Come on down to Friday Avenue! This is a land free of deadlines, filled with coffee breaks, and the gateway to the weekend. Friday, you are a something beautiful. Since I’m in such a great mood I’ll let you guys in on a secret… you don’t have to wash clothes by color, everything will be fine… secret of life right there.
Really though it should be no secret that in 51 days you’ll get to see the usual stumped-Eli Manning-face as the Cowboys put an exclamation point on Week 1 of the 2015 NFL season. To celebrate the season’s inevitable arrival, and Eli’s clumsiness, we’re going to dance our way down memory lane with the Greatest 51 in Dallas Cowboys History.
The Following Players Have All Worn 51 For The Dallas Cowboys:
*Active player on the Dallas Cowboys roster
Ken Norton Jr.
I hope that you’re in a nostalgic mood because we’re going back to the 90s today. To be fair we’re starting at the 1988 NFL Draft, the 2nd round specifically, where the Cowboys drafted a middle linebacker out of UCLA, Ken Norton Jr.
The Jr. is important here because Ken Norton (senior) was the one-time heavyweight champion of the world. His son conquered his own arena in a similar fashion.
Like Father, Like Son
Ken Norton Jr. took some time to find his way on the Dallas Cowboys in the early 1990s. It wasn’t until 1992 when he firmly found himself as a regular part of the defense, starting at the middle linebacker position.
The 1992 Dallas Cowboys had, as Norton recounted in NFL Network’s America’s Game on that season, “the number one defense in the land.” Leading the league in defense was made possible through the leadership and tenacity exemplified by Ken. He put together 120 tackles and brought a fiery disposition to the team that it had been lacking since the days of Doomsday.
The Cowboys would ride the waves of success that were generated by Norton and many others to back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 1992 and 1993. Ken even had a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the first of those Super Sundays.
Ken Norton Jr. threw his own punches on the gridiron.
After a great play or an amazing sack, Norton would punch the air in tribute to his father. While Norton had many big plays, I believe his finest is one of his more underrated.
In Super Bowl XXVII, the first of the 90s dynasty, the Cowboys found themselves in the Super Bowl against the Buffalo Bills.
The Cowboy defense found themselves with their backs on the goal line early in the first quarter. Buffalo handed the ball off to Kenneth Davis, shockingly not Thurman Thomas, and Ken Norton Jr. completely stood his ground.
It was as if Davis ran into an immovable wall...
He was literally an inch away from the airspace of the end zone and Ken Norton Jr. just pushed him backward. Can you imagine the kind of physical force that one would have to harness to accomplish this? It’s mind-boggling.
Heavyweight Champion Of #51
While the offensive side of the ball gets a lot of the pomp and circumstance from those 90s days, the Cowboy defense was no joke. They were, again, the number one defense in the land.
The landscape of the NFL was ruled by the Cowboys and the Greatest 51 in Dallas Cowboys History, Ken Norton Jr.
Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 50 in Dallas Cowboys History is!
Why I’m Not Buying The Jason Witten Rejuvenation Story
Last week, Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett made headlines with some quotes about the return of Jason Witten. Neither Garrett nor Witten tend to make headlines with their words often, but the two combined to do so with a quote this week.
“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.” - Jason Garrett on Witten.
Multiple Cowboys' media outlets ran with these quotes, looking to show that the Cowboys have found a version of Jason Witten that they have not seen in quite some time. They are, publicly, stating that they believe a year away from the game did Witten some good, and that he will be a much healthier and fresher player in 2019 than he was back when he last played in 2017.
As a fan of the team, I sure hope this is the case. But as a realistic human being, I can't get behind this at all.
Jason Witten hasn't been very good for quite some time now. I know he's a Cowboy legend, and will forever be a fan favorite, but the facts are the facts. As a run blocker Witten has regressed greatly in his later years. More often it seemed he was re-adjusting his jersey after a missed block than he was making blocks to spring Ezekiel Elliott on the edge.
As a receiver, Witten's much slower than he used to be. And while he was never a blazer who relied on his speed to win, his lack of speed certainly holds him back in today's game. And if the Cowboys want to be multiple and versatile on offense, I'm not sure how a greatly-aged tight end helps them to do so.
He's still the smart, instinctive route runner he's always been, but at 37 years old what can we realistically expect from him?
I'll be honest, I'm very skeptical that Jason Witten is going to give the Cowboys anything in 2019. Maybe earlier in the season he will look better than expected, but can he withstand a full NFL season? It's impossible to say for sure now, but I'm absolutely not buying that he's rejuvenated or extra-fresh after a year off from football.
Connor Williams Hopes Added Weight, Experience Aids Him In 2019
Offensive lineman Connor Williams had himself an interesting start to his young career. The second round pick was expected to be a plug-and-play guard for the Cowboys, earning the starting left guard spot from just about the first day of training camp.
The results from Williams' play were mixed, however. At moments Connor Williams looked like his athletic, technically sound self, working well on the Cowboys outside zone runs. Other times, though, he was simply overpowered by bigger and stronger defensive tackles.
Williams lost his left guard spot due to injury late in the season, and when Xavier Su'a-Filo came in and played relatively well, fans soured a bit on the then-rookie lineman. Still there was no question that Williams was the better player between the two, and he rightfully started in both the Cowboys playoff games last season.
Now entering year two, and with third round pick Connor McGovern potentially competing for a guard spot and rumors of a move to right tackle swirling around him, Williams believes he's done enough to improve before his Sophomore year.
Connor Williams spoke to DallasCowboys.com, and gave some decent quotes on what his offseason preparation has looked like thus far. Williams emphasized that his main goal was to add strength and size, something he looks to have clearly done based on recent photographs.
“I think I’ve put myself in a good position. Now it’s just about refining the technique and feeling comfortable.” - Connor Williams
According to Williams he played at a "light 300" pounds in 2018, but is now tipping the scales at 315 pounds. That's quite the difference, especially considering that Williams carries the weight pretty well in his frame.
All Pro veteran guard Zack Martin has taken Williams under his wing, as the young lineman credits Martin for being his lifting partner this offseason.
Right tackle might be in Connor Williams' 2020 future, but as of now, he has to ready himself to compete at left guard against the heavier defensive tackles he once struggled with. It's very encouraging to see the progress he has made so far.
Travis Frederick’s Return Highlights Start Of Cowboys’ OTAs
The Cowboys opening of voluntary OTAs came with some serious excitement from football-starved fans. But as we all know, these workouts are just about meaningless in terms of storylines for the upcoming season.
I say "just about meaningless" because there are some storylines which matter, though. Travis Frederick's return, of course, is one of those storylines.
After missing all of 2018 due to Guillain-Barre syndrome, Frederick appears to have gained his strength and ability back heading into 2019. Now he is back where he belongs, as the starting center for the Dallas Cowboys.
@tfrederick72 🔙 at it! 💪🏼 #OTAs https://t.co/wht2Lh5yr5
Travis Frederick's importance to the Cowboys cannot be understated. In addition to being one of the best linemen in all of football, the All-Pro veteran center is responsible for much of the pre-snap communication across the offensive line. His absence was clearly felt in 2018, even as Joe Looney played well-above the preseason expectation level.
Frederick returns to anchor an offensive line which is surrounded with some serious pre-season hype. With Zack Martin back to full health, Connor Williams having a year under his belt, and newly-drafted Connor McGovern comes in with high hopes of starting on the interior.
Regardless of how the rest of the Cowboys' offensive line works itself out, it was great to see Travis Frederick back in action, even if it was during a non-contact voluntary practice.
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