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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!
Which Cowboys Benefit From David Irving’s Suspension?
While losing David Irving for the first four weeks of 2018 is a bad thing for the Dallas Cowboys defensive line, it does create opportunities for some of the other defensive tackles. Who has the most to gain from Irving's suspension?
Because he was mostly going to be used inside as the 3-technique DT, David's absence will naturally benefit the guys who are best suited to play that role. Thankfully, Dallas isn't lacking for those types of players.
Veteran Tyrone Crawford can use all the playing time he can get. As a likely salary cap casualty next year, Crawford doesn't want to get buried on the depth chart as Dallas focuses on their younger players who project to stick around beyond 2018.
With Irving out, Dallas will likely lean on Tyrone as they often do when someone is missing on the defensive line. With more talent now at defensive end, Crawford was going to be competing with Irving, Maliek Collins, Jihad Ward, and other younger guys for work at tackle.
But now there's a problem, and it's easy to slide Crawford into the 3-tech role that Dallas once envisioned him being a star at. Remember, it was their projection of Tyrone as a breakout DT that got him his big contract to begin with.
Yes, Irving's only gone for four weeks. Dallas will still be giving him work in camp based on the role he should fill for the majority of the season. But that's why a veteran like Tyrone Crawford is a great temporary plug-in, because he doesn't need all of the practice reps to step in and perform.
Another key beneficiary could be third-year DT Maliek Collins. Last season, Collins got stuck playing 1-technique and not getting the same opportunities to make plays and get noticed that he had his rookie year.
But now Dallas has several guys in Jihad Ward, Richard Ash, and Brian Price who can play the 1-tech role, which will hopefully get Collins back where he belongs. Maliek's athleticism belongs a little further away from center, letting him try to take on guards in single coverage.
Collins is dealing with a foot issue now but should be back for the preseason. That's enough time for him to be where he needs to be Week One, provided he's healthy.
How Dallas would balance playing time between Collins and Tyrone Crawford could be a matter of how much they play certain schemes. One could see Collins, the bigger guy, playing more in the base defense and then Crawford being used in passing situations.
There is always a lot of rotation in a Rod Marinelli line, so discussions about playing time can get a little silly. Unless you're a true stud like DeMarcus Lawrence who you don't want to take off the field, the Cowboys like to keep guys fresh.
But that's why this is a big opportunity; David Irving has that stud potential. He's the kind of talent who could keep solid players like Crawford and Collins out of view if he hits his stride.
For the first four weeks, though, Irving will be in the NFL doghouse and Dallas will likely lean on its two most experienced defensive tackles to fill the void. There will be more reps for guys like Datone Jones and Jihad Ward too, but Crawford and Collins have way more skins on the wall
That trust should keep them on the field more while David Irving's suspended, and perhaps beyond.
BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year
For the second consecutive year, Defensive Lineman David Irving is being suspended for four games by the NFL. This time, the suspension comes after Irving violated the NFL's policy on substance of abuses, as Ian Rapoport reported.
Cowboys DL David Irving is being suspended 4 games for violating @NFL policy on substance of abuses, sources say. Another big-time D-linemen hit with a suspension for Dallas.
Irving will play for the Dallas Cowboys after the team placed a second-round tender on him earlier in the year. Why no team was interested in picking such a talented defensive tackle for a second round pick is becoming clearer and clearer as the time goes on.
In April, when David Irving got hacked by his former girlfriend one of the tweets that stood out the most was one which said "Wait until you all find about his failed drug tests." Now, we're seeing what the tweet was about.
Irving is a very talented player that could have a great career ahead of him. Of course, with this being the second consecutive year in which he receives a suspension to start the season, one could question how much he wants it.
The Cowboys will play the Panthers, Giants, Seahawks and Lions to start the season. They'll have to do it with one of their most promising defensive players in David Irving.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll keep you updated with this story and every Dallas Cowboys news.
Cowboys Offense Finds Rhythm to End Minicamp, Hurns and Gallup Stand Out
The Dallas Cowboys are back in offseason mode, concluding their OTAs and minicamp from The Star. With a hiatus until training camp, it was important for several high-profile players to make a strong first impression on the 2018 season. From the start of mini camp, these impressions were left mostly by Rod Marinelli's defense and -- more specifically -- Kris Richard's young group of cornerbacks.
Still working through significant change on the offensive side of the ball, the Cowboys did rally on day three under Quarterback Dak Prescott to put out a better performance. The Cowboys coaching staff should love their lasting memories of both FA acquisition Wide Receiver Allen Hurns and rookie Michael Gallup.
There is a strong chance that these two receivers will be the Cowboys starters in Oxnard for training camp. We have heard a lot about the impact new WR Coach Sanjay Lal has had on his group, slowing the game down to focus on route running. This will give the team's rotation of unproven receivers a chance with Prescott, as he can focus on throwing to a 'spot' more often.
One spot that Prescott has struggled to hit in two seasons as the starter in Dallas is the back of the end zone for fade routes. A red zone go-to under Scott Linehan, free agent WR Dez Bryant was often the intended target on these missed passes.
Less of a route running technician and closer to the mold of a physical player like Bryant, Allen Hurns emerging as the Cowboys #1 option would solve a lot of uncertainty at the WR position. In yesterday's practice, Hurns was able to haul in a perfect ball from Prescott on the fade as he beat Byron Jones.
It's going to take some time for Jones to readjust to playing cornerback, but the vision for Kris Richard of him and Chidobe Awuzie starting on the outside is a great one. In a battle of proven players, Hurns got the best of Jones to spark the Cowboys offense at the right time.
Overall, there should be no reason to panic about (well, really anything from mini camp) the Cowboys offense right now, and plenty of reasons to be excited about what this defense will develop into.
Once the pads come on at training camp, the players the Cowboys are paying to play at an elite level will start to shine, including their newly re-signed Guard Zack Martin -- the highest paid guard in the league now. There are no doubts that the bread and butter for this offense will be handing the ball to Ezekiel Elliott behind this wall of an offensive line.
From this increase in competition in the trenches, we'll also get more meaningful battles along the defensive line. In shorts and helmets for now, the Cowboys secondary was given their chance at mini camp, and came out solid early.
Another player they've struggled to truly corral though is Michael Gallup. Perhaps pressing a bit thanks to his limited opportunities thus far, Jourdan Lewis was taken across the field by Gallup on a misfire from Cooper Rush.
This is nothing new for Gallup however, who's been ahead of the curve on creating the desired separation as a "violent" receiver on the outside.
A steal with the 81st overall pick in this year's draft, Gallup has a long way to go in beating out the likes of Terrance Williams, Cedrick Wilson (limited through this portion of the offseason with injuries), and even Cole Beasley, who's received some reps on the outside.
With both Hurns and Gallup making plays on the Cowboys final practice until late July, it's easy to let the mind wander with possibilities of the Cowboys offense playing at full strength against a defense that might be up for the challenge better than ever compared to year's past.
As always, the practice fields of Oxnard will serve as a battle ground for a young but deep Cowboys team to earn their spots on the 53-man roster, one that surely won't have room for all of the wide receiver hopefuls seen this week in mini camp.
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