I remember back in the day when Bill Parcells was H.C. in Dallas and the revolving door of has-been and never-was quarterbacks was in full swing, Tony Romo looked like just another Dallas QB that wouldn't amount to anything. Then he took over one week against the Giants and came out swinging...
The truth is, we don't know how much longer we can look forward to seeing Romo dazzle us (and opposing defenses) each Sunday, as Inside The Star newcomer Nick Cocchiaro succinctly stated earlier today in his article, Tony Romo: The Harsh Reality I Had To Come To Terms With. Every season, every game brings him closer to the day when he hangs it up for good, and that terrifies me, me and a whole lot of other Cowboys loyalists holding their breath each time he gets hit.
While I have firmly believed the Cowboys should address the quarterback position via the draft... I always thought it would be so Romo could train the young player for a seamless transition in a couple of years. ~ Nick Cocchiaro, InsideTheStar.com
The Cowboys need to plan ahead for something like this. The 'Boys have been through the recycling bin time and time again and come up with bupkis for their efforts.
Kellen Moore, while oddly a huge fan favorite, is not the future of this team. He's barely even a footnote on the 2015 season, let alone the franchise as a whole. His role as a backup isn't even secure, and fans who believe he can somehow finagle a starting gig with the Cowboys are in denial. Plain and simple.
Next season will feature #9 as the starter at QB; there is no doubt about this. The optimism we held throughout the 2015 offseason for a fresh, rested back will be extended, carried over through the 2016 offseason. Romo will continue to proclaim his readiness to play football in 2016 and the offensive scheme and draft strategy will still center around him being the quarterback. Not that there's much contention over that fact, but still.
The pungent aftertaste of a Cowboys team missing its leader is still with us all. Some have hopped on the Moore bandwagon and maintain their stance that the backup spot will be in his capable hands next season, but the team has made it pretty clear that their search for a workable backup is still ongoing, even now.
But whether Kellen Moore or some other veteran is backing up Romo in 2016 is irrelevant. It's not an answer, but merely bides time.
Staff Writers Sean Martin and RJ Ochoa debated the merits of drafting a QB with the #4 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft (Points for and Points against), and both made good arguments. But considering the history of the position since Troy Aikman retired should give us all pause.
Between Troy Aikman and Tony Romo as starters, we saw one of the worst collections of quarterbacks this league should never see again. In order; Rodney Peete, Quincy Carter, Anthony Wright, Clint Stoerner, Ryan Leaf, Chad Hutchinson, Vinny Testaverde, Drew Henson, Drew Bledsoe, Kurt Bollinger, Stephen McGee, Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore. That list includes backups who have started. 14 in all, since Aikman retired.
The scariest thing about that is knowing that Troy Aikman didn't just start playing like crap one day, or even one season; it was a gradual decline that everyone saw coming. Yet the Cowboys front office at the time did little to prepare for it.
Ryan Leaf, Rodney Peete, and mid-to-late 2nd-round-pick Quincy Carter were the best they could come up with. None of whom have seen any real action elsewhere since the Cowboys moved on.
And we want to try that again? Absolutely! Call it for what it is; the Cowboys made some horrible draft selections when trying to find a QB after Aikman. And it started a dumpster fire full of 6-10 and 5-11 seasons that we had to endure. But there are some very key differences between the late 90s and early 00s Cowboys and this current one; namely, Stephen Jones, Will McClay, Jason Garrett, and Tony Romo. Yes, Tony Romo is included in that list.
Go back and watch any game from 2015 where Romo wasn't on the field taking snaps and look at where he was, what he was doing. He was on the sidelines coaching up the quarterback in the game, he had a headset on and his Microsoft Surface Pro reviewing plays and communicating with coaches about what was happening on the field; that man was more than just an injured player in 2015. He was an assistant coach doing everything he could to help his team win.
So yeah, he's on the list, because his input on the QBs of this 2016 draft class will be represented in the War Room come April.
They say it's a weak draft class for quarterbacks, 2016, but there are three front-runners out there right now: Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch, and Carson Wentz. If you're not familiar with them, check out Senior Analyst Ryan Ratty's film review of each one by click on their names. Given the situation the Cleveland Browns are (always) in at the QB position, and the hiring of a new head coach for 2016, you can likely expect them to take one of either Goff or Lynch ahead of the Cowboys.
There is still a lot to be determined before the draft, as quarterback prospects are rarely graded by on-field performance alone, but two or more of those guys are going to be around at #4 and one may possibly be the best player available on the Cowboys draft board. And people are saying we shouldn't take one of them? Nah. Can't do it.
I can't sit by and watch another painful year of Weeden, Cassel and Moore under center, and I doubt the Cowboys can either. Drafting a QB is a must in 2016.
It's still unclear if the Cowboys are even considering doing that with a top-5 pick, but there's good reason to believe they might. The highest of which being that it's a chance to bring in a very talented guy to learn from Tony Romo, Jason Garrett, and Wade Wilson; some of the best people in the world of professional quarterbacks. And with Will "The Architect" McClay leading the talent evaluations, it's a no-brainer.
It's time for the front office to trust their guys to do their jobs and make the smart, tough choices for the long-term health of this franchise, because Tony Romo isn't going to be around forever.
What Are Realistic Expectations for Cowboys LB Sean Lee?
For many years, Linebacker Sean Lee has been the face of the Dallas Cowboys defense. However, that's quickly changing. The young duo consisting of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have taken over the linebacker position by dominating the field from sideline to sideline with their explosive talent. As a rookie, Vander Esch filled in for Lee at the weak linebacker position when the veteran went down injured and never gave the job back.
Currently, uncertainty surrounds Sean Lee, who took a pay cut earlier in the year to stay with the franchise he's played for since the beginning of his professional career in 2010. What will his role be in a young fueled defense in the upcoming season?
As we've all been able to see throughout his career, Sean Lee is one of the best in the game when he's healthy. Unfortunately, that's not very often. His injury proneness led him to a position change years ago, when he was moved from the MIKE (middle linebacker) to the WILL (weak side linebacker) position. Now, those two spots are taken care of.
Where does this leaves Lee? The main question is whether or not he'll move to the strong side. Many question if this would be the correct call, given that he could be at even more risk of suffering yet another injury in a position that leads to more contact. The other option would be for him to be Vander Esch's backup at WILL.
Lately, it seems like the Cowboys will indeed move him to the strong-side. After all, it only makes sense to have your best three players on the field at the same time. On minicamp, the Cowboys have been playing the veteran at SAM, letting him get reps and grow comfortable in what seems to be his new job.
But even if Sean Lee starts lining up on the strong side, what can we expect from him next season? The way the NFL offenses operate now leads to teams sending their nickel packages to the field more often than not. For the Cowboys 4-3 defense, that means three cornerbacks, two linebackers. When that's the case, it will be Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith who we see out there, not Lee.
Damien Wilson was the team's "starter" on the strong side, and he only managed to get 286 snaps, according to Pro Football Reference. That represents 28% of the team's total snaps. Even if Sean Lee becomes the starting strong side linebacker, we likely won't be seeing him as much.
Even still, I'd expect Sean Lee's experience to play a big factor when the team needs Jaylon Smith or Leighton Vander Esch to catch their breath. Lee could jump in and play a few snaps at any LB spot and do a good job at it.
After all, we can't forget that despite his injuries, Lee is a remarkable player on defense. He should still be one of the smartest linebackers with extraordinary instincts. There's a reason why, before Vander Esch arrived to America's Team, the defense crumbled without him. Last year, despite losing the starting gig, Lee still had 118 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and an interception. The longtime veteran can still play.
It will be odd for Cowboys Nation to watch Lee on a completely new role. It's also hard to put the finger on what his production will look like at the end of the year. If there's one thing we know though, is that the veteran will work hard every practice trying to get the most playing time he can. We should be excited about the team's top three linebackers.
Dak Prescott Impresses, Draws Compliments All Minicamp Long
Dak Prescott stood before the media Thursday in a Stetson Cowboy hat, answering questions about his upcoming contract extension.
“I’ve got my cowboy hat on, so I’m a Cowboy, we’ll say that.”
Prescott has cemented himself as the franchise quarterback of America's Team, and now it's time for the franchise to pay him like it. Set to earn roughly $34 million per year (according to recent rumors/reports), Prescott is going to be a very rich and comfortable man in the near future.
But, for now, he still plays under his fourth round rookie contract. You wouldn't be able to tell by watching him on the field, however. Though it was just minicamp, Prescott was impressive as ever over the last couple weeks of practice, earning praise from all levels within the organization.
Veteran Jason Witten complimented both Prescott's anticipation and accuracy, saying his throws have been "off the charts" at minicamp. Prescott himself said that this is the best he's felt since he's entered the league, and it certainly makes sense for this to be the case.
"Is it three years under my belt or just seeing defenses a whole lot more clear, being quicker and faster in everything I want to do, having great teammates around me? Who really knows the answer, but I feel great. I feel confident, and my teammates do, as well.” - Prescott to DallasCowboys.com
If Prescott was ever going to be comfortable, hungry, and ready to go, this is likely the time that it would happen. He has three relatively successful seasons under his belt, and ended 2018 on the best stretch of his career. He is the unquestioned starting quarterback for this team, and has the backing of every key decision maker in the building.
Prescott now has an offensive coordinator who he has not only worked closely with (in some capacity) since he entered the league in 2016, but is also being lauded for his creativity as an offensive mastermind. His quarterbacks coach, Jon Kitna, has been receiving similar praise for how he can coach up Prescott and get his footwork consistent, to help him "throw it through a Fruit Loop."
The time is now for Dak Prescott, and it's encouraging to see how he is responding to this increased pressure and responsibility. Then again we should have no doubt that he will respond positively, as he as throughout his entire young career.
Whenever faced with adversity, Prescott has answered the bell. Now he has all the supporters he needs, and just needs to prove them right.
Does RB Ezekiel Elliott Have A Chance At NFL MVP?
Who is the Cowboys best player?
As a running back, it's quite possible that Elliott is both the best of that bunch and the least important to the team's overall success. NFL.com's Adam Schein disagrees with the latter statement, however, placing Ezekiel Elliott among his top ten contenders for 2019 NFL MVP.
"I think the Cowboys are going to challenge for the Super Bowl in 2019 -- and I think Zeke fuels this team. When Elliott runs for 95-plus yards, the Cowboys are 19-4; when he falls below that benchmark, they're 9-8." - Adam Schein
Schein's prediction will no doubt make Cowboys Nation swoon, but does Elliott really have the opportunity to compete for an MVP award?
For one, this would require the Cowboys be among the best teams in the league this season. It's quite possible, as they did win 10 regular season and 1 playoff game a year ago, but it will have to happen once again for Elliott to be considered.
Next, Ezekiel Elliott would have to put up incredible numbers. Well, it's safe to assume this will likely be the case if condition one is met. Elliott is going to get a lot of opportunities to touch the ball each game, and finding himself among the league's rushing leaders has never been an issue for the young running back. Especially if the team has a lead and is running the ball to kill clock.
Even if both these conditions prove true, though, Elliott will still have trouble getting himself in the real MVP discussion. These awards tend to go to certain positions, and running back is not among that list. If Dallas has such a successful 2019, and their offense is clicking, it's more likely Dak Prescott will be the one contending for that MVP honor.
I know to some it sounds crazy, but Prescott will likely need to be closer to MVP level than Elliott if the Cowboys are to contend in the way Adam Schein suggests in his article.
So, likely, Schein should have named Prescott among his top ten MVP contenders, not Elliott.
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