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How The Cowboys Should Approach Weeks 16 And 17 At Quarterback

RJ Ochoa

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Dak Prescott, Tony Romo

A lot has happened since the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during Week 15's edition of Sunday Night Football:

  • The Philadelphia Eagles beat the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football, giving the Cowboys the NFC East, a first-round bye, and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as the NFC's top seed.
  • The Washington Redskins beat the Chicago Bears, putting them at 8-6-1 on the season and depending on the Cowboys on Monday Night Football (I'll explain in a bit).
  • The Green Bay Packers beat the Minnesota Vikings, putting them at 9-6 on the season and a win-and-clinch scenario away from the NFC North title.

What's At Stake This Week?

That final little bit about the Green Bay Packers is very pertinent to the Cowboys match-up against the Lions. Detroit enters this game at 9-5... with a win they will clinch a playoff berth (worst case scenario as the NFC's second Wildcard), but with a loss their hopes remain alive to win the NFC North.

Jason GarrettWeek 17's Lions/Packers game has already been flexed to Sunday Night Football as - regardless of what happens between Dallas and Detroit - the winner of the game will win the NFC North. The only way that can change any degree is with a Lions-over-Cowboys win, which would give Detroit some room for error against Green Bay.

The stakes could be even higher in that Lions/Packers game if the Cowboys beat Detroit. Should Dallas topple the Lions, then the Washington Redskins will have an opportunity to clinch that second Wildcard spot themselves next week with a win over the New York Giants. That would mean only the winner from Lions/Packers would head to the playoffs.

Derek Carr And Marcus Mariota: A Lesson Learned

Typically on Christmas Eve a fine gentleman named Santa Claus travels across the world to bring presents and joy to everyone... such was not the case in Oakland or Tennessee.

On the day before Christmas we saw both Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota incur broken fibulas, ending their 2016 seasons. Tennessee was still fighting for a playoff spot, and obviously that hurts a lot, but Oakland was already playoff-bound... simply fighting for their division and other advantages.

The NFL is a cruel, cruel thing. Your season can be taken away from you on one random play, we in Cowboys Nation know that all too well (see: 2015). I've cautioned before here at Inside The Star that if/when the Cowboys find themselves in a meaningless game... Tony Romo should not play.

This same notion is applicable to Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith, if you can name a player that's important to the Cowboys - he's involved. While both Carr and Mariota were playing with something at stake, do you really not want to learn the lesson from that? It's a miracle - a gift - that the Cowboys are where they are, with what they have, and are actually getting healthy (Claiborne, Wilcox, etc.).

Rest Vs Rust

The primary reason why you wouldn't want to put the important players on ice until football games have consequences again (Saturday, January 14th at the earliest for the Cowboys) is because "we don't want them to be rusty in the playoffs."

Do we want anyone to be rusty in the playoffs? Of course not. That goes without saying.

What we want is all of our players... in the playoffs. The Cowboys are at a point where they can have what they want, but yes it comes at the risk of accumulating rust. The counterpoint to that is the risk that's involved with playing them in two meaningless games... losing them altogether like Oakland and Tennessee lost their quarterbacks.

The Detroit Lions Game Is Essentially Meaningless

The Cowboys will play (depending on when you've read this) in Week 16's finale on Monday Night Football. It was a big loss for ESPN that the Cowboys clinched everything back during TNF and that the Green Bay Packers won on Saturday. Why?

The Cowboys side of things is obvious, they have literally nothing to gain. They have it all. On the other side of things, the Lions really can't do much in this game. Yes, they can clinch a playoff spot and I acknowledge the importance of that... but Detroit is basically starting the playoffs now with an extra life that they can burn on their first game.

Even if the Lions win, they are playing for the rights to the NFC North and keeping Green Bay out of the playoffs in Week 17. It is essentially the most meaningless meaningful game ever.

An Allowance For The Alternative

Dak PrescottI've been staunch in the notion that Tony Romo, nor any of the important players on the Cowboys, should see any playing time when things are meaningless. The word "meaningless" literally means that there's no meaning... so play people who have no meaning to you.

While I don't agree with it, I understand the argument that players, Romo included obviously, could incur rust with so much time off. As a result, here's my proposal for how the Dallas Cowboys should handle Weeks 16 and 17 at the quarterback position:

  • Dak Prescott plays the first three quarters against Detroit.
  • Tony Romo plays the final quarter against Detroit.
  • Mark Sanchez plays the entirety of the game in Philadelphia.

I called this an allowance because I'm allotting for time for Tony Romo. It's not something that I want happening, but if there is a quarter to play him in... it's this one. The fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions - with the game likely decided - is the safest quarter of the season for Romo. We're talking about potentially two quarters against what will then be a winded defense who is playing in a pseudo-meaningless game.

Why Is Tony Romo Such A Focus In This Conversation?

Tony Romo is the backup quarterback on the Dallas Cowboys. We all know that.

The reason that Romo and his health are of extremely high priority for us is because of what we've learned from this season across the NFL - a backup quarterback is an insane luxury.

RJ Ochoa on Twitter

Current AFC Playoff QBs: Tom Brady Matt McGloin Ben Roethlisberger Tom Savage Alex Smith Matt Moore No I didn't make any of those names up

Let me reiterate - Dak Prescott is the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. Tony Romo is the backup. We all acknowledge this.

We also need to acknowledge the lottery ticket that Tony Romo is if something happens to Dak like we saw with Carr and Mariota. Tony Romo's health - he's been hurt three of the last six times he's put on an NFL uniform and saw action - is of the utmost priority to this team. He isn't simply a backup quarterback, he's QB1B. His role should not be diminished by the name assigned to him on the depth chart.

This also has an opposing argument laced with, "well if you think Romo is that injury prone then let's just roll with Sanchez." You tell me who you want in a playoff game at quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. A rusty Romo that could potentially get hurt or Mark Sanchez? The answer is obvious.

Maximizing Odds With Rest

The notion is that if the Cowboys sit out players in Philadelphia that they'll go "three weeks without playing." There are 19 days between the Lions game and Saturday, January 14th (the day that the Divisional Round begins). They are "missing" what would otherwise be two football games in that span. That's eight quarters of supposedly accumulated rust.

Jason Garrett is this season's Coach of the Year. It's not debatable, accept it or don't - it's true. If anyone is well-equipped to handle that stretch of missed time with his players, it's Coach Garrett and his staff.

In a perfect world the Dallas Cowboys would play every available quarter of football, keep "momentum", and suffer no injuries. Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota just proved that this is not a perfect world.

This is a world - a game - of maximizing odds. We're playing a game of chess, looking far down the road. You do what you can to put yourself in the best positions for success, and this is it. Huzzah.

Tell us what you think about "How The Cowboys Should Approach Weeks 16 And 17 At Quarterback" in the comments below. You can also email me at RJ.Ochoa@SlantSports.com, 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!

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Did a Year Away Help Rejuvenate TE Jason Witten’s Game?

Brian Martin

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Did a Year Away Help Rejuvenate TE Jason Witten's Game?

Jason Witten is 37 years old, retired from the NFL after the completion of 2017 season to try his luck as an announcer in the booth, but has now decided to come out of retirement to rejoin the Dallas Cowboys? It seems a little unrealistic to think he can come back after a year away from the game and pick up where he left off, but it sounds as if he's like a Phoenix rising from the ashes.

Jason Witten has been the talk of Dallas Cowboys OTA practices so far. These practices are unpadded and basically just an opportunity to do install some of the offensive and defensive plays, but that doesn't make them any less important. One of the things that has been somewhat surprising though is how talked up the future Hall of Famer has become.

Here is what Head Coach Jason Garrett had to say recently about Jason Witten's return:

“Yeah, absolutely. He’s been excited about every part of it ever since I met him and that hasn’t changed,” coach Jason Garrett said. “The work that he’s done in the weight room in the off-season program has been outstanding. His testing numbers and all of that are what they’ve been or even better. And he just has an unbelievable way about him. Tremendous passion for the game. And he demonstrates that every day. Witt looks good. He’s excited to be back and we’re certainly fortunate to have him back.”

The main thing that stands out from Garrett's quote to me is how Jason Witten looks just as good, if not better after not playing at all in 2018. To think that his testing numbers are possibly even better is unfathomable. We typically don't see NFL players in their mid-30s retire from the game and then return just as good, or maybe even better than they were before.

It's inhuman!

Jason Witten, Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten

Maybe that's just what Jason Witten is, a little inhuman. Maybe he's found the secret to turning the clock back just a little bit. Or, maybe he found the fountain the youth and didn't tell anybody. Regardless, there's no doubt Witten will be a welcomed addition to the Cowboys offense, especially if he's gained a step.

I don't know about all of you, but I'm hoping the year away from the game did him some good. I honestly thought he made the right decision to retire prior to the 2018 season. It just looked like father time was catching up to him in 2017. But, hopefully all he needed was a little time away from the grind he's been putting his body through for over a decade.

Whatever he's done hasn't gone unnoticed though. Even Quarterback Dak Prescott has noticed and said he's on to Witten's scheme.

“I guess the trick is to take a year off because he’s definitely gotten better, stronger and faster,” Prescott said. “He hasn’t lost a step.”

I'm not afraid to admit I wasn't too excited to see Witten come out of retirement and rejoin the Cowboys at first. I was skeptical he could be the player he once was after a year away from the game. But, all of this talk about him looking as good as he once was, perhaps better, has me really looking forward to seeing him on the field once again.

Do you think a year away has rejuvenated Jason Witten's game?



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Cowboys en Español: El Verdadero Cambio en La Ofensiva

Mauricio Rodriguez

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3 Quick Fixes to Jumpstart Cowboys Anemic Offense

Los Dallas Cowboys tuvieron un interesante 2018. La ofensiva dejo mucho que desear toda la primera mitad de la temporada cuando carecían de un receptor número uno. No fue hasta media temporada cuando consiguieron a Amari Cooper de los Oakland Raiders, que la ofensiva comenzó a verse realmente amenazante. Siendo sinceros, el cuerpo de receptores de los Cowboys lucía muy débil al inicio y Michael Gallup aún no conseguía mucho tiempo de juego en el emparrillado. Incluso una vez en el equipo, a pesar de las grandes hazañas de Cooper en Dallas, la ofensiva no terminó de dar el siguiente paso.

Sí, con Amari en el equipo vimos un equipo de Cowboys que movía constantemente las cadenas e incluso se convirtió en una de las mejores unidades en tercera oportunidad en la liga, pero no fue suficiente. Los problemas en zona roja persistieron y continuamos viendo una selección de jugadas muy cuestionable semana tras semana.

Es por eso que al finalizar la temporada, la administración de los Cowboys finalmente tomó una decisión muy anticipada. El entonces coordinador ofensivo, Scott Linehan, fue despedido.

En cuanto a talento, los Dallas Cowboys no verán un cambio mayor en su ofensiva. Cole Beasley, uno de los mejores WR slot en la NFL, firmó con los Buffalo Bills durante la agencia libre. A pesar de la llegada de Randall Cobb, la ofensiva probablemente extrañará bastante a Beasley. Además está el regreso de Jason Witten al campo, quien se repartirá el balón mucho con los jóvenes del equipo, principalmente con Blake Jarwin. Por último, Travis Frederick podría estar de regreso como el centro titular. Fuera de eso, no se anticipan cambios de jugadores en la ofensiva.

Y a pesar de esto, la afición de los Cowboys espera ver un cambio grande entre la ofensiva del 2018 y la de 2019. Si las cosas salen bien, así será. Pero más que por el talento del equipo, que ya está ahí y es un muy buen talento, deberá ser por el hombre al mando.

Kellen Moore

Kellen Moore ha tomado las riendas como el nuevo coordinador ofensivo y finalmente podremos ver su potencial. Muchos han criticado a Moore, en gran parte por nunca haber sido un quarterback exitoso en la NFL. Sin embargo, hay muchas razones por las cuales deberíamos estar emocionados.

Desde que Moore salió de la universidad de Boise State, se le veía como un prospecto muy inteligente. Incluso analistas como Jon Gruden (en ese entonces conductor del programa de ESPN Gruden's QB Camp) mencionaban que Moore probablemente no sería un gran mariscal, pero que tenía la mente de un coach.

En Boise, Moore trabajaba con la ofensiva del actual coach de los Washington Huskies, Chris Petersen. Esta ofensiva es una muy complicada que le exige al mariscal saber casi tanto como un jugador profesional. Muchos han descrito a Moore como un genio ofensivo que será un gran coach en el futuro.

Para los Cowboys, Kellen Moore será una pieza clave en 2019. Si vemos una ofensiva realmente diferente, será gracias a su creatividad y filosofía que implementa a un grupo bastante talentoso en Dallas. Los jugadores están ahí, ¿sabrá el coordinador ofensivo de 30 años aprovecharlos?

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: El Verdadero Cambio en La Ofensiva" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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NFL to Study Marijuana Use, Will It Impact Randy Gregory’s Status?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Headlines - Rubbing Salt In The Wound That Is Randy Gregory

The NFLPA and the NFL have reached an agreement to research alternative pain-management tools for the players. They'll form joint medical committees to study different strategies, among which will be the use of marijuana. It's important to make it clear that said committees will not be exclusively about marijuana, but a lot of different issues related to pain-management in the league. However, it'll likely be one of the most important aspects of their work.

Marijuana continues to be a highly debated topic and it's no different when discussing the NFL. Dallas Cowboys fans should be very familiar with the situation. Earlier this year, David Irving "quit" on football during an Instagram live stream while smoking weed. In the video, Irving talks about how he thinks it's better to be addicted to marijuana rather than certain medications used by NFL teams to treat their players.

Although David Irving is not an authority on substances, that is where all of this debate centers around. Throughout the league, players are given strong medication to deal with injuries and the physical pain of playing pro football. I'm not an expert either, but it's more than fair to say there's a strong argument here. Specially in a country where marijuana has already been legalized in 10 states and the trend points toward legalization continuing.

The current CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) between the NFL and NFLPA will expire after the 2020 season and how the league's drug policy looks like in the new agreement will be a huge factor for reaching a satisfactory CBA for both sides.

Of course, the fact that the NFLPA and the league are working together on such an important task doesn't mean we will see any immediate changes or that the NFL's ban on marijuana will be lifted anytime soon. Many big question marks will have to be answered before we hear about teams implementing this substance as a pain management tool.

For the Dallas Cowboys, this will be a relevant narrative down the line. Pass rusher Randy Gregory was reinstated after serving an indefinite suspension due to substance abuse prior to the 2018 season. After a dominant year, Gregory was suspended again by the NFL and it all points toward him sitting out this upcoming season and perhaps even more.

Even still, the Cowboys are still standing behind their 2015 second round pick. If the league ends up lifting its ban on marijuana, they'll have to decide what they will do with players already serving a suspension for this reason. Guys like Randy Gregory, for instance. If it's decided they'll be reinstated to the NFL, the Cowboys will sure be glad to have supported Gregory all throughout the process.

Last year, the pass rusher proved how effective he could be even with a short period of time training. Hopefully, the Cowboys are able to get him back on the field eventually, where's been consistently dominant. In the meantime, we'll see how recently acquired Robert Quinn does in Dallas.

The NFL won't be lifting its ban anytime soon, but it's good to know they're at least open minded to changing the league's policy and consider alternatives that could benefit the players' health. We'll see how these new medical committees work and keep you updated here at Inside The Star.

Tell me what you think about "NFL to Study Marijuana Use, Will It Impact Randy Gregory’s Status?" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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