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Hope Springs Into Furnace …

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When identifying yourself as a Cowboy's fan for the first time to someone who also is a Cowboy's fan, the first question that typically come's up is, "What did you think about them releasing T.O.?"  Beyond being genuinly interested in your perspective, there is an ulterior motive in that question.  The asker want's to determine what kind of Cowboy's fan you are.  Are you optimistic, pessimistic, or realistic.

Personally, I try to be realistic about everything in life, but, admittedly, when it comes to my Cowboy's, the preverbial hope springs eternal.  In all of the forum's I contribute to, I'm typically regarded as the homer; the guy who always expects the best from this team.  With that in mind, despite the fact that the media and sport's analyst abroad have already wrote off the 2009 Cowboy season, I will make an attempt to shift the light from the Cowboy's good side and focus on what could go horribly wrong.

The first thing that comes to mind for me is conditioning.  Considering the barrage of injuries the Cowboy's weathered last year and the now infamous December swoon the Cowboy's are known for (14 - 32 since 2000 in December), questioning the Cowboy's overall conditioning seems like a logical place to begin.  So far, the picture that has been painted by Cowboy's staffer's and the kinder mediots, is that quite a few of the Cowboy's have been working throughout the offseason to make sure they are properly conditioned for the season.  But isn't that the standard company line every offseason?  The injury list is already stacked, and training camp doesn't start until the end of July.  How does that happen?  The broken, bruised, and busted I understand; but strains and pulls typically indicates improper hydration and/or stretching.  In my mind, if a player is getting paid millions of dollars to play this game, he should futher understand that preparation for training is just as important as the actual training.

Coaching.  You really have to wonder about the coaching situation.  Making Wade Phillips the Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator is unprecedented in football.  It sends the message that Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett are sharing the role of Head Coach or, the more accurate way of looking at it, Jerry Jones is the Head Coach.  The thought is scary, but to hear him weigh in on strategy before, during and after games, really makes me wonder how much say he has in getting the ball to certain players.  And if he does have a say in this, it's not hard to figure out what is truly wrong with this team, despite all of their collective talent.

Aside from the questionable dual role, I feel pretty confident in Wade's ability to make the Cowboy's defense rank top 10 this year.  However, Jason Garrett's ability to make a T.O.less offense work is definitely a big question.  Since the beginning of his tenure as OC, the pass first mentality has been evident.  And, to be honest, to a certain extent, that approach based on previous personnel was justifyable.  However, this year, the Cowboy's offense, despite the very few modifications to the starting line-up on offense, are now built for balance.   Does Jason recognize this need?  Can he effectively call plays designed to spread the ball over that trio of backs, duo of TE's, and that potentially clutch WR group?

The Offensive Line.  Despite the catalog of failure that was the 2008 season for this group, very little was done to fortify the line.  Enemy #1 amongst Cowboy's fan's is likely between Flozell Adams, notorious for False Starts and struggling with speed rushers,  and Cory Proctor who seems to be physically and mentally inferior to the average defensive lineman.   The Cowboy's added a few rookies, but it will likely be two to three years before any of them see extended playing time, barring another unlucky barrage of injuries.   Therefore, regardless of the dangerous weapons, if Romo doesn't have adequate time to identify the open receiver and our running back's don't have time to accelerate or a hole to accelarate through, this team's offensive effectiveness will be marginal, at best.  And, obviously, with a steady dose of 3 and out's you get an exhausted defense in the 2nd half.

Youth served.  Another huge difference in the 2009 Cowboy's vs. the 2008 Cowboy's is average age.   The Cowboy's lost quite a few starting veterans over the offseason, particularly on defense (Anthony Henry, Roy Williams, Keith Davis, Tank Johnson, Zach Thomas, Kevin Burnett, and Chris Canty).  Add to that the fact that the Cowboy's drafted 12 rookies, and you have a team exceptionally younger than last year.  With youth, typically comes a marked improvement in overall speed.  But, speed minus experience can often lead to going fast in the wrong direction, ultimately, putting said youngster further from where he needs to be in a given play...and no amount of speed can fix that.

Special Teams.  Special Teams has been quite possibly the softest spot on this team for the last few seasons.  In response to that, Wade Phillips went out and got a Special Teams coach that is considered by many to be the best in the business.  But, if you consider that he's brand new to this team and quite a few of the player's he will have to work with are also brand new to this team, if not to the league, how much improvement can we really expect?  It'd be one thing if Decamallis was working with the exact same group of player's as last year, but the truth is,  10 of those 12 rookies are expected to play significant roles on special teams if they want to make the team.  That could be a disaster in the making, regardless of how good the coaching is.

Romo.  It happened with Jeff Garcia.  Then, many speculated, the same happened with Donovan McNabb.  No more T.O., no more impressive numbers.  In two stops previous to Dallas, T.O. left a huge hole in otherwise pedestrian offenses, which led to the cliched theory  that T.O. makes QB's better than what they really are.  Will this prove to be true of Romo?  Prior to T.O., Romo was an undrafted Free Agent 4th on the depth chart of a bunch of no-bodies and has-beens.  But in 2007, the Romo to T.O. connection rewrote the franchise record book.  In 2008, opposing defenses took T.O. out of the equation and the Cowboy's go 9 - 7 and miss the Play Off's.  Coincidence?  I hope so, but it is something to consider before assuming Romo's name will eventually find it's place in the Ring of Honor or Hall of Fame.

Obviously, there are question's about team-wide depth,  overall wide receiver talent, last year's rookies stepping into starting roles, and the pandoras box of intangible questions about heart, chemistry and leadership.   The truth is, another barrage of injuries could end this season like last year.  If Roy William's is not, at least, consistent, the ground game will likely suffer significantly.  And if Scandrick or Jenkins don't, at least, duplicate their last year's performance the defense will leak like a sieve.   That is football.  All the moving part's have to be functional, or the machine will not work.  As for the immeasurable contribution of heart, leadership, and chemistry, this will likely be determined by how the team begins the season.



I am 35, married and a father of 2 boys. I have been a Cowboys fan since Jimmy Johnson took over; not because I had anything against Tom Landry, but because it just so happens I was old enough to start following and understanding football right as that new era began. Since then, I haven't missed games if I could help it.

Game Notes

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Redskins

Brian Martin

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Redskins 5

Well, here we are again. The Dallas Cowboys lose another close game, but this time it might hurt a little bit more since it was to the division rival the Washington Redskins. This was definitely a game that could've gone either way since neither team played well, but in the end things just happened to go the Redskins way this time.

One or two things going just a little differently for the Cowboys likely would've been enough to secure the victory Sunday afternoon and I'm not even talking about Brett Maher's missed field goal. For instance, what if Quarterback Dak Prescott would've taken the safety instead of fumbling and letting the Redskins defense score a TD. That mistake it definitely hurt!

I could sit here and play the "what if" game with you all day, but we have nearly two weeks to do just that since the Cowboys are now on their bye week. Today, I want to share with you The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from the first of two meetings between these two teams. Enjoy!

The Good

Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

In yet another sloppy performance on the road, there was very little good to take away from the first meeting of the 2018 season between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. I think the one thing I will remember the most, in a positive way, from this matchup is Wide Receiver Michael Gallup's long touchdown pass from Quarterback Dak Prescott.

Michael Gallup continues to make plays when given the opportunity. In another offense with a better play caller and maybe even a better QB, Gallup would likely be in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year, but has failed to make much of an impact with the Cowboys so far. Hopefully that will change after the bye week though.

If I'm the Cowboys coaching staff, I'm going to find ways to get Michael Gallup more involved in the passing game coming out off the bye week. Other than Cole Beasley, he is the only one who is having much of an impact and definitely needs to see more targets. I would make that a top priority moving forward.

The Bad

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

There is so much that I could put in this section, but I think the worst thing that happened Sunday afternoon when the Dallas Cowboys lost to the Redskins was the fact that we will have nearly 2 weeks of having to listen and talk about it. For me, that is the bad!

Yes, you read that right. Now that the Cowboys are heading into their bye week, we have two entire weeks to dissect and analyze everything that has gone right or wrong this year, especially what happened against the Redskins since it's the freshest in our minds.

This was definitely a tough loss, and one that could come back and hurt the Cowboys when it comes to playoff seeding at the end of the season. Too many mental mistakes and penalties definitely assisted in the letdown, but in the end they just weren't good enough to win on the road. That's absolutely something that needs to change since they haven't won a road game all season.

The Ugly

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

I'm going to have to go with both the offense and defense for the Dallas Cowboys as the ugly against the Redskins Sunday afternoon. Neither unit really played all that well, even though they both probably played well enough to win the game if just a few things would've gone just a little bit differently.

On the offensive side of the ball the Cowboys couldn't get anything going for nearly the entire game. The Redskins did an excellent job of bottling up Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott couldn't get anything going in the passing game until the fourth quarter. They did have a few big plays called back due to holding penalties, but overall it was a pretty sloppy performance.

Defensively things weren't much better. The Cowboys have been pretty good at stopping the run this season, but for some reason couldn't find an answer of how to stop Adrian Peterson. The defense probably played better than the Cowboys offense, stopping the Redskins in the red zone on several occasions and only giving up one TD, but in the end it just wasn't enough.

What is your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against the Redskins?



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Game Notes

WAS 20, DAL 17: Cowboys Make 1 Too Many Mistakes

Kevin Brady

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WAS 20, DAL 17: Cowboys Make 1 Too Many Mistakes

Late in the fourth quarter the Cowboys faced a critical third down, trailing by just 3 points. As they did all night long, the Washington Redskins brought pressure, but quarterback Dak Prescott stood in the pocket this time and delivered a strike to Cole Beasley for a huge first down.

Cowboys fans rejoiced thinking the team might be on their way to a game winning drive. Then, we all noticed the yellow flag on the ground.

Holding, offense number 52.

The very next play Dak Prescott took what was one of the worst sack fumbles you'll ever see in his own end zone, and the Redskins extended their lead to 10 points. As Prescott tends to do, the Cowboys battled back late and got themselves in a position to send the game to overtime if Brett Maher could nail a 47 yard field goal.

Snap infraction.

Snap infraction. Rather than Maher attempting a more make-able 47 yard field goal, he was backed up to 52 yards, where he would miss the game-tying field goal. All of this resulted in an absolutely heartbreaking loss for the now 3-4 Dallas Cowboys, 20-17.

For a Cowboys team that had a chance to take over first place in the NFC East with a win, today's performance is extremely disheartening.

Other Notes

  • DeMarcus Lawrence hasn't been getting the pass rush we hoped to see, but he continued to be an absolute menace against the run today. He ended the game with 7 tackles, 3 of them for loss.
  • Dak Prescott's inconsistencies as a quarterback, the inability of any non-Cole Beasley wide out to beat man coverage, and the regression of the offensive line continued to handcuff the offense today. Their play simply wasn't good enough for most of the game.
  • Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie put together another impressive game, and this defensive back group (mostly the cornerbacks) seems to improve week to week.
  • Sean Lee looked healthy today, and made a key third down stop in the fourth quarter, knocking Alex Smith out of bounds and giving the offense a final chance to win or tie.
  • Ezekiel Elliott and this run game failed the Cowboys today. Elliott had just 34 yards rushing on 15 attempts and the offensive line was dominated all night.
  • The Cowboys have their bye this week before hosting the 3-4 Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football.



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Player News

Cowboys Interest in Raiders WR Amari Cooper Increases Ahead of Trade Deadline

Sean Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Interest in Raiders WR Amari Cooper Increases

This week, Stephen Jones discussed the difficulties of making a trade, saying "it just seems like in the NFL trades are hard to make, to make it all come together for two teams".

The two teams that could be lining up to change that are of course Jones' Cowboys as well as John Gruden's Oakland Raiders. Yet another Raiders player has been in the headlines as a trade target, 24-year old Wide Receiver Amari Cooper.

Adam Schefter on Twitter

WR-needy Cowboys doing their due diligence on Raiders' WR Amari Cooper: https://t.co/pE2wmrzCXu

Playing at the Washington Redskins on Sunday, the Cowboys will have yet another reshuffled lineup at wide receiver, playing without Tavon Austin. Their biggest offseason addition to this unit was Allen Hurns, and he's been underwhelming with just eight catches.

Thus the Cowboys are reportedly doing their "due diligence" on Cooper, sensing the need for a mid-season acquisition at WR for the right price. The Cowboys ability to potentially find that price in a deal advantageous to them, given how the Raiders handled the departure of Khalil Mack in a trade to this Chicago Bears, is what makes this story relevant.

A lot has been said about Cooper since his name emerged as the latest player potentially out of the Bay Area. Whether you believe he's still an impact receiver with the potential to regain his Pro Bowl form of 2015 and 2016 or one that "doesn't love football," as some have been inclined to say, the former fourth overall pick represents an investment into the WR position that the Cowboys have not made in some time.

In those Pro Bowl seasons, Cooper averaged over 77 catches a season while putting up over 1,000 yards in both. The Raiders have used this to justify their reported asking price of a first-round pick for Cooper, something the Cowboys are not alone in their reluctance to give.

With Cooper, the Raiders are holding onto their last bit of relevancy. A reeling 1-5 football team that needs to maximize their return on trading Cooper, the Colts and Redskins are also following in the Cowboys footsteps by preparing as much as they can on the player.

Cooper has caught 22 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown through six games this season.

For as desperate as the Raiders are to jump-start their organization, the Cowboys should be just as desperate to add a threat like Cooper to their passing attack. Unlike the Raiders, they're in the hunt for a division title, something much harder to put a price on when it comes to the Jones' finalizing any deal for Cooper in the coming days.

The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday, October 30th, at 3 PM Central Time. The Cowboys will be two days into their bye week, not in action again after Sunday until November 5th.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Interest in Raiders WR Amari Cooper Increases Ahead of Trade Deadline" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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