For all the fines that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hands out, the fact that no one was penalized for Monday night's tilt between the Giants and Vikings is shocking. Neither team managed to tally over 300 yards, there were four turnovers between them, and the star of the game was arguably Giants RB Peyton Hillis...remember the guy who was on the cover of Madden 12? In a game so bad that announcer Mike Tirico flat out said during the 3rd quarter "This is a terrible quarter of football", the Vikings had Josh Freeman, the same Josh Freeman who has completed just 42 percent of his passes this year, throw that ball 53 times, while Adrian Peterson only got 14 carries. I'm sure the fact that Minnesota lost 23-7 had nothing to with that, though.
Statistically, the Giants-Vikings game was the 2nd worst game in the illustrious history of Monday Night Football. According to website Awful Announcing, with a minimum of four games into the season, the two teams had the 2nd lowest combined win percentage of Monday Night opponents coming into the game in the program's history. With the Vikes at 1-4 and the Giants at 0-6, their combined 1-10 mark yielded an .091 win percentage.
Of course, that begs the question...what was the lowest? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 2001 Week 5 tilt between the Washington Redskins and your Dallas Cowboys.
If the Dallas Cowboys season by season records were Robert DeNiro's filmography, the 2001 season would basically be Little Fockers. Sure Emmitt Smith was still around, but let's just say when he compared his situation to "a diamond surrounded by trash", he might've had a point. Say what you will about the Dave Campo Cowboys, but at least they were consistent. Campo lasted three years at Valley Ranch and ended each one with an identical 5-11 record. Most, if not all, of the Cowboys faithful knew it was going to be a rebuilding year, but this was just sad. Troy Aikman's retirement opened the door for the next great Cowboys quarterback, who turned out to be....Quincy Carter. A second round pick out of Georgia, Carter's first start was a 9-19, 34 yard, 2 INT performance in Dallas's opening 10-6 loss to Tampa Bay...and things didn't get better. Carter was actually injured for the Boys first prime time game of the year, and quarterback duties went to...Anthony Wright. Wright was actually coming off a solid performance during the previous week's 28-21 loss to Oakland (14-22, 126 yards, 2 TD's), but he eventually became one of the many names between Aikman and Tony Romo. Sandwiched between the Tampa and Oakland losses were embarrassing defeats to San Diego (32-21) and Philadelphia (40-18).
Washington wasn't much better. To say new coach Marty Schottenheimer did not get off to a good start in DC would be an understatement to say the least. The Redskins, too, started 0-4, but their defeats were even uglier than Dallas's. Their closest game had been a 23-9 loss to the Giants the week before. Prior to that, San Diego, Green Bay, and Kansas City had blown out the Redskins by a combined score of 112-16. While they had some good players in RB Stephen Davis, TE Stephen Alexander and CB Champ Bailey, all of whom made the Pro Bowl (in contrast, Dallas only sent legendary OL Larry Allen to the Pro Bowl), they were done in by an inconsistent defense and the perpetually mediocre Tony Banks at QB.
Week 5 of the 2001 season was filled with entertaining games. A young quarterback making his 3rd career start named Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to a 29-26 overtime win over San Diego. The St Louis Rams, the eventual NFC champion, survived a 15-14 scare from the New York Giants. In that week's Sunday nighter, Rich Gannon's Oakland Raiders topped Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts 23-18 (yes, the Raiders used to play on Sunday night!). The same could not be said about the Monday night tilt between the two 0-4 teams.
As predicted, the game was awful as projected, if not worse. The Washington offense, in particular, resembled Georgetown football more than they did a an actual NFL franchise, especially a proud one like the Redskins. Washington had 10 drives in the game. Seven of the first eight ended in Bryan Barker punts, and the one outlier in that group was a missed 44 yard field goal by K Brett Conway. Dallas's offense at least moved the ball, albeit clumsily. The five first half Cowboys possessions included two Micah Knorr punts, a Wright interception to CB Fred Smoot in Washington territory (the Redskins would go three-and-out on the subsequent drive), and a pair of field goal attempts by K Tim Seder, the second of which sailed through the uprights from 28 yards out, giving the Cowboys the halftime advantage in a 3-0 barnburner. The game's biggest highlight probably occurred during the halftime session, as a Tom Landry statue was unveiled at midfield, one that would stand outside of Texas Stadium until its closing in 2008, and currently stands outside of AT&T Stadium.
While the 3rd quarter consisted of five punts between the two teams, the 4th quarter actually became entertaining. After the quarter began on another Seder miss, this one from 52 yards out, Washington took advantage of the good field position. Starting on their own 42, the Redskins used four consecutive Davis runs, the longest going for 19 yards, to the Dallas 31 where Banks found WR Michael Westbrook to score the game's first touchdown.
The Cowboys drove back into Washington territory, led by Emmitt's 24 yard run, but were forced to settle for another field goal attempt, one that Seder actually made to make it 7-6 with 6:45 to go. As the Redskins got the ball back, they seemed destined to run out the clock, with Davis leading the way with several short but time consuming runs. As they drove to the Dallas 43, Davis picked up another first down, but was stripped of the ball by rookie DT John Nix, a 7th round pick out of Southern Miss. The ball was recovered by Greg Ellis at the Dallas 33, and the stage was set for late game heroics. The Cowboys quickly got into Redskins territory, courtesy of two Wright passes to Darrin Chiaverini and Raghib Ismail of 15 and 18 yards, respectively. A few more Smith runs set up Seder for the win, and he nailed the field goal from 26 yards out to mercifully end the game and give the Cowboys a 9-7 victory. Smith and Davis finished the game with 107 and 99 yards, respectively. In the weeks following the debacle, the Redskins, probably furious they were defeated by a Cowboys team as awful as this, won their next five games and 8 of their final 11 overall to finish 8-8, though one of those loses was to the Cowboys at home on December 2.
So, Giants fans, Vikings fans, and any football fan in general who braved Monday night's dud, just remember that even though you had it bad, you didn't have it as bad as Cowboys and Redskins fans that fateful October night. Whereas you saw Eli Manning and Josh Freeman struggle, we saw Anthony Wright and Tony Banks do the same. Just as a legend like Emmitt Smith was wasted on the 2001 Cowboys, Adrian Peterson suffers the same fate with the 2013 Vikings. So just remember, as eyeball gouging as that game was...and trust me it was awful...never forget the souls who glued their eyes to this matchup that no one should ever speak of again.
Unless you're talking about this column. In that case, feel free to discuss it however you'd like.
2018 In Review: Byron Jones Emerges As CB1
Heading into the 2018 season Byron Jones was being asked to prove himself. The former first round pick had fallen out of the coaches' good graces during his third season, though many of his struggles could be attributed to those very coaches which were then questioning his ability.
Being asked to play out of position, or at least in a spot which did not maximize his natural ability, Jones struggled in 2017. Too often he was playing in the box as a safety where his lack of physicality was exposed by the opponent's run game. This was mostly due to the coaching staff falling in love with his tight-end-erasing ability in man coverage, but backfired when overused as a safety.
Once hired the following offseason, Kris Richard and company decided to move Byron Jones to cornerback full time, allowing him to utilize his excellent coverage skills and athletic ability to the fullest, rather than putting him at a disadvantage in the box.
The results? Well, Jones had one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football, earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his young career.
Byron Jones had a dominant season for Dallas
Pro Football Focus graded Jones as the sixth best cornerback in all of football last season, allowing just 0.79 yards per coverage snap. Despite not having an interception on the season, Jones still earned national recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league.
Down the stretch of the season, Chidobe Awuzie started to play up to the level which fans had hoped for during the preseason. He had been sticky in coverage most of the year, but now he was making plays on the ball at a much better rate, forcing incompletions. This led to an increase in targets to Jones' side, and though the increase resulted in more catches given up by the number one cornerback, I don't think Jones' play faltered as much as some will have you believe.
The fact is, when you get targeted more you are bound to give up more catches and yards. The key is to force them into contested catches, and make things as difficult for the receiver as possible when targeted.
Byron Jones continued to do this all season long, and fans should be excited for the next step of his growth in 2019.
Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial
Por muchos años, el tema del tope salarial ha sido un tema sensible para los Dallas Cowboys. Entre dinero muerto y otros problemas, el equipo ha tenido una situación delicada en este aspecto. Sin embargo, para la temporada del 2019 tienen más espacio de lo que estamos acostumbrados.
Según Over The Cap, los Cowboys tendrán aproximadamente 48 millones de dólares disponibles en 2019. Es importante recalcar que este número no es definitivo y puede cambiar. Año tras año, esta administración ha sido aficionada de reestructurar los contratos de ciertos veteranos para liberar espacio salarial constantemente. Además de esto, hay varios jugadores bajo contrato que el equipo podría decidir cortar para liberar aún más dinero.
Al ver sólo 48 millones disponibles, es complicado imaginar un escenario en que el equipo logre satisfacer todos sus objetivos. Hay bastantes candidatos a grandes extensiones en el equipo, principalmente dos jugadores. En una liga en la que quarterback es la posición más importante, la segunda más importante podría ser la del caza cabezas, cuyo objetivo es ir tras el quarterback contrario.
Pues en Dallas, hoy dos jugadores en estas posiciones que hay que extender. El más urgente sin duda es el defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence se puso el jersey del equipo cuando este lo designó a jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia. Afortunadamente, el atleta de 26 años la hizo de soldado y jugó sin amenazar con faltar a entrenamientos ni pretemporada.
Lo que sí comentó es que no pasaría por lo mismo en 2019. Ahora, el momento está aquí y es tiempo de que los Cowboys lo extiendan. El valor de Lawrence es difícil de predecir, pero es bastante seguro que se acercará a los números de Khalil Mack. Mack hizo historia ganando un contrato que en promedio gana 23.5 millones al año. Si bien no anticiparía que lo supere, la cifra estará cerca al contrato del defensivo de los Chicago Bears.
Además está Dak Prescott, cuyo contrato probablemente estará por encima de los 25 millones anuales. Son contratos caros, pero son piezas fundamentales para el equipo. Definitivamente se les tiene que pagar a ambos. Son pilares que año tras año buscan equipos en toda la NFL.
Además de esto, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley y más podrían tener un impacto en el tope salarial. Algunos buscan un contrato nuevo, otros una extensión. Pero honestamente, me parece que habrá más espacio en el tope salarial de lo que pensamos. Sólo es cuestión de tiempo para que los Cowboys comiencen a reestructurar a sus veteranos para ahorrarse unos cuantos millones para utilizar en agencia libre.
Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford entre otros pueden ser buenas opciones para comenzar este proceso. Antes era Jason Witten uno de los candidatos favoritos para este proceso, pero él ya se encuentra comentando partidos para ESPN. En Inside The Star, continuaremos actualizándote con contenido al día de los Dallas Cowboys.
Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?
Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.
The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.
The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.
Lock Down the Big Guns
Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.
Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.
As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.
Adding New Talent
One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.
Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.
If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.
Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.
Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.
The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.
As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.
Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.
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