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?
Starters Make Cowboys Serious Contenders, But Depth is a Concern
Playing in the National Football Conference, the Dallas Cowboys have a difficult task ahead of them if they are to be serious Super Bowl contenders. Even still, they've become a very underrated football team due to their 9-7 record last season. The Cowboys struggled in many areas and with the Philadelphia Eagles crowned as Super Bowl Champions, everyone has forgotten about America's Team.
2017 was an awful year for the Cowboys. It seemed like a roller coaster of success, putting up an impressive performance one week only to disappoint the next one. Let's be honest with ourselves here and talk about what really ended the Cowboys' last season.
As much as we talk about how there shouldn't be any excuses in football - the Eagles made a huge statement by winning it all with a backup QB and other key starters missing - we can't deny the impact of these injuries.
Anthony Hitchens, Sean Lee, Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliott all missed some time last year, affecting the team's performance week in and week out. Had the starters been healthy, the truth is this team would've been in the playoffs.
Heading into 2018, the Cowboys will face a very similar situation. This year, starters make Dallas a serious contender. Even if they're playing in a conference that will feature a lot of quality teams, the Cowboys are a team that could beat any team in the league if healthy.
Even the dreaded wide receiver position - which has been famous this offseason for the lack of a #1 receiver - won't be as bad as we make it out to be starter-wise. A starting trio of Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup and Cole Beasley doesn't really sound bad.
Heck, not even Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods starting at safety is concerning. They have what it takes to be decent starters. Sure, Heath isn't a guy who will make the Pro Bowl, but his skills will show on the field once the season starts in September.
The Cowboys' starters will do just fine this season. If the team's fate is up to them, they are in a very good spot. The same can not be said about depth, though.
Except for the defensive line, every other position lacks depth. If Sean Lee goes down, the linebackers stop looking like a three-headed monster. Same goes for the cornerbacks. Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis seem like a good group but as soon as one of them suffers an injury, the Cowboys will be in trouble.
We're in for an exciting season with a lot of young talent waiting to breakout. The Cowboys are underrated this year. They may not be among the NFC's favorites, but they truly have what it takes to replicate the success they had in 2016. However, it seems like circumstances have to be ideal for them to make a run for the Lombardi Trophy.
With a little bit of luck, they'll bounce back this season.
The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up
Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.
The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.
As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.
Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.
Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.
Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.
Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.
I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.
All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.
How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?
Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?
With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.
Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.
I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.
I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?
Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.
Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.
Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.
Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.
Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?
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