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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.
The Cowboys Blueprint for Success has been Set
The Cowboys victory against the Jaguars was a reminder to everyone just how good Dak Prescott & Co. can be. They ran and threw all over the Jaguars defense like they were high school level. It was a one-sided, lambs to the slaughter type of game.
At the end of the game, it left all of us wondering, "where has this team been all year?"
Throughout the season, the Cowboys showed both dominance and incompetence on the offensive side of the football. One game the team moves the ball up and down the field with ease, the next game the offense looks inept. Last Sunday’s game versus Jacksonville shows that Dallas can be successful the rest of the season, if they continue to play as such.
Run the ball
This team was built to run the football. Look at the offensive line, their type of tight ends, their quarterback, and of course Ezekiel Elliott.
The line is full of first round talent, the tight ends are block-first types (sans Rico Gathers), Dak Prescott gives them another dimension with the mobile ability in and out of the pocket, and Elliott is one of if not the best running back in the league.
The concept of running the football should not be lost on this team.
If they let Elliott run 20 or more times per game, allow Prescott to run outside of the pocket and not just be a stand-still passer, and mix in some of Rod Smith and Tavon Austin (when healthy) to give their main runner a break, they can run on anyone.
Let Dak Move Around
What makes Dak Prescott so special to this team isn’t just his leadership, but also his ability to extend plays. He stays in the pocket if he has to but he’s so skilled outside with his legs. Zone read, play action, tuck and run, throw on the run, etc., any excuse to get Dak Prescott on the move is a plus. Defenses respect his ability to move so much that the Cowboys receivers get open more as a result.
The worst thing a coaching staff can do to a mobile quarterback is to keep him standing still when he can do so much more with his feet. Don’t buy a Corvette and keep it locked up in the garage. The best way for Dak Prescott to stay consistent and succeed as a passer is to let Dak be Dak.
The Cowboys have found a serious advantage that they’ve lacked in years past. Led by DeMarcus Lawrence and Jaylon Smith, the Cowboys have 18 sacks through the first six games of the season.
Throw in the contributions of players like Taco Charlton, Tyrone Crawford, and Randy Gregory, among others, and you’ve got the deepest pass rush the Cowboys have had in years.
The team is 7th in the league in sacks and there seems to be no sign of stopping and no shortage of players who can get to the quarterback. These numbers look like they’ll only go up from here and with the amount of players the Cowboys have to do so, Jacksonville looks like it was only a taste of what’s to come.
Creative Play Calling
A little more than a week ago Jerry Jones stated that the Cowboys offense looked similar to the L.A. Rams - a hilarious notion by most accounts, right?
The Cowboys offensive scheme had been mocked all season for being both predictable and out of date. I’m not sure how many times you can run a three tight end set and expect success when it hadn't happened yet.
The team would run then throw on first and second downs, and depending on yardage, would set up a predictable third down attempt.
Against Jacksonville, we saw more read option than we’ve seen all year. Dak Prescott was vintage. His ability to move the ball with his legs made the secondary shaky against the Cowboys receivers - especially Cole Beasley - and that opened up the playbook.
Ezekiel Elliott couldn’t be stopped and just about every receiver got in on the action. Even rookie receiver Michael Gallup got in and showed some of what Cowboy fans had been waiting for.
Hopefully, that game showed just how dangerous the Cowboys can be when they are unpredictable and let their quarterback be himself. If they game planned for today the same as they did against the Jaguars, the rest of the season will be much more winnable.
Cowboys en Español: ¿Dónde Tiene Que Mejorar Dallas?
El mejor juego de los Dallas Cowboys en 2018 vino la semana pasada, cuando recibieron a los Jacksonville Jaguars y los vencieron 40-7. Un resultado que tomó a todos por sorpresa demostró la mejor cara en el año de este equipo que apenas tiene un récord de 3-3.
Por más dominantes que se vieron en el emparrillado el domingo pasado, esa actuación no termina de reflejar lo que realmente son los Cowboys. Son un equipo con potencial en la ofensiva y con una defensiva bastante fuerte, pero ¿pueden ganar constantemente como lo hicieron contra Jaguars?
De entrada, la respuesta a esta pregunta parece ser no. Aún en esa victoria, se vieron problemas evidentes en la ofensiva. Para empezar, la falta de ejecución en la segunda mitad en series ofensivas que incluso llegaron a iniciar en territorio enemigo. De gol de campo en gol de campo se juntan puntos, sin duda, pero en partidos cerrados eso termina costando victorias. Hace falta que Dak Prescott y compañía puedan mover el balón una vez en rango de gol de campo y convertir esas oportunidades a touchdowns.
Otra preocupación que no podemos subestimar es que el juego aéreo sigue sin funcionar apropiadamente. Cole Beasley dominó con nueve atrapadas para 101 yardas y dos touchdowns, pero el resto de los receptores se fueron sin más de una recepción por cabeza. El único jugador que logró más de una fue el TE Geoff Swaim, quien se llevo dos en todo el juego.
Si bien Beasley tuvo uno de los mejores juegos en su carrera, más receptores tienen que involucrarse para llevar la ofensiva al siguiente nivel. La buena noticia es que en esta ocasión se enfrentaron contra una de las mejores secundarias en la NFL. Los números son malos, pero tienen la oportunidad de demostrar mucho más contra otras defensivas.
Los Dallas Cowboys tienen que repartir más la bola y seguir buscando maneras creativas de utilizar a su RB Ezekiel Elliott. Pases pantallas en tercera y largo no es ser creativo. Lo vemos funcionar dos o tres veces al año pero mandan esta jugada semanalmente. En cuanto a Dak Prescott, hay mucho donde mejorar. Deberíamos estar viendo pases más arriesgados, al centro del campo y mucho mejor posicionados.
Para la defensiva, las cosas se ven muy bien. Puede que veamos la mejor versión de esta unidad esta semana, cuando viajen a Washington. Maliek Collins, Sean Lee, David Irving, y Randy Gregory estarán jugando mucho más sanos y preparados. Este es un frente defensivo lleno de talento que intimidará constantemente a Alex Smith este domingo.
A pesar de que los Redskins no tienen una ofensiva muy explosiva, el área de oportunidad principal para la defensiva de Cowboys está en la profundidad defensiva. Tanto Jeff Heath como Xavier Woods han hecho un trabajo decente, pero tienen sus momentos en los que no logran asegurar una tackleada y permiten jugadas largas.
Hace unos meses no esperábamos que fuera la defensiva y no la ofensiva la que cargaría a este equipo a muchas victorias, pero ese ha sido el caso en las tres victorias de esta temporada. Y en las tres derrotas, la defensiva fue la que mantuvo a los Cowboys en el juego.
Sin duda alguna, lo que tiene que mejorar es la ofensiva. Los receptores tienen que desmarcarse, Prescott debe ser más preciso y tener una mejor conciencia en la bolsa de protección.
Pero sobre todo, es la inconsistencia del equipo. Esto se comienza a sentir como la temporada del año pasado, cuando los Cowboys se fueron 9-7 y nunca terminaron de establecerse como contendientes a los playoffs. Aún en una NFC East donde todos los equipos tienen récords similares y débiles, no pueden continuar perdiendo una semana y ganando a la otra.
Ganarle a los Redskins sería la primera victoria de Dallas jugando de visita. También sería la primera vez en el año en la que tendrían victorias consecutivas. Por esto y muchas otras razones, incluyendo el potencial liderato de la división, este juego es de suma importancia.
Si ganan, podría ser el momento en el que los Cowboys terminen de darle la vuelta a la página y si pierden, podría ser un indicador de que esta temporada será igual que la del 2017.
Time to get FB Jamize Olawale More Involved Offensively?
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off arguably their best and most complete offensive performance of the season after playing the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, but there is still quite a bit of improvement that can be made. The need to get more playmakers involved is apparent, which is why I think it's time to utilize Fullback Jamize Olawale's unique skill set.
I know many of you will argue that getting Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup going is a higher priority, and you wouldn't be wrong, but Jamize Olawale's playmaking ability could be a huge asset for Quarterback Dak Prescott and the offense. I know it sounds a little strange, but hang in there with me for little bit.
As things stand right now, Olawale has only played 38 offensive snaps (10%) in 2018. That's the exact amount of offensive plays Wide Receiver Terrance Williams has played this year and he's missed the majority of the season. It's not exactly the kind of production I was expecting when the Cowboys decided to bring him aboard via trade with the Oakland Raiders earlier this offseason.
I don't know about you, but I was expecting Olawale to be more involved in the offensive game plan. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and isn't too shabby as a runner either. But, we haven't seen him utilized in either fashion this season and I think that's an injustice that needs to be corrected.
Now, I fully understand there are other offensive weapons ahead of him in the pecking order who need to see more targets, but I also really think he can make a difference maker, especially in the passing game. That is where his strengths lie, not as a lead blocking fullback.
Olawale was a bit of a Swiss Army knife during his time with the Oakland Raiders. He played a little running back, fullback, tight end, and even a little slot receiver. I really thought the Cowboys would take advantage of his versatility in the passing game, but as of yet they have failed to do so.
I'd like to see the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan utilize Jamize Olawale's unique playmaking ability a little bit more on offense. I think they should try to utilize him like the San Francisco 49ers use their fullback, Kyle Juszczyk. He's much more involved and has played a total of 263 offensive snaps (63.68%) this year.
Juszczyk is a better lead blocking FB then Olawale, but that's not where he makes the most difference in the 49ers offense. He does it as a receiver and has already caught 17 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown. That's some pretty solid production from a position that is being phased out in the NFL.
Now, just imagine the Cowboys offense getting similar production from Olawale and how that would help open up things for everybody else. It's not out of the realm of possibility because the 49ers offense and the Cowboys isn't all that dissimilar.
Unfortunately, I think Jamize Olawale is pretty much an afterthought in the Cowboys offense right now. It's truly unfortunate because I think he can be a difference maker if given the opportunity. And with a division foe like the Washington Redskins next on the schedule, what better time to unleash a new and unseen element of the offense?
Do you think Jamize Olawale needs to be more involved offensively?
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