There are officially 88 days until the toe meets the ball at AT&T Stadium where the Dallas Cowboys will host the New York Giants on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
I started this countdown here at Inside The Star 11 days ago with our Greatest 99 in Dallas Cowboys History. I knew then that there were going to be some numbers that were fun to do, some that weren’t as interesting, and some that were going to be my absolute favorite. It was obvious in my considerations that determining 88 would be the most fun of all.
While there are plenty of numbers in Dallas Cowboys History that have legendary players tied to them, 88 has two. AND it has an active player who has the potential when it’s all said and done, to be the best. Let’s take a look at all of them.
The following players have all worn 88 for the Dallas Cowboys:
- Antonio Bryant, WR
- Dez Bryant*, WR
- Sonny Davis, LB
- Jackie Harris, TE
- Michael Irvin^, WR
- Drew Pearson, WR
- Brett Pierce, TE
- Sonny Randle, WR
- Colin Ridgway, P
- Reggie Rucker, WR
- Ron Sellers, WR
^Pro Football Hall of Famer
*Active player on the Dallas Cowboys roster
88 is the Greatest Number in Dallas Cowboys History. Yes, really. We are in the middle of recounting every number and while there are 87 left, none will have the combined greatness of the double eight. And while 11 total gentlemen have put it on their backs, we’re all here to talk about three of them. Let’s rank them.
3. Dez Bryant, WR: 381 catches, 5,424 yards, 56 touchdowns.
Drafted with the 24th overall pick in 2010 out of Oklahoma State, Dez Bryant has been a Cowboy since the age of 18. While his receiving numbers are already ridiculously impressive it is important to note that Dez is just now beginning to reach his prime. He has already made a significant dent in the Cowboys record books (he is already fourth on the Cowboys all-time list in receiving touchdowns), getting better with each and every season.
Part of what makes Dez great is his ability to raise the talents of those around him. He pushes fellow wide receiver Terrance Williams to new heights (as exemplified by Terrance’s many big catches in 2014) and his impact on the team as a whole is so strong, almost tangible. Dez Bryant has become a leader on the Cowboys and is the heart of the team. He is counted on when things matter most, a characteristic most exemplified by Tony Romo’s trust in him with the season on the line last year in Green Bay. All that said, he is still only the third Greatest 88 in Dallas Cowboys History.
2. Drew Pearson, WR: 489 catches, 7,822 yards, 48 touchdowns.
The Original 88. Before Drew Pearson wore it, 88 was just a regular ‘ol number. After? It was an honor. A privilege. It came with an expectation: Be great, you’re wearing 88. Pearson started off as most guys do, playing football in high school. South River High School in New Jersey to be exact. What most people don’t know is that it initially was as quarterback…succeeding future Super Bowl-winning QB Joe Theismann. Pearson then found himself at Tulsa and playing wide receiver in 1971 (coincidentally the first year that the Cowboys won the Super Bowl).
When Pearson arrived in Dallas in 1973 most of his impact came as a kick returner. In 1974, Pearson really took off recording 1,087 yards (his career best). 1975 brought Pearson’s first Super Bowl experience as a Cowboy (a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers), but not before an exhilarating divisional win in Minnesota against Bud Grant’s Vikings. Trailing 10-14 in the final seconds, Roger Staubach threw deep for Pearson and connected for the game-winning score. This moment was etched in Cowboys history as the “Hail Mary” and the legend of Drew Pearson as “Mr. Clutch” was born.
The Original 88 played in, and won, Super Bowl XII against the Denver Broncos. He was also on the field for what I have said many a time is the greatest game of all time…Super Bowl XIII in the Orange Bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers (unfortunately a Cowboys loss). Drew paved the way for 88 and set the standard for what it would become in the future. He is a member of the Cowboys Ring of Honor and his absence in the Hall of Fame is something that many have advocated needs correction.
1. Michael Irvin, WR: 750 catches, 11,904 yards, 65 touchdowns.
The Playmaker. Hailing from the University of Miami, the Hurricane known as Michael Irvin was the last first round draft choice of legendary head coach Tom Landry (11th overall in 1988). Irvin had a decent rookie (he was actually the first rookie to start at receiver for the Cowboys in 20 years) year, tore his ACL his sophomore season, and he rebounded nicely following the injury in his third year … fostering his relationship with quarterback Troy Aikman. In 1991, Irvin exploded and led the league with 1,523 yards.
His performance was a large factor in the Cowboys’ on-field success, as they went 11-5 and won a playoff game in Chicago. Over the next four years (1992-1995) Irvin would combine for 5,570 yards and 30 touchdowns while leading the Cowboys to four consecutive NFC Championship games, and three Super Bowl victories (1992, 1993, and 1995).
The Playmaker’s finest hour was undoubtedly the 1995 season. He posted career highs in catches (111), yards (1,603), and TDs (10) while serving as the emotional lightning rod of his Cowboys team. Many Cowboys (such as Troy Aikman and Daryl Johnston) from the 1995 team have said that Irvin continuously motivated his teammates, cultivated a winning attitude, and drove them to success and their eventual Super Bowl XXX victory over the rivaled Pittsburgh Steelers. He outworked everybody and ran practice routes as if they were Super Bowl game-winning plays.
Michael Irvin is a member of the Cowboys Ring of Honor and Pro Football Hall of Fame (Class of 2007). He is in my opinion the second greatest wide receiver in the history of professional football, behind only Jerry Rice. Drew Pearson paved the way for the expectations of 88, but Michael Irvin lived, breathed, and channeled 88. The number 88 became synonymous with intensity and an undying willingness to do whatever it took to win under his watch. He is, without question, the Greatest 88 in Dallas Cowboys History.
Entering 2015 the primary members of Club 88 (Drew Pearson, Michael Irvin, and Dez Bryant) have a combined: 1,620 receptions, 25,150 receiving yards, 169 touchdowns, 10 Pro Bowl Selections, 5 First-Team All- Pro Selections, 4 Super Bowl Rings, 2 places in the Cowboys Ring of Honor, and 1 Pro Football Hall of Fame Gold Jacket.
That type of production from one number is unfathomable not just within Dallas Cowboys History, but also across all of NFL History. Wearing the number is a great honor and a passing-of-the-torch among generations. Drew Pearson passed it to Michael Irvin, who responded by outperforming Drew. In 2010, Michael graciously passed it to Dez, who is well on his way to carving out his own historic 88 Cowboy career.
88 is such a great number for fans because with every juke, jive, or touchdown run that happens in it…fans from all generations can remember the good times and legendary plays. If there’s one thing that we have learned in Cowboys History, it’s that 88 cannot and will not be stopped. It’s a lifestyle that only the greatest can live.
Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 87 in Dallas Cowboys History is!
Will DeMarcus Lawrence Be Franchise Tagged Again in 2019?
The deadline for extending players under the franchise tag has come and gone last Monday, in a day in which none of the remaining tagged players reached an agreement with their respective teams. That includes Dallas Cowboy Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who's set to earn $17M in 2018.
The front office and the 26-year old defensive end failed to agree to a new contract before the season's start, but we saw that coming. After all, there was never a point in which we had the classic "X player and his team are close to a new deal" headline.
All of this makes the future of the Cowboys' promising "War Daddy" very uncertain. What lies a head of the player that put on an impressive show in 2018?
Since 2017 was Lawrence's breakout year, racking up 14.5 sacks trough the season, we have leaned towards the narrative of last season being his only good one. His performance last season was impressive and clearly his best one yet, but we tend to overlook 2015.
In his sophomore season, the only other year in which he has played 16 games, he finished the campaign with eight sacks and 35 tackles (55 combined). Really, the idea of 2017 being his only good year is not as accurate as we might think.
That being said, I think it's more likely that we see another great year from him this upcoming season than seeing a disappointing one. This, of course, will end up being the main thing that determines his future in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys front office really took a risk by tagging Lawrence this offseason. #90 was reportedly asking for an average of $17M per year in his long-term contract, which is Olivier Vernon kind of money.
So what if he puts a similar season or an even better one? Lawrence and his agent could end up asking for even more money. Perhaps in the 18 or 20 million dollars per year range. If that ends up being the case, the team will find itself in a tough position when trying to reach an agreement with its promising pass rusher.
Which leads us to the possibility of seeing the Cowboys franchise tagging Lawrence for the second consecutive season. Dallas will already be negotiating a contract extension with QB Dak Prescott, and things will get complicated. Even more if they decide to pursue a big-time free agent in March, such as Earl Thomas.
It would make sense, from a financial perspective, to hand the tag twice in consecutive years to D-Law. However, it shouldn't be the priority. If he plays like he did in 2017, the front office will be more than wise to extend him for good.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Cowboys will have approximately $50.6M. Seemingly, the team's cap woes will be over soon.
Fortunately, Lawrence didn't become a headache by threatening to holdout for offseason programs and even training camp. However, don't expect that to happen if he finds himself under the tag next year.
Careers in the NFL are short, so DeMarcus will surely want to get paid. If he keeps it up, he'll deserve it. As much as he deserves it, though, football is a cold business. If the Jones need to tag him, they will.
Do you think the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence in 2019?
Without Looming Suspension, RB Ezekiel Elliott Should Shine In 2018
NFL Films typically does a good job of exposing some truths around NFL teams. Whether through "Hard Knocks" or Amazon's new "All or Nothing" series, these documentaries do an excellent job of giving fans an inside look of their favorite teams.
If anything was revealed through the Cowboys' All or Nothing series on their 2017 season, it's that Ezekiel Elliott's suspension weighed heavy on his mind all year.
The Pro Bowl running back did not look, act, or play like himself while awaiting decision on his incoming suspension. And, once it was finally announced he would serve the six games, the entire team collapsed in Atlanta.
Despite the clear and detrimental effects Elliott's suspension had on the Cowboys' season, Zeke still put up more-than-respectable numbers; rushing for almost 1,000 yards and averaging a league leading 98.3 yards per game.
Now, Ezekiel Elliott enters a season with no doubts about his own availability. Scott Linehan gets to coach an offense that knows they will have their best player for the entire season barring major injury. And, Jason Garrett can lead his team without addressing questions about Elliott's future day in and day out.
Of course, these effects aren't quantifiable. We can't sit here and say that without the pressure of court appearances and suspensions that Elliott will be worth "X" amount of more yards and "Y" more touchdowns.
But I do believe we can say, without question, that playing with a clear mind and without a looming suspension will breed the type of production we saw from Zeke his rookie year.
We can say that Elliott has had a weight lifted off his shoulders, and could be looking for revenge on a league he feels did him wrong.
And, for the Cowboys sake, I hope this is true. Because they are going to need Ezekiel Elliott to be even better than he ever has been if they hope to make a run at the Super Bowl in 2018.
Cowboys en Español: El Regreso de Randy Gregory
A sólo días de que los Dallas Cowboys aterricen en Oxnard, California para dar inicio a su training camp como todos los años, el equipo recibió excelentes noticias respecto a la selección de segunda ronda del 2015: Randy Gregory. Después de pasar todo el 2017 suspendido, el ala defensiva ha sido oficialmente reintegrado por la NFL.
Gregory, quien tuvo muchos problemas debido al uso de marihuana, ha pasado los últimos meses rehabilitándose para poder volver a vestir la estrella y volver al emparrillado. Los Cowboys, quienes siempre apoyaron a su joven jugador, sin duda estarán felices de verlo de vuelta en el equipo por motivos más allá que el football americano.
Sin duda alguna, antes de estar emocionados y felices por verlo en el campo intimidando a quarterbacks rivales, deberíamos estar alegres por el logro personal de Randy como un ser humano. Realmente hizo un esfuerzo consciente en un lugar en el que muchos se hubieran rendido y dejado sus sueños de ser parte de la NFL. Pero no lo hizo, y ahora, todos sus esfuerzos han valido la pena.
El siguiente paso en su lista por-hacer, es volver al campo y poco a poco, ganarse su puesto en el equipo y después, la titularidad. La última vez que vimos a Gregory en el campo, fue contra Philadelphia, en el final de temporada del 2016.
En este juego, Gregory mostró muchos destellos de lo que sería capaz de hacer semana tras semana en la liga y porque valió la pena nunca dejarlo ir, lo cual no hubiera tenido sentido hacer, dado que los Cowboys no les costaba nada (literalmente) mantenerlo en el equipo.
Sean Martin escribió un artículo recientemente en el que analiza este partido a fondo.
El potencial de Gregory es inmenso, suficiente incluso, para aventurarse a decir que se convertirá en el defensive end (ala defensiva) derecho antes de lo esperado. El reto más grande para el jugador de 25 años será regresar a una condición física óptima para la NFL.
Afortunadamente, a diferencia del 2016, Gregory no estará regresando a media temporada. Su llegada toma lugar justo a tiempo para el training camp, dándole tiempo para regresar a la forma en la que tiene que estar.
Una vez ahí, ¿qué tanto le tomará ganarse un rol más importante que el de Tyrone Crawford y Taco Charlton? A pesar de que prácticamente no lo hemos visto jugar en Dallas, sabemos el potencial que tiene para convertirse en un defensivo de suma importancia para los Cowboys.
Un año después de ver la mejor temporada en la carrera de DeMarcus Lawrence, los Cowboys tendrán el potencial de una estrella similar en el lado derecho de su línea defensiva. Gregory tiene una montaña que escalar para cumplir las expectativas de los aficionados, pero no será una sorpresa si lo logra.
Vaya, no olvidemos que si no fuera por sus problemas fuera del campo, hubiera sido seleccionado en el Top 10 del Draft del 2015. Tiene el potencial de conseguir diez sacks por temporada.
Con un poco de suerte, no nos equivocaremos en tenerle fe al jugador que ha tenido un gran viaje para llegar a este punto. El punto de ponerse el casco e ir a trabajar con su equipo.
Incluso si sólo llega a ser un jugador de rotación, sin duda será importante para el éxito del equipo. Entre DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Randy Gregory y el resto del talento que los Cowboys tienen en la línea defensiva, el equipo podría tener un frente de muy buena calidad.
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