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Martin’s 5: When Will DeMarcus Lawrence Make An Impact?

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Headlines -  93

Welcome to this week's edition of Martin's 5!

How many times do you get something stuck in your head and can't quite get rid of that thought? Well, that's what this space is for and why I created Martin's 5 to begin with.

Each week I come up with five different things I'm wondering about in regards to the Dallas Cowboys and their upcoming game. I use this space to share with you things that are rattling around in my head in hopes of getting some kind of answer, or at the very least throw them out there with hope that they won't return.

This week the Dallas Cowboys renew an old historic rivalry when they travel to Heinz Field and take on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

This game could come down to which offense can score more points, but the Cowboys are  firing on all cylinders right now, while the Steelers seem to be sputtering just a little bit. Regardless of each team's record at this point, you can bet this is will be a fun game to watch.

Having said all of that, below are the five things I'm wondering about this week.

One: I don't know about you, but I bet defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and the entire Dallas Cowboys organization couldn't possibly be more pleased with the way the defense has played the first half of the season. Even though the defensive unit has outperformed pretty much everyone's expectations, I still wonder when we will see DE DeMarcus Lawrence make an impact as a pass rusher? Lawrence is only played in four games after serving his four-game suspension, and only has four total tackles so far in 2016. He has come really close a number of times, but has yet to notch his first quarterback sack this year. He always seems to be a step or a halfstep too late and needs to finish when he has the QB in his grasp. Ben Roethlisberger is this week's target, but he is one of the more difficult QB's to bring down in the entire NFL. Maybe this is the week we see Lawrence get his first QB sack of the season.

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Two: Let's stay with the defensive side of the ball for a little bit longer, because I'm wondering how Rod Marinelli will game plan against Antonio Brown and keep him from taking over the game? Brown is without a doubt the Pittsburgh Steelers most dangerous threat in the receiving game and if he gets going it could be a long night for the entire Dallas Cowboys defense. I think this is a game the Cowboys defense will miss not having Morris Claiborne in the lineup, but I wouldn't be surprised if Orlando Scandrick could be the one that is asked to follow Brown all over the field. Containing Antonio Brown might be the best way to shut down the Steelers offense and could possibly be the reason why the Cowboys come away with a victory at Heinz Field. Let's not forget that the Cowboys defense has yet to allow a 100 yard receiver or 100 yard rusher through the first half of the 2016 season. Hopefully they can keep that streak alive against the Steelers.

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Three: There has been a lot of talk about Dez Bryant since he returned to the lineup after the Dallas Cowboys bye week. At first all you heard was how many times he was targeted and that the ball was forced to him against the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, everyone's talking about how he just had one reception for 19 yards against the Cleveland Browns. We all know that Bryant is active on social media and knows everything that's being said about him. I wonder what his mindset is after hearing all this criticism about him? Bryant is an emotional player when on the field and is known for his sideline outburst when things are going his way. With everything going the Cowboys way so far in 2016, it would really be unfortunate if Bryant has one of his meltdowns if the offense struggles and he's not being utilized the way he thinks he should be. This team has found success because they have bonded and have developed a chemistry with one another. Let's hope they can remain drama free for the second half of the season.

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Four: The decision by the Dallas Cowboys not to trade Darren McFadden was a little bit surprising, especially after seeing what Ezekiel Elliott and Alfred Morris have been able to do the first half of the 2016 season. The Cowboys must envision some kind of role for McFadden once he is added to the active roster, but I wonder what kind of role that will be? I don't think he can beat Morris for that backup role behind Elliott, but he could possibly take Lance Dunbar's spot since he can't seem to stay healthy. This probably isn't the scenario that McFadden thought he would find himself in with the Cowboys this season after finishing fourth in the NFL in rushing last year, but you have to respect the way he is handled everything like a professional.

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Five: As head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Garrett has been known to usually side on the eer of caution when it comes to making in game decisions, but this year he has taken on a more aggressive approach and it has paid off so far. He has already converted some key fourth and short plays in game changing situations and has even allowed trick plays to be utilized with the game on the line. I wonder if this new mindset has him as the favorite to win Coach of the Year so far through the first half the season? It will be really interesting to see if he continues to be aggressive in the second half the season like he has the first eight games.

Is there anything you are wondering about this week?

Please feel free to use the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions on this topic.



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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What Are Realistic Expectations for Cowboys LB Sean Lee?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 2

For many years, Linebacker Sean Lee has been the face of the Dallas Cowboys defense. However, that's quickly changing. The young duo consisting of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have taken over the linebacker position by dominating the field from sideline to sideline with their explosive talent. As a rookie, Vander Esch filled in for Lee at the weak linebacker position when the veteran went down injured and never gave the job back.

Currently, uncertainty surrounds Sean Lee, who took a pay cut earlier in the year to stay with the franchise he's played for since the beginning of his professional career in 2010. What will his role be in a young fueled defense in the upcoming season?

As we've all been able to see throughout his career, Sean Lee is one of the best in the game when he's healthy. Unfortunately, that's not very often. His injury proneness led him to a position change years ago, when he was moved from the MIKE (middle linebacker) to the WILL (weak side linebacker) position. Now, those two spots are taken care of.

Where does this leaves Lee? The main question is whether or not he'll move to the strong side. Many question if this would be the correct call, given that he could be at even more risk of suffering yet another injury in a position that leads to more contact. The other option would be for him to be Vander Esch's backup at WILL.

Wish List for Dallas Cowboys 1st Preseason Game

Dallas Cowboys LBs Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee

Lately, it seems like the Cowboys will indeed move him to the strong-side. After all, it only makes sense to have your best three players on the field at the same time. On minicamp, the Cowboys have been playing the veteran at SAM, letting him get reps and grow comfortable in what seems to be his new job.

But even if Sean Lee starts lining up on the strong side, what can we expect from him next season? The way the NFL offenses operate now leads to teams sending their nickel packages to the field more often than not. For the Cowboys 4-3 defense, that means three cornerbacks, two linebackers. When that's the case, it will be Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith who we see out there, not Lee.

Damien Wilson was the team's "starter" on the strong side, and he only managed to get 286 snaps, according to Pro Football Reference. That represents 28% of the team's total snaps. Even if Sean Lee becomes the starting strong side linebacker, we likely won't be seeing him as much.

Even still, I'd expect Sean Lee's experience to play a big factor when the team needs Jaylon Smith or Leighton Vander Esch to catch their breath. Lee could jump in and play a few snaps at any LB spot and do a good job at it.

After all, we can't forget that despite his injuries, Lee is a remarkable player on defense. He should still be one of the smartest linebackers with extraordinary instincts. There's a reason why, before Vander Esch arrived to America's Team, the defense crumbled without him. Last year, despite losing the starting gig, Lee still had 118 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and an interception. The longtime veteran can still play.

It will be odd for Cowboys Nation to watch Lee on a completely new role. It's also hard to put the finger on what his production will look like at the end of the year. If there's one thing we know though, is that the veteran will work hard every practice trying to get the most playing time he can. We should be excited about the team's top three linebackers.

Tell me what you think about "What Are Realistic Expectations for Cowboys LB Sean Lee?" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Dak Prescott Impresses, Draws Compliments All Minicamp Long

Kevin Brady

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Dak Prescott and Coaches Both to Blame for Cowboys Offensive Woes
James D. Smith via AP

Dak Prescott stood before the media Thursday in a Stetson Cowboy hat, answering questions about his upcoming contract extension.

“I’ve got my cowboy hat on, so I’m a Cowboy, we’ll say that.”

Prescott has cemented himself as the franchise quarterback of America's Team, and now it's time for the franchise to pay him like it. Set to earn roughly $34 million per year (according to recent rumors/reports), Prescott is going to be a very rich and comfortable man in the near future.

But, for now, he still plays under his fourth round rookie contract. You wouldn't be able to tell by watching him on the field, however. Though it was just minicamp, Prescott was impressive as ever over the last couple weeks of practice, earning praise from all levels within the organization.

Veteran Jason Witten complimented both Prescott's anticipation and accuracy, saying his throws have been "off the charts" at minicamp. Prescott himself said that this is the best he's felt since he's entered the league, and it certainly makes sense for this to be the case.

"Is it three years under my belt or just seeing defenses a whole lot more clear, being quicker and faster in everything I want to do, having great teammates around me? Who really knows the answer, but I feel great. I feel confident, and my teammates do, as well.” - Prescott to DallasCowboys.com

If Prescott was ever going to be comfortable, hungry, and ready to go, this is likely the time that it would happen. He has three relatively successful seasons under his belt, and ended 2018 on the best stretch of his career. He is the unquestioned starting quarterback for this team, and has the backing of every key decision maker in the building.

Prescott now has an offensive coordinator who he has not only worked closely with (in some capacity) since he entered the league in 2016, but is also being lauded for his creativity as an offensive mastermind. His quarterbacks coach, Jon Kitna, has been receiving similar praise for how he can coach up Prescott and get his footwork consistent, to help him "throw it through a Fruit Loop."

The time is now for Dak Prescott, and it's encouraging to see how he is responding to this increased pressure and responsibility. Then again we should have no doubt that he will respond positively, as he as throughout his entire young career.

Whenever faced with adversity, Prescott has answered the bell. Now he has all the supporters he needs, and just needs to prove them right.



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Does RB Ezekiel Elliott Have A Chance At NFL MVP?

Kevin Brady

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Ezekiel Elliott

Who is the Cowboys best player?

A question debated seemingly daily on social media, most fans seem to center their arguments around the same few names. Dak Prescott, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Ezekiel Elliott.

As a running back, it's quite possible that Elliott is both the best of that bunch and the least important to the team's overall success. NFL.com's Adam Schein disagrees with the latter statement, however, placing Ezekiel Elliott among his top ten contenders for 2019 NFL MVP.

"I think the Cowboys are going to challenge for the Super Bowl in 2019 -- and I think Zeke fuels this team. When Elliott runs for 95-plus yards, the Cowboys are 19-4; when he falls below that benchmark, they're 9-8." - Adam Schein

Schein's prediction will no doubt make Cowboys Nation swoon, but does Elliott really have the opportunity to compete for an MVP award?

For one, this would require the Cowboys be among the best teams in the league this season. It's quite possible, as they did win 10 regular season and 1 playoff game a year ago, but it will have to happen once again for Elliott to be considered.

Next, Ezekiel Elliott would have to put up incredible numbers. Well, it's safe to assume this will likely be the case if condition one is met. Elliott is going to get a lot of opportunities to touch the ball each game, and finding himself among the league's rushing leaders has never been an issue for the young running back. Especially if the team has a lead and is running the ball to kill clock.

Even if both these conditions prove true, though, Elliott will still have trouble getting himself in the real MVP discussion. These awards tend to go to certain positions, and running back is not among that list. If Dallas has such a successful 2019, and their offense is clicking, it's more likely Dak Prescott will be the one contending for that MVP honor.

I know to some it sounds crazy, but Prescott will likely need to be closer to MVP level than Elliott if the Cowboys are to contend in the way Adam Schein suggests in his article.

So, likely, Schein should have named Prescott among his top ten MVP contenders, not Elliott.



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