I'm not sure if many people know this, but I am a Cowboys fan living in New York City. There are Cowboys fans everywhere, so this isn't uncommon, but that doesn't make it any less difficult. Especially when you are a die-hard Cowboys fan.
I wouldn't call myself an average fan by any means. I consider myself to not only be a well-educated fan, but an absolute die-hard... to the point where it's borderline sickening for those around me and unhealthy for myself.
Dez Bryant is one of those players that has a dated public opinion that is simply misunderstood. This is one of the biggest debate topics in my life as a New Yorker. While few debate his skill, I constantly find myself arguing that Dez Bryant isn't what people think he is and how he is a better wide receiver than New York phenomenon, Odell Beckham Jr.
I think it's time I wrote down exactly what it is about Dez Bryant that draws me in. What about him as a player makes him such a talent, and what about him as a human makes me such a fan.
Dez Bryant's Story
To understand Dez Bryant, you have to understand his past.
Dez Bryant was the son of a 15-year-old mother and 40 something-year-old father. Bryant's father was a pimp and his mother went on to have two other children before the age of 18. Bryant's mother sold drugs throughout his childhood and Dez recalled crackheads in his house all the time as a child.
Bryant's mother, Angela, spent a year and a half in prison when Dez was just nine years old for narcotics. Bryant grew up extremely poor, begging for food stamps, relying on the Salvation Army, and staying in small homes with way too many people to fit in them.
Dez told Rolling Stone Magazine back in August about how he first got pads for football.
"Me and my mom" — she was out of prison by then — "went down to the field to sign me up. But when they told us that we needed, you know, to pay for the equipment, we . . . well, we didn't have the . . . " He breaks off abruptly and ducks his head, holding it in both hands as he sobs. "But I swear on my life, I was blessed that day," says Bryant after composing himself. "There was this abandoned trailer, and on the stoop outside, I seen these shoulder pads and helmet sitting there. The craziest shit was, they actually fit me. I stole those, man. I stole 'em and I played." - Dez Bryant in Rolling Stone
So, Dez Bryant had to steal pads in order to pursue his dream of playing football. This whole story is so special and humanizing.
This is what draws me to Dez Bryant. A man coming from that kind of background making it in the NFL is what life is all about. This is the kind of story that can give hope to people in even the worst of situations. When people tell you that nothing is impossible, these are the kind of stories that really fortify that.
Dez Bryant went on to have a largely successful campaign at Oklahoma State until he was suspended. Even the suspension that he received was so petty.
Bryant was suspended for lying to the NCAA about meeting with Deion Sanders. Bryant had visited Sanders' house and when asked about it by the NCAA, Bryant lied and said he didn't. Another obstacle for Dez to overcome. This ended Dez' final season with Oklahoma State before being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.
Once Dez got to the Cowboys, the stories didn't stop.
From refusing to carry Roy Williams' pads, to being left with a huge bill at a steakhouse, to fights with his mother; Dez Bryant was making news.
These were growing pains for a man of new-money in a lifestyle that he wasn't accustomed to. Bryant had little guidance throughout his upbringing and to get to that point, I think the "issues" were rather trivial.
What makes Dez Bryant so special to me?
Well, knowing what his upbringing was like, how could you not give credit to him? It would have been so easy for Dez to just give up. Think of how many terrible days he went through as a child. There were so many horrible routes that his life could have taken.
It takes a tremendous amount of drive and self-confidence to be able to pretty much raise yourself.
I am a middle-class white man from New York. I was raised by two parents and a loving family. While nothing has been particularly easy for me or my family, there have been tons of learning experiences. I have made mistakes. I am the first of two children, so I had to go through some of the bumps and bruises of life to learn from them.
Given that, I can't even imagine what Dez Bryant had to go through.
The bumps and bruises in my life must have been tremendous scars in his. For him to become the man that he is, given the circumstances, is just amazing.
Dez Bryant wears all of this on his shoulders. Every time a ball is in the air you can just see in his body language that he is going to do everything he can to make sure that the ball is his. It's as if he says, "I went through all of this, so catching this football is nothing."
This is why I am not ashamed to say that I cried when they ruled that Dez Bryant didn't come down with the catch against Green Bay. That was a career defining moment for him, and not just as a football player, but as a human being.
That was a moment where everything in his past hung in the balance while that ball sailed through the air waiting to come down. The game was on the line and Dez Bryant went up there and did the impossible. He caught that damn football and that wasn't enough for him. Bryant wanted to catch that football and take it into the end zone. Unfortunately, that was not humanly possible, but he caught that football.
Nobody wants to win more than Dez Bryant does. Some mistake this for him being a bad person. Some think he is a bad teammate. When you see him screaming on the sideline or looking angry, he just wants to win. If you listen to the soundbites from some of these moments where people think he is being a bad teammate, he is just screaming positive reinforcement to his teammates. He is telling them how good they are and how they can win these games. He is emotional. He wears it on his sleeve. I admire it.
As a fan, we often don't realize that we want these wins more than the players do. We make our lives about teams or players and don't get paid for it. These players play a game and get paid tremendous amounts of money to do so. The most we want in return is to see players want to win for us.
Nobody I have ever watched wants to win more than Dez Bryant does. Nobody is a bigger Dallas Cowboys fan than Dez Bryant is. This is all that we can ask for as fans.
What makes Dez Bryant special as a football player?
Well, almost everything.
There are a lot of great wide receivers in the NFL. What I look for is the complete package. I value touchdowns more than I do yardage. A receiver that makes a tremendous block is just as valuable as one that makes a bunch of short-yard gains.
What I love about Dez Bryant's game is that there is no receiver in the NFL I would take over him for a jump ball. When the ball is in the air Dez Bryant will find a way to bring it in. There is no other receiver in the NFL that I would take for this.
This has to be the most valuable commodity for a wide receiver. For a quarterback to know that he has a guy outside that if he is in trouble all he has to do is give him a chance, it is such a relief. Tony Romo has done this so often in his career. Instead of forcing passes into tight windows leading to interceptions, Romo has made more decisions to just leave one up there for Dez Bryant.
In these situations, it is actually very low-risk. It will usually end up in either a Bryant catch or a simple incompletion.
Bryant has also proven to be the best red zone wide receiver in the NFL.
When the Cowboys get down near the end zone, it is almost impossible to cover Bryant. Dez is just too physical to handle with such little space. He does a great job of clearing space and then positioning himself where only he can get the football. He does this in so many ways down in the red zone.
What is the most important aspect of the game of football? That would be touchdowns. Dez Bryant does this like no other wide receiver does.
So, while you can argue whether young and unproven wide receivers are better or if guys who get tons of catches and yardage, but fewer scores, are better... I'll always take the guy who gets the ball in the end zone.
I'll always take the guy who goes and gets the football. I'll take the guy who wants to win more than any other player on the field at a given time. I'll take the guy who knows football saved his life and shows you that every time he steps onto a football field.
Whether Dez Bryant is playing through injuries that no other player should play through, or is getting footballs that he has no business getting, I know that I have a guy out there on my team that cares as much about the team as I do.
Some people play the game because they love it. Some do it for the money. Dez Bryant plays football because it was an escape from a difficult life. Dez Bryant shouldn't be where he is today. He defied all the odds. For this reason, Dez Bryant is my favorite athlete.
Is Amari Cooper the Most Important Contract for Cowboys to Finalize?
Most of the offseason contract chatter, once DeMarcus Lawrence's contract was signed, began to focus on the next group of stars due for big-time money, most notably Quarterback Dak Prescott. For good reason as the quarterback is generally regarded as the most important player on the team. While Prescott has been important to the team's success over the last three seasons, few players made as much of an impact on the 2018 Dallas Cowboys than Amari Cooper.
The Dallas Cowboys front office is working on deals for Prescott and Cooper. Both will get new contracts at some point before they're scheduled to hit free agency in March of 2020, but one could argue that getting Amari Cooper's deal done is more important than Dak Prescott's.
Prior to the arrival of Amari Cooper, the Dallas Cowboys offense struggled and was inconsistent. In the seven games prior to the trade that brought Cooper to Dallas, the Cowboys went 3-4 and scored more than 20 points only three times. In wins over the New York Giants, Detroit Lions, and Jacksonville Jaguars they averaged 28.67 points per game, highlighted by a 40 point outburst against the Jaguars in week six. In their four losses on the season they averaged 13.5 points per game. Over the first seven games, they averaged 20 points per game.
In the nine games, the Dallas Cowboys played with Amari Cooper, the Cowboys averaged 22 points per game. They scored more than 20 points in all but three games; losses to the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts and a win over the New Orleans Saints.
If you remove the 40 point game against the Jaguars from the scoring average over the first seven games and the shutout loss to the Colts from the scoring average over the final nine games, the scoring average changes dramatically. Without the Jaguars game, the Cowboys only averaged 16.67 points per game in the other six contests, decreasing their scoring average by more than three points per game. Conversely, if you remove the shutout loss to the Colts from the scoring average over the last nine games, the Cowboys averaged 24.87 points per game. That's nearly a three-point difference.
Even if you remove the best (week 17 against the Giants) and worst (week 15 against the Colts) games of the final nine games from the scoring average, the Cowboys averaged 23.3 points per game. removing the best (week six against the Jaguars) and worst (week one against the Panthers) games from the first half of the season, the Dallas Cowboys averaged only 18.4 points per game in the other five games.
So Amari Cooper was worth between two and 4.9 points per game. That may not seem like a lot, but that's a huge difference in a league where so many games come down to a single score.
The impact offense as a whole is noticeable, but what about on Dak Prescott.
Dak Prescott only averaged 202 passing yards per game and had a passer rating of 87.4 with eight touchdown passes and four interceptions in the first seven games prior to Amari Cooper's arrival. Prescott only completed 62.14% of his passes in the first seven games of the season.
Over the final nine games of the season, Dak averaged 274 passing yards a game, threw for 14 touchdowns and only threw four interceptions. Prescott had a passer rating of 103 and completed 71% of his passes.
In the first half of the season, Prescott only had a passer rating over 100 two times, while he had a passer rating under 90 three times. Over the final nine games with Amari, Prescott had a passer rating over 100 six times and had only two games with a passer rating under 90.
Not only did Amari Cooper make a significant impact on the passing game, but the running game led by Ezekiel Elliott saw a dramatic increase in his production once Amari Cooper arrived.
In the first seven games of the season, Ezekiel Elliott averaged only 19 carries a game and 88.4 yards rushing per game. He was averaging 4.69 yards per carry. Through the air, Elliott caught 3.6 passes per game for only 25 yards with seven yards per reception.
After Cooper's arrival, Elliott got more opportunities and found more room to run as well. he averaged 21.5 carries per game, rushed for 101.9 yards per game. He more than doubled his receptions per game with 6.5 and averaged 49 yards receiving per game, nearly doubling his first half of the season totals.
It's no coincidence that the run and pass games saw increased production after bringing in one of the better young receivers in the NFL. The overall impact of Amari Cooper led to the Dallas Cowboys going on a 7-2 run to finish the season to win the NFC East. Prior to the trade, the team looked dead in the water. After the trade Dak Prescott looked like a completely different quarterback. The team was hitting big plays, converting on third downs, and scoring tons of points on the way to winning lots of games.
Dak Prescott is going to get his contract finalized, of that, I have no doubt. While I feel good about his upward trajectory as a player, I feel a lot better about it knowing that Amari Cooper is about to get a contract too.
Amari Cooper is an excellent talent. His route running precision makes opposing defensive backs look foolish and the separation he creates makes a quarterback's job that much easier. Cooper is like having Cole Beasley in Dez Bryant's body with sub-4.4 speed.
Just turning 25 years old, Amari Cooper is one of the bright young stars at the wide receiver position and is about to enter his prime. Unlike players like Dez Bryant, who rely on physicality and athleticism, Cooper is going to age much more gracefully as route running is one of those things that doesn't drop off near as quickly as athleticism. Just look at Jason Witten.
The Dallas Cowboys need to not mess around with Amari Cooper. Because having him for his prime and for the same timeframe that you are extending your franchise quarterback will make the next six years of their respective careers much more productive. The best way to take care of your franchise quarterback is to give him an offensive line to protect him. The second best way is to give him a wide receiver that can get open for him.
Amari Cooper is a quarterback's best friend and will be worth every penny he gets in a contract extension. In the Cowboys 2018 run to the playoffs, there were few players as important to that success as Amari Cooper. In this offseason of contract extensions and signings, few still, are as important to the Cowboys success as Amari Cooper.
Get him signed, so he can go play football.
Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder Stand Out in Cowboys Practices
With Left Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, Defensive End Taco Charlton rehabbing a shoulder and foot injury, and Right Defensive End Randy Gregory currently suspended indefinitely, there have been plenty of snaps at defensive end for other players to make a name for themselves in the offseason training activities (OTAs) and this past week's minicamp. The two players that stood out above all others on the defense were defensive ends Dorance Armstrong and Kerry Hyder.
You might be asking yourself, "what does it matter? DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn are the starters. Why should we care about a couple of backups."
First, the backup defensive ends for the Dallas Cowboys will play. After DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford, the leaders in defensive end snaps in 2018, Randy Gregory got 44% of the snaps on defense and Taco Charlton saw 39%. Dorance Armstrong, who played sparingly as a rookie, saw 26% of the snaps. The defensive ends that make the 53-man roster are going to get playing time.
Secondly, there's no guarantee that DeMarcus Lawrence will be ready for week one. Tyrone Crawford, who was the starter at right defensive end in 2018, could miss week one if the NFL deems his offseason altercation is worthy of a suspension. That leaves a whole lot of potential snaps at the left defensive end spot if either of those two guys misses week one.
Dorance Armstrong, the Dallas Cowboys fourth-round pick from 2018, caught the eye of several observers from the media and finished his offseason with a strong minicamp.
"These coaches have to be happy with what they’ve seen from Dorance Armstrong during these practices. Armstrong has been mainly filling in for DeMarcus Lawrence on the left side, but on Wednesday he switched over to the right. There were several snaps where he was a handful for Cam Fleming to handle. Armstrong started off well last season before hitting the rookie wall. He physically looks bigger and is also now equipped with the knowledge of how he has to prepare to play at a high level the entire season. Keep an eye on Armstrong to make that jump from the first to second year."
Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com
Armstrong had a really nice training camp as a rookie and as Broaddus notes, tailed off during the regular season. Reports are that he's added size this offseason -- as most players do between their first and second year -- and if all the reports are correct, could be a breakout player in the making.
Kerry Hyder is another intriguing player and one of the more underrated offseason acquisitions by the Dallas Cowboys front office.
Coming from the Detroit Lions, where they used Hyder as a nose tackle in Matt Patricia's 3-4 alignment, he was played severely out of position. In 2016, playing primarily as a defensive end, Hyder recorded eight sacks for the Lions. In 2017, he suffered a torn achilles which kept him out all of that year.
Now with the Dallas Cowboys, he gets to return to his more natural defensive end position. And he's making some noise in these offseason practices.
D-Linemen never get any shine during OTAs, so today is for them. With Tyron Smith & La'el Collins sitting out today, Dorance Armstrong & Kerry Hyder absolutely wrecked practice. Murdered it. I legitimately don't think Dak would've gotten a single throw out if sacks were allowed.
Of course not playing against the starting tackles in Tyron Smith and La'el Collins will allow players to shine a bit more, but let's not forget that Cam Fleming started in the Super Bowl for the New England Patriots before signing with the Dallas Cowboys. Connor Williams, who has been getting snaps at tackle as well, is no slouch as a former All-American for the Texas Longhorns.
Here's what Bryan Broaddus had to say about Kerry Hyder in one of the previous OTAs his "Scout's Notebook" from May 22nd.
"I have to be careful with my love for veteran defensive linemen, but Kerry Hyder looks like a different man playing at end instead of head-up tackle. The coaching change in Detroit did him no favors last season. Having to play in a spot where he had to fight blocks all day to now working on the edge in space is a good thing for him. It appears that Hyder has his quickness back, but he also has some pass rush moves in his tool belt. I thought maybe they were going to use him as an under-tackle, but putting him back at end might be his best shot at making the roster."
Bryan Broaddus - Dallas Cowboys.com
The Cowboys found a really good player in Kerry Hyder. He's capable of playing some 3-technique defensive tackle if needed as well as on the edge. He has a good motor and is able to make plays in the running game.
With the emergence of Kerry Hyder and Dorance Armstrong this offseason, it puts Taco Charlton behind the eight ball as the team heads to Oxnard. If they continue to play well, it's a real possibility that Charlton could be a gameday inactive during the regular season, especially if Randy Gregory is reinstated.
However they end up being deployed, this group of defensive ends will cause fits for opposing offensive lines. They've been aiming for waves of pass rushers for Rod Marinelli's defense and for the first time since becoming defensive coordinator, he looks to have just that.
BREAKING: Cowboys TE Rico Gathers Receives One-Game Suspension
Tight End Rico Gathers already had an uphill climb to return to the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster in 2019. But that climb just got even steeper; the NFL handed down a one-game suspension to Gathers today for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
If he does make the team this year, with Dallas or anyone else, Rico will have to sit out Week One of the season without pay.
Cowboys TE Rico Gathers is suspended without pay for the first game of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse. This is from his arrest in 2018 for marijuana possession.
Gathers' chances of returning in 2019 were already hurt by Jason Witten's reversed retirement. He dropped to fourth on the TE depth chart behind Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz, and Dallas only kept three tight ends last year.
The Cowboys also added Codey McElroy as a developmental player during the offseason.
While the suspension is news, the incident that led to it is not. Dallas already knew about the arrest, which occurred in early September of 2018, and have kept Gathers around up until now.
The NFL's substance abuse system is pretty formulaic, so the Cowboys likely anticipated this suspension all along. This may not change anything about how they value Rico Gathers for the 2019 season.
Nevertheless, a player who can't help you in Week One and is a liability for ever longer suspensions down the road is definitely a red flag against Gathers' job security.
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