If you're anything like me... the recent bad news surrounding the Dallas Cowboys has you somewhat bummed about the 2016 season. The Cowboys' current defense is depleted via suspensions; Rolando McClain added a 10-game ban to a front-seven that already had pass rushers Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence suspended - each out for the first four games of the year.
If you're anything like me... in the midst of all of this, thoughts of this team being far from a Super Bowl LI contender and letting down Tony Romo once again have crossed your mind too much over the past few days.
If you're anything like me... you realize that the Dallas Cowboys will always have a chance with Tony Romo as their quarterback, and it is something you appreciate every day.
With the aforementioned bad news surrounding America's Team on this holiday, and no on-the-field team activities to speak of, I figure now is as good a time as ever to appreciate the one and only Tony Romo - in anticipation of his return to action.
Tony Romo Owns the NFC East, and will prove it again in 2016
Dalllas Cowboys Finish the Fight!
Similarly to 2015, the Dallas Cowboys will start their season against two divisional rivals. Tony Romo's career record against the NFC East is 33-25. He's thrown 88 touchdowns to 52 interceptions against the Giants, Redskins, and Eagles.
In 2013, the Cowboys defense was one of the worst in NFL history. Even still, Tony Romo managed a 5-0 record against the NFC East. Unfortunately, due to injury, Tony missed the most crucial divisional showdown of them all, as the Cowboys and Eagles met up in week 17 with the division on the line.
The Cowboys came close, but were missing the drive that Tony Romo provides, and ended their season at home with a 24-22 loss. In those five previous wins against the NFC East, here were Romo's stats:
The first thing that should jump out from these absurd stats is the number of times Tony Romo was asked to throw the ball. It's hard to win in the NFL averaging just over 38 passing attempts per game, but Tony Romo can persevere all odds.
Little did we know, a 2013 season that only further proved how dysfunctional the Cowboys were outside of their quarterback would lead to a 2014 season in which the world would be forced to take notice of #9.
Tony Romo's Resurgence: The 2014 Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys added another key piece to their offensive line entering the 2014 season when they drafted Zack Martin in the first round. Little did they know, Martin would become the missing piece to an offensive front that would dominate the line of scrimmage all season long.
The Cowboys' offensive line became their identity, with DeMarco Murray being the main benefactor of their superb run-blocking skills. With opposing defenses forced to pay less attention toward Romo and the passing game, the quarterback effortlessly tossed 34 touchdowns - 16 of which went to Dez Bryant.
This trio of offensive stars helped keep the Dallas defense off the field, which ultimately led the team to a 12-4 record, good enough to win the NFC East. After a signature game winning drive from Tony Romo advanced the Cowboys past the Lions in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs, their season came to a crushing end at the hands of the Green Bay Packers on the road the following week.
You saw in the opening video how much that controversial loss meant to Tony Romo, who turned his attention to 2015 along with Cowboys Nation.
A Year to Forget...
A 2015 season that was supposed to end with Tony Romo hoisting the Lombardi Trophy instead ended with him playing in just four games. Ironically enough, two of the three wins Romo led his team to were against the Giants and Eagles in the first two weeks of the season.
Injuries ravaged the roster from top to bottom, as Jason Garrett kept his club competitive yet distant in the playoff hunt. For the offense, the second most notable absence was Dez Bryant, who was never the same after a week 1 foot injury suffered at home against the Giants.
The journey (so far) of Dallas Cowboy QB Tony Romo. Special thanks to Tek2000 for the original inspiration and some of the clips. All footage belongs to the NFL. Made solely for entertainment purposes.
The Return of Tony Romo: 2016 Aspirations
With the 2015 season being one to forget, the Dallas Cowboys have now turned their attentions to 2016.
Not only will Dez Bryant and Tony Romo be back on the field with a vengeance, but rookie Ezekiel Elliott is here and eager to become the missing element in the Cowboys' modern reincarnation of the 1990s "Triplets."
The entire team is going to try to mimic the formula that worked so well for them in 2014, which should mean great things for Romo and the offense. The idea for this Tony Romo appreciation post came from the reality of the Cowboys defense looking like it will need plenty of offensive support this season.
In reality, this article could have been written at any time, because Tony Romo is always ready for whatever challenge lies before him. If the Cowboys are going to need to put up points to win in 2016, then expect Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and Ezekiel Elliott - along with Brice Butler, Cole Beasley, and Terrance Williams - to rise to the occasion and bring this team back to where they want to be.
If you're anything like me... you cannot wait for the Dallas Cowboys to step onto the football field again for training camp this month. If you're like me, you cannot wait to see what Tony Romo has in store for us on the long march toward the Super Bowl.
If you're anything like me... you know that Tony Romo is going to have a special season.
✭ To our quarterback, Cowboys Nation! ✭
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Draft Needs: Impact of Free Agency Moves & Rumors
With most of the marquee NFL free agents already off the market, many are already turning their eyes to the 2019 Draft. Whether a glaring need went unaddressed or the needs have simply changed, the draft offers the next big opportunity for teams like the Dallas Cowboys to stock talent for next season.
While they've been conservative so far this offseason, Dallas has been active in the last few days in covering bases and giving itself more flexibility for the draft. They don't want to have to reach on a talent because of a need, nor do they want to tip their hand too much to the rest of the league.
As of now there are still some significant acquisitions that could happen. Dallas has visited with veteran Safety Eric Berry and Defensive Lineman Malik McDowell, plus are reportedly in trade talks with Miami for Defend End Robert Quinn. Any of these moves could have a big impact on their need levels for the draft.
We've already seen some changes thanks to offseason activity. With Tuesday's signing of Randall Cobb, plus moves to retain Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns, Dallas may not be looking at a receiver as early as we might've thought. The same can be said for Jason Witten's return and the tight end position.
If the draft were today, without accounting for any of the players that the Cowboys have had talks with but remain unsigned, here's how I would rank the team's 2019 draft needs:
- Defensive End
- Defensive Tackle
- Tight End
- Running Back
- Wide Receiver
- Offensive Tackle
- Quarterback (Mike White is their drafted backup project for at least another year.)
- Punter (Could add someone to compete with Chris Jones and save some cap dollars.)
- Fullback (They re-signed Jamize Olawale, who they barely use anyway. Zero need here.)
I put safety on top because it's the spot that could most use an immediate upgrade and has some pressing future need. Dallas didn't make the big move for Earl Thomas that many hoped for and Jeff Heath's contract expires after this season. Hopefully, a second-round talent could compete for a starting job now and at least replace Heath in 2020.
Even with the Kerry Hyder signing defensive end has some major red flags. DeMarcus Lawrence has sworn he would holdout without a long-term deal. Randy Gregory is suspended again, and now Tyrone Crawford is now facing potential league action from an incident with police last week. Unless the Cowboys think Taco Charlton is going to make a big push in his third year, they could be hurting for a pass rush in 2019.
I expect things with Lawrence will get resolved, and I doubt Crawford will get suspended for more than a game or two if at all. But Dallas could still use another solid DE if they don't get this deal for Robert Quinn done.
Remember, the 2019 Cowboys aren't working with a first-round pick. Barring a trade, they'll be waiting until the 58th pick to make their first selection. That limits the impact potential of their picks and makes what they do with the Day 2 picks all the more critical.
So what if the Cowboys pull off these three potential moves, adding Berry, McDowell, and Quinn? Each player would help to address the top three needs on my list.
Eric Berry hopefully solves the immediate upgrade need at safety, though it may not do much for the future. He turns 31 this year and was released by Kansas City because of multiple injury issues. Dallas could still consider taking a rookie prospect, perhaps even releasing Jeff Heath for cap savings if needed.
Malik McDowell was considered a first-round talent in 2017 but has never played after a major ATV accident prior to his first training camp with Seattle. If he's finally recovered enough to return to football and play at his original potential, he could give Dallas a talent infusion that none of their draft capital could provide.
Robert Quinn has been around a while but will be just 29 in May, and is still putting up sacks at a solid rate. He's averaged 7.5 sacks the last two years with two different teams. He would go a long way to stabilizing things at defensive end and allowing Dallas look at guys like Gregory and Hyder as icing on the cake.
If Dallas lands all three players then I would adjust the list as follows:
- Tight End
- Defensive Tackle
- Running Back
- Defensive End
- Wide Receiver
If you think about it, the safety and tight end positions would be kind of similar in this scenario. You'd have Eric Berry and Jason Witten as the veteran stopgaps, Xavier Woods and Blake Jarwin as intriguing young guys with starting potential, and Kavon Frazier and Dalton Schultz as other young depth.
However, at every step, safety would be deeper and have more upside. Berry should have more to often than Witten, Woods is more proven than Jarwin, and Frazier is more experienced than Schultz.
Plus, we didn't even mention that you'd have Jeff Heath for experience and versatility at safety. Meanwhile, TE Rico Gathers probably won't be on next year's team.
So yes, I'd vault tight end to the top of the need list. Dallas may like Blake Jarwin but they could find a far more polished and talented player with the 58th pick.
Even with McDowell and Christian Covington added to the mix, Dallas would still be wise to address the defensive tackle position. They have several contract issues coming up at once in 2020.
Covington and Maliek Collins will be unrestricted free agents next year. The Cowboys will also likely want to finally shed Tyrone Crawford's contract, with $8 million in cap relief possible. That would leave them pretty bare at defensive tackle.
Dallas could make a move now to solidify their rotation and prepare for the future. They'd have a little more stability at defensive end with assumed multi-year deals for Lawrence and Quinn, making tackle the more immediate concern.
The backup running back spot can't be ignored, with only Darius Jackson and Jordan Chunn currently signed behind Ezekiel Elliott. If Dallas doesn't bring back Rod Smith between now and the draft, they may want to spend a high pick for Zeke's relief man and an additional offensive weapon.
Elliott's own contract will be up for discussion as soon. Having a talented player with a four-year rookie deal behind him could give the Cowboys much-needed leverage in any future talks with their franchise back.
~ ~ ~
We'll see if Dallas lands any of the players we've hypothesized about. Any of them would help lessen the need at their positions, but those would still remain important areas for the Cowboys to look at in the upcoming draft.
Ezekiel Elliott vs Byron Jones Part II: The Case For Paying Zeke
It's a debate that has raged on social media for some time now and it likely won't slow down as the offseason progresses and the Dallas Cowboys begin to hand out massive contracts to their top players. Pay Ezekiel Elliott? Pay Byron Jones? If you could only pay one, which would you pay?
This week fellow Inside The Star Staff Writer, Kevin Brady took to Twitter to poll the populous and his results were a bit surprising to me.
if you can only pay one it should be
The results inspired me to see what would happen if I put the same poll on my timeline.
Inspired by my teammate @KevinBrady88, if you can only pay one, which would it be?
On Monday, Kevin wrote a piece looking at one of the difficult decisions facing the Dallas Cowboys this offseason or next. If the Cowboys could only extend Byron Jones OR Ezekiel Elliott, who should they choose? Kevin, as am I, is a firm believer in Byron Jones ability and says the Cowboys should extend them, and I agree. But let's look at the other side of the argument.
To begin, the Cowboys should and probably will get both guys contract extensions either this offseason or next. It's not impossible with the cap continuing to increase at a rate of about $8-12 million per year that the Cowboys will have the space to get the deals done that they need to get done. Ezekiel Elliott and Byron Jones included.
Byron Jones settled in nicely at cornerback during his first full season at cornerback and knowing what we know about Jones, he won't be satisfied with a second team All-Pro appearance. Expect him to get better. However, if there's a single player that represents the current identity of the Dallas Cowboys, it's Running Back Ezekiel Elliott.
The Cowboys made him the fourth overall pick in 2016 and haven't looked back in their plan to establish the running game. For his career Elliott has averaged 26.9 touches per game over the course of his 40 games.
Here's a look at what Elliott's per game and per 16 game paces look like through the first three seasons of his career.
As you can see from the table above, Ezekiel Elliott is averaging 131.2 total yards per game for his career. In his rookie season he had 1,994 total yards and he sat out the week 17 game against the Philadelphia Eagles when the Cowboys had the NFC and home field advantage locked up. In 2017, Elliott sat out six games and still had nearly 1,000 yards rushing. In 2018, Elliott broke through the 2,000 total yard barrier after seeing a huge increase in his targets and receptions.
Ezekiel Elliott has been everything the Dallas Cowboys could have hoped for and more. With the leadership role he's taken with the team, he's a player that leads both vocally and by example. There are few players on the Dallas Cowboys that give as much effort as he does each snap. How many times has it looked like Elliott was about to get dropped for a two or three yard loss only to grind through tackles to pick up a four yard gain? How many times has he bounced off tacklers to get to the first down marker? Ezekiel Elliott is the human personification of dirty yards, but don't let that fool you into thinking that Elliott can't take it to the house every time he touches the ball. Elliott's is a game breaker who threatens the defense every time he steps on the field.
In 2018, Elliott led the NFL in yards after contact, per Pro Football Focus. His 949 yards after contact in 2018 would have ranked 13th in the NFL in rushing, which was better than David Johnson's 940 yards rushing last season.
Not many running backs effect a football game like Ezekiel Elliott does.
Few players outside of the quarterback position are as much of a focal point for their offense while being an attention grabber for opposing defenses like Ezekiel Elliott is. In 2018, he saw eight or more men in the box on nearly 25% of his carries in 2018. Some of that is related to the Dallas Cowboys insistence on using two tight ends on 50% of their running plays (per Sharp Football), but the other aspect is related to how much they respect the Dallas Cowboys running game. Since the 2014, the Cowboys have been synonymous with running the football. DeMarco Murray, Darren McFadden, and now Ezekiel Elliott have been the faces of that running game behind the Cowboys elite offensive line.
Even in a down year for offensive line play from the Dallas Cowboys, Elliott still managed to lead the NFL in rushing for the second time in three seasons. Elliott made the Pro Bowl for the second time in three years as well. Were it not for the railroad job done by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in 2017, there's a really good chance that Elliott leads the league in rushing three years in a row and that the Dallas Cowboys make the playoffs all three seasons.
Sure, the running back position is undervalued in the NFL and rushing yardage can be replaced, but there are intangibles to Elliott's game that are very difficult to replace. His ability to grind out the dirty yards, break big plays, create yards after contact, pass protect, be a threat as a receiver, and his leadership make him a player that is difficult to replace.
Yes, Byron Jones was really good in 2018 and deserves to get paid by the Dallas Cowboys as well, but you'd be hard pressed to find a player on the Cowboys roster who has been as consistent and dominating week in and week out as Ezekiel Elliott has been over the last three years.
BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb
According to multiple sources, the Dallas Cowboys have signed former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year deal to help bolster their depth at the WR position and potentially become Cole Beasley's replacement.
Cowboys are giving former Packers' WR Randall Cobb a one-year, $5 million deal, per source. https://t.co/8KWFPjSP8T
The Dallas Cowboys met with Randall Cobb earlier this week, but he eventually left Dallas without a contract. He must've had a change of heart or just needed time to ponder the Cowboys offer, but regardless of what transpired in that short time he is now part of America's Team.
During his time with the Packers, Cobb accumulated 470 receptions for 5,524 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. The eight-year veteran will now be expected to replace some of Cole Beasley's production out of the slot for the Dallas Cowboys.
After years of watching Beasley as the Cowboys slot WR, it will be really interesting to see Randall Cobb in that role. He's not as quick twitched as No. 11, but can be just as dangerous due to his ability to be more of a down the field receiver. He also brings added value in the return game and could compete with Tavon Austin to become the return specialist.
This could mean the Cowboys forgo drafting a wide receiver early in the 2019 NFL Draft, but I wouldn't put it past them. Regardless of what happens, this is an excellent addition.
Welcome to Cowboys Nation Randall Cobb!
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