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Cowboys news: Dak Prescott has 8th best odds for MVP, does he need a #1 wide receiver?

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys-OTA Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Prescott tied for 8th-best MVP odds with former winners Newton, Ryan - K.D. Drummond, Cowboys Wire
Do you realize that if you would have put a couple grand on the Vegas Golden Knights to win the Stanley Cup, you could be looking at a $1 million payday if they can just knock off one more opponent. That's because the Vegas odds of the new expansion team to win it all at the beginning of the season was 500 to 1. You can score big if you "buy low" and that might lead some of us to bank on Prescott having a big rebound season. Despite all the nay-saying, the odds-makers are singing a different tune when they have to put their money where their mouth is.

Not everyone is ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater after all. Dak Prescott struggled mightily down the stetch of the 2017 season. When his line faltered and the offense lost its best weapon in running back Ezekiel Elliott, Prescott regressed to a form he’d never shown in the NFL. Still, there’s been enough positive play from the soon-to-be third-year quarterback for folks to have confidence a strong rebound is coming.

So much so that, via Sportsline, BetOnline.AG has given Prescott eighth-best odds to come home with the award handed out to the best player in the NFL, MVP.

Cowboys OTA’s: The locker room leadership void will be filled by QB Dak Prescott - Michael Sisemoren, Blogging The Boys
There have been some great leaders throughout history - Mahatma Gandhi, Julius Caesar, Captain Kirk...to name a few. Now is the time for Prescott to take the first step in putting his name with some of these greats.

Leadership in the NFL comes in a variety of ways and from multiple individuals. Over the years, Tony Romo and Tyron Smith have been the “lead by example” type. They don’t typically speak up unless it’s absolutely needed. Guys like Witten and Bryant were much more outspoken when demonstrating their leadership qualities. It’s good to have a little bit of both on any given roster and the Cowboys certainly need a few vocal ones.

Prescott checks a lot of boxes for the Cowboys and it helps that he plays the most important position in football. Every move that has been made this offseason has been with Dak in mind though every quote will say it’s about being “Cowboys-friendly”. This is now Prescott’s offense and it will go as far as he takes it.

Dak Prescott: 'I don't know if any team in the league necessarily needs a No. 1 receiver' - Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports
The Cowboys don't have a legit #1 WR. Is that an issue? Prescott doesn't think so.

"I don't know if any team in the league necessarily needs a No. 1 receiver," Prescott said via Pro Football Talk. "It's about getting the ball out, spreading the ball around, keeping the defense on its toes."

Does Prescott really believe this, or is he just trying to convince himself?

"I mean the only thing you can do is just get out there with routes on air, things like that," he said. "We did a bunch together. Me and these young guys have been here before we even started OTAs, getting that timing down so we can get in OTAs and have good feel for each other and now with the defense in front of us, grow off of that and grow from what we've already accomplished. That's the best thing I can do."


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Top 10: Hurns Gets Early Nod As Staff Writers Rank Cowboys’ 10-Best WRs - Staff, Dallas Cowboys
With the remodeling job the Cowboys have made at wide receiver, which guys are the front runners for targets? The staff over at the mothership gives us an early top 10 ranking.

Hurns would seem like the best choice to receive the most targets, but there are a lot of candidates and who knows which one will emerge as a good-chemistry guy with Prescott? It’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

Philadelphia Eagles rivals report: Updates on Giants, Cowboys, Redskins in NFC East - Daniel Gallen, PennLive.com
The Eagles took a look at each of their NFC East foes and checked out what's going down this offseason, including something they know quite a bit about - not needing a true #1 WR.

Do the Dallas Cowboys need a No. 1 wide receiver?

One of the major shakeups in the NFC East this offseason came when the Cowboys cut star wide receiver Dez Bryant, who caught 73 touchdowns in eight seasons. Bryant’s recent production has been down slightly, and he earned $13 million last season. Quarterback Dak Prescott thinks Dallas will be fine after adding Allen Hurns from Jacksonville and drafting Michael Gallup.

Hurns has the only 1,000-yard season among the Cowboys wide receivers — he had 64 catches for 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2015 — while Deonte Thompson, Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams have all been role players for the Cowboys.

One thing that could alleviate the stress on the passing game is a full, productive season from running back Ezekiel Elliott, who missed six games because of suspension last season. If he can return to his All-Pro form from 2016 (1,631 yards, 15 touchdowns), the Cowboys offense might not need to rely on Prescott’s arm too, too much.

The rushing title will come down to Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley. - Matt Mosley, SportsDay
Matt Mosley answered a few questions including whether or not a full season of 16 games will allow Zeke to reclaim the rushing title.

Does Ezekiel Elliott reclaim the NFL rushing title in 2018?

Mosley: I think the rushing title will come down to Zeke and Saquon Barkley. The Giants are going to build around Barkley just like the Cowboys did two seasons ago with Zeke. I think Elliott will win the title, based on the Cowboys having the better offensive line.

But the Giants could win eight or nine games this season, just based on finally having a running game. They haven't had a reliable one since Jacobs and Bradshaw were hanging around. It would take so much pressure off Eli. And OBJ will love all that blocking.

2018 Cowboys: Projecting Ezekiel Elliott's Production - John Williams, Inside The Star
There are a lot of reasons to be excited about a huge year for Zeke and if you dabble in fantasy football, you're going to want to read this.

My Projections

It's difficult to know exactly how a game will play out and what the game script will allow for a player like Ezekiel Elliott who does his best work when the team has a lead, but I'm going to bet that he hits 360 carries in 2018, which would put him at about 22.5 carries per game.

Some games he'll get more and some games less. I'm also going to assume that he returns to five yards per carry in 2018 with the addition of Connor Williams to help open holes and make the offensive line more athletic, physical, balanced, and complete than it was a year ago.

So, at 360 carries and five yards per carry, Ezekiel Elliott is looking at around 1,800 yards rushing. While that may look like an outlandish number, based on his career to this point, that's certainly achievable.

In the passing game, I see Elliott setting career highs in receiving at 45 receptions for 490 yards.

On the touchdown front, I'll stick with Elliott's touchdown per game averages and project he scores 16 total touchdowns.

Final Projections: 360 CAR, 1,800 Rush YDS, 60 TAR, 45 REC, 490 REC YDS, and 16 total TDs.

Elliott has had a 70+ yard receiving play for a touchdown in each of his first two seasons. He’s a threat to take it to the house any time he touches the ball.

Did the Dallas Cowboys hide tight end Rico Gathers in 2017? - Gillia Baattai, The Landry Hat
Why didn't Rico see the field after he was cleared to play? That's a fair question. Here is one theory that seems to make sense.

While conventional wisdom would call for Gathers to play to get as much real game action as possible, maybe the team thought about it a different way. Throwing a raw player into an offense that was lost and identity-less could have had huge ramifications.

Gathers was and is not an NFL capable blocker on a consistent basis. The team could not afford to have any more reliability issues, and in last year’s scheme that included the services of former tight end Jason Witten; they needed the stability and consistency up front.

At 6’8, 290 with a sub 4.8 40 time, the raw prospect out of Baylor is strictly a pass catcher at this stage in his career. The team seemed focused on developing him into an all-around tight end before entrusting him with regular season playing time. Stashing him would have allowed the team one more year to redshirt as well as hold onto a roster spot for any emergency needs.

Contract-Year NFL Players with the Most on the Line in Training Camps - Gary Davenport, Bleacher Report
There is a lot on the line for many NFL players. Some are just trying to earn a roster spot, others are playing for a big pay day next offseason. Bleacher Report highlights some players who have a lot to play for in 2018, including that splash-making defensive monster for the Cowboys.

David Irving, DT, Dallas Cowboys

When he was on the field in 2017, Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle David Irving made quite the impact. In just eight games, the 24-year-old amassed seven sacks. But Irving also missed four games to a suspension and another four to a concussion. This is a huge year for him. If he is able to stay on the field and back up those numbers, the second-round tender he got from the Cowboys will look like spare change.

There's a reason Irving got that second-round tender instead of a first, though. And it isn't just because of that suspension last year.

As Clarence E. Hill Jr. reported for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Irving's attendance at the Cowboys' offseason conditioning program was...less than stellar. Both head coach Jason Garrett and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli were blunt while explaining why Irving wasn't on the field at the outset of OTAs. "[He is] working his way back into shape," Garrett said. "Not in shape," Marinelli concurred.

To say that this is not a good look at the beginning of a make-or-break season is an understatement. There's still time for Irving to get his act together and build on last year's success. But all the talent in the world is of little use if he doesn't put in the work.

The most valuable Cowboys of 2018: #14-12 – Kevin Turner, The Athletic
Last week, The Athletic ranked the 15-20 most valuable players for the upcoming season. This week, the countdown continues...

#14: CB Chidobe Awuzie

Chidobe Awuzie played in 10 games in his rookie season, starting six and coming up with one interception. He now profiles as the starting left cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys.

The good news is that Awuzie was very impressive during his limited time on the field last season. Impressive enough that the Cowboys have been confident in identifying him as a starter despite a very limited NFL track record.

Awuzie would start the season dealing with a hamstring injury, but once he got healthy, the defense started clicking.

Last year’s team had a change of philosophy in Week 13, allowing Chidobe Awuzie to start in a Thursday night game against the Redskins. At the time, the Cowboys felt like they needed to run the table or go 4-1 in the final five games to make the playoffs. The Cowboys decided to let Kavon Frazier play a little bit at safety and Chido took over at cornerback for Anthony Brown. The unit saw an immediate change in tenacity and, quite frankly, an immediate attitude change was visible in real time that night.

Second-year players primed for a breakout year in 2018 - Austin Gayle, Pro Football Focus
Pro Football Focus provides a list of eight second-year players who could break out in 2018 and it just so happens a certain Cowboys player made the list.

CB Chidobe Awuzie, Dallas Cowboys

Battling a lingering hamstring issue through the first 12 weeks of his rookie season, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Chidobe Awuzie either wasn’t himself or wasn’t on the field prior to the final five games of the season. Awuzie, however, flashed star-level potential when healthy down the stretch.

The former Colorado product played a whopping 252 defensive snaps, 92 percent of which at left outside cornerback, in Dallas’ final five regular season contests after playing just 57 snaps in their first 11 games. Awuzie allowed just 6.9 yards per reception allowed, ranking fifth among cornerbacks with at least 10 receptions allowed in said span. He also earned 81.0 overall game grades in three of the five games.

Expected to assume the starting nod at left outside cornerback in 2018, Awuzie will have an opportunity to place his name among the league’s best boundary cornerbacks if able to repeat his 2017 successes and stay healthy for the entirety of his sophomore campaign.

The most valuable Cowboys of 2018: #11-9 – Jeff Cavanaugh, The Athletic
And the Cowboys new first-round pick breaks into the top 10. Are the expectations too high for him or is this kid just that good?

#9 LB Leighton Vander Esch

You don’t need the numbers written to know what has happened the last couple of years when Sean Lee misses football games. The entire defense has fallen apart. A year ago something similar (to a lesser extent) happened when Anthony Hitchens missed time. I’m not going to bank on Sean Lee playing 16 games so it’s not very possible LVE will take part in 80% or more of the defensive snaps this year. His ability as an athlete makes him an asset when it comes to playing against the pass, which has become the most important part of a linebacker’s job in today’s NFL.

Vander Esch will be asked to handle a large workload right off the bat and the level at which he plays will go a long way in determining where on the spectrum the defense falls between average and great. No pressure, rook. You’re just one of the nine most important players on the team this year.