Posts about the National Football League
The Cowboys’ offensive line has been considered one of the best in the NFL for the past few years. Most of this is due to the outstanding play of Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin. The problem is not that their play is declining or their talent is diminishing, but that their health may not be able to keep up.
Zack Martin left the second preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals with a knee injury. The good news is that there is no ligament damage; he was diagnosed with a hyperextended knee and bone. However, knee problems and offensive lineman have never been a good mix. Martin will not play in the last two preseason games, and aims to be back for week 1 against the Carolina Panthers.
Travis Frederick had been dealing with a ‘stinger’ since August 15th. He missed the preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals and has had several doctor’s appointments since then. A week later, on August 22nd he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder that affects the nerves. The Mayo Clinic says that for most people with GBS, the condition worsens for 2 weeks after the first signs and symptoms and plateaus within a month. Recovery usually lasts 6-12 months, but could take as long as three years. Jerry Jones was optimistic that Frederick would play week 1 before the diagnosis, but now Frederick says there is no timetable for his return.
The third and best of this trio, is Tyron Smith. He has looked like his future gold jacket wearing self in the first two preseason games, and says that he is “feeling great now” and is “in the best shape I’ve been in a while”. Unfortunately, that is coming from a 6’5″ 320 pound man who had bulging disk problems in 2016, and missed several games due to back, hip, groin and knee problems in 2017. If you had to think of injuries not to have as an NFL left tackle, at least 3 of those would be in the top 5. Dak Prescott would be the first to tell you Smith’s importance to the Dallas offense, considering Dak was sacked 8 times in the first game Tyron missed due to injury last year. It should be noted that 6 of those sacks were by Adrian Clayborn, the defensive end that Smith would have been responsible for blocking.
With Cameron Fleming added through free agency there is seemingly better depth at tackle than last year. He is a swing tackle that can fill in better than Chaz Green did in 2017. Second round draft pick Connor Williams will most likely be starting at left guard opposite Zack Martin (if healthy). Joe Looney started at center in the absence of Frederick against the Bengals, and looked as if he could benefit from a few more reps in the final two preseason games. La’el Collins is holding his own at the right tackle position, and seems to be feeling more comfortable with each snap.
All in all, the Cowboys offensive line is a force to be reckoned with…if healthy. But if injuries become an issue, especially with the three All-Pro lineman, Zeke will not be saying “feed me” as much and Dak will be running for his life. Jason Garrett better be praying for a healthy offensive line in 2018, or he may be finding himself getting his resume together in January.
UPDATE: La’el Collins limping with heavily taped ankle on 8/23/18. Yup, the only healthy Cowboys offensive lineman in rookie, Connor Williams.
One of the big issues on the NFL’s Competition Committee’s agenda this offseason was better defining what a catch is.
Kevin Seifert from ESPN’s NFL Nation tweeted the following this afternoon:
“The NFL competition committee appears to have unanimous agreement that controversial catch rulings involving Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson should have been ruled complete, according to Giants owner John Mara. So the committee is working on changing the rule to relax the “going to the ground” requirement.”
Pittsburgh Steelers TE, Jesse James, was not mentioned in this tweet, but one can only imagine that the AFC may have played out differently had Pittsburgh beat New England in week 15.
This does very little to soothe the pain Cowboy Nation still feels from the overturned catch in the 2014 NFC Divisional Round against the Green Bay Packers. Tony Romo and the Cowboys could have been in position for their first NFC Championship appearance since the 1995-1996 season.
Hindsight may be 20/20, but ‘too little, too late’ rings more true with this ruling.
It seems this saga has finally come to an end as Ezekiel Elliott’s brief 1 game injunction of his suspension is now over, and Zeke will begin his 6 game suspension this week. The Cowboys go to Atlanta to play the 4-4 Falcons. If all goes as planned, Zeke should be ready to join his teammates at AT&T Stadium for the game against the Seattle Seahawks on Christmas Eve.
The Dallas Cowboys will have to play without Zeke for 3 away games against the Falcons, Giants, and Raiders. They will miss him at home against the Eagles, Chargers, and Redskins.
While the Cowboys running game got weakened for the next 6 weeks with the suspension of Ezekiel Elliott to be enforced starting week 9 against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Philadelphia Eagles have traded away a future 4th round pick to the Miami Dolphins in return for Pro Bowl running back, Jay Ajayi.
Ajayi is in his 3rd year out of Boise State, and experienced a breakout season in 2016 with over 1,200 yards rushing. This was noted by three 200+ yard games, two of which were back to back. Ajayi, 13th leading rusher in the NFL, will most likely split carries with current starter LaGarrette Blount, who is 11th. This will definitely help an Eagles running attack, which is 5th in the league in rushing yards per game, who lost All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters for the season.
Ajayi will make the Cowboys life even tougher on November 19, when they host the Eagles at AT&T Stadium. The defense gives up 4.5 yards per attempt, which is 24th in the NFL.
The first quarter of the 2017 NFL season is over; and while it’s still a very young season, there is much to be learned. These are my three largest concerns heading into week 5 of the season.
Federal Judge Amos Mazzant has ruled in favor of Ezekiel Elliott with a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) for a preliminary injunction against the NFL. This means that Ezekiel Elliott will likely play for the entirety of the 2017 NFL season.
This timeline will be similar to Tom Brady’s ‘Deflategate’ case, in that it will likely not be decided on until after the season. Tom Brady did still serve his full 4 game suspension, mostly because of the way the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is written. Fighting and winning this injunction will be tough, but for now the Dallas Cowboys can focus solely on football.
NFL-appointed arbitrator Harold Henderson upheld the league’s entire 6 game suspension of Elliott on Tuesday evening after denying his appeal, but in a strange twist of events, league officials confirmed that Elliott will be allowed to play Week 1 versus the Giants.
After Henderson’s ruling, an NFL spokesman told ESPN’s Dan Graziano that Elliott’s eligibility for Week 1 “was a question asked by the judge in court before a ruling came down. In deference, and as to not rush the judge, league attorneys agreed to permit him to play.”
Although Elliott currently remains suspended for Weeks 2 through 7, the star running back still has hope via the U.S. District Court in Sherman, Texas, where the NFL Players Association filed a lawsuit on his behalf, requesting the court vacate the suspension on grounds that the NFL’s process was unfair. At a temporary hearing today, the NFLPA requested Judge Amos Mazzant to allow a temporary restraining order (TRO) of the league’s ruling that would prevent enforcement of the suspension until the conclusion of the lawsuit.
Judge Mazzant said he will make his decision on Elliott’s temporary restraining order by Friday at 6 p.m. ET.
As of Tuesday, September 5th at 6:30pm CST, there has not yet been a ruling for Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal case against the NFL. **ARTICLE UPDATE: SEE BELOW
However, regardless of the NFL’s decision, the reigning rushing king will play week 1 when the New York Giants come to AT&T Stadium.
Mike Fisher from 105.3 The Fan tweeted earlier:
The game will start at 7:30 local time, and will air on NBC.
**ARTICLE UPDATE BELOW
These are the 53 players to make the cut for Dallas Cowboys for the 2017 NFL Season
QB: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Kellen Moore
RB/FB: Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Rod Smith, Keith Smith
WR: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, Ryan Switzer, Noah Brown
TE: Jason Witten, James Hanna, Geoff Swaim
OL: Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, La’el Collins, Jonathan Cooper, Chaz Green, Joe Looney, Byron Bell
DE: DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford Benson Mayowa, Taco Charlton, Charles Tapper
DT: Stephen Paea, Maliek Collins, Brian Price
LB: Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Damien Wilson, Anthony Hitchens, Kyle Wilber, Jayrone Elliott, Justin Durant
CB: Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Bene Benwikere
S: Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier
K: Dan Bailey
P: Chris Jones
LS: LP LaDouceur
Suspended: David Irving (DE), Damontre Moore (DE), Randy Gregory (DE)
IR: Thomas Duke (CB), Rico Gathers
Practice Squad: Lance Lenoir (WR), Brian Brown (WR), Blake Jarwin (TE), Dan Skipper (OL), Nate Theaker (OL), Kadeem Edwards (OL), Richard Ash (DT), Lewis Neal (DT), Marquez White (CB), Jameill Showers (S)
Notable Players to Miss the Cut: Cedric Thorton (DT), Joey Ivie (DT), Marquez White (CB), Robert Blanton (S), Mark Nzeocha (LB)
The deadline for the NFL 53 man roster is tomorrow, Saturday September 2nd at 3pm CST. There are several players that are on the borderline of making the team, which means some very tough and a couple of interesting decisions for Jerry and Stephen. At least, the specialists seem to be an easy decision, with Dan Bailey, Chris Jones & LP LaDouceur.
Let’s start with the offense.
Quarterback: It looks as if the Cowboys will have 3 quarterbacks on the roster again, with Moore & Rush backing up Dak.
Running Back/Fullback: Zeke be on the 53 man roster while suspended, but with his status changing almost daily I am securing him a spot on the 53. Darren McFadden looks to be the clear #2 RB. Rod Smith looks to make the roster, and being able to play RB, FB, and special teams will definitely help his chances. Considering the Cowboys had 4 RBs and 2 FBs last year, it would be a jump for them to go down to 4 backs total, especially with the Zeke question mark. Look for Alfred Morris to be on the team. Unfortunately for Keith Smith, both Rod Smith and Geoff Swaim can play his position, but there still may be room for him.
Wide Receiver: There is a lot of young talent in this group and it will be difficult to pick between them. Dez, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Brice Butler are locks to make the roster. I would throw Ryan Switzer in there as well. That is the number of wide receivers that were on the roster last year, but with Jerry saying he thinks Noah Brown will make the 53, look to have the Cowboys to have 6 receivers in 2017. Andy Jones was making a case for himself, but kept dropping balls.
Tight End: Witten, Hanna, and Swaim will be on the team. I can’t see any way that Jerry let’s any team have a shot at signing Rico Gathers. With Gathers recent concussion in practice, look for Gathers to be on IR, with the possibility of coming back to the team in mid-October.
Offensive Line: All pros Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Travis Frederick are back, and Lael Collins look to be the starting right tackle in place of Doug Free. Left Guard is still up for grabs, but Jonathan Cooper’s ability to stay on the field may have the oft-injured Chaz Green in a backup role. Joe Looney’s versatility to play multiple positions will keep him on the team. The Cowboys will probably keep Byron Bell for some added depth.
Now onto the Defense
Defensive End: Demarcus Lawrence looks to reclaim the Cowboys sack leader for the year title after a down year in 2016. Benson Mayowa looks to repeat as sack leader and Taco Charlton will have something to say about that as well. David Irving is suspended for the first 4 games, but will be back for the Packers game in week 5. Damontre Moore looked great in the preseason, and may have Charles Tapper on the practice squad.
Defensive Tackle: Stephen Paea, Maliek Collins and Tyrone Crawford will be a good 3 man rotation in the middle of the defensive line. Cedric Thorton and Joey Ivie have the possibility to both make the roster, but will likely be only one of them securing a spot. Richard Ash will likely not make the team, as he was mostly signed to give rest to starters in week 17.
Linebacker: Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Damien Wilson will be on the team. It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys put Anthony Hitchens on the IR to open up another roster spot. Kyle Wilber and Mark Nzeocha look to make the team, but this may be a position that the Cowboys look for a trade or free agent as well.
Cornerback: No real standouts at this position, but looks to be Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie, and Jourdan Lewis. Marquez White is a big maybe. Another position that team management could look elsewhere for talent.
Safety: Byron Jones will start, the other position is up for grabs. Will is be Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, or Xavier Woods. Robert Blanton will likely be the odd man out at the safety position.
QB: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Kellen Moore
RB/FB: Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Rod Smith, Keith Smith
WR: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, Ryan Switzer, Noah Brown
TE: Jason Witten, James Hanna, Geoff Swaim
OL: Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, La’el Collins, Jonathan Cooper, Chaz Green, Joe Looney, Byron Bell
DE: DeMarcus Lawrence, Benson Mayowa, Taco Charlton, David Irving, Damontre Moore
DT: Stephen Paea, Maliek Collins, Tyrone Crawford, Cedric Thorton, Joey Ivie
LB: Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Damien Wilson, Anthony Hitchens, Kyle Wilber, Mark Nzeocha
CB: Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis
S: Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier
K: Dan Bailey
P: Chris Jones
LS: LP LaDouceur
The Hall of Fame game is played every year a week before the preseason starts, and is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage. The antics going on before, during and after are more of a spectacle than game itself, and pretty much anything taken from the game should be taken with a grain of salt. Since there hasn’t been any football to watch in the past six months, let’s go ahead and do exactly that.
Rico Gathers showed off his athleticism and hands with 3 catches for 59 yards, including a 26 yard touchdown. Gathers was not playing against a top notch defense, but this is a big stride for him since he could barely get on the field at all last preseason. While he may not have the football acumen of the average young player (due to not playing organized football for almost a decade), his athleticism will be able to bridge some of those gaps. It may be a stretch to say he will be seeing the field a lot during the regular season, but a good preseason could earn him a spot on the 53 man roster this year. Being on that roster could do wonders for him by being able to soak up as much knowledge as possible, from Canton-bound TE Jason Witten.
The Cowboys’ first round draft pick this year was met with many questioning faces, not because it was a bad pick, but rather it was a surprising one. Many thought the Cowboys would go after a defensive back, but they instead took an inconsistent talent with a high upside. Taco might as well have not even showed up for this game. During the 16 snaps he was in, Taco was very rarely involved in the play, and when he was he almost always seemed to be caught out of position. I’m not going to be too quick to judge on this kid, but this pick definitely continues to be “big risk, big reward”. Let’s hope we come out on the right side of that reward.
With both Ronnie Hillman and Darren McFadden looking awful (add that grain of salt considering the line they were playing behind), Rod Smith may be able to secure a roster spot for himself at fullback or running back. Smith got more snaps, rushes, and receptions than any other Cowboy running back for the night and looked like a competent NFL player. With Zeke’s status for the beginning of the season still in doubt due to his conduct off the field, the Cowboys will need to have a threat in the backfield with Dak. A good preseason could push Smith to as high as #2 on the depth chart, behind Zeke.
Chidobe has been impressive during training camp, and continued that during the HOF game. He had a pass deflection that was inches away from being an interception he likely would have taken back for a touchdown. Add two tackles and always being in position to make a play, and Chidobe had a decent showing for his first game.
Another blown challenge in this game for Jason Garrett. While it may have be a good time for a challenge, considering it would’ve stopped the Cardinals from putting points on the board; it was obvious that the runner was down before he fumbled, both live and on the replay. I will, however, give Garrett the benefit of the doubt since the Cardinals were rushing to the line to snap the ball. Since starting his career off 12-19 on challenges, Garrett is 8-18 on challenges in the last four seasons. Let’s hope that Garrett’s Princeton education will intervene more on his challenge decisions in 2017.
The 2017 NFL draft is over, and it was actually one of the more exciting drafts in recent history. From several 1st round trades for quarterbacks to the best pre-selection speech ever given, by Drew Pearson. The season doesn’t start for four months, and we have to fill the football void in our lives somehow, so let’s dive into the Cowboys first 5 picks…
Round 1, Pick 28: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Taco is a 6’6″, 277 lb defensive end, that had a decent junior season, and a good senior season. His combine numbers did not overly impress anyone, but his size did, and you can’t teach size. Taco has the God-given gifts to play in the NFL, but will need to work on his strength and quickness to become an impact player.
The 40-yard dash is not as great an indicator for a defensive lineman, but his 10 yard split was more telling than his complete 40. as the 3 cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. Taco performed in the top 15 in both the 3 cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle for defensive linemen. The bench press doesn’t tell the whole story of strength for an NFL player, but Taco will definitely need to hit the weight room to make sure he does not get manhandled by NFL tackles.
The Cowboys needed a pass rush, considering they have been without one since 2014 when Demarcus Ware left for Denver. Taco will be able to control his own destiny with the Cowboys’ pass rush positions wide open due to inconsistent play and substance abuse issues. Some may have questioned taking Taco this high, but he was on draft boards anywhere from mid-1st to mid-2nd round, and the defensive back depth in this draft was much greater than the defensive line depth. Taco’s NFL career will be determined by how motivated he is to be great. Hard work should get him to the Pro Bowl, while apathy will have him frustrating teams and coaches alike.
Round 2, Pick 60: Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
Many analysts and Cowboys fans had their eyes on Kevin King or Sidney Jones in the 1st round for the Cowboys, but the Jones’ preferred the value of Chidobe Awuzie in the 2nd round. He has good size, and great speed. Back-to-back All Pac-12 teams, a nose for the football, and not being afraid to step up and put a hit on a runner makes it appear as if the Cowboys made the right choice in waiting.
At 6’0″ with a 4.43 40 time, and a 34.5″ vertical, Chidobe should be able to matchup with almost any receiver in the league athletically. He played more inside corner at the nickel position in college, but will need to learn to play outside as well. Awuzie’s willingness to deliver a hit will do well with Marinelli’s DB blitzes. While Chidobe can lay the smackdown every once in a while, he will need to learn to wrap up, since most NFL ball carriers know how to break away from lazy arm tackles he has been known to resort to at times.
The lack of depth in the Cowboys’ secondary will give fans the ability to see what Chidobe can do very early on. Week 1 will be a big test with the New York Giants and their talented receiving crew coming to Jerry’s World week 1.
Round 3, Pick 92: Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
Lewis was one of the best cover corners in the NCAA for the past two years, but his size may present an issue at the next level. Cornerbacks that are under 6 feet usually find themselves as career nickelbacks. However, this was a great value pick, since Lewis was passed over by many teams in the third round, most likely due to his pending domestic violence issue.
Jourdan is a physical corner, especially in the first five yards not letting receivers get a clean break. This skill will prove to be very important in the NFL, especially considering Lewis does not have great speed (4.54 40) at the cornerback position. He could prove to be very valuable to the Cowboys since they are often burned by good route-running receivers. Jourdan Lewis is eerily similar to former Cowboy, Pacman Jones. Let’s just hope these similarities end once he steps off the field.
Round 4, Pick 133: Ryan Switzer, WR, North Carolina
This pick was somewhat confusing, considering this was not a big need for the Cowboys, and Switzer was probably not this high on anyone’s draft board. Switzer believes he is the best returner in the draft, which would fill another void the Cowboys have had for the past two seasons, when Dwayne Harris bolted for New York.
Switzer’s quickness was on display at the combine with the fastest 20 yard shuttle and the 2nd fastest 60 yard shuttle for wide receivers (3rd fastest overall in both). At 5’8″, one can assume that the Cowboys may be looking for a replacement for slot receiver Cole Beasley, who has 2 years left on his current contract and only a $1 million cap hit with a trade or release before the 2018 season.
Not too sure about the value of this pick, since these type of players may be dime a dozen, but only time will tell. Switzer will most likely only see playing time as a returner in his rookie season.
Round 6, Pick 191: Xavier Woods, S, Lousiana Tech
The Cowboys traded their 2018 5th round pick to grab what looks to be the best value pick of the draft for Dallas. This is another player with good quickness, that was displayed in both combine shuttle drills, as well as the 3 cone drill. Woods is a big hitting safety that can also track the football in the air to break up and intercept deep balls (5 INTs his senior year).
He does give off the look of former Denver Broncos safety, Steve Atwater, who could both cover in the pass and deliver bone-jarring hits on even the biggest of running backs. Unfortunately, sometimes the need to get a big hit got the best of Atwater, but Xavier seems very focused on disrupting passing lanes.
Woods is somewhat undersized at 5’11” at the safety position, but everything else points to him being the Cowboys’ “steal” of the 2017 draft. Also, with Barry Church and JJ Wilcox saying goodbye to Dallas this off-season, Xavier Woods could see the field more often than most 6th round picks do in their rookie season.
The rest of the picks were as follows:
Round 6, Pick 216: Marquez White, CB, Florida State
Round 7, Pick 228: Joey Ivie, DT, Florida
Round 7, Pick 239: Noah Brown, WR, Ohio State
Round 7, Pick 246: Jordan Carrell, DT, Colorado
Nobody wants to see their favorite sports figure retire. These players become role models, idols, and sources of happiness (as well as sadness and anger) to the fans. Every sports fan, young or old, has a player that they feel a special connection with, even though we have never met them. We go through the ups and downs of the season with these players. We are elated when they are doing well, and frustrated when they have a down game. Not at them, for them. We want them to succeed, because they have worked hard over the off-season, and they DESERVE to win. We are in their corner no matter what. They can do no wrong in our eyes. If they throw an interception, either the receiver ran the wrong route, or the line did not cover all of their blocking assignments, or the weather would have caused anyone to throw an interception in those conditions. My personal favorite: “It’s third down, a long interception is the same as a punt”. I must have said that at least twice a season to defend bad throws. We even cry when they lose a big game in the playoffs. People ask, “How do you care so much about someone you don’t even know?”. Well, we do know them, they just don’t know us.
If you are lucky, you get to go through ten, fifteen, maybe even twenty years with this person. And when they retire, its almost as if they die. When is the best time to retire? Go out on top like John Elway with back to back Super Bowls, even if there is something left in the tank? Some may argue, if he came back he could’ve won a third. Or would it be better to hang on as long as possible, like Kobe Bryant, and be a shell of yourself on a team that is only going to the playoffs if they buy a ticket? Maybe there isn’t a right time. Michael Jordan retired three times, and is still probably considering another comeback.
For Tony Romo, it was April 4, 2017 that he decided to hang up his cleats. This was after almost three months of back and forth between being released and being traded. Every day was a new story, most of them probably false. The emotional roller coaster Romo was on, was also filled with countless fans wondering what jersey he will be wearing next season. We’ve loved him from his first completion, deep down the field to Sam Hurd. The ups and downs, the crazy plays, the injuries, and everything in between has filled our lives for the past 10+ years, and now it’s over.
As a Cowboy’s fan, and Romo fan as well, I’m glad it’s over. Not because I’m no longer a fan of Tony, I just don’t want to see him go out the same way Michael Irvin did. While it may not be 100% on Tony’s terms, this retirement is Tony’s decision. I can’t imagine watching Romo be carried off or have to hobble off a field to end his career. With no Star on his helmet, no less. This way, the last play of Romo’s career is a touchdown pass. It may have been a meaningless game, the Cowboys may have lost, but Romo got to go out on top. This also leaves the “what could’ve been” conversations, for decades to come. And nothing is more fun than wondering what would’ve happened if Romo had stayed healthy.
Am I being selfish? Should I want Romo to go to another team and compete for a Super Bowl? If I thought he could make it through a 16 game season, plus 3-4 postseason games, he would have my blessing. However, I, and anyone really looking at Romo’s health objectively, know that Tony playing in 20 NFL games is one step above impossible.
The biggest positive to Romo’s retirement from the NFL, is that we still get to see/hear him on Sunday’s. He will be the #1 color commentator on CBS, to go along with Jim Nantz. Personally, I see Romo more as a coach than a commentator (move over Jason Garrett), but I am excited to get to hear from two of my favorite Cowboy’s quarterbacks every week. Romo may not have had the most successful career compared to other Cowboy greats, but it will be hard to argue that he is not the more cherished in the hearts of Cowboy Nation.
Thanks for everything Tony, the Cowboys wouldn’t be where they are today without you.
Sports is a way for people to escape everyday life, and immerse themselves into another world. The only problem is that sometimes this other world is not as perfect as it could be. Fixing these issues would create a Sports Utopia we all long for.
The NFL is, arguably, the greatest sports league in the world. However, there are five problems with the NFL schedule, for both the fans, the players and the league itself. This article will improve the experience for all three, so listen up Mr. Goodell.
1. Duration of the Season
The NFL will have a 18 game (20 week) regular season, beginning the Thursday before Labor Day and ending with Super Bowl Sunday the day before President’s Day.
Benefit to Fans: This will get rid of 2 preseason games. The fans hate them, and season ticket holders hate paying full price for two meaningless home games. Now there is only one home preseason game.
Benefit to Players: More rest. This will be apparent with points #3 and #4.
Benefit to NFL: Ratings boost. The NFL will be able to take advantage of 8 federal holidays (which will probably go down to 7 with point #5), instead of just 6. When people have a day off from work, they socialize with friends and family and watch sports.
2. Bye Weeks
Each team will receive 2 bye weeks, one in the first 10 weeks and one in the second 10 weeks. No bye in first 2 weeks or last 2 weeks. Bye weeks must be at least 3 weeks separated from each other (i.e. If there is a bye on week 9, the other bye week would be week 12 or later).
Benefit to Fans: Not a huge benefit here for fans, other than more time for the star players of their teams to recover from injury.
Benefit to Players: More bye weeks = more rest = less injuries or more time to recover from injuries without missing games. Also, more time to spend with their families during the season.
Benefit to NFL: Less games without missing star players.
3. Thursday & International Games
Each team will have a maximum of one Thursday game and one International game, with a bye week coming before either of these games. There will be no Thursday game in weeks 2, 19, or 20. There will also be three other weeks with no Thursday game, two in early November (these two weeks will tie in with point #5), and the Thursday before Christmas (unless that is Christmas Eve, then it will be the week after).
Benefit to Fans: No more crap fest Thursday Night Football games.
Benefit to Players: This will get rid of one of the biggest complaints from players: increased chance of injury from not having proper time to heal after a game, when having to play 4 days later or travel halfway across the world.
Benefit to NFL: No more crap fest Thursday Night Football games. Also, less complaints from the NFLPA.
Playoff games will be on Saturday’s and Sunday’s at 3:00 pm EST and 7:30 pm EST.
Benefit to Fans: West Coast fans do not have to wake up early to watch a 9:00 am playoff game. Fans that go to church on Sundays do not have to decide between skipping church and missing the first half of the early game.
Benefit to Players: Players traveling on West Coast do not have to play a NFL playoff game when their body clock is at 9:00 am. Also, a benefit to the traveling team not having to get up early in the morning.
Benefit to NFL: Ratings boost. The Sunday night game is almost always the highest rated for the week. This gives at least two more games at this time slot.
5. Partnerships with Other Leagues
MLB Partnership: There will be no Thursday night game during the World Series, so long as there is no World Series game on a Sunday (this will take some scheduling help from the MLB).
NBA Partnership: There will be no NFL games on Christmas Day, so long as there is no NBA Game on Christmas Eve, if Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, Monday, Thursday or Saturday. There will be no NFL Pro Bowl or any other event the weekend before the Super Bowl. The NBA can use the weekend before the Super Bowl for NBA All-Star Weekend.
Benefit to Fans: Many NFL fans are also fans of other sports. This allows them not to miss big games that are occurring simultaneously. Also, the Pro Bowl sucks and nobody watches or cares about it.
Benefit to Players: Players will get to spend Christmas Day with their families. Also, the Pro Bowl sucks, and players do not want to participate (37 players declined to participate in the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl). Lastly, many NFL players are fans of other sports, and this will allow them to watch more big games.
Benefit to NFL: Ratings boost. The Sunday Night game between the Cowboys (5-1) and Eagles (4-2) in 2017 had lower ratings that World Series Game 5. The NFL’s premier team playing against a division rival in prime-time should NEVER have lower ratings than anything else on TV. Also, no need to compete with the NBA on Christmas Day, if it happens to fall on a Sunday. Just play those games on Saturday for Christmas Eve. Lastly, the Pro Bowl sucks and the NFL is trying to get rid of it anyway. This may create some type of mashup, in which NFL Pro Bowl players can maybe have an event at the NBA All Star Weekend.
Many things can be said about the game-play in Super Bowl LI, from the Falcons offense looking to be unstoppable through the first 38 minutes to Tom Brady channeling his inner GOAT to pull off what most people could only imagine as achievable theoretically. However, the biggest difference between the New England and the Atlanta was that the Patriots knew who their opponent was and the Falcons did not. The real opponent for both teams was the clock. The Falcons needed it to run as fast as possible, while the Patriots realized that each second was precious, with a 25 point deficit to overcome.
It seems strange that with all of the analytics used in sports nowadays, the degree to which each aspect of the game is individualized (I mean, there are actually separate coaches for inside linebackers and outside linebackers), and the number of times that clock management can affect the outcome of a game, that there is not a position solely dedicated to how to manage that clock.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but looking at the 2017 NFL playoffs, there were three close games, two of which were decided largely by late-game clock management. The first game was the Packers vs. Cowboys in the divisional round, and the second was the Super Bowl.
The clock mismanagement in divisional round was by the Cowboys, who were attempting to comeback from a 15 point 4th quarter deficit. For a two score comeback to occur, both the offense and the defense must play well, but clock management becomes crucial. The biggest misstep for the Cowboys came on their final drive. They received the ball with 93 seconds left in the game. In the final drive, two critical clock management decisions to look at are the spike on 1st and 10 from the Packers 40 yard line with 1:07 on the clock, and 2 plays later with a passing play on 3rd down with 44 seconds left. Perhaps a clock management coach looks at these situations and plays them somewhat differently. From using their final timeout or running a play on first down, so as not to ‘waste’ a down with a spike. That same coach may realize that a successful short pass and a successful run will likely have similar outcomes on 3rd down, but an incomplete pass stops the clock and a running play short of the line to gain keeps the clock running. That running clock may be just enough to make sure Aaron Rodgers does not have time to orchestrate a game-winning drive, and instead push the game to overtime.
In the Super Bowl, the clock mismanagement will be credited to the Atlanta Falcons, who needed only to hold on to a 25 point lead in the middle of the 3rd quarter. Reread that sentence, there is no typo. The Falcons had a four score lead with just over 17 minutes left in the game. There are once again two key plays that involve clock management, they may have swung the game and final score into the Falcons favor. The first was the catastrophic fumble with 8:31 left in the game, and the Falcons possessed a 16 point (two score) lead. Many will say of course you run when you know that a sack fumble is happening, but even not knowing that a pass is much riskier than a run in that situation, especially when your running back, Devonta Freeman, is averaging over 8 yards per carry at that point. The risk is way to high for a 3rd and 1 pass with a 16 point lead and 8:31 left on the clock, compared to the reward. A clock management coach realizes that and runs the ball. The second decision comes with just under 4 minutes left, again a pass play over a run, this time on second down on the New England 22. The play results in a 12 yard sack and the Patriots use a timeout. No big deal, still in field goal range to make it a two score game. 3rd down attempt #1 is a completed pass that doesn’t get a first down but gives them a better shot at a field goal, but there is a hold. Now they are out of field goal range and are forced to pass to get back into range. 3rd down attempt #2 is an incomplete pass and the Falcons are forced to punt without being able to run the clock. A clock management coach realizes that a field goal in this situation is practically just as good as a touchdown, since it pretty much guarantees that the Patriots will have to complete a successful onside kick if they score. Instead, the Patriots get the ball back with just under 4 minutes left, and Tom Brady becomes the GOAT of all GOATs.
Isn’t clock management the job of the head coach? Can’t the quarterback figure these things out? Two great questions, but in the heat of battle, having a numbers guy whose sole job is to analyze the game based on the amount of time left, could prove to be invaluable. Just ask Arthur Blank if he would’ve coughed up an extra $150k to have a clock specialist on the coaching staff.
From the moment he was drafted, fans, analysts, players and coaches, have tried to figure out exactly how to classify Dak Prescott as a NFL quarterback. Some call him clutch, others say he is a game manager, there are those that see another scrambling runner, some even say he is fortunate being the benefit of circumstance, and of course there are a few who merely see another rookie quarterback. Is it possible that all of these are true, while also all being false at the same time? Maybe Dak is something yet to be seen in the National Football League.
This may be the easiest category to put Dak in, considering he has three game-winning drives in the last 5 minutes through his first 14 starts in the NFL. Moreover, the two games in which he did not successfully complete that game-winning drive can easily be blamed on bonehead plays by his wide receivers. In week 1, Terrance Williams does not get out of bounds to allow Dan Bailey to attempt, an albeit long, game-winning field goal. In week 14, Dez fumbles with 2:25 left on the clock on what would have been a potential game-winning or game-tying drive. Not to mention, Dak also came back from trailing Minnesota and Tampa Bay in the 4th quarter, and being down 14-0 in San Francisco.
Naysayers of Dak’s clutchness will argue that to be able to have a game winning drive, he must first dig himself into a hole. Prescott has trailed in the 4th quarter in half of his first 14 games. This does seem worrying, until finding out that finding out that the top 6 quarterbacks in NFL history in 4th quarter comebacks are Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Dan Marino, John Elway, Joe Montana, and Brett Favre. Not too shabby of a list.
Moving from the easiest to the hardest category, the evidence of Dak’s running ability is both apparent and sparing. Anyone that has watched this kid play can see that he can be extremely elusive in the pocket and more than able to scramble for the first down when needed. Dak is also tied with Tyrod Taylor for most rushing touchdowns among quarterbacks, with six.
Sounds like a rushing quarterback so far. But, looking deeper, Dak rushes for less than 20 yards per game, and at 4.6 yards per carry, he is not even in the top ten YPC for quarterbacks. Dak’s longest run of the season so far is 18 yards; fourteen quarterbacks have longer runs in 2016. So, is Dak a running quarterback who misses opportunities from not having his eyes down field outside of the pocket, or is he an athletic quarterback that has the ability to run when all options have been exhausted? The latter seems to be the fairer description.
One of the biggest stigmas a quarterback can carry these days is being labeled a ‘Game Manager’. Just ask 2012 Alex Smith. Being a game managing quarterback means relying on team strengths to win games, whatever that may be. If a team has the best offensive line and league-leading rusher, a HOF route-running tight end, and a high caliber slot receiver that runs underneath routes; would it not be extremely selfish to rely completely on the quarterback’s talents to win games?
One of the best comparisons to the perfect game manager would be Isaiah Thomas. Yes, NBA Hall of Fame point guard, Isaiah Thomas. He would setup his teammates the entire game, because there was a wealth of talent on those Bad Boys Detroit Pistons teams. However, when two minutes were left in the game and the Pistons needed a bucket, Isaiah came through. Sounds eerily familiar to a game on October 30th when Dak had relied on his team in the first three quarters, and became the hero in the 4th quarter and overtime to give the Cowboys another W. Is Dak a game manager? Maybe, but make sure not to view that term negatively next time it is said, because many would also call 4-time Super Bowl Champion, Terry Bradshaw, a game manager. As a matter of fact, check out this list of the Top 15 Game Managing Quarterbacks and see how many collective Super Bowl rings are worn on their fingers.
What would Dak do without the best offensive line, the league-leading rusher, an All-Pro receiver and a HOF tight end? Great question, fortunately it is one that does not have to be answered, at least not now. In the same way that these questions were not answered about Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger during their rookie seasons. Is Dak in a great situation? Absolutely!
Did this all fall into his lap? Absolutely not! He worked extremely hard during the summer to be the most prepared backup quarterback to Tony Romo that he could be, and when the opportunity to be the starter presented itself, Dak was ready. Not many rookie quarterbacks would have been able to do what Dak has done so far this season. Just look at Jared Goff. He could not even earn the starting job on a terrible Los Angeles Rams team, from a mediocre quarterback, until more than halfway through the season. Perhaps Dak Prescott is a fan of author Michael Korda, who said “Luck can often mean simply taking advantage of a situation at the right moment. It is possible to make your luck by always being prepared”.
Everyone heard the cries of Dak hitting a rookie wall and contemplated putting Romo back in the starting role after the second loss to the Giants. Really? 11-2 and people are complaining? Are they forgetting the back-to-back 300 yard passing feats against Pittsburgh and Baltimore? Are they forgetting that through 14 weeks, Dak has the 3rd best passer rating and 2nd best QBR in the league? December 11th against the Giants was a division road game, in freezing conditions, against the second-best team in the NFC, and the Cowboys lost by 3 with a chance to win at the end.
If only Dak could do something to quiet his critics. Maybe coming out the next week and getting a huge home win against the hottest team in the NFL, while also posting the second best completion percentage (with at least 30 attempts) since the 1970 merger will do the trick. Dak is far from a typical rookie quarterback. Does he still make rookie mistakes? Yes, but from watching his composure during games, he looks more like a 10-year veteran quarterback than a rookie.
So maybe Dak is a clutch, running, game-managing, lucky, rookie quarterback. Or maybe, he is his own type of quarterback, and one that future quarterbacks will be compared to.
One thing that no one can argue is that Dak Prescott is a WINNING quarterback in the National Football League.
Cowboys Nation received an early Christmas present Sunday night as they defeated the surging Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26-20 behind Dan Bailey’s four field goals. This was a complete shift from last week’s loss to the Giants. The Offense found its legs with Ezekiel Elliott rushing for 159 yards and 1 touchdown and Dak Prescott doing his part to hush the critics with his outstanding performance going 32/36 for 279 and his own rushing touchdown. Dak looked to be having more fun throughout the game, even when he found the team down in the 3rd quarter. Prescott also did his best to silence the critic’s biggest issue with his performance completing several passes over 20 yards down the field to various receivers. The secondary’s outstanding performance from last week appeared to be lost this week. While the overall stats make the performance look like a job well done, the eye test looks completely different. The secondary continues to be exposed down field as Jameis Winston completed nearly a third of his passes for 18 yards or more.
Offensively, this was a thing of beauty. Dak looked poised and comfortable at home, using his legs when needed and spreading the ball around as the defense allowed. The result? Seven different receivers catching a pass with Dez Bryant hauling in 8 and Jason Witten 10. Dez’ strong hands made a return as well as everything that touched his hands seemed to stick. Throughout this season, that has not been the case; as Dez has had trouble hauling in catches. The offense was able spread the field and take what the defense gave them the entire night. The only blemish on the night was the continued lack of discipline collecting 8 penalties for 91 yards, one of which costed them a touchdown. As they move forward toward the playoffs, they cannot afford to make these mistakes and give points back to the opposition.
The defense had its moments and the defensive line looked fantastic. The Bucs rushed for only 52 yards and Winston was sacked 4 times, fumbled once and threw 3 interceptions. David Irving continued to be a force collecting 2 sacks and hitting Winston 5 times. While the defensive front continued to excel, the secondary continued to show its weakness. The absence of Morris Claiborne again was apparent as Winston was able to continually find his way down field. The Buccaneer offense wasn’t able to do much, but when it did, they made it count. As mentioned earlier, the stats weren’t impressive as Winston only completed 17 of 35 for 247 yards for a Passer Rating of 55.3, but when able, he found the open receiver down field. This is something that will need to improve as the opposition’s talent increases.
Overall, the team played well enough to end the longest win streak in the league and at least for now, the QB controversy is squashed. Dak is back on top and Ezekiel Elliott now holds the record for the most TDs ever by a Cowboys rookie. The Cowboys need to push on as a win this week against Detroit will clinch the NFC East and a first round bye.
Keys to the Game Scorecard:
Is this the rookie wall we all keep hearing about? For 12 weeks, we’ve been hearing non-stop about how Dak Prescott can’t be doing what he’s doing, that he can’t keep this up. After an average performance in Minnesota against a very good Vikings secondary, and whatever you want to call last night, is this it? Are the critics and history right? Twitter blew up throughout the game with pleads for Tony Romo. After the game, Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett both said they are comfortable with Dak Prescott as the QB of this team going forward. How true will that be if Dak has another catastrophic performance against a solid Tampa Bay defense this coming Sunday Night? Prescott finished the game 17 of 37 for 165 yrds, 1 TD, INTs and a Passer Rating of 45.4. That brings his rating vs the Giants to 58.6 compared to his rating against all other teams of 114.3. Is Prescott hitting the rookie wall or are the Giants his kryptonite?
The Cowboys offense missed a lot of opportunities Sunday night at MetLife Stadium. The running game was there most of the night and Ezekiel Elliott did his part rushing for 107 yards on 24 carries. However, the story is most definitely the play of QB1, Dak Prescott. Dak was awful. There is no way to sugar coat it. Poor decisions and poor throws throughout the entire game made it impossible to move the ball with any type of regularity. This team has been pretty consistent in 3rd down efficiency throughout the year, yet only converted one 3rd down out of 15 tries. There were also 0 red zone appearances. Now, this isn’t all on Dak, the Giants defensive front was getting to in the backfield on nearly every drop back. What has saved the offensive drives in prior weeks was Dak’s ability to use his feet. Last night, Dak had 1 rush for 1 yard. The ability to extend the play to find the open man simply was not there and the numerous stalled drives were a result.
The bright spot of this game was the defense, led by Sean Lee’s 18 total tackles. This defense provided 3 takeaways and held the Giants to 260 total yards, 61 of which were on one play. That one 61 yard TD pass to Odell Beckham Jr was the one mistake this defense made on the night. The Cowboys were playing man defense so Sean Lee followed the running back, leaving the middle of the field wide open. Brandon Carr couldn’t keep up and the Safety took a horrible line and whiffed on the tackle about 10-15 yards from scrimmage. Two mistakes, one play.
This game was about as even as you can get. One minute difference in time of possession, 260 total yards of offense for both teams, 3 turnovers for both teams, 1 big play resulting in a TD for both. The difference? The Giants made a 39 yard field goal, the Cowboys 55 yard attempt hit the cross bar. Looking forward, the Cowboys now have to make a decision. Learn and move forward. Or sulk and continue the slide. Tampa Bay has something to play for and has won 5 straight. They will be poised and ready. Will the Cowboys?
A wise man once said, “A W is a W”. That has never been more true than right now. In what was, without question, the ugliest game of the year played by the boys in blue, they somehow figured out a way to escape with a win. Four fumbles, two were recovered by the Vikings, 10 penalties for 78 yards all seeming to come on big plays:
Dallas did everything they could to lose this game. The Vikings defense played as expected and held this offense to 264 yards. Dak Prescott finished the day 12/18 for 139 and a touchdown for a rating of 108.3. I should note that over 50 of those 139 yards came on 1 play to Dez Bryant. What kept the Cowboys mistakes from dooming them was the failures by the Minnesota special teams. Punter Jeff Locke had a miserable day, averaging only 32 yards per punt and more than one of those punts shooting backwards for a big Dallas gain. Adam Thielen lost the ball on this punt return which led to a Dez Bryant touchdown on the next play.
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) December 2, 2016
The offense faced its toughest test of the year against this Vikings defense. The Vikes built their secondary the way the Cowboys built their Offensive line and it showed. Dez was able to capitalize on their one mistake for a massive reception that fell short of the end zone by 1 yard, but other than that one mistake, the secondary held the Dak Prescott in check.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) December 2, 2016
Dak continued to play smart but was again taken by surprise when he was put under pressure and had the ball knocked out of his hand. If there is a knock on Dak, this is it. Perhaps it is due to the comfort generally afforded him by this offensive line. We all say how comfortable he looks in the pocket, but maybe it’s too comfortable. Dak has 4 times as many fumbles as interceptions. Sam Bradford happens to be the closest to this stat among active starting quarterbacks with 7 fumbles and 3 interceptions. Zeke had a steady game and should have broken the 100 yard mark but had a 43 yard run negated by a holding penalty, he finished the day with 20 carries for 86 yards and this TD.
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) December 2, 2016
Defensively, the Cowboys played well. They gave up a total of 87 rushing yards and 231 passing. Bradford completed 32/45 for an average of 5.5 yards per reception, which would rank him 54th among the 59 Quarterbacks who have attempted a pass this year. This was a result of the offensive Vikings offensive line which forced Bradford to catch and shoot the entire game. The Cowboys played safe, made tackles and kept the offense in front of them, which led to 3 field goals until the last two minutes of the game when Sam Bradford looked like the former 1st overall pick and led the Vikings down the field with no timeouts to find the end zone and pull within 2 with 25 seconds left. Bradford and the Vikes went for 2 but Bradford’s pass sailed out the back of the end zone. With all the mentions of bad calls or over calls, the refs flat out missed one on this play which sealed the win for the Cowboys. The Cowboys pass rush got home and slapped Bradford in the jaw just after he released the ball, this should have resulted in a penalty and retry of the 2 pt conversion, instead, the pass is incomplete and the Vikings are forced to try an onside kick. Jason Witten recovered the onside kick and Dak kneeled the ball to end the game and the Cowboys win their 11th straight game.
For all the miscues by the Cowboys that kept the Vikings in this game, they found a way to pull this one out. The better team won, but didn’t deserve it. I’m going to chalk it up to being the 3rd game in 12 days, but A W is a W.
The Cowboys can clinch a playoff spot this weekend with a win and either a Tampa Bay or Washington loss. It all starts Thursday night in Minnesota at Sun Devil Stadium, a place where the Cowboys haven’t won a regular season game since their Super Bowl XXX run in 1995.
The Cowboys offense has yet to be hindered this season, even after taking on the league’s best. They will have to do that again this week as the Vikings defense has remained solid. Their secondary, led by former Cowboy Terrence Newman, is comprised of four 1st/2nd round draft picks and is currently ranked 4th in the league in passing yards per game. Xavier Rhodes is excelling in his 3rd year alongside this year’s second rounder Mackensie Alexander. This young group of playmakers also has the 3rd most interceptions in the league with 12. It’s safe to say the Dallas passing attack is meeting its biggest challenge to date. The Cowboys are ranked 4th in the league with 407.6 yards per game and 3rd in points per game with 28.7, whereas the Vikings are only allowing 307 ypg and 17.5 ppg. Strength vs Strength. Who’s stronger? So where can the Cowboys make their biggest impact? The running game – big surprise, I know. The Vikings are 14th in rush yards allowed per game (100.2) but allowed 153 rushing yards to Bears RB Jordan Howard back at the end of October. If the Cowboys can avoid allowing this secondary to make them one dimensional, Ezekiel Elliott should be able to move the ball well enough to secure the team’s 11th win in a row.
The Vikings offense, on the other hand, is not so well put together. Sam Bradford is throwing for 7 yards per attempt in an offense that is ranked dead last in yards per game and 24th in points per game. Bradford isn’t throwing too many interceptions (3 on the year) but that’s probably due to the fact he’s been sacked 26 times, tied for 12th most in the league. Bradford is not the QB that will burn you with his allusiveness, so getting to him and forcing him to go down is key. He is an accurate passer but will dink and dunk his way down the field instead of taking chances with the long ball. The Cowboys weakness has been it’s secondary with numerous injuries to key starters. This week, Barry Church is coming back with his cast bubble wrapped, but JJ Wilcox is set to be out with a thigh contusion. Morris Claiborne is still out with no set timetable for return, other than Jerry’s “end of season” estimation. The Vikings running game is flat out abysmal, embarrassing or whatever other term you can assign. They are averaging 2.8 yards per carry, which is dead last in the league by .6. The Cowboys run defense has been solid this season, allowing only 81.8 yards per game (3rd in the league).
This is a winnable game. Strength vs strength, weakness vs weakness. Who is stronger? Can Dak continue to protect the ball and find the open man? Will Zeke break 100 yards for the first time since November 13th? We shall see on Thursday night.
When you lose the battles of yardage, time of possession and collect 0 turnovers, you are supposed to lose. That is exactly what happened on Thanksgiving Day. Kirk Cousins threw for 449 yards (almost 100 yards more than the entire Cowboys offense) and 3 TDs for a passer rating of over 120, DeSean Jackson burnt the secondary worse than my turkey (thanks broken meat thermometer), the Redskins held on to the ball for 7 minutes longer than the Cowboys. Yet somehow, the Cowboys won that game and it wasn’t really as close as the score would lead you to believe. The Cowboys won this game thanks to the kickers, the one area of the game that the Cowboys won. Dan Bailey didn’t miss anything and Dustin Hopkins did. Two missed field goals (43 and 55 yards) in the first half which left the Redskins chasing those points the remainder of the game. They also failed to convert a 2 point conversion in the 4th quarter thanks to Sean Lee’s interception. I don’t know about the rest of you, but its games like this that remind me just how good Dan Bailey is and how bad our kicking game was before Mr. Bailey graced us with his presence.
Offensively, the Cowboys could do pretty much whatever they wanted. The Cowboys punted on 2 their 9 drives converting 4 into touchdowns and 1 into a Field Goal (46 yards). Dak Prescott ended his day completing 17 of 24 passes for 195 yards with 1 TD and a Passer Rating of 108.9. Dak completed 2 passes over 20 yards, the longest pass went to Dez in the 4th quarter for 26 yards. Ezekiel Elliott ran for only 97 yards, the second straight game he has been held to under 100. I say ‘only’ due to the fact that on the first drive alone he ran for 47. Going into this game I expected Zeke to eat to his fill but somehow, the team only rushed for 163 yards. The Cowboys were able to play nearly error free football on offense the entire game and as a result walked away with their 10th straight win.
Redskins’ rookie running back, Robert Kelley, was asked this week about the Redskins/Cowboys rivalry and he said, ‘Nobody here likes the Dallas Cowgirls’. Kelley was beat up by said ‘Cowgirls’ the entire day finishing the day with 37 yards on 14 carries for an average of 2.6 ypc and a long run of 8 yards. Kelley was obviously feeling pretty good about himself at the time of his comments as he had averaged over 100 yards over the previous 3 weeks. The Cowboys defensive line continued to hold the opponent’s run game in check while failing to get anything resembling a pass rush. Kirk Cousins was able to drop back 53 times without being sacked even once. Cousins completed 41 of those 53 passes for 449 yards, 3 TDs and no ‘official’ interceptions (Sean Lee intercepted a pass on a 2 pt conversion attempt). DeSean Jackson finished the day with 118 yards and Jordan Reed had 95 yards. The Cowboys secondary was exposed yet again allowing over 400 yards through the air for the second time in 3 weeks. Good news is, safety Barry Church is set to return to practice on Sunday ahead of Thursday’s matchup with the Minnesota Vikings.
For more articles from the Landry Letters blog, please visit the website here.
A lot has changed since the last time these two teams met in week 2. One team left 1-1 and the other 0-2 and they have lost a combined 1 game since. The week 2 matchup featured a Cowboys rookie backfield that was just beginning to come into its own and a Kirk Cousins that was the focal point of everyone’s laughter. The interception by Barry Church 6 yards into the end zone spelled disaster in the 4th quarter as the Cowboys drove down the field to score the game’s last touchdown to secure a 4 point lead. Just to put everyone back in the mindset after that game, here is my opening paragraph:
After the Cowboys win in Landover, one thing is for certain: the Redskins have issues. Kirk Cousins threw for 364 yards and 1 TD, but should have had 3 more easy ones as Jamison Crowder and DeSean Jackson both had breakaways well past the Cowboy secondary only to be over thrown. Redskins Running Back, Matt Jones, had a good game as well rushing for 61 yards on only 13 carries. Why Jay Gruden doesn’t run more is beyond me. Not saying Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is perfect, but he did try to be less predictable with an onside kick in the middle of the game, which caught both teams off guard when the ball didn’t travel the 10 yards required. I want to feel good about this win, I do, but watching all the blatant missed opportunities by Washington makes it difficult.
Fast forward 10 weeks and the Redskins appear to have righted the ship. All those missed opportunities aren’t missed anymore as the Redskins rank 3rd in the league in passing yards per game and 9th in scoring. Kirk Cousins has a 98.8 passer rating on the season and only 4 interceptions since week 2. The Cowboys secondary had a hard time containing DeSean Jackson and will be even more hard pressed this week without Barry Church and Morris Claiborne helping cover the talented receiving core of this Washington team. The Skins rushing attack is no slouch either, ranking 10th with 117.1 ypg. This team will score, but to win, they need to score over 24 points per game as their defense is among the bottom feeders of the league allowing 23.3 points per game.
The Redskins aren’t the only ones to have improved since week 2. The Cowboys star running back has gone from averaging 67 ypg to 121 ypg since and Dak Prescott has earned the starting quarterback job over a healthy Tony Romo. The Cowboys put up over 100 yards rushing on the top ranked Ravens rush defense last week and will look to continue that domination this week vs the 22nd ranked Redskins D.
This game will be decided by which high powered offense can beat the weaker defense the worst. The Redskins vaunted pass attack vs the injured Cowboys secondary or the Cowboys vicious running game vs a bottom feeder Redskins front 7? What the Cowboys have going is their strength also keeps their opponents strength off the field. The Cowboys need to run the ball well and punish this Redskins defense by way of numerous 7-8 minute drives in order to prevent their own weakness from being too exposed.
The Cowboys have won 9 straight for the first time in franchise history. Let that soak in… Staubach, Aikman, Romo or any of the 5 Super Bowl teams never won 9 in a row. Despite starting slow and throwing the ball more than they have at any point this season, the Cowboys took over the second half and the offensive line opened the holes needed to mount several big drives. The last 2 drives combined for over 14 minutes powered by Dak Prescott who completed 13 passes in a row that spanned the final 3 drives. Overall, Prescott completed 27 of 36 for 301 yards (second straight 300 yard game) for 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions resulting in a Passer Rating of 127.2. Over this 9 game winning streak, Prescott has a Passer Rating of 116.4. Zeke Elliott was held to only 97 yards against the number 1 ranked run defense in the NFL who had allowed an average of 76 yards per game so far this season.
While the offense was pretty bland yet again in the first half (punting on their first 3 drives), they were able to spread the ‘sauce’ around in the second half, scoring on their final 5 drives and covering 367 of their 417 total yards over those drives. The Ravens were cocky and arrogant as they took the lead quickly and began mocking the Cowboys by throwing up the X after the Terrance West TD run in the first quarter and copying Zeke’s ‘feed me’ motion as they amassed 71 yards on the ground in their first 2 drives. Dez Bryant said after the game, those antics go unnoticed by the team who is only focused on doing their job. Regardless, the antics stopped quickly half way into the second quarter when the Cowboys began to find their groove.
As well as the Cowboys have been playing in the second halves this season, there are several areas they can improve defensively. Sunday marked the 3rd game in a row without a takeaway after stealing 9 through their first 6 games. Down the stretch, against their divisional foes, that has to change if they are going to continue this streak and secure the division. Sean Lee acknowledged this after the game, “The good part is we came back, we rallied, we played better. But we have to get turnovers. If we get turnovers and get the ball back to our offense, these games can be a little bit easier because of how well they’re playing.” Another area in which they can improve is in eliminating the big plays. The Ravens first TD drive was a result of 3 big runs of 20, 16 and 18 yards.
The Cowboys are playing very well, but with 3 of their final 6 games coming against divisional rivals in the strongest division in the NFL (.688 win pctg), it will be no easy task. The Redskins come to town on Thursday afternoon fresh off their 42-24 rout of Green Bay on Sunday Night behind Kirk Cousins’ 145.8 Passer Rating. The time to enjoy their 9th straight win is over. The quest for their 10th begins today.
Thursday afternoon, SI.com broke the news that Tony Romo had reportedly requested a chance to win his job back from the rookie sensation, Dak Prescott. Unfortunately for him, the Cowboys rejected his proposal, and the veteran instead conceded the team to Prescott in an emotional press conference on Tuesday.
The Cowboys have clearly chosen to ride the hot hand of Dak Prescott for the rest of the year, but no rookie quarterback has ever won the super bowl as a starter. Did the Cowboys make a mistake by not allowing Romo, a 14 year veteran, to at least try to win his job back? We will find out soon enough. Please comment and give us your thoughts.
For more details on Romo’s rejection, check out the Sports Illustrated article here.
The Cowboys are on a historic pace. For the first time since 1975, they have won 8 straight games. Let that sink in for a minute. Neither Tony Romo nor Troy Aikman ever won 8 in a row. This team is clicking on all cylinders and as a result, we finally have an end to the quarterback controversy. Jerry Jones said after the game that Tony Romo will be active next week…as Dak Prescott’s backup. “I think the longer (Prescott) plays like this, the more we have a chance to have another win,” Jones told reporters. “Everybody here wants to do only really one thing, is win… to be able to come out of here with a win just obliterates any thought about any of the issues that you might have as to who’s out on the field.” Controversy squashed.
Dak Prescott finished 22 of 32 for a season high 319 yards and 2 touchdowns for a passer rating of 121.7 bringing his season average to 106.2. The only 2 games he has not broken the 100 mark is game 1 against the Giants (69.4) and against the Eagles (79.8). Dak continues to keep the game moving forward at his pace. He has settled down and refuses to force the ball to any one receiver. Dez Bryant played for his dad who passed away Saturday from an “unspecified illness” and made his father proud catching 6 receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown on a 50 yard bomb from Prescott. Dez isn’t the player we have been used to seeing over his career, but he has the ability to dial it up at any moment. His hands aren’t as solid as they have been and seeing Antonio Brown on the other side further brings in to question just how ‘elite’ Dez really is. As Dak and Dez play more together, the timing will come on those fades in the end zone, but even on the 50 yard TD, he bobbled the ball for several steps before finally reeling it in. Down the stretch, Dez needs to find his hands and become the man that he was in 2014 in order for this team to make a deep push in the playoffs. Having this offensive line ‘Parting the Red Sea’ for Ezekiel Elliott helps alleviate some of the pressure as Elliott rushed for 114 yards on 21 carries resulting in 2 touchdowns as well as taking an 83 yard screen pass to the house for another. Watching this offense have their way with defensive fronts in the second half is a thing of beauty and something you don’t see anywhere else in the NFL.
This game showed the holes in the defense. Antonio Brown caught 14 of his 18 targets for 154 yards and 1 touchdown, proving that an elite receiver will get his catches regardless of coverage. Big Ben Roethlisberger was back to his Hall of Fame form completing 37 of 46 for 408 yards, 3 touchdowns and a passer rating of 125.4. The bright spot of this defense? They held Le’Veon Bell to just 57 yards on the ground on 17 carries. He did get another 77 through the air however and with Barry Church and Morris Claiborne still out for a few more weeks, look for teams to put the ball in the air even more. I will give Leon McFadden some credit, though. On the fake spike play that fooled the entire defense, it was McFadden trying to cover one of the most elite receivers in the NFL in Antonio Brown. Big Ben made a perfect throw and Brown scored, but he showed some hustle, so here’s an atta boy!
Allegiances aside, this was one of the best games, if not the best game in the NFL this season. It had 7 lead changes, 5 big plays over 30 yards and 3 touchdowns scored in the final 2 minutes. It also had a massive teaching moment for my 2 boys (ages 8 and 9), when at the end of the game I was able to show them why going for 2 after every touchdown is a bad idea and horrible strategy. Steelers coach, Mike Tomlin, failed to attempt an extra point and also failed to convert any of the 4 2 point conversions. As such, instead of trailing 35-34 and only needing a Field Goal, they were forced to score a touchdown. Not only that, but it’s anybody’s guess at how those last 2 minutes would have played out had he not tried to go for 2 on every touchdown. My oldest boy, Mason, goes for two in Madden every time and refuses to see the downside. He gets it now. Thanks Mike Tomlin!
They are who we thought they were. This game went exactly as expected. The Cowboys came out hot, scored Touchdowns and punted twice. The Browns, on the other hand, had 33 yards in the second half. This no name group of orphans on the Cowboys’ Defense continuously steps up and embraces the ‘next man up’ mentality. Even without S Barry Church and CB Morris Claiborne, the Browns only had 222 total yards and were 1-9 on third downs. As Defensive Coordinator, Rod Marinelli, would put it they were “solid, didn’t break, off the charts”. Coach is a man of many words.
Dak played solid as well, completing 21 of 27 for 247 yards and 3 TDs with a career best 141.8 passer rating. What impressed me the most about Dak was his ability to reel Dez back in after a couple of missed Pass Interference calls. Dez was fuming as he went to line back up and Dak got him to keep his cool and focus. Dez finished with only 1 catch for 19 yards, but said, “At the end of the day we got that W”.
Back in the spot light this week was the future Hall of Famer himself, Jason Witten. Witten recorded his first 100 yard game since 2013 with 8 catches, 134 yards and 1 TD. This game wasn’t flashy, in fact, the longest run was 15 yards. Exactly the game that we needed, methodical, consistent, and about 30 minutes shorter than all the other games. Get in, get out and get home with the W. Zeke only rushed for 92 yards on 18 carries, but the stats were skewed as the majority of the starters sat most of the 4th quarter. The last drive of the game took 7:48 seconds, included 2 4th down conversions and 2 QB kneels from the victory formation inside the red zone. The Cowboys eclipsed the 400 yard total offense for the 6th straight time, setting yet another record. The biggest stat of the day was Time of Possession. The Cowboys controlled the ball twice as long as their opponent (39:39-20:21) which allowed them to keep the clock running.
Defensively, Maliek Collins recorded his first 2 career sacks and after the game said he should have had a third. This team is the first “Team” we’ve seen. Nobody flashy, just a team of hard working guys who are in the right place and don’t beat themselves.
Pretty close again! The Browns converted 1 of those field goals into a TD and the Boys got all TDs. Dan Bailey was 0/0 on field goal attempts.
On a night where Jason Witten breaking Ed “Too Tall” Jones’ record for Consecutive starts by a Cowboy looked to be the only good thing to happen, it was none other than Witten himself to secure the game winning catch in OT. The future Hall of Famer had been held to just 1 catch for 11 yards when Dak scrambled and found him WIDE open in the end zone. Throughout the game, Jason Garrett continued to have out of body experiences, diverting from his usual vanilla play calling with trick plays and 4th down conversions in OT. Punter Chris Jones flashed his speed on a fake punt running 30 yards and picking up the first down before stepping out of bounds. Cole Beasley showed off his arm by over throwing Terrence Williams on a screen- WR pass. With all the drama and endless headlines, Dak Prescott was yet again the main story. Prescott finished with 287 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, completing 19 of 39 passes. Through 2 and a half quarters, Dak looked to be opening the door for Tony Romo’s return. The return of Dez Bryant might have had something to do with it as he targeted Bryant 14 times while only completing 4 and leaving Cole Beasley completely out of the equation. Dak repeatedly forced the ball into bad situations instead of taking what the defense was giving him.
Facing a 10 point deficit in the second half, the game plan went out the window and Dak became the player we have become accustomed to. He spread the ball well, got Cole Beasley involved and Zeke started finding holes. In overtime, Dak completed all 5 of his passes and marched the team 75 yards down the field to win the game on a Romo-esque type scramble to Romo’s best friend. This was the game that Dak finally looked like a rookie, but under the lights in prime time, against a division rival for sole possession of first place in the division and first place in the NFC (at least till tonight when the Vikings play the Bears), he was able to turn it on and get it done. The entire team is rallying behind the rookie passer unlike anything we’ve seen, and it is getting harder to argue that this is still Romo’s team. This, a night that was Dak’s worst, might be the night that solidifies his spot as leader of this offense.
Defensively, the game ball goes to Sean Lee. Lee was, yet again, everywhere the entire night finishing with 11 tackles, 2 of which were for a loss. The play of the game came with 7 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Wentz passed short right to Darren Sproles only to have Lee immediately bury him for a 6 yard loss. This took the Eagles out of field goal range and forced a punt, keeping it a 7 point game. The following drive was 90 yards ending in the game tying touchdown to Dez Bryant. The defense stepped up and made plays when it counted even after losing Morris Claiborne (groin) and Barry Church (fractured arm). The Eagles final 4 drives resulted in a lost fumble and 3 punts. The Cowboys bend but don’t break D came through again and to date have not given up more than 23 points in a game and is 4th in the league in points allowed (18.6/game). This no name group of ‘orphans’ is playing as a single unit and having fun doing it.
Find a way to get in the backfield: 3 sacks, 11 tackles for a loss and 1 fumble recovery by Tyrone Crawford.
Run: The Eagles stacked the box and begged Dak to beat them. As a result, Zeke only rushed for 96 yards and Dak played poorly under pressure for the majority of the game only completing 48.7% of his passes.
Get Dez started early: This was definitely the focus of the Cowboys game plan and to a fault. Dak was obviously forcing the ball to Dez instead of reading the defense and getting the ball to the open man. Dez did finish with 4 catches on 14 targets for 113 yards and a TD.
This has been a very exciting year for Cowboy Nation. The Cowboys are 5-1 on the season, the offense is humming along like a well-oiled machine, and surprisingly, the make-shift defense hasn’t been too shabby either. “America’s Team” appears to be well on their way to actually earning the nickname after decades of habitual disappointment.
But what has been the root of their success? Well, unless you’re oblivious to all social media, it’s pretty clear that the bulk of the fan base gives credit to Dak Prescott for the Cowboys’ miraculous resurrection – which is not unwarranted. Dak has emerged as the clear future of the Dallas Cowboys, touting a passer rating of 103.9 with 1,486 yards and 7 touchdowns. What’s more impressive is that he takes care of the football, with only 1 interception (albeit 4 fumbles) through 6 games. He’s clearly a guy with a knack for managing football games and piling up the W’s, which is why football pundits and arm-chair quarterbacks across the nation are screaming at the top of their lungs: “Do NOT sideline the Dak-Attack for old-man-Romo!”
It didn’t take long for a majority of the football “experts” to abandon Tony at the train station and load up on the Dak-Express. Troy Aikman, Steven A. Smith, Phil Simms, Skip Bayless and even Brett Favre are all in favor of Romo donning a headset for the remainder of the year (just to name a few examples). But the sports-media giants are not the only publications chiming in on the debate… With the controversy garnishing nationwide attention, even publications like The Wall Street Journal have tried to capitalize on the hysteria by throwing their opinion into the mix.
WARNING: At this point in the article, I need to ask everyone to take a minute to relax and search for that happy, zen-like place in your mind. Why do we need to relax, you ask? Great question – thanks for asking! It’s because I’m about to step away from the Dak-mania crowd and go full Romo-sexual, which apparently is a very unpopular thing to do. According to recent polls, 78.35% of you have either 1) Renamed your dog (or son) after Dak Prescott, 2) Stopped listening to Carrie Underwood because she once dated Romo, or 3) Re-purposed your Romo jersey as floor mop – But please folks, try to remain calm. We’ve got some important facts to discuss…
Well guess what? The majority of the pundits are simply dead-wrong. Yes, that’s right – I’m talking like forecast from The Weather Channel kind-of-wrong. I mean, Skip Bayless once claimed Tim Tebow was going to take the Jets to a Super Bowl! Are you kidding me?
The problem is most sports commentators, much like stock market analysts, don’t really aim to be “right”. They only try to make the safest bet and avoid being “wrong”. For example, in early 2007, Blackberry, Ltd. was plowing through the competition in the telecommunications industry. The success of the Blackberry cell phone had led the company stock price from $2.00 in 2002 to $230 in 2007. Market analysts at the time declared the company was unstoppable and encouraged investors to continue “riding the wave”. Well, I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen a Blackberry in quite some time. Of course, Apple, Inc. released the iPhone in 2007 and quickly brushed Blackberry aside as they gained the bulk share of the cell phone industry. The analysts had been short-sighted and encouraged investors into what appeared to be the safe-bet due to the recent success of the stock. Hopefully you see where I am going with this. To be clear, I’m not saying that Dak is about to fall off into oblivion as Blackberry did – We’ve certainly found the future face of the franchise with Dak. I’m just pointing out that pundits and analysts are notoriously sheepish, and that the ability of the competition should be considered whether you’re making investment decisions or deciding which quarterback to start.
EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’ve got some real juevos, shares of Blackberry, Ltd. can currently be swiped up at the low, low price of around $7.00 a share…
Few people realize or give any credit to Tony’s actual accomplishments. In our “what have you done for me lately” society, fans and critics alike seem to dismiss his top-tier ability because he hasn’t been able to lead the Cowboys to new championships. But the stats can’t be ignored or pushed aside. When it comes to passer rating, Tony Romo comes in at 3rd on the list (All-Time). Yup, that’s 3rd in the entire history of the NFL, not just among active QB’s. Just to list a few names who fall below Tony: Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Ben Rothlisberger, etc, etc…
I can already hear the Romo-Haters now: “Oh wow [sarcasm], he’s 3rd all-time in passer rating, but Romo can’t seem to close out games, that’s why he’s a loser!” Well, the haters are incorrect once again because our boy Tony happens to hold the 2nd highest 4th Quarter Passer Rating OF ALL TIME. Again, that’s an all-time stat (see above list for QB’s who fall below him).
To be honest, Romo has significant standing in practically every major category of the all-time stats, but he never gets credit for his entire body of work – only the memorable losses seem to come to the minds of the pundits when they form their opinions.
Probably one of the most over-looked reasons for starting Romo when he is fully healthy is due to the success the Cowboys had in 2014. With DeMarco Murray in 2014, the Cowboys were able to bruise their way into leading the league in time of possession (54.69%), which kept the mediocre defense off the field as much as possible. In 2016, the Cowboys have looked very similar with Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, coming in at 2nd in the league in TOP (55%). This not only limits the vulnerability of our defense, but it significantly opens up the down-field passing game for the quarterback. Dak Prescott has been the biggest benefactor of this, and I firmly believe it’s one of the main reasons that he’s had success this year.
But Tony Romo has more capability to push the ball down-field in the passing game than Dak Prescott does. If there has been any “flaw” in Dak’s performances this year, it’s that he has preferred to check down to the third and fourth pass options and hasn’t really challenged the defensive backs that he’s faced. Dak may have gotten away with this during the first 6 games, but we’ve played some very mediocre teams with a 17-24 combined record – he won’t get away with that kind of strategy down the stretch or in the playoffs. With Romo at QB, he’d be able to stretch the defense down field which would create gaping holes more frequently for the run game. He did it in 2014 for DeMarco and he’ll do it again for Zeke, if afforded the opportunity.
Admittedly, Romo’s early playoff resume doesn’t exactly impress. As a matter of fact, one of the most common arguments I hear from Romo-haters is that “Tony is a choke-artist in the playoffs.” The “choke-artist” label for Romo first surfaced after he botched the snap on a game-winning field goal during the 2006 playoffs against the Seahawks. I can understand why this debacle would be permanently ingrained into the minds of the fan-base, and the Cowboys’ successive playoff appearances in ’07 and ’09 did little to restore his image either, but he certainly can’t shoulder all of the blame. The 2014 playoffs, however, are a much different story.
Every time I hear someone accuse Romo for the Cowboys’ quick exit from the 2014 playoffs, I have to question their knowledge of the game. After leading the ‘Boys to yet another 4th quarter comeback win against the Lions in the NFC Wildcard game, Romo was brilliant again against the Packers. He may have only thrown 19 passes, but he connected on 15 of them for 191 yards, 2 touchdowns and a Passer Rating of 143.6 (which is the 25th best PR in playoff history). Many will remember the game as the “Dez Bryant Catch/No-Catch” game, but the truth is, if DeMarco Murray had never fumbled in the 3rd quarter (leading to a Packers’ FG), or if the Dan Bailey field goal at the end of the 2nd quarter wasn’t blocked, the “Dez Bryant Catch/No-Catch” would have never even happened. Instead of going for it on that 4th and 2, the Cowboys would have just kicked a field goal for the win.
I understand that toying with the starting quarterback of a 5-1 (potentially 6-1) team is a scary proposition for any NFL fan base, but with how the league is shaping up this year, the Cowboys have a very real opportunity to make a deep run in the playoffs and contend for their sixth Super Bowl ring. Dak has been outstanding, and he’s certainly solidified his role as the future of the franchise, but let’s not lose sight of the forest through the trees. This IS and ALWAYS HAS BEEN Tony Romo’s team.
In a league begging for conversation topics, I was really trying hard to find something to spotlight in this game. And not because there are too few, it’s quite the opposite here in Dallas. In this Sunday Night Football matchup between league rivals, you have a 5-1 Cowboys team facing off against a 4-2 Eagles team, both of which are starting rookie quarterbacks. Add the fact that Cowboys’ long time quarterback, Tony Romo, actually practiced for the first time since training camp on Thursday and you are pretty much guaranteed to see and hear plenty about the QB debate during the national broadcast. Is this Dak’s last game? This game will tell us. If the Cowboys win by 14, Dak has a rating of 100+ and Zeke rushes for 150, it will be really hard to pull him. A Cowboys loss, on the other hand, makes it really easy for the front office and coaching staff to put Romo back in and let him get a shot at a ring. Needless to say, there are plenty of story lines leading into Sunday Night.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys will look to stop the run and force Carson Wentz to move his feet. When Wentz can hang in the pocket, he can deliver a nice pass. However, when he is forced to move while throwing, he tends to throw flat footed and rely on his arm causing the ball to sail. Last week we saw the defense rush 3 and drop 8. The Packers didn’t have a running back for most of the game, so this made sense. This week, the Eagles have two in Jordan Matthews and Darren Sproles, both of which can hurt you. That said, the Eagles are ranked 17th in the league in rushing with 111/ypg. On paper, this Eagles offense doesn’t look like a 4-2 team. Their defense, however, is a whole ‘nother story, allowing only 307/ypg (5th in the league) and 14.7 points per game (3rd in the league).
Offensively, Dak and Zeke have this team rolling and Dez Bryant is coming back. The Eagles will need to pick their poison and are going to really need to think about their choice. Their run defense is ranked 24th in the league allowing 4.5 yards per carry and their starting defensive tackle, Bennie Logan, is might not suit up. If that happens, Zeke is going to have a field day. The only way to stop this from happening is to load the box, leaving 1:1 with Dez outside. This might be the day Dak posts his first 300 yard game.
Find a way to get in the backfield: Doing this will give the running backs less room to move and force Carson Wentz to move his feet. Over the last two weeks, teams have been able to do this and Wentz has looked more like a rookie. The Offensive line isn’t as good as the Cowboys have faced in the first 6 weeks, so if there was a matchup that allowed a rush, this is it.
Run: The Eagles defense as a whole ranks in the top 5 in the league in yards per game and points allowed, however, the run defense is ranked 24th. Feed Zeke. Force the Eagles to stop him and by doing so freeing up the receivers. Zeke or Dak should have a big game, which one depends on the Eagles preference.
Get Dez started early: With Dez set to start for the first time in 4 weeks, look for him to get some early receptions in order to kick off the dust. If the Eagles decide to shut down Dez, look for Cole Beasley to have another big game.
The political theater this election season is certainly not short on entertainment. When she’s not deleting emails, she’s busy covering up other scandals – When he’s not “grabbing [women]”, he’s offending Hispanics. It seems like the election this year will ultimately come down to which candidate we hate less. But for Cowboy fans, we have a more important decision to tackle… (Pun intended).
There has been a lot of controversy over the past two months whether Dak Prescott should start when Tony Romo is healthy again. Dak, a fourth round draft pick, surprised everyone with his success in the preseason. That success has continued into the regular season, after becoming the temporary starter when Romo broke his back on his 3rd play of the preseason. Slowly, but surely, those in Tony’s corner have shrunk to what is now a dwindling few, while Dak’s bandwagon is getting so crowded it looks like a Ringling Brothers’ clown car. Watching the Cowboys’ season to this point, it may sound crazy that there was even controversy. However, do not forget the undying loyalty of Romo-sexuals and the ever present Jerry Jones reminding fans and haters alike after each game that, “Tony is our quarterback”.
A lot has shifted after the Cowboys 5th win in 6 weeks, when Jerry Jones decided to flip flop by saying,”We’ve got to get Romo in a situation so that it is a situational decision. I don’t use the word ‘problem’ in this conversation. This is a great situation….all of it is a great situation. I don’t have a time frame. There is no time frame.” – Huh? So, just to be clear, there are a lot of situations, but no time frames – Thanks a lot Jerry.
Stepping back and looking at the stats somewhat more objectively, it seems very obviously that Dak should not just be an incumbent starter, but rather the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. There have been two other times in Tony Romo’s career that the Cowboys have gone 5-1: 2007 and 2014. Let’s look at Romo’s stats in those years and compare them to what Dak Prescott has done this year.
|PASSING STATS||2007 Romo||2014 Romo||2016 Dak|
|Yards per Attempt||8.1||7.9||8.2|
|2007 Romo||2014 Romo||2016 Dak|
|Yards per Carry||5.9||3.0||3.4|
|Opponents’ Record||13-22 37%||16-20 44%||13-21 38%|
|Rushing Attack||Jones/Barber 651||Murray 785||Zeke 703|
|Key Receiver||TO played 6 games||Dez played 6 games||Dez played 3 games|
Dak actually has a better completion percentage than both of Romo’s 5-1 starts, marginally better than 2014 and significantly better than 2007.
Result: Slight edge, Dak
Dak has less passing yards per game than both of Romo’s years, three yards less than 2014, and thirty-six yards less than 2007. Neither would prove to be a significant difference. However, Dak is getting more bang for his buck on his throws with a slightly higher yards per attempt than both of Romo’s best starts.
Getting into two of the most important stats for a quarterback, passing touchdowns and interceptions, Tony has more touchdowns, but also more interceptions. A lot can be said for a quarterback being able to score points, but many would say the same about turnovers. Many would say that these two statistics probably cancel each other out, with a fair amount of people on either side of the argument.
Neither one of these quarterbacks rushing stats jump out, but both 2007 Romo and 2016 Dak know how to use their legs when they need to fight for first downs, and even touchdowns.
Result: Slight edge, Dak
Now to get to the extremely complicated QBR rating, and the not so complicated passer rating. The QBR rating is so complicated, only an estimated number can be given based on looking at Romo’s QBRs for each individual game for the first six games of each season. There will be 10 point wiggle room on either side for Tony. Through six games, Tony was probably a few points lower in 2007 and about 10 points lower in 2014. Passer rating calculators are readily available, so those number are exact. Dak’s passer rating is almost 4 points higher than Tony in 2014 and over 9 points higher in 2007. Why is Tony’s passer rating higher and QBR lower in 2014? As stated before, QBR is EXTREMELY complicated and takes into account not only rushing ability of a quarterback, but also arbitrary things like pass rush and quality of receivers.
Looking at their teammates and what they have contributed. All three years had a great rushing attack, 2007 probably being less great than the other two. That is not completely surprising, considering the 2014 and 2016 offensive lines were better (and exactly the same now that Ronald Leary is starting due to La’el Collins’ injury). However, Romo had Terrell Owens or Dez Bryant for all six games, while Dez has been injured for three of the six games this year. All three years had very average defenses, as well.
Lastly, lets look at the winning percentage of the teams the Cowboys faced in each year. One thing those numbers will not show, is that Romo beat the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants and lost to the AFC Champion New England Patriots in the first six games of 2007, and beat the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks in 2014. Dak still does have two wins against winning teams this year (Washington and Green Bay), but neither of those teams look like Super Bowl contenders.
Looking back at these comparisons, Dak and Romo each won a category outright, with Dak also having two slight edge wins. Couple that with Dak being a healthy 23 year old and Romo being an often-injured 36 year old, and the argument starts to become even more clear. In 2007 or 2014, would anyone have suggested that another quarterback, with more credentials in his career, come and start at quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys? Absolutely not! Can Tony Romo do things that Dak cannot? Yes, his deep ball is better. Can Dak do things that Romo cannot do? Yes, he has shown an ability to not turn the ball over that Tony has not. The final argument is simple, but does need to be stated: You DO NOT take out a 5-1 quarterback in the NFL under any circumstance, period.
Dak in 2016.
It’s the bye week and the Cowboys are rolling with a 5-1 record, after losing week 1 to the Giants by 1 point. No one expected Dak to put the team in this position, but he did. Is it because of all the pieces around him, the first round draft picks of Offensive lineman or the 4th overall pick being a stud running back, or his own poise and skill? One thing is certain, these “Romo Friendly” picks have turned QB friendly. So let’s take a minute to really look at this little predicament the Cowboys find themselves in.
Dak has started 6 games in the NFL, so to be fair, let’s look at those 6 vs Tony’s last 6 games.
The numbers are very similar, Tony has 2 more TDs but 6 more INTs in that span and Dak actually has more yards. Considering Dak threw his first TD in week 3, it’s only logical that the last 3 games what we can anticipate going forward. The Cowboys are 3-3 under Tony and 5-1 under Dak. From a numbers perspective, it is really hard to argue for Tony over Dak. What other arguments are out there to support putting Tony in?
While over his career, Tony has been the most prolific 4th quarter passer in the league, Dak has done a pretty good job in his limited opportunities to run a 2 minute drill. Last week in Green Bay, he drove the team 97 yards in 33 seconds and it didn’t look like they were hurrying. He remains poised and calm in every situation.
While that may or may not be true, the one game Dak has lost was to the Giants by 1 point. That was the same game that Ezekiel Elliott only rushed for 53 yards. If you remember, Zeke was extremely limited in the preseason with a hamstring strain allowing him to have his first snaps against Seattle in week 3 of the preseason. He was a little gun shy in that season opener. That was also the same game where Dak was moving the ball in the final minute, but Terrence Williams decided to stay in bounds and run the clock out. Had Zeke been the Zeke we have seen in the last 5 games, the Cowboys would have won that game and been undefeated.
The Cowboys have proven over the years that they can find the money to do whatever they want. It would be REALLY SILLY to trade or cut Romo this year, I’ll admit it. If that were to happen, the Cowboys would eat $19.6 million in cap space. That is a TON of dead money. However, if they part ways after June 1st over the offseason, Romo would only cost $10.7 million in dead money and $8.9 million the following year. Considering that his cap hit if he is on the roster those years are $24.7 million and $25.2 million, respectively, it makes a ton of sense to move on.
So now that those three myths are busted, let’s take a look at the other side of the coin.
Pick a date, and stick to it. Over the years Tony has needed a warm up game, and Cleveland is the perfect one. Put Tony in against Cleveland, let him shake the rust off and then take on Pittsburg (who might still be without Big Ben). If at any time Romo looks like he isn’t getting it back, you still have Dak to put back in. What you don’t want to do, is make this a week to week thing and pull Dak when he struggles only to put him back in when Tony struggles. That would hurt his confidence. You want him sitting because it’s time not because he lost the job, so that when he comes back in, he still has that confidence and swagger that he has now.
Seattle had Russell Wilson on his rookie salary and was able to devote a large portion of their cap to building the legion of boom. This year we have Morris Claiborne, Terrence Williams and Ron Leary coming up just to name a few. To sign these guys, you will need some of that money saved from moving on from Romo. If you don’t pay those guys, you need to either draft their replacements or sign another Free Agent which will cost you as well.
Tony has 2 playoff wins, so to say he gives you that experience in the playoffs, is a little misleading. Yes, he’s been there, but he’s 2-4 in postseason play. He’s won 2 games, not 2 Super Bowls. So to derail the Dak Train, doesn’t seem to be the right move in my opinion. Luckily, my name isn’t Jerry Jones so I don’t have to worry about it. I can just sit back and hope and critique whatever the decision may be. Luckily for GM Jerry, he doesn’t have to worry about losing his job should whatever decision he ends up making blow up in his face.
I’ll leave you with this: Romo’s last start resulted in no TDs, 3 INTs and a Passer Rating of 27.2.
Dak’s last start resulted in 3 TDs, 1 INT and a Passer Rating of 117.4, second straight game over 117 and hasn’t been under 100 since week 1. Whatever decision is made – Go Cowboys!
The Cowboys travel to Green Bay Wisconsin this weekend as they take on the Packers at Lambeau Field. Lambeau has not been a friendly place for the Cowboys in the recent past, in fact, they have lost their last 5 meetings. Included in those 5 losses was the divisional round of the 2014 playoffs where Dez caught the ball only to have the head of officiating, Dean Blandino, overturn it (not that I’m still upset about that at all). Dez, however, is still nursing the fracture in his leg and is questionable to play this week. He was limited in practice and he could suit up as a decoy or in an emergency goal line situation. Dez isn’t the only starter likely to miss the game. For the Cowboys, Orlando Scandrick is still out with the hamstrings and Tyron Smith took the day off yesterday, but sources say he will be a go on Sunday. Green Bay has numerous players missing in action, including, TE Jared Cook, CB Sam Shields and RB James Starks. The Packers only carry 2 running backs and 1 full back on the active roster. If Starks can’t go Sunday, look for the Packers to pull up a scout team RB. The Packers are 3-1 this year, but with a combined margin of victory of 18 with wins over the Jaguars, Lions and Giants.
The Cowboys have the top ranked running game in the NFL, the Packers have the top ranked run defense in the NFL. This will be another game where whoever wins the line will win this game. The offensive line will need to dominate again to keep the running game moving. This will allow Dak to keep his rhythm and more importantly, keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. This Sunday, the Packers will present Brett Favre his Hall of Fame ring, so to say that Aaron Rodgers will have some extra motivation this week goes without saying. The longer Mr. Rodgers is on the sideline, the better the odds of the Cowboys ending this 5 game losing streak in Lambeau.
I think we can all agree the defense played outside themselves last week vs the Bengals. Demarcus Lawrence played limited snaps in his first game back from his 4 game suspension. He will be given a full load this week and will need to be on top of his game this week as he chases down Rodgers who has only taken 8 sacks on the season. The Packers offense isn’t as high powered as we are used to as they have the worst passing and 12th worst rushing offense so far in 2016. These Packers always seem to play their best when the Cowboys come to town, however, so the D Line will need to get pressure on Rodgers in order to keep their offensive woes rolling.
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It was all fun and games in Arlington on Sunday as the Cowboys had their way with the Bengals. Dak continued to look poised in the pocket as he managed to make it to his 3rd and 4th read at will. The offensive line had their best game yet against a defensive front 7 that is the heart and sole of a usually stout defense. We all know how much the Cowboys have sunk into this offensive line – the Bengals have done the same with their defensive front. Their best vs our best. The result? 180 yards rushing, 134 from Ezekiel Elliott, 3 rushing touchdowns, 227 yards passing and 1 passing touchdown. The low point (because you have to stay grounded) was Dak’s first turnover of the year. The offensive line gave up just 1 sack on the day which resulted in a fumble which the Bengals recovered. That turnover ended a 12 play, 57 yard and nearly 8 minute drive at the CIN 18 yard line. The Cowboys were driving and about to make it 35-0. Instead, the Bengals recovered the fumble and 10 plays later cut their deficit to 28-7.
The Cowboys didn’t give up any big plays as their secondary was firm and Bengals QB Andy Dalton found himself under pressure within 2-3 second on nearly every drop back. The Cowboys actually had a pass rush for the first time all year thanks to the return of Demarcus Lawrence. Lawrence didn’t record a sack, but came very close on two separate occasions – we’ll chalk that up to the rust factor. But his speed off the end forced Dalton out of the pocket and right into our other 3 rushers, resulting in 4 sacks. As the weeks progress, and Lawrence gets continues to get his feet back, he won’t miss those opportunities. Rest assured, if he does, the other guys bull rushing from the other side won’t. AJ Green caught half of his 8 targets for just 50 yards while Brandon LaFell caught 8 for 68 and two TDs. The Bengals couldn’t seem to to get a quick score as both scoring drives were 10+ plays and over 5 minutes. The Cowboys were giving up the short plays to eliminate the quick strikes.
Call me crazy, but this is exactly the way I like to watch my teams. Relaxed, with my feet up, blood pressure at a nice calm rate. There was never a time throughout the entire game where I was even a little worried. Dak continued to spread the ball around, Zeke busted a 60 yard touchdown run (untouched), the defense was swarming around the ball. It was utter domination beginning to end. All of this without Dez Bryant and Orlando Scandrick. Dez was sidelined another week with the hairline fracture in his leg, and Orlando rested his hamstrings another week. The offense didn’t miss a beat thanks to Terrence Williams catching all 5 of his targets for 70 yards and Jason Witten’s 3 catches and 43 yards with an absolutely beautiful stiff arm of Derron Smith:
The Cowboys will look to continue this 4 game winning streak in which they have progressed significantly each week as they head into Lambeau to face the 3-1 Packers. A win there will officially start the conversation about a certain Cowboy’s retirement. But for now, let’s enjoy this week, as it’s back to work tomorrow.
Zeke runs wild:
I had the “Zeke runs wild” part down, although I did not see this defense playing as soundly as they did, nor did I think we wouldn’t miss Dez against a reportedly solid Bengals Defense. When I am wrong, I want it to be in this way!
Zach Martin shouldn’t have to worry about who is wife will support on Sunday afternoon as her brother, Bengals TE Tyler Eifert, will be sidelined with a back injury. Unfortunately, the Cowboys will have their own problems with who suits up on Sunday. Just to name a few of the Cowboys who did not practice on Wednesday: K – Dan Bailey (back), WR – Dez Bryant (knee), RB – Lance Dunbar (knee), OT – Chaz Green (foot), DT – David Irving (Concussion), G – La’El Collins (toe, moved to IR).
There were several others who were limited participants, namely CB Orlando Scandrick and OT Tyron Smith. On a more positive side, DeMarcus Lawrence is back this week which means we could see some resemblance of a, wait for it… wait for it… PASS RUSH! For those of you who don’t remember what this is, a “Pass Rush” is typically where the Defensive End gets around the Offensive Tackle and sacks the QB within 3 seconds. The QB shouldn’t have 7 or 8 seconds to scan and re-scan the field every time he drops back.
So now that we are caught up on who is playing where, what does that mean for Sunday? Ezekiel Elliott is the NFL’s leading rusher through 4 weeks. At his current pace, he should end with over 1600 rushing yards. This Bengals team will let you run on them. They are giving up an average of 3.8 yards per carry on the ground so far this year and haven’t seen anything close to the Cowboys’ rushing attack yet. Establishing the run game early will help the Dak and the passing game. It’s still uncertain if Dez plays on Sunday, so let’s assume he’s out. Bryce Butler had a good game but didn’t really stretch the field like we’d hoped, Terrence Williams apparently didn’t learn from his week 1 goof and refused to go out of bounds before the half and Cole Beasley was contained for most of the game. Not having Dez on the field affects everyone. All the more reason for the Cowboys to continue to pound the ball and control the clock. The longer they keep the Bengals weapons in the arsenal the better.
Defensively, the Cowboys will have their first big test. AJ Green is a big play threat on every play and is averaging 14.6 yards per reception with 2 TDs. Watching Jeremy Hill run against the Dolphins (I know it’s the Dolphins) was scary. He has good feet and won’t go down if you don’t wrap up. With Orlando Scandrick questionable Sunday, Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr have to shut down Green and make the other receivers beat them, which they are more than capable of doing. Giovani Bernard and Brandon LaFell can each make plays if you sleep on them. Best way to defend this Offense? Don’t let them on the field.
Cowboys: 31, Bengals: 27
Down 14 – 0 in the second quarter, I took it upon myself to do something to help the boys in blue turn it around: I promptly switched chairs. From there, the Cowboys finished the game 27-3. Coincidence? Ok, sure… It probably was. Whatever the reason, the Cowboys were a different team after the horrible start.
Dak finished the game completing 72% of his 32 attempts for a QB Rating of 114.7, 2 TDs and extended his Rookie record to 134 attempts without an interception. The other half of the rookie backfield, Ezekiel Elliott finished the day with 138 yards on 23 attempts for a whopping 6 yards per carry and 1 touchdown, becoming the NFL’s leading rusher. The offensive line didn’t miss a beat, even though they were missing Pro Bowler Tyron Smith and La’El Collins. If anything, they looked a lot more aggressive on run blocking. In my week 3 preview, I mentioned the line might be improved with Ron Leary back at his Left Tackle spot (albeit with Collins replacing Right Tackle Doug Free), however, we did not see a turnaround like this.
Defensively, Morris Claiborne has continued to dominate the secondary. With Orlando Scandrick sidelined for a second straight week, Mo has risen to the occasion making several key stops including the game winning tackle on fourth down late in the 4th quarter. The defensive line had 1 sack and not many more hurries, but did their job after they figured out how to stop Chip Kelly’s option offense with help from Sean Lee (which couldn’t have come sooner as watching a high school offense make an NFL defense look silly got annoying in a hurry). Overall, this was a solid 2. 5 quarters of defense.
I came close again in my week 4 preview. The Cowboys finished the game 24-3, but the damage was done on the 49ers’ first two drives. Cowboys cover the spread: Final Score 24-17
It was supposed to be just another Monday night in October. I walked into Texas Stadium and said the usual prayer: That Drew Bledsoe will bring the Cowboys a much needed win against the hated Giants. With the Big Tuna, Jason Witten, and T.O. on the good guys’ side, a win was likely. But the first half doesn’t go as planned and the Cowboys trail the Giants 12-7. Little did anyone know the second half of this Monday Night Football game would be the beginning of a ten-year roller coaster ride for Cowboy Nation. It was October 23, 2006 – the night the Romo era began. Cowboys fans remember like it was yesterday, seeing the number 9 jersey trot onto the field to start the second half. The excitement of a new beginning – this was THE guy, OUR guy. It wasn’t just Romo waiting patiently for this moment, the fans had been waiting too. His first pass was picked off and the Cowboys ultimately lost the game, but the Cowboys found a winner that night. He led the team to 5 wins over the next 6 games and a playoff berth. He also made the Pro Bowl and Cowboy Nation never looked back. A decade later, history may be repeating itself.
Romo has washed away many of the sins of Jerry Jones and the front office over the past decade. But is that enough for Jerry to keep Romo in Dallas? Mr. Jones said it best after a few Johnnie Walkers, “Romo was a miracle”. But couldn’t the same be said for Dak Prescott? The football gods must have been smiling down on Jerry again when Dak was still available midway through the 4th round in the 2016 draft. Every scouting department in the NFL probably wants a mulligan after Dak was selected 135th overall, but as they say – hindsight is 20/20. Dak is much more than any Cowboys fan had hoped for when they drafted him. He has not only proved to be a legitimate NFL quarterback, but possibly a franchise quarterback for the next decade or longer. After Dak’s fast start, the Cowboys may not want to stunt his growth for a fragile, aging Romo. If they ultimately choose Dak to finish out the season, wouldn’t it be similar to Romo’s promotion a decade ago? The Cowboys would be in contention to win the East, but would likely end up settling for a Wildcard berth. There is nothing wrong with this scenario for a rookie quarterback, but is it enough this time around?
There is also the argument for Romo to retain his starting job when he is healthy. If the NFL stands for ‘Not For Long’, why pass on a top-tier quarterback like Romo when he could lead an offense with all of its’ pieces still intact? The Cowboys offense boasts the best O-Line in football, a Hall of Fame tight end, an All-Pro receiver, and arguably the best running back combo in the league. Who wouldn’t want a quarterback with the second highest quarterback rating in NFL history? If there is a fifty percent chance he could stay healthy for the rest of the year, it’s worth the risk of potentially stunting Dak’s growth as a quarterback (if that’s even a real concern). Who gives the Cowboys the best chance to win TODAY? The short answer is, Tony, and the gap is larger than most people would think. Many have forgotten that Romo is 15-4 (.789) in his last 19 regular season starts. When he’s healthy, the Cowboys are very hard to beat. Dak’s not going anywhere, and there isn’t a Cowboy fan out there that disagrees that he should be given the reins once Romo is done. If Romo gives the team a better chance to win, benching him when he’s ready will limit the Cowboys’ potential.
If the Cowboys decide to stay with Dak for the remainder of the season, there is no reason to keep Romo around. He would be a huge distraction, not only for Dak, but for the entire team. Romo makes no sense as an insurance policy, because the Cowboys have already passed on a legitimate run at the playoffs if they decide to bench him. Teams are always looking for a good quarterback, and would likely give up substantial draft picks to get Romo. The Cowboys could certainty benefit from a few extra draft picks to fill the holes on the defensive side of the ball. The last time the Cowboys got a ‘few’ extra draft picks from trading a high powered offensive talent, it translated into a dynasty that brought three Lombardi trophies to Valley Ranch. It may not be on par with The Great Trade Robbery, but ‘The Star’ is up and running and waiting for some new trophies to fill the halls.
The debate is not who should start for the Cowboys, but rather, when do the Cowboys want to make a serious push in the postseason? The answer should be “Now”. So look for number 9 to trot back on the field once again this year. But the question now becomes, for how long?
Game Time: Sunday, 3:25 p.m.
Location: Levi’s Stadium; Santa Clara, CA
Betting Odds: Dallas -3
Over/Under: 46 points
The Cowboys will once again more than likely be without Dez Bryant as they head to San Francisco to take on the 49ers. When asked how the Offense will fair without their star WR, Dak Prescott said, (and I paraphrase) It won’t change our offense any, we’ll just run our offense and whoever is open will get the ball. While that is what you want to hear from your QB, I honestly think he really believes that. And why wouldn’t he? Dez hasn’t really been the poster boy for elite receivers that we have been accustomed to over the course of his career. But with Ezekiel Elliott looking more like a 4th overall pick, Dez is starting to find his rhythm. Bryce Butler will presumably take the reins this week as the physical receiver cutting across the middle and should provide the necessary speed to open up the long ball as well. Butler said on Wednesday that he is ready to get the opportunity.
The 49ers defense pitched a shutout week 1 over the Rams, but have since allowed 46 points week 2 to the Panthers and 37 to Seattle. Their run defense isn’t shabby, ranking 10th in the league allowing only 122.7 ypg. Where the Cowboys can make their money is in the passing game. The 49ers rank 19th allowing 254.7 ypg through the air. All this includes the week 1 Rams game where they allowed only 130 passing yards and 65 net rushing yards. So the total yards are skewed a bit. The 49ers run a 4-3 and will be healthier than the Bears (who also run a 4-3), so Dak will see a few new looks that should provide a new test. With Tyron Smith still missing practice Wednesday due to his back issue, Chaz Green will be facing those same tests. If Dak and Chaz pass this test, the Cowboys should be 3-1 come Sunday night.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, rank 11th in total yards allowed, and 10th in points per game allowing just 20. With nothing even closely resembling a pass rush, the Cowboys need to find a way to get to QB Blaine Gabbert. Essentially rushing 4 Defensive Tackles can only get you so far as the Cowboys have racked up a whopping 5 sacks so far this season. Hope is on the horizon, however, as Demarcus Lawrence is expected back next week when the Bengals come to ATT Stadium.
[ecko_wide]WINNING STREAK: A series of consecutive successes; a run of good luck. – American Heritage Dictionary[/ecko_wide]
I figured everyone could use a refresher on the definition of “winning streak” – The last time the Cowboys had one was September 20 of last year when they beat the Giants week 1 and Eagles week 2. That week 2 win was bitter sweet as Tony Romo injured his collar bone and we all know what happened next. This year is different. Yes, Tony Romo is injured again, but we have Dak Prescott under center and he is only getting better. Week by week you can see is confidence level grow. In the week 1 loss to the Giants, his passer rating was 69.4, followed by a 103.7 in his first win in Washington last week. This week? A rating of 123.6 completing 19 of 24 for 248 yards and 1 TD. Dak threw his first NFL touchdown last night in the 4th quarter when he completed a 17 yard pass over the middle to Dez Bryant. The offensive line provided a clean pocket and controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the night allowing Zeke Elliott to eat as much as he wanted as he ran for 140 yards on 30 carries. All of this while missing Pro Bowl Left Tackle Tyron Smith and losing Left Guard La’El Collins at halftime. Chaz Green filled the void at tackle and Ronald Leary stepped in at guard and the line didn’t miss a beat. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said, “I thought we showed our depth on the offensive line tonight.”
Defensively, the boys stepped up and didn’t let the Bears’ receivers beat them. Brian Hoyer threw for 317 yards and 2 touchdowns, however, a lot of those yards seemed to come toward the end when the secondary started playing a more prevent style coverage (65 passing yards in 1st half). The defensive line had trouble yet again getting to the QB recording only 1 sack on the night which resulted in a fumble. Hoyer had plenty of time to scan the field the majority of the night, and this Cowboy secondary held its own against the physical Bears’ receivers, even without starting CB Orlando Scandrick (2 hamstring injuries).
There have been many theories on why “America’s Team” has been average for the past two decades. Some have blamed Jerry Jones for the drought. Others point to the general manager (also Jerry Jones) for uncalculated free agent signings, poor drafting, and trying to create a team of big name ‘stars’ instead of building an actual TEAM. There are even some naysayers that believe the problem begins and ends at the quarterback position, including the much beloved Tony Romo. All of these reasons may have played a part, but the real reason resonates throughout every season since the glory days with The Triplets. The Dallas Cowboys head coaching since 1997 has been questionable, at best. Since Barry Switzer retired after the 1997 season, the Cowboys are 148-149 in the regular season and playoffs. While some may have been worse than others (Chan Gailey and Dave Campo), not one of the head coaches were impressive.
Let’s start with Bill Parcells, since the two preceding him were nothing more than placeholders. Parcells came into a situation when the cupboard was barer than any Cowboys roster since the 80’s. He had aging stars on the edge of retirement (Woodson and Allen) mixed with players that he got to perform well above their talent level (Coakley and Williams). This was Bill Parcells last head coaching job, and he treated it as such, by trying to build a team that another coach could come in and take back to the promised land. That included signing undrafted rookie Tony Romo to become the Cowboy’s first franchise quarterback since Troy Aikman. The problem was that Jerry Jones let that coordinator (Sean Payton) get away. Payton went on to become the head coach of the New Orleans Saints the year before Bill Parcells turned his job over to Wade Phillips. Wade was, and is, a great defensive coordinator, but as we’ve seen many times before, that does not always translate into being a great head coach. Wade’s job was made even harder since he most likely knew that his offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett, was basically a head coach in waiting. Wade took the Cowboys to the playoffs a couple of times in his stint as head coach, but was not able to make it past the divisional round either time.
That brings us to the current head coach, Jason Garrett. He took over halfway through the 2010 season and is two games over .500 in that time. Not exactly a record that deserves the job security he seems to have with Jerry Jones. Jerry always seems to find an excuse for why Garrett failed, instead of demanding results in the face of adversity. While Garrett has a great football mind when it comes to X’s and O’s, that is where his coaching prowess ends. He possesses the skills needed to be a successful coordinator in the NFL, but falls short of those skills required to become a Super Bowl winning head coach.
Let’s look at the greatest example of an NFL head coach right now, Bill Belichik, and see how Garrett compares in three different areas. First, Belichik’s delegation is second to none, and the best way to exemplify this is by his coaching tree. He has produced seven NFL head coaches and seven NCAA Division I head coaches. One of those coaches was Nick Saban, who just so happened to be the head coach of the Miami Dolphins when Jason Garrett was the quarterbacks coach. That’s right, Belichik’s coaching tree is now so extensive, other trees are now growing off of it, and Garrett is a branch on one of those trees. While Garrett definitely has not had the tenure to grow the coaching tree Belichik has, by this time in his career Belichik had already promoted out Pat Hill to Fresno State and Nick Saban to Michigan State.
Second, Belichik’s in-game strategy makes Garrett look as if he learned how to game plan by playing Techmo Bowl. We could delve into the most specific and minute stats to see how Belichik makes more right decisions than Garrett, but the easiest is to look at how they react when their hands are tied by playing without their respective star quarterbacks. Since Brady became the starter, Belichik is 15-5 with his backup quarterback, a winning percentage only 1 percent lower than with Brady. Since Garrett took over as head coach of the Cowboys he is 7-14 without Romo as the starter, a whopping 26 percent lower winning percentage than with Romo. Basically, that means if Brady is out, the Patriots still have almost an equal shot at winning with Belichik, but if Romo is out the Cowboys are about half as likely to come away with a win with Garrett.
Finally, Belichik’s superiority over Garrett can be seen by the talent he can attract from around the league. From big free agents superstars like Darrelle Revis to proven talent in Chris Long to the Golden Boy himself, the Patriots can continually get cream of the crop talent for considerably less than they are worth on the open market. Not only do the Cowboys have to pay top dollar for free agents to come play for America’s Team, they could not even convince their All-Pro running back, Demarco Murray, to take even the slightest pay cut to stick around.
Being quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys is one of the hardest positions in sports. It’s up there with playing Shortstop for the Yankees or Center for the Lakers, but the head coach in Dallas is no stress-free job either. Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson flourished in the role, while Barry Switzer and Bill Parcells were good within their own right. These coaches were used to the bright lights that come with being the head coach of America’s Team. Jason Garrett’s resume prior to the Cowboys is less than impressive, to say the least. To say he had never been in the spotlight before is an understatement. In fact, he was so far from the spotlight he couldn’t even cast a shadow. From quarterbacking Ivy League schools – to bouncing around in lesser professional leagues – to becoming a career NFL backup – to coaching in the NFL, Jason Garrett had never been a focal point of any meaningful organization. So the next time you see a ‘deer in the headlights’ look while watching a Cowboys news conference, or the next time you cringe at Garrett’s horrible game-management ability, try to keep in mind that he’s still adjusting his vision to the bright lights at The Star. Unfortunately for Cowboy fans, he may also be the roadblock to a sixth championship ring.
When the NFL schedule gurus created this Sunday Night Football matchup, the Cowboys and the Bears looked much different than they do now. Jay Cutler was the QB in Chicago and Tony Romo was the man in Dallas. Instead, we get the veteran Brian Hoyer versus the rookie, Dak Prescott. But the starting QB’s may not be the only missing pieces from the originally planned lineups. CB Orlando Scandrick (Hamstrings, has not practiced), RT Doug Free (Quadricep, Limited in Practice) and DE Jack Crawford (Shoulder, Limited in Practice) could all potentially miss Sunday night’s game. Everything coming out of the Star in Frisco says that Scandrick could take the week off. I know the Bears are win-less and playing a backup QB, but these Bears receivers are not to be taken lightly. Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White are both capable of putting up big numbers at any moment and Hoyer is a seasoned veteran who finished last season with a passer rating over 90, throwing for 19 TD’s and only 7 INT’s.
The Chicago defense has been decimated by injury with 10 players either limited or not practicing this week. This should be the week Dak gets his first and maybe second TD passes of his career. The question that could spark the most debate, however, isn’t with the rookie Prescott. Of all the position groups on this team, the offensive line has the most intriguing dilemma. With Doug Free limited in practice, Ron Leary aching for action on the sideline and La’El Collins struggling at Guard, it’s creating a perfect storm to move Collins (who’s every highlight is in the open field) over to right tackle and Leary back into his left guard spot. This could help the struggling run game significantly. Collins missed 5 blocks last week in the run game. To say he isn’t the mauler we all hoped for is an understatement. Ezekiel Elliott needs some holes this week to help him get his mind right after being benched for the first time in his life. Zeke dropped the ball twice last week after only fumbling 3 times in his entire college career. Couple this with his off the field ‘issues’ (if you can call them that), and he needs a big game this week.
Defensively, the Cowboys need to get to Hoyer and force him to make bad decisions. This has been a problem spot for the Cowboys D, which is to be expected when you are essentially rushing 4 DT’s. The two sacks this season are, of all things, coverage sacks which allowed time for the big guys up front to power their way home. Those coverage sacks might be a little harder to come by this week. If Scandrick sits, look for Byron Jones to get some action at corner alongside Carr, Claiborne and rookie Anthony Brown with JJ Wilcox and rookie Kavon Frazier getting more reps at the Safety.
Game Time: 7:30 PM on NBC
Location: AT&T Stadium, Arlington
All in all, this week is set up perfectly for the Cowboys to break that 8 game home losing streak pretty easily. Here are the keys to the game:
After the Cowboys win in Landover, one thing is for certain: the Redskins have issues. Kirk Cousins threw for 364 yards and 1 TD, but should have had 3 more easy ones as Jamison Crowder and DeSean Jackson both had breakaways well past the Cowboy secondary only to be over thrown. Redskins Running Back, Matt Jones, had a good game as well rushing for 61 yards on only 13 carries. Why Jay Gruden doesn’t run more is beyond me. Not saying Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is perfect, but he did try to be less predictable with an onside kick in the middle of the game, which caught both teams off guard when the ball didn’t travel the 10 yards required. I want to feel good about this win, I do, but watching all the blatant missed opportunities by Washington makes it difficult. However, this isn’t a Redskins blog, so HOW BOUT THEM COWBOYS!
Dak Prescott was full of poise and grace as he threw for 292 yards completing 22/30 attempts and Zeke Elliott rushed for 83 yards on 21 attempts for an average of 4 yards per carry. Zeke was definitely improved, but the rookie has room to grow. He ‘left some meat on the bone’ so to speak. The Offensive line looked to avenge their lack luster run blocking from week 1 and they did. They were opening holes and getting to the second level consistently. One thing to remember for you rush to judgment on Zeke, he had a total of 14 snaps in the preseason. He will continue to improve as he adapts to the pace of the NFL and gets a feel for the offensive line. Josh Norman held Dez to 0 catches, but primarily played on the left side of the field so Dez was able to catch 7 for 102 yards against Baushaud Breeland, the point is moot.
Morris Claiborne played about as well as we’ve ever seen. He was quick and made stops with minimal contact which is exactly what you want out of your corners. He gets the defensive player of the game from me. What we’ve longed for out of Mo since we moved WAY up to get him in the first round of 2012 finally came to fruition. Also showing defensive prowess was Safety Barry Church and Linebacker Justin Durant. Church came away with a crucial interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter and Durant almost had one with 2 minutes to go in the game. It wasn’t all good on the defensive side, however. The secondary got flat out burnt more than once but since Kirk Cousins was the passer, they fell incomplete. They left Josh Doctson, the 1st round pick WR out of TCU, unattended to triple team DeSean Jackson which cost them 57 yards and would’ve resulted in a TD if not for the closing speed and hustle of Safety Byron Jones. The Defensive line looked strong but lacked the speed to get to Cousins. This is expected when you are playing four tackles on your line. Due to suspensions and injury, the boys have been forced to play Benson Mayowa and Jack Crawford at the end spots.
Before the game, I outlined 3 keys for a Cowboys win over the Redskins. Let’s take a look and see how the ‘Boys did.
Two of three keys was good enough for Dallas to earn a win in Washington and with Chicago and San Francisco in weeks 3 and 4, the Cowboys are well on their way to a good start in 2016.