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.
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.
Cowboys, Bears Proving Defense Can Win the NFC
2018 has seen the emergence of high-powered offenses in both NFL conferences. The Kansas City Chiefs sit atop the AFC and the NFC is spearheaded by the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. Through 14 weeks, these three teams are the top three offenses in the NFL, each averaging over 30 points per game. This year, for the first time in NFL history, two teams scored more than 50 in the same game.
Thanks to this consistent impressive offensive performances, you would think "offense" is the name of the game for the 2018 NFL season. Well, not so fast, my friend. Despite sitting atop the NFC, the Saints and the Rams have recently suffered losses that indicate hope is anything but lost for defensive teams in the league.
The Chicago Bears were able to bring down the Rams last Sunday Night 15-6. The same offense that averages 33 points per game was limited to six points. Sean McVay's remarkable offense went home with no touchdowns to talk about on the plane back home. Instead, they probably discussed Jared Goff's four interceptions.
Weeks earlier, the Dallas Cowboys shocked the world when they brought down the Saints. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas simply couldn't move the ball against Leighton Vander Esch, DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones. 13 points were all the Cowboys needed to score to beat an offense that was averaging 37 per game heading into week 13 but was only able to put up 10 in Dallas.
The Cowboys are the #4 seed with the Bears slightly ahead of them as the #3 seed in the NFC. Together, these teams have defeated the top two in the conference. Now granted, playoffs will definitely be different.
For starters, if they are to advance to the divisional round, they'll be on the road. Chicago was surely benefited by playing in such a cold weather versus a Los Angeles team. As far as the Cowboys are concerned, few times has AT&T Stadium been as loud as when they beat the Saints.
Hopefully, we'll get to see both of these elite defenses advance to the Divisional Round to square off against this couple of high-powered offenses again. We will not only be witnessing amazing football games, but a great discussion regarding the everlasting debate between offense and defense.
For years, "defense wins championships" has been a widely accepted statement in football. The Cowboys and Bears have made that same statement resound recently with their impressive wins.
Can they do it again in January football? Can they do it on the road?
Cowboys en Español: Los Colts No Son Cualquier Rival
Al igual que el resto de la afición de los Dallas Cowboys, parte de mí se siente confiada respecto a este equipo visitando a Indianapolis Colts y resultando victoriosos. ¿El problema? Los Colts no son un rival sencillo de vencer. Si crees que la racha de los Cowboys los intimidará, piensa de nuevo. Los Houston Texans llevaban nueve victorias al hilo antes de enfrentarse a este equipo.
Siendo objetivos, este puede ser el partido que evite que los Cowboys cierren su temporada con ocho victorias al hilo para terminar el año con un récord de 11-5. Ni los Tampa Bay Buccaneers ni los New York Giants deberían presentar amenaza alguna contra Dallas. Lo mismo no se puede decir de Indianapolis.
Por primera vez en mucho tiempo, Andrew Luck está realmente de vuelta. Gracias a una reconstrucción de su línea ofensiva, su nivel de juego a regresado al nivel que conocíamos de él desde que llegó a la NFL. Afortunadamente para los Colts, Luck se ha mantenido sano toda la temporada y no se ve rastro alguno de sus lesiones anteriores en el emparrillado.
T.Y. Hilton está teniendo un muy buen año y sin duda alguna presentará un reto para Byron Jones y el resto de la secundaria de los Cowboys. Eric Ebron en la posición de tight end también será un dolor de cabeza para la defensiva.
Lo más interesante se dará en las trincheras. Los Cowboys han hecho un muy buen trabajo presionando quarterbacks opuestos en la temporada, pero si el centro de los Colts, Ryan Kelly está sano el domingo, se enfrentarán al mejor duo de centro-guardia en la liga actualmente. Con Quenton Nelson al lado, Luck estará muy bien protegido.
Sin embargo, Kelly no ha jugado debido a una lesión y aún está por verse si tomará el campo el domingo por la mañana. Los Cowboys hicieron un muy buen trabajo a la entonces ofensiva #1 de la liga, los New Orleans Saints, pero eso no significa que la ofensiva #8 que tienen los Colts no los retará.
Promediando 27 puntos por juego, la defensiva necesitará ayuda de Dak Prescott y compañía para ganar el partido. Dallas continúa moviendo el balón efectivamente, pero es tiempo de anotar touchdowns y no goles de campo.
Ezekiel Elliott será, una vez más, clave para la victoria. Enfrentándose a una defensiva Top 10 contra el juego terrestre, mover las cadenas con Zeke no será tan fácil. El novato Darius Leonard como linebacker ha sido algo espectacular otra temporada al igual que Leighton Vander Esch. Liderando a toda la NFL en tackleadas, estará listo para recibir a los Cowboys al Lucas Oil Stadium.
Lo más importante de este partido...
Por más impresionante que sea la racha de cinco victorias consecutivas, los Cowboys tienen que demostrar que pueden ganarle a un equipo fuerte estando de visita. Porque hay que admitirlo, Jason Garrett y su equipo no han tenido éxito fuera de casa. Claro, le ganaron a un equipo debilitado de Philadelphia Eagles y a unos Atlanta Falcons que va 4-9.
Este equipo "nuevo" de los Cowboys no ha ido contra un rival de calidad siendo el visitante. Es tiempo de demostrar que lo pueden hacer, ya que si quieren contender en postemporada, es justo lo que necesitarán... jugar bien de visita.
Sinceramente creo que los Cowboys ganan este partido. Principalmente gracias a su defensiva, pero también veo a la ofensiva dominar el tiempo de posesión en un juego de pocos puntos. Es tiempo de mantener esa racha.
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