Being that it’s still the offseason, we thought it might be fun to try a way-too-early prediction piece in regards to the Cowboys. There are so many decisions that still have to be made but why not try and determine some outcomes. For this exercise, we’re not going to predict wins and losses but rather point our crystal ball toward hot topics with the Cowboys offense. Let’s give it a whirl...
Zack Martin’s Extension
We all know by now that Martin is voluntarily not showing up for these non-mandatory practices in hopes of reaching an extension. Despite tensions among a few media types and fans, there doesn’t seem to be any acrimony between the two parties. Zack Martin is represented by today’s super-agent Tom Condon. Though he’s got a reputation for being a tough negotiator, this is a deal that ultimately gets done before training camp. A holdout isn’t a holdout unless the player is missing mandatory practices that come up in June. When all is said and done, Zack Martin will be the very deserving highest paid guard in the NFL.
Prediction: Five-year, $67 million deal, $33 million total guaranteed (Based on Kevin Zeitler’s five-year, $60 million, $31.5 million total guaranteed)
Michael Gallup will lead the Cowboys in receiving as a rookie
My affinity for Gallup is everlasting but if anyone is going to break out of this group of receivers, it’s not the veteran signings, it’s Michael Gallup. The Cowboys are an “open man” offense that will complement their juggernaut running game. That’s going to leave a lot of open opportunities for multiple receivers to have production all the way down the depth chart. There are a few reasons to be really high on Gallup:
1. He had 176 receptions in two seasons as a starter
2. He was third in the NCAA with 100 receptions last season
3. He rewards the quarterback with great route awareness giving them a 101.1 passer rating when targeting him.
Gallup also forced 20 missed tackles after the catch last season which tied him at the top of his draft class. Gallup also had a 0% drop rate in the red zone, which also led his class. He may be a rookie but he’s got an innate ability to get open and is a volume receiver.
Prediction: 72 receptions, 921 yards, 7 touchdowns
Ezekiel Elliott will lead the NFL in yards from scrimmage
Ezekiel Elliott is not going to be deterred this upcoming season and the Cowboys will not hesitate to give him the ball. Over the past two seasons, despite missing six games, Elliott leads all running backs in rushing yards per game by about 10 yards:
Rushing yards per game over the last two seasons:— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) January 3, 2018
Ezekiel Elliott: 104.6
Le'Veon Bell: 94.8
Jordan Howard: 78.5
LeSean McCoy: 77.6
Jay Ajayi: 74.0
The decisions that the Cowboys have made this offseason revolve around their confidence in Ezekiel Elliott. He still was among the Top 10 rushing performers in 2017 though he played in only 10 games. Elliott’s role in the offense can’t be overstated and he’s going to have a huge year. It’s too predictable to say that he’ll lead the league in rushing so we’re going one step further and saying he’s going to lead the NFL in yards from scrimmage.
Prediction: 382 rushing attempts, 1,741 rushing yards, 13 rushing TDs, 58 receptions, 563 receiving yards, five receiving TDs = 2,304 yards from scrimmage (eclipses DeMarco Murray’s 2,261 yards in 2014)
Terrance Williams will not be released... until 2019
He’s probably had the worst offseason of any Cowboys player still on the roster. Still, monetary-wise, it makes no sense for the Cowboys to cut him as there is no financial gain. Terrance is going to hang around the roster for one more season but his offseason issue will loom large. A broken foot is hard to overcome for receivers and there is enough receiving talent on the roster to bury Williams on the depth chart. Maybe Williams will earn a way out of this but the odds are against that happening.
Prediction: Cowboys release Williams in 2019, paying him $9.5 million of his $17 million extension and eating $2.5 million in dead money.
The Cowboys offense will send five offensive players to the Pro Bowl
It’s not too crazy to think that five offensive players on the Cowboys can make the Pro Bowl if they have the type of season they’re hoping to have. The Cowboys Pro Bowlers will be:
Ezekiel Elliott: If he leads the league in yards from scrimmage, he’ll make the Pro Bowl for certain and most likely will be an MVP candidate. Since we predicted over 1,700 yards in rushing that’s likely to make Elliott the leading rusher.
Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin: Death, taxes, and the Cowboys Big Three making the Pro Bowl.
Dak Prescott: This is going to be a bounce-back year for Prescott though his 2017 wasn’t exactly awful. Prescott will flirt with 4,000 passing yards, passing for 29 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Like the past two seasons, Prescott will remain in the Top-4 for total QBR and he’ll add six more rushing touchdowns to his ledger.
Cowboys bail out on two experiments
Two polarizing players of the past few years are about to find themselves looking for new employment in 2018:
Chaz Green: While the Cowboys work out a deal with Martin, Green has filled in at right guard. Don’t expect that to last too much longer as he’ll be among the roster cuts to 53. The Cowboys aren’t going to keep more than eight lineman on their strongest unit. The writing is on the wall as the starting five is a pretty much a lock, plus you have Cameron Fleming as your swing tackle, Joe Looney at backup center, and Marcus Martin as the backup guard. Green has showed his potential in the past but it just feels as though if he’s fixable, it’s another team that’s going to benefit from it.
Rico Gathers: Not all basketball converts have the athleticism to make it in the NFL. Gathers isn’t going to be the next Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates. He’s got the incredible size and has shown in the past to have a nose for the end zone but what else? Gathers hasn’t impressed the coaching staff though many fans are intrigued by him. When you hear coaches talk about the tight end position, which is wide open, Gathers isn’t among the mentions. The Cowboys are excited about Blake Jarwin’s abilities as a pass catcher, they have built trust in Geoff Swaim, and Dalton Schultz is also very highly thought of.
Gathers will need to practice and play lights out in the preseason to jump one of those three names. This doesn’t look to be another year where they successfully stash him on the practice squad.