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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 Will Tag DeMarcus Lawrence; What’s the Plan?
February 20 is an important day for NFL clubs this year. Why? It's the first day in which teams can franchise tag any player. Since 2015, when the Dallas Cowboys tagged Dez Bryant before they were able to work out a long-term deal, Jerry Jones & Co. haven't used the franchise tag. In 2018, though, that will change.
DeMarcus Lawrence just played his best season yet in 2017, and he's looking to get paid big time. Through three years, he had been able to rack up nine sacks, 52 tackles and three forced fumbles. In just 2017, he sacked opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times, had 35 tackles and managed to force four fumbles.
Not only did Lawrence look like an elite pass rusher, but he also improved as a run defender a lot. The Cowboys have been looking for a "War Daddy" for a long, long time and Lawrence seems to be the answer for this football team.
After such a big year, one would expect the Cowboys to sign him to a multi-year enormous contract. But there's a catch. Lawrence failed to remain healthy early in his career and really didn't make as much of an impact until last season.
There's no question that D-Law will be wearing a star come the 2018 NFL season, but will he be doing it under a long-term deal or under a franchise tag?
Cowboys will not place franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence tomorrow as that window opens but will do so by March 6 w/ understanding the goal is to reach a long-term deal. Both sides have until July 16 to make that happen.
For now, according to David Moore from Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence with the objective of getting a deal done in July. The tag however, is not expected to be placed as soon as possible.
In 2015, the Cowboys didn't place the franchise tag on Dez Bryant until the final deadline day. This year's deadline is March 6th, so it may be two weeks before they make it official with DeMarcus Lawrence. #CowboysNation #DallasCowboys
What would franchise tagging DeMarcus Lawrence mean for this team?
First of all, they'd make sure he doesn't hit free agency in March. This gives the front office time to get to work and restructure players' contracts if they have to in order to open up as much cap space as they can before giving him a deal.
It's worth mentioning as well, cap savings from players who are designated as post-June 1 cuts will already be available. If you want to be more familiarized with the Cowboys' cap situation, I highly recommend you read John Williams' deep dive on the matter.
It'll continue to be a very interesting story for this offseason, as handing a franchise tag to a player tends to become a non-friendly situation for both parties. Let's hope that's not the case for the Cowboys and Lawrence this year and that everything works out fine.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue updating you and the rest of Cowboys Nation throughout the offseason.
Dallas Cowboys OL Fails To Crack NFL.com’s Top 10
Often considered a top unit in football, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line seemed to take a step back in 2017. Mostly due to injuries and free agent departures on the left side, the Cowboys were unable to form the same solid unit we have seen in years past.
Despite their struggles, most would still consider them a top 5-10 offensive line in the NFL. At least, that's what I'd expect considering they still feature three All-Pro caliber players upfront.
Matt Harmon of NFL.com put together a list of the top 10 offensive lines in football based on performance in the 2017 season. The list was strictly developed through the use of next gen stats, which defined pressure as "pass-rushing play in which a defender gets within 2 yards of the opposing quarterback at the time of the throw or sack." In addition, "yards gained before close" was taken into account. This metric is meant to measure "the amount of rushing yards a running back gains before opposing defenders come within 1 yard of the player."
After compiling all of these stats, the Cowboys offensive line was left off of the list completely. Maybe even more surprising, however, was that the Philadelphia Eagles' line failed to crack the top ten as well. That's two lines with 3-4 Pro Bowl caliber players each missing the cut.
According to Matt Harmon the Cowboys allowed a pressure on 28.6% of Dak Prescott's dropbacks, 12th highest in the league. Dallas also ranked 20th in the league in YGBC in 2017.
While I do have some issues with the methodology of these statistics, the final result is actually hard to argue with. Down the stretch the Cowboys offense was downright pathetic at times. Regardless of how highly we thought of them prior to the year, the offense didn't perform to their standards, or the standards of a top ten unit.
Heading into 2018, however, I do expect this offensive line to begin to regain form. La'el Collins should continue to improve on the right side, and he is already an adequate starting right tackle regardless. I also expect Dallas to address their left guard spot, potentially within the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.
In the end the success of this line may hinge on the health of Tyron Smith, though. When healthy, Smith is the best left tackle in all of football. But that "when healthy" caveat has certainly hurt the Cowboys offense.
The way the front office handles their offensive line this offseason will play a huge role in the success, or lack thereof, of the Cowboys in 2018.
Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: CB Bene Benwikere
After playing sparsely for the Dallas Cowboys in 2017, veteran cornerback Bene Benwikere is set to be an unrestricted free agent. Could he stay in Dallas, or will he have to find work elsewhere?
Dallas was concerned about its CB depth with heavy reliance on young players and Jourdan Lewis barely participating in the offseason. Therefore, the Cowboys traded a sixth-round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for Benwikere just before Week One.
After a stellar rookie season with the Carolina Panthers in 2014, Bene had suffered a steep fall before landing in Cincy. Injuries and poor play got him cut midway through 2016 by the Panthers, and then Benwikere bounced from Miami to Green Bay before finally signing with the Bengals in the 2017 offseason.
Though a few years removed from being an All-Rookie Team standout, Bene Benwikere is still just 26 and may still draw interest from scouts who remember his better days. He is likely counting on that, because the Cowboys' secondary is starting to fill up.
The Cowboys currently have exciting sophomores Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis expected to start in 2018. Anthony Brown is back for his third season and will be active on game days.
Orlando Scandrick's future is cloudy, but Dallas won't get much cap relief from releasing him this season. They may elect to keep the veteran for one more year, which would all but fill out the CB depth chart.
Even if Scandrick leaves, talk that Dallas may move Byron Jones back to corner from safety would only leave Benwikere in the same disadvantaged position for finding work.
The best chance that Bene Benwikere has to stay with the Cowboys is if new Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard remembers him from 2014. Coaches often feel that can get more out of a player than the last guy, and Richard may see potential in Benwikere that his last few teams couldn't unlock.
Four years ago may be too long, though, and especially with a fresh new crop of young players coming into the league. Especially if they keep Scandrick, Dallas may want to use the rest of their roster spots on younger prospects.
As it stands, Bene Benwikere is unlikely to return to the Cowboys. However, given the flashes of potential he once showed in the NFL, you can't be certain that Dallas won't want to give him one more chance.
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