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 Will Tag DeMarcus Lawrence; What’s the Plan?
February 20 is an important day for NFL clubs this year. Why? It's the first day in which teams can franchise tag any player. Since 2015, when the Dallas Cowboys tagged Dez Bryant before they were able to work out a long-term deal, Jerry Jones & Co. haven't used the franchise tag. In 2018, though, that will change.
DeMarcus Lawrence just played his best season yet in 2017, and he's looking to get paid big time. Through three years, he had been able to rack up nine sacks, 52 tackles and three forced fumbles. In just 2017, he sacked opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times, had 35 tackles and managed to force four fumbles.
Not only did Lawrence look like an elite pass rusher, but he also improved as a run defender a lot. The Cowboys have been looking for a "War Daddy" for a long, long time and Lawrence seems to be the answer for this football team.
After such a big year, one would expect the Cowboys to sign him to a multi-year enormous contract. But there's a catch. Lawrence failed to remain healthy early in his career and really didn't make as much of an impact until last season.
There's no question that D-Law will be wearing a star come the 2018 NFL season, but will he be doing it under a long-term deal or under a franchise tag?
Cowboys will not place franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence tomorrow as that window opens but will do so by March 6 w/ understanding the goal is to reach a long-term deal. Both sides have until July 16 to make that happen.
For now, according to David Moore from Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence with the objective of getting a deal done in July. The tag however, is not expected to be placed as soon as possible.
In 2015, the Cowboys didn't place the franchise tag on Dez Bryant until the final deadline day. This year's deadline is March 6th, so it may be two weeks before they make it official with DeMarcus Lawrence. #CowboysNation #DallasCowboys
What would franchise tagging DeMarcus Lawrence mean for this team?
First of all, they'd make sure he doesn't hit free agency in March. This gives the front office time to get to work and restructure players' contracts if they have to in order to open up as much cap space as they can before giving him a deal.
It's worth mentioning as well, cap savings from players who are designated as post-June 1 cuts will already be available. If you want to be more familiarized with the Cowboys' cap situation, I highly recommend you read John Williams' deep dive on the matter.
It'll continue to be a very interesting story for this offseason, as handing a franchise tag to a player tends to become a non-friendly situation for both parties. Let's hope that's not the case for the Cowboys and Lawrence this year and that everything works out fine.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue updating you and the rest of Cowboys Nation throughout the offseason.
Watch: Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Goes Bowling for First Time Since College Injury
Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Jaylon Smith did not just defy all odds and return to normalcy in 2017, starting as the Cowboys' middle linebacker for a full 16 games. He became one of the team's and NFL's brightest success stories, earning the right to celebrate everyday activities returning to his life - as football did this season.
This is exactly what Jaylon Smith did on Twitter Friday afternoon, posting a Snapchat video of himself bowling. The caption on Twitter adds that Smith was enjoying his time at the lanes for the first time in two years.
It was January 1st, 2016 when Jaylon Smith's injury in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame changed his outlook forever. In that moment, Smith went from a projected top ten pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to a LB that would need a team to take a chance on him - and be patient.
The Dallas Cowboys proved to be that team, using the 34th overall pick on the Notre Dame star and supporting his efforts to return to the field from day one. The entire Cowboys' organization was rewarded by Smith remarkably playing every game this season, inspired by his constant determination to do just that.
So, a normal offseason for Jaylon Smith is anything but right now. Still battling the drop foot condition (one that is reportedly healing well and "fading") which limits his movement ability in the lower body, Smith is a normal Dallas Cowboys football player from this point forward.
He can say he's already defined all odds, can expect to take an even bigger stride forward in 2018, and Jaylon Smith can go bowling again. You can't help but be happy for #54.
Dak Prescott’s Accuracy Stands Out in Final 2017 Stats
2017 was a season that left the Dallas Cowboys with a ton of questions to think about. Dez Bryant's contract, Sean Lee and Tyron Smith's availability, and the future of DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving are some of those questions.
But there's another more pressing question for the Cowboys. How can they get the most out of Quarterback Dak Prescott and avoid another struggling year for him?
Also, what if he has another rough year? At what point does quarterback become a position that needs to be evaluated if he continues to struggle?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that will be the case. In fact, I have a lot of faith in Dak. I think he's shown a lot to be excited about and I definitely believe there's a "quarterback curve" in the NFL. Hopefully, #4 finds a way to get back on track in 2018.
A reason to be optimistic about Prescott's future is an impressive stat from NFL Next Gen Stats. Turns out, Dak Prescott ranked first in the NFL in "tight window throws" completion percentage with 45.8%.
According to Matt Harmon from NFL.com, a "tight window throw" is defined as a pass in which the intended receiver has less than a yard of separation from the defender.
Dak Prescott is far from a perfect quarterback and he's constantly bashed about his throwing accuracy. Just recently, he took part in a passing competition with David Carr before the NFL Honors and well... it's fair to say Carr completely beat him.
David Carr 6, Dak Prescott 1 pic.twitter.com/rV532Q3Cob
— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) 6 de febrero de 2018
Cowboys Twitter was anything but forgiving for the young quarterback, but at the end of the day, I'm not sure a casual passing competition at an event like that one is the way you judge an NFL starting quarterback who has a 22-10 record in his career.
Dak has a long way to go before being considered an excellent quarterback in the league, but a bad season like 2017 doesn't mean it's the end of his career and that the Dallas Cowboys should start Cooper Rush over him.
It's not the first quarterback who struggles one year and he won't be the last one to bounce back from one. As of right now, Dak Prescott rightfully is the Dallas Cowboys QB1. Hopefully he has a better year next season.
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