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2016 Cowboys: An Exercise in Psychological Team Building

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Cowboys Headlines - 2016 Cowboys: Psychological Team Building

Hello friends! It's been a while! I missed every single one of you... I promise! Even though I haven't written in quite some time, you best believe my mind has been churning out ideas. Most importantly, on the topic of psychological team building.

There are a lot of things we think about when considering what a championship team consists of. How many times have we seen these "super teams" built, not even just in football, and then you see them fall flat?

Most people would say you need all this great talent on your team, right? That is absolutely true.

You need a quarterback that can at least be a bus driver (I would have said you need great QB play until Peyton Manning won it all last year). Talent on both ends of the ball is a must. You need a part of your team that is unstoppable, whether that be a defensive line that can't be stopped, a secondary that is impenetrable, a running game that gashes, etc.

You can build a team filled with elite players, but that doesn't guarantee success. At the end of the day, a major piece of the puzzle that is missing is the psychological aspect to football, and sports in general.

As fans, we tend to separate the human aspect from the players we are watching. We are all guilty of this. It's hard to see these people as actual human beings, rather than football-playing robots. Do human beings get tired? Have they tried to cut corners? Do human beings get lazy? Are human beings capable of giving their all at all times?

 

Cowboys Headlines - 2016 Cowboys: Psychological Team Building 3

DeMarco Murray takes oxygen on the Cowboys sideline

 

For us to think that every single player has it in them to go max-effort every single play of a game is simply naive.

There are 22 players on the field at a given time. Fifty-three players fill up a locker room. Are we really thinking that every single one of them is a high motor, high energy, fiery spirited person that gives their all at all times?

Not to mention, people get tired and when they get tired, these characteristics show up even more.

Now let's get to how it relates to the Cowboys.

The Dallas Cowboys and Team Psychology

For example, let's think about Rolando McClain...

We all know there are plays where you can tell Rolando McClain is either gassed, injured or he is saving up/recuperating energy. You can see when this happens. (Disclaimer: I'm not trying to call out McClain, but he is a great example for this.)

Now, let's also think about Tyrone Crawford last season. Tyrone Crawford played a large portion of last season with a rotator cuff issue.

Now, if Tyrone Crawford chooses a play where he is going to give max effort and he helps clear Rolando McClain for an easy tackle, but McClain is not giving max effort, how does that affect the team as a whole?

 

Cowboys Headlines - 2016 Cowboys: Psychological Team Building 2

 

Crawford thinks he just gave his all for nothing, despite the injury he is playing with. McClain knows he missed out on an opportunity. On the next play, McClain gives his all and Crawford is easing up a bit.

This is just an example to try to get people to humanize athletes a little more. It makes sense to think that this sort of thing happens. It's impossible to get everyone playing 100% for every snap of a game.


These things will happen, but it is a matter of minimizing them and making sure you have enough high energy players giving max effort as often as possible.

This is why I believe these super teams are never a slam dunk. When you combine top-tier athletes together, they may not all play at 100%, thinking someone else will make that huge play and they can relax a bit.

How can you counter natural human elements?

Having Orlando Scandrick back in 2016 will be HUGE.

This team plays differently when he is on the field. What Dez Bryant brings to the offense, Orlando Scandrick brings to the defense. This is a player who plays at such a high energy level that he makes everyone else around him play up to his level.

 

Cowboys Headlines - 2016 Cowboys: Psychological Team Building 1

Orlando Scandrick brings a whole new element to the Cowboys defense

 

He talks a lot, he's flashy, and he flies around all over the field. It's hard to take plays off when you have that guy energizing you.

With all the youth that this team has, and all the players fighting for a place in the NFL, you get players that should be giving everything that they have. These players are trying to make themselves some money. There is a lot of hunger there.

When you combine youth, hunger, talent and energy, you get the most out of your team. When you hear the term "high motor," that is getting toward what I'm talking about.

If you're an NFL player, chances are there is talent there. Everyone has a particular skill that is very good, at a minimum. Get everyone playing as hard as they can and you're really harvesting something.

I think this is something that Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots do really well.

How many times have people counted out areas of the Patriots team only to feel stupid in the end?

I often question how a guy like Malcolm Butler goes from a nobody to their shutdown corner in no time. Well, it's because Belichick not only knows how to put his players in positions for them to succeed, but he makes every guy bring his all.

2014 Dallas Cowboys: A Perfect Example

The 2014 Dallas Cowboys were a phenomenal example of what energy and effort can do.

Everyone thought that defense would be historically bad. But, they weren't nearly as bad as everyone expected, despite having practically no big-name talent on it.

What they had were a bunch of young nobodies that were playing as hard as they could together as a unit. Jon Gruden called them the "UFO" defense. A bunch of unidentified flying objects, because they were nobodies who just flew all over the field.

The 2016 team is clearly going for the same identity. They need the offense to control the clock and put up points like it has for the duration of Tony Romo's existence.

The defense... well, they will be a bunch of guys looking to make names for themselves, prove people wrong, and make themselves some serious money.


I've been blogging about sports and music for almost eight years now. I also work in media relations for a New York sports team, so I understand the bridge between the outlets writing about a team and the team monitoring content. I hope to bring something new to Inside The Star, getting deep into draft work, breakdowns and I always come with a strong and passionate opinion. I'm very active on Twitter, so ask questions, comment on stuff, etc. and I will almost definitely respond to you in some sort of debate!

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Dallas Cowboys

Tony Pollard Should See More Work with Injuries at Wide Receiver

John Williams

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Tony Pollard Should See More Work with Injuries at Wide Receiver

After making it through the preseason relatively unscathed on the injury front to the team's starters and primary role players, the Dallas Cowboys have caught a case of the injury bug in the last week. Already it's been announced that Xavier Woods is going to miss some time with an ankle sprain and Antwaun Woods is dealing with an MCL sprain. Injuries at any point in the season will test a team's depth and the Dallas Cowboys are about to be tested at the wide receiver position with Michael Gallup out for up to a month and Tavon Austin still in the concussion protocol.

Heading into the Cowboys week three matchup with the Miami Dolphins, the team currently only has four healthy wide receivers on the roster; Amari Cooper, Devin Smith, Randall Cobb, and Cedrick Wilson. It's certainly plausible that the team could look at a veteran player, perhaps even one that's been with the team in the past, or they could call up one of their practice squad players like a Jon'vea Johnson or Ventrell Bryant.

The player the Dallas Cowboys should look to incorporate into the passing game, either in week three or beyond, is Running Back Tony Pollard.

Tony Pollard came to the NFL with the reputation of being mostly a receiving threat. In three seasons at Memphis, he caught nearly as many passes (104) as he had rushing attempts (139). In 2018, he had 1,000 yards from scrimmage with nearly half of those yards coming in the passing game. As a pass catcher, Pollard averaged more than 12 yards per reception for his career at Memphis and could be a dynamic weapon for the Cowboys to deploy in the passing game.


Rushing & Receiving Table
Rush Rush Rush Rush Rece Rece Rece Rece Scri Scri Scri Scri
Year School Class Pos G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2015 Memphis FR WR 0 0 0
*2016 Memphis FR WR 13 31 159 5.1 1 29 298 10.3 2 60 457 7.6 3
*2017 Memphis SO RB 13 30 230 7.7 2 36 536 14.9 4 66 766 11.6 6
*2018 Memphis JR WR 14 78 552 7.1 6 39 458 11.7 3 117 1010 8.6 9
Career Memphis 139 941 6.8 9 104 1292 12.4 9 243 2233 9.2 18
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 9/18/2019.

We've already seen how Pollard can be an effective runner for the Dallas Cowboys. On Sunday he averaged 5.5 yards per carry on his four attempts and had a touchdown brought back due to a penalty.

The Cowboys love to use jet motion, throw bubble screens, and traditional screen passes, and Pollard can be an effective weapon in addition to his ability as a running back. Now it's not likely that the team will want to put a lot on his plate early in the season or give opposing teams film of how they might use Tony Pollard in the passing game, but if they need to get some snaps at the receiver position from a player they trust, Pollard's your guy.

They showed a lot of faith in Pollard during the preseason, running him exclusively with the first-team offense and giving him a vast majority of the workload. The team's raved about his ability to pick up the playbook and execute the things they're asking him to do. Unleashing his receiving skills will be a difference-maker for the Cowboys and could be huge while Michael Gallup and Tavon Austin are out of action.

The Dallas Cowboys have a weapon that the rest of the NFL is unfamiliar with and it's only a matter of time until Kellen Moore calls his number in a way we haven't seen yet. With only four healthy wide receivers on the roster currently and for the foreseeable future, Tony Pollard could find those opportunities rather soon. Despite the injuries to Gallup and Austin, the depth of playmakers the Cowboys have is very exciting. It's only a matter of time until Tony Pollard creates a little excitement of his own.

 


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Report: Cowboys S Xavier Woods Could Only Miss One Game

Matthew Lenix

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Report: Cowboys S Xavier Woods Could Only Miss One Game

The Dallas Cowboys might not be without their rising star at free safety as long as they originally thought. According to DallasCowboys.com's Bryan Broaddus, Xavier Woods could only miss this Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins.


BryanBroaddus on Twitter

They gave him a physical and didn't sign so that tells me a little something. Xavier Woods is not going to be out 4-6 weeks. Might miss one game... https://t.co/EFcpjlZnPH

Woods suffered a high ankle sprain this past Sunday against the Washington Redskins that was supposed to keep him out 4-6 weeks. If he is only out one game that would be amazing news for the Cowboys with the toughest part of their schedule coming up. Safety Darian Thompson is set to start this Sunday opposite Jeff Heath in place of Woods, with rookie Donovan Wilson and Kavon Frazier also their for insurance. Will Xavier Woods be back against the New Orleans Saints next week? Something to keep an eye on. More details to come.


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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Have to Remain Focused the Next two Weeks, Avoid any Letdowns

Matthew Lenix

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Cowboys Have to Remain Focused the Next two Weeks, Avoid any Letdowns

It's been seen in the NFL too many times before and it'll be seen again. A superior team letting an inferior team catch them by surprise and the next thing you know an unforeseen loss occurs, and sometimes that can spark a downward spiral. Coming into the 2019 season the Dallas Cowboys knew they had two division games for starters, against teams they were better than on paper. That makes it easy for a letdown or an underwhelming performance to occur, however, the Cowboys showed they have a single-minded focus that needs to continue in the next two weeks.

The New York Giants came out on fire on their first possession week one that was sparked by a 59-yard run from Saquon Barkley that set up an early 7-0 lead, but almost simultaneously, the magic ended after the score. The Giants would score just 3 more points until a late garbage-time touchdown made the final score a little more respectable at 35-17.

Although the Giants had 25 first downs and almost 500 yards of offense they were only 2 of 11 on third down and failed to reach 20 points. Meanwhile, Quarterback Dak Prescott had arguably the best game of his career with 405 yards, 4 touchdowns, and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. They took the Giants best shot early and didn't flinch, just the kind of focus you like to see.

The Washington Redskins were up next in a big early-season NFC East road game. Just like the week before, the Cowboys offense started off slow in finding their groove and they fell behind 7-0 early in the second quarter, and then the flood gates opened. Dak Prescott once again was spectacular going 26 of 30 (ended the game with 18 straight completions, 14 of 14 in the second half) for 269 yards and 3 touchdowns.

The Cowboys scored on five consecutive possessions and at one time lead 31-14 before eventually winning 31-21. Falling behind on the road to a division opponent can be tough to overcome regardless if they are a good team or not. The Cowboys showed great poise and cut the head off the snake so to speak when they smelled blood and improved to 2-0.

This Sunday the Miami Dolphins come to town in your classic "Trap Game". On paper, this matchup isn't even close considering the Dolphins have been outscored 102-10 and have given up 391 rushing yards in the first two games. Smart money says the Cowboys should steamroll this team, but people shouldn't be so confident. Riding a wave of momentum like the Cowboys are currently on into a home game with an inferior opponent has all the ingredients of a letdown if they're not careful.


The defense needs to assert it's dominance this week. They have been excellent only allowing 19 points per game and stopping 16 out of 20 third-down situations. However, they have given up 44 first downs and allowed touchdowns on 5 of 7 red zone opportunities. Plenty of room for improvement and playing a bad offense should help the defense immensely. Offensively, keep riding the Dak-Zeke wave. Prescott is off to his best career start and Ezekiel Elliott is fresh off a 100-yard performance. The defense they are facing is allowing 51 points per game, attack early and often.

After that, the Cowboys travel to New Orleans to face the Saints in a game that was looked at as a premiere regular-season matchup when the schedule was released in April. Unfortunately, at least for the Saints, Drew Brees will miss the next six weeks with ligament damage to the thumb on his throwing hand. Also, the Saints defense is giving up 27.5 points per game so far in 2019.

What the Cowboys don't want is a bad performance in a game they should win on paper just like the Saints did last season, ironically against Dallas. The Saints were on a 10 game winning streak when they rolled into Arlington in week 13. Arguably the NFL's top offense was shut down as the Cowboys won a tough 13-10 battle. Let your defense pin it's ears back and make life miserable for backup Teddy Bridgewater, who while talented, can't operate the offense on the level of Drew Brees. Give Prescott, Elliott, and this high powered offense short fields all night and put points on the board early and quiet what should be a loud crowd down in Cajun Country.

The Cowboys have home games against the Packers and Eagles as well as a road game against the Giants in the month that follows the next few weeks. It's imperative for them to take care of business the next two games with the meat and potatoes of their schedule coming up. They will have to overcome the injury bug, though, as several players went down this past Sunday.

Wide Receiver Michael Gallup is out 2-4 weeks with a meniscus tear, Xavier Woods is out 4-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain, Antwaun Woods is day-to-day with an MCL sprain and Tyrone Crawford is being monitored as he deals with a hip issue. Nonetheless, the Cowboys still have more than enough to beat these two wounded dogs, but that's easier said than done. Will they keep their focus? Only time will tell.


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