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Arrogant Offseason Leads To Week 7 Running Back Change For Cowboys

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Cowboys Blog - Arrogant Offseason Leads To Week 7 Running Back Change For Cowboys 1

“We didn’t put the priority on taking a back… I wouldn’t say it’s a priority right now” ~ DallasCowboys.com - May 6, 2015

“We don't have that as a must to come out of here with a running back” ~ USA Today - April 28, 2015

“When you say the entire running game (…) we're better (in 2015)” ~ NFL.com - May 14, 2015

“Garrett went on to state the Cowboys feel good with their current running back corps, making it easier to avoid using one of their eight picks on an RB.” ~ Star-Telegram.com - May 2, 2015

What a difference 6 months makes. Those 4 quotes are from 4 separate articles written in the span of about 14 days between the end of April and the beginning of May. An aggressive arrogance and sunshiny optimism that now leaves a supposed Super Bowl contender looking for a spark to turn around a disappointing 2-3 start.

Aggressive arrogance and sunshiny optimism are usually reserved for fans (guilty of it myself from time to time) but when it bleeds into a front office, you have serious problems.

It’s been said that there is no more popular football player than a team’s backup quarterback, but for years now, the Cowboys and their fans have fallen victim to reserve running back envy.

It started with Troy Hambrick in 2002, followed by ReShard Lee in 2004, then Marion Barber in 2007, Felix Jones in 2008-2010, and finally Joseph Randle in 2014.

In each of those seasons, fans clamored for the reserve running back to supplant the starter. When it happened – except for ReShard Lee, who never started – fans and coaches were ultimately disappointed.

That’s one part of it; sunshiny optimism leading you to believe that reserve players can easily make the jump to the starting lineup. That can be detrimental, but it’s ultimately the aggressive arrogance that led to the Christine Michael Hail Mary.

Cowboys Twitter gloated all offseason about Dallas’ unstoppable offensive line, with the common refrain being that anyone could run behind them and get 1,200 yards. What stunningly played out is that the Cowboys coaching staff and front office actually believed this, taking what was an internet meme and choosing to implement it as actual strategy on the field.

It was a terrible miscalculation and an absolutely reckless orchestration of the roster.

Cowboys Blog - Arrogant Offseason Leads To Week 7 Running Back Change For Cowboys

New Dallas running back Christine Michael (30) talks with head coach Jason Garrett during Dallas Cowboys practice at Valley Ranch in Irving, Texas on Wednesday, September 9, 2015. (Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News)

Christine Michael may very well be an effective option at running back. He may step on the field Sunday against the Giants and reel off 125 yards and two touchdowns, which would be great. But the fact that the Cowboys are now relying on an opening week trade of a conditional draft pick should tell you all you need to know about the front office’s offseason defeat.

Jason Garrett and Stephen Jones are coming out of the bunker, hands raised, and acknowledging that they’ve lost.

As Cowboys fans, we should hope this is nothing more than a lost battle, and that the team will ultimately win the war when Dez Bryant and Tony Romo return. But as it stands, the arrogant assessment of the running game and the offensive line has been one of the biggest contributing factors to a largely disappointing season for the “win-now” 2015 Dallas Cowboys.



Bobby has served as host of Cowboys Cast since its inception in the spring of 2015. He’s a veteran of the radio industry and has worked on numerous nationally syndicated talk programs as both a technical director and producer. A lifelong Cowboys fan and pseudo-historian of the team, Bobby has built up an extensive collection over the years of original game broadcasts from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. His knowledge of the game and the Dallas Cowboys team make him the Cowboys Cast resident Cowboys Historian.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Fred Goodwin

    October 20, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    Amen, Bobby.

    But what was the alternative? Everybody agrees that breaking the bank to keep DeMarco was not an option, and as much as I wanted Murray to stay, I agree we couldn’t afford to keep him.

    So what were Stephen and Jerry supposed to do differently?

  2. Bobby

    October 20, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    Drafting Chaz Green in the third round was a pretty big mistake, even before the injury because he’s absolutely never been healthy. Unnecessary risk with some running back talent still on the board.

    CJ Spiller or Ryan Matthews would also have been acceptable options in free agency.

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Star Blog

2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch

Kevin Brady

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Leighton Vander Esch Lands on List of NFL's Top 10 Rookies

As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.

It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.

Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.

No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.

Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.5 Studs and Duds From the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Season

This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.

There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.

Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.

Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.



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What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?

Kevin Brady

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Can we Believe General Manager Jerry Jones?

Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.

Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.

They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?

Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.

Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.

Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.

Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.

Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.

This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.

The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.



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3 Things We Learned About The Dallas Cowboys In 2018

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals 1
AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

Coming into the 2018 season, loads of questions surrounded the Dallas Cowboys and the future of their roster.

Could their defense stay intact when the annual Sean Lee injury occurred? Was Kris Richard going to lead the Cowboys young secondary to places we thought they could be? And would Dak Prescott earn a contact extension and become the official franchise quarterback of America's Team.

Of course, there are tons of other questions that may have gone unanswered, but these three critical areas seem to find clarity in 2018.

Leighton Vander Esch And Jaylon Smith Are Legit

The Dallas Cowboys caught a lot of flack for their selection both of these linebackers, each for different reasons.

When they snagged Jaylon Smith in the second round of the 2016 draft, it was still unknown to the public if Smith could ever even play football again. When they took Leighton Vander Esch 19th overall last April, fans questioned how valuable an off-ball linebacker would be on a defense that already had Sean Lee.

Well, after their first full season together, it's easy to say that both Vander Esch and Smith are the linebacker options of the future in Dallas. Named to the Pro Bowl during his rookie season, Vander Esch took the world by storm in 2018. When Lee went down, he was there to not only fill his shoes, but to outplay the veteran all year long.

What is fun to consider is that as good as Vander Esch was this season, Jaylon Smith might be even better. Both posses insane sideline to sideline pursuit ability, and are some of the surest tacklers in all of football.

Watching these two grow together will be a pleasure over the coming seasons.

Their Young Secondary Is Coming Together

Like their linebackers, the Dallas Cowboys secondary is a young group, who fans are excited to watch grow throughout the years. It seemed like more pressure sat on the shoulders of young cornerbacks Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie than of Smith and Vander Esch, however.

With Kris Richard joining the staff and making the decision to move Jones to cornerback full time, it was do-or-die for the former first round pick. Byron Jones answered all the doubters, earning not only a Pro Bowl selection but also First Team All Pro honors for his performance.

Opposite him, Awuzie had a rough start to his sophomore campaign. While typically right there in coverage, wide outs too often made contested catches over him. Over the final few weeks of the year, however, that changed and Awuzie played some of the best football yet.

Xavier Woods, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis (in much fewer snaps) all had fantastic seasons as well, giving the Cowboys great hope and confidence in their secondary moving forward. They may need to add another safety during the offseason, however, though Jeff Heath remains more than just a viable option.

Dak Prescott Is Here To Stay

Whether or not you think it's justified, Dak Prescott is the quarterback of the future in Dallas. And he earned that right the back-half of 2018 and during the postseason. After a shaky start to his 3rd season, Prescott turned things around nicely, leading the Cowboys to a 7-1 finish to the regular season.

Prescott played the best football of his young career down the stretch, and showed just how valuable he is both on the field and in the locker room. It seemed like every game he made 2-3 winning plays that put the Cowboys over the top that afternoon.

Dak is going to get a contract extension, and will be locked in as a Cowboy for the foreseeable future, and with the way he played the final 10 games of his season, I can't second guess this decision much at all.



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