Five weeks and 1 day from now the Dallas Cowboys invite the Washington Redskins home for a Sunday afternoon brawl. It's well known that their season isn't bound for glory and from the looks of things, the Redskins aren't going to fair much better so I'm expecting a brawl. Just 2 NFC East teams duking it out in the final contest of the season for some modest bragging rights, at least. And I'm okay with that.
Two months ago I couldn't even imagine my Cowboys sitting at 3-8 on the year. I didn't expect Tony Romo to see any form of Injured Reserve. Getting hurt is more or less his specialty across an average season anymore but breaking the same clavicle three times? Surely not!
I knew Rolando McClain would be a slow starter because let's face it, he's a proverbial crapshoot in terms of focus and ambition most days. Sean Lee finally managed to complete a preseason without breaking so there was a net. Sure, McClain and fellow defensive teammate Greg Hardy were due to sit out the first 4 games but we drafted Randy Gregory, Damien Wilson, and Byron Jones just for that sort of situation. Next man up! Right?
DeMarco Murray took his 1,800 all-purpose yards to Philadelphia. Darren McFadden, the biggest 1st round bust currently in the league, was a Cowboy and expected to backup a very capable, if not promising, Joseph Randle behind an All-Star offensive line, and Lance Dunbar was also there.
Dez Bryant... the man of the hour. The ink on his brand spanking new 5-year, $70 million dollar deal was still wet and so were most of us! You get the picture; we were salivating over the wins and ultimate dominance of any team we faced.
And then reality set in.
After a lackluster - albeit winning - performance at home to open the season, the Cowboys traipsed into an Eagle's nest having already soured the first of our victory dances with Bryant and the foot that couldn't.
One pleasant surprise (maybe if you weren't paying attention that is) was that apparently while traveling north, DeMarco Murray left those yards from 2014 at the airport baggage claim, but it was a small consolation. Tony Romo was down. The who, what and how aren't important. When a bomb goes off, nobody cares how unless there's a threat that it could happen again, and it's not like he could break that clavicle twice in the same year, could he?
I bring it up because week 2 saw us fans becoming poor fans mighty fast the moment Romo got hurt. But hope dies hard so early in the season, especially when people began speaking of temporary injured reserve. We carried on with optimism and fight, and we cheered our team on in spite of Brandon Weeden being handed the reigns again. After all, Arizona just had a good defense last year, right? I watched the Falcons game on September 27 into the 3rd quarter full of every hope that they'd pull out a win after playing so well in the first half.
Funny thing about that... I saw the opening of the second half but was lured out back by family and friends to get married, and I returned a couple of hours later wondering What. The. Hell?
It was a particularly sour loss for me that day and only the beginning of a string of consecutive losses that were as heartbreaking as they were frustrating. Fast forward through the misery to the moments just before the week 12 contest in which the Dallas Cowboys introduced the Carolina Panthers to Thanksgiving Day football.
Dez Bryant was back. Tony Romo was back. Sean Lee was back again. Rolando McClain was playing with fire and Greg Hardy was just on fire. Joseph Randle had been cut and just arrested in Kansas. Brandon Weeden had been cut and was God knows where.
Romo's return ushered in the ways of winning to start the trip toward Super Bowl 50 and did so the very same day that Mike on @CowboysNation was enjoying the game live and in person, too. The turkey, cornbread dressing, and my grandmother's potato salad recipe filled the house with the most beautiful aroma and it was Thanksgiving.
Two weeks. Just 2 weeks, again! Disaster struck and this time we weren't leading the game by enough to hold out for the win. In fact, many have been arguing that we shouldn't have been playing Romo at all when it happened, down 3 scores to an obviously superior team. Tony goes down again. Same shoulder, same bone, same outcome. He's down for the count. Goodbye 2015 season.
We have 5 games left but aside from evaluating players to see who stays and who goes next year, the Cowboys have nothing but pride to play for. And barely even that.
People everywhere are talking about the Cowboys and what will come next. Me? I'm still mourning the loss of this season. I've supported Tony Romo and said it loud that he's my quarterback for years, but even I have to admit that the detractors around me have a point. He's getting old. He breaks down a lot. Like an old car, in a way, and old cars get replaced by shiny new ones. Romo will start for Dallas in 2016. I have no doubts. But it's time to get serious about the future of that position.
No college stars doomed to be polished well-known crap in the pros (i.e., Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel). No blaming Matt Cassel for losses given up under Weeden's watch. No throwing Romo under the bus by blaming our season his increasing fragility. Just executing a smart plan for the future of this franchise... something for which Will McClay is certainly the right man.
You see, week 17 against the Redskins will be a fight because it's the last time these Cowboys will get to hit something for many months. And with the year they're having, who can really blame them for taking what they can get?
Cowboys Chill While Pats & Rams Set to Thrill
If you were to check out the line on the Super Bowl matchup between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams, you might wander over to Sportsbook Review, where you could read a 5Dimes review and see what all the best online sportsbooks, first and foremost among them 5Dimes, are dealing on this intriguing matchup. Tom Brady and the Patriots, much to everyone’s chagrin outside the six New England states, are back in it – again – and are currently slight favorites over the emerging LA Rams.
In New England’s 37-31 victory over the Chiefs, the Patriots did what they always seem to do, which is rally late and win in dramatic fashion. It’s become almost a ho-hum experience in New England while the rest of the country bites on a bullet, cursing the embarrassment of riches and success that has been the standard of this Patriots’ franchise for two decades. But this was supposed to be the season that the dynasty would end after viewing Tom Brady’s often mediocre performances and his All-World tight end, Rob Gronkowski, hobbling up and down the field without the same reckless abandon as we’ve seen in year’s past. And then their only truly talented speed merchant capable of stretching the field, Josh Gordon, left the team under a cloud of suspicion.
Unfortunately for the rest of the nation, the Patriots' once porous defense coalesced into a rather stout unit and apparently, the two weeks between the end of the regular season and the start of the Patriots’ postseason was enough time for Brady to heal from his rumored sprained MCL that he had been dealing with in silence all season long.
Gronkowski must have also visited the same shaman as Brady because he looked as dominating as ever in ripping the Chiefs on every critical third-down throughout the final quarter. Finally, the conduit to much of Brady’s success, Julian Edelman, is now being mentioned as a Hall-of-Fame candidate when his run is done.
It’s all a bit much for everyone else, but not for Patriots Nation.
The LA Rams will be the Patriots’ latest foe on the league’s grandest stage as they have a burgeoning superstar in Jared Goff. Los Angeles tore through the regular season off of the golden arm of Goff and his Juggernauts, winning 13 of 16 and earning a first-round bye. Their first foray into the 2018 postseason was a 30-22 win over the determined but overwhelmed Dallas Cowboys. The Rams then traveled to the lair of Drew Brees and the Saints down on the bayou and came away with a 26-23 overtime victory.
However, had it not been for an inexcusable non-call, it is far more likely LA would be watching, rather than participating in this year’s Super Bowl. If you didn’t see it or hadn’t heard about it, then the question begs; why are you reading this article?
Of course, you know that LA’s cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman steamrolled New Orleans’ wideout Tommylee Lewis as Brees’ pass was descending toward Lewis inside the five-yard line. It was a penalty without a flag and that one blown call forced the Saints to settle for a field goal that pushed them ahead 23-20. Yet, there was still enough time on the clock to give Goff and his prolific Rams’ offense one last gasp at either tying the game or putting a dagger through the hearts of Saints’ fans everywhere with a touchdown in the waning moments.
It was the former and not the latter that occurred, but an errant pass by Brees in overtime sealed the deal as the Rams picked it off and ultimately ended the contest off the thunderous foot of Greg Zuerlein.
If you want to check out the line movements over the next two weeks for Super Bowl LIII then get on over to Sportsbook Review, read the 5Dimes review, and see exactly where the money is moving the spread as well as the total in the game. Buckle up Cowboys’ fans, it’s gonna get even more interesting as February 3rd draws near.
Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches
Lamentablemente, la temporada 2018 de los Dallas Cowboys ha llegado a su fin. Lo hizo cuando el equipo visitó Los Angeles para intentar sorprender a los Rams en su propio campo en la Ronda Divisional de los playoffs. Ni siquiera con una invasión exitosa de la afición de Dallas pudieron ganarse un pase al Campeonato de Conferencia. En vez de eso, los Cowboys estarán viendo desde casa y la afición estará preguntándose: ¿qué sigue para los Dallas Cowboys?
Parece ya una tradición anual que no podemos dejar pasar. Este momento en el que comenzamos a cuestionar, una vez más, que entrenador es digno de quedarse en la franquicia y cual debe irse. En esta edición de "Cowboys en Español," hablaremos específicamente de los tres principales coaches en el equipo.
Coordinador Defensivo Rod Marinelli
El futuro del coordinador defensivo de los Dallas Cowboys no se puede tratar sin mencionar a Kris Richard. Fue la defensiva la que llevó al equipo hasta la postemporada y fue la unidad que cargó al equipo en muchas de sus victorias. Incluso con la llegada de Amari Cooper a Dallas, la defensiva fue siempre el pilar de la franquicia esta temporada.
Jaylon Smith y Leighton Vander Esch sorprendentemente se perfilaron como uno de los mejores duos de linebackers en toda la liga, la línea defensiva fue muy exitosa con Randy Gregory y DeMarcus Lawrence en los extremos y con la grata sorpresa que fue Antwaun Woods en el centro. La secundaria vio la mejor temporada en la controversial carrera de Byron Jones e hizo un excelente trabajo con un talento decente, pero no genial.
Todo esto, y el haber terminado como la sexta mejor defensiva en puntos permitidos (20.2) y la quinta mejor contra la corrida (94.6), hace a Rod Marinelli merecedor de una ronda de aplausos. Sin embargo, Richard probablemente merezca más aplausos.
Fue Richard quien revolucionó la defensiva de los Cowboys y la convirtió en un grupo mucho más agresivo. Fue él quien implementó jugadas de "blitz" en el equipo (algo no común con Marinelli) y quien en un punto de la temporada, comenzó a seleccionar las jugadas desde la banda.
En esta posición, me parece que los Dallas Cowboys tienen que enfrentar la dura decisión de decirle a Marinelli que es tiempo de dejarle el puesto a Kris Richard. Si bien no se llevó un trabajo de head coach, es muy probable que le llovieran ofertas a Richard si no se hace con el título de coordinador defensivo en Dallas.
Coordinador Ofensivo Scott Linehan
Con un equipo tan polémico como este, la afición de Dallas no concuerda en muchas cosas. Sin embargo, lo hacen al hablar del pésimo trabajo que Scott Linehan ha realizado mandando las jugadas en ofensiva. Realmente ha sido doloroso de ver y es en mi opinión, el mayor problema que tiene el equipo actualmente.
Semana tras semana, fuimos testigos de pésimas decisiones en la ofensiva de los Cowboys. Vimos como el equipo se aferraba a llenar la caja de defensivos antes de correr el balón con Ezekiel Elliott. Vimos incontables pases pantalla en tercera oportunidad y largo. Pero no solo es lo que vimos, sino lo que no vimos.
A pesar de la innegable habilidad para correr el balón de Dak Prescott, Linehan se rehusó a explotar esta versatilidad de su QB. Vimos pocos "QB sneaks," jugada donde el mariscal toma el balón bajo centro y consigue poco yardage detrás del empuje de su línea ofensiva.
Siendo honestos, los Cowboys llevan dos años sufriendo por este coordinador. Dejarlo volver en el 2019 sería una decisión ridícula. Los comentarios en la radio de Jason Garrett no lucen prometedores, pero realmente sería una sorpresa que fueran ciertos. Linehan no debe volver... punto.
Head Coach Jason Garrett
El futuro en esta posición será muy debatido durante los próximos meses, pero de los tres que hemos mencionado es sin lugar a dudas el más seguro de todos. Nos guste o no, Jason Garrett estará al frente del equipo la próxima temporada.
Garrett está lejos de ser un gran coach y aún le hace falta demostrar que puede cumplir las aspiraciones de los Cowboys de traer un sexto Trofeo Lombardi a casa. Pero siendo honesto, este equipo debería tener suficiente con Garrett y un par de buenos coordinadores. ¿El problema? No hay un par de buenos coordinadores en el equipo.
Sin embargo, Garrett ha demostrado que cuenta con el amor y apoyo de sus jugadores. Ha demostrado que efectivamente, puede ganar la división (lo ha hecho en tres de los últimos cinco años). Este año el equipo le dio la vuelta a la temporada después de comenzar 3-5.
Lo más preocupante en mi opinión, es la falta de urgencia para despedir a Linehan, por ejemplo. Quizá a puerta cerrada Garrett quiere un cambio en su staff, pero nunca lo sabremos.
Jason Garrett no es un coach excelente, pero podría ser suficiente para llevar a los Cowboys a un Super Bowl si tiene un equipo adecuado. Todo parece indicar que su trabajo está seguro (incluso más de lo que pensamos) así que es tiempo de esperar que se arreglen sus coordinadores.
2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch
As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.
It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.
Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.
No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.
Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.
This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.
There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.
Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.
Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.
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