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Passion, Penalties and Football

Bryson Treece



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

2018 In Review: Byron Jones Emerges As CB1

Kevin Brady



Byron Jones

Heading into the 2018 season Byron Jones was being asked to prove himself. The former first round pick had fallen out of the coaches' good graces during his third season, though many of his struggles could be attributed to those very coaches which were then questioning his ability.

Being asked to play out of position, or at least in a spot which did not maximize his natural ability, Jones struggled in 2017. Too often he was playing in the box as a safety where his lack of physicality was exposed by the opponent's run game. This was mostly due to the coaching staff falling in love with his tight-end-erasing ability in man coverage, but backfired when overused as a safety.

Once hired the following offseason, Kris Richard and company decided to move Byron Jones to cornerback full time, allowing him to utilize his excellent coverage skills and athletic ability to the fullest, rather than putting him at a disadvantage in the box.

The results? Well, Jones had one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football, earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his young career.

Pro Football Focus on Twitter

Byron Jones had a dominant season for Dallas

Pro Football Focus graded Jones as the sixth best cornerback in all of football last season, allowing just 0.79 yards per coverage snap. Despite not having an interception on the season, Jones still earned national recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league.

Down the stretch of the season, Chidobe Awuzie started to play up to the level which fans had hoped for during the preseason. He had been sticky in coverage most of the year, but now he was making plays on the ball at a much better rate, forcing incompletions. This led to an increase in targets to Jones' side, and though the increase resulted in more catches given up by the number one cornerback, I don't think Jones' play faltered as much as some will have you believe.

The fact is, when you get targeted more you are bound to give up more catches and yards. The key is to force them into contested catches, and make things as difficult for the receiver as possible when targeted.

Byron Jones continued to do this all season long, and fans should be excited for the next step of his growth in 2019.

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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial

Mauricio Rodriguez



Time to Stop Making Excuses for QB Dak Prescott?

Por muchos años, el tema del tope salarial ha sido un tema sensible para los Dallas Cowboys. Entre dinero muerto y otros problemas, el equipo ha tenido una situación delicada en este aspecto. Sin embargo, para la temporada del 2019 tienen más espacio de lo que estamos acostumbrados.

Según Over The Cap, los Cowboys tendrán aproximadamente 48 millones de dólares disponibles en 2019. Es importante recalcar que este número no es definitivo y puede cambiar. Año tras año, esta administración ha sido aficionada de reestructurar los contratos de ciertos veteranos para liberar espacio salarial constantemente. Además de esto, hay varios jugadores bajo contrato que el equipo podría decidir cortar para liberar aún más dinero.

Al ver sólo 48 millones disponibles, es complicado imaginar un escenario en que el equipo logre satisfacer todos sus objetivos. Hay bastantes candidatos a grandes extensiones en el equipo, principalmente dos jugadores. En una liga en la que quarterback es la posición más importante, la segunda más importante podría ser la del caza cabezas, cuyo objetivo es ir tras el quarterback contrario.

DeMarcus Lawrence, Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Pues en Dallas, hoy dos  jugadores en estas posiciones que hay que extender. El más urgente sin duda es el defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence se puso el jersey del equipo cuando este lo designó a jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia. Afortunadamente, el atleta de 26 años la hizo de soldado y jugó sin amenazar con faltar a entrenamientos ni pretemporada.

Lo que sí comentó es que no pasaría por lo mismo en 2019. Ahora, el momento está aquí y es tiempo de que los Cowboys lo extiendan. El valor de Lawrence es difícil de predecir, pero es bastante seguro que se acercará a los números de Khalil Mack. Mack hizo historia ganando un contrato que en promedio gana 23.5 millones al año. Si bien no anticiparía que lo supere, la cifra estará cerca al contrato del defensivo de los Chicago Bears.

Además está Dak Prescott, cuyo contrato probablemente estará por encima de los 25 millones anuales. Son contratos caros, pero son piezas fundamentales para el equipo. Definitivamente se les tiene que pagar a ambos. Son pilares que año tras año buscan equipos en toda la NFL.

Además de esto, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley y más podrían tener un impacto en el tope salarial. Algunos buscan un contrato nuevo, otros una extensión. Pero honestamente, me parece que habrá más espacio en el tope salarial de lo que pensamos. Sólo es cuestión de tiempo para que los Cowboys comiencen a reestructurar a sus veteranos para ahorrarse unos cuantos millones para utilizar en agencia libre.

Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford entre otros pueden ser buenas opciones para comenzar este proceso. Antes era Jason Witten uno de los candidatos favoritos para este proceso, pero él ya se encuentra comentando partidos para ESPN. En Inside The Star, continuaremos actualizándote con contenido al día de los Dallas Cowboys.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial" 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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Star Blog

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?



Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason? 2

Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.

The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.

The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.

Lock Down the Big Guns

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?

@Randy81MossRetires, via Twitter

Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.

Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.

As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.

Adding New Talent

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason? 1

@brkicks, via Twitter

One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.

Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.

If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.

Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.

Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.

The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.

As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.

Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.

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