Welcome to this week's edition of Martin's 5!
The Dallas Cowboys really have absolutely nothing to play for this week against the Philadelphia Eagles, so the most important thing to them should be protecting their players from suffering any kind of injuries that would put them in jeopardy of being available for the playoffs.
It is no secret that the Eagles absolutely hate anything and everything about the Dallas Cowboys. They will be doing their best to finish the season on a high note, just like they did last week against the New York Giants.
You could say that the Eagles pretty much dominated the New York Giants last week, the only team that has beaten the Cowboys, a fact I'm sure the Eagles are well aware of.
Another dominating win over a division foe could go a long ways in building the confidence of the organization for next season, especially since they could be the only team in the NFC East to miss the playoffs this year.
So, you can bet the Philadelphia Eagles will be on their "A" game Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.
Having said all that, here is the five things I'm wondering about this week. I hope you enjoy.
One: Although it was several seasons ago, Jerry Jones and even Jason Garrett still have that 2007 season fresh in their minds about the disappointing early exit from the playoffs. That is why they have said that they plan on playing their starters in hopes of carrying that momentum into the postseason. What I'm wondering is how much we will see Dak Prescott and other key members of the team play against the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend? The offensive line will already be without Tyron Smith because of a MCL sprain he suffered against the Detroit Lions last week, so that leaves Prescott's blindside a little bit more exposed. If I'm Jason Garrett and the coaching staff, I'm keeping a close eye on how the protection is holding up for #4 and whether or not he is taking unnecessary hits. I'm not going to risk him getting banged up for a meaningless game. I would honestly treat this like a preseason game by getting the starters a little work, but closely monitoring who might need a little extra rest.
Two: As much as I wanted to see Ezekiel Elliott challenge Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record, it unfortunately doesn't seem as if it is all that important to him or the Dallas Cowboys. The coaching staff decided to give the majority of the second half carries to Darren McFadden against the Detroit Lions, even though a few more big gains by Elliott would have put him within range of legitimately breaking Dickerson's record. I wonder if Elliott will end up regretting not being more adamant about trying to break the record? I know he is saying the right thing right now by focusing on the team goals, but to fall short of a record that has stood for so long after being so close has to weigh on his mind just a little bit. I don't expect Ezekiel Elliott to receive very many carries against the Philadelphia Eagles this week. I think Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris will handle the majority of the workload. I expect Elliott to receive 10-15 carries at most.
Three: The Dallas Cowboys announced that Mark Sanchez will be the backup for Dak Prescott this week against the Philadelphia Eagles. It's not all that surprising if you consider that they have been pretty adamant about protecting Tony Romo against injury so that he is available in the postseason if needed. But, what I'm wondering is how much different the offense will look with Sanchez at QB? Sanchez has some mobility, but nothing like Prescott. It will be really interesting to see how offensive coordinator Scott Linehan tries to play to the strengths of Sanchez, especially against the Philadelphia Eagles who have been pretty good about getting after opposing QB's. I've heard several people who would like to see Mark Sanchez return next season to be the backup QB to Dak Prescott, so this could give us a glimpse of the future the QB position.
Four: Mark Sanchez might not be the only one auditioning for a roster spot with the Dallas Cowboys in the future. Emmett Cleary, the Cowboys swing tackle the season, could also make a case for continuing his career with the organization. Cleary is in his second season in the NFL out of Boston College and will be playing left tackle in place of the injured Tyron Smith this week against the Eagles. This will be a tough task for Cleary, because the Eagles have one of the better defensive lines in the NFL. I'm sure the Cowboys will give him a little extra help, but there will be times where he will have to win some one-on-one battles. If Cleary performs pretty well, he could earn a future roster spot with the Cowboys, which could be a big bonus for the organization because of the lack of depth at the position. Doug Free is signed through 2017, Chaz Green can't stay healthy, so Tyron Smith is the only one that can really be counted on in the future. Don't be surprised if this is a position of need once the draft comes around.
Five: The Dallas Cowboys have secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but I'm wondering how much of an advantage the hometown crowd can give the Cowboys? We have seen in the past that the crowd isn't always dominated by Cowboys fans. This could be the year where season-ticket holders don't sell their tickets and are actually attending the games. This team has been exciting from the get-go and Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott have a lot to do with that. Teams around the NFL hate going on the road and playing in places like Arrowhead Stadium and CenturyLink Stadium because of the crowd noise. Maybe with the excitement surrounding this year's team the Cowboys can turn their stadium into one of those types of venues. We can only hope that is the case, because it could go a long ways in helping the Dallas Cowboys hold an advantage over their opponents.
Is there anything you are wondering about this week?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share anything you're wondering about this week.
Travis Frederick’s Return Named Cowboys Biggest Reason For Excitement
Overall, Cowboys Nation feels to be in a positive mood during this year's offseason. Despite early angst over lack of action at the start of free agency, and concern over the Cowboys' draft strategy, most within the fan base seem to have high, yet realistic, hopes for the 2019 season.
Most seem to believe the NFC East will be a two team race, with the last two champions battling for the crown once again down the stretch of the season. Others can see the potential for a dark-horse candidate in Washington, but still believe the Cowboys roster has the edge.
So while Cowboys fans may not think they need a singular reason to look forward to the Fall of 2019, Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski gave them one this week.
NFL Brent Sobleski @@brentsobleski Twitter Logo NFL Analyst The offseason can be as thrilling for NFL fans as the regular season. Player movement constantly refreshes rosters-whether through free agency, the draft or trades. Significant changes inject excitement into franchises, personnel and fanbases. A one-time league doormat can become the league's "it' team simply through a string of acquisitions.
Brent identified the biggest reason for each team to look forward to 2019, with the return of center Travis Frederick being the Cowboys' submission. There's no question that when healthy, Frederick is one of the best centers in the game, and anchors an offensive line many still consider to be at the top of the league.
"A full year with wide receiver Amari Cooper and re-signing Demarcus Lawrence to a long-term deal are both reasons for the Dallas Cowboys to be excited. However, the return of Travis Frederick to man the middle of the offensive line is far more pertinent."
Frederick missed all of the 2018 season after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disease that I am not nearly qualified enough to discuss. What I do know is that it can be very serious, and it kept Frederick out for the entire year.
The Cowboys offensive line suffered during the early part of 2018, largely due in part to Travis Frederick's absence. Yes, Joe Looney filled in and played as well as anyone could have hoped for, but the disconnect in communication across the offensive line was clear without their usual center. Especially during the first couple months of the season.
If Frederick is fully back and healthy, his presence alone will take the Cowboys offensive line back towards their peak. Combine his comeback with a healthy Zack Martin, and a now bulked up Connor Williams, and the interior of this line has the chance to be special.
3 Dallas Cowboys Who Could Make Pro Bowl Debuts this Season
Every year, the Dallas Cowboys send quite a few players to the Pro Bowl. This year, the Cowboys sent eight players to the Pro Bowl with Leighton Vander Esch and Byron Jones being selected to their first Pro Bowl squad.
There is a lot of talent on this year's roster and the Cowboys will likely send someone to the annual all-star game that hasn't been there before. Here are three I think will make a push for Pro Bowl recognition in 2019.
Chidobe Awuzie, Cornerback
In the first half of the season, Chidobe Awuzie got picked on a bit. His coverage was always pretty good, but he allowed a ton of receptions. Awuzie allowed the ninth highest passer rating in coverage, the 12th most receptions, the 10th most yards, and tied for the sixth most touchdowns allowed weeks 1-9 of 2018.
In the second half, including the playoffs, Awuzie was much better and showed a higher level of comfort. His passer rating allowed dropped 50 points and was the 17th lowest in the league among corners who played at least 197 coverage snaps. He allowed fewer receptions, yards, and touchdowns in the 10 games over the second half than he allowed in the first eight games of the season.
Awuzie is one of the tougher players on the team. He plays with a similar edge that DeMarcus Lawrence does on the defensive line.
After spending part of his rookie season injured and rotating in, Awuzie found his stride in the second half of 2018 and was one of the Cowboys better cover players. Going into his third season in the NFL, the Cowboys 2017 second round pick looks to be an ascending player that could make some noise for postseason awards.
Tony Pollard, Running Back/Kick Returner
The Dallas Cowboys went into the 2019 NFL Draft looking to find a gadget player they could use on offense, but just as important, they wanted a player who could contribute in the return game. They got him in Rookie Tony Pollard.
Over the course of three seasons and 87 returns, Pollard averaged 30 yards per kick return and returned seven kickoffs for scores. In 2017, Pollard averaged an insane 40 yards per return. He's an incredibly dynamic player with the ball in his hands and though he wasn't used much on punt returns, shows an ability to make people miss and read his blockers.
As Stephen Jones said, "he's got a little Alvin Kamara to him." As a ball carrier, Pollard averaged 7.7 and 7.1 yards per carry over his final two seasons at Memphis. He was dynamic as a receiver as well averaging more than 12.4 yards per reception over three seasons in college.
With Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys may not give Pollard enough snaps and touches to have an Alvin Kamara like rookie campaign (120 carries for 728 yards, 8 touchdowns and 81 receptions for 826 yards and 5 touchdowns), but if he's given half that workload, plus what he could do on returns, he'll make noise for Pro Bowl consideration.
Jaylon Smith, Linebacker
It was a bit surprising to go back and look at which linebackers made the Pro Bowl and not see Jaylon Smith's name. As good as Rookie Leighton Vander Esch was, Jaylon Smith might have been better. By standard metrics -- tackles, interceptions, tackles for loss -- Vander Esch totaled more. Advanced metrics like defensive EPA (expected points added) and playmaking EPA, favored Jaylon Smith's season.
Overall playmaking EPA rank among all NFL defenders: 5. DeMarcus Lawrence 7. Jaylon Smith 58. Leighton Vander Esch
Jaylon Smith didn't rack up the tackles like Vander Esch, but he was far more impactful over the course of the season. That's not to diminish Vander Esch's contribution to the Cowboys success in 2018. It's important to show Jaylon Smith his due, though.
Smith recorded four sacks, two forced fumbles, four passes defended to go along with his 120 combined tackles in 2018. And that was just his second full season back from the devastating knee injury he suffered in college.
Another season removed from the injury should make Jaylon Smith more confident and more explosive in 2019, which should lead to another outstanding season for the Dallas Cowboys Middle Linebacker.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Don't let anyone tell you that Pro Bowls don't matter. They do. Sure, All-Pro awards are the more highly coveted recognition, but to the players and to their agents, Pro Bowl selections matter. It's not as exclusive, but in a league with 1,696 players being one of 88 is still a really nice honor. To be a Pro Bowl player mean's you're in the top 5% of NFL players.
Obviously, we'd all prefer none of the Dallas Cowboys play in the Pro Bowl. Because that would mean they'd be preparing to play for that elusive sixth Lombardi Trophy. The Cowboys have always provided quite a few participants to the Pro Bowl game, but if the participation was zero in 2020, it wouldn't be all bad.
Will “Rumored” Position Change Help Keep LB Sean Lee Healthy?
Rumors and speculation. That's the point of the offseason we have reached with the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL. That's not necessarily a bad thing because it means players are staying out of trouble, but it's still a slow time nonetheless.
Today, I'd like to dive into some of the rumors and speculation surrounding the Dallas Cowboys right now. I thought I'd start off with Linebacker Sean Lee, and his "rumored" position change heading into the 2019 season. I think it's something worth discussing, as it is just about anything involving General Lee.
If rumors are correct, the Dallas Cowboys are considering a position change for Sean Lee in 2019. He's been their starting weak side linebacker (WILL) pretty much ever since they went to a 4-3 defense, but could be making a move to the strong side (SAM) to replace Damien Wilson. If true, this is interesting on so many different levels.
Sean Lee was initially moved to WILL in the Cowboys 4-3 defense years ago in order to hopefully protect him from the reoccurring injuries he was sustaining year after year. The thought was he would be better protected by not having to fight through so much trash or take on as much contact on the weak side. This was true to some degree, but unfortunately the injury bug continued to bite.
With that in mind, it seems strange the Cowboys are considering moving Sean Lee to SAM since it's considered to be a more physical position to play than he's use to. There is a lot more physicality and contact involved playing on the strong side, which you would think would make him more susceptible to the problem that's plagued his entire career, injuries.
The thought process of having Sean Lee switch to a more physical position seems like a strange one on the surface. A player who has struggled to remain healthy his entire career moving to play a more physically demanding position seems odd, but not if you were to look beyond the obvious.
Yes, the SAM LB position is more physically demanding, but doesn't receive a lot of playing time in the Cowboys 4-3 defense. Damien Wilson only played 30.72% of the defensive snaps in 2017 and 27.93% in 2018. Playing less snaps could actually play in Sean Lee's favor and potentially keep him healthy. That would make the move a win-win for No. 50 and the Cowboys.
A healthy Sean Lee playing SAM would be an upgrade over Damien Wilson. It would also give the Dallas Cowboys arguably the best starting 4-3 linebackers in the entire NFL. You may disagree, but I challenge you to find a better starting trio. I don't think it's possible.
Of course, all of this is just a rumor we are forced to speculate about right now, but it's still interesting to discuss nonetheless. I don't know how all of this will play out in the end, but I can't really think of any reason why Sean Lee shouldn't get the first crack at replacing Damien Wilson as the strong side linebacker in 2019.
Maybe, just maybe this will be the move that will finally keep him healthy.
What do you think? Do you like the idea of Sean Lee making a position change?
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