to big plays.
Jacie: Defense has its share of problems and injuries, but I’m going to go with the offense and offensive coordinator on this one. I keep going back to 2016 season comparisons, but it’s hard not to. Last season the Cowboys were defined by their explosive offense not the defense. That’s what we and opponents have come to expect, but the Cowboys have yet to truly deliver.
The offensive line has struggled a bit, to say the least. La’el Collins is clearly still adjusting to his new role, and blocks have been missed more than we’re used to with this offensive line. We struggle to convert on third downs, and hey, changing up the play calling could change the way the offense looks.
Who is the biggest surprise/ disappointment through 4 games?
Ryan: I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a surprise, but I’m blown away at how well the young defensive players have played up to this point. Demarcus Lawrence has been unstoppable on the defensive line, getting to the quarterback and making plays, Jourdan Lewis seems like a legit open field tackler, Xavier Woods seems destined for more safety work. While it’s encouraging, it sure would be nice to have that Sean Lee back, and the return of David Irving should be thoroughly welcomed.
Selena: Not so much of a disappointment as it is a surprise, Dak has been having rocky, inconsistent games and he’s making it really hard to not believe he’s experiencing a (whispers) sophomore slump. With Tyron Smith potentially sitting out Sunday’s game against the Packers, he is going to have an even tougher time making big plays. Dak has appeared to be more hesitant than we’ve ever seen him, but I have hope he’ll shake this off soon!
Jared: The biggest surprise of 2017 has to be the play of Demarcus Lawrence at defensive end. Performing in a contract year, Lawrence leads the NFL with 7.5 sacks. He has brought a pass rush presence not seen since another Demarcus, Demarcus Ware, was roaming the field in Cowboys’ blue. The biggest disappointment would be the performance of the offense through 4 games. The unit has struggled to maintain drives, which has put the team in bad field position, and has put them in bad down-and-distance situations. It is a far cry from the highly efficient offense seen last season. The performance of the offense will be a big storyline to follow the rest of the season.
Corey: Biggest Surprise: Biggest surprise through 4 games is the offense as a whole not clicking. Coming into the season, I figured the offense would be the far and away strength of this team and through 4 games it just hasn’t materialized.
Biggest disappointment: The Dak to Dez connection has been the biggest disappointment to me. I wrote about that connection possibly leading the Cowboys to the promise land. Dez has caught 16 of 40 targets so far on the young season and there are different variables factoring into that. I still think by the end of the season that connection will be a lot better than it is now.
Jacie: Biggest surprise: DeMarcus Lawrence. In four games, he’s racked up 7.5 sacks. In 2016 and 2015 he finished the season with one sack and eight sacks, respectively. He’s having a breakout season, and Demarcus Ware has even had a few things to say about it.
Biggest disappointment: It’s hard to be disappointed with a guy like Jason Witten, but the Hall of Famer got me feeling some type of way. He started the season on a high note, but he’s peaced out the last two games… Missing blocks, etc.
Who is your offensive and defensive MVPs through one quarter of the season?
Ryan: On the offensive side of the ball, it’s still Dak Prescott. It’s so nice to see a quarterback that plays within himself, and is a true born leader. With that being said, I’d like to see take more shots in the passing game. There are plays to be had with this offense. Get him in the play action and rolling out a little more and things will develop. He can run or throw, and defenses have to honor those threats.
Defensively, it’s a no brainer. Demarcus Lawrence, albeit playing in his contract year, has just been a beast since the start. He’s had to be double teamed on multiple occasions, which figures to be an issue for defenses now that Irving is returning.
Selena: My defensive MVP so far is without a doubt Demarcus Lawrence. He has been phenomenal so far with 3 consecutive multi-sack games making him one of the league’s best pass rushers. Offensively, Pro Football Focus graded all-pro Travis Frederick the best center in the NFL last week against the Rams because the man has been consistently good. There may be issues with our offensive line this season, but Frederick is not one of them.
Jared: The offensive MVP for the Dallas Cowboys in 2017 has been Dak Prescott. While the entire offense has faced pressure to perform to the level of last season, Prescott has handled becoming the face of the franchise with grace and class. His performance hasn’t been as effective as last season, and he continues to struggle with his accuracy at times. However, Prescott is still the best quarterback for the team going forward, and he has the skillset to improve going forward.
Corey: Defensive MVP: Defensive MVP is an easy one for me. It has to be Demarcus Lawrence. He has 7.5 sacks through the first 4 games and has already taken home a defensive player of the week award. His career high for sacks in a season is 8 so he should be able to surpass that pretty soon.
Offensive MVP: A lot of guys on the offensive side of the ball have had their struggles. Dak hasn’t quite taken the next step in his second year, Dez hasn’t quite taken off like we thought and the NFLs leading rusher in 2016 hasn’t had that “special” game yet. With that being said, I will give the first quarter offensive MVP to Ezekiel Elliott. He has improved the most week to week and he will continue to improve as given more opportunities.
Jacie: Offensive MVP: Dak.
Defensive MVP: D Law.