Dallas Cowboys 2017 Recap
Year after year the expectations in Dallas are Super Bowl or bust, and year after year since 1996 they’ve failed to meet that goal. The 2017 Cowboys, of course, were no different. In 2016 they finished the regular season 13-3 before getting bounced in the Divisional Round of the playoffs by Green Bay. QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott looked tremendous during their rookie campaigns and the Cowboys appeared to be primed for greatness for years to come. Expectations were again through the roof at Jerry’s World, little did they know how drastically things would change for the 2017 season.
The team did not make many roster changes from 2016 to 2017 figuring that they were ready to make a deep playoff run with the players and coaches that were already on their roster. Offensive play-calling was an obvious issue with OC Scott Linehan, and Head Coach Jason Garrett’s failure to make adjustments proved costly. Dallas was 5-3 halfway through the season after winning 3 games in a row (weeks 7-9) and then the wheels fell off.
Star Running Back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended for 6 games, starting in Week 10 after his never-ending legal saga with the NFL finally came to a close. Although backs Alfred Morris and Rod Smith filled in admirably, the Cowboys would lose their next 3 games as their offense was not the same without the 2016 rushing champ. They would go on another 3 game winning streak late in the season before their playoff hopes were spoiled by a loss to the Seahawks.
The Zeke suspension was just the start for the Cowboys mediocre season. Even though the team finished 9-7 and their Offense ranked in the top half of the league in both points and yards, QB Dak Prescott clearly took a step back after his impressive rookie year. His numbers were almost identical to 2016, but he clearly regressed in terms of his accuracy, decision-making, and turnovers. Prescott threw just 4 interceptions in 2016 to 13 in 2017. He also had 8 games where he threw for under 200 yards. However, the regression is not all on Dak’s shoulders. His receivers also took a step back struggling to create any separation from opposing defensive backs.
Dallas receivers Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley saw a significant decline in their production due in large part because they could not get open. Williams did not have a single TD reception in 2017, while Beasley’s yards and catches were more than double in 2016. Boisterous Wide Receiver Dez Bryant had a disappointing 2017 even though he saw an uptick in catches and yards. He would too often go missing for the Cowboys offense when they needed him most. It remains to be seen if Bryant’s lackluster season was due to him losing a step or a product of Dak’s passing struggles. It will be interesting to see if Dez is back with the team in 2018 or if the two ultimately decide to part ways.
|Cowboys Receiving Stats|
|Player||2016 Rec||2017 Rec||2016 Yds||2017 Yds||2016 TD||2017 TD|
Staying on the offensive side of the ball, the loss of Tackle Tyron Smith also weighed heavily on Dallas’ offense. The five-time Pro Bowler’s absence coincided with the suspension of Zeke Elliott leaving the team without their offensive centerpiece and arguably their best lineman. Although he only missed 3 games he was never the same due to his back injury and was eventually forced to end his season early after injuring his knee against Seattle. The offensive line clearly struggled with Smith being injured, forcing Dak to rely more on his mobility to scramble away from pressure.
The Cowboys defense was another story. The unit had an up and down season but was actually a surprise bright spot for the team with the emergence of DE DeMarcus Lawrence and CB Chidobe Awuzie. They ranked 13th in the league in points per game and 8th in yards surrendered. However, the loss of oft-injured Linebacker Sean Lee who led the team in tackles despite missing 5 games undoubtedly hurt Dallas’ defense. Lee’s injuries seem to be a yearly issue and the defense cannot seem to rebound when he is missing from the lineup. In the 5 games that Lee missed their run defense was trampled by opposing backs and the Cowboys lost all 5 games. Dallas was clearly not the same without their defensive leader.
|Run Defense Without Lee|
There will be plenty to think about for the Cowboys this offseason. Their young defense must continue to improve and become less reliant on Linebacker Sean Lee. But their most important task will be getting QB Dak Prescott back on track. With Ezekiel Elliott expected to play a full 16 games (barring injury) the team will look to replicate their 2016 offense when Dak and Zeke were at their best. If they can have that same success, the 2018 ‘Boys will be back in business.[the_ad id=”77877″]
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