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The last time that the Dallas Cowboys hosted the Baltimore Ravens, they entered the contest with nine wins to their name. It was December 20th, 2008... and it was the last game ever played at the historic Texas Stadium.
The Ravens would win the game and spoil the farewell, and they would do so thanks to their rookie quarterback and big-time ground game. Doesn't that sound familiar?
I remember this loss painfully, because I was there. I watched the Ravens ruin our party, and I watched the literal "party" held after the game as Cowboys legends were honored to close out one of the most storied stadiums in professional football history.
This time around the Cowboys are the ones with a rookie quarterback and elite ground game, and if there's anything that comes close to what the Texas Stadium farewell felt like... well it's surely Tony Romo's press conference this week.
Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens is about a new chapter, a new beginning. We were robbed of that opportunity eight years ago, and we're rectifying that situation this time around on our way to nine wins. Welcome to my 5 Bold Predictions. Let’s roll.
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Dan Bailey And Justin Tucker Will Cover Over 200 Yards Through Successful Field Goals
An underrated element to this Sunday's game against the Ravens is the matchup of the kickers. Yes, kickers!
Dan Bailey and Justin Tucker are arguably the two best in the game today, in fact they are arguably the two best all time. Bailey and Tucker, respectively, have the best and second-best field goal percentages in NFL History. Yowza!
Considering the Ravens are bringing a top-ranked defense to town and the Cowboys will be able to limit the Ravens struggling offense, I expect there to be a fair share of field goals attempted on Sunday. When you add up all the yardage... it'll be over 200 yards. Bam.
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Dak Prescott Sheds A Would-Be Terrell Suggs Sack
This week Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs
did exactly what Rex Ryan did with Julian Edelman got creative and playfully took on the persona of "Hacksaw Smithers" to interview Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
Suggs has been playing fairly well in 2016, and he's a huge reason for Baltimore's top-ranked run defense. Here's the thing though, Dak Prescott isn't human. I've seen enough football games and cool superhero movies to know that the good guy always wins, and Dak Prescott is the good guy.
Close your eyes and imagine this. Suggs tears through Lance Dunbar a la Ryan Shazier (that was sad, by the way), he opens his arms, Dak Prescott shimmies his way out of it, Suggs falls to the ground with a big Lennay Kekua hug, and Dak scores. Huzzah.
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Alfred Morris Breaks Free For A 77-Yard Touchdown
You might ask yourself... why is RJ being so specific here with a 77-yard touchdown? Why Alfred Morris? I've got you, friend.
It was a 77-yard Willis McGahee touchdown that effectively sealed the deal for the Baltimore Ravens in their victory at Texas Stadium in 2008. Wills McGahee was Baltimore's back-up running back, so it stung a little bit more than usual. It's time for revenge.
Alfred Morris got the most carries (save for the Browns game, and I mean... it was the Browns) he's had this season since Cincinnati when the Cowboys won in Pittsburgh. Considering Dallas will be on a short week following Baltimore (they play Washington on Thanksgiving) it's not beyond normal reason to expect Morris to get work.
Work your way to a 77-yard touchdown, Butler. Work work work work work.
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Jason Garrett Wins A Challenge For The First Time In 2016
The 2016 Coach of the Year Jason Garrett - yes, acknowledge it now please - has only thrown that glorious red challenge flag once this season. That lone instance happened on Sunday Night Football when Dallas hosted Chicago and Jason Garrett foolishly thought Jason Witten broke the plane. It was not a good challenge to be honest. It wasn't even kind of good.
This is seemingly going to be a rough-and-tough type of game with Baltimore's feisty defense looking to try and prove itself against the league's MVP Ezekiel Elliott - yes, MVP.
There's going to be a point where Jason Garrett reaches for that red handkerchief and tosses it out to an imaginary person running a go route, and he's going to win. Huzzah.
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Gavin Escobar Gets Back In The Endzone
The Cowboys put tight end Geoff Swaim on IR earlier this week, so Gavin Escobar (who's in a contract year, mind you) will see a lot more work as this team's second tight end once again.
For some reason Gavin Escobar fell out of grace with the Cowboys and went unused for what felt like forever. Once upon a time he was a lethal redzone threat that many members of Cowboys Nation barked over and over for to be used more.
With Swaim on IR the Cowboys aren't going to have much of a choice. The Ravens are smart and they're going to pay attention to the top threats on the Cowboys offense, and that's going to free Gavin Escobar up for a chance to score. Boo-ya.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #1
Remember, if you want YOUR Bold Prediction featured here, tweet it at me! It’s that simple! Here are this week’s contributions, thanks to all those who shared!
@rjochoa bold prediction for Sunday: dad gets nicked up a little bit and Romo has to play a few plays
Rob K send a follow-up tweet to this specifying that he meant Dak and not Dad, but either way it's spicy. The Tony Romo press conference from earlier in the week was very powerful, and many Cowboys fans are still trying to deal with the aftermath.
Despite Jerry Jones' comments about Tony Romo - stop talking please, Jerry - it seems like this team has made its choice for the present and future at the quarterback position. The only way Romo is likely to get in is in fact via injury to Dak, but that's incredibly difficult to predict.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #2
Donny and I clearly park our cars in the same garage. Terrell Suggs did indeed play around with Dak Prescott, and it's going to be awesome to see Dak return the favor this Sunday.
While we're on the subject... how awesome is the word "spinnaroo"?
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Bonus Bold Prediction #3
@rjochoa bold prediction: Dak has a TD to 3 different players, and zeke breaks a long run at some point in game
Chase here thinks Dak is hitting a hat trick of aerial touchdowns, and that they're going to multiple people. Who could these receivers/tight ends be? Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Gavin Escobar maybe? Does Terrance Williams get involved? Brice Butler back in action? I like all of these options!
We saw Ezekiel Elliott take a screen pass 83 yards to the house last week, his longest play as a Dallas Cowboy. We've also seen Zeke take a handoff 60 yards for a score. This feels solid!
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Bonus Bold Prediction #4
This is awesome. The Cowboys have yet to score a touchdown via special teams or defensively this season, and it feels like the perfect time to end that drought.
Lucky Whitehead has come very close at points this season. Let's see him finish one off!
Despite Changes, Cowboys Offense Still Runs Through Ezekiel Elliott
We've talked a lot this offseason about the changes at Offensive Coordinator and slot receiver, or how Jason Witten's return will impact the tight end position. But while all of these will impact the Dallas Cowboys' offense in 2019, the constant feature remains Running Back Ezekiel Elliott and the rushing attack.
From 2016 to 2018, since the Cowboys drafted Elliott, Dallas has ranked 1st, 3rd, and 10th among NFL teams in "run vs. pass" play calls. That's only logical; you don't spend a fourth-overall pick on a RB and then not make him the featured player in your offense.
Zeke has certainly rewarded Dallas' decision; Elliott has led the league in total rushing two out of three years, and he led in yards-per-game in 2017 while dealing with his suspension.
Leaning on Elliott has been smart business based on his effectiveness, plus the investment in the offensive line over the last several years.
Dallas has now sunk three first-round picks (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin), one second (Connor Williams), and now two thirds (Chaz Green and Connor McGovern) on building up their front wall. They've spent a lot of money to keep their All-Pro guys around, plus La'el Collins.
Some would try to paint the run-heavy approach as how the team is trying to hide the weaknesses of Dak Prescott at quarterback. But in 2014, with DeMarco Murray at RB and Tony Romo at QB, the Cowboys were still 3rd in the league in rush vs. pass attempts.
This isn't about Zeke or Dak, or any other specific player. This about a team philosophy that starts at the top with Jason Garrett, and that isn't going to change even with Kellen Moore taking over as the new Offensive Coordinator.
We're all excited to see what new wrinkles comes from getting rid of Scott Linehan. We highly anticipate the development of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in the offense, coupled with the addition of Randall Cobb. We're salivating at what Blake Jarwin might become under the tutelage of the great Jason Witten.
Heck, maybe we'll see fullback Jamize Olawale's receiving skills put to more use. Perhaps gadget guys like Tavon Austin or rookie Tony Pollard will be deployed in more creative ways.
And yes, Dak Prescott's growth is another major factor in Dallas' 2019 success. It's especially interesting, and even concerning, as talks are ongoing about his long-term contract.
But make no mistake, this is still the Ezekiel Elliott show. Even if a few more of his carries become receptions in Moore's scheme, Zeke should still get the lion's share of the touches.
That's why this week's news about his incident in Las Vegas is so troubling. It probably won't lead to a suspension, but we saw what happened in 2017 when Elliott was missing for over a third of the season.
While Dallas should be better able to withstand losing Zeke now than it was two years ago, it may still be more than Prescott, Cooper, and the rest could handle. It definitely wouldn't put the Cowboys in good position to compete for a Super Bowl.
In the end, the 2019 will still come down to how well Dallas runs the ball. It's the engine; nothing else matters if the rushing game doesn't set everyone else up for success.
Don't ever take it for granted. This is still Ezekiel Elliott's offense.
What Would a Successful Season Mean for Kellen Moore’s Future?
Out of every chess piece moved by the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, the decision to name 30-year old Kellen Moore might be the most interesting one. Not only that, but it could be the one that makes the biggest impact on the team. After all, the Cowboys are ready to go talent wise.
With Kellen Moore taking up a new role, it's intriguing to imagine what a successful season would mean for his future with the Dallas Cowboys. Truth be told, Moore is in a pretty fortunate position to debut as an offensive coordinator. He'll be driving a unit full of talented players with almost no weak links. Last year, it wasn't the lack of quality players lined up that had the offense struggling throughout the season, but the guy in charge.
At first, the philosophy of not needing a #1 wide receiver clearly blew up on the Cowboys face. The passing game in Dallas needed a spark and they didn't find it until they traded a first rounder for Amari Cooper. Cooper's impact on the team was clear right away as he put on impressive performances on a weekly basis.
But even when Cooper was at his best, the offense still presented relevant struggles. Despite getting more first downs, the Cowboys still had trouble scoring touchdowns when in the red zone and kept leaving points on the field.
Although he's been a controversial conversation among members of Cowboys Nation, there are a few reasons to be excited about what Kellen Moore can bring to the table as a young offensive coordinator. Ever since he declared for the NFL Draft out of Boise State, where he ran a very complex offense on his way to become the QB with most wins in NCAA history, he was seen by many as an extremely smart prospect. Many expected him to have a mediocre career as a player, but saw him as a potential coach down the line.
Now it's his chance to prove the world just how smart he is and his potential as a coach. He will not only be proving it to the Cowboys organization, but all of the NFL and college football teams. Don't forget what NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah mentioned a few months ago.
I've mentioned this before- Kellen Moore is a rising star and he'll be in the mix for HC gigs (CFB or NFL) in the near future. https://t.co/hLjOb4HAUc
With a great group of talent at his disposal, it's fair to imagine Moore having a pretty successful "rookie" season at a major coaching position. If he indeed manages to turn heads with the Dallas Cowboys offense in 2019, what does that mean for his future?
In a league that's turning to the young offensive-minded coaches thanks to guys like Sean McVay, is it possible one team decides to pull the trigger and make him an offer for a head coaching gig? It certainly would seem premature, but it's still a possibility in the NFL, where teams have become increasingly impatient with their coaches.
I definitely wouldn't be surprised if next offseason, we're concerned about another team (college or NFL) trying to snatch Moore off the Cowboys. I insist in pointing out this would be a premature decision if it does happen, since Moore has very little experience, but looking at the trend in the NFL it certainly could happen.
This might be the most important year in Kellen Moore's young career. For now, let's hope he does a good job leading Dak Prescott in his fourth year as a professional player and an offense that has a solid OL and a pretty good set of skill players.
Connor Williams Working as Left Tackle in Cowboys Practice
Second-year guard Connor Williams has been working as the Cowboys' left tackle during practice this week. While this isn't the plan for him in 2019, it does provide a glimpse into potential uses for Williams down the road and how Dallas might handle future offensive line moves.
Using Connor at LT this week has been a matter of necessity. The top players on that depth chart, Tyron Smith and Cameron Fleming, were not participating for other reasons.
With Tyron Smith getting a vet day and Cam Fleming not practicing because of a bruised shin, Connor Williams worked at left tackle Wednesday. He said it was his first left tackle snaps since he was at Texas. He said it felt like riding a bike after a little bit.
Indeed, Williams spent three years at left tackle in college. It was the last position he'd played before being drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft by Dallas, who immediately moved him to guard.
Connor started 10 of 13 games at guard last season. He played mostly on the left side, starting Weeks 1-9, before getting injured. Xavier Su'a-Filo played well enough in his absence that Williams didn't get the starting job back when he was healthy. However, when Zack Martin had to miss a few games at the end of the year, Connor started a right guard for those two weeks.
When Martin returned for the playoffs, Williams was back as the starting left guard in both postseason games.
Tyron Smith and Cam Fleming will be your starter and backup at left tackle next year. But for 2020 and beyond, Connor Williams' ability to play tackle creates some interesting possibilities.
La'el Collins will be an unrestricted free agent next year. Fleming will still have one year left on his deal and Dallas just spent a third-round pick on the versatile Connor McGovern. Throw in that Williams can play some tackle, and it seems as if they're covering bases for Collins eventual departure.
We could very well see a starting lineup in 2020 with McGovern at LG and Williams at RT. Another possibility is that Fleming starts at RT and Williams stays at guard, but can be moved to tackle if needed.
If nothing else, it's nice to know that Dallas has options. We may never see Connor Williams play a regular season snap at left tackle, but versatility is a great asset. It can greatly increase a player's value, and give his team some leverage and flexibility in roster management.
For the Cowboys, it does make you wonder what the future holds for the offensive line.
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