What is the saying? The coldest winter of my life was a summer I spent in San Francisco?
California is awesome, and in the summer it does its best to show off. Speaking personally here, my family and I are actually getting set to head on out to the San Diego area for a week. If you have any tips for the region please feel free to reach out, or if you want to provide some well wishes for taking an infant to Disneyland for a day. I am scared.
As much work as my own trip might be, the Dallas Cowboys are going to have to do even more when they travel out to the West Coast (the real one, not the Texas Coast one the team has going on) later this month. We are about three weeks away from the Cowboys holding their first training camp practice while out near the Pacific Ocean. And while breathing in the cooler air, and munching on In-N-Out, they have a lot to do.
Some things are a bit more essential than others. You don’t win the Super Bowl in July or August, but you lay the foundation and all of the other cliches.
Here are five things the Cowboys need to make sure are done before they pack up to return to The Star.
Really figure out the plan at left guard
When it was reported that Tyron Smith would officially return to the Cowboys for his 100th season with the team there was celebration among us all. He is one of the best tackles that this team has ever had and when healthy he is still very close to that player.
Unfortunately the ‘when healthy’ is rather important. Consider that Dak Prescott is the longest-tenured starting quarterback in the NFL (with his specific team) and that he has never had Tyron Smith available at his blind side for an entire season. It has been that long.
So while Smith’s presence is a great thing, it is also a landmine that we have to dance around like Will Smith and Martin Lawrence at the end of Bad Boys II. He’s going to get hurt, right? At what point? Mid-season? Late in the year? Before it all starts like literally this past season? The unknown is terrifying which means establishing a plan across the line is important.
And that is why answering the left guard conundrum is almost the highest priority that the team has right now. If the Cowboys want to commit to Tyler Smith at left guard then that makes all the sense in the world, until he has to kick outside when Tyron is missing time. If left guard isn’t Tyler, who is it? Matt Farniok? Chuma Edoga? T.J. Bass? Terence Steele or Josh Ball, presuming they are serious about moving one?
Obviously the Cowboys have a plan that they are going to move forward with, but the dance of offensive linemen is going to happen one way or another so they need to make sure they have the proper contingency plans in place.
Pick a lane at tight end
The Jake Ferguson Club feels a bit full right now, so much that I think there is even a line out the door. I am not in the building or even in line, heck I haven’t even put my shoes on at home to get in the car and head that way.
None of this is because I think Ferguson is a bad player or anything, but the sample size was just so incredibly small last year. The idea that he has the tight end position by the horns right now feels a bit premature, especially considering the Cowboys just spent a second-round pick there. Not to mention that Peyton Hendershot, you know, exists.
Like a lot of quarterbacks, Dak relies on his tight ends, but especially in the redzone. Consider how many touchdowns he has thrown to the position over the last few years.
- 2019 (16 games): 7 of 30 (23%) - Jason Witten led the way with 4
- 2020 (5 games): 2 of 9 (22%) - Dalton Schultz had both of them
- 2021 (16 games): 11 of 37 (30%) - Dalton Schultz led the way with 8
- 2022 (12 games): 8 of 23 (35%) - Dalton Schultz led the way with 5
- Total over the last four seasons: 28 of 99 (28%) - Dalton Schultz with 15 of them
Just over half of the touchdowns that Dak Prescott has thrown to tight ends over the last four years (when he elevated his game more as a passer) all went to Dalton Schultz, who is now a member of the Houston Texans. The question as to who the torch will be passed to must be answered. Jake Ferguson having the most seniority and holding the highest draft position (fourth round to Hendershot’s path of going undrafted) hardly swaps him in.
And just one final note in that many consider the Wild Card win in Tampa to be one of the finer performances of Dak Prescott’s career. That is fair, right?
Dalton Schultz caught two touchdowns in that game specifically (he also caught two in Tennessee). The water has to flow somewhere.
Get at least one, ideally two, long-term deals done
We are all painfully aware of the contracts (of varying degrees) that the Cowboys have hanging over their heads at the moment. Dak Prescott, CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs, Tony Pollard, Terence Steele and Tyler Biadasz all have representatives who are likely going to have their phones ready over the next 60 days and change. This is hardly a priority list as much as a collection of the names that the team needs to figure out the statuses on, but as you can see the list is long.
As far as priority though, Diggs, Pollard, Steele and Biadasz are all entering the final year of their current deals with the team. If Dallas were to not lock down any of them they would risk heading into next offseason where Micah Parsons will become eligible for an extension, which will be like one of those antiderivative signs in front of a math problem that significantly changes the calculus involved.
Work obviously has to be done on the field but it is essential for certain pens to meet certain sheets of paper as well.
Make sure enough veteran days are had
There are undeniably questions hovering around the Cowboys in certain capacities but for the most part things are pretty chalk, are they not? At least they are expected to be.
We are talking about a nucleus that has won 12 games in back-to-back years, a playoff contest a year ago, and a group that is returning a majority of what they had and needed to work with to hopefully get over the next hurdle. Nobody is wondering about chemistry between Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb or how Dan Quinn is going to figure out how to use his bevy of pass rushers.
It is unpopular to say but the Cowboys have earned the benefit of the doubt on some things which is why we do not need any acts of heroism at camp. The battle of attrition that is an NFL season means that our goals are accomplished in the days of winter, not when the sidewalk can cook an egg (perhaps not in California as noted above).
The standard veterans (we all know the ones) deserve their rest. It is a marathon, not a sprint.
Pick a kicker
This feels incredibly important but allow me to ask you a question:
Do you know who the Cowboys kickers were this time last year?
Maybe you do, maybe you do not, but I will help you out anyway. One year ago we were all hopeful that UDFA Jonathan Garibay was going to show out and be the next Dan Bailey. Lirim Hajrullahu was also on the roster, but things were never supposed to come down to him.
As we all know both Garibay and Hajrullahu floundered which led to the team bringing in options to work out. Shockingly, amazingly, Brett Maher was the best that they could do and they proved a bunch of people (myself chief among them) wrong. Maher was awesome until he was not (we do not need to revisit that).
Just recently, Tristan Vizcaino was the only real option that the team had at the kicking position up until Brandon Aubrey joined the conversation. Whether it is one of them or somebody else, the answer must be found.