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!
Is Kavon Frazier Fighting a Losing Battle With the Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas Cowboys Safety Kavon Frazier has one year remaining on his rookie contract, but may not see the end of it with the same team who drafted him. In fact, it really looks as if he is already fighting a losing battle in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys signed Free Agent George Iloka and drafted Donavan Wilson out of Texas A&M in the sixth-round of the 2019 NFL Draft in the hopes of upgrading the safety position. That doesn't bode well for Kavon Frazier, especially after seeing his defensive snaps take hit in 2018.
After the arrival of Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard, Frazier saw his playing time on defense go from 21.24% in 2017 to 18.07% in 2018. It's not a huge difference, but it's pretty obvious the Cowboys value his special-teams ability, not his defensive play.
The way I see things, Kavon Frazier is a longshot to make the Cowboys final 53-man roster this year. At best, I have him fifth or sixth on the depth chart right now. Since Dallas typically only carries four safeties on the roster, it's looking as if Frazier could inevitably be the odd man out.
I personally have Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, and George Iloka ahead of Kavon Frazier right now on the depth chart. That means he's competing with Darian Thompson, who is also playing on a one-year deal, and rookie Donovan Wilson for that fourth and final roster spot at the safety position. Unfortunately for Frazier, it looks as if the odds are against him.
Donovan Wilson has already had to step into Frazier's shoes while he was out in OTA's after having his knee scoped, and has been pretty impressive doing so. He has supposedly picked up the defensive scheme pretty quickly and is becoming a vocal leader on the backend. Being a younger, cheaper option, Wilson has a better chance of sticking around on the final 53-man roster over Frazier.
As you can see, Kavon Frazier is fighting an uphill battle with the Dallas Cowboys. It of course is nothing new for him. He's had to fight his way onto the roster ever since he joined the Cowboys, but this year just seems a little different in my opinion. It just looks as if the odds are more against him this time around.
I have no doubts Frazier will continue to fight with every ounce of his being, but if I'm being completely honest I think he's fighting a losing battle. It's going to be really interesting to see how this roster battle at the safety position plays out in training camp and preseason.
Do you think Kavon Frazier is fighting a losing battle with the Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas Cowboys: The Case For Regression In 2019
It's been a few years since things around the Dallas Cowboys felt this good prior to a season. Coming off a 10-6 year in which Dallas won both the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a one possession road game to the future NFC champions, Cowboys Nation is expecting some big things in 2019.
After all, the Cowboys went out and improved their roster in multiple ways this offseason and brought in some new blood on their offensive coaching staff. Spirits are high among Cowboys Nation, and just about everyone is anticipating a two team race for the NFC East.
But some numbers indicate we should be thinking "not so fast."
The details of the 2018 season are not as pretty as the total picture. Rarely are they ever, of course, but these particular details point towards possible regression for the Cowboys in 2019.
Basically, their point differential a year ago spells out impending doom. (That was dramatic, but let's discuss).
The Cowboys were +15 in 2018, and by pythagorean wins expectation, they were about as strong as an 8-8 team (8.53 wins to be exact). This means they won nearly 2 more games (1.47) than would be expected, fourth most in the entire NFL.
This point is furthered when looking at their record in one possession games. Dallas went 8-2 when the game was decided by 7 points or less, winning close games at a rate that is simply not sustainable year to year.
These numbers make the Cowboys a prime candidate for regression in 2019, as they were in 2017.
Back in 2016, the Cowboys outperformed their pythagorean expectation by a whole 2 wins. The following season? Dallas finished the year 9-7. The model also indicated that the 7-9 Eagles performed 2 wins under expectations in 2016, meaning they would get back on track in 2017. As we know, they ended up winning 13 games and the Super Bowl the following season.
Of course, this isn't set-in-stone, and the Cowboys very well could outperform these expectations and avoid regression. This would mainly hinge on their coaching staff and quarterback performing at an elite level, carrying them through close games and winning more games by greater than one possession.
Newly Acquired DE Robert Quinn Brings High Expectations
Winning games in the NFL typically comes down to accomplishing two goals. One, being successful when passing on offense. And, two, stopping the opposing team's passing game.
The Cowboys set out to accomplish that second goal this offseason, re-signing defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and trading for veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn, who tallied 6.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins, is one of the leagues more feared rushers when at his best. The former All Pro has multiple 10+ sack seasons under his belt, including a whopping 19 in 2013.
And, as expected, the Cowboys coaching staff is ecstatic to have such a respected pass rushing specialist on their roster.
“He’s got that first step. He’s an established pass rusher in this league, so he’s going to bring some good stuff for us.” - Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
The Cowboys acquired Robert Quinn for a 2020 6th round pick, which could end up being the steal of the offseason. Quinn has played with some top-notch pass rushers in the past, and each time they have brought out the best in his own game.
Back with the Rams in 2017, when Aaron Donald was on the same defensive line, Quinn got to the quarterback 8.5 times. And, last season, he remained consistent in his sack totals playing alongside Cameron Wake. Now he joins a DeMarcus Lawrence who has 25 sacks over the last 2 seasons.
"I think it was kind of one of those where I get to have fun, pin my ears back and just disrupt the backfield, which is what they want us to do." - Robert Quinn told NFL.com.
Quinn and the always dominant Lawrence will form an impressive defensive end duo on passing downs, with the potential to be one of the best in all of football. Dallas is also hoping to add Randy Gregory into this mix, a piece which could prove vital late in football games if he is able to return from his current indefinite suspension.
Whether or not Gregory finds his way back onto the field, though, this defensive front will be in good hands. The edge combo of Quinn and Lawrence, combined with a plethora of skilled interior rushers such as Maliek Collins, gives the Cowboys a fearsome defensive line which should keep quarterbacks uncomfortable every Sunday.
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