Once upon a time, in a pre-smartphone era, there were these three digits that you could call if you needed to know someone's phone number: 4-1-1.
The Dallas Cowboys don't even need the last one there to know this information... they are 4-1 and sitting atop the NFC East. Huzzah! Huzzah, I say!
Such glory was only made possible by the Cowboys impressive victory at home over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. We learned a lot about this team, and we're here now to discuss it all. Here are my 10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Monumental Win Against The Bengals.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Ezekiel Elliott Is Living Up To The Hype... And Beyond
When the Cowboys took Ezekiel Elliott with the 4th Overall pick in the draft, the hype was unreal. You had Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and the best Offensive Line in the NFL. How was this kid not going to succeed?
Five games into his NFL career, Zeke has already played a ton of football without Romo, Dez, Tyron Smith, and La'el Collins... and he's still dominating. Sunday's game against the Bengals was just another example.
Zeke taking a knee by himself in the endzone. Feels like this dude is going OFF today.
15 carries, 134 yards, and 2 touchdowns. One of which was a 60-yard spring that Zeke ripped off in the third quarter. What young Ezekiel has done just five games into an NFL career is astounding. I'm so happy that he's ours!
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
This Was The Best The Offensive Line Has Looked In A While
If we're being honest with ourselves we would likely admit that through the San Francisco win the Cowboys weren't playing like the best offensive line in the NFL. We all know that they are the best, it just hadn't happened.
On Sunday the Cowboys had their way with the Bengals. Remember that this team hadn't surrendered a single rushing touchdown before hitting the AT&T Stadium turf, but the Cowboys scored three on them. This O-Line has clicked and things are about to be fun.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Terrance Williams Is Stepping Up
There are a handful of Cowboys that seem to be magnets for criticism in Twitterland and Facebook (if you choose to venture there), Terrance is undoubtedly among them. It's time for all of us to eat a little crow on this one and admit that T-Will is ballin' and being just what his rookie QuarterDAK needs in the absence of Dez Bryant. Way to go, Terrance!
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Jason Witten Is Stronger Than Average Humans
Have you ever thought you were strong enough to do something and failed? So have the Bengals.
When you think you can run through a wall #CowboysNation https://t.co/IVVQqHjofL
Jason Witten may have only had 3 catches for 43 yards - not to mention an insane shimmy move he put on a Cincy defender - but the dude is seriously superhuman. Witten refuses to show any signs of age, save for his occasional whoopsie during a game, and he is now at a point where he literally doesn't flinch at opponents. Bravo, sir.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Dak Prescott Isn't Perfect After All
The Cowboys big-time rookie QB Dak Prescott still has yet to throw an interception in his career, an incredible achievement through five full games, but he did finally have his first turnover - a fumble.
In the world of truth this is a demerit for Dak, but overall he had a fantastic game. It's no secret how well Prescott has played on the way to a 4-1 record, but this fumble was a glaring indication that even he is susceptible to the occasional mistake. Oh well.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Morris Claiborne Has Arrived
Considering that AJ Green - one of the NFL's best receivers - only finished with 4 catches for 50 yards, a lot of which came late, I'd say that the test was passed with flying colors. Mo Claiborne is out there locking up everything. He had a couple of just absolutely incredible pass break-ups that saved big plays for the Bengals, and he is arguably this team's Defensive MVP through five games.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
DeMarcus Lawrence's Impact Was Felt
The Cowboys managed to "bend but not break" through four games without their best pass rusher. Thankfully they got to play the Bengals with the full services of DeMarcus Lawrence at their disposal.
Lawrence may not have had a big box score day, but he broke up many plays that the Bengals were trying to run. This is impressive for a normal day at the office, but considering that it was DLaw's first game back it's all the more unbelievable. Tank is wreaking havoc!
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The Defensive Line As A Whole Is Fairly Decent
Terrell McClain, Benson Mayowa, and Jack Crawford all got at least a piece of Andy Dalton on Sunday. That's pretty amazing when you actually think about it.
It's amazing because this defense on paper - no jive here - should be one of the worst in the NFL, specifically the defensive line. The Cowboys have, for the last few seasons now, submitted themselves to a "Rod Marinelli can make anybody work" philosophy, and you know what? Rod Marinelli is making it work! The Defensive Line is getting it done, and that effort was certainly aided by the return of DeMarcus Lawrence.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
We Now Know Why Cole Beasley Has Been Returning Punts
Lucky Whitehead had a not-so-Lucky play during this contest, a fumble on a punt return (which was recovered by Whitehead himself).
And that fumble by Lucky is why you've seen Beasley in to catch punts when they're backed up to the endzone.
The idea of Cole Beasley returning punts was, while not totally strange, a bit of a chin-scratcher for most of us. Considering that Lucky Whitehead had trouble getting a hand on the ball, it's obvious that the Coaching Staff doesn't totally trust him when gigantic things are on the line. Thank God for Cole Beasley.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Jason Garrett Is In The Running For Coach Of The Year
Think about this for a second.
Jason Garrett has, since Training Camp, lost his MLB, RDE, QB2, QB1, WR1, LT, and perceived CB1... and his football team is 4-1. That is unreal!
Do I believe that the Cowboys Coaching Staff and Front Office have acted arrogantly recently? Absolutely, but arrogance isn't always bad. If you can back up what you're saying then you have every right to be arrogant. So far Jason Garrett and Co. can be as arrogant as they want, they've backed it all up.
Michael Gallup is Primed for Breakout Sophomore Season
Heading into the 2018 season the Dallas Cowboys had big questions at the wide receiver position with the departure of Dez Bryant. They elected not to go for the flashy names like Maryland's D.J. Moore or Alabama's Calvin Ridley, but instead took Colorado State Wide Receiver, Michael Gallup 81st overall.
Even without the hype of other bigger named receivers coming out of college, Gallup's resume was enough to impress Head Coach Jason Garrett. "There's a lot to like about him. He's big, he's athletic, he plays the game the right way. He's been a productive player for them, doing a lot of different kinds of things. We feel like he has real upside, too. A lot of qualities that you want in a young receiver, in a developmental receiver. But a lot of production, too. He had opportunities there and took advantage of them throughout his career," Garrett said.
Once the season started, however, it was apparent that it would take some time to build the chemistry and trust with Quarterback Dak Prescott. The lack of a true number one receiver wasn't doing the first talent any favors as he tried to figure out his role on the team. Gallup would be targeted just 15 times in the first 5 games, only registering 6 receptions. But fortunately for the newbie, help was on the way.
During the team's bye week in October, they acquired Amari Cooper from the Raiders in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2019 draft, and it worked wonders for Gallup and his development. Weeks 11 through 14 saw him targetted 27 times. This was significant considering the Cowboys were in the midst of a 5-game winning streak after a 3-5 start. Prescott's trust and belief in Gallup were starting to come together as the team made a run at the NFC East crown and a playoff berth.
He would finish with 33 receptions for 507 yards and 2 touchdowns. Once the postseason rolled around Gallup had firmly established himself as the team's second option behind Amari Cooper.
Gallup would make his first playoff start in the divisional round against the Rams in Los Angeles. Although the Cowboys season wouldn't survive this contest, one of the positives was the play of the first year pass catcher. He finished with 6 receptions for 119 yards, and a tidal wave of momentum heading into 2019.
There's a major change coming to the Cowboys offensive philosophy this season, thanks to newly promoted Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore. The new puppet master of the offense has made it clear he's open to listening to suggestions from the players and staff on what they feel will take the offense into another orbit. "At the end of the day, work together with everyone. I think that includes the coaching staff, obviously coach Garrett and the rest of his staff. I think you also got to get some input from the players. It doesn't mean you have to go down those roads all the time, but I think it's important that when a player believes in something and they're pretty convinced on it, usually they find a way to make it work," Kellen Moore said.
With a season already under his belt with Prescott, and an open-minded first-year offensive coordinator willing to abandon the prehistoric ways of the Scott Linehan era, Gallup's development will only improve with each snap.
Unlike the beginning of his rookie season, Michael Gallup knows exactly what his role with the Cowboys is going forward. Amari Cooper is the main option, and with him drawing double teams regularly, the opportunities for Gallup to have a major impact in year two are endless. Not to mention, the added addition of Randall Cobb to the Cowboys passing game just made life even easier for him. Now teams not only have to roll coverage to Cooper, but the threat of Cobb in the slot creates a lot of one-on-ones on the outside for Gallup.
The size, speed, and athleticism are all there for this young man. Now, with a more innovative offensive scheme coming into play, and growing trust between himself and Dak Prescott, the 2019 season is shaping up to make Michael Gallup a household name.
Is Amari Cooper the Most Important Contract for Cowboys to Finalize?
Most of the offseason contract chatter, once DeMarcus Lawrence's contract was signed, began to focus on the next group of stars due for big-time money, most notably Quarterback Dak Prescott. For good reason as the quarterback is generally regarded as the most important player on the team. While Prescott has been important to the team's success over the last three seasons, few players made as much of an impact on the 2018 Dallas Cowboys than Amari Cooper.
The Dallas Cowboys front office is working on deals for Prescott and Cooper. Both will get new contracts at some point before they're scheduled to hit free agency in March of 2020, but one could argue that getting Amari Cooper's deal done is more important than Dak Prescott's.
Prior to the arrival of Amari Cooper, the Dallas Cowboys offense struggled and was inconsistent. In the seven games prior to the trade that brought Cooper to Dallas, the Cowboys went 3-4 and scored more than 20 points only three times. In wins over the New York Giants, Detroit Lions, and Jacksonville Jaguars they averaged 28.67 points per game, highlighted by a 40 point outburst against the Jaguars in week six. In their four losses on the season they averaged 13.5 points per game. Over the first seven games, they averaged 20 points per game.
In the nine games, the Dallas Cowboys played with Amari Cooper, the Cowboys averaged 22 points per game. They scored more than 20 points in all but three games; losses to the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts and a win over the New Orleans Saints.
If you remove the 40 point game against the Jaguars from the scoring average over the first seven games and the shutout loss to the Colts from the scoring average over the final nine games, the scoring average changes dramatically. Without the Jaguars game, the Cowboys only averaged 16.67 points per game in the other six contests, decreasing their scoring average by more than three points per game. Conversely, if you remove the shutout loss to the Colts from the scoring average over the last nine games, the Cowboys averaged 24.87 points per game. That's nearly a three-point difference.
Even if you remove the best (week 17 against the Giants) and worst (week 15 against the Colts) games of the final nine games from the scoring average, the Cowboys averaged 23.3 points per game. removing the best (week six against the Jaguars) and worst (week one against the Panthers) games from the first half of the season, the Dallas Cowboys averaged only 18.4 points per game in the other five games.
So Amari Cooper was worth between two and 4.9 points per game. That may not seem like a lot, but that's a huge difference in a league where so many games come down to a single score.
The impact offense as a whole is noticeable, but what about on Dak Prescott.
Dak Prescott only averaged 202 passing yards per game and had a passer rating of 87.4 with eight touchdown passes and four interceptions in the first seven games prior to Amari Cooper's arrival. Prescott only completed 62.14% of his passes in the first seven games of the season.
Over the final nine games of the season, Dak averaged 274 passing yards a game, threw for 14 touchdowns and only threw four interceptions. Prescott had a passer rating of 103 and completed 71% of his passes.
In the first half of the season, Prescott only had a passer rating over 100 two times, while he had a passer rating under 90 three times. Over the final nine games with Amari, Prescott had a passer rating over 100 six times and had only two games with a passer rating under 90.
Not only did Amari Cooper make a significant impact on the passing game, but the running game led by Ezekiel Elliott saw a dramatic increase in his production once Amari Cooper arrived.
In the first seven games of the season, Ezekiel Elliott averaged only 19 carries a game and 88.4 yards rushing per game. He was averaging 4.69 yards per carry. Through the air, Elliott caught 3.6 passes per game for only 25 yards with seven yards per reception.
After Cooper's arrival, Elliott got more opportunities and found more room to run as well. he averaged 21.5 carries per game, rushed for 101.9 yards per game. He more than doubled his receptions per game with 6.5 and averaged 49 yards receiving per game, nearly doubling his first half of the season totals.
It's no coincidence that the run and pass games saw increased production after bringing in one of the better young receivers in the NFL. The overall impact of Amari Cooper led to the Dallas Cowboys going on a 7-2 run to finish the season to win the NFC East. Prior to the trade, the team looked dead in the water. After the trade Dak Prescott looked like a completely different quarterback. The team was hitting big plays, converting on third downs, and scoring tons of points on the way to winning lots of games.
Dak Prescott is going to get his contract finalized, of that, I have no doubt. While I feel good about his upward trajectory as a player, I feel a lot better about it knowing that Amari Cooper is about to get a contract too.
Amari Cooper is an excellent talent. His route running precision makes opposing defensive backs look foolish and the separation he creates makes a quarterback's job that much easier. Cooper is like having Cole Beasley in Dez Bryant's body with sub-4.4 speed.
Just turning 25 years old, Amari Cooper is one of the bright young stars at the wide receiver position and is about to enter his prime. Unlike players like Dez Bryant, who rely on physicality and athleticism, Cooper is going to age much more gracefully as route running is one of those things that doesn't drop off near as quickly as athleticism. Just look at Jason Witten.
The Dallas Cowboys need to not mess around with Amari Cooper. Because having him for his prime and for the same timeframe that you are extending your franchise quarterback will make the next six years of their respective careers much more productive. The best way to take care of your franchise quarterback is to give him an offensive line to protect him. The second best way is to give him a wide receiver that can get open for him.
Amari Cooper is a quarterback's best friend and will be worth every penny he gets in a contract extension. In the Cowboys 2018 run to the playoffs, there were few players as important to that success as Amari Cooper. In this offseason of contract extensions and signings, few still, are as important to the Cowboys success as Amari Cooper.
Get him signed, so he can go play football.
Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder Stand Out in Cowboys Practices
With Left Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, Defensive End Taco Charlton rehabbing a shoulder and foot injury, and Right Defensive End Randy Gregory currently suspended indefinitely, there have been plenty of snaps at defensive end for other players to make a name for themselves in the offseason training activities (OTAs) and this past week's minicamp. The two players that stood out above all others on the defense were defensive ends Dorance Armstrong and Kerry Hyder.
You might be asking yourself, "what does it matter? DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn are the starters. Why should we care about a couple of backups."
First, the backup defensive ends for the Dallas Cowboys will play. After DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford, the leaders in defensive end snaps in 2018, Randy Gregory got 44% of the snaps on defense and Taco Charlton saw 39%. Dorance Armstrong, who played sparingly as a rookie, saw 26% of the snaps. The defensive ends that make the 53-man roster are going to get playing time.
Secondly, there's no guarantee that DeMarcus Lawrence will be ready for week one. Tyrone Crawford, who was the starter at right defensive end in 2018, could miss week one if the NFL deems his offseason altercation is worthy of a suspension. That leaves a whole lot of potential snaps at the left defensive end spot if either of those two guys misses week one.
Dorance Armstrong, the Dallas Cowboys fourth-round pick from 2018, caught the eye of several observers from the media and finished his offseason with a strong minicamp.
"These coaches have to be happy with what they’ve seen from Dorance Armstrong during these practices. Armstrong has been mainly filling in for DeMarcus Lawrence on the left side, but on Wednesday he switched over to the right. There were several snaps where he was a handful for Cam Fleming to handle. Armstrong started off well last season before hitting the rookie wall. He physically looks bigger and is also now equipped with the knowledge of how he has to prepare to play at a high level the entire season. Keep an eye on Armstrong to make that jump from the first to second year."
Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com
Armstrong had a really nice training camp as a rookie and as Broaddus notes, tailed off during the regular season. Reports are that he's added size this offseason -- as most players do between their first and second year -- and if all the reports are correct, could be a breakout player in the making.
Kerry Hyder is another intriguing player and one of the more underrated offseason acquisitions by the Dallas Cowboys front office.
Coming from the Detroit Lions, where they used Hyder as a nose tackle in Matt Patricia's 3-4 alignment, he was played severely out of position. In 2016, playing primarily as a defensive end, Hyder recorded eight sacks for the Lions. In 2017, he suffered a torn achilles which kept him out all of that year.
Now with the Dallas Cowboys, he gets to return to his more natural defensive end position. And he's making some noise in these offseason practices.
D-Linemen never get any shine during OTAs, so today is for them. With Tyron Smith & La'el Collins sitting out today, Dorance Armstrong & Kerry Hyder absolutely wrecked practice. Murdered it. I legitimately don't think Dak would've gotten a single throw out if sacks were allowed.
Of course not playing against the starting tackles in Tyron Smith and La'el Collins will allow players to shine a bit more, but let's not forget that Cam Fleming started in the Super Bowl for the New England Patriots before signing with the Dallas Cowboys. Connor Williams, who has been getting snaps at tackle as well, is no slouch as a former All-American for the Texas Longhorns.
Here's what Bryan Broaddus had to say about Kerry Hyder in one of the previous OTAs his "Scout's Notebook" from May 22nd.
"I have to be careful with my love for veteran defensive linemen, but Kerry Hyder looks like a different man playing at end instead of head-up tackle. The coaching change in Detroit did him no favors last season. Having to play in a spot where he had to fight blocks all day to now working on the edge in space is a good thing for him. It appears that Hyder has his quickness back, but he also has some pass rush moves in his tool belt. I thought maybe they were going to use him as an under-tackle, but putting him back at end might be his best shot at making the roster."
Bryan Broaddus - Dallas Cowboys.com
The Cowboys found a really good player in Kerry Hyder. He's capable of playing some 3-technique defensive tackle if needed as well as on the edge. He has a good motor and is able to make plays in the running game.
With the emergence of Kerry Hyder and Dorance Armstrong this offseason, it puts Taco Charlton behind the eight ball as the team heads to Oxnard. If they continue to play well, it's a real possibility that Charlton could be a gameday inactive during the regular season, especially if Randy Gregory is reinstated.
However they end up being deployed, this group of defensive ends will cause fits for opposing offensive lines. They've been aiming for waves of pass rushers for Rod Marinelli's defense and for the first time since becoming defensive coordinator, he looks to have just that.
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
3 Dallas Cowboys Who Could Be Traded Before Week 1
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
5 Takeaways from Dallas Cowboys OTA’s
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Post-OTA’s Dallas Cowboys 53-Man Roster Projection
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Could Amari Cooper Threaten Cowboys Receiving Records in 2019?
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Cowboys CB Donovan Olumba Should Compete for Roster Spot
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Xavier Woods’ Ascension Will Make Everyone Forget About Earl Thomas
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Michael Gallup has a Sponge-like Offseason Approach In Year 2
Star Blog1 week ago
Several Former Cowboys Participate in XFL Summer Showcase