Last year: 10-6, won the NFC East for the second time in three years.
2018 vs. Eagles: Won twice, including in overtime in Week 14 on a touchdown pass to Amari Cooper that deflected off Rasul Douglas.
2019 vs. Eagles: Week 7 in Dallas, Week 16 in Philadelphia.
He’s here: TE Jason Witten, RB Tony Pollard, WR Randall Cobb, DT Trysten Hill, RB Alfred Morris.
He’s gone: WR Cole Beasley, DL David Irving.
NFL Network top 100 (eight players): RB Ezekiel Elliott (18th), DE DeMarcus Lawrence (45th), T Tyron Smith (52nd), G Zack Martin (59th), LB Jaylon Smith (61st), WR Amari Cooper (64th), LB Leighton Vander Esch (74th), CB Byron Jones (97th).
Note: Eagles players in the top 100 are DT Fletcher Cox (28th), TE Zach Ertz (40th), C Jason Kelce (72nd), QB Carson Wentz (96th).
Owner Jerry Jones threw some kerosene onto the tiresome Ezekiel Elliott contract squabble when he was asked for an update and responded with “Zeke who?”
A lot of people here in the 21st century are in a big rush to be offended and Elliott’s agent predictably called Jones’ crack “disrespectful.” Oh, the humanity. Jones asserted that he’s “earned the right" with Elliott to make the quip.
While Elliott sat out in beautiful Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, rookie Tony Pollard seized the opportunity.
Pollard, a fourth-round pick out of Memphis, was one of the top players in Cowboys camp. To put it in fantasy football terms, he’s emerged as a viable handcuff to Elliott.
“The things that he’s been able to do running the ball, catching the ball out of the backfield. He’s making plays,” quarterback Dak Prescott told the Dallas Morning News in August. “And he’s really an intelligent dude. A really smart guy. When we’re in the offense, or in the offensive unit, or in the team meetings, any time coach calls him out on his responsibility, without a hesitation he’s getting that right.”
While the star running back held out for a new contract, the franchise quarterback is playing while negotiations continue on an extension. Prescott’s base salary for 2019, the final year of his rookie deal, is $2 million. The NFL Network reported that he wanted $40 million.
Wide receiver Amari Cooper, whose acquisition helped spur a 7-1 run to end the season and a playoff win over Seattle, also is playing out an expiring contract.
That miserable New Year’s Eve game against the Eagles in 2017, when the wind-chill was around 8 degrees and neither team could score, the one where the Birds, who had wrapped up home-field advantage, sat most of their regulars and rolled over in a 6-0 Cowboys win -- that was supposed to be Jason Witten’s last game.
But after one year of calling Monday night games for ESPN, Witten has resumed his Hall of Fame football career.
He had 63 catches in 2017, five for touchdowns. Not bad for a then-35-year-old.
The Cowboys are thin at tight end behind Witten, so his return isn’t some Dr. J-like farewell tour. They need him this year.
Fun fact: Witten has just two touchdowns in 15 career games in Philadelphia, and none since catching a game-winner from Stephen McGee in the final minute of the final game in 2010. Stephen McGee?
The last team to win consecutive NFC East titles was the 2003-04 Eagles. Even more ominous is that from 2004 to 2017 the only team to win the NFC East one year and make the playoffs the following season was the 2017-18 Eagles.
The Cowboys gave a 5-year, $64 million extension to linebacker Jaylon Smith, shortly after the “Zeke who?” dustup. Smith was the nation’s top linebacker at Notre Dame before he ripped up a knee in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl. He missed his entire rookie season but has played every game since. He was second on the Cowboys last year with 121 tackles.
”Our goals are to have the best team, and it takes cooperation from both parties when you’re doing agreements,” Jerry Jones said when announcing Smith’s deal.
“The team takes precedence at a point over the opinion or the demand of the individual. The team takes precedence. This was a team move we are talking about today. The team takes precedence. And I've got the backbone to keep it that way."
Feels a little like a powder keg down there in Texas, doesn’t it?
Sean Lee, 33, is projected to start at strongside linebacker. If he can stay healthy – and that’s a major question for a guy with All-Pro talent – Dallas could have the best linebacking group in the NFC.
Lee agreed to cut his guaranteed salary in half to $3.5 million to return to the Cowboys, who selected him in the second round out of Penn State in 2010. Lee has never played a full season and has missed 14 of 34 possible games (including playoffs) the last two years.
The first half of the Cowboys’ schedule is favorable, so a start of 6-2 or 7-1 is possible, with or without Elliott. Of course, opening 3-5 probably means the end of Jason Garrett. Elliott is terrific, but so is their offensive line, which got a boost with the return of four-time Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick. Guard Zack Martin and tackle Tyron Smith had back problems during camp, but both are expected to be ready for Week 1.