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Nothing Shocking About Success of 2014 Cowboys

Brian Leatherman

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Cowboys Blog - Nothing Shocking About Success of 2014 Cowboys

Many people in the media, football fans, and even Dallas Cowboys fans never gave the 2014 Cowboys team much of a chance to be successful. Not only were the Cowboys not given much of a chance, but they were being dubbed as one of - if not - the worst teams in the league coming into the season.

The team was horrific on defense last year; bad play calling on offense and the refusal to run the ball consistently were some of many reasons why the 2014 Cowboys were given no chance.

And on top of it all the team lost it's best three defenders from that dreadful defense of 2013 - Jason Hatcher wasn’t resigned, DeMarcus Ware was released, and then in May, Sean Lee tore his ACL; not to mention Tony Romo was trying to come back from having his second back surgery in as many years.

No doubt about it, nothing but misery and despair were to come for America’s Team.

But looking back on it now, was that really the case? Remember last season when the Cowboys defensive line had 19 different players take snaps? Let that sink in a little bit. 19 DIFFERENT PLAYERS.

Now, also take into consideration that the majority of those players were not playing football when the Cowboys gave them the call. Some were busy opening up an ice cream shop or selling insurance and I think a couple might have worked at home depot.

Yes, the defense still had DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Nick Hayden and George Selvie. But only Selvie was able to remain mostly healthy of the four. As for the other defensive positions, linebacker Sean Lee missed a lot of time again; Justin Durant missed games as well. The cornerback position stayed healthy, but the safety position continued to struggle through injuries and inexperience.

Throw all that in with a defensive scheme that didn’t allow the players to play at their strength, and what you got next was a recipe for disaster.

Yet, after all that, through all the injuries, that revolving door on the defensive line and the coaching miscues; somehow, someway this team managed to finish with a .500 record at 8-8.

During the offseason, the team didn’t make any free agent splashes. If anything they made more noise by letting people go.

Jason Hatcher left, as did DeMarcus Ware. The team replaced them with Terrell McClain, Jeremy Mincey and Henry Melton - who was coming back from a torn ACL. The biggest move of the offseason was arguably  during the summer when the Cowboys traded with the Baltimore Ravens for the linebacker Rolando McClain.

Making a return to the team was DE/DT Tyrone Crawford - who tore his Achilles tendon during the 2013 training camp - but at the time, people were saying, “Yeah, so, what’s the big deal?”

In my eyes it was huge and here’s why.

The coaches and staff were able to get players that they thought would fit the system, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The team wasn’t forced to take players who were sitting on the couch at home, like they had been for the 2013 season. The team was also going into the second year of the Kiffinelli scheme, albeit now with Rod Marinelli at the head of the table.

With the player transactions, coaching changes, the return of a few key players on defense, and the maturation and experience at the safety position, a big improvement for this team wasn’t out of the question. As a matter of fact, I expected it. I felt that if this team was able to stay healthy, they would indeed improve and fight for a playoff spot. Why the so-called “pros" in the industry couldn’t see it is beyond me.

Think about it, this team is fresh off three consecutive 8-8 seasons. In each of those years the Cowboys led the league in number of players put injured reserve or missing playing time. And yet they remained competitive and had a chance to make the playoffs.

This season, the team has still had to fight through injuries. Sean Lee was lost for the year before it even began and Justin Durant was gone midway through the season. Even Bruce Carter and Rolando McClain have missed time due to injury and illness. But the difference is they weren’t all missing at the same time. Plus, their backups were actually chosen during the offseason and those same backups were able to stay healthy.

Let’s face it folks, when you get down to your third string and fourth string players having major playing time, you’re going to experience a drop off in production. But that hasn’t happen this season, has it?

I’m not going to sit here and give all the praise to the defense and their improved play as to why this team is heading into their first playoff game in 5 years. The offense has played a major role, as most expected they would have to.

The team said they were going to run the ball this year and they have. DeMarco Murray stayed healthy and has played out of his mind. Dez Bryant continued to prove he is one of the best wide receivers in the league. The emergence of second-year wide receiver Terrance Williams, as well as Cole Beasley, has been huge. The ever consistent Jason Witten and up and coming tight ends James Hanna and Gavin Escobar have played a huge role, too.

The offensive linemen have proved to be the best unit in the league while Tony Romo fought to come back from back surgery to have a MVP type of season (which he should be in my biased opinion).

So was it really that big of a shock that this team turned things around once they stayed healthy and got back some players from injury? I don’t see it that way, and haven’t seen it that way. Even the young men on this team showed improvement throughout the season.

I can’t sit here and say I saw a top 5 team in the league, I would be lying if I did. Matter of fact, I had them winning 10 games and sneaking into the playoffs as a wild card. Heck, I was one of the people who gave them no shot to win in Seattle.

But what I can say is people were pointing at signs why the 2014 Cowboys were going to be bad, when what they should have been looking at signs of why they were going to be good in 2014.

If they had, their success this season wouldn’t really be that big of a shock.



Brian has been a football junkie from the time he was 5 years old. He lives, eats and breathes the game. Brian is a college graduate living in the south who loves his faith, his family, and his Dallas Cowboys.

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Star Blog

DL Christian Covington Could Be Rod Marinelli’s Next Great Find

Kevin Brady

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BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign DL Christian Covington 1
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has earned the reputation for finding and developing lesser-known defensive linemen over the years, and turning them into productive players for his defense.

It seems like every year the Cowboys have at least one defensive tackle who entered the season with no-to-limited hype, and finished it as a hard-nosed, productive player in the middle of their defensive line rotation.

Christian Covington could very well be that guy in 2019.

The former Houston Texan has had an interesting NFL career thus far. Overall, his raw numbers are decent on paper, appearing in 50 games over four seasons and tallying up 7.5 sacks and 65 tackles. Not bad for a rotational defensive lineman, to be sure.

As a Texan, Covington was mostly asked to play out of position, however. In their 3-4 scheme Covington played as the defensive end, whereas he'll be a 3-technique lining up over the guard in the Cowboys system. This should suit Covington much better, allowing him to be more comfortable in his position and hopefully produce at a higher clip.

Christian Covington is expected to be heavily involved in a defensive tackle rotation which is becoming quite crowded due to the Cowboys' busy offseason. Not only did Dallas draft UCF tackle Trysten Hill in the second round of the draft, but they are also bringing back the likes of Maliek Collins, Tyrone Crawford, and Antwaun Woods just to name a few.

Still, Covington should be able to compete for (and win) significant playing time by the middle of the season if all goes according to plan.

Covington is a solid interior pass rusher that can push the middle of the pocket and make quarterbacks uncomfortable. He has experience occupying blocks on the inside to free up elite edge rushers in Houston, which is exactly what he'll be doing for the likes of DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn in Dallas this season.

Don't be surprised if he does more than simply "occupying" blocks, though, and steals some sack production for himself this upcoming season.



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Everything You Need to Know About Cowboys Madden 20 Ratings

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Dallas Cowboys Have Interest In An E-Sports Team 8

Madden 20 is scheduled to release in August and the moment has arrived for both fans and players to be excited or outraged about this year's ratings. Madden ratings are constantly updated once released, but it's always fun to overreact when the launch ratings are announced. Even the "Madden 99 Club" has become an exciting social media dynamic with players being announced one by one.

Today, we'll dive into everything you need to know about the Dallas Cowboys' Madden 20 ratings!

The Second Best Team

It may come as a surprise that the Dallas Cowboys own the second highest overall in this year's game. With 86 on both offense and defense, America's Team ultimately amounts to an overall rating of 88. Second only to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys' ratings in the upcoming EA game should have fans excited to play.

While it is surprising to see Dallas over the current NFC champions, the L.A. Rams, or the the New England Patriots, the rating makes sense.

The Cowboys are very talented (Brandt actually named them the second most talented team in the NFL) and are loaded in the trenches. Offensive linemen Tyron Smith (94 OVR), Zack Martin (96 OVR) and Travis Frederick (94 OVR) really boost the team's overall rating. Not to mention a talented defense, specially at LB and DE.

Everything You Need to Know About Cowboys Madden 20 Ratings

Top 5 Cowboys in Madden 20

Only five Dallas Cowboys got a 90+ rating in this year's edition of Madden.

RG Zack Martin - 96 Overall

I cannot disagree with Martin being the highest-graded player on the Cowboys. This guy might be the best OL on the team and he hasn't missed serious time throughout his career. He's been the best right guard since arriving to the NFL in 2014 and hasn't showed any signs of slowing down.

Martin is the second best offensive lineman in the game (Packers LT David Bakhtiari is 97) and the best guard.

C Travis Frederick - 94 Overall

The Cowboys' center will be back on the field after missing the 2018 season and EA holds him at the top of his game. Although there is uncertainty about his health in real life, it doesn't affect his numbers on Madden. Frederick definitely deserves to be tied with Eagles' Jason Kelce for the throne among centers.

LT Tyron Smith - 94 Overall

Smith's injuries have cost him the title for best LT in football, but when healthy, #77 still dominates on the field. Hopefully, the Cowboys are able to get him for 16 games this season. After missing time in three consecutive seasons, Smith has something to prove this year.

RB Ezekiel Elliott - 94 Overall

Lucky for you and me, we don't have to worry about any potential holdouts in Madden (that'd be an interesting yet annoying feature). Ezekiel Elliott is the second best RB in the game (Gurley is #1), which seems fair to me. With a 94 overall rating, my only complaint would be Zeke's elusiveness being a mere 85.

CB Byron Jones - 91 Overall

Coming in to finish off the Cowboys' Top 5 is your second-team All-Pro CB Byron Jones! After a breakout year in 2018, it's nice to see Madden give him credit. We don't know if he'll stick around in Dallas for long, but when you play franchise mode, it'll be up to you.

Lookout Deshaun Watson, QB Sack Leader DeMarcus Lawrence is Coming!

DeMarcus Lawrence Got a What, Now?

You probably noticed a name missing in the Cowboys "90+ Club," didn't you?

Somehow, someway, EA Sports decided DeMarcus Lawrence was only worthy of an 89 overall rating. To which I say, and I'm sure Cowboys Nation echoes me: that's ridiculous!

I'll go ahead and list the pass rushers that are ranked above Lawrence:

  • Aaron Donald - 99 OVR (Fair, he's the best defensive player in the game)
  • Khalil Mack - 99 OVR (Fair)
  • Von Miller - 97 OVR (Fair)
  • J.J. Watt - 97 OVR (I can live with it, he did have an All-Pro season and 16 sacks)
  • Calais Campbell - 92 OVR
  • Jadeveon Clowney - 92 OVR
  • Myles Garrett - 91 OVR
  • Cameron Jordan - 91 OVR
  • Brandon Graham - 89 OVR (Tied with D-Law)

Man, I think the folks over at EA Sports are hugely underrating Lawrence. He might be the best EDGE rusher against the run and is among the best in the NFL rushing the passer. I get why he's not in the top 4, but he should be somewhere between Myles Garrett and Calais Campbell without a doubt.

Oh, by the way, DeMarcus Lawrence is asking Cowboys Nation to start a "Madden Strike."

DeMarcus Lawrence on Twitter

HOLD UP @EAMaddenNFL you not just going to disrespeck me like that with an 89 and get away with it....PUT. SOME. RESPECK. ON. https://t.co/ndDkGvo7gx. UNTIL THEN COWBOYS NATION IS ON MADDEN STRIKE! RT @dallascowboys Nation show em we ain't playin bih. https://t.co/okVXyooI3l

I love you as much as the next fan, Lawrence, but I'm getting the game. My bad. I'm sure it won't be long before they upgrade your stats.

A Few More Notes...

Dak Prescott got an 81 OVR rating: I won't complain about this one. It sounds low, but looking at the QBs listed above him, it makes sense. Mayfield, who has an 83, might be the one guy I'd like to see below Dak. He has a lot of potential, but we've seen more from Prescott so far.

Jason Witten's 83 rating seems high: #82 is the reason I fell in love with football, but I'll question this rating. Witten is 37-years old and is coming back from retirement. He was slow when he stepped back, who knows how he'll do now. But I love the idea of playing with him once more.

Michael Gallup is being slept on: I understand Gallup's 78 OVR rating. I really do. He didn't play that much on the first half of the season but improved on a weekly basis. I believe that his rating will change quickly with Gallup poised for a breakout year.

Antwaun Woods' rating is way too low: Woods should have a higher rating than 73. Although he is a DT and his stats don't jump out of the page, he proved to be a great one-tech for the Cowboys and made impact plays constantly when on the field. But hey, at least he's not complaining.

Antwaun Woods Sr. on Twitter

Honestly I'm just happy to be on Madden. A video game I've been playing my whole life. @EAMaddenNFL #Thankful

Cowboys LB are strong: Leighton Vander Esch (86 OVR), Jaylon Smith (85 OVR) and Sean Lee (84 OVR) all got a strong, well-deserved rating. These guys will be fun to watch on the field on Sundays and on your gaming console on a daily basis.

Amari Cooper's rating is spot on: Many have complained about Cooper having a 89 OVR, but I believe they nailed it. As much as we love Amari, he isn't in the top tier of NFL wide receivers. Let Hopkins, Beckham, Brown, Jones be on the 90s. 89 feels just right for Amari.

At the end of the day, these ratings are all subject to change. And with so many ups and downs in an NFL season, you better believe they will change. In the meantime, we can only wait. The game we annually wait so much for is just around the corner!

Tell me what you think about "Everything You Need to Know About Cowboys Madden 20 Ratings" 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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Cowboys Nation Mailbag: Tank’s Madden Rating, Rookies on the Roster?

John Williams

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DeMarcus Lawrence, Redskins

Probably one of my favorite things about this time of the year is attempting to figure out which rookies from the most recent draft class will have the opportunity to make a statement during their first season in the NFL. As an NFL franchise, you hope that several, if not all of your draft picks are able to make your opening week 53-man roster and make significant impacts during the regular season.

With the way the Dallas Cowboys have drafted in the last four or five years, we've grown accustomed to first-year players showing out in their rookie seasons. This time of year creates all kinds of speculation toward that end.

The downside to this time of year is that there isn't a ton to talk about. Most of what is going on is speculation into how the team will look when they take the field week one.

It's that time of the NFL year when there's not a whole lot going on and EA Sports drops their Madden ratings out for the world to peruse and criticize. Like every year, there are always ratings that make you go, "huh?" and this year is no different.

The fact that DeMarcus Lawrences is rated only an 89 on Madden 20 is just further evidence to how underappreciated he is around the NFL and those who follow the NFL. Even in the Dallas Cowboys fanbase, Lawrence isn't considered to be the same level of player that Khalil Mack or Von Miller is, but if you look at the totality of the numbers, you find that Tank's been every bit as productive and disruptive as those guys have been.

Cowboys Nation Mailbag: Tank's Madden Rating, Rookie Impact Players

As you can see from the chart above, in fewer snaps, DeMarcus Lawrence had a greater playmaking EPA over the course of the 2018 season than Khalil Mack and Von Miller. Aaron Donald had a higher playmaking EPA and should be rated higher than Lawrence, but I have a really hard time with Lawrence being rated anything less than a 95.

Though he may not have had as many sacks as Mack or either of the Watt brothers, Lawrence finished tied for fourth among edge rushers in Pro Football Focus' "stops" metric, which is defined as a play that results in a loss for the defense. Could be a tackle for a loss, a tackle that didn't achieve the expected yards for the down and distance, a sack, a batted pass, an interception, a tackle that forced a fourth down.

Lawrence is one of those players that does everything really, really well. He's one of the most well-rounded players on the defensive side of the football as he doesn't lack in his ability to play the run or rush the passer.

His ability to disrupt the run and pass game at an equally elite level goes beyond what you see in a boxscore. Oh, and his boxscore is really really good too. Though many Cowboys' fans were unsure if Lawrence was worth the $21 million per year and $60 million guaranteed that he received this offseason, I've never wavered in my belief that you should feel comfortable paying DeMarcus Lawrence like an elite edge player, because he's an elite edge player.


Mike followed up this question by also including Tony Pollard, so I won't touch on that one much except to say that I'm really excited to see what Pollard could do with 5-10 touches per game behind this offensive line. He's such an explosive player with the ball in his hands that you want to work to get the ball in his hands.

So, besides Trysten Hill, Connor McGovern, and Tony Pollard, which rookies do I see making the team in 2019? Well in my most recent 53-man roster projection, I included Mike Jackson, the cornerback out of Miami who the Dallas Cowboys selected in the fifth round as well as Donovan Wilson, the Texas A&M safety, their sixth-round draft pick.

I think both of those players will have an excellent shot to make the roster out of training camp and Wilson, in particular, could find himself with a significant role with the defense if he's able to translate his collegiate playmaking ability to the NFL. He was an excellent tackler and ball-hawking safety and if there's one thing that was evident in 2018, the team needs better tackling from its other safety not named Xavier Woods.

It's going to be very difficult for any of the rookie defensive linemen or wide receivers to make the roster out of training camp because there is already tremendous depth there.

Training camp generally leads to the hype machines getting out of control for undrafted free agent wide receivers and this year will be no different with playmakers Jalen Guyton and Jon'vea Johnson ready to shine. The difficulty is that they'll have to be significantly better than veterans Tavon Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown to force the team to move on from players they covet and trust.

It's possible, it's just not very likely.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Training camp is now less than two weeks away and as it draws closer, the excitement of Cowboys Nation will begin to boil over. This is a squad that has the talent and depth to be a contender. We're finally getting closer to being able to see that talent on the field instead of just talking about it.

If you have a question you'd like to see featured in our weekly mailbag, leave it in the comments, reply to the Inside The Star Facebook page, or send it to John via Twitter



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