Welcome to this week's edition of Martin's 5!
The Dallas Cowboys have a chance to lock up home-field advantage with a win over the Detroit Lions Monday night. That would be a huge advantage once the playoffs get underway.
Of course, if they are able to lock up home-field advantage, that means that the last game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles is pretty much meaningless.
A lot of people are starting to speculate if the Cowboys will sit their starters in order to assure their availability in the postseason, but I think we are getting ahead of ourselves. I don't know about you, but I like to take things one game at a time.
Even though we are closing out the 2016 regular-season, there are still a lot of questions surrounding this team despite their success.
Below are five things that are running through my head this week ahead of the matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions.
One: The players that made the 2017 Pro Bowl were recently released this week. The Dallas Cowboys have five of their players voted in that could play in Orlando, Florida if they're not playing in the Super Bowl, but Sean Lee isn't one of them. I'll be completely honest here, I wasn't that surprised that #50 missed out getting voted into the Pro Bowl. The way the ballot is set up for the voting has Sean Lee listed as an outside linebacker. That means he is competing against players like Von Miller and Khalil Mack, although technically they are entirely different types of players. Lee is more of a traditional inside linebacker, while Miller and Mack are outside linebacker/pass rushers. Lee will never have the QB sacks like a 3-4 linebacker, just like 3-4 linebackers will never have the tackle numbers like Lee has. Having said all that, I wonder if it's time that the voting criteria changes? Sean Lee without a doubt played at a Pro Bowl level, but wasn't voted in on what I believe is a disappointing technicality. I personally think it's time to clearly differentiate the differences between a 4-3 linebacker and a 3-4 linebacker.
Two: I'm going to stay on the topic of Sean Lee here for second, because I'm wondering if he is going to be paying any extra attention to where Golden Tate is on the field this week? If you remember a few seasons ago when Golden Tate was still a member of the Seattle Seahawks, he had a vicious blindside hit on Sean Lee, that a lot of us believed was a dirty play. Now, I'm not saying Lee will go out of his way to target Tate, but if Tate is the one with the ball in his hands and Lee is in the vicinity, #50 could put a little extra pop in his hit when making the tackle. I don't know about you, but I would love to see Sean Lee deliver a big hit to Golden Tate Monday night. It would kinda be like poetic justice and hopefully set the tone for the game. You can bet that the entire defense remembers that dirty hit Tate delivered years ago, even if they weren't a member of the Dallas Cowboys at the time.
Three: A lot of eyes will be on Ezekiel Elliott this week as he gets closer and closer to breaking Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record. Elliott is currently just 258 yards shy of Dickerson's record, but I wonder how much #21 and the Dallas Cowboys will focus on breaking that record? Personally, I would love to see Ezekiel Elliott break Eric Dickerson's long-standing rookie rushing record, but not at the expense of harming his availability for the postseason. Elliott is a huge reason why the Cowboys have been so successful this season. Because of him, the Dallas Cowboys have pretty much been able to win the time of possession in just about every game this season and that has really helped keep the defense fresh. That is something that needs to continue in the postseason and one of the reasons why I think Elliott and the Cowboys should probably put the rookie rushing record on the back burner. Individual accolades are great and all, but not over the team success.
Four: Darren McFadden played his first game in 2016 last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was already used in some unexpected ways. I wonder if Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan will continue to find new and creative ways to incorporate McFadden into the game plan? McFadden's versatility and fresh legs could be a huge benefit from here on out for the Cowboys offense, especially in the postseason. He can be a threat in the passing game, he is good in pass protection, and he can help spell Ezekiel Elliott from time to time if needed. There are number different ways he can help the offense, but it will really be interesting to see how Linehan uses him.
Five: It looks like Randy Gregory could possibly make his 2016 debut this week against the Detroit Lions, but I wonder what kind of impact he can have for the defense? Gregory has been able to work out at the facility while serving his suspension, but hasn't really practiced at all the entire season. That makes me wonder what kind of game shape is actually in and if he would really be an upgrade over the current defensive ends on the roster? We all know that the defense for the Dallas Cowboys could use all the help they can mustard to help improve their pass rush, so Gregory's addition could possibly help in that area, at least that's what we're all hoping. The Cowboys will have a tough decision to make regarding whether or not they add Randy Gregory to the active roster this week. If he is added to the roster, that means someone has to be cut. Who's the odd man out?
Is there anything your wondering about this week?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions on this topic.
Is it Too Late For Dallas to Fire OC Scott Linehan?
Grab your pitchforks and your torches, it's time to run the Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan out of town. His playcalling has been absolutely atrocious season and it's time for him to hit the road, even if there are only two regular-season games left on the schedule.
It's completely unorthodox for an NFL team to fire an offensive coordinator this late in the season, but just last week we saw the Minnesota Vikings do just that when they parted ways with John DeFilippo. It was definitely a bold move to make considering the Vikings are still in playoff contention, but it was something they believed was in the best interest of their team.
I believe if the Dallas Cowboys want to do what's best for their team right now and not later, then they should go ahead and cut ties with Scott Linehan. His predictability and un-creativeness as a play caller is holding back a talented offense, which is hurting the overall team as a result. He's been given every opportunity to turn things around, but enough is enough.
I'd personally be on board with Jason Garrett taking over the playcalling duties. He has the experience and held the position with the Cowboys from 2007 until Linehan was hired. I'd even consider giving Kellen Moore a shot as the OC. He knows the system and has worked closely with Quarterback Dak Prescott. Regardless, the Cowboys need to find some way to increase their offensive productivity.
Right now the Cowboys offense is the 26th scoring offense in the NFL and are averaging just 19.7 points per game. To make matters worse they are the 31st ranked Red Zone offense in the league. I don't know about you, but I think that is completely unacceptable with the talent they have on the offensive side of the ball.
Firing Linehan has been a long time coming. The Cowboys flirted with the idea earlier this season during the bye week and should've pulled the trigger then, but for some reason or another decided to let him stick around. They are definitely still paying for that mistake now.
The Cowboys mistake not to replace Linehan could mean yet another early exit in the playoffs, something we have unfortunately become accustomed to. Scoring just 19 points a game isn't going to get them very far, which is truly unfortunate considering the talent they've acquired this season.
Unfortunately, as much as we would love to see Scott Linehan tarred and feathered and run out of town, I just don't see the Cowboys doing that before their season is officially over. But, in no way should he be allowed to retain his position beyond this season. He clearly isn't the answer any longer.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys should fire Scott Linehan?
Despite Embarrassing Showing, Health Remains Biggest Cowboys Concern
What is it about the AFC South with these Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas' five game winning streak came to a close on Sunday, as they got straight-up embarrassed by the now 8-6 Indianapolis Colts on the road. The loss was the first since the Cowboys were embarrassed by a different AFC South competitor, the Tennessee Titans, on Monday night football earlier this season.
Though the final was 23-0, and not a single phase (or really even a single player) showed much fight or promise, the biggest concern I have for the Cowboys moving forward didn't change because of the putrid performance. It didn't change because the defense was gashed play after play or the offense failed to finish a single drive. And it didn't even change because both the Redskins and Eagles secured season-saving victories on the same day Dallas was dismantled.
The biggest concern is still their health, particularly across the offensive line.
That was not a playoff caliber interior offensive line the Cowboys put out their on Sunday. Not even close.
With their backup center in Joe Looney, backup guard in Connor Williams, and the very last interior offensive linemen on their roster in Adam Redmond playing for basically the entire game, this offense never had a chance. Dak Prescott wasn't any more inaccurate or indecisive than normal, but all those who like to scream "step up in the pocket" whenever he is sacked did not seem to have an argument this week.
There often was no pocket to step into, as those interior three, specifically Looney and Redmond, failed to provide much protection or confidence for Prescott at all. Joe Looney has actually been rather solid this season, but Sunday felt like one of his worst games of the entire year.
The Cowboys absolutely need Zack Martin to get healthy if they are to make any noise whatsoever in the postseason. At the very least, the need Xavier Su'a-Filo to come back and replace Redmond, and regain the form he displayed during his debut against the Eagles back in November.
Prescott already has issues with his pocket presence and footwork when pressured, so throwing three backup-level linemen right in front of him is not a recipe for success for the Cowboys.
I'm not jumping out of the window over this loss, and I don't think any of you should be either. Dallas had won three straight incredibly emotional and important home games to extend, save, and solidify their season respectively before this loss. They had also just about clinched the NFC East a week ago with their win over Philadelphia, and they played like a team that was due a flat performance
A letdown loss on the road, against a good team I might add, is not the end of the world. The bigger issue here is their health, because if Martin can return to anchor this offensive line, the offense should look a whole lot better than they did against Indianapolis.
It's time to move on from Sunday, go beat Tampa Bay, officially clinch the division, and get ready for Wild Card Weekend.
Where In The World Is DE Taco Charlton?
Over pretty much the last decade, the Dallas Cowboys have been rock solid with their first round picks. With selections of Ezekiel Elliott, Travis Frederick, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Leighton Vander Esch (just to name a handful), Dallas has rebuilt the core of their roster through the NFL Draft.
It's nearly impossible to bat .1000 in any round of the draft, however, and this appears to be the current case with the Cowboys' 2017 first round pick.
Defensive end Taco Charlton has not had the sophomore season that he, or anyone, had hoped for. A healthy scratch last Sunday, Charlton has only been active for 1 of the Cowboys' last 5 games, and has not recorded a sack or tackle since week 9.
Prior to disappearing with injuries and "attitude issues," Charlton had only recorded 1 sack on the season and was beginning to fall behind his Hot Boy-brethren. Defensive end Randy Gregory has reached his form over the last few weeks, Tyrone Crawford is having arguably a career year, and DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the best ends in all of football.
This doesn't leave much room for Charlton, who's now having issues even getting on the gameday roster. Rod Marinelli dodged questions about Taco Charlton earlier this week, vaguely saying they are "moving forward" and that he'd like to talk about other players on his defensive line who are performing.
Rod Marinelli on Taco Charlton's benching and being inactive last week: "We just keep moving along keep going forward. It's kinda been out there I'd leave it at that. I'd rather talk about our two tackles.
Charlton has not been quiet about his displeasure as of late, either. He's taken to Twitter to voice his frustrations, saying that not only is his shoulder fine but that the Dallas media is making up stories about his absence. He's also posted some cryptic tweets such as this one, with a picture of Allen Iverson and a caption reading "Every players needs that one coach to believe in them."
Maybe Taco is right. Maybe he just needs increased opportunity and a support system/coach that believes in him whole-heartedly. After all, Charlton has faced nothing but doubters and detractors since the second he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.
But in the NFL, the ultimate "what have you done for me lately" sport, it's hard to imagine he'll get that unwavering support anywhere in the league. He's going to have to "earn" his playing time, as head coach Jason Garrett spoke to earlier in the week. But with the plethora of talent the Cowboys are already putting out there on the defensive line, it's becoming difficult to see exactly where Taco Charlton can fit in on this defense.
It's possible, and fine, if it is simply not a fit between Charlton and the Cowboys at this point. But I'd also be wary of giving up on your first round pick in just his second NFL season. Another offseason with the team, working on his craft and getting fully healthy, should do Charlton wonders, and hopefully allow us to get a better read on his future with the Cowboys going forward.
Until then, we are all left to scratch out heads and wonder what in the world is going on with the Cowboys and Taco Charlton, and if the former first round pick will have a future in Dallas at all.
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