Lonnie Benford View his profile on Inside The Star
Growing up in North Carolina, 1,200 miles away from the Promised Land, people assume that I’m just another Cowboys bandwagon fan. Nothing could be further from the truth.
My first memory of football was Super Bowl XXXII when John Elway hurled his aging body between two Green Bay defenders to pick up the first down, and then the Broncos running back Terrell Davis scored the game-winning touchdown.
Until I started playing football at the age of 10, I was only a casual fan, watching Super Bowls and playing Madden. After I started playing, I spent most of my Sunday’s playing backyard football at my best friend’s house, whose dad was a Cowboys fan from the glory days of Roger “The Dodger” Staubach.
In between halves of our game, we would retreat back inside to cool down, drink a Pepsi and, of course, the Cowboys games were always on in that house. Even if the Cowboys weren’t on, my friend’s dad indoctrinated us with sweetened stories from autumns past of how things used to be.
Keep in mind this was the year 2000, Dave Campo was the head coach, and there was barely even a wagon left to jump on from the Golden Age of Jimmy Johnson. Troy Aikman was just a shell of his former self and nearing retirement, thanks to several concussions. I was too young to realize it, but Dallas was at the dawn of a decade-plus long stretch of heartbreak and turmoil.
Sure, there were a few proud moments along the way, but they were far and few between. Moments that should be remembered fondly such as Emmitt Smith surpassing Walter Payton as the all-time leading rusher, a few playoff berths, are largely overshadowed by multiple late season meltdowns.
During the 2nd Great Dallas Depression, as the Carolina Panthers became more popular, the number of Cowboys fans in this part of the country dwindled. The casual Cowboys fan jumped ship to a surging franchise that would eventually reach the Super Bowl in 2003. Being from North Carolina I was proud the Panthers made it that far, but distraught at the same time because they had to go through Dallas in the Wildcard round a few weeks prior.
The football culture in North Carolina is very different compared to Texas.
Being located in The South, the tradition of high school football is deeply engrained into each community, but thanks to the success of the ACC, we are recognized as a basketball state. The only true football schools are Appalachian State, who is just starting their first year at the FBS level, and my Alma Mater, East Carolina University.
As a Cowboys fan, my time at ECU was very interesting because a large portion of the student body comes from up north. It’s apparently cheaper for someone in New Jersey to send their kids to school in North Carolina than a place like Rutgers. The experience was fun for me because a lot of my new friends were fans of NFC East teams. Some of my favorite memories from college were meeting up with those friends during conference play, while I was decked out in my #17 Dwayne Harris (Also an ECU Alumni) jersey, at a local Deadskin Redskins bar called Sup Dogs.
I’m not sure what kept me loyal to the Dallas Cowboys. Maybe it's stupidity, or maybe I just like being disappointed around the holiday season. With each late season blunder, my friends didn’t hesitate to point and mock my team with their always-original “Tony Homo” chants.
With the way Jason Garrett is rebuilding the franchise, I will certainly be having the last laugh.
Walter Yeates View his profile on Inside The Star
My father is a life-long Dallas Cowboys fan, who actually tried out for the team in the 1970s, a story I will tell in the future on Inside The Star. My childhood was full of stories Tony Dorsett, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Roger Staubach, Drew Pearson, DD Lewis, and many others from the days of Tom Landry. He also told me a lot about the 1985 Bears Defense being special, so I learned quite a bit about that team as well.
I have very few memories of the Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer Super Bowl winning teams, besides wearing Troy Aikman's jersey to class at a young age after one of their victories.
As I grew older, I remember watching quite a few games with my dad, being very fortunate to see Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, and Troy Aikman finish their careers on the field.
Much like Lonnie, I was never accused of being a bandwagon fan, as there's not much of a bandwagon to be on when Anthony Wright, Chad Hutchinson, Clint Stoerner, Drew Henson, and Ryan Leaf are starting games for the team. The Quincy Carter days were not exactly memorable as when he was about to turn the corner, his demons led to his time ending rather quickly in Dallas.
Even though North Carolina now has the Carolina Panthers, I have never felt their fanbase has grown as expected. There are quite a few fans from other teams that held onto their loyalties once the Panthers became an expansion team, however, I did not come across very many Cowboys fans until college.
East Carolina University is not known for putting a great deal of talent into the NFL. With more popular names being: Chris Johnson, David Garrard, Jeff Blake, Vonta Leach, Linval Joseph, and one Dwayne Harris. I was an undergraduate at ECU when Harris was playing, spoke to him on campus once, and he was a nice guy. I was excited when the Cowboys drafted him and I was pained when he left to play for the New York Giants.
As a Cowboys fan in North Carolina, I did not recognize how hated the team was until joining twitter at some point during college. It still today baffles me how a Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, or New England Patriots fan can despise a team not even in their conference. Some fans will even speak more about the Cowboys than the team they are actually fans of.
It became such a phenomena that even ESPN regularly spends time bashing the team whenever it is convenient. As a Sports Journalist, I find a great deal of that coverage to be laughable, yet it draws their network a great deal of attention.
While there were several years without much to cheer for on the field, with Will McClay and Jason Garrett at the helm it is difficult not to feel encouraged about the future of America's Team.
How The Tables Have Turned for 2019 Dallas Cowboys
The 2018 season was a two-part tale for the Dallas Cowboys. The first is the story of a mediocre 3-5 team that couldn't get it going offensively. The second part is about a football team that turned its season around, made the playoffs, got a win in the postseason and ultimately lost to the team that ended up representing the NFC in Super Bowl LIII, the Los Angeles Rams.
Surely, 2018 didn't go as planned. The storylines leading to last season are actually very different from the ones we're hearing today. Let's take a look at a few examples of how the tables have turned for the Dallas Cowboys.
The need for a true WR1
Last season, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys preached the philosophy of not needing a #1 wide receiver. While that could've sound encouraging at the time, once the season began the team was proven wrong. They did need a WR1. Fortunately, this season we won't have to worry about it. This year, Dez Bryant shouldn't be a discussion topic among Cowboys' fans.
Amari Cooper is in the house. And he's been pretty good since he started playing with a Star on his helmet. If we have conversations about the WR position, they will not be about who's the #1 guy. With Michael Gallup showing up late in the season, it probably won't be about who is #2 either.
Back on top of the NFC East
Last year, the Dallas Cowboys were not really the favorites to win the NFC East. The Philadelphia Eagles had just made history by winning their first Super Bowl ever and it seemed like the Cowboys would have to get a wildcard spot to play in January. Now it's the Cowboys back on top after sweeping the Eagles and turning their once 3-5 season around.
That of course, means a tougher schedule next season. However, it's nice to be back on top of the division. These two teams will surely have an intense race for the division title next season. Maybe we even see them both in the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Sean Lee's uncertain future
I'm pretty sure no one expected Sean Lee to be considered a potential cap casualty for the 2019 season. Even if he was, it would've probably been anticipating an injury or something like that. No one would've imagined that Leighton Vander Esch would be so good to take Sean Lee's job.
The Cowboys' first round rookie truly earned the starting role as the defense's weak linebacker and he should keep it. With Sean Lee set to return to the field, I'm sure we didn't expect him to be a backup by now. We'll have to wait and see if the Cowboys decide to part ways with him. As a fan, it would certainly be painful. But we can't deny it would be a move that makes sense.
It's a crazy franchise on a crazy league. Who knows how things will go from now on, but the Dallas Cowboys certainly look like a promising team heading into the 2019 offseason. Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue to update you with the latest on your favorite NFL team.
Cowboys en Español: Volviendo a la Idea de Earl Thomas
El año pasado, Earl Thomas fue uno de los temas de conversación más frecuentes para los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys. Después de que los Seattle Seahawks no le dieran su deseada extensión de contrato, Thomas se convirtió en un candidato a ser intercambiado de su equipo. Entre los favoritos estaban los Cowboys, quienes tenían una necesidad en su defensiva secundaria. Ahora que la temporada 2018 llegó a su fin, la misma necesidad por un safety de calidad está presente en Dallas.
Sólo que en esta ocasión, Earl Thomas no está bajo contrato con ningún equipo. Su último momento con el uniforme de los Seahawks fue en un carro de lesiones, donde salía lesionado en dirección a su vestidor. Esto mientras se despedía de su equipo con el dedo de en medio extendido hacia sus entrenadores y compañeros. Así concluyó su temporada y su carrera en Seattle.
Ahora, listo para cumplir los 30 años en mayo, Earl Thomas probará la agencia libre cuando comience en marzo. Y sin lugar a dudas, uno de los equipos candidatos a firmarlo serán los Dallas Cowboys. Es un equipo que a pesar de tener una de las mejores defensivas la temporada pasada, se vería muy beneficiada con la llegada de un profundo del calibre de Thomas.
A pesar de su edad y las lesiones, Thomas continúa siendo uno de los mejores en la liga. Su talento es innegable y tendrá toda la disposición de demostrar lo que vale cuando tome el campo la próxima temporada. Cuando llegue el momento, podríamos ver una guerra de ofertas entre varios equipos de la NFL para llevarse al veterano a sus respectivas ciudades.
La pregunta es: ¿estarán los Dallas Cowboys en esa guerra de ofertas?
Los Cowboys tienen espacio en el tope salarial. Sin embargo, este no durará mucho considerando que DeMarcus Lawrence está esperando su merecida y cara extensión después de jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia en 2018. Además, jugadores que aún están bajo contrato también estarán buscando ofertas este offseason.
Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, y Byron Jones están en la lista de quehaceres de la administración. Eso sin mencionar a Cole Beasley, cuyo contrato ya expiró y podría llegar a la agencia libre en marzo.
A pesar de esta complicada situación, los Dallas Cowboys deberían buscar conseguir a Thomas. Siendo sinceros, la defensiva tiene mucho talento y podría mantener su nivel en 2019. Pero hace falta un jugador en la posición de safety para llevar a esta unidad a otro nivel. Un nivel realmente capaz de ganar en postemporada enfrentándose a cualquier tipo de ofensiva. Sin importar que tan explosiva sea. Y además de esto, un jugador que sea capaz de robar el balón y hacer jugadas de impacto constantemente.
Cuando los Cowboys se enfrentaron a Seahawks en temporada regular, Thomas dio un buen ejemplo de esto interceptando en dos ocasiones a la ofensiva de Dak Prescott.
A pasos de un equipo de campeonato, un movimiento agresivo para obtener a Earl Thomas sería algo genial para Dallas. Vimos como los Rams de Los Angeles fueron agresivos al construir su equipo y llegaron hasta el Super Bowl este febrero. Quizá es tiempo de que Jerry Jones y compañía sean igual de agresivos y vayan por ese safety elite que la afición lleva pidiendo desde el offseason del año pasado.
Slot Machine: Amari Cooper in the Slot Could be Even More Dangerous
Amari Cooper was a dangerous man with the Dallas Cowboys after he arrived via trade from the Oakland Raiders last season. He was one of the big reasons why they were able to turn around a season that looked as if it was circling the drain and I don't think anybody would argue the point. But, I think he could be even more dangerous in 2019, especially if Cole Beasley departs via free agency.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you pretty much know the topic of the Cowboys offseason so far has centered around Cole Beasley and his future with the organization. He has been invaluable in Dallas since arriving as an undrafted free agent in 2012, but it's looking more and more as if he could be taking his talents elsewhere in 2019.
With Beasley more than likely moving on, the Cowboys will need to find someone who can replace his production in the passing game, especially in the slot. Everybody assumes Dallas needs to go outside the organization to find that player, but I'm not so sure. I think they already have a wide receiver more than capable of stepping in, and he just so happens to be there first-round draft pick this year.
In case you haven't figured it out already, I'm talking about Wide Receiver Amari Cooper. He has mostly been used as an outside receiver in his professional career, but he does have the skill set and route running ability to be a really dangerous out of the slot. I'm not talking about a full-time move into the slot or anything, just a marginal increase in snaps.
According to Rotounderworld.com, only 12.6% of Amari Cooper's snaps in 2018 were out of the slot. For comparison sake, Cole Beasley's snaps in the slot was 85.9%, the highest of any receiver in the NFL last season. That's a huge difference, not one the Cowboys should try to match with Cooper or any other potential slot WR replacement.
Personally, I'd like to see Cooper's snaps playing out of the slot increased to around 20%. That would put him in Odell Beckham Jr. territory (19.9%), and we all know how difficult he is to cover all over the field. It would likely do the same for Amari Cooper.
I just really like the idea of him having the entire field to work with and the favorable matchup it creates with slot/nickel cornerbacks around the league. Can you imagine opposing defensive coordinators trying to figure out how to contain a player that has the kind of speed and route running ability that Amari Cooper has? They better stock up on Tylenol, because that is a surefire way to get a headache.
This is course is just speculation at this point, especially since we don't know what the Cowboys offense will look like with Kellen Moore taking over the playcalling duties. But if it was me, I'd be doing everything in my power to get the ball in the hands of my best WR, Amari Cooper, and that might mean increasing his snaps out of the slot.
What do you think about using Amari Cooper out of the slot more often in 2019?
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