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The 2016 Dallas Cowboys Were Built On The Number 15
On Monday Bart Starr, the legendary long-time Green Bay Packers Quarterback who is in the Hall of Fame, celebrated his 83rd birthday. Happy belated to Mr. Starr.
Bart was the first (and second) ever Super Bowl MVP, earning the honor while wearing the white #15 on his green-and-gold jersey. This number has been on my mind a lot as of late, especially with this week's Cowboys/Packers Divisional Game looming.
You see, numbers are kind of my thing. If you follow me on Twitter then you're aware of my proclivity to tweet fun math equations that show a series of numbers culminating in one that implies some sort of destiny.
So what's fun about the number 15? Mr. Starr's birthday is a fun reminder that he's the greatest person to ever wear it in NFL History, but this number has a lot to do with the present... specifically the Dallas Cowboys.
You see, the Dallas Cowboys are trying to get to the NFC Championship Game. This is territory that has been foreign to America's Team since 1995. There are a lot of narratives hanging in the air and, if you look closely, you can connect most of them by the number that falls after 14 and precedes 16.
The 2016 Dallas Cowboys - and all of their aspirations - were built on 15, in more ways than one. Here's all of them.
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2016 Is Literally Built On 2015
Thanks to this handy-dandy little deal called a calendar, we all know that 2016 is the year that comes after 2015... so 2016 is literally built on 2015 as far as time is concerned.
While this sounds silly, it's true for the Dallas Cowboys as well. When you think about the experience that was the 2015 season, you think about all of the lessons that were learned and gleaned from it. In 2015 the Cowboys learned the steep price of not having a properly equipped back-up quarterback.
Dallas brought back Kellen Moore, but it was the drafting of Dak Prescott that we owe to 2015. An eye was on the future with the 135th pick of the Draft, and the future arrived in Week 3 of the Preseason when Tony Romo went down. Thank you for your lessons, 2015.
Bonus 15 Factoid: The 2015 Dallas Cowboys played the standard 16 regular season games all NFL teams do, but with the final one happening after the New Year they played exactly 15 games that season on the 2015 side of the calendar.
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Dak Prescott And Ezekiel Elliott Both Wore #15 In 2015
While an eye was on the future in the 4th Round of the Draft, all hands were on deck with the 4th Overall Pick. Dallas elected to take Ezekiel Elliott out of The Ohio State University, and he wound up leading the league in rushing. Pretty solid pick, I'd say.
It's no secret that Dak and Zeke have gravitated towards one another, jolting the future of the Dallas Cowboys and giving Cowboys Nation a great sense of optimism about it. There is a high level of 15 in both Dak and Zeke's past, though.
The horror that was 2015 brought forth two #DallasCowboys that used to wear #15. Amazing coincidence.
In the same way that 2016 was built on 15, this point is built on my previous one. The Cowboys learned how to be better in 2015, and the answer dictated that they acquire the services of both Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott.
2015 gave us two #15s, the greatest ones that we could have ever asked for.
Bonus 15 Factoid: Ezekiel Elliott had 15 rushing touchdowns in the regular season, and the fewest completions Dak Prescott had when playing for an entire game was 15.
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The Difference Of 15 Is The Power Of 4
Back in the early days of May, I wrote here at Inside The Star about The Power of 4 concerning the 2016 Dallas Cowboys Draft Class. That little 'ol class has done pretty well for themselves, don't ya think?
The current crop of Cowboys rookies has definitely solved a lot of problems. Beyond the obvious in Dak and Zeke, Anthony Brown has been fantastic, Maliek Collins has shown up a ton, Kavon Frazier has made a play or two, and we haven't even seen Jaylon Smith yet!
After going 12-4 in 2014 how does The 214 fix next year's 4-12? With 21 & 4.
There are a lot of people who are ready to crown 2016 as the greatest Dallas Cowboys Draft Class of all-time. I'd advise pumping the brakes for a bit as 1964 (Mel Renfro, Bob Hayes, and Roger Staubach) and 1975 (The Dirty Dozen) can't be caught in just one year, regardless of how great it is.
This rookie class may be about The Power of 4, but as 4 is the difference of 15 it all works for us.
Bonus 15 Factoid: If you add up those three draft classes (1964, 1975, and 2016) by their 12 individual numbers you get 51... which is 15 reversed.
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Sunday, January 15th, 2017
Let's just say it. This Sunday is going to be epic.
You can make a legitimate case - I'm not going to, but you can - that this Sunday's contest against the Green Bay Packers is the most important football game played by the Dallas Cowboys in 21 years.
It was January of 2015 when the Cowboys saw their 2014 season end at the iconic Lambeau Field on a blown call... this makes Sunday bigger than a normal playoff game. There's an air of "not this time" hovering around this particular Divisional Playoff Game.
Beyond all of that narrative there's the fact that this game occurs on January 15th. Both the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers hold this day highly in regard, as they have both won Super Bowls on it.
The Packers won Super Bowl I on this day - Bart Starr was obviously there - and the Dallas Cowboys won Super Bowl XII. While 12 obviously isn't 15, there is something neat to the notion that the Cowboys won Super Bowl XII with a stud rookie running back... just like they have now.
Bonus 15 Factoid: Sunday will mark 735 days since Dez Bryant's heroic catch in Green Bay during the 2014 Divisional Round of the Playoffs. 7 + 3 + 5 = 15.
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This Season Ends In Super Bowl LI, Which Is 15 Flipped, Where We Will Finish This Fight
As a student of NFL History I'm partial to referring to Super Bowls by their Roman Numerals, which is why I supremely hated Super Bowl 50.
Thankfully the NFL is back on track and we are approaching Super Bowl LI, aka 51 for the non-fans of Roman Numerals. It's obvious that 51 is the reverse image of 15, which suggests that things are destiny for our Cowboys.
The truth of the matter is that all of these are just a long line of fun coincidences. The real meat and potatoes of what the Dallas Cowboys are built on isn't the number 15... they're built on the guidance, vision, and discipline of Head Coach Jason Garrett.
Coach Garrett has preached a mantra to his team as they gear up for what is God-willing the ride of their lives - #FinishThisFight.
Is it a coincidence that "FinishThisFight" is 15 characters? Who knows. What I do know is that if anyone can do it, it's this team. Let's finish this fight. Huzzah.
Bonus 15 Factoid: Super Bowl LI will mark the 15th Super Bowl to occur in the month of February.
Starters Make Cowboys Serious Contenders, But Depth is a Concern
Playing in the National Football Conference, the Dallas Cowboys have a difficult task ahead of them if they are to be serious Super Bowl contenders. Even still, they've become a very underrated football team due to their 9-7 record last season. The Cowboys struggled in many areas and with the Philadelphia Eagles crowned as Super Bowl Champions, everyone has forgotten about America's Team.
2017 was an awful year for the Cowboys. It seemed like a roller coaster of success, putting up an impressive performance one week only to disappoint the next one. Let's be honest with ourselves here and talk about what really ended the Cowboys' last season.
As much as we talk about how there shouldn't be any excuses in football - the Eagles made a huge statement by winning it all with a backup QB and other key starters missing - we can't deny the impact of these injuries.
Anthony Hitchens, Sean Lee, Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliott all missed some time last year, affecting the team's performance week in and week out. Had the starters been healthy, the truth is this team would've been in the playoffs.
Heading into 2018, the Cowboys will face a very similar situation. This year, starters make Dallas a serious contender. Even if they're playing in a conference that will feature a lot of quality teams, the Cowboys are a team that could beat any team in the league if healthy.
Even the dreaded wide receiver position - which has been famous this offseason for the lack of a #1 receiver - won't be as bad as we make it out to be starter-wise. A starting trio of Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup and Cole Beasley doesn't really sound bad.
Heck, not even Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods starting at safety is concerning. They have what it takes to be decent starters. Sure, Heath isn't a guy who will make the Pro Bowl, but his skills will show on the field once the season starts in September.
The Cowboys' starters will do just fine this season. If the team's fate is up to them, they are in a very good spot. The same can not be said about depth, though.
Except for the defensive line, every other position lacks depth. If Sean Lee goes down, the linebackers stop looking like a three-headed monster. Same goes for the cornerbacks. Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis seem like a good group but as soon as one of them suffers an injury, the Cowboys will be in trouble.
We're in for an exciting season with a lot of young talent waiting to breakout. The Cowboys are underrated this year. They may not be among the NFC's favorites, but they truly have what it takes to replicate the success they had in 2016. However, it seems like circumstances have to be ideal for them to make a run for the Lombardi Trophy.
With a little bit of luck, they'll bounce back this season.
The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up
Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.
The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.
As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.
Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.
Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.
Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.
Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.
I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.
All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.
How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?
Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?
With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.
Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.
I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.
I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?
Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.
Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.
Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.
Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.
Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?
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