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I have a rule- no Christmas music/decorations until after Thanksgiving.
Considering how hectic the NFL season is and the craziness that Thanksgiving Week can sometimes be, I broke my rule this week. I looked ahead and decorated over the weekend. I'm listening to Christmas music as I write this. And you know what? I HAVE NO REGRETS.
It was difficult for us to not make the same error with the Baltimore Ravens traveling to take on our Cowboys this past Sunday. Our 'Boys were 8-1, this was an AFC team, and Thanksgiving is only a few days away which means the all-important date with Washington.
If there was ever any doubt, the Cowboys win against the Ravens showed that they don't look past anybody. They truly are a day by day, week by week, game by game type of team. Here are my 10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Win Against The Ravens.
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Dan Bailey Is The Greatest Cowboys Kicker Ever
This is not a bold statement, this is not exaggerating, this is totally and unequivocally true.
Dan Bailey made his 162nd and 163rd career field goals yesterday, and that is something that needs to be celebrated. The first of those two field goals tied Bailey with Rafael Septien for the most ever made by a Dallas Cowboys kicker, and the final lifted Dan to his own pedestal.
All of this happened on a day that saw NFL kickers miss a combined 12 extra points - Dan Bailey has never missed one. Cherish Dan Bailey.
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Ezekiel Elliott Is The Greatest Cowboys Rookie Running Back Ever
Lather, rinse, repeat. Sunday was a historic day for the Dallas Cowboys - we're not done naming why! - and particularly for rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliott.
On Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, Zeke surpassed Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett's franchise rookie record for rushing yards (1,007). Mr. Dorsett was on-hand himself to witness the accomplishment, because greatness is greatness to everyone... even Hall of Famers.
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Dez Bryant Is A Top 5 NFL WR Once Again
It had been an enormously long time since we'd seen the Dez Bryant that we've come to know and love. When was that, exactly? In my humble opinion Dez had not been Dez since (regular season-wise) Week 17 of 2014. Coincidentally, that was Dez's last multi-touchdown game.
On Sunday against Baltimore Dez Bryant found the paint twice. It's no secret that he's dealing with a lot of emotion after the tragic passing of his father last week, but Dez Bryant is playing some of the best football of his career.
There's no denying that the offense all benefits from each other: Dak from Zeke, Zeke from Dez, Dez from Zeke, everyone from the Offensive Line. The Ravens could not stop the Cowboys offensively, and a lot of the reason why is Dez Bryant.
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The Cowboys Offense Is In Seriously Elite Company
It is time to - heads up opposing defenses - take this Cowboys Offense extremely seriously.
Cowboys have gained 400 or more yards in eight straight games, matching the 2007 Patriots and 2013 Broncos https://t.co/CsPwRqWaFz
The Cowboys have eight straight games with over 400 offensive yards, a feat matched only by the 2007 Patriots and 2013 Broncos.
The 2007 Patriots, at the time, were literally and statistically the greatest offense to ever play. The only team that has ever been better than them, again literally and statistically, is the 2013 Denver Broncos.
Offensively the Cowboys simply cannot be stopped. They can't. Believe it.
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David Irving Is A Pretty Impressive Pass Rusher
All offseason long we begged for pass rushers, and a lot of us placed our hope in the speed and versatility of David Irving.
While Irving was only credited with one tackle, it was the constant and consistent pressure that he generated that helped the Cowboys limit the Ravens to the 'ol Dick LeBeau 17-point line.
Rod Marinelli's bunch isn't one that's concerned with stats and accolades; they're concerned with making the day you play the Cowboys the worst one you've ever experienced. Sorry, Joe Flacco.
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The Second Half Was Played Perfectly By The Cowboys
The Cowboys' gameplan is very well-known. They want to run the ball, drain the clock, and wear you out. They did that flawlessly in the second half against Baltimore.
Only stat I need for this game. Cowboys only needed 3 possessions in the 2nd half. Held the ball for 20:09 of 30 possible minutes.
This is four million types of insane. Three possessions in one half that allotted for over two thirds game time?! That is unheard of!
What's particularly interesting/amazing about this, is that those three drives were all extremely efficient. The Cowboys scored on each of those possessions: touchdown, touchdown, field goal. Amazing.
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The Cowboys Finally Beat The Ravens
Before Sunday, Dallas and Baltimore had squared off four times (the Ravens were established in 1996). All four of those contests ended with the Ravens as the winning team, including the last game ever at Texas Stadium.
TOO DA LOO SILLY STAT! The Cowboys have now beaten every active team in the NFL. This is an impressive mark for any NFL franchise, but it's one that was needed for one with such history as the Dallas Cowboys. Tracy Turnblad would be so disappointed, Ravens.
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Joe Flacco Is Misguided And A Ridiculously Sore Loser
I have a lot of respect for Joe Flacco. In 2012 he said he believed himself to be the best quarterback in the NFL and then he carried his Ravens to a victory in Super Bowl XLVII.
I also have a lot of respect for common sense and logic. Joe Flacco doesn't seem to have that these days.
That's right. Literally right after losing 27-17 Joe Flacco came out and said that the Ravens should beat the Cowboys. Yo Joe... you know who touches the ball every play, right? You my man. If you believe that - do it. The last time Cowboys Nation saw a Joseph this disconnected from reality in AT&T Stadium he went by the last name Randle.
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Dak Prescott Spreads The Ball Around Very Well
Dak Prescott connected with seven different receivers multiple times on Sunday. Seven! You know seven as in, the number of wins the Cowboys had two weeks ago (gosh this season is awesome).
Lance Dunbar, Gavin Escobar, Brice Butler, Ezekiel Elliott, Jason Witten, Cole Beasley, and Dez Bryant all caught multiple passes. Take a moment and seriously think about that. It explains how seemingly unstoppable this offense truly is.
Part of why the Cowboys offense can't be contained is because there just simply isn't enough man-power to answer all of these threats. This isn't even a case of picking your poison. If you're a defensive coordinator against the Cowboys you're simply just picking which segment of the chain reaction you want to set off first.
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Jason Garrett Is Coach Of The Year
We're going to keep saying this until the NFL hands Jason Garrett what he's earned... the 2016 title of Coach of the Year.
This was one of the most emotional weeks in recent Dallas Cowboys History. Jason Garrett had to navigate his team through the emotional wreckage, turmoil, and honestly awkwardness around the aftermath of Tony Romo's press conference.
It's very difficult to watch Tony Romo on the sidelines, we all know that. Somehow though, Jason Garrett got his team to play through it and dominated one of the better teams in the National Football League. He's 9-1, got the best team in the NFL, and he deserves that title. Give it to him, NFL.
Cowboys OT La’el Collins Could Become Major Bargain
When you talk Cowboys offensive line, you always think of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin first. Right Tackle La'el Collins still has to prove he belongs in the same sentence with his elite teammates. If he does that in 2018, Collins could become one of the best bargains on the roster.
Making the move from left guard to right tackle last year, Collins improved with time and was playing his best football at the end of the year. This was despite ongoing back issues that had him on the injury report most weeks.
La'el started all 16 games at right tackle and did enough that the Cowboys committed to keeping him there in 2018, even despite a big hole back at left guard. They are hoping consistency and stability will allow Collins to really blossom this season, building on the strong progress shown last year.
For 2018, Collins has a $5.76 million cap hit. According to Spotrac, that makes him the 13th-most expensive right tackle in the NFL this year.
That middle-of-the-pack expense is consistent with where La'el currently rates among NFL right tackles. Bleacher Report ranked Collins as the 16th-best RT in football last year.
But that ranking was based on the season as a whole. If La'el plays all of 2018 the way he was playing towards the end of last year, he will have emerged as one of the better right tackles in the game.
If Collins develops as we hope, that salary suddenly becomes a major bargain. The most expensive right tackles in the NFL are making $7-$9 million this season.
But this can go a couple of ways. With his 2019 cap hit rising to $7.9 million, La'el needs to next step forward.
If Collins were to struggle this year, it could make him a potential cap casualty next offseason. Dallas can save $6.5 million in cap space if Collins is released or traded in 2019.
Dallas could elect to give Connor Williams, their second-round pick this year, a look at right tackle next season. It's the position he played in college.
They could also consider veteran backup Cameron Fleming, who will still be just 26-year-old. Fleming has two Super Bowl rings and several starts, including in the postseason, from his time with the Patriots.
While we think of La'el Collins as a first-round talent, it's important to remember that he was ultimately an undrafted free agent. Dallas did not have to invest anything to acquire him, and ultimately that makes it easier to let him go.
Naturally, we prefer the other side of this coin. If Collins builds on 2017, he will join the upper echelon of right tackles in the league. And if the Cowboys' offensive line isn't already the best in the NFL, that would only cement them as the best unit in football.
If La'el makes the leap, it could mean huge things for the Cowboys' offense and team success this year.
How Cowboys Could Benefit From Randy Gregory’s Suspension
Randy Gregory is back! His suspension is officially over and he will be able to join the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California when training camp gets underway less than a week from now.
Speculation has already started as to what this could mean for the Dallas Cowboys defense this season, and shockingly expectations are rather high for a player who hasn't stepped foot on the field in over a year. But, that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to focus on Gregory's mess of a contract, because it is rather interesting.
Randy Gregory was signed to a four-year contract after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gregory's rookie deal was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season, but his multiple suspensions have now changed that expiration date.
You see, Gregory has only played in a total of 14 games in his career, 12 as a rookie and two in Year 2. His third year in the NFL was completely wiped out due to his year-long suspension. If you were to add that all up, it equates to just one accured season in the NFL. Remember that, because it could have a huge impact on his contract down the road.
What all of this means is that the Cowboys can pretty much stretch out Gregory's contract now that they are three years in on the deal and have only gotten one accured season out of the agreement. That basically means they can push his contract back a year, meaning his 2017 salary ($731,813) gets pushed back to 2018, his 2018 salary ($955,217) gets pushed to 2019. That would essentially make him a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in 2020.
Or does it?
Depending on how the Dallas Cowboys handled paying Randy Gregory during his suspension could actually make him an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (EFA). This is a similar situation in which David Irving found himself in after the 2017 season. The Cowboys placed a second-round tender on him in order to secure his services for another season, albeit at a $2.91 million price tag.
As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys pretty much hold all the cards when it comes to Randy Gregory's contract situation. It's all a little confusing, but that's what makes it such a unique and interesting situation.
Of course, the Cowboys could decide to extend Gregory early if he completely dominates upon his return this season. It's highly doubtful though considering his past suspensions, but still technically a possibility. If it does happen, you can go ahead and ignore everything I've written previously.
Earl Thomas: Age is Just a Number Part II
Yesterday, I wrote a piece attempting to assuage the fears that many in Cowboys Nation have about handing a contract extension out to Earl Thomas, who is 29 years old as we enter the 2018 NFL season.
In the comment section, a reader posed a very good question that is the basis for the rest of this article:
It's a great question that certainly required some research, but Cowboys fans all across the world should be encouraged by my findings.
Just to refresh, here are the players we looked at as favorable comparisons to Earl Thomas at this point in his career. I searched Pro Football Reference for safeties who had at least three All-Pro First Team selections and at least six Pro Bowl appearances.
The average age of the players listed at the time when they reached their third All-Pro was 31 years old. I'm removing Deion Sanders and Roger Wehrli from the equation as most of their work was done at cornerback.
Let's look at a chart that outlines what these guys careers looked like at age 29 and beyond to get a better picture. Remember, Earl Thomas already has three All-Pro selections and six Pro Bowls. Many of these guys didn't reach those kind of accolades until their 30s.
The first thing I noticed as I looked into this question is that only two players had three or more All-Pro First Team selections prior to age 29, like Earl Thomas has. Those players were Rod Woodson and Ronnie Lott. Every other player on this list didn't hit their third All-Pro selection until age 29 or later.
Only one player reached his sixth Pro Bowl prior to his age 29 season, that player is Ronnie Lott, who many NFL Analysts consider to be the greatest safety of all-time. Most of the players didn't achieve their third All-Pro selection until their age 29 season or later. Earl Thomas reached his third All-Pro selection at age 25.
Here's a hot take for you: Earl Thomas, when it's all said and done could be considered the greatest safety of all-time. I'll just leave that there to marinate and if a trade does happen, we'll come back to that.
Back to the chart.
Another thing I want to point out is that none of these players were 100% healthy. Such is the life in the NFL, especially as you get older, but they were available for at least 14 games a majority of their seasons aged 29 or later. Health is an unpredictable animal in the NFL, but the safety position allows for much more longevity than many other positions. And as the chart depicts, it's a position that ages well.
So, as you can see in the chart, players who were highly productive prior to their age 29 season were also highly productive for several seasons after. These players went onto average almost seven more years in the league from their age 29 seasons.
Most players continued to average a healthy amount of interceptions. The player that saw the biggest decline from the early part of his career to the post-29 part of his career was Brian Dawkins. The former Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos safety went from three interceptions per season prior to 29 to 1.9 interceptions per season 29 and after.
When it comes to the safety position, the elite seem to be able to get the most of their bodies and their abilities and can prolong their prime. The position relies as much on intelligence and awareness as it does quickness and athleticism. Earl Thomas has the mental capacity to play the game for many more years and there's been zero evidence to suggest that he is experiencing any physical decline.
At the rate of his career that he's on, Earl Thomas is destined for the Hall of Fame. He's one of the faces of the Legion of Boom defense that propelled the Seattle Seahawks into the elite category of teams in the early part of this decade.
If and when an Earl Thomas trade does occur, don't sweat an extension for Thomas.
Thomas' credentials put him in an elite group of players who played the game for a very long time and there's no reason to believe he won't continue to do so.
The Dallas Cowboys aren't that far off from having a Super Bowl contending defense built in the image of the Seattle Seahawks. Going to get the All-Pro, future Hall of Fame safety is the final piece to the to the Dallas Cowboys completing construction on "Doomsday III."
Everything else is there for the Dallas Cowboys, now all they have to do is: Go. Get. Earl!
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