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 Chill While Pats & Rams Set to Thrill
If you were to check out the line on the Super Bowl matchup between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams, you might wander over to Sportsbook Review, where you could read a 5Dimes review and see what all the best online sportsbooks, first and foremost among them 5Dimes, are dealing on this intriguing matchup. Tom Brady and the Patriots, much to everyone’s chagrin outside the six New England states, are back in it – again – and are currently slight favorites over the emerging LA Rams.
In New England’s 37-31 victory over the Chiefs, the Patriots did what they always seem to do, which is rally late and win in dramatic fashion. It’s become almost a ho-hum experience in New England while the rest of the country bites on a bullet, cursing the embarrassment of riches and success that has been the standard of this Patriots’ franchise for two decades. But this was supposed to be the season that the dynasty would end after viewing Tom Brady’s often mediocre performances and his All-World tight end, Rob Gronkowski, hobbling up and down the field without the same reckless abandon as we’ve seen in year’s past. And then their only truly talented speed merchant capable of stretching the field, Josh Gordon, left the team under a cloud of suspicion.
Unfortunately for the rest of the nation, the Patriots' once porous defense coalesced into a rather stout unit and apparently, the two weeks between the end of the regular season and the start of the Patriots’ postseason was enough time for Brady to heal from his rumored sprained MCL that he had been dealing with in silence all season long.
Gronkowski must have also visited the same shaman as Brady because he looked as dominating as ever in ripping the Chiefs on every critical third-down throughout the final quarter. Finally, the conduit to much of Brady’s success, Julian Edelman, is now being mentioned as a Hall-of-Fame candidate when his run is done.
It’s all a bit much for everyone else, but not for Patriots Nation.
The LA Rams will be the Patriots’ latest foe on the league’s grandest stage as they have a burgeoning superstar in Jared Goff. Los Angeles tore through the regular season off of the golden arm of Goff and his Juggernauts, winning 13 of 16 and earning a first-round bye. Their first foray into the 2018 postseason was a 30-22 win over the determined but overwhelmed Dallas Cowboys. The Rams then traveled to the lair of Drew Brees and the Saints down on the bayou and came away with a 26-23 overtime victory.
However, had it not been for an inexcusable non-call, it is far more likely LA would be watching, rather than participating in this year’s Super Bowl. If you didn’t see it or hadn’t heard about it, then the question begs; why are you reading this article?
Of course, you know that LA’s cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman steamrolled New Orleans’ wideout Tommylee Lewis as Brees’ pass was descending toward Lewis inside the five-yard line. It was a penalty without a flag and that one blown call forced the Saints to settle for a field goal that pushed them ahead 23-20. Yet, there was still enough time on the clock to give Goff and his prolific Rams’ offense one last gasp at either tying the game or putting a dagger through the hearts of Saints’ fans everywhere with a touchdown in the waning moments.
It was the former and not the latter that occurred, but an errant pass by Brees in overtime sealed the deal as the Rams picked it off and ultimately ended the contest off the thunderous foot of Greg Zuerlein.
If you want to check out the line movements over the next two weeks for Super Bowl LIII then get on over to Sportsbook Review, read the 5Dimes review, and see exactly where the money is moving the spread as well as the total in the game. Buckle up Cowboys’ fans, it’s gonna get even more interesting as February 3rd draws near.
Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches
Lamentablemente, la temporada 2018 de los Dallas Cowboys ha llegado a su fin. Lo hizo cuando el equipo visitó Los Angeles para intentar sorprender a los Rams en su propio campo en la Ronda Divisional de los playoffs. Ni siquiera con una invasión exitosa de la afición de Dallas pudieron ganarse un pase al Campeonato de Conferencia. En vez de eso, los Cowboys estarán viendo desde casa y la afición estará preguntándose: ¿qué sigue para los Dallas Cowboys?
Parece ya una tradición anual que no podemos dejar pasar. Este momento en el que comenzamos a cuestionar, una vez más, que entrenador es digno de quedarse en la franquicia y cual debe irse. En esta edición de "Cowboys en Español," hablaremos específicamente de los tres principales coaches en el equipo.
Coordinador Defensivo Rod Marinelli
El futuro del coordinador defensivo de los Dallas Cowboys no se puede tratar sin mencionar a Kris Richard. Fue la defensiva la que llevó al equipo hasta la postemporada y fue la unidad que cargó al equipo en muchas de sus victorias. Incluso con la llegada de Amari Cooper a Dallas, la defensiva fue siempre el pilar de la franquicia esta temporada.
Jaylon Smith y Leighton Vander Esch sorprendentemente se perfilaron como uno de los mejores duos de linebackers en toda la liga, la línea defensiva fue muy exitosa con Randy Gregory y DeMarcus Lawrence en los extremos y con la grata sorpresa que fue Antwaun Woods en el centro. La secundaria vio la mejor temporada en la controversial carrera de Byron Jones e hizo un excelente trabajo con un talento decente, pero no genial.
Todo esto, y el haber terminado como la sexta mejor defensiva en puntos permitidos (20.2) y la quinta mejor contra la corrida (94.6), hace a Rod Marinelli merecedor de una ronda de aplausos. Sin embargo, Richard probablemente merezca más aplausos.
Fue Richard quien revolucionó la defensiva de los Cowboys y la convirtió en un grupo mucho más agresivo. Fue él quien implementó jugadas de "blitz" en el equipo (algo no común con Marinelli) y quien en un punto de la temporada, comenzó a seleccionar las jugadas desde la banda.
En esta posición, me parece que los Dallas Cowboys tienen que enfrentar la dura decisión de decirle a Marinelli que es tiempo de dejarle el puesto a Kris Richard. Si bien no se llevó un trabajo de head coach, es muy probable que le llovieran ofertas a Richard si no se hace con el título de coordinador defensivo en Dallas.
Coordinador Ofensivo Scott Linehan
Con un equipo tan polémico como este, la afición de Dallas no concuerda en muchas cosas. Sin embargo, lo hacen al hablar del pésimo trabajo que Scott Linehan ha realizado mandando las jugadas en ofensiva. Realmente ha sido doloroso de ver y es en mi opinión, el mayor problema que tiene el equipo actualmente.
Semana tras semana, fuimos testigos de pésimas decisiones en la ofensiva de los Cowboys. Vimos como el equipo se aferraba a llenar la caja de defensivos antes de correr el balón con Ezekiel Elliott. Vimos incontables pases pantalla en tercera oportunidad y largo. Pero no solo es lo que vimos, sino lo que no vimos.
A pesar de la innegable habilidad para correr el balón de Dak Prescott, Linehan se rehusó a explotar esta versatilidad de su QB. Vimos pocos "QB sneaks," jugada donde el mariscal toma el balón bajo centro y consigue poco yardage detrás del empuje de su línea ofensiva.
Siendo honestos, los Cowboys llevan dos años sufriendo por este coordinador. Dejarlo volver en el 2019 sería una decisión ridícula. Los comentarios en la radio de Jason Garrett no lucen prometedores, pero realmente sería una sorpresa que fueran ciertos. Linehan no debe volver... punto.
Head Coach Jason Garrett
El futuro en esta posición será muy debatido durante los próximos meses, pero de los tres que hemos mencionado es sin lugar a dudas el más seguro de todos. Nos guste o no, Jason Garrett estará al frente del equipo la próxima temporada.
Garrett está lejos de ser un gran coach y aún le hace falta demostrar que puede cumplir las aspiraciones de los Cowboys de traer un sexto Trofeo Lombardi a casa. Pero siendo honesto, este equipo debería tener suficiente con Garrett y un par de buenos coordinadores. ¿El problema? No hay un par de buenos coordinadores en el equipo.
Sin embargo, Garrett ha demostrado que cuenta con el amor y apoyo de sus jugadores. Ha demostrado que efectivamente, puede ganar la división (lo ha hecho en tres de los últimos cinco años). Este año el equipo le dio la vuelta a la temporada después de comenzar 3-5.
Lo más preocupante en mi opinión, es la falta de urgencia para despedir a Linehan, por ejemplo. Quizá a puerta cerrada Garrett quiere un cambio en su staff, pero nunca lo sabremos.
Jason Garrett no es un coach excelente, pero podría ser suficiente para llevar a los Cowboys a un Super Bowl si tiene un equipo adecuado. Todo parece indicar que su trabajo está seguro (incluso más de lo que pensamos) así que es tiempo de esperar que se arreglen sus coordinadores.
2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch
As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.
It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.
Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.
No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.
Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.
This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.
There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.
Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.
Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.
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