Whelp. This it. This fourth preseason game is always intriguing to me. This is the absolute final call for guys that are on the bubble to make that last-minute push onto the active 53. While I think most coaching staffs around the league have already decided who is going to stick and who isn't - you seem to always have at least 1 player that goes out swinging in that final preseason game. So let's do this, shall we?
Defense (26 players)
Safety (4): Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Jeff Heath, Ahmad Dixon, Free Agent
Jakar Hamilton has been suspended for the first 4 games of the season, forcing me to make a change. When I originally typed up this week's projection I had Hamilton in and Dixon on the practice squad. I think Dixon really has put himself in a hole here, but he may be the one player who can earn himself a spot on the roster tonight. But I could easily see them trying to sneak Dixon onto the practice squad and signing a low-rent veteran safety from another team's scrap-heap, or even a free agent off the streets to fill in (someone like Eric Frampton in the past).
Cornerback (5): Orlando Scandrick, Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Tyler Patmon, Terrance Mitchell, Sterling Moore
I had resisted the urge up until last week against the Dolphins, but Tyler Patmon will be on the active 53. He deserves it. That pick-6 was a thing of beauty! While it was a horrible play by Matt Moore, I went back and watched the play over and over again. Patmon saw that play coming a mile away and broke on the ball long before Moore even released it. After the game he credited that to film study. So you have to like that. And color me shocked that they cut B.W. Webb today. I actually thought he was showing improvement.
Outside Linebacker (3): Bruce Carter, Cameron Lawrence, Kyle Wilber
With the unfortunate news about DeVonte Holloman coming down - it opened up a spot for Cameron Lawrence, who will make the team on his special teams ability alone.
Inside Linebacker (3): Justin Durant, Rolando McClain, Anthony Hitchens
It's been the same 3 guys all along. But what's interesting now is we have no idea who the starter is going to be. Dallas surprised us all last week by starting Hitchens at MLB, Carter at SLB, and Durant at WLB. The only thing I "think" I can say for sure is that Carter and Durant are going to be starters. We just don't know where they are going to line up. Just get the 3 best players on the field please.
Defensive Line (11): Henry Melton DT, Terrell McClain DT, Davon Coleman DT, DeMarcus Lawrence DE, George Selvie DE, Jeremy Mincey DE, Tyrone Crawford DE/DT, Dartwan Bush DE, Ken Bishop DT, Anthony Spencer DE, Nick Hayden
Need bodies. Lots and lots of bodies.
Offense (24 Players)
Quarterback (2): Tony Romo, Brandon Weeden
Dustin Vaughan is not making the 53. No way. I know some fellow writers here disagree but I'm fine with that. He has shown nothing to be deserving of a roster spot. Practice squad? Yes. Absolutely. I have no fears of another team snatching him up to add to their 53.
Running Back (5): DeMarco Murray, Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar, Ryan Williams, Tyler Clutts
If Ryan Williams doesn't make this team then I will legitimately be pissed off. You can knock his pass protection and his lack of special teams prowess if you like, but he's just too good of a runner to cut loose. If you consider that Murray is in the last year of his contract and that he, as well as Dunbar, hasn't exactly been the most durable guy over his career, then to me it's case closed for Williams to make the team. And as much as I fought it, I went ahead and added FB Tyler Clutts. He's done nothing to really impress me but this offense will need a FB/Blocking TE at some point in the season. He may not be on the team at the end of season, but I think he makes the initial 53.
All off-season I was set on keeping 5 WRs. About halfway through camp I was forced to pay attention to guys like Jamar Newsome and LaRon Byrd. These two guys have treated the preseason like professional boxers - exchanging blow for blow. IF they keep 6 - and that's a huge if - I have to give the spot to Byrd at this point. Byrd is just in better physical condition right now to contribute on special teams. And that's what a 6th WR must do.
Tight End (3): Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, James Hanna
These 3 are on the team. The only question is whether or not they'll decide to add a 4th guy from another roster.
Same 8 guys. I think John Wetzel has made a case for himself but not enough of a case to take a roster spot on this team or any other team. I think he safely lands on the practice squad.
Special Teams (3 Players)
Dan MFN Baily K
LP French Canadian Daddy LS
Chris Jones P
Practice Squad (10 Players)
Zach Minter DT
Will Smith LB
Jamar Newsome WR
Jemea Thomas DB
Caesar Rayford DE/DT
Kenneth Boatright DE
Dustin Vaughan QB
Darrion Weems OT
Ronald Patrick C/G
John Wetzel G/T
I love the fact that they expanded the practice squad to 10 players. Every one of these guys deserves it.
Did a Year Away Help Rejuvenate TE Jason Witten’s Game?
Jason Witten is 37 years old, retired from the NFL after the completion of 2017 season to try his luck as an announcer in the booth, but has now decided to come out of retirement to rejoin the Dallas Cowboys? It seems a little unrealistic to think he can come back after a year away from the game and pick up where he left off, but it sounds as if he's like a Phoenix rising from the ashes.
Jason Witten has been the talk of Dallas Cowboys OTA practices so far. These practices are unpadded and basically just an opportunity to do install some of the offensive and defensive plays, but that doesn't make them any less important. One of the things that has been somewhat surprising though is how talked up the future Hall of Famer has become.
Here is what Head Coach Jason Garrett had to say recently about Jason Witten's return:
“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.”
The main thing that stands out from Garrett's quote to me is how Jason Witten looks just as good, if not better after not playing at all in 2018. To think that his testing numbers are possibly even better is unfathomable. We typically don't see NFL players in their mid-30s retire from the game and then return just as good, or maybe even better than they were before.
Maybe that's just what Jason Witten is, a little inhuman. Maybe he's found the secret to turning the clock back just a little bit. Or, maybe he found the fountain the youth and didn't tell anybody. Regardless, there's no doubt Witten will be a welcomed addition to the Cowboys offense, especially if he's gained a step.
I don't know about all of you, but I'm hoping the year away from the game did him some good. I honestly thought he made the right decision to retire prior to the 2018 season. It just looked like father time was catching up to him in 2017. But, hopefully all he needed was a little time away from the grind he's been putting his body through for over a decade.
Whatever he's done hasn't gone unnoticed though. Even Quarterback Dak Prescott has noticed and said he's on to Witten's scheme.
“I guess the trick is to take a year off because he’s definitely gotten better, stronger and faster,” Prescott said. “He hasn’t lost a step.”
I'm not afraid to admit I wasn't too excited to see Witten come out of retirement and rejoin the Cowboys at first. I was skeptical he could be the player he once was after a year away from the game. But, all of this talk about him looking as good as he once was, perhaps better, has me really looking forward to seeing him on the field once again.
Do you think a year away has rejuvenated Jason Witten's game?
Cowboys en Español: El Verdadero Cambio en La Ofensiva
Los Dallas Cowboys tuvieron un interesante 2018. La ofensiva dejo mucho que desear toda la primera mitad de la temporada cuando carecían de un receptor número uno. No fue hasta media temporada cuando consiguieron a Amari Cooper de los Oakland Raiders, que la ofensiva comenzó a verse realmente amenazante. Siendo sinceros, el cuerpo de receptores de los Cowboys lucía muy débil al inicio y Michael Gallup aún no conseguía mucho tiempo de juego en el emparrillado. Incluso una vez en el equipo, a pesar de las grandes hazañas de Cooper en Dallas, la ofensiva no terminó de dar el siguiente paso.
Sí, con Amari en el equipo vimos un equipo de Cowboys que movía constantemente las cadenas e incluso se convirtió en una de las mejores unidades en tercera oportunidad en la liga, pero no fue suficiente. Los problemas en zona roja persistieron y continuamos viendo una selección de jugadas muy cuestionable semana tras semana.
Es por eso que al finalizar la temporada, la administración de los Cowboys finalmente tomó una decisión muy anticipada. El entonces coordinador ofensivo, Scott Linehan, fue despedido.
En cuanto a talento, los Dallas Cowboys no verán un cambio mayor en su ofensiva. Cole Beasley, uno de los mejores WR slot en la NFL, firmó con los Buffalo Bills durante la agencia libre. A pesar de la llegada de Randall Cobb, la ofensiva probablemente extrañará bastante a Beasley. Además está el regreso de Jason Witten al campo, quien se repartirá el balón mucho con los jóvenes del equipo, principalmente con Blake Jarwin. Por último, Travis Frederick podría estar de regreso como el centro titular. Fuera de eso, no se anticipan cambios de jugadores en la ofensiva.
Y a pesar de esto, la afición de los Cowboys espera ver un cambio grande entre la ofensiva del 2018 y la de 2019. Si las cosas salen bien, así será. Pero más que por el talento del equipo, que ya está ahí y es un muy buen talento, deberá ser por el hombre al mando.
Kellen Moore ha tomado las riendas como el nuevo coordinador ofensivo y finalmente podremos ver su potencial. Muchos han criticado a Moore, en gran parte por nunca haber sido un quarterback exitoso en la NFL. Sin embargo, hay muchas razones por las cuales deberíamos estar emocionados.
Desde que Moore salió de la universidad de Boise State, se le veía como un prospecto muy inteligente. Incluso analistas como Jon Gruden (en ese entonces conductor del programa de ESPN Gruden's QB Camp) mencionaban que Moore probablemente no sería un gran mariscal, pero que tenía la mente de un coach.
En Boise, Moore trabajaba con la ofensiva del actual coach de los Washington Huskies, Chris Petersen. Esta ofensiva es una muy complicada que le exige al mariscal saber casi tanto como un jugador profesional. Muchos han descrito a Moore como un genio ofensivo que será un gran coach en el futuro.
Para los Cowboys, Kellen Moore será una pieza clave en 2019. Si vemos una ofensiva realmente diferente, será gracias a su creatividad y filosofía que implementa a un grupo bastante talentoso en Dallas. Los jugadores están ahí, ¿sabrá el coordinador ofensivo de 30 años aprovecharlos?
NFL to Study Marijuana Use, Will It Impact Randy Gregory’s Status?
The NFLPA and the NFL have reached an agreement to research alternative pain-management tools for the players. They'll form joint medical committees to study different strategies, among which will be the use of marijuana. It's important to make it clear that said committees will not be exclusively about marijuana, but a lot of different issues related to pain-management in the league. However, it'll likely be one of the most important aspects of their work.
Marijuana continues to be a highly debated topic and it's no different when discussing the NFL. Dallas Cowboys fans should be very familiar with the situation. Earlier this year, David Irving "quit" on football during an Instagram live stream while smoking weed. In the video, Irving talks about how he thinks it's better to be addicted to marijuana rather than certain medications used by NFL teams to treat their players.
Although David Irving is not an authority on substances, that is where all of this debate centers around. Throughout the league, players are given strong medication to deal with injuries and the physical pain of playing pro football. I'm not an expert either, but it's more than fair to say there's a strong argument here. Specially in a country where marijuana has already been legalized in 10 states and the trend points toward legalization continuing.
The current CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) between the NFL and NFLPA will expire after the 2020 season and how the league's drug policy looks like in the new agreement will be a huge factor for reaching a satisfactory CBA for both sides.
Of course, the fact that the NFLPA and the league are working together on such an important task doesn't mean we will see any immediate changes or that the NFL's ban on marijuana will be lifted anytime soon. Many big question marks will have to be answered before we hear about teams implementing this substance as a pain management tool.
For the Dallas Cowboys, this will be a relevant narrative down the line. Pass rusher Randy Gregory was reinstated after serving an indefinite suspension due to substance abuse prior to the 2018 season. After a dominant year, Gregory was suspended again by the NFL and it all points toward him sitting out this upcoming season and perhaps even more.
Even still, the Cowboys are still standing behind their 2015 second round pick. If the league ends up lifting its ban on marijuana, they'll have to decide what they will do with players already serving a suspension for this reason. Guys like Randy Gregory, for instance. If it's decided they'll be reinstated to the NFL, the Cowboys will sure be glad to have supported Gregory all throughout the process.
Last year, the pass rusher proved how effective he could be even with a short period of time training. Hopefully, the Cowboys are able to get him back on the field eventually, where's been consistently dominant. In the meantime, we'll see how recently acquired Robert Quinn does in Dallas.
The NFL won't be lifting its ban anytime soon, but it's good to know they're at least open minded to changing the league's policy and consider alternatives that could benefit the players' health. We'll see how these new medical committees work and keep you updated here at Inside The Star.
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