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Spagnola: Unlocking The Key To Dak Friendly


FRISCO, Texas – Let's go back to about this time last year, where all of a sudden, after a 9-7 season that crumbled under the weight of Ezekiel Elliott's six game suspension, the term Dak Friendly reached universal popularity.

As in the Cowboys offense needs to become more Dak Friendly.

The search for the deeper meaning spread, as if there was some secret elixir out there, rather than relying on common sense. Like keep Zeke on the field; make sure the backup swing tackle is capable of blocking; make sure you have adequate replacements for Dez Bryant and Jason Witten; and make sure averaging 27 points a game is not the prerequisite for winning.

Do that, and Dak's efficiency will rise from the 2017 second-half drought.

But then, over the first eight games of the 2018 season, the Cowboys were averaging 19.25 points per game, scoring no more than 17 points in five of those first eight.

Evidently, that friendship never materialized, huh.

Well, friends, you want friendly? You want to unlock that mystery? Here's you some Dak Friendly:

  • Trade for Amari Cooper midseason, and now give the two an entire offseason working together.
  • Throw rookie receiver Michael Gallup into the deep end, allowing his dog paddle to eventually turn into freestyle before your very eyes.
  • Nurture raw newbie tight ends Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin for a year.
  • Sign Randall Cobb in free agency.
  • Re-sign Tavon Austin.
  • Give Allen Hurns a chance to recover from his gruesome injury.
  • Cross your fingers that Travis Frederick makes a full recovery.
  • Welcome Witten back from retirement.
  • Give last year's second-round pick thrown to the wolves Connor Williams an offseason to grow stronger.
  • Use this this year's third-round draft choice on Connor McGovern, an interior offensive lineman figuring to give you upgraded insurance at both guard and center with an eye to the future.
  • Re-sign backup swing tackle Cam Fleming, whose end results seem better than his ugly technique.
  • Take the rookie redshirt off last year's sixth-round pick Cedric Wilson, adding him to the wide receiver mix.
  • Use this year's fourth-round pick on versatile running back Tony Pollard, and slap my mouth if I didn't hear COO Stephen Jones invoke the name "Alvin Kamara-like" when describing his versatility. Not only within the offense as a "space player," according to head coach Jason Garrett, but also as a return guy, averaging 30.1 yards on kickoff returns over his three-year career at Memphis (40.0 in 2017) while taking seven of his returns to the house (four in 2017).

Undaunted in this never-ending search to produce Dak Friendly, the Cowboys didn't stop there. They also used their first of two seventh-round picks Saturday on a more traditional running back to potentially back up Zeke. This Mike Weber of Ohio State, who as a redshirt freshman in 2016 rushed for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns replacing Elliott, earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors and becoming just the third Buckeye running back to rush for 1,000 yards in his first season, joining Robert Smith (1,126) and Maurice Clarett (1,237).

Catch my drift?

Now that's Dak Friendly.

"We achieved a lot of our objectives," Garrett said of this three-day draft, and especially for this offense.

Look at this draft this way: The Cowboys were going to be hard-pressed to fit a Day-1 starter into this unit. Not at quarterback. Not at running back. Not at wide receiver, figuring that threesome will be Cooper, Gallup and Cobb. Not on the offensive line if Fredrick is straight. Not even at tight end, especially with the development of Schultz and Jarwin and the return of Zeke's "old-man Witt."

And as blasphemous as this might sound, not even at the safety position, since the Cowboys are high on Xavier Woods and higher than most on Jeff Heath.

See, what the Cowboys did was buy some well-needed insurance, along with maybe a couple of futures, all that without breaking the bank or, as the saying goes, taking from Peter to pay Paul.

Peter being the defense, right, adding some necessary pieces to possibly help prevent those three occasions when they gave up 28 points to Tennessee, 35 to the Giants and the crushing 30 to the Rams in the playoff loss. So by re-signing DeMarcus Lawrence, finding a financial way to keep Sean Lee, who right now figures to be your starting strongside linebacker, signing free agent Robert Quinn, purchasing some free-agent term insurance with safety George Iloka, using their first pick in the draft (58th overall) on under-tackle Trysten Hill and adding to the daily competition with defensive ends Joe Jackson (5th round) and Jalen Jelks (7th round), lanky cornerback Michael Jackson (5th round and built just the way Kris Richard likes 'em) and hard-hitting strong safety Donovan Wilson (6th round), that provides some residual effect on Dak Friendly.

"I've always said that we have as deep a roster as we've ever had in terms of competition from the top to the bottom," Jones said. "At the same time – you know player acquisition is 365 days a year – if we see a situation to improve anything, then we'll do it."

Absolutely, but for now, with the start of OTAs about a month away, we're talking some pretty friendly stuff taking place over the past two months, wouldn't you say?

And bet, somewhere on that boys fishing trip, ol' Dak, he's a grinnin'.