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88: Michael Irvin Tops Drew Pearson And Dez Bryant As Best To Wear Historic Cowboys Number

RJ Ochoa



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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.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant reacts towards the fans during a warm up session before playing the San Diego Chargers in an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant reacts towards the fans during a warm up session before playing the San Diego Chargers in an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

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.

Drew Pearson and I on December 19th, 2008...the night before the Cowboys final game in Texas Stadium.

Drew Pearson and I on December 19th, 2008...the night before the Cowboys' final game in Texas Stadium against the Baltimore Ravens. He graciously let me wear his Super Bowl XII Ring.

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.

** FILE ** Dallas Cowboys' Michael Irvin celebrates after gaining 30-yards on a Jason Garrett pass in the third quarter against the New York Giants in this Sept. 21, 1998 file photo, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

Dallas Cowboys' Michael Irvin celebrates after gaining 30-yards on a Jason Garrett pass in the third quarter against the New York Giants in this Sept. 21, 1998 file photo, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

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.

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Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) talks with former Dallas Cowboys player Michael Irvin after the afternoon practice at Dallas Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, California on July 24, 2013. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)

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!

Tell us what you think about "88: Michael Irvin Tops Drew Pearson And Dez Bryant As Best To Wear Historic Cowboys Number" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!

I like long walks on the beach, mystery novels, no just kidding those suck. The Dallas Cowboys were put on this earth for us all to love and appreciate. I do that 24/7/365. I also love chicken parmesan. Let's roll. @RJOchoa if you wanna shout!

Star Blog

Sean’s Scout: Linebacker Joe Thomas Brings Speed, Range to Cowboys D

Sean Martin



Sean's Scout: Linebacker Joe Thomas Brings Speed, Range to Dallas Cowboys Defense 1

It took some time, but the Dallas Cowboys have their first outside free agent of the offseason, signing Linebacker Joe Thomas to provide depth at a position where Anthony Hitchens and Kyle Wilber have already signed elsewhere.

The fifth-year pro has played exclusively with the Green Bay Packers, but the Cowboys do have some familiarity with Thomas as he spent part of 2015 on their practice squad.

Joe Thomas has served as a core special teams contributor and sub-package LB for the Packers out of South Carolina State, and will now look to bring these services to a Cowboys team in need of play making ability on both defense and special teams.

Using film from this past season, here is Joe Thomas' full scouting report.

LB Joe Thomas: Strengths

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Joe Thomas lined up at all three LB positions for the Packers, taking the majority of his snaps on defense at MIKE or WILL. The WILL position is where Thomas should fit best in Dallas.

Not overly physical with a shorter but square frame, Thomas is a rangy player with light feet and fluid movement ability. Shifting laterally along the line of scrimmage to "pick through trash" is not a problem for Thomas, nor is flipping his hips and running to the football.

It may take Thomas more effort than it should to get in position on most plays, with false steps and late reads being an issue, but once he establishes his sight on the point of attack this is a downhill missile of a player.

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Joe Thomas uses his length well to disengage from blocks and finish off plays, doing a nice job of not allowing blockers into his chest consistently.

With Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith expected to be the Cowboys' primary starters at WILL and MIKE respectively, Thomas could supplement these two physical, well-rounded players extremely well given his athleticism.

LB Joe Thomas: Weaknesses

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There is a reason a player with the raw traits of Joe Thomas goes un-drafted, and in this case it is because of awareness and anticipation issues in Thomas' game.

Far too often on tape, Thomas is forcing himself to recover from false steps against the blockers in front of him. I would have loved to see a player with this movement ability get more clean opportunities to finish at the football, but it was simply not there for Thomas.

When Thomas wasn't late to the ball against the run, he was getting caught flat-footed in space trying to compensate for this reactionary ability. This led to Thomas' fair share of missed tackles, where the LB failed to break down correctly.

Overall, Thomas did a decent job of avoiding blocks and disengaging, and does play with better-than-expected stopping power. The strength and technique to shed blocks was rarely seen though, relying on his quickness to outrun opponents to the spot.

LB Joe Thomas: Summary

Sean's Scout: Linebacker Joe Thomas Brings Speed, Range to Dallas Cowboys Defense

This is a player that should help the Dallas Cowboys in two phases of their game this season.

Signed for both 2018 and 2019, the Cowboys have clearly seen enough from their former practice squad linebacker in Green Bay to bring back an athletic ST ace with upside on defense.

Joe Thomas shouldn't be taking Lee or Smith off the field regularly this season, but at his best he will factor into Rod Marinelli's defense on passing downs.

Thomas gives a unit predicated on flowing to the ball even more speed on the field, and is an ideal depth signing with the versatility to cover punts and kickoffs.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Linebacker Joe Thomas Brings Speed, Range to Cowboys D" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Star Blog

Could a Special Coach Help Dez Bryant’s Route-Running?

Brian Martin



Could Special Coach Help Dez Bryant's Route Running?

Dez Bryant's career with the Dallas Cowboys may be in limbo, but that's not stopping him from trying to improve his game and on-field performance.

Bryant will reportedly train with personal wide receivers coach David Robinson, who specializes in route-running, according to reporter Jane Slater of NFL Network. This should come as good news to a lot of Cowboys fans, because Dez Bryant has often been criticized throughout his professional career for his route-running.

If anything, this news should indicate that Dez Bryant is more determined than ever to rebound from his disappointing 2017 season and prove his critics wrong that he is no longer one of the top receivers in the league. I for one am not going to bet against him.

Bryant's work ethic and passion for the game have never been questioned. His desire to be the best is evident anytime you turn on his film, whether it is in a game situation or on the practice field. He takes the "practice like you play" mantra to heart.

Everybody should be encouraged that at this point in his career, Dez Bryant is still looking at ways to improve his game and seek help. Hopefully, working with a well-known receivers coach like David Robinson can take Bryant's game to the next level.

Dez Bryant

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (AP Photo/Matt Strasen)

You may not know who David Robinson is (I certainly didn't), but he is well respected around the league and has helped other receivers under his tutelage. Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jordan Reed, and even Cowboys former WR Brice Butler have all benefited from Robinson's coaching.

Dez Bryant has always been regarded as one of those types of receivers who is always open regardless how tight the coverage is around him. His ability to go up and snag the ball out of the air is arguably his best trait, but he could become more dangerous if he can create separation on his own with better route-running.

Unfortunately, Bryant is entering the stage in his career where age becomes a factor and some regression is to be expected. This is why improved route-running could improve any deficiencies Bryant maybe dealing with.

But, what exactly will David Robinson be working on with Dez Bryant?

Robinson told Jane Slater that in his workouts with Dez Bryant, he will concentrate on the expansion of Bryant's route tree, shaking defenders at the line of scrimmage, and improving footwork technique to compensate for any natural loss of speed due to age.

I don't know about you, but I'm actually looking forward to seeing how Bryant responds to Robinson's coaching, hopefully still as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

We all know that Bryant's status with the Cowboys is unknown, at least to those of us on the outside looking in, but I don't see him going anywhere in 2018. There just aren't any vet WRs or rookies who I can see replacing his production. Of course, I could be wrong.

One thing is for sure though, Dez Bryant isn't going to sit on his hands while he waits to find out what his future holds.

Do you think improved route-running will help Dez Bryant's game?

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Star Blog

Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?

Brian Martin



Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?

Since becoming the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, Rod Marinelli hasn't had too many of his former players follow him to Dallas. In fact, I can only think of one… Henry Melton, and we all know how that turned out.

I don't know about you, but I found that a little strange. It's pretty common for coaches to try to bring some of their players with them when they accept a new job. Familiarity goes a long way in the NFL and former players can also help make the transition easier for everyone.

Strangely enough, Rod Marinelli hasn't really been afforded that luxury, whether it was his doing or not. But, there is a free agent who played under Marinelli's tutelage in Chicago who might make sense for the Dallas Cowboys, linebacker Shea McClellin.

Rod Marinelli was the defensive coordinator in Chicago when the Bears decided to draft Shea McClellin 19th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Marinelli likely had a big say in that decision, and if he still feels the same, a reunion could be in order.

Shea McClellin started his career in the NFL as a 4-3 left side defensive end playing opposite Julius Peppers, but was also viewed as a potential Brian Urlacher replacement. He showed flashes of becoming a solid defensive end his first few years in the league, but was eventually moved to linebacker, where he seemed to find a home for himself.

Shea McClellin

New England Patriots LB Shea McClellin

After his contract expired with the Bears, the New England Patriots decided to bring him aboard to help with their linebacker depth. He only ended up starting four games for them in 2016, but made some memorable plays to help the Patriots become the Super Bowl champions.

Unfortunately, the 2017 season wasn't very kind to him. His entire year was wiped out due to a concussion, which probably had a lot to do with why they recently released him.

This of course could be good news for the Dallas Cowboys. They currently need some depth at the linebacker position and Shea McClellin could provide that, if he's healthy. The healthy bit here is key, because he has had problems with concussions in the past.

If McClellin is indeed healthy, he could bring a versatile skill set to the Cowboys defense. His best spot is probably at strong side LB (SAM), but I think he could play middle linebacker (MIKE) as well. He also could provide depth at defensive end, the position he played to start his NFL career.

With the LB depth a concern, Shea McClellin makes quite a bit of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, his past history with concussions is a red flag, but it also drives down his asking price. I think he would definitely fall into that "bargain shopping" mentality the Cowboys have been using these last few offseasons.

He probably wouldn't be viewed as a very important signing, but you still need these types of players on your team in order to succeed in the NFL. Let's see if the Dallas Cowboys agree.

Do you think a Rod Marinelli and Shea McClellin reunion is in order?

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