We all woke up this morning, December 12th, with a frown on our faces. Our Dallas Cowboys lost for the second time this season, and it was particularly difficult to swallow as it came against the division rival New York Giants.
As is usually the case, loyal members of Cowboys Nation took to various social media platforms to air out their grievances against a team that is 11-2 with a playoff berth already clinched. The Dallas Cowboys played a terrible football game on Sunday night in New York, but they are still a great team... if not the best in the NFL.
Is there much to learn from the embarrassing performance in New York? Absolutely.
Should the Cowboys glean a lot about a team they might see in the playoffs? Definitely.
Is this team done? Not at all.
Should they make a change at the most important position on the team? That seems to be the question we'll be debating all week long.
"Tony Romo Would Have Won This Game"
I love Tony Romo. I've written about it many times here at Inside The Star. That being said, it is absurd to proclaim he would have beaten the New York Giants last night.
We haven't seen Romo take serious snaps since Thanksgiving 2015, but his legend has folks convinced he could walk on water if he really wanted to. It really is amazing how Romo has gone from a "he can't get it done" narrative to this mystique that he can solve any type of football issue.
There is absolutely no data or line of indisputable evidence proving Tony Romo would have won this game. We want to believe he would have, which is the problem. We're so tied to the wonderful memories Tony Romo created for us that all we know how to do is believe there's more left to that story.
It's not fair to anyone, Tony included.
We Need To Give The Giants Credit...
During my post-game episode of OchoLive, someone on the Facebook Live side of things suggested the New York Giants got lucky both times they beat us. This simply isn't true.
The cold hard truth is that the New York Giants flat-out beat the Dallas Cowboys - twice.
They put together the perfect defensive game plan on Sunday night to slow Dak Prescott and limit Ezekiel Elliott (although we did enough of that on our own, we'll get there). The Giants invested an enormous amount of money into their defense during the offseason, and it worked.
The Cowboys Defense Was Very Impressive
Benson Mayowa, ladies and gentlemen!
The Cowboys got some serious pressure from Rod Marinelli's rushmen, and they even forced a hat trick of turnovers. If we're being totally honest, the defense carried this team in the contest... it just wasn't enough.
Sean Lee had what might have been his finest game of the season, and Anthony Brown scored his first career interception. In every conceivable way, the Dallas Cowboys defense did more than enough to win... they just lost (Tony Romo is probably rolling his eyes at this).
There Is No Logical Explanation for Lance Dunbar's Usage
More than once during this game the Cowboys were in critical offensive situations and had Lance Dunbar out there next to Dak Prescott. Seriously.
The Cowboys invested the fourth overall draft pick in Ezekiel Elliott many months ago... what possible situation can anyone even imagine that would prioritize Lance Dunbar over Zeke? Is there a single one?
The Dallas Cowboys seemingly got in their own way all throughout the contest on the offensive side of the ball in this game. Beyond their almost stubborn approach to Lance Dunbar, Scott Linehan called what was probably his worst game of the season. It was just a mess.
The Season Is Far From Over
At the end of the day here, the Dallas Cowboys are 11-2... and Cowboys Nation is ridiculously spoiled.
After our team lost for the second time - this loss occurring in December - we started calling for heads: coaching, quarterback, and everywhere else. The Cowboys have lost two games in 2016, and both of them were to a team that is in serious contention in the NFC playoffs.
Is that not highly impressive?
It didn't fill our hearts with joy that, after 10 days of rest, the Cowboys were so flat in New York; however, this is a team that is 11-2. They've certainly earned our trust at this point, so let's take a step back and fully give it to them.
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp
The Dallas Cowboys patience with Defensive End Randy Gregory has paid off. Suspended for the better part of 2016 and all of 2017, Gregory has officially been reinstated to join the team for their 2018 training camp. The projected starter at RDE, Gregory will report to Oxnard with the rest of the team on July 25th.
From here, it will be all hard work for Gregory to reconnect with Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and get his promising career back on track. The last time Gregory suited up for the Cowboys, he managed to sack Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz in a week 17 win. The Cowboys will be expecting much more of this from a player they've supported through multiple violations of the league's heavily criticized substance abuse policy.
Cowboys pass-rusher Randy Gregory's petition for reinstatement was not opposed, according to lawyer Daniel Moskowitz. He's back. "I've never been more proud of any individual in my life. I'm very excited for Randy and his daughter and the rest of the his family.
Among this support staff for Gregory were a number of teammates that wrote formal letters to the NFL as part of his bid for reinstatement. These last few days of preparation before the Cowboys are together again as a team will surely be uplifted by Gregory's presence.
They say no news is typically good news at this point in the offseason, something the Cowboys have come to realize far too often. Today's news shouldn't be confused with a pleasant surprise however, rather something the Cowboys were committed to in getting another premier pass rusher on the field.
Here is the NFL's official press release on their reinstatement of Randy Gregory:
Cowboys & DeMarcus Lawrence Fail to Reach New Contract
DeMarcus Lawrence will definitely be a Cowboy in 2018, but now the future beyond that remains in question. The Dallas Cowboys and their star defensive end did not agree to a long-term contract by today's deadline for franchise-tagged players.
According to NFL rules, teams had until 4:00 pm EST today to reach contract extensions with free agents who'd been assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Players who did not get new deals will have to play the 2018 season on their one-year franchise tenders.
DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys were unable to work out a long-term contract by today's deadline. Lawrence will play the 2018 season under a one-year franchise tag that will pay him $17.1 million
This does not mean Lawrence will be a free agent in 2019. The two parties can still discuss the contract in the months to come, but the deal cannot be made until after the end of the regular season.
Dallas also has the option of giving DeMarcus a second franchise tag next year. However, that would come at a considerably higher price for a second-straight season.
This year, Lawrence will still make plenty with one of the highest cap hits of any DE in the league. He earned the franchise tag last with 14.5 sacks in a breakout season.
Today's news may not really be a big deal in the long run. As long as Tank wants to stay in Dallas after this, the two sides now have over five months to keep talking and will hopefully agree on a new deal for 2019 and beyond.
There is risk on both sides, of course.
Lawrence's leverage could be less if his productions drops or he gets injured. On the other hand, his position could be even stronger with a second-straight year of strong play.
Now everyone, from the team to player to fans, is in wait-and-see mode until the end of the season.
Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make the Roster?
The Dallas Cowboys aren't short on numbers at wide receiver on their current 90-man roster. Looking to replace Dez Bryant and reshape their offense, the Cowboys will have to find the right group of pass catchers for Dak Prescott at their upcoming training camp.
The odd men out from this group will likely be the ones that can't sustain a consistent level of play, doing so across multiple units if needed. All ten receivers will have their flashes, but with only four being true locks to make the team, new Cowboys Wide Receivers Coach Sanjay Lal will be in on some tough decisions right away.
One such decision may be moving on from last year's seventh round pick Noah Brown out of Ohio State. Vouched for by former Buckeyes teammate Ezekiel Elliott thanks to his blocking ability on the outside, it may now be this strength in the run game and deficiency as a pass catcher that spells the end of Brown's run in Dallas.
Normally, a seventh round pick being on the roster bubble wouldn't be this noteworthy, but Brown clearly showed the potential to outplay this draft status as a rookie. Appearing in 13 games, Brown is a true X receiver, although not the dominant one the Cowboys are searching for.
Moving away from fielding a true number one receiver, the Cowboys did sign Allen Hurns to play this spot while prepared to spread the ball around to Williams, Beasley, and Gallup after that.
This leaves Thompson, Wilson, Cannon, Lenoir, McCay, Murdock, and Brown to prove their worth in other ways to make the roster. I've written plenty about the potential rookie Cedrick Wilson has, so I'll be expecting a strong showing from him to earn a role in the Cowboys offense.
Wilson's skill set could push a depth signing like Deonte Thompson off the team, although his ability to back up Cole Beasley/Tavon Austin on special teams is important. The same can be said about Lance Lenoir, who like Brown has the advantage over first year players given his trials through training camp and the preseason a year ago.
Long shots to make the team, Cannon, McCay, and Murdock fall just below this group -- and somewhere in the middle is Noah Brown.
Increasing his role on special teams as the season went on last year, Brown had fans throughout a coaching staff that is now drastically changed for 2018. From their shift to more speed on offense, to drafting of both Gallup and Wilson, calling Brown a fringe player on the Cowboys roster really sets up the fiery competition to come at wide receiver.
Should the Cowboys find a spot for Brown, one can only hope it means this new coaching staff has a clear plan for him to contribute on both offense and special teams outside of being a run blocker. A potential niche for Brown is his red zone ability, not afraid to put his body on the line for jump balls and fight through contact in his routes.
It won't be long until we sort out if this is enough to make the Cowboys as a wide receiver ahead of Quarterback Dak Prescott's third season.
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