Welcome to this week's edition of Martin's 5!
The Dallas Cowboys have a tough matchup this week when they hit the road to take on the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings got out to a hot start to kick off the 2016 season, but have really struggled here lately. A lot of that probably has to do with the injuries they have suffered, but they still could give the Cowboys all they can handle nonetheless.
Minnesota still has one of the best defenses in the entire NFL, so it will be really interesting to see how the Dallas Cowboys' potent offense stands up to the test.
Now, I do believe that the Cowboys will improve their winning streak to 11 games, but just because I think they win this game relatively easily, doesn't mean there aren't some lingering thoughts stuck in my head this week.
Fortunately, that's what this space was created for. I get to share with you what I'm thinking this week and hopefully you can help ease any concerns I might have.
So, without further ado, here are the five things I'm thinking about this week.
One: Voting for the players you want to see in the Pro Bowl is currently underway and that got me wondering if Cole Beasley falls into that category? Beasley has been the Dallas Cowboys best wide receiver this season and Dak Prescott learned early on that he is a quarterback's best friend. He is currently 33rd in the NFL in receiving yards, but those numbers are misleading considering the fact that he plays strictly out of the slot. It could be argued that he is at a disadvantage and can't possibly put up numbers like AJ Green or Julio Jones, so maybe the Pro Bowl should consider making a change to how we all vote for wide receivers. There are a lot of receivers in the NFL that just play in the slot, and I personally think Cole Beasley might just be the best of the bunch. It's unlikely that he gets voted in, but that doesn't mean he doesn't deserve it.
Two: Let's stick with the Pro Bowl theme here for just a little bit longer. I wonder just how many Dallas Cowboys players get voted in and make the trip to Orlando, Florida this year? Of course, we all hope that this doesn't happen because that means the Cowboys are playing in the Super Bowl, but it's still fun to speculate. I wrote an article yesterday predicting the Cowboys' 2017 Pro Bowl players and came up with eight that realistically have an excellent chance of being voted in. The better the team, the more players they usually have in the Pro Bowl. Now, eight players wouldn't shock me, but there aare also five or six others on the Cowboys roster that are playing at a Pro Bowl level. Could we possibly see a record number of Dallas Cowboys playing in the 2017 Pro Bowl?
Three: Coming out of Ohio State, Ezekiel Elliott, was regarded as one of the most complete running backs to enter the NFL Draft since Adrian Peterson. I wonder if he will be playing with any added incentive this week against the Minnesota Vikings with Peterson in attendance? Peterson and Elliott have nearly identical statistics through 11 games of their rookie seasons. Elliott has a few less rushing yards then Peterson, but has one more touchdown. Ezekiel Elliott might be playing with a little chip on the shoulder already seeing his alma mater tragically hit by a cowardly act a few days ago, so we might see him running a little bit more angry this week. That's certainly not good news for the Minnesota Vikings defense.
Four: It's no secret that the Minnesota Vikings have been decimated by injuries, especially along the offensive line. I wonder if we will see the defense in more of an attack mode this week or if defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will continue to focus on coverages? There isn't a lot to really worry about in regards to the Vikings offense. They are one the worst teams in the league running the ball and have very few consistent weapons in the receiving game. Sam Bradford is a pocket passer, so putting pressure on him could be the best way to disrupt the entire offense. The Cowboys defense hasn't been really good this year about getting after the opposing QB, but that could all change this evening against a beat up Vikings offensive line.
Five: Barry Church has been back at practice this week after missing several games with a broken forearm. His return couldn't have come at a better time with J.J. Wilcox likely to miss this game with a thigh contusion, but I wonder what kind of impact Church can have after missing so much time? Church is one of the better defensive players for the Cowboys, but is he still in game shape after missing several weeks? I don't believe the coaching staff would put Church back out on the field if he wasn't ready, but we could see Jeff Heath utilized little more just in case. I personally think Barry Church has an impact play this evening that changes the course of the entire game.
Is there any thing your wondering about this week?
Don't forget to take advantage of the comment section below to share anything you're wondering about this week.
Is Kavon Frazier Fighting a Losing Battle With the Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas Cowboys Safety Kavon Frazier has one year remaining on his rookie contract, but may not see the end of it with the same team who drafted him. In fact, it really looks as if he is already fighting a losing battle in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys signed Free Agent George Iloka and drafted Donavan Wilson out of Texas A&M in the sixth-round of the 2019 NFL Draft in the hopes of upgrading the safety position. That doesn't bode well for Kavon Frazier, especially after seeing his defensive snaps take hit in 2018.
After the arrival of Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard, Frazier saw his playing time on defense go from 21.24% in 2017 to 18.07% in 2018. It's not a huge difference, but it's pretty obvious the Cowboys value his special-teams ability, not his defensive play.
The way I see things, Kavon Frazier is a longshot to make the Cowboys final 53-man roster this year. At best, I have him fifth or sixth on the depth chart right now. Since Dallas typically only carries four safeties on the roster, it's looking as if Frazier could inevitably be the odd man out.
I personally have Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, and George Iloka ahead of Kavon Frazier right now on the depth chart. That means he's competing with Darian Thompson, who is also playing on a one-year deal, and rookie Donovan Wilson for that fourth and final roster spot at the safety position. Unfortunately for Frazier, it looks as if the odds are against him.
Donovan Wilson has already had to step into Frazier's shoes while he was out in OTA's after having his knee scoped, and has been pretty impressive doing so. He has supposedly picked up the defensive scheme pretty quickly and is becoming a vocal leader on the backend. Being a younger, cheaper option, Wilson has a better chance of sticking around on the final 53-man roster over Frazier.
As you can see, Kavon Frazier is fighting an uphill battle with the Dallas Cowboys. It of course is nothing new for him. He's had to fight his way onto the roster ever since he joined the Cowboys, but this year just seems a little different in my opinion. It just looks as if the odds are more against him this time around.
I have no doubts Frazier will continue to fight with every ounce of his being, but if I'm being completely honest I think he's fighting a losing battle. It's going to be really interesting to see how this roster battle at the safety position plays out in training camp and preseason.
Do you think Kavon Frazier is fighting a losing battle with the Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas Cowboys: The Case For Regression In 2019
It's been a few years since things around the Dallas Cowboys felt this good prior to a season. Coming off a 10-6 year in which Dallas won both the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a one possession road game to the future NFC champions, Cowboys Nation is expecting some big things in 2019.
After all, the Cowboys went out and improved their roster in multiple ways this offseason and brought in some new blood on their offensive coaching staff. Spirits are high among Cowboys Nation, and just about everyone is anticipating a two team race for the NFC East.
But some numbers indicate we should be thinking "not so fast."
The details of the 2018 season are not as pretty as the total picture. Rarely are they ever, of course, but these particular details point towards possible regression for the Cowboys in 2019.
Basically, their point differential a year ago spells out impending doom. (That was dramatic, but let's discuss).
The Cowboys were +15 in 2018, and by pythagorean wins expectation, they were about as strong as an 8-8 team (8.53 wins to be exact). This means they won nearly 2 more games (1.47) than would be expected, fourth most in the entire NFL.
This point is furthered when looking at their record in one possession games. Dallas went 8-2 when the game was decided by 7 points or less, winning close games at a rate that is simply not sustainable year to year.
These numbers make the Cowboys a prime candidate for regression in 2019, as they were in 2017.
Back in 2016, the Cowboys outperformed their pythagorean expectation by a whole 2 wins. The following season? Dallas finished the year 9-7. The model also indicated that the 7-9 Eagles performed 2 wins under expectations in 2016, meaning they would get back on track in 2017. As we know, they ended up winning 13 games and the Super Bowl the following season.
Of course, this isn't set-in-stone, and the Cowboys very well could outperform these expectations and avoid regression. This would mainly hinge on their coaching staff and quarterback performing at an elite level, carrying them through close games and winning more games by greater than one possession.
Newly Acquired DE Robert Quinn Brings High Expectations
Winning games in the NFL typically comes down to accomplishing two goals. One, being successful when passing on offense. And, two, stopping the opposing team's passing game.
The Cowboys set out to accomplish that second goal this offseason, re-signing defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and trading for veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn, who tallied 6.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins, is one of the leagues more feared rushers when at his best. The former All Pro has multiple 10+ sack seasons under his belt, including a whopping 19 in 2013.
And, as expected, the Cowboys coaching staff is ecstatic to have such a respected pass rushing specialist on their roster.
“He’s got that first step. He’s an established pass rusher in this league, so he’s going to bring some good stuff for us.” - Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
The Cowboys acquired Robert Quinn for a 2020 6th round pick, which could end up being the steal of the offseason. Quinn has played with some top-notch pass rushers in the past, and each time they have brought out the best in his own game.
Back with the Rams in 2017, when Aaron Donald was on the same defensive line, Quinn got to the quarterback 8.5 times. And, last season, he remained consistent in his sack totals playing alongside Cameron Wake. Now he joins a DeMarcus Lawrence who has 25 sacks over the last 2 seasons.
"I think it was kind of one of those where I get to have fun, pin my ears back and just disrupt the backfield, which is what they want us to do." - Robert Quinn told NFL.com.
Quinn and the always dominant Lawrence will form an impressive defensive end duo on passing downs, with the potential to be one of the best in all of football. Dallas is also hoping to add Randy Gregory into this mix, a piece which could prove vital late in football games if he is able to return from his current indefinite suspension.
Whether or not Gregory finds his way back onto the field, though, this defensive front will be in good hands. The edge combo of Quinn and Lawrence, combined with a plethora of skilled interior rushers such as Maliek Collins, gives the Cowboys a fearsome defensive line which should keep quarterbacks uncomfortable every Sunday.
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