The countdown for Thanksgiving is underway, and in case you didn't know or might have forgotten, the Dallas Cowboys play the Washington Redskins while the majority of us are sitting down to eat with our families.
I was thinking about Thanksgiving and some of the traditions that families share during this holiday, which led me to the idea of compiling a list of things I'm thankful for in regards to the Dallas Cowboys. Whether it is a good idea or not, has yet to be seen.
In all honesty, my family has never been one of those that go around the table and share what we are thankful for, but maybe yours is. It's always felt like it was a little bit forced to me.
I'm sure we can all agree that sending it 9-1 is something to be grateful for, but below are five other things I'm thankful for this season for the Dallas Cowboys. I hope you enjoy.
A dominant offensive line
The Dallas Cowboys have The Best offensive line in the entire NFL. That's not an opinion, that is a fact.
Jerry Jones had never drafted an offensive lineman in the first round of the NFL Draft before drafting Tyron Smith, but I think we're all glad that particular trend ended.
Smith was the first, followed by Travis Frederick, and then Zack Martin. All three of these offensive lineman not only anchor the best unit in the league, but are arguably the best players at their positions.
This season they are responsible for opening up the running lanes for the league's leading rusher, Ezekiel Elliott, and have also had the privilege of giving rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott, all the time he needs to throw the ball.
Honestly, I don't know what more you could ask of this unit.
The 2016 draft class
Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but the Dallas Cowboys 2016 draft class is already shaping up to be one of the best the team has had in probably a decade.
Ezekiel Elliott is the league's leading rusher and has made just about everybody forget who the Cowboys could've drafted #4 overall instead.
It was pretty much pure luck the way things fell into place for Dak Prescott, but it looks as if the Dallas Cowboys have found their future signal caller for years to come, and in the fourth round surprisingly enough.
Cornerback Anthony Brown and defensive tackle Maliek Collins also look to be future starters for the Cowboys the way they have filled in and played so far this season.
These players alone would be reason enough to celebrate, but it looks as if Jaylon Smith is on the road to recovery. Smith probably would've been a top five pick in the draft if not for his knee injury.
Anything else they get from Charles Tapper or Kavon Frazier would be an added bonus.
Do you want to know why the Dallas Cowboys have been so good at putting together a competitive roster these past few seasons? Look no further than the man behind the scenes, Will McClay.
McClay might not hold the official title of general manager with the Cowboys, but he is the meticulously detailed person behind the scenes that makes sure the draft board and scouting department are on the same page when evaluating these potential prospects.
McClay's work has been noticed around the league and has already earned him job offers to become the general manager for several different organizations. Fortunately, he has turned those down to remain with the Dallas Cowboys.
It may just be a matter of time until he is offered a job he can't turn down, but you can bet that the Cowboys are thankful for the work he has put in.
Tony Romo might not have played in any of the regular-season games this season, but he is still a big reason why this team is 9-1.
Romo took on a mentor role with Dak Prescott while rehabbing from his back injury and I think Prescott will be the first to tell you how much it has helped with his preparation/development.
Romo is a team first guy and did everything in his power to help Prescott prepare week in and week out, but probably helped the organization the most by not becoming a distraction and stepping aside for the rookie QB.
I don't know about you, but I am thankful with the way Romo handled this entire situation. He could have handled this an entirely different way, but decided to swallow his pride and do what's best for the entire team.
You hate to see this be the way Tony Romo's time ends with the Cowboys, but unfortunately that's just the nature of the NFL.
Rod Marinelli might just be the unsung hero for the success the Dallas Cowboys are having so far this season.
Marinelli has pretty much taken a group of unknown players and turned them into a unit that has surpassed anyone expectations.
Sean Lee is the only Pro Bowl player on the defense for the Cowboys, but even he can't carry the team by himself.
To date, the Cowboys defense has yet to allow a 100 yard rusher and has only allowed one 100 yard receiver (Antonio Brown). That's an impressive feat for any defense in the NFL, especially for a group of guys that are not really household names.
I'm sure we can all be thankful for how Rod Marinelli has been able to get this defense to bend and not break so far this season. Let's just hope that he can continue getting these same kind of results from his players.
What are you thankful for?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share what you are thankful for so far this season in regards to the Dallas Cowboys.
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!
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott
Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.
In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.
During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...
...of his offensive lineman.
During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.
As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.
It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.
With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.
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