From hall-of-fame coaches to sports analysts all around, SportsDay gathered some thoughts on Dak (article originally published on March 30).
Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy: Dak Prescott is going to be just fine. I had a chance to spend some time with him at the beginning of the year last year for NBC. He’s got his head on right, he’s a talented guy, he’s a hard worker, he’s a leader, I think he’s going to be just fine and that would be the least of my worries if I was the Cowboys. I expect him to come back and have a wonderful year, but again you’re right. It’s going to take the offensive line, it’s going to take Ezekiel Elliott being there all year, it’s going to take Dez Bryant and that receiving corps playing like they can play. If those pieces are in place, Dak Prescott is going to drive the train just fine.
Our own Michael Sisemore wrote on his six predictions that he has for the offensive side of the ball in 2018 that he believes Dak Prescott will make it back to 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.
But how will a new revamped wide receivers corps affect Dak’s development and 2018 season?
Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup are both expected to start once the season takes off. On the tight end side of things, the starting role is still up for grabs. Whether it’s Dalton Schultz, Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim or even Rico Gathers remains unknown. The point is, it won’t be Jason Witten.
In a year in which Dak has to prove he’s the franchise quarterback this team needs, doing so with some of his main targets gone could make things a bit harder... or perhaps not.
At the end of the day, the receivers they brought in are supposed to be the kind of receivers they want on the so-called Dak-friendly offense. Prescott recently pointed out that he doesn’t think a team needs a #1 WR.
Speaking of new targets to throw to, Machota weighs in on his expectations for rookie wide receiver Michael Gallup.
Q: Seems like from a sheer numbers standpoint, Michael Gallup may be the rookie who’ll face the most pressure to produce in 2018. What are your statistical expectations for him?
Machota: Rookie receivers generally don’t make a significant impact on the stat sheet in Year 1. If Dez Bryant was still on the roster, I wouldn’t be expecting much production from Gallup this season. But since everything is so wide open at the position, I could see scenarios where Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams or Gallup are their leading receiver. Whoever it ends up being, I don’t think it’ll be 1,000 yards and 10 TDs. I think we’re looking more at something like 800 yards and 6-8 TDs. I’ll say Gallup finishes with around 450 yards and 4 touchdowns. Gallup did have the best grab during team drills last Wednesday. Working with the third team, he caught a nice deep ball over the shoulder from Mike White along the right sideline.
Jaylon Smith is stealing the show thus far for the Cowboys. Patrik Walker writes on ten things that we have learned from OTA’s
JAYLON SMITH LOOKS FANTASTIC...
Smith was legendary in his collegiate days, earning a laundry list of honors that include the Dick Butkus Award, perennially bestowed upon the best LB in the nation. It led to him being pegged a top five pick in the 2016 draft, before those dreams were dashed by tearing his ACL, his LCL and severely damaging the nerve in his knee, causing him to fall out of Day One contention completely.
The Cowboys took the risk with the 34th-overall pick having an inside track on the injury, seeing as their resident team doctor, Dan Cooper, is the physician who operated on Smith and was seeing to his recovery. Having returned to the game of football makes his story a miraculous one no matter what transpires next, but Smith is now motivated to prove that was simply the beginning of what could be -- if it isn’t already -- one of the best comebacks in the history of the sport.
It was DeMarcus Lawrence who stole the show in 2017. The newest member of BTB wrote on the big time defensive end and why he can have an even bigger season in 2018.
After a Pro Bowl season in 2017, Lawrence could be even better in 2018. With the additions of Dorance Armstrong, Jihad Ward, and possibly Randy Gregory, plus a healthy David Irving and improved Taco Charlton, the overall talent of the defensive line looks even better on paper. With more talent and depth coming off the weak-side and the interior of the defensive line, more 1-on-1 opportunities should open up for Lawrence.
It should also be noted that this is the healthiest DeMarcus has been since entering the league in 2014. We also know that Lawrence is on a one-year deal with the franchise tag, if the team can’t get a long-term deal done, he will be looking to add another Pro Bowl season and cash in on free agency in 2019. The Cowboys will then have to pay him, or tag him again. All of this is going to lead to a big 2018 for Lawrence.
Could we see rookie fourth-round pick Dorance Armstrong make an impact on the defensive line this season?
The Dallas Cowboys are stronger at defensive end than they’ve been in some time, but they still lack a specific type of pass rusher. Rookie Dorance Armstrong may be able to fill that role, giving him an early opportunity to contribute that many mid-round rookies can’t find.
With the difficulties that guys like Gregory and Tapper may have getting back into football shape, Armstrong could have a leg up in training camp. The Cowboys won’t hesitate to give him the work if he’s the best man for the job, regardless of draft status or tenure.
These new look, new era Dallas Cowboys are all about meritocracy, so Dorance Armstrong could rise quickly if he performs. It would make for a nice immediate return on a fourth-round pick.
What about Randy Gregory? Hanson writes why ‘we still care’ about the former second-round pick.
We care about Randy Gregory because he still has every bit of potential today as he had the day he was drafted. In fact, with the his drug problems seeming behind him, he arguably has more.
With only 11 career games under his belt, and one whopping sack to speak of, many statistic-focused “analysts” dismiss Gregory’s potential impact. But watching him on film tells an entirely different story.
Gregory has the type of quick-twitch explosion and edge bend that every team covets in a pass-rusher. Only a handful of these types of players exist in the NFL and Randy is one of them. Because of repeated suspensions he’s never been able to work on his technique and hone his skills, but the ability is undeniable.
Will Tavon Austin step up in the offense now that Dez (and Jason Witten) is gone?
Can Tavon Austin Replace Dez Bryant in Cowboys Offense?
The Cowboys are without a true No. 1 wide receiver who defenses must account for on all downs. However, the offense has a newly coined “web-back” who might be able to create chunk plays if utilized correctly.
The Rams never knew how to deploy Tavon Austin after drafting him eighth overall in 2013. In five seasons, the hybrid receiver/running back never managed more than 509 receiving yards or 907 totals yards from scrimmage in a season.
None of the receivers on the roster can replace Dez Bryant’s physicality or ability to win 50-50 balls on the outside, but a new approach can be taken with more system flexibility. It starts with Austin and extends to the wide receiver corps.