When the 2015 NFL Draft kicks off nine days from tonight in Chicago, it will commence the official beginning of the 2015 NFL season (free agency is cool, but it ain’t the draft).
I’ve been known to be quite the nostalgic - I still watch Friends reruns on a daily basis - so I thought what better way to get excited about where we’re going than to look back at where we just were? Take a stroll down memory lane with me, and please keep all hands inside the vehicle at all time. Flash photography is allowed.
Let’s count down the Dallas Cowboys' 10 greatest moments from 2014.
Rolando McClain’s interception in Tennessee (Week 2)
In the first minute of the fourth quarter, Jake Locker stepped back in his usual nit-witty sort of way and fired off a pass that got tipped at the line of scrimmage by last year’s big free agency pick up, Henry Melton.
Rolando McClain made an incredible one-armed acrobatic move in which he kept the ball afloat with his right arm, and bounced it around until he corralled it safely in his arms. He had enough moxie to get up and run the TD in, too. Unfortunately for RoMac, the referees whistled the play dead and the play was only ruled an interception after a challenge by Coach Garrett… which gave us the ball at the spot of the pick. The offense would go on to produce a Dan Bailey field goal that pushed the lead to 26-10, giving us our first win of the season.
Barry Church Picks off Eli Manning in New York on Sunday Night Football (Week 12)
With 3:16 remaining in the third quarter, the Giants were up 21-17 on the Cowboys. Already inside their 20, the G-Men were looking to go up two scores. Thankfully Baby Peyton hit Preston Parker right on the fingertips, and he took off just enough of the pass to allow Barry Church to swoop in and pick it off.
Church took the ball practically to midfield and turned the momentum in Dallas' favor. Romo & Co. took that momentum and drove downfield in five minutes before hitting Dez Bryant for the go-ahead touchdown.
Dez Bryant Won’t Be Denied in London (Week 10)
This is technically two plays but it’s my countdown so I can do whatever I want.
Already leading the Jacksonville Jaguars (yes, that’s a real NFL team) 10-7 across the pond in England, Tony Romo threw a teeny little baby five yard pass towards #88. In typical Dez fashion, he sprinted 35 yards, evaded 7 defenders, and fell into the endzone for the score.
Touchdown Cowboys - 17-7.
Seven minutes later, with the score unchanged, with 31 seconds remaining, Tony did what all the Brits wanted to see. He threw to Dez. He threw a beautiful rainbow pass that Dez caught over his shoulder - and the bruised pride of Jacksonville - on his way to a 68 yard score.
It's DeMarco Murray’s World, Saints Just Live in it (Week 4)
This is also two plays. I promise this isn’t a recurring theme. Stop yelling at me.
With just over four minutes to play in the first half, DeMarco Murray showed us who he would be in 2014. Had he dominated the Titans and Rams? Yea, sure. But so can kindergarteners.
This was the Sean Payton coached, Drew Brees quarterbacked, Jimmy Graham goal post dunking New Orleans Saints.
And with a 10-0 lead at his back DeMo took a handoff from numero nueve, caught one of the most textbook blocks from Jason Witten on Junior Galette, and sprinted in for the score with the ball held high.
Hello 2014, I’m going to be your leading rusher.
Oh but before I lead the league in rushing, I’m going to humiliate the Saints. Almost a full quarter later DeMarco took New Orleans for a 35 yard exercise in humility.
He broke free behind his stellar line and put the game away for Dem Boyz.
Cole Beasley Stretches Out for Glory in Chicago (Week 14)
We’ve seen him dunk. We’ve seen him fly. We’ve even seen him fix his facemask while scoring a touchdown on the Indianapolis Colts. Now we can say that we’ve seen him lay it all out for the score. And we’ve seen him do it twice.
Cole Beasley broke out at Soldier Field on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football.
With under 20 seconds to go in the first half, Romo hit Cole at the Chicago five. Chris Conte flailed helplessly at Cole. Cole shook part of him off. Cole dove for the endzone. For the score! And he wasn’t done yet...
Three minutes into the third quarter - on 3rd and 3 - he did it again.
Romo took the ball in the gun at the Chicago 24 and rolled to his right (I guess he was getting bored with that spin move to his backside that leaves defensive ends hating their lives). He motioned for Cole to come back slightly and Cole indeed came back to the perfect spot to catch the pass right over Chris Conte’s head.
He turned, five yards still to go, and dove for the endzone (Conte hanging on again for dear life). 24 yard TD for Mr. Beasley.
DeMarco Murray Finishes the Seahawks (Week 6)
After the Terrance Williams hoopla (spoiler alert: you’ll read about that later), the Cowboys were in prime position all the way up in Seattle.
While down 23-20, they had the ball at the Seattle 15 on 2nd and 4 with just under four minutes to go. They had all the momentum. They had the confidence. They had the belief. And they had DeMarco Murray.
Even though Right Tackle Doug Free had been injured on the previous play, DeMarco barreled his way through the Seahawk's defense behind his all-pro offensive line all the way in for the go ahead touchdown… with Richard Sherman hanging on for the ride.
Bruce Carter’s Pick-Six Completes the 21-Point Comeback in St. Louis (Week 3)
It was ugly.
After a pick-six by Janoris Jenkins, the Cowboys found themselves in a 21-0 hole… to the St. Louis Rams. Seriously. The 2014 Cowboys were a different breed though, and they proved it by scratching and clawing their way back into the game. Down 20-24 late in the fourth, Romo hit Terrance Williams for the go ahead TD.
Austin Davis, the fresh new Rams QB, had a chance. With six minutes to go and down only three he could lead this team to victory and the story about the Rams blowing a 21-point lead would never be written. Instead, as Austin Davis’ usually do, on the first play he threw right into the arms of Bruce Carter, who scampered in and put the exclamation point on the game.
Davis rallied a little and closed the gap to 34-31, but he couldn’t climb out of the hole that Bruce Carter put him in. This was a turning point for the Cowboys as it gave them the confidence that propelled them to the success that they ultimately enjoyed.
Tony Romo Evades Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt and Hits Terrance Williams for a TD (Week 5)
JJ Watt beat Tyron Smith. I’ll be the first to say it. He straight up beat him.
What many consider - let’s be honest, not many but all - the best defensive player of the last five years had a free shot at Tony Romo’s back.
Yes, that back...
With the Cowboys trailing their in-state rivals 7-3 with about six minutes to go in the third quarter, Romo was all JJ’s. Until the spin happened.
Yes, THAT spin.
The patented Romo back left spin that we’ve all come to know and love went into effect right then and there. JJ gave Lennay Kekua a big ‘ol bear hug while Romo set his feet and delivered a 43 yard TD to this generation’s Alvin Harper.
Tony Romo Evades Bruce Irvin on 3rd and 20, Hits Terrance Williams for the First Down (Week 6)
With approximately five minutes to go at Century Link, the Cowboys were trailing the Seahawks 23-20. With the ball at their own 31, the Cowboys ran DeMarco Murray on first down, only to have Travis Frederick get called for holding.
A wash, rinse, repeat, DeMarco run on 1st and 20 yielded zero yards.
Romo threw incomplete for Dez Bryant on 2nd down. On 3rd and 20 Romo dropped back, sensed Bruce Irvin coming for him on his blind side, spun to his right, successfully evading Irvin, climbed the pocket, pointed 22 yards downfield, and with Bruce Irvin on the ground flailing at his ankles Tony Romo threw a beautiful pass to #83.
As if that wasn’t enough beauty, Terrance toe-tapped his way in-bounds with about 10 feet to spare. Pete Carroll and his Seahawks staff challenged the play to no avail, and the Cowboys marched downfield and completed what some would call the biggest upset of the 2014 NFL season.
The Dallas Cowboys #FinishtheFight against the Detroit Lions on Wild Card Weekend
Detroit Lions with the lead.
2:39 left in the ballgame.
3rd and Goal from the Detroit eight yard line.
The hopes and dreams of millions hang in the balance.
Tony Romo, Mr. One Playoff Win, takes the snap from the gun.
He looks right - Cole Beasley is covered.
He looks left - both Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray are covered.
Briefly looks right again - Beasley still covered.
He tap dances to his right as Tyron Smith makes the block.
He steps up in the pocket.
He steps into the throw.
Detroit’s Ezekiel Ansah takes him out at his hips.
The ball travels for what feels like forever, right into the arms of Terrance Williams.
While there are many plays that were notable and exciting throughout the 2014 season, these are the ten that I feel most defined our season. Without each of these 10 plays the Cowboys don’t achieve the success that they did in 2014.
Here’s hoping that next year’s list ends with a knee in victory formation in San Francisco.
How Will Safeties Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier Fit Kris Richard’s Secondary?
Unfortunately, David Irving's most recent four game suspension is the main story for a Dallas Cowboys team finished with OTAs and mini camp, left only to wait for training camp now. I've chosen to focus on the players that were on the field for the offseason program, that will continue to contend for starting jobs in Oxnard. Standing out from a lackluster group of safeties, for a Kris Richard led secondary that is off to a fast start, are safeties Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier.
Joined by Jeff Heath, Tyree Robinson, Jameill Showers, and Marqueston Huff, the Cowboys are lacking a dominant force at safety to pair with their young and talented group of cornerbacks. With the likes of Chidobe Awuzie, Byron Jones (the former safety), and Anthony Brown already improving under Richard, the Cowboys hope is that the same will apply to this group of safeties.
It's still entirely too early to know how the Cowboys want to deploy their safeties this season, but the only players that have shown their strengths and weaknesses over any period of time are Heath, Frazier, and Woods. This is sure to cause an uphill battle for the fringe players looking to push this trio of versatile safeties.
Jeff Heath has appeared in 77 games over five seasons with the Cowboys. Frazier and Woods combined? Just 24 games, with 16 of them making up Woods' rookie season a year ago. This makes finding a potential role for both players vital to the Cowboys.
Safety Kavon Frazier
Working mostly as a special teams player through two seasons in Dallas, Kavon Frazier has patiently awaited his opportunity to spark the Cowboys defense as a sixth round pick of 2016. Doing so in a memorable week 13 win over the Washington Redskins, Frazier earned an increased role as an enforcer on defense.
This is a player whose straight line burst and power is ideal for a ST starter, and when Frazier connects coming downhill on defense, the results can be catastrophic for an opposing offense. Surely these are traits that will remind Kris Richard even slightly of his Super Bowl winning "Legion of Boom" defenses.
The distinction between Frazier being a part-time player or one maximizing his potential to start deep in the Cowboys secondary is an important one. Limited in coverage, Frazier may be at his best when conceding snaps to another safety on the Cowboys roster with more of an all-around game -- which the Cowboys can only hope Xavier Woods continues to be.
Safety Xavier Woods
Xavier Woods may not have the pure stopping power that Kavon Frazier possesses, but as a fellow sixth-round pick there is more than enough to like about what Woods brought to the Cowboys in 2017 out of Louisiana State. With 14 interceptions and six forced fumbles out of college, Woods slid in the draft enough for the Cowboys to trade up for his services.
The team wasn't cheated out of their investment in Woods last season, giving him the "Byron Jones treatment" as Woods lined up all over the field. It was Richard that came to Dallas and almost immediately moved Byron Jones down to cornerback, seeing a better use of his natural size and skills there.
Doing the same for Woods -- while keeping the natural FS free to react -- should be next up on Richard's offseason to-do list. This is a player with sideline to sideline range, enough athleticism to cover down in the slot, and the functional strength to compete in the box.
Amidst this uncertainty for both Frazier and Woods, early reports out of the Cowboys practices thus far have Jeff Heath specifically matching up against the tight end. This is an ideal role for Heath, and one that could compliment Woods very well.
Regardless of where Heath is on the field, Woods should be able to coexist with him as a similarly instinctive safety.
There is also the possibility that both Heath and Woods struggle to handle these "starting" responsibilities, leaving the Cowboys with very little trusted depth at safety. If there is an area Woods needs the most improvement in, it is the angles he takes against the run to consistently make stops, a weakness also potentially mitigated by the Cowboys improved linebacker play (investing the 19th overall pick at the position).
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Between Frazier and Woods, it feels safe to say the Cowboys must find a starter for a secondary that could still achieve great things in 2018. The Cowboys are entering this season with a loaded group of cornerbacks, all capable of making a safety's job relatively easy, especially while learning under Richard.
Such can be the hope for a raw player like Frazier and, in a sense, Xavier Woods. The second-year player in Woods is a great unknown for the Cowboys right now, as he'll remain that way for some time before next month's training camp.
With this, we'll have much more time to sit around and continue pondering what certain position groups will look like once meaningful Cowboys football graciously returns. I've written before that I'm paying close attention to this team's group of wide receivers, and you can add in the secondary players they'll be competing against too.
No, Cowboys Shouldn’t Cut David Irving
For the past five years, Dallas Cowboys fans have gone through painful offseason stories regarding upcoming suspensions for defensive players. It doesn't matter how much talent the front office is able to find through the Draft, there's always one player that ruins what feels like a successful offseason. This time, for the second consecutive year, David Irving is the player to let Cowboys Nation down.
On Friday it was announced that Irving will serve a four-game suspension after violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Understandably, a lot of Cowboys' fans want to see Irving released by the franchise that has preached the "Right Kind of Guy" philosophy while failing to establish such a thing. It's disappointing to see such a talented player limiting himself by not "wanting it" bad enough and by making mistakes like this repeatedly.
However, even if it's a very frustrating situation, the Cowboys shouldn't cut David Irving.
First of all, Irving's hit against the cap space is pretty minimum and nothing to be concerned at all. After being handed a second-round tender earlier in the year, #95 was set to earn $2.91M during the season. With a four-game suspension ahead of him, that number will be even lower.
We're talking about a guy who in eight games managed to get to the quarterback seven times in 2017 and consistently pressured opposing signal callers. Not to mention he's going to be just 25 years old when the season begins.
For the Cowboys, David Irving has the talent needed to average one sack per game. All of this for less than three million.
Irving has proven by now that he's not worth a long-term extension. That much is clear. In order to get one of those, a player must prove his availability.
Talking specifically about 2018, though, I'm sure the Cowboys will be better off if they count on Irving for the final 12 games of the season. The team counts with pretty decent depth at the position with Maliek Collins, Datone Jones and Jihad Ward, but Irving has the potential to end the season with double-digit sacks.
The team gains nothing by releasing Irving. The team will not even be "sending a message" if they were to release #95. Maybe if the team had consistently sent this kind of "messages" over the years it would make sense.
However, we know this team sticks with their players and supports them in moments like this. They have done just that with Randy Gregory and it seems like it will pay off soon.
Whether we're mad at Irving's actions or not, the truth is letting him go wouldn't be wise at all. The Cowboys are not paying him big-time money, he's young and he'll be productive on the field when the defense needs him to.
We're talking about a football team that wants to make a run for the Lombardi Trophy. They can't be letting starting-caliber players go just like that. They need all the help they can get and even though his situation is far from ideal, David Irving will play a big role on defense.
Should Cowboys Add Another Safety Before Training Camp?
The Dallas Cowboys are extremely thin at the safety position. Fact. They haven't really brought in anyone to upgrade the position from last season. Fact. I just wanted to point that out because there's a lot of discussion as to whether or not the Cowboys need to add another safety before training camp.
I don't know where you stand on this debate or how I feel about it personally, but it's definitely something that needs to be discussed from the Cowboys end. It is the one position where there is a lot of unknown and inexperienced. If one of their current safeties were to go down with an injury and miss any time, the whole defense would suffer.
As things stand right now, Jeff Heath is the only one who will reprise his starting role on the backend of the Cowboys defense. Behind him are Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier, but knowing exactly how they fit in at this moment is completely up in the air.
Unfortunately, that's the top three safeties for the Dallas Cowboys heading into the 2018 season. What's even more bothersome is their fourth might be an undrafted rookie, Tyree Robinson. I don't know about you, but I find that very concerning. But, maybe Kris Richard, the defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator, knows something we don't.
Fortunately, Kris Richard was recently asked if he had any concerns about the safety position on the "Doomsday Podcast" with Matt Mosley and Ed Werder. He said he had "none".
"I'm confident. I feel really good at this point in time and it's because the level of character of our guys," he said. "We're going to get better. That's the deal because our guys are young, focused, I think the hunger's there. I love the look in their eyes. I love how everyone is buying in, is focused and paying attention to detail. It makes a difference when guys care. It makes a difference when each one wants to teach one. We're trying to build something special. We want to be tribe-like. We want to be more than a team."
It certainly sounds like Kris Richard is excited about the Dallas Cowboys current safeties. Of course, he would never just come out and say that this group is terrible or he wished they'd add
Earl Thomas another available safety. That's just not how things work. He's here to coach up the guys on the roster and not worry about personnel moves.
I don't know about you, but I know I would feel a lot better if they had one more experienced safety who could come in and compete for a starting job. Maybe someone like Tre Boston or Kenny Vaccaro, who are still unsigned. Maybe make that trade for Earl Thomas? That's a dream that just won't die.
Regardless, the Dallas Cowboys need to do something to address their depth at the safety position. I don't know what their plans are moving forward, but hopefully they have a contingency plan in place. It's just smart business.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys need to add a safety before training camp?
Want to help make Inside The Star better?
We’re collecting feedback from our readers about the site. It only takes <2 minutes to complete, and can be done from any device.
Don’t worry, your information will not be shared with anyone but me (Bryson T.).
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
Should Cowboys DT Jihad Ward Be Getting More Attention?
Star Blog1 week ago
Could Connor Williams Actually Define the Cowboys’ Season?
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Can WR Cedrick Wilson be the Cowboys Next Deep Threat?
Player News6 days ago
Report: Cowboys Sign OL Zack Martin To 6 Year Deal
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Could Cowboys CB Anthony Brown be a Trade Asset?
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Dallas Cowboys 2018 Job Security Rankings: Defense
Dallas Cowboys4 days ago
4 Reasons Terrance Williams Won’t Be a Cowboy
Player News2 days ago
BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year