As we trudge through the 2019 offseason, our minds will ultimately wander into projecting the next regular season in some way. It’s inevitable as we are starved of football and the juice that comes from that weekly competition. Sure, the Super Bowl has yet to be played, and there is always free agency, the draft, and the start of training camp serving as oases along the way. But nothing quite satisfies like real football.
In that spirit, let’s project ahead to the 2019 regular season and think about players who might be the breakout stars of that campaign. Granted, the term breakout is nebulous and can stretch in multiple ways. For this exercise, we’re going to define it in a very unscientific way. The breakout player will be a player that even casual fans of other teams will be well aware of by the end of the year. For example, no one was really talking much about Byron Jones, except for Cowboys fans, during his time in Dallas previous to the 2018 campaign. Now, he’s thought of as one of the better cornerbacks in the league and made the Pro Bowl. He’s become a known entity across the league. 2018 was most definitely a breakout year for Jones.
Here are two candidates for breakout years in 2019, one on offense and one on defense.
Offense - Michael Gallup
Cowboys fans know the potential the rookie wide receiver Michael Gallup showed in 2018. Gallup had 33 catches for 507 yards with two touchdowns. Those are respectable numbers for a rookie wideout, especially on an offensively-challenged team like the Cowboys. But any Cowboys observer will tell you that was not near what it could have been. For whatever reason, Dak Prescott and Gallup could not get on the same page on the long ball. There were a handful of plays where Gallup had easily beat his coverage deep but the pass from Prescott was off target. Gallup’s yards and touchdown totals could have been much higher had those plays worked out. Perhaps another offseason of work between Gallup and Prescott will tighten up those long bombs.
Additionally, the trade for Amari Cooper opened up the Cowboys offense. In 2019, teams are not going to let Cooper beat them. Teams will be double-teaming Cooper and coverages will definitely be slanted his way. Gallup should be the beneficiary of that attention on the other side.
Look for Gallup to become a full-fledged force in 2019.
Defense - Randy Gregory
Plenty of people know about Randy Gregory throughout NFL fanbases. Unfortunately, it’s not for his play on the field. Fans have had their fun ridiculing the seemingly wasted second-round pick the Cowboys dropped on Gregory in the 2015 draft. Suspensions have robbed Gregory of playing time as he’s had a rough road in terms of getting his personal life together. This past year, it all started to come together for Gregory. On the field, he was showing the promise that would have made him a “top of the first round” pick without the off-field baggage. Gregory had six sacks and many more QB pressures, and gave left tackles fits this season. On the down side, he committed some very costly penalties, but his skills were finally starting to shine.
Betting on Gregory to keep his sobriety and to say out of the NFL’s doghouse is always a risky proposition. That reason alone is the biggest threat to him becoming a breakout star. On the other hand, if he has conquered his demons to the extent he can stay on the field, participate fully in all of the offseason programs and practices, come 2019 he should be a terror on the field. 2019 could be the season we see double-digit sacks from Gregory.
Who are your candidates for breakout players in 2019?