Welcome to this week's edition of Martin's 5!
The Dallas Cowboys are 3-1 and are set to square off against their first AFC opponent of the 2016 season this week when the Cincinnati Bengals come to town Sunday afternoon.
The Cowboys probably put a little scare and a lot of us last week when they fell behind 14-0 to the San Francisco 49ers, but fortunately they continued to battle and came away with a 24-17 victory.
The Cincinnati Bengals are a more talented team than the 49ers, but I don't know by how big of a margin. This will once again be a big test for a young Cowboys team, but definitely a game they can win.
Below are some of the random thoughts I have had this week and a few of them are related to this week's matchup with the Bengals.
One: I wonder if the Dallas Cowboys will be buyers or sellers before the trade deadline November 1? I don't really see the Cowboys bringing in anybody via trade, but I could see them testing the waters with a couple of their players to determine if they have any trade value. Darren McFadden and James Hanna could be returning to the team in a few weeks and that could mean alterations will need to be made to the 53 man roster. McFadden could be of interest to a RB needy team via trade and Hanna's return could finally make Gavin Escobar's tenure come to an end with the Cowboys, especially with the emergence of Geoff Swaim. I don't know if there's much of a market for Escobar, but it is definitely worth exploring. Due to the depth that both the RB and TE positions, there doesn't seem to be much of a need for either player. Trading them would at least give the Cowboys some sort of compensation.
Two: The long-awaited return of DeMarcus Lawrence from his four-game suspension is finally over, but I wonder what kind of shape he is in? Being in shape and being in "football" shape are two different things. Last year Greg Hardy was in a similar situation after serving his suspension. He got out to a fast start, but became less effective as the season wore on. The pass rush for the Cowboys can certainly use all the help they can get, but it might be wise to keep Lawrence on some kind of pitch count until he is acclimated to the game once again. This is especially true when you take into account his back problems. I wouldn't be surprised if we see him being more of a pass rushing specialist until he is ready for a larger role.
Three: Speaking of DeMarcus Lawrence, I wonder which side he plays on this season? Lawrence has played both RDE and LDE during his time with the Dallas Cowboys, so it will be interesting to see where he lines up against the Cincinnati Bengals this week. To be completely honest, I don't really think it matters. Rod Marinelli will put him in the best position possible to succeed and harass opposing quarterbacks. We may see him switch back and forth from the right and left sides depending on the matchup from week to week.
Four: I wonder if this is the week we see the winning streak for the Dallas Cowboys come to an end due to all of the banged up players at key positions? The injury bug has bitten, and bitten hard for the Dallas Cowboys. Tyron Smith, Dez Bryant, Orlando Scandrick, and La'el Collins all missed last week against the San Francisco 49ers, and it doesn't look like anyone of these players will be at 100% anytime soon. The Cincinnati Bengals are definitely a beatable team, but with so many key players banged up at important positions, it makes it that much more difficult to come away with a victory. We're still a few days away from gametime, so hopefully we will receive some good news on the injury front.
Five: I wonder how defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is going to game plan against Cincinnati Bengals All-Pro wide receiver AJ Green? AJ Green is arguably the best WR the Cowboys defense has faced this season, with maybe the exception of Odell Beckham Jr., so it will be interesting to see how they try to contain him Sunday afternoon. Morris Claiborne has been playing the best football of his career and could be asked to shadow Green, or Marinelli could decide to go a different direction. Regardless of what they choose to do, Green has to be accounted for wherever he lines up and can't be allowed to take over the game.
Is there anything you have on your mind this week?
Please feel free to take advantage of the comment section below to share any of your lingering thoughts or opinions regarding the Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas Cowboys: The Case For Regression In 2019
It's been a few years since things around the Dallas Cowboys felt this good prior to a season. Coming off a 10-6 year in which Dallas won both the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a one possession road game to the future NFC champions, Cowboys Nation is expecting some big things in 2019.
After all, the Cowboys went out and improved their roster in multiple ways this offseason and brought in some new blood on their offensive coaching staff. Spirits are high among Cowboys Nation, and just about everyone is anticipating a two team race for the NFC East.
But some numbers indicate we should be thinking "not so fast."
The details of the 2018 season are not as pretty as the total picture. Rarely are they ever, of course, but these particular details point towards possible regression for the Cowboys in 2019.
Basically, their point differential a year ago spells out impending doom. (That was dramatic, but let's discuss).
The Cowboys were +15 in 2018, and by pythagorean wins expectation, they were about as strong as an 8-8 team (8.53 wins to be exact). This means they won nearly 2 more games (1.47) than would be expected, fourth most in the entire NFL.
This point is furthered when looking at their record in one possession games. Dallas went 8-2 when the game was decided by 7 points or less, winning close games at a rate that is simply not sustainable year to year.
These numbers make the Cowboys a prime candidate for regression in 2019, as they were in 2017.
Back in 2016, the Cowboys outperformed their pythagorean expectation by a whole 2 wins. The following season? Dallas finished the year 9-7. The model also indicated that the 7-9 Eagles performed 2 wins under expectations in 2016, meaning they would get back on track in 2017. As we know, they ended up winning 13 games and the Super Bowl the following season.
Of course, this isn't set-in-stone, and the Cowboys very well could outperform these expectations and avoid regression. This would mainly hinge on their coaching staff and quarterback performing at an elite level, carrying them through close games and winning more games by greater than one possession.
Newly Acquired DE Robert Quinn Brings High Expectations
Winning games in the NFL typically comes down to accomplishing two goals. One, being successful when passing on offense. And, two, stopping the opposing team's passing game.
The Cowboys set out to accomplish that second goal this offseason, re-signing defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and trading for veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn, who tallied 6.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins, is one of the leagues more feared rushers when at his best. The former All Pro has multiple 10+ sack seasons under his belt, including a whopping 19 in 2013.
And, as expected, the Cowboys coaching staff is ecstatic to have such a respected pass rushing specialist on their roster.
“He’s got that first step. He’s an established pass rusher in this league, so he’s going to bring some good stuff for us.” - Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
The Cowboys acquired Robert Quinn for a 2020 6th round pick, which could end up being the steal of the offseason. Quinn has played with some top-notch pass rushers in the past, and each time they have brought out the best in his own game.
Back with the Rams in 2017, when Aaron Donald was on the same defensive line, Quinn got to the quarterback 8.5 times. And, last season, he remained consistent in his sack totals playing alongside Cameron Wake. Now he joins a DeMarcus Lawrence who has 25 sacks over the last 2 seasons.
"I think it was kind of one of those where I get to have fun, pin my ears back and just disrupt the backfield, which is what they want us to do." - Robert Quinn told NFL.com.
Quinn and the always dominant Lawrence will form an impressive defensive end duo on passing downs, with the potential to be one of the best in all of football. Dallas is also hoping to add Randy Gregory into this mix, a piece which could prove vital late in football games if he is able to return from his current indefinite suspension.
Whether or not Gregory finds his way back onto the field, though, this defensive front will be in good hands. The edge combo of Quinn and Lawrence, combined with a plethora of skilled interior rushers such as Maliek Collins, gives the Cowboys a fearsome defensive line which should keep quarterbacks uncomfortable every Sunday.
Can Rookie OL Connor McGovern Compete For A Starting Spot?
Raising eyebrows in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Cowboys added Penn State offensive lineman Connor McGovern to their already deep OL depth chart.
McGovern, who played guard for the Nittany Lions, was reportedly by-far the best player remaining on the Cowboys draft board when they came on the clock in round three. Still, with seemingly more pressing needs yet to be addressed, Dallas' selection of McGovern was certainly a surprise.
When you watch the tape, though, you immediately see what the Cowboys loved about Connor McGovern.
A "plug-and-play" type guard, Connor McGovern is the type of rookie you'd expect to contribute in year one. On many teams he may be a candidate to start at guard or center from the beginning of his rookie season, but here in Dallas, his role for the 2019 season is somewhat in question.
Clearly, being a day two pick, there's no doubt that McGovern will make the Cowboys roster. But can he compete for a starting job?
During OTA's McGovern took reps at both guard and center, pointing towards the possibility of him being the first interior offensive lineman off the bench if one of the starters were to go down with an injury. Fellow interior linemen Joe Looney and Xavier Su'a-Filo each contributed in big ways during the 2018 season, however, and will be tough to beat out during camp.
While possible, I would still say it's unlikely. The Cowboys selection of McGovern seems to be more about 2020 and beyond than it is about the 2019 season. With right tackle La'el Collins coming up on a contract year, Dallas might elect to let him walk in free agency, move Williams back to his college position of tackle, and slide McGovern into the left guard slot.
This seems fool-proof in theory, but this many moving parts across the offensive line could spell trouble early on in 2020. Regardless, Connor McGovern's arrival gives Dallas the flexibility to consider all options on their offensive line.
In reality, McGovern strengthened a strength for Dallas, and may be needed to prove himself as early as this Fall if injury issues arise.
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