2019 NFL Offseason: Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys (Last Year: 10-6)

2019 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
WR Randall Cobb, DE Robert Quinn, DE Kerry Hyder, DT Christian Covington, S George Iloka.
Early Draft Picks:
NT Trysten Hill, G/C Connor McGovern, RB Tony Pollard, CB Michael Jackson, DE Joe Jackson. Cowboys Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
WR Cole Beasley, DE Randy Gregory, DT David Irving.

2019 Dallas Cowboys Offense:
The Cowboys had a lethargic offense in the early stages of the 2018 campaign. They scored 20 points or fewer in six of their first eight games. They had to make a change, so they took part in a blockbuster trade that saw them deal their first-round pick to the Raiders for Amari Cooper. The compensation was seen as steep at the time, but the results spoke for themselves. In the next 10 games, Dallas scored more than 20 points on eight occasions.

Cooper was a remarkable fit for the Cowboys. He was very inconsistent in Oakland, even giving up on some plays. Cooper was revitalized in Dallas despite being paired with a mediocre quarterback in Dak Prescott. Cooper had some spectacular performances, including an eight-catch, 180-yard, two-touchdown outing versus Washington and a 10-catch, 217-yard, three-touchdown game against the Eagles. This wasn’t a surprise, based on Cooper’s pure talent level alone, but at what point will he quit on his team again? He did it in Oakland, so if things aren’t going well, there could be a similar pattern. If so, young receiver Michael Gallup, a deep threat, will have to step up.

While Cooper was Dallas’ most talented receiver last year, Prescott’s favorite weapon on third down was Cole Beasley. The skilled slot receiver’s value was fully revealed when he was injured in the divisional-round loss to the Rams, thanks to Jason Garrett’s incompetence regarding his decision to play the starters in a meaningless Week 17 game. Prescott looked lost without Beasley, so one has to wonder how the young quarterback will adjust now that Beasley is on the Bills. The Cowboys have two possibilities to replace Beasley’s production, and neither is very promising. The first is Randall Cobb, a big name who has struggled mightily with injuries in recent seasons. The second is tight end Jason Witten, who has come out of retirement. Witten figures to still block well, but at his age, his receiving skills have diminished.

The Cowboys will have to rely on Ezekiel Elliott more, which sounds like an easy thing to do, theoretically. However, Elliott has gotten into some off-the-field trouble this spring and could serve some sort of a suspension if another incident occurs. Also, Elliott has threatened to hold out if he doesn’t receive a new contract. If he misses time, late-round rookie Mike Weber will be asked to replace him, which doesn’t sound ideal.

The other problem regarding Elliott is that he hasn’t been as productive as he was during his rookie year. The issue has been the decline of the offensive front. There are still some major holes on the line, including center and left guard. The former position was once occupied by Travis Frederick, formerly one of the top players at his position in the NFL. However, Frederick has an auto-immune disease and may never play again. The left guard spot, meanwhile, saw Connor Williams struggle last year. Williams was considered a fifth-round prospect, yet Dallas picked him in the second frame last April, so his poor performance was predictable. The Cowboys spent an early draft choice on Penn State guard Connor McGovern, who could be an upgrade.

The rest of Dallas’ line is stout. Right guard Zack Martin is one of the top interior blockers in the NFL. Left tackle Tyron Smith is also exceptional. Right tackle La’el Collins is not as good, but he’s young (26 in late July) and has shown some promise. Collins is coming off shoulder surgery, but figures to be fine by the season opener.

2019 Dallas Cowboys Defense:
There had always been a big disparity when it came to the Cowboys’ defense and whether or not Sean Lee was able to play or not. This changed last year in the wake of the team’s first-round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft, Leighton Vander Esch. The Boise State product had some medical questions coming into the league – one team even took him off its draft board – but he was exceptional as a rookie in every regard. He was drafted as insurance with Lee, and he panned out, as Dallas’ stop unit didn’t see a decline last year when its long-time linebacker was out with an injury.

Vander Esch was actually so stellar last year that Lee saw a decline in snaps. This figures to be the case once again, as it’s clear that Lee has lost a step as a result of all of the injuries he has suffered over the years. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith will continue to be Dallas’ great pair at the position.

While the Cowboys are set at linebacker, they have issues elsewhere. Their previously superb defensive line lost a couple of players this offseason, as both David Irving and Randy Gregory have gotten into trouble with some off-the-field issues. The Cowboys still have DeMarcus Lawrence, one of the top edge rushers in the league, but there’s some question as to where other pressure will come from with Gregory likely to miss most, if not all of 2019. Dallas signed Robert Quinn, who has some potential to return to his former glory days, but he hasn’t produced double-digit sacks since 2014. First-rounder Taco Charlton will also be in the mix, but he hasn’t done anything of note in the NFL yet.

The interior of the defensive line, meanwhile, won’t have Irving, who was a special talent. Dallas signed Christian Covington as a replacement. While Covington is a good player who thrives against the run, he’s not nearly the pass-rushing presence Irving was. Covington will work into a rotation with rookie Trysten Hill, Tyrone Crawford and Maliek Collins. The latter two are quality linemen.

As for the secondary, the Cowboys were expected to address this area, but did almost nothing of the sort. Dallas has one outstanding corner in Byron Jones, but the other two primary players at the position, Anthony Brown and Chidobe Awuzie, were just mediocre this past season. Awuzie, a second-round pick from the 2017 NFL Draft, still has some potential.

The safeties, however, are especially problematic. This is the weakest unit on the Cowboys, as Xavier Woods and Jeff Heath both struggled last year. The Cowboys signed George Iloka, who was a solid backup for the Vikings in 2018. Dallas’ safety situation is so bad that Iloka has a legitimate chance to start.

2019 Dallas Cowboys Schedule and Intangibles:
Jerry Jones opened up his fancy new stadium with its giant video screen in 2009. It all looked great – until the players took the field. In the nine years at Cowboys Stadium, the host is just 47-37, compared to a similar 45-38 on the road.

New kicker Brett Maher was 29-of-36 last year, which isn’t great. However, he was 6-of-7 from beyond 50, and he missed just one extra point.

Punter Chris Jones has been in the middle of the pack in net yardage most years. He was 18th last year.

Dallas was outgained on both punt and kickoff returns in 2018, which was not surprising considering how poorly coached the team is.

The Cowboys have an easy start to their season, as they’ll battle the Giants, Redskins and Dolphins at the beginning of 2019. Things get much more difficult after that, however, with consecutive games versus the Saints (road), Packers (home), Jets (road) and Eagles (home).

2019 Dallas Cowboys Rookies:
Go here for the Cowboys Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2019 Dallas Cowboys Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2019 Dallas Cowboys Analysis: The Cowboys were extremely lucky last year, as they won five games by three points or fewer. Their 10-6 record easily could have been 5-11. Dallas figures to be less fortunate this upcoming season, given Ezekiel Elliott’s possible holdout, the state of the offensive line, as well as some of the departures on the defensive front. The Cowboys are also still stricken with mediocre quarterbacking as well as horrific coaching. With a predictable regression to the mean, this could be Jason Garrett’s final year as Dallas’ head coach.

Projection: 7-9 (2nd in NFC East)

2018 Projection: 5-11. 2018 Actual Result: 10-6.
2017 Projection: 11-5. 2017 Actual Result: 9-7.
2016 Projection: 10-6. 2016 Actual Result: 13-3.

NFL Draft Team Grade: C Grade

Goals Entering the 2019 NFL Draft: Jerry Jones recently spoke about finding a capable backup behind Ezekiel Elliott. That’s a need, but Dallas has larger voids on its roster, particularly in the secondary. The defensive line also must be addressed, thanks to various off-the-field problems players in that area have dealt with recently.

2019 NFL Draft Accomplishments: It was hardly a surprise that the Cowboys selected defensive tackle Trysten Hill, as the two had been linked throughout the pre-draft process. However, Hill was a bit of a reach, and Dallas could have chosen a better prospect, namely another one it had been interested in, safety Juan Thornhill.

As a result of passing on Thornhill, the Cowboys didn’t get to address their secondary until the fifth round, which was a mistake. The fourth-rounder, used on a kick returner, should have been utilized on a defensive back. That said, Dallas made some nice selections as well. Interior lineman Connor McGovern will be a much-needed upgrade on the blocking unit, while cornerback Michael Jackson and running back Mike Weber offered tremendous value on Day 3.

The Cowboys came away with a middling result in the 2019 NFL Draft. While they made some decent choices, they also were guilty of reaching on several occasions. Outside of the McGovern pick, I’m not sure the Cowboys did much to improve their chances of winning this upcoming season.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

58. Trysten Hill, NT, Central Florida C+ Grade
This is a slight reach, so I wonder if the Cowboys were trying to trade down, given how much time they took on the clock. Trysten Hill is a very physically gifted nose tackle, but he’s very raw. I don’t know if he’ll be ready to contribute all that much as a rookie, so I thought he should have been chosen in the third round. Still, the upside is there, and Hill could potentially fill a huge need.

90. Connor McGovern, G/C, Penn State A- Grade
This pick makes a ton of sense. The Cowboys need both an insurance policy for guard Connor Williams, who was predictably awful as a rookie last year, and also for center Travis Frederick, who may not be able to play again because of his unfortunate auto-immune disease. Connor McGovern can play any position in the interior, and he’s a prospect who could’ve been chosen a bit earlier than this.

128. Tony Pollard, RB/KR, Memphis C Grade
This is a bit early for Tony Pollard as a running back, as he’s a player who doesn’t do anything particularly well. However, if he can contribute as a kick returner, that gives an added bonus to this selection, which might end up being pretty good. But I don’t have much faith in Pollard as a runner.

158. Michael Jackson, CB, Miami A Grade
I wouldn’t exactly say the Cowboys are starting something with this pick, but Michael Jackson was a fine choice in the fifth round. That was his range entering the draft, and he could fill a need, so this is a logical selection. Jackson has good upside because of his size (6-1, 210) and solid athleticism, but he needs to be coached up, as he gets mentally lost sometimes.

165. Joe Jackson, DE, Miami B Grade
Joe Jackson was very productive at Miami, and there could’ve been an argument for him to be selected a round earlier than this. However, I’m not sure if his production will translate to the NFL because of his limited athleticism and upside. Still, I think this is a fine pick because Jackson could develop into a decent rotational lineman.

213. Donovan Wilson, S, Texas A&M C Grade
Donovan Wilson will likely get penalized for some helmet-to-helmet hits in the NFL, based on his playing style. Those hits, however, will likely come on special teams, as he doesn’t seem good enough to be a defensive player. I’m not sure if he’ll make the 53-man roster, so I’m not a fan of this choice.

218. Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State A+ Grade
I mocked Mike Weber to the Cowboys – at pick No. 136. This is a steal for sure. Weber tested better athletically than the tape showed, so I thought he would be chosen earlier on Day 3. I think he has a good chance to make the 53-man roster as Ezekiel Elliott’s direct backup.

241. Jalen Jelks, DE, Oregon C Grade
I like the player more than the fit in this instance. Jalen Jelks has some nice length and ability to translate into a pass rusher, but he’s a 3-4 prospect more than a 4-3 player. I don’t see how he fits into Dallas’ defense, so I can’t say I’m a fan of this selection.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Cowboys got off to a dubious start, but the Amari Cooper trade helped them get into the playoffs. They won a game in the postseason, but couldn’t beat the Rams, thanks to poor coaching and pedestrian quarterbacking. Those issues figure to be problematic going forward.

Offseason Moves:
  • Cowboys acquire DE Robert Quinn from Dolphins
  • Cowboys sign WR Randall Cobb
  • Cowboys sign DE Kerry Hyder
  • Cowboys sign DT Christian Covington

    Team Needs:
    1. Safety: Dallas has an excellent front seven, but its secondary is a weakness. Safety, in particular, needs to be addressed. The Cowboys were trying to acquire Earl Thomas last year, so perhaps they’ll revisit that this offseason. Signed George Iloka

    2. Center: The Cowboys aren’t as dominant as they were in 2016 because their offensive line hasn’t been the same. That includes center, as Travis Frederick has an auto-immune disease and may not be able to play again. If so, Dallas will have to find a new pivot for their blocking group.

    3. Cornerback: Cornerback isn’t as much of a need as safety is, but it’s still a position the Cowboys will need to upgrade this spring.

    4. Guard: This is another offensive line position the Cowboys must address. Connor Williams doesn’t have the functional strength to play guard in the pros, which is why teams had him pegged as a fifth-round prospect.

    5. Two Wide Receivers: Amari Cooper has been a good addition so far, but the Cowboys will need another play-maker in the receiving corps. Make that two if Cole Beasley isn’t re-signed. Signed Randall Cobb

    6. Defensive End: DeMarcus Lawrence is Dallas’ top free agent. He must be retained. I imagine the Cowboys will franchise him as a worst-case scenario. Traded for Robert Quinn; signed Kerry Hyder

    7. Defensive Tackle: David Irving is an impending free agent, so he’ll need to be replaced if he moves on to another team. Signed Christian Covington

    8. Offensive Tackle Depth: Right tackle La’el Collins made improvements last year, so he can continue to develop. However, the Cowboys don’t have much behind him and Tyron Smith, so depth is needed. Re-signed Cameron Fleming

    9. Backup Quarterback: Cooper Rush is not a good backup quarterback. Dallas should look for a better reserve behind Dak Prescott.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2019 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Christian Covington, DE/DT, Texans. Age: 25.
      Signed with Cowboys (1 year)

      Christian Covington is one of the top run-stuffing defensive linemen in the NFL. His pass-rushing skills need work, but he won’t turn 26 until October, so he has plenty of time to develop moves to get to the quarterback.

    2. George Iloka, S, Vikings. Age: 29.
      Signed with Cowboys

      George Iloka was cut for salary reasons. He’s not a great safety by any means, but he’s a solid player. He’s a jack of all trades, master of none, as he’s not a liability in any regard.

    3. Randall Cobb, WR, Packers. Age: 29.
      Signed with Cowboys (1 year, $5 million)

      Randall Cobb had plenty of explosive play-making ability early in his career, but he has seemed sapped of that in recent seasons because of countless injuries over years. He could be done.

    4. Kerry Hyder, DE, Lions. Age: 28.
      Signed with Cowboys

      Kerry Hyder had a strong 2016 campaign, logging eight sacks. He missed all of 2017 with a torn Achilles, then struggled last year because he didn’t fit into the new 3-4 system. Hyder should bounce back next season if he moves on to a team with a 4-3 defense.

    Dallas Cowboys Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, Cowboys. Age: 27.
      Franchised by Cowboys

      DeMarcus Lawrence is an exceptional defensive end, as both a pass rusher and a run defender. He has logged a combined 25.5 sacks in the past two seasons. He’s also young enough to keep making improvements to his game.

    2. David Irving, DT, Cowboys. Age: 26.
      David Irving was dominant down the stretch in 2016, and he proved that wasn’t a fluke the year after. He was limited to just eight games because of a concussion and a suspension, but he was terrific in those eight contests, registering seven sacks, which is a high number for a player at his position in a full 16-game slate. Irving barely played in 2018 because of injury. However, he’s just 26 in August, so he should continue to improve his game.

    3. Randy Gregory, DE, Cowboys. Age: 26.
      Randy Gregory is an exceptionally talented edge rusher, and he won’t turn 27 until November. He has the skill to be a four-star player at the very least. Unfortunately, he’s not reliable. He could be suspended for yet another off-the-field transgression at any moment.

    4. Cole Beasley, WR, Cowboys. Age: 30.
      Signed with Bills (4 years, $29 million)

      Cole Beasley has been a reliable slot receiver for the Cowboys over the years. He caught 65 passes for 672 yards in 2018 after a slow start. Beasley turns 30 in April, but should still be effective over the next 2-3 years.

    5. Jamize Olawale, FB, Cowboys. Age: 30.
      Re-signed with Cowboys

      Amari Cooper isn’t the only talented player the Cowboys obtained from the Raiders recently. Jamize Olawale is a solid blocker in the running game.

    6. Cameron Fleming, OT, Cowboys. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Cowboys (2 years, $8.5 million)
    7. Joe Thomas, ILB, Cowboys. Age: 28.
    8. Geoff Swaim, TE, Cowboys. Age: 25. — Signed with Jaguars
    9. Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys. Age: 29.
    10. Damien Wilson, ILB, Cowboys. Age: 26. — Signed with Chiefs
    11. Justin March-Lillard, ILB, Cowboys. Age: 26.
    12. C.J. Goodwin (RFA), CB, Cowboys. Age: 29.
    13. Marcus Martin, C/G, Cowboys. Age: 25.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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