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’ Patience With DE Randy Gregory Finally Paying Off?
Say what you want about Randy Gregory and his past struggles, but he might just be turning into the player the Dallas Cowboys envisioned when they drafted him in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. All I can say is, it's about time!
Randy Gregory is just one of many players Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones has gone out of his way to help in the hopes of improving his football team, but very few have received as much patience and personal attention as Gregory. Jerry has continued to stand by him through all of his off the field issues and suspensions, despite not getting much in return.
It's been somewhat confusing for a lot of Cowboys Nation. Many fans have been ready to move on from the troubled defensive end, but not Jerry Jones. This was his pick back in 2015 and he was bound and determined to see it through. That's exactly what he's done and he might actually see some return on his investment.
Randy Gregory isn't exactly blowing things up like Linebacker Leighton Vander Ecsh or some of his other defensive teammates, but he's quietly strung together some good games these past several weeks. In the last four games he has three quarterback sacks, three quarterback hits, and a tackle for a loss. That's not even mentioning how he's consistently applying pressure to the QB as well.
I know it doesn't look like much from the outside looking in, but to me he's starting to look like a player who's finally finding his groove. I don't know about you, but I will take any silver lining I can get when it comes to Randy Gregory. Even if it is the small sample size.
We all knew it might take him a while to get things going after missing all 2017 and parts of 2016 due to suspensions. That's a lot of football to miss for a young player and it's kind of hurt his development. That's probably one of the reasons the Cowboys brought him along a little slowly this season.
I don't think there's any reason to pull back the reins any longer though. Gregory looks as if he has acclimated to the game once again and is ready, willing, and able to start opposite DeMarcus Lawrence from here on out. The Cowboys defense is just better with him in the lineup.
Randy Gregory has had to overcome a lot of personal demons to reach this point in his career, and for that I commend him. It couldn't have been an easy road to go down, but the work he has put in is paying off and he can finally see the fruits of his labor for himself. That could pay huge dividends not only from a confidence standpoint, but also as a sense of validation.
Now, he just needs to keep his nose to the grind stone and continue to do what he's been doing. I think everything else will work itself out and both he and the Cowboys will be better for it.
Do you think Randy Gregory is finally hitting his stride?
QB Dak Prescott Continues To Come Through In Clutch Situations
Dak Prescott is possibly the most criticized quarterback in all of football.
Of course, this comes with the territory of being the Cowboys starting quarterback, but each throw Prescott attempts is placed under an intense microscope, even by NFL standards. We analyze every snap of every game, looking to find where Dak was right or wrong with this reads.
There's no question, though, that Prescott has been inconsistent throughout his young career. Week to week, drive to drive, and even play to play, we seemingly have no gauge on just how Dak Prescott will perform.
One scenario where we can say with confidence he will come through, however, is when it matters most. Last Sunday, in yet another must-win game for the Dallas Cowboys, Prescott orchestrated a game winning drive to lead his team over the favored Atlanta Falcons.
The Cowboys offense was pedestrian for much of the afternoon, but when Prescott got the ball in a tied game, I felt confident he would give Brett Maher a chance to win the game. Even on the road, and even after the offense had struggled a bit through the air all day.
Prescott got the ball late in the fourth quarter, looking to answer former NFL MVP Matt Ryan's game tying touchdown strike to Julio Jones. Dak went for it all on the first play, looking for Michael Gallup deep down the sideline, but the ball fell incomplete. After that throw, Prescott went 4/5 for 45 yards, including a huge completion to Cole Beasley, putting Dallas in game winning field goal range.
This confidence in Dak Prescott is justified, as is shown by his numbers in late game situations. Prescott now has 12 game winning drives, tying him for the league lead over the last three seasons. For comparison sake, Eagles starter Carson Wentz has just 3 game winning drives over that same stretch.
Overall the box score shows a rather quiet day for Prescott, but it was exactly the kind of Sunday they need from him. He completed over 60% of his passes, ran for a touchdown, and avoided the key turnover which could have sung this close game.
He played efficient football, and gave the Cowboys a chance to win it late. Then, he did what he does best, making plays in clutch situations and coming through in the 2 minute drill.
For all of Dak Prescott's flaws, those end-of-half and end-of-game situations have been a clear strength for the young quarterback, and continued to be this week.
Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración
Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.
Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.
Cambios de Coach
A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.
A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.
Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?
A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.
A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.
En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.
La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.
Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.
Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.
No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.
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