Once again through the first 2 weeks of December the Dallas Cowboys were being haunted by December’s past. Fans and media alike had one phrase circling through their minds, “Here we go again”. This time however, things would be different.
As soon as the final second ticked off the clock, with the loss at home to the San Diego Chargers Sunday a week ago, Cowboys coaches, players, and front office personnel were enveloped by a storm of fans and media, calling for the dismissal of Wade Phillips, and Jason Garrett. No one and I do mean no one, gave this team a chance to knock off the “unbeatable” Saints.
Quietly however, a transformation had begun to take shape inside the locker room. That transformation was ignited, not by coaches, or by fans, or even by the owner, no this transformation was ignited by the two “Leaders” of this football team, Tony Romo and DeMarcus Ware.
The fans of the Dallas Cowboys have been screaming for several years for certain players to “Step Up” and impose their will on this football team, well guess what people? That is exactly what took place in New Orleans on Saturday night.
Coming into Saturday nights match up, the Saints offense had been lights out. In their previous 15 possessions the potent Saints offense had punted only once, yes one time! The Saints were an unstoppable machine.
In the Cowboys previous game against the Chargers, they were dealt a blow that could have been disastrous. Star outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware while trying to make a tackle, took an awkward hit to the head, and dropped him to the carpet. While Ware lay lifeless on the Cowboys Stadium floor, we all watched in horror. The next day we all heard that he would be okay, but that we should prepare ourselves for a trip to New Orleans without him.
Later in the week rumors began to circulate that the Cowboys defensive heartbeat may have a chance to play against the Saints, was this merely a stunt to keep the fans from jumping off the nearest bridge? Was this Jerry and Wade’s way of keeping the team together? Or was this simply DeMarcus Ware refusing to sit by and watch his comrades go into battle without him?
We the fans may never know, just exactly what took place, but I believe that Ware viewed this scenario like this; this is our time to prove ourselves and I will not sit idly by and let the moment slip past us. This was the beginning, this was the flame that ignited the blaze.
The Cowboys past December failures have placed upon the shoulders of one man, whether they should have been or not is debatable, but Tony Romo received the blame none the less. People have questioned his commitment, leadership skills, and decision making. They have even brought his personal life into it as a reason for the team’s failures. Tony however, has never wavered in his beliefs of himself and of his team; he has taken the abuse in stride.
The Cowboy offense has been very good and very bad, many times all of that in the same afternoon. I and many of you have questioned the game plans, play calls, who should start and who should get more carries, not because we know any better but because we believed that this team could be better than it was.
There has been something slightly off about this years Cowboy offense, not personnel wise or anything like that, there was just something missing. The team seemed to be unable to have the energy level and fierceness, to start a game at full speed to let their opponent understand that the Cowboys were in charge, and there is nothing you can do about it.
We have heard Tony Romo say many times that “individual things are not important” he does not care how many yards he throws for or how many touchdowns he has, he simply wants to win.
From the opening kick off Dallas was ready and New Orleans was not prepared for what the Cowboys had in store for them.
All week long we told of the doom that was in store for our boys. We were told how great Greg Williams was, and how he had transformed the Saints defense into this turnover creating machine, and how they would force Romo into making poor decisions. We were told of the great Drew Brees and the dynamic receiving corps. that surrounds him, and how the Cowboys secondary simply would not hold up to the pressure.
Tony Romo and the Cowboys offense took their first two possessions the length of the field for touchdowns, and put the superdome crowd in their seats. The blaze that had been started by Ware was now raging out of control, a blaze so big not even the waters that once flooded the streets of New Orleans could have contained it.
The Dallas Cowboys were now in position to pull off the unthinkable, they had the unblemished Saints on the ropes, but like any good team they were not going to just walk off into the night without one last fight. The Saints began to scratch and claw their way back into the game behind their MVP candidate Drew Brees. The ultimate stage was now set for not one, but both of the Cowboys leaders to either, (a) let another game slip through their hands or (b) stand up to the challenge.
After the Saints had brought themselves to within seven points of the boys, Tony Romo took the huddle and looked his mates in the eye and said follow me. Twice in the Cowboys final offensive drive they looked as if things would stall, but each time Romo stepped up and made a play to keep things rolling, when others were crumbling to the pressure he simply did things himself.
Tony drove his team 74 yards and put them in position for a chip shot field goal to ice the game, only to have the kicker clank it off the upright. Now there was nothing more he could do, except stand on the sidelines watch, and all of us had that disgusting December slogan run through our minds once again “Here we go again”.
Then with just seconds left in the game and the Saints driving, the man who just one week earlier had been driven off the field in an ambulance, simply looked across the line at his opponent and said, not this time, not today. We all have seen the explosiveness, and power that is DeMarcus Ware but never like this. Like something out the movies DeMarcus launched himself at the snap of the ball, with so much power that when he made contact with Jermond Bushrod it launched the Saints tackle into the air, and in a flash Drew Brees was enveloped, and the ball he once held was now rolling on the Superdome floor.
The 2009-10 Dallas Cowboy season has been a roller coaster ride, was this, the game that they needed to get them to believe enough in themselves to become the team they aspire to be? Or was this just one special night? We do not know the answer to these questions yet, but at least for now, we can be proud of this team, and of what they accomplished. No longer should they be subject to statements like these,
The Dallas Cowboys have zero chance!
Connor Williams Working as Left Tackle in Cowboys Practice
Second-year guard Connor Williams has been working as the Cowboys' left tackle during practice this week. While this isn't the plan for him in 2019, it does provide a glimpse into potential uses for Williams down the road and how Dallas might handle future offensive line moves.
Using Connor at LT this week has been a matter of necessity. The top players on that depth chart, Tyron Smith and Cameron Fleming, were not participating for other reasons.
With Tyron Smith getting a vet day and Cam Fleming not practicing because of a bruised shin, Connor Williams worked at left tackle Wednesday. He said it was his first left tackle snaps since he was at Texas. He said it felt like riding a bike after a little bit.
Indeed, Williams spent three years at left tackle in college. It was the last position he'd played before being drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft by Dallas, who immediately moved him to guard.
Connor started 10 of 13 games at guard last season. He played mostly on the left side, starting Weeks 1-9, before getting injured. Xavier Su'a-Filo played well enough in his absence that Williams didn't get the starting job back when he was healthy. However, when Zack Martin had to miss a few games at the end of the year, Connor started a right guard for those two weeks.
When Martin returned for the playoffs, Williams was back as the starting left guard in both postseason games.
Tyron Smith and Cam Fleming will be your starter and backup at left tackle next year. But for 2020 and beyond, Connor Williams' ability to play tackle creates some interesting possibilities.
La'el Collins will be an unrestricted free agent next year. Fleming will still have one year left on his deal and Dallas just spent a third-round pick on the versatile Connor McGovern. Throw in that Williams can play some tackle, and it seems as if they're covering bases for Collins eventual departure.
We could very well see a starting lineup in 2020 with McGovern at LG and Williams at RT. Another possibility is that Fleming starts at RT and Williams stays at guard, but can be moved to tackle if needed.
If nothing else, it's nice to know that Dallas has options. We may never see Connor Williams play a regular season snap at left tackle, but versatility is a great asset. It can greatly increase a player's value, and give his team some leverage and flexibility in roster management.
For the Cowboys, it does make you wonder what the future holds for the offensive line.
Undrafted WR Jon’Vea Johnson Turning Heads at Cowboys OTAs
Former Toledo Wide Receiver didn't receive an invite to the 2019 NFL Combine or hear his name called in any of the seven rounds at this year's NFL Draft, but that doesn't mean he doesn't possess the talent to make someone's roster in the league. After signing with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent, he's hoping he's found that team and his forever home.
The journey for Jon'Vea Johnson to earn one of those coveted final 53-man roster spots with the Dallas Cowboys is going to be a long one. This year's roster is deep from top to bottom, which means making it as an undrafted free agent is going to be extremely difficult. But, luckily for him he is already starting to turn a few heads at the Cowboys OTAs.
Here's what Cowboys Wide Receiver Coach Sanjay Lal recently had to say about Jon'Vea:
"Not a surprise, because we loved his film, but Jon'Vea the last two days, his speed and athleticism and how smooth he is has shown up here – almost a little bit earlier than we thought it would. Because we think he's going to process. Most young guys are thinking a lot, but he's done a good job of learning his plays and coming out and showing what he can do."
Considering coaches typically try their hardest not to single out any one player in these OTA practices, that's pretty high praise from Sanjay Lal.
It's important to remember the Dallas Cowboys had Jon'Vea Johnson in as one of their 30 pre-draft visitors, so you know they had a draftable grade on him already. Getting him as an undrafted free agent probably felt like a win for them, and more so now that he's off to a good start.
Johnson actually has a few things going for him that may set him apart from other WRs currently on the Cowboys roster. He has the versatility to play on the outside or in the slot, but it's his speed that really makes him stand out from the rest.
At his Pro Day, Jon'Vea ran an unofficial 4.38 40-yard dash. That would've ranked among the best to run the 40 at this year's Scouting Combine. But that's not all… he tested pretty well in other areas as well: 35" vertical and a 10'8" broad jump. Not bad for a 5'10", 190 pound undrafted wide receiver.
As good as all of this sounds, Johnson still has a long ways to go in order to lock down a roster spot. The Cowboys have some pretty talented WRs on the roster and he's going to have to clearly outperform quite a few of them to earn his way onto the final 53-man roster. But, it's encouraging he's already off to a good start.
We've seen players stand out in these kind of unpadded practices before, so I'd probably hold off on anointing him just yet. For his sake though, it's always a good thing to catch the eye of your coaches in a positive way.
5 Biggest X-Factors for 2019 Dallas Cowboys
As the Dallas Cowboys have put together this 2019 team, they have a mix of constants and variables that will hopefully produce a winner. Today, we're going to look at those x-factors; the players or other circumstances who have a wide range for potential impact. How could these potentially swing the results for this season?
Constants are guys like Zack Martin, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Ezekiel Elliott. If they're on the field then they're some of the best at what they do. I also believe that we'll continue to get Pro Bowl play from the likes of Dak Prescott, Byron Jones, Leighton Vander Esch, and other studs from last season.
As for the x-factors, the biggest every year, for every team, is health. One bad injury can take a 12-4 contender down to a 4-12 weakling, as the Cowboys experienced in 2015.
We're not talking about health issues or suspensions today. Assuming all of our projected players are present and playing, whose impact on the field could create the biggest swing from 2018 to this season?
Our list contains two new additions from free agency who could cause some big ripples. There are also two returning players whose continued development could work wonders. And then there's also a change in Dallas' coaching staff, which you likely have just guessed, that could have the biggest impact of all.
In fact, let's start there.
Kellen Moore, Offensive Coordinator
Will the Cowboys' change at OC lead to a more explosive, less predictable offense? They must think so, having handed the job to Moore despite his having only one year of experience in a coaching role.
Scott Linehan's run was far from bad. Over his five seasons the Cowboys won three division titles and two playoff games. The only losing season was when they lost Tony Romo in 2015 and didn't have a Dak Prescott to replace him.
But Linehan's tenure was also marked by an offense that every armchair coach in Cowboys Nation could predict. There was little razzle and even less dazzle; Dallas ground out wins on the strength of the run game and offensive line.
The old school approach works up to a point, as we've seen with four winning seasons out of the last five, but is it really the best way to go? The fact that all four teams in conference title games last year, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New England, and New Orleans, have more modern-styled offenses should tell you something.
It seemed to tell the Cowboys something, leading to the switch from Linehan to Moore. Will Kellen get more creative with the versatile skills that Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott offer? Will he actually throw some passes to a fullback with receiving ability like Jamize Olawale? What about gimmick players like Tavon Austin or rookie Tony Pollard?
If Moore is the real deal as an offensive guru, this Dallas offense could do some special stuff in 2019. It would be the biggest personnel change of the offseason, on or off the field.
DE Robert Quinn
It's been a long time since Dallas had two true studs at defensive end; DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer were the last pair that could consistently threaten from both sides. By signing veteran Robert Quinn to be DeMarcus Lawrence's new wingman, the Cowboys are hoping to restore that dynamic.
Still just 29 years old, Quinn should have plenty offer. He's been a double-digit sack man three times in his career and has averaged 7.5 sacks over the last two seasons.
Last year, Dallas got solid play from Tyrone Crawford and Randy Gregory at times but they weren't consistent enough. Quinn not only bring a greater track record for pass rushing, but he doesn't present any of the current problems that Crawford or Gregory have with legal issues and/or possible suspensions.
That said, Quinn does have plenty of NFL mileage at this point. He has shown some decline the last few years, and if that continues then he may not make the impact we're hoping for. In that case, Dallas pass rush may look the same as it has the last few years.
Lawrence has been great, but we saw the Cowboys' inability to get to Jared Goff in their playoff loss to the Rams. There were zero sacks that day for Dallas, and only one QB hit (Jaylon Smith) the entire game.
If the Cowboys want to get back to the NFC Title game then they need more. Hopefully Robert Quinn can bring it.
WR Randall Cobb
As I said before, Amari Cooper should be as good as ever now that he gets an offseason to work with the team. Michael Gallup's progress from a strong rookie season is already reportedly on point. That leaves Cobb, the free agent replacement for Cole Beasley, as a major x-factor on offense.
Losing Beasley has the potential to hurt this team far more than we want to admit. He was Dak Prescott's security blanket for three years; his favorite receiver when the going got tough. No player was more trusted to get open, make the catch, and fight for the needed yards.
That sort of pressure won't be put all on Randall Cobb's shoulders. Cooper and Gallup will be a better pair to work with than any Beasley ever had. They will help mitigate the risk that Cobb has lingering injury issues, or doesn't acclimate quickly to his new offense.
But as the Cowboys hopefully shift to a more modern and innovative offense, Cobb brings valuable experience from his time with the Packers. He was part of six playoffs teams, and made many key plays to help Green Bay have sustained success during most of his time there.
If healthy, Cobb has the skills to replace Cole Beasley and perhaps even eclipse him. He was once a 1,200-yard receiver as the second option behind Jordy Nelson.
If he still has that gear in him, the combination of Cobb, Cooper and Gallup may give Dallas the most dangerous trio of receivers it's seen in decades.
CB Chidobe Awuzie
Switching Byron Jones back to CB last year proved a strong move, helping Dallas get to the playoffs and getting Jones to his first Pro Bowl. The Cowboys are hoping that Awuzie, entering his third season, will emerge as another standout performer at cornerback.
Awuzie, the Cowboys' second-round pick in 2017, had a slow start in his sophomore year but improved as the season went along. He should compete with Anthony Brown for the starting job, and at the least be Dallas' nickel CB this season.
With the Saints, Packers, Patriots, and Rams all on the 2019 schedule, plus two games with the Eagles, the Cowboys need a solid secondary. They need to make opposing QBs think twice about which side of the field they want to try and throw to.
Awuzie has flashed his potential these first two seasons, but now it's time to keep it on full display. Year Three is when most guys, and especially one taken in the second round, should be blossoming into the players they're going to be for the long haul.
If Chidobe takes that next big step forward then Dallas' defense could be the best in the league. The compound effect of improved coverage and a stronger pass rush would have exponential benefits.
TE Blake Jarwin
If Jarwin can do anything close to his Week 17 performance over the course of an entire year, he'd be one of the top tight ends in the game. That's the excitement level some have around the assumed 2019 starter.
Blake's not going to have those kind games often. The Giants were barely playing in that finale, likely already focused on how to screw up their draft. But it did give us our first full taste of Jarwin's receiving skills and athletic potential.
The Cowboys and Jason Witten swear that the returning legend is only here to support and help, and that the majority of snaps will still go to the young talent. If Jarwin can build on last year, and learn some things from one of the all-time greats, he could be a major new weapon in the 2019 offense.
Also helping could be the switch Kellen Moore as coordinator, who will hopefully find more creative ways to utilize all players. Perhaps we'll see Jarwin line up in spots that Scott Linehan never thought of, or was just never able to use while he still had Jason Witten in his twilight years.
Whether it's Jarwin or Dalton Schultz, Dallas will hopefully get some more firepower out of the TE position this year. As teams hopefully focus on stopping guys like Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott, we could see huge plays by the tight ends if they're able to take advantage.
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