While we wait for training camp to get underway, we’re taking a look at all the position groups for the Dallas Cowboys, with the focus on whether the team was successful in improving during the offseason. This is the final summation of things, an attempt to look at the big picture for 2019. But first, there is one last group to mention, but it only takes a few words.
The specialists are another place where the Cowboys have not done anything to really improve - yet. L.P. Ladouceur is one of the most secure players on the roster with his history of perfection as the long snapper. Chris Jones had a bit of a down year punting in 2018, and Brett Maher was serviceable, but not fully reliable as the place kicker. They have punter Kasey Redfern in for camp, and he also can kick field goals, but doesn’t look like real competition for either job. Scott Drew is around just to keep from overworking Ladouceur.
Of course, Maher was just around to rest Dan Bailey last year, or so we all thought. Expect some kickers to get workouts during camp, or even before. The staff should want to get some competition in for Maher, and may be looking closely at Jones, as well.
Now all groups have been examined. If you want to go back to see any of the previous articles in the series, here are all the links:
There is a lot of improvement (or at least promise for it) in the list, a couple of places where the team more or less stood pat, and nowhere there was an obvious step back. The question now is: How does it all add up, and how much improvement as an entire team should we expect? The conclusion from this series is that there should be a lot. I think we are going to see the benefits of synergy, and some significant ones.
Now, some may cringe when they see “synergy” used, since it is another bizspeak buzzword that has been overused and misapplied in so many organizations. But it is a real concept that applies for Dallas. For those who aren’t familiar with it, and don’t want to search for the definition, here is the one at Dictionary.com.
The interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements, contributions, etc.; synergism.
The more colloquial way of putting it is “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.
That is what looks to be in effect for the Cowboys. It is something all teams strive for, but often don’t manage. A significant loss on the roster can cancel out improvements elsewhere. While we can’t be certain at this point, the loss of Odell Beckham Jr. by the New York Giants could be an excellent illustration of that. Other ways an attempt at synergy can be ruined are bad free agent signings, draft mistakes, and coaching that does not properly use the talent it has.
We have to make a few assumptions here, like Kellen Moore being an actual upgrade over Scott Linehan, Dak Prescott improving his mechanics and awareness, Randall Cobb having better health than last season, Travis Frederick being at or near his previous level of excellence, and the depth along the defensive line being what we think it is. But if all or even most of those things play out, they should work together to make this a very improved roster.
Here are two examples, one simple, and the other rather more complex.
Synergy can work on different levels, and the effect should be seen within the defensive line. The Cowboys upgraded DE with Robert Quinn and possibly Kerry Hyder and Joe Jackson, and used their highest draft pick on DT Trysten Hill, while also bringing in some free agent UDFA talent to work with there. Taken apart, improved inside and outside pressure on the quarterback is a good thing. But working in concert, the two kinds of pass rush have a much greater effect.
That is why Rod Marinelli does not want big, unmovable, run-stuffing 1-techs. He wants all of his linemen to be able to get upfield. Now, with Antwaun Woods and hopefully Christian Covington, he has what he desires. Hill gives him the same ability to rotate with Maliek Collins at 3-tech. Add in what is happening out at end, and the pass rush should take a considerable step forward.
While the defensive line certainly got some much-needed attention this offseason, the back seven saw much less. Instead, the Cowboys were focused on the offense. And there, it all comes together.
Start with the offensive line. If the anticipated improvements and corrections pan out, both the running and passing games get big boosts. There is also the interplay between running and passing. Tight end got a ton of football savvy back in Jason Witten, and he already knows his quarterback. Then add in the serious infusion of speed at wide receiver and running back, and it all just gets better and better.
Now put that all in Kellen Moore’s hands. Lack of experience is an understandable concern, but his time in the red-hot Boise State offense should point to what he is going to try. Motion, disguise, and unpredictability are just another layer he can add to the improvements on offense. Our own Dave Halprin pointed to another factor that Moore should be bringing forward from his college days, and that is the pace of the offense. It is an excellent point, because Prescott has been quite good in hurry-up situations.
Throw all this in the blender, and what comes out can easily be far more than you might realize when you look at the discrete elements. If you go back to the first article in the series, you saw this was already something that was affecting the assessment.
There is another form of synergy that I would add for the Cowboys, and that was the much better use of trades and free agency to get Cooper, Quinn and Cobb, with Covington, Hyder, and George Iloka all having an opportunity to contribute as well. That has been something of a missing element for a team that has established a superior track record in the draft over the past decade or so. Now the staff seems to have gotten everything working in concert, and you can see how it is just one more part of things.
While it is just about inevitable that a thing or two won’t go quite as envisioned, there are so many places that things look to be improved that the team can probably not just survive shortfalls, but should still thrive. So the overall conclusion for the entire series is that the Cowboys did an excellent, perhaps outstanding job in making the roster better. We’ll find out just how accurate that is soon, with training camp less than a month away.