Typically, any NFL related news this time of year is of the negative nature and yesterday certainly didn't disappoint.
Sadly, I woke to the news that former Vikings and Cardinals head coach Dennis Green passed away at the age of 67. Green may never be remembered as one of the more popular head coaches in the NFL, but he left a lasting impact on the National Football League and will be remembered by many that had the privilege of knowing him.
We also learned that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell could possibly be suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season and would have to put his comeback from injury on hold for the first month of the season.
Bell's possible suspension is tough news for the Steelers offense, especially knowing that they are already without Martavis Bryant because he was suspended for the first part of the season as well.
I was going to say that we, as fans of the Dallas Cowboys, could sympathize with the Steelers and their suspensions, but there's probably not another team in the league that Cowboys fans despise more than Pittsburgh.
Of course, then there was a news that every Dallas Cowboys fan found disturbing when they heard that rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott had been accused of domestic violence by an ex-girlfriend. This is especially disturbing considering that the Cowboys are still dealing with the backlash from bringing in Greg Hardy last year.
There are conflicting reports regarding Elliott and his part in the domestic violence, so I will not only be following this situation closely, but I'll wait to pass judgment until all of the evidence is collected.
To me, the news I found most shocking though was when I found out that the Houston Texans dominant defensive player JJ Watt had to have back surgery and could possibly miss extended time while he recovers.
Texans DL JJ Watt's surgery was for a herniated disc, source said. He had symptoms while working out on his own. 8 week return is best-case
If Ian Rapoport is correct and JJ Watt can recover in eight weeks, then he could possibly be ready to play when the season kicks off in Week 1.
That would be the best case scenario for Watt, but you have to remember that this is his back we're talking about and that's something that is doctors and the Houston Texas training staff will want to monitor closely to make sure there are no lingering effects.
Mark Garafolo, with the help from his sources, seems to think that JJ Watt is looking at a longer recovery time that could last into the 2016 season.
On JJ Watt, texted with a source informed of his prognosis who pumped the brakes on early optimism. Cautioned it could take up to 10 weeks.
That would certainly be bad news for JJ Watt and the Houston Texans defense. A 10 week recovery time would mean that Watt could possibly make his debut by Week 4, but taking the cautious approach would probably be wise on the Texans part.
This injury also lessens Watt's chances of winning MVP, which could help other candidates receive more votes that would have went his way.
Now, I'm never one that wants to see a player suffer an injury, especially someone of JJ Watt's caliber and I'm personally wishing him a speedy recovery. But this possibly could be good news for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and increase the chances of him being a favorite to win MVP.
Earlier this week, Sean Martin, a fellow Staff Writer here at Inside The Star, shared who Fox chose as a favorite to win MVP out of the NFC East division. I encourage you to take a look because they make a compelling case for Tony Romo and Sean didn't excellent job of writing it up.
Personally, I agree with Fox and I believe that JJ Watt's injury actually increases the odds that Tony Romo could be the NFL MVP in 2016.
If you think about it, there are not that many players around the league that might be considered early favorites like Tony Romo. As it stands now, I would put Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton as the only players that could possibly receive more votes for MVP.
Tom Brady's chances are hurt due to his suspension for the first month of the 2016 season. Ben Roethlisberger is hurt by the fact that two of his offensive weapons will miss the first four games of the season. JJ Watt's chances of winning MVP has decreased now that he may have to miss part of the season while recovering from his back surgery.
We all know that you can pretty much exclude any defensive players. This has become an offensive league and that is why an offensive player is usually the one that wins NFL MVP.
Who else would you consider a candidate to win MVP other than Tony Romo?
Of course, Tony Romo's health will play a big part in not only the success of the Dallas Cowboys 2016 season, but also his chances of winning NFL MVP and even Comeback Player of the Year.
I personally think if Tony Romo can have the same type of year like he had in 2014 when he threw for 3,705 yards, 34 touchdowns, and just nine interceptions, then he would definitely be in the running for NFL MVP.
The good news is, that if Tony Romo has any kind of resemblance to an MVP season, then the Dallas Cowboys should be looking at making another playoff berth just like they did in 2014.
So, do you think that JJ Watt's injury helps Tony Romo's chances of winning NFL MVP in 2016?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share your own personal thoughts and opinions on this topic. I really look forward to hearing from you so that we can discuss this further.
Cowboys Have Had Quiet, Yet Successful, Free Agency
Yet another free agency without a big splash by the Dallas Cowboys. What a surprise. Despite entertaining Earl Thomas rumors for a long, long time, the Cowboys' front office has stuck with its philosophy of not overpaying free agents and building the team mainly through the NFL Draft. However, they've actually had some pretty good signings over the last few days that will really benefit the Cowboys when the season comes around.
They've done so with inexpensive free agents who will contribute at a high level on their respective positions. Sure, top free agent signings are fun. But many times, they end up backfiring to teams for spending so much money in one single player. At the end of the day, the Cowboys' way has gotten the team three NFC East Championships since 2014. Many factors come into play, but their team building philosophy can't be as bad as many claim it to be.
The most recent acquisition came in form of former Cincinnati Bengal and Minnesota Viking Safety George Iloka. The Cowboys had a desperate need at the defensive backfield and finally they've done something about it. On a heavy safety market, the Cowboys sat tight while watching the top free agents get top contracts around the league, including Landon Collins' record breaking deal with the Washington Redskins.
Now, they've gotten a guy who can play both safety positions. I'll be surprised if he doesn't take Jeff Heath's job. He's played as a free safety most of his career but being a good tackler, he should do a good job in the box. Iloka will also shine on special teams in Dallas.
So far, my favorite signing may be that of former Green Bay Packer, Randall Cobb. The Cowboys had an important need at the wide receiver position despite counting with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup leading the room. Cole Beasley is a tough guy to replace and although Cobb may not be a better slot receiver than him, he certainly has the experience and the skill set to be a starting slot WR. What's more, he'll only cost the Cowboys five million while Beasley got a four year deal with which he'll earn $17M over the first two years.
Cole Beasley will be missed, but the good thing is the front office did a pretty good job at filling the concerning hole on offense. Cooper, Gallup and Cobb are definitely not a bad starting trio to have.
Other under the radar moves will also help the Cowboys. Kerry Hyder may not be a well-known in the NFL but he'll surely contribute to this defensive line as a rotational player. Hyder had eight sacks in 2016 with the Detroit Lions before suffering an Achilles injury in 2017 and dealing with a scheme change last season. Hyder will surely be happy about being back to a 4-3 defense in Dallas.
Christian Covington was another overlooked signing. Covington will help on the interior of the defensive line and although he'll likely not be a starter, he'll be an important piece in the rotation for a very reasonable contract ( also a one-year deal).
For a football team that's constantly criticized for not being active in free agency, the Cowboys have done something at pretty much every position where they need help. Safety, defensive end, defensive tackle, wide receiver and tight end have all been addressed this offseason prior to the NFL Draft. This will give them great flexibility in April and could lead to a pretty good "best player available" strategy.
Now granted, there are still concerns regarding the young "to be extended" group of players. DeMarcus Lawrence hasn't reached an agreement with the Cowboys and will continue to postpone surgery until he does. If the front office doesn't strike a contract with the star pass rusher, it won't be possible to consider this offseason a good one no matter what happens. Dallas can't let him leave.
In the meantime though, they've had a pretty quiet yet successful March. And they're not done yet. Robert Quinn could end up wearing the Star if a trade with the Miami Dolphins does end up taking place. We'll see if the Cowboys continue to build on an already pretty good free agency.
BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign Free Agent Safety George Iloka
The Dallas Cowboys have reached a one-year agreement with Safety George Iloka, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Iloka spent 2018 with the Vikings after six years with the Bengals.
He's started 79 of his 99 career games since being a fifth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012. Iloka turns 29 years old next week.
The Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with safety George Iloka, according to a source. Iloka met with the Cowboys on Friday and was the third safety to meet with the club during the week along with Clayton Geathers and Eric Berry. The Cowboys have... https://t.co/JB5nJLWepc
This isn't the safety that most Cowboys fans wanted. After over a year of pining for Earl Thomas, sights turned to Eric Berry after his free agent visit in Dallas last week.
However, it makes sense that Iloka would be attractive to the Cowboys. At 6'4" and 225 lbs, he fits the physical mold of what Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard likes in his players. He also is younger than Berry and Thomas without the same recent injury issues.
Iloka becomes one of many Boise St. products on Dallas' roster, joining Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, and others. He entered the league with college teammates Crawford and Kellen Moore, the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator, in 2012.
We'll have to wait and see how George Iloka fits into the current mix at safety with Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. He spent most of 2018 as a backup with Minnesota, but Dallas will likely give him a chance to start.
What to Expect from Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Group in 2019
In a span of a week, the Dallas Cowboys have solidified their wide receiver group with the resigning of Tavon Austin to a one year deal and the signing of former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb. Despite the loss of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys have a created a really good group of receivers for Quarterback Dak Prescott to throw to.
Cobb joins a really nice group of players that includes incumbent starters on the outside in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup as well as solid depth players in Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Throw in Cedric Wilson, the Dallas Cowboys sixth round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft and the Cowboys may have one of the deeper receiving corps in the NFL.
The question is, how will the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff delineate the roles?
Let's take a look.
As I mentioned before, the Dallas Cowboys are returning their top two options on the outside in Amari Cooper, who is the X wide receiver and Michael Gallup, the Z receiver. Both players will go into week one as the starters at their respective positions in two-wide receiver formations.
Despite some of the overthrows from Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup, Gallup had a really nice rookie season and got better as the year went along, even leading the Cowboys in receiving in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. In that game, Gallup recorded the first 100 yard game of his career. Sure, it was in an attempt to comeback by the Dallas Cowboys, but it is impressive nonetheless. His touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks the week before was clutch. The Cowboys needed that to take the lead at the end of the first half. 2018 was only the beginning for Michael Gallup. He showed an ability to win with a full offseason to work with Dak Prescott, their chemistry and connection should only improve.
As for Cooper, his presence was felt right away as the offense just looked different once he stepped on the field. It's no coincidence that Dak Prescott's two best career games in terms of passing yardage came with Cooper in 2018. He's such a threat that he opens up space for the rest of the wide receiver group. His route running, speed, ability to run after the catch make him a threat to score any time he's targeted.
Behind Cooper and Gallup, you have options in the event that one of them gets hurt. Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Noah Brown are all players who took snaps on the outside for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 and did so with effectiveness. Hurns best game of the year came just before the Cooper deal was made as he went for five receptions for 75 yards.
Tavon provided down field speed on several occasions and provides some gadget quality that the Dallas Cowboys love to have. Noah Brown is a player that the Dallas Cowboys love to deploy as a blocker in the running game. While it looked like he might get more run in the passing game in 2019, the depth additions will limit him again to a specialty role. If needed, though, he could be an option to take snaps on the outside as his big frame allows him to box out defensive backs down the field.
There will be snaps on the outside for someone when the Cowboys go to 11 personnel, because of Amari Cooper's ability to slide into the slot.
Obviously, the writing is on the wall with who the Dallas Cowboys are planning on deploying in the slot as things stand right now, and that's Randall Cobb.
While Cobb should be penciled in as the starter in the slot, I doubt that he's going to get 100% of the snaps there in 11 or 10 personnel groupings. Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson could all push for playing time from the slot.
Last month, I wrote a piece about Allen Hurns and his effectiveness in the slot and why the Cowboys should feature him there. With Cobb coming off an injury laden season, the Cowboys would be wise to give some snaps to Hurns along with Tavon Austin.
In Jacksonville, Hurns was incredibly effective from the slot running posts, slants, and ins and outs. His size and route running made him an effective mismatch against linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks alike. Remember, it wasn't long ago that Hurns had a 1,000 yard season with Blake Bortles at the helm.
Tavon Austin's quickness is an asset that could be very effective in the slot as well. Though he lacks size, he's a player that opposing defenses have to account for because of his ability to make big plays once the ball's in his hands.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The Cowboys haven't been shy about carrying seven wide receivers on their 53-man rosters and it's possible, though unlikely that they could do it again in 2018. As things stand now, I see Noah Brown and Cedric Wilson as the potential odd men out. Of course, this could all get reshuffled if the Dallas Cowboys use a top 100 pick on a wide receiver in the draft.
With Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Randall Cobb only under contract through the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to invest at the position despite the strength of the position in 2019.
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