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.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott
Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.
In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.
During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...
...of his offensive lineman.
During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.
As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.
It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.
With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.
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