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2015 Dallas Cowboys: Anything Can Happen

RJ Ochoa

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NFC East Blog - 2015 Dallas Cowboys: Anything Can Happen

"This is Christmas! The season of perpetual hope!" -Kate McCallister in the 1990 classic Home Alone.

Christmas 2006 was a special day for me. My Dad took me to my first ever Dallas Cowboys game... a home contest against the Jeff Garcia-led Philadelphia Eagles.

I was young and wide-eyed at everything surrounding this incredible team. I was particularly enamored with the play of a quarterback who was taking the NFL by storm - Tony Romo.

The game actually took place on Christmas Day - so there was a magic in the air. Hours before kickoff we gathered with some other fans in the parking lot of the team hotel as the Cowboys exited it on their way to Texas Stadium. It was a fun atmosphere to chat about the 9-5 Cowboys and snag a few autographs.

Players would come out one by one and the crowd would roar each time. Certain players, Terrell Owens for example, gained louder cheers and excitement. Finally, after a majority of the team had come and gone, Tony Romo made his way to the parking lot and was met with the loudest greeting of them all.

Cowboys Blog - 2015 Dallas Cowboys: Anything Can Happen

Fans stormed the fence screaming for him. "Tony! Tony! Hey!" People, myself among them, were losing their minds over the new Cowboys QB.

Romo graciously made his way to the line of fans and started to sign some autographs. I reached out my football as my Dad watched and hoped with me.

After an autograph here, an autograph there, Romo kept making his way down the line... away from me. With every step he took my heart broke that much more.

As it was Christmas Day it was pretty chilly in Dallas. Tony was about 15 autographs deep and you could sense that this was it. I was beginning to feel devastated. My fears were realized when Tony waved at the crowd and headed for his car.

I was crushed. Keep in mind that we still had the actual game to go to! None of it mattered, though. This was going to eat at me all day and my Dad, my best friend, knew that better than I did.

My Dad, in an effort to console his son, looked around for a sign of hope. He scanned the perimeter when suddenly... an idea hit him.

"Son, you see that stoplight over there?" he said as he gestured about a hundred yards away.

"Tony has to go through it. If you run, and you catch him, anything can happen." my Dad said.

There was no time to waste. I tucked my football and ran. Remember that it was pretty cold, so I had a lot of layers on, and I had to beat a moving car. This was a long shot.

I don't know that I've ever run that fast in my life. Like a running back staring down would-be tacklers I kept my eyes on Tony throughout the entire sprint. You could sense that something special was about to happen.

As I approached the stoplight I looked up... and the light turned red. I turned back and saw Tony slowing down (he does obey traffic signals after all) and my heart began to race.

I was the only kid, the only person, around for hundreds of yards. There was nobody there. He could have just ignored me and no one would have ever known.

As Tony's car slowed down he began to roll down his window... and he already had a sharpie in his hand.

I was excited. I was nervous. I was cold. I was exhausted! I'd just sprinted a hundred yards for crying out loud. I blurted out, "Tony! Could.. you, uh.. sign... uh..."

Cowboys Blog - 2015 Dallas Cowboys: Anything Can Happen 1

"Merry Christmas, man." Tony said as he signed my ball.

I trotted back to my Dad and we hugged. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.

I still get pretty emotional thinking about that day.

I love Tony Romo. I always have. It pains me greatly that I have to consider a plan for the playoffs that doesn't include him lining up under center for the Dallas Cowboys.

But like my Dad once brilliantly said, "Anything can happen."

This is that anything.


I've written extensively here at Inside The Star about potential "plans" for the Dallas Cowboys to make the playoffs this season.

The first plan (we'll call it Plan I) was put into action right before the loss against the Seattle Seahawks on the first day in November. I drew up a second draft (aka Plan II) after the Cowboys fell at home to the Philadelphia Eagles - a game which the first plan totally hinged on. I thought one revision would be all it took.

I was back at it just one week after the second plan when the Dallas Cowboys inexplicably lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that's how Plan III was born. It seemed like a hat trick of plans would be all we needed when the Cowboys carried out the first step of it by beating the Miami Dolphins... but every plan in existence was blown to smithereens when Tony Romo was laying on the turf at AT&T Stadium on Thanksgiving.

You now know that I've been a heavy supporter of Tony Romo since 2006. Seeing him, and knowing what had just happened, almost a week ago now... was perhaps the lowest that I've ever felt as a Dallas Cowboys fan.

One thing that I've learned from Tony over this decade-long ride is that you can't give up. You just can't.

How many times has he evaded a tackle, made a throw, or pulled out a victory when all logic pointed to the contrary? We owe it to him to keep believing.

This is the greatest game in the world. We spend the majority of the offseason counting down the days until Dallas Cowboys Football officially begins. It's here and we're smack dab in the middle of it. Forgive me if I don't want to fast forward through it. We're going to make the most of 2015.

The Dallas Cowboys believe that the playoffs are still a possibility. They said so yesterday when they decided not to put Tony Romo on season-ending injured reserve. They believe, so we're going to believe.

Welcome to Plan IV - where anything can happen.

Here are the standings in the NFC East through Week 12:

Overall Record Division Record
Washington Redskins 5-6 2-1
New York Giants 5-6 2-3
Philadelphia Eagles 4-7 2-2
Dallas Cowboys 3-8 2-2

I spent a lot of Plans I, II, and III looking at things by group. We're going to do things a little differently and look at each team and their remaining schedule individually.

Washington Redskins (5-6)

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
Dallas Cowboys @ Chicago Bears Buffalo Bills @ Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys

If you've read my previous plans then you know that I'm a big fan of color coding things. We'll get to that, but let me explain this five game stretch first.

The hopes and dreams of these Cowboys totally and completely hinge on them beating the Redskins in both of their matchups - we're going to give Washington losses for those.

The other three games? Chicago has been resurgent lately, they did just beat Green Bay at Lambeau on Thanksgiving when Favre got his number retired, and Buffalo is in contention for a wildcard spot in the AFC. Philadelphia is uglier than last year's eggnog, Washington will win that easily.

Looking at their schedule with wins in green and losses in red we have:

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
Dallas Cowboys @ Chicago Bears Buffalo Bills @ Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys

This would put Washington at 7-9 on the season. It's not asking for a lot. In fact we control a good chunk of it, which is always a good thing. So what do we need, in layman's terms, from the Washington Redskins for Plan IV to work?

We need to beat the Redskins twice and have them lose at least one game from their other three.

New York Giants (5-6)

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins Carolina Panthers @ Minnesota Vikings Philadelphia Eagles

Alright so we took care of the Redskins and now need to figure out how the Giants are going to give us everything on our Christmas list.

The Panthers and Vikings are two guaranteed losses for the Giants. The Jets are going to give them a run for their money this Sunday and I'm sure Odell Beckham Jr. will be on Revis Island... which means many interceptions from Eli Manning. It's hard to tell what you're going to get from the Dolphins and while I don't think the Eagles could beat them in New York, the Giants are pretty bad themselves.

Looking at their schedule with wins in green and losses in red we have:

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins Carolina Panthers @ Minnesota Vikings Philadelphia Eagles

The Panthers game is a slam dunk in terms of what we need. The Vikings aren't as much of a lock, but they're a free throw at the very worst. Just consider those two games for the Giants as the two games that we have against the Redskins. We can't control these, but we can easily assume losses for our division foe. This puts the Giants at 7-9 along with the Redskins.

We need the Giants to lose at least three of their five remaining games.

Philadelphia Eagles (4-7)

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
@ New England Patriots Buffalo Bills Arizona Cardinals Washington Redskins @ New York Giants

Of the three division rivals this domino is the one most likely to fall. Instead of a slam dunk this one is like the ball just permanently being surrounded by the net. The net of Chip Kelly's misguided football mind.

The Eagles in New England after the Patriots just experienced a gut-wrenching loss on primetime? Too da loo, Chippy. The Bills are in contention, the Cardinals are on fire... and it's hard to see them beating either other division rival right now.

Looking at their schedule with wins in green and losses in red we have:

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
@ New England Patriots Buffalo Bills Arizona Cardinals Washington Redskins @ New York Giants

I am not making this up. Tell me one team on that list who you think the Eagles can beat. You can't.

You could maybe argue that they'd beat the Bills if Rex Ryan had a bad enough day, but they are not beating the Patriots or Cardinals. That alone would put them at nine losses which would tie them with Washington and New York.

They'd still have to beat Buffalo, Washington, and New York... which is not happening. It would actually be awesome if Philly lost these next three games in a row. That would put them at 10 losses on the season already.

Imagine they then beat Washington or New York or both? Remember that we counted the remaining game against the Eagles as a win for both the Redskins and Giants? Another loss from either of those teams would also put them at 10 on the season.

We need the Eagles to lose at least two more games (which will likely be the Patriots and Cardinals). If they also lose to Buffalo then we would like them to beat Washington or New York or BOTH to give us even more breathing room.

Dallas Cowboys (3-8)

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
@ Washington Redskins @ Green Bay Packers New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills Washington Redskins

The best for last. (I hope the same is true for plans as well).

I know that it's hard to envision literally any of these as a win because these Dallas Cowboys have not won one single game without Tony Romo... and he will not be present for any of them. We're off to a good start, aren't we?

Remember that this is where anything can happen. You can't see this team, with all of its stars on both sides of the ball, beating the Redskins twice? We're halfway there off of that alone.

Say we drop the deuce on Washington (like what I did there?). What else do we need? It's simple - two out of three.

Looking at their schedule with wins in green and losses in red we have:

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
@ Washington Redskins @ Green Bay Packers New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills Washington Redskins

I cannot stress enough how vital the two games against the Redskins are. Without those this plan does not work (that explanation is coming right after this, I promise).

The Cowboys have a score to settle in Green Bay. If they can pull off the win in Washington it's hard to see them not getting up for that contest. Toss in the fact that the Packers have lost four out of their last five? They're beatable!

The Jets are for real this year. There's no way that we can hang with them offensively if Revis eliminates Dez. Rex Ryan can be beat, his Bills are so hot and cold.

Ultimately it doesn't matter which games are wins between the Redskins ones. We must have at least two. That would get us to 7-9.

We NEED to beat the Redskins both times. We also need to win two out of three of the games in between (and potentially only one out of those three if Philadelphia is able to give us more breathing room)

NFC East

So if all of this comes to fruition we'd have:

Overall Record Division Record
Washington Redskins 7-9 3-3
New York Giants 7-9 3-3
Philadelphia Eagles 4-12 2-4
Dallas Cowboys 7-9 4-2

That 4-2 there at the end? It's really important.

The immediate tiebreaker within the division is, you guessed it, division record. This is why those Redskins games are so vital to this whole plan:

  • The Redskins only have one division loss currently, but with two opportunities to play them we control the ability to turn that into three which we'd be better than.
  • The Giants are already at three division losses. As we are 2-2 we would be better with the two Redskins wins.
  • The Eagles will lose to the Patriots and Cardinals, that part is as guaranteed as it can be at this point. That's why if they lose to Buffalo we'd be rooting for them in the final two weeks. Losses to New England, Buffalo, and Arizona would put the Eagles at 4-10 on the season entering their games against Washington and New York. As we're planning on the Cowboys finishing at 7-9, even if Philly won those last two and ended with a 4-2 division record they would still be one overall game behind us and therefore not a threat. They could finish at 6-10 with those division wins and give us an extra game for potential error (right now the margin is one).

Plan IV

  • We need to beat the Redskins twice and have them lose at least one game from their other three.
  • We need the Giants to lose at least three of their five remaining games.
  • We need the Eagles to lose at least two more games (which will likely be the Patriots and Cardinals). If they also lose to Buffalo then we would like them to beat Washington or New York or BOTH to give us even more breathing room.
  • We NEED to beat the Redskins both times. We also need to win two out of three of the games in between (and potentially only one out of those three if Philadelphia is able to give us more breathing room). 

There you have it - a fourth draft of the 2015 Dallas Cowboys' chances at making the playoffs.

If you want to pack up shop and focus on 2016 I'm not going to talk you out of it. I'm a realist and I get that things look as bleak as ever. I'm just choosing the other option.

This isn't a matter of believing until we're mathematically eliminated or being an eternal optimist.

This is Christmas. The season of perpetual hope.

This is where anything can happen.

This is that anything.


RJ Ochoa on Fancred

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What do you think of Plan IV? What are your thoughts on how probable this is? I'd like to know! Comment below, Email me at Roel.Ochoa.Jr@Gmail.com or Tweet to me @rjochoa!

Tell us what you think about "2015 Dallas Cowboys: Anything Can Happen" in the comments below. You can also email me at RJ.Ochoa@SlantSports.com, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!



I like long walks on the beach, mystery novels, no just kidding those suck. The Dallas Cowboys were put on this earth for us all to love and appreciate. I do that 24/7/365. I also love chicken parmesan. Let's roll. @RJOchoa if you wanna shout!

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Malik McDowell Is Well Worth The Risk For The Dallas Cowboys

Kevin Brady

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Malik McDowell, Michigan State

The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly brining defensive lineman Malik McDowell into The Star this week for a visit, as they decide whether or not to potentially sign him for the 2019 season.

McDowell is a former second round pick of the Seattle Seahawks, who fell to day two because of what scouts call "off the field" or "character" concerns. McDowell did not last long with Seahawks, as he was released in 2017 following an ATV accident in which he reportedly suffered "extensive brain and eye trauma" according to Charles Robinson.

None of us know much about who Malik McDowell is as a person, or what concerns their really should be with his health. But what I do know is that on tape at Michigan State, McDowell was a top 5-10 player in the 2017 draft class. He was a stud, and has the traits to continue to be a stud in the NFL.

2017 NFL Draft: Scouting Michigan State DL Malik McDowell - Slant Sports

The 2017 NFL Draft is chock full of talented, athletic, and productive defensive linemen. While most of the draft pundits have focused on EDGE rushers thus far, the defensive tackle class also possesses some of this year's top NFL prospects. Arguably the best of those defensive tackles is Michigan State's Malik McDowell.

Back in 2017 I wrote a full scouting report on McDowell, detailing why he earned such a high grade on my board. McDowell is a versatile linemen who is explosive off the ball, powerful and rangy against the run, and a skilled pass rusher who plays with a high motor. What more could you really ask for?

"McDowell is a patient pass rusher at times, setting up the blocker how he likes and then beating them with ease. McDowell’s ability to swipe hands off helps him greatly, but his quick swim is his most effective pass rush move.

On this play he uses that swim to perfection, forcing the center to power down to the right before swimming back to the other side."

nfldraft malik mcdowell 3

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

When the Spartans went to a three man pass rushing front, McDowell moved to the EDGE often and made plays with his quick, active hands and impressive swim move. He was much more impressive on the interior, however, and could be a direct replacement for David Irving as an explosive and powerful 3-technique for the Cowboys.

nfldraft malik mcdowell 4

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

I love that the Cowboys are bringing McDowell in for a free agent visit. His price will likely be low, as he is yet to play in an NFL game over the last two years, but his ceiling remains very high if he is healthy. It's rare for a player with his college production, natural ability, and measurables to completely fail in the NFL.

Maybe all McDowell needs is a second chance to get his head right and prove that he belongs in the league. Maybe he flames out quickly and can't get on the field due to "off the field" stuff. Or, maybe he simply isn't healthy enough to contribute as an NFL player. Regardless, for the price he'll likely command, McDowell is well worth the risk if the Cowboys are willing to take it.



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Though Not A Direct Beasley Replacement, Randall Cobb Would Bring Value To Cowboys’ Offense

Kevin Brady

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Not A Direct Beasley Replacement, Randall Cobb Would Bring Value To Cowboys' Offense

When the news broke Monday that veteran wide receiver Randall Cobb was visiting the Dallas Cowboys, most immediately assumed he would be a logical replacement for the departed Cole Beasley.

When you take a look at the film and each of their skillsets, however, you quickly see this is likely not the case.

While Cobb would be able to play in the slot as a receiver for the Cowboys if he signs, his value extends much further than just a slot receiver. Where Beasley makes his mark with precise route running, short area quickness, and 3rd down reliability, Cobb is much more of a threat after the catch. He's not the route runner that Beasley is, and really isn't an upgrade over Beasley as a receiver, but Cobb would be able to help the Cowboys' become more diverse in their offensive schemes.

Similar to Tavon Austin, Randall Cobb can be used in pre snap motion and jet-sweep packages, as well as a traditional running back. A college quarterback, Cobb's versatility is what makes him so attractive to NFL teams. Cobb would actually fit more of the Lance Dunbar "scat back" role of sorts for the Cowboys than that of the Cole Beasley slot receiver role. His versatility, however, allows him to carve out a lane within the offense which they haven't quite had before.

Another area Cobb could help the Cowboys is when the play breaks down. With experience in the Packers offense playing with arguably the greatest improviser we've ever seen in Aaron Rodgers, Cobb would be able to help Dak Prescott down the field when he breaks the pocket and the play is off schedule.

So often last season we talked about how the Cowboys offense is reliant on remaining on schedule, staying in front of the chains and not having to force the ball downfield. Unleashing the Mississippi State version of Dak Prescott, where he can improvise and use his legs to create big plays, tends to be when this offense is at its best, however.

Randall Cobb won't be a Pro Bowler if the Cowboys sign him, and depending on the money he receives, it might not even be a lock that he makes the final roster. But Cobb would be an exciting addition to a Cowboys offense which has lacked "creativity" over the last few seasons, and is looking to reinvent themselves to a certain extent.

A receiving corps headlined by Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, with versatile weapons such as Cobb and Tavon Austin behind them, is a pretty good one to head into draft day with.

Signing Cobb would keep the Cowboys from "needing" to take a wide receiver early in the draft, and would allow them to easily shed Allen Hurns if a receiving weapon did fall to them at 58th overall.



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Should Cowboys Inquire About Trading for 49ers DL Solomon Thomas?

Brian Martin

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Should Cowboys Inquire About Trading for 49ers DL Solomon Thomas? 1

When it comes to making trades, the Dallas Cowboys are typically the buyer and not the seller. They proved that last season when they acquired Tavon Austin, Jamize Olawale, and Jihad Ward via trade and could be looking do the same once again this offseason. That's why today I want to talk about the Cowboys putting in a call to the San Francisco 49ers to inquire about potentially trading for Solomon Thomas.

New 49ers Defensive Line Coach Kris Kocurek is rumored to be evaluating Solomon Thomas' film in order to determine his fit and future with the organization moving forward. This is no easy task. In his two years in the league they've tried Thomas at DE and DT, but unfortunately the former No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft has yet to find his footing at either position.

Being a man without a position doesn't bode well for Solomon Thomas, especially after the 49ers acquired Defensive End Dee Ford from the Kansas City Chiefs last week via trade. The 49ers are suddenly stacked along the defensive line. That's not all though, things could actually get worse for Thomas.

To further complicate matters, the 49ers could use their second overall pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft on the either Nick Bosa or Quinnen Williams. If that's what indeed happens, someone is going to be the odd man out. If you haven't guessed it yet, I think that player could be Solomon Thomas.

Solomon Thomas

San Francisco 49ers DL Solomon Thomas

As a former high first-round draft pick, Thomas would count $7,678,468 against the salary cap in 2019 and $8,958,213 in 2020. That's probably more than the 49ers want to pay for a rotational/backup defensive lineman. And cutting him this season would create $16.6 million in dead money, so a trade is the logical solution.

With all that in mind, it wouldn't surprise me if San Francisco put Solomon Thomas on the trade block any day now. He is only two years into his four-year rookie deal and comes with a fifth-year option as a former first-round draft pick. That means if a team does trade for him they have him under contract for essentially three more years.

If you add all of this up, it makes a lot of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. They need defensive line help and Solomon Thomas needs a fresh start. The Cowboys would get a young versatile defensive lineman and the 49ers get to dump his contract while also receiving some compensation in return. It's a win-win for all parties concerned.

I know what you're thinking though. What would the Cowboys have to give up in the trade? Well, it might not be as much as you think.

Fortunately, Thomas' failure to make an impact his first two years in the NFL favor the buyer, in this case the Dallas Cowboys. He has only four career quarterback sacks, three of which came in his rookie season. Stats of course don't always tell the entire story, but game film does. Unfortunately for Thomas, he can't escape his poor play.

I believe it wouldn't take more than a 2019 fourth-round draft pick to get Solomon Thomas away from the 49ers. Remember, just last season the New England Patriots sent a third-round draft pick to San Francisco and received Offensive Tackle Trent Brown and the fifth-round pick in return. Brown was a more proven player and was in the last year of his contract.

I don't know about you, but I kind of like the idea of Solomon Thomas in a Dallas Cowboys uniform. If anybody can tap into his potential, Rod Marinelli can. Giving up a 2019 fourth-round pick is well worth the gamble in my opinion.

Do you think the Cowboys should inquire about trading for Solomon Thomas?



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