All last week I'd been planning on jumping on the 1s and 2s to mix up a little ditty here at Inside The Star concerning the 2016 Dallas Cowboys Defense.
They're a rag-tag group of misfits, born and bred to wreak havoc on the NFC East. They deserve a nickname, and I'm in the business of handing them out. RJ is a nickname, shout out to my Auntie for coming up with it way back when, and this RJ in question suggested the "Space Cowboys" as a moniker for the Cowboys Offensive Line.
What to call the defense, I wondered. It needed to be something that fit, something that made sense, and something culturally relevant. I put off summoning the creativity day after day and night after night last week as I binged through my latest Netflix obsession... when suddenly it hit me.
The 2016 iteration of defenders for America's Team is unlike anything we've ever seen, and we're hoping that they jump right off the screen to captivate our attention. They've taken the most unique path possible up to this point with several suspensions, and a paintball or two, derailing the intended makeup of this unit. Weird doesn't appropriately cover what we've seen from them, no we've seen Stranger Things.
Stranger Things: The 2016 Dallas Cowboys Defense
Warning: From this point on there are spoilers for the Netflix series "Stranger Things." Do not read on if you care about those things, except read on pretty please. If you care and decide to read then you're likely a masochist, which makes sense since you're a Cowboys fan.
What makes the 2016 Cowboys Defense strange? Dude, a player got hit in the eye with a paintball! Seriously! Is that not proof enough?
Their top two pass rushers are missing time to start the season. The team's starting Middle Linebacker is supposedly addicted to purple drank and is absent from Training Camp. The best cornerback on the team is coming off of a season-ending injury suffered a year ago. The recipe is undoubtedly a strange one.
Who do these Cowboys measure up to from Stranger Things, though? If we're going to nickname the unit then we have to match up the personalities! You came to the right place, friend.
Eleven: Byron Jones
It's appropriate that we begin with Eleven since, at all times unless things are going really really wrong, there are 11 defensive players on the field at once.
Let's talk about Eleven. She's holy crap crazy awesome. SHE HAS TELEKINESIS AND CAN TRANSPORT HERSELF TO ALTERNATE DIMENSIONS OR WHATEVER. This girl is the scariest and most lethal weapon in the Stranger Things universe! If that's not Byron Jones then I don't know what is.
Byron basically has telekinesis when it comes to his body because he can fly. Literally. He can fly all over the field. He's the most versatile and lethal person on the field for the Cowboys, and he does Eleven justice.
Jim Hopper: Sean Lee
Did you wonder what kind of judicial system went on in this town? I mean little 'ol Will goes missing and the town is in a state of panic, but Barbara does and it's no big deal. What?!
The Sheriff in town is Hopper, Grade A badass. He's not afraid of anything and is the unquestioned leader on the show. He's got a bit of an emotional side to him, which can be his weakness, that reminds us of The General.
Sean Lee is the heart and soul of the Cowboys Defense. Where he goes, they go.
Mike Wheeler: Brandon Carr
Here's the thing about Mike in Stranger Things... he's there all the time and his annoying-ness never goes away. But he's there all the time.
Brandon Carr, who took a paycut this offseason, is there all the time. The dude has never ever missed an NFL game in his career, so he can be counted on. Like Mike (that movie was weirdly awesome) took in Eleven, Carr has taken in Byron Jones in the secondary.
More important than anything here is that Mike is always trying to do the right thing, which can absolutely be said about Brandon Carr. For whatever faults he may have, he's always trying to help in whatever way he can. And exactly like Mike with his pals, Carr believes that his team can do things together.
Jonathan Byers: Morris Claiborne
Did anybody else go through an emotional rollercoaster with Jonathan? I never fully figured out if I liked him or couldn't get over the photos at the party incident. Whatever.
Jonathan Byers is an interesting cat. He's obviously got some self-confidence issues that exert themselves in the form of pretentiousness. A particular Dallas Cowboy, who's had a great Training Camp, that has struggled with confidence issues is none other than Mo Claiborne.
Mo needs to feel like everything is going great for him to be great. When Jonathan was holding hands with Nancy, like when Mo is dominating, everything was cool. When his camera was smashed to smithereens he lost it, just like Mo has done occasionally.
Nancy Wheeler: DeMarcus Lawrence
This show brought back such great memories of Freaks and Geeks, and I think Nancy Wheeler was a big reason why.
Little Miss Perfect went through the classic 80s rebellion phases, and got called out on it by the way, before ultimately becoming someone useful at the very end. It was obvious from the jump that she was going to be a main character, but she certainly went through a lot of tribulations (that part inside the tree of death or whatever still haunts me).
DeMarcus Lawrence has suffered some setbacks like Nancy. His rebellion has cost him four games this season, but there's no denying his enormous potential. He just wants to be cool and has ditched his own version of Barbara in Randy Gregory.
Steve Harrington: Justin Durant
Anybody else shocked that Nancy and Steve ended up together? Anybody? Bueller?
Steve the wonder boy was a weird character for the glorious eight episodes that Stranger Things afforded us. He went from jerk to not really a jerk to WHOA JERK to wow get beat up much to hey he's kind of nice to YEA BEAT UP THE MONSTER to I'm cool with him.
The important thing here is that Steve left and suffered for it, like Justin Durant did. Durant defected to the Atlanta Falcons about 15 months ago in Free Agency, and now he's back to save us from the bad monsters. Hooray!
Lucas Sinclair: Barry Church
I'm not going to lie to you guys. I sort of hated Lucas for a long time.
He was obnoxious and despised Eleven for no specific reason other than he was, apparently?, jealous. How stupid is that?
Either way Lucas was someone who could be counted on in the end, which makes him great. He's an essential part of the gang and brings a little bit of swagger to it. The same can be said about Barry Church as he's one of the leaders of the defense.
Oh and Church can knock people as far as Eleven knocked Lucas so that's cool.
Dustin Henderson: Jack Crawford
Jumpin' Jack Crawford is one of the coolest Dallas Cowboys there is, so you know his character had to be fitting. Say hello to the enigma that is Dustin Henderson!
Dustin is the ultimate peacemaker. He's arguably the smartest of the bunch. What's most important here is that he's the most unique character on Stranger Things and that's evident in everything that he does.
Jack Crawford hails all the way from the UK and brings a ferocity to the Cowboys that certainly helps him stand out. Get that pudding, Jack.
Joyce Byers: Tyrone Crawford
The main character for a show in 2016 is played by Winona Ryder. That's the strangest thing overall, but I'll move on.
Joyce Byers is the motivation for everything. She refuses to ever give up as she searches for her missing son. She does not know how to quit.
The Cowboys are very fortunate to have a Defensive Tackle like Tyrone Crawford. This is a guy who works (WorkK as he'd have you say on Twitter) all the time. He will not rest. He cannot rest. He'll line up an alphabet on his wall if he has to.
The Demogorgon: Rod Marinelli
The whole inspiration for Stranger Things revolves around this insane monster called a Demogorgon. This is a thing that can destroy, eat, ruin all things in the world or something very similar. The point is it's not something you want to pet.
Rod Marinelli is the shot-caller of all these ballers. This is his universe and his toys to play with. Like the Demogorgon, he destroys everything in his path.
Stranger Things's Demogorgon was unstoppable for eight episodes. Rod Marinelli's version is going to last 19 games. Huzzah!
Cowboys en Español: Nuevas Contrataciones, ¿Podría Ser Allen Hurns la Siguiente?
La agencia libre de los Dallas Cowboys comenzó un poco tarde, siendo el último equipo en toda la liga de la NFL en realizar una contratación este offseason. Ahora, con algunas caras nuevas en el equipo, comienzan las preguntas inevitables. ¿Qué jugadores tendrán un impacto y qué jugadores serán una contratación irrelevante?
Sólo el tiempo lo dirá. Las piezas que añadieron los Cowboys no son agentes libres de gran renombre pero podrían llegar a tener algún impacto en el 2018. Sin embargo, no todas las adquisiciones de Dallas han sido por medio de la agencia libre.
Hace unos días, los Raiders y los Cowboys acordaron un trade por el fullback Jamize Olawale. Días después de perder a Keith Smith (quien fue contratado por... los Raiders), Dallas no quiso echarse todavía otra necesidad encima, así que solucionó rápidamente su hueco en la posición que le abrirá camino a Ezekiel Elliott.
Además de enviar a Olawale a los Cowboys, los Raiders consiguieron una selección de quinta ronda de parte de Dallas y ellos entregaron su sexta ronda. En otras palabras, los Cowboys sólo renunciaron 19 turnos en las rondas tardías del Draft por un fullback que será de ayuda constante para esta ofensiva.
A pesar de ser tres años más grande que Keith Smith, Olawale le brinda a los Cowboys potencial para participar en el juego aéreo así como en el terrestre.
Por la agencia libre, los Cowboys obtuvieron ayuda ofensiva y defensiva.
Joe Thomas, (no, no el que todos conocemos como uno de los mejores tackles de la historia) el linebacker que viene de los Green Bay Packers, usará la estrella este 2018. Mi compañero y escritor de Staff Sean Martin escribió una excelente pieza analizando a detalle al nuevo defensivo.
Thomas definitivamente no será un titular, pero sin duda ayudará a un grupo de equipos especiales que necesitan bastante apoyo esta temporada. Además, es un linebacker rápido y atlético que podrá brillar como un jugador de rotación en una defensiva que incluye a Sean Lee y a Jaylon Smith.
Esta contratación no hace que los Cowboys dejen de tener una gran necesidad por un LB, pero da una profundidad que urgía a la posición.
El último movimiento y quizá el más discutido por los aficionados de los Cowboys es la adquisición de Deonte Thompson. Un receptor abierto que ha batallado para conseguir una casa en la NFL llega a un equipo que cuenta con nombres como Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams y Cole Beasley, pero que aún necesita mucho más producción.
¿Acaso la adición de Thompson al roster hace que WR deje de ser una necesidad para el equipo de los Cowboys? Claro que no, pero añade un talento que quizá pueda ayudar al equipo en ciertos aspectos.
Thompson es un jugador muy rápido, lo cual es algo que esta ofensiva necesita para abrir el campo un poco más. Un corredor de rutas bastante sólido con manos seguras. Thompson viene probablemente a ser una versión mejorada de Brice Butler por $2.5M.
Quizá fue un error de parte de la administración garantizarle un millón de su contrato. ¿Por qué garantizarle dinero a un jugador que ni siquiera debería tener un lugar asegurado en el equipo? Sin embargo, Thompson parece ser un contribuidor a la ofensiva.
Pero no fue el WR en la agencia libre del que se ha hablado esta semana en el mundo de los Dallas Cowboys. De hecho, aún después de firmar su contrato, no es el más discutido entre los aficionados.
Allen Hurns, receptor que fue cortado de Jacksonville, es un jugador que podría llegar a hacer un impacto inmediato en la ofensiva de Dak Prescott y proveerle al QB un potencial mejor amigo. A pesar de que muchos esperarían que conseguir a Hurns significaría decirle adiós a Dez Bryant, la verdad es que no sería necesario.
Hurns podría tomar el rol que Terrance Williams posee ahora como receptor "Z" y llevar a esta ofensiva a otro nivel. Todd Archer de ESPN reportó que la reciente adquisición de Deonte Thompson no significa que la posibilidad de ver a Hurns usando la estrella ha acabado.
Todos queremos ver acción en la agencia libre, aunque a veces lo sensato sea ser conservadores. Así como muchos aficionados de los Cowboys se quejan de la falta de movimientos, muchos aficionados de los Steelers y los Patriots agradecen que sus equipos tengan esta filosofía de no gastar mucho en agencia libre.
La diferencia son los resultados en el campo.
Sin embargo, Allen Hurns definitivamente parece como una opción muy viable para los Cowboys, y una adición que simplemente tendría mucho sentido. Sólo queda esperar si lograrán firmarlo o si un equipo (como los Jets, quienes han mostrado mucho interés y tienen bastante espacio en el tope salarial) logra convencerlo de no regresar a Dallas.
Por ahora, esperamos. Quizá hasta que los Cowboys firmen a alguien más. O quizá hasta la llegada del NFL Draft.
What’s the Next Move for Cowboys in Free Agency?
After sitting out the first wave of free agency, the Dallas Cowboys finally dipped their toes in the free agent pool and signed linebacker Joe Thomas and wide receiver Deonte Thompson.
Signing these two free agents will be viewed as somewhat insignificant moves by the majority of Cowboys fans, but it does prove that the organization isn't sitting on their hands. In fact, they have been bringing in a number of free agents for visits, but haven't been able to close the deal with any of them as of yet.
We are still about a month away from the start of the 2018 NFL Draft, which means the Dallas Cowboys will more than likely sign a few more free agents. They would like to fill as many holes as possible heading into the draft so that they aren't pigeonholed by any specific position.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the next move the Dallas Cowboys could make in free agency and the positions they could be targeting.
It's no secret that the Dallas Cowboys are interested in upgrading the safety position. There is a definite hole to fill now that Byron Jones is moving back to cornerback and I wouldn't be surprised if Jeff Heath's job is secure either.
This is why the most popular topic of discussion this offseason has centered on the possible acquisition of Earl Thomas. Unfortunately, the Seattle Seahawks asking price is simply too high and likely means the Thomas and Cowboys union is nothing more than a pipe dream.
But, there are still several free agent safeties who they could show an interest in and could upgrade the position. Tre Boston, Kenny Vaccaro, and Eric Reid are all still available on the open market and could come in and be immediate upgrades for the Cowboys.
Personally, Tre Boston is the safety I would target if I were the Dallas Cowboys. He had a breakout season in 2017 as a member of the San Diego Chargers in Gus Bradley's defensive scheme. Bradley's scheme is similar to the way Kris Richard will use the Cowboys secondary players.
The Dallas Cowboys have already brought in several offensive lineman free agents, which would indicate they are serious about not only finding a new starting left guard, but adding some much-needed depth. Their lack of depth really hurt them in 2017 and they definitely don't want that to happen again moving forward.
Marcus Martin, Cameron Fleming, and LaAdrian Waddle have all reportedly met with the Dallas Cowboys. Martin and Fleming are currently still free agents, but Waddle recently re-signed with the New England Patriots.
Both Marcus Martin and Cameron Fleming makes sense for the Cowboys and would be a welcomed addition to the roster. Martin would likely take over Joe Looney's role as the backup center/guard, but could compete for the starting LG position. Fleming could start at right tackle, but would also be an immediate upgrade at the swing tackle position
There are other options still available, but hopefully something can materialize with Marcus Martin and Cameron Fleming.
The Dallas Cowboys currently have enough bodies to deploy along the defensive line if the 2018 season were to start today, but they could definitely stand to upgrade the 1-technique. It's one of the reasons why Vita Vea has been mocked to the Dallas Cowboys as a potential first-round pick on a regular basis.
The Cowboys have shown in the past that they don't particularly value the 1-tech position very highly, which means they will likely be bargain shopping in free agency and possibly wait until the middle rounds to draft one.
There are a few free agent DTs who I believe they should target, Jonathan Hankins and Bennie Logan. Both players would definitely be an upgrade over what the Cowboys deployed last season and probably won't break the bank to acquire.
Unfortunately, they might not be very high on Hankins since he wasn't even on their draft board back in 2013, but he still makes sense nonetheless. I believe they had a third-round grade on Logan however, so they could still be interested in bringing him aboard. Regardless, finding another big-bodied/space eating DT in free agency could be a priority.
The Dallas Cowboys already added some much-needed depth by signing Joe Thomas, but I don't think they should stop there. Thomas is more of a weak side linebacker, but the Cowboys could still definitely use someone to backup the middle and strong side positions behind Jaylon Smith and Damien Wilson.
Unfortunately, the linebacker position has been depleted significantly already in free agency. The only option that really makes sense is Navorro Bowman, who the Cowboys showed interested in bringing aboard last season after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers.
If the Dallas Cowboys were somehow able to convince Bowman in signing, then they would likely have already improved not only the depth, but talent from last season. Add another rookie LB at some point in the draft, and the weakness suddenly becomes a strength.
The Cowboys are reported to have an interest in Bowman, but that's as far as it's gone so far. It might be time to make something happen before someone else snatches him up.
Which position or player would you like the Cowboys to target next in free agency?
Sean’s Scout: Linebacker Joe Thomas Brings Speed, Range to Cowboys D
It took some time, but the Dallas Cowboys have their first outside free agent of the offseason, signing Linebacker Joe Thomas to provide depth at a position where Anthony Hitchens and Kyle Wilber have already signed elsewhere.
The fifth-year pro has played exclusively with the Green Bay Packers, but the Cowboys do have some familiarity with Thomas as he spent part of 2015 on their practice squad.
Joe Thomas has served as a core special teams contributor and sub-package LB for the Packers out of South Carolina State, and will now look to bring these services to a Cowboys team in need of play making ability on both defense and special teams.
Using film from this past season, here is Joe Thomas' full scouting report.
LB Joe Thomas: Strengths
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Joe Thomas lined up at all three LB positions for the Packers, taking the majority of his snaps on defense at MIKE or WILL. The WILL position is where Thomas should fit best in Dallas.
Not overly physical with a shorter but square frame, Thomas is a rangy player with light feet and fluid movement ability. Shifting laterally along the line of scrimmage to "pick through trash" is not a problem for Thomas, nor is flipping his hips and running to the football.
It may take Thomas more effort than it should to get in position on most plays, with false steps and late reads being an issue, but once he establishes his sight on the point of attack this is a downhill missile of a player.
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Joe Thomas uses his length well to disengage from blocks and finish off plays, doing a nice job of not allowing blockers into his chest consistently.
With Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith expected to be the Cowboys' primary starters at WILL and MIKE respectively, Thomas could supplement these two physical, well-rounded players extremely well given his athleticism.
LB Joe Thomas: Weaknesses
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There is a reason a player with the raw traits of Joe Thomas goes un-drafted, and in this case it is because of awareness and anticipation issues in Thomas' game.
Far too often on tape, Thomas is forcing himself to recover from false steps against the blockers in front of him. I would have loved to see a player with this movement ability get more clean opportunities to finish at the football, but it was simply not there for Thomas.
When Thomas wasn't late to the ball against the run, he was getting caught flat-footed in space trying to compensate for this reactionary ability. This led to Thomas' fair share of missed tackles, where the LB failed to break down correctly.
Overall, Thomas did a decent job of avoiding blocks and disengaging, and does play with better-than-expected stopping power. The strength and technique to shed blocks was rarely seen though, relying on his quickness to outrun opponents to the spot.
LB Joe Thomas: Summary
This is a player that should help the Dallas Cowboys in two phases of their game this season.
Signed for both 2018 and 2019, the Cowboys have clearly seen enough from their former practice squad linebacker in Green Bay to bring back an athletic ST ace with upside on defense.
Joe Thomas shouldn't be taking Lee or Smith off the field regularly this season, but at his best he will factor into Rod Marinelli's defense on passing downs.
Thomas gives a unit predicated on flowing to the ball even more speed on the field, and is an ideal depth signing with the versatility to cover punts and kickoffs.
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