I love hockey. One of my favorite things the NHL does at the conclusion of every hockey game is to name the three stars of the game. It's a way of highlighting who were the biggest contributors to the outcome of the game. Sometimes, even a player from the losing team finds himself on the night's 3 Stars.
The NFL and the Dallas Cowboys are no different. Outcomes of a game are determined by several players. It's as much of a team game as we have in the world of sports, making it difficult to name a single "player of the game." So, every week during the regular season, I'll bring you the 3 Stars from each Dallas Cowboys contest.
To kick it off, I wanted to highlight the players who were the stars of the preseason.
Randy Gregory, Defensive End
Perhaps aside from Jaylon Smith, there wasn't a player participation more anticipated than Randy Gregory.
After playing sporadically since being drafted in 2015, Gregory fought through the struggles that kept him off the field and earned his reinstatement. He participated in most of training camp and has been impressive.
Every step of the way Gregory's earned more and more opportunities and looks like he'll be a major contributor to the Dallas Cowboys in 2018. What the numbers look like will be dependent on his snap count and pass rush opportunities, but you can guarantee that he's going to be a disruptive pressure player when he gets the opportunities.
His presence will help draw attention away from DeMarcus Lawrence, which should only help last year's Dallas Cowboys sack leader continue his excellent play.
Jaylon Smith, Linebacker
All offseason, we've clamored for every bit of Jaylon Smith news we could get our hands on. With each positive report, we, the Dallas Cowboys fan base, got more and more excited for what Smith could add to this defense.
He's been everything we hoped he could be. Jaylon has played the run and pass well and been the first team MIKE linebacker since day one. He's looking more fluid, more mobile, and more the All-American that the Dallas Cowboys thought they were getting in the 2016 NFL Draft.
His 10.5 run stop percentage was second on the team only to Leighton Vander Esch.
There was a lot of talk about 2018 first round draft pick Leighton Vander Esch coming in and competing for snaps at middle linebacker, but Jaylon Smith has dispelled that notion. Smith's play and Vander Esch's injury woes since the 49ers game have allowed Jaylon to seize the opportunity at middle linebacker.
If his Clear, Eye, View continues, we might be seeing the best linebacker group the Dallas Cowboys have had since they made the switch to the 4-3.
Chidobe Awuzie, Cornerback
The Dallas Cowboys have made a lot of adjustments to their secondary over the last couple of years. The overhaul began last year with Chidobe Awuzie being drafted in the second round.
Though limited for much of his rookie season, Awuzie showed a tenacity and penchant for being around the ball. Something that had been missing on the outside for some time.
Throughout the offseason, he's made his fair share of plays and looks to be ready to take a step forward in his second season. Now starting for the Dallas Cowboys, it seems Awuzie is around the ball all the time and doesn't allow anything easy.
The times in camp where a receiver got the best of him was typically because the receiver made an unbelievable catch.
Awuzie, in his own right, has made some spectacular plays himself.
Incredible interception from Chidobe Awuzie https://t.co/oK6VEtehwx
If Awuzie can continue to make plays on the ball like this, then the Dallas Cowboys are going to be a force in the NFC. Even with their, at times, elite offense, the thing that's been missing for years is field flipping turnovers.
Awuzie brings that to the table.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
There were a lot of guys who stood out throughout training camp and the preseason, but these three were the stars of camp. They are some of the reasons that I'm truly hyped about what this defense could accomplish in 2018. If they live up to the hype, we could be talking about a defense that could carry the Dallas Cowboys; instead of being along for the ride like they have been for years.
Who were your 3 Stars of Dallas Cowboys training camp? Let us know in the comment section.
Tony Romo Won’t Be the Next Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator
The pipe dream has been going on since former Dallas Cowboys Quarterback-turned CBS Analyst Tony Romo hung up his cleats for the black blazer. Fans from all corners of Cowboys Nation have clamored for a return to the field or at worst the sideline as the Cowboys offensive coordinator.
Let me stop you right there. It's not happening.
First of all. He's never been a coach at any level of football, so to assume that he could leave the broadcast booth and step into coaching an NFL offense and doing so at a high level is a huge leap of faith in number 9. Sure, Jon Gruden left the Monday Night Football booth for his lucrative deal with the Oakland Raiders, but he had won a Super Bowl and had been an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL for years before joining the broadcasting ranks.
Tony Romo has an excellent understanding of football. He displays it on a regular basis during the CBS broadcasts. But doing from the broadcast view, seeing what the defense is trying to do, and calling the plays to counter what the defense is trying to do are very different things.
Secondly, the coaching job would be a major time commitment that at the moment he doesn't have. Even if he's working a 40 hour work week in preparation for his three-hour time slot, the demands on NFL coaches are easily twice that with many coaches putting in 100 hour work weeks in preparation for Sundays. Tony Romo has a family that even he's talked about as part of the reason that he went into broadcasting instead of looking to hop on with another NFL team.
Finally, the job would mean a significant pay cut from what Romo is already making. It's estimated that the former Cowboys quarterback is making anywhere from $5-10 million dollars a year with CBS. Jason Garrett is making $6 million per year as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, so even if the Jones family was willing to pay first-time NFL coach Tony Romo a ton of money to come out of the broadcast booth, there's zero chance they pay him what he's making as a broadcaster. To do so, would be to undercut the head coach. Jason Garrett is Jerry Jones' guy. The owner and general manager wants Garrett to be the guy that leads the Cowboys to Super Bowl success, so there's zero chance he'd pay a coordinator close to Garrett's money, which would lead to constant speculation about the head coach and his future with the organization.
I love Tony Romo. His jersey is one of only two Cowboys jerseys that I own -- along with Darren Woodson -- and I think he could make a good coach one day, but I'd be hard pressed to see him come out of the coaching booth to take a coordinator job and have immediate success. The guys that are offensive coordinators in the NFL have been grinding for years to earn their jobs. Most started as position coaches -- see Sean McVay as Redskins TE coach. The Dallas Cowboys will spend the next few days, and perhaps weeks, identifying their replacement for Scott Linehan, but let's put to bed the dream of Romo as offensive coordinator.
It's just not going to happen.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
Breaking: Scott Linehan and Dallas Cowboys Part Ways
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is reporting that the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan have mutually agreed to part ways following a tumultuous season that saw the Dallas Cowboys offense finish outside the top 12 three out of his four seasons in Dallas.
Sources: The #Cowboys are firing OC Scott Linehan. Taking their offense in a new direction. An announcement is coming.
Scott Linehan was brought in prior to the 2015 season and saw his offenses finish 31st, fifth, 14th, and 22nd in his four years as the Cowboys play caller. The 2015 season can be excused as the Cowboys rolled out Kellen Moore, Matt Cassell, and Brandon Weeden for 13 starts after Tony Romo was injured twice during the season, but the team 2-11 in those 13 starts and the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs despite a strong performance on the defensive side of the football.
The Cowboys saw an offense that finished fifth in the NFL in points in 2016 decline each of the last two offseasons and Linehan has been continually criticized by analysts, fans, and players as well.
Many believe that the reason that Dez Bryant and Brice Butler weren't brought back in the offseason was because of the public criticism of the offense and the play caller instilling the offense and that criticism has carried over to this season when Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper acknowledged that the Philadelphia Eagles were sitting on the slant routes that they had run all game. Dak mentioned that he changed Amari's route to a go route, which led to a 75 yard touchdown that helped open up the offense.
Cole Beasley has been frustrated with his role for much of the season and deservedly so. He was often non-existent in the offensive game plan until the final five minutes of football games.
In the running game, the offense had become too predictable and reliant upon jumbo formations that led to Ezekiel Elliott having to run against eight in the box anywhere from 25-30% of the time. For perspective, Todd Gurley only ran against eight-man fronts around eight percent of the time. Scott Linehan never looked to attempt to take players out of the box, instead insisting on motioning more players into the box for the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott to run against. It's amazing when you think about it, that Ezekiel Elliott was able to win the rushing title when facing loaded fronts as often as he did.
This was a move that needed to happen and the Dallas Cowboys didn't need to waste anymore time to make it happen. The offense had become stale and frustrating for the players as well as the fans. While Jason Garrett started the offseason saying he "didn't expect any changes," this was a move that absolutely had to happen for the offense to take a step forward. Below, you can read Jason Garrett's announcement on the move.
Cowboys have fired Scott Linehan
Even after the move for Amari Cooper, the offense looked better, but it still struggled at times to move the football.
The Cowboys have a young team with especially young players on the offensive side of the football. They have a quarterback who can throw from the pocket, but has excellent movement skills and capabilities of throwing the ball on the run. He's an excellent runner on designed runs. Despite us knowing all that, Scott Linehan looked reluctant to use him on designed quarterback runs that weren't read options or speed options. What you saw on designed runs in the Seattle game is what this team should be doing five times a game.
Now the question becomes, who should the Cowboys next offensive coordinator be? Our own, Staff Writer Brian Martin, laid out 5 Options to be the Next Offensive Coordinator earlier this week. I suggest you give it a read.
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