DALLAS — Believe it or not, the football season in 2018 is already three quarters of the way finished. The Dallas Cowboys sit atop the division with a 7-5 record through 12 games. The Cowboys will play one of their remaining two divisional games this Sunday and a victory removes virtually any doubt on them taking the NFC East minus a cataclysmic failure in the final three games.
With so much of the season already wrapped up, we look at who have made the most impact this season with the presentation of the three-quarter season awards.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
The list for offensive rookie of the year really comes down to Connor Williams or Michael Gallup. Williams was injured and has been relegated to jumbo packages for playing time. The edge for OROY belongs to Gallup. Through 12 games Gallup has amassed 23 receptions for 380 yards and a touchdown.
Gallup has had opportunities early to make more of an impact but the team wasn’t able to capitalize. With the addition of Amari Cooper (more on him later), Gallup could become an even bigger part of the offense. Big things should be on the horizon for the Cowboys' third-round pick.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
There really isn’t much of a debate for this award. The only player worthy is first-round draft pick Leighton Vander Esch. He has been a key cog for this defense, especially with the absences of the defensive leader Sean Lee.
The Wolf Hunter is one of the reasons Dallas has been able to hold it together with a 6-1 record without Lee. Vander Esch has 102 tackles and two interceptions so far this season. His 77 solo tackles leads the team. He will also be in the running for the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year honors later this season.
Newcomer of the Year
For this category we look at players who joined the team but aren’t rookies. In years past, the Cowboys have been able to find gems in the 2nd and 3rd tiers of free agency but that hasn't really been the case thus far in 2018. The award this time around has to belong to the man Jerry Jones felt the need to give up a first-round pick for in Amari Cooper.
More than just the stats, Cooper is changing the way defenses have to play this offense. Before they basically stacked the box daring Dak Prescott to make a play, since his arrival the box is getting less attention which opens things up for everyone. Cooper’s ability to keep chains moving or break-off a 90-yard touchdown pass is a big reason why Dallas has rattled off four wins in a row.
The Cowboys defense have really been the identity of this team all season. For that reason, there are plenty of candidates for the MVP of the defense. Jaylon Smith is a feel-good story who really took a firm grasp on the middle linebacker spot and is thriving.
Byron Jones making the move from safety to cornerback was a blessing for the defense. Jones has really shown why the team was confident enough to select him in the first round back in 2015. He has become the lockdown corner the Cowboys have needed under the guidance of defensive passing game coordinator Kris Richard.
That said, no one has really had the same impact as DeMarcus Lawrence has this year for the Dallas defense. While the sack numbers aren’t the highest in the league, Tank has a way of wrecking a gameplan in more than one way. Lawrence has a relentless knack for sacks, stripping the quarterback of the ball, stopping the run and recently added picking off passes to his arsenal. Lawrence is the defensive leader in the absence of Lee and his play backs it up.
It would be easy to point out the quarterback Dak Prescott or star receiver Cooper for this selection. Both are worthy candidates of the praise. One could make a case for Joe Looney playing in the place of All-Pro Travis Frederick and keeping things together or put Zack Martin into the conversation as one of the truly elite offensive linemen in the league. But this is Ezekiel Elliott's offense.
It is really hard to not acknowledge just what Ezekiel Elliott means to this team. After all, the Cowboys built this team specifically for a running back to take over games. In doing so, Dallas found the perfect back for that job description.
Elliott is the second leading-rushing in the NFL just a mere 26-yards behind Todd Gurley. Zeke has been on a tear as of late and has looked rejuvenated by the addition of Cooper who has opened up breathing room for him to run.
The Cowboys were able to take down the New Orleans Saints thanks in part to the physicality that Elliott brings to the offense. Beyond his stats, Zeke has really grown into becoming one of the leaders of the offense and you see that with his commitment to picking up blitzes and getting himself involved more in the passing game.
Zeke is a complete back who made an impact immediately and continues to thrive. For the Cowboys to parlay their success as of late with a deep run in the playoffs, Ezekiel Elliott will need to continue to lead the way by punishing defenses.
Do you agree with these picks? Share your Cowboys MVPs and award selections with Patrick on Twitter @DraftCowboys.