If you followed my Countdown To Kickoff series during the offseason then you were exposed to the Greatest Dallas Cowboys To Wear Each Jersey Number. If you started off at the beginning then there's a good chance you gave #95 a read. It belongs to one of the more memorable Dallas Cowboys of All-Time... Chad Hennings.
Chad is still up to great things in his life past the NFL. As an alumni of the United States Air Force who served for four years defending this great nation, Chad has a work ethic unknown to you and I. He's put that to great use as he's shared his life with the world through his three books:
- It Takes Commitment
- Rules of Engagement: Finding Faith and Purpose in a Disconnected World
- Forces of Character: Conversations About Building A Life Of Impact
Most recently Chad Hennings has partnered up with Crown Royal's Your Hero's Name Here program.
Your Hero's Name Here is a great chance to honor the heroes in your life. Soldiers, firefighters, and community leaders are all heroes to us. The project, and Crown Royal, give one winner a trip to the Brickyard 400 race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July. Jeff Kyle was the winner in 2015 thanks to a nomination by his loved ones. Nominations? Tell me more!
It's simple. If you have a hero in your life that you want to honor, and we all do, go to the Crown Royal Website and nominate your hero. You can also visit Crown Royal on Facebook for more information. After all nominations are sent in five finalists will be chosen. The winner out of those finalists will receive naming rights to the Brickyard 400, just like Jeff Kyle who you can see, and a VIP experience at the race. Keep in mind that the other four finalists will also attend the race.
Chad was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to sit down and chat with me about all of the great work Your Hero's Name Here is doing. He also gave some really great insight to the state of the current Cowboys and talked about his days strapping on the cleats as well as serving in the military.
Here's my conversation with Chad...
RJ: So Chad, tell me all about Your Hero's Name Here! What is it and what can Cowboys Nation do to help?
Chad Hennings: Your Hero's Name Here is such a great way to honor heroes in someone's life. There are firefighters, police officers, military members both active and retired that people have the opportunity to honor. All people have to do is go to the site (crownroyalheroes.com), nominate their hero, and that person is eligible to win a trip to the NASCAR Brickyard 400 race in late July.
It's a great opportunity to highlight those individuals that you deem to be a hero.
RJ: What interactions have you had with Your Hero's Name Here so far? What drew you into it in the first place?
It was really great to get an opportunity to do that. A lot of people rarely get to do that and it'll be impossible to do it in the future when the Cowboys move to their facility. Any time that we can hold up, embrace, and honor the individuals that serve I believe that we need to do it. In our current culture many responders have been seen in a poor light.
It's time to honor those heroes.
RJ: The NFL seems to be on board with honoring heroes as well. This Sunday is the official "Salute To Service" game across the league. What do you think about that, and what do you think it would have been like to have a game like that when you were playing?
Chad Hennings: The Salute To Service game would have been great for me! Back when I was in the NFL I was one of the only guys who had actually served and played. It's special for us as a country to acknowledge our military members and honor them for what they do on a day to day basis.
I've been there and I know what it's like to be in a foreign country and flying into combat. It's a lot of sacrifice and it can be very emotional and taxing. Military members have done that many, many times so to honor them is great.
RJ: You've been in the Air Force, had tours in foreign countries, and played in the NFL. What similarities would you say there are to being in the military and playing football?
There is a lot of preparation in the military. You're analyzing things like bomb film and what the enemy had that could hurt you. You have to put together a gameplan wherever you're going. Life happens in the battle area in the fog and friction of war, and you have to change your tactics. When you accomplish your mission you have to debrief.
All of those lessons translated extremely well to playing for the Cowboys. You have to evaluate your own practice film and figure out what you can do to improve your game on any given Sunday. Even things like adjusting your tactics at halftime... you have to constantly be adjusting in the military.
The camaraderie among teammates is similar, too. Obviously the biggest difference is that in the military you're putting yourself in harms way to a point where you're willing to give your life.
At this point it really hit me that I was talking to Chad Hennings. This is a man who is a part of the football team that I love, yes, but he is literally an American Hero. I got a bit nervous and fumbled on the next play.
RJ: Chad, being drafted in 1988... what was it like to play for the 1989 Cowboys and experience going 1-15?
I just about exploded in embarrassment. You're welcome, Cowboys Nation. Always here to entertain. Chad was extremely gracious about it and laughed it off. He's everything that you'd want him to be, guys. I picked myself up and continued!
RJ: Apologies! Well, surely you experienced some level of adversity. What's that like and how is a team like the current Cowboys handling it? What's going on in the locker room and how do you lead a locker room like that?
Chad Hennings: It's all a process - a belief in yourself. You have to rely on the hard work you put in during practice and in the weight room. You practice week in and week out. The older guys who have been there and tasted that success are relaying it to the younger guys. "Hang in there. Don't give up."
You have to continue to do what it takes to win games and ultimately that hard work will pay off. We faced some adversity in 1993 when we started off 0-2 after winning the Super Bowl the year before. People thought that the wheels had fallen off of the bus. You have to have a 'Don't Panic' mentality. Believe in one another. The veteran players are setting the example for the younger guys.
RJ: What's the mentality of an American Hero turned NFL player? Do you think you had an advantage in terms of mental discipline thanks to your military experience?
Chad Hennings: Well I had flown 45 missions before coming to the Cowboys. You have to be able to fail and take the opportunity to learn from some of the best guys, and you have to put that all together.
Flying in a combat zone and putting those lessons in on the practice field... there was so much carry over. You have to keep the main thing the main thing. You can't focus on the what-ifs like, 'What happens if you get shot down?'. If you focus on those things you'd never be able to accomplish your mission.
Do your job to the utmost ability that you can and trust one another.
RJ: How do you think the current Cowboys can put it together this season and on Sunday Night against Philadelphia?
Establishing the run game will open up Dez Bryant. It's not rocket science it's just doing the Xs and Os of going out and executing your gameplan. We have the talent - even without Tony Romo right now. We have the talent in guys like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten that can win.
RJ: With Darren Woodson going in the Ring of Honor last week, what's that like for you? Is it surreal to see names like his hanging up there and reflecting back on all of those incredible things that you guys accomplished together?
Chad Hennings: It's definitely surreal to see guys in the Ring of Honor. When you're in the heat of the battle you don't think of those things. I look back on those teams... and we were teams that just dominated on both sides of the ball. To look back on it now, it's special.
To point at the Ring of Honor and Hall of Fame names... it's something that I'm going to tell my kids, and their kids, and my nieces and nephews. I was fortunate enough to play with some of the best. Darren Woodson is one of the best, he's totally deserving of the Ring of Honor and I think he'll be the next guy for the Cowboys in the Hall of Fame.
RJ: Which current Cowboy reminds you most of yourself?
Chad Hennings is a hero himself. He's served our great country in combat and played professionally in its greatest game. He's someone who we all look up to for many different reasons.
We here at Inside The Star are very grateful to Chad for the time that he gave us. We're extremely proud of all of his great work that he's done in his after-football life. He is one of the finest men to have ever worn the Star.
If you have a hero in your life that you want to nominate then remember that you can Right Here. Make sure that you're following Chad Hennings on Twitter to stay in the loop with all of the great things that he continues to do to serve.
Cowboys en Español: DeMarcus Lawrence, ¿Etiqueta o Contrato?
El pasado martes 20 de febrero, comenzó a lo que se le puede llamar una especie de "prólogo" a la agencia libre. Esa fecha marcó el primer día para que los equipos de la NFL designen jugadores franquicia o de transición. Alrededor de la liga, muchos nombres como el de Le'Veon Bell resaltan en esta conversación.
Y uno de los más grandes y conocidos, es el del defensive end de los Dallas Cowboys: DeMarcus Lawrence.
Hace unos días, se reportó que los Cowboys le darían la etiqueta franquicia a D-Law, algo que todos veíamos venir desde hace rato. Sin embargo, aún no se le otorga dicha etiqueta, sino que lo harán más cerca de la fecha límite para hacerlo, el 6 de Marzo.
En enero escribí un poco más a fondo sobre como funcionan las etiquetas franquicia en la NFL.
Al inicio de su carrera, Lawrence fue un tanto decepcionante. No logró mantenerse sano, recibió una suspensión de cuatro juegos en el 2016 y antes de la última temporada, no había sido nada especial. Sin embargo, en el 2017 estuvo entre los mejores defensivos de la liga.
Lawrence logró capturar 14.5 veces a los quarterbacks contrarios (había conseguido sólo nueve en toda su carrera) y 35 tackles. No sólo mejoró increíblemente presionando el juego aéreo, sino que también se convirtió en una fuerza contra el juego terrestre.
Podemos hablar de estadísticas todo lo que queramos, pero creo que todos vimos lo que sucedió en el campo semana tras semana.
Un jugador que juegue de la manera que jugó DeMarcus este 2017, merece un gran, gran contrato. El problema es, que esta ha sido su única buena temporada. Y ahora la administración tiene que decidir que hacer respecto a este joven talento de sólo 25 años de edad.
¿Dejar que juegue en el 2018 bajo la etiqueta franquicia? ¿O darle un contrato a largo plazo, asegurando que use la Estrella por varios años?
Definitivamente no es una opción tan fácil como parece. Stephen y Jerry Jones han sido criticados por mucho los últimos años (bastantes veces erróneamente), y Lawrence es una oportunidad perfecta para lucirse... o quedar mal con su afición por muchos años.
¿Qué si le dan una jugosa extensión de contrato y nunca volvemos a ver al mismo jugador que vimos dominar líneas ofensivas en el 2017? ¿Qué pasa si por alguna razón juega en otro equipo tras el 2018, y termina siendo uno de los mejores de la NFL?
Según reportes, Lawrence está pidiendo 17 millones por año, lo cuál lo pondría entre los mejores pagados de su posición actualmente. El DE de los Giants Olivier Vernon promedia esa cantidad, y sorpresa, sorpresa... ambos jugadores cuentan con el mismo agente.
Finalmente, por años hemos ansiado un caza cabezas para los Dallas Cowboys. Año tras año, hablamos de novatos como Joey Bosa o agentes libres como Dwight Freeney que podrían cambiar el rumbo de la defensiva de este equipo.
Pues ahora, los Cowboys cuentan con uno.
Sí, no se mantuvo sano durante los primeros tres años de su carrera, pero cuando lo estuvo demostró ser un jugador de mucha calidad. Quizá esta vez, si sea la ocasión para romper el cochinito y pagarle su merecido dinero a Lawrence.
Y con un poco de suerte, seguirá siendo el mismo que fue la temporada pasada y los Cowboys contarán con un excelente jugador en su línea defensiva.
Will Jeff Heath be a Starter or Backup in 2018?
There seems to be quite a bit of optimism surrounding the Dallas Cowboys secondary after the hiring of Kris Richard. A lot of Cowboys Nation is hoping that he can re-create the "Legion of Boom" here in Dallas, but do the Cowboys have the personnel to do it?
There's no denying the Cowboys have some very talented young defensive backs. Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods all had fantastic rookie seasons and they have only started to scratch the surface of their true potential. We could even throw Anthony Brown into that conversation as well, even though he struggled at times in 2017.
Kris Richard definitely has something to work with, at least at cornerback. But, the safety position for the Cowboys could probably use an upgrade.
I wouldn't be all that surprised if we see completely new faces starting at safety for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018. There have already been rumors Byron Jones might be moving back to cornerback. That would leave Jeff Heath as the only Cowboy safety with any kind of starting experience.
Unfortunately, Jeff Heath has been the favorite whipping boy for a lot of Cowboys fans. When there was blame to be placed in the secondary, it usually fell on Heath's shoulders whether it was warranted or not.
Kris Richard will probably have a pretty big input on who the Cowboy starting safeties will be next season. You can bet he has already evaluated every single one of his secondary players and already has a pretty good idea of how he wants to deploy them.
Right now, the biggest enigma in the Cowboy secondary has to be the safety position and more importantly what to do with Jeff Heath. Will he be a starter or backup in 2018?
Heath actually performed pretty well in 2017. He finished the season with 71 tackles, two forced fumbles, and three interceptions. That compares pretty favorably with the safety everybody wants to bring to Dallas, Earl Thomas, who finished last season with 88 tackles, one forced fumble, and two interceptions. But, we all know statistics don't show the big picture.
We all know Earl Thomas is the more talented of the two players, but that's not to say Jeff Heath isn't worthy of his starting job. I know some of you will disagree, but I believe he proved that last season.
What happens to Jeff Heath in 2018 will likely depend on what the Dallas Cowboys are able to do in free agency and through the draft. Adding another safety at some point is definitely an offseason priority, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will be an upgrade over Heath.
As things stand right now, Jeff Heath is still penciled in as one of the starting safeties heading into the 2018 season. The other starting safety spot is up for grabs. Who knows, maybe we'll see completely new faces at the safety position, much like we did at CB last year.
Do you think Jeff Heath remains the starting safety?
Should Cowboys Sign This RFA to a Contract Sheet?
Fortune favors the bold. It's a rough translation of an old Latin proverb and the mantra I believe the Dallas Cowboys should indoctrinate this offseason.
I think it's time the Dallas Cowboys start to make a few bold moves. I truly believe they are close to competing for a championship title and one or two offseason moves could increase those odds. One such move would be to sign restricted free agent (RFA) Shaquil Barrett to an offer sheet.
It's expected that the Denver Broncos will place a second-round tender on Barrett and I think the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to explore the possibility of signing him to a contract sheet. If Denver declines to match the offer, the Cowboys would then send them their second round draft pick as compensation.
You on board?
Probably not at this point, but let me try to explain why I believe this is a good move on the Cowboys part, even if it is an uncharacteristic one.
You see, the Cowboys could definitely use someone to play opposite DeMarcus Lawrence and I think Shaquil Barrett could be the solution.
I know it sounds like a lot to give up a second round draft pick, but the Cowboys have been deplorable at drafting players in the second round the past decade. Sean Lee, DeMarcus Lawrence, and possibly Jaylon Smith have really been the only "hits" the Cowboys have found in the second round. That's simply unacceptable!
So, why not use that second rounder to acquire a player who is already a proven commodity in the NFL?
I know the first thing a lot of you are going to do is to look up Shaquil Barrett's stats to see what he has accomplished in the NFL. But, stats don't always show the big picture.
You see, Barrett has been stuck behind some pretty talented pass rushers in Denver, so his statistics aren't going to jump off the paper. But, when given the opportunity he has proven he deserves a larger role. That's where the Dallas Cowboys come in.
The Broncos probably don't have the money to keep Shaquil Barrett if the Cowboys sign him to a contract sheet. It doesn't necessarily even have to be a big money contract offer. The Broncos simply don't have the salary cap to do much, especially considering they are still looking for a starting quarterback.
I honestly like the idea of the Cowboys going after Barrett. You may have forgotten, but he gave a healthy Tyron Smith fits last season.
With an injured Shane Ray, Shaquil Barrett got the start against the Cowboys in 2017 and finished the game with two quarterback hits, six QB pressures, and five stops. No other player found that kind of success against Tyron Smith all season, even when he was banged up.
Unfortunately, when Shane Ray returned, Barrett's usage on defense declined. That's why you can't always judge a players productivity by statistics. You have to judge him more on a per-snap basis, and if you do that you will discover he was very effective as both a pass rusher and run stopper.
I believe Barrett is ready for a full-time role. Yes, he has been used as a standup 3-4 OLB with the Broncos, but he has the required traits to put his hand on the ground and maintain his effectiveness.
The downside to all of this is the Dallas Cowboys would have to give up their second-round draft pick, but draft picks are sometimes overvalued anyways. Shaquil Barrett is probably better than anybody the Cowboys could draft in the second round, so I say pull the trigger.
Should the Cowboys sign Shaquil Barrett to a contract sheet?
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