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Sunday, December 13th, 2015. You remember that day, even if you don't know it.
The Cowboys were in Green Bay for a date against the Packers, the final score of which isn't important, and it was their first visit to Lambeau Field since Dez Bryant heroically caught a brilliant pass from Tony Romo near the end of a game 11 months earlier.
There would be no Tony Romo this time, only Matt Cassel. There would also be Inside The Star Staff Writer RJ Ochoa (hey I know him!) in attendance, that's me! That's right. My Dad, some friends, and I ventured to one of the NFL's most iconic venues last December to watch America's Team (a trip that I wrote about here).
On gameday we decided that we needed breakfast so we went to IHOP. We feasted, in the middle of tons of Cowboys and Packers fans, and headed to the car so we could head to Lambeau. On the way we passed some little kids playing a friendly game of "Simon Says."
My Dad's best friend David was feeling good about this game, and he felt like letting the world know how good he felt. One of the kids began a new command, "Simon Says..." and David interrupted him.
"SIMON SAYS 'GO COWBOYS!'"
The kids screamed out, "NO!" but the damage was done. The world knew. The Cowboys are the best.
The world will be reminded this Sunday of that same sentiment. Simon Said the Cowboys had no shot this season, but here they are at 4-1... and they want more.
Welcome to my 5 Bold Predictions. Let’s roll.
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Ezekiel Elliott Catches DeMarco Murray's 2014 Performance Through Six Games
The Dallas Cowboys enter Week 6 of the NFL season with the league's leading rusher at their disposal. This statement is as true today as it was two years ago at this exact same time.
When DeMarco Murray finished his sixth game in 2014 (a contest the Cowboys won in Seattle) he had 785 yards to his name. As it currently stands rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott has 546. It's no secret that the Packers Offense has the ability to put points up, and the Cowboys will look to neutralize that with their best defense - their offense.
Ezekiel Elliott is the key to beating Green Bay, both offensively and defensively. This means that he's going to have a huge day on the ground. 240 yards, the last time an NFL RB had this many in a game was Doug Martin in 2012 with 251, would put Zeke ahead of DeMarco's 2014 through this point. It's happening.
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Dak Prescott Will Have A Better Performance Than Brett Favre's Last One At Lambeau Field
In August we celebrated the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2016, and among its members was legendary quarterback Brett Favre.
The career of "The Gunslinger" is quite the tale, but he's pretty relevant this week. First off, he came out and said that Tony Romo should let Dak Prescott keep playing. This
makes sense since this is the exact thing Brett Favre did with Aaron Rodgers is as stupid as it sounds. Stay classy, Favre.
Brett Favre is also extremely relevant this week because at halftime of this game he'll receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring. Good for you, Brett; however, the last time Favre was on this field as an actual player was not so good.
He was 16/29 for 212 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions. Dak Prescott is going to easily top that.
Also, it should be noted that the only stadium Brett Favre never won in was Texas Stadium. Huzzah.
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Dan Bailey Amasses More Yards Via Field Goals Than Eddie Lacy Does Rushing
So much is made about the "Dez Catch" from 2015's Divisional Round at Lambeau, but there is another Cowboy besides Bryant that has a score to settle from that day - Dan Bailey.
That day Dan Bailey attempted the only field goal that he's ever kicked at the historic Lambeau Field, and he missed. That's right. Just like Favre never won at Texas Stadium, Bailey's never hit a 3-pointer in Green Bay.
Cowboys Nation held their breaths regarding Bailey last week because his back tightened up just before the San Francisco game. All signs at this point are positive, and he's going to be a big factor on Sunday... bigger than Eddie Lacy.
I've written before here at Inside The Star about how Eddie Lacy completely owns the Cowboys, and I believe that trend is going to halt. Eddie is going to have such a low day on the ground that the yardage added up from Dan Bailey's field goals are going to be more impressive. How do you like them apples, Eddie?
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Lucky Whitehead Takes A Jet Sweep Over 20 Yards
Death, taxes, and one Lucky Whitehead jet sweep play every Cowboys game.
Lucky has had a jet sweep in each of the last three games and they've gone for 3, 8, and 9 yards respectively. The Packers know this, but they also know that Ezekiel Elliott plays for the Cowboys and are far more concerned with that threat.
While Whitehead has yet to hit even the double-digit yardage mark when it comes to the jet sweeps he runs, he's going to double that with a run to the outside of at least 20 yards due to the lack of attention there since the bulk of it will be focused on Zeke. Vamonos!
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Rookie DT Maliek Collins Gets His First Career Sack
Three of the most impressive members on the 2016 Dallas Cowboys Roster are rookies: Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Anthony Brown. Only one other rookie has even played snaps on the season - DT Maliek Collins.
Collins has played well so far, just not to the elite level of his rookie classmates. This is going to change on Sunday in Lambeau Field. The Cowboys Defense has been all about surprises this season as far as who steps up, and while that man has been Collins at times it's going to happen in a collision with Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #1
Remember, if you want YOUR Bold Prediction featured here, tweet it at me! It’s that simple! Here are this week’s contributions, thanks to all those who shared!
Donny is a fantastic guy and long-time contributor to our weekly Bold Predictions, so kudos to him on that.
Here we're saying that Dez Bryant is not only going to play, but he's going to hit a hat trick of touchdowns and that one of them wins the game. Goodness, this is spicy! Additionally the Cowboys Defense has six sacks on Rodgers, two interceptions from him, and Ezekiel Elliott crosses the 200-yard mark.
This is quite the hodgepodge of Bold Predictions. At this point it's not too farfetched to say that Dez plays, and Zeke crossing 200 amazingly seems so easy these days. If the Cowboys Defense balls out to this level then we need to make some more room around here because the bandwagon is going to be trying to join us in full force!
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Bonus Bold Prediction #2
@rjochoa Bold Prediction: Jason Garrett goes for a 2pt conversion when it is not necessary #AgainstTheOdds #GamblinGarrett
I love this, and it makes a lot of sense when you really think about it.
Jason Garrett has shown a new sense of boldness in 2016, and he hasn't played that hand in the last two games... mostly because he hasn't had to.
The Packers present a tough test for the Cowboys, and that might require something different. Thankfully it appears Coach Garrett is willing to be different.
Bonus Bold Prediction #3
@rjochoa Bryon Jones gets a pick of tip ball. Dez get a TD. Dak runs it in to for TD. #BOLDpredictions
Dez Bryant catching a touchdown isn't the strangest sight in the world, although it's been a while since it happened on a consistent basis, and obviously this is contingent on him playing. Should Dez suit up then I have no doubt that he hauls one in for six.
Dak Prescott has a rushing touchdown in three games this season, that's 60% of the time. Those are pretty good odds on anything in life so I like where Chris' head is at! In terms of Byron Jones... we've been looking for The Senator to snag an interception ever since he first put on the Cowboys uniform as he has zero for his career. He's due. It's time. Bring it!
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.
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?
Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys
Now that he's signed with the Washington Redskins, cornerback Orlando Scandrick joins a lackluster list of former Cowboys players and coaches who have gone from Dallas to its historic rival. The history of these moves is ugly for Washington, going back over 40 years, and can't have their fans too excited anytime they sign an ex-Cowboy.
The most recent example was just last year with defensive tackle Terrell McClain. After a strong season as a 15-game starter in Dallas, McClain got a four-year, $21 million deal to join the Redskins. He missed four games with injuries and was only credited with two starts; hardly what the team wanted given the money they paid.
Before him it was Jason Hatcher, whose 11-sack season for the Cowboys in 2013 got him a four-year, $27.5 million deal from Washington. Hatcher would battle knee injuries for two season, getting only 7.5 sacks from 2014-2015. His early retirement in 2016 brought an abrupt end to a disappointing tenure.
Continuing the legacy of defensive linemen was Stephen Bowen, who Washington paid a shocking amount of money ($27.5 million over five years) to in 2011 to pick up in free agency. Bowen had a great first year for the Redskins with six sacks and 16 starts, but injuries would soon cost him 14 games from 2013-2014. He was eventually released after only one standout season in four with the team.
Going back even further, DT Brandon Noble joined Washington in 2003 after being a full-time starter for Dallas for over two seasons. He would miss all of 2003 with a knee injury, have an unimpressive year in 2004, and then missed all of 2005 with more health issues. He retired after being released by the Redskins in 2006.
Orlando Scandrick won't be the first cornerback to go from Dallas to Washington, or the best. At age 32, Deion Sanders was released in 2000 by the Cowboys and then got a huge seven-year, $56 million deal from the Redskins. This came less than a year after Daniel Snyder bought the franchise and was desperate to get them relevant again.
The Sanders move backfired horribly. Even after a solid season by his lofty standards, Primetime was disgruntled with both the coaching staff and his increasing struggles as an aging player. He suddenly retired after just one season of the seven-year contract.
Washington also tried to tap into the Cowboys' glory days when they signed receiver Alvin Harper in 1997. Harper had left Dallas in 1995 and spent two years with Tampa Bay, but had not carried over the same success he enjoyed playing in the Dallas offense.
The Redskins hoped that reuniting him with Norv Turner, who had been Harper's offensive coordinator and was now their head coach, would help Alvin get back to form. But between ongoing injuries and the absence of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith as teammates, Alvin Harper was never the same guy as when he won two Super Bowls in Dallas.
The failed poaching attempts go back many more decades, another one being running back Calvin Hill. The fourth-leading rusher in Cowboys history and a four-time Pro Bowler while in Dallas, Hill joined Washington in 1976. He served as a backup only, averaging only 3.8 yards-per-carry as he played behind the likes of Mike Thomas and John Riggins.
The bad history doesn't stop with players. The aforementioned Norv Turner, who was one of the hottest assistant coaches in history after the Cowboys first two Super Bowl wins in the 90s, was hired as the Redskins' head coach in 1994.
Turner's run started with a whimper, drafting quarterback Heath Shuler third overall in that first year. Shuler would go down as one of the biggest QB busts in NFL history
Norv's Redskins never seemed to recover from that blunder. He only had two winning seasons and one playoff appearance from 1994-1999, and was fired midway through the 2000 season.
Far more recently, Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan left the team in 2015 and took the same job in Washington. He didn't get to bring the offensive line or DeMarco Murray with him, though. As such, the Redskins have remained one of the league's worst rushing teams for the last three seasons. They fell to a new low of 28th in the NFL in 2017.
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Of course, none of this means that Orlando Scandrick won't have success in Washington. But with the Redskins generally the most mismanaged team in the NFC East, all of the Dallas players and coaches who've gone there have not walked into good situations. For all that Cowboys fans love to complain about Jerry Jones, he handles the owner and GM roles better than any pair Washington's had in almost 30 years.
Given the nature of the rivalries, we naturally can't wish success for Scandrick or anyone else who leaves Dallas for a division opponent. With the track record we just discussed for Washington, it's not something I'll be losing any sleep over.
Xavier Woods, the Real Reason Cowboys Didn’t Pursue Tyrann Mathieu?
It's not uncommon for Dallas Cowboys fans to zero in on certain free agents in hopes that they will bring their talents to America's Team. In fact, just about any "big name" player to hit the open market is often linked to the Cowboys in some way or another. That was the case when the Arizona Cardinals decided to move on from Tyrann Mathieu.
Once Tyrann Mathieu became available, Cowboys fans immediately wanted to see him with a star on his helmet. But, despite the fans petitioning, the Cowboys brass seemed to show almost zero interest in the former Cardinal.
The decision to not pursue Tyrann Mathieu certainly didn't sit well with a lot of Cowboys Nation, but I think it was the right decision.
Despite Mathieu's perceived talents and youth (he's just 25), the Cowboys weren't interested in paying the price to bring him to Dallas, especially since they already have a similar player on their roster.
It may sound crazy, but I think the real reason the Dallas Cowboys didn't show much interest in Tyrann Mathieu is because of Xavier Woods.
I honestly believe Xavier Woods and Tyrann Mathieu have a similar skill set. Both players are little undersized to be a full-time safety in the NFL, but each of them have the versatility to play several different roles in the secondary.
Mathieu may have been listed as a safety on the Arizona Cardinals roster, and now the Houston Texans, but the truth is he played mostly out of the nickel/slot in his professional and collegiate career. That is where he is at his best, and the same can be said about Xavier Woods.
As a rookie, Xavier Woods showed his versatility with the Dallas Cowboys by playing a variety of different roles in the secondary. His versatility was one of the reasons the Cowboys decided to trade up in last year's draft to acquire his services.
His name might not carry the same kind of weight as Tyrann Mathieu right now around the league or amongst NFL fans, but I don't think Xavier Woods is that much of a drop off talent wise.
Personally, I believe Mathieu is starting to decline a little as a player. I think injuries are starting to take a toll on his play, although it may be minimal. I actually prefer Xavier Woods' upside, especially when you take into account the difference in salaries between the two.
Surprisingly enough, Xavier Woods might just have been more productive in 2017 then Mathieu. Woods started just four games and finished the season with 42 tackles, three passes defensed, and one interception. Mathieu on the other hand started all 16 games and accumulated 78 tackles, one quarterback sack, one forced fumble, and two interceptions.
As you can see, Xavier Woods was almost just as productive as Mathieu in nearly a third of the playing time. What's even more impressive about this is that Woods accomplish this as a rookie.
Of course, all of this is speculation, but I for one am not all that upset the Dallas Cowboys missed out on Tyrann Mathieu. I'm willing to bet on Xavier Woods being able to do everything Mathieu can and at a fraction of the cost.
Were the Cowboys right not to pursue Tyrann Mathieu?
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