Our last non-divisional game comes on the road to the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys 2018 season was ended by a Jared Goff scramble, which as I’m sure you all know is a little unusual. With only 3 wins after 9 weeks, the Cowboys had a late season surge, picking up 7 wins from their remaining 8 games, including a win when coming against the then 10-1 New Orleans Saints. That surge helped them win the NFC East, where they went on to beat Seahawks in the Wild Card Round before coming up against Goff and the Rams.
Jason Garrett is going into his 9th year as Head Coach despite seemingly always being on the hot seat. Rod Marinelli returns as Defensive Coordinator for his 6th season in Dallas. Less than a week after the Cowboys playoff exit, they fired their Offensive Coordinator, former Rams head coach, Scott Linehan. Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones, elected for youth when choosing his successor. Kellen Moore, who only entered the league as a Quarterback in 2012 and has just one year coaching experience as the Cowboys QB Coach will take on the role. Quite a few teams are taking the youthful route, following the Rams model.
It’s been a quiet offseason for “America’s Team”, they signed Randall Cobb and traded for former Ram Robert Quinn, with both on one-year deals. Cobb is a decent signing, he’s had a so-so career with the Packers, but he becomes the number two receiver here, behind Amari Cooper. Quinn had a tough last year with the Rams, but back in his favoured 4-3 defensive end role, he had a good year in 2018 with Miami and he will slot into a similar role with Dallas. Jason Witten also signed a one-year deal, coming out of retirement to rejoin the Cowboys. He didn’t take to commentating quite like former teammate Tony Romo has and returns to the field from the booth. David Irving left the Cowboys, but later retired due to issues with the NFL drug policies. Another player who left in a cloud of smoke, Cole Beasley joined the Bills on a four-year deal this offseason. He took a few shots at his former team, specifically in regards to the coaching staff and culture. Dallas spent their 2019 first round draft selection on wide receiver Amari Cooper in a trade with the Raiders last year. With their remaining picks in the draft, they seemed to go after defensive line and running back depth, with no real immediate starters being selected.
This offense hinges on how good of a coordinator Moore can be. His offense will still be centred around Elliott, and so it should be, as Zeke is a top three running back in the league in my opinion. The only issue with that is Elliott didn’t show for day one of training camp amid rumours he is due to hold out unless he gets a Gurley like contract. He deserves paying, but most teams don’t like paying running backs. The league still generally sees them as an easy commodity to find and replace. The strength of the offense is still the offensive line. It’s maybe not as dominant as it was a few years ago, but it’s still a top three unit in the league for me. With three All-Pro players on a line, you know it’s going to be one of the NFL’s best. Cowboys fans will have loved the connection that QB Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper managed to develop, despite Cooper only joining the team midway through the season. Had Cooper played a full season in Dallas, he would have definitely had his most prolific year in the league.
When talking about Rod Marinelli’s defense, the first guy you’ve got to mention is defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, who signed a five-year $105 million extension this offseason. After a fairly slow start to his NFL career, he has now become one of the leagues’ best pass rushers. Next up we’ll take a look at the one of the best linebacker corps in the league. Three years ago Dallas took a chance on Jaylon Smith in the second round of the draft. After suffering a devastating knee injury in his final College game, some said he would never play again, or at least not play to the level that had some calling him the second best player in the 2016 draft. He didn’t play at all for Dallas in 2016 and then played a little in 2017, but didn’t look the player he was in College. Last season, however, he really stepped up and we saw glimpses of the Smith that we saw at Notre Dame. Alongside Smith is second year player Leighton Vander Esch and a mix of veterans like Sean Lee and Justin March-Lillard. Vander Esch, or ‘Wolf’ as he’s known as by the Cowboy fans, was booed when selected in the first round just one year ago, but since then, his physicality and athleticism has endeared himself to the Dallas fanbase. Sean Lee isn’t the player he was three or four years ago but he doesn’t have to be with Smith and Vander Esch around and the pressure is off him. Even on the back end, this defense is impressive. Pro bowler Bryon Jones is the cream of crop in the secondary.
No one wins the NFC East back-to-back, it hasn’t happened for 14 years. I fancy the Eagles to win the division, and I also think they’re going to be the best team in the NFC this season, sorry Rams fans. Dallas will be in and around a 9 or 10 win season and that could see them make the playoffs via the Wild Card. I’d like to think we’ll already have 9 or 10 wins by the time this game comes around, but if we don’t, this game could be the difference between us winning our division or settling for a wildcard spot. If this game comes around and has playoff implications, we could see it end up being flexed to Sunday or Monday Night Football and another late night for UK Rams fans.