After a glorious day of college football, I went grocery shopping last night. The standard stuff found its way inside my cart: bananas, strawberries, a case of water, teddy grahams, and a quart of milk. Even though I’m sure that you’re now daydreaming about cinnamon teddy grahams (they’re delicious) I need you to focus on the milk. You know why? The Dallas Cowboys play a game before it expires.
That’s right. In precisely one week the Dallas Cowboys will take the field at AT&T Stadium while my milk is fresh and capable of being used in a brand new crownie recipe (still looking for one, by the way). A mere 7 days separate us from the greatest season of all… Dallas Cowboys football.
Pull up a chair and grab a glass of milk, because as we have for the last 92 days we’re going to stroll down memory lane with our Countdown To Kickoff series, and today we’re talking about the Greatest 7 in Dallas Cowboys History.
The Following Players Have All Worn 7 For The Dallas Cowboys:
One of the more exciting moments from yesterday came when we saw the University of Notre Dame run out of the tunnel. There is hardly anything more beautiful throughout the landscape of college football than those gold helmets glimmering under the bright lights of Notre Dame.
Those Irishmen sure do churn out some good football players. After all, last year’s rookie sensation Zack Martin played his college ball for the legendary school. Way back in 1991 another Irishman, a 4th round selection from the 1987 NFL Draft, also found himself with a Star on his hat. You can call him the Greatest 7 in Dallas Cowboys History.
The Greatest 8 in Dallas Cowboys History, Troy Aikman, was an incredible quarterback. Unfortunately, and contrary to popular belief, he was also mortal. After two years of nagging injuries Head Coach Jimmy Johnson decided going into 1991 that he wanted a capable backup in the event that Aikman went down.
Always a wheeler and dealer, Johnson picked up his phone and called the Los Angeles Raiders to acquire the services of Steve Beuerlein. After agreeing to the price of a fourth round draft choice, the deal was done and Beuerlein packed his bags and headed to Dallas.
1991: The Year Of Steve Beuerlein
On November 24th, 1991 the Dallas Cowboys were playing the Washington Redskins, eventual Super Bowl XXVI Champions, at the legendary RFK Stadium. The moment that Johnson feared arrived when Aikman went down with a knee injury, but he called upon the man he knew could handle it.
Beuerlein threw a touchdown pass to the Greatest 88 in Dallas Cowboys History, Michael Irvin, in the fourth quarter that helped the Cowboys overall effort to give the Redskins their first loss of the season… for what it’s worth this Redskins squad would only lose one more game before they won the Super Bowl.
Steve remained the starter throughout the final four games of the 1991 season, streaming together wins against the Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, and Atlanta Falcons. In his four game run Beuerlein threw for 774 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.
When the Cowboys finished the season 11-5 and were headed to Chicago to take on the Bears in the Playoffs, Aikman was healed and ready for action; however, Jimmy Johnson decided to go with the guy who had all the momentum and that was Steve Beuerlein. He put together a very nice game throwing for 180 yards and a touchdown as the Cowboys won their first playoff game in the Jerry Jones/Jimmy Johnson era.
#7: Steve Beuerlein
Even though he only suited up in the blue and silver for two seasons, Steve Beuerlein made his presence well known across Dallas Cowboys fans. His heroic effort to finish the 1991 season off strong with a playoff win helped give the team the confidence that they would use over the next four seasons when they would win three Super Bowls.
Beuerlein was a part of the 1992 Dallas Cowboys that won Super Bowl XXVII before he moved on in his NFL career elsewhere. Nowadays you can find Steve in the broadcast booth where he serves as a game analyst for CBS.
If you are not completely jacked for Dallas Cowboys football at this point then you definitely do need a crownie. Get hyped and be thankful for the Greatest 7 in Dallas Cowboys History, Steve Beuerlein.
Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 6 in Dallas Cowboys History is!
Leighton Vander Esch Is A Stud, And Should Be For A Long Time
The Cowboys took their fair share of heat for selecting linebacker Leighton Vander Esch 19th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. But through just over half a season, Dallas is looking vindicated in their decision.
Vander Esch was arguably the best defensive player on the field during Dallas' 27-20 win in Philadelphia Sunday night, and made the two biggest defensive plays of the game as well. Finishing with a game-high 13 tackles, Vander Esch was all over the field in both run and pass defense.
The first of his two massive plays came in the first quarter. After the Cowboys offense stalled deep in their own territory, the Eagles looked to be in prime position to strike first with a short field. On Carson Wentz' first pass attempt of the drive, however, Leighton Vander Esch was there to intercept him and return the ball back 28 yards.
Those return yards proved key as well, giving the Cowboys the short field and an easy path to their first three points of the night. And with the way their offense looked early in this game, Dallas could use all the help they could get.
The biggest play of the game, though, came late in the fourth quarter. With the Eagles facing a third and long and down seven points, they absolutely needed a conversion to keep pace with the surprisingly hot Cowboys offense. Philadelphia tried to beat Dallas with a running back screen to the backside, inviting the pass rush and getting blockers out in front.
There seemed to be nothing but blockers and green grass ahead for the Eagles on this play, with "Next Gen Stats" expecting a 22 yard gain after the catch. Then, Leighton Vander Esch eluded two blockers and tracked down the running back for a gain of just 3.
Leighton Vander Esch made a game-saving tackle late in the 4th quarter to preserve the Cowboys 27-20 win. Corey Clement was expected to gain 22 yards after the catch (gained 3), -19 YAC Below Expectation, the most yards saved on a pass play this season. #DALvsPHI #DallasCowboys https://t.co/0DF7jhPQzH
If not for this tackle, who knows how both that Eagles' drive and the game would have ended. Vander Esch saved the day for Dallas, and forced the Eagles into a tough fourth and long situation with the game on the line.
I know it is still early in Vander Esch's career, and even relatively early in this season as well, but it's become clear the Cowboys hit a home run with their 2018 first round selection. Vander Esch is fitting in beside Jaylon Smith with ease, and with those two athletic freaks together, the Cowboys look to have one of the brightest defensive futures in all of football.
Of course, there are now legitimate questions about what the Cowboys should do with their captain Sean Lee. But as of right now, it should be Leighton Vander Esch's job to lose.
Can Cowboys LB Vander Esch Do Enough to Win DROY?
At 3-5, there are very few positive things to point out when discussing the 2018 Dallas Cowboys. One of those few things has been first-round rookie Leighton Vander Esch, whose play at linebacker has taken the league by surprise. Seen as a raw talent who could develop into an elite player with time as a prospect, Vander Esch's impact on the field has been immediate.
Through nine weeks in the NFL season, the Boise State product should definitely be in the Defensive Rookie of the Year discussion. As much as Sean Lee's injury will hurt the Cowboys' defense, it will get the rookie more playing time and a big opportunity to put his name in the minds of NFL Honors voters.
Sean Lee will miss some time after re-injuring his hamstring for the second time this season. Earlier in the year, Jaylon Smith and Vander Esch were able to keep the defense from crumbling without their veteran captain. Even with all the offensive struggles, that should continue to be the case for the linebackers.
Vander Esch has only played in 65% of the Cowboys' defensive snaps, yet he's tied for ninth place in solo tackles in the entire league with 49. He's at 64 total tackles and two pass deflections and has been a magnet to opposing ball carriers every time he's been on the field.
He's the third highest graded rookie LB for Pro Football Focus. Most times, rookies find success like this by being rotational players or simply splitting snaps with other players. But as previously mentioned, Lee has already been out for a handful of games in 2018 and Vander Esch has lived up to the hype.
Simply put, Leighton's play as a rookie has already put Sean Lee's future on the Cowboys in question. With such an injury history and a two young studs ready to take over the reigns, Dallas could very well release Lee prior to the 2019 season.
Now granted, the race for Defensive Rookie of the Year will not be an easy one to win for Vander Esch. Fourth overall pick Denzel Ward has been an impressive cornerback for the Browns and fifth-overall pick Bradley Chubb has been one of the best pass rushers on Sundays. Not to mention the NFL leader in solo tackles, Colts' LB Darius Leonard.
Despite a great start to his season, the Cowboys young LB will have to play way better for his name to be called when the Defensive Rookie of the Year is revealed at the NFL Honors event in February. There are some pretty big names he has to catch up with in order to make this happen.
Dak Prescott/Carson Wentz Is No Rivalry, And There’s Only One Side To Blame
It feels like an eternity has passed since 2016, yet somehow, it was only 2 seasons ago.
The Dallas Cowboys were riding high, en route to a 13-3 season and an NFC East crown. They had drafted the league's leading rusher Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in the previous draft, and believed to have found their franchise quarterback over 100 picks later.
Up in Philadelphia things weren't going as smoothly, but they were certainly on the upswing. After trading up to select Carson Wentz in that same 2016 draft, the Eagles also believed they had their quarterback of the future.
Cowboys/Eagles. Dak/Wentz. A debate between two hated rivals which began in 2016 and seemed like it would go on for the next decade. It was almost too perfect.
Countless articles and blog posts were written about the birth of a quarterback rivalry which would span for the foreseeable future. Which team had the better draft haul in 2016? Which team was better set up for the future behind their young quarterback?
The two met for the first time on Sunday Night football back in 2016, and for much of the night neither was very good. They both looked like rookies, but at the end of the game Dak Prescott was the one who came through in the clutch, throwing the game winner in overtime to Jason Witten. The rivalry was born, and the Cowboys had the upper hand.
Fast forward to today and things are much, much different. Prescott and Wentz have only really played each other one other time since that first match-up, a game which the Eagles dominated and Dak Prescott threw 3 interceptions.
The other two games have been meaningless and ugly, two adjectives which could describe every Cowboys game the past calendar year.
Simply put, there is no rivalry. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys have not held up their end of the bargain since that first match-up in 2016. Prescott's play has fallen off considerably, as he has fallen victim to just about every piece of lazy analysis Eagles fans gave during his miraculous 2016 season.
Doug Pederson has become the anti-Jason Garrett, quite literally making his name off being aggressive on critical downs and refusing to punt on fourth and short in plus territory. The Eagles front office has become the anti-Cowboys, going after pricey trade targets and free agents to ensure they are making the most of their young quarterback's rookie contract window.
The Cowboys have failed just about everywhere that the Eagles have succeeded. And, Dak Prescott has failed just about everywhere Carson Wentz has excelled.
Maybe things will turn around this Sunday for Dallas, and if they are able to win, they'd still be very much alive in the division race. But all of that seems highly unlikely. There is no longer a Dak/Wentz rivalry. There's barely even a reason for Eagles fans to have Dak Prescott on their radar.
Let's hope Prescott and the Cowboys can begin to change things this Sunday.
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