Welcome to this week's edition of Martin's 5!
The Dallas Cowboys have won nine games in a row and hope to continue that streak a few hours from now against the Washington Redskins.
Yes, it's a quick turnaround after defeating the Baltimore Ravens Sunday afternoon, but you won't hear anybody making excuses or feeling sorry for the Cowboys.
These divisional games are always hard-fought battles. They usually are decided in the final few seconds of the game, and I would expect nothing else when these two teams square off against one another Thursday afternoon.
You would think that with all of the holiday goings-on my mind would be preoccupied with other things, but you would be mistaken.
There are still a lot of things stuck in my head that I can't quite get rid of, so luckily I have this space to throw them out there for all of you, with the hopes that they don't return.
Below are the five things I'm wondering about this week.
One: I thought it was really interesting that the Dallas Cowboys activated both Darren McFadden and Jaylon Smith from the NFI list. Well, not so much McFadden. The last official news about Smith was that he was continuing to rehab from his knee injury, while waiting for the nerve to start to fire once again. Apparently, the nerve in his knee is starting to regenerate, which makes me wonder if we might see him suit up for the Dallas Cowboys at some point in 2016? Jaylon would have been a top-five draft pick if not for suffering a devastating knee injury. The Cowboys have already gotten more production from their rookie draft class than they could have ever imagined, and Smith would just be icing on the cake. I still think it's a long shot for him to play in 2016, but the news that the nerve in his knee is starting to regenerate is great news. The Cowboys have three weeks to evaluate him before having to make a decision about whether or not they add him to the active roster.
Two: The Dallas Cowboys seem to be set at the running back position, so I wonder where Darren McFadden fits in the picture when/if he is added to the active roster? I don't think we will see him stealing any carries away from Ezekiel Elliott, and I'm not sure that he is better than Alfred Morris. So, that leaves Lance Dunbar as the logical odd man out. Dunbar has struggled staying healthy since entering the NFL, so maybe McFadden is just an insurance policy in case someone gets injured. McFadden could possibly be a valuable asset as the season progresses. He has fresh legs and has already proven that he can be successful running behind the Cowboys talented offensive line.
Three: I've learned not to bet against Dak Prescott, but I wonder if he is as mentally and physically prepared as he usually is for this week's matchup against the Washington Redskins after such a quick turnaround? Prescott has been simply amazing this season and his performance is a big reason why the Dallas Cowboys have won nine consecutive games in a row. In all honesty, I don't worry too much about him being mentally prepared, but he did take quite a few big hits last week against the Baltimore Ravens and could be feeling the aftereffects. I personally think that he will be okay, but this is a lingering thought that I just can't quite shake for some reason.
Four: The Dallas Cowboys have gotten out to a slow start the past couple of games, but somehow have been able to play from behind and come away with the victory. I personally wouldn't be surprised if they start slowly once again, especially having to play after such a quick turnaround with so many rookies contributing at key positions. Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, and the rest of the Cowboys 2016 rookie draft class are unaccustomed to playing two games in less than a weeks time, so it makes me wonder if they're getting any help with their preparation. Let's just hope that veteran players like Jason Witten and Tony Romo have shared their knowledge with these young players about how to best prepare for these Thursday night games. Everyone will need to be on top of their game to sweep the Redskins this year, because I don't know if they can continue to fall behind opponents and still hope to win.
Five: You can call it a gut feeling if you want, but I wonder if Lucky Whitehead makes a key play in the game to help the Dallas Cowboys beat the Washington Redskins? I don't know what it is, but I think Whitehead has a game changing play this week. We haven't really seen him involved in the offense very much lately, so maybe the coaching staff gives him a jet sweep in a key situation that catches the Redskins defense off guard. The Redskins defense is aggressive and their defensive ends like to crash down to help stop the running game. The use of the jet sweep will not only keep them from crashing down, but also helps open up running lanes for Ezekiel Elliott. Then again, maybe we will see him finally take one to the house as a returner. Regardless, I just have the feeling that Lucky Whitehead will have a game changing moment against the Redskins.
Is there anything you're wondering about this week?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share with all of us anything that might stuck in your head this week.
Should Cowboys Sign This RFA to a Contract Sheet?
Fortune favors the bold. It's a rough translation of an old Latin proverb and the mantra I believe the Dallas Cowboys should indoctrinate this offseason.
I think it's time the Dallas Cowboys start to make a few bold moves. I truly believe they are close to competing for a championship title and one or two offseason moves could increase those odds. One such move would be to sign restricted free agent (RFA) Shaquil Barrett to an offer sheet.
It's expected that the Denver Broncos will place a second-round tender on Barrett and I think the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to explore the possibility of signing him to a contract sheet. If Denver declines to match the offer, the Cowboys would then send them their second round draft pick as compensation.
You on board?
Probably not at this point, but let me try to explain why I believe this is a good move on the Cowboys part, even if it is an uncharacteristic one.
You see, the Cowboys could definitely use someone to play opposite DeMarcus Lawrence and I think Shaquil Barrett could be the solution.
I know it sounds like a lot to give up a second round draft pick, but the Cowboys have been deplorable at drafting players in the second round the past decade. Sean Lee, DeMarcus Lawrence, and possibly Jaylon Smith have really been the only "hits" the Cowboys have found in the second round. That's simply unacceptable!
So, why not use that second rounder to acquire a player who is already a proven commodity in the NFL?
I know the first thing a lot of you are going to do is to look up Shaquil Barrett's stats to see what he has accomplished in the NFL. But, stats don't always show the big picture.
You see, Barrett has been stuck behind some pretty talented pass rushers in Denver, so his statistics aren't going to jump off the paper. But, when given the opportunity he has proven he deserves a larger role. That's where the Dallas Cowboys come in.
The Broncos probably don't have the money to keep Shaquil Barrett if the Cowboys sign him to a contract sheet. It doesn't necessarily even have to be a big money contract offer. The Broncos simply don't have the salary cap to do much, especially considering they are still looking for a starting quarterback.
I honestly like the idea of the Cowboys going after Barrett. You may have forgotten, but he gave a healthy Tyron Smith fits last season.
With an injured Shane Ray, Shaquil Barrett got the start against the Cowboys in 2017 and finished the game with two quarterback hits, six QB pressures, and five stops. No other player found that kind of success against Tyron Smith all season, even when he was banged up.
Unfortunately, when Shane Ray returned, Barrett's usage on defense declined. That's why you can't always judge a players productivity by statistics. You have to judge him more on a per-snap basis, and if you do that you will discover he was very effective as both a pass rusher and run stopper.
I believe Barrett is ready for a full-time role. Yes, he has been used as a standup 3-4 OLB with the Broncos, but he has the required traits to put his hand on the ground and maintain his effectiveness.
The downside to all of this is the Dallas Cowboys would have to give up their second-round draft pick, but draft picks are sometimes overvalued anyways. Shaquil Barrett is probably better than anybody the Cowboys could draft in the second round, so I say pull the trigger.
Should the Cowboys sign Shaquil Barrett to a contract sheet?
Could a Former Division Rival be Cowboys’ LG Solution?
When it comes to prioritizing the Dallas Cowboys offseason needs, offensive guard is definitely near the top of the list. Opinions will certainly vary, but for me, solidifying the offensive line with a new starting left guard is the top priority for the Cowboys.
I know many of you will disagree and believe the Dallas Cowboys need to continue to upgrade their defense. But, this teams success or failure will be determined by how their offensive line performs. That's just the way the Cowboys are built, which is why they have invested so heavily putting this unit together.
Four out of five of the Dallas Cowboys starting offensive line is set in stone, but there is currently no one on the roster to step into the vacant left guard position unless you want to see the coaching staff give Chaz Green another try.
No, I didn't think so.
With the start of the 2018 free agency just a few weeks away, the Dallas Cowboys have certainly narrowed down some of the potential free agents they would be interested in bringing aboard if the price is right. Remember, they have turned into "bargain shoppers".
There are a few intriguing free agent options who I believe could step in to upgrade the LG position for the Cowboys next season, and not break the bank. One such option is a former division rival of the New York Giants, Justin Pugh.
The former 19th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft has spent five years in New York while playing out his rookie contract, but that time has come to an end. The Giants aren't likely to re-sign him, which means he will get his first taste of free agency.
Justin Pugh could step in and be an immediate upgrade over what the Dallas Cowboys employed at the left guard position in 2017. He has exceptional mobility. He reaches the second level with ease and plays with good body control and footwork. He is a perfect fit in a zone blocking scheme like the Cowboys employ.
Pugh is also versatile. He has played both right tackle and offensive guard for the Giants. He of course would be asked to play between Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith at LG with the Cowboys, but versatility to play another position is never a bad thing.
Unfortunately, Pugh doesn't come without baggage. He has missed a total of 13 games over the last two seasons with the Giants, including eight last season due to a back injury. This is definitely a huge red flag, especially for the Cowboys after dealing with the same issue with Tyron Smith.
But, this is why Justin Pugh will likely be in the Cowboys price range. Sportrac currently estimates his contract at 4 years at $23,983,847, which equates to $5,995,968 annually. I personally think that's a little low for someone of Pugh's caliber and versatility, but it certainly understandable when you take into account his recent injury history.
I personally think this is a longshot to happen because the Cowboys would prefer to go younger and cheaper, but it wouldn't surprise me.
Do you think Justin Pugh makes sense for the Cowboys?
Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition
Sadly, we can't wake up on Sundays to NFL football. The Dallas Cowboys are not on TV every week for us to watch them play. To make matters worse, we'll have to wait until September to get real football from our favorite team.
But that doesn't mean there's nothing to talk about until then! For the die-hard Cowboys fan, the offseason should be quite entertaining. Free agency will begin in March, and it should be an intense one for Dallas.
They need to handle a tight salary cap while trying to add a bit of help for this football team. Recently, Inside The Star Contributor John Williams wrote an in-depth piece about the Cowboys' cap situation and how they can manage to get things done, despite having little cap space right now.
Last season, I wrote a weekly Cowboys Wishlist about things I wanted to see for each game. Now there are no games, but I decided to write a special edition for this upcoming free agency.
Wish #1: Keep The Rushmen
The front office will have one hell of a challenge trying to retain all of its free agents. The two most important ones may be their two defensive linemen. If they can keep them, DL won't be a top need heading to the Draft.
Lawrence is one of the biggest names in free agency this 2018, but the Cowboys should find a way to keep him from ever being available.
If they're able to franchise tag him, that'd be the way to go since he's only had one elite season in his four-year career and they may not want to sign him to a huge long-term deal and risk not seeing the same guy next season.
David Irving is a more polarizing player, with off-the-field issues. However, he's been a very disruptive guy and he has the chance to be a unique player. His talent is really out of this world. Keeping him and Irving would give this franchise a top defensive line for the first time in many years.
Wish #2: Pay Anthony Hitchens
When healthy, Sean Lee is one of the NFL's top linebackers. He is simply an outstanding player who's always around the ball and seems to know where the ball is going before the opposing coach even calls the play.
The problem is, he has a lot of trouble remaining available. Anthony Hitchens is a guy who's found the way to step up every time the General is out, and he's shown a great progression as a player year after year.
Lee will be 32 by the time the season starts, giving Dallas something to think about. Hitchens is a guy capable of starting and competing in the NFL. If the front office finds a way to keep him, they'll be getting closer to being less "Sean Lee-dependent."
Wish #3: Get Seattle Seahawks' Earl Thomas
When we talk about a potential big name addition to the Dallas Cowboys, we're usually a bit pessimistic. This team isn't one that makes splashes like this, but Earl Thomas to Dallas makes a ton of sense. Former Seahawks' defensive coordinator is now the Cowboys' defensive backs' coach.
With Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis (and maybe Byron Jones moving to CB), this team will have a promising secondary. Add Earl Thomas, and it will go from "promising" to "great" in a heartbeat.
The Cowboys could not only have a top DL, but a top secondary if they're able to get this veteran.
Let's hope the Cowboys listen to Thomas and they go get him.
Wish #4: Get Dez Bryant to Take a Pay Cut
When I started writing this, I wanted to add a "get this wide receiver in FA"... but I won't. A few weeks ago, I wrote a case in favor and one against Dez Bryant remaining a Cowboy in 2018. Personally, I would be fine with him parting ways with the team.
However, I'm aware of how hard it can be finding a replacement for a guy like #88. The biggest issue with Dez is definitely his cap hit. He hasn't justified the money he's being paid on the field as he should be.
If they can get him to take a pay cut, it may end up being the ideal scenario for the Dallas Cowboys.
It'll be a very interesting offseason, and here at Inside The Star we'll continue to provide you with content about it all.
Want to help make Inside The Star better?
We’re collecting feedback from our readers about the site. It only takes <2 minutes to complete, and can be done from any device.
Don’t worry, your information will not be shared with anyone but me (Bryson T.).
NFL Draft2 weeks ago
Cowboys Mock Draft: Dallas Adds Starters At 3 Positions
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Deep Dive: Inside the Dallas Cowboys’ 2018 Salary Cap
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Dallas Cowboys Sign Converted QB Jason Thompson to Play Safety
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Cowboys CB Marquez White Could Emerge in 2018
NFL Draft1 week ago
Star Defensive Talent Falls to Cowboys in Latest Round of Mock Drafts
NFL Draft6 days ago
The 1 Player Cowboys Should Consider Trading Up For
NFL Draft2 weeks ago
How Much Input Will Kris Richard Have in Cowboys Draft?
Star Blog3 days ago
Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition