In my opinion the sports world is in a little bit of a lull. The NBA Finals are underway but I am tired of seeing the Cavs Warriors especially when this years Cleveland team is not even close to what it used to be. The MLB season is underway, but its past the opening year excitement and it feels repetitive to write about guys off to hot starts who will eventually fall back down to earth. So let’s talk about something every American loves. Football. The season is a little ways away, but it is never too early to start talking about the game, specifically “America’s Team”.
The Dallas Cowboys have had a very transformative offseason. They cut ties with wide receiver Dez Bryant at the same time that longtime tight end Jason Witten retired to step into the booth at ESPN.
There is going to be a culture change in the locker room with two of the Boys longest tenured players leaving the confines of “Jerry World”, but how much will it actually affect the teams journey to get back to the postseason after a disappointing 9-7 year?
First of all, QB Dak Prescott has shown enough leadership over his first two seasons that it seems the loss of Witten and Bryant won’t have too much of a negative impact on the team. What will make the biggest impact is the fact that both players won’t be suiting up for Dallas in 2018-19.
With Witten and Bryant leaving, the Cowboys’ skill position group is led by running back Ezekiel Elliot and not much after. Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, and free agent acquisition Allen Hurns are going to be split out wide while the starting tight end spot will be determined by practice, training camp, and the preseason.
Prescott has created a rapport with Beasley, Williams, and Elliot out of the backfield but replacing guys like Witten and Bryant could be a big problem. Even though they weren’t the same players that they were in previous years, the two still forced defensives to put a focus on them due to what they have accomplished in such a competitive league. Replacing them with the Allen Hurns’s of the world is not going to replicate their presence.
Whether or not Dallas has the weaponry on offense to win this year without Witten and Bryant is going to be determined by the play of the quarterback.
Good quarterbacks make good receivers. We have seen with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, as they have help build the careers of skill guys Pierre Garcon, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Dallas Clark, etc.
Fans need to realize that skill position players can come from anywhere. Adam Thielen? He wasn’t a first round pick. Thielen actually wasn’t even drafted, but who cares where these guys come from? The only thing that matters is how they perform on the field, but the Cowboys aforementioned QB is going to need to help them. Will Captain Dak be able to do that in his third full season to get his team back to the playoffs? That is yet to be determined, but it helps that a healthy offensive line and a non-suspended Elliot will be back to help set up the play-action game. Still, it is going to be tough for Dak and Co. to beat out the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, and the rest of the revamped NFC East for the division crown or a Wild Card spot.
-Jarrod Ribaudo (@Jribs53)