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J.J. Wilcox Is Just Breaking The Surface

Brian Leatherman

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J.J. Wilcox, Barry Church, Defense

Coming into the 2016 season, Safety J.J. Wilcox has been known as a one-trick pony. He could hit someone so hard that it would make their mother cry, but that’s about all most Dallas Cowboys fans have come to expect.

He wasn’t very good in coverage, and he always seemed to take the wrong angle on what would end up being a huge play for the opposing team.

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Many wondered if Wilcox would make the team at all at the start of the 2016 training camp. Byron Jones was moving to free safety full time, Barry Church had the strong safety position locked up, Jeff Heath wasn’t going anywhere, and the team drafted Kavon Frazier in the 2016 draft.

What many seem to have forgotten is the fact Wilcox hasn’t played the safety position very long, and when he first started played the position it was at tiny Georgia Southern College.

Wilcox played wide receiver and running back before finally settling down at the safety position his senior year. None of that matters when it comes to pleasing people of the football world; they want to see results fast, and the results better be positive or everyone is ready to move on to the next.

Wilcox made the team and it came as a surprise to some, however, this wasn’t a surprise to people who were within the organization. Coaches and the front office saw changes in Wilcox during the offseason, and with that change the team made sure to do everything they could to help Wilcox turn into the player they thought he could be when they drafted him. As the season progressed you could see the difference in his play and his stats showed it as well.

J.J. Wilcox's Numbers jumped to six pass break-ups and 35 solo tackles this year in 12 games (four starts), up from three pass break-ups and 37 solo tackles in 16 games in 2015 (13 starts).

I asked a scout in the league what he thought was the biggest change in Wilcox’s play:

“I think he has vastly improved this season. Two main reasons are 1) he is now in his 4th season playing safety (1 college, 3 pro), and on defense for that matter, and he is becoming much more comfortable in that role. 2) They simplified some of the responsibilities of the DBs this year and it allows them to play faster without having to think.”

What you’re seeing now is a player who is just starting to break through the surface of his potential.

Wilcox is learning the game, learning the position, and gaining more and more confidence.  When J.J. Wilcox name comes up now, it’s no longer just about a big hit, or taking a bad angle. People talk about how well he’s playing overall.



Brian has been a football junkie from the time he was 5 years old. He lives, eats and breathes the game. Brian is a college graduate living in the south who loves his faith, his family, and his Dallas Cowboys.

Star Blog

Bye Week and Amari Arrive After Cowboys’ Rally Stripped Away by Redskins

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Bye Week and Amari Arrive After Cowboys’ Rally Stripped Away by Redskins 1

Strange things happen when these two NFC East foes tangle and you can add Sunday’s latest chapter to that list. As Dallas was driving late in the fourth-quarter and looking to take their first lead of the game, Dak Prescott was strip-sacked by Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan which was "returned" for a touchdown. That gave the ‘Skins a 20-10 advantage and a lead they would never relinquish.

It didn’t help that in the waning moments Cowboys’ long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur was flagged for moving the ball pre-snap. The attempt was moved back five yards, which certainly didn’t help kicker Brett Maher knock what would have been a game-tying field goal through the uprights.

He missed, Dallas lost, and here we are.

As the Cowboys ride off into the sunset for the next couple of weeks, it should be noted that this is a team that has been as good at home as they have been abysmal on the road. In Jerry’s World, the team is bathed in milk and honey winning all three games at home while on the road their slate stands at 0-4 after their Week 7 loss to Washington.

It’s an interesting dichotomy and one that will be scrutinized by players and coaching staff alike. But one thing the Cowboys have not done is fill the void vacated by Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. The latter retired voluntarily while the former was essentially made an offer he could most definitely refuse, a severe pay cut. As a result, Dak Prescott has yet to find an elite target to call his own.

Cole Beasley has done an admirable job stepping up but he checks in at No. 45 in receiving yards and is essentially a slot receiver as opposed to a speed merchant screaming down the sidelines. The Cowboys are ranked 29th in passing yards and 26th in points scored, which means something had to give - and it finally did.

Dallas swung a deal with Oakland for two-time Pro Bowler Amari Cooper who is struggling through his most difficult season yet. The 24-year-old Alabama product had a stellar rookie and sophomore campaign but 2017 proved to be his first not eclipsing 1,000-yards receiving and this season is even less impressive with only 280 yards and one touchdown thus far.

In return, Dallas sent their 2019 first-round pick to the Raiders who will now have three in the opening round next April.

If the Cowboys were going to make a deal for a skill player then they picked the perfect time. Cooper will have two weeks to get up to speed with the Dallas playbook and foster a relationship with Prescott. Without a legitimate deep threat, the Cowboys were going nowhere and this helps even the playing field.

The question is whether Cooper is a supernova whose time in the league was brief but spectacular or if he merely needed a change of scenery to reignite what was once a promising career. The Cowboys will learn one way or the other and have paid a fairly steep price to find out. However, if this move does bear fruit, it could mean the difference between an early vacation and a postseason invitation. Let’s hope it’s the latter.

As we often do when we turn the chapter on another week in the NFL, we look ahead to see what awaits and there is no better indicator as to which way the wind is blowing than our friends at Bovada, the sports betting industry’s mainstay that is always chief among the best online sportsbooks in the world. Bovada, as well as many other top-rated sportsbooks can be found all in one place, Sportsbook Review, so when in doubt, check them out.

When the Cowboys get back to work they will welcome the Tennessee Titans into AT&T Stadium (it will always be Cowboys Stadium to us) where we will see what the oddsmakers post in terms of the opening point spread. But until then, we will hope that our 'Boys return healthy and ready to roll with a brand-new weapon named Amari Cooper stretching the field and giving Prescott a deep threat… finally!



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Star Blog

Dak Prescott: A+ Leader, But “C” Level QB Play

Kevin Brady

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Dak Prescott

Let me start by saying this: as a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, I love Dak Prescott.

Prescott is everything you want in a franchise quarterback. He's a leader the players seem to respond to, he says all the "right" things in the media and, most importantly, he competes like hell every Sunday. Never, not even when Chaz Green failed him to the tune of 6 Adrian Clayborn sacks, has Dak Prescott quit on the Dallas Cowboys.

But in the National Football League that simply isn't enough, and never was that more clear than during last Sunday's loss to the Washington Redskins.

On the surface, Sunday looks like one of Prescott's better games in 2018. He threw for over 250 yards for just the second time this year, he brought the Cowboys back from down 10 late in the fourth quarter and gave them a chance at overtime, and he battled back from a vicious head shot which Tony Romo immediately said would sideline him the remainder of the game.

As usual Dak Prescott did not quit, and he helped to give the Cowboys a chance to win.

But when you look a bit deeper than just the surface narrative you see that Prescott is more of a reason the team lost Sunday than nearly won.

Repeatedly Prescott made the same types of mistakes he's been making since his miracle rookie season came to an end, and once again they were the downfall of this Cowboys offense. Too often he holds onto the ball longer than he should, fails to recognize open receivers, doesn't trust himself to make tight window throws, and abandons clean pockets when he has seemingly no reason to do so.

The two plays which really lost the Cowboys the game on Sunday occurred back to back. And, ironically, they represent Dak Prescott and his Cowboys career in a nut shell.

The first play was third and medium late in the 4th quarter. Prescott and the Cowboys were down 3 and needed the first down to keep a potential game changing drive alive. Prescott stood firm in the pocket, trusted Cole Beasley, and delivered a strike for a huge first down. The problem? Holding was called on Connor Williams and the play was brought back.

Then came third and long, with Prescott backed up near his own goal line. Despite the longer distance, Dak Prescott had at least one if not two open options down the field to convert the first down, and enough time in the pocket to make the play. Instead, Prescott felt phantom pressure and spun out of a clean pocket, getting disoriented and fumbling the ball in the end zone.

It went from 13-10 first down Cowboys, to 20-10 game over in a split second. And while, of course, the holding was not his fault, that sack fumble was absolutely egregious. Especially in their own end zone and especially as Michael Gallup and Ezekiel Elliott were both open for potential first downs.

While the Cowboys skill position players haven't been particularly good this season, the front office went out and tried to make a change to that this week by trading for wide receiver Amari Cooper. There's no more excuses left for this passing offense.

The Cowboys need to be able to play modern offense in the NFL, and to do so their quarterback has to play better than he has for most of 2018. Now that they are without a first round pick in 2019 Dak probably has another uncontested year ahead as the starter. But beyond that Prescott will need prove that he belongs and deserves franchise quarterback type money.

For the Cowboys sake, I hope he raises his play to that level soon.



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Star Blog

The Cowboys Are What They’ve Been Since ’96: Average

Kevin Brady

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Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett Disagree on Overtime Decision

Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys have been trafficking in overzealous fan hope for quite some time. For much of the past 20 years they have spent their offseasons making minor roster tweaks, maintaining the same core and swearing they are one of the more talented teams in the NFL.

If we just got one call... If Tony Romo stays heathy...If Sean Lee stays healthy...If Ezekiel Elliott wasn't suspended...

A whole lot of "ifs." That's what the Dallas Cowboys have been characterized by since they last held the Lombardi Trophy in January of 1996. And even in the more recent years, where Jerry Jones has pulled back a bit of his control and allowed Stephen and company to make the roster decisions, the Cowboys have stayed the same average franchise.

So last Sunday when Dak Prescott took an inexcusable sack in the end zone, missing multiple open receivers and handing a key divisional game over to Washington, I wasn't surprised. When Jason Garrett coached scared down the stretch, settling for a 47 yard field goal in the cold and windy weather to tie, I wasn't surprised. And when the Cowboys were called for a snap infraction to back that field goal attempt up over 50 yards, well, that's the same old Cowboys that I have always known.

If there's a way to lose a football game, the Dallas Cowboys of the last two decades will find it.

Sure there's a couple of 13-3 and 12-4 seasons in there, but there are also multiple 4-12 years to offset that. Sure there have been years where the Cowboys seemed to be just a play or two away from taking that next step, but the bottom line is they haven't.

Yes the Cowboys finally attempted to turn over their roster in recent years, but they rode "the hot hand" right into the ground at quarterback. And at this point, there's simply no denying it.

We are the Bengals. We are the Dolphins. We are the Lions. We are every average, middling, quarterback-purgatory-living franchise in the NFL. And, as usual, it starts at the top. If things are going to change and the Cowboys are going to become the Cowboys ever again, I highly doubt Jason Garrett will be the one to do it.

Ironically, all is not lost this season. The Cowboys will probably win their next game against the Titans and get back to .500 before a big game with the Eagles. And they'll probably hang around 7-9 or 8-8 this season, falsely believing they are "in the hunt" all year because that's who they are.

And unless massive, franchise changing decisions are made this offseason, that's who they'll stay.



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