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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make the Roster?
The Dallas Cowboys aren't short on numbers at wide receiver on their current 90-man roster. Looking to replace Dez Bryant and reshape their offense, the Cowboys will have to find the right group of pass catchers for Dak Prescott at their upcoming training camp.
The odd men out from this group will likely be the ones that can't sustain a consistent level of play, doing so across multiple units if needed. All ten receivers will have their flashes, but with only four being true locks to make the team, new Cowboys Wide Receivers Coach Sanjay Lal will be in on some tough decisions right away.
One such decision may be moving on from last year's seventh round pick Noah Brown out of Ohio State. Vouched for by former Buckeyes teammate Ezekiel Elliott thanks to his blocking ability on the outside, it may now be this strength in the run game and deficiency as a pass catcher that spells the end of Brown's run in Dallas.
Normally, a seventh round pick being on the roster bubble wouldn't be this noteworthy, but Brown clearly showed the potential to outplay this draft status as a rookie. Appearing in 13 games, Brown is a true X receiver, although not the dominant one the Cowboys are searching for.
Moving away from fielding a true number one receiver, the Cowboys did sign Allen Hurns to play this spot while prepared to spread the ball around to Williams, Beasley, and Gallup after that.
This leaves Thompson, Wilson, Cannon, Lenoir, McCay, Murdock, and Brown to prove their worth in other ways to make the roster. I've written plenty about the potential rookie Cedrick Wilson has, so I'll be expecting a strong showing from him to earn a role in the Cowboys offense.
Wilson's skill set could push a depth signing like Deonte Thompson off the team, although his ability to back up Cole Beasley/Tavon Austin on special teams is important. The same can be said about Lance Lenoir, who like Brown has the advantage over first year players given his trials through training camp and the preseason a year ago.
Long shots to make the team, Cannon, McCay, and Murdock fall just below this group -- and somewhere in the middle is Noah Brown.
Increasing his role on special teams as the season went on last year, Brown had fans throughout a coaching staff that is now drastically changed for 2018. From their shift to more speed on offense, to drafting of both Gallup and Wilson, calling Brown a fringe player on the Cowboys roster really sets up the fiery competition to come at wide receiver.
Should the Cowboys find a spot for Brown, one can only hope it means this new coaching staff has a clear plan for him to contribute on both offense and special teams outside of being a run blocker. A potential niche for Brown is his red zone ability, not afraid to put his body on the line for jump balls and fight through contact in his routes.
It won't be long until we sort out if this is enough to make the Cowboys as a wide receiver ahead of Quarterback Dak Prescott's third season.
Cowboys CB Marquez White Facing Assault Charges
Player news this time of year is often not the good kind, and such is true of a new development with Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Marquez White. The second-year CB is facing aggravated assault charges for an incident last October.
According to the report, White displayed a legally owned firearm during a "road rage" incident.
Marquez, a sixth-round pick of the Cowboys last season, has made his side of the story public. The following account was released by White to The Dothan Eagle, his hometown newspaper:
Naturally, we're in a wait-and-see situation as to how this case unfolds and impacts White's availability to the Cowboys in 2018. He is one of several players hoping to catch on at the bottom of the CB depth chart, having spent his rookie season on the practice squad.
This latest legal issue is especially unwelcome news after other Cowboys' recent problems. The team has seen David Irving get suspended four games for illegal substances and Terrance Williams' get arrested for public intoxication in the last two months.
Last year, Linebacker Damien Wilson was charged for aggravated assault in a somewhat similar situation to that of Marquez White. Those charges were eventually dropped.
What happens in White's case remains to be seen.
Deadline for DeMarcus Lawrence Contract Extension Nearing
NFL teams have until July 16 to work out a long-term extension with any players currently under the franchise tag, which means the Dallas Cowboys have about a week to work something out with Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence. If deals are not signed and approved by the league by 4 P.M. ET July 16, the sides cannot agree to new contracts until after the 2018 season ends.
Along with the Lawrence, Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell, Detroit Lions DE Ziggy Ansah, and Los Angeles Rams S Lamarcus Joyner have franchise tags slapped on them. All of them would love the long-term security a contract extension would provide, but they are all going to have to wait and see what the upcoming week has in store for them.
So, what will the Dallas Cowboys decide to do with DeMarcus Lawrence? Can they come to terms on a long-term contract extension before the deadline on July 16?
Luckily for Lawrence, the Dallas Cowboys seem open about hearing what he believes his market value is. That doesn't mean he will get his asking price, but the talks have to begin somewhere.
Rumors are already circulating that Lawrence is seeking a five-year extension and wants to make more money than Danielle Hunter, who the Vikings just signed to a five-year $72 million contract. That's probably more money than the Cowboys have in mind at this time. They may prefer to wait and see if he can replicate what he accomplished in 2017.
Last season DeMarcus Lawrence turned into the "War Daddy" Owner Jerry Jones has been seeking for the defense. He accumulated a career-high 14.5 quarterback sacks and finally played an entire 16 game season. But, even that may not be worth the money he is rumored to be seeking right now.
Hunter's five-your $72 million contract extension is the going price right now for someone of Lawrence's caliber, but there are other players in line for a big payday as well. Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, and Jadeveon Clowney are all in the same boat as Lawrence. What kind of extensions they receive could change the going rate, which could cause some hesitance on the Cowboys part.
Fortunately, I kind of doubt DeMarcus Lawrence is going to complain much if he has to play the 2018 season under the franchise tag. He will make a little over $17 million for one year and has a chance to cash in big time if he can replicate what he did a season ago.
Would you sign DeMarcus Lawrence to an extension before the July 16 deadline?
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