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The Unique Reason That The Dallas Cowboys Should Re-Sign Mark Sanchez
It's often said that the most popular player on a team is the back-up quarterback.
This was probably the case for the 2016 Dallas Cowboys, of course that's contingent upon who you asked. It seemed like the Dak-or-Romo conversation reared its ugly head in new and unique ways every week across the season, and there were a lot of people questioning the team's decision even on a game-by-game and sometimes quarter-by-quarter basis.
If it was sometimes said that the most popular player on a team is the third-string quarterback then this would be the article for those people, because I'm about to pound the table for the Dallas Cowboys to bring back the legendary Mark Sanchez. That's right, folks. Buckle up.
On Your Mark, Get Set, Dak!
There once was a quarterback that, as a 23-year-old rookie, had significant success as the quarterback of a team in one of the most visible sports markets across the United States. While this sounds like the story of Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, it's also the story of Dallas Cowboys QB Mark Sanchez.
The legend of "The Sanchize" in his early days as a New York Jet are some of the most successful that that franchise has seen, but to be fair we're talking about a team that still clings to a 1968 Super Bowl Championship Team.
In all seriousness, Mark Sanchez went to the AFC Championship Game in his first two NFL years and did it in the New York market. That, while now six and seven years ago, it something that Dak Prescott knows a little bit about.
Maybe this is why across the 2016 Dallas Cowboys season we saw Mark and Dak become close. Maybe it's because until Tony Romo returned from injury, Mark was Dak's primary back-up. Or maybe it's just because they're two guys who simply gravitated towards one another.
Here's the video of Al Michaels talking about Dak and Mark's relationship back from when the Cowboys beat the Bucs. https://t.co/dBALUOzNjZ
We'd heard rumblings of the Dak-and-Mark connection, but it even took its place on the national stage when during a Week 15 Sunday Night Football contest against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NBC's Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth discussed the two's relationship.
It's fair to say that we all wanted Dak Prescott and Tony Romo to be buddies, and for all we know they were. Maybe it was only this particular story that's been told that we know about. It's worth mentioning - because it's somehow questioned - that just because Dak is close with Mark does not mean that Dak is not close with Tony. In fact young Prescott has continually and publicly thanked Romo for all of his guidance and wisdom.
The truth of the matter is that it's simply a matter of time until Tony Romo is no longer a quarterback on the Dallas Cowboys roster. If he's playing football in 2017 it is going to be for someone else... but what about Mark Sanchez?
Mark Sanchez Seemingly Means A Lot To The Cowboys
Mark Sanchez is what he is but @dak has a relationship with him. The one time Dak was ever seemingly scared (Bailey's FG)... he was with Mark.
When Dan Bailey was attempting to tie the game at 31 against the Green Bay Packers this past Sunday, Dak Prescott couldn't bring himself to watch. He had his back turned, and this is is a disposition that is extremely uncommon for Dak. 'Ol number four is the epitome of cool, so it's interesting - and extremely understandable - that he'd be nervous about a big-time kick. What's even more interesting is that in his moment of vulnerability he wasn't with his buddy Ezekiel Elliott, he wasn't with his star receiver Dez Bryant, and he wasn't with Gold Jacket Jason Witten.
Dak Prescott chose to be next to Mark Sanchez, and even relied on Mark's reaction to Bailey's field goal before ultimately pumping his arms in celebration. I'm not a psychologist nor am I proposing that this suggests Dak and Mark have matching best friend bracelets, but this does say a lot about who Dak Prescott turns to in big moments.
I can't imagine what Sanchez is telling @dak in these initial moments. If that relationship is meaningful to Dak then Mark needs to be back.
As soon as Mason Crosby ended the 2016 Dallas Cowboys season FOX showed an image that's going to sit with us for a long time this offseason - Mark Sanchez consoling Dak Prescott. Dak, hands on his knees, can be seen glaring intensely at the field... perhaps trying to digest the pain of the moment. Mark Sanchez, left hand on Dak's back, has his right hand over his mouth (presumably so his lips can't be read) and is very obviously telling something to Dak.
Only Dak Prescott knows what Mark Sanchez said in these initial moments, but we can assume it was something about encouragement and letting Dak know that he'd likely be back in these types of games later on in the bright career that lays before him.
Mark Sanchez, as we discussed earlier, knows a lot about this situation. As a young-in in the NFL he experienced the heartbreak of losing the game before the Super Bowl... twice. In a row. In a gigantic media market. As its most visible face. And he never attained that level of stardom again.
Tony Romo is a far more accomplished quarterback than Mark Sanchez, and for all we know Romo had a similar discussion with Dak... we just weren't privy to it. But no other quarterback that's available knows this situation like Mark Sanchez and, unfortunately, Dak Prescott.
The Available Quarterbacks
We'll be discussing free agents that the Dallas Cowboys should keep, let walk, and try and bring in across the next few weeks and months (something I did on Wednesday's episode of OchoLive), and one of those is Mark Sanchez.
The Cowboys also have quarterback Kellen Moore that they have to make a decision on. Many people that saw Sanchez in Philadelphia during Week 17 and Kellen Moore across the final stretches of the 2015 will say that they need to look elsewhere for the back-up - Dak-up? - to Dak Prescott.
If you haven't looked, this list if courtesy of OverTheCap.com, the crop of free agent quarterbacks is... well I'll say that it's not good.
Kirk Cousins will obviously be back with the Washington Redskins, but seriously... name a guy on here that you like more than Mark Sanchez. Of course the option exists that the Dallas Cowboys could trade for a back-up option, but is that the route that you want to go?
Mark Sanchez's chemistry with Dak Prescott may be the advantage that earns him another back-up quarterback gig in 2017. If all things are equal amongst him and the competition - and looking at the current competition then it certainly seems that all things are at the very least equal - then this should play a huge role in Sanchez's return to Dallas.
If Dak Likes Mark, We Like Mark
Ultimately the decision about a back-up quarterback will rest within the braintrust of the Dallas Cowboys - Will McClay, Jason Garrett, Stephen Jones, and Jerry Jones. I'm not advocating building a football team specifically around the preferences of its starting quarterback, I'm advocating taking those into serious consideration.
Dak Prescott and Mark Sanchez seemed excited about the win https://t.co/x7gZuc5EGA
If I'm the braintrust of the Dallas Cowboys then I want to bring Dak Prescott in and ask him just how much Mark Sanchez really does mean to him. Was Mark helping him break down film, adjust to reads, and understand specific coverages? Or is Mark just his bro that he enjoys hanging out with and sometimes whips up on Madden? The answer to that question could potentially help mold Dak's sophomore season in the NFL.
Dak Prescott is the franchise quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. If he likes Mark Sanchez, then we all like Mark Sanchez.
Cowboys 2018 Breakout Candidates: TE Geoff Swaim
For the 2018 Dallas Cowboys, the retirement of Tight End Jason Witten was one of the biggest developments of the offseason. It leaves a gaping hole in their offense, and no major free agent or high draft pick was added as a clear replacement. As such, fourth-year veteran Geoff Swaim may be in line for a breakout season.
A seventh-round pick in 2015, Swaim has stuck in Dallas with strong run-blocking and special teams play. His offensive production has been limited to just nine catches and 94 yards, thanks largely to the stranglehold that Witten kept on the TE position. Geoff has only been targeted 11 times in the passing game over three seasons.
But with Witten leaving, as well as veteran backup James Hanna, Swaim is now the elder statesman of the TE group. Even his limited playing time in the NFL thus far puts him way ahead of Rico Gathers, Blake Jarwin, or rookie Dalton Schultz.
Based on reports from the offseason practices and camps, Geoff is getting the first crack at becoming the new starter. It makes sense given his experience edge, but also his proficiency as a run blocker.
The Cowboys will likely lean on Ezekiel Elliott heavily this year, particularly early in the season. The passing game will need time to find itself with Witten and Dez Bryant gone. They'll want to ease Dak Prescott into heavier workloads as he and his new receiving options get acclimated.
Geoff Swaim will be one of those new options. And even though his reputation is for blocking, don't take that to mean he's not athletic.
We've seen Swaim on the move as a blocker and also in the passing game, and he's certainly got some wheels. That could make him a deceptive weapon on play-action and other passing plays out of running formations.
In some ways, losing Witten and Bryant makes the Cowboys' offense less predictable than in the past. Defenses will be less sure who to focus on, and that also creates opportunities for the new receivers.
Obviously, Swaim's breakout potential is dependent on Prescott looking his way. But unless Dak has undergone a major change in his playing style, a TE working in the short and middle parts of the field is someone he'll rely on plenty.
With training camp and preseason still to come, calling Geoff the starter right now is just an assumption. There is still time for one of the other prospects to impress and climb the ladder.
But right now, there's clearly no better candidate to claim the spot than Swaim. He has the most critical skill as a blocker, and his potential in the passing game is underrated. It's his job to lose.
The guy with only nine career catches could get that in a single game this year. Therefore, Geoff Swaim is clearly one of the major breakout candidates for the 2018 Cowboys.
Cowboys 2018 Breakout Candidates: LB Jaylon Smith
No single player on the Dallas Cowboys roster right now may be more primed for a breakout season than Linebacker Jaylon Smith. His ascension as a player isn't just a big gain for the Cowboys defense, but it may be vital to their success in 2018.
Smith joined the Cowboys as a high second-round pick (34th overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft. Potentially a top-five elite talent in that class, Jaylon's stock fell after a severe knee injury in his final college game. It was unknown if he could ever play football again, but Dallas took the risk based on Smith's incredible upside.
After Jaylon sat out his rookie year to fully rehab. In 2017, he was able to play all 16 games and started in six. That alone was a huge win for Smith and the Cowboys.
Jaylon's performance last year wasn't great, but understandably so after all the missed time. He also had to regain confidence in his knee, which is critical for a linebacker with all of the directional changes during plays.
Still, Smith got better as the season went. And even amidst the struggles, there were flashes of his instincts and potential.
This offseason, reports of Jaylon's improving health are fueling increased optimism. He is now playing without a knee brace and that means more confidence. If Smith fully trusts his body now, it will make him far more dangerous on the field.
With Anthony Hitchens leaving in free agency, Dallas needs Jaylon to be a bigger factor this year. If he doesn't take the next step, it could leave the Cowboys vulnerable at linebacker in 2018.
True, Dallas drafted Leighton Vander Esch in the first round of last April's draft. But it's always dangerous to ask a rookie to do heavy lifting, and especially one who is seen as a raw talent like Vander Esch.
Ideally, anything Dallas gets from Leighton this year will be gravy. Their goal is to rely on veteran Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, with Damien Wilson also available as a solid fallback option.
But when you mention Sean Lee, you have to mention health concerns. After two encouragingly healthy seasons in 2015 and 2016, Lee was back to having some issues last year and missed five games.
That is all the more reason why Dallas needs Jaylon to be ready for more this year. If Lee misses time again, Smith is the best suited to take over the roles that Sean leaves behind.
Thankfully, all signs point to big things for Jaylon Smith in 2018. His body appears healed and there's no questioning his work ethic and desire. If the mental aspect of football has also developed, he could be everything the Cowboys hoped when they drafted them.
Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?
It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.
These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.
Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.
Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.
This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.
Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.
The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.
It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.
Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.
As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.
For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.
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