Whew. After Ezekiel Elliott received a six-game suspension by the NFL, the "this is only the beginning" comments were everywhere around us. And yes, it really was just the beginning. If you've somehow missed all of the developments of the Zeke case, you can catch up with Sean Martin's article from Friday morning. Without even waiting for an answer from Harold Henderson and company, the NFLPA filed a petition in federal court to vacate the arbitration award.
This was expected to go to court, and it is something we knew was going to happen. But filing the petition before Henderson even announced his decision sure took us by surprise.
A lot of the information out there so far, surely is outrageous for every Cowboys fan. The NFL has been showing inconsistency and hypocrisy for a long time, and we are all hoping this ends soon. Too bad it won't.
Inevitably, this whole deal about the NFL leading investigator Kia Roberts recommending the NFL to not suspend Elliott has given Cowboys Nation a sense of hope. A "hey, this just might turn all right" type of sense. And even though it may look promising, I'm here to tell you... don't get your hopes up.
Yes, the information looks promising. Roger Goodell and the NFL look like clowns. All of this seems unfair to Zeke. But when this is taken to court, it is not a matter of whether or not Ezekiel Elliott did what he is being accused of.
I've spoken to a few of lawyers this morning, some who have handled NFL-related cases. They don't believe the NFLPA wins this in court.
The truth is, whether we like or not, Roger Goodell is in his right to suspend Ezekiel Elliott. Even if it is not ethical, fair, right, correct or whatever you want to call it... the CBA grants this power to the NFL commissioner.
That is basically what will be reviewed in court. Does the NFL commissioner have the right to suspend Ezekiel Elliott? Were there procedural violations? I'm telling you right now, the fact that Lisa Friel is a New York Giants fan will not cut it. Not even the NFLPA calling this a "league-orchestrated conspiracy" will.
I know, I know. There's more reasons to think that Ezekiel Elliott's camp might win this thing in court. But once you calm down and take a deep breath after being on Twitter for a while... how good will these arguments be when faced to a league commissioner who has been given a ridiculous and unfair amount of power?
Ezekiel Elliott is going to end up playing against the New York Giants in the season opener for the Dallas Cowboys. He will more than likely end up playing all of the 2017 season while this drama drags through court. But after that, he will likely be suspended. Even if we're talking about next season.
Why? CBA, CBA, CBA.
Is There a Small Bit of Hope?
Of course there is. What if the NFL decides to make things right? Does it sound probable? Not much, but it is an interesting idea.
Best thing for NFL is to have Harold Henderson vacate suspension. Otherwise, bad federal court precedent looms. Would negate #Deflategate.
If the NFL has Henderson vacate the suspension, claiming something was done incorrectly and making up an excuse for it, it could be an interesting turn of events. Put all of this behind, and pretend nothing ever happened.
A Hail Mary from the NFL to save their perception before this is all taken to court might not be out of the question and it is worth discussing at least. As the tweet above mentions... could you imagine a scenario with Deflategate coming back? Can you imagine Roger Goodell finally saying goodbye to a possible extension?
The NFL is not doing things right, and I don't expect them to change anytime soon. This has not been fair, this has not been correct and this is far from over. If Elliott's suspension isn't vacated by Harold Henderson, I don't think Zeke will avoid missing six games. The NFL might need to wait until next year to see him suspended, but it will happen.
For now, Ezekiel Elliott and his camp are showing us what we all had imagined... they're not going without a fight.
Cowboys Wishlist: First-Team Offense Scores a TD
It's time for football to be played in Hawaii! The Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Rams are set to play tonight at Aloha Stadium, home of the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. It's the second week in the preseason and the Cowboys have a ton of things to figure out before cut-down day arrives. The Rams' starters remained at home, so it'll be interesting to see what the Cowboys' game plan is.
Without further ado, here is this week's edition of Cowboys Wishlist! Let me know what your wishes for tonight's game are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Dak and starters get in the end zone
Last week the Cowboys' starters on offense looked sharp, but failed to score a touchdown. Prescott completed four out of four passes for 23 yards, Michael Gallup had two catches for 19 yards and Tony Pollard showed us a little bit of what he could do with only four rushing attempts for a gain of 16.
Offensive line looked solid with Travis Frederick back on the field and a very improved Connor Williams lined up next to him.
This week, I hope we see a little bit more from the starters and I wish we get to see them score a touchdown. It's only preseason, but it's never bad to see your starting offense put six on the board.
Wish #2: Jon'Vea Johnson bounces back
Undrafted rookie Jon'Vea Johnson has been a sensation in offseason workouts and training camp, but he couldn't take it to where it matters most, the playing field. Drops were an issue both in camp and in last week's preseason opener. However, his route running has been great and he's been able to create separation with ease.
His stock took a hit versus the 49ers, but I wish he bounces right back with a strong performance against the Rams.
Wish #3: Walk away without injuries
This might slightly contradict my #1 wish, but I'm not talking about starters only. In San Francisco, the Cowboys had a couple of injuries that might be more relevant than they seem. First off, WR Cedrick Wilson, who has a real case of making the 53-man roster suffered a concussion after playing very well and racking up 36 yards in three catches.
LB Luke Gifford, who's also fighting for a spot on the team was having himself quite a night before suffering an ankle injury that will keep him out for at least a couple of weeks.
Every time an NFL team walks away from a preseason game without injuries, it's a win.
Wish #4: DE depth continues to impress
Last week, rookies Jalen Jelks and Joe Jackson shined on their preseason debut. Jelks sacked the QB on his first play of preseason action, Jackson got some pressure in and both have had pretty good camps so far. Dorance Armstrong and Kerry Hyder have also played well. Taco Charlton got a couple of good pass rushes in versus the 49ers.
With Robert Quinn suspended for the first two games, I wish we continue to see quality play from these young defensive ends as they fight for the final spots on the Cowboys' 53-man roster.
What are your wishes for tonight's matchup between Cowboys and Rams?
A Deep Dive Into Cowboys QB Dak Prescott’s Value
The number took the football world by surprise, and left most fans and analysts across the league shaking their heads. Dak Prescott? $40 million?
Of course, the same people who would yell at the Cowboys for extending Prescott at such a number will also laugh at the Cowboys for extending their running back and paying him big money for his position. But that's enough about that.
The fact of the matter is Dak Prescott has earned the right to be paid. He's earned his contract extension through his play, and as a quarterback when it's your turn to get paid, the total yearly value is going to look ridiculous.
Whether or not Prescott has "earned" this deal is still debated across fanbases, however. Some believe he's been carried, others believe his skill players and offensive play caller have held him back. Some say he can be a top 10 quarterback, others believe he's "trash."
Let's settle the debate, or at least attempt to, by taking a deep dive into some of the most important numbers when determining a quarterback's production.
It's almost become accepted as fact that Dak is an inaccurate quarterback, but the numbers suggest a very different story. Completion percentage on its own is a very poor judge of accuracy, but Next Gen Stats' "completion percentage over expected (CPOE)," is a much more robust metric. Completion probability is calculated on each throw, and depends on a variety of factors such as the depth of target, where the receiver is on the field, separation, time to throw, and much more.
CPOE measures the difference between a quarterback's expected completion percentage and their actual completion percentage. In short, the higher the number, the more accurate that quarterback tends to be because he is outperforming his expectations.
Prescott had a CPOE of +2.1 in 2019, tied for 9th among quarterbacks with a minimum of 200 attempts. This means that he was 2.1 percentage points better than he was expected to be in terms of completion percentage.
Dak and Dunk?
Another major narrative against the Cowboys quarterback is that he is a dink and dunk passer. The argument says that Prescott dumps the ball off too often, and is risk averse to a fault in the passing game.
Next Gen Stats has a metric called Aggressiveness Percentage, which measures the percentage of passing attempts into tight windows over total number of attempts. Prescott's AGG% was 17.7%, tied for 7th in the league among quarterbacks with a minimum 200 attempts.
Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that Dak is the 7th most aggressive quarterback in the league. His high percentage of throws to receivers with less than 1 yard of separation could have more to do with lack of offensive creativity and lack of speed at receiver than Prescott taking a ton of chances.
Our friend Cowboys Stats on Twitter has spoke a lot about this narrative as well, though, and dispelled it with this excellent chart linked below.
@TheKegbearer @KDDrummondNFL Very quick-and-dirty density plot of all league passes since start of 2015 (red) and all of Dak's career passes (blue).
As you can see, Prescott is no more likely to dump the ball off than the league average since 2015. The X axis is depth of target, and the Y axis is total share of passes. So shoutout to Cowboys Stats for this awesome chart to show how little validity the "Dak and Dunk" narrative really has.
Why else is Dak good, Kevin?
I'm glad you asked!
While remaining as aggressive in the passing game as anyone else, Prescott turns the ball over much less. His interception percentage was just 1.5%, tied for 4th among all quarterbacks last year. While he did have a weird fumbling spurt at the beginning of 2018, Prescott has never been someone who throws a lot of picks. And, you guessed it, that's good.
Prescott's value is also measured through Expected Points Added. Expected Points uses the down, distance, and field position to estimate a team's expected net point advantage. Simply put, how many points is this team expected to score considering their circumstances.
EPA is the difference between expected points at the beginning of the play and end of the play, defined by Brian Burke as a play's impact on the score of the game.
Prescott had a total EPA of 71.7 in 2018, 12th among all quarterbacks. He was also 6th in rushing EPA by QBs, further emphasizing how important his quarterback runs are. Lastly, Dak finished 8th in EPA on non-zero value added QB-plays (most plays that are not handoffs).
Now, while I certainly sit in the "Dak is good" camp, he does have room for improvement. Passing efficiency leaders tend to be stable year over year, whereas something like team defense is highly variable. But, Prescott can make some key improvements going forward.
Prescott had a sack percentage of 9.6% in 2018, 28th in the league. This high percentage comes while being 10th in time to throw, indicating that Prescott needs to make decisions quicker. As you might expect, most of top 10 are guys who like to extend plays and get out of the pocket, but Dak does hold onto the ball too long and take too many sacks.
Prescott also was below average in two important efficiency stats in 2018. Dak finished 19th in ANY/A at 6.22 yards, though most of the Cowboys faithful hope to see this number grow with a changed offensive philosophy under Kellen Moore. Dallas' passing offense also finished 26th in DVOA, which is downright bad. Though, the acquisition of Amari Cooper certainly helped things quickly for the Cowboys in the second half of the season.
Dak Prescott is a good quarterback. Does he have flaws? Of course. Is he an elite, Patrick Mahomes level player? No, he's not. But it's his turn to get paid and he is worthy of the contract he's about to receive.
Don't let Philadelphia fans tell you differently.
Cowboys en Español: ¿Dónde Tiene Que Mejorar Prescott en 2019?
Los Dallas Cowboys no han jugado un partido de football americano desde enero del presente año, exceptuando la pretemporada. A falta de juegos, la conversación entre aficionados de Cowboys se ha enfocado a otras cosas diferentes al deporte en sí. Este offseason ha estado repleto de tantas cosas que solucionar fuera del emparrillado, como los contratos pendientes de Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper y Ezekiel Elliott (quien además ha iniciado otra conversación por su ausencia en el training camp de los Cowboys).
Tanto hemos hablado de cuánto dinero merece o no Dak Prescott, que hemos perdido de vista otro tipo de discusiones. En vez de hablar de su futuro dentro del campo, hemos hablado de cuanto promediará al año, entre otras cosas.
Es por eso que en esta edición de Cowboys en Español, me dispongo a hablar de cosas que espero ver de parte de Dak esta temporada que está por comenzar en septiembre. Los siguientes puntos también se ligan directamente con la llegada del nuevo coordinador ofensivo, Kellen Moore. Al reemplazar a Scott Linehan, Moore podrá añadirle elementos a la ofensiva de Cowboys para llevarla al siguiente nivel. No habrá un cambio de sistema drástico, pero si las cosas salen bien, las pequeñas chispas que el joven coordinador ofensivo le dé al plan de juego podrán hacer la diferencia.
Habiendo dicho eso, esto es lo que quiero ver de parte de Prescott en 2019.
Mejor presencia en el bolsillo
Dak Prescott ha demostrado una habilidad impresionante para brillar en momentos clave donde la presión está al máximo. Sin embargo, a lo largo de su carrera, no ha sido el mejor sintiendo la presión a su alrededor. La temporada pasada, esto fue más evidente que nunca. Dak terminó la temporada siendo el segundo mariscal en ser capturado más veces en la NFL. Los oponentes terminaron el año con 58 sacks contra los Cowboys.
En muchas ocasiones, permitir sacks es culpa de la línea ofensiva. Pero en muchas otras, la responsabilidad recae en el QB, quien tiene que deshacerse del balón rápidamente y estar consciente de por donde viene la presión. Prescott tiene que mejorar en esta área que le ha causado problemas desde su año de novato para llevar su juego al siguiente nivel.
Lanzar por el centro del campo
Esto es cuestión tanto del coordinador ofensivo como del QB. En sus primeras tres temporadas, a pesar de que Prescott ha tenido éxito, no ha buscado muchos receptores en el centro del campo. Rumbo a la temporada del 2019, tiene que buscar jugadas en esta zona.
De lo contrario, las defensivas contrarias tendrán ventaja al no temer que el balón puede ir en esa dirección y en cambio mantener a los receptores cerca de las bandas.
Mejorar su uso de pies
Al lanzar un balón, un QB no solo utiliza su brazo. De hecho, los pies son tan importantes como la parte superior del cuerpo. En el caso de Prescott, su mecánica siempre ha dejado que desear. Para eso llegó al equipo Joe Kitna como coach de quarterbacks.
En Twitter, Bobby Belt señaló la mejora de Dak Prescott al dejar de arrastras su pie durante un lanzamiento.
And then this was Dak last night. The back leg is a lot more stable. It's no longer a drag or lift of the foot. He spins up on the toe. https://t.co/ybIhTc2Goy
Esperemos que dichas mejoras continúen notándose a lo largo de la temporada para ver una mejor versión de Dak. Entre mejor uso de pies, el QB tiene una mejor base para lanzar el balón y resulta en mejor puntería.
Lanzar más profundo
Finalmente, este punto tiene que ver más con el coordinador ofensivo que con Prescott. Si bien el QB ha dejado ir varias oportunidades en el juego profundo, los Cowboys son uno de los equipos que menos rutas profundas han corrido en los últimos años. Por eso y muchas otras cosas, Scott Linehan fue despedido.
Se ha hablado mucho de que con Kellen Moore, los Cowboys han utilizado más el pase profundo y esperemos que sea aquí donde Prescott pueda marcar la diferencia utilizando a su fuerte grupo de receptores. Incluso con Randall Cobb, quien reemplazará a Cole Beasley, la ofensiva podría utilizar a su receptor de slot en rutas más profundas, cosa que hemos visto en los entrenamientos del offseason.
Cambiar la identidad ofensiva
Con este tipo de cambios, los Dallas Cowboys podrían permitirse cambiar su identidad ofensiva. ¿A qué me refiero? Desde el 2016, el equipo se ha convertido en una ofensiva que establece el juego terrestre para después abrir el juego aéreo. Con Ezekiel Elliott como corredor, este plan ha funcionado constantemente.
Habiendo dicho eso, en una liga tan enfocada al pase, ¿no sería mejor hacerlo al revés? Incluso con Zeke, el juego terrestre podría mejorar si el equipo se enfocará en establecer el juego de pase. Esta es la tendencia que la liga ha adoptado y que ha resultado para los equipos.
Estamos acostumbrados a hablar de las puertas que abre el juego terrestre, pero hemos ignorado que el juego aéreo abre muchas más. Eso sin mencionar, que desquitaría la extensión de contrato inminente que terminará por firmar Dak Prescott.
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