Welcome to this week's edition of Martin's 5!
The Dallas Cowboys can kick back and put the feet up this week while watching the first round of the playoffs to see who their opponent will be in a few weeks.
It has to be a strange feeling to know that the slate is wiped completely clean and every team that made the playoffs now has an equal chance to play in Houston, Texas for the Super Bowl.
The Cowboys are in a rare situation where they won't have to leave the state of Texas for the Super Bowl if they take care of business in the playoffs. That is what we all hope to see, right?
Despite making the playoffs, there's still lots of things about the Dallas Cowboys that I'm wondering about this week, hence the purpose of Martin's 5 to begin with.
Below are the five things that I'm wondering about this week during the downtime between games for the Cowboys. I hope you enjoy.
One: I don't know if I've ever seen a more confusing situation/circumstance than what I see Randy Gregory in presently. Gregory has been able to play the last couple games for the Cowboys after serving his suspension, but his availability for the playoffs is now up in the air because he is facing a possible year-long suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy once again. He has recently met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, but still doesn't know his fate. I wonder why the NFL would allow Gregory to return and play for two games, then decide to turn right around and possibly suspend him with the playoffs fixing to get underway? The way the NFL has handled this whole situation is beyond mind-boggling and it really puts the Dallas Cowboys in a tough situation. The Cowboys might have handled things differently had they known Gregory could only be back for two games. They likely wouldn't have released DE Zach Moore, because they could definitely use the depth at the position. The Randy Gregory mystery is beyond confusing, but hopefully everything works out for the best.
Two: The pass rush for the Dallas Cowboys has struggled getting after opposing QB's for the majority of the season, so you really have to give credit to the secondary for the way they have performed. Brandon Carr, Anthony Brown, and Orlando Scandrick have been playing really well and are a big reason why the defense has exceeded everyone's expectations here lately. Morris Claiborne was having the best season of his career before suffering a groin injury and it looks like he will be available for the Cowboys first playoff game. What I'm wondering is, what kind of role will Claiborne have in the secondary once he returns? It's unlikely he will be reinserted into the starting lineup. I don't know how you replace Brandon Carr or Anthony Brown with the way they have been playing. Odds are he will be worked slowly back into the lineup and played mostly when the defense is in their nickel package. Hopefully he can pick up where he left off, because that would be a huge benefit for the backend of the Cowboys defense.
Three: Morris Claiborne isn't the only Dallas Cowboys player that is expected to return to practice this week after missing nearly the entire 2016 season because of a toe injury. La'el Collins is expected to be activated off of IR, which means the Dallas Cowboys have 21 days to decide what to do with him in the playoffs. Much like Claiborne, I wonder where Collins fits into the plans on the offensive line? Ronald Leary has been outstanding this season and Joe Looney is the backup guard/center on game days. Collins is strictly a guard, so having him active for games would be a luxury I'm not sure the Cowboys can afford with some of the injuries on the defensive line. Leary suited up, but didn't play last week against the Philadelphia Eagles because of a back injury. So, maybe bringing back Collins from IR is more about insurance in case of further problems with Leary's back. This will be a situation I will be keeping a close eye on.
Four: The Dallas Cowboys will have nearly 2 whole weeks in between games with a first-round bye for the playoffs. They haven't had this much time off since their bye week earlier in the season, so I'm wondering how the coaching staff and players are trying to keep their edge? One way to keep their edge is to get as many of their players as healthy as possible before the next game. The Cowboys inactive list last week against the Philadelphia Eagles was all made up of injured players, so this two week time span might actually work in their favor. However, I also worry that they might lose their momentum because the routine that has worked so well for the entire season now has to be tinkered with a little bit. How the Dallas Cowboys handle this time off could go a long ways in determining whether or not they will be successful in the postseason and make a push to playing in Houston, Texas for the Super Bowl.
Five: The Dallas Cowboys arguably have the best stable of quarterbacks on all of the teams in the playoffs, but I wonder how many they decide to activate on game day? We all know that Dak Prescott is the starting QB and Tony Romo without a doubt played superbly last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. Mark Sanchez on the other hand pretty much came out and laid an egg against his former team. Honestly, I don't see why the the Cowboys would carry three QB's on the game day roster. If they have to resort to playing Sanchez, then the odds are already stacking up against them to win whoever they're playing against anyway. The Cowboys may need an extra game day roster spot for depth purposes at a different position, so I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see Mark Sanchez in uniform in the playoffs.
Is there anything you are wondering about the Dallas Cowboys this week?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share any of your thoughts and opinions on this topic.
2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back
To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.
As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.
Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.
These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.
Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.
Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.
Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.
Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.
How The Tables Have Turned for 2019 Dallas Cowboys
The 2018 season was a two-part tale for the Dallas Cowboys. The first is the story of a mediocre 3-5 team that couldn't get it going offensively. The second part is about a football team that turned its season around, made the playoffs, got a win in the postseason and ultimately lost to the team that ended up representing the NFC in Super Bowl LIII, the Los Angeles Rams.
Surely, 2018 didn't go as planned. The storylines leading to last season are actually very different from the ones we're hearing today. Let's take a look at a few examples of how the tables have turned for the Dallas Cowboys.
The need for a true WR1
Last season, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys preached the philosophy of not needing a #1 wide receiver. While that could've sound encouraging at the time, once the season began the team was proven wrong. They did need a WR1. Fortunately, this season we won't have to worry about it. This year, Dez Bryant shouldn't be a discussion topic among Cowboys' fans.
Amari Cooper is in the house. And he's been pretty good since he started playing with a Star on his helmet. If we have conversations about the WR position, they will not be about who's the #1 guy. With Michael Gallup showing up late in the season, it probably won't be about who is #2 either.
Back on top of the NFC East
Last year, the Dallas Cowboys were not really the favorites to win the NFC East. The Philadelphia Eagles had just made history by winning their first Super Bowl ever and it seemed like the Cowboys would have to get a wildcard spot to play in January. Now it's the Cowboys back on top after sweeping the Eagles and turning their once 3-5 season around.
That of course, means a tougher schedule next season. However, it's nice to be back on top of the division. These two teams will surely have an intense race for the division title next season. Maybe we even see them both in the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Sean Lee's uncertain future
I'm pretty sure no one expected Sean Lee to be considered a potential cap casualty for the 2019 season. Even if he was, it would've probably been anticipating an injury or something like that. No one would've imagined that Leighton Vander Esch would be so good to take Sean Lee's job.
The Cowboys' first round rookie truly earned the starting role as the defense's weak linebacker and he should keep it. With Sean Lee set to return to the field, I'm sure we didn't expect him to be a backup by now. We'll have to wait and see if the Cowboys decide to part ways with him. As a fan, it would certainly be painful. But we can't deny it would be a move that makes sense.
It's a crazy franchise on a crazy league. Who knows how things will go from now on, but the Dallas Cowboys certainly look like a promising team heading into the 2019 offseason. Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue to update you with the latest on your favorite NFL team.
Cowboys en Español: Volviendo a la Idea de Earl Thomas
El año pasado, Earl Thomas fue uno de los temas de conversación más frecuentes para los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys. Después de que los Seattle Seahawks no le dieran su deseada extensión de contrato, Thomas se convirtió en un candidato a ser intercambiado de su equipo. Entre los favoritos estaban los Cowboys, quienes tenían una necesidad en su defensiva secundaria. Ahora que la temporada 2018 llegó a su fin, la misma necesidad por un safety de calidad está presente en Dallas.
Sólo que en esta ocasión, Earl Thomas no está bajo contrato con ningún equipo. Su último momento con el uniforme de los Seahawks fue en un carro de lesiones, donde salía lesionado en dirección a su vestidor. Esto mientras se despedía de su equipo con el dedo de en medio extendido hacia sus entrenadores y compañeros. Así concluyó su temporada y su carrera en Seattle.
Ahora, listo para cumplir los 30 años en mayo, Earl Thomas probará la agencia libre cuando comience en marzo. Y sin lugar a dudas, uno de los equipos candidatos a firmarlo serán los Dallas Cowboys. Es un equipo que a pesar de tener una de las mejores defensivas la temporada pasada, se vería muy beneficiada con la llegada de un profundo del calibre de Thomas.
A pesar de su edad y las lesiones, Thomas continúa siendo uno de los mejores en la liga. Su talento es innegable y tendrá toda la disposición de demostrar lo que vale cuando tome el campo la próxima temporada. Cuando llegue el momento, podríamos ver una guerra de ofertas entre varios equipos de la NFL para llevarse al veterano a sus respectivas ciudades.
La pregunta es: ¿estarán los Dallas Cowboys en esa guerra de ofertas?
Los Cowboys tienen espacio en el tope salarial. Sin embargo, este no durará mucho considerando que DeMarcus Lawrence está esperando su merecida y cara extensión después de jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia en 2018. Además, jugadores que aún están bajo contrato también estarán buscando ofertas este offseason.
Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, y Byron Jones están en la lista de quehaceres de la administración. Eso sin mencionar a Cole Beasley, cuyo contrato ya expiró y podría llegar a la agencia libre en marzo.
A pesar de esta complicada situación, los Dallas Cowboys deberían buscar conseguir a Thomas. Siendo sinceros, la defensiva tiene mucho talento y podría mantener su nivel en 2019. Pero hace falta un jugador en la posición de safety para llevar a esta unidad a otro nivel. Un nivel realmente capaz de ganar en postemporada enfrentándose a cualquier tipo de ofensiva. Sin importar que tan explosiva sea. Y además de esto, un jugador que sea capaz de robar el balón y hacer jugadas de impacto constantemente.
Cuando los Cowboys se enfrentaron a Seahawks en temporada regular, Thomas dio un buen ejemplo de esto interceptando en dos ocasiones a la ofensiva de Dak Prescott.
A pasos de un equipo de campeonato, un movimiento agresivo para obtener a Earl Thomas sería algo genial para Dallas. Vimos como los Rams de Los Angeles fueron agresivos al construir su equipo y llegaron hasta el Super Bowl este febrero. Quizá es tiempo de que Jerry Jones y compañía sean igual de agresivos y vayan por ese safety elite que la afición lleva pidiendo desde el offseason del año pasado.
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