March 10th, 2015. That day means a lot to me.
I'm a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. Duh. Welcome to Inside The Star, where we write/talk/jibber-jabber about America's Team.
Every day of my life before March 10th, 2015 that fandom was something that I kept to myself, and then that day happened.
On March 10th, 2015 I got an email from Bryson Treece - Owner, Founder, and Managing Editor of Inside The Star. He was responding to an inquiry that I'd made about writing for his site. 522 days, 400 articles, 31 episodes of the RJOShow, and countless streams on OchoLive... here we are.
It's been one incredible ride, but it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't gotten a little bold. That first email I sent Bryson? I remember sitting in my apartment, my Mom in town for the weekend playing on her iPad, and I realized that I was ready to finally do something about this passion of mine.
In the last 522 days I've made more bold decisions. I've chosen topics that people hated, I've tried to make jokes that didn't land, and I actually tried to sell the idea that Matt Cassel could lead the Cowboys to the Playoffs in 2015. As I've grown and gained more experience, that boldness has become quite the thrill.
If you're a loyal Inside The Star reader (Hey! Love you!) then you remember me authoring our weekly Bold Predictions here. With the Cowboys back for 2016... so am I.
Every week, every single one, I'll be dropping my Bold Predictions for Cowboys/Whoever on the weekday before that game. I can promise you they will be bold, fun, and one incredible ride.
Tomorrow we watch the Dallas Cowboys play a football game.
Today we get bold.
Welcome to this week's Bold Predictions. Vamonos.
The Rams Are Referred To As "St. Louis" Three Times
Alright, I know what you're thinking. This is a Dallas Cowboys site so this doesn't make sense. JUST HANG ON I'M GETTING THERE.
This is the first Nationally Televised game of the 2016 NFL season. It's the Cowboys. With the NFL back in Los Angeles. ESPN's Monday Night Football is on the call. That means, thanks to a HOF-can't-paint-the-field fiasco, it's new MNF play-by-play man Sean McDonough's first swim in the big kids pool.
The pressure is going to be massive to make this game epic given the HOF Game's inability to paint (seriously guys, even the little kids pool swimmers know how to paint). McDonough is going to be:
- Trying to handle Jon Gruden.
- Mesmerized by the Dallas Cowboys.
At some point when Dak Prescott crosses the 700-yard mark (A Bold Prediction within a Bold Prediction! I'm already in midseason form!), McDonough is going to have a "doh!" moment and accidentally say Saint Lewis (More fun to type than St. Louis... even though I just did. I hate myself.) when he means Los Angeles. As for the other two? Jon Gruden is on the call. You can bank on this.
Darius Jackson Will Have Over 150 Total Yards
There's a rookie running back who's impressing folks out at Dallas Cowboys Training Camp and his name is not Ezekiel Elliott.
"Wut" -you probably.
When Darius Jackson was selected in the 6th Round my brain immediately thought of him as the Tashard Choice to Zeke's Felix Jones. I'm not at all contending that Zeke is destined for the same path as Felix because that would be
literally the worst thing in the world unfortunate.
What I'm saying is that Darius Jackson is impressing folks, and the Cowboys are taking things easy with Zeke. Given the variety of factors in the probability machine, me thinks that Darius is going to have an opportunity to feast like on the Rams like I do on Honey Bunches of Oats cereal. I LIKE IT OK.
Between straight up rushes, passes out of the backfield, and some use in the return game... Darius is about to do work.
A Referee Will Accidentally Place A Touchback At The 20-Yard Line
This offseason the NFL made some changes that we all need to remember:
- We all agreed to never speak of the 2015 Cowboys ever again.
- Dez still caught it.
- Touchbacks (from kickoffs, not punts) are now marked at the 25-yard line, not the 20 like they have been. Why? Cause.
I talked a lot on this week's episode of the RJOShow with Inside The Pylon's Chuck Zodda, a former collegiate kicker, about the ramifications that this could have on the 2016 NFL season. Now to be crystal clear we discussed the repercussions in terms of coaching strategies, we didn't account for mental lapses from referees.
That's what we're doing today - assuming a referee is going to have a whoopsie moment. Think about muscle memory for a second. My fingers are permanently fixated to hold my iPhone, you're telling me it's impossible that referees won't just walk out to the 20-yard mark out of habit? Get outta town!
Pay attention on Saturday. We're gonna see a referee come up five yards short and then we're going to laugh. Man, it's going to be awesome.
There Will Be A "New Triplets" Reference
Hey did you know that the Cowboys have an amazing quarterback, running back, and wide receiver? And did you know that they had this same tripod in the 1990s? AND did you know that people called that trio "The Triplets"?! I bet you didn't.
Tony Romo, Ezekiel Elliott, and Dez Bryant have some lofty expectations and big-time legacies to live up to as a threesome. My fellow Staff Writer, cycling aficionado extraordinaire, Sean Martin recently took a stab at projecting their 2016 stats if you're into that sort of thing (you should be because there's some high-quality math in there).
People think this is the second coming of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin. Honestly it's pretty difficult not to get all hot and bothered over that though, whoa I need to cool off.
8 (Troy) + 22 (Emmitt) + 88 (Mike) = 118. 9 (Romo) + 21 (Zeke) + 88 (Dez) = 118. The math checks out.
It's easy to make this connection. Considering that Romo, Zeke, and Dez won't play if at all on Saturday, when they're shown by cameras it'll be on the sideline in sweats.
Imagine the trio, the three best friends that anyone could have, chomping on flower seeds. Pondering life. Envisioning glory. Wondering why the NFL lets the Eagles be a real team.
Now cue the broadcast panning in on them saying, "There's the 'new' Triplets!". Bam.
Dak Prescott Will Throw A Left-Handed Pass
I TOLD YOU WE WERE GETTING BOLD THIS SEASON.
Tony Romo has had to do a lot of things as the quarterback for America's Team. Last year, in a contest against the Miami Dolphins, he added a new trick to his repertoire when he went full-out southpaw against the 'Fins. (By the way, if there is not a group of Miami fans known as Dol-fans then they have really failed as a fandom).
Thanks to an injury to an actual southpaw, Kellen Moore, the Cowboys are now relying on 4th Round Draft Pick Dak Prescott to earn the role of backup QB/clipboard holder/Romo heir/job that disappointed us game after game last season. Dak, hailing from the SEC's Mississippi State, is of pretty high pedigree and a lot of people think he can make some moves at the NFL level.
Well I think he's making some moves... left-handed. Yea. That's right. Calling my shot. LET'S DO THIS THING.
Dak's going to be in the game. The Rams are going to rush. He's going to scramble. He's going to throw it left-handed. It's going to be completed. We're going to reference Romo doing it. It's going to be beautiful.
Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches
Lamentablemente, la temporada 2018 de los Dallas Cowboys ha llegado a su fin. Lo hizo cuando el equipo visitó Los Angeles para intentar sorprender a los Rams en su propio campo en la Ronda Divisional de los playoffs. Ni siquiera con una invasión exitosa de la afición de Dallas pudieron ganarse un pase al Campeonato de Conferencia. En vez de eso, los Cowboys estarán viendo desde casa y la afición estará preguntándose: ¿qué sigue para los Dallas Cowboys?
Parece ya una tradición anual que no podemos dejar pasar. Este momento en el que comenzamos a cuestionar, una vez más, que entrenador es digno de quedarse en la franquicia y cual debe irse. En esta edición de "Cowboys en Español," hablaremos específicamente de los tres principales coaches en el equipo.
Coordinador Defensivo Rod Marinelli
El futuro del coordinador defensivo de los Dallas Cowboys no se puede tratar sin mencionar a Kris Richard. Fue la defensiva la que llevó al equipo hasta la postemporada y fue la unidad que cargó al equipo en muchas de sus victorias. Incluso con la llegada de Amari Cooper a Dallas, la defensiva fue siempre el pilar de la franquicia esta temporada.
Jaylon Smith y Leighton Vander Esch sorprendentemente se perfilaron como uno de los mejores duos de linebackers en toda la liga, la línea defensiva fue muy exitosa con Randy Gregory y DeMarcus Lawrence en los extremos y con la grata sorpresa que fue Antwaun Woods en el centro. La secundaria vio la mejor temporada en la controversial carrera de Byron Jones e hizo un excelente trabajo con un talento decente, pero no genial.
Todo esto, y el haber terminado como la sexta mejor defensiva en puntos permitidos (20.2) y la quinta mejor contra la corrida (94.6), hace a Rod Marinelli merecedor de una ronda de aplausos. Sin embargo, Richard probablemente merezca más aplausos.
Fue Richard quien revolucionó la defensiva de los Cowboys y la convirtió en un grupo mucho más agresivo. Fue él quien implementó jugadas de "blitz" en el equipo (algo no común con Marinelli) y quien en un punto de la temporada, comenzó a seleccionar las jugadas desde la banda.
En esta posición, me parece que los Dallas Cowboys tienen que enfrentar la dura decisión de decirle a Marinelli que es tiempo de dejarle el puesto a Kris Richard. Si bien no se llevó un trabajo de head coach, es muy probable que le llovieran ofertas a Richard si no se hace con el título de coordinador defensivo en Dallas.
Coordinador Ofensivo Scott Linehan
Con un equipo tan polémico como este, la afición de Dallas no concuerda en muchas cosas. Sin embargo, lo hacen al hablar del pésimo trabajo que Scott Linehan ha realizado mandando las jugadas en ofensiva. Realmente ha sido doloroso de ver y es en mi opinión, el mayor problema que tiene el equipo actualmente.
Semana tras semana, fuimos testigos de pésimas decisiones en la ofensiva de los Cowboys. Vimos como el equipo se aferraba a llenar la caja de defensivos antes de correr el balón con Ezekiel Elliott. Vimos incontables pases pantalla en tercera oportunidad y largo. Pero no solo es lo que vimos, sino lo que no vimos.
A pesar de la innegable habilidad para correr el balón de Dak Prescott, Linehan se rehusó a explotar esta versatilidad de su QB. Vimos pocos "QB sneaks," jugada donde el mariscal toma el balón bajo centro y consigue poco yardage detrás del empuje de su línea ofensiva.
Siendo honestos, los Cowboys llevan dos años sufriendo por este coordinador. Dejarlo volver en el 2019 sería una decisión ridícula. Los comentarios en la radio de Jason Garrett no lucen prometedores, pero realmente sería una sorpresa que fueran ciertos. Linehan no debe volver... punto.
Head Coach Jason Garrett
El futuro en esta posición será muy debatido durante los próximos meses, pero de los tres que hemos mencionado es sin lugar a dudas el más seguro de todos. Nos guste o no, Jason Garrett estará al frente del equipo la próxima temporada.
Garrett está lejos de ser un gran coach y aún le hace falta demostrar que puede cumplir las aspiraciones de los Cowboys de traer un sexto Trofeo Lombardi a casa. Pero siendo honesto, este equipo debería tener suficiente con Garrett y un par de buenos coordinadores. ¿El problema? No hay un par de buenos coordinadores en el equipo.
Sin embargo, Garrett ha demostrado que cuenta con el amor y apoyo de sus jugadores. Ha demostrado que efectivamente, puede ganar la división (lo ha hecho en tres de los últimos cinco años). Este año el equipo le dio la vuelta a la temporada después de comenzar 3-5.
Lo más preocupante en mi opinión, es la falta de urgencia para despedir a Linehan, por ejemplo. Quizá a puerta cerrada Garrett quiere un cambio en su staff, pero nunca lo sabremos.
Jason Garrett no es un coach excelente, pero podría ser suficiente para llevar a los Cowboys a un Super Bowl si tiene un equipo adecuado. Todo parece indicar que su trabajo está seguro (incluso más de lo que pensamos) así que es tiempo de esperar que se arreglen sus coordinadores.
2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch
As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.
It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.
Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.
No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.
Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.
This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.
There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.
Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.
Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.
What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?
Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.
Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.
They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?
Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.
Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.
Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.
Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.
Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.
This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.
The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.
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