There are officially 89 days until the toe meets the ball at AT&T Stadium where the Dallas Cowboys will host the New York Giants on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
I hope that you’ve packed your neon clothes and hair spray because today we’re taking a look back at the 80s. To be specific we are going to determine who the greatest 89 in Dallas Cowboys History is. This is a number that’s typically given to wide receivers or tight ends so we’re sure to see some touchdowns on this list.
The following players have all worn 89 for the Dallas Cowboys:
- Robert Awalt, TE
- Kelly Blackwell, TE
- Thornton Chandler, TE
- Tony Curtis, TE
- Donnie Davis, TE
- Mike Ditka^, TE
- Fred Dugan, WR
- Billy Joe DuPree, TE
- Gavin Escobar*, TE
- Scott Galbraith, TE
- David LaFleur, TE
- John Phillips, TE
- Jim Price, TE
- Brian Salonen, TE/LB
- Derek Tennell, TE
- Derek Ware, TE
- Randal Williams, WR
^Pro Football Hall of Famer
*Active player on the Dallas Cowboys roster
This is quite the list to digest. There are an awful lot of tight ends here, two wide receivers, and I’m sure you’re wondering about that “TE/LB” that I threw in. Brian Salonen was a Montana dude who was drafted to play TE. After mostly playing special teams he was converted to linebacker heading into his sophomore season. He fizzled out shortly, but deserves a mention, as that’s an interesting hybrid.
Few fans will know who Fred Dugan is in Cowboys history. Taken in the 1960 Expansion Draft by the Cowboys…Dugan, along with Billy Howton, became one of the first ever-starting wide receivers for the Dallas franchise. While he only played one year (1960) under Landry and Co., asking to be traded after 1960, Dugan will forever be remembered as one of the very first Cowboys.
It’s obvious that this list is filled up with tight ends. Gavin Escobar is one of the current Cowboy tight ends that look to have a great 2015. The Cowboys had one of the greatest tight ends that have ever played the game lace up for them in Mike Ditka. Don’t believe me? Chew on this, Mike Ditka was the first EVER tight end inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The former Pitt Panther’s accolades as a player really came during his time in Chicago, where he was a part of the 1963 NFL Champion Chicago Bears, but he had quite the run in Dallas as well.
In four years with a star on his helmet Ditka caught 72 passes for 924 yards and 5 TDs. He went to two Super Bowls as a Cowboys player and was a member of the 1971 World Champion Dallas Cowboys squad that won Super Bowl VI. Ditka even caught the final touchdown pass, from fellow Hall of Famer Roger Staubach, in SBVI that gave the Cowboys their 24-3 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Ditka would transition from player to coach for the Cowboys in the 1973 season and was a part of the coaching staff that won Super Bowl XII.
While Ditka was a great 89 for the Cowboys, the Greatest 89 in Dallas Cowboys History poetically landed in Dallas the year that Ditka became a part of the coaching staff. Billy Joe DuPree was taken with the 20th overall pick of the 1973 draft out of Michigan State University. As a 6’4” tight end DuPree was hard to stop and proved it by leading the Cowboys in receiving yards with 392 his rookie season.
Perhaps part of what made DuPree such a great tight end was the presence of Ditka on the coaching staff, or perhaps it was just his own sheer athletic skill. In 11 years (all with Dallas) DuPree caught 267 passes for 3,565 yards and 41 TDs. DuPree played in three Super Bowls: Super Bowl X where the Cowboys lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl XII…a victory against the Denver Broncos (where he led the team in receiving yards with 66), and DuPree caught a touchdown in what I believe was the greatest game of all time…Super Bowl XIII where the Cowboys were outdone by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In an era where tight ends were used most often for blocking, DuPree was a TD machine. He helped redefine the position, as it became more of an offensive threat to opposing defenses. His 41 TDs were a Cowboys tight end record until Jason Witten broke it in 2012.
Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 88 in Dallas Cowboys History is!
Tony Pollard, Supporting Cast or a Co-lead with Ezekiel Elliott?
Since the Dallas Cowboys drafted Running Back Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in the first-round of the 2016 NFL Draft he's been the star of the show. Any of their other offensive weapons have been nothing more than supporting cast the past three years, but rookie RB/WR Tony Pollard could prove to be more than just supporting cast and become more of a co-lead in Zeke's show.
Suggesting Tony Pollard has a chance to be more than just supporting cast with Ezekiel Elliott is a lot to put on a rookies shoulders, but that's the kind of hype he's receiving already. He hasn't even put on the pads yet with the Dallas Cowboys, but he's already receiving Alvin Kamara type comparisons due to the versatility he's expected to bring with him to the NFL.
Living up to those Alvin Kamara comparisons might be even more difficult than becoming anything more than just an extra behind Zeke anytime soon, but it's doable. After all, Kamara immediately stepped in as a rookie and became a costar with Mark Ingram in New Orleans. It's certainly feasible to think Pollard can do the same.
There's of course only one problem with this way of thinking. Mark Ingram is no Ezekiel Elliott. And, no RB on the depth chart behind Zeke the last three years has been good enough to cut into #21's heavy workload. Is the hype surrounding Tony Pollard justified? Is he talented enough to cut into Zeke's playing time?
Those are some really big questions we don't have an answer to as of yet. Training camp could help determine the type of role Tony Pollard will have with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and beyond, but even that can be thrown out the window once games start to matter in the regular season.
Personally, I think Tony Pollard will be part of a supporting cast behind Ezekiel Elliott this year. I just don't think he's ready to step in and costar with Zeke just yet. I think he will be more of a comedic relief that will be used from time to time to keep things interesting. That's not necessarily a bad thing though considering his versatility to contribute in the running or passing game.
In time though, Pollard could prove worthy of an increase in playing time and become more of a co-lead with No. 21. It may very well be in his rookie season, but he's really going to have to prove himself and that will need to start this week when the Dallas Cowboys kick off their training camp in Oxnard, California.
What do you think? Is Tony Pollard supporting cast or a co-lead with Zeke?
Randy Gregory can Make the Perimeter Pass Rush Extremely Formidable
Randy Gregory showed flashes last season of the potential he has as a pass rusher. Even though he only managed one start he did see action in 14 games. Had registered 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, 7 tackles for loss and 15 hits on the quarterback. That's very good production with limited opportunities. Now, this sets up the Dallas Cowboys on the edge getting to the quarterback, and here's how.
The Cowboys acquired Defensive End Robert Quinn via trade from the Dolphins back in March. He is set to start at right defensive end opposite All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence. Gregory, who lines up on the right side as well, can potentially make said side a huge problem for offenses on 2019.
Let's just take a typical season from Quinn which is between 8-9 sacks. If Gregory can give at minimum what he did last season, that's around 15 sacks just between the two of them alone. Now, as we all know, Lawrence can be penciled in for double-digit sacks routinely at this point. So given this information that's a potential 25-30 sacks just from these three players. This is without including guys such as Taco Charlton, Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder, and rookies Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks (assuming they make the final roster).
Why is Gregory's potential impact so important? For me, it's simply where he lines up at defensive end, on the right side. Most quarterbacks are right-handed, which means when they drop back to pass they face left side defensive ends, with their backs to defensive ends coming off the right side. If you can consistently pressure a quarterback from his blindside the opportunities for sacks and fumbles increase. Regardless of how skilled a quarterback is you can't avoid what you can't see.
Of course, this all depends on what the NFL does regarding the reinstatement of Gregory. He was suspended indefinitely in February for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, a situation he is all too familiar with. My guess is Gregory and the Cowboys will ask for a conditional reinstatement like he was given by the NFL in 2018. What this would do is allow Gregory to participate in meetings and condition work until he's a full participant. He is set to apply for that reinstatement within the next few days.
The only thing Randy Gregory can do now is play the waiting game. The league is currently considering the possibility of softening their stance on marijuana use. If they are serious about it I can see Gregory getting reinstated even if it's on a conditional basis. If this is granted the Cowboys will be getting big-time pressure off the edge with Lawrence, Quinn, and Gregory in 2019.
CB Jourdan Lewis Getting Ready For Bounce-Back 2019 Season
For a third round pick, cornerback Jourdan Lewis sure did come to Dallas with his fair share of hype.
In fact, much of Cowboys Nation was more excited about Lewis joining the Cowboys than they were about either of the team's first two selections in that same draft, Taco Charlton and Chidobe Awuzie. But while Awuzie has soared to starting cornerback levels with Dallas during his first two seasons, Jourdan Lewis has been forced to take a back seat.
After a promising rookie season, Jourdan Lewis didn't get much playing time at cornerback in 2018. Anthony Brown took over as the starting slot corner, while Byron Jones and Awuzie manned the outside. This left Lewis as the odd man out, despite what many consider to be impressive cover skills.
Lewis is not allowing this down season to eat away at him too much, though. While speaking with the media last week at SportsCon in Dallas, Lewis gave his thoughts on how his year spent behind the other young Cowboys corners is only fueling him for the future.
"As a competitor it's always tough, especially as a rookie and you're playing all of the time. It's definitely when you take a step back it humbles you. Sometimes you gotta understand that you have to wait your turn and work on your craft. Understand that you always have to stay a professional no matter your situation. And that's what I learned last year."
Considered undersized by the standards typically used by Cowboys secondary coach Kris Richard, some have argued that Lewis was never given a fair shot to earn playing time once Richard took over in 2018. Whether or not this is true can't ever be said for sure, and the level of play Anthony Brown exhibited from the slot in 2018 didn't leave much room for substitutions either.
Still, Jourdan Lewis says he appreciates that time he spent on the bench, and he hopes that it will only drive him towards bigger and better things down the road.
"I appreciate the time that I sat last year honestly...Because it made me a better player, maybe a better person honestly."
The Cowboys cornerback situation didn't get any less crowded this offseason. Not only is Dallas bringing back all three of the aforementioned starters from a year ago, but they also drafted Miami's Michael Jackson in the fifth round of the 2019 draft.
That cornerback room is full of talent. Not only does this create a luxury for the Cowboys at one of the league's most important positions, but it also breeds immense competition between the corners come training camp.
Which, if you didn't know, begins on July 26th.
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