We are now full well in the middle of the first week of NFL Preseason action! Since all of the coaches, players, and other team officials use the preseason as a practice I have been deciding to do so as well.
I practiced grilling. I may or may not have set fire to my shoes, but that’s what practice is for. I also practiced my ritual of eating a minimum of four pounds of queso during the game and you know what, I feel fantastic!
With the real deal getting ready to go down in 29 days we all have some skill-sharpening to do. To help me with that I’m going to walk you further down our Countdown To Kickoff series, and today we are discussing the Greatest 29 in Dallas Cowboys History.
The Following Players Have All Worn 29 For The Dallas Cowboys:
I pride myself on a few things in life. There’s my coin collection that my grandfather helped me start when I was about 12 years old, I’ve also got to count the perfect way that my hair parts, and then there’s what I consider to be my high level of objectivity.
That last one is going to come in handy today. Today’s featured player put together quite the resume in four years under the star before he traded it in for a pair of wings. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present to you… The Greatest 29 in Dallas Cowboys History.
The Oklahoma Sooner from Sin City made his way to Dallas during the 2011 NFL Draft. With Felix Jones on the roster the Cowboys needed to find the future at the running back position. In the third round the Cowboys called his number and a star was born.
2011: Rookie Wonder
Murray wasn’t just looking up the depth chart at Felix Jones, former fan favorite Tashard Choice was firmly entrenched in the second string role. When Felix went down against the New England Patriots, the door swung open for #29.
Tashard Choice was named the starting running back when the Cowboys squared off against the St. Louis Rams in Week 7. While that may technically be true, Murray stole the show. Early in the first quarter he busted loose 91 yards, the second longest run in franchise history, for the score… and caused my cousin Jeremy, whom I was playing that week in fantasy with Murray at my disposal, to utterly lose it.
He would go on to set the Dallas Cowboys single-game record for most rushing yards in a game with 253. Welcome to the NFL, kid.
Turning Into A Pro Bowler
2012 has been the least productive year of DeMarco Murray’s career to date. He only played in, and started, 10 games… accumulating just 663 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns. He missed 6 games and began to develop an injury-prone persona.
The other trend that started to become known with Murray was that when he carried the ball 20+ times, the Cowboys won. This streak extended to eight games when the Cowboys beat the Bengals in Cincinnati in an emotional game following Jerry Brown’s death.
Murray did all he could to shed his injury-prone persona in 2013 when he played in 14 games. He topped a thousand yards for the first time in his career (rushing for 1,121) and took a trip to the Pro Bowl. He was firmly on his way.
NFL Offensive Player Of The Year
2014 was prosperous for the Dallas Cowboys and DeMarco Murray. While one of his first carries of the season actually resulted in a fumble, #29 was cooking with gas through last season.
DeMarco Murray eclipsed 100 yards in each of the first 8 games of the 2014 season, breaking the record that Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown set all the way back in 1958.
In Week 17 DeMarco eclipsed another Pro Football Hall of Famer, and Cowboy legend, in Emmitt Smith. Murray surpassed Emmitt Smith’s single-season rushing record (1,773 yards in 1995) and ultimately rushed his way to a league-leading 1,845 yards.
The performance that DeMarco Murray put on running the ball in 2014 was one of the finer seasons that we have ever seen from any running back in NFL History. It culminated with his second selection to the Pro Bowl, a spot on the First-Team All-Pro Team, and the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year Award.
#29: DeMarco Murray
Football is a lot of wonderful things, but ultimately it is a business. In a business move, DeMarco Murray was allowed to test the market in free agency and signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.
This does not at all diminish what DeMarco Murray accomplished in four years during his time with the Cowboys. He served as one of the more productive running backs in that stretch and put together one of the finest seasons that the position has ever seen last year.
Thanks for the great times, DeMarco. You deserve the best. You are the Greatest 29 in Dallas Cowboys History.
Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 28 in Dallas Cowboys History is!
Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración
Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.
Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.
Cambios de Coach
A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.
A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.
Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?
A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.
A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.
En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.
La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.
Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.
Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.
No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.
Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story
Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.
Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.
Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.
Here's why those people are wrong.
Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.
Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).
Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.
There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.
Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.
Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.
Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.
Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.
And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.
Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?
When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.
It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.
Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.
Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.
Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.
The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.
Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating
Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating
As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.
Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
Now, he just has to go out and prove it!
Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?
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