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I love the National Anthem at football games. Absolutely love it.
One of my favorite things to do when I've got a case of writer's block is to stumble down a YouTube rabbit hole of my all-time favorite renditions of this glorious song (The best version ever is Beyonce's Super Bowl XXXVIII one).
My love for this song and how it relates to the NFL was born on Christmas Day 2006 (a day in which I learned that anything can happen). Let me set the stage for you.
My Dad and I were attending a Christmas Day game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles at the storied Texas Stadium. We were at our seats and stood when the PA announcer said a few Cowboys Cheerleaders were going to sing the anthem.
I stood there, hand over my heart, and took it all in. This was the first Dallas Cowboys game that I'd ever attended in person, and it was all so beautiful. The atmosphere was unlike anything I'd ever witnessed. The way the sun peeked in through the iconic hole in the roof and kissed the sidelines was like a painting. Needless to say, my emotions were running high.
The energy in my body simply could not be contained any longer. I had to get it out. My body was like a soda can when you shake it... and I was about to crack it open.
This particular crowd was hushed over and enjoying the National Anthem, so it was shockingly quiet. The only sound in the whole stadium was the collective voice of the Cheerleaders singing. Suddenly the Cheerleaders hit the line, "O'er the Land of the Free..." and held that note. When they did, I erupted.
It was like I dropped a lit match into a Texas Stadium-sized tub of gasoline. My roar ignited the crowd and we cheered in unison as "...and the home of the Brave!" came out to finish it.
My roar was so spontaneous and so bold that my Dad actually jumped. Sometimes that happens with boldness. It's unexpected, unplanned, and one tiny bit of it can cause a fire.
The Cowboys are that fire. This is that tiny bit. Welcome to my 5 Bold Predictions. Let's roll.
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Jason Witten Has His Best Game Of The Season
When 'ol number 82 trots out as the starting tight end for the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, he'll be setting a Franchise Record.
Jason Witten is making his 204th start for the Cowboys on Sunday, which will be the most by anyone to ever wear the Star. Witten is currently tied for first with Ed "Too Tall" Jones with 203 starts, so it just feels like destiny that this would be his night.
Witten has played 25 games against the Eagles in his career. In that time he's caught 146 passes for 1,592 yards and 7 touchdowns. In 2015's two contests against Philly, Jason caught 13 passes for 99 yards.
This is a squad Jason Witten has dominated year in and year out. On this night - his night - he'll do it again.
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The Cowboys Defense Will Recover An Intended Lateral That's Ruled A Fumble
This is oddly specific, BUT THAT'S HOW WE ROLL WITH BOLD PREDICTIONS.
Look, weird things happen in division rivalries. Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz is being exposed to the bright lights that the Dallas Cowboys bring for the first time, and that's likely going to overwhelm his North Dakota roots.
Wentz, who has thrown literally three times as many career interceptions as Dak Prescott, is going to try and hit a screen pass in this game... I can smell it. It's going to fall short and whatever receiver it is is going to just assume it's incomplete, but Byron Jones is going to wisely snatch it up and score a possession for the Cowboys. Boo-ya.
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Lucky Whitehead Will Catch Two Passes
Guess how many career catches Lucky Whitehead has. Go ahead, guess.
The answer is one. Lucky Whitehead has caught a pass in an NFL regular season game only one time in the history of the world, and it happened the last time the Cowboys played (at Lambeau Field). I'm here proclaiming he's going to double that number!
Lucky is becoming a favorite toy of Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan (who is welcoming an old friend to town on Sunday). The 26 yards Whitehead picked up on a third down jet sweep at the end of the Packers game served as the catalyst for why Dallas won that game.
Linehan is going to get Lucky involved this game. Two beautiful passes are going to soar out of Dak Prescott's hand into Lucky Whitehead's ever-waiting palms.
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The Cowboys Defense Won't Allow A Single Touchdown From The Eagles Offense
The Eagles have scored four touchdowns in their last two games (at Washington and against Minnesota):
- 2 were kickoff returns.
- 1 was an interception return.
- 1 was a passing touchdown.
This team is predicated on its defense and special teams carrying it, the offense is the weakest link. That's a horrible recipe for success to have when you're facing the Dallas Cowboys who are going to dominate the time of possession.
The Philly Offense is going to be on the field sparingly, and when they are Rod Marinelli's group is going to make sure it's always in a failed attempt to score.
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Cole Beasley Will Have More Than Twice As Many Yards Than The Top Eagles Wide Receiver Does
There's a lot pomp and circumstance concerning the Dallas Cowboys Wide Receivers this week, and there should be. It's very likely that Dez Bryant will play for the first time since the last time the Cowboys were on Sunday Night Football, a Week 3 contest against the Chicago Bears.
No disrespect to Mr. Throw Up The X, but through six games the best receiver on the Dallas Cowboys is Cole Beasley. The Saucemaster has been on all kinds of fire this season, and as quarterback Dak Prescott's favorite weapon that is only going to continue in this game against the Eagles.
The Cowboys Defense is going to do a great job of limiting the Eagles playmakers throughout the contest, and Cole is going to do an even better job of doubling them up in the yardage department.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #1
Remember, if you want YOUR Bold Prediction featured here, tweet it at me! It’s that simple! Here are this week’s contributions, thanks to all those who shared!
@rjochoa Wentz throws picks and two TDs. Dak three TDs no turnover. Zeke over 150 yards again. Dez makes big catch. #boldprediction
Chris here thinks that Carson Wentz is going to double up on interceptions and touchdowns, eh? Well Wentz is coming off of a game where he threw two interceptions so I like that a lot. Ezekiel Elliott has crossed 130 yards in four consecutive games (an NFL record for a rookie) so I'll sign up for 150 yards as well, and there's no way Dez Bryant is leaving the stadium without a big catch on the night. Bam.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #2
@rjochoa want to get my bold prediction in before I forget: dez 3 tds.
When the Cowboys visited Philadelphia in 2014... Dez Bryant exercised his will against the Eagles with a three touchdown performance. The win propelled Dallas over their division rivals and they never looked back.
Three touchdowns is a lot, and Dak Prescott has only thrown for as many in a single game one time through six total games. Dez is definitely going to find the endzone, a hat trick of times sure would be sweet. I know Triple X (xXx) would approve.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #3
It really is amazing that through all the incredible things Ezekiel Elliott has done that he hasn't caught a touchdown.
Zeke is far more likely to hit a hat trick of touchdowns than anyone else on the team, especially if he hauls one in as a reception. The gameplan on Sunday is going to be to ride Zeke and run him down Philadelphia's throat. If that happens into the endzone three times... so be it!
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Bonus Bold Prediction #4
@rjochoa #BoldPrediction We've all seen @tfrederick72 running routes and the sweet catches. However TD will come via fumble recovery.
This. Would. Be. INCREDIBLE.
Close your eyes and imagine the situation here for a second. Dak Prescott rolls out, he hits Terrance Williams, Terrance runs towards the endzone, Terrance is hit, the ball is jarred loose, it's spinning on the ground waiting for someone, Travis Frederick lands on top of it and everything is beautiful.
This is one of my all-time favorite bold predictions.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #5
@rjochoa BOLD PREDICTIONS dak has his first 300+yds, 3+ td passing game, Zeke goes for more than 150 and defense has 3+ take aways, 3+ sacks
Dak Prescott has yet to throw for 300 yards in a single game, but Joshua here must be hanging out with Chris because they're both anticipating Ezekiel Elliott surpassing 150 yards on the ground.
150 for Zeke seems fairly easy (how awesome is that?), but I have a hard time seeing 300 for Dak... especially if Zeke is indeed running wild. It's definitely conceivable that the defense could rally for three sacks, and boy oh boy three turnovers would be delicious.
How Will Safeties Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier Fit Kris Richard’s Secondary?
Unfortunately, David Irving's most recent four game suspension is the main story for a Dallas Cowboys team finished with OTAs and mini camp, left only to wait for training camp now. I've chosen to focus on the players that were on the field for the offseason program, that will continue to contend for starting jobs in Oxnard. Standing out from a lackluster group of safeties, for a Kris Richard led secondary that is off to a fast start, are safeties Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier.
Joined by Jeff Heath, Tyree Robinson, Jameill Showers, and Marqueston Huff, the Cowboys are lacking a dominant force at safety to pair with their young and talented group of cornerbacks. With the likes of Chidobe Awuzie, Byron Jones (the former safety), and Anthony Brown already improving under Richard, the Cowboys hope is that the same will apply to this group of safeties.
It's still entirely too early to know how the Cowboys want to deploy their safeties this season, but the only players that have shown their strengths and weaknesses over any period of time are Heath, Frazier, and Woods. This is sure to cause an uphill battle for the fringe players looking to push this trio of versatile safeties.
Jeff Heath has appeared in 77 games over five seasons with the Cowboys. Frazier and Woods combined? Just 24 games, with 16 of them making up Woods' rookie season a year ago. This makes finding a potential role for both players vital to the Cowboys.
Safety Kavon Frazier
Working mostly as a special teams player through two seasons in Dallas, Kavon Frazier has patiently awaited his opportunity to spark the Cowboys defense as a sixth round pick of 2016. Doing so in a memorable week 13 win over the Washington Redskins, Frazier earned an increased role as an enforcer on defense.
This is a player whose straight line burst and power is ideal for a ST starter, and when Frazier connects coming downhill on defense, the results can be catastrophic for an opposing offense. Surely these are traits that will remind Kris Richard even slightly of his Super Bowl winning "Legion of Boom" defenses.
The distinction between Frazier being a part-time player or one maximizing his potential to start deep in the Cowboys secondary is an important one. Limited in coverage, Frazier may be at his best when conceding snaps to another safety on the Cowboys roster with more of an all-around game -- which the Cowboys can only hope Xavier Woods continues to be.
Safety Xavier Woods
Xavier Woods may not have the pure stopping power that Kavon Frazier possesses, but as a fellow sixth-round pick there is more than enough to like about what Woods brought to the Cowboys in 2017 out of Louisiana State. With 14 interceptions and six forced fumbles out of college, Woods slid in the draft enough for the Cowboys to trade up for his services.
The team wasn't cheated out of their investment in Woods last season, giving him the "Byron Jones treatment" as Woods lined up all over the field. It was Richard that came to Dallas and almost immediately moved Byron Jones down to cornerback, seeing a better use of his natural size and skills there.
Doing the same for Woods -- while keeping the natural FS free to react -- should be next up on Richard's offseason to-do list. This is a player with sideline to sideline range, enough athleticism to cover down in the slot, and the functional strength to compete in the box.
Amidst this uncertainty for both Frazier and Woods, early reports out of the Cowboys practices thus far have Jeff Heath specifically matching up against the tight end. This is an ideal role for Heath, and one that could compliment Woods very well.
Regardless of where Heath is on the field, Woods should be able to coexist with him as a similarly instinctive safety.
There is also the possibility that both Heath and Woods struggle to handle these "starting" responsibilities, leaving the Cowboys with very little trusted depth at safety. If there is an area Woods needs the most improvement in, it is the angles he takes against the run to consistently make stops, a weakness also potentially mitigated by the Cowboys improved linebacker play (investing the 19th overall pick at the position).
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Between Frazier and Woods, it feels safe to say the Cowboys must find a starter for a secondary that could still achieve great things in 2018. The Cowboys are entering this season with a loaded group of cornerbacks, all capable of making a safety's job relatively easy, especially while learning under Richard.
Such can be the hope for a raw player like Frazier and, in a sense, Xavier Woods. The second-year player in Woods is a great unknown for the Cowboys right now, as he'll remain that way for some time before next month's training camp.
With this, we'll have much more time to sit around and continue pondering what certain position groups will look like once meaningful Cowboys football graciously returns. I've written before that I'm paying close attention to this team's group of wide receivers, and you can add in the secondary players they'll be competing against too.
No, Cowboys Shouldn’t Cut David Irving
For the past five years, Dallas Cowboys fans have gone through painful offseason stories regarding upcoming suspensions for defensive players. It doesn't matter how much talent the front office is able to find through the Draft, there's always one player that ruins what feels like a successful offseason. This time, for the second consecutive year, David Irving is the player to let Cowboys Nation down.
On Friday it was announced that Irving will serve a four-game suspension after violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Understandably, a lot of Cowboys' fans want to see Irving released by the franchise that has preached the "Right Kind of Guy" philosophy while failing to establish such a thing. It's disappointing to see such a talented player limiting himself by not "wanting it" bad enough and by making mistakes like this repeatedly.
However, even if it's a very frustrating situation, the Cowboys shouldn't cut David Irving.
First of all, Irving's hit against the cap space is pretty minimum and nothing to be concerned at all. After being handed a second-round tender earlier in the year, #95 was set to earn $2.91M during the season. With a four-game suspension ahead of him, that number will be even lower.
We're talking about a guy who in eight games managed to get to the quarterback seven times in 2017 and consistently pressured opposing signal callers. Not to mention he's going to be just 25 years old when the season begins.
For the Cowboys, David Irving has the talent needed to average one sack per game. All of this for less than three million.
Irving has proven by now that he's not worth a long-term extension. That much is clear. In order to get one of those, a player must prove his availability.
Talking specifically about 2018, though, I'm sure the Cowboys will be better off if they count on Irving for the final 12 games of the season. The team counts with pretty decent depth at the position with Maliek Collins, Datone Jones and Jihad Ward, but Irving has the potential to end the season with double-digit sacks.
The team gains nothing by releasing Irving. The team will not even be "sending a message" if they were to release #95. Maybe if the team had consistently sent this kind of "messages" over the years it would make sense.
However, we know this team sticks with their players and supports them in moments like this. They have done just that with Randy Gregory and it seems like it will pay off soon.
Whether we're mad at Irving's actions or not, the truth is letting him go wouldn't be wise at all. The Cowboys are not paying him big-time money, he's young and he'll be productive on the field when the defense needs him to.
We're talking about a football team that wants to make a run for the Lombardi Trophy. They can't be letting starting-caliber players go just like that. They need all the help they can get and even though his situation is far from ideal, David Irving will play a big role on defense.
Should Cowboys Add Another Safety Before Training Camp?
The Dallas Cowboys are extremely thin at the safety position. Fact. They haven't really brought in anyone to upgrade the position from last season. Fact. I just wanted to point that out because there's a lot of discussion as to whether or not the Cowboys need to add another safety before training camp.
I don't know where you stand on this debate or how I feel about it personally, but it's definitely something that needs to be discussed from the Cowboys end. It is the one position where there is a lot of unknown and inexperienced. If one of their current safeties were to go down with an injury and miss any time, the whole defense would suffer.
As things stand right now, Jeff Heath is the only one who will reprise his starting role on the backend of the Cowboys defense. Behind him are Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier, but knowing exactly how they fit in at this moment is completely up in the air.
Unfortunately, that's the top three safeties for the Dallas Cowboys heading into the 2018 season. What's even more bothersome is their fourth might be an undrafted rookie, Tyree Robinson. I don't know about you, but I find that very concerning. But, maybe Kris Richard, the defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator, knows something we don't.
Fortunately, Kris Richard was recently asked if he had any concerns about the safety position on the "Doomsday Podcast" with Matt Mosley and Ed Werder. He said he had "none".
"I'm confident. I feel really good at this point in time and it's because the level of character of our guys," he said. "We're going to get better. That's the deal because our guys are young, focused, I think the hunger's there. I love the look in their eyes. I love how everyone is buying in, is focused and paying attention to detail. It makes a difference when guys care. It makes a difference when each one wants to teach one. We're trying to build something special. We want to be tribe-like. We want to be more than a team."
It certainly sounds like Kris Richard is excited about the Dallas Cowboys current safeties. Of course, he would never just come out and say that this group is terrible or he wished they'd add
Earl Thomas another available safety. That's just not how things work. He's here to coach up the guys on the roster and not worry about personnel moves.
I don't know about you, but I know I would feel a lot better if they had one more experienced safety who could come in and compete for a starting job. Maybe someone like Tre Boston or Kenny Vaccaro, who are still unsigned. Maybe make that trade for Earl Thomas? That's a dream that just won't die.
Regardless, the Dallas Cowboys need to do something to address their depth at the safety position. I don't know what their plans are moving forward, but hopefully they have a contingency plan in place. It's just smart business.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys need to add a safety before training camp?
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