We are getting closer and closer to the beginning of the 2018 NFL season. While each player will play a critical role in how good this year’s version’s of the Dallas Cowboys will be, a particular trio of offensive players will be vitally important.
A free agent acquisition at one of the biggest question marks on the team, a rookie offensive lineman with a ton of raw talent, and, of course, the player that will have the biggest role in this team’s success in 2018.
When you discuss weaknesses on the Dallas Cowboys roster, the top two answers are more than likely going to be pass catchers and safeties. Dallas opted to part ways with the franchise leader in touchdown receptions, Dez Bryant, in favor of bringing in wideouts with better, more crisp route trees. The turnover of the wide receivers room in the Big D brings hope that a fresher, more dynamic offense is not far away.
As Cole Beasley looks to recapture the play that led to a fantastic 2016 season and Terrance Williams attempts to showcase what he can do with more responsibility, the Cowboys need a receiver to open the rest of the offense up. That is where Allen Hurns enters the equation.
Hurns put together a huge 2015 campaign in Jacksonville for the Jaguars, where the Miami Hurricanes product caught over 60 passes for more than 1,030 yards and ten touchdown grabs. While injuries, among other factors, resulted in a drop-off in production over the next two seasons, the Cowboys’ free agent acquisition has shown what he can do when given opportunities.
If the Cowboys are going to reach the next level, Allen Hurns needs to become a reliable target for Dak Prescott on third-down and red-zone opportunities. The 6-foot-3. 205-pound wideout has the frame to box out opposing defensive backs, which should ideally give Dak more of a window to throw in.
That, combined with Hurns’ growing relationship with the man behind center and the coaching of Sanjay Lal, makes for a potential strong season from no. 17 in silver and blue.
The Great Wall of Dallas is the gold standard among offensive lines across the National Football League; however, the injury bug has struck two of the Cowboys’ All-Pro linemen. Zack Martin was forced to leave the preseason game against the Bengals early after injuring his knee when defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick went low with his helmet. Then this past Wednesday afternoon, Travis Frederick announced on Twitter that he has been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disease which affects the nervous system.
With the uncertainty surrounding two of the elite players, someone on the offensive line needs to step up. Tyron Smith needs to have a healthy season and we will look for La’el Collins to make a jump. Connor Williams needs to grow into a formidable piece along the trenches for the Cowboys as his All-everything teammates recover.
The Coppell, Texas, native was seen as top-10 selection following an All-American season for the Texas Longhorns in 2016 as a sophomore, but injuries derailed his third and final campaign in Austin this past season. Nonetheless, Williams was thought to be a first-round selection before he fell to the 50th overall selection in April.
The expectations are high for the DFW native, and he has had an up-and-down preseason at left guard through three games. Williams’ development at guard will be one of the biggest determining factors in whether or not this offense takes the next step.
We can talk about all of the other positions on the offensive side of the ball — they are all important, after all — but this offense will either reach elite status or struggle to find its footing based on the play of its quarterback.
Dak Prescott is entering a huge season for a number of reasons — an opportunity to prove why he is the face of this franchise moving forward and, as a result, earning a contract extension that would pay him significantly more than what his fourth-round rookie contract is making him now.
Prescott has been a strong, perhaps even elite, quarterback for 24 of his 32 career games on the professional level, and the Cowboys have shown the commitment of building this offense and team around its young Pro Bowl signal-caller. With new faces to throw to, Dak is tasked with the responsibility of elevating those around him as the Cowboys look to return the postseason after a relatively disappointing 9-7 campaign a season ago.
An offseason of development, an offense that will hopefully build on his strengths, and the return of Ezekiel Elliott without the cloud of a suspension looming, makes it realistic for Pro Football Focus’ 12th-ranked QB to have a big, bounce-back season in 2018.
Which offensive players are you looking for, BTB?