We’ll continue a series of opponent preview posts for the New Orleans Saints opponents in 2018. Next up, “America’s Team,” the Dallas Cowboys. David Halprin of Blogging the Boys took some time to give us Saints fans the scoop one of the talented and young NFC East opponents.
Week 13: @ the Dallas Cowboys
What were the biggest additions and/or subtractions (not via the draft) to the team’s roster from last year?
We’ll start with the biggest subtractions first, since they have been a dominant story this offseason. The Cowboys lost two offensive anchors who have helped define the team recently. Jason Witten retired to head to the broadcast booth and Dez Bryant was released when the Cowboys determined production was no longer meeting cash outlay. Those two players have dominated the Cowboys offense so it’s a big shift for the organization. The Witten absence could be very significant as the Cowboys have some unproven players at the position heading into the season.
The Cowboys biggest addition is probably wide receiver Allen Hurns, who is not a direct replacement for Dez Bryant, but was definitely brought in to supplement the wide receiver group. He is a veteran who should help the Cowboys new WR-by-committee approach. The Cowboys also added reserve tackle Cameron Fleming, which could be huge given the tenuous health of Tyron Smith over the past couple of seasons. When Smith went down last year, the Cowboys had no answer among the reserves and the season hit a downward spiral. Dallas also added Tavon Austin, but it remains to be seen if they can unlock the secret of consistent production from the speedster, something that has eluded his previous employer. For the most part, though, the Cowboys are building their roster through the draft.
What was the biggest surprise move the team made - or didn’t make - this offseason?
The biggest surprise move had to be cutting Dez Bryant. Sure, Stephen Jones had kind of hinted at it earlier in the offseason, but most observers really felt like Dallas was just setting the ground for some kind of contract re-negotiation. Also, since the money made more sense to wait and cut him next year, there was a feeling that Dez would be here at least one more year. Once free agency hit and he was still on the roster, it felt like that the situation was kind of settled. The Cowboys waited a long time into the offseason to finally make the move, and given Jerry Jones’ loyalty to players, and how much he personally likes Dez, it felt kind of unreal when it happened. All of that is not to say it was unwarranted, Bryant’s production had slipped and he and Dak Prescott didn’t seem to fit together as well as Bryant and Tony Romo. The Cowboys are changing their offense some, and Bryant’s contract and style of play just didn’t fit.
What is the biggest storyline heading into Week 1?
The Cowboys re-tooled offense will be under heavy scrutiny. Of course Dallas still has Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott, but they will be breaking in a new starting tight end, and the options there have yet to prove themselves. They will also be looking at a revamped wide receiver group that won’t be dominated by the presence of Dez Bryant. The Cowboys have also hinted at a changing philosophy in their passing game that might move away from their vertical, downfield routes as their staple. Dak Prescott hinted earlier this year that the Cowboys may start taking some stuff from offenses like the Panthers and the Chiefs. This could include more run-pass options, more moving of the quarterback out of the pocket, an increased short-passing game, and other stuff to keep defenses off-balance Then there is the presence of Tavon Austin, who knows how they may use him? It feels like the Cowboys are going to be a different team on offense this year and that is both exciting and scary.
What is the outlook for the team? Are the playoffs in sight?
The Cowboys are definitely looking at the playoffs this year. In no way do they consider this a rebuild. We’ve talked a lot about the offense, but the Cowboys defense may be in for a renaissance. They re-made their secondary last year by infusing a bunch of young talent, and it paid off. The players back there are viable. They brought in Kris Richard as the secondary coach/passing game coordinator from Seattle, where he helped create the Legion of Boom. Dallas added a nice piece at linebacker when they drafted Leighton Vander Esch in the first round to complement Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith. And DeMarcus Lawrence will be back among others in the pass rush. If the Cowboys offense gels quickly, and the defense rises to its potential, there is no reason the Cowboys shouldn’t challenge for the playoffs and make some noise if they get there.
Final answer: what’s your prediction for the team’s final record?
I did one of these same previews for SB Nation’s Giants’ blog, Big Blue View, just a week ago. So I’ll just go ahead and repeat what I told them when this question came up -- I’m an eternal optimist, although I also try to deal in reality. Still it is the offseason, a time when all team’s have hope, so I’m going to go on the positive side of expectations and predict a 10-6 record and a playoff spot. After all, everybody thinks the Cowboys had a down year in 2017, and they still managed a 9-7 record.
A big thanks to David for taking the time to answer our questions. Make sure you check out his work and the rest of the good folks at Blogging the Boys for tons of Cowboys content. You can check out Blogging the Boys on Facebook, on Twitter @BloggingtheBoys, and of course you can always follow me @dunnellz.
So what says you, you unbiased Saints fans? Do the Saints win on the road in Jerry’s House? Vote in the poll. Explain in the comments. And make sure you also check out DraftDividends.com, a website for a new book I’m writing currently titled Draft Picks and Dividends: A Fantasy Football Player’s Guide to Understanding the Stock Market.
How will the Saints fare against the Cowboys in Week 13?
This poll is closed