Under Review: Most Improved Cowboys Player?


What a wild ride it was for the Cowboys this past season, enduring so many ups and downs and twists and turns along the way. For the most part, it was an enjoyable journey for this Cowboys team that found a way to rally from a 3-5 start to win eight of nine games, including a postseason victory over Seattle.

But the season ended painfully in Los Angeles, leaving Cowboys Nation hungry for more.

Before we turn the page completely on this season, let's go back and recall some of the best moments, players, games and individual plays that made the season so memorable. Let's also start focusing on the offseason plans and try to see how the Cowboys can take the next step in 2019.

The staff writers of DallasCowboys.com have put together a 10-part series – Under Review – which continues today with the most improved Cowboy in 2018 who could make an even bigger jump next season.

David Helman: I don't see how this could be anyone but Byron Jones. When we flew out to training camp, Byron was a three-year veteran who had just been moved from safety to cornerback. His career up to that point had been a bit disappointing, as he was benched toward the tail end of 2017 and the front office wasn't completely sold on picking up the fifth-year option on his contract. Fast forward six months, and look how Byron has flipped the script. He's a Pro Bowl cornerback, finishing the season with 76 tackles and 15 pass breakups. He didn't log an interception, but at least part of that is due to opponents' unwillingness to throw at him, as he built a sterling reputation for blanketing his assignments. Heading into the offseason, re-signing Jones to a long-term extension has become of the big talking points of 2019 — that's how good he was. If that's not the definition of "most improved," I don't know what is.

Lindsay Draper: Right about the time it set in that the Cowboys probably weren't going to overcome the Rams in the divisional round, Dak heaved a pass to Michael Gallup. Gallup made a spectacular catch at the goal line, and I immediately flashed back to training camp, where he was wide-eyed and ready to learn. What a phenomenal pattern of growth for this kid. From routes, to feel, to speed, he has developed in every single category. He is without a doubt a staple to be excited about for seasons to come.

Rob Phillips: Maybe there should be a separate category for a guy who essentially missed two years of football. But Randy Gregory is a logical pick if you compare where he was – suspended indefinitely by the league with major questions about his future – to the progressive impact he made after his July reinstatement. As the season wore on he played more and more snaps, got around the ball more and more. And his six sacks? Only DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving have posted more in a season since 2014. A full offseason should further help Gregory's progress. Early in his career he had trouble keeping on weight. He returned to the team in training camp at a sturdy 242 pounds. That kind of frame could help him grow into an every-down role moving forward.