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At the culmination of every NFL week I adjust a set of mini helmets to reflect the standings as they are at that particular point in the season. This is the most recent rendition:
NFL standings through Week 13, according to my mini helmet display.
After Week 1 of the 2016 season the Dallas Cowboys were in 4th Place in the NFC East. When Week 2 was done the Cowboys had moved up to 3rd Place in the NFC East, where they stayed through Week 3. At the culmination of Week 4 the Cowboys managed to claw their way up to 2nd Place in the NFC East. Finally, after Week 5 of the 2016 NFL season... the Dallas Cowboys sat atop the NFC East.
Since then (Week 5 ended on Sunday, October 9th) America's Team has never surrendered the title of Lead Dog in the NFC East race. When the Cowboys officially begin play against the Giants in New York this Sunday, that will mark 63 straight days of dominance in the NFL's most storied division.
There's another thing about this upcoming Cowboys game against the G-Men. While a victory would certainly extend their streak of sitting atop the NFC East, it would add permanence to it. A win in New York on Sunday wins the NFC East for the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys have been holding down the NFC East for basically the entire season. It's time to write that message in stone. We hold down the NFC East, and we are going to prove it. Welcome to my 5 Bold Predictions. Let’s roll.
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Anthony Hitchens Gets The Interception That Wasn't This Time Around
Last week in Minnesota the Dallas Cowboys saw a star-studded effort by one of their up-and-coming young linebackers - Anthony Hitchens. "Hitch", as he's known, had what would have been one of the finer interceptions on the season if not for a penalty committed by his teammate, Orlando Scandrick.
Later in the ballgame Hitch almost secured another interception... it was just seemingly his night out in Minnesota. We saw Anthony Hitchens kind of catch lightning in a bottle late down the stretch of the 2014 season... this is simply the time that he has a proclivity to shine for.
Get that interception, Hitch. You deserve it.
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Jason Garrett Wins Another Challenge
Even though the Dallas Cowboys entered last week's game in Minnesota with 10 wins to their name, Jason Garrett managed to do something in the game that he hadn't all season.
With the Cowboys rocking color rush uniforms, Jason Garrett threw a red challenge flag... and won! For the first time across the entire 2016 season, Jason Garrett's red handkerchief came in handy. Oh, what a sweet season.
The nature of the NFL in 2016 is that weird calls are made all the time - by the way, how sad is that? - and coaches continually have to challenge so many things in order to make sure the correct call is made.
Warm up the arm, Jason Garrett. You're going to be tossing a red flag on Sunday Night.
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Jason Witten Has 10+ Catches On The Night
The only thing the Cowboys left in Minnesota last week was an impressive streak of Jason Witten's, 130 consecutive game with a catch. At the end of the day stuff like this is significantly less important than a win, but it still stings just a bit.
A lot of comparisons have been made about the 2016 Cowboys to the 2007 Cowboys. These are the only teams in franchise history to go 11-1 through their first 12 games, and they both dominated teams in epic fashion.
On December 9th, 2007 - nine years ago to the date, on the day this being published - the Cowboys traveled to Detroit for a game against the Lions. In the same timeless effort he exhibits almost a decade later, Jason Witten was dominant. He had 15 catches for 138 yards and a touchdown as the Dallas Cowboys clinched the NFC East.
Big Wit is going over 10 catches. It's destiny.
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Dez Bryant Channels This Night From 2014 With A 3 TD Performance
Obviously the last time the Dallas Cowboys had this level of success was the 2014 season. That year, seven days after Thanksgiving, they traveled to face an NFC North team (the Chicago Bears) and picked up an important victory.
Those Cowboys had 10 days of rest following Chicago and used it as momentum before a big-time divisional showdown in Philadelphia against the Eagles on Sunday Night Football. There was a lot of trash-talking going on before that game, but the real trash on the field was the quality of play the Eagles defensive backs exhibited. Dez Bryant caught 6 passes for 114 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The 2014 Cowboys would end up clinching the division a week later, but these Cowboys have the chance to do it in the primetime divisional showdown with the Giants. It is, for all intents and purposes, the same set of circumstances for them. They traveled to face an NFC North team (the Minnesota Vikings) seven days after Thanksgiving, and they are now on the road against an NFC East team with 10 days of rest on Sunday Night Football.
Just like he did in this game two years ago, Dez Bryant is going to hit the hat trick of touchdowns on the night. Bam, bam, bam.
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The Dallas Cowboys Win By A Poetic Score Of 37-34
The Cowboys and Giants have squared off many a time in their long history, but they have only ever met once on December 11th (like they will on Sunday). This was December 11th, 2011, and it was the famous JPP-block game on NBC's Sunday Night Football.
We find ourselves with another December 11th Sunday Night Football game upon us, but unlike five years ago Jason Pierre-Paul won't be on the field as he had surgery tending to a groin injury.
That 2011 Giants victory in Dallas propelled New York to a run that would culminate in a Super Bowl XLVI Championship. It also propelled the Cowboys to a road that saw them finishing 8-8 on the season, a feat they'd match each of the next two seasons.
This is poetry at its finest, except this time it rhymes with Dallas. Sometimes fate circles back around, seemingly giving us another chance at what we once almost had. Here is our chance. Here is our December 11th. Let's win it exactly like we lost it five years ago, by a score of 37-34. Huzzah.
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Bonus Bold Predictions
Remember, if you want YOUR Bold Prediction featured here, tweet it at me! It’s that simple! Here are this week’s contributions, thanks to all those who shared!
@rjochoa early #boldprediction first game, cowboys won turnover battle and lost game, this week we lose turnover battle and win the game
We'll talk plenty of #DALvsNYG this week, so our bold prediction for @rjochoa is that @ninjafast22 has a special teams TD! @CowboysNation
@rjchoppy @rjochoa Bold prediction. Anthony Brown shuts down Odell. 2 INTS
@rjochoa ok so for bold predictions: Eli manning is going to throw a pick to give the Cowboys the divison and the win! As well as
@rjochoa bold prediction vs the G-men Sunday RJ, Dak throws for 320, 4 td's, Dez 120 yards 2 td's,Zeke 140 yards 1td,Beasley 100 yards n 2td
@rjochoa I got a prediction Butler and Beasley will get a td.. and Irving will get a force fumble
@rjochoa Bold prediction is that @nino9brown picks off Eli twice, one being a pick 6. And holds his matchup to less than 30 yards.
@rjochoa ...2 int's from our defense and both Dak and Zeke have rushing TD's.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Job Security Rankings: Offense
When the Dallas Cowboys start training camp in July, there will be various feelings of job security throughout the 90-man roster. Throughout the NFL, players know when they're already locked in to a role on the team or when they're fighting for survival.
Today, we're going to look at how secure the Cowboys' players should feel in 2019. This not only applies to if they make the final roster, but also their position as a starter, roleplayer, or developmental prospect.
We'll start with the offense.
Tier 1 - The Untouchables
There are no foreseeable issues that could change where these 10 players fit into the 2019 offense. Barring injury or some surprise trade, such as Dallas moving La'el Collins, we know exactly where these guys will fall if they're here and healthy.
Prescott, Elliott, and Cooper are no-brainers, as are your five starting offensive linemen. I also included Fleming as he was clearly brought back to be the swing tackle this season. That could all change in 2020, but for this year at least his role is certain.
You may be surprised to see any fullback in this top tier, but the Cowboys gave Olawale a three-year contract to return this offseason. They made $2.8 million of it guaranteed; you just don't do that if you have any doubts about keeping him on the 53. There's no question that Jamize will be part of the team in 2019.
Some might argue that Connor Williams' starting spot isn't guaranteed, but I just don't see it. They lived the rookie growing pains last year and are hoping for much more going forward. A mid-season switch could occur if he struggles, but Williams will be the Week One starter at left guard.
Tier 2 - Slightly Touchable
WR Michael Gallup, WR Randall Cobb, G/C Joe Looney
I almost put Gallup in the first tier but "sophomore slumps" are a real thing. Until we see him building on last year as hoped, there is room for something to go awry.
That also brings Cobb's role into question. Any slippage in Gallup's game could lead to increased opportunities for the veteran. Really, even if both guys are bringing it in 2019, how exactly the targets and usage get split between them isn't entirely certain. If Cobb is back to his peak form in Green Bay, he will be hard to take off the field.
I also put Joe Looney in this second tier because I think he could be trade bait. If a team is hurting at center before Week One, is there a more attractive trade target in the NFL?
Dallas could afford to trade Looney if they feel good enough about Connor McGovern as a backup center. Adam Redmond could also be in the mix, serving as the backup last year when Looney was starting.
It's very unlikely that Dallas would give up one of the best backup offensive lineman in football. But if a team is desperate enough to dangle a third-round pick in front of them, the Cowboys might have an offer they can't refuse.
Tier 3 - On the Team, But Where?
RB Tony Pollard, TE Jason Witten, TE Blake Jarwin, TE Dalton Schultz, OL Connor McGovern
This tier is dominated by the mysterious tight end position. How much playing time will Jason Witten really get? How have Jarwin and Schultz developed and how will it all shake out?
Witten should be the ceremonial starter, but what really matters are total snaps and targets. Even if Jason is the first man out on game days, Jarwin could still wind up being the most-used TE of the group. It all remains to be seen.
We are also expecting a lot from rookie RB Tony Pollard this year, but we don't know yet how much responsibility he'll be given. Will he be the true backup RB or more of a gadget player? Will he take the KR and PR jobs aways from Jourdan Lewis and Tavon Austin? Lots to still be determined here.
Another rookie with question marks is third-round pick Connor McGovern. Will he be given a significant job right away or be carried, perhaps with several game day inactives, for development towards 2020? It's doubtful that he could push Joe Looney out of a job, but will he show enough that Dallas is willing to part with Xavier Su'a-Filo?
Tier 4 - Bubble Players
QB Cooper Rush, QB Mike White, RB Mike Weber, RB Darius Jackson, WR Tavon Austin, WR Allen Hurns, WR Noah Brown, WR Cedrick Wilson, TE Rico Gathers, G Xavier Su'a-Filo, OT Mitch Hyatt
In the top three tiers we've named 18 players who are locks to make the 53-man roster. You generally have 24-25 player on each side of the ball, so that means only 6-7 roster spots left on offense. That means some of the guys named here won't make the team.
Will Cooper Rush and Mike White both have jobs? If Rush remains the backup QB, Dallas will probably hang on to White for another year. But if White beats Rush, the Cowboys could easily let Cooper go to save a roster spot for another position.
Assuming Dallas doesn't add any veteran RBs between now and camp, it seems Darius Jackson and Mike Weber are competing for the same job. There's also a chance that neither makes it; the Cowboys could use Jamize Olawale as the emergency third back. They may be happy to stash with Jackson or Weber on the practice squad.
Things get really interesting at receiver once you get past the top three. Do veterans Allen Hurns and Tavon Austin's experience edge lift them above guys like Noah Brown and Cedrick Wilson? Or will Dallas choose the upside of youth and their cheaper contracts? The bottom half of the WR depth chart appears entirely open right now.
The Rico Gathers Experiment seems close to ending, but he's still here and has a chance to change perceptions. The one-game suspension won't matter if the Cowboys like what he has to offer the rest of the season. But keeping a fourth TE could be tough with the numbers at other spots, and Gathers is unlikely to leap above Jarwin or Schultz.
Numbers are also an issue for the offensive linemen. We know the top eight; five starters, Fleming, Looney, and McGovern. If the Cowboys keep nine guys, they may go with Mitch Hyatt as an additional tackle rather than bring Xavier Su'a-Filo back. They already have the interior line covered.
Tier 5 - Longshots
We'll all have our "pet cats" and favorite underdogs over the next two months, but they will all be hard-pressed to make the roster given the current depth.
Maybe a guy like RB Jordan Chunn shocks us by beating out Weber and Jackson, or perhaps a dark horse WR like Jalen Guyton or Jon'Vea Johnson forces his way into the conversation. Crazier things have happened.
But this 2019 Cowboys roster is about as stacked and predictable as it's been in a long time. Strong drafting has give us a lot of young talent with years left on their rookie deals, and those guys are hard to budge.
The key for these players is to be too good to risk losing on the practice squad. Convince Dallas to make room for them, perhaps by keeping just two quarterbacks or going short somewhere else.
Because only 46 guys are active on game days, roster spots 47-53 can be dedicated to securing players and development. These young prospects want to force their way into those spots, and likely cost a veteran like Cooper Rush or Allen Hurns a job in the process.
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Where players fall in these tiers could change once we start getting some reports form training camp. How expendable you are can shift depending on performance, or if the circumstances change at your position.
We'll hit the defense tomorrow.
Bold Prediction: Tony Pollard has Rookie Season Similar to Alvin Kamara
The Dallas Cowboys drafted over half a dozen players this year in the 2019 NFL Draft, but the only name we have really been hearing anything about is rookie Running Back/Wide Receiver Tony Pollard. Cowboys Nation is really intrigued with the former Memphis Tiger, so today I thought I'd take a look at what he could potentially do with the Cowboys in his rookie season.
The first thing we have to try and figure out is what kind of role Tony Pollard will have with the Dallas Cowboys this season. Will he just be used to give Ezekiel Elliott a breather from time to time, or will he be expected to form a 1-2 punch with Zeke? An argument can be made for either of these two scenarios.
If you were to ask me my honest opinion though, I believe Tony Pollard will be more of a sidekick to Ezekiel Elliott in 2019 rather than someone who spells him when needed. Pollard has the skill set and versatility to become a really good complement for Zeke, and that's the way I believe the Dallas Cowboys will utilize him as a rookie.
If you're looking for more of a visual, look no further than how the New Orleans Saints used Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara these past few seasons. On their own, Ingram and Kamara are above average RBs in the NFL, but when in the lineup together they form an impressive duo that puts opposing defenses at a disadvantage. That's what I envision for Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard with the Dallas Cowboys.
If that's not a bold enough prediction for you, I'll take this a step further. I wouldn't be surprised if Tony Pollard has a rookie season similar to Alvin Kamara's first year in the NFL in 2017.
As a rookie, Alvin Kamara had 120 rushing attempts for 728 yards and 8 touchdowns. He also accumulated 81 receptions for 826 receiving yards and 5 TDs. That production earned him Offensive Rookie of the Year.
It's probably a bit of a stretch to predict Tony Pollard have that kind of production with the Dallas Cowboys, especially considering the heavy workload they've put on Ezekiel Elliott's shoulders these past few years. But, I really don't think Kamara's rookie stats are that far off.
I think it's reasonable to believe Pollard will have between 88, double of Rod Smith's carries in 2018, and 100 rushing attempts this year. He should also haul in around 40 receptions in the passing game as well. Overall, I think he will have around 800 total yards, 500 rushing and 300 receiving, and 5-8 touchdowns.
Would you take the over or under on those numbers?
I don't know where you stand, but I truly believe Tony Pollard can help the Dallas Cowboys, and most importantly Ezekiel Elliott as a rookie this year. He should be a playmaker as both a runner and receiver on offense, and that's not even mentioning what he can do in the return game. It's easy to forget he was one of the best kick returners at the collegiate level.
You may not believe me, but I think Tony Pollard will have a pretty impressive rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys this year. Whether or not it measures up to Alvin Kamara's though is yet to be seen.
What are you expecting from Tony Pollard in his rookie season?
Cowboys Twitter Tuesday: Answering Defensive Back Questions
Each week I’ll collect your questions from Twitter as well as any questions left in the comment section and attempt to condense a few into a common theme.
Last week, we talked about the 53-man roster. In particular the wide receiver group and one player who contributed to the 2018 squad, that may not make the 2019 team out of training camp.
Today, I want to tackle a couple of defensive back questions, as right now, that’s arguably the biggest question mark for the Dallas Cowboys heading into the 2019 season.
@john9williams Is Jeff Heath really as bad as everyone thinks?
It was a rough 2018 for Safety Jeff Heath. According to Pro Football Focus, Heath finished second in the NFL in missed tackles with 19. While a glaring issue for a player who you rely on to be a sure tackler and a reliable player, there are several stand out safeties that also finished in the top 10 in missed tackles, per PFF. Jessie Bates III, Derwin James, Landon Collins, and Malcolm Jenkins all finished inside the top 10 in missed tackles.
For Heath, though, were too many times where Jeff Heath had the ball carrier in his grasps and allowed himself to get carried or miss the tackle completely, because he was attempting to strip the football. And was rarely successful.
Dallas Cowboys Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard made an interesting point in favor of Heath when he talked about the Cowboys winning 10 games and made the playoffs with Heath as the starting safety.
Heath stays under a microscope because he’s always been one of the whipping boys for Cowboys Nation.
The Dallas Cowboys had several opportunities to upgrade the box safety or strong safety role in team but passed at every turn. Instead they brought in George Iloka on a veteran minimum contract to be depth at free and strong safety. They also drafted Donovan Wilson in 2019 to provide some special teams play and potentially compete for the starting strong safety spot.
The moves the Dallas Cowboys made would seem to indicate they have a high comfort level with Jeff Heath as the other starting safety next to Xavier Woods. For a team that has had few misses in recent years, how they’ve approached the safety position this offseason speaks volumes.
@john9williams Is @ChidobeAwuzie going to be challenged for the #2 spot at CB and by who?
Head Coach Jason Garrett loves to create competition for his football team. Generally, the only players that find theme selves as unquestioned starters are the quarterback and veterans with a track record of production.
Chidobe Awuzie is one of the players I’m most intrigued to watch this season because of the way he played last year.
Statistically, Awuzie has a rough season in 2018, but if you watch him closely, there were few times that he wasn’t in excellent position to defend the pass. He just wasn’t able to make a play on the ball to prevent the reception. He struggled in the first half of the season and was getting picked on, but if you’ll recall, he had a really good second half of the season.
I really like Awuzie’s game. He’s got good athleticism and is able to play the ball in the air. He’s a physical player and is willing to play the run. I think he’s a player that is primed for a breakout season. Remember he was limited for much of his rookie season because of injury, so 2018 was his first full training camp and season. After getting beat a lot in the first half of the season, he settled in during the second half.
The player that could challenge Awuzie at left corner back is Jourdan Lewis. Lewis has sticky coverage skills and by all reports has been the best defensive back in the OTA and minicamp practices. Much had been made about Lewis’ body not fitting Kris Richard’s prototype for a corner back, but Richard has talked glowingly about Lewis this offseason.
With Byron Jones our nursing a hip injury, Lewis could very well start the season at right corner, but if he continues to play well and Awuzie struggles, you could see Lewis take over on the left side.
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What do you make of this year’s defensive back group? Do you think Jourdan Lewis could wind up as a weak one starter?
If you’ve got any Cowboys questions, make sure you leave them in the comment section.
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