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NFC East Position Rankings: The Wide-Outs

After assessing the divisions’ signal callers in the last installment of the series, why not take a look at the main targets in the passing games of each offense. Today we will discuss possibly the best position group in the entire division, a group which features superstars such as Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham, and Desean Jackson, the wide receivers. Dallas Cowboys Outside of star player and weekly beast Dez Bryant, the Cowboys’ receivers have been much maligned throughout this offseason. Two seasons ago, players like Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley were considered to be the perfect compliments to Dez Bryant in the Cowboys dynamic offense. But after injuries to both Bryant and quarterback Tony Romo resulted in lackluster years from Dallas’ receivers, this group has a lot to prove in the eyes of many this season.

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Cowboys Headlines - NFC East Position Rankings: The Wide-Outs

After assessing the divisions' signal callers in the last installment of the series, why not take a look at the main targets in the passing games of each offense.

Today we will discuss possibly the best position group in the entire division, a group which features superstars such as Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham, and Desean Jackson, the wide receivers.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Headlines - Dez Bryant: Cowboys Emotional And Inspirational Leader 2

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant reacts towards the fans during a warm up session before playing the San Diego Chargers in an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Outside of star player and weekly beast Dez Bryant, the Cowboys' receivers have been much maligned throughout this offseason.

Two seasons ago, players like Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley were considered to be the perfect compliments to Dez Bryant in the Cowboys dynamic offense. But after injuries to both Bryant and quarterback Tony Romo resulted in lackluster years from Dallas' receivers, this group has a lot to prove in the eyes of many this season.

Terrance Williams is currently slated as the number 2 receiver behind Dez, but some anticipate Brice Butler to challenge for that role this summer. Butler was traded from Oakland to Dallas mid-season a year ago, and looked promising during his minimal game action.

Cole Beasley has served as the WR3/Slot guy for the Cowboys for a few years now, and, in my mind, he fits the role very nicely. I believe that with Bryant in the lineup in 2016 there will be more space for Beasley to operate, which should result in better numbers.

Lucky Whitehead has been used in the return game, as well as in gadget plays offensively. There are some who expect an expanded role for Whitehead in 2016.

Vince Mayle and Devin Street round the rest of this group veteran-wise. Notre Dame receiver Chris Brown was also added as an undrafted free agent.

Philadelphia EaglesCowboys Headlines - NFC East Position Rankings: The Wide-Outs 1

Chip Kelly did a nice job decimating the Eagles receiving corps over the last couple of seasons, but this group does feature a few young players who could be set to break out in the near future.

Jordan Matthews will once again serve as the number one receiver, and he has totaled 16 touchdowns over his first two NFL seasons.

The Eagles drafted Nelson Agholor in the first round of the 2015 draft, but after an exciting preseason, Agholor was quiet for most of the 2015 year. He does have a ton of speed, however, and could start to come into his own this season.

Former New York Giant Rueben Randle was added through free agency this offseason, and will more than likely serve as the number two receiver this season in Philadelphia. Agholor will certainly be challenging for the spot as well.

The fourth and fifth slots on the depth chart are filled by receivers Josh Huff and Chris Givens.

New York Giants

Cowboys Blog - Can the Cowboys Catch the Giants?

ARLINGTON, TX-SEPTEMBER 13: Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants is chased by Tyler Patmon #26 of the Dallas Cowboys in the second half at AT&T Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The Giants have made some good moves in the receiving department over the last few years, but will have to depend on one player's health to reach their full potential.

Of course, there is Odell Beckham. Who, although I can't stand as a Cowboys fan, is undeniably great.

Already off to a nice start if you're a Giants fan.

Then the team drafted Sterling Shepard out of Oklahoma, a guy who I loved coming in the draft and was furious to see taken by the Giants. Although he is just a rookie, I wouldn't be surprised if Shepard puts up the best numbers, behind Beckham, of all of the Giants receivers.

Former Cowboy Dwayne Harris serves in the return game, but also made his impact felt in the passing game at times in 2015.

The wild card here is Victor Cruz. When healthy and at his best, we have seen Cruz play some great football. The problem is, the health has not been there over the past two seasons. The Giants don't exactly seem all too optimistic he can make it back to his 2011-2012 form, however, after drafting Shepard this year.

Washington Redskins

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Roster: Strategies & Players At Cornerback 1

Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) pulls in a pass for a touchdown as Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) reaches for him during the second half of an NFL football game in Landover, Md., Monday, Dec. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The rich got richer during the 2016 NFL Draft when the Washington Redskins selected Texas Christian University receiver Josh Doctson in the first round. Like Shepard, I loved Doctson in college and was praying that Washington would pass on him.

They didn't, and now Doctson adds to a group that already features the always dangerous Desean Jackson and the productive Pierre Garcon.

Jamison Crowder serves as the slot receiver, and fits that role perfectly for the Redskins.

Who's the best?Cowboys Blog - Dallas Cowboys 2016 NFL Draft: Josh Doctson Film Review

As much as it pains me to say this, the Washington Redskins have the best receiving corps in the NFC East.

While I don't think that their number 1 is as strong as the Cowboys or the Giants' are, their depth at the position puts them over the top for me. Unlike quarterback, where I valued QB1 much higher than I did QB2 or QB3, depth matters here.

The Redskins have the ability to line up with Desean Jackson, Josh Doctson, and Pierre Garcon all on the field together. That's three guys that have the ability to strike fear into a defense in their own ways.

The Giants kept this race close, and I believe they are the runner up here, but while I like Beckham and Shepard, we aren't sure what Victor Cruz will look like come opening day. If he is the Victor Cruz that embarrassed our Terence Newman in 2011, then the Giants' receiving group could certainly steal the Redskins' crown.

Until I see it, though, I have to give the edge to Washington.



Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and am currently a college student. Lets get going.

Dallas Cowboys

Earl Thomas: Age is Just a Number Part II

John Williams

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Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de Earl Thomas, la NFL Sigue Equivocándose
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Yesterday, I wrote a piece attempting to assuage the fears that many in Cowboys Nation have about handing a contract extension out to Earl Thomas, who is 29 years old as we enter the 2018 NFL season.

In the comment section, a reader posed a very good question that is the basis for the rest of this article:

Earl Thomas Comparisons at age 29 and Beyond

It's a great question that certainly required some research, but Cowboys fans all across the world should be encouraged by my findings.

Just to refresh, here are the players we looked at as favorable comparisons to Earl Thomas at this point in his career. I searched Pro Football Reference for safeties who had at least three All-Pro First Team selections and at least six Pro Bowl appearances.

Considering an Earl Thomas Extension, Age is just a Number

The average age of the players listed at the time when they reached their third All-Pro was 31 years old. I'm removing Deion Sanders and Roger Wehrli from the equation as most of their work was done at cornerback.

Let's look at a chart that outlines what these guys careers looked like at age 29 and beyond to get a better picture. Remember, Earl Thomas already has three All-Pro selections and six Pro Bowls. Many of these guys didn't reach those kind of accolades until their 30s.

Earl Thomas Comparisons at age 29 and Beyond 1

Click image to view at full size.

The first thing I noticed as I looked into this question is that only two players had three or more All-Pro First Team selections prior to age 29, like Earl Thomas has. Those players were Rod Woodson and Ronnie Lott. Every other player on this list didn't hit their third All-Pro selection until age 29 or later.

Only one player reached his sixth Pro Bowl prior to his age 29 season, that player is Ronnie Lott, who many NFL Analysts consider to be the greatest safety of all-time. Most of the players didn't achieve their third All-Pro selection until their age 29 season or later. Earl Thomas reached his third All-Pro selection at age 25.

Here's a hot take for you: Earl Thomas, when it's all said and done could be considered the greatest safety of all-time.  I'll just leave that there to marinate and if a trade does happen, we'll come back to that.

Back to the chart.

Another thing I want to point out is that none of these players were 100% healthy. Such is the life in the NFL, especially as you get older, but they were available for at least 14 games a majority of their seasons aged 29 or later. Health is an unpredictable animal in the NFL, but the safety position allows for much more longevity than many other positions. And as the chart depicts, it's a position that ages well.

So, as you can see in the chart, players who were highly productive prior to their age 29 season were also highly productive for several seasons after. These players went onto average almost seven more years in the league from their age 29 seasons.

Most players continued to average a healthy amount of interceptions. The player that saw the biggest decline from the early part of his career to the post-29 part of his career was Brian Dawkins. The former Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos safety went from three interceptions per season prior to 29 to 1.9 interceptions per season 29 and after.

When it comes to the safety position, the elite seem to be able to get the most of their bodies and their abilities and can prolong their prime. The position relies as much on intelligence and awareness as it does quickness and athleticism. Earl Thomas has the mental capacity to play the game for many more years and there's been zero evidence to suggest that he is experiencing any physical decline.

At the rate of his career that he's on, Earl Thomas is destined for the Hall of Fame. He's one of the faces of the Legion of Boom defense that propelled the Seattle Seahawks into the elite category of teams in the early part of this decade.

If and when an Earl Thomas trade does occur, don't sweat an extension for Thomas.

Thomas' credentials put him in an elite group of players who played the game for a very long time and there's no reason to believe he won't continue to do so.

The Dallas Cowboys aren't that far off from having a Super Bowl contending defense built in the image of the Seattle Seahawks. Going to get the All-Pro, future Hall of Fame safety is the final piece to the to the Dallas Cowboys completing construction on "Doomsday III." 

Everything else is there for the Dallas Cowboys, now all they have to do is: Go. Get. Earl!



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Dallas Cowboys

Noah Brown Takes to Twitter to Call Out ESPN

John Williams

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A Fully Focused Ezekiel Elliott can Carry the Cowboys into 2018 Playoffs 2
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN has long been considered "The Worldwide Leader in Sports," and for a long time that title was justified. If you wanted your national sports news, where did you turn to but the cable sports channel to watch that day's episode of SportsCenter. But over the last few years, it's become more and more clear that it's "The Worldwide Leader" in name only.

The ratings are dropping and the network has had to make a lot of business decisions as it relates to much of their on-air talent over the last several years. With their latest under 25 starting 22 -- ahem, troll job -- they seem to have finally come to terms that they are basically First Take.

Noah Brown put it best in his reaction to the ESPN "Insider" voting that led to Saquon Barkley being named to the starting 22 ahead of Ezekiel Elliott. Brown, Elliott's teammate when both were at Ohio State University, came to his defense upon seeing the list.

Noah Brown Takes to Twitter to Call Out ESPNAnd here is the ESPN list:

SportsCenter on Twitter

43 of our NFL Insiders voted. Here's their best starting roster under the age of 25.

I'm sure there could be debates about different positions on the squad. Personally, quarterback is one where an argument could be made for Carson Wentz or Dak Prescott over DeShaun Watson, but that's for another time.

But to have a rookie, who has never played a down in the NFL ahead of the NFL's league leader in rushing for 2016, Ezekiel Elliott, is laughable.

Ridiculous.

Shameful even.

The fact that they had 43, again I use the quotations, "Insiders" vote on this and Ezekiel Elliott wasn't listed as one of the two running backs just shows you how far they've come as a network.

Let's remember that Ezekiel Elliott has averaged a touchdown a game -- receiving and rushing -- in his 25-game career. No running back has more rushing yards than Elliott does over the last two years, including 2017 league rushing leader, Kareem Hunt. No running back has more rushing touchdowns than Elliott's 22 rushing TDs.

Ezekiel Elliott's yards per carry is a healthy 4.63. Todd Gurley sits at 3.93. No player with more than 1,800 rushing yards over the last two years has a better yards per attempt than Ezekiel Elliott.

I get that you'd vote Todd Gurley in there, but to not have Ezekiel Elliott, arguably the game's best running back on your Under 25 starting 22 just makes you look like Skip Bayless or Stephen A. Smith. Not a sports journalism entity worthy of people throwing money at for "Insider" access.

I won't say that I never or will never watch ESPN, because where else am I gonna go for Monday Night Football, Todd Archer, or the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships? When I'm at my father-in-law's, I'll watch SportsCenter first thing in the morning, because it will be on and you don't change another man's television.

"The Worldwide Leader," however, loses credibility when they promote a list like this that has such a glaring omission.

Perhaps, maybe the goal wasn't to put out an accurate list. Maybe the goal was to get us talking about their list, just like when NFL Network releases their Top 100 players list. Like they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity.

This troll job from ESPN has certainly gotten them some publicity, or should I say, notoriety.



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Player News

Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp

Sean Martin

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Will the Dallas Cowboys "Get Lucky" at Defensive End?

The Dallas Cowboys patience with Defensive End Randy Gregory has paid off. Suspended for the better part of 2016 and all of 2017, Gregory has officially been reinstated to join the team for their 2018 training camp. The projected starter at RDE, Gregory will report to Oxnard with the rest of the team on July 25th.

From here, it will be all hard work for Gregory to reconnect with Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and get his promising career back on track. The last time Gregory suited up for the Cowboys, he managed to sack Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz in a week 17 win. The Cowboys will be expecting much more of this from a player they've supported through multiple violations of the league's heavily criticized substance abuse policy.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys pass-rusher Randy Gregory's petition for reinstatement was not opposed, according to lawyer Daniel Moskowitz. He's back. "I've never been more proud of any individual in my life. I'm very excited for Randy and his daughter and the rest of the his family.

Among this support staff for Gregory were a number of teammates that wrote formal letters to the NFL as part of his bid for reinstatement. These last few days of preparation before the Cowboys are together again as a team will surely be uplifted by Gregory's presence.

They say no news is typically good news at this point in the offseason, something the Cowboys have come to realize far too often. Today's news shouldn't be confused with a pleasant surprise however, rather something the Cowboys were committed to in getting another premier pass rusher on the field.

Here is the NFL's official press release on their reinstatement of Randy Gregory:

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

https://t.co/za0u3lWgaY

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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