The NFL’s top 15 QBs entering 2020: Where does the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott rank among the league’s best?-John Owning, Dallas Morning News
Where does the Cowboys signal-caller rank among the rest of the NFL?
Where does Dak Prescott rank among the league’s best quarterbacks? Let’s find out. Note: The following is based on who I believe to be the best quarterbacks entering 2020, not the best careers or who had the best season in 2019.
8. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
2019 stats: 388 of 596 (65.1%) for 4,902 yards (8.2 yards per attempt), 30 TDs and 11 INTs; 71.2 QBR; 52 carries for 277 yards and three TDs.
With Kellen Moore as his play-caller, Dak Prescott had an outstanding season in which he displayed a lot of improvement. Prescott was extremely aggressive in 2019, pushing the ball 20-plus yards downfield on 12.8% of his passes — by far the most in his career. That downfield aggressiveness combined with better lower-body throwing mechanics led to Prescott being more accurate than ever on deep passes, as his 52.6% adjusted completion rate on deep throws — a career high — ranked third among quarterbacks with at least 30 attempts of 20-plus yards. Prescott’s productivity could have been even better if his weapons didn’t have a season-long case of butterfingers — 36 of Prescott’s passes were dropped in 2019, the most in the NFL. On top of his passing ability, Prescott is also one of the most gifted runners at the position. He finished third in yards per attempt (5.3) and avoided tackles (14) among quarterbacks with more than 25 carries, according to PFF. An injury to his throwing shoulder toward the end of the season caused a decline in his play, but he played well enough otherwise that the Cowboys should be confident in his future. They need to pay this man before he gets even more expensive.
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Baltimore Ravens: Picks 28 & 57
Carolina Panthers: Picks 7 & 38
Chicago Bears: Picks 43 & 50
Denver Broncos: Picks 15 & 46
Detroit Lions: Picks 3 & 35
Green Bay Packers: Picks 30 & 62
Kansas City Chiefs: Picks 32 & 64
Las Vegas Raiders: Picks 12 & 19
Los Angeles Rams: Pick 52
Minnesota Vikings: Picks 25 & 59
New England Patriots: Pick 23
New Orleans Saints: Pick 24
Pittsburgh Steelers: Pick 49
San Francisco 49ers: Picks 31 & 63
Seattle Seahawks: Picks 27 & 60
Tennessee Titans: Picks 29 & 61
Cowboys free agents most likely to return: Why you can’t count out an 11th season in Dallas for Sean Lee-Michael Gehlken, Dallas Morning News
Is there reason to doubt a return of Sean Lee in 2020?
2019 impact: The Cowboys managed Sean Lee’s body and ensured his mind made it onto the field. After missing most of camp and while routinely skipping Friday practices, the 10th-year NFL linebacker compiled the first 16-game campaign of his career. His presence helped mitigate the absence of Leighton Vander Esch (neck). In Week 15, coaches named Lee the game’s MVP for recording a sack and interception during a win over the Los Angeles Rams. Technically, Lee’s 84 snaps on special teams were a career high. But he largely remained a non-factor in that department.
Could Anthony Brown be an under-the-radar priority for the Cowboys this offseason?
Not exactly a ringing endorsement. If I were Byron Jones, I’d be packing my bags. In light of all this, signing slot corner Anthony Brown should be a no-brainer. There are a few reasons for this. And it’s not just because he’d likely take a reasonably priced contract.
Yes, that’s important. The Cowboys could probably sign Brown for five-to-six million dollars a year, around a third of Jones’s projected contract. Equally importantly, however, letting both Jones and Brown walk in the same year would put the Cowboys in a very tough spot.
They’d need two new quality cornerbacks. That’s basically an emergency. Meanwhile, Dallas is already facing a crisis on the defensive line, where over half the guys could be gone. Remember, three of Dallas’s four safeties are also free agents this year. Bear in mind that Dallas’s two other corners — Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis — will likewise be free agents next year, as will safety Xavier Woods. Do you really want Dallas to turn over its entire defensive backfield in the next 15 months?
New DC Mike Nolan wants a certain type of mentality from his new defense.
Nolan, 60, spent the past three years as the linebackers coach of the New Orleans Saints but has 32 years experience as an NFL coach. He was the San Francisco 49ers' head coach from 2005 through 2008, following in his father's footsteps (49ers coach, 1968-75). Mike has been a defensive coordinator for seven NFL teams. He has been involved in both 3-4 and 4-3 defensive schemes, but with the Cowboys will continue with the four-man front the team has employed since 2013.
Even that doesn't mean much these days to Nolan. "It is really just a personnel decision to get your best 11 on the field," Nolan said. "Outside of that, it's just spacing between the 11 players you have."
Regardless of system, he wants his defense to be relentless. "You want it to look like a swarming type of mentality," Nolan said. "I believe there's parts of coaching that goes into that. The things you do with players, the way you teach your players, everything from the language to the scheme, I think, are all critical factors in making it looking just like that."
If Byron Jones departs, Dallas is going to need a big year from Chidobe Awuzie in 2020.
If you look at his numbers on face value, he had his best season ever with 79 tackles, 14 passes defended, an interception, and a forced fumble. However, situationally Awuzie gave up quite a few crucial plays that kept the chains moving for the opposition. So much so that he would eventually get benched at times in favor of Jourdan Lewis, who has proven to be a more reliable and consistent option.
The head-scratching thing about watching Awuzie is that when he actually gets his head around in coverage and plays the ball he doesn’t get beat much. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen often enough which causes him to give up completions because he plays the receiver instead. If there was an award for corners who get beat despite having good pretty good coverage Awuzie might win unanimously. He’s always right there, but he doesn’t consistently apply the basic fundamentals that would make him trustworthy.
This was never more on display than it was in the Cowboys biggest of the season in Week 16 when they took on the Philadelphia Eagles with a chance to wrap up the NFC East. After probably his best game of the season in a 44-21 blowout win against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 15, Awuzie struggled when it mattered the most. Quarterback Carson sought out Awuzie several times when the Eagles needed to keep drives alive, and he did it successfully. This led to Jourdan Lewis, as I mentioned earlier, replacing Awuzie in the Cowboys base 4-3 look.
How Mike McCarthy played a large role in getting new linebackers coach Scott McCurley to Dallas.
McCurley started with McCarthy as an intern in Green Bay back in 2006 and worked his way up to coaching the linebackers, most notably helping Clay Matthews transition to inside linebacker in the middle of his career. But when McCarthy was fired by the Packers in 2018, McCurley showed his faith and loyalty in the man who gave him his shot.
After parting ways with Green Bay, McCarthy decided that he would dedicate his time to studying film, researching analytics, and understanding what innovations various teams are using to find success. He and a small circle of coaches, including McCurley, formed what was deemed "The McCarthy Project." The thinking was that the former Packers coach would get another shot at running an NFL team, and when that happened, he and a few select people he wanted around him would be ready.
But as the 2019 season came around and McCarthy was still unemployed, sticking with him meant having patience in something not guaranteed. McCurley and his wife have two children, and he admitted that there were some "scary times." He was offered a position on the LSU staff as an analyst, which would have earned him a National Championship, but he turned it down.
"I didn't know at first how it would work out, but I knew I trusted in Mike," McCurley said. "I knew the kind of coach he was, the kind of person he was. I was confident that he would get another opportunity, and that's who I wanted to be with."
Which Cowboys extension of a year ago are you the most pleased with? What about the most upset by? We discuss on the latest episode of The Ocho.
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