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.
Could Cowboys Have Another “Ezekiel Elliott vs. Jalen Ramsey” Debate?
The debate over "Ezekiel Elliott vs. Jalen Ramsey" for from the 2016 NFL Draft has never really stopped in Dallas. From before that draft until now, Cowboys fans still argue over which player the team should have taken. For the team, could they face that question again in the next few years?
A little over three years ago, the Cowboys drafted Elliott with the fourth-overall pick. In so doing, they also snubbed Ramsey; the cornerback expected to become a Cowboy and wound up going with the fifth pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Where you stand on this issue likely has a lot to do with how you value running backs. Some argued in 2016, and still do, that no RB is worth that high of a pick or paying top dollar for in future years. You've seen plenty of those opinions this offseason as talk of a long-term contract extension for Elliott has heated up.
Those same folks would have loved for Dallas to take Jalen Ramsey, who instantly became one of the NFL's top corners. And in 2021, with both players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, they would probably rather see the Cowboys let Elliott walk away and use that money to add an elite player at a position like cornerback.
We mention Ramsey here because of his very public feud with Jacksonville over his contract. The team reportedly informed him they would wait until next year to do a long-term extension, and Ramsey made it known through social media that he was going to drive the price up. Given his known issues with Jaguars' VP Tom Coughlin, it could lead to a parting of ways.
If Jalen Ramsey hit the open market, and still want to be a Cowboy, could the CB end up in Dallas after all?
Let's hypothesize that both Ezekiel Elliott and Jalen Ramsey have to play 2020 on their fifth-year options. Now the Cowboys are having to decide if they want give Zeke a long-term deal, the franchise tag, or just let him go.
How does the prospect of potentially signing Ramsey, or some other elite talent at another position, sway Dallas' thinking? Could they decide that the best bang for their buck is to spend roughly $15 million per year at RB or at CB, OT, or somewhere else?
The Cowboys already have a Pro Bowl corner in Byron Jones but there's still a lot of uncertainty at the other starting position. Neither Chidobe Awuzie or Jourdan Lewis have been consistent enough and both will have expiring contracts in 2021.
Ezekiel Elliott will turn 26 that year. He will have five seasons of workhorse mileage. And this is the same Cowboys team that decided to let DeMarco Murray walk away a few years ago.
Of course, Elliott trumps Murray in almost every way. He's been elite every season so far, not just one, and has been far more durable. Assuming personal conduct issues don't remain a problem, Zeke will be much harder to let go of than DeMarco was.
However, the salary cap forces teams to think about the entire roster when making personnel decisions. Even if you can justify paying Elliott huge money, that means less for someone else. And even if it makes sense for a year or two, what about when Zeke is creeping closer to 30 years old?
Again, I mentioned Ramsey here because of the intrigue with his contract situation in Jacksonville and connection to Dallas from the 2016 draft. It would be quite ironic if the Cowboys, five years later, were again having to decide between the same two players.
But Jalen exemplifies a greater issue that Dallas faces in the coming years. Does it make sense to tie up so much money at running back and weaken yourself at other positions?
While RBs as special as Ezekiel Elliott don't grow on trees, it's still one of the easiest positions to fill. Assuming the Cowboys still have one of the NFL's top offensive lines in a few years, they will be tempted to try and get solid rushing production with a much cheaper ball carrier.
When Dallas let DeMarco Murray go and then drafted Ezekiel Elliott a year later, some thought it could be the start of a new trend in roster management. Draft a RB high, get 4-5 years out of him, and then let somebody else pay him the big money. Rinse and repeat.
But then Zeke came along and has been the stuff of legends. If he has a long-term career in Dallas, he will be right there with Emmitt and Dorsett in the top-three of all time Cowboys running backs.
Elliott isn't just highly productive but brings personality and excitement. Guys like that are hard to let go of; they are as valuable for marketing as they are on the field.
That said, a lot can change in the next year or two. More issues with the league office, or a major injury, could have a dramatic effect on how we see Elliott's long-term value. It may make the decision much easier.
But assuming Zeke remains as valuable as ever, the Dallas Cowboys could be facing another major quandary between the running back and other elite players like Jalen Ramsey. What most helps the team win, and what has the most value over multiple seasons?
Hopefully, Ezekiel Elliott keeps playing well enough to keep the debate going.
Cowboys OT Mitch Hyatt is an Undrafted Rookie to Watch
Going undrafted is hardly a death blow to a player's hopes of making it into the NFL. We've seen many examples of players who have lengthy careers despite humble beginnings, and plenty of them happened right here in Dallas. Could offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt be the next undrafted success story for the Cowboys?
Hyatt just finished his college career at Clemson as a four-year starter, two-time national champion, and two-time All-American. While not an elite draft prospect, many had Mitch rated as at least a 5th-7th round pick. His going undrafted was a surprise.
While he measures with good size at 6'5" and a little over 300 lbs., Hyatt lacks upper body strength. But he's overcome that deficiency through the years with work ethic, motor, and smarts.
For the Cowboys, it's a lot easier to help a guy gain strength than it is to try and improve motivation or intelligence.
Dallas was not the only team interested in Mitch Hyatt once he hit free agency. But from the rookie's own lips, he didn't have a hard decision to make.
“'I received a fair amount of calls. It was a pretty chaotic five to 10 minutes for me,'” Hyatt said. “'I had a whole bunch of people in my ear. But I knew what kind of team the Cowboys were, I knew what they were about.'”
Whether it was the reputation of the Cowboys organization, its vaunted offensive line, or the chance to work with Coach Marc Colombo, Hyatt was clearly drawn to Dallas. Another reason for that may have been the perceived opportunity to make the roster.
The Cowboys seem to already be preparing for life without La'el Collins in 2020, when Collins is set to hit free agency. They gave Cam Fleming a two-year deal which keeps him through next year, plus drafted Connor McGovern in the third round of the 2019 draft. It suggests Dallas isn't planning to pay La'l the significant money he should demand.
If Fleming gets promoted to the starting job at right tackle, that would leave a vacancy for swing tackle in 2020. Mitch Hyatt could be one of Dallas' options for that role.
Even if the Cowboys don't keep Hyatt on the 53-man roster in 2019, they will likely try to put him on the practice squad. Ideally, a year of physical development there will make him a much stronger candidate for the 2020 season.
Of course, the reason we know those undrafted success stories so well is because they aren't typical. The odds are against Mitch Hyatt having any NFL career, but his collegiate success and intangibles speak to a guy who's worth taking a chance on.
If it works out, credit the Cowboys for continuing the tradition of Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Jeff Heath, and other undrafted players who became significant contributors.
Could CB Michael Jackson Prove To Be Cowboys Best Value Pick?
Looking back to the third day of the 2019 NFL Draft for the Dallas Cowboys, running backs Tony Pollard and Mike Weber are the most discussed players among fans and analysts. The front office made some pretty promising selections in the late rounds that could have important roles on the team in the near future. While many thought the Cowboys would be quick to add a rookie safety, it wasn't until the fifth round that the team drafted a defensive back, and it wasn't even a safety. Kris Richard got his guy Michael Jackson, from the Miami Hurricanes.
A few weeks apart from training camp, the 6-1 cornerback has been overlooked by many fans. Although the team got plenty of quality players in the late rounds, Jackson might end up being the best value pick when we look back to this rookie class a year from now.
In college, Jackson started 23 games between 2017 and 2018 as he racked up four interceptions and 10 pass deflections. He seems just like the kind of guy we know DB Coach Kris Richard loves. A tall, long, press cornerback with pretty solid range. Jackson is far from a player ready to start in the NFL, but Richard will have a lot of raw potential to work with.
When the former Seahawks defensive coordinator joined the Cowboys, he let it be known that he saw a lot of potential on Byron Jones. The 2015 first round pick's career was turned around after last season, when the team finally stopped moving Jones around the defensive backfield. As a full-time corner, Jones went on to become a second-team All-Pro last year.
While it would be unfair to compare Jones and Jackson, both of them arrived to the NFL with very different expectations, I can't help but wonder how far can Richard take the Miami product. Although it wasn't discussed as much, cornerback was an important need for the team because of a lack of depth and the uncertainty surrounding Jones' future on the team.
After an impressive 2018 season, extending Jones will be a huge challenge for the Cowboys front office. After all, there's a lot of homegrown talent due for big paydays. Who knows if when the day comes, the team will have what it takes to keep Jones in Dallas. Not to mention, Anthony Brown is entering his contract year. A solid nickel corner for the Cowboys could be gone, leaving Kris Richard's unit with very little depth.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, Michael Jackson has the size and potential to play in any spot in the secondary, giving Richard the chance to develop him at the position he wishes. After all, Richard will be in no hurry to get Jackson on the field. It's tough to imagine Jackson getting an important role for the upcoming season, but he could certainly get a few snaps throughout the year. Having said that, it's in the long run that the All-ACC second-team CB can truly prove his worth.
In an ideal world, the Cowboys would keep their current CB but the cold, hard truth is NFL teams can't keep all of their players all the time. Jackson might have to eventually step up to an important spot on the defense. If Kris Richard develops him properly, Dallas won't be that concerned about a couple of their CBs potentially leaving. We'll see if Michael Jackson is ready when his name is called.
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