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Martin’s 5: Has Anthony Hitchens Become A Playmaker?

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Martin's 5: Has Anthony Hitchens Become A Playmaker?

Welcome to this week's edition of Martin's 5!

The Dallas Cowboys are on an impressive 11 game winning streak, with the hope that streak continues this week against the only team that has beaten them this year, the New York Giants.

The Cowboys and Giants games normally come down to the very end and it is always an entertaining matchup to watch.

These two teams know each other extremely well, but they have both changed over the course of the season since they last saw each other in the season opener.

The Giants may have the home field advantage, but the weather conditions will effect both teams equally. The team that better handles these conditions will likely be the one that comes out on top when time expires.

The Giants need to win this game to hopefully keep their postseason hopes alive, but this is a revenge game in every sense the word for the Dallas Cowboys.

Having said all that, there are still a lot of things I'm wondering about heading into this week's matchup, which is why I started Martin's 5 to begin with.

Below are the five things I'm wondering about this week.

One: Last week's game against the Minnesota Vikings was a tough game to watch, but there was one player in particular that caught my attention by rising to the occasion when the team needed him the most, Anthony Hitchens. Hitchens has been a solid player during his short tenure in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys, but really stood out against the Vikings last Thursday. He finished the game with 10 combined tackles, a quarterback sack, and one pass defensed that should have been an interception if not for a questionable penalty that overturned the play. Hitchens played like he had a fire lit under him the entire game, and it got me to wondering if this is the type of player will see more of in the future? The Cowboys defense can use all of the turnovers they can get, so hopefully last Thursday wasn't just a flash in the pan of the type of player Anthony Hitchens can become.

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Two: Randy Gregory hasn't played a single snap so far this season, and no one really knows when/if he might be eligible to return to the field. The target date to return from his 10 game suspension was against the Detroit Lions in a few weeks, but he was supposed to be able to start practice with the Cowboys this week. The NFL informed the Cowboys that Gregory is in fact not allowed to practice this week and to further complicate things, they still haven't made it clear whether or not Randy Gregory will be slapped with a year-long suspension for supposedly failing yet another drug test. I wonder what the holdup is here?  If Gregory has indeed failed another drug test, then why not go ahead and let the Dallas Cowboys know what's going on so they could come up with some kind of game plan? I don't think anyone knows what's going on, but I think we should know something by the time the Cowboys are set to face off against the Lions in a few weeks.

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Three: This is not same offense for the Cowboys that the New York Giants saw back in Week 1. Unfortunately, the Cowboys offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott didn't really get a good chance to get a feel for one another, but that's not the case anymore. We just witnessed Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell rush for over 100 yards against the Giants defense last Sunday and I don't see any reason why Ezekiel Elliott won't be able to do the same. I do however wonder if offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will use Elliott more in the receiving game like the Steelers did with Bell last week? Now, it's just my opinion, but I think Elliott is just as good as a receiving threat out of the backfield as Bell. But, he just hasn't been used in that type of role yet on a consistent basis this season for some reason. Maybe that changes against the Giants.

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Four: It was really surprising to learn yesterday that Jason Pierre-Paul had surgery to help fix a torn muscle and will miss up to six weeks. I wonder how much the offensive game plan changes now that he is out of the lineup for the Giants defense? JPP was finally getting back to his old self after injuring his hand in a firework accident and was on a tear these last several weeks. His absence will surely be missed for the Giants defense. His length, speed, and athleticism made him a force to be reckoned with down after down in both the passing and running game. It will be interesting to see if the offensive game plan will attack the side where JPP would normally be or whether or not anything will change it all.

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Five: The Dallas Cowboys have already locked up a spot in the playoffs and could win the division this week with a win over the New York Giants. With a win and a loss by both the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks, the Cowboys will also secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. I wonder if that scenario plays out, if we will see Tony Romo start or at least get a good amount of playing time in some of these last few games? Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that Romo be reinserted as a starting QB permanently. But, it would be good for him to get in there and knock off some of the rest just in case he is needed for some reason.

Is there anything that you are wondering about this week?

Please for free to use the comment section below to share with all of us anything you might have stuck in your head this week.



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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2 Comments
  • Gbear

    With JP out you’ll see the o-line able to concentrate double teams, if needed, on other pass rushers. Randy Gregory tho, I don’t know about that cat, one hall of famer already gave up on him. NFL is a hot mess and appears to not have it together. Hopefully Hitchens trends upward, that defense needs some stars. I’m concerned how they’ll hold up against OBJ without Claiborne, Carr is overmatched against him. Hopefully Carr is experienced enough to keep him in front. I can’t get over Jerry Jones constantly in the news running his mouth about some fantasy in his mind concerning Tony Romo coming to the rescue when Dak goes down, and let me assure you JJ’s words aren’t minced. He sees it, he believes it and if he could he’d make it so. Damage control needs to slap a lock on that incredibly talkative, karma testing, inventive mouth of Jones. Everyone offers the excuse that Jones keeps getting asked about Romo, well that may be but it should be controlled by the person being asked., like Bellichek, do you think he’d rant about a backup qb like Jones does, no way. To me on the outside looking in its a terrible look and it’s obvious Jones doesn’t want Dak running the team and if I was Dak I’d have a long memory come contract time. I understand Romo is no ordinary backup but he still is the backup and that can’t be front page news at the expense of a young qb that needs encouragement, not hearing the owner talking about getting Tony in there when Dak goes down, it’s ridiculous. Go Cowboys #Dak4MVP #Zeke4ROY

    • Brian Martin

      Gbear, like you, I’m getting a little tired of hearing Jerry Jones talk as well. I think it’s kind of a defense mechanism since he is starting to be kind of phased out in the decision-making process. I have honestly started to ignore the majority of what Jerry Jones says.

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Report: Dallas Cowboys to Sign Free Agent Wide Receiver Brice Butler

John Williams

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5 Bye Week Adjustments Cowboys Hopefully Made

The Dallas Cowboys look to be making a move at the wide receiver position as they attempt to bring some life to the position. No they aren't trading for Cleveland Browns Wide Receiver Josh Gordon, but bringing back former Wide Receiver Brice Butler.

According to a report from Saad Yousuf from The Athletic, the Dallas Cowboys are set to resign the former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver but first have to release someone from the 53-man roster.

Saad Yousuf on Twitter

Cowboys officials are in the process of signing wide receiver Brice Butler, multiple sources tell @TheAthleticDFW. The team has to make a roster move to bring Butler onto the 53 and is trying to decide whom to release to make room for Butler before a final decision is made.

Brice Butler was signed in the offseason by the Arizona Cardinals but was released after training camp. It was a surprising move for the Cardinals. They don't have a ton of wide receiver depth aside from future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald.

Butler's caught 73 passes on 133 targets for 1,177 yards and eight touchdowns in his five career. In 36 games with the Dallas Cowboys Brice Butler caught 43 passes on 81 targets for 794 yards and six touchdowns. In his time in Dallas, he averaged 18.5 yards per reception.

He never really got a lot of playing time with the Dallas Cowboys who had Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley and Jason Witten on the team for the duration of his time in Dallas. The Cowboys coaching staff placed a higher premium on Terrance Williams' run blocking than Butler's big play ability.

To the coaching staff's credit, Butler was never a consistent enough player to be relied upon week in and week out. In 2017, his last season in Dallas, Brice Butler was never targeted more than three times a game and he never caught more than two passes a game. Butler, however, only played 24.51% of the Dallas Cowboys' offensive snaps in 2017.

If the Dallas Cowboys do make this move it's at a curious time. Sources tell 247 Sports' Mike Fisher that the Dallas Cowboys have zero interest at the moment in Cleveland Browns Wide Receiver Josh Gordon. You'd think their lack of interest would be because they still like the wide receiver room as it is.

If they do complete the signing of Brice Butler, you'd have to expect that Deonte Thompson would be the wide receiver on the chopping block. They cut him at the end of the preseason and then brought him back during week one.

This signing is unlikely to have an impact on the Dallas Cowboys week two matchup with the New York Giants, but will probably be completed early Monday to get Butler to Frisco to begin preparing for their week three matchup.

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I don't think this is a move that makes a lot of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. They've been down that road before and haven't received the results they wanted. Brice Butler does offer some big play ability, but it was thought that is why they brought in Deonte Thompson and Tavon Austin. Is it possible the Dallas Cowboys are already down on those two players after one game? They wouldn't be bringing Butler back if they didn't have plans for him.

Good or bad, do you think bringing Brice Butler back is the right move for the Dallas Cowboys?



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Cowboys, 49ers Are WR Josh Gordon’s Preferred Teams in Trade/Free Agency

Sean Martin

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Cowboys, 49ers Are WR Josh Gordon's Preferred Teams in Trade/Free Agency

It's Sunday morning and the Cleveland Browns are expected to make a questionable decision by tomorrow, which is far from news for a Dallas Cowboys team waiting around for a crucial Sunday Night Football home game tonight. With Cleveland expected to part ways with troubled wide receiver Josh Gordon though, the Cowboys have understandably been linked to Gordon, even more so now with the talented pass catcher stating his own interest in America's Team.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

As teams discuss potentially trading for outgoing #Browns WR Josh Gordon, I'm told he's got his eye on two in particular: The #Cowboys and the #49ers.

Before looking into this any further, it's necessary to point out an all-important missing detail. Without any reports of the Cowboys own interest in Gordon, the soon-to-be free agent is simply the latest player to say he'd like to play for the Cowboys - hardly anything new for the Jones.

The Cowboys need for a player like Gordon has never been more evident though. Heavily criticized throughout the offseason for how they handled their wide receivers, the Cowboys passing game was a non-factor in the team's 16-8 week one loss.

Signing or trading for Gordon could do little to fix this, but the risk may also prove worthwhile for Dallas. The Baylor Bears product did put up 1,646 yards in 2013 with minimal talent around him, and has a career 17.3 yards per reception.

His ability to take the top off a defense is something the Cowboys are sorely missing. What they won't miss from not acquiring Gordon is the off-field trouble, taking on a player that missed all of 2015 and 2016 due to suspension.

Last season,  Gordon was reinstated for the Browns final five games.

The NFL is, at least cautiously, easing their policy on players suspended for marijuana usage. Look no further than the Cowboys own Randy Gregory to prove this, as Gregory has already become a success story for the league by being with the Cowboys this season.

Whether or not Gregory plays on Sunday night (officially listed as DOUBTFUL) after suffering a concussion in his long-awaited return last week is yet to be determined. So too is Josh Gordon's future as the latest player on his way out of Cleveland.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

From @gmfb Weekend: The #Browns plan to release Josh Gordon after he showed up late, injured his hamstring during a photo shoot, and in general completely lost their trust. https://t.co/cX2HGZPBXi

I'm of the belief that Gordon won't last long on the open market, meaning this won't be the latest Cowboys story/non-story to drag through the presses. Any fan looking to pass time between now and kickoff against the Giants could probably find me saying the same about free agent WR Dez Bryant however.

Thanks to Bryant still being a free agent along with former Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey, the team has looked smarter than expected in the long-term on moves like these.

If there's a smart way to bring on Josh Gordon, Dallas should be considering that too.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys, 49ers Are WR Josh Gordon’s Preferred Teams in Trade/Free Agency" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Is Dak Prescott’s Relationship with Scott Linehan Broken?

John Williams

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Is Dak Prescott's Relationship with Scott Linehan Broken?

As the final whistle sounded last Sunday with the Carolina Panthers coming away victorious over your Dallas Cowboys, it was pretty clear there were a lot of things wrong with the offense. Many pointed to Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan and the play calling. Others to the offensive line. Others to Quarterback Dak Prescott. And others to the wide receivers.

There was plenty of blame to go around in an offensive performance that left Cowboys Nation struggling for answers. Simply put, there wasn't much good from that side of the football in their 16-8 loss. 

Well, as this week has gone on in preparation for the New York Giants Sunday night, there have been answers to questions from within the organization that make me, an outsider, feel really awkward about the relationships inside the organization. Particularly on the offensive side of the football. 

There was this from Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan responding to Troy Aikman's critique of a lack of creativity in the play calling of Linehan.

"People have their own opinions. It's hard to be super creative when you're having loss-yardage plays, to be honest with you. But I thought we had some really good stuff for the game that we couldn't use. But he's entitled to whatever opinion he has about that. It's our job to go out and show him that we have some stuff that maybe he'll be impressed with."

Scott Linehan - via Jon Machota, Sports Day DFW

Then this from Wide Receiver Allen Hurns. 

Brandon George on Twitter

Cowboys WR Allen Hurns on loss to Carolina: "Statistically people are going to say we didn't play well. If you really break down the game, we created separation. That's what you want to do as a wideout.

With Dak Prescott speaking to the media on Thursday, some interesting nuggets of information came out about the communication that takes place on game day between Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan, Quarterback Coach Kellen Moore, and Quarterback Dak Prescott.

Namely Dak described Kellen Moore as a "mediator" between the quarterback and the offensive coordinator.

“Kellen, I guess you call him the mediator at that point, when I come to the sideline. Me and him talk about what we saw and then he gets on the headset and he’s talking with Linehan. Then he’ll get back to me with what Linehan’s thinking with the plays and stuff that we’re working towards, so it’s been great.”

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys Quarterback

Count 1310 The Ticket's Bob Sturm as one of many confused by Dak's statement about Moore as the go between.

Bob Sturm on Twitter

Thought it was really interesting to day that Dak said he talks to Kellen Moore and QB coach Kellen Moore talks to Linehan. Linehan doesn't talk directly to his QB during the game. I think that is weird.

It's becoming clear that there is a huge disconnect between the play caller and his quarterback and this disconnect is affecting everyone on the offensive side of the ball.  

Everyone, after one week, appears to be placing blame on someone else, which is really odd to me. Normally, when a unified group of players is asked a question that may lead to finger-pointing, they don't really answer the question.

Above, you can see that Hurns basically said, it wasn't the wide receivers' fault. Linehan, reacting to Troy Aikman's comments about the lack of creativity in the offense, placed the reason for the lack of creativity on the players. And Dak Prescott appears to allude to a really odd communication structure.

It has me wondering, and I'm sure I'm not the only one, if there is a trust issue with the Dallas Cowboys offensive staff and players.

Trust is a very important aspect of any group of people who work together to meet a common goal. Football is no different. As far as team sports go, the NFL requires a strong sense of trust and commitment to one another to make the intricacies of an NFL offense work.

As Preseason Begins, Does Prescott Have a "Go-To" Receiver After All?

Oct 8, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) congratulates wide receiver Cole Beasley (11) after a touchdown in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The coach has to trust that the player he's calling the plays for. If the play caller doesn't trust the players to execute, he's going to be much more conservative than he should be. A play caller who trusts his players will allow them to play and will be aggressive in his game planning and play calling. 

The player has to trust that the play caller is putting the player(s) in the best position possible to succeed. If the players don't trust the play caller, they aren't going to buy in to the offensive scheme. If they don't buy in to the offensive scheme then there may not be the necessary effort put in to see the scheme succeed. 

From the outside looking in, the relationship between quarterback and play caller seems fractured.  It's not a good sign for the relationship of the two men tasked with guiding this offense that there is a mediator involved in their communication. If there is an issue in the relationship that is leading to poor communication, then the Dallas Cowboys leadership structure -- Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Jason Garrett -- need to make a change to better enhance offensive communication.

They aren't going to change quarterbacks at this point in the season. The move they can make that Head Coach Jason Garrett appears unwilling to make, is changing who calls the plays. If the relationship between Linehan and Prescott is such that Kellen Moore needs to act as "mediator," then the time has come to change the play caller. Whether it's Moore who takes the reigns or Garrett who returns to calling plays, the change may need to be made soon to salvage this season. 

Trust is a very valuable resource in any organization. It's the reason that Jason Garrett has remained head coach for as long as he has. The ownership trusts him. 

The lack of trust that appears to exist between Dak Prescott and Scott Linehan is something that not only hurts their relationship, but the chemistry with the entire offense. 

Football may be the greatest team sport in the world. And as such it requires a high level of chemistry . It requires everyone on offense and defense buying into their respective schemes and trusting each other to execute those schemes. 

Obviously a win against the Giants would go a long way toward healing whatever wounds exist between Prescott and Linehan. A loss however could potentially deepen a divide between the quarterback and his coordinator.



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