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Dallas Cowboys Mid-Season Awards

John Williams

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Sean's Scout: Cooper's Improvements at LG Sparks Cowboys Run Game

We’re at the halfway point of the 2017 season for your Dallas Cowboys and there’s already been plenty of drama. There are eight more games to go and no telling how the season will play out from here, but things are definitely trending in the right direction with the Cowboys winning three straight.

With that lets hand out some mid-season hardware to America’s Team.

Cowboys Defense Better Or Worse Then Last Season?

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Most Valuable Player – Sean Lee

The eye test alone shows you the difference that weak side linebacker and 2016 All-Pro Sean Lee has made to this defense. His presence in the run game has been transcendent. A team that looked like a sieve while Lee was out with a hamstring injury, now looks the part of a championship defense.

They’ve done an excellent job rushing the passer all season, but the one weakness that’s been clear was their play in the run game.

Without Sean Lee in the lineup vs the Los Angeles Rams and the Green Bay Packers, the Dallas Cowboys allowed 164 yards rushing per game, while allowing only 80.33 yards per game with Lee in the lineup. The points per game is also drastically different with (18 PPG) and without Lee (35 PPG).

He’s on track for another All-Pro season at this rate, and as long as Lee’s health holds up the Cowboys are on track for playoff contention.

Offensive Player of the Half Year – Dak Prescott

It’s easy to make an argument for Ezekiel Elliott or one of the offensive lineman, but to me it has to be Dak Prescott.

Aside from his poor outing at the Denver Broncos in week two, Dak has been excellent this season. Even in the back to back losses to the Rams and Packers, Dak and the Dallas Cowboys went toe-to-toe with two of the best offenses in the league. Hard to fault him for losing a game while scoring 30+ points.

Dak’s 16 passing touchdowns have him fifth in the NFL, tied with Tom Brady and ahead of notable players such as Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, and Matthew Stafford. His quarterback rating now sits at a very Dak-like 97.6, which is good for eighth in the NFL.

And don’t forget about his four rushing touchdowns. Expect that number to continue rising.

After turning the ball over five times in weeks two through five, Dak has returned to his ball protecting ways with zero turnovers in the last three games. He’s exactly who the Dallas Cowboys thought he was. A franchise quarterback.

Honorable Mentions

LG Jonathan Cooper – Despite not really “winning” the job until week four, left guard Jonathan Cooper has really helped the Dallas Cowboys offensive line and running game find their stride in the 2017 season.

In weeks 1-3, with Chaz Green as the starter at LG, the Cowboys averaged 89.33 yards rushing per game. In the five games since being inserted into the starting lineup, Dallas has averaged 183.6 yards per game.

RB Ezekiel Elliott’s Lawyers – I know we are all pretty wore out on Ezekiel Elliott’s legal news, but without the hard work of Zeke’s legal team, it’s likely Elliott isn’t available for the last couple of games.

Make no mistake, if Elliott has to sit at all this season, it’s going to be a huge loss for the Dallas Cowboys. He’s a generational running back. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Takeaway Tuesday: 1

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence, DT David Irving (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

Defensive Player of the Half Year – DeMarcus Lawrence

This could have been Lee as well, but to go another direction, let’s go with the guy that could easily be in the discussion for team MVP, DeMarcus Lawrence. His 10.5 sacks are a half a sack behind NFL leader Calais Campbell. In the early stages of the season, there were times when Lawrence absolutely carried this defense.

With tremendous early season success, teams are now paying pretty close attention to where #90 is on the field, which predictably has opened up opportunities for everyone else.

David Irving has progressed quite nicely after an inconsistent 2016 season, and looks to be an absolute diamond in the Kansas City practice squad rough, but without the production that Lawrence gave early in the season, would Irving be having as much success as he is right now. One can never know, but Lawrence’s impact can’t be understated. He’s a big reason why this team is 5-3 and could be 7-1.

Lawrence is the “war daddy” that the Dallas Cowboys front office has been searching for since the other DeMarcus was allowed to leave.

Honorable Mention: David Irving – David Irving’s six sacks and four passes defensed are second on the team in those categories. And he’s only played in four games. By the end of the year, we might be talking about Irving as an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Noah Brown

Noah Brown and Ryan Switzer have been the offensive rookies of note and both have had some good plays for the team. They’ve played the same amount of offensive snaps this season, and Brown has stood out in a positive way much more than Switzer has.

He had a big catch that set up a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals. Against the San Francisco 49ers, his block of two defenders helped spring Ezekiel Elliott on his 72-yard touchdown on the screen pass.

Switzer hasn’t really found a comfort level on returns, which is the primary thing he was brought here for.

Honorable Mention: Cooper Rush – He hasn’t played much, but he gets mentioned for being the guy to push Kellen Moore out the door. Working his way onto the roster after being an undrafted free agent is a pretty awesome accomplishment though.

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly For Cowboys Against Cardinals 3

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Defensive Rookie of the Half Year – Jourdan Lewis

John Owning on Twitter

Jourdan Lewis was not targeted at all vs KC according to PFF

That says a tremendous amount about the third round draft pick out of Michigan.

Jourdan Lewis has quickly become the best cornerback on the Dallas Cowboys roster. His tenacious tackling ability and sticky coverage in the slot or on the outside have been a bright spot for the 2017 draft class.

He hasn’t been perfect, but rookie cornerbacks rarely are. He’s been really good though and looks the part of a top flight cover corner for years to come.

Honorable Mentions

Jaylon Smith – Let’s be honest, Jaylon Smith has been bad at times. But his presence alone has been important for the team. Imagine what the defense would have looked like without him during Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens‘ absences. Smith has found a role recently as a blitzer and has done that effectively. Less is more for the 2016 second round pick and the Dallas Cowboys.

Xavier Woods – Xavier Woods was the steal of the 2017 NFL Draft in many pundit’s minds. Slowly but surely he’s begun to work his way more and more into the lineup and is impressing with his ability to cover multiple spots and show great range as a deep safety. While the team is still in love with Jeff Heath, it’s clear that Woods is the future at safety.

Surprise Players of the Half Year

The Good – Terrance Williams

Despite a couple of underwhelming games, Williams has been pretty good throughout the first eight weeks of the season. He’s now on pace for 60 receptions on 80 targets for 714 yards. Those aren’t elite wide receiver numbers, but they are pretty solid for a number two receiver in a run-first offense. Considering the weapons at Dak Prescott’s disposal, 60 receptions is a good year.

The Bad – Anthony Brown

Anthony Brown’s second year has been a disappointment after his solid rookie season. He’s getting beat an awful lot and without an improved second half of the season, will probably have the Dallas Cowboys looking at CB again in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Who are you handing hardware to at the midway point? 

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I didn’t start out as a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quickly as I could. I grew up a Joe Montana fan when he was with the 49ers and followed him to the Chiefs, until we moved to Texas. I’ve now been a Fan of the Boys since the Dark Days of the Post-Aikman, Pre-Romo era of abysmal quarterback play, now relishing in more than a decade of franchise quarterbacking for America’s Team.

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La’el Collins’ Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise

Brian Martin

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La'el Collins' Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise 1

The decision by the Dallas Cowboys to move La’el Collins from left guard to right tackle was met by some skepticism by quite a few members of Cowboys Nation during the off-season. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was one of those skeptical of the move, but I’m not afraid to admit he has exceeded my expectations.

In all honesty, I always believed that La’el Collins’ best position in the NFL is on the interior of the offense of line as a guard. I thought he could use his strength and athleticism to his advantage when working in a phone booth against slower and less athletic defensive tackles. That’s not to say I didn’t think he would make a good right tackle, I just thought he had Pro Bowl potential as a guard.

Strangely enough, Collins has probably put together a Pro Bowl caliber season in his first season starting at the right tackle position for the Cowboys. He has become an upgrade over the previous starter Doug Free, and is really starting to earn high praise from the brass. Stephen Jones in particular has been impressed with Collins, especially considering how he has played after missing two full weeks of practice.

Mark Lane on Twitter

DallasCowboys COO Stephen Jones told @1053thefan La’el Collins has answered the bell after his contract extension.

I personally agree with everything Stephen Jones said about La’el Collins. I’ve really enjoyed watching his progression this season, but I have been really impressed how he played the last two weeks after missing so much practice.

You might not of known, but Collins has missed two full weeks of practice due to a herniated disc in his back. This is put his availability to play against the Washington Redskins and New York Giants in jeopardy, but somehow he has toughened up and played considerably well.

This unfortunately will be something he has to continue to battle through the rest of the season, but I’m not going to bet against him playing. He absolutely makes this offensive line better and I would hate to see Chaz Green or Byron Bell back on the field after the way they played as feel-ins.

La’el Collins has without a doubt earned my respect and I think it’s about time we all recognize the player he is turning into. I know the Dallas Cowboys appreciate all that he does and believe that his recent contract extension is money well spent.

What do you think about La’el Collins?

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Cowboys’ DE DeMarcus Lawrence Fed Up With NFL Officiating

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Crossroads: Is This a Short-Term or Long-Term Team? 2

The Dallas Cowboys were able to come away with a 30-10 victory over the New York Giants Sunday afternoon in what was described as a must-win situation in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. Typically, when these two teams square off against one another there are sure to be some kind of fireworks in the ballgame, but the final volley of explosions didn’t go off until after the completion of the game during an interview with DeMarcus Lawrence.

DeMarcus Lawrence didn’t hold back in his post game interview, especially in regard to the NFL officiating. He let his frustrations known that he is fed up and that he’s not going to take it anymore. At least not quietly that is.

Lawrence, the NFL’s sack leader, ripped the officiating crew after the Giants game Sunday afternoon for not calling any holding penalties. There was actually one holding penalty called against the Giants, but the point Lawrence was trying to make still rings true.

Joe Trahan on Twitter

Cowboys DE Demarcus Lawrence goes on an explosive rant about officiating, in particular, a lack of holding calls by linemen against him. And yes, Lawrence realizes he a fine is coming, whether he’s got a point, or not. And yes, he probably does. https://t.co/UU51xQi05p

DeMarcus Lawrence certainly has a right to be mad and I don’t blame him at all for voicing his frustrations about the lack of holding calls against opposing offensive lineman. This actually adds more fuel to the fire that there is indeed an officiating conspiracy against the Cowboys.

In fact, you may or may not be surprised to learn that there have only been two holding penalties called on Cowboys’ opponents in the last 10 games, including the one against the Giants Sunday afternoon. For comparison sake, the Cowboys offensive line have been flagged 18 times during that time span.

It’s gotta be a coincidence, right? Maybe, maybe not. But, one thing is for sure… DeMarcus Lawrence has had enough!

Of course, Lawrence’s outburst will surely earn him a fine from the NFL, but it may be worth it if it draws more attention to the poor officiating the Cowboys have been receiving. I don’t know about you, but I for one am glad #90 will not “go gentle into that good night“.

Do you think DeMarcus Lawrence’s frustration is justified?

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Travis Frederick Nominated For Walter Payton Man Of The Year Award

Sean Martin

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Travis Frederick

Every year since 1970, the National Football League has honored a player that goes above and beyond to give back to their community while excelling on the field of play. Known as the Walter Payton Man Of The Year Award since 1999 (the year the Chicago Bears’ Hall of Fame RB passed away), the Dallas Cowboys’ 2017 nominee is starting C Travis Frederick.

Next month, three finalists will be chosen out of the current field of 32 nominees, and Cowboys Nation will know further if their three-time Pro Bowl center can become the fourth Cowboy to win this award.

TE Jason Witten is the most recent member of America’s Team to take home this prestigious honor back in 2012, meaning that he will play the rest of his career with this sleek jersey decal that was revealed last night.

Brian McCarthy on Twitter

New tradition starting tonite: Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year winners to wear special patch on their jerseys to recognize their contributions to their communities. @saints @drewbrees among the 5 current winners

As their 2017 nominee, Frederick will sport the same logo as a helmet decal. The issue Travis Frederick has grappled with the most since being drafted by the Cowboys is hunger among school children and low-income families.

Frederick’s Blocking Out Hunger Foundation includes a pantry that provides over 10,000 meals a year and his Nourish2Flourish program is on pace to provide students 90,000 meals by the end of this year.

Travis Frederick Walter Payton Man Of The Year – Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This video from the NFL’s release of the 2017 Walter Payton Man Of The Year nominees shows the full range of people Frederick has impacted with his generosity and outreach as a star for a Cowboys team that consistently strives to lead the league in these efforts.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

@dak, @tfrederick72 & @DCC_Tasha visiting @MedicalCityKids, spending time with patients and staff. #CowboysGiveBack

On the field, Travis Frederick has dealt with multiple LGs starting next to him, anchoring the Cowboys’ offensive line through these transitions with his steady play and leadership. Originally seen as a reach of a draft pick, Frederick has blown past most draft projections for him out of Wisconsin in 2013 thanks to his intelligence at the center position.

Taking this same approach to his community service efforts, Frederick is now at the center of an award that all 32 teams would be proud to have on their team for the Dallas Cowboys.

Congratulations to Travis Frederick and the 31 other nominees from around the National Football League.

Tell us what you think about “Travis Frederick Nominated For Walter Payton Man Of The Year Award” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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