There are officially 81 days until the toe meets the ball at AT&T Stadium where the Dallas Cowboys will host the New York Giants on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
Get your popcorn ready. Today we are going to unveil who the Greatest 81 in Dallas Cowboys History is. This is one of the flashier numbers at the wide receiver position, so hopefully we’ve got somebody who can live up to that standard!
The following players have all worn 81 for the Dallas Cowboys:
- Scott Ankrom, WR
- Tyji Armstrong, TE
- Marv Bateman, P
- Curtis Clay, WR
- Danny Coale, WR
- Colin Cochart, TE
- Kelvin Edwards, WR
- Scott Galbraith, TE
- Andre Holmes, WR
- Percy Howard, WR
- Billy Howton, WR
- Rocket Ismail, WR
- Patrick Jeffers, WR
- Quincy Morgan, WR
- Terrell Owens, WR
- Kirk Phillips, WR
- Karl Powe, WR
- Peerless Price, WR
- Laurent Robinson, WR
- Jackie Smith, TE
- Robert Steele, WR
- James Whalen, TE
- Steve Wilson, DB
- Alexander Wright, WR
This is quite the list. 24 gentlemen have put on the Cowboys 81, and it pains me a great deal that one of them was Jackie Smith. For those of you that don’t know, Jackie Smith is a Hall of Fame tight end who spent the majority of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals. He joined the Cowboys for the 1978 season and for what I believe is the greatest game ever played…Super Bowl XIII against the Pittsburgh Steelers. XIII was one of the more riveting Super Bowls, going back and forth, and Jackie dropped what would have been a game-tying touchdown in the middle of the third quarter. The Cowboys had to settle for 3, and ultimately lost the game by 4 points.
Billy Howton is one of the heroes to wear 81. He was one of the first Dallas Cowboys receivers ever, he was literally one of the first to start in 1960, and helped the young Cowboys find their way in the NFL. In the first ever DC victory, Billy Howton chimed in for a game-high 138 yards receiving with a touchdown. He and Eddie LeBaron were quite the aerial attack in the early 60s, and in 1963 Howton surpassed Don Hutson to become the NFL’s all-time leading receiver.
The Greatest 81 in Dallas Cowboys History has one of the most amazing middle names that I have ever heard. The Cowboys signed Terrell Eldorado Owens as a free agent in 2006. He would go on to lead the league with 13 touchdown receptions (after fresh young quarterback Tony Romo took over midseason) as the Cowboys made the playoffs. In 2007 T.O. really shined. He caught 81 balls (funny how that worked out, huh?), for 1,355 yards and 15 touchdowns. The 2007 Cowboys squad was one of the more prolific offenses in not just franchise, but NFL history. T.O. and his offensive production were a huge reason for this. The Cowboys obtained the number one seed that year, and T.O. was recognized as a Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro. His finest hour that season, and arguably throughout his whole Cowboys career, came on November 18th against the Washington Redskins at Texas Stadium. Owens caught 8 passes for 173 yards and an incredible 4 touchdowns.
While T.O. had some off-the-field drama that ultimately led to his release after the 2008 season, and even though he only played three seasons under the blue and silver, he comes out on top of his fellow 81s. In those three seasons he totaled 235 catches for 3,587 yards and 38 touchdowns. That’s an insane amount of production in just 47 games. Owens also played a huge role in Tony Romo’s growth in our offense. Say what you will about his locker room presence, but it serves a young QB well to have a big, strong, future Hall of Fame wideout like T.O. to learn from. He gave us some great moments and some big laughs, and T.O. is the Greatest 81 in Dallas Cowboys History.
Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 80 in Dallas Cowboys History is!
Will Terrance Williams’ Run Of Bad Luck Continue?
To say that Terrance Williams has had a run of bad luck recently would be an understatement. First he breaks his foot, which kept him out of all of the offseason practices so far. Then, he ends up getting arrested on an intoxication charge, a Class C misdemeanor, on May 19 after crashing his Lamborghini into a light pole. Unfortunately for him, his bad luck could continue with training camp approaching because he could be looking at a demotion.
As things stand right now, I have a hard time seeing Williams being any more than the fourth wide receiver on the Dallas Cowboys depth chart. I have him behind Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, and rookie Michael Gallup (in that order) right now, possibly falling even further. For now, I'll pencil him in at WR4 though.
I believe a lot of Dallas Cowboys fans wouldn't be too terribly upset if we don't see a lot of Terrance Williams in 2018. Fans have been unhappy with Williams for quite some time and many voiced their displeasure when the Cowboys signed him to a contract extension last offseason. But, he is still on the roster, which means we should probably expect him to stick around for at least one more season.
There is a cloud still hanging over Williams' head though. His intoxication arrest is still an open case and the league could decide to discipline/suspend him for breaking the NFL's conduct policy. That could impact his availability to start the season, which could ultimately determine where he exactly fits in on offense in 2018.
I know, it's a lot to take in, but that's how things stand right now and I don't things get much clearer when training camp gets underway. But, let's try to dive into this little deeper to try to determine what to expect from T-Will this year.
As I mentioned earlier, I believe Hurns, Beasley, and Gallup are the top three Cowboys receivers this year. If that proves to be true, Williams is looking at demotion. He may be nothing more than an insurance policy in case of injury.
Terrance Williams does have something going in his favor though. He has the coaching staffs trust, which means he could reprise the same role we have seen from him in the past. But, that's where his potential suspension comes into play.
If Williams is indeed suspended, that would give more opportunities to other WRs on the roster to prove themselves, particularly Michael Gallup and Noah Brown. I think these are the two receivers who could have the biggest impact on Williams' offensive role this season.
Gallup will without a doubt receive every opportunity to prove he's ready to hit the ground running as a rookie. I think he will be successful, which is why I have him ahead of Williams on the depth chart to begin with. Noah Brown on the other hand is the wild card here.
I'm a big fan of Noah Brown's. I believe he can adequately replace Williams as both a receiver in the passing game and as a blocker in the running game, something the coaching staff really values about Williams. I think he has a chance to leapfrog T-Will on the depth chart, but he's really going to have to have a good training camp to do that.
Having said all that, I still don't know exactly where Terrance Williams will fit offensively for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018, but I think his bad luck will continue. I think he should probably just be an insurance policy in case of injuries, but will have to wait to see if the coaching staff agrees.
Do you think Terrance Williams' bad luck continues?
Alternate Universe: Where Would Cowboys Be With RB DeMarco Murray?
During the Spring of 2015 the Dallas Cowboys faced what most considered a difficult decision.
Following an unexpectedly successful 12-4 season in which the Cowboys won just their second playoff game since 1996, two of the team's main offensive weapons were set to hit free agency.
On one hand was wide receiver Dez Bryant, coming off of a career year and widely considered a top wide out in this talent-rich league. On the other hand was running back DeMarco Murray, also coming off of a career year in which he led the NFL in rushing yards.
Could the Cowboys afford to pay the somewhat aging running back in this NFL economy? Could they place a premier price tag on a wide receiver despite their run-first, ball control mentality?
Of course, this wasn't exactly an either/or situation, but the Cowboys did re-sign Bryant to a lucrative deal and allowed Murray to walk to Philadelphia.
Now Fast forward to 2018.
Neither Murray nor Bryant are on the Cowboys, Tony Romo is broadcasting for CBS, and Dallas has spent a top five overall pick on replacing Murray at running back.
DeMarco Murray announced his retirement from football last week, making much of Cowboys Nation (including myself) think back upon those Romo-era teams.
And it's really hard not to wonder, where would the Cowboys have gone if they decided to keep DeMarco Murray? Where would they be had they re-signed Murray, rather than spending a premium pick on Ezekiel Elliott a year later.
If we're being honest, Elliott is a much more dynamic runner than Murray ever was. He brings more explosion and reliability to the offense, and is arguably the best back in football. Even when Murray was the league's leading rusher, this really couldn't be said about him.
There's not much of a chance that DeMarco Murray would still be a productive RB1 in Dallas heading into 2018. His play significantly dropped over the years in Tennessee, even behind their solid offensive line.
Of course the value of the running back position has been devalued as of late, making the Cowboys selection of Elliott a questionable one to some around the league. Paying the league's leading rusher what they would've had to pay him back in 2015, however, would have been even more questionable.
Plus, the Cowboys were able to replace much of Murray's production in 2015 with Darren McFadden, even if the team didn't win nearly as many games.
There might be an alternative universe out there where Tennessee's Murray and Derrick Henry-led backfield existed in Dallas, but Cowboys fans are certainly not upset about having Ezekiel Elliott in a Cowboys uniform.
Even if it took them a top five pick to seal the deal.
Considering an Earl Thomas Extension, Age is just a Number
When people consider whether the Dallas Cowboys should trade for Seattle Seahawks' Safety Earl Thomas, one rebuttal fans throw out there is his age, and for good reason. People get concerned about handing out contract extensions to players entering their age-29 season.
In the salary cap era of the NFL, it typically isn't good business to pay age as the team often doesn't get the value out of the player that the contract expects.
One position where I feel that isn't necessarily the case is at the safety position. Let's consider Earl Thomas' accolades for a moment and see if we can find some correlations.
Earl Thomas, in his eight-year career, has been to the Pro Bowl six times, missing out his rookie season and in 2016 when he only played 11 games. He's been selected to the NFL All-Pro's first team three times in consecutive years from 2012 to 2015.
So, let's go over to our friends at Pro Football Reference and see which other safeties have been to the Pro Bowl at least six times and have been selected as a first team All-Pro player three times.
Here's the list:
The first thing you'll notice is the elite players on the list along with Earl Thomas. The likes of Rod Woodson, Ed Reed, Brian Dawkins, Troy Polamalu, Aeneas Williams, and Charles Woodson. Those are just the players whose career extended into 2000s.
Then if you consider Ronnie Lott and Cliff Harris, that's some amazing company.
The players with an asterisk are the players that are in the Hall of Fame. Reed, Polamalu, and Woodson will be in the Hall of Fame. Cliff Harris not being in the Hall of Fame is still an NFL injustice that needs to be righted as he was one of the key cogs to the success of the Doomsday Defense of the 1970s.
I know Deion Sanders is on the list, and he's only there because he did play some safety toward the tail end of his career, but we know that it was as a corner that Deion made his money. The key though is that Deion's switch to safety at the end allowed him to prolong his career.
Removing Earl from the discussion for a moment, the average length of the careers of the men mentioned above was 13.41 years. The longest career was Charles Woodson at 18 years followed by Deion at 17 and Brian Dawkins at 16 years. The shortest careers were the 10-year careers of Cliff Harris and Joey Browner.
So, if Earl Thomas, having played eight years, played to the short end of the career length, he'd still have another two years left, this season included. If he played to the average length of those listed above, he'd have another five years left.
Considering that half of the players listed above all played longer than the average, there's a good chance that Earl Thomas has another six to seven years left in his career.
So, when we think about an extension for Earl Thomas, we have to consider the fact that for someone who has had the career that he's had to this point, he's going to be able to play at a good to great level for the life of a four-year extension.
Earl Thomas is an elite player and is on track to one day be considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
If the Dallas Cowboys could add that to their young and developing defense for the next four years, they shouldn't worry about his age.
Obviously, anything can happen, and people may point to him missing games in each of the last two seasons, but prior to 2016, Earl Thomas played and started 100% of his team's games. That's a six season stretch of being available for every single game.
For a team that is really close to contention and has the makings of an elite defense, Earl Thomas could be the missing piece that could put them over the top, much like Charles Haley did for the Dallas Cowboys' dynasty of the 1990s.
Don't let the age thing distract you from adding one of the best safeties in the NFL and one of the best players in the league. Earl Thomas to the Dallas Cowboys just makes too much sense not to do it, and for the All-Pro safety, age is just a number.
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