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ESPN rankings has Cowboys with sixth-best “offensive arsenal” heading into 2019

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The Cowboys have the talent, now they have to make it work.

Divisional Round - Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Over the past month, we’ve noted on several occasions that NFL observers are giving some love to the Cowboys roster. In one instance it was called a top five roster, in another it was tabbed as the second-best in the NFL. Lofty praise indeed. An ex-player/ESPN commentator said the Cowboys were definitely a threat for the Super Bowl, and the team landed seven players in the NFL top 100.

Today, the Cowboys received some more love when discussing offensive weapons. Bill Barnwell put together a ranking of “offensive arsenals” across the league. These arsenals include skill-positions on offense, but not the quarterback. Essentially, it’s wide receivers, running backs and tight ends.

There were also some rules he followed:

  • Considering how these players will perform in 2019. This looks at age and injury curves as applied only to 2019, and includes expected suspensions.
  • The arsenals are weighted more toward receivers. The average pay of elite receivers is twice that of elite running backs and tight ends. The NFL is a passing league.
  • Top-level talent wins out over depth. The rankings are weighted toward the top six performers, but depth helped some teams when scores were similar.

So given all those parameters, just how did the Cowboys do? Pretty darn well, especially considering where they ranked last year.

6. Dallas Cowboys

2018 rank: No. 30 | 2017: No. 5

Talk about a swing! The Cowboys headed into 2018 with Ezekiel Elliott and a laughably bad receiving corps, but one year later, there’s a lot to like for Dak Prescott. The trade for Amari Cooper revitalized Dallas’s passing game; Prescott posted a 104.6 passer rating with the star wideout on the field and an 86.8 rating with Cooper sidelined or in Oakland. Michael Gallup got better as the year went along, finishing with a 119-yard performance against the Rams during the postseason.

And though Jason Witten might not have much left in the tank at age 37 after returning from a year of broadcasting, Dallas’ starting tight ends last season posted a combined line of 38 catches for 345 yards and one touchdown. Even a limited Witten should be a comfortable upgrade in offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s offense.

The Cowboys went from 30th to fifth in one year. Call that the Amari Cooper effect. But Barnwell also shines the light (as we did recently) on the improvement of Gallup. That combo with Randall Cobb manning the slot has made the receiver group viable again. With Zeke in the backfield and the returned Jason Witten, that’s serious firepower for Dak Prescott.

Now, just because you have weapons on offense, it doesn’t mean you are going to be a good football team. As an example, the New York Giants rank eighth on this list, and we know that team will struggle. You still need a quarterback and an offensive line that can control the line of scrimmage. The team from Washington doesn’t even factor in here as they were rated 28th.

It’s that team from Philly, though, that beats out the Cowboys . They are ranked fourth and that is because their depth is enviable. Barnwell concedes that it is the sum of the parts that outweighs the individual talents for the Eagles.

The Cowboys have a ton of talent on the roster, it’s hard to create a credible argument against that. When you have that, the pressure really shifts to the coaching staff. Jason Garrett, Kellen Moore and the rest have the horses, barring a rash of major injuries, to make this work. If they don’t, big changes will be coming to Dallas.