There is no one, stand-alone "best" strategy for winning in the NFL. There are, of course, common themes and ideals which run true year in and year out among the top teams.
Strategy in the NFL is dynamic, or at least it should be. Running in place for too long under the same leadership often breeds mediocrity, and refusing to move with current trends can put you at a severe disadvantage.
Succumbing to those trends without fully analyzing the confounding factors your situation presents, however, can also ruin a team building exercise.
With that being said, should teams pay elite running backs top dollar? Or are those running backs expendable, replaceable, and often forgettable within the NFL machine?
To be honest these aren't very fair ways to pose legitimately interesting questions. You can acknowledge that a running back is important to your offense while also acknowledging that you don't want to break the bank for a position with such injury risk and high turnover year-to-year.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently facing this dilemma, as their star running back Le'Veon Bell asks to be paid like an elite "weapon," not as a normal running back. And when you examine how the Steelers deploy Bell within their offense, he clearly has a point.
Bell is not your traditional "running back." He lines up on the boundary, in the slot, and is a passing threat out of the backfield as well. On top of all of this versatility, Bell is an excellent pass protector, something which is often lost among other "versatile" backs.
Bell can quite literally do it all for an offense, but the idea of paying that position elite-level money makes teams cringe. As The Athletic's Marcus Mosher pointed out on Twitter, teams like the New England Patriots have been able to replicate Bell's production by using multiple speciality backs rather than one workhorse.
In theory, this takes away the injury risk component to a certain extent. Rather than giving one player 350-400 touches per season, you spread those touches out and allow for players to do what they do best.
Lately, the NFL has seemed to agree that this is the most efficient way to play offense. But when you have a player like Bell or Ezekiel Elliott, in what way is taking the ball out of their hands "efficient" at all? In addition, how is using three players to mimic the skill set of one efficient?
Yes, the NFL is a passing league, but when you have a playmaker who is of the caliber of a Bell or an Elliott, it is up to the offense to deploy in him ways that maximize his value. Teams should be using the Bells and Elliotts of the world as pass catching threats and as weapons all over the field. Force the entire defense to account for your running back rather than just jamming him between the tackles like it's 1975.
The movement towards "running back by committee" rather than the traditional one-back system can also be credited to the lack of workhorse-worthy backs entering the league.
Ezekiel Elliotts don't grow on trees, they are rare and special players. And when you have one, especially when you spend a premium pick on him, you should get the most out of him that you can. Playing winning offense in the NFL is about more than just "do you run or do you pass," and it often hinges on creating splash plays of 15-20 yards.
If you can get those plays through the use of an elite running back, that player becomes intrinsically valuable to your team. No matter what "position" he is labeled as. Of course you want to be able create mismatches in the passing game all over the field, so when you are able to do this with a running back, shouldn't that be deemed as highly valuable?
We can't say just yet if the Cowboys should re-sign Ezekiel Elliott once he enters free agency. After all, five seasons (and a franchise tag year) where he touches the ball more than most players in the league will almost certainly bring about some wear and tear.
But with the way the Cowboys have chosen to play offense, and the way in which they've built their roster, a workhorse back like Elliott is necessary for success.
Once again, at least it is for now.
Cowboys en Español: Mitos y Verdades en Dallas, Adiós Taco Charlton
El ala defensiva producto de la universidad de Michigan, Taco Charlton, fue seleccionado en la primera ronda del NFL Draft 2017 por los Dallas Cowboys para la sorpresa de muchos. Con jugadores como T.J. Watt y Kevin King en la tabla, muchos esperaban que Stephen Jones y compañía tomaran una ruta diferente. Sin embargo, Rod Marinelli logró influir la selección del equipo y Charlton recibió la llamada. Desde ese momento, se convirtió en un jugador altamente debatido entre los aficionados y analistas de Dallas.
El 2019 es la tercera temporada de Charlton en la NFL y tras estar inactivo en las primeras dos semanas, los Cowboys lo dejaron ir. El motivo por el que Taco estuvo inactivo no era su salud, sino el hecho de que los coaches no lo vieron como uno de los mejores linieros defensivos. Se ha especulado por mucho tiempo sobre la relación entre Marinelli y Charlton, después de que algunos comentarios del coach y algunos directivos nos hicieron dudar sobre su ética de trabajo y su compromiso al equipo.
Según reportes de Jane Slater, Charlton solicitó al equipo un trade hace unos meses, cosa que los Cowboys no consiguieron con ningún equipo y por tanto resultó cortando al defensivo antes de la semana 3 de la temporada. Las cosas se "calentaron" después de que Charlton publicó en redes sociales "Free me." Gran parte por su corte es el regreso del defensivo Robert Quinn, quien estuvo suspendido las primeras dos semanas.
El domingo, Charlton enfrentará a su ex-equipo vistiendo los colores de los Miami Dolphins, mientras que Quinn hace lo mismo pero vistiendo el uniforme de los Dallas Cowboys. En Cowboys en Español, le deseamos éxito a Taco Charlton en su nuevo equipo.
Mitos y Verdades
Con dos semanas de acción de los Dallas Cowboys, hemos visto y escuchado todo tipo de conclusiones. Algunas parecen ser una exageración, mientras otras tienen todo el sentido del mundo. Por eso es que hoy nos aventuramos a unas cuantas declaraciones comunes sobre el equipo y determinamos cuales son mitos y cuales son verdades...
- Ezekiel Elliott no ha tenido un impacto importante
Debido a la alta producción del juego aéreo en la ofensiva de Kellen Moore, muchos han pasado por alto el trabajo del corredor Ezekiel Elliott. Anteriormente, hemos visto un equipo de los Cowboys que se enfocaba principalmente en el juego terrestre y ahora no parece ser el caso.
Sin embargo, Elliott ha tenido un impacto importante. De hecho, después de dos juegos cuenta con el mejor inicio de su carrera. Hasta el momento ha acumulado 164 yardas en 36 acarreos. Su mejor marca en los primeros dos juegos de toda su carrera.
- Michael Gallup es cosa seria
Las expectativas eran altas para el receptor de segundo año, Michael Gallup. Se esperaba que su rol incrementara drásticamente después de un 2018 que cerró con una participación importante. En training camp fue dominante y por fin lo pudo demostrar en el emparrillado.
A pesar de que tendrá que recuperarse de lesión, Gallup ha demostrado que la emoción que lo rodea es completamente real.
- El interior de la línea defensiva podría ser un problema
Hasta el momento, una de las mayores decepciones ha sido la selección de segunda ronda de los Cowboys, Trysten Hill. El tackle defensivo de Central Florida ha estado en la lista de inactivos durante las primeras dos semanas.
Antwaun Woods sufrió una lesión contra los Washington Redskins que no parece muy seria. Sin embargo, no hemos visto mucha calidad por parte de los tackles defensivos. Hasta el momento, no hemos visto una dupla de titulares que nos hagan sentir mejor respecto la posición.
- Somos un equipo pasador
Tras dos semanas, parece que este es el caso. Habiendo dicho eso, no estaré convencido de que la ofensiva mantendrá un nivel tan agresivo en el juego aéreo hasta que vea el mismo plan de juego coontra rivales más fuertes. Kellen Moore ha hecho todo bien por ahora, pero tengo muchas ganas de verlo en un escenario con más presión.
¿Volverá en un punto a depender del juego terrestre o seguirán apostando por Dak Prescott y el juego aéreo? Ya veremos.
Veredicto: VERDAD por ahora, por definir...
NFC East Weekly: Giants Change QBs, Eagles Take First Loss
While we always have plenty to talk about when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, it's never a bad idea to look around our division and see what's happening with the rivals. This is the first is a new weekly feature on Inside The Star where we'll talk about the major happenings in the NFC East, and especially what they mean for the good guys.
Before we get into the headlines, though, here's a quick glace at the current standings for the division after Week 2 of the 2019 season:
- Dallas Cowboys 2-0 (2-0 vs division)
- Philadelphia Eagles 1-1 (1-0 vs division)
- New York Giants 0-2 (0-1 vs division)
- Washington Redskins 0-2 (0-2 vs division)
The Cowboys have started off the season in grand fashion, picking up two division wins against the Giants and Redskins. It's an incredible foundation from which to continue through 2019, and one that they will hopefully build on this week against the tanking Miami Dolphins.
Those division wins could be crucial this year if the Eagles live up to expectations. Despite the loss last week in Atlanta, Philly should still be right there in the end and the NFC East crown may come down that tie-breaking record against division opponents.
If these two weeks have shown us anything, it's that all projections of 2019 being a two-horse race between Dallas and Philadelphia were spot on. New York is as bad as most thought they'd be, and any thoughts of Washington being a plucky underdog are about gone now.
In fact, it only took two weeks for the Giants to throw in the towel and name rookie Daniel Jones their starting quarterback.
End of the Eli Era
Remember this offseason when Giants' General Manager Dave Gettleman said that Eli Manning "had plenty left" going into 2019? Apparently it ran out fast, and it only took two losses for New York to promote Daniel Jones and effectively end Manning's run with the Giants. He had been the full-time starter since 2005.
Assuming that an injury or a total management meltdown don't lead to Eli being renamed as the starter, Jones will get six games under his belt before the rematch with the Cowboys in Week 9. The rookie gets a few soft opponents in Tampa Bay and Washington to start his career, but then it toughens up quickly with Minnesota and New England in Weeks 5 and 6.
Taking my Cowboys glasses off for a second, I actually am rooting for this kid. Daniel Jones was one the most maligned draft picks I've ever seen, basically declared a bust before he even had time to hug the commissioner on stage. On a purely human level, I'd like to see him prove people wrong.
We'll have plenty of time to look at Jones in the weeks and years to come. But before we change topics, I wanted to quickly reflect on the end of the Eli Era.
It was hard as a Dallas fan to watch Manning's success with two Super Bowl wins. Other than physical durability, there was nothing about Eli's game that made you think he was better than our own Tony Romo.
But happenstance is what makes the NFL work so well. It's why Week 1 in the NFL means more than the middle rounds of the NBA Playoffs; unpredictable outcomes make for greatest excitement and intrigue. The best teams and players don't always win, because single-elimination games and even single plays within can change history.
The bottom line is that "ifs" don't make legacies or Hall of Fame resumes. Like Batman said to Rachel Dawes, "it's what I do that defines me." Eli Manning won two championships against the greatest coach & QB combo of the last two decades. He kept his team relevant in the most competitive division in football more years than not.
If he doesn't make it into Canton then I won't think it's a tragedy. But if it does, it's absolutely deserved.
Eagles Lose 1st of 2019
Philadelphia fell behind a little in the race with Dallas by dropping their first game of the season, losing on the road against the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday. A late touchdown by Julio Jones on 4th-down stole the game away from the Eagles.
All losses hurt in the NFL but this one wasn't too damaging. The record against NFC opponents is more relevant to Wild Card races than divisions crowns.
But for two weeks at least, the Cowboys have looked like the better team. They beat the Redskins by a wider margin on Sunday than the Eagles did, and that was even with the game being in Washington.
This week could allow the divide to increase. The Eagles will host the Detroit Lions, who have yet to lose a game this year (they finished Week 1 with a tie) while Dallas gets the league's worst team in Miami.
Also concerning coming out of the loss in Atlanta was that Carson Wentz had to leave the game, albeit briefly, after the NFL's medical spotter called for him to be examined for a concussion. Wentz has since stated that he was fine and the exam was unnecessary.
Even if the concussion exam was overzealous, the fact remains that Wentz was taking some big hits throughout that game. Given his history, one has to wonder if he can make it through the season without some better protection or more efforts to avoid contact.
Until he proves otherwise, Carson is going to be seen as injury prone. It's a fear that Eagles fans keep deep down, in places they don't like to talk about at parties or on Twitter, but it's there.
But if Philly slips up again this week against the Lions, especially with Dallas likely improving to 3-0, then a much more present and potent fear could start to take hold.
Football Focus: How Things Have Changed In First Two Weeks of the Season
Only two weeks have gone by in the 2019 NFL regular season and the landscape already looks completely different. The league is always unpredictable, but it seems to me this year things have changed way too much from what we expected to see out of many teams. Injuries will reshape how division standings look once it's all said and done. Allow me to be specific:
- One of the strongest Super Bowl contenders this season are the New Orleans Saints. On week 2, QB Drew Brees sustained a thumb injury that will knock him out for six weeks of action. I don't believe the Saints chances of making the playoffs are gone, though. The Saints' division rivals haven't looked strong and Teddy Bridgewater might be one of the best backups in the NFL. Winning a handful of games will keep them in the race. Even still, the Brees injury is a heavy blow for Sean Payton's team.
- As a football fan, this one hurts quite a bit. Ben Roethlisberger suffered another injury and this one looks pretty real. It was a non-contact elbow injury that will require surgery. The Steelers will be led by Mason Rudolph, who didn't look bad last week when taking over. However, the Pittsburgh Steelers could've been considered contenders if Big Ben was in the lineup. With Rudolph, I don't see it happening. Not to mention, it would be devastating if this how Roethlisberger's career ends. I hope he comes back. The two-time Super Bowl champion is one of the best we've seen in this "era." Right now, the AFC North might be between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens.
- The Jacksonville Jaguars talented defense will likely go to waste after Nick Foles broke his clavicle. Foles was one of the players that intrigued me the most going into the season. Is he a good quarterback that got off to a slow start? Or did he just ball out in a single postseason and isn't really that good? I frankly don't know, and we could've found out had he had the chance to play a full season. Now, it'd be a surprise if the Jaguars manage to be competitive in the AFC South.
- Speaking of the AFC South, this one isn't as "new," but let's not forget who was supposed to start at quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. After having a monster season in 2018, Andrew Luck was supposed to lead his team to the postseason again. His unexpected retirement has led to Jacoby Brissett starting and although he's not bad, he's no Andrew Luck. Yet another team that we expected to be a contender that has taken a heavy blow.
Injuries will always suck. Football is a great sport, but you hate to see these players and teams miss out on opportunities due to an injury. At the same time, great players' careers have started because of injuries to other players. It is what it is. And even if it sounds like a cliché, next man up is the philosophy of the sport.
Three-And-Out: 3 Quick Thoughts
- How early is it too early to say Cam Newton is done? The Carolina Panthers quarterback was at his worst last Thursday when his team fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Newton has lost eight straight games as a starter. Per PFF's Steve Palazzolo, 34.2% of Newton's passes were uncatchable (most in the league). He is simply hasn't been the same since his MVP season in 2015. If the Panthers were to release him after this season, they'd only have $2M in dead money. I'd certainly think about moving on.
- The Chicago Bears should be 0-2. They got a last-second win against the Denver Broncos on Sunday but they didn't look like a winning team. With one of the league's top defenses, they were seen as one of the main contenders in the NFC this season. After two weeks, they might be the most disappointing team in the entire NFL. Mitchell Trubisky's offense is just not good. And it won't be easy to fix it. Right now, the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings are the best teams in the NFC North. Let's see if they can turn things around.
- The New York Giants are handing Daniel Jones the starting job. That's the correct call. Although Eli Manning has a lot of history there, he isn't playing good football. Giving a chance to your sixth overall pick is the right thing to do for your team. It almost would've been disrespectful to the players not to start him.
Player of the Week: WR Cooper Kupp, L.A. Rams
Kupp finished week 2 with five receptions, 120 yards and one touchdown. But with a simply amazing play that put the game away as the Rams emerged victorious over the Saints, he's earned my player of the week. In case you missed his 66-yard reception, here it is. Outstanding effort.
Underdog of the Week: Detroit Lions
The Los Angeles Chargers were the favorites over the Detroit Lions despite dealing with plenty of important injuries. In an ugly game, the Lions took advantage of that. It was a low-scoring matchup that was defined in a couple of plays. After starting off with two interceptions, Matthew Stafford threw a 31-yard TD to Kenny Golladay in the fourth quarter. After that, CB Darius Slay secured the win when it all could've gone wrong for the Lions with 1:10 left on the clock. The Lions are kind of undefeated. They're 1-0-1. in the season.
College Football Corner: LSU Finally Has an Offense
The LSU Tigers always have a strong defense. This time around, they've seemed to nail the offensive side of things too. It's almost a yearly narrative that the Tigers will finally have an offense that works before we find out that's not the case. But in 2019, it's real. QB Joe Burrow has looked unbelievable on the team's new spread offense. He has completed 83% of his passes for 1,122 yards, 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He's officially a Heisman candidate. They've already beaten the Texas Longhorns and are set to face stronger opponents in October. I can't wait to see them play Alabama in November.
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