The Dallas offensive line is the strength of the team; that is undisputed. They are going to have to be in 2017, since the schedule maker has them slated to face some of the best pass rushers the NFL has to offer. Former scout turned scribe Bryan Broaddus gives us a rundown of the guys the OL is going to have to contend with in this piece, starting from Von Miller an continuing with Khalil Mack, Vic Beasley, Chandler Jones, and Joey Bosa:
Just to whet your appetite, here is part of what he wrote about Oakland's Khalil Mack:
Type of player that comes at you down after down. Plays with physical and mental toughness. There is no quit to his game. Big time closing burst to the quarterback.
Can really accelerate. Can get lateral in a hurry. When he sees the ball, he’s gone. Reactionary athlete. Range to go make tackles. Can really get off the ball in a hurry.
The ESPN beat writers who cover the NFC East give their individual takes on the question in this short Q&A piece. Jordan Raanan, ESPN's New York Giants reporter, picks Ezekiel Elliott.
This seems like a no-brainer. It's Zeke. He's the straw that stirs the Dallas Cowboys' drink. Prescott had an incredible rookie year (23 touchdown passes and four interceptions), but it just wouldn't have been possible if not for that running game, spearheaded by Elliott. The Giants held Elliott to 158 yards rushing combined in their two meetings last season. And guess what? They won both games. Prescott threw one touchdown pass. This isn't to say that Prescott isn't a good player. What he did last season as a rookie who was drafted in the fourth round was spectacular. The way he played in that playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers should have erased any doubts that he will be a star. But Elliott already is a star. He's the player who gives defensive coordinators nightmares, not Prescott. At least, not yet.
In a reprint of a Q&A from early may, the guru of all things Dallas Cowboys answered a reader question what to expect from Dak Prescott in 2017.
Q: What were some of Dak's biggest weaknesses last year? Will it take years of game experience/tape study to improve in these areas or do you expect huge improvements by this year itself?
This is a very deep topic and one that will be very difficult to fully explain and even to articulate in this space. But, Dak Prescott had the type of rookie season that has almost no real statistical targets to point at that would make you think he needs to be better here or there. His stats are absurd from Year 1 and they happened without him risking danger too often. That doesn't mean he was conservative, it means that he did a veteran's job at letting the defense tell him where to go and played the mental game very, very well.
He had 23 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. He had 8 yards per attempt. He completed almost 68% of his passes. All of those numbers would be impressive for any QB in the league - let alone a rookie. If you wanted to get greedy, you would love to shove the touchdowns over 30 and the yards over 4,000 (he had 3,667), but to do either, you would have to move the meter more to pass than last year where this team wanted to run the ball because of its strength there. This team does not depend on its QB to do everything. That is good. It might cause you to lose some "which QB is better" debates with your buddy, but that doesn't matter. If your QB can provide these numbers as a rookie and as a 2nd option on the play-sheet, you have a chance to win the whole thing.
Now, what happens in Year 2? Teams try to sit on his strengths and make him face his weaknesses. But, again, this offense is designed to make the defense pick its poison. When it chooses to defend Zeke, it allows the passing game to exploit that. As long as Dak continues to do well with his mental decisions - which he seems very sharp at doing - he should operate from an advantage. The biggest weakness is what happens if they fall behind. Are they able to remain patient? They did very well in that playoff game once they fell way behind. They stayed in their game. Can Dak possibly duplicate his rookie line? That is a fascinating question. You know in NFC East locales, they are figuring out right now how to deal with Dallas. I wonder what their best ideas will be. The Giants seem confident that they have the plan. But, you better have the personnel to do that if you are another team.
Even if it is a reprint, the entire Q&A is worth a read, as Sturm tells it like he sees it, and he bases his thoughts on careful observation and his experiences.
Scales sat down with Cowboys wide receivers coach Derek Dooley recently and posed five questions to the Dallas wide receiver coach. One key topic up for discussion was how the opportunity to get in off season work with Dak Prescott is going to benefit his players.
Question: How important has it been for your veteran wide receivers to have a full offseason of 1st-team practice reps with Dak?
DOOLEY: "We have to remind everyone that Dak is still young, he’s a second-year player. We take a lot for granted. It’s as if he wasn’t here last year, certainly not with Dez and Terrance and Jason. So there are a lot of little nuances that you continue to build and grow. You develop a little rapport with him and the receiving corps. It’s not something that can just happen in an offseason, it’s something that builds over time. So what we’ve got to do is take what we started and build it this summer together, then in training camp really fine-tune it. There’s a lot of growth from that standpoint.
Lest the new links become the Dak Prescott Show this morning, we are going to move on to some other pieces of the puzzle.
Featuring one of the most star-studded cast of characters in the entire league, it’s easy to forget about players not named Dak, Dez, or Zeke on the Dallas Cowboys offensive unit. Apparently, it is also easy to underpay those players as well, relative to their actual on-field performance that is.
Tony Romo knew it, and Dak Prescott learned it quickly: Cole Beasley is a heck of a guy to look for in critical situations because he seems to always deliver when needed the most. Last year, with Dez missing some action early, Cole stepped up and proved more than ever that he might not be the biggest star on the roster but he is certainly more valuable to the team than some might suspect.
His bank account does not show just how valuable he is to the team. Beasley does not rank among the top 50 receivers in the league in spite of having the top WR rating last season. The Cowboys have never been shy about rewarding talent, but the hometown guy seems to be falling through the cracks in this regard.
A few months after being a rookie NFL player, Zeke is now showing his form as a 'rookie coach' at his two-day football camp in near-by Grand Prairie, Texas.
Elliott knows first hand how much a young football player's life can be impacted by the efforts of his coaches, and he is trying to do the same thing for a generation of Dallas area player that other men once did for him.
"My best mentors growing up were my football coaches," Elliott said. "Guys I’m very close with still today. My football coaches when I was 7 and 13, I still talk to them today. Both of their sons are my best friends. My high school coach, [former NFL quarterback Gus Frerotte], we’re still very close. And even all of my college co aches."
"Football coaches are the most influential people in my life other than my parents."
Zeke might have made some early mistakes in judgment, but it is clear that his heart in in the proper place. Young players look up to him, and he is trying to do the things a role model should. It is a shame that this cannot be said for all athletes.