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How Romo Wins 2016 Comeback Player of the Year

The NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award is given to an NFL player who has shown perseverance overcoming adversity. Winners in the past have either missed or performed poorly in the prior season, or suffered a severe injury but then excelled the following year. While it may be too early to tell, I think Tony Romo has a good chance of winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2016. The last QB to win the award was Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers in 2013. Rivers, statistically, had one of his best seasons.

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Cowboys Headlines - Does Wilcox Have a Fighting Chance at FS? 2

The NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award is given to an NFL player who has shown perseverance overcoming adversity. Winners in the past have either missed or performed poorly in the prior season, or suffered a severe injury but then excelled the following year.

While it may be too early to tell, I think Tony Romo has a good chance of winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2016.

The last QB to win the award was Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers in 2013. Rivers, statistically, had one of his best seasons. He finished in the top five in completion percentage (69.5 percent), yards per pass (8.23), passing yards (4,478), passing touchdowns (32) and passer rating (105.5) -- all while only throwing 11 interceptions and making the Pro Bowl. He threw for the best season of his career and propelled the Chargers into the playoffs.

But that’s not to say Rivers didn’t have a lot of help from his rookie wide receiver, Keenan Allen, who asserted himself as Rivers' best weapon and positioned himself as a possible Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate.

No kidding! The Cowboys also have a potential OROY candidate!

Cowboys Headlines - Does Wilcox Have a Fighting Chance at FS? 1Before Rivers, Peyton Manning was named CPOY after missing the entire 2011 season from a neck surgery. When he returned to the NFL, Manning set franchise records in nearly every passing category. He also played his 12th career Pro Bowl, a record among QBs. He and the Denver Broncos finished the season with a 13-3 record.

Manning also earned a pair of AFC Offensive Player of the Month Awards in October and December. At the end of his 2012 campaign, Manning had thrown 400 completed passes with a 68.6% completion rate for 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

In 2011, the quarterback for the Detroit Lions, Matthew Stafford, won the CPOY Award. Less than a year after his right shoulder surgery, Stafford threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns to lead the Lions to their first playoff since 1999. Stafford, who played only three games in the previous season, didn’t miss a single one in 2011. He completed 421 passes in the regular season and made the playoffs.

During his 2011 season, in four of Detroit's 10 wins, the Lions had to overcome second-half deficits of at least 13 points. In all four of those comebacks, Stafford threw multiple touchdowns to rally the Lions.

Come from behind wins? That’s something Romo can do.

Cowboys Headlines - Does Wilcox Have a Fighting Chance at FS?The Comeback Player of the Year Award is well within Romo’s reach. In 2014, Romo finished with 3,704 passing yards, 34 touchdowns and nine interceptions while leading the NFL with a 69.9 completion percentage. He led the NFL in passer rating with 113.2, made the playoffs and a Pro Bowl.

For Romo to win CPOY, he’ll have to follow closely in the footsteps of the previous QB CPOYs before him. Here’s how:

Have a completion percentage of around 67.2.

The combined average of Rivers’ (69.5), Manning’s (68.6), and Stafford’s (63.5) completion percentage is 67.2. Topping that completion percentage is well within Romo’s grasp considering he had a completion percentage of 69.9 in 2014.

Complete 36 Touchdown Passes.

Rivers’, Manning’s and Stafford’s touchdowns average 36, throwing 32, 37 and 41, respectively. Romo had 34 touchdowns in 2014, two more than Rivers and three less than Manning in their own CPOY campaigns. If Romo had played a whole season in 2014, he probably would have thrown two more touchdowns.

Throw for around 4,725 yards.

Rivers, Manning and Stafford threw 4,478, 4,659 and 5,038 respectively. Those numbers average out to 4,725 yards. Besting these numbers could be the biggest stretch for Romo, seeing as he only threw for 3,704 yards in 2014. This could be attributed to how heavily they relied on the running game that season - which brings me to my next point.

Rely on Ezekiel Elliott.

Elliott has the potential to be the Offensive Rookie of the Year. If Rivers’ success teaches us anything, it’s to rely on the young fresh talent. As Rivers relied on Keenan Allen - a potential OROY in 2013, so will Romo rely on Elliott - a potential OROY in 2016.

Thrive in the Fourth Quarter.

Like Stafford, Romo will have to pull out some fourth quarter wins. Luckily for Romo, he has the highest fourth quarter passer rating in NFL history with a mark of 102.9.

Be Named Offensive Player of the Month.

Manning was named Offensive Player of the Month twice in the 2012 season. If Romo could do the same, earning that recognition for just one month, it would certainly help his chances to win the CPOY.  It certainly isn’t impossible for him to earn Offensive Player of the Month because he’s done so four times in his career: In December of 2014, he was named Offensive Player of the Month after leading the Cowboys to a 4-0 record clinching the NFC East title. He had a passer rating of 133.7 for the month which was the best of any quarterback that month with at least 100 pass attempts.

Make the Playoffs.

Like Rivers, Manning, and Stafford, part of winning the award must include a playoff appearance. Based on his 2014 season, Romo could win the comeback player of the year and lead the Cowboys to the playoffs.

Cowboys Headlines - Does Wilcox Have a Fighting Chance at FS? 5

Fingers crossed, Dez Bryant, Orlando Scandrick, Tyrone Crawford, and most importantly, Tony Romo, will remain healthy enough to hopefully make it to the Super Bowl. Romo was also coming off back surgery in 2014, playing most of the season with broken bones in his back and he was still an MVP candidate. Imagine what he can accomplish in 2016 if he can stay fully healthy.

With the 2016 season on its way, I think Tony Romo is due for a comeback. The CPOY Award is well within his grasp.



I was born and raised in New York state's Hudson Valley and now attend school in New Jersey. Although I live in Montclair, my heart will always have a soft spot for Dallas, Texas. As an intern for Inside the Star, I now have a legitimate reason for the Cowboys to consume my life. Before, I was just a Cowboy fan with no life ... and very concerned parents. When I'm not writing about the Cowboys, I enjoy reading, seeing plays, creative writing, watching TV, and making my friends and family laugh. Follow me on Twitter, so we can connect on all topics related to America's Team. How 'bout em!

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Geoff Swaim Needs Surgery, Should the Cowboys even use a Tight End?

John Williams

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Cowboys TE Geoff Swaim Quietly Exceeding Expectations? 1

Well, the injury woes continue to mount for the Dallas Cowboys with news coming down this evening that Tight End Geoff Swaim broke a bone in his wrist in the 22-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. The injury will need surgery which will mean Swaim will be out a while, if not for the rest of the season.

David Helman on Twitter

Geoff Swaim broke a bone in his wrist yesterday and is going to need surgery. Sounds like it might not be season-ending, but he won't be available Thursday #cowboyswire

In previous seasons this wouldn't be much of a blow to the offense, but Geoff Swaim has been the only tight end that the Cowboys have ben able to rely on this season. Dalton Schultz is a rookie, Blake Jarwin's been inconsistent, and Rico Gathers still isn't fully trusted. With the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan's insistence on using a tight end, it seems there's a huge hole at the position heading into Sunday's first place showdown with the Washington Redskins.

But in reality, is there?

For weeks, I've been screaming for this team to use more 10 personnel (one running back and zero tight ends) as its primary passing formation because it gets their best pass catching weapons on the field at the same time. Swaim has been solid and consistent in his first year as a starter, but the rest of the tight end group has disappointed. So why even run a tight end out on the field.

The Dallas Cowboys have options that could replace the tight end in the passing game without actually using a tight end.

First, they could use Noah Brown as the de facto tight end. He's been one of the best blockers on the team in his first two seasons with the team and this is the type of role he's made for. Split him out wide and motion him in tight when you want to run. He can be a threat down the seem and in the red zone with his athleticism. He'd be a mismatch for the linebackers that try to cover him and could open space underneath for Cole Beasley. Brown is also a really good run blocker, so having him on the field doesn't negate what you want to do in the run game.

The other player the Cowboys coaching staff could work into more of the tight end route responsibilities is Allen Hurns. Hurns is a really good route runner, especially in the middle of the field, where the Dallas Cowboys haven't received a lot of production. You can put Hurns in as the fourth wide receiver and split him a couple of yards off the tackle to give him a cleaner release than a TE might get and have him run "Y-option," shallow post routes, or drags. He can be a threat in the passing game if put in situations where he can excel. See below for something Allen Hurns does really well.

Film Review: What's Up with Allen Hurns?

In fact, by going four wide receivers with Brown or Hurns on the field, it's possible the opposing defense is forced to run more of dime packages against the Dallas Cowboys 10 personnel.

Why would you want to get teams into dime packages?

Most NFL teams have two pretty good linebackers that they can deploy in nickel situations, but teams rarely have four corners that they can put on the field and feel really good about. So, if you can force teams to remove one of their 11 best players for a backup corner back or safety, you are already winning that matchup.

That matchup would also get you into much more favorable defensive fronts to run against. Even if the opposition put seven or eight in the box, it would be against smaller personnel like corners and safeties instead of a second linebacker.

Running 10 personnel as their base offense moving forward would be unconventional, but with an opportunity to take control of first place in the NFC East on Thanksgiving, now is not the time for conventionality.



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Cowboys WR Michael Gallup on Personal Leave; Team Offers Support

Jess Haynie

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Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys rookie receiver Michael Gallup suffered a personal tragedy on Sunday, being informed that his brother committed suicide. He is now on personal leave away from the team, and both Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett have given their full support to Gallup during this difficult time.

According to reports, Gallup was unaware of his brother's death until immediately after the Cowboys' win over the Atlanta Falcons. Michael did not return with the team to Dallas and remained in Atlanta to be with his family.

A formal statement was made by owner Jerry Jones yesterday regarding Gallup:

“Our team and our entire organization are deeply saddened by the news of Michael’s loss. His family is our family. We share in the grief and pain that comes with something so personal and tragic. We offer our support, care and comfort for Michael, and we ask that all of those who have sons and daughters and brothers and sisters join us in keeping Michael and his wonderful family in their thoughts and prayers.”

Throughout his time owning the Cowboys, Jerry has built a reputation for personal loyalty and compassion with his players. His head coach is no different.

As he addressed the media Monday, Jason Garrett did not get into football matters when addressing Gallup's situation:

“This is a very challenging time for him. We’ll take it moment by moment, day by day, and give him all of our love and all of our support.”

While Michael is certainly dealing with something far more important than football, his availability for Thursday's Thanksgiving game against the Washington Redskins does come into question.

The Cowboys have a short week to prepare for Washington, and Gallup has started their last five games. If the rookie has to sit, which seems probable given the timeframe, we can expect more playing time for Allen Hurns and Noah Brown.

Whatever happens happens on that front. Our focus is on Michael Gallup during this sad time, with him and his family in our collective thoughts as Cowboys fans and fellow humans.



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Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch’s Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion

Sean Martin

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Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch's Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion 1

The Dallas Cowboys know what they're doing when it comes to the NFL Draft. Not to be outdone by Philadelphia, the Cowboys brought the 2018 Draft to AT&T Stadium, marking the first time the event's been held in an NFL stadium. This made Boise State Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch the first player to be drafted on the field he now calls home. Returning home this week after two straight interceptions against the Eagles and Falcons, Vander Esch is far from the controversial pick that drew jeers inside AT&T Stadium on draft night and every bit the star the Cowboys projected him to be.

The ascension of Leighton "Wolf Hunter" Vander Esch as one of the best young linebackers in the game has happened rapidly. LVE played eight man football in high school, tasked to do everything on both sides of the ball before settling into defense as a walk onto the blue turf.

For the first time in what seems like forever, the Cowboys have more than just a plan to play defense without Sean Lee. Thanks to their 19th overall pick they're thriving as one of the best units in the league, making Lee an afterthought.

Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch's Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion

Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch

Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith have changed the entire makeup of the Cowboys defense, two young and athletic linebackers that should be roaming the middle of the field for a long time in Dallas.

This is exactly what LVE was able to do on his interceptions of both Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan. Vander Esch defending well against the pass is probably the least surprising part of his development, as his coverage skills always overshadowed his strength against the run in college.

It just so happens that Vander Esch tallied 63 tackles in eight games before recording his first career interception, establishing himself as an all-around linebacker with no true weakness. Vander Esch has played with the power and block shedding ability that matches his sideline to sideline range and instincts, as opposing offenses have done little to slow the Cowboys new leader on defense.

LVE2

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This is Vander Esch's first interception, which set up a Cowboys field goal against the Eagles. Watch as Leighton reads the eyes of Wentz through the play, first angling towards his check down throw and then gaining depth to intercept the pass.

The subtle yet effective movements from Vander Esch to undercut Wentz's throw is a fine example of how quickly LVE has picked up on Kris Richard's defense, as well as the next level game speed.

LVE1

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Sunday's interception from Vander Esch was the type of game breaking play the Cowboys needed to separate from the Falcons in hostile territory. Although the Falcons would rally to tie the game after this point, the Cowboys defense became the first to hold Atlanta under 20 points at home this season, thanks in large part to LVE as always.

The smoothness from Vander Esch on this play is exceptional, stepping up into coverage against the running back before sprinting back in position for the turnover. Calvin Ridley, drafted seven picks after Vander Esch, helps Leighton by letting Ryan's pass go through his hands.

Give Vander Esch credit for being in the right place at the right time and finishing the play. Every week, the rookie finds a way to do something memorable, and in helping the Cowboys earn their first two road wins of 2018 he finally flashed in pass coverage.

The next challenge for the Cowboys defense comes on a short week, against the division leading Washington Redskins. Though they lost starting Quarterback Alex Smith for the season on Sunday, expected to start Colt McCoy on Thanksgiving, it was Running Back Adrian Peterson that gashed the Cowboys for 4.13 yards a carry and 99 total yards in the Redskins week six win over Dallas.

Given what not only Leighton Vander Esch but the rest of the Cowboys defense has shown against the run in recent weeks, all without David Irving and most recently without either Antwaun Woods or Daniel Ross, the Cowboys should certainly be prepared to play for first place in the NFC East on Thursday.

Tell us what you think about "Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch’s Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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