2018 Season Recap: Dallas Cowboys

2018 SEASON RECAP: DALLAS COWBOYS

Division: NFC East

2018 Record 10:6 Division record: 5-1

Coming off the 2017 season the Cowboys future was in a bit of a turmoil, after finishing the 2016 season 13-3 with the best record in the NFL, the Cowboys quickly fell to Earth after finishing 9-7 and narrowly missing the playoffs. Also having the much hated Division rival Philadelphia Eagles winning the Super Bowl did not help the situation much. The Cowboys needed to revamp quickly to get back to being a competitive team in 2018.

2017 showed some holes in the Dallas Cowboys roster, blaring problems in depth at the Offensive line, the defensive backs needed consistency, was Dak the right guy for the job, was Dez Bryant still a real number 1 receiver and was Jason Garrett the Coach we needed.

2018 rolled around and we got some immediate answers for a few of these questions two weeks before the NFL draft Dez was released by the team. Chris Richard was hired as the guy to bring the Legion of Boom 2.0 to the Dallas secondary. We lost some free agents but none were major impact players.

2018 Free Agency

Free Agents Lost

Keith Smith FB: left to play in Oakland with old special teams coach Rich Bisaccia

Kyle Wilber LB: Also left for Oakland

Jonathan Cooper LG: signed with San Francisco 49ers

Anthony Hitchens LB: Left to get $9 Million a year in Kansas City

Brice Butler WR: Took his talents to the desert in Arizona

Bene Benwikere CB: Also went to Arizona

Unsigned Free Agents

Alfred Morris RB: Cowboys really wanted to emphasize the role of Rod Smith

Benson Mayowa DE: Team wanted a more consistant pass rusher for situational football

Byron Bell LT: Was not seen as a good fit for depth

Retired

Jason Witten: A year after Tony Romo, the future first ballot Hall of Famer decided to hang up his cleats and head to the TV booth

Who did we sign?

Jamize Olawale FB: he came from Oakland to replace Keith Smith, Olawale had a pretty good season and looked very good providing some extra blocking out of the back field for Zeke

Joe Thomas LB: Was signed to be able to provide depth at the linebacker group, Thomas can play all 3 positions for the Cowboys when someone needs a rest

Deonte Thompson WR: Signed to provide more bodies into a wide reciever room that was hurting for bodies

Allen Hurns WR: Signed to replace Dez this season was looked to be as WR1 when signed

Cameron Fleming OT: Signed to give more depth to the Line in case Smith went down

2018 Draft Recap

With 2018 the Dallas Cowboys got to play host of the NFL Draft many were looking for the Cowboys to make a big splash with picking a linebacker or wide receiver. Many fans looking at receivers namely Calvin Ridley from Alabama. The Cowboys needed to find a piece at left guard. With the 19th pick the Cowboys weren’t exactly in the best position to have sure plans for the pick, most felt the draft pick would be based on just who is left and who is at the top of their board.

Round 1 Pick 19: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

Leighton met on stage with Roger Goodell and 10 players from the local high schools in Arlington. The crowd was half cheering and booing. Many fans saw this as a bad pick. Over the last few seasons outside of Taco Charleton the Cowboys have proven they know what they are doing in the draft. Vander Esch quickly came onto the scene after Lee was injured. He ended the season with 140 Tackles, 2 ints and 2 TFL. He could have very well been the DROY this year but his year still ended nicely as he was named to the Pro Bowl and ALL NFL second team. THE COWBOYS HIT A HOME RUN WITH LEIGHTON. A++

Round 2 Pick 18 (50 ovr): Connor Williams, T, Texas

Connor is a local home grown kid and was largely looked at as a potential 1st round pick that slid to the Cowboys in the 2nd round. The Cowboys drafted the Tackle with intentions of moving him to Guard. Connor had his ups and downs this season but can easily improve going into next season with the ability to work with the Cowboys this off season.

Round 3 Pick 17 (81 ovr): Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State

The Cowboys addressed their wide receiver needs with this pick. He looked to be worth that 3rd round pick. He proved this season that he knows how to create space in the NFL and had the speed to get away from DB’s. Gallup had 33 rec and 507 yards with 2 TDs. Gallup could have had more but him and Dak missed on a few throws that would have been huge yardage and TD boosts. He can only improve as Dak and him get on the same page. He looks to be the WR2 in Dallas which will free him up as many teams are going to Force coverage at Amari.

Round 4 Pick 16 (116 ovr): Dorance Armstrong Jr., DE, Kansas

Dorance started just one game this year but played behind one of the better defensive lines in football. He racked up 13 Tackles and half a sack in the limited time he saw this year.

Round 4 Pick 37 (137 ovr): Dalton Shultz, TE, Stanford

Shultz was drafted to maybe be the heir to the starting job that Jason Witten’s retirement opened up. Shultz had a very disappointing season with only 12 catches and a lowly 116 yards.

Round 5 Pick 34 (171 ovr): Mike White, QB, Western Kentucky

Mike White was brought in to compete with Cooper Rush for the back up role to Dak. He ultimately lost the job in training camp.

Round 6 Pick 19 (193 ovr): Chris Covington, LB, Indiana

Chris only suited up for 5 games this year. He was drafted as a insurance policy if Vander Esch and Smith weren’t panning out as the Cowboys had planned.

Round 6 Pick 34 (208 ovr): Cedrick Wilson, WR, Boise State

Cedrick did not have the opportunity to suit up for the Boys this year.

Round 7 Pick 18 (236 ovr): Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama

He might be the most decorated stand out player that has had no major off the field issues to be drafted in the seventh round. Scarborough was drafted in hope that he could replicate his college career, sadly he did not make it out of camp but was still on the team practice squad.

Weekly Game Recaps

The season started with on dud of a game. The Cowboys looked unorganized and lethargic throughout the game. The Panthers dominated the run game and played a game of keep away from the Dallas offense. Cam Newton had 58 yards and a touchdown. Carolina had 6 sacks against the Cowboys. Cowboys looked out of synch and just never got anything going. This game should have been a bit of a precursor to how bad Linehan was going to be.

Dak really came to play this game. Connected with Tavon early for a huge touchdown, was also Tavons first catch as a cowboy. This is the beginning of Jaylon looking like a probowl caliber player. He was able to run side to side and keep up with Barkley. Cowboys were able to apply tons of pressure to Eli. The Giants made it a game late but the cowboys were able to hold them off and get the win.

The Earl Thomas revenge game? Earl Thomas dominated us as a team. He had two interceptions and was all over the field making plays. Our passing game let us down, our receivers failed to make separation and get into space. Zeke kept us in the game but a touchdown was called back when he stepped out of bounds before his catch. Zeke fumbled late that put us out of the game.

Zeke had a monster game, he was able to rush for 152 yards and had 4 catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. Golden Tate had a hell of a game with 8 catches for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns. The secondary looked weak and Sean Lee was beat a couple times when lined up against slot receivers. Gallup emerged as he caught a 37 yard pass. He looked to be a guy who could take the top of a defense.

One of the toughest losses of the season. The teams were both able to move the ball on each other but both teams could not get it going on the other side of the 50. Watson and Hopkins both had hells of games. Biggest plays of the game was when Jaylon stopped Watson at the goaline on 4th and goal. The last was when Hopkins caught a 49 yard pass in overtime to put themselves in field goal range to win the game.

Jacksonville is a game that is very forgettable for such a long season the Cowboys had. Dallas dominated the game. Zeke and Dak had 200 yards rushing and a pair of TDs. Dak also had a pair of passing touchdowns. This game was never in doubt from start to finish. The defense didn’t let Jacksonville do anything at all.

Zeke was held to 33 yards rushing. The Redskins defense forced Dallas to throw the ball. Dak was able to pass for 273 yards but he was constantly under pressure and was sacked 4 times. Hurns had a 50 yard catch. Adrian Peterson had 99 yards rushing and Alex smith only had 178 yards passing. The defense kept us in the game but the offense couldn’t deliver at the end of the day. Dak had a lot of mistakes that hurt Dallas at the end of the game the strip fumble touchdown was one.

Dallas dominated early on Monday night football. Cowboys looked to get Amari the ball early in the game. Amari had 5 catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. The defense was able to get to Mariota early in the game on a sack fumble twice. But the team lost its rhythm in the 4th quarter and let Mariota find holes to get to late and the offense stopped moving the ball at the end.

Golden tate had been traded to Philly earlier but this time the Cowboys held him to 2 catches and 19 yards. The rest of the Eagles passing game flourished though. Wentz had 360 yards and 2 TDs. Vander Esch had a interception along with his 13 tackles. This is where Layton really emerged as the next part of the future of the Dallas defense.

Zeke ran all over a hurt Atlanta defense. He had over 200 total yards from scrimmage with a touchdown. The Cowboys had 3 huge drives at the end of the game to win it. Vander Esch had a interception that put Dallas in the Red zone late in the game. Maher went 3/3 with a 50 yarder and one as time expired to win the game.

$21 dollar game. Zeke once again just ran up and down the field. 26 carries for 121 yards. Dak had 289 yards passing and 2 touchdowns. The Cowboys defense took advantage of a Colt Mccoy led Redskins. The defense had 3 interceptions and 3 sacks. Cowboys led 31-13 early in the 4th and was able to coast the game on in to extend their winning streak to 3 games.

Cowboys game of the year. With New Orleans coming to town the Cowboys needed a win to keep their playoff hopes into full gear. New Orleans was the hottest team in the NFL with 10 straight wins. The defense dominated New Orleans. Maranelli and Co came up with the perfect game plan to reign in all the Saints stars. Kamara was held to 36 yards and Thomas was held to 40 yards also. The Cowboys attempted a touchdown late to Cooper and they got a PI call so they were able to kill the clock and win the game.

AMARI COOPER IS A MAN. AMARI TORCHED PHILLY. Amari had 217 yards on 10 catches and 3 touchdowns to end the day. This game went to overtime as both teams had 31 total points scored in the 4th quarter. Wentz did his best to keep Philly in the game with 3 TDs in the last 2 quarters. Maher made 3 field goals early.

The Cowboys were constantly shut down in the red zone. The Colts made tons of stops in the red zone. Zeke failed to reach 90 yards. Dak barely passed for 200 yards. It was a throw away game. As the team looked lackadaisical on all fronts.

Despite the Cowboys offense struggling they dominated the Bucs on defense.

In a fun shoot out game that had no effect on the actual division standings Barkley and the Giants went toe to toe in New York. With Dak and much of the backups on the field they pulled out a gutty win to get to double digit wins on the season. Dak threw for for nearly 400 and had 4 touchdowns.

Cowboys needed a first round win to save Garretts job. The Cowboys looked to be clicking on all cylinders. Zeke ran for 130 yards and a touch down. Amari had 7 catches and 100 yards. The Cowboys shut down the Seahawks run game. They were ranked 1st in the league and the defense held them to 73 yards. Despite the late scare score by Seattle Dallas held on to win their first round playoff game.

This game flipped how Dallas had played most of their games this year. Zeke ran for 75 yards, and Dak threw for 255. Dak kept us in that game. Playing behind an injured line our backfield struggled to get real traction while running. The real downfall of game was the fact that LA ran for 270 yards on the Dallas defense. This loss hurt.

Highest of Highs / Lowest of Lows

High points

§ Winning the Wildcard game vs Seattle

§ Zeke winning the rushing title

§ Emergence of a young dominant defense led by Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch

§ The Cooper trade

§ Winning 7 out of 8 down the stretch to win the Division

§ Beating New Orleans on Thursday night football

§ Byron Jones moving from Safety to Corner and emerging as one of the top Corners in the league

§ 8 pro bowlers and 4 AP All Pro teams selections, proves that this team has a solid group of Core talent.

Low points

§ Losing in LA in the Divisional round

§ Not that they lost but how they lost, there defense gave up over 300 yards rushing, the Defense had been the strength of this team all year and wasn’t there in the biggest game

§ The Tennessee loss, Cowboys jumped out to a hot start but the Titans dominated the 2nd half

§ Starting the season 3-5, was not very hot out of the gate, losing to Washington and Texans, both games could have been real momentum boosts

§ Loss in Indianapolis, Indy laid out the blue print on how to beat the Cowboys, rush the ball between the guards and don’t let the Cowboys convert on 3rd down. Needing improvement on the inside

§ Not having a legitimate safety in the back half of the defense

Stats at a Glance

Offensive

2017 (Rank) /2018 (Rank)

Tot. Yards

5311 (14) /5501 (22)

YDS/G

331.9 (14)/343.8 (22)

Pass

3141 (26)/3538 (23)

Rush

2170 (2)/1963 (10)

PTS

354 (14)/339 (22)

PTS/G

22.1 (14)/21.2 (22)

3rd Down

42.9 (5)/41.4 (10)

Penalties

97 (24)/104 (21)

Turnovers

22 (T-15)/17 (5)

Sacks

32 (23)/56 (2)

Defensive

2017 (Rank)/2018(Rank)

Tot. Yards

5089 (8)/5268 (7)

YDS/G

318.1 (8)/323.9 (7)

Pass

3425 (11)/3755 (13)

Rush

1664 (8)/1513 (5)

Turnovers

21 (T-16)/20 (T-16)

PTS/G

20.8 (T-13)/20.3 (6)

3rd

42.9 (29)/42.3 (27)

Sacks

38.0 (15)/39.0 (T-16)

Offensively we improved as a whole. With Zeke being the league leader in rushing it is hard to argue about total rushing yards for the season. The Cowboys were glad to see the improvement in throwing the ball. The Amari trade completely revamped this offense, it allowed other receivers to get less attention from opposing defenses and didn’t allow teams to load the box against Zeke. We saw the improvement in the passing game throughout the season. With most of the league improving offensively across the board the Cowboys might not have improved as much as others but there was improvement which is nice to see. Zeke is the heart of this offense we play better when he is at the top of his game. We saw more sacks this season than we have in years before, that can be attributed to the loss of All Pro Center Travis Fredrick having missed all season. The Cowboys had to constantly rotate at left guard because of injuries. Sua Filo did enough to keep the job going into next season. Dak is not an elite QB by any sort of the imagination but he is a VERY SOLID QB. He may not pop on the stat sheet but he keeps this team in ball games and knows what to do in crunch time, with leading the league in game winning drives and wins in one score ball games since he has come into the league. This season he was sacked constantly and never really able to get comfortable in the pocket. With only five division losses in the last 3 years the Cowboys don’t look to slow down in being a contestant Division title contender year in year out.

Defensively the Cowboys saw their team become one of the top 5 defenses in the NFL. Following last season many coaches were worried about where Jaylon Smith was at with his recovery. Jaylon proved this season that he is one of the top linebackers in the league. Sean Lee went down early this season so it allowed the Cowboys to put Vander Esch in to games sooner than expected and with his second team all pro appearance it proved that the Cowboys got the next dominant line backing core in the NFL for the next while. Coach Kris Richard came to the Cowboys after he had been let go by the Seahawks. This guy can coach, the secondary was a major worry coming into the season proved that it was not a weakness this team had. Byron Jones led the way as being a top 5 corner in the league. The defensive backs group ended ranked 11th in the league at the end of the year and the front seven was ranked 6th.

Coach Round Up

Linehan is gone. Moore is going to have to step up and prove that he can coach this offense. Garrett needs to make the NFC Championship to keep his job for the long term. Defense no complaints they made this squad a top 10 defense in the NFL.

FA Outlook

We have lost Beasly, Damien Wilson, Swaim. Beasly hurt a lot but he got a hefty paycheck from Buffalo that we couldn’t match.

We have signed Covington, WITTEN, Hyder and as of yesterday Cobb. I think this roster will be able to improve. With the possibility Berry to be signed and the trade talks for Quinn this team has had a very quietly awesome free agency.

Draft

If we get Quinn and Berry there aren’t any blaring needs for the Cowboys. We will approach the draft with eyes on looking to add depth at all positions. Maybe TE will need another look but aside from that this roster is built to win and win now.