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Passion, Penalties and Football

Bryson Treece

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Cowboys Blog - Passion, Penalties and Football

There's been some discussion lately since Mo Claiborne and Terrance Williams had a little scuffle during camp on Saturday. Mind you, it was just a heat-of-the-moment skirmish that meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. People seem to enjoy that kind of thing. I guess it's because of the passion it takes to push players to the point of fighting. We want things heated and fierce, even in practice. We want the players fired up and ready for some action.

Lords knows that by the time training camp starts, the fans are on edge. We're ecstatic just to see the offseason end.

My part in the discussion at DCN has been that of the antagonist. I think it's great that these guys are getting caught up in it and getting angry over mistakes and failures. But I also believe that sort of fire leads to more mistakes, specifically penalties.

We're all caught up in the stats of the game. We debate the elite status of Tony Romo and can do so until the cows come home. But I tend to side with former Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells - You gotta play mistake-free football.

There are lots of ways to count mistakes on the football field, and many are quite debatable. But the one mistake above reproach is that pesky little yellow flag.

Right or wrong, if the refs throw it and call it, it's done. Another tally in the only stat column nobody wants marked. But much like the discussion about the effects of a bad, good or great running game, I wanted to see how penalties-per-game measured up in the big picture for the Dallas Cowboys.

So here's a chart of the average penalties-per-game and total wins for each season (ties are counted as wins), including denotation of years in which playoff appearances were made and championships won. I figure you just can't get a good look without having some winning seasons and some losing seasons, so it shows 1990-2013 - Jerry's team.

penpgame-wins-90-13bI noticed the years under Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells right away - both coaches enjoyed the lowest penalty average in their time with Dallas. The average of our yearly penalties-per-game since 1990 is 6.51 (the white line across the chart).

At first, there are no discernible patterns that just scream winning formula, but if you keep looking, you'll find that Jerry Jones' Cowboys have only won a single playoff game with an above average number of penalties. Perhaps you see it differently, but I don't think the Eagles were much of a threat in the 2009 playoffs. And the stats seem to support Dallas lucking out with a weak Philadelphia team.

The NFL has a bad case of Goldilocks syndrome when it comes to execution. Too little, too much, too early, too late; if anything isn't just right then it's another yellow flag. When one mistake can blow the game - an errant throw in the 4th, a missed tackle at the eight yard-line, a muffed catch on a punt return - more and more games are becoming a war of attrition.

The team that makes the fewest mistakes usually wins.

And we're pretty reliable defenders of those mistakes. We routinely defended DeMarcus Ware and his famous post-game referee chats about an errant call for being off-sides. It makes sense. Most of us would be bawling like babies after just one full-speed down with these guys. We excuse players because it's a tough sport that takes an enormous amount of focus and physical ability just to achieve mediocre. Add to it that we favor the teams and players we like the most.

I look at that chart and all I can think is how much a penalty costs. How many times has Dallas driven sixty yards down-field only to reach the red-zone for just a moment before someone's stupid knocks them back five or ten yards? No need to play favorites now. We all know you're saying the same thing when it happens. For that matter, how many times has one stupid been followed up by another on the very next play?

Penalties nullify big gains and huge stops. They back the line of scrimmage up until the QBs ass is against the goal post. They obliterate momentum.

What's the one thing you find in every penalty? A lack of focus. It's not always possible to have enough focus to avoid being drawn off-sides by an excellent cadence and a loud stadium, but focus is the key element, or rather the lack thereof. Taking that focus and building fire and passion around it would be a neat trick, because otherwise those emotions might as well be lye poured on top - Goodbye Focus. You just can't have both, not to any meaningful degree.

So yeah, I like to see these guys with some fight in them. So what if it's only training camp? These guys are fighting for their job, especially on defense. But if they're smart, and we're to have any hope of advancing in the playoffs, then they had best get it out of their system now before a game is on the line.

It only takes a single mistake to crush a gridiron hero, and apparently, it only takes seven mistakes for Dallas to lose a game.



Nothing gives me greater joy than the experience of being a Dallas Cowboys fan come time to check another victory on the schedule every Sunday. I live Inside the Star everyday and blog on it occasionally, as well. Follow us on Twitter - @InsideTheStarDC

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Star Blog

Why I’m Not Buying The Jason Witten Rejuvenation Story

Kevin Brady

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Jason Witten, FOX Sports, and the Future at Tight End for the Dallas Cowboys
Photo by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

Last week, Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett made headlines with some quotes about the return of Jason Witten. Neither Garrett nor Witten tend to make headlines with their words often, but the two combined to do so with a quote this week.

“Yeah, absolutely. He’s been excited about every part of it ever since I met him and that hasn’t changed,” coach Jason Garrett said. “The work that he’s done in the weight room in the off-season program has been outstanding. His testing numbers and all of that are what they’ve been or even better. And he just has an unbelievable way about him. Tremendous passion for the game. And he demonstrates that every day. Witt looks good. He’s excited to be back and we’re certainly fortunate to have him back.” - Jason Garrett on Witten.

Multiple Cowboys' media outlets ran with these quotes, looking to show that the Cowboys have found a version of Jason Witten that they have not seen in quite some time. They are, publicly, stating that they believe a year away from the game did Witten some good, and that he will be a much healthier and fresher player in 2019 than he was back when he last played in 2017.

As a fan of the team, I sure hope this is the case. But as a realistic human being, I can't get behind this at all.

Jason Witten hasn't been very good for quite some time now. I know he's a Cowboy legend, and will forever be a fan favorite, but the facts are the facts. As a run blocker Witten has regressed greatly in his later years. More often it seemed he was re-adjusting his jersey after a missed block than he was making blocks to spring Ezekiel Elliott on the edge.

As a receiver, Witten's much slower than he used to be. And while he was never a blazer who relied on his speed to win, his lack of speed certainly holds him back in today's game. And if the Cowboys want to be multiple and versatile on offense, I'm not sure how a greatly-aged tight end helps them to do so.

He's still the smart, instinctive route runner he's always been, but at 37 years old what can we realistically expect from him?

I'll be honest, I'm very skeptical that Jason Witten is going to give the Cowboys anything in 2019. Maybe earlier in the season he will look better than expected, but can he withstand a full NFL season? It's impossible to say for sure now, but I'm absolutely not buying that he's rejuvenated or extra-fresh after a year off from football.



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Star Blog

Connor Williams Hopes Added Weight, Experience Aids Him In 2019

Kevin Brady

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Connor Williams

Offensive lineman Connor Williams had himself an interesting start to his young career. The second round pick was expected to be a plug-and-play guard for the Cowboys, earning the starting left guard spot from just about the first day of training camp.

The results from Williams' play were mixed, however. At moments Connor Williams looked like his athletic, technically sound self, working well on the Cowboys outside zone runs. Other times, though, he was simply overpowered by bigger and stronger defensive tackles.

Williams lost his left guard spot due to injury late in the season, and when Xavier Su'a-Filo came in and played relatively well, fans soured a bit on the then-rookie lineman. Still there was no question that Williams was the better player between the two, and he rightfully started in both the Cowboys playoff games last season.

Now entering year two, and with third round pick Connor McGovern potentially competing for a guard spot and rumors of a move to right tackle swirling around him, Williams believes he's done enough to improve before his Sophomore year.

Connor Williams spoke to DallasCowboys.com, and gave some decent quotes on what his offseason preparation has looked like thus far. Williams emphasized that his main goal was to add strength and size, something he looks to have clearly done based on recent photographs.

“I think I’ve put myself in a good position. Now it’s just about refining the technique and feeling comfortable.” - Connor Williams

According to Williams he played at a "light 300" pounds in 2018, but is now tipping the scales at 315 pounds. That's quite the difference, especially considering that Williams carries the weight pretty well in his frame.

All Pro veteran guard Zack Martin has taken Williams under his wing, as the young lineman credits Martin for being his lifting partner this offseason.

Right tackle might be in Connor Williams' 2020 future, but as of now, he has to ready himself to compete at left guard against the heavier defensive tackles he once struggled with. It's very encouraging to see the progress he has made so far.



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Travis Frederick’s Return Highlights Start Of Cowboys’ OTAs

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Center Travis Frederick Still Hoping to "Be a Rock" for Teammates Despite GBS Syndrome
James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys opening of voluntary OTAs came with some serious excitement from football-starved fans. But as we all know, these workouts are just about meaningless in terms of storylines for the upcoming season.

I say "just about meaningless" because there are some storylines which matter, though. Travis Frederick's return, of course, is one of those storylines.

After missing all of 2018 due to Guillain-Barre syndrome, Frederick appears to have gained his strength and ability back heading into 2019. Now he is back where he belongs, as the starting center for the Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

@tfrederick72 🔙 at it! 💪🏼 #OTAs https://t.co/wht2Lh5yr5

Travis Frederick's importance to the Cowboys cannot be understated. In addition to being one of the best linemen in all of football, the All-Pro veteran center is responsible for much of the pre-snap communication across the offensive line. His absence was clearly felt in 2018, even as Joe Looney played well-above the preseason expectation level.

Frederick returns to anchor an offensive line which is surrounded with some serious pre-season hype. With Zack Martin back to full health, Connor Williams having a year under his belt, and newly-drafted Connor McGovern comes in with high hopes of starting on the interior.

Regardless of how the rest of the Cowboys' offensive line works itself out, it was great to see Travis Frederick back in action, even if it was during a non-contact voluntary practice.



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