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ESPN Honors Ezekiel Elliott, Snubs Jason Garrett in 2016 Awards Poll

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Headlines - Tweet Break: These Kids Are Rookies? Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott March Cowboys to Eighth Straight Win

Yesterday, ESPN released the picks from their "experts" for the NFL's various annual awards. As you would expect, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott got plenty of love but there were also a few surprises. One of those has me especially peevish; Jason Garrett didn't get nearly enough respect in the Coach of the Year #Cowbpoll.

The only awards where no Cowboys were mentioned were Defensive Player of the Year and the Comeback Player of the Year. I was a bit surprised that Sean Lee didn't get a single vote for DPOY but it was a stacked group this year. Morris Claiborne might have qualified for the Comeback award if he hadn't been injured again, but no other Cowboys would've made sense.

Here are the categories where at least one Cowboy received a vote:

Ezekiel Elliott, Giants

RB Ezekiel Elliott (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Offensive Player of the Year

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan received the logical first-place finish for this award, He was second to Drew Brees with 4,944 passing yards and second to Aaron Rodgers with 38 touchdowns. What really put Ryan over the top was his 117.1 passer rating, the fifth best in NFL history.

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott finished in second place. He received one first-place vote, five second-place, and one third-place from the 13 ESPN panelists. That means five of the voters didn't pick Elliott at all.

Ezekiel Elliott's rookie season was 178 yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's record for first-year running backs. This is especially impressive given that Elliott sat out the Cowboys' last game to rest for the playoffs. In spite of this, he still led the NFL in rushing by over 300 yards.

Unlike the quarterback-dominated MVP race, running backs tend to do well with the OPOY award. DeMarco Murray won it in 2014 after his monster season with the Cowboys. Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson have also won in recent years.

The OPOY Award tends to be more about statistical production than the MVP Award. That's why Ezekiel Elliott did so well and also why Dak Prescott didn't get a single vote. Dak was not in the Top 10 in yards or touchdowns this year.

Ezekiel Elliott

RB Ezekiel Elliott

Offensive Rookie of the Year

The young Cowboys dominated here, as you might have predicted. Ezekiel Elliott ate up 12 of the 13 possible first-place votes. The one he didn't get went to Dak Prescott. They also split all of the second-place votes; 12 going to Dak and one to Zeke.

The next-closest offensive rookie was Jack Conklin, a tackle from the Tennessee Titans. Saints WR Michael Thomas was close behind him. However, there really was no competition to the Dallas duo.

After starting the year well but falling off later, the Eagles' Carson Wentz received just a single third-place vote. You'll always have September, Philly fans.

 

Maliek Collins

DT Maliek Collins (James D. Smith via AP)

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Nobody was taking this one from the Charges' Joey Bosa, who had 10.5 sacks in just 12 games and won in a landslide. In second place was Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who many Cowboys fans wanted over Ezekiel Elliott during the NFL Draft.

I assume there was at least one Dallas-area writer on ESPN's panel, because Maliek Collins managed to get one third-place vote. You could argue that it should have been more.

Collins' five sacks this year was equal to star players like Ndamukong Suh and Timmy Jernigan. The most by a defensive tackle was nine sacks from Geno Atkins. Only a few other franchise tackles like Kawann Short and Aaron Donald had more sacks than Maliek.

Jason Garrett

Jason Garrett

Coach of the Year

Aye, here's the rub! Jason Garrett came in second place to Bill Belichick.  Garrett received three first-place votes, five second-place, and two third-place votes. Belichick dominated with nine first-place votes.

A few things irk me here:

  1. Garrett received 10 total votes, meaning three panelists didn't vote for him at all. That's a slap in the face for the coach with the best record in the NFC, especially since he'd have likely tied Belichick's 14-2 record if he'd played starters in Week 17.
  2. Garrett's success came with a rookie quarterback. That's not impressive enough for you? How about a rookie QB who had no expectation of starting until the last week of the preseason?  Still not enough?  Really?
  3. Belichick is getting his ass kissed for going 3-1 without Tom Brady. Jimmy Garoppolo is a former second-round pick who's in his third year in the Patriots system.  It would be embarrassing if they didn't win with him.
  4. That one September loss for New England was a 16-0 shutout at home to the Buffalo Bills, who went 7-9 this year. Every team can have a bad day, but that's a pretty glaring blemish for a guy with supposed genius. I don't care who the quarterback was.
  5. Have I mentioned that whole Tony Romo controversy that Jason Garrett had to deal with?

I'm sorry, but you can't tell me that Bill Belichick was more impressive this season. Garrett faced greater challenges and was equally successful. His team had more internal issues to confront and a far tougher division to get out of. Whatever criteria these panelists went by to pick Belichick, Garrett matched or bettered him in every way.

Thankfully, ESPN's occasional bozos don't decide the award. I hope the Associated Press will have more sense.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Dallas Cowboys Shouldn’t Add a Veteran Backup Quarterback

John Williams

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How Will Coaching Changes Impact Cowboys' Backup QB Battle?

With offseason training activities and minicamps coming to a close, now begins the wait for July 27th and the first day of training camp practice in Oxnard, California for the Dallas Cowboys. In my nearly 20 years following the Dallas Cowboys, this is the deepest and most talented roster I can remember the Cowboys taking to training camp.

Of course, there are areas of weakness, especially when you compare them to other position groups. Unfortunately, there isn't always a simple fix to said area of weakness. If you're looking for one area of complaint, you could point to backup quarterback.

Cooper Rush and Mike White have a combined three regular season attempts between the two of them. I wouldn't hold that against them though, because the reason they only have three attempts between them -- and really it's just Cooper Rush has three attempts -- is because Dak Prescott has been such a durable quarterback that those other guys aren't getting into games.

The only time Cooper Rush has appeared in a game was during lopsided wins against the San Francisco 49ers in 2017 and the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018 and a blowout loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017.

The reports coming out of OTAs and minicamp are that Cooper Rush and Mike White haven't had very good practices. Reports of interceptions have a portion of Cowboys Nation concerned about the quarterback position after their franchise quarterback.

Those reports can offer some insight into how things are going, but they should hardly be taken completely at face value. Remember what Allen Iverson said, "We talkin bout practice." Just like we shouldn't get too hyped about what Dorance Armstrong or Dak Prescott are doing in practice, we shouldn't overreact to some bad practices by your backup quarterbacks. Remember, they're largely throwing to guys who are undrafted free agents and are likely to be released when the team trims their roster to 53.

So much of where the concern about the backup quarterback position comes from is because of the recent history this team has had with losing its starting quarterback to injury. Tony Romo missed games in 2008, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. That's six out of 11 seasons where he was the starting quarterback heading into training camp in which he missed at least one game in a season.

Dak Prescott hasn't missed a start since his sophomore season at Mississippi State in 2013. That's five straight seasons between college and the NFL that Dak Prescott has been available for his team. In 2013, he was splitting snaps with the Bulldogs senior quarterback, but since 2013, has been available for 88 of his team's 90 games. Dak's started 51 straight games for the Dallas Cowboys in three seasons and has the strength and durability to continue to do just that.

Dak Prescott isn't Tony Romo. According to DallasCowboys.com, Dak Prescott measures at 6-2, 238 pounds. That's huge for an NFL quarterback. Romo was 6-2, 230. Romo, however, never looked as strong or thick as Dak Prescott. He always looked more slender playing the quarterback position and his durability was a concern. So far in Dak's career, durability hasn't been an issue, therefore the quarterback position is less of an issue.

The recent history of 2015, when Tony Romo went down and the season went with it, has many leery of going into a season with unproven commodities. But in that 2015 season, they had "proven" commodities at the quarterback position and those players went 2-11 in the starts that Tony Romo missed.

The free agent quarterback market doesn't look all that enticing at this point in the offseason. And that should be obvious. Any quarterback that was worth signing is already on a team. What you're left with is a who's who of bad quarterback options that wouldn't give you much more confidence in that Rush or White if necessary.

  • Matt Cassell - Been there, done that.
  • Brandon Weeden - See above.
  • Mark Sanchez - See Above.
  • Brock Osweiler - Miami, Denver, and Houston did that, chose to go another direction.
  • Derek Anderson - not a terrible option, but not necessarily better than what you have.
  • Josh Johnson - Pass.
  • Geno Smith - The New York Giants didn't want him. Very Hard Pass.

There isn't a free agent quarterback that makes sense. They're either old descending quarterbacks or young retreads that have been through a few different organizations and haven't been able to find a landing spot. Let's get into training camp and the preseason and see what Mike White and Cooper Rush do in a game-like situation before making a definitive evaluation.

With Kellen Moore and Jon Kitna as Dak Prescott's main coaching influences in 2019, there's no need for a veteran backup quarterback to "mentor" Prescott at this point in his career. Moore was always considered a very smart player that was viewed as a future coach. Kitna was one of the better backup quarterback options during his career and has spent time coaching in the high school ranks. Dak couldn't have two better guys in his ear during the week or on gameday. A veteran quarterback doesn't really add anything to what these two already bring.

The Cowboys are content to see how the backup quarterback battle plays out between Mike White and Cooper Rush. Let these guys get as many snaps as they can in training camp and the preseason and if, for some reason, neither guy steps up and you feel like you need to add a veteran, then go grab Mark Sanchez since he knows the offense and has a good relationship with Dak Prescott.



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What Are Realistic Expectations for Cowboys LB Sean Lee?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 2

For many years, Linebacker Sean Lee has been the face of the Dallas Cowboys defense. However, that's quickly changing. The young duo consisting of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have taken over the linebacker position by dominating the field from sideline to sideline with their explosive talent. As a rookie, Vander Esch filled in for Lee at the weak linebacker position when the veteran went down injured and never gave the job back.

Currently, uncertainty surrounds Sean Lee, who took a pay cut earlier in the year to stay with the franchise he's played for since the beginning of his professional career in 2010. What will his role be in a young fueled defense in the upcoming season?

As we've all been able to see throughout his career, Sean Lee is one of the best in the game when he's healthy. Unfortunately, that's not very often. His injury proneness led him to a position change years ago, when he was moved from the MIKE (middle linebacker) to the WILL (weak side linebacker) position. Now, those two spots are taken care of.

Where does this leaves Lee? The main question is whether or not he'll move to the strong side. Many question if this would be the correct call, given that he could be at even more risk of suffering yet another injury in a position that leads to more contact. The other option would be for him to be Vander Esch's backup at WILL.

Wish List for Dallas Cowboys 1st Preseason Game

Dallas Cowboys LBs Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee

Lately, it seems like the Cowboys will indeed move him to the strong-side. After all, it only makes sense to have your best three players on the field at the same time. On minicamp, the Cowboys have been playing the veteran at SAM, letting him get reps and grow comfortable in what seems to be his new job.

But even if Sean Lee starts lining up on the strong side, what can we expect from him next season? The way the NFL offenses operate now leads to teams sending their nickel packages to the field more often than not. For the Cowboys 4-3 defense, that means three cornerbacks, two linebackers. When that's the case, it will be Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith who we see out there, not Lee.

Damien Wilson was the team's "starter" on the strong side, and he only managed to get 286 snaps, according to Pro Football Reference. That represents 28% of the team's total snaps. Even if Sean Lee becomes the starting strong side linebacker, we likely won't be seeing him as much.

Even still, I'd expect Sean Lee's experience to play a big factor when the team needs Jaylon Smith or Leighton Vander Esch to catch their breath. Lee could jump in and play a few snaps at any LB spot and do a good job at it.

After all, we can't forget that despite his injuries, Lee is a remarkable player on defense. He should still be one of the smartest linebackers with extraordinary instincts. There's a reason why, before Vander Esch arrived to America's Team, the defense crumbled without him. Last year, despite losing the starting gig, Lee still had 118 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and an interception. The longtime veteran can still play.

It will be odd for Cowboys Nation to watch Lee on a completely new role. It's also hard to put the finger on what his production will look like at the end of the year. If there's one thing we know though, is that the veteran will work hard every practice trying to get the most playing time he can. We should be excited about the team's top three linebackers.

Tell me what you think about "What Are Realistic Expectations for Cowboys LB Sean Lee?" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Dak Prescott Impresses, Draws Compliments All Minicamp Long

Kevin Brady

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Dak Prescott and Coaches Both to Blame for Cowboys Offensive Woes
James D. Smith via AP

Dak Prescott stood before the media Thursday in a Stetson Cowboy hat, answering questions about his upcoming contract extension.

“I’ve got my cowboy hat on, so I’m a Cowboy, we’ll say that.”

Prescott has cemented himself as the franchise quarterback of America's Team, and now it's time for the franchise to pay him like it. Set to earn roughly $34 million per year (according to recent rumors/reports), Prescott is going to be a very rich and comfortable man in the near future.

But, for now, he still plays under his fourth round rookie contract. You wouldn't be able to tell by watching him on the field, however. Though it was just minicamp, Prescott was impressive as ever over the last couple weeks of practice, earning praise from all levels within the organization.

Veteran Jason Witten complimented both Prescott's anticipation and accuracy, saying his throws have been "off the charts" at minicamp. Prescott himself said that this is the best he's felt since he's entered the league, and it certainly makes sense for this to be the case.

"Is it three years under my belt or just seeing defenses a whole lot more clear, being quicker and faster in everything I want to do, having great teammates around me? Who really knows the answer, but I feel great. I feel confident, and my teammates do, as well.” - Prescott to DallasCowboys.com

If Prescott was ever going to be comfortable, hungry, and ready to go, this is likely the time that it would happen. He has three relatively successful seasons under his belt, and ended 2018 on the best stretch of his career. He is the unquestioned starting quarterback for this team, and has the backing of every key decision maker in the building.

Prescott now has an offensive coordinator who he has not only worked closely with (in some capacity) since he entered the league in 2016, but is also being lauded for his creativity as an offensive mastermind. His quarterbacks coach, Jon Kitna, has been receiving similar praise for how he can coach up Prescott and get his footwork consistent, to help him "throw it through a Fruit Loop."

The time is now for Dak Prescott, and it's encouraging to see how he is responding to this increased pressure and responsibility. Then again we should have no doubt that he will respond positively, as he as throughout his entire young career.

Whenever faced with adversity, Prescott has answered the bell. Now he has all the supporters he needs, and just needs to prove them right.



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