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: Evaluando la Administración
Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.
Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.
Cambios de Coach
A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.
A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.
Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?
A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.
A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.
En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.
La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.
Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.
Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.
No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.
Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story
Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.
Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.
Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.
Here's why those people are wrong.
Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.
Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).
Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.
There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.
Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.
Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.
Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.
Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.
And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.
Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?
When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.
It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.
Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.
Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.
Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.
The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.
Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating
Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating
As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.
Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
Now, he just has to go out and prove it!
Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?
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