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Six predictions for the Dallas Cowboys 2019 season

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Last chance to make your guesses for how this new season plays out.

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It’s football time again, and with it comes a fresh new opportunity to drag out the crystal ball and show our prognosticating skills. It’s fun to take a shot at predicting what the new season entails as we have spent the last several months gathering data and getting a sense of just how good this Dallas Cowboys football team is. Will they sputter, causing a changing of the guard at head coach? Or will this be the year they finally get that divisional round monkey off their back?

It’s hard to know for sure, but that doesn’t stop us from trying to figure it out. Last year, I stood up on the table and made these predictions:

Looking back, it doesn’t seem so bold now, but it was not well-received at the time. Nobody had much faith in the Cowboys defense at that point, and Jaylon Smith was coming off his first year in the league where is movement wasn’t all that great. And the Philadelphia Eagles were coming off their one and only title, so picking the Cowboys over them didn’t go over all too well. But we all know how it turned out and it wasn’t so ludicrous to pick the Cowboys to win the division after all.

With a new season upon us, let’s get to this year’s predictions...

The defense is good. No, I mean...really good!

The Cowboys have playmakers across all levels. DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the best defensive ends in the game. He is a beast against the pass, and he’s a beast against the run. Joining him on the other side is Robert Quinn, who the team traded for this offseason. The defensive line also gets some help in the middle as Maliek Collins is at full strength and had one of the best camps this season. Alongside him will be the unheralded Antwaun Woods, who despite being undersized, is a savvy, tenacious defender.

The linebacker group is one of the strongest in the league. With the young All-Pro Leighton Vander Esch and rising star Jaylon Smith - this group is ferocious. And they have depth as Sean Lee and Joe Thomas give the team strength off the bench.

And probably the most overlooked area on this team is the Cowboys secondary. The team demonstrated last year that their cornerback group was for real, but just think of how much better the secondary can be if their safeties start making plays. With Xavier Woods ready to break out as well as sixth-round rookie Donovan Wilson picking off passes, the Cowboys defensive backs could be playing Kris Richard into a head coaching job real soon.

They also had three fumble recoveries as well as a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown. This defense will be very good, but if they start taking the ball away too - that’s when the starting teetering into that “elite” group.

Prediction: Defense will finish inside the top five in points allowed

A new star corner is born

Last year, we saw Byron Jones have a break out season as he earned All-Pro honors his first year starting at the corner position. And just like that, the Cowboys had another first-round All-Pro. While Jones suffocated receivers all season, he wasn’t the only Cowboys corner to have a strong year. Chidobe Awuzie was quietly pretty darn suffocating himself. Last year was also his first full season starting at corner, and with two less years of experience in the league, Awuzie’s growth window is higher than Jones.

This could be a big year for Awuzie if he shows any indication that he’s gotten even better. Don’t be surprised if it’s a different Cowboys corner who is all the craze this season.

Prediction: Chidobe Awuzie will be the team’s top cornerback

The 2016 draft continues to pay off handsomely

The 2016 draft of the Cowboys will go down as one of the best drafts in their franchises history. Despite the recent releases of running back Darius Jackson and tight end Rico Gathers, the team still has six players from that draft on the team, and five of them are starters. Their first- and second-round picks Ezekiel Elliott and Jaylon Smith have now been signed to second contracts, and Dak Prescott’s extension is right around the corner.

But the guy who gets overlooked quite a bit is third-round pick Maliek Collins. The defensive tackle from Nebraska has battled foot injuries in his first three seasons, which has hampered him some, but he’s still a very good piece to this defense. Collins has finally had an injury free camp and is one of the best performing players in training camp this year. This could be a big year for Collins.

Prediction: Collins plays well enough to flirt with a Pro Bowl bid

A star rises

Many fans were on the fence when Leighton Vander Esch was the Cowboys first-round pick last season. After all, he only had one big year at Boise State; how did we know it wasn’t a fluke? Well, LVE answered that question real fast as the young linebacker turned into a star immediately. Vander Esch earned All-Pro honors in just his rookie year, joining Zeke and Zack Martin as recent rookies to pull that off after over a 45-year lapse since Calvin Hill last accomplished that in 1969.

While it was a great rookie season for LVE, the beautiful thing about it is this kid is still learning. What will Year 2 bring? Look out for the Wolf Hunter to show out even more as he and Jaylon Smith clean up with tackles left and right. Vander Esch’s athleticism will be on display as well, and if he can pull off a couple defensive scores, he could put himself in the running for top defensive player in the league.

Prediction: Vander Esch gets Defensive Player of the Year votes

A breakout season for Gallup

The Cowboys wide receiver group was a hot mess at this time last year, but they’ve done a 180 since. In fact, all five receivers on the Cowboys roster this year hadn’t caught a single pass for the team entering last season. The team traded for Amari Cooper mid-season last year. They traded a late-round pick for Tavon Austin during last year’s draft. Randall Cobb was signed in free agency this offseason. And former second-round pick Devin Smith signed a reserve/future contract with the team in January.

While the front office has done a great job acquiring receivers in all different ways, the one they may end up being most proud of is the emergence of second-year receiver Michael Gallup.

Gallup has had a fantastic camp and his rapport with Prescott continues to grow. His route-running has improved and he’s winning with physicality at the line of scrimmage where he wasn’t last year. These strides could make him a legit threat to make big plays for this offense. With so much attention given to Zeke and Amari, Gallup is going to have some golden opportunities. Similar to what Cooper did for Michael Crabtree in 2016 (they both had 1,000 yards seasons), he could open the door for Gallup this season.

Prediction: Gallup leads team in receiving yards

Taking the next step

If all these things come true, it would be super fantastic, but none of it would mean anything if the Cowboys aren’t in the mix for a Super Bowl appearance. The Cowboys are currently tied for fifth in Vegas odds to win the Super Bowl at 20 to 1. Those figures translate to not making it out of the Wild Card round. For Cowboys fans, that would be a compete disappointment.

Winning a Super Bowl is extremely hard and not winning one doesn’t mean the season is a failure; however, this team needs to make a deep playoff run. They are better than what the oddsmakers are giving them credit for, and the Cowboys will prove it. With an elite defense combined with an improved offense - the Cowboys are poised for something bigger this season.

It’s been 15 years since the NFC East has had a repeat division winner, but all that changes this season. And the party doesn’t stop at the divisional round this time.

Predictions: Cowboys repeat as division champs and reach NFC Championship game

What predictions do you have for the 2019 season?