Never in the same year have two rookies contended for the NFL MVP. What’s more, never in the same year have two rookies contending for the NFL MVP been on the same team.
And now, thanks to the new co-holders of the Galloping Gobbler, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys are 10-1. Their future looks so bright that you need a pair of polarized sunglasses just to catch a glimpse of it. The success has fans partying like it’s 1995. Many believe that Dallas announced itself as a Super Bowl contender a couple of weeks ago, after a big win in Pittsburgh. And every win from then until the playoffs, including Thursday’s 31-26 win over Washington, is just gravy. Hype gravy.
If you didn’t know the Cowboys were an offensive powerhouse, now you know. They rank in the leagues top 5 in yards per game, total first downs, third down conversion rate, and points per game. Dallas is almost as good when they split 5 receivers out wide, as they are when they pound the ball behind their Clint Eastwood biopic worthy offensive line. And other than arguably their most expendable player, right tackle Doug Free, and Jason Witten, the entire unit is less than 30-years-old.
Sure the defense is flawed. It lacks the depth to withstand key injuries, like the ones to Morris Claiborne and Barry Church, and the pass rush is virtually non-existent. A conference championship matchup with Seattle seems increasingly likely, and Dallas’ inability to exploit the Seahawks weak offensive line could be a huge factor, if the two teams end up playing.
However, Cowboys fans aren’t just excited about the 2016 version of the team. They’re excited about the 2017 Cowboys, the 2018 Cowboys, and the 2019 Cowboys.
This excitement starts with building blocks that are already in place. The offensive line will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. Tyron Smith, Zach Martin, and Travis Frederick will all probably be Pro Bowlers this year.
Next are the rookies. Prescott and Elliot have not just been two of the best players at their positions. They have also delivered a jolt of excitement and a sense of dependability that the Cowboys have seemed to lack for almost 20 years. Obviously, they are both going to be around for a long time, and their small rookie contracts will allow Dallas to spend money elsewhere.
Further evidence that the Cowboys can content for and win multiple Super Bowls is not seen on the field. Jaylon Smith, a rookie out of Notre Dame, is not going to play a down this season. That’s because the once-projected top 10 pick suffered a knee injury in the last year’s Fiesta Bowl (ironically, against Elliott’s Ohio State Buckeye’s). The injury caused Smith, a linebacker touted for his above average instincts and phenomenal sideline-to-sideline speed, to slip to into the second round of the NFL Draft. Which is where the team whose doctors performed his surgery, the Cowboys, scooped him up. He will in all likelihood make his debut at the start of the 2017 season and will help fill some of the noticeable holes in Dallas’ defense.
Of course, it will take more than one ball of putty to fill every leaky hole in a defense that gave up more than 500 yards in Thanksgivings game against Washington. But more help could be on the way, and it could be in the form of a Tony Romo trade. Judging off of a market that offered first and fourth round draft picks for an unproven, injury prone Sam Bradford; deep teams in need of a quarterback, such as the Denver Broncos and the New York Jets, might offer a first-rounder for Romo. Not only will moving the high-priced, now-backup quarterback clear up salary cap space that will allow Dallas to hunt free agents, but it could also land the Boys with two first-round picks in the 2017 draft. Which means, the defense might not be the teams’ weak link for long.
The NFL is a competitive place. Before long, a team’s shortcomings get exposed. That could very well happen to the upstart Cowboys this year. However, the championship window will remain wide open, even if Jerry Jones doesn’t raise the Lombardi Trophy at Super Bowl 51. In fact, there might even be several championship windows open at the Cowboys’ condo, and if they stay open, it could mean a dynasty in Dallas.