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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!

Star Blog

Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?

Brian Martin

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Can Dak Prescott Regain His Mojo Against Atlanta?
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.

It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.

Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.

Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.

Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.

Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:

24 starts
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating

Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:

17 starts
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating

As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.

Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

Now, he just has to go out and prove it!

Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?



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Star Blog

How Cowboys Could Regain a 2019 1st-Round Draft Pick

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - 5 Cowboys Players That Could Be Traded
Matthew Edmonds-USA Today

The Dallas Cowboys are currently without a 2019 first-round draft pick after acquiring Wide Receiver Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders, but what if I were to tell you there was a way to regain another first-rounder? Well, with a little outside the box thinking I think there could be a way to accomplish just that.

It's completely hypothetical, but I think the Dallas Cowboys could possibly regain a first-round draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft with little finagling and good luck. Everything would have to fall into place perfectly, but I think it's definitely doable.

Remember, this is completely hypothetical with a lot of "what if's" involved, but the Cowboys could regain what they lost acquiring Amari Cooper and come out of it no worse for wear. I think there are a lot of different scenarios that could accomplish this feat, but only one of them that doesn't hurt the team in my opinion and it centers around Right Tackle La'el Collins.

I know you're probably going to think I'm crazy, but I think the Dallas Cowboys could possibly land a 2019 first-round draft pick if they decided to trade away RT La'el Collins. Trust me, I wouldn't suggest this if I didn't think there was somebody capable of stepping in and playing just as well.

Enter Connor Williams.

Connor Williams

Dallas Cowboys LG Connor Williams

I always believed Connor Williams' best position in the NFL was at right tackle, not on the inside at guard. And yes, I was one of those advocating for Williams to play RT and Collins to move back to LG before the 2018 season started. I thought that gave the Cowboys their best starting five.

Williams has been serviceable at LG this season, but has been overpowered at times. His athletic ability would've been much better served on the outside at tackle, which is where I would play him next season, making La'el Collins expendable.

Again, I know what you're thinking. If you move Williams to RT and trade Collins, there is now a void at LG. Well, that's where Xavier Su'a-Filo comes into play. He is coming off a fantastic performance against the Philadelphia Eagles and a lot of Cowboys Nation is already advocating that he remains the starter over Connor Williams.

If Su'a-Filo can maintain the same level play he did against the Eagles, he probably remains the starter for the rest of the 2018 season. If this is indeed what happens, he could end up being the starter once again next season, making my plan of trading La'el Collins more feasible.

Were you able to follow all of that?

Keep Xavier Su'a-Filo at left guard

Move Connor Williams to right tackle

Trade La'el Collins

Like I said, this is all hypothetical, but something that could feasibly happen. Now we just have to wait and see if Xavier Su'a-Filo can continue to play like he did last week, because without him sticking at left guard none of this is possible.

I told you it was some out-of-the-box thinking.

Would you go along with the scenario to regain a 2019 first-round draft pick?



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Star Blog

Should Cowboys Stick With Xavier Su’a-Filo at Left Guard?

Brian Martin

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Should Cowboys Stick With Xavier Su'a-Filo at Left Guard? 1

Don't look now, but we may have another Ron Leary/La'el Collins situation unfolding before our eyes with Xavier Su'a-Filo and Connor Williams. Who ends up starting at left guard for the Dallas Cowboys the rest of the 2018 season is up in the air right now, but might not be for long.

Remember a few years ago when La'el Collins started the season at left guard for the Dallas Cowboys, but then had to miss time due to a toe injury. Ronald Leary took over during his absence and never looked back. It even earned him a big payday with the Denver Broncos.

Déjà vu anyone?

Yes, I'm talking about the hot topic of the hour as to whether or not the Dallas Cowboys should stick with Xavier Su'a-Filo at left guard or reinsert Connor Williams once he is healthy enough to return to the lineup? As with any debate, there are two sides of the coin.

Honestly, I can make an argument for both sides here. These are two different players and both have their own strengths and weaknesses. Su'a-Filo isn't as agile as Williams and relies more on his strength and power, whereas Williams is almost the complete opposite. Depending what the Cowboys coaching staff wants out of their LG, either player makes sense.

Xavier Su'a-Filo

Dallas Cowboys LG Xavier Su'a-Filo

I could go into a long debate as to who I believe the Cowboys should start at LG moving forward, but I think that would be a waste of our time. I think this is a situation that will work itself out one way or another this week against the Atlanta Falcons.

Nothing is set in stone right now, but I have a hard time seeing Connor Williams being ready to play this week after having knee surgery. It would be unwise to rush him back before he's 100% healthy, especially after the way Su'a-Filo preformed against the Eagles. And if Su'a-Filo plays well once again, Williams may not get his starting job back.

See, I told you it was looking like a Ronald Leary/La'el Collins situation all over again.

This is a situation that many of us will be following closely this week and it may not only have ramifications on the rest of the 2018 season, but it could carry over into next year. Maybe Xavier Su'a-Filo remains at LG next year and Connor Williams moves to his more natural position (right tackle), making La'el Collins expendable. But that's a debate for another time.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys should stick with Xavier Su'a-Filo at LG?



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