Sixth grade can be a rough time for a guy.
You're getting acclimated to middle school, and is it me or did the concept of "class periods" confuse anyone else? The first time that bell rang and I had to pack up to leave my current class I was in a state of complete bewilderment. It must've taken me a full month to learn my schedule, but I digress.
Beyond social studies, science, and math... the toughest subject to tackle is girls. You're a sixth grader so you're innately awkward, that's just the way it goes. The best part about the whole experience is that someone came up with the idea of school dances for us to all partake in. Thanks a lot, whoever that was.
We've all been there. Leaning up against a wall, punch in hand, longingly (that's a pun that'll come back around soon, I promise) staring out at the dance floor. We hope and pray that somehow a girl will instinctually know that we want to dance and everything will work out like in the movies.
Then that one song comes on and the intensity rises. You know that this is your one shot, your one opportunity (shout out to Eminem!). For me that song was "All Or Nothing" by O-Town. I make no apologies as that is an epic song to this day.
The bass starts booming and the never-ending strobe lights go round and round. The butterflies in your belly start running rampant and you finally get enough courage to start just thinking about asking a girl to dance.
You scan the perimeter. "Well she might say yes... I have a class with her... She shared a Dunkaroo with me once... Oh gosh no not her..." Ultimately though you just want to Whitney Houston this thing and dance with somebody.
Finally it's 4th and Long. You've got to make a decision because the game depends on it. You didn't come here to punt so you take a deep breath and somehow put one foot in front of the other. Just as you come within striking distance you remember that this is the worst idea ever and you completely bail!
It feels like that's how the Dallas Cowboys have handled Free Agency this offseason.
Olivier Vernon was the most beautiful girl in school, but they lost out on him to their arch nemesis. The girl that they'd had a crush on forever, Lamar Miller, somehow slipped through their fingers towards a guy in their homeroom. It was tough to watch.
Sure the Cowboys made some noise by re-signing some of their own (Rolando McClain, Kyle Wilber, Morris Claiborne, James Hanna, Charles Brown, & Josh Thomas) and wooing Defensive Tackle Cedric Thornton away from the Philadelphia Eagles down to Big D. But those don't really count. That's like "dancing" with a girl to the YMCA or Cupid Shuffle, it's not the same!
Even after the Cowboys lowered what might have been lofty expectations down to Adrian Clayborn and Matt Moore... the two decided to stay with their current dance partners and not hit the floor with America's Team. Late Tuesday night the Cowboys reached a new level in terms of unwilling dance partners.
Chris Long, who was scheduled to have dinner with the Cowboys on Tuesday evening, decided that he'd rather blow them off entirely and signed with the New England Patriots. That's like asking a girl to dance and her saying, "Oh yea we will next song!" and then you see her twirlin' round the bend with someone else! It's humiliating!
Many have justified the unwillingness of Cowboys dance partners as the Front Office being wise and responsible financially, and that very well may be true. That song and dance seemed more believable before Chris Long decided that being wined and dined by Jerry Jones and Co. wasn't even worth his time. You can call it fiscal responsibility, but it also looks like no one wants to dance with the Cowboys.
The Cowboys are sorely in need of some help at multiple positions on their team. Sure the NFL Draft a month and a half from now will help fill some of those holes, but the NFC East isn't waiting like the Cowboys. The Giants, Eagles, and Redskins have all been wheelin' and dealin' their way through Free Agency like the kid who's asking every girl to dance (You can see every NFL Free Agent Acquisition right here).
So the Cowboys are currently playing the wallflower role at the 2016 Free Agency Dance. They're leaning up against the wall and acting cool while everyone else shakes, shimmies, and boogies the night away. They seem to be looking at the success of 2014 and treating 2015 as an aberration due to injury.
When O-Town spoke the immortal words "There's nowhere left to fall, when you reach the bottom its now or never," I thought that they were just trying to motivate me to ask a girl to dance. I now know that even back then they were giving advice to the 2016 Cowboys.
We would all be living in denial if we said that current Cowboy legends Tony Romo and Jason Witten are going to play forever. Even Dez Bryant is about to enter his sixth NFL season. Time is ticking, and it seems like the Cowboys are either being perhaps too stubborn with their willingness to pay players or they are simply being outdone by the competition.
I'm not advocating an "all-in" approach to this thing by any means. I'm not saying that there's a "window" or any other sort of cliche.
I'm saying that there's a dance happening right in front of us. Let's get off the wall and find a partner.
Cowboys Interest in Raiders WR Amari Cooper Increases Ahead of Trade Deadline
This week, Stephen Jones discussed the difficulties of making a trade, saying "it just seems like in the NFL trades are hard to make, to make it all come together for two teams".
The two teams that could be lining up to change that are of course Jones' Cowboys as well as John Gruden's Oakland Raiders. Yet another Raiders player has been in the headlines as a trade target, 24-year old Wide Receiver Amari Cooper.
WR-needy Cowboys doing their due diligence on Raiders' WR Amari Cooper: https://t.co/pE2wmrzCXu
Playing at the Washington Redskins on Sunday, the Cowboys will have yet another reshuffled lineup at wide receiver, playing without Tavon Austin. Their biggest offseason addition to this unit was Allen Hurns, and he's been underwhelming with just eight catches.
Thus the Cowboys are reportedly doing their "due diligence" on Cooper, sensing the need for a mid-season acquisition at WR for the right price. The Cowboys ability to potentially find that price in a deal advantageous to them, given how the Raiders handled the departure of Khalil Mack in a trade to this Chicago Bears, is what makes this story relevant.
A lot has been said about Cooper since his name emerged as the latest player potentially out of the Bay Area. Whether you believe he's still an impact receiver with the potential to regain his Pro Bowl form of 2015 and 2016 or one that "doesn't love football," as some have been inclined to say, the former fourth overall pick represents an investment into the WR position that the Cowboys have not made in some time.
In those Pro Bowl seasons, Cooper averaged over 77 catches a season while putting up over 1,000 yards in both. The Raiders have used this to justify their reported asking price of a first-round pick for Cooper, something the Cowboys are not alone in their reluctance to give.
With Cooper, the Raiders are holding onto their last bit of relevancy. A reeling 1-5 football team that needs to maximize their return on trading Cooper, the Colts and Redskins are also following in the Cowboys footsteps by preparing as much as they can on the player.
Cooper has caught 22 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown through six games this season.
For as desperate as the Raiders are to jump-start their organization, the Cowboys should be just as desperate to add a threat like Cooper to their passing attack. Unlike the Raiders, they're in the hunt for a division title, something much harder to put a price on when it comes to the Jones' finalizing any deal for Cooper in the coming days.
The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday, October 30th, at 3 PM Central Time. The Cowboys will be two days into their bye week, not in action again after Sunday until November 5th.
How Will Cowboys Handle Sean Lee’s Return?
For the first time in what feels like forever, the Dallas Cowboys' defense is still dominant without Sean Lee on the field. For many years, Lee's injuries have shown us the worst of this defense but finally that's not the case. Thanks to Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys should feel just fine without #50 wearing pads on gameday.
As the Cowboys get ready to play the Washington Redskins on the road in their quest for a winning record, Sean Lee is expected to return to the field. He was a full participant on practice on both Thursday and Friday and should make his way back to the field today.
But how much will he play?
Usually, we would be talking about this defense being desperate for his help. He's been rushed back to the field on many occasions simply because the team's linebackers weren't doing enough without him. This year though, the narrative is different.
Even before he got injured in week 3 playing against the Seattle Seahawks, Lee had been struggling. Now granted, he wasn't looking bad, but we were watching him miss a few tackles here and there which simply isn't something you'd expect from a player such as himself.
The rookie out of Boise State has made a really good job justifying why the front office decided to invest a first round pick on him. So far, Leighton Vander Esch has accounted for 49 tackles, 40 of which have been solo. The kid can play, period. He's done nothing but get better and better by the week and the snaps he's gotten replacing Lee have helped him a ton.
With the veteran returning, what's in store for this linebacker rotation?
Honestly, with the bye week so close, I think this will depend a lot on how this game starts off. If it comes to a point in which the Cowboys are comfortably leading and have no concerns of losing the match, why not rest Lee as much as possible?
It's clear that the defense is far from desperate for having #50 back on the field and it's also clear that Lee is a player who could get injured at any given time.
Thanks to Smith's and Vander Esch's play, the Cowboys can afford to limit Lee's snaps versus the Redskins today. Rest him as much as possible and throw him on just a few plays out there. Lee has suffered injuries on both hamstrings, which is another reason to take it slow with his return.
If they're able to limit him today and then take advantage of the upcoming bye week it could pay Lee big dividends down the road. Dallas needs to realize they're in a very comfortable position regarding Sean Lee. They have the option to take things slow.
Not only that but once he's healthy, he doesn't have to be on the field every single snap. It might be hard getting used to watching Lee slowly become a "situational" player because he's so good to be only played on specific situations but that might be the way to make his availability improve.
It will be interesting to see how they handle the situation starting today as Lee is slated to play football against an NFC East rival.
Cowboys Wishlist: Big Return on Special Teams?
The last time the Dallas Cowboys played a football game, they made many of their fans' dreams come true. This happened by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 40-7 in a dominant performance against a top NFL defense. Can they make our wishes come true in back-to-back weeks? I don't know about walking away with another 33-point win, but we're obviously putting up a Cowboys Wishlist as every gameday.
Let's hope they come true. As always, I hope you enjoy this week's edition of Cowboys Wishlist!
Wish #1: First Road Win of the Season
I mean, we obviously are wishing for a win. But this one right here would be a very important one, so I'm including it as a wish. The Cowboys haven't won any game on the road this year and doing so in Washington against a hated NFC East rival like the Redskins will be huge for this 3-3 Dallas Cowboys team.
Last Sunday's victory over the Jaguars might have been the moment when the Cowboys "turned the corner" to become a winning team in 2018. It's time to go on the road and beat a 3-2 divisional foe to prove that is the case.
Wish #2: Beasley Keeps It Up
The Cowboys' MVP last weekend was Cole Beasley. He was the only wide receiver on the team with more than one catch, ending his day with nine receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns. It was one of the best performances in his career yet.
The Cowboys need a WR to step up. Other than Cole, no one else is stepping up in the passing game. Beasley did so last Sunday but, can he consistently perform well enough to keep the offense going throughout the year? It remains to be seen.
For the long term, it might be better to have an outside, taller receiver be your #1 guy, but in the meantime, Beasley is the guy Dak Prescott should be targeting the most.
Wish #3: The Sack Hat Trick
Ok, I might be asking for too much here. But hear me out. The Dallas Cowboys defensive line is getting stronger and stronger. Just last week, David Irving returned to the field and got limited playing time. Although he didn't get a sack, his impact was felt since his first snap on the field.
Randy Gregory also saw limited playing time but was able to sack Blake Bortles once. And well, DeMarcus Lawrence is still playing at an elite level this year. How epic would it be for each of these three great pass rushers walk away with a sack?
Three headhunters, three sacks. Let's go!
Wish #4: Keep Redskins Under 10 Points
The Cowboys' defense is no joke. They're allowing 17.2 points per game, which is second best in the entire NFL right now. They're ready to face a Redskins' team that is ranked as the 25th offense in scoring. On top of that, the Redskins' receivers are pretty banged up.
3 of Washington's top 4 receivers (Chris Thompson, Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder) not expected to play vs. Cowboys https://t.co/9uOkA7Pzhv
This could end up being the second consecutive big win for the Cowboys, specially because the defense should have a very good day.
Wish #5: Big Return on Special Teams
The last time the Dallas Cowboys played the Washington Redskins, Ryan Switzer returned a punt 83 yards into the end zone in what will remain his biggest highlight from his short career with the Dallas Cowboys.
We haven't seen much excitement on special teams this year. Switzer is now a Pittsburgh Steeler, so Tavon Austin has gotten most of the punt returns. However, that's bound to change after he sustained an unfortunate injury. Deonte Thompson has taken care of the kick returns but nothing special has happened either.
I wish that changes today. With Austin out, I wonder if it'll be Cole Beasley or someone else fielding punts for Dallas but whoever it is, things will be spiced up. Through 6 weeks, the Cowboys longest punt return has been for 22 yards and the longest kick return for 35.
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