So T.O. is gone, now what?
Jerry Jones has finally stepped up and rid the Dallas Cowboys of their number one troublemaker.
At least, that is what the pundits and critics are saying. For them, the release of Terrell Owens makes the Cowboys a better team - a sort of addition by subtraction.
Overall, the move to release Owens has been met by praise from most members of the media and fans alike.
But, I'm not one who favors the move.
No, Terrell Owens is no saint. Still, he was a very productive member of the Dallas Cowboys. Some point to his numbers and say he is on the decline and no longer an elite receiver. Still, he managed to post yet another 1,000 yard/10 touchdown season, and that was considered a down year. Personally, I believe the lack of creativity in the offense, more specifically, failure on the part of offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett, had more to do with his statistical drop-off than diminishing skills.
Had Owens lost a step? He actually seemed like he was faster this season.
Off the field, Owens has been labeled a distraction or cancer. However, everything seemed to be going okay until the big fiasco involving Owens, Garrett, Romo, and Witten. And, in all honesty, none of us truly know what transpired. The only information leaked to the public came from ESPN's Ed Werder and his "sources". The "sources" were never identified. It did seem though that whoever the "sources" were, they definitely had an agenda. Much like the talking heads at ESPN who seemed like they were on a mission to get Owens released from the Cowboys.
I found it particularly funny listening to ESPN analysts Keyshawn Johnson and Chris Carter lambast T.O. at every opportunity for demanding the ball more. These are two individuals who pretty much did the same thing during their careers. Keyshawn even took it one step further and wrote a book. I guess he has forgotten about that.
All we really have to go on is what Owens said public ally. Yes, he did criticize Garrett and even Romo. But was he wrong in doing so? I don't think so. We, as fans, all saw it. And if we're completely honest, we all thought it too. Owens simply voiced it - and, was vilified by some of the fans and media for doing so.
When the Cowboys were 13-3, and Owens was getting the ball, he was model teammate. Last season, the team went 9-7, and he wasn't getting the ball, and he was upset. So, he doesn't like losing. Or, better yet, he like several other superstars, felt like he could help the team win if he had the ball in his hands.
Isn't that what we want from our top players?
I wonder what the reactions would have been if Jason Witten had made the same statements?
Would he have been vilified? Or, heralded a leader?
I guess we'll never know.
In listening to Jerry Jones, he insisted that this move had nothing to do with locker room chemistry, but everything to do with change. He also stated that his belief in wide receiver Roy Williams was a major reason for his decision. But, clearly that is not the case. Jerry, uncharacteristically, bowed to the pressure by the media, fans, and some of the people on his staff. Jerry didn't want to release T.O. You have to believe that after witnessing the success of Arizona and the success of their "81/11 tandem", Jerry had visions of the Cowboys being able to duplicate or surpass them with their own tandem.
But, Jerry decided to cave in. And he sided with those who wanted T.O. gone. None more so than Jason Garrett, who by all of accounts, told Jones he didn't feel he and Owens could co-exist.
So now what?
If I'm offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett, I'm feeling the immense pressure.
Even without Owens on the team, the Cowboys have a tremendous amount of talent on offense. They still have the offensive line, Romo, Witten, Bennett, Williams, and their trio of running backs. In my opinion the X-factor is going to be Miles Austin. No disrespect to Patrick Crayton, he proved that he can be a decent 2nd receiver. But, he is much more effective in the slot but lacks the outside speed the Cowboys need. Austin has the size and speed. He has shown flashes that he is capable of being a 2. He just hasn't been consistent, mostly due to injury. But, if he is able to step up and be a force, this offense has the ability to be very potent.
That is where Garrett comes in. It will be up him to create mismatches, and free up his playmakers to make plays. He won't have the luxury of teams doubling Owens on nearly every play, so he is going to have to be creative - something, he definitely wasn't last season.
Of course, Romo will have to prove that he is the franchise quarterback Jones believes he is as well.
But, that is a topic for another discussion.
As for Garret though, I'm not sure he is up to the tasks, but he had better be. It is not a good sign when opposing defenders comment that your offense is one of the simplest to figure out. And, if the offense is still stagnant much like it was towards the end of last season, he no longer has the Original 81 to point the finger at.
The bright lights will shine squarely on him. And, if he fails, he will no longer be the coach in waiting.
He'll be amongst the unemployed. Or, at least should be.
The Wizard has spoken.
5 Points: Analyzing the 2018 Dallas Cowboys Schedule
Every year around this time, sports fans everywhere are reminded of just how dominant the National Football League is. The NFL schedule release is literally just the sharing of a calendar that has little meaning until after next week's NFL Draft, but still dominates headlines both before and after the event.
If the Dallas Cowboys are going to return to the playoffs in 2018, we now know the path they will take -- beginning on September 9th in Carolina against the Panthers.
Here are five of my initial thoughts on this team's schedule.
1. "Early" Bye Week Still Later Than Recent Seasons
The Cowboys' bye week falls in week eight this season, which is certainly nothing new. This team is used to having their bye earlier in the season, but week eight is actually the latest it's been over the last three seasons.
In Dak Prescott's rookie season, the Cowboys rolled to six straight wins following their bye week - all part of a longer 11 game win streak. In 2017, the Cowboys played their final three games with Ezekiel Elliott after the bye, improving to 5-3 and inspiring hope for a salvageable season before further injuries piled up.
This season, the Cowboys will come out of their bye week to host Monday Night Football at AT&T Stadium against the Tennessee Titans.
2. AFC South to Play A Huge Factor
Speaking of the Titans, it is the NFC East's year to face off against the AFC South. This has been an unpredictable division as of late, with the Jacksonville Jaguars emerging as early favorites following their improbable run to the AFC Championship Game.
Unlike the NFC East, the AFC South has been decided by who maintains stability at quarterback. The Colts are hoping to contend with Andrew Luck back on the field in 2018, as are the Texans with second-year QB Deshaun Watson.
The Titans overhauled their coaching staff in hopes of progressing QB Marcus Mariota further to make a run at the playoffs once again.
For the Cowboys, their meetings with the AFC South will carry extra weight - as all but one of them precedes a divisional game in some sense. Following back to back games at the Texans and home against the Jaguars, the Cowboys will visit the Redskins in week seven.
The first shot Dallas will get at the defending Super Bowl champions will be November 11th in Philadelphia, two weeks removed from their bye after facing the Titans.
Coming out of two games in 12 days through weeks 12 (Thanksgiving) and 13, the Cowboys will have little chance to come up for air against the Eagles in week 14. Their chance to regroup may come the following week, with a favorable December road game in Indianapolis against the Colts.
3. Revenge Against the Falcons
The Cowboys' week 10 game a year ago in Atlanta is truly where the 2017 season was lost. Playing without Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys looked lost on offense thanks to the added absence of All-Pro Left Tackle Tyron Smith.
The Cowboys' fight to carry on at 5-4 was buried into the Falcons' new turf, as was Dak Prescott that afternoon, sacked eight times.
Only a week removed on the calendar from meeting the Falcons on the same date, the Cowboys will again play at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in week 11 this season. The chance for revenge against the Falcons will also mark the only pair of consecutive road games this 2018 Dallas Cowboys team will play.
4. Running Through December
The national media may not want you to know that the Cowboys are a combined 6-2 in December over the last two seasons, as this team's fabled late season collapses remain a topic of conversation.
This point also stands as a great example of why breaking down team schedules in April is often a pointless exercise, but not obsessing over every twist and turn of the NFL as a yearly hobby is no fun. According to me.
It is no secret that the Cowboys will be relying heavily on Ezekiel Elliott in 2018, expecting their star running back to suit up for 16 games and carry the offense. If you believe that Prescott and Elliott paired together full-time again is enough reason for optimism about the Cowboys, their December schedule becomes even more favorable.
Aside from playing three of the four games indoors and away from the elements, the Cowboys will face three of the worst rushing defenses in yards per game allowed from last season in December. With the Eagles being the glaring exception (leading the league in this category), the Cowboys should have their way on the ground with the Colts, Buccaneers, and Giants over their final three games.
5. Thanksgiving Tradition
For the second time in three seasons, the Dallas Cowboys will host the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys were victorious on Thanksgiving in 2016 over the Redskins, 31-26.
The Cowboys have only lost to the Redskins once on Thanksgiving, facing them a total of eight times and dropping a 2012 bout with Washington 38-31 (Robert Griffin III's rookie season with the Redskins).
Riding a four game winning streak against the Redskins, the Cowboys get to face an Alex Smith led Washington team on Thanksgiving to wrap up their first series against the NFC East. Following week 12, the Cowboys will still have meetings with the Eagles and New York Giants.
Some may look at this year's division as a two-team race, but counting absolutely any team out of an NFC East race is foolish - even more so in April.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
By this time next week, the Dallas Cowboys have a chance to look entirely different - adding as many as ten players at the 2018 NFL Draft. Only then will we have a better feel for how they stack up against this 2018 schedule.
Stay posted right here to Inside The Star for draft coverage live from Dallas, as I will be at AT&T Stadium for all seven rounds of picks alongside Slant Sports Draft Analyst Nick Flaherty.
Cowboys TE James Hanna Retiring
In an unexpected bit of pre-draft news, Dallas Cowboys backup tight end James Hanna will be retiring after six seasons. He was drafted by the Cowboys in sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
The news of Hanna's retirement was first reported by ESPN's Todd Archer:
The Cowboys will place James Hanna on the reserve/retired list as the tight end could not get over a serious knee condition that troubled him for most of the last two seasons, according to sources. Hanna was not involved in the early part of the team's... https://t.co/45BAZ2avSC
Hanna, who turns 29 in July, missed all of 2016 with that knee issue and has had two surgeries. He was active for all 16 games last season but wasn't used much on offense, only having four catches. James did catch his first and only NFL touchdown in the team's Week 4 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Many thought Hanna would be a salary cap casualty this offseason, but a retirement has the same effect on the cap. The Cowboys now save $2.75 million off his scheduled $3.5 mullion cap hit in 2018.
James Hanna has stuck around this long thanks to being a proficient blocker and one of the standout players on special teams. Geoff Swaim, entering the final year of his rookie deal, will likely be trusted to fill those roles.
That said, tight end was already a targeted position for the Cowboys in next week's draft. Losing Hanna only give the team more incentive to add more talent.
Optimistic Reports Emerge Around Randy Gregory
Good news are coming to Dallas just in time. Less than a week from now, the NFL Draft will be held in the Cowboys' home, the AT&T Stadium. But the team may count with a defensive talent many in Cowboys Nation have tried to forget for a while now. Randy Gregory's comeback may just happen.
There's a lot of positions in the roster that need more help than the defensive end one, but after finding the "War Daddy" Jerry Jones has always wanted in DeMarcus Lawrence, finding a RDE this offseason would be a dream scenario.
Sure, there's a lot of young talent in this football team and they'll be coming off a season that put a chip on their shoulders. Even so, they'll need all the help they can get.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, some help could come in form of a very talented pass rusher. Randy Gregory is reportedly applying for reinstatement very soon and according to Mike Fisher and Bobby Belt, there are positive reports around the situation.
Randy Gregory update: I'm told there is real momentum building. He is expected to apply for reinstatement in the week or two following next week's NFL Draft.
Cowboys Nation last saw the second round pick back in 2016, but his potential shouldn't be forgotten. Of course, the Cowboys shouldn't be considering Gregory for their 2018 plans, simply because there's risk of him not being available.
Even still, Dallas may get lucky at defensive end. After DeMarcus Lawrence has a breakout season in 2017, imagine the defensive line with Randy Gregory reinstated and rehabilitated to exploit his talent in the NFL.
UPDATE: We're told Randy Gregory camp is ready to present to NFL the fact the #Cowboys DE has passed a large number of drug tests, hasn't failed one since July 2016. https://t.co/Hjgu2CqRtC
Despite some TMZ "reports", it looks like Gregory has been clean for a while. It sure should make Cowboys' fans happy and not only form a football perspective. A comeback would definitely be something amazing. He has a chance to write a unique story for himself.
Everyone likes second-chance stories. Gregory is a guy who had his share of problems. By coming back to the NFL, he's showing players and fans that change is possible. This wouldn't just be epic for Dallas Cowboys fans but NFL fans in general.
If Dallas is fortunate enough to see Gregory reinstated by the NFL, their fight in the trenches might see a big upgrade next season. Randy still has a lot to work on and he might not even be a starter right away, but the potential is right there.
The Cowboys could become a team capable of dominating the line of scrimmage both on offense and on defense.
Hopefully, Gregory is able to come back and shine as a professional player. He, and NFL fans deserve a story like that.
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