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.
Tony Pollard, Supporting Cast or a Co-lead with Ezekiel Elliott?
Since the Dallas Cowboys drafted Running Back Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in the first-round of the 2016 NFL Draft he's been the star of the show. Any of their other offensive weapons have been nothing more than supporting cast the past three years, but rookie RB/WR Tony Pollard could prove to be more than just supporting cast and become more of a co-lead in Zeke's show.
Suggesting Tony Pollard has a chance to be more than just supporting cast with Ezekiel Elliott is a lot to put on a rookies shoulders, but that's the kind of hype he's receiving already. He hasn't even put on the pads yet with the Dallas Cowboys, but he's already receiving Alvin Kamara type comparisons due to the versatility he's expected to bring with him to the NFL.
Living up to those Alvin Kamara comparisons might be even more difficult than becoming anything more than just an extra behind Zeke anytime soon, but it's doable. After all, Kamara immediately stepped in as a rookie and became a costar with Mark Ingram in New Orleans. It's certainly feasible to think Pollard can do the same.
There's of course only one problem with this way of thinking. Mark Ingram is no Ezekiel Elliott. And, no RB on the depth chart behind Zeke the last three years has been good enough to cut into #21's heavy workload. Is the hype surrounding Tony Pollard justified? Is he talented enough to cut into Zeke's playing time?
Those are some really big questions we don't have an answer to as of yet. Training camp could help determine the type of role Tony Pollard will have with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and beyond, but even that can be thrown out the window once games start to matter in the regular season.
Personally, I think Tony Pollard will be part of a supporting cast behind Ezekiel Elliott this year. I just don't think he's ready to step in and costar with Zeke just yet. I think he will be more of a comedic relief that will be used from time to time to keep things interesting. That's not necessarily a bad thing though considering his versatility to contribute in the running or passing game.
In time though, Pollard could prove worthy of an increase in playing time and become more of a co-lead with No. 21. It may very well be in his rookie season, but he's really going to have to prove himself and that will need to start this week when the Dallas Cowboys kick off their training camp in Oxnard, California.
What do you think? Is Tony Pollard supporting cast or a co-lead with Zeke?
Randy Gregory can Make the Perimeter Pass Rush Extremely Formidable
Randy Gregory showed flashes last season of the potential he has as a pass rusher. Even though he only managed one start he did see action in 14 games. Had registered 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, 7 tackles for loss and 15 hits on the quarterback. That's very good production with limited opportunities. Now, this sets up the Dallas Cowboys on the edge getting to the quarterback, and here's how.
The Cowboys acquired Defensive End Robert Quinn via trade from the Dolphins back in March. He is set to start at right defensive end opposite All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence. Gregory, who lines up on the right side as well, can potentially make said side a huge problem for offenses on 2019.
Let's just take a typical season from Quinn which is between 8-9 sacks. If Gregory can give at minimum what he did last season, that's around 15 sacks just between the two of them alone. Now, as we all know, Lawrence can be penciled in for double-digit sacks routinely at this point. So given this information that's a potential 25-30 sacks just from these three players. This is without including guys such as Taco Charlton, Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder, and rookies Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks (assuming they make the final roster).
Why is Gregory's potential impact so important? For me, it's simply where he lines up at defensive end, on the right side. Most quarterbacks are right-handed, which means when they drop back to pass they face left side defensive ends, with their backs to defensive ends coming off the right side. If you can consistently pressure a quarterback from his blindside the opportunities for sacks and fumbles increase. Regardless of how skilled a quarterback is you can't avoid what you can't see.
Of course, this all depends on what the NFL does regarding the reinstatement of Gregory. He was suspended indefinitely in February for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, a situation he is all too familiar with. My guess is Gregory and the Cowboys will ask for a conditional reinstatement like he was given by the NFL in 2018. What this would do is allow Gregory to participate in meetings and condition work until he's a full participant. He is set to apply for that reinstatement within the next few days.
The only thing Randy Gregory can do now is play the waiting game. The league is currently considering the possibility of softening their stance on marijuana use. If they are serious about it I can see Gregory getting reinstated even if it's on a conditional basis. If this is granted the Cowboys will be getting big-time pressure off the edge with Lawrence, Quinn, and Gregory in 2019.
CB Jourdan Lewis Getting Ready For Bounce-Back 2019 Season
For a third round pick, cornerback Jourdan Lewis sure did come to Dallas with his fair share of hype.
In fact, much of Cowboys Nation was more excited about Lewis joining the Cowboys than they were about either of the team's first two selections in that same draft, Taco Charlton and Chidobe Awuzie. But while Awuzie has soared to starting cornerback levels with Dallas during his first two seasons, Jourdan Lewis has been forced to take a back seat.
After a promising rookie season, Jourdan Lewis didn't get much playing time at cornerback in 2018. Anthony Brown took over as the starting slot corner, while Byron Jones and Awuzie manned the outside. This left Lewis as the odd man out, despite what many consider to be impressive cover skills.
Lewis is not allowing this down season to eat away at him too much, though. While speaking with the media last week at SportsCon in Dallas, Lewis gave his thoughts on how his year spent behind the other young Cowboys corners is only fueling him for the future.
"As a competitor it's always tough, especially as a rookie and you're playing all of the time. It's definitely when you take a step back it humbles you. Sometimes you gotta understand that you have to wait your turn and work on your craft. Understand that you always have to stay a professional no matter your situation. And that's what I learned last year."
Considered undersized by the standards typically used by Cowboys secondary coach Kris Richard, some have argued that Lewis was never given a fair shot to earn playing time once Richard took over in 2018. Whether or not this is true can't ever be said for sure, and the level of play Anthony Brown exhibited from the slot in 2018 didn't leave much room for substitutions either.
Still, Jourdan Lewis says he appreciates that time he spent on the bench, and he hopes that it will only drive him towards bigger and better things down the road.
"I appreciate the time that I sat last year honestly...Because it made me a better player, maybe a better person honestly."
The Cowboys cornerback situation didn't get any less crowded this offseason. Not only is Dallas bringing back all three of the aforementioned starters from a year ago, but they also drafted Miami's Michael Jackson in the fifth round of the 2019 draft.
That cornerback room is full of talent. Not only does this create a luxury for the Cowboys at one of the league's most important positions, but it also breeds immense competition between the corners come training camp.
Which, if you didn't know, begins on July 26th.
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