The first time that I saw the Dallas Cowboys in person was in 2006. It was a very merry day as it was actually Christmas Day 2006. America's Team was playing host to a Jeff Garcia-led Eagles team as Tony Romo was in the middle of his break-out season.
My dad and I anxiously made way to our seats and snapped some photos. We took in the sights from the stadium and just let all of the magic wash over us. We were in heaven.
Pretty soon the team had run out of the tunnel and it was about time to get things started. As is tradition for any major sporting event in America, the National Anthem had to be sung. I was expecting Mariah Carey, Carrie Underwood, or someone like that to trot out... but low and behold it was three Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders!
I was completely in awe of the whole experience. The pomp and circumstance was really getting to me. When they hit the line, "and the rockets' red glare," I knew I had to do something. I couldn't contain this energy any longer. I formulated a plan and prepared to execute it.
You know how in a usual National Anthem the singer(s) hold the last note after they sing, "O'er the land of the freeeeeeee"? That was my moment. Right when the cheerleaders held the note I just erupted this roar from deep within my soul: "YEAAAAA!!!!!!!"
My dad jumped as he, despite everything he told me growing up, can't read my mind and had no idea that I was going to do that. What was amazing though was the entire stadium erupted as well! I lit a match and threw it into an ocean of kerosene!
It was a really cool experience (despite the Cowboys loss that day) and it was something really bold I tried that worked. I started to make it a tradition at different sporting events that I went to after that. My booming "YEA!" became familiar at more Cowboys games and I even launched the initiative in Michigan when I did it during a Detroit Pistons game at the Palace of Auburn Hills. It was my "thing."
I'd had some success, if you'll call it that, with roaring during the National Anthem. Being bold was paying off. A few summers after the initial roar my dad, cousins, uncle, and I were headed to a Houston Astros game. Keep in mind that at this point I'd successfully roared and ignited different crowds so I was pretty excited for it. The Anthem got going and I was just counting down the measures of the song until my big moment. With the confidence from my previous experiences I had somehow gained volume and was about to break the sound barrier.
"O'er the land of the freeeeeeee"
Crickets. Complete and total silence. Not a single audible response from anyone in the crowd. Everyone turned around and stared at me like I said puppies were ugly. It was mortifying.
Lesson learned: baseball is not the environment to roar. Now I know better. I was bold and it didn't work out.
If you've read my Bold Predictions before you know that I take roar-type chances. In fact the last time that the Dallas Cowboys took on the Philadelphia Eagles I was pretty spot on.
This is no baseball game so I hope you're ready to roar with me as I give you my 5 Bold Predictions for Part Two of the 2015 Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles Rivalry. Let's roll.
1. Lucky Whitehead Rushes For A Touchdown
The Cowboys got really creative with Lucky Whitehead two weeks ago in New York. They didn't channel those play calls as much in last week's loss to the Seattle Seahawks, but it's hard to ignore that Lucky is a very fast and shifty player.
#13 seems to have absorbed some of the looks that Lance Dunbar was seeing thanks to his ability to cut like him. Look for Lucky to show off his gridiron dance moves on a reverse as he gets in the endzone for the first time in his career.
2. Dez Bryant Goes Over 100 Yards And Catches 2 Touchdowns
This isn't exactly bold when you consider that Dez Bryant is arguably the best receiver on this entire planet (I'm in the middle of reading Andy Weir's The Martian so soon I'll be able to confirm that he's the best on Mars, too). Cowboys fans haven't really seen Dez Bryant this season as he was injured all the way back in Week 1 and didn't totally shine in his return last week against the Seahawks.
Dez is a very passionate player who has a certain, no pun intended here, X-Factor that others simply don't. He's capable of willing himself past the point of mere mortals and he's going to do that against the Eagles. He knows how important this game is and how much of it is riding on the hands that cradle Dallas Bryant. He's going to show up and take over this game in typical Throw Up The X fashion.
3. DeMarco Murray Doesn't Top 25 Yards
If you do it twice it's a tradition, right? I referenced my 5 Bold Predictions from when the Cowboys played the Eagles back in Week 2 earlier. One of the bad boys that came to fruition was this exact prediction... except I said he wouldn't break 50 yards. I figured I'd do the environment a favor and recycle whenever I can, you know? I just had to make some extra spice so I cut the yardage in half.
DeMarco will be making his return to Dallas for the first time since signing his long-term smoothie contract with Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles. He had one of the worst games of his career against the Cowboys in Week 2 and that was against a defense that didn't feature the likes of Greg Hardy or Rolando McClain.
76 + 55 = 131 and 2+9 = 31 so the math says that Hardy and McClain are going to be 100 times better than DeMarco. You can't argue with math!
4. The Dallas Cowboys Will Not Trail At All
Amidst scrutiny from the outside world the Dallas Cowboys Defense is ballin', yo. They've allowed opposing offenses to 13 points in each of the last two weeks against the Giants and Seahawks and now they get to face the Eagles. That's like saying we hit a half court shot, then a three-pointer, and now we get a lay-up. Nothing but net, baby.
Matt Cassel hasn't lit the world on fire, I know, but he's playing with a lot of passion. At a certain point that's got to start working in our favor or at the very least luck does. Cassel has had a chance to practice more with Dez and the offense as a whole has had one less distraction after the release of Joseph Randle. They're going to do their job as the defense continues to do theirs and the Cowboys will not trail for a single second throughout this game.
5. Mark Sanchez Will Replace Sam Bradford
It doesn't take the most keen football eye to know that Sam Bradford might need to do something else for a living. He's good at football the same way that Krispy Kreme donuts are good at not being delicious.
Bradford's been a rollercoaster ride all season long for the Chip Kelly loyalists, I mean Philadelphia Eagle fans, and the ride is coming to an end on Sunday Night. At some point the Eagles will see what the rest of the world sees and turn, sadly, to Mark Sanchez.
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.
Jason Witten Is A Future Hall Of Famer, But Is He Now Underrated? Some NFL Execs Say So
It's hard to imagine how a 37 year old tight end who was more recently in the broadcast booth than on the football field could possibly be "underrated," but that's what some NFL Execs seem to believe.
Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman conducted a survey of executives around the league, asking them who they believed the most underrated player in the NFL was entering the 2019 season. While Steelers running back James Conner was the most common player named, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten was also reportedly brought up.
I have to admit, this is shocking.
As mentioned, Witten is well past his prime and saw decline in his play over the last few seasons he played with the Cowboys. His retirement made sense, and his un-retirement was a surprise to most. But I suppose now that seemingly no one nationally expects Witten to do much of anything in 2019, he can be thought of as underrated.
This sentiment echoes statements which former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo made earlier last week. Romo claimed that his favorite target would pick right back up where he left off in Dallas, and would be back to the Witten of old in no-time.
"The reality of it is as long as, if you know the game the way he does, there are certain positions—he plays one of them at tight end—he's always going to have the nuance to get open." - Tony Romo
I'm still very much in "wait and see" mode with this entire Jason Witten situation. It's hard to wrap your head around a player we all thought was old and slow when he was 35 coming back after a year in retirement to be a productive NFL pass catcher.
While Witten's numbers have declined across the board, his touchdown production actually improved in 2017. If, at the very least, Jason Witten can become a secondary red zone option for the Cowboys offense, then his addition would have been well worth it offensively.
Jason Witten will wear a gold jacket in Canton Ohio one day, but will his 2019 contributions give the voters any extra reason to support his candidacy?
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