The Dallas Cowboys haven't been to the NFC Championship Game since 1996. What makes anyone think they'll get there this year? It's the Cowboys, right? They're facing the 13-3 Los Angeles Rams on the Divisional Round, a game in which they are seven point underdogs. It was a great win versus the Seattle Seahawks but they won't make it happen when they take the field on Saturday Night versus the number two seed in the conference. Not a chance, right?
Well, despite the fact that many people see things this way, I'm here to tell you a simple thing. It's time to stop doubting this Dallas Cowboys football team.
Headed to the Divisional Round for the second time in three years, no one is giving them a chance. For many, being 9-2 since trading for Amari Cooper is not that meaningful. For some, beating the best team in the NFC, the New Orleans Saints, and getting a playoff win versus the Seahawks isn't enough to give the Cowboys credit.
Nevertheless, they are a football team that can take down any other team in these playoffs. They may be far from the favorites to do so, but I can assure you no team will be happy to face them at home or on the road.
They're designed to beat elite teams. Their defense has already held its own against one of the best offenses in the league when they hosted the Saints in week 13. Alvin Kamara was successfully taken out of the equation and Drew Brees - whose performance this year has earned him a place in the MVP discussion - couldn't get New Orleans' passing game going. Heck, he finished his night with only 127 passing yards.
How did the Cowboys do it? With an elite defense, led by one of the best front sevens in the NFL. DeMarcus Lawrence is the widely known name for Dallas' defensive line but Randy Gregory, Tyrone Crawford, Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins have all done excellent jobs this season.
Of course, you know one of the most dynamic duos in the league: linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. This defense is seriously capable of stopping any offense they face. In fact, just last weekend they neutralized the Seahawks' running game. The same running game that took pride in being named the best rushing team in the league.
On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys have had their share of struggles. They haven't been able to be consistent when in the red zone, their offensive line has struggled, Dak Prescott has made mistakes, and the play calling has been pretty bad most of the time.
And yet, their premium running game featuring Ezekiel Elliott has been able to make this a winning team. Controlling the time of possession gives the Cowboys a real shot at upsetting any team in the NFL. And if you're wondering if they can do so against any team, well... last weekend they did against one team that basically had the same recipe for success. The difference? The Cowboys were simply better.
Despite finishing the game with a two point lead last Saturday, the Cowboys had the ball for ten minutes longer than the Seahawks. That's a big difference.
On top of this all, Quarterback Dak Prescott has proved how good he is in crunch time. Despite being a player with many flaws as a passer that need polishing, the guy is a clutch quarterback. Time and time again he's been able to earn comeback wins and execute game winning drives. That's what you want in the postseason.
I am done doubting the Dallas Cowboys. They're not a perfect team, but they are a very uncomfortable rival to face. Being a defensive team will surely help them as a road team this week. The Cowboys are ready to upset the Rams and possibly do it again once it's time to play the Conference Championship. I honestly believe this is a team that we could end up seeing play the big one in February. It's a long shot, sure. But with that defense and the ability to control the time of possession... I'm not doubting them. They are a legit threat in the NFC, and therefore, in the NFL.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
Breaking: Scott Linehan and Dallas Cowboys Part Ways
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is reporting that the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan have mutually agreed to part ways following a tumultuous season that saw the Dallas Cowboys offense finish outside the top 12 three out of his four seasons in Dallas.
Sources: The #Cowboys are firing OC Scott Linehan. Taking their offense in a new direction. An announcement is coming.
Scott Linehan was brought in prior to the 2015 season and saw his offenses finish 31st, fifth, 14th, and 22nd in his four years as the Cowboys play caller. The 2015 season can be excused as the Cowboys rolled out Kellen Moore, Matt Cassell, and Brandon Weeden for 13 starts after Tony Romo was injured twice during the season, but the team 2-11 in those 13 starts and the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs despite a strong performance on the defensive side of the football.
The Cowboys saw an offense that finished fifth in the NFL in points in 2016 decline each of the last two offseasons and Linehan has been continually criticized by analysts, fans, and players as well.
Many believe that the reason that Dez Bryant and Brice Butler weren't brought back in the offseason was because of the public criticism of the offense and the play caller instilling the offense and that criticism has carried over to this season when Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper acknowledged that the Philadelphia Eagles were sitting on the slant routes that they had run all game. Dak mentioned that he changed Amari's route to a go route, which led to a 75 yard touchdown that helped open up the offense.
Cole Beasley has been frustrated with his role for much of the season and deservedly so. He was often non-existent in the offensive game plan until the final five minutes of football games.
In the running game, the offense had become too predictable and reliant upon jumbo formations that led to Ezekiel Elliott having to run against eight in the box anywhere from 25-30% of the time. For perspective, Todd Gurley only ran against eight-man fronts around eight percent of the time. Scott Linehan never looked to attempt to take players out of the box, instead insisting on motioning more players into the box for the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott to run against. It's amazing when you think about it, that Ezekiel Elliott was able to win the rushing title when facing loaded fronts as often as he did.
This was a move that needed to happen and the Dallas Cowboys didn't need to waste anymore time to make it happen. The offense had become stale and frustrating for the players as well as the fans. While Jason Garrett started the offseason saying he "didn't expect any changes," this was a move that absolutely had to happen for the offense to take a step forward. Below, you can read Jason Garrett's announcement on the move.
Cowboys have fired Scott Linehan
Even after the move for Amari Cooper, the offense looked better, but it still struggled at times to move the football.
The Cowboys have a young team with especially young players on the offensive side of the football. They have a quarterback who can throw from the pocket, but has excellent movement skills and capabilities of throwing the ball on the run. He's an excellent runner on designed runs. Despite us knowing all that, Scott Linehan looked reluctant to use him on designed quarterback runs that weren't read options or speed options. What you saw on designed runs in the Seattle game is what this team should be doing five times a game.
Now the question becomes, who should the Cowboys next offensive coordinator be? Our own, Staff Writer Brian Martin, laid out 5 Options to be the Next Offensive Coordinator earlier this week. I suggest you give it a read.
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
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