As most people predicted would eventually happen, photos of the injuries to Nicole Holder as a result of her domestic violence incident with Greg Hardy surfaced today.
While the photos are consistent with the stories we've heard over the last 18 months, there's no escaping the fact that they bring a whole new reality to the situation that we hadn't previously been exposed to. They're not fun to see, and no I will not share them here.
Many Cowboys fans have gone on the defensive, which does tend to happen when fans of other NFL teams seem almost excited for another opportunity to throw a negative umbrella over an entire group of people. I'll be honest in saying the comments I've read on social media make me sad, more than anything. We actually had someone suggest that our social media manager buy a gun and commit suicide. You can't make this stuff up. There are actually individuals out there who believe taking the moral high ground on the Greg Hardy issue means wishing death upon others.
With that said, let me try to articulate my own views on Hardy, while hopefully speaking for a number of my fellow Cowboys fans.
When I saw articles in the off-season suggesting that the Cowboys sign him, I thought the idea was crazy. He had been out of football for a year, and I just didn't think the circus that would come to town with him was worth it. Again when the NFL passed down their 10-game suspension (and the Cowboys had acquired pass-rusher Randy Gregory in the draft) I found myself suggesting they just cut him. We'll figure out another way, I thought.
Eventually, Hardy went through the appeal process and got his suspension reduced to four games and it became obvious that the Cowboys were going to see this through. At that point, I decided I had to look at this situation holistically:
The NFL -- with all the evidence that was available to the judge in Hardy's court hearing -- had determined that Hardy is eligible to continue playing in the National Football League. It shouldn't be surprising, then, that some team would sign him. I may not be proud to call him a Cowboy, but the reality is that he's here and the Cowboys were planning to stand behind his right to continue his career as a professional football player.
I knew it wouldn't be a fun ride. The NFL knew that. The Cowboys knew that. As such, the last three weeks have gone pretty much as expected. People are angry. Rightfully so, even. They're angry that good things -- like getting paid millions of dollars to play a game for a living -- are happening to a guy like Greg Hardy. They're angry at Cowboys fans who refuse to condemn their team for giving Hardy that opportunity. They're angry at the NFL and Roger Goodell for making a much more concerted effort to punish Tom Brady for allegedly having footballs under-inflated than they made to punish an alleged domestic abuser.
I get it, and I empathize with it. I can even forgive some of the vitriol that has been directed at Cowboys fans who are trying to defend the Cowboys for signing Hardy. He hasn't exactly made any efforts since his reinstatement to change his image, so it's hard to see people defend him on any grounds.
Before you get too caught-up in all that, though, keep in mind that Hardy might be a free agent this off-season. Keep in mind that your favorite team might sign him. Face the reality that there's about a 75% chance your favorite team will at least make a phone call to his agent. Barring any new developments, that's just a fact.
A common claim being made right now is that the Cowboys were the only team that would have signed this guy. That is false. There were actually three teams who were willing to openly pursue Hardy almost immediately after he hit free agency. Even then, the number of teams willing to sign Hardy was not limited to three. There were three teams willing to pay him like a franchise pass-rusher.
Had those three teams stayed away from Hardy, his asking price would have dropped. Trust me, several NFL teams had some price they would have paid to fall on the grenade and be the first team to give Hardy a chance to come back. The Cowboys just had the biggest need at the position and were willing to pay the most money. I get the criticism directed at them for it anyway, but if we want to throw stones at the Cowboys then we should acknowledge the reality that Hardy was going to be on somebody's football team this year regardless.
Should Greg Hardy be allowed to play in the NFL? I understand arguments for and against it, but the bottom-line for me is that that decision has already been made using all the evidence that we have today. Nicole Holder accepted a cash settlement as retribution for what happened that night and has moved on with her life.
Frankly, I think we should all do the same.
What Are Realistic Expectations for Cowboys LB Sean Lee?
For many years, Linebacker Sean Lee has been the face of the Dallas Cowboys defense. However, that's quickly changing. The young duo consisting of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have taken over the linebacker position by dominating the field from sideline to sideline with their explosive talent. As a rookie, Vander Esch filled in for Lee at the weak linebacker position when the veteran went down injured and never gave the job back.
Currently, uncertainty surrounds Sean Lee, who took a pay cut earlier in the year to stay with the franchise he's played for since the beginning of his professional career in 2010. What will his role be in a young fueled defense in the upcoming season?
As we've all been able to see throughout his career, Sean Lee is one of the best in the game when he's healthy. Unfortunately, that's not very often. His injury proneness led him to a position change years ago, when he was moved from the MIKE (middle linebacker) to the WILL (weak side linebacker) position. Now, those two spots are taken care of.
Where does this leaves Lee? The main question is whether or not he'll move to the strong side. Many question if this would be the correct call, given that he could be at even more risk of suffering yet another injury in a position that leads to more contact. The other option would be for him to be Vander Esch's backup at WILL.
Lately, it seems like the Cowboys will indeed move him to the strong-side. After all, it only makes sense to have your best three players on the field at the same time. On minicamp, the Cowboys have been playing the veteran at SAM, letting him get reps and grow comfortable in what seems to be his new job.
But even if Sean Lee starts lining up on the strong side, what can we expect from him next season? The way the NFL offenses operate now leads to teams sending their nickel packages to the field more often than not. For the Cowboys 4-3 defense, that means three cornerbacks, two linebackers. When that's the case, it will be Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith who we see out there, not Lee.
Damien Wilson was the team's "starter" on the strong side, and he only managed to get 286 snaps, according to Pro Football Reference. That represents 28% of the team's total snaps. Even if Sean Lee becomes the starting strong side linebacker, we likely won't be seeing him as much.
Even still, I'd expect Sean Lee's experience to play a big factor when the team needs Jaylon Smith or Leighton Vander Esch to catch their breath. Lee could jump in and play a few snaps at any LB spot and do a good job at it.
After all, we can't forget that despite his injuries, Lee is a remarkable player on defense. He should still be one of the smartest linebackers with extraordinary instincts. There's a reason why, before Vander Esch arrived to America's Team, the defense crumbled without him. Last year, despite losing the starting gig, Lee still had 118 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and an interception. The longtime veteran can still play.
It will be odd for Cowboys Nation to watch Lee on a completely new role. It's also hard to put the finger on what his production will look like at the end of the year. If there's one thing we know though, is that the veteran will work hard every practice trying to get the most playing time he can. We should be excited about the team's top three linebackers.
Dak Prescott Impresses, Draws Compliments All Minicamp Long
Dak Prescott stood before the media Thursday in a Stetson Cowboy hat, answering questions about his upcoming contract extension.
“I’ve got my cowboy hat on, so I’m a Cowboy, we’ll say that.”
Prescott has cemented himself as the franchise quarterback of America's Team, and now it's time for the franchise to pay him like it. Set to earn roughly $34 million per year (according to recent rumors/reports), Prescott is going to be a very rich and comfortable man in the near future.
But, for now, he still plays under his fourth round rookie contract. You wouldn't be able to tell by watching him on the field, however. Though it was just minicamp, Prescott was impressive as ever over the last couple weeks of practice, earning praise from all levels within the organization.
Veteran Jason Witten complimented both Prescott's anticipation and accuracy, saying his throws have been "off the charts" at minicamp. Prescott himself said that this is the best he's felt since he's entered the league, and it certainly makes sense for this to be the case.
"Is it three years under my belt or just seeing defenses a whole lot more clear, being quicker and faster in everything I want to do, having great teammates around me? Who really knows the answer, but I feel great. I feel confident, and my teammates do, as well.” - Prescott to DallasCowboys.com
If Prescott was ever going to be comfortable, hungry, and ready to go, this is likely the time that it would happen. He has three relatively successful seasons under his belt, and ended 2018 on the best stretch of his career. He is the unquestioned starting quarterback for this team, and has the backing of every key decision maker in the building.
Prescott now has an offensive coordinator who he has not only worked closely with (in some capacity) since he entered the league in 2016, but is also being lauded for his creativity as an offensive mastermind. His quarterbacks coach, Jon Kitna, has been receiving similar praise for how he can coach up Prescott and get his footwork consistent, to help him "throw it through a Fruit Loop."
The time is now for Dak Prescott, and it's encouraging to see how he is responding to this increased pressure and responsibility. Then again we should have no doubt that he will respond positively, as he as throughout his entire young career.
Whenever faced with adversity, Prescott has answered the bell. Now he has all the supporters he needs, and just needs to prove them right.
Does RB Ezekiel Elliott Have A Chance At NFL MVP?
Who is the Cowboys best player?
As a running back, it's quite possible that Elliott is both the best of that bunch and the least important to the team's overall success. NFL.com's Adam Schein disagrees with the latter statement, however, placing Ezekiel Elliott among his top ten contenders for 2019 NFL MVP.
"I think the Cowboys are going to challenge for the Super Bowl in 2019 -- and I think Zeke fuels this team. When Elliott runs for 95-plus yards, the Cowboys are 19-4; when he falls below that benchmark, they're 9-8." - Adam Schein
Schein's prediction will no doubt make Cowboys Nation swoon, but does Elliott really have the opportunity to compete for an MVP award?
For one, this would require the Cowboys be among the best teams in the league this season. It's quite possible, as they did win 10 regular season and 1 playoff game a year ago, but it will have to happen once again for Elliott to be considered.
Next, Ezekiel Elliott would have to put up incredible numbers. Well, it's safe to assume this will likely be the case if condition one is met. Elliott is going to get a lot of opportunities to touch the ball each game, and finding himself among the league's rushing leaders has never been an issue for the young running back. Especially if the team has a lead and is running the ball to kill clock.
Even if both these conditions prove true, though, Elliott will still have trouble getting himself in the real MVP discussion. These awards tend to go to certain positions, and running back is not among that list. If Dallas has such a successful 2019, and their offense is clicking, it's more likely Dak Prescott will be the one contending for that MVP honor.
I know to some it sounds crazy, but Prescott will likely need to be closer to MVP level than Elliott if the Cowboys are to contend in the way Adam Schein suggests in his article.
So, likely, Schein should have named Prescott among his top ten MVP contenders, not Elliott.
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