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I love Thanksgiving.
Stereotypical Thanksgivings involve the three F's: Food, Family, & Football. I'm fortunate enough that my experience on this national holiday involves that beautiful tripod, but if I'm being honest I feel like Thanksgiving gets ripped off a bit.
There are literally hundreds of Christmas movies... how many Thanksgiving movies are there?! Name one! I dare you!
I know of an incredible Thanksgiving movie. It revolves around Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade and a wide-eyed boy named Charlie. The two galavant around New York City while Charlie's mind is back at his prep school where he's being charged with damaging the headmaster's prized car (Spoiler Alert: Charlie merely witnessed the crime... but this movie is 24 years old so who's fault is this really?).
After the NYC adventure the Lieutenant Colonel (played by Al Pacino) and Charlie return to his school for his hearing. Al Pacino gives one of the finest speeches in cinematic history (which you can watch here) where he discusses integrity, courage, and overall boldness. Charlie is acquitted and Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade - upon initially hearing the news - lets out a "Hooah!" shortly before the crowd erupts. It is supremely epic.
This movie, particularly Al Pacino's speech near the end, summarizes the 2016 Dallas Cowboys season up to this point - Thanksgiving. In the face of many doubts, with twists and turns at every point, an unforeseen set of circumstances before them, despite zero recognition from afar... they have prevailed.
The Washington Redskins represent the chance for our "Hooah!" moment. This is our opportunity, in front of the entire world, to put an end to the silly narratives people come up with every week. This is a division rival, and it's the team that celebrated in our house during Week 17 last season as they marched towards the playoffs.
A win on Thanksgiving effectively eliminates the Redskins from NFC East title contention. Let's give that speech. Let's ruin their day. Let's eat some turkey. Welcome to my 5 Bold Predictions. Hooah!
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Ezekiel Elliott Eats Everything On His Way To A Career Day
There is no bigger rivalry in the NFL than Cowboys and Redskins on Thanksgiving. This is a historic matchup, and when you throw in the fact that uniform-wise it'll be Cowboys blues against Redskins whites this looks like something shot by the legendary Steve Sabol back in the day.
Rivalries are being ignited all across the football landscape this week. College football famously showcases games of this nature the weekend after Thanksgiving, games like Michigan versus The Ohio State.
Last year when the Buckeyes and Wolverines squared off (November 28th, 2015) Zeke carried the ball 30 times for 214 yards and 2 touchdowns for tOSU. We're ten games into Elliott's professional career and he has yet to break 200 yards; however, we're talking about a player who's celebration is literally eating playing on a day where gorging out is supremely glorified. Zeke is going to put the Skins to sleep like tryptophan with 200 yards.
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DeMarcus Lawrence Gets To Kirk Cousins Twice... Again
There wasn't a whole lot to be proud of when it came to the Dallas Cowboys in 2015, but one thing we hung our hat on was a big win in Washington on Monday Night Football.
One of the instrumental pieces to that big victory was Cowboys Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence. He gave Kirk Cousins a hug-that-goes-to-the-ground twice that night, and considering DLaw didn't get to play when the Cowboys went to Washington in Week 2 due to his suspension... he's been itching for another opportunity to sack 'ol Kirky.
DeMarcus Lawrence strikes me as the type of fellow who eats his turkey and stuffing at the same time. He'll be doing that during this game when he munches on Mr. Cousins.
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Redskins RB Robert Kelley Fumbles And AT&T Stadium Chants "Cowgirls" As He Trots To The Sideline
So here's the thing about "trash talk." I have zero qualms with it, in fact I totally respect a well-crafted joke. If you're funny, you're funny. I'm good with that.
Washington Redskins running back Robert Kelley was asked on Tuesday if he knew much about the historic rivalry that is Cowboys/Redskins. Kelley, fully conscious and of normal brain function, responded that they hated "those Cowgirls." Yes, seriously.
Robert Kelley is a 24-year old man who plays professional football. He thought this was funny or clever or who knows what. The fact that Mr. Kelley thought that this was anything above a middle school-level insult is honestly shocking and makes me sad for the human race.
The most clever Washington Redskin there is, Robert Kelley, is going to fumble on Thanksgiving, and he's going to learn even more about this rivalry when he trots back to the bench. You see long ago when former Redskins QB Joe Theismann threw an interception at Texas Stadium on his birthday, the Cowboys faithful greeted him with a gleeful rendition of "Happy Birthday" on his miserable trot to the sidelines.
Welcome to the rivalry, Robert.
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Both Jason Garrett And Jay Gruden Go For Crucial 4th Downs
The longest-tenured Head Coaches in the NFL's most storied division will be standing on opposite sidelines when the toe meets the ball at AT&T Stadium this Thanksgiving.
Jason Garrett and Jay Gruden are not only the longest-tenured coaches in the NFC East, they're the only two who have won the division before. Plus these are two guys that aren't afraid to take a risk now and then.
We've seen both Garrett and Gruden attempt, and succeed, to convert critical 4th Downs when games have been on the line this season. This is unquestionably the biggest game of the season for both teams, and the Head Coaches are going to act like it. We'll see them both get a little frisky before it's all said and done.
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Ezekiel Elliott Hurdles Josh Norman
I realize that we already have a Bold Prediction centered around Zeke, but in the spirit of Thanksgiving/Zeke we're serving seconds! Hooah!
Look, the worst game of Zeke's short NFL career happened in Washington. He lost the ball twice and looked to have let the pressure of the game take over him. Zeke was even benched for former Redskin Alfred Morris who had to ice the game for the Cowboys.
Perhaps the lowest moment in that game for Zeke was when Josh Norman went Peanut Tillman on him and punched the football out for a fumble. Since then we've watched Zeke eat everything and destroy everyone... Norman is next.
Zeke is going to hit the open field, scan around, see Norman, and get airborne. It'll be one of the rare moments of the game that brings us to our feet - we're gonna be weighed down with turkey after all - and Norman will find a way to blame it on Robert Kelley.
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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!
We have a bold prediction for @rjochoa this week! The winner of the Cowboys Thanksgiving game will win by at least 17 points. #DallasCowboys
Upon Further Review is hosted by my fellow Staff Writer Sean Martin, and he's a smart cookie. The Cowboys have only won one game by this wide of a margin (Cleveland) and the Redskins have lost just as many (Pittsburgh). The final score when they squared off in Week 2 was 27-23... I like the optimism, it just doesn't seem likely.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #2
This is a Disney movie that's pretty far off from coming true at this point. We're in a post-Romo world. This is "A.D." time - After Dak.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #3
@rjochoa @InsideTheStarDC My bold prediction is that the vaunted Redskins D will limit Elliott to less than 200 yards rushing. #FEEDZEKE
This bold prediction directly contradicts mine, so someone here is going to be right! I'd hardly describe the Redskins Run Defense as vaunted considering they've given up the 11th most yards with only the 25th most carries against them. Eat Zeke, eat.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #4
@rjochoa bold predictions: Alfred Morris scores against the skins and zeke has a huge day that leads to player of game turkey day honors
Chase is buying what we're selling as far as Zeke having a big game, and I like the Alfred Morris call! As we mentioned earlier, The Butler did have a touchdown when he visited his former team with his new/better one. Revenge game!
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Bonus Bold Prediction #5
@rjochoa Kirk will go deep often vs DAL and you just know it's happening: 1st pick for Byron onthanksgiving vs Redskins. ✭ #BOLDPrediction
I love this, and it pains me that I love it.
We've called for Byron Jones' first career interception week after week. I want it. I need it. MAKE IT A THANKSGIVING MIRACLE!
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Bonus Bold Prediction #6
Donny and I usually park our cars in the same garage when it comes to these Bold Predictions, and sure enough we are in sync again.
Zeke is getting 200. Book it.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #7
@rjochoa my prediction Jeff Heath will have a int.. Morris will have a TD
Jeff Heath is the greatest football player in the history of the universe. He had two interceptions when the Cowboys traveled to Tampa Bay last season. If mere mortals can have one, Heath will of course do it. Additionally, the Alfred TD is obviously a popular opinion this week. It's also happening.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving one and all, Hooah to you and yours! Go Cowboys!
Cowboys 2018 Breakout Candidates: TE Geoff Swaim
For the 2018 Dallas Cowboys, the retirement of Tight End Jason Witten was one of the biggest developments of the offseason. It leaves a gaping hole in their offense, and no major free agent or high draft pick was added as a clear replacement. As such, fourth-year veteran Geoff Swaim may be in line for a breakout season.
A seventh-round pick in 2015, Swaim has stuck in Dallas with strong run-blocking and special teams play. His offensive production has been limited to just nine catches and 94 yards, thanks largely to the stranglehold that Witten kept on the TE position. Geoff has only been targeted 11 times in the passing game over three seasons.
But with Witten leaving, as well as veteran backup James Hanna, Swaim is now the elder statesman of the TE group. Even his limited playing time in the NFL thus far puts him way ahead of Rico Gathers, Blake Jarwin, or rookie Dalton Schultz.
Based on reports from the offseason practices and camps, Geoff is getting the first crack at becoming the new starter. It makes sense given his experience edge, but also his proficiency as a run blocker.
The Cowboys will likely lean on Ezekiel Elliott heavily this year, particularly early in the season. The passing game will need time to find itself with Witten and Dez Bryant gone. They'll want to ease Dak Prescott into heavier workloads as he and his new receiving options get acclimated.
Geoff Swaim will be one of those new options. And even though his reputation is for blocking, don't take that to mean he's not athletic.
We've seen Swaim on the move as a blocker and also in the passing game, and he's certainly got some wheels. That could make him a deceptive weapon on play-action and other passing plays out of running formations.
In some ways, losing Witten and Bryant makes the Cowboys' offense less predictable than in the past. Defenses will be less sure who to focus on, and that also creates opportunities for the new receivers.
Obviously, Swaim's breakout potential is dependent on Prescott looking his way. But unless Dak has undergone a major change in his playing style, a TE working in the short and middle parts of the field is someone he'll rely on plenty.
With training camp and preseason still to come, calling Geoff the starter right now is just an assumption. There is still time for one of the other prospects to impress and climb the ladder.
But right now, there's clearly no better candidate to claim the spot than Swaim. He has the most critical skill as a blocker, and his potential in the passing game is underrated. It's his job to lose.
The guy with only nine career catches could get that in a single game this year. Therefore, Geoff Swaim is clearly one of the major breakout candidates for the 2018 Cowboys.
Cowboys 2018 Breakout Candidates: LB Jaylon Smith
No single player on the Dallas Cowboys roster right now may be more primed for a breakout season than Linebacker Jaylon Smith. His ascension as a player isn't just a big gain for the Cowboys defense, but it may be vital to their success in 2018.
Smith joined the Cowboys as a high second-round pick (34th overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft. Potentially a top-five elite talent in that class, Jaylon's stock fell after a severe knee injury in his final college game. It was unknown if he could ever play football again, but Dallas took the risk based on Smith's incredible upside.
After Jaylon sat out his rookie year to fully rehab. In 2017, he was able to play all 16 games and started in six. That alone was a huge win for Smith and the Cowboys.
Jaylon's performance last year wasn't great, but understandably so after all the missed time. He also had to regain confidence in his knee, which is critical for a linebacker with all of the directional changes during plays.
Still, Smith got better as the season went. And even amidst the struggles, there were flashes of his instincts and potential.
This offseason, reports of Jaylon's improving health are fueling increased optimism. He is now playing without a knee brace and that means more confidence. If Smith fully trusts his body now, it will make him far more dangerous on the field.
With Anthony Hitchens leaving in free agency, Dallas needs Jaylon to be a bigger factor this year. If he doesn't take the next step, it could leave the Cowboys vulnerable at linebacker in 2018.
True, Dallas drafted Leighton Vander Esch in the first round of last April's draft. But it's always dangerous to ask a rookie to do heavy lifting, and especially one who is seen as a raw talent like Vander Esch.
Ideally, anything Dallas gets from Leighton this year will be gravy. Their goal is to rely on veteran Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, with Damien Wilson also available as a solid fallback option.
But when you mention Sean Lee, you have to mention health concerns. After two encouragingly healthy seasons in 2015 and 2016, Lee was back to having some issues last year and missed five games.
That is all the more reason why Dallas needs Jaylon to be ready for more this year. If Lee misses time again, Smith is the best suited to take over the roles that Sean leaves behind.
Thankfully, all signs point to big things for Jaylon Smith in 2018. His body appears healed and there's no questioning his work ethic and desire. If the mental aspect of football has also developed, he could be everything the Cowboys hoped when they drafted them.
Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?
It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.
These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.
Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.
Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.
This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.
Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.
The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.
It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.
Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.
As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.
For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.
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