I'm an optimist. One may call me an eternal optimist.
Even as the game seemed to be getting out of hand with your local heroes getting down 21-3, I felt like I was one of only a few people who still had hope our Dallas Cowboys could turn things around.
More than 7 minutes to play in the half. Get a score. Get a stop. Get a score. Asking a lot I know, but I'm still a believer.
Remember when we gave up 21 in the first half to Detroit and then shut em out in the second half. I do. D has been great at adjustments.
Think about it. There was a ton of time left in the game after Green Bay scored its third touchdown, and some were already conceding.
I saw tweets that said "ballgame" and "It's over." But what had we seen from the Dallas Cowboys all season? They repeatedly showed an ability for Dak Prescott and the offense to respond and the ability for the defense to make adjustments.
Dallas was down 18 points, and then outscored the Green Bay Packers 25-7 to tie it at 28 before trading field goals. That led to one of the most heartbreaking finishes to a sports game that I have witnessed.
The only games that can compete with that heartbreak were:
- Dallas at Green Bay in 2014 (Dez Bryant caught it)
- 2011 Texas Rangers to clinch the World Series in Game Six (Nelson Cruz didn't catch it).
Dallas' comeback in the game on Sunday, though it ultimately wasn't enough, raised a lot of eyebrows in Cowboys Nation, mine included. The eternal optimist, while disappointed in the loss, can only see a great and mighty future coming for the Dallas Cowboys.
Much To Look Forward To The Future Has Arrived
So much has already been said about our rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott, but he passed another test in my eye.
What do you do when you're down by three scores?
Rally the troops. You make the plays that are available to make and get points where you can get points, while at the same time realizing you can't do it all yourself.
The quarterback of the next 10 to 15 years has arrived
We won't have to live through another batch of QBs like Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson, or Ryan Leaf for some time. We have the next Franchise quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. An esteemed list that includes; Roger Staubach, Don Meredith, Danny White, Troy Aikman, Tony Romo, and now Dak Prescott.
Prescott showed the ability to win games in the NFL when teams made him do it.
Defenses attempted to take Ezekiel Elliott away and make Dak Prescott beat them all season long. And on many occasions, including Sunday, he did just that; beat the defense in front of him.
We saw a quarterback who can not only make plays with his arms and his legs, but also win the mental side of the game. He made adjustments to what the defense was throwing at him. The biggest thing -- to me -- that showed a ton of maturity was "living to fight another day."
For Dak Prescott, punts aren't a bad thing.
Let's also give the coaching staff a ton of credit as well. When they got him on the field, they saw in him the reason to pass on Nick Foles and Josh McCown. They and the other quarterbacks on the roster got him prepared to play every week and he did that pretty much every week.
Only the New York Giants were able to "figure out" the offense. Every other NFL team left scratching their head about the way they played against the Dallas Cowboys offense.
No Longer an Identity Crisis
Over the last several years, the Dallas Cowboys have found an identity as a physical run-first football team.
They've committed serious resources to the offensive front and established the Dallas Cowboys as the premiere running team in the NFL. And everything that the Cowboys are about is built on the foundation of that offensive line.
The core of the offensive line is still very young in offensive line years. They'll be protecting Prescott and paving the way for Elliott for years to come. They will likely replace Ronald Leary with La'el Collins and have to find someone to replace Doug Free, but the core of the line, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin, will be here for a long time.
Solid Building Blocks
The defense, while showing flaws, has some really nice pieces to be excited about.
Anthony Brown has a chance to be a player on this team for years. Maliek Collins is looking like the three-technique the team's been looking for since the beginning of the Rod Marinelli era. Don't forget about Sean Lee and his first-team All-Pro performance.
Byron Jones, who admittedly played his worst game at the worst time, is still a heck of a player. J.J. Wilcox is likely going to return and showed marked improvement as the year went on; he may have a chance to unseat Barry Church at the strong safety position.
And guess what?
The defense will receive an injection of talent from a couple of 2016 draft picks. Projected middle linebacker Jaylon Smith and defensive end Charles Tapper (who I'm really looking forward to seeing) look like they will be ready to go at least by training camp.
Still Got Those X-Factors
While there's a good chance Terrance Williams and Brice Butler are with another team in 2017, the team will return its two leading receivers in Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley. Bryant has always been great, and he showed it again on Sunday with his best game of the season, and at the most important time.
Cole Beasley, who led the team in receiving in 2016, is now considered one of the best slot wide receivers in the NFL. I expect him to continue to get better. He is now the second receiving option for the Dallas Cowboys.
Continuity is Key
The coaching staff continues to get better, and with maintained continuity they will continue to grow in their communication, game planning, and execution. It doesn't seem like Marinelli or Scott Linehan are going anywhere and I think that's for the best. For Dak Prescott, having continuity in the coaching staff can be huge to his development.
After years of the front office bungling the draft and free agency, I now have high expectations and a high amount of confidence in the front office. Every offseason they're going to make the right moves and the right draft picks to make the team better.
Jerry Jones, Will McClay, Stephen Jones, and Jason Garrett have figured out how to balance the scouting reports with the coaching desires. And they're just getting started if 2016 is any indication of what's to come.
A Bright Future
The organization as a whole is getting better and that is translating to success on the field.
Be disappointed in the outcome of the game. Be disappointed that a team who looked ready for a deep run got beat by a future hall of Famer who played his tail off. Losses happen, but the winners learn and grow from their setbacks.
With Dak, Dez, the OL, Elliott, and the coaching staff, I have a ton of belief that by this time next year the Dallas Cowboys will be poised for yet another deep playoff run.
Only this time with a much different result.
What is your dream scenario for the 2017 offseason to help the Dallas Cowboys contend again next season?
Will Terrance Williams’ Run Of Bad Luck Continue?
To say that Terrance Williams has had a run of bad luck recently would be an understatement. First he breaks his foot, which kept him out of all of the offseason practices so far. Then, he ends up getting arrested on an intoxication charge, a Class C misdemeanor, on May 19 after crashing his Lamborghini into a light pole. Unfortunately for him, his bad luck could continue with training camp approaching because he could be looking at a demotion.
As things stand right now, I have a hard time seeing Williams being any more than the fourth wide receiver on the Dallas Cowboys depth chart. I have him behind Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, and rookie Michael Gallup (in that order) right now, possibly falling even further. For now, I'll pencil him in at WR4 though.
I believe a lot of Dallas Cowboys fans wouldn't be too terribly upset if we don't see a lot of Terrance Williams in 2018. Fans have been unhappy with Williams for quite some time and many voiced their displeasure when the Cowboys signed him to a contract extension last offseason. But, he is still on the roster, which means we should probably expect him to stick around for at least one more season.
There is a cloud still hanging over Williams' head though. His intoxication arrest is still an open case and the league could decide to discipline/suspend him for breaking the NFL's conduct policy. That could impact his availability to start the season, which could ultimately determine where he exactly fits in on offense in 2018.
I know, it's a lot to take in, but that's how things stand right now and I don't things get much clearer when training camp gets underway. But, let's try to dive into this little deeper to try to determine what to expect from T-Will this year.
As I mentioned earlier, I believe Hurns, Beasley, and Gallup are the top three Cowboys receivers this year. If that proves to be true, Williams is looking at demotion. He may be nothing more than an insurance policy in case of injury.
Terrance Williams does have something going in his favor though. He has the coaching staffs trust, which means he could reprise the same role we have seen from him in the past. But, that's where his potential suspension comes into play.
If Williams is indeed suspended, that would give more opportunities to other WRs on the roster to prove themselves, particularly Michael Gallup and Noah Brown. I think these are the two receivers who could have the biggest impact on Williams' offensive role this season.
Gallup will without a doubt receive every opportunity to prove he's ready to hit the ground running as a rookie. I think he will be successful, which is why I have him ahead of Williams on the depth chart to begin with. Noah Brown on the other hand is the wild card here.
I'm a big fan of Noah Brown's. I believe he can adequately replace Williams as both a receiver in the passing game and as a blocker in the running game, something the coaching staff really values about Williams. I think he has a chance to leapfrog T-Will on the depth chart, but he's really going to have to have a good training camp to do that.
Having said all that, I still don't know exactly where Terrance Williams will fit offensively for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018, but I think his bad luck will continue. I think he should probably just be an insurance policy in case of injuries, but will have to wait to see if the coaching staff agrees.
Do you think Terrance Williams' bad luck continues?
Alternate Universe: Where Would Cowboys Be With RB DeMarco Murray?
During the Spring of 2015 the Dallas Cowboys faced what most considered a difficult decision.
Following an unexpectedly successful 12-4 season in which the Cowboys won just their second playoff game since 1996, two of the team's main offensive weapons were set to hit free agency.
On one hand was wide receiver Dez Bryant, coming off of a career year and widely considered a top wide out in this talent-rich league. On the other hand was running back DeMarco Murray, also coming off of a career year in which he led the NFL in rushing yards.
Could the Cowboys afford to pay the somewhat aging running back in this NFL economy? Could they place a premier price tag on a wide receiver despite their run-first, ball control mentality?
Of course, this wasn't exactly an either/or situation, but the Cowboys did re-sign Bryant to a lucrative deal and allowed Murray to walk to Philadelphia.
Now Fast forward to 2018.
Neither Murray nor Bryant are on the Cowboys, Tony Romo is broadcasting for CBS, and Dallas has spent a top five overall pick on replacing Murray at running back.
DeMarco Murray announced his retirement from football last week, making much of Cowboys Nation (including myself) think back upon those Romo-era teams.
And it's really hard not to wonder, where would the Cowboys have gone if they decided to keep DeMarco Murray? Where would they be had they re-signed Murray, rather than spending a premium pick on Ezekiel Elliott a year later.
If we're being honest, Elliott is a much more dynamic runner than Murray ever was. He brings more explosion and reliability to the offense, and is arguably the best back in football. Even when Murray was the league's leading rusher, this really couldn't be said about him.
There's not much of a chance that DeMarco Murray would still be a productive RB1 in Dallas heading into 2018. His play significantly dropped over the years in Tennessee, even behind their solid offensive line.
Of course the value of the running back position has been devalued as of late, making the Cowboys selection of Elliott a questionable one to some around the league. Paying the league's leading rusher what they would've had to pay him back in 2015, however, would have been even more questionable.
Plus, the Cowboys were able to replace much of Murray's production in 2015 with Darren McFadden, even if the team didn't win nearly as many games.
There might be an alternative universe out there where Tennessee's Murray and Derrick Henry-led backfield existed in Dallas, but Cowboys fans are certainly not upset about having Ezekiel Elliott in a Cowboys uniform.
Even if it took them a top five pick to seal the deal.
Considering an Earl Thomas Extension, Age is just a Number
When people consider whether the Dallas Cowboys should trade for Seattle Seahawks' Safety Earl Thomas, one rebuttal fans throw out there is his age, and for good reason. People get concerned about handing out contract extensions to players entering their age-29 season.
In the salary cap era of the NFL, it typically isn't good business to pay age as the team often doesn't get the value out of the player that the contract expects.
One position where I feel that isn't necessarily the case is at the safety position. Let's consider Earl Thomas' accolades for a moment and see if we can find some correlations.
Earl Thomas, in his eight-year career, has been to the Pro Bowl six times, missing out his rookie season and in 2016 when he only played 11 games. He's been selected to the NFL All-Pro's first team three times in consecutive years from 2012 to 2015.
So, let's go over to our friends at Pro Football Reference and see which other safeties have been to the Pro Bowl at least six times and have been selected as a first team All-Pro player three times.
Here's the list:
The first thing you'll notice is the elite players on the list along with Earl Thomas. The likes of Rod Woodson, Ed Reed, Brian Dawkins, Troy Polamalu, Aeneas Williams, and Charles Woodson. Those are just the players whose career extended into 2000s.
Then if you consider Ronnie Lott and Cliff Harris, that's some amazing company.
The players with an asterisk are the players that are in the Hall of Fame. Reed, Polamalu, and Woodson will be in the Hall of Fame. Cliff Harris not being in the Hall of Fame is still an NFL injustice that needs to be righted as he was one of the key cogs to the success of the Doomsday Defense of the 1970s.
I know Deion Sanders is on the list, and he's only there because he did play some safety toward the tail end of his career, but we know that it was as a corner that Deion made his money. The key though is that Deion's switch to safety at the end allowed him to prolong his career.
Removing Earl from the discussion for a moment, the average length of the careers of the men mentioned above was 13.41 years. The longest career was Charles Woodson at 18 years followed by Deion at 17 and Brian Dawkins at 16 years. The shortest careers were the 10-year careers of Cliff Harris and Joey Browner.
So, if Earl Thomas, having played eight years, played to the short end of the career length, he'd still have another two years left, this season included. If he played to the average length of those listed above, he'd have another five years left.
Considering that half of the players listed above all played longer than the average, there's a good chance that Earl Thomas has another six to seven years left in his career.
So, when we think about an extension for Earl Thomas, we have to consider the fact that for someone who has had the career that he's had to this point, he's going to be able to play at a good to great level for the life of a four-year extension.
Earl Thomas is an elite player and is on track to one day be considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
If the Dallas Cowboys could add that to their young and developing defense for the next four years, they shouldn't worry about his age.
Obviously, anything can happen, and people may point to him missing games in each of the last two seasons, but prior to 2016, Earl Thomas played and started 100% of his team's games. That's a six season stretch of being available for every single game.
For a team that is really close to contention and has the makings of an elite defense, Earl Thomas could be the missing piece that could put them over the top, much like Charles Haley did for the Dallas Cowboys' dynasty of the 1990s.
Don't let the age thing distract you from adding one of the best safeties in the NFL and one of the best players in the league. Earl Thomas to the Dallas Cowboys just makes too much sense not to do it, and for the All-Pro safety, age is just a number.
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