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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!
Despite Changes, Cowboys Offense Still Runs Through Ezekiel Elliott
We've talked a lot this offseason about the changes at Offensive Coordinator and slot receiver, or how Jason Witten's return will impact the tight end position. But while all of these will impact the Dallas Cowboys' offense in 2019, the constant feature remains Running Back Ezekiel Elliott and the rushing attack.
From 2016 to 2018, since the Cowboys drafted Elliott, Dallas has ranked 1st, 3rd, and 10th among NFL teams in "run vs. pass" play calls. That's only logical; you don't spend a fourth-overall pick on a RB and then not make him the featured player in your offense.
Zeke has certainly rewarded Dallas' decision; Elliott has led the league in total rushing two out of three years, and he led in yards-per-game in 2017 while dealing with his suspension.
Leaning on Elliott has been smart business based on his effectiveness, plus the investment in the offensive line over the last several years.
Dallas has now sunk three first-round picks (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin), one second (Connor Williams), and now two thirds (Chaz Green and Connor McGovern) on building up their front wall. They've spent a lot of money to keep their All-Pro guys around, plus La'el Collins.
Some would try to paint the run-heavy approach as how the team is trying to hide the weaknesses of Dak Prescott at quarterback. But in 2014, with DeMarco Murray at RB and Tony Romo at QB, the Cowboys were still 3rd in the league in rush vs. pass attempts.
This isn't about Zeke or Dak, or any other specific player. This about a team philosophy that starts at the top with Jason Garrett, and that isn't going to change even with Kellen Moore taking over as the new Offensive Coordinator.
We're all excited to see what new wrinkles comes from getting rid of Scott Linehan. We highly anticipate the development of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in the offense, coupled with the addition of Randall Cobb. We're salivating at what Blake Jarwin might become under the tutelage of the great Jason Witten.
Heck, maybe we'll see fullback Jamize Olawale's receiving skills put to more use. Perhaps gadget guys like Tavon Austin or rookie Tony Pollard will be deployed in more creative ways.
And yes, Dak Prescott's growth is another major factor in Dallas' 2019 success. It's especially interesting, and even concerning, as talks are ongoing about his long-term contract.
But make no mistake, this is still the Ezekiel Elliott show. Even if a few more of his carries become receptions in Moore's scheme, Zeke should still get the lion's share of the touches.
That's why this week's news about his incident in Las Vegas is so troubling. It probably won't lead to a suspension, but we saw what happened in 2017 when Elliott was missing for over a third of the season.
While Dallas should be better able to withstand losing Zeke now than it was two years ago, it may still be more than Prescott, Cooper, and the rest could handle. It definitely wouldn't put the Cowboys in good position to compete for a Super Bowl.
In the end, the 2019 will still come down to how well Dallas runs the ball. It's the engine; nothing else matters if the rushing game doesn't set everyone else up for success.
Don't ever take it for granted. This is still Ezekiel Elliott's offense.
What Would a Successful Season Mean for Kellen Moore’s Future?
Out of every chess piece moved by the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, the decision to name 30-year old Kellen Moore might be the most interesting one. Not only that, but it could be the one that makes the biggest impact on the team. After all, the Cowboys are ready to go talent wise.
With Kellen Moore taking up a new role, it's intriguing to imagine what a successful season would mean for his future with the Dallas Cowboys. Truth be told, Moore is in a pretty fortunate position to debut as an offensive coordinator. He'll be driving a unit full of talented players with almost no weak links. Last year, it wasn't the lack of quality players lined up that had the offense struggling throughout the season, but the guy in charge.
At first, the philosophy of not needing a #1 wide receiver clearly blew up on the Cowboys face. The passing game in Dallas needed a spark and they didn't find it until they traded a first rounder for Amari Cooper. Cooper's impact on the team was clear right away as he put on impressive performances on a weekly basis.
But even when Cooper was at his best, the offense still presented relevant struggles. Despite getting more first downs, the Cowboys still had trouble scoring touchdowns when in the red zone and kept leaving points on the field.
Although he's been a controversial conversation among members of Cowboys Nation, there are a few reasons to be excited about what Kellen Moore can bring to the table as a young offensive coordinator. Ever since he declared for the NFL Draft out of Boise State, where he ran a very complex offense on his way to become the QB with most wins in NCAA history, he was seen by many as an extremely smart prospect. Many expected him to have a mediocre career as a player, but saw him as a potential coach down the line.
Now it's his chance to prove the world just how smart he is and his potential as a coach. He will not only be proving it to the Cowboys organization, but all of the NFL and college football teams. Don't forget what NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah mentioned a few months ago.
I've mentioned this before- Kellen Moore is a rising star and he'll be in the mix for HC gigs (CFB or NFL) in the near future. https://t.co/hLjOb4HAUc
With a great group of talent at his disposal, it's fair to imagine Moore having a pretty successful "rookie" season at a major coaching position. If he indeed manages to turn heads with the Dallas Cowboys offense in 2019, what does that mean for his future?
In a league that's turning to the young offensive-minded coaches thanks to guys like Sean McVay, is it possible one team decides to pull the trigger and make him an offer for a head coaching gig? It certainly would seem premature, but it's still a possibility in the NFL, where teams have become increasingly impatient with their coaches.
I definitely wouldn't be surprised if next offseason, we're concerned about another team (college or NFL) trying to snatch Moore off the Cowboys. I insist in pointing out this would be a premature decision if it does happen, since Moore has very little experience, but looking at the trend in the NFL it certainly could happen.
This might be the most important year in Kellen Moore's young career. For now, let's hope he does a good job leading Dak Prescott in his fourth year as a professional player and an offense that has a solid OL and a pretty good set of skill players.
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.
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