The Dallas Cowboys went 4-12 last season, reversing the record of the previous, when they were NFC East Champs. However, last season’s debacle was a blessing in disguise.
The Dallas Cowboys had big aspirations going into the 2015 season because they were the defending NFC East Champs, finished 12-4, won a playoff game, and came close to defeating the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional round of the 2014 playoffs.
The Cowboys looked to duplicate their success of the previous season, but it came to a screeching halt with injuries to quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant. The Cowboys lost two of the most important players on their team. They lost the leadership from Romo and fiery motivation from Bryant, the man who led all wide outs in touchdown receptions in 2014.
With an injured Bryant not at full strength, and the other receivers not stepping up their game, the team suffered tremendously, despite the defense playing as hard as it could.
Now that the Cowboys suffered its worse season since 1989, and was rewarded a top draft pick, it was a blessing in disguise in some ways. In fact, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to this storied franchise.
I know you all think I have lost my mind by saying that, but I haven’t. I’ll explain.
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This is why going 4-12 was a blessing in disguise.
When NFL leading rusher DeMarco Murray left for free agency to join the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys’ brass assumed the running game wouldn’t skip a beat with Joseph Randle as the primary runner and veteran Darren McFadden backing him up. The belief was that anyone and their grandmother could run behind the Cowboys’ massive offensive line, who are regarded as the best in the league.
Well that didn’t happen.
Randle was inept and eventually released for off the field issues, and Lance Dunbar tore his ACL to end a promising season. McFadden rushed for a 1,000 yards, but the injury-prone veteran isn’t the future running back the Cowboys are looking for.
Since the Cowboys missed the magnificent running ability of Murray, Dallas wisely drafted Elliott, a runner with 4.47 speed who was regarded the best running back in the draft. The talented and versatile back out of Ohio State University can do it all, breaking tackles, has a quick first step, fast to the hole, great vision, and capable of taking any run to pay dirt.
Elliott is a smart back, picking up blitzing linebackers, and blessed with good hands to catch passes out of the backfield.
In short, Elliott is the total package, standing 6’0, 225 pounds. The former Buckeyes’ back is more talented than Murray with potential to get even better.
Because of Elliott’s presence, Vegas instantly made the Cowboys the favorites to win the NFC East. Elliott is seen as another Todd Gurley, the Los Angeles Rams starting running back.
Now that is one hell of a comparison and complement.
Basically, Elliott is seen as a game changer, a player that will elevate a team to the Super Bowl. The explosive back will be a game changer because he’ll allow the Cowboys to control the line of scrimmage and the time of possession, a category the Cowboys led the league in 2014.
Further, opposing defenses can no longer stack the box with eight defenders because of the single coverage on Bryant.
Also, Elliott protects Romo with a bona fide running game with the rookie as the primary back, while McFadden and Alfred Morris serve as backups. Plus, Elliott allows the Cowboys to use that highly, anticipated play action pass.
There isn’t an NFL team that can defend the Cowboys running and passing game at the same time.
Defenses will have to pick their poison like they did in 2014.
Speaking of defense, Elliott will allow the Cowboys to lean heavily on their running game, giving the pass-rush deficient defense a well deserved rest.
What better way to keep the defense off the field than chewing up clock with 13-play drives.
For the first time since he joined the Cowboys as an undrafted rookie, Romo has pressure on his back (pun not intended). Since Romo took over as the Cowboys starting quarterback on that Monday Night Football game against the New York Giants, he’s never had backup quarterbacks capable of taking his job.
That’s not the case anymore.
It’s well documented that the Cowboys tried to trade up and draft Paxton Lynch, but missed out because John Elway beat them to the punch. If you don’t understand the significance of Dallas’ intentions of trading up for Lynch, let me explain it in layman terms.
The Cowboys were drafting their next franchise quarterback to groom because of Romo’s injury-prone history. Simply put, the next time Romo goes down with a season-ending injury or an injury that keeps him out for a long period of time, the Cowboys are moving on to their next quarterback.
That’s where backup quarterback position comes into play. Kellen Moore and the newly drafted Dak Prescott are not scrubs. Moore has shown flashes that he can play in the NFL, despite not having a large sample size.
Moore might not have the athletic ability of Romo, but he’s smart and more than capable of leading the Cowboys with a healthy Bryant and a potent running game.
Prescott is a talented and athletic quarterback with a rocket as an arm. If not for a DUI, Prescott was seen as a late first round or early second pick — definitely not a fourth rounder, where the Cowboys selected him.
Prescott is just as talented as Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Lynch. Although those aforementioned quarterbacks are good, they weren’t seen as the next Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, or Marcus Mariota. They aren’t cant-miss-franchise quarterbacks.
Meaning, as always, the beauty is in the eye of the general manager drafting the quarterback.
Ironically, Prescott’s game is more like Romo’s: mobile, shifty, capable of making plays out of nothing, and having the instinct to lead his team on game winning drives. Prescott is the real deal, a quarterback that will need some grooming, but has a high ceiling.
The former Mississippi State signal caller is not a long-term project that needs to sit the bench for several years. He’s more than capable of starting when the opportunity presents itself, similar to Romo back in 2006.
Romo knows this and so do the Cowboys’ brass. With the pressure not to get injured, or perform poorly, Romo will do more than perform at the highest level because there is someone who can take his job.
Competition makes players better.
More than anything, the Cowboys were already a talented team with Pro Bowlers spread across the roster, and they were gifted a top draft choice, not to mention snatching up Jaylon Smith, rated the best defensive player in the draft.
And that is a blessing in disguise.