We are just four Sundays away, people. Four Sundays separate us from the greatest experience of our lives… Dallas Cowboys football.
The Dallas Cowboys are one of the most storied franchises throughout the entire NFL. Their players grace the pages of Pro Football History and are regarded as some of the best to ever suit up.
As we continue our Countdown To Kickoff series we look at a player who helped shape both Dallas Cowboys and NFL History during the days that he hit the field. Follow along as we unveil the Greatest 28 in Dallas Cowboys History.
The Following Players Have All Worn 28 For The Dallas Cowboys:
*Active player on the Dallas Cowboys roster
When Dave Campo took a scouting trip to Arizona State University in 1992 he spotted what he would later recount as, “a linebacker who looked like a safety in waiting.” This little nugget of information would come in handy during the draft that year, when in the second round the Dallas Cowboys selected someone who would become a cornerstone player on one of the most elite dynasties ever assembled in NFL History.
The former ASU outside linebacker who was regarded as too small for his position became larger than life at his new one – safety.
Woodson spent the majority of his rookie season in the NFL mostly in on nickel defense and special teams (he actually led the special teams in tackles with 19).
Adjusting to life in the NFL can be tough for a rookie. The game is played at a much higher speed than at the collegiate level, and the toughest position to translate over to has long been considered the cornerback spot. While Darren was only in on certain situations his rookie year he dove in head first during his sophomore season when he became the starting strong safety.
Already coming off of a Super Bowl victory his rookie year, Darren Woodson flourished in the starting role as he and the Cowboys repeated as Champions of the World. The star on Woodson’s helmet shined a little brighter than most as he set a Cowboys franchise record for tackles by a defensive back with 155.
Watch Out For Woody
By 1994 Darren Woodson, aka Woody, was a household name. For starters, he was a Dallas Cowboy. Beyond that Darren was a critical element to the best team in the NFL, and on top of that he was quickly becoming regarded as the best safety in the league.
Darren wasn’t just the best safety in the NFL; he was the best defensive back period. He could stop the run the way that you need your strong safety to, he could drop back into coverage like a stud free safety, but most impressively… Darren would line up in the slot in nickel packages on third downs and cover receivers inside.
There are players who spend their entire NFL careers, and actually their whole lives, trying to become even decent at just one of these positions. Darren Woodson's perfect permeability was the ultimate weapon as he could be lethal from so many different angles.
You know how on those mornings after a particularly great Cowboys victory you feel like a truck hit you? That’s literally how anyone who was ever tackled by Darren Woodson feels all the time.
Darren Woodson laid the wood. Hard.
Since he joined the NFL in 1992 Woodson was immediately recognized as one of the hardest hitting trucks, I mean safeties, in the league. He would just level guys - decimating all of their hopes, dreams, and nervous systems.
Tackle after tackle, victim after victim, Darren’s tackle total grew. One by one the hits were heard around the bowels of Texas Stadium.
The legend of Darren Woodson and his hard hits grew. On October 27th, 2002 – in a game where Emmitt Smith became the NFL’s All-Time Leading Rusher – Darren Woodson joined the record books himself.
Darren Woodson became the Dallas Cowboys All-Time Leader in Tackles.
This is an incredible record as it speaks to many qualities about the individual that holds it. To be a franchise’s leader in tackles obviously requires an incredible amount of skill at the game of football, but it requires levels of sacrifice and durability that only a player of Darren Woodson’s caliber could give.
Woodson would add to his tackle tally and retired with 1,350 – the most in Dallas Cowboys Franchise History.
#28: Darren Woodson - Ring Of Honor Class Of 2015
The career of Darren Woodson is so incredible that it must be honored in proper fashion. Jerry Jones and Co. decided on August 4th, 2015 that Darren Woodson would join the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor.
The honor is a long time coming for a player with the career resume of Woodson:
- 5 Pro Bowl Selections (1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998)
- 3 First-Team All-Pro Selections (1994, 1995, 1996)
- 3 Super Bowl Victories (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX)
- 1,350 career tackles… the most in Dallas Cowboys Franchise History
The legend of Darren Woodson will live on forever as future generations of fans will surely still hear the crack of shoulder pads from Woody leveling somebody. The Dallas Cowboys Dynasty of the 90s was built on the offense of the Triplets, but the defensive intensity that Woodson brought each and every play set the tone for that side of the ball.
Football fans can still enjoy Darren Woodson bringing his best to the game. He currently serves as an analyst on ESPN and most recently made an appearance at this year's NFL draft when he announced our second round pick, Randy Gregory out of Nebraska.
We will all celebrate on November 1st when Darren Woodson’s name finally does join the illustrious Ring of Honor. Today, with 28 days until the 2015 season, let us all celebrate the Greatest 28 in Dallas Cowboys History – Darren Woodson.
Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 27 in Dallas Cowboys History is!
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.
~ ~ ~
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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