So what now?
The Cowboys have a well-paid cornerback who took a Molly, an owner who partied with a pair of Mollys, and a understudied son who partied with a busload of Mollys, not to mention the NFL head of officiating. Mix that stench with the aroma of a durian defensive performance, and you have fan hope draining like a Medieval bloodletting.
The annual Cowboys Camp Soap Opera has been in rare form. Amidst it all sits Jason Garrett and his staff, trying to implement a sense of football normalcy to a roster hopefully not built solely on offense.
The fun of Orlando Scandrick’s suspension added to a host of defensive injuries and question marks as we nudge closer to the looming 49ers in Week 1. While Dallas’ offense looks ready right now – and note that San Francisco is sorting through their own defensive woes and conundrums – the 11-plus Cowboy defenders that will compete on September 7th seem mysteriously concerning, unproven, and perhaps not even here yet.
If you want a bright spot, Anthony Spencer is fast-tracking to an early campaign return it appears, and by midseason, the additions of him, DeMarcus Lawrence, and perhaps Josh Brent, offer hope to what may be a catatonic initial pass rush. Generating quarterback pressure and reasonable run defense is, quite frankly, largely the determinant of 2014-season success.
Questions need answering if Dallas is to manage a representative defense. Certain musts must be met for this season to get out of the gate better than 1-3.
The much-neededs include:
- Rolando McClain has to be outstanding. He has the know-how, the physicality, the athleticism, and the pedigree to be the best player on the defense, even better than Sean Lee. He’s everything the rest of the linebackers wish they were, minus the mood swings and inner demons. Nick Saban said McClain has his affairs in order and is ready to return, and Jerry promised to help him as he did Tyron Smith with the hauntings from back home. If McClain wants to be a force, he will be, I have no doubt. Big if though. You can't coach or fake desire.
- Morris Claiborne has to finally arrive. He sees his counterpart, Patrick Peterson, getting paid and glorified at every turn. He knows his career is dangerously close to journeyman waters, and if he doesn’t get it done this year, that “big” contract he was expecting will be a shadow of Peterson’s. He’s beefed up, and I hope he’s studied up, too. That Wonderlic score hangs over his unimpressive career like a stain on a blue dress. It’s nut-cutting time for Mo. Now or never here.
- A pass rush must be fermented and harvested asap. The time for patience is gone. Bottle this up quick and serve it as Boone’s Farm. Find 5-6 willing mad dogs and figure out a way to get to the quarterback, pedigree and promise be damned. George Selvie has to be even better. Terrell McClain has to beat out Nick Hayden. Tyrone Crawford has to be what we’ve heard about for too long. Henry Melton has to match his paycheck. Coleman, Bishop, Wilson – I don’t care who – a couple of those blokes have to be young Jay Ratliffs. Then, this band of gypsies has to batten down the hatches until help arrives one by one from the M*A*S*H unit later on.
- Meanwhile, can someone get off a block? Those same Joes charged last paragraph have to be able to stuff a run, too. Linebackers, are you listening? Preseason means so little, but let’s just say that San Diego thing needs to be quite the opposite of what the 49ers see four Sundays from now. I’ve seen more resistance at a brothel. (Actually, I’ve never been to one, but you get the point.)
That’s it. The answers are few and simple. Much is in place, which is the shiny side of the coin.
Problem is, these answers aren’t found on the dollar menu. Romo’s sustained health and a drive-stopping pass rush sound too much like balancing the national budget and manning a mission to Mars. It does to me anyway.
I encourage ignoring the preseason-game fray and dismissing the Chicken Littles that muddy the message boards. I see exhibition games for what they are, just massive money grabs in dress-up practice drills. So little can be gleaned from them at all.
But this is Dallas, where every camp is a ticking time bomb. Every year in Ox-nerd, Jerry goes drunk-uncle-at-a-wedding with either Super Bowl predictions, glory holes, or stripper selfies on Twitter. It’s always something. (How can he rightfully be upset with Scandrick, Brent, or anyone after his own escapades?) The track record begs for drama and encourages the salivating media to dogpile every miscue. You can set your August by it.
This should be a time for work and development. Instead, it’s six weeks of breath-holding until Labor Day comes and goes.
I contend that this team has far more hope and promise than what camp has felt like so far. Too many good things in place for this squad not to surprise. Too many bad things other teams are dealing with that we pay less attention. Such is the sport of attrition that the NFL is.
But for the love of Pete Rozelle, can this team just focus on football from here forward, please? Can we catch a break on injuries until it’s for real? Can we avoid TMZ and Deadspin, stay off the Twitter and reality shows, commit to our craft, and generally just be a boring football organization for a change?
Or is that just asking too much?
Tony Pollard, Supporting Cast or a Co-lead with Ezekiel Elliott?
Since the Dallas Cowboys drafted Running Back Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in the first-round of the 2016 NFL Draft he's been the star of the show. Any of their other offensive weapons have been nothing more than supporting cast the past three years, but rookie RB/WR Tony Pollard could prove to be more than just supporting cast and become more of a co-lead in Zeke's show.
Suggesting Tony Pollard has a chance to be more than just supporting cast with Ezekiel Elliott is a lot to put on a rookies shoulders, but that's the kind of hype he's receiving already. He hasn't even put on the pads yet with the Dallas Cowboys, but he's already receiving Alvin Kamara type comparisons due to the versatility he's expected to bring with him to the NFL.
Living up to those Alvin Kamara comparisons might be even more difficult than becoming anything more than just an extra behind Zeke anytime soon, but it's doable. After all, Kamara immediately stepped in as a rookie and became a costar with Mark Ingram in New Orleans. It's certainly feasible to think Pollard can do the same.
There's of course only one problem with this way of thinking. Mark Ingram is no Ezekiel Elliott. And, no RB on the depth chart behind Zeke the last three years has been good enough to cut into #21's heavy workload. Is the hype surrounding Tony Pollard justified? Is he talented enough to cut into Zeke's playing time?
Those are some really big questions we don't have an answer to as of yet. Training camp could help determine the type of role Tony Pollard will have with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and beyond, but even that can be thrown out the window once games start to matter in the regular season.
Personally, I think Tony Pollard will be part of a supporting cast behind Ezekiel Elliott this year. I just don't think he's ready to step in and costar with Zeke just yet. I think he will be more of a comedic relief that will be used from time to time to keep things interesting. That's not necessarily a bad thing though considering his versatility to contribute in the running or passing game.
In time though, Pollard could prove worthy of an increase in playing time and become more of a co-lead with No. 21. It may very well be in his rookie season, but he's really going to have to prove himself and that will need to start this week when the Dallas Cowboys kick off their training camp in Oxnard, California.
What do you think? Is Tony Pollard supporting cast or a co-lead with Zeke?
Randy Gregory can Make the Perimeter Pass Rush Extremely Formidable
Randy Gregory showed flashes last season of the potential he has as a pass rusher. Even though he only managed one start he did see action in 14 games. Had registered 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, 7 tackles for loss and 15 hits on the quarterback. That's very good production with limited opportunities. Now, this sets up the Dallas Cowboys on the edge getting to the quarterback, and here's how.
The Cowboys acquired Defensive End Robert Quinn via trade from the Dolphins back in March. He is set to start at right defensive end opposite All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence. Gregory, who lines up on the right side as well, can potentially make said side a huge problem for offenses on 2019.
Let's just take a typical season from Quinn which is between 8-9 sacks. If Gregory can give at minimum what he did last season, that's around 15 sacks just between the two of them alone. Now, as we all know, Lawrence can be penciled in for double-digit sacks routinely at this point. So given this information that's a potential 25-30 sacks just from these three players. This is without including guys such as Taco Charlton, Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder, and rookies Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks (assuming they make the final roster).
Why is Gregory's potential impact so important? For me, it's simply where he lines up at defensive end, on the right side. Most quarterbacks are right-handed, which means when they drop back to pass they face left side defensive ends, with their backs to defensive ends coming off the right side. If you can consistently pressure a quarterback from his blindside the opportunities for sacks and fumbles increase. Regardless of how skilled a quarterback is you can't avoid what you can't see.
Of course, this all depends on what the NFL does regarding the reinstatement of Gregory. He was suspended indefinitely in February for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, a situation he is all too familiar with. My guess is Gregory and the Cowboys will ask for a conditional reinstatement like he was given by the NFL in 2018. What this would do is allow Gregory to participate in meetings and condition work until he's a full participant. He is set to apply for that reinstatement within the next few days.
The only thing Randy Gregory can do now is play the waiting game. The league is currently considering the possibility of softening their stance on marijuana use. If they are serious about it I can see Gregory getting reinstated even if it's on a conditional basis. If this is granted the Cowboys will be getting big-time pressure off the edge with Lawrence, Quinn, and Gregory in 2019.
CB Jourdan Lewis Getting Ready For Bounce-Back 2019 Season
For a third round pick, cornerback Jourdan Lewis sure did come to Dallas with his fair share of hype.
In fact, much of Cowboys Nation was more excited about Lewis joining the Cowboys than they were about either of the team's first two selections in that same draft, Taco Charlton and Chidobe Awuzie. But while Awuzie has soared to starting cornerback levels with Dallas during his first two seasons, Jourdan Lewis has been forced to take a back seat.
After a promising rookie season, Jourdan Lewis didn't get much playing time at cornerback in 2018. Anthony Brown took over as the starting slot corner, while Byron Jones and Awuzie manned the outside. This left Lewis as the odd man out, despite what many consider to be impressive cover skills.
Lewis is not allowing this down season to eat away at him too much, though. While speaking with the media last week at SportsCon in Dallas, Lewis gave his thoughts on how his year spent behind the other young Cowboys corners is only fueling him for the future.
"As a competitor it's always tough, especially as a rookie and you're playing all of the time. It's definitely when you take a step back it humbles you. Sometimes you gotta understand that you have to wait your turn and work on your craft. Understand that you always have to stay a professional no matter your situation. And that's what I learned last year."
Considered undersized by the standards typically used by Cowboys secondary coach Kris Richard, some have argued that Lewis was never given a fair shot to earn playing time once Richard took over in 2018. Whether or not this is true can't ever be said for sure, and the level of play Anthony Brown exhibited from the slot in 2018 didn't leave much room for substitutions either.
Still, Jourdan Lewis says he appreciates that time he spent on the bench, and he hopes that it will only drive him towards bigger and better things down the road.
"I appreciate the time that I sat last year honestly...Because it made me a better player, maybe a better person honestly."
The Cowboys cornerback situation didn't get any less crowded this offseason. Not only is Dallas bringing back all three of the aforementioned starters from a year ago, but they also drafted Miami's Michael Jackson in the fifth round of the 2019 draft.
That cornerback room is full of talent. Not only does this create a luxury for the Cowboys at one of the league's most important positions, but it also breeds immense competition between the corners come training camp.
Which, if you didn't know, begins on July 26th.
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