Welcome to this week's edition of Martin's 5!
The Dallas Cowboys put together an impressive performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week on the road and improved to 8-1. This week they will face another AFC North division team when they take on the Baltimore Ravens at AT&T Stadium.
The Ravens quietly have one of the better defenses in the NFL, so it could be a tough test for the Cowboys offense if they aren't careful.
Honestly, the Baltimore Ravens don't really scare me that much, but you can't underestimate any team in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys have the momentum on their side and I look for them to come out and dominate once again.
Even though I'm nearly 100% confident they will beat the Baltimore Ravens this week, there are still quite a few things that are rambling around my head that I can't quit thinking about.
Luckily, this was the sole purpose of Martin's 5 and now I get to share them with you to hopefully get some answers, or at the very least get them out my head.
Below are the five things I'm wondering about this week. I hope you enjoy.
One: Tony Romo addressed the media Tuesday afternoon with a statement he prepared before hand. He didn't answer any questions, but he did speak from the heart. You could tell that he was visually shaken up and emotional while reading his statement, and the only thing I could think of while watching was whether or not his career in Dallas is over? I'll personally go on record as saying that I believe that Tony Romo is without a doubt the best quarterback on the Cowboys roster, and that in no way meant as a slap in the face to Dak Prescott. I'll even take this a step further and say that I don't think Prescott performs as well as he has been without Romo's help preparing him week in and week out. I would hate to see Romo's career end like this with the Dallas Cowboys. He has done so much for this organization and probably doesn't get the respect that he deserves.
Two: Let's stick with Tony Romo here for a little bit longer. If he is indeed active this week against the Baltimore Ravens, I wonder if offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will have some packages ready for Romo in the game plan for certain situations? Where Tony Romo improves this offense the most is in the passing game, so it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility see him brought in if the coaching staff believes he gives the offense the best chance to convert. I truly believe that Tony Romo makes this team better, but I'm not ready to hand the reins over with the way Dak Prescott has been playing. Maybe Romo can get a series or two in trash time because the Cowboys are completely dominating the Ravens late in the game.
Three: Ezekiel Elliott has been simply outstanding for the Dallas Cowboys this season and is still on pace to break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record. I wonder if he has now become the favorite to win NFL MVP. Elliott joins the likes of Eric Dickerson and Adrian Peterson as the only running backs to break the 1,000 yard mark in the first nine games of the season. If he continues to play this way, I don't see how he isn't the unanimous selection to win NFL MVP. Of course, Dak Prescott could have something to say about that if he continues to start and play the way he has been. Take a look people. This is our future for the Dallas Cowboys.
Four: When is enough enough? News broke a few days ago that Randy Gregory has failed yet another drug test, but somehow he is still on the Cowboys roster. I wonder if Jerry Jones and Company should make an example out of Gregory or if they will continue to stand by him while he works through his problems? Jones has shown in the past that he's willing to stick with talented players despite their off the field problems, but does Jason Garrett feel the same way? Garrett is still the head coach and should probably have the ultimate say in these types of decisions, but that's not the way Jerry Jones operates. This team is performing really well, and that has a lot to do with the fact they have been relatively drama free this year. The situation will definitely be worth keeping an eye on.
Five: Geoff Swaim tore his pectoral muscle in the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers and could possibly miss the remainder of the season. I wonder if his absence on the field will have a bigger impact on the offense then we would expect? Swaim has been reliable in the passing game when his number has been called, but his biggest impact on the offense is blocking in the running game. James Hanna isn't ready to rejoin the team after his knee surgery, so it looks like Gavin Escobar will replace Swaim in the lineup. Escobar is more of the receiving type of tight end and really struggles securing blocks in the running game. That is one of the reasons why he hasn't been utilized as much on offense. It will be really interesting to see how the coaching staff accounts for Swaim's absence and if it has a negative impact for the team. Maybe they activate Rico Gathers from their practice squad?
What are you wondering about this week?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share with all of us anything you have on your mind this week.
Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?
It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.
These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.
Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.
Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.
This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.
Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.
The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.
It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.
Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.
As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.
For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp
The Dallas Cowboys patience with Defensive End Randy Gregory has paid off. Suspended for the better part of 2016 and all of 2017, Gregory has officially been reinstated to join the team for their 2018 training camp. The projected starter at RDE, Gregory will report to Oxnard with the rest of the team on July 25th.
From here, it will be all hard work for Gregory to reconnect with Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and get his promising career back on track. The last time Gregory suited up for the Cowboys, he managed to sack Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz in a week 17 win. The Cowboys will be expecting much more of this from a player they've supported through multiple violations of the league's heavily criticized substance abuse policy.
Cowboys pass-rusher Randy Gregory's petition for reinstatement was not opposed, according to lawyer Daniel Moskowitz. He's back. "I've never been more proud of any individual in my life. I'm very excited for Randy and his daughter and the rest of the his family.
Among this support staff for Gregory were a number of teammates that wrote formal letters to the NFL as part of his bid for reinstatement. These last few days of preparation before the Cowboys are together again as a team will surely be uplifted by Gregory's presence.
They say no news is typically good news at this point in the offseason, something the Cowboys have come to realize far too often. Today's news shouldn't be confused with a pleasant surprise however, rather something the Cowboys were committed to in getting another premier pass rusher on the field.
Here is the NFL's official press release on their reinstatement of Randy Gregory:
Cowboys & DeMarcus Lawrence Fail to Reach New Contract
DeMarcus Lawrence will definitely be a Cowboy in 2018, but now the future beyond that remains in question. The Dallas Cowboys and their star defensive end did not agree to a long-term contract by today's deadline for franchise-tagged players.
According to NFL rules, teams had until 4:00 pm EST today to reach contract extensions with free agents who'd been assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Players who did not get new deals will have to play the 2018 season on their one-year franchise tenders.
DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys were unable to work out a long-term contract by today's deadline. Lawrence will play the 2018 season under a one-year franchise tag that will pay him $17.1 million
This does not mean Lawrence will be a free agent in 2019. The two parties can still discuss the contract in the months to come, but the deal cannot be made until after the end of the regular season.
Dallas also has the option of giving DeMarcus a second franchise tag next year. However, that would come at a considerably higher price for a second-straight season.
This year, Lawrence will still make plenty with one of the highest cap hits of any DE in the league. He earned the franchise tag last with 14.5 sacks in a breakout season.
Today's news may not really be a big deal in the long run. As long as Tank wants to stay in Dallas after this, the two sides now have over five months to keep talking and will hopefully agree on a new deal for 2019 and beyond.
There is risk on both sides, of course.
Lawrence's leverage could be less if his productions drops or he gets injured. On the other hand, his position could be even stronger with a second-straight year of strong play.
Now everyone, from the team to player to fans, is in wait-and-see mode until the end of the season.
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