Happy Dallas Cowboys Kickoff Day!
That’s right. Tonight there will be a football game played and the Dallas Cowboys will be a part of it. I just about destroyed my office because I was so excited! This must be how puppies feel when they see you after a long day.
The dog days of the offseason are over, as we will have some football to chew on after tonight. Today also puts us exactly ONE MONTH away from games that actually count! 31 days, baby. 31 days.
The current 31 of the Dallas Cowboys, Byron Jones, could probably leap that whole distance since he’s such an athletic phenomenon, but I’m going to help him out and do it for him. Throw on your Jumpman 31s with me as we stroll down memory lane in our Countdown To Kickoff Series with the Greatest 31 in Dallas Cowboys History.
The Following Players Have All Worn 31 For The Dallas Cowboys:
2002 was a fun time in the NFL. The NFL was creeping its way into the 21st century, the New England Patriots had just won the first Super Bowl of their would-be dynasty, and a band of misfits joined together to form the newest NFL franchise… the Houston Texans.
The draft saw five Miami Hurricanes taken in the first round – five! Obviously other schools were well represented, but on a bigger level so were conferences. The Big 12 had four first-round draftees, none of which would accomplish as much as the future Greatest 31 in Dallas Cowboys History.
The hard-hitting safety out of the University of Oklahoma was the first safety off of the board in 2002. He was paired with the newest member of the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor, Darren Woodson, in the defensive backfield.
With Williams at the free safety spot and Woodson at the strong, the Double W (say that out loud, it’s difficult) tandem made for quite the pair.
Thanks to the scheme that the Cowboys employed at the time they actually would interchange positions throughout the year, confusing their opponents.
Williams intercepted 5 passes, returning 2 of them for touchdowns, and forced 3 fumbles on his way to being the runner-up for Defensive Rookie of the Year (Julius Peppers of the Carolina Panthers won the award).
2003 saw Williams really channel his Superman persona. You see, “Superman” was a nickname given to Roy during his time in Norman thanks to his ability to patrol the line of scrimmage and fly to quarterbacks or short pass situations. He brought that energy to the Cowboys as they put together the league’s number one ranked defensive unit.
Williams found himself as a First-Team All-Pro and with a roster spot on the Pro Bowl squad. He had a great season individually, although not as great of a statistical year as his rookie season… adding to the reasoning that Roy should have won DROY the year before.
Roy Williams earned yet another nickname in 2004 when during a press conference Head Coach Bill Parcells said, in reference to his weight, that Williams was “a biscuit short of a linebacker.”
Biscuit earned some more notoriety after the 2004 season when the NFL instituted the “Roy Williams Rule.”
With an injured Darren Woodson, Williams had to play more coverage situations as opposed to down near the line of scrimmage.
He had to chase down more receivers and when tackling them accidentally brought a few down by the back of their shoulder pads.
This horse-collar tackling led to three serious injuries under the execution of Williams. One of the injuries sustained was a broken leg by a future teammate of Roy - Terrell Owens.
The NFL had seen enough of it and outlawed what many deemed the signature of Roy Williams.
The Superman Returns movie that was released in 2006 was absolute garbage, but it was freaking incredible in 2005. With the free agent signing of cornerback Anthony Henry the coverage was taken care of and Roy Williams was back on duty at the line of scrimmage. Hello, quarterbacks.
Williams recorded 2.5 sacks and 3 interceptions in that 2005 season, earning his third straight Pro Bowl appearance. He would stretch his Pro Bowl streak to five full seasons before it ultimately ended.
#31: Roy Williams
The hard hits and tough tackles executed by Roy Williams are still being felt by their recipients today. While tearing offenses, and people, apart Roy Williams put together an illustrious Dallas Cowboy career under the banner of 31 (he switched to 38 for his final season in Dallas in 2008).
410 tackles, 19 interceptions, and 3 defensive touchdowns came from Roy Williams. He made his presence well known whether it was at the line of scrimmage, in the defensive secondary, or on top of the ball carrier after he had walloped him. Roy Williams continues that level of intensity as he makes his presence known on our Countdown To Kickoff as Roy Williams is the Greatest 31 in Dallas Cowboys History.
Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 30 in Dallas Cowboys History is!
Are the Dallas Cowboys Distancing Themselves from HC Jason Garrett?
Training camp is always an exciting time for the Dallas Cowboys, with 2018's proceedings being no exception. A major difference this year is the hype carrying over to the Cowboys coaching staff, featuring newcomers at the positional level everywhere but running back, safety, and defensive tackle.
Experienced coaches like Kris Richard, Paul Alexander, and Sanjay Lal will have a big impact on the Cowboys development as a 9-7 team that's only gotten younger this offseason. Still likely in need of a playoff appearance to save the job of Head Coach Jason Garrett and his coordinators, one can't help but question Garrett's effectiveness with this year's team.
The Cowboys appearance on NFL Films' latest All or Nothing series offered Cowboys Nation a rare look inside this team's day-to-day activities, including Garrett's role as a motivator and leader to many coaches no longer with the team.
Garrett's walk through a proverbial hall of mirrors at The Star reflects much deeper though. Ultimately, it's the players that decide games on Sundays, and the Cowboys didn't have enough of their blue chip ones on the field together for 2017. Whether or not this changes in 2018, the Cowboys can do little to shake the truth that conditions must be perfect for Garrett to captain this team to success.
If having a future Hall of Fame tight end like Jason Witten around wasn't enough for Garrett, going all in on this team in their first year without not only Witten but Dez Bryant feels foolish.
This underdog status and youthful nature may very well bring the Cowboys back to their 2016 form. I've already mentioned mirrors however, and how about the smoke? Garrett's best year out of eight full seasons, that 13-3 campaign was surely not all 'smoke and mirrors', but it is now far enough in the past to expect improvement from the Cowboys head coach.
Garrett must overcome massive changes on the offense he once coordinated to see third-year Quarterback Dak Prescott put this team back in the playoff picture, or the Cowboys will only continue to change face even more dramatically for 2019.
Long gone are the innocent days of Garrett playing catch under the California sun with a rookie Prescott, who had no idea the impact he'd make on the entirety of this franchise so quickly. Now, the Cowboys may have to quickly separate this duo if looking to preserve a window of contention under Dak's rookie contract.
It truly will be fascinating to see the new points of emphasis this revamped Cowboys coaching staff brings to the team not only on the field in Oxnard but through their team meetings and into the regular season. As Garrett allows the likes of Richard and Lal to oversee important changes at CB/S and WR respectively, his overarching message of character, competition, and respect will still echo throughout the team.
Whether or not the slew of new players Garrett has to coach can inspire him to implement this message effectively, or if his days are numbered given the slack the Cowboys have already provided, is the most important story line for the Cowboys in 2018.
By most team's standards, a 9-7 season given the circumstances around the Cowboys a year ago is acceptable -- which it ultimately was for Dallas as they kept Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Rod Marinelli.
This team's shortcomings through a disappointing season was enough for the Cowboys to begin reevaluating the coaches below this trio though, leaving only their ninth year head coach to fall victim to the level of turnover NFL teams are experiencing on the fly right now.
The Cowboys roster has received this message loud and clear. Will Garrett's carry the same impetus, and will it truly matter for the 2018 season?
Is WR Cedrick Wilson the Player With Most to Gain in Training Camp?
Within the Dallas Cowboys' uncertain wide receiver core, is sixth-round pick Cedrick Wilson. Considered a draft steal by many, Wilson's name is often lost in the mix among Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley and third round rookie Michael Gallup. Just days away from the start of the 2018 training camp, Cedrick Wilson might be the player with the most to gain on the team.
Wilson comes from the Boise State Broncos, where he set the school record for receiving yards in a season with 1,511 last year. As a sixth-round rookie, the young 22-year old receiver has an uphill battle ahead of him to earn a spot on the Cowboys' 53-man roster.
It shouldn't come as a surprise if he emerges victorious in this battle, though.
You see, the lack of a #1 receiver has been one of the main story lines for the Cowboys and for good reason. Heading into the preseason, there is no clear-cut "#1." But even though there isn't a big name such as Dez Bryant, I'm sure we'll feel way better about the wide receivers once the season starts and the offense manages to sustain a good passing attack led by Dak Prescott.
Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup seem like the two front-runners for being the "X" receivers on offense, the position in which Wilson lined up at Boise State during his last year in college football. It's tough to imagine a sixth round rookie being the starting "X" receiver in his rookie season, but that doesn't mean he can't earn an important role at some point of the year.
In 2017, the offense struggled due to the receivers failing to create separation downfield. Wilson, although a raw route-runner, was a very dangerous vertical threat in Boise State and could be just that for the Cowboys down the road.
He needs to improve as a player, but with Sanjay Lal focusing hard at route-running with his receivers, Cedrick could become an important target for Dak earlier than expected.
In order to do so, the young wide receiver will have to find success in training camp. Wide receiver will undoubtedly be one of the most intriguing position battles on the team, with many young yet unproven talent.
There's too many receivers that will be fighting for a roster spot over the following weeks, so Cowboys Nation is bound to be disappointed with so many so-called "pet cats." One or two of these guys will be released and I bet it'll hurt, just as it happens every year.
In all seriousness, though, with his ability to stretch the field and be a vertical threat plus his experience as an "X" receiver, Cedrick Wilson might not only make the roster, but become a significant piece for this new-look offense in Dallas during his rookie season.
Will DeMarcus Lawrence Be Franchise Tagged Again in 2019?
The deadline for extending players under the franchise tag has come and gone last Monday, in a day in which none of the remaining tagged players reached an agreement with their respective teams. That includes Dallas Cowboy Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who's set to earn $17M in 2018.
The front office and the 26-year old defensive end failed to agree to a new contract before the season's start, but we saw that coming. After all, there was never a point in which we had the classic "X player and his team are close to a new deal" headline.
All of this makes the future of the Cowboys' promising "War Daddy" very uncertain. What lies a head of the player that put on an impressive show in 2018?
Since 2017 was Lawrence's breakout year, racking up 14.5 sacks trough the season, we have leaned towards the narrative of last season being his only good one. His performance last season was impressive and clearly his best one yet, but we tend to overlook 2015.
In his sophomore season, the only other year in which he has played 16 games, he finished the campaign with eight sacks and 35 tackles (55 combined). Really, the idea of 2017 being his only good year is not as accurate as we might think.
That being said, I think it's more likely that we see another great year from him this upcoming season than seeing a disappointing one. This, of course, will end up being the main thing that determines his future in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys front office really took a risk by tagging Lawrence this offseason. #90 was reportedly asking for an average of $17M per year in his long-term contract, which is Olivier Vernon kind of money.
So what if he puts a similar season or an even better one? Lawrence and his agent could end up asking for even more money. Perhaps in the 18 or 20 million dollars per year range. If that ends up being the case, the team will find itself in a tough position when trying to reach an agreement with its promising pass rusher.
Which leads us to the possibility of seeing the Cowboys franchise tagging Lawrence for the second consecutive season. Dallas will already be negotiating a contract extension with QB Dak Prescott, and things will get complicated. Even more if they decide to pursue a big-time free agent in March, such as Earl Thomas.
It would make sense, from a financial perspective, to hand the tag twice in consecutive years to D-Law. However, it shouldn't be the priority. If he plays like he did in 2017, the front office will be more than wise to extend him for good.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Cowboys will have approximately $50.6M. Seemingly, the team's cap woes will be over soon.
Fortunately, Lawrence didn't become a headache by threatening to holdout for offseason programs and even training camp. However, don't expect that to happen if he finds himself under the tag next year.
Careers in the NFL are short, so DeMarcus will surely want to get paid. If he keeps it up, he'll deserve it. As much as he deserves it, though, football is a cold business. If the Jones need to tag him, they will.
Do you think the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence in 2019?
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