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.
Ezekiel Elliott vs Byron Jones Part II: The Case For Paying Zeke
It's a debate that has raged on social media for some time now and it likely won't slow down as the offseason progresses and the Dallas Cowboys begin to hand out massive contracts to their top players. Pay Ezekiel Elliott? Pay Byron Jones? If you could only pay one, which would you pay?
This week fellow Inside The Star Staff Writer, Kevin Brady took to Twitter to poll the populous and his results were a bit surprising to me.
if you can only pay one it should be
The results inspired me to see what would happen if I put the same poll on my timeline.
Inspired by my teammate @KevinBrady88, if you can only pay one, which would it be?
On Monday, Kevin wrote a piece looking at one of the difficult decisions facing the Dallas Cowboys this offseason or next. If the Cowboys could only extend Byron Jones OR Ezekiel Elliott, who should they choose? Kevin, as am I, is a firm believer in Byron Jones ability and says the Cowboys should extend them, and I agree. But let's look at the other side of the argument.
To begin, the Cowboys should and probably will get both guys contract extensions either this offseason or next. It's not impossible with the cap continuing to increase at a rate of about $8-12 million per year that the Cowboys will have the space to get the deals done that they need to get done. Ezekiel Elliott and Byron Jones included.
Byron Jones settled in nicely at cornerback during his first full season at cornerback and knowing what we know about Jones, he won't be satisfied with a second team All-Pro appearance. Expect him to get better. However, if there's a single player that represents the current identity of the Dallas Cowboys, it's Running Back Ezekiel Elliott.
The Cowboys made him the fourth overall pick in 2016 and haven't looked back in their plan to establish the running game. For his career Elliott has averaged 26.9 touches per game over the course of his 40 games.
Here's a look at what Elliott's per game and per 16 game paces look like through the first three seasons of his career.
As you can see from the table above, Ezekiel Elliott is averaging 131.2 total yards per game for his career. In his rookie season he had 1,994 total yards and he sat out the week 17 game against the Philadelphia Eagles when the Cowboys had the NFC and home field advantage locked up. In 2017, Elliott sat out six games and still had nearly 1,000 yards rushing. In 2018, Elliott broke through the 2,000 total yard barrier after seeing a huge increase in his targets and receptions.
Ezekiel Elliott has been everything the Dallas Cowboys could have hoped for and more. With the leadership role he's taken with the team, he's a player that leads both vocally and by example. There are few players on the Dallas Cowboys that give as much effort as he does each snap. How many times has it looked like Elliott was about to get dropped for a two or three yard loss only to grind through tackles to pick up a four yard gain? How many times has he bounced off tacklers to get to the first down marker? Ezekiel Elliott is the human personification of dirty yards, but don't let that fool you into thinking that Elliott can't take it to the house every time he touches the ball. Elliott's is a game breaker who threatens the defense every time he steps on the field.
In 2018, Elliott led the NFL in yards after contact, per Pro Football Focus. His 949 yards after contact in 2018 would have ranked 13th in the NFL in rushing, which was better than David Johnson's 940 yards rushing last season.
Not many running backs effect a football game like Ezekiel Elliott does.
Few players outside of the quarterback position are as much of a focal point for their offense while being an attention grabber for opposing defenses like Ezekiel Elliott is. In 2018, he saw eight or more men in the box on nearly 25% of his carries in 2018. Some of that is related to the Dallas Cowboys insistence on using two tight ends on 50% of their running plays (per Sharp Football), but the other aspect is related to how much they respect the Dallas Cowboys running game. Since the 2014, the Cowboys have been synonymous with running the football. DeMarco Murray, Darren McFadden, and now Ezekiel Elliott have been the faces of that running game behind the Cowboys elite offensive line.
Even in a down year for offensive line play from the Dallas Cowboys, Elliott still managed to lead the NFL in rushing for the second time in three seasons. Elliott made the Pro Bowl for the second time in three years as well. Were it not for the railroad job done by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in 2017, there's a really good chance that Elliott leads the league in rushing three years in a row and that the Dallas Cowboys make the playoffs all three seasons.
Sure, the running back position is undervalued in the NFL and rushing yardage can be replaced, but there are intangibles to Elliott's game that are very difficult to replace. His ability to grind out the dirty yards, break big plays, create yards after contact, pass protect, be a threat as a receiver, and his leadership make him a player that is difficult to replace.
Yes, Byron Jones was really good in 2018 and deserves to get paid by the Dallas Cowboys as well, but you'd be hard pressed to find a player on the Cowboys roster who has been as consistent and dominating week in and week out as Ezekiel Elliott has been over the last three years.
BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb
According to multiple sources, the Dallas Cowboys have signed former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year deal to help bolster their depth at the WR position and potentially become Cole Beasley's replacement.
Cowboys are giving former Packers' WR Randall Cobb a one-year, $5 million deal, per source. https://t.co/8KWFPjSP8T
The Dallas Cowboys met with Randall Cobb earlier this week, but he eventually left Dallas without a contract. He must've had a change of heart or just needed time to ponder the Cowboys offer, but regardless of what transpired in that short time he is now part of America's Team.
During his time with the Packers, Cobb accumulated 470 receptions for 5,524 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. The eight-year veteran will now be expected to replace some of Cole Beasley's production out of the slot for the Dallas Cowboys.
After years of watching Beasley as the Cowboys slot WR, it will be really interesting to see Randall Cobb in that role. He's not as quick twitched as No. 11, but can be just as dangerous due to his ability to be more of a down the field receiver. He also brings added value in the return game and could compete with Tavon Austin to become the return specialist.
This could mean the Cowboys forgo drafting a wide receiver early in the 2019 NFL Draft, but I wouldn't put it past them. Regardless of what happens, this is an excellent addition.
Welcome to Cowboys Nation Randall Cobb!
REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur
L.P. Ladouceur is returning for his 15th season as the Cowboys' long snapper. The veteran free agent was re-signed by Dalals today to a one-year deal.
Thanks to Jason Witten's one-year sabbatical with Monday Night Football, Ladouceur has now been with the Cowboys for more consecutive seasons than any current player. He just turned 38 last week, but Louis-Philippe remains one of the top long snappers in football.
The Cowboys have signed long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a one-year deal worth $1.03 million and $90,000 in bonus money, but he will count $735,000 against the cap. This will be Ladouceur's 15th season with the Cowboys, tying Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Mark... https://t.co/2iDsi6RX7e
Retaining Ladouceur is an underrated move for the Cowboys given their situation at kicker.
Brett Maher was only 80% accurate overall on field goals last year. The team could be considering an upgrade in free agency.
Whether they bring Maher back or try someone new, having a long snapper with Ladouceur's performance perfection will make things much easier for them.
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