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Why the Cowboys could finally put together back-to-back playoff seasons

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The sequel has been the hard part for the Cowboys.

NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys are coming off a 10-6 season and an NFC East title. They snagged a playoff victory and look like a team on the rise. A defense that took the next step paired with an offense that has the tools to be potent should point to bigger and better things in 2019. But, as Cowboys fans, we’ve been here before.

As my colleague Michael Strawn detailed in a recent article, the Cowboys have had multiple opportunities in recent history to build off of promising seasons. Each time they failed. In 2008 the team seemed to fall apart and a short-term injury to Tony Romo didn’t help. 2010 was a similar theme, this time with a more severe injury to Tony Romo. This was the year Wade Phillips was fired and Jason Garrett was elevated to head coach. 2015 was the year of poor backup QBs after Romo was once again injured for most of the season, then 2017 had the Ezekiel Elliott suspension saga and Tyron Smith’s ailing health to derail things.

If you look at that history, availability of key players and the inability of the backups to get the job done have played key roles. This is something Dallas has managed poorly while other teams (sigh, the Philadelphia Eagles) have done a better job with recently.

So the question of the Cowboys finally putting together back-to-back playoff seasons was posed to the crew over at the Mothership.

Since the late 2000s, anytime the Cowboys have entered a season with high expectations coming from the media/fans, they have failed to live up to them, in some instances pretty miserably. I know injuries played a role for a couple of those. But, something about this year’s team feels different than those to me. I should probably temper my expectations a bit, but what do you think could be different about this team that will help it overcome the challenges that have plagued the teams of the recent past? - JAMES MITCHELL

Bryan: I think the roster has a chance to be outstanding. I don’t like the schedule and I have my questions about the head coach, but he’s proven me wrong before. As you mentioned, health will be the biggest thing that potentially could take this team down. If they can avoid that issue, your feelings could be accurate.

Rob: One difference is it’s a younger team than the 2008, 2010, 2017 teams that didn’t make the playoffs despite Super Bowl expectations. Let me clarify that: It’s a younger, yet battle-tested team. It’s fair to think a lot of the young guys will improve based on the experience they got last season: climbing out of a 3-5 hole and making the second round of the playoffs. I agree with Bryan that the schedule looks unforgiving. Whatever the record ends up being, this team is better on paper than last year.

The Cowboys do seem to have a deeper roster this year, with quality backups on the offensive line, at wide receiver and linebacker, and the defensive line and cornerback spot also have a chance at quality depth. But if you want to look at the possible trouble spots, quarterback and running back are worrisome. Running back has a better chance of being okay if the Cowboys depth is tested. Tony Pollard may be able to hold it down with the help of Mike Weber. Darius Jackson would also be a possibility. At quarterback, though, the Cowboys are really playing with fire. Cooper Rush and Mike White will not inspire confidence in anyone if they are called on to replace Dak Prescott for any amount of time.

Of course, the loss of a quarterback at any franchise is usually a big problem (unless you got Nick Foles in reserve). So the Cowboys are betting on Prescott and throwing caution to the wind there.

The Cowboys roster does seem deeper than in year’s past. One of the most important positions where they have that depth is the offensive line. With Travis Frederick returning, Joe Looney, Connor McGovern, and Cameron Fleming are an outstanding bench.

In that article referenced above by Michael Strawn, he listed out several reasons for optimism.

The elevation of Kellen Moore to the offensive coordinator position has many fantasizing about the Cowboys joining progressive teams such as the Chief, Patriots and Rams with a whiz-bang, innovative offensive scheme.

Dak Prescott is a year older, more mature and thus should be improved. Heck, even if he’s not improved, he’s been pretty good throughout his brief career. If you need more evidence we have it. If you’re still not convinced, maybe the addition of an inspiring quarterbacks coach who emphasizes footwork and fundamentals will make you feel better about the quarterback position.

The Cowboys lost only a few minor pieces from the roster while adding solid candidates as replacements. Depth should be better than it has in many years. Some think Dallas has one of the five best top-to-bottom rosters in the league.

After going with an ill-conceived “receiver by committee” approach in 2018, the Cowboys enter 2019 with perhaps the deepest group of receivers in recent history.

Dallas drafted Tony Pollard, an exciting complementary back, to both reduce the load placed on Ezekiel Elliott and provide a dynamic, open-space weapon.

Added a quality, proven edge-rusher (Robert Quinn) for the bargain-basement cost of a 6th-round draft pick.

There has been concern that all the team’s young, high caliber players will put the team in salary cap hell - but that’s unlikely.

Even when the team’s roster took a hit (goodbye Cole Beasley), they managed to upgrade his position (hello Randall Cobb).

So BTB, what’s your confidence level in the Cowboys as training camp approaches?

Poll

My confidence level in the Cowboys for 2019 is...

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    100%, they are going back to the playoffs
    (617 votes)
  • 33%
    90%, I feel good but there is always some doubt
    (521 votes)
  • 18%
    75%, I’m optimistic, but keep it in check
    (290 votes)
  • 5%
    50%, every year is a crapshoot so who knows
    (81 votes)
  • 2%
    less than 50%, their history has me scared
    (34 votes)
1543 votes total Vote Now