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I want you to do me a favor. Look at the date, please. It reads December 2nd.
I just wanted to make sure that was well-known so that the amazingness of this could be fully digested - the Dallas Cowboys are 11-1. Happy #VictoryPoloMonday to you and yours!
That's right, the Dallas Cowboys were on the right side of a 17-15 slobber-knocker type of game against the Minnesota Vikings in what was easily the closest Thursday Night Football game of the season. Every week a new squad gives America's Team all they can handle, and in the last eleven efforts they've all failed.
It was hardly a walk-in-the-park type of victory, though. Many members of Cowboys Nation were on pins and needles to the very end. What was our experience? What did we learn? Here are my 10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Ugly Win In Minnesota.
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This Team Is Different, They Know How To Win Ugly
Typically the wins we enjoy most as football fans are the ones when we're scoring at will, putting together highlight after highlight. The truth of the game is that winning isn't always that sexy.
You have to be able to win ugly in the NFL, in every sport really. This is what quality teams do. This is what elite teams do. This is what championship teams do.
It's easy to win games like when we played Cincinnati many moons ago and everything's going your way. It's extremely difficult, and says more about your mental discipline, when you can win without that benefit. The Cowboys shot themselves in the foot over and over (shout out Gavin Escobar and Doug Free), let Sam Bradford be functional, and didn't consistently do anything on offense.
Normally that script would dictate a loss... not with this team. They're different.
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Lucky Whitehead's Fumbling Is Starting To Become A Real Issue
Early in the second quarter the Cowboys ran a jet sweep, a play that's brought us much joy, with Lucky Whitehead. After picking up the first down, which is notable, Lucky tried to dance a bit and had the ball jarred loose. Argh!
Lucky Whitehead has fumbled 4 times on 26 career touches. He has 3 fumbles on 10 touches this season.
We've seen the Cowboys send Cole Beasley out to return punts occasionally, seemingly because Lucky Whitehead can't be trusted. Lucky is awesome, his Snapchat game is extremely on point, but that reality is just that - reality.
Lucky Whitehead can't totally be trusted with the football in his hands. That's a bad thing when it's the most important element to his job.
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Anthony Hitchens Had, But Not According To The Box Score, An Amazing Game
For so long, literally years, it's been nothing but Sean Lee and Sean Lee alone as far as the Dallas Cowboys linebackers are concerned. We've been teased by certain guys like Rolando McClain and Justin Durant, but the constant common denominator has been Sean Lee... until now?
As of late we've seen Damien Wilson (shout out to 2014 Training Camp's pet cats) really come on, and on Thursday night Anthony Hitchens reminded us that he's a baller and shot caller.
Hitchens had an incredible interception that was negated thanks to a penalty by Orlando Scandrick, who we'll get into in a bit. Hitchens nearly had a second interception later in the contest... it was his night.
Matt Eberflus has done an amazing job year after year with what he's had to work with at linebacker for the Cowboys, Anthony Hitchens is the latest example.
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Orlando Scandrick Is Not Who He Once Was
Last season was obviously very difficult for the Cowboys thanks to a multitude of injuries, cornerback Orlando Scandrick's season-ender at Training Camp among them.
Was it really, though? Would Orlando Scandrick have seriously improved the 2015 Dallas Cowboys? The 2016 iteration of Scandrick doesn't necessarily suggest that.
Orlando Scandrick angry about being benched for rookie Anthony Brown https://t.co/vdATHQOQ9o #Cowboys
There was a point in time where Scandrick was the best corner on the Cowboys. Morris Claiborne took that title when he was healthy earlier this season, and now the Cowboys are prioritizing Anthony Brown over Orlando.
Scandrick is still good for an occasionally solid play, but it's obvious now that there was far too much hope/hype put into who he could be post-injury.
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All I Want For Christmas Is A Tight End 2
When you have Jason Witten - who was held without a catch in a game for the first time since 2008 on Thursday - on your team, you really don't have a right to complain about the tight end position. Well here I am complaining! I break all the rules!
The tight end depth on this team was sneaky deep way back in the offseason: Witten, James Hanna, Geoff Swaim, and Gavin Escobar. When a 2nd Round Pick is option number four
you really messed up that 2nd Round Pick you're sitting pretty.
Injuries to Hanna and Swaim have found them on IR, so Gavin Escobar is back to his 2014 role of Tight End Numero Dos. While the role might be the same, the job performance isn't. Gavin Escobar almost singlehandedly lost this game for the Cowboys with penalty after penalty. Santa, hook it up man.
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Maliek Collins Makes The Draft Class All The More Special
"Hey you can have Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, Maliek Collins, and Anthony Brown. Also you've got Jaylon Smith on ice for a hopeful future. Plus you have Rico Gathers." This is what the Dallas Cowboys Front Office told us at the conclusion of the 2016 NFL Draft. Christmas season is now, but the presents landed way back then.
Zeke, Dak, and Anthony all play sexy positions so it's easier to see their big plays, but Maliek does all that dirty work that Rod Marinelli loves so much. He was, and has been, on fire last night.
Maliek Collins has finished each of the last 3 plays.
The most difficult thing going on in the lives of Dallas Cowboys fans right now is picking which rookie is the most awesome. Seriously.
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Dak Prescott And Dez Bryant Have Figured It Out
Every offensive element to the Dallas Cowboys game last night is pretty rough when you look at it in the box score, but one particular statistical line makes you happy. Dez Bryant caught 4 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown.
When Dez Bryant visited with the NFL Network guys postgame he was asked about the transition from Tony Romo, who he had great chemistry with, to Dak Prescott. Dez simply said that Dak was phenomenal and that they work hard and trust one another. That's evident.
We hadn't truly seen Dez Bryant be Dez Bryant until the game against the Ravens when he had two touchdowns for the first time since Week 17 of 2014. He and Dak have found what makes their duo work, and goodness it is great.
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The Cowboys Offensive Line Is Free Fallin'
Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'" debuted in 1989. Current Dallas Cowboys Right Tackle Doug Free was five years old at the time. Fast forward 27 years and Doug is the one who's causing the Cowboys Offensive Line to free fall.
Look, the Dallas Cowboys have the best offensive line in the NFL. This is, at times, in spite of Doug Free. It very obviously wasn't Doug Free's night in Minnesota, but it really is no secret that the right side is the achilles heel of Zeke's fortress.
This is a, thankfully, long bit of rest that the Cowboys are facing before their trip to New York next Sunday night. We'll see a lot of discussions about La'el Collins and Chaz Green, and right now Doug Free is giving us every reason to have them.
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The Cowboys Are So Good, They Are Saving Thursday Night Football
When you're the Dallas Cowboys, everybody wants to watch you. When you're the best team in the NFL, everybody cares. When you have the two hottest rookies on the planet, people are totally and completely overwhelmed.
It's no secret that fans dislike Thursday Night Football. In fact, there have been rumblings that the NFL is considering dealing away with the mid-week games altogether; however, the Cowboys may have saved it.
Last night's game is the most-watched #TNF game ever! @dallascowboys @Vikings @nbc @nflnetwork #fastnationals
If you have a problem the Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott, and Ezekiel Elliott can probably fix it. Unless that problem is that you don't like winners or people eating things. We can't fix that.
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This Was The Most Important Win Of The Season
The Cowboys may have won in ugly fashion against the Vikings, but this is far and away the most critical win for this football team.
In 2014 the Cowboys fell down 0-21 early in the game while in St. Louis. They rallied, ran the ball, and won the game in dramatic fashion. All throughout the magical ride that 2014 was, it was that game that gave the Cowboys the realization that they were never out of it.
This game will serve a lot of the same purpose. It's a big confidence boost when you completely dismantle an opponent, but it's an even bigger team-wide confidence surge when you win simply because you won. It's who you are.
A win against the Vikings was also enormous because the New York Giants lost to them. This gives the Cowboys another victory over a common opponent with the G-Men (they also have the Packers win as well). Huzzah.
BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign Free Agent Safety George Iloka
The Dallas Cowboys have reached a one-year agreement with Safety George Iloka, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Iloka spent 2018 with the Vikings after six years with the Bengals.
He's started 79 of his 99 career games since being a fifth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012. Iloka turns 29 years old next week.
The Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with safety George Iloka, according to a source. Iloka met with the Cowboys on Friday and was the third safety to meet with the club during the week along with Clayton Geathers and Eric Berry. The Cowboys have... https://t.co/JB5nJLWepc
This isn't the safety that most Cowboys fans wanted. After over a year of pining for Earl Thomas, sights turned to Eric Berry after his free agent visit in Dallas last week.
However, it makes sense that Iloka would be attractive to the Cowboys. At 6'4" and 225 lbs, he fits the physical mold of what Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard likes in his players. He also is younger than than Berry and Thomas without the same recent injury issues.
Iloka becomes one of many Boise St. products on Dallas' roster, joining Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, and others. He entered the league with college teammates Crawford and Kellen Moore, the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator, in 2012.
We'll have to wait and see how George Iloka fits into the current mix at safety with Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. He spent most of 2018 as a backup with Minnesota, but Dallas will likely give him a chance to start.
What to Expect from Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Group in 2019
In a span of a week, the Dallas Cowboys have solidified their wide receiver group with the resigning of Tavon Austin to a one year deal and the signing of former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb. Despite the loss of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys have a created a really good group of receivers for Quarterback Dak Prescott to throw to.
Cobb joins a really nice group of players that includes incumbent starters on the outside in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup as well as solid depth players in Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Throw in Cedric Wilson, the Dallas Cowboys sixth round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft and the Cowboys may have one of the deeper receiving corps in the NFL.
The question is, how will the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff delineate the roles?
Let's take a look.
As I mentioned before, the Dallas Cowboys are returning their top two options on the outside in Amari Cooper, who is the X wide receiver and Michael Gallup, the Z receiver. Both players will go into week one as the starters at their respective positions in two-wide receiver formations.
Despite some of the overthrows from Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup, Gallup had a really nice rookie season and got better as the year went along, even leading the Cowboys in receiving in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. In that game, Gallup recorded the first 100 yard game of his career. Sure, it was in an attempt to comeback by the Dallas Cowboys, but it is impressive nonetheless. His touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks the week before was clutch. The Cowboys needed that to take the lead at the end of the first half. 2018 was only the beginning for Michael Gallup. He showed an ability to win with a full offseason to work with Dak Prescott, their chemistry and connection should only improve.
As for Cooper, his presence was felt right away as the offense just looked different once he stepped on the field. It's no coincidence that Dak Prescott's two best career games in terms of passing yardage came with Cooper in 2018. He's such a threat that he opens up space for the rest of the wide receiver group. His route running, speed, ability to run after the catch make him a threat to score any time he's targeted.
Behind Cooper and Gallup, you have options in the event that one of them gets hurt. Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Noah Brown are all players who took snaps on the outside for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 and did so with effectiveness. Hurns best game of the year came just before the Cooper deal was made as he went for five receptions for 75 yards.
Tavon provided down field speed on several occasions and provides some gadget quality that the Dallas Cowboys love to have. Noah Brown is a player that the Dallas Cowboys love to deploy as a blocker in the running game. While it looked like he might get more run in the passing game in 2019, the depth additions will limit him again to a specialty role. If needed, though, he could be an option to take snaps on the outside as his big frame allows him to box out defensive backs down the field.
There will be snaps on the outside for someone when the Cowboys go to 11 personnel, because of Amari Cooper's ability to slide into the slot.
Obviously, the writing is on the wall with who the Dallas Cowboys are planning on deploying in the slot as things stand right now, and that's Randall Cobb.
While Cobb should be penciled in as the starter in the slot, I doubt that he's going to get 100% of the snaps there in 11 or 10 personnel groupings. Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson could all push for playing time from the slot.
Last month, I wrote a piece about Allen Hurns and his effectiveness in the slot and why the Cowboys should feature him there. With Cobb coming off an injury laden season, the Cowboys would be wise to give some snaps to Hurns along with Tavon Austin.
In Jacksonville, Hurns was incredibly effective from the slot running posts, slants, and ins and outs. His size and route running made him an effective mismatch against linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks alike. Remember, it wasn't long ago that Hurns had a 1,000 yard season with Blake Bortles at the helm.
Tavon Austin's quickness is an asset that could be very effective in the slot as well. Though he lacks size, he's a player that opposing defenses have to account for because of his ability to make big plays once the ball's in his hands.
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The Cowboys haven't been shy about carrying seven wide receivers on their 53-man rosters and it's possible, though unlikely that they could do it again in 2018. As things stand now, I see Noah Brown and Cedric Wilson as the potential odd men out. Of course, this could all get reshuffled if the Dallas Cowboys use a top 100 pick on a wide receiver in the draft.
With Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Randall Cobb only under contract through the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to invest at the position despite the strength of the position in 2019.
Report: Dallas Cowboys Set to Meet with Safety George Iloka
As the Dallas Cowboys continue the process of building a roster capable of taking them back to the playoffs, and hopefully to a Super Bowl, this next season, they’re bringing in another safety to try and strengthen their top 10 defense. This time it’s free agent safety George Iloka, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings.
Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Dallas Cowboys are set to meet with
The #Cowboys are hosting former #Vikings and #Bengals safety George Iloka for a visit tomorrow, source said. They're still looking to add in the secondary.
It will be the third meeting this week that they’ve had with a veteran safety after hosting recently resigned Indianapolis’s colts Safety Clayton Geathers and former Kansas City Chiefs Safety Eric Berry.
The Cowboys feel really good about Xavier Woods at safety, but definitely could use some depth at the position as they head toward the 2019 NFL Draft.
Iloka is coming off a season where he was relegated to a reserve role for the Vikings. In five of the last six seasons, Iloka’s played all 16 games, and the one season he didn’t, he played 12. He has nine career interceptions, and has three seasons with more than 70 total tackles.
Back in August of last year, Brian Martin argued that the Dallas Cowboys should pursue Iloka after being released by the Cincinnati Bengals. He would play the strong or box safety role in the Cowboys defense if they were to come to an agreement.
Stay tuned for more Free Agency coverage from us here at InsideTheStar.com.
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