The opinions on the Dallas Cowboys 2018 season went from doom and gloom to a good deal of hope in the span of last Sunday’s win over the New York Giants. It looks like a good team may be emerging in Dallas, but there is still plenty to work on. As is usual in most all NFL seasons, and for most teams, there are things about the Cowboys’ performance this year that has surprised people. Some of them are good, while others not so much. Here are the thoughts about the most surprising player or thing about the Cowboys so far.
Tom Ryle: I’m going to start on the positive side with a player that struggled a good bit last season, but has been gangbusters in the first two games, Anthony Brown. 2017 brought worries that his strong debut in his rookie year was just a flash in the pan. But in camp, it became evident that he was ahead of Jourdan Lewis on the depth chart, leading to a lot of questions as to just how good an idea that was. Things have certainly panned out, at least at this early stage.
He's clearly better in Richard's eyes.— KD Drummond (@KDDrummondNFL) September 19, 2018
And right now, Brown is absolutely balling.
62 coverage snaps. Targeted 5 times, allowed 3 receptions for a measly 12 yards.
4 yards a reception. https://t.co/xB4YJUWjKm
Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones have been getting most of the attention for their play at corner this season, but Brown has quietly become the vital slot corner that teams have to have in this pass-oriented league. His performance speaks for itself, if we just listen closely enough.
But there is one really puzzling negative for me, and that is how the tight ends have disappeared from the passing game. I never expected them to make us forget Jason Witten, but I at least expected them to get a handful of catches and make an impact at least a couple of times a game. Against the Giants, the TEs had zero catches and only a couple of targets, both to Rico Gathers. Maybe the coaches are focused on getting the WRs going, but this seems at least as much due to what is being sent in from the sideline as a failure of the TEs - unless they are just flat not getting open out there. They may be as bad a group as some said, unless Rico comes through.
DannyPhantom: If there is one thing that won’t stop for Cowboys Nation it’s the constant quandary of what outside-the-organization wide receiver can show up and help rescue the offense. We still hear some fans talk about how much they miss Dez Bryant (despite him not latching on with another team yet) or they are mad the front office didn’t make a push for Josh Gordon. And it’s hard to blame them when the team’s current leading receiver (Cole Beasley) is averaging 4.5 catches and 43 yards a game. That’s the team’s top WR ladies and gentlemen.
So my question is - where is Allen Hurns in all this? The Cowboys signed him to a two-year, $12 million deal to come in and be a part of the gang and he’s been practically non-existent. You think Beas’ numbers are low, Hurns is averaging one catch per game for 14.5 yards. Now, that’s not to say this is a reflection of Hurns’ ability, but clearly the connection between him and Dak Prescott is not what we were hoping for and that puts him on my most unexpected performance list.
On the positive side, while I’m hesitant to call him an “unexpected performance” recipient as he’s my “Don’t forget about...” guy when we made our player predictions before the season started, but I have to acknowledge how well Kavon Frazier is playing right now. He made strides last season where he went from playing 3% of the defensive snaps his rookie season to 21% last year. And he really started to make his mark as a special teams ace. Well, he’s more than that now as he’s the only Cowboys defender to play in all 100% of the team’s defensive snaps and he’s doing so at a high level. All our apprehensions about the “suspect” safety position, especially after Xavier Woods got hurt, are slowly dissipating and the play of Frazier is a big part of that.
We are always scratching our head why the Cowboys didn’t make a move for a player that would really help the team (say...Earl Thomas?) but the front office always gives us this cop out answer about how they really like the guys they have on the team. Well, guess what - we’re starting to really like the guys they have on the team as well and I’d like to send my sincerest apologies for ever doubting them.
David Howman: Most surprising player for me has been Connor Williams, and not in a good way. Sure, he hasn’t rivaled the Giants or Seahawks for terrible OL play, but through two games Williams has looked more like a second-round pick than a first-round talent who fell to the second round.
Maybe we’ve just been spoiled by Zack Martin and Tyron Smith, or maybe Williams has drawn some really tough challenges so far. Realistically it’s a bit of both, but the rookie guard has been the weakest link on a line that features a backup starting at center. His physical traits give him the potential to be the next Zack Martin, or at least very close to it, but it seems he’s mentally not there yet. In week one he was consistently dipping his head and not connecting with his hands, and he got beat because of that. Two games is too early to judge, but so far I’ve been surprised with how much he’s looked like a rookie.
Michael Sisemore: The most surprising to me is not one player but the collection of coaches on the offensive side of the ball. I’m really surprised that they have had such a struggling start on offense in two weeks of football. We all know that it’s a work-in-progress but it is still surprising how these coaches haven’t found more ways to win with some of their guys. First, everyone knows that Ezekiel Elliott is the most explosive offensive weapon and that will always be the opponent’s focus. That means that other guys have to start taking advantage of that and winning more consistently. Whether it has been the quarterback, the receivers, the tight ends, or the coaches, something just hasn’t fully clicked there. I’m willing to put more onus on the coaches at this point because they are struggling inside themselves to adapt this offense to the player’s strengths. They start out against the Giants with a 64-yard bomb to Tavon Austin. They follow that up with some read-option and getting Dak Prescott comfortable but then they halt all progress to return to the drudging offense again, an offense that can’t move the football with consistency. It’s not until the fourth quarter that they get back to moving the chains again. It’s time for these coaches to understand that 12-personnel is not a strength of this offense anymore. They have to adapt a game plan for their offensive stars because 265 total yards a game is not going to get it done. In the NFL, where a solid day on offense is around 300 yards and a great day is 400+, this team needs to pick up the pace.
The Cowboys strongest asset may be their defense but that unit isn’t going to just shut every team down week after week. The offense has to reward the defense by putting up points and giving them rest so that the “Hot Boyz” stay hot all through the game. The upcoming opponent, the Seahawks, may be struggling on offense but they still score points. Part of being a well-coached team is knowing your personnel. These Dallas coaches haven’t grasped that yet, but they need to very quickly.