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Cowboys CTK: The Center of #53: Mark Stepnoski

RJ Ochoa

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Cowboys Blog - The Center of #53: Mark Stepnoski

Welcome to Hump Day at Inside The Star! I’ve made a formal petition to have an actual camel roam the offices on Wednesdays, but sadly I don’t think this will become a reality. As it is Wednesday we are 6 days away from Training Camp and a mere 53 days (that’s only 76,320 minutes…or 4,579,200 Mississippis if you want to count it) away from football! While you guys get started on counting to four and a half million I’m going to hit you with the Greatest 53 in Dallas Cowboys History.

The Following Players Have All Worn 53 For The Dallas Cowboys:

  • Keith Adams, LB
  • John Babinecz, LB
  • Bob Breunig, LB
  • Bruce Carter, LB
  • Mike Connelly, C
  • Ray Donaldson, C
  • Onzy Elam, LB
  • Oliver Hoyte, FB
  • Garth Jax, LB
  • Cameron Lawrence*, LB
  • Steve Octavien, LB
  • Randy Shannon, LB
  • Dave Simmons, LB
  • Victor Simmons, LB
  • Mark Stepnoski, C
  • Kalen Thornton, LB
  • Fred Whittingham, LB

*Active player on the Dallas Cowboys roster

There are two players on today’s list that we need to highlight. These are two great Dallas Cowboys who played completely different positions.

Mark Stepnoski

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Bob Breunig

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Bob The Builder

The 1975 “Dirty Dozen” Draft Class has made many appearances on our Countdown To Kickoff Series. Bob Breunig, the third round selection, adds to the prestige of that class.

Bob didn’t play much in 1975 when the Dallas Cowboys lost Super Bowl X to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He managed to become the starting strongside linebacker in 1976, but his real breakout was 1977 when he made the move to middle linebacker. Breunig took over for the recently retired Lee Roy Jordan and made his mark in the middle of Doomsday.

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Breunig helped the Dallas Cowboys win Super Bowl XII and established himself as a playmaker on a unit filled with them. He led the team in tackles for a total of six seasons, and he managed to break the single-season tackle record for the team in 1981. Bob Breunig played in 117 straight games at one point in time and retired behind only the Greatest 55 in Dallas Cowboys History, Lee Roy Jordan, in tackles. He was a great Cowboy and did a lot for the franchise, but he falls just short of our 53 honors.

Every Little Step I Take

The University of Pittsburgh had already given the Dallas Cowboys an amazing player back in 1977 with Tony Dorsett. That trend continued in 1989, in the third round specifically, as the Dallas Cowboys found themselves with offensive lineman Mark Stepnoski.

step

The Cowboys moved Step to center, a position he had never played before, and the Greatest 64 in Dallas Cowboys History, Tom Rafferty, tutored him during his final playing years. Mark’s smaller size caused him to slip in the draft, but he learned how to use it well. His individual effort was recognized with a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl after the 1991 season. His travel agent was quite busy as Mark took the trip for the following four years as well.

The Great Wall of Dallas

While Mark achieved some notable personal accomplishments it was what he did as part of a unit that Cowboy fans remember most. Assembled with Mark Tuinei, Nate Newton, Kevin Gogan, and Erik Williams they formed the Great Wall of Dallas. This offensive line is one of the greatest in the history of professional football and helped the Cowboys win back-to-back Super Bowls in the 1990s as well as pave the way for the NFL’s All-Time Leading Rusher, Emmitt Smith.

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Mark Stepnoski and I at Emmitt Smith's Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2010.

Only a handful of people can lay claim to blocking for the NFL’s All-Time Leading Rusher. Mark Stepnoski not only blocked for Emmitt Smith, but he was an integral part of the lanes created for him. The Cowboys of the 1990s ran power draws a lot and the center position is crucial for that. Stepnoski was arguably the greatest center of his era, as exemplified by his presence on the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team.

Mark Stepnoski Takes #53

Mark Stepnoski anchored one of the greatest offensive lines in NFL History. He manned the middle for Pro Football Hall of Famers and Dallas Cowboy Legends Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. The center position hardly gets the glitz and glamour of the primary skill positions, but Mark Stepnoski made the center position fun to watch. He continued the long legacy of great Dallas Cowboy centers before him and established himself as the Greatest 53 in Dallas Cowboys History.

Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 52 in Dallas Cowboys History is!


Want to share your opinions on who should be featured on our Countdown To Kickoff? Email me at rjochoa@insidethestar.com or Tweet @rjochoa.

 

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys CTK: The Center of #53: Mark Stepnoski" in the comments below. You can also email me at RJ.Ochoa@SlantSports.com, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!



I like long walks on the beach, mystery novels, no just kidding those suck. The Dallas Cowboys were put on this earth for us all to love and appreciate. I do that 24/7/365. I also love chicken parmesan. Let's roll. @RJOchoa if you wanna shout!

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Star Blog

Dak Prescott: Calm Under Pressure

Matthew Lenix

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Dak Prescott: Calm Under Pressure

When the 2016 NFL Draft came around the Dallas Cowboys were in search of the heir apparent to Tony Romo. Unfortunately, coming off an injury-plagued 2015 season, Romo would find himself on the shelf again after suffering a broken bone in his back during a preseason game against the Seahawks. However, the Cowboys had an ace in the hole, in the form of Dak Prescott who they drafted in the fourth round.

The idea was the groom him for a few years before taking the keys to the car so to speak from Romo, but fate had another idea in mind. Prescott would be thrust into the starting lineup against one of the Cowboys most hated rivals to start the season, the New York Giants. Added to that, was the pressure of living up to Romo's stellar resume as the franchise's all-time leading passer. After struggling in a tough 20-19 loss, no surprise there for a rookie quarterback, Prescott began to take flight.

Over the next eleven games he wouldn't suffer a single loss as the Cowboys were sitting pretty at 11-1. What made this streak more impressive was the efficiency of Prescott. He threw 19 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions over that span. In the process, he set an NFL record for the most passing attempts to start a career without an interception with 176. This broke the previous record held by Tom Brady of 162. It didn't stop there, as he also set a rookie record for completion percentage (67.8), was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and was selected to the Pro Bowl.

The Cowboys would finish 13-3 and win the NFC East. With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and the franchise only winning two postseason games in 21 years, Prescott was definitely under the microscope. After the offense struggled to produce points in the first half and fell behind 21-3, Prescott lead a furious comeback. Helping the team storm all the way back to tie the game at 28 and again at 31. He finished with 302 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first playoff start against future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. Even though the team lost 34-31, Prescott proved how much of a gamer he was as he basically went yard for yard and point for point with one of the NFL's elite signal-callers. It was clear the Cowboys were in good hands going forward.

2017 started off well as the Cowboys were 5-3 and firmly on pace for another playoff run. Unfortunately, All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott lost his fierce battle with the NFL over domestic violence allegations, and Dak along with the offense struggled. After a 9-7 season and falling one game short of a Wild Card berth, the pressure on Prescott heading into the next season was immense.

Once 2018 came about Prescott had more pressure than ever with Elliott back for a full season. After a slow 3-4 start the Cowboys traded for Pro-Bowl Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, providing the team with it's first true number one receiver since Dez Bryant. Putting even more expectations on Prescott to turn things around, and boy did he ever.

He would complete 71.6% of his passes in the final eight games of the season, and the Cowboys won seven to finish 10-6. Now, with another division title under his belt, came a playoff matchup with Super Bowl-winning Quarterback Russell Wilson.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were hanging on to a 17-14 lead. They faced a 3rd and 14 inside the redone with just over two minutes left. After dropping back a few steps, Prescott scrambled for 16 yards setting up a first and goal from the one-yard line. The team held on for a 24-22 victory but here's why that scramble was so important.

If the Cowboys don't convert that 3rd and long that would've set up a field goal attempt. Assuming it would have been successful, that would've only put them up 20-14. Giving Seattle a chance to more than likely win with a touchdown and an extra point or two-point conversion. Prescott essentially won the game with that 3rd down run. Proving once again there's no situation he can't handle.

He's set an NFL record for completion percentage in the first three years of a quarterbacks career at 66.1 percent. No quarterback has won more games than him since 2016 except Tom Brady. No one has more game-winning drives than him since he entered the league. His 13 primetime victories are tops in the NFL over the last three seasons. Simply put, Dak Prescott is a winner and doesn't fold under pressure, instead, he embraces it. There are no bigger lights in the NFL than the ones that shine in Dallas. With those lights come huge expectations and pressure, and it's clear this young man is made of the right stuff to handle it.



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Cowboys en Español: ¿Qué Le Espera a Connor McGovern?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Dallas Cowboys Select OL Connor McGovern With 90th Pick

El pasado abril, los Dallas Cowboys nos sorprendieron más de una vez durante el NFL Draft 2019. Desde la segunda ronda, sus selecciones no fueron malas, pero nos dejaron con una ceja arriba. La más sorprendente tomó lugar en la tercera ronda, cuando se anunció el nombre de un guardia ofensivo proveniente de la universidad de Penn State, Connor McGovern.

La selección no fue sorprendente por el nivel del jugador. Durante su carrera colegial, McGovern demostró ser un muy buen liniero ofensivo interior y seguramente merecía salir dentro de las primeras tres rondas.

Sin embargo, la línea ofensiva era una unidad que el equipo no necesitaba atender tan pronto. Después de todo, los Cowboys son reconocidos por tener una de las mejores líneas ofensivas en toda la NFL. Hay algunas dudas debido a lesiones o ausencias con las que el equipo ha tenido que lidiar, pero los titulares son muy buenos. Liderados por Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick y Zack Martin, esta unidad no le pide nada a nadie.

Y aún así en aquella ocasión, los Cowboys anotaron el nombre de Connor McGovern en la tarjeta que entregaron en la tercera ronda. Se dice que el equipo realmente ve mucho potencial en él y que era su mejor jugador disponible en ese momento. Todos los equipos en la liga tienen filosofías diferentes, pero si los Cowboys decidieron ir por el mejor jugador en vez de atender una necesidad, es una decisión más que válida.

Position Flex of Connor Williams, Connor McGovern Gives the Cowboys Options 1

Pero ahora la pregunta es, ¿cómo y cuándo se utilizará a McGovern? La posición queda más que clara. McGovern tomará el lugar de guardia izquierdo ya que el otro lado está más que cubierto por el mejor guardia derecho en la NFL, Zack Martin. La mejor pregunta es ¿cuándo?

Como sabrán, todo parece indicar que al comenzar la temporada del 2019, McGovern estará en la banca y no en la alineación titular. El pick de segunda ronda del año pasado es el favorito a ser el titular. Connor Williams no tuvo el mejor inicio a su carrera, pero fue mejorando conforme avanzó la temporada y se vio mucho mejor después del despido del ex-coach de línea ofensiva Paul Alexander.

De una manera u otra, la incertidumbre continúa dentro de la unidad. Muchos especulan sobre lo que podría pasar en el futuro. El tackle La'el Collins solo está bajo contrato por el 2019 y no ha demostrado lo suficiente para justificar un enorme contrato a largo plazo. No ha jugado mal, pero ¿cuánto pedirá para quedarse en Dallas?

Cuando llegue el momento, el equipo tendrá que tomar una decisión depende de la actuación de Collins en el emparrillado la próxima temporada. ¿Pagarle a Collins? ¿O hacer un movimiento fuerte en la línea ofensiva? Recordemos que este equipo tiene espacio en el tope salarial ahora, pero este se irá rápidamente con futuras extensiones a jugadores clave como Dak Prescott.

Sabemos que Connor Williams tiene lo necesario para jugar como tackle. Una opción será mover a Williams al extremo derecho y dejar que McGovern tomé su lugar en el interior de la línea ofensiva.

Quizá suene problemático mover tantas piezas, pero tendría sentido financieramente. McGovern y Williams seguirían en contratos de novato mientras que Collins pedirá una buena paga al terminar este año.

Pase lo que pase, el futuro próximo de Connor McGovern dependerá de muchos factores ajenos a él mismo. Su talento le da lo necesario para jugar desde su primer año en la liga, pero tendrá que recibir la oportunidad.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: ¿Qué Le Espera a Connor McGovern?" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Tyron Smith Named Most “Underpaid Veteran” On Dallas Cowboys

Kevin Brady

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Dallas Cowboys Player Profile: T #77 Tyron Smith 1

Counting the pockets of Cowboys star players has become a favorite activity of the national media this offseason, as everyone tries to figure out how Dallas will structure the deals for their young players over the course of the next year.

While trying to figure out what the new deals will look like, it's worth reflecting on how well the team did on some of their past negotiations. The Ringer released an article this week naming the most underpaid veteran on each NFL roster, with Tyron Smith earning that honor for the Cowboys.

Smith, who signed his extension with the team back in 2014, is under the deal until the 2024 season. That 8 year extension was lucrative at the time for sure, but as the salary cap rises and other offensive tackles have gotten paid, it looks more like a bargain deal for Dallas by the second.

"A long contract is a bad deal for an elite player in a league in which revenue grows handily. The salary cap was $133 million in 2014, but it’s $188.2 million for 2019. So while the Cowboys have 41.5 percent more money to spend, Smith hasn’t had a raise in five seasons. The Cowboys essentially locked up one of the best tackles of his generation for his entire career."

When put like this, you can see just what a steal of a contract the Cowboys signed Tyron Smith for. Smith is inked for the entirety of the prime of his career, and has very little leverage for a holdout given how many years still remain on this deal.

On the field, Tyron Smith remains one of the best left tackles in all of football, even if back issues have forced him to miss some time over the last two seasons. Smith should remain a top contributor for the Cowboys for at least a few more years, all of which will come at a bargain for a Cowboys team looking to execute some salary cap gymnastics next offseason.



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