For the first few games of the 2017 season, the Dallas Cowboys running game hasn't looked like the world-beaters they were in 2016. They've had a hard time creating any consistency, even though they've had their moments of effectiveness.
If we take a look back at the early part of that 2016 season, it's easy to see that they didn't get off to a hot start there either.
As a team the Dallas Cowboys rushed for 100 and 101 yards to start the season against the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins, respectively.
Here at InsideTheStar.com two of our very own writers have joined the chorus of many expressing concern over our run game in this short season.
"Through three weeks, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the offensive line has been the worst position group on the team. Trust me, I can’t believe I’m saying that either."
Staff Writer, Kevin Brady's (@KevinBrady88) criticism is a bit more focused on this week's film review; he's stated that Chaz Green has sabotaged the running game. To me that's a bit strong, but when Kevin talks OL, you can bet I'm paying attention.
If you follow Twitter during the game, you can see Cowboys Nation self-destruct with each Ezekiel Elliott carry that goes nowhere. Here are a couple of reasons why you shouldn't be worried about the Dallas Cowboys running game after only three weeks.
It Takes Time to Develop Chemistry
The biggest basis for Connor's concerns is my number one reason why we shouldn't worry at this point in the season. It takes time playing together to develop the chemistry that is so vital to an elite offensive line.
After an offseason where the team was trying to figure out who would be the starting right tackle and left guard, the current starting five for the Dallas Cowboys didn't play together all that much.
Remember Jonathan Cooper and Chaz Green were battling it out for the entirety of training camp with several other names mixed in.
While competition is a good thing, aspects of offensive line play like chemistry and cohesiveness go underrated. Understanding what the guys on either side of you are going to do and being able to trust the player next to you to do their job are both things that take time.
Being only three games into real football with a new left guard and a new right tackle, it may take a some time to get everyone on the same page for a full 60 minutes.
Now with Chaz Green being hampered by injury, it's possible that it could take longer if he's forced to sit out.
Really Good Defenses
In 2017, the Dallas Cowboys have faced three tough defenses to start the season. The New York Giants, the Denver Broncos, and the Arizona Cardinals are pretty good on the defensive side of the football.
In 2016, we saw what the New York Giants were able to do to this Dallas Cowboys team and they started off strong yet again in week one. Dallas was able to run for 129 yards, Dak Prescott accounting for 29 of those on three carries.
Elliott ran for 104 on 24 carries. An average of 4.33 yards per carry. A pretty good day against a pretty good defense if you ask me. They tried to take the running game away, but the team was able to wear them down and win on the ground when it mattered most.
We all remember what Denver did to Dallas. That is one of the three best defenses in the NFL, if not the best. Sometimes good defenses like that are gonna take you out of your game plan. Denver certainly did that by getting ahead early and making Dallas a one-dimensional passing team. Denver is first in the NFL in rushing yards allowed this season.
Check out Kevin's film breakdown of what went wrong vs the Denver Broncos.
Against the Arizona Cardinals, a team that came into the game only allowing 2.8 yards per carry, the Dallas Cowboys got back on track.
Despite Chaz Green's struggles, the team was able to make enough happen on the ground to allow Prescott to be effective in the play action game.
It wasn't pretty in the first half, but Dallas didn't get the ball much. In the second half though, Dallas was able to grind away with the running game as Elliott ran for 49 of his 80 yards. His yards per carry wasn't great but at 3.63 yards per carry, it was nearly a yard better per carry than what Arizona was giving up through two games.
After Elliott's sub par weeks one and two in 2016, he went on to run for 1,497 yards over the last 13 games (Elliott didn't play in the last game of the 2016 season).
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The Dallas Cowboys have faced some really strong defenses to start the year. Now they get the Los Angeles Rams, who have given up 139 yards per game on the ground. I imagine that the game plan will feature Ezekiel Elliott early and often.
After Los Angeles, the Cowboys get the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers, two teams that aren't doing a lot against the run themselves.
The point of all this is that we need to relax about the running game for now. It hasn't been pretty, but aside from the Denver game, it's been effective. By Monday, we will all realize that panicking over the running game was a bit premature.
Did a Year Away Help Rejuvenate TE Jason Witten’s Game?
Jason Witten is 37 years old, retired from the NFL after the completion of 2017 season to try his luck as an announcer in the booth, but has now decided to come out of retirement to rejoin the Dallas Cowboys? It seems a little unrealistic to think he can come back after a year away from the game and pick up where he left off, but it sounds as if he's like a Phoenix rising from the ashes.
Jason Witten has been the talk of Dallas Cowboys OTA practices so far. These practices are unpadded and basically just an opportunity to do install some of the offensive and defensive plays, but that doesn't make them any less important. One of the things that has been somewhat surprising though is how talked up the future Hall of Famer has become.
Here is what Head Coach Jason Garrett had to say recently about Jason Witten's return:
“Yeah, absolutely. He’s been excited about every part of it ever since I met him and that hasn’t changed,” coach Jason Garrett said. “The work that he’s done in the weight room in the off-season program has been outstanding. His testing numbers and all of that are what they’ve been or even better. And he just has an unbelievable way about him. Tremendous passion for the game. And he demonstrates that every day. Witt looks good. He’s excited to be back and we’re certainly fortunate to have him back.”
The main thing that stands out from Garrett's quote to me is how Jason Witten looks just as good, if not better after not playing at all in 2018. To think that his testing numbers are possibly even better is unfathomable. We typically don't see NFL players in their mid-30s retire from the game and then return just as good, or maybe even better than they were before.
Maybe that's just what Jason Witten is, a little inhuman. Maybe he's found the secret to turning the clock back just a little bit. Or, maybe he found the fountain the youth and didn't tell anybody. Regardless, there's no doubt Witten will be a welcomed addition to the Cowboys offense, especially if he's gained a step.
I don't know about all of you, but I'm hoping the year away from the game did him some good. I honestly thought he made the right decision to retire prior to the 2018 season. It just looked like father time was catching up to him in 2017. But, hopefully all he needed was a little time away from the grind he's been putting his body through for over a decade.
Whatever he's done hasn't gone unnoticed though. Even Quarterback Dak Prescott has noticed and said he's on to Witten's scheme.
“I guess the trick is to take a year off because he’s definitely gotten better, stronger and faster,” Prescott said. “He hasn’t lost a step.”
I'm not afraid to admit I wasn't too excited to see Witten come out of retirement and rejoin the Cowboys at first. I was skeptical he could be the player he once was after a year away from the game. But, all of this talk about him looking as good as he once was, perhaps better, has me really looking forward to seeing him on the field once again.
Do you think a year away has rejuvenated Jason Witten's game?
Cowboys en Español: El Verdadero Cambio en La Ofensiva
Los Dallas Cowboys tuvieron un interesante 2018. La ofensiva dejo mucho que desear toda la primera mitad de la temporada cuando carecían de un receptor número uno. No fue hasta media temporada cuando consiguieron a Amari Cooper de los Oakland Raiders, que la ofensiva comenzó a verse realmente amenazante. Siendo sinceros, el cuerpo de receptores de los Cowboys lucía muy débil al inicio y Michael Gallup aún no conseguía mucho tiempo de juego en el emparrillado. Incluso una vez en el equipo, a pesar de las grandes hazañas de Cooper en Dallas, la ofensiva no terminó de dar el siguiente paso.
Sí, con Amari en el equipo vimos un equipo de Cowboys que movía constantemente las cadenas e incluso se convirtió en una de las mejores unidades en tercera oportunidad en la liga, pero no fue suficiente. Los problemas en zona roja persistieron y continuamos viendo una selección de jugadas muy cuestionable semana tras semana.
Es por eso que al finalizar la temporada, la administración de los Cowboys finalmente tomó una decisión muy anticipada. El entonces coordinador ofensivo, Scott Linehan, fue despedido.
En cuanto a talento, los Dallas Cowboys no verán un cambio mayor en su ofensiva. Cole Beasley, uno de los mejores WR slot en la NFL, firmó con los Buffalo Bills durante la agencia libre. A pesar de la llegada de Randall Cobb, la ofensiva probablemente extrañará bastante a Beasley. Además está el regreso de Jason Witten al campo, quien se repartirá el balón mucho con los jóvenes del equipo, principalmente con Blake Jarwin. Por último, Travis Frederick podría estar de regreso como el centro titular. Fuera de eso, no se anticipan cambios de jugadores en la ofensiva.
Y a pesar de esto, la afición de los Cowboys espera ver un cambio grande entre la ofensiva del 2018 y la de 2019. Si las cosas salen bien, así será. Pero más que por el talento del equipo, que ya está ahí y es un muy buen talento, deberá ser por el hombre al mando.
Kellen Moore ha tomado las riendas como el nuevo coordinador ofensivo y finalmente podremos ver su potencial. Muchos han criticado a Moore, en gran parte por nunca haber sido un quarterback exitoso en la NFL. Sin embargo, hay muchas razones por las cuales deberíamos estar emocionados.
Desde que Moore salió de la universidad de Boise State, se le veía como un prospecto muy inteligente. Incluso analistas como Jon Gruden (en ese entonces conductor del programa de ESPN Gruden's QB Camp) mencionaban que Moore probablemente no sería un gran mariscal, pero que tenía la mente de un coach.
En Boise, Moore trabajaba con la ofensiva del actual coach de los Washington Huskies, Chris Petersen. Esta ofensiva es una muy complicada que le exige al mariscal saber casi tanto como un jugador profesional. Muchos han descrito a Moore como un genio ofensivo que será un gran coach en el futuro.
Para los Cowboys, Kellen Moore será una pieza clave en 2019. Si vemos una ofensiva realmente diferente, será gracias a su creatividad y filosofía que implementa a un grupo bastante talentoso en Dallas. Los jugadores están ahí, ¿sabrá el coordinador ofensivo de 30 años aprovecharlos?
NFL to Study Marijuana Use, Will It Impact Randy Gregory’s Status?
The NFLPA and the NFL have reached an agreement to research alternative pain-management tools for the players. They'll form joint medical committees to study different strategies, among which will be the use of marijuana. It's important to make it clear that said committees will not be exclusively about marijuana, but a lot of different issues related to pain-management in the league. However, it'll likely be one of the most important aspects of their work.
Marijuana continues to be a highly debated topic and it's no different when discussing the NFL. Dallas Cowboys fans should be very familiar with the situation. Earlier this year, David Irving "quit" on football during an Instagram live stream while smoking weed. In the video, Irving talks about how he thinks it's better to be addicted to marijuana rather than certain medications used by NFL teams to treat their players.
Although David Irving is not an authority on substances, that is where all of this debate centers around. Throughout the league, players are given strong medication to deal with injuries and the physical pain of playing pro football. I'm not an expert either, but it's more than fair to say there's a strong argument here. Specially in a country where marijuana has already been legalized in 10 states and the trend points toward legalization continuing.
The current CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) between the NFL and NFLPA will expire after the 2020 season and how the league's drug policy looks like in the new agreement will be a huge factor for reaching a satisfactory CBA for both sides.
Of course, the fact that the NFLPA and the league are working together on such an important task doesn't mean we will see any immediate changes or that the NFL's ban on marijuana will be lifted anytime soon. Many big question marks will have to be answered before we hear about teams implementing this substance as a pain management tool.
For the Dallas Cowboys, this will be a relevant narrative down the line. Pass rusher Randy Gregory was reinstated after serving an indefinite suspension due to substance abuse prior to the 2018 season. After a dominant year, Gregory was suspended again by the NFL and it all points toward him sitting out this upcoming season and perhaps even more.
Even still, the Cowboys are still standing behind their 2015 second round pick. If the league ends up lifting its ban on marijuana, they'll have to decide what they will do with players already serving a suspension for this reason. Guys like Randy Gregory, for instance. If it's decided they'll be reinstated to the NFL, the Cowboys will sure be glad to have supported Gregory all throughout the process.
Last year, the pass rusher proved how effective he could be even with a short period of time training. Hopefully, the Cowboys are able to get him back on the field eventually, where's been consistently dominant. In the meantime, we'll see how recently acquired Robert Quinn does in Dallas.
The NFL won't be lifting its ban anytime soon, but it's good to know they're at least open minded to changing the league's policy and consider alternatives that could benefit the players' health. We'll see how these new medical committees work and keep you updated here at Inside The Star.
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