This Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys open up their 2016 season against the division rival New York Giants. While the game is just the first of 16 to be played, the final result will have a much bigger impact than just one game in the standings.
Of course, being a divisional home game raises the stakes Sunday as it is already. Especially with a road game against the defending NFC East champions looming for week two. The absolute last thing the team needs is to fall behind 0-2 with both losses within the division.
But I truly believe the importance of this game goes beyond the standings, or the remaining schedule. It goes beyond the mantra of "just another game." The way this team plays and the outcome of Sunday's game will have a direct impact on how the Cowboys can put the "ghost" of Tony Romo to bed, at least for the time being.
1-11 Without Tony Romo.
We all know these stats.
We all know that last year, once Romo went down, this team stumbled along to a putrid 4-12 record. We all know how awful the offense looked in Green Bay when led by Matt Cassel and given ample opportunities to take over the game. We all remember the struggles of Brandon Weeden and Kellen Moore, and the heartbreaking overtime losses which punctuated the disastrous season.
But the players know all of this too.
And no matter how strong the leadership may be within the locker room from veterans like Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, or from head coach Jason Garrett, a loss Sunday could possibly trigger all too many bad memories and send this team down the same, miserable path.
A loss Sunday, whether close and heartbreaking or never in doubt, could make the Cowboys think "here we go again," questioning their own talent, their own ability, and their own quarterback in Dak Prescott.
We all believe this team will be different, though.
For starters, this team is healthy. Sure Tony Romo is once again missing, but the other key pieces which were either hobbled or absent last season are back and ready to go.
Dez Bryant, Orlando Scandrick, and Tyrone Crawford not only bolster the team's lineup when available but also strengthen the locker room. These three returning to dominance will help the Cowboys stay afloat, regardless of the outcome of game one.
Key newcomers also bring with them an added chance to survive without Romo.
Ezekiel Elliott looks like the real deal, powering through some of the most respected defenders in the entire NFL during his limited preseason action. Dak Prescott brings arm strength, athleticism, and excitement which none of the former three backups brought.
Defensively, Morris Claiborne looks like a new player and safety Byron Jones is cementing himself as one of the best and most reliable in the league.
And on top of all of this, the Cowboys still feature the most dominant unit in all of football, their offensive line.
What scares me, and may scare a lot of Cowboys fans however, is that we all thought last year's team was just as fit to survive without their leader, but failed to do so.
It may just be week one, but this game will tell us a lot about the psyche and mental toughness of the 2016 Dallas Cowboys.
BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb
According to multiple sources, the Dallas Cowboys have signed former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year deal to help bolster their depth at the WR position and potentially become Cole Beasley's replacement.
Cowboys are giving former Packers' WR Randall Cobb a one-year, $5 million deal, per source. https://t.co/8KWFPjSP8T
The Dallas Cowboys met with Randall Cobb earlier this week, but he eventually left Dallas without a contract. He must've had a change of heart or just needed time to ponder the Cowboys offer, but regardless of what transpired in that short time he is now part of America's Team.
During his time with the Packers, Cobb accumulated 470 receptions for 5,524 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. The eight-year veteran will now be expected to replace some of Cole Beasley's production out of the slot for the Dallas Cowboys.
After years of watching Beasley as the Cowboys slot WR, it will be really interesting to see Randall Cobb in that role. He's not as quick twitched as No. 11, but can be just as dangerous due to his ability to be more of a down the field receiver. He also brings added value in the return game and could compete with Tavon Austin to become the return specialist.
This could mean the Cowboys forgo drafting a wide receiver early in the 2019 NFL Draft, but I wouldn't put it past them. Regardless of what happens, this is an excellent addition.
Welcome to Cowboys Nation Randall Cobb!
REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur
L.P. Ladouceur is returning for his 15th season as the Cowboys' long snapper. The veteran free agent was re-signed by Dalals today to a one-year deal.
Thanks to Jason Witten's one-year sabbatical with Monday Night Football, Ladouceur has now been with the Cowboys for more consecutive seasons than any current player. He just turned 38 last week, but Louis-Philippe remains one of the top long snappers in football.
The Cowboys have signed long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a one-year deal worth $1.03 million and $90,000 in bonus money, but he will count $735,000 against the cap. This will be Ladouceur's 15th season with the Cowboys, tying Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Mark... https://t.co/2iDsi6RX7e
Retaining Ladouceur is an underrated move for the Cowboys given their situation at kicker.
Brett Maher was only 80% accurate overall on field goals last year. The team could be considering an upgrade in free agency.
Whether they bring Maher back or try someone new, having a long snapper with Ladouceur's performance perfection will make things much easier for them.
REPORT: Police Detain Cowboys DL Tyrone Crawford After Bar Fight
According to TMZ, Tyrone Crawford was involved in a brawl at a bar in Panama City, FL last Friday night. The Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman and team captain was detained by police but apparently was not arrested.
The level of Crawford's involvement has not been substantiated, but TMZ's report does have him shoving police officers at some point in the action. The incident was reportedly captured by surveillance equipment at the bar.
Given that he was not arrested, one could assume that Tyrone was not one of the primary players in the melee. But that doesn't mean the NFL won't still review this matter as it relates to the personal conduct policy, and Cowboys fans know too well how "fair" that process can be.
This is certainly not a story you'd expect to see attached to Tyrone Crawford, who has been a model citizen and leader since entering the league in 2012.
Dallas elected to keep Crawford this season despite solid potential savings. He will count $10.1 million against their 2019 salary cap, which is high for his average production. However, he can play multiple positions and is one of their most experienced players.
Even if Tyrone were to get suspended by the league, it likely wouldn't be more than a one or two-game ban given his record and reputation. It shouldn't change anything about his status with the team.
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