It was about this time two years ago when Lee and I created “A Cowboy Nation”. In the beginning Wow! The posts weren't so great, but over time we grew and they got better. Then last year I met Bryson at “Cowboys Nation” and together we created the site you see now.
I was born and raised in Arlington, Texas so being a fan of the Cowboys has been in my blood from the beginning, 36 years ago. A Cowboy Nation was started just to have an outlet for my joys and frustrations of being a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, nothing more and nothing less.
In December of 2004 my family and I moved to Houston, Texas to help take care of my wife’s mother after we lost my Father-In-Law to Cancer. Not being in the Dallas area around all my Cowboys friends is really what set these wheels in motion.
During my years of being a Cowboy fan there has been one person whom I have had a lot of admiration for, and just truly enjoyed when it comes to what is happening with the Cowboys. So a couple of months ago I reached out to him about the possibility of him participating in an interview with us.
I really never expected him to actually do the interview, after all he has nothing to gain by helping out a couple of guys he has never met, with a blog! But he gladly accepted the invitation, and now we are very proud to present to you our very first interview! With none other than long time Dallas Cowboy columnist Mickey Spagnola!
DCN (Inside the Star): As a professional sports writer, what is your process for reading the new outlets, such as blogs?
Depends on their credibility. If they are creditable, I’ll check in, otherwise I don’t even bother, especially when blogs come from bloggers who don’t cover the team on a daily basis. I don’t consider blogs news outlets unless they are from a professional news-gathering outlet.
DCN (Inside the Star): When you write an article or blog post, or even answer Mick's Mail - what qualities do you really try to convey and emphasize to the fans? For instance, do you aim to be more technical, or freely opinionated? Is there a difference in your goals for your blog vs your newspaper articles?
Tell the truth. Give people accurate information. No different. Blogs are just faster. More immediate, which you have to be careful of, because sometimes in the effort to be fast with information you do not take care to be as accurate as you should always be. Sometimes being first is not always best, which was one of the better qualities of newspapers in the days gone by because writers had more time to collect information than say the radio or TV.
DCN (Inside the Star): How is DeAngelo Smith developing so far? What do you think he needs to do to succeed at this level?
Just learn the game. Gain more experience. I really like how athletic he is and how competitive he is. He already seems to be a quick learner, and I’d imagine he’ll be a huge contributor immediately on special teams.
DCN (Inside the Star): Of all the rookies this year, which one for each defense and offense do you believe will make the biggest impact in 2009 and why?
I really don’t see a rookie making a huge impact on the offense this year, unless you want to count kicker David Buehler if he makes the team as a kick-off specialist. I mean if you don’t count Buehler, then only four of the 11 draft choices were offensive players, and one is competing to become the third quarterback and one is sort of a project offensive lineman. The other two, Jason Phillips and Manual Johnson, would seem headed toward the practice squad. On defense, well, that will depend on opportunity. None figure to be starters. Keep an eye on the outside linebackers, Victor Butler and Brandon Williams, if they have an opportunity to rush in passing situations and the DB’s on special teams.
DCN (Inside the Star): Coverage of the team seems to lead to the denigration of the chemistry of the team and that between Tony Romo and Roy Williams. From what you see, is the chemistry getting stronger for the team?
Chemistry always is strong when you win and before you play a game. I can say, though, the coaching staff has to be pleased with how hard these players have competed in the OTA and minicamp practices. When you compete hard, you tend to bond and when you bond chemistry improves and is strong enough for when things go bad, which they will at some point in a season for every team.
DCN (Inside the Star): What do you think would be the best possible rotation for our 3 headed beast of a running game?
So the running game which gained one yard or less last year on nearly 30 percent of the carries already is a beast is it? That has yet to be proven. You are only a beast running the ball when the other teams know you are going to run it and you do run it successfully. My guess is Marion Barber will open and close and be used in short-yardage and goal line situations. You will see Felix all over the formations and on third downs and Tashard Choice will get a series here and there in the middle quarters. But have seen no evidence to suggest I’m totally accurate.
DCN (Inside the Star): Based on the draft, the free agent acquisitions of Keith Brooking and Gerald Sensabaugh, and the resigning of Miles Austin; which do you believe will impact the organization the most?
Sensabaugh since that position has the most room for improvement. Remember, Zach Thomas wasn’t a liability out there last year, so if Brooking is at least a push, then that’s good. As for Austin, he can be, but again, how many snaps will he earn and how much do you want to count on from a guy with 19 career catches? But Sensabaugh, with his coverage ability should be a huge improvement over Roy Williams, especially since it doesn’t seem he needs to be substituted for on the nickel defense.
DCN (Inside the Star): There is a perception that you tend to write more fluff when writing about controversial players and issues, what do you say to that?
Fluff is in the eye of the beholder I guess. My other guess is, if that’s accurate, just because I don’t take out a big hammer and bludgeon the subject away that could be the perception. But I do think I make my point in a more literary way. Plus, I’ve always valued being right more than being tough. Seems to me these days being tough but ultimately wrong is accepted more so than being fair and accurate.
DCN (Inside the Star): Is it difficult to manage calling things as you see them with regards to the coaching staff, players and decision making of the Cowboys, since you are employed by them?
Not as long as I’m right. Not as long as I have all the facts and don’t buy into perceptions. No one here has ever, ever told me to change a story or take something down, so in my mind there would be no need to feel that way. Sometimes when you are around things and really know what’s going on then calling things as you see them means you see them far differently than the people who don’t really know the truth. Sort of like those stories at the end of the season on why the Cowboys charter flights were routinely taking off late. I was on those charter flights, so I knew that wasn’t accurate and when they did leave late I knew why. Sometimes it’s more difficult when your opinion stands alone. It’s easy to follow the crowd.
DCN (Inside the Star): How did you manage to end up as the top guy for the Cowboys and what is your official title?
I was hired back when the Cowboys were trying to make their website something more than just a normal PR site as most professional team sites were back in 2000. And they decided they wanted opinions, meaning a columnist.
DCN (Inside the Star): Do you believe that the influx of youth is going to build a team that can contend for years to come? If not, what is necessary to solidify the future?
You can’t wait until you’ve grown old to get younger. Must be a constant process, and the Cowboys obviously have made a concerted effort this off-season to prevent growing old. The idea is to sustain goodness over a long period of time and avoid the inevitable down cycles that cripple franchises, as the Cowboys were in the late ‘80s and at the turn of the century.
DCN (Inside the Star): It appears as though the Cowboys are in the middle of making an organizational change in the way they look at players (looking more at their character issues). Do you feel that this is true? Or are they simply trying to relieve some of the scrutiny and will be back to collecting players that require team supplied body guards?
Chances are the days of running a rehabilitation locker room are over for now. If you build from within, especially continually bringing in good, young players, then you avoid getting into situations where you become so desperate for help you take chances on guys with questionable character. If you already are a successful team, with a strong locker room, then you are better equipped to take chances on guys like Pacman Jones. But a team still seeking success is far too fragile.
Seahawks’ Tight End Will Dissly Flying Under the Radar
The Seattle Seahawks are in need of a big win this weekend to stay a game or two back of the NFC West leading Los Angeles Rams. The Dallas Cowboys hope to extend their one game winning streak to two, but to do that, they'll have to win certain matchups on both sides of the football. One player that the Dallas Cowboys will have to be aware of and contain is rookie Tight End Will Dissly.
With Doug Baldwin injured in week one and out week two, other players have had to step up in their lead wide receiver's absence.
Brandon Marshall and Tyler Lockett are the names that most everyone will recognize, but Dissly, is the name that Cowboys Nation should keep an eye on come Sunday.
Dissly, drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of Washington, came into the season with a reputation as a blocking back. Dane Brugler, of The Athletic, had Dissly ranked 98th overall and as the ninth ranked tight end in the draft. Just one spot behind Dallas Cowboys rookie Tight End Dalton Schultz.
Here is what Brugler had to say in his 2018 NFL Draft Guide.
"A one-year starter at Washington, Dissly spent his first two years at Washington on defense and his final two years on offense, lining up inline and wing in the Huskies’ offense. He was a blocker-first and receiver-second in college, which was a role he embraced with his hard-nosed toughness and competitive edge. Dissly uses his upper body power and base strength in unison to control the point of attack, displaying the core flexibility and length to keep defenders busy. While he flashed reliable hand/eye coordination and run power after the catch, he lacks the route-running experience or athletic deception to consistently uncover. Overall, Dissly is a project as a pass-catcher, but he will contribute early in his NFL career as an inline blocker and sixth offensive lineman."
Dane Brugler - Dane Brugler's 2018 NFL Draft Guide
To say that it comes as a surprise at Dissly's start to his rookie campaign would be a huge understatement. A Brugler notes, there was a chance he'd contribute early as a blocking specialist, but was thought to be a project in the passing game. He's been a big play threat in the first two games of the season, already taking the lead in Seattle Seahawks TE snap distribution at 65%.
Among tight ends, Dissly's is tied for 12th in the NFL in targets with 10, tied for 17th in receptions with six, fourth in the NFL in receiving yards, tied for first with 2 touchdown receptions, third in yards per reception at 24.5, third in yards after the catch with 90, is tied for fifth with five receptions for first downs, sixth in yards per route run, and hasn't dropped a pass this season. He's averaging five targets, three receptions, 73.5 yards, and a touchdown per game. He's been targeted twice out of the slot and has two receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown while playing 46% of his snaps from the slot.
When Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson has targeted his rookie tight end, he has a passer rating of 143.8.
He's been way more than they could have hoped.
Here's what SB Nation' Seattle Seahawks blog Field Gulls had to say about Will Dissly after the Seattle Seahawks week one loss to the Denver Broncos.
"Hot damn! Who saw that coming? Was that Will Dissly or a prime Jeremy Shockey? 3 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown for someone drafted primarily for his blocking abilities. Seattle has a new weapon on offense, and I doubt anyone saw that coming."
Mookie Alexander - Field Gulls, SB Nation
It's likely that nobody, including the Denver Broncos or the Chicago Bears, saw Dissly's breakout coming this soon. Now with it on tape, the Dallas Cowboys will have their eye on Will Dissly.
Russell Wilson doesn't have a ton of established -- or still good -- wide receivers at his disposal, but Will Dissly looks like a fourth round steal for the Seahawks.
The Dallas Cowboys' linebackers will be tested on Sunday.
Four of Dissly's six receptions have come against linebackers, including a 34 yard reception (19 yards after the catch) against Chicago Bears' Linebacker Danny Trevathan and a 66 yard reception (52 YAC) against Denver Broncos Outside Linebacker Bradley Chubb.
The Dallas Cowboys seem fully capable of matching up with good receiving tight ends as Jaylon Smith showed on Sunday. Smith showed an ability to run with Odell Beckham Jr. in coverage on Sunday. No small task. We know that Sean Lee is good in coverage. Leighton Vander Esch's best trait coming out of Boise State is his coverage ability. I also wouldn't be surprised to see the Dallas Cowboys matchup Xavier Woods and Anthony Brown with the athletic tight end when he's lined up in the slot.
How the Dallas Cowboys defense does in coverage against the rookie tight end could be a major key to the game. With names like Brandon Marshall, Tyler Lockett, and Rashad Penny to keep an eye on, someone like Will Dissly could be easily forgotten.
You're going to hear his name called on Sunday. Let's just hope it's more for what he did weeks one and two.
Xavier Woods Among Cowboys with Something to Prove in Seattle
The Earl Thomas trade rumors have been relentless this offseason. We've heard about them. I've written about them, and for better or worse, they just won't stop. No doubt Dallas Cowboys Safety Xavier Woods has heard them as well.
When Woods went down with his hamstring injury and as Earl Thomas continued his hold out, the clamor for Thomas grew louder and louder.
Per reports, it looks like Woods is set to make his 2018 debut. With a good game against the Seattle Seahawks, he can put a silence to the trade rumors.
I've been a proponent of making the deal for Earl Thomas all offseason. From the time he came running down the tunnel toward the Dallas Cowboys locker room, I've been all aboard the Earl Thomas hype train. Opportunities to add All-Pro players don't come along very often and if you're hoping to win football games in the short term, like the Dallas Cowboys are, you make the move.
My opinion isn't a knock on Xavier Woods, who was good as a rookie last year. He was especially good when asked to play in the slot early in the 2017 season. It has more to do with Woods still being a bit of an unknown and Thomas being a known quantity.
Xavier Woods has shown potential to be a really good safety in this league. In college, he played a lot of single high safety and played it very well. He has a knack for making plays on the football and can be a game changer for the Dallas Cowboys.
If the Dallas Cowboys can come away with a victory in Seattle, facing the player that the Dallas Cowboys have been linked to for months, and Woods has a good game in the process, then all of this will go away.
Heading into Sunday, Xavier Woods isn't the only player on the Dallas Cowboys roster who has something to prove.
Two Wide Receivers
The Cowboys added another wide receiver this week when they resigned free agent Brice Butler. I agree with Inside The Star Staff Writer Jess Haynie that adding Butler doesn't make a ton of sense, but it definitely adds question marks to the wide receiver room, in particular wide receivers Terrance Williams and Allen Hurns.
These two wide receivers were expected to be the starters on the outside and the primary targets, aside from Wide Receiver Cole Beasley, and yet, they've failed to have much of an impact in either of the two games in the 2018 season.
Take a look at their stat lines.
- Allen Hurns: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 29 yards, 0 touchdowns, on 55% of the team's offensive snaps.
- Terrance Williams: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 18 yards, 0 touchdowns on 25% of the snaps.
Those two are tied for fifth in receptions through two weeks of the season. Wide Receiver Deonte Thompson has found himself as a favorite target of Quarterback Dak Prescott through the first two games and has seven receptions for 60 yards.
With now seven wide receivers on the roster, there are less snaps to go around and with the increase in playing time for Tavon Austin and Michael Gallup, Terrance Williams may have already found himself as the odd man out. Brice Butler complicates things further for Williams and may eat into Allen Hurns snap count as well.
Now it looks like Terrance Williams is facing a suspension. If the suspension comes down before Sunday, he's going to really have a hard time finding a role on this team when he comes back.
Sources: Cowboys WR Terrance Williams faces suspension stemming from May arrest for public intoxication https://t.co/of11Xlb7wD via @sportsdaydfw
If he comes back.
Defensive End Making a Comeback
Things started out really well for returning Defensive End Randy Gregory. During the preseason he flashed the tools that made him a highly coveted player before his failed drug test at the NFL Combine.
Unfortunately the start of his 2018 season was derailed due to a concussion early in the Carolina Panthers game forcing him to miss week two.
In his place, Taco Charlton emerged as an impact player on the right side of the defensive line. Charlton has played the most defensive snaps of any defensive end through the first two games of the season; DeMarcus Lawrence included. Taco went from a 73% snap share in week one to an 83% snap share in week two. It's obvious that he's earned his snaps and the coaching staff wants to get him on the field.
This doesn't even begin to mention the contributions by rookie fourth round pick Dorance Armstrong, who like Charlton, saw a 10% snap increase from week one to week two and played really well when in the game.
This is a bit of a problem for Randy Gregory. Yes, he flashed in the preseason and early in the Carolina game, but the NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league and Gregory hasn't done much of anything in the regular season, yet.
Coming into the Seahawks game, Gregory is going to have to earn back some of those snaps. By all accounts he has a chance to be an elite defensive end on the right side of the Dallas Cowboys defense, but he has to prove that he can stay on the field and effective when on it.
He needs to shine in week three.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Who are your players with something to prove heading into the week three matchup with the Seattle Seahawks? Let us know in the comment section.
How The Seattle Seahawks Have Increased Importance In Cowboys’ Lore
You can't talk about this decade's Dallas Cowboys without discussing the Seattle Seahawks.
In 2012, when Golden Tate took out Sean Lee on a crack-back block and the Seahawks embarrassed a Cowboys team who had just defeated the defending champion New York Giants, we saw which of the two teams was truly ready for the big stage.
In 2014, as Rolando McClain intercepted Russell Wilson and the Cowboys clinched a critical road victory, we knew that Dallas was a legit contender.
In 2015, when Seattle finally came to Dallas and rendered the return of Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant meaningless in a 13-12 win, the then 2-5 Cowboys were sent further into a Romo-less abyss.
And, in 2017, Dez Bryant's key drops and Dan Bailey's missed field goals during a horrendous home loss to the Seahawks on Christmas Eve might have sealed each of their fates for the following offseason.
The most important moment in this Cowboys/Seahawks history, however, occurred during a preseason game. A meaningless preseason game which turned out to be the most meaningful day in recent Cowboys history.
Cliff Avril dragging Tony Romo down from behind, effectively ending his career, and kicking off the roster massive turnover we have seen the last two offseasons. From Dak Prescott, to a brand new secondary, to the retirement of Jason Witten, and the cutting of Dez Bryant. All of this change, which put an end to the Romo era rosters in Dallas, began with that hit in Seattle.
Since 2012 the Cowboys, and the rest of the NFC really, have been judged by how they play against two teams: the Packers and the Seahawks.
They have been the class of the NFC, and while we like to think that if the "Dez Caught It" game went how it should have Dallas would've handled Seattle, that will forever be an unknown.
Sunday's game is not expected to carry the franchise-changing implications that some of these other match ups have had. The Seahawks are 0-2 and reeling, with a shaky offensive line and reported distrust throughout the organization.The Cowboys, however, can jump-start their season with a big road win over a winless team that they should beat in the minds of many.
But knowing how things between these teams tend to go, Sunday afternoon may end up having major implications on the rest of the Cowboys' season.
Where this could be the case is in a potential Earl Thomas trade. It's been speculated that Seattle has been hesitant to deal Thomas to Dallas before their week 3 match up, but could be more willing to do so after the game.
Especially if that game is a loss which sends them to 0-3. The Cowboys have been actively pursuing Earl Thomas, and Thomas has certainly made it clear that he wants to be in Dallas. The only party not willing to make it happen thus far, are the Seahawks.
So, this weekend, there is a chance another chapter is added to those franchise-changing moments in Cowboys/Seahawks lore.
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