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Learning Opportunity: Cowboys Play to Lose, Escape Minnesota 11-1

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Headlines - Learning Opportunity: Cowboys Play to Lose, Escape Minnesota 11-1

Last night's narrow 17-15 victory over the Minnesota Vikings was tough to watch. Though any win's a good one, it was arguably an even uglier performance for the Dallas Cowboys than their Week One loss to the New York Giants.

Michael Irvin

Michael Irvin, former Cowboys WR

For one former Cowboy, though, it may have been the best of both worlds.

Before the Cowboys' Thanksgiving rematch with Washington, the legendary Michael Irvin said that he hoped Dallas would lose the game. In a radio interview on 105.3 The Fan, Irvin actually advocated losing to our greatest rival.

"I need a loss in here on the way to the playoffs. To re-identify, refocus."

This obviously sounds funny coming from The Playmaker, a guy who Stephen Jones recently said was his favorite player from the 90s dynasty. However, Irvin made it clear that he had the Cowboys' best interests in mind.

"YOU WANT TO HANDLE THIS KIND OF ADVERSITY AND GET REFOCUSED. I DON'T WANT TO GO INTO THE PLAYOFFS WITHOUT THAT. BECAUSE THEN WHEN YOU WIN NINE, 10, 12 GAMES YOU ALMOST FORGET HOW BAD IT FEELS TO LOSE."

As we all know, the Cowboys did not lose to Washington. I wouldn't be surprised if, as he watched that game, Michael Irvin got caught up in the moment and forgot about his original position. Losing on Thanksgiving Day to a NFC East rival would've been a high price to pay for a chance to refocus.

You don't always have to lose to be disappointed in your performance. Regardless of what the scoreboard said, the game tape shows mistakes just as vividly in victory as in defeat.

Last night's win over the Vikings wasn't a loss, but it really should have been. The Cowboys had four fumbles, losing two of them, to go along with several foot-shooting penalties. They allowed Dak Prescott to be sacked three times, the most he's been hit since Week 2. It was also the most frustrated that running back Ezekiel Elliott has looked in a long time; his lowest rushing total and worst average per-carry since Week 2.

The defense had its own problems. The NFL's worst rushing offense, missing its starting center, averaged over 4.6 yards per carry. The return of Barry Church did little to stop Sam Bradford from completing throw after throw.

Despite their 6-5 record going into the game, the Minnesota Vikings were not a good team. Last night was their sixth loss in seven games. Their head coach wasn't even there as Mike Zimmer recovered from eye surgery.

Dallas set the table for a loss. Fortunately, the Vikings just were't good enough to take advantage.

Michael Irvin should be happy. That game was full of frustration and flaws; plenty of fodder for Jason Garrett and his staff to work with in getting this team ready for the postseason. The Cowboys may get all of the benefit of a loss without actually feeling it in the standings.

The timing was also ideal. Dallas has ten days to get ready for a critical Week 14 showdown with the New York Giants. The extra rest is big, but now they also have the negatives from the Minnesota game to use as teaching points and motivation.

"I want a searching of ourselves one time before the playoffs; 14-2 is a great record."

I think Mike will get his wish this week. A rematch against the only team to beat you is a cause for searching. The week following an ugly, almost even embarrassing performance is a cause. The compound effect should have a hungry, focused, and rested Cowboys team headed to New York next week to clinch the NFC East.

If the Cowboys do end up 14-2, let it be because Mark Sanchez was the starting quarterback in Week 17. Just a few more wins and Dallas will likely have their division and conference all locked up. This isn't the time for a backwards step.

The Cowboys stumbled last night but ultimately fell forward. Coach Garrett will make sure that it's all the wake-up call that they need.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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2 Comments
  • https://insidethestar.com/ Bryson Treece

    I agree with Irvin; winning week after week is great but the mind starts playing tricks on you the more something doesn’t change. You get comfortable, complacent even, and you start to feel like it’s automatic. Right now, the Cowboys can lose a game and the worst they’ll face is outside perceptions based mostly on what past teams did and did not do. Now is a good time to lose because it doesn’t cost anything but a digit in the win/loss columns. If they lose in a month, they go home. No chance to let that loss educate the young players, no cause for the veterans to engage the rookies and be the leader we all believe most of them are.

    It’s a weird thing to say, I know, but I want this team to lose before the playoffs, and I want them to lose a game like this. The Steelers got close, but we still scored easily enough. The Redskins gave us some trouble, and the Vikings should have owned us. The sloppy play last night could easily suggest the team is already feeling the comfort of an 10-win streak, and 11 isn’t going to be much better, not if they don’t focus on the mistakes.

    Good read, Jess.

  • Gbear

    We don’t need “no stinkin loss”! Tony will be playing, not Sanchez. Go Cowboys #Dak4MVP #Zeke4ROY

Dallas Cowboys

Which Cowboys Benefit From David Irving’s Suspension?

Jess Haynie

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David Irving

While losing David Irving for the first four weeks of 2018 is a bad thing for the Dallas Cowboys defensive line, it does create opportunities for some of the other defensive tackles. Who has the most to gain from Irving's suspension?

Because he was mostly going to be used inside as the 3-technique DT, David's absence will naturally benefit the guys who are best suited to play that role. Thankfully, Dallas isn't lacking for those types of players.

Veteran Tyrone Crawford can use all the playing time he can get. As a likely salary cap casualty next year, Crawford doesn't want to get buried on the depth chart as Dallas focuses on their younger players who project to stick around beyond 2018.

With Irving out, Dallas will likely lean on Tyrone as they often do when someone is missing on the defensive line. With more talent now at defensive end, Crawford was going to be competing with Irving, Maliek Collins, Jihad Ward, and other younger guys for work at tackle.

But now there's a problem, and it's easy to slide Crawford into the 3-tech role that Dallas once envisioned him being a star at. Remember, it was their projection of Tyrone as a breakout DT that got him his big contract to begin with.

Yes, Irving's only gone for four weeks. Dallas will still be giving him work in camp based on the role he should fill for the majority of the season. But that's why a veteran like Tyrone Crawford is a great temporary plug-in, because he doesn't need all of the practice reps to step in and perform.

Maliek Collins

Dallas Cowboys DT Maliek Collins

Another key beneficiary could be third-year DT Maliek Collins. Last season, Collins got stuck playing 1-technique and not getting the same opportunities to make plays and get noticed that he had his rookie year.

But now Dallas has several guys in Jihad Ward, Richard Ash, and Brian Price who can play the 1-tech role, which will hopefully get Collins back where he belongs. Maliek's athleticism belongs a little further away from center, letting him try to take on guards in single coverage.

Collins is dealing with a foot issue now but should be back for the preseason. That's enough time for him to be where he needs to be Week One, provided he's healthy.

How Dallas would balance playing time between Collins and Tyrone Crawford could be a matter of how much they play certain schemes. One could see Collins, the bigger guy, playing more in the base defense and then Crawford being used in passing situations.

There is always a lot of rotation in a Rod Marinelli line, so discussions about playing time can get a little silly. Unless you're a true stud like DeMarcus Lawrence who you don't want to take off the field, the Cowboys like to keep guys fresh.

But that's why this is a big opportunity; David Irving has that stud potential. He's the kind of talent who could keep solid players like Crawford and Collins out of view if he hits his stride.

For the first four weeks, though, Irving will be in the NFL doghouse and Dallas will likely lean on its two most experienced defensive tackles to fill the void. There will be more reps for guys like Datone Jones and Jihad Ward too, but Crawford and Collins have way more skins on the wall

That trust should keep them on the field more while David Irving's suspended, and perhaps beyond.



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BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year

Mauricio Rodriguez

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David Irving

For the second consecutive year, Defensive Lineman David Irving is being suspended for four games by the NFL. This time, the suspension comes after Irving violated the NFL's policy on substance of abuses, as Ian Rapoport reported.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys DL David Irving is being suspended 4 games for violating @NFL policy on substance of abuses, sources say. Another big-time D-linemen hit with a suspension for Dallas.

Irving will play for the Dallas Cowboys after the team placed a second-round tender on him earlier in the year. Why no team was interested in picking such a talented defensive tackle for a second round pick is becoming clearer and clearer as the time goes on.

In April, when David Irving got hacked by his former girlfriend one of the tweets that stood out the most was one which said "Wait until you all find about his failed drug tests." Now, we're seeing what the tweet was about.

Irving is a very talented player that could have a great career ahead of him. Of course, with this being the second consecutive year in which he receives a suspension to start the season, one could question how much he wants it.

The Cowboys will play the Panthers, Giants, Seahawks and Lions to start the season. They'll have to do it with one of their most promising defensive players in David Irving.

Here at Inside The Star, we'll keep you updated with this story and every Dallas Cowboys news.

Tell me what you think about "BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Offense Finds Rhythm to End Minicamp, Hurns and Gallup Stand Out

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Offense Finds Rhythm to End Minicamp, Hurns and Gallup Stand Out 1

The Dallas Cowboys are back in offseason mode, concluding their OTAs and minicamp from The Star. With a hiatus until training camp, it was important for several high-profile players to make a strong first impression on the 2018 season. From the start of mini camp, these impressions were left mostly by Rod Marinelli's defense and -- more specifically -- Kris Richard's young group of cornerbacks.

Still working through significant change on the offensive side of the ball, the Cowboys did rally on day three under Quarterback Dak Prescott to put out a better performance. The Cowboys coaching staff should love their lasting memories of both FA acquisition Wide Receiver Allen Hurns and rookie Michael Gallup.

There is a strong chance that these two receivers will be the Cowboys starters in Oxnard for training camp. We have heard a lot about the impact new WR Coach Sanjay Lal has had on his group, slowing the game down to focus on route running. This will give the team's rotation of unproven receivers a chance with Prescott, as he can focus on throwing to a 'spot' more often.

One spot that Prescott has struggled to hit in two seasons as the starter in Dallas is the back of the end zone for fade routes. A red zone go-to under Scott Linehan, free agent WR Dez Bryant was often the intended target on these missed passes.

Cowboys Offense Finds Rhythm to End Minicamp, Hurns and Gallup Stand Out

Dallas Cowboys WR Allen Hurns

Less of a route running technician and closer to the mold of a physical player like Bryant, Allen Hurns emerging as the Cowboys #1 option would solve a lot of uncertainty at the WR position. In yesterday's practice, Hurns was able to haul in a perfect ball from Prescott on the fade as he beat Byron Jones.

It's going to take some time for Jones to readjust to playing cornerback, but the vision for Kris Richard of him and Chidobe Awuzie starting on the outside is a great one. In a battle of proven players, Hurns got the best of Jones to spark the Cowboys offense at the right time.

Overall, there should be no reason to panic about (well, really anything from mini camp) the Cowboys offense right now, and plenty of reasons to be excited about what this defense will develop into.

Once the pads come on at training camp, the players the Cowboys are paying to play at an elite level will start to shine, including their newly re-signed Guard Zack Martin -- the highest paid guard in the league now. There are no doubts that the bread and butter for this offense will be handing the ball to Ezekiel Elliott behind this wall of an offensive line.

From this increase in competition in the trenches, we'll also get more meaningful battles along the defensive line. In shorts and helmets for now, the Cowboys secondary was given their chance at mini camp, and came out solid early.

Another player they've struggled to truly corral though is Michael Gallup. Perhaps pressing a bit thanks to his limited opportunities thus far, Jourdan Lewis was taken across the field by Gallup on a misfire from Cooper Rush.

This is nothing new for Gallup however, who's been ahead of the curve on creating the desired separation as a "violent" receiver on the outside.

A steal with the 81st overall pick in this year's draft, Gallup has a long way to go in beating out the likes of Terrance Williams, Cedrick Wilson (limited through this portion of the offseason with injuries), and even Cole Beasley, who's received some reps on the outside.

With both Hurns and Gallup making plays on the Cowboys final practice until late July, it's easy to let the mind wander with possibilities of the Cowboys offense playing at full strength against a defense that might be up for the challenge better than ever compared to year's past.

As always, the practice fields of Oxnard will serve as a battle ground for a young but deep Cowboys team to earn their spots on the 53-man roster, one that surely won't have room for all of the wide receiver hopefuls seen this week in mini camp.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Offense Finds Rhythm to End Minicamp, Hurns and Gallup Stand Out" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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