Guys, we’ve hit a bit of a lull. The Dallas Cowboys’ mini-camp is over and we’re still some weeks away from their departure to Oxnard, Calif. for training camp.
It seems the only things somewhat satiating our thirst for more Cowboys football are projections based on pad-less practices, rankings and discussions over whether Ezekiel Elliott’s Salvation Army leap will fall within the NFL’s new celebration policy. (Honorable mention shout-out to the Dallas Cowboys Instagram page coming in clutch with the daily action shots and feel good teammate moments. #earnthestar)
The Cowboys’ 2016 campaign for Super Bowl LI was one of record-breaking proportions, highlighted by the pizzazz of rookie “besties” duo Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. It was exciting to watch and it reignited hope for the future of the Cowboys franchise after a season that most have since erased from my memory.
With that said, there’s optimism for another 2016-caliber run this year. The question isn’t if they can have another successful season – it’s who needs to be on their A-game this season for the Cowboys to equal or surpass last year’s season? Whose presence would be sorely missed if they were out for an extended period of time?
In the spirit of list making, ranking and entertaining in the lull period, here’s a list of the seven most important players for 2017 based on the aforementioned questions.
Let’s get to it!!
“I had a lot of pain last year,” Orlando Scandrick said to the Fort-Worth Star Telegram. “I didn’t trust it last year. It’s different. I’m more confident. I’m calm. I’m back to who I was.
Let’s hope so. It’s been a few years since we’ve seen the “chip on my shoulder,” “me against the world” mentality from the veteran corner. Considering the influx of new talent and losses of key veteran leadership in Brandon Carr, Barry Church and the like, Scandrick’s return to true form is exactly what the secondary needs to succeed.
We’ve experienced life without Sean Lee on the field, and I don’t think we realized how much we missed it until recently. Lee is coming off his healthiest season yet, earning a first-team All-Pro nod and recording 145 tackles (fourth in the NFL). Cowboys defense wasn’t stellar last year, but it was better than previous years. Lee’s grit had a lot to do with that.
Dan Bailey is clutch defined. He ranks second all-time in career field goal percentage, trailing Baltimore’s Justin Tucker by just .32 percent. Last season, Bailey was 27-of-32 (10-of-10 on field goals in the fourth quarter), according to DallasCowboys.com, and that’s not even his best.
Consistency breeds confidence. If Bailey continues down that path, the Cowboys can continue to sleep easy knowing they have someone ready to drill points on the board in prime moments.
“The way that I feel now, I’m not dealing with really anything. I feel damn good,” Bryant said. “I know once I’m 100 [percent], I’m hard to deal with.”
Hard to deal with, is right. The last time we saw a healthy Dez Bryant play all 16 games was in 2014. He scored a career-high, 16 touchdowns and logged over 1000 yards for the third straight year. He was limited last year, and the Cowboys still won 13 games. Just imagine the places they could go with a 100 percent Bryant.
No slumping over here. The NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year set records on records in a 23-touchdown season, and Todd Archer reported that Dak Prescott says he can still be “100 percent better.”
He had a stellar performance last season, but his supporting cast had a lot to do with Prescott’s ability to make plays. That cast didn’t change much in the offseason, thankfully.
Because where would Prescott be without Tyron Smith protecting his blind side? Probably eating a lot more grass. A lot of Prescott’s success should be attributed to his supporting cast: Tyron Smith and the offensive line. As long as the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Pro Bowler is at his best, Prescott will have the security to be the playmaker he is.
Ezekiel Elliot led the NFL in rushing and carries with 1,631 yards on 322 attempts. He had seven 100-yard games last season and 15 touchdowns. Apparently, he’s just getting warmed up.
“He wants to be the best pass blocker. He wants to be the best running back, the best receiving running back that he can. And he goes out every day and puts in the work,” said Prescott about Elliot.
Historically, the Cowboys offense has been defined by the running game. That hasn’t changed. If Elliott lives up to his own expectations, the Cowboys will be a force in 2017.
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