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Dak Prescott

BREAKING NEWS: Ezekiel Elliott Will NOT Play vs the Atlanta Falcons

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.

 

4 Games In…3 Big Concerns

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.

What’s going on with Dak?
His stats are actually pretty decent. Dak has 8 passing touchdowns and only 3 picks this year. I realize he only had 4 picks all of last year, but he only had 3 passing touchdowns through 4 weeks last season. I will take a 2:1 TD to INT ratio any day.
But something just isn’t right. He is having accuracy issues that he did not seem to have last year. There are times when it is difficult to decipher if Dak is throwing the ball away or actually trying to hit his target. This issue has been evident ever since he missed a wide open Dez in the season opener against the Giants. Is he losing confidence, going through a normal sophomore slump, or have we just replaced our all-time passing leader for a random 4th round pick? Time will be the ultimate judge, but it does make you wonder where would the Cowboys be today if he had the same issues last year. Would Dak be the Cowboys starting quarterback today, and would Phil Simms still have his job?
The Leary Effect
I’m completely sure Jonathan Cooper should have started over Chaz Green the first four games of the year. Cooper is simply better at left guard than Chaz Green. However, it doesn’t take a great NFL mind to notice our offensive line is not playing at the same level as last year. As sure as I am that Cooper is greater than Green, I am just as confident that Leary is greater than Cooper.
Was Leary the undervalued piece of our interior push last year? It’s hard to argue against that based off the first four games of the season. The only other change is La’el Collins replacing Doug Free at right tackle. Although Free brought a lot of experience to the table, Collins has handled his own against the NFL pass rushing elites.
DeMarcus Lawrence is the Defense’s Ride or Die
A significant DeMarcus Lawrence injury would provide a death blow to the Cowboys defense. Against the Rams, Goff was under pressure in different parts of the game, but Lawrence was the only Cowboy who registered a sack. DeMarcus has 7.5 sacks for the year, leaving the rest of the Cowboys with a grand total of 5.5 sacks. DeMarcus has been the only bright star on this defense outside of an injured Sean Lee. DeMarcus only needs 0.5 a sack to meet his season high sack total, and should easily have over 15 sacks this year. David Irving returns from his four week suspension against the Packers this week, and can give Lawrence a partner in crime. This will hopefully shift some of the attention on DeMarcus from offensive coordinators for the remainder of the season. Also, has anyone heard from our first round draft pick lately?

Dallas Cowboys 53 Man Roster 2017

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)

What QB Category does Dak Prescott fall into?

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.

Clutch QB

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.

Running QB

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.

Game Managing QB

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.

Lucky QB


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”.

Rookie QB


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.

GAME RECAP: Cowboys 7, Giants 10

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?

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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.

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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.

Dec 11, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;  New York Giants defensive end Romeo Okwara (78) sacks Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) in the 1st half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

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?

Keys to the Game Scorecard:

  • Avoid mental mistakes. Mental mistakes this week weren’t penalties, rather poor execution. Dez fumbling the ball, Dak throwing 2 interceptions (1 was his fault) and a couple dropped interceptions.
  • Play your game. The Cowboys stuck to their game plan and Zeke rushed for over 100 yards. Poor execution by the QB1 was the game changer.
  • Pressure. Eli Manning was sacked 3 times for a loss of 26 yards. He fumbled one, which the Cowboys recovered and should have had more than the one interception. Defense played perhaps their best game yet.

Prediction:

Cowboys: 35

Giants: 17

Result: WAY OFF

Cowboys: 7

Giants: 10

GAME RECAP: Cowboys 17, Vikings 15

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:

  • 43 yard scamper by Ezekiel Elliott: Holding by Doug Free – Drive ended 3 plays later with Lucky Whitehead lost fumble
  • Interception by Anthony Hitchens (@ MIN 39): Illegal Use of the Hands by Orlando Scandrick – Drive resulted in a Vikings punt
  • 7 yard run by Ezekiel Elliott: Clipping by Gavin Escobar. Instead of 2nd & 3, its 1st & 24, drive resulted in Dallas Punt
  • 11 yard reception by Jason Witten on 3rd & 8: Holding on Ezekiel Elliott, drive resulted in a Dallas punt 2 plays later.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Keys to the Game Scorecard:

  • Protect the ball. 4 fumbles, lost 2. Dak continues to be taken by surprise whenever someone gets close and dropped another one, which was recovered by Zeke on a crucial 3rd and 1.
  • Run the ball. 140 yrds rushing as a team. 86 by Zeke. Zeke did have a 40 yard run that was negated by a holding by Doug Free. So, 126 yrds*!
  • Get pressure on Sam Bradford. Bradford was sacked twice for a loss of 15. He was able to get the ball out within 2 seconds on nearly every play. This kept the offense limited to little crossing routes.

Prediction:

Cowboys: 24

Vikings: 13

Result:

Cowboys: 17

Vikings: 15

GAME PREVIEW: Cowboys (10-1) @ Vikings (6-5)

Game: Thursday Night 11/30/16 7:25pm

Location: US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN

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.

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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.

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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).

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) hands off the Ezekiel Elliott (21) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)

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.

Keys to the Game:

  • Protect the ball. The Vikings secondary can take the ball. The Cowboys have done well not to allow that. They will face perhaps their biggest test this week.
  • Run the ball. The whole in the Vikings defense is their front 7. Exploit their weakness and take what their strength gives you in the pass game. Don’t get pretty, just play your game
  • Get pressure on Sam Bradford and force him to throw the ball. The Vikings can’t run the ball, so shut down Bradford and their offense won’t be able to score.

Prediction:

Cowboys: 24

Vikings: 13

WEEK12 PREVIEW: Redskins (6-3-1) @ Cowboys (9-1)

redskins-cowboys2

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.

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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.

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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.

Keys to the Game:

  • RUN! Get the Offensive line moving downhill and wear the Redskins defense out. The longer the Cowboys have the ball, the less time Kirk Cousins has to throw to DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder.
  • Don’t let DeSean Jackson get behind you. With Morris Claiborne and Barry Church still out, look for the Redskins to attack this Dallas secondary early and often. We saw different Redskins WRs behind the coverage on numerous plays in the week 2 matchup only to have Cousins overthrow them
  • For the sake of having a 3rd key: Dominate time of Possession. This needs to be as lopsided as possible. 35:00-25:00 or more.

Prediction:

Redskins: 24

Cowboys: 31

For more information on The Landry Letters Blog, please visit www.thelandryletters.com

ROMO TO COWBOYS: “Give me a chance…”

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.

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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.

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For more details on Romo’s rejection, check out the Sports Illustrated article here.

 

 

BREAKING NEWS: It’s always been Romo’s team

AMERICA’S TEAM AGAIN

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!”

Aug 19, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) on the field during the third quarter against the Miami Dolphins at AT&T Stadium. Dallas won 41-14. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

FOOTBALL PUNDIT-MANIA

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…

NO R.E.S.P.E.C.T

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…

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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.

2014 RING A BELL?

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) carries the ball against the Chicago Bears in the third quarter at Soldier Field in Chicago, Thursday, December 4, 2014. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

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.

PLAYOFFS! PLAYOFFS?

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.

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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.

Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo celebrates a touchdown runby DeMarco Murray during the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Decision 2016: Vote for Dak

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
Comp-Att 132-210 130-191 125-182
Completion % 63% 68% 69%
Yards 1,707 1,510 1,486
Yards per Attempt 8.1 7.9 8.2
Touchdowns 14 11 7
Interceptions 8 5 1
QBR 78***(estimate) 72***(estimate) 82.8
Passer Rating 94.68 100.03 103.87

 

2007 Romo 2014 Romo 2016 Dak
Rushing Attempts 13 11 20
Rushing Yards 77 33 67
Yards per Carry 5.9 3.0 3.4
Rushing Touchdowns 1 0 3
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
Defense Average Average Average

COMPLETION PERCENTAGE

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

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PASSING YARDS

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.
Result: Even

PASSING TD’S VS. INTERCEPTIONS

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.
Result: Even

RUSHING

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

Romo Thumbs

QBR/PASSER RATING

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.
Result: Dak

TEAMMATE CONTRIBUTIONS

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.
Result: Even

OPPONENT WINNING PERCENTAGE

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.
Result: Romo

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.

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WEEK 6 PREVIEW: Cowboys @ Packers

 Game Time: 3:25

Location: Lambeau Field, Green Bay WI

Line: Green Bay -4

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.

packers2

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.

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 11: Demarcus Lawrence #90 of the Dallas Cowboys sacks quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers in the second quarter of the 2015 NFC Divisional Playoff game at Lambeau Field on January 11, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Keys to the Game:

  • Time of Possession: this will be a recurring key for the foreseeable future. The longer the Defense is on the sideline, the fresher they’ll be to rush the QB and hold their coverage’s.
  • Rush Aaron Rodgers: This year’s stats aside, Aaron Rodgers is a top QB in this league and given time, can shred any defense. Force him to rush his throws and don’t let this be his revival.
  • Run! The league’s best will face off Sunday, who will win, Offense or Defense. The Cowboys need to take this opportunity to inform the rest of the league that they are the best rush attack in the league and will run the ball at will regardless of who is lined up against them.

Prediction:

Cowboys: 17

Packers: 10

Brought to you by: http://TheLandryLetters.com

Dak Prescott: Cowboys QB of the Future

Talk around the water cooler with any Cowboy’s fan lately has been about Dak Prescott, and with good reason. In his first two preseason games, Dak is completing over 80% of his throws and has a QB rating just under perfect. This has Cowboy homers already visualizing Dak’s bust in Canton, and Cowboy/Romo haters saying Dak should be starting September 11th. If Dak were a stock, everyone and their mama would be taking out cash advance loans to buy shares. Thankfully, for Cowboys fans near and far, Dak is a backup quarterback, not a stock; because in about two weeks, the NASDAK is going to plummet. Not because these past two games have been a fluke, and Dak is about to be a bust, but because he will soon be an afterthought.

Dak4

What these preseason games really mean:
Dak has won the position of backup quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. That is not nearly as glamorous a position as starting QB, where all eyes are on you and the pressure of the world is laid upon your shoulders every Sunday. Just ask Jason Garrett. Dak will be on the sidelines, with headphones in place of a helmet and a clipboard in hand. The interviews will slow, until they are almost non-existent, and Dak will start to understand how Aaron Rodgers felt for the first three years of his NFL career waiting behind a franchise quarterback for his turn to play. It’s somewhat ironic that it was Brett Favre, the quarterback who Tony Romo says he still looks up to.

favre rodgers

When will Dak start?
Barring injury to Romo (knock on wood), Dak will only be seen in blowout games for the 2016 season. After that, it becomes a lot more difficult because of the business side of the NFL. This is the first year that Romo did not restructure his deal since 2012, and Romo’s contract is astronomically high (~$25 million) for the three seasons following. Jerry Jones is going to have to get creative again, and will most likely have to sell Romo on the idea of a pay cut. How these negotiations go will definitely have an effect on Dak’s career, considering a happy Romo will mean a great mentor for Dak’s tutelage. Look to see Dak start sometime during the 2018 season.

Cowboy’s draft grade for Dak:
A+. Calm down, I’m grading on a curve. The Cowboys have to be one of the worst franchises, if not the worst, at drafting quarterbacks in the last 25 years. Stephen McGee (4th round 2009), Isaiah Stanback (4th round 2007), Quincy Carter (2nd round 2001), and Bill Musgrave (4th round 1991) are the four QBs the Cowboys have drafted since taking Troy Aikman number one overall. Dak was not just a good draft pick, but this was also good timing. As seen with the Philadelphia Eagles this year, the draft can create animosity among the quarterbacks if the current quarterback plans to be playing beyond the incoming rookie’s contract. Dak and Romo’s contracts both expire at the end of the 2019 season.

Looking Forward:
For anyone thinking that Dak is going to walk into the starting role and play the way he has in the preseason, you’re wrong. Try to remember that these are preseason games that do not matter, therefore no one is playing 100%. That also means there is not the normal stress of an NFL game, with the worries of bad plays running through the quarterback’s head for the 48 hours before kickoff. It is almost common knowledge that the hardest position to play in sports is starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. You become a reality star, constantly on national news, with them trying to decide if you lost because you suck, or if your pop star girlfriend is bad luck. The tough minded can handle it, the others flame out and are never heard from again.

COLUMBIA , MO - NOVEMBER 5: Quarterback Dak Prescott #15 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs throws a touchdown pass against the Missouri Tigers in the second quarter at Memorial Stadium on November 5, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Dak seems to have what it takes to be the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. He led the Mississippi State Bulldogs to three straight winning seasons in the SEC, the toughest conference in college football. As a 20-year-old sophomore, he lost his mom to cancer and came back to finish off the season strong and be named MVP of a bowl game. He’s shown that perseverance is his DNA, and that is something he will need under the bright lights at Jerry’s World. So, Dak, I can’t wait to see what you can do as the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. On second thought, I can, for about 2-3 years.

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