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I stubbed my toe on Monday morning. You know what that's like... it's the smallest of pains, but it looms so large. It's both annoying and agonizing. After I shrieked I audibly said, "Oh well. 8-1!".
8-1. It's so beautiful.
The Dallas Cowboys have the best record in the NFL, and they achieved it by ripping victory out of the jaws of one of their oldest rivals - the Pittsburgh Steelers. I witnessed the game in person and have some thoughts, here are my 10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Thrilling Win In Pittsburgh.
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There Is Nobody On Earth Like Dez Bryant
The devotion, discipline, and overall character of Dez Bryant has been questioned time and time again over the past six and a half seasons (can you believe it's already been that long?). That needs to end now. Forever.
Dez Bryant suited up and played for the Cowboys on Sunday in Pittsburgh just 24 hours after learning that his father had passed away. The impact of this on someone is not measurable, and Dez Bryant is no exception to that. He managed to play through this, and did so heroically.
Dak Prescott looked Bryant's way more than any other Cowboy (9 total times) and connected with him six times for a whopping 116 yards, not to mention a 50-yard touchdown. Dak also told Dez that his father had "the best seat in the house" for the game, and what a house it was Sunday evening.
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Leon McFadden Deserves A Lot Of Credit
Had the Pittsburgh Steelers won this contest - they didn't, suckers - the play of the game would have undoubtedly been the fake spike that Ben Roethlisberger turned into an Antonio Brown touchdown.
Jason Garrett said in his Monday Press Conference that Leon McFadden, unlike his teammates, was not caught off guard by that play... and the film backs that up.
While every other Cowboy was repeating their post-Cleveland mannequin challenge, Leon McFadden was playing football. He ran step for step with Antonio Brown, he just got beat. It happens. That's the best wide receiver in the NFL, but Leon McFadden was prepared for him. Kudos.
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Terrance Williams Is Very Valuable To This Team
In the days of the offseason, the cries for Brice Butler to replace Terrance Williams as this team's number two wide receiver were very loud. When Terrance had a mental lapse in Week 1 (the Cowboys only loss) those reached uncontrollable levels.
Terrance Williams has been huge for this team, in many different ways. Near the end of the first quarter Dak Prescott found Ezekiel Elliott on a screen pass that went 83 yards to the house, but that doesn't happen without Terrance.
Williams threw a block at the Pittsburgh 45-yard line that gave Zeke the final level of freedom to score on the play. Simply put, the touchdown does not happen without Terrance Williams. Give the man some love.
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DeMarcus Lawrence Is Beginning To Dominate
The Cowboys are masters of duct tape when it comes to the pass rush. You know how to run? Cool, Rod Marinelli will make it work. It certainly felt like this was the strategy through the first four games of the season when DeMarcus Lawrence was absent due to suspension.
DeMarcus was all over the Steelers throughout the contest. His stat line only credits him with four tackles, but it was because of DLaw and his consistent pressure that the Cowboys were able to keep the Steelers at bay.
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Dak Prescott Can Definitely Do Things Tony Romo Can't
The quarterback discussion - controversy is such a tired word - in Dallas still has life in it in my opinion (check back here at Inside The Star later in the week), but there is truth to the claim that Dak Prescott can do things Tony Romo seemingly can't anymore.
Take a look at the Dez Bryant touchdown from Sunday. Seconds after this I said to my Dad in the stands, "We haven't seen Tony Romo move in the pocket like that in quite some time."
Ryan Shazier breaks through Lance Dunbar and Jason Witten to generate some serious pressure on Prescott. Dak plants his right foot and explodes to his left, evading Shazier, and immediately plants his feet before delivering a ball that travels about 50 yards. As Tony Romo apparently mouthed on the broadcast moments later, it was a dime.
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The Cowboys Could Go The Whole Season Without Allowing A 100-Yard Rusher
Rod Marinelli's defense is through nine games and they have yet to let an opposing running back hit triple digits when it comes to yardage. Stand up and applaud them, please.
Le'Veon Bell - one of the best backs in the game - could only muster 57 yards on the ground against this crew. He is arguably the most talented running back that the Cowboys will face through the end of the regular season, and they protected their streak against him. Double digits are awesome!
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Only Good Things Come From The Lucky Whitehead Jet Sweep
Lucky Whitehead picked up 26 yards on a jet sweep near the end of the first half in Green Bay that allowed the Cowboys to keep their drive alive and score a touchdown. I fully believe the jet sweep was the catalyst that changed the game at Lambeau Field.
On the Dak-to-Zeke 83-yard screen play touchdown, the Cowboys ran a fake jet sweep to Lucky. Look how many Steelers are concerned with Lucky, this allowed Zeke to sneak out to the opposite side of the field. This play is magic. Run it 500 times a game, please.
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Going For Two Has A Price
Since the NFL moved the extra points back, Mike Tomlin has notoriously gone for two more than any other Head Coach in the NFL. Obviously there are pros and cons to this methodology, but there's no denying that the Steelers inability to convert any of them plagued them late.
Jason Garrett said on Monday that the Cowboys devoted a bit more time in preparation for this last week, and it obviously paid off. Coach Garrett preaches a "day by day" and "play by play" mentality, and the fact that the Cowboys were able to respond and hold Pittsburgh to no successful conversions one play after giving up a touchdown each time is highly impressive.
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Ezekiel Elliott Has Surpassed The Ridiculously High Hype
209 yards of total offense. 3 touchdowns, including the game-winner. Ezekiel Elliott is a yardage-eating monster that the NFL has been fearful of since the moment Roger Goodell read his name aloud as the 4th Overall Pick.
Take a moment to think back on this hype. This is Ezekiel Elliott, from The Ohio State University, playing for the Dallas Cowboys, he has the best offensive line in the game, he wears crop tops, he gets analysts suspended... this 21-year old has obliterated it all.
Ezekiel Elliott is the NFL MVP. There is no debate.
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The Cowboys Took The Steelers Best Shot, And They Came Out With The Win
I highly encourage you to read what Bob Labriola wrote at Steelers.com regarding this game, this is obviously Pittsburgh's official team site so it's written from their perspective and out of total objectivity. It's phenomenal.
The Steelers played very well. Ben Roethlisberger topped 400 yards. They connected on a fake spike of all things late in the fourth quarter to take the lead... they did everything right. The Cowboys just did more, because they're an elite football team. There is no more hype, there is no hyperbole... this is the best team in the National Football League.
Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make the Roster?
The Dallas Cowboys aren't short on numbers at wide receiver on their current 90-man roster. Looking to replace Dez Bryant and reshape their offense, the Cowboys will have to find the right group of pass catchers for Dak Prescott at their upcoming training camp.
The odd men out from this group will likely be the ones that can't sustain a consistent level of play, doing so across multiple units if needed. All ten receivers will have their flashes, but with only four being true locks to make the team, new Cowboys Wide Receivers Coach Sanjay Lal will be in on some tough decisions right away.
One such decision may be moving on from last year's seventh round pick Noah Brown out of Ohio State. Vouched for by former Buckeyes teammate Ezekiel Elliott thanks to his blocking ability on the outside, it may now be this strength in the run game and deficiency as a pass catcher that spells the end of Brown's run in Dallas.
Normally, a seventh round pick being on the roster bubble wouldn't be this noteworthy, but Brown clearly showed the potential to outplay this draft status as a rookie. Appearing in 13 games, Brown is a true X receiver, although not the dominant one the Cowboys are searching for.
Moving away from fielding a true number one receiver, the Cowboys did sign Allen Hurns to play this spot while prepared to spread the ball around to Williams, Beasley, and Gallup after that.
This leaves Thompson, Wilson, Cannon, Lenoir, McCay, Murdock, and Brown to prove their worth in other ways to make the roster. I've written plenty about the potential rookie Cedrick Wilson has, so I'll be expecting a strong showing from him to earn a role in the Cowboys offense.
Wilson's skill set could push a depth signing like Deonte Thompson off the team, although his ability to back up Cole Beasley/Tavon Austin on special teams is important. The same can be said about Lance Lenoir, who like Brown has the advantage over first year players given his trials through training camp and the preseason a year ago.
Long shots to make the team, Cannon, McCay, and Murdock fall just below this group -- and somewhere in the middle is Noah Brown.
Increasing his role on special teams as the season went on last year, Brown had fans throughout a coaching staff that is now drastically changed for 2018. From their shift to more speed on offense, to drafting of both Gallup and Wilson, calling Brown a fringe player on the Cowboys roster really sets up the fiery competition to come at wide receiver.
Should the Cowboys find a spot for Brown, one can only hope it means this new coaching staff has a clear plan for him to contribute on both offense and special teams outside of being a run blocker. A potential niche for Brown is his red zone ability, not afraid to put his body on the line for jump balls and fight through contact in his routes.
It won't be long until we sort out if this is enough to make the Cowboys as a wide receiver ahead of Quarterback Dak Prescott's third season.
Cowboys CB Marquez White Facing Assault Charges
Player news this time of year is often not the good kind, and such is true of a new development with Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Marquez White. The second-year CB is facing aggravated assault charges for an incident last October.
According to the report, White displayed a legally owned firearm during a "road rage" incident.
Marquez, a sixth-round pick of the Cowboys last season, has made his side of the story public. The following account was released by White to The Dothan Eagle, his hometown newspaper:
Naturally, we're in a wait-and-see situation as to how this case unfolds and impacts White's availability to the Cowboys in 2018. He is one of several players hoping to catch on at the bottom of the CB depth chart, having spent his rookie season on the practice squad.
This latest legal issue is especially unwelcome news after other Cowboys' recent problems. The team has seen David Irving get suspended four games for illegal substances and Terrance Williams' get arrested for public intoxication in the last two months.
Last year, Linebacker Damien Wilson was charged for aggravated assault in a somewhat similar situation to that of Marquez White. Those charges were eventually dropped.
What happens in White's case remains to be seen.
Deadline for DeMarcus Lawrence Contract Extension Nearing
NFL teams have until July 16 to work out a long-term extension with any players currently under the franchise tag, which means the Dallas Cowboys have about a week to work something out with Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence. If deals are not signed and approved by the league by 4 P.M. ET July 16, the sides cannot agree to new contracts until after the 2018 season ends.
Along with the Lawrence, Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell, Detroit Lions DE Ziggy Ansah, and Los Angeles Rams S Lamarcus Joyner have franchise tags slapped on them. All of them would love the long-term security a contract extension would provide, but they are all going to have to wait and see what the upcoming week has in store for them.
So, what will the Dallas Cowboys decide to do with DeMarcus Lawrence? Can they come to terms on a long-term contract extension before the deadline on July 16?
Luckily for Lawrence, the Dallas Cowboys seem open about hearing what he believes his market value is. That doesn't mean he will get his asking price, but the talks have to begin somewhere.
Rumors are already circulating that Lawrence is seeking a five-year extension and wants to make more money than Danielle Hunter, who the Vikings just signed to a five-year $72 million contract. That's probably more money than the Cowboys have in mind at this time. They may prefer to wait and see if he can replicate what he accomplished in 2017.
Last season DeMarcus Lawrence turned into the "War Daddy" Owner Jerry Jones has been seeking for the defense. He accumulated a career-high 14.5 quarterback sacks and finally played an entire 16 game season. But, even that may not be worth the money he is rumored to be seeking right now.
Hunter's five-your $72 million contract extension is the going price right now for someone of Lawrence's caliber, but there are other players in line for a big payday as well. Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, and Jadeveon Clowney are all in the same boat as Lawrence. What kind of extensions they receive could change the going rate, which could cause some hesitance on the Cowboys part.
Fortunately, I kind of doubt DeMarcus Lawrence is going to complain much if he has to play the 2018 season under the franchise tag. He will make a little over $17 million for one year and has a chance to cash in big time if he can replicate what he did a season ago.
Would you sign DeMarcus Lawrence to an extension before the July 16 deadline?
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