Ezekiel Elliott: I’m proud of these guys, we fought all season
First of all, don’t view the team through the prism of their 23-year Super Bowl drought. Each era, whether you count it by head coach or starting quarterback, is different. This Dak Prescott-Ezekiel Elliott era start in 2016 and despite two divisional playoff losses, the nucleus remains strong and got stronger in 2018.
There are a lot of moves to be made and potential changes to be implemented before the 2019 season begins, of course, but as the team stands now, there’s no reason to think another playoff run, perhaps an even deeper one, is coming.
To that end, here are three reasons to be hopeful about the 2019 Cowboys:
1. Center of contention
The Cowboys played the entire season without their best offensive lineman in center Travis Frederick. Although Joe Looney did an admirable job filling in, there’s no replacing a player who was the best in the league at his position. Frederick, who has battled Guillain-Barre syndrome since August, has improved but is still working his way back to playing shape. Good news came on Monday, however, when Jason Garrett said that Frederick is expected to be ready to join the team in its off-season program in March. Not only would Frederick’s return put a Pro Bowler back in the middle of the offense, but
2. Prime of Youth
The Cowboys were the youngest team left in the divisional round and when the next season starts, all of their 22 current full-time players will still be under age 30. Most of the core nucleus of their roster, including both sides of the ball, are hitting their prime years as professionals. That includes Prescott, Elliott and Amari Cooper on offense and Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith and DeMarcus Lawrence on defense. Barring any major changes in the roster, both sides should have even higher expectations going into ‘19.
3. More of Amari
Speaking of Amari Cooper, how about having him for an entire season? The Cowboys brass was keen on reminding the masses that the trade for Cooper was about the future, not just 2018. That’s why they felt he was worth their first round draft pick in April. He proved them right by almost immediately improving the offense and helping turn the season around after a 3-5 start. Having him for an entire season should, obviously, make things easier on Prescott and Elliott and the other receivers, including rookie Michael Gallup, who showed signs of being a reliable deep threat opposite Cooper. More than anything, however, giving Prescott and Cooper and off-season to improve and already burgeoning connection should enhance their relationship in ‘19.