Welcome to this week's edition of Martin's 5!
The Dallas Cowboys were able to come away with an overtime victory over the division rival Philadelphia Eagles, even though it was one of their sloppiest performances of the season. They will now go on the road to face a winless, although talented, Cleveland Browns team.
This should be a good game for the Cowboys to get back on track and correct some of the things that went wrong against the Eagles last week.
Having said that though, this is in a game they can't overlook. They have to come out and dominate in all three phases the game and show everybody why they are currently ranked as the second best team in the NFL behind only the New England Patriots.
After narrowly escaping the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday, there are a lot of things that I've been wondering about and hope to get the answer to this week when the Cowboys head to Cleveland in hopes of improving their record to 7-1.
Below are the five things I'm wondering about this week heading into the matchup with the Cleveland Browns.
One: I wonder if Jim Schwartz and the Philadelphia Eagles provided a blueprint for teams how to fluster the Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott? The Eagles made things difficult for Prescott last week and they did it by bringing continuous pressure. It seemed to throw Prescott off his game a little the majority of the night, but he was able to rally at the end and lead the Cowboys to an overtime victory. We all know that this is a copycat league, so I wouldn't be surprised if we see opposing defenses try to throw Prescott off by making him have to make quick decisions due to the pressure they are providing. Maybe Dak Prescott just had an off game, but it wouldn't surprise me one bit if defenses try to fluster him with added pressure in the future.
Two: I was really excited about Dez Bryant's return to the field and how he would help open up the offense for the Dallas Cowboys in both the passing and running game. I know it was just one game, but I wonder Bryant's return actually hurt Cole Beasley's involvement in the game plan and his production? I know I'm not the only one that noticed that passes were kind of forced to Bryant and that Beasley was pretty much an afterthought against Eagles. The entire Cowboys offense kind of struggled the majority of the game, but was finally able to put things together when Dak Prescott started to spread the ball around and get Beasley and the rest of his receivers more involved. Beasley without a doubt has become one of the best slot receivers in the NFL and absolutely has to be utilized more because he is virtually unrecoverable.
Three: Morris Claiborne and Barry Church could be out several weeks due to the injuries they sustained against the Eagles Sunday night. Unfortunately, this is a big hit for the Cowboys defense and I wonder how they're going to try and fill the void left by them in the secondary? Both players have been playing some of the best football of their entire career in the NFL this season and they are a big reason why the defense for the Cowboys has been exceeding expectations. The next man up mantra is good and all, but defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will definitely have his work cut out for him until #24 and #42 are healthy and can get back on the field.
Four: Let's stay on the same train of thought here for second. J.J. Wilcox will likely be the one replacing Barry Church for the time being, so I wonder if we will start seeing opposing offenses targeting him more the passing game? To his credit, Wilcox has been playing pretty well this season, but he is more of a box safety and struggles when playing in space covering receivers. He has made some key plays in 2016, but he will be asked to start now and has some big shoes to fill with Church out of the lineup. The Dallas Cowboys definitely need him to step up his game if they are going to continue to find success and remain competitive on the defensive side of the ball.
Five: I don't know about you, but I've started to get a little anxious (not in a good way) every time Lucky Whitehead is back to receive a punt or kickoff. Last week against the Eagles, Whitehead nearly fumbled away the opening kickoff and then a little later in the game made a poor decision by fielding a punt inside the Cowboys 10 yard line. I wonder if we will see the Dallas Cowboys start to use someone else handle the return duties until they can fully trust Whitehead once again? Special teams turnovers and mistakes are a quick way to end up on the losing end of the stick, so it's important to find a solution to this problem as soon as possible.
Is there anything that you are wondering about this week?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to provide your thoughts and opinions on this topic.
Did a Year Away Help Rejuvenate TE Jason Witten’s Game?
Jason Witten is 37 years old, retired from the NFL after the completion of 2017 season to try his luck as an announcer in the booth, but has now decided to come out of retirement to rejoin the Dallas Cowboys? It seems a little unrealistic to think he can come back after a year away from the game and pick up where he left off, but it sounds as if he's like a Phoenix rising from the ashes.
Jason Witten has been the talk of Dallas Cowboys OTA practices so far. These practices are unpadded and basically just an opportunity to do install some of the offensive and defensive plays, but that doesn't make them any less important. One of the things that has been somewhat surprising though is how talked up the future Hall of Famer has become.
Here is what Head Coach Jason Garrett had to say recently about Jason Witten's return:
“Yeah, absolutely. He’s been excited about every part of it ever since I met him and that hasn’t changed,” coach Jason Garrett said. “The work that he’s done in the weight room in the off-season program has been outstanding. His testing numbers and all of that are what they’ve been or even better. And he just has an unbelievable way about him. Tremendous passion for the game. And he demonstrates that every day. Witt looks good. He’s excited to be back and we’re certainly fortunate to have him back.”
The main thing that stands out from Garrett's quote to me is how Jason Witten looks just as good, if not better after not playing at all in 2018. To think that his testing numbers are possibly even better is unfathomable. We typically don't see NFL players in their mid-30s retire from the game and then return just as good, or maybe even better than they were before.
Maybe that's just what Jason Witten is, a little inhuman. Maybe he's found the secret to turning the clock back just a little bit. Or, maybe he found the fountain the youth and didn't tell anybody. Regardless, there's no doubt Witten will be a welcomed addition to the Cowboys offense, especially if he's gained a step.
I don't know about all of you, but I'm hoping the year away from the game did him some good. I honestly thought he made the right decision to retire prior to the 2018 season. It just looked like father time was catching up to him in 2017. But, hopefully all he needed was a little time away from the grind he's been putting his body through for over a decade.
Whatever he's done hasn't gone unnoticed though. Even Quarterback Dak Prescott has noticed and said he's on to Witten's scheme.
“I guess the trick is to take a year off because he’s definitely gotten better, stronger and faster,” Prescott said. “He hasn’t lost a step.”
I'm not afraid to admit I wasn't too excited to see Witten come out of retirement and rejoin the Cowboys at first. I was skeptical he could be the player he once was after a year away from the game. But, all of this talk about him looking as good as he once was, perhaps better, has me really looking forward to seeing him on the field once again.
Do you think a year away has rejuvenated Jason Witten's game?
Cowboys en Español: El Verdadero Cambio en La Ofensiva
Los Dallas Cowboys tuvieron un interesante 2018. La ofensiva dejo mucho que desear toda la primera mitad de la temporada cuando carecían de un receptor número uno. No fue hasta media temporada cuando consiguieron a Amari Cooper de los Oakland Raiders, que la ofensiva comenzó a verse realmente amenazante. Siendo sinceros, el cuerpo de receptores de los Cowboys lucía muy débil al inicio y Michael Gallup aún no conseguía mucho tiempo de juego en el emparrillado. Incluso una vez en el equipo, a pesar de las grandes hazañas de Cooper en Dallas, la ofensiva no terminó de dar el siguiente paso.
Sí, con Amari en el equipo vimos un equipo de Cowboys que movía constantemente las cadenas e incluso se convirtió en una de las mejores unidades en tercera oportunidad en la liga, pero no fue suficiente. Los problemas en zona roja persistieron y continuamos viendo una selección de jugadas muy cuestionable semana tras semana.
Es por eso que al finalizar la temporada, la administración de los Cowboys finalmente tomó una decisión muy anticipada. El entonces coordinador ofensivo, Scott Linehan, fue despedido.
En cuanto a talento, los Dallas Cowboys no verán un cambio mayor en su ofensiva. Cole Beasley, uno de los mejores WR slot en la NFL, firmó con los Buffalo Bills durante la agencia libre. A pesar de la llegada de Randall Cobb, la ofensiva probablemente extrañará bastante a Beasley. Además está el regreso de Jason Witten al campo, quien se repartirá el balón mucho con los jóvenes del equipo, principalmente con Blake Jarwin. Por último, Travis Frederick podría estar de regreso como el centro titular. Fuera de eso, no se anticipan cambios de jugadores en la ofensiva.
Y a pesar de esto, la afición de los Cowboys espera ver un cambio grande entre la ofensiva del 2018 y la de 2019. Si las cosas salen bien, así será. Pero más que por el talento del equipo, que ya está ahí y es un muy buen talento, deberá ser por el hombre al mando.
Kellen Moore ha tomado las riendas como el nuevo coordinador ofensivo y finalmente podremos ver su potencial. Muchos han criticado a Moore, en gran parte por nunca haber sido un quarterback exitoso en la NFL. Sin embargo, hay muchas razones por las cuales deberíamos estar emocionados.
Desde que Moore salió de la universidad de Boise State, se le veía como un prospecto muy inteligente. Incluso analistas como Jon Gruden (en ese entonces conductor del programa de ESPN Gruden's QB Camp) mencionaban que Moore probablemente no sería un gran mariscal, pero que tenía la mente de un coach.
En Boise, Moore trabajaba con la ofensiva del actual coach de los Washington Huskies, Chris Petersen. Esta ofensiva es una muy complicada que le exige al mariscal saber casi tanto como un jugador profesional. Muchos han descrito a Moore como un genio ofensivo que será un gran coach en el futuro.
Para los Cowboys, Kellen Moore será una pieza clave en 2019. Si vemos una ofensiva realmente diferente, será gracias a su creatividad y filosofía que implementa a un grupo bastante talentoso en Dallas. Los jugadores están ahí, ¿sabrá el coordinador ofensivo de 30 años aprovecharlos?
NFL to Study Marijuana Use, Will It Impact Randy Gregory’s Status?
The NFLPA and the NFL have reached an agreement to research alternative pain-management tools for the players. They'll form joint medical committees to study different strategies, among which will be the use of marijuana. It's important to make it clear that said committees will not be exclusively about marijuana, but a lot of different issues related to pain-management in the league. However, it'll likely be one of the most important aspects of their work.
Marijuana continues to be a highly debated topic and it's no different when discussing the NFL. Dallas Cowboys fans should be very familiar with the situation. Earlier this year, David Irving "quit" on football during an Instagram live stream while smoking weed. In the video, Irving talks about how he thinks it's better to be addicted to marijuana rather than certain medications used by NFL teams to treat their players.
Although David Irving is not an authority on substances, that is where all of this debate centers around. Throughout the league, players are given strong medication to deal with injuries and the physical pain of playing pro football. I'm not an expert either, but it's more than fair to say there's a strong argument here. Specially in a country where marijuana has already been legalized in 10 states and the trend points toward legalization continuing.
The current CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) between the NFL and NFLPA will expire after the 2020 season and how the league's drug policy looks like in the new agreement will be a huge factor for reaching a satisfactory CBA for both sides.
Of course, the fact that the NFLPA and the league are working together on such an important task doesn't mean we will see any immediate changes or that the NFL's ban on marijuana will be lifted anytime soon. Many big question marks will have to be answered before we hear about teams implementing this substance as a pain management tool.
For the Dallas Cowboys, this will be a relevant narrative down the line. Pass rusher Randy Gregory was reinstated after serving an indefinite suspension due to substance abuse prior to the 2018 season. After a dominant year, Gregory was suspended again by the NFL and it all points toward him sitting out this upcoming season and perhaps even more.
Even still, the Cowboys are still standing behind their 2015 second round pick. If the league ends up lifting its ban on marijuana, they'll have to decide what they will do with players already serving a suspension for this reason. Guys like Randy Gregory, for instance. If it's decided they'll be reinstated to the NFL, the Cowboys will sure be glad to have supported Gregory all throughout the process.
Last year, the pass rusher proved how effective he could be even with a short period of time training. Hopefully, the Cowboys are able to get him back on the field eventually, where's been consistently dominant. In the meantime, we'll see how recently acquired Robert Quinn does in Dallas.
The NFL won't be lifting its ban anytime soon, but it's good to know they're at least open minded to changing the league's policy and consider alternatives that could benefit the players' health. We'll see how these new medical committees work and keep you updated here at Inside The Star.
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