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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

Jason Garrett Can’t be Serious About Retaining Scott Linehan, Can He?

Brian Martin

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Jason Garrett Can't be Serious About Retaining Scott Linehan, Can He?

One of the few positives most of us were looking forward to after the Dallas Cowboys Divisional Round loss to the Los Angeles Rams was the fact that Scott Linehan would no longer be the offensive coordinator for America's Team. Everything was pointing to his dismissal, but that may not be the case according to Head Coach Jason Garrett.

Todd Archer on Twitter

Jason Garrett said on 105.3 The Fan that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will return in 2019. "We don't anticipate any significant changes on our staff," Garrett said.

I can't say that I was happy upon learning Jason Garrett plans on retaining Scott Linehan as the Cowboys OC in 2019. In fact, my first thought was… Well, something better left unsaid. I'm sure many of you can kind of read my mind, because I'm pretty positive you had all that the same thoughts running through your head as well.

In all honesty, I didn't think there was a snowball chance in hell Scott Linehan would return to Dallas after the conclusion of the 2018 season. After all, the Cowboys nearly fired him during the bye week earlier this season, meaning his job security was already on thin ice. He didn't do anything to improve things in my opinion.

I know Jason Garrett has said Scott Linehan will return as the OC in 2019, but not for a second do I believe it. We are less than 72 hours hours removed from the Cowboys exit from the playoffs and I highly doubt any of Dallas' decision-makers has had the time to sit down and discuss who stays and who goes. In fact, I know they haven't.

Jeff Cavanaugh on Twitter

Stephen Jones says they won't comment on anything with coaching staff but that they need to take a deep look at why they fell short. Says it a little early to speculate about players or coaches. They haven't had a meeting about it yet.

I think once the Cowboys brass sits down and reevaluates the 2018 season, they will come to the conclusion they can do better than Scott Linehan as their offensive coordinator. There were just too many times throughout the season where the playcalling was a problem just. It's just time to move on, despite the vote of confidence by Jason Garrett.

Of course, this could just be me trying to read between the lines hoping and praying Scott Linehan is finally fired. Like many of you, I've grown way too tired of his predictable and dated playcalling. It's time to move on and find someone more innovative who can maximize the talent the Dallas Cowboys have on the roster, much like Kris Richard did with the defense.

You can either choose to believe Jason Garrett or not. I for one have a hard time seeing the Dallas Cowboys staying status quo with their coaching staff, especially their offensive coordinator. But, only time will tell.

Do you think it's time for the Dallas Cowboys to fire Scott Linehan?



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Star Blog

Cowboys Rammed Out of Playoffs but 2019 is Bright

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Cowboys Rammed Out of Playoffs but 2019 is Bright

If you were to have clicked over to Sportsbook Review, you could have seen what all the premier online sportsbooks were dealing on the Cowboys/Rams game before kickoff. Sites like Bovada, which incidentally you can read a Bovada Review at Sportsbook Review as well, had the Rams favored in every quarter, in both halves, and installed LA as seven-point favorites over Dallas. As is often the case, the number was nearly spot on as the Rams bounced our 'Boys out of the postseason 30-22. It was a heart-wrenching loss for Dallas fans everywhere but for those who put their money where their mouths were, it was particularly painful in what turned out to be a one-point difference between losing and pushing.

Let’s look on the bright side, though. The Cowboys not only copped the division crown but the draft picks from April bore fruit this season. Linebacker and No. 19 overall pick Leighton Vander Esch is a certified stud while third-round pick Michael Gallup proved he is a bona fide NFL receiver. Second-round offensive lineman Connor Williams had difficulties at left guard, but at the very least, has a season under his belt at the next level and could turn into a legitimate bodyguard for Prescott in 2019.

And let’s not forget about the trade for Amari Cooper, which turned Dallas from a squad struggling to find its identity to an NFC East champ in winning seven of its last nine games since Cooper arrived. This year’s edition also bested a tough Seahawks team in the first-round of the playoffs.

Let’s face it, folks, no one expected the Cowboys to win a Super Bowl this season and what we got was about as much as we could have hoped with the current roster as it is presently constructed.

Dak Prescott has one more year on his rookie contract and will be looking to score a big payday at the end of next season, if not sooner. The Cowboys could enter negotiations and lock Prescott up for the foreseeable future, but it might be best for both parties to see what 2019 brings and go from there. Either way, Dallas will pay beaucoup bucks to keep Prescott in a Cowboys uniform so watching and waiting will most likely be the tact management takes with their star quarterback, with a franchise tag in 2020 as an option as well.

In the team’s immediate future will be signing their second-round pick in 2014, DeMarcus Lawrence. The talented defensive end provided the Cowboys with the edge rusher they needed for parts of this season and his combined 25 sacks over the last two seasons would be nearly impossible to replace. Dallas franchised him this season but will most likely put together a long-term deal for Lawrence in the offseason.

Ezekiel Elliott has also reportedly been hinting at his own contract extension even though he is contractually committed to the Cowboys for next season with a team option in '20.

Ironically, one of the strengths of the Dallas Cowboys in recent years was a relatively weak link this season. The offensive line was decimated by injuries and Pro Bowler Travis Frederick missed the entire season. But those wounds will heal for next season and the old gang will be back together again.

The Cowboys have loads of cap space but are without a first-round pick due to the trade for Amari Cooper. Nevertheless, the young blood on the team looks poised to contribute for many years and there will be money available to woo free agents to a club now viewed as a legitimate contender.

If you want to look at next season’s odds, make sure to educate yourself on which online sportsbooks are the most reputable, trusted, and reliable. Read the Bovada Review over at SBR and see what customers are saying about one of the industry’s top sportsbooks. Then, when the lines come out on next season’s division, conference, and Super Bowl winners, you can be informed and maybe throw a few bucks on the 'Boys from Dallas!



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Star Blog

Cowboys’ Window Depends On Maximizing, And Helping, Dak Prescott

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Future Hinges Heavily On Dak Prescott And Their Future Offensive Coordinator

Saturday night's Division Round loss was met with mixed reaction among Cowboys Nation.

Some fans, claiming they are the rational ones who hold the Cowboys to a higher standard, believe this might end up being their best chance at a Super Bowl for some time. The young players this roster is built around will only get older and more expensive as the years go by, and 2018 ends with yet another Jason Garrett-led playoff loss.

Other fans, claiming they are the rational ones, said that Dallas accomplished a lot this season, climbing back from a 3-5 start to win the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a competitive game to one of the league's best. This group believes that the Cowboys championship window is as open as it has been in years, with young talent galore on Dallas' roster.

Whether this is true, however, hinges on the shoulders of two individuals. One of which, ironically, hasn't even been named yet and the other a source of constant debate among those same segmented fans.

Those people, of course, are quarterback Dak Prescott and whoever ends up as the offensive coordinator in 2019.

Dak Prescott is a good quarterback.

Let's start there. I firmly believe that Dak Prescott did enough during his third season to earn the contract extension he will likely receive from the Cowboys within one of the next two offseasons. Especially once the Cowboys acquired wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Clearly, Prescott is far from "perfect" is a passer. He makes mistakes in decision making, he sails some throws, and he sometimes exhibits inconsistent footwork when the pocket breaks down. But we focus too much on his mistakes while simply glossing over his accomplishments, talents, and upside.

Not only is Dak Prescott someone that the team responds to and believes in, but he is also a good football player. Prescott finished the 2018 season 12th in total Expected Points Added, ahead of quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and Baker Mayfield. He's also finished 3rd and 4th in raw QBR during his first two seasons in the NFL respectively. And, despite his slow start to 2018, Dak Prescott ended his third season on the best run of games in terms of QBR he has ever had.

Prescott is improving, and this is evident each week. He played more comfortably in the pocket over the last 6 games of the season, panicking less, taking fewer dumb sacks, and abandoning his technique fewer and fewer. And, while he doesn't run as often as many would like, the times Prescott does carry the ball often change drives and games.

And while I despise "QB Wins" as a determining statistic, the fact remains that bad quarterbacks don't win at the rate Dak Prescott does. Three straight winning seasons has been rare in Dallas over the last 15 years, and Prescott orchestrated this his first three seasons as a starter.

Passing Wins Championships.

Though very different than the old cliche, this appears more accurate by the season. The final four teams remaining in the NFL are each top 5 in passing DVOA, while not a single one has a top 10 defense by DVOA.

Neither the Chiefs nor the Rams have had a good run defense at all this season, but stopping the run doesn't matter as much as stopping the pass most weeks in today's NFL. I know this sounds absurd after the Cowboys run defense got abused by Los Angeles, but the numbers often bear this out.

The Cowboys have to do everything in their power to aid Dak Prescott and the passing offense this offseason. They need to draft another pass catcher, preferably with their second round pick. They need to continue to improve the chemistry between Prescott, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.

And, maybe most importantly, they need to hire an offensive coordinator who can maximize this passing game.

Scott Linehan simply is not the answer. And if the Cowboys are going to make the most out of whatever title window they may have, the offensive play caller will be the most critical man in the building going forward.

Unfortunately, latest reports point to Linehan returning in 2019.



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