It's that dreaded time of year where OTA's have passed and Training Camp is less than two weeks away. If you are reading this post, it is likely in the aftermath of your daily dose of the Dallas Cowboys online columnist, Dallas Morning News online, The Ft. Worth Star Telegram online, ESPN.com, NFL.com, and all the other syndicated online media outlets and Cowboy's related blog's.
You are probably familiar with the cliched Eldorado Owens ala Randy Galloway and his disciples (aka Jennifer Floyd Engel), you are well-acquainted with the orginal apologist Mickey Spagnolia who sit's on the fence from time to time but never crosses it, you have read the redundant "Coachable" reference to Roy Williams (11) via Tim MacMahon ad nauseum, are very familiar with the word "gutless" per Jean Jacques Taylor, you have digested the homegrown Matt Moseley's input, who is known for painstakingly maintaining his non-biased opinion, even if it means showing preference to every team in the NFCE aside from the Cowboy's, and Clarence Hill who seems to struggle not to adopt the same abject indifference that his colleague's are plagued with in view of their typical article output in regards to the Cowboy's (inhale). The truth is, in your search for something related to the Cowboy's at this time of year you are only looking for hope....that is, if you are anything like me. You want someone with even an ounce of credibility and the slightest bit of football understanding to say, "watch out for this 2009 edition of the Cowboy's, because they are dangerous."
Well, hopefully, I will do.
The first thing that make's them dangerous is underestimation. Normally underestimation in football is ruined by the preseason, when game's don't count. By the time the regular season start's, most team's that are dangerous will have been identified. Unfortunately, for the average fan, it's not as easy as looking at the final scores and the win/loss ratio at the end of the 4 games to know what teams to look out for. No, there is quite a bit more to it; especially considering that the object for the Head Coach is to evaluate talent, not win the game. Every game played by every team will be examined very closely. They will be looking at the possible match-ups and mis-matches. They will be looking at the rookies to see what impact they may have. They will look at the play's and start putting together a list of the head coaches, or the individual responsible for calling the play's, tendencies. They will also break down each player's tendencies, such as, foot work, hand placement, stance, route running, pre-snap movement's that may provide insight on what the unit as a whole will be doing, etc. Each team typically has a group of people assigned to researching opponent's to the extent of knowing what the opposition likes for breakfast before the game (maybe that's overstating a bit, but you get the idea).
But in the Cowboy's case, the circumstances are slightly different. Usually, a team get's embarrassed through underestimation as a result of one or several of the opposition's player's coming out of no where and playing beyond their normal limitations. While that may prove to be true with the Cowboy's having several unproven players such as Miles Austin, Anthony Spencer, and Gerald Sensabaugh to name a few, what make's the Cowboy's situation unique is the world know's that the Cowboy's are one of the better collective's of talent in the league, and yet still believe the Cowboy's are doomed to fail. Why? Aside from being the anti-sexy pick, the expert's predominantly point to the lack of leadership, chemistry, heart, past success, and other intangible's.
As a fan, I'd rather my team be missing one of the aforementioned invisible monster's then be convinced that it will take another round of Free Agency and the draft for this team to compete. If all they are missing is a word and all it's applicable meaning, they can get that at any time in the season. They may even start the season with the word firmly in it's rightful place and shock the world! As far as leadership is concerned, on all side's of the ball, those who are expected to be leader's is much more clear than last year. On Offense, Witten and Romo are the clear cut leaders. On defense, Ware, James, Newman and Hamlin will be running the show. Last year, in my mind, it wasn't a lack of leader's that was the problem, but the presence of too many leaders that caused issues. The idea that the Cowboy's lacked heart and chemistry is subjective. The problem with that analysis is winning typically is a cure-all for those issues and losing is a catalyst for them.
The other side of the Cowboy's depreciated value is a result of what the Cowboy's interdivisional foes were able to accomplish in Free Agency and the draft. The Eagle's bolstered their offensive line with the acquisition of Jason Peter's (OT) and Stacy Andrews (G) and improved the overall speed of their secondary with Sean Jones through Free Agency. The Eagle's draft focused on providing recently resigned Donovan McNabb with several new weapons such as the highly-touted rookie wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, the bruiser running back LeSean McCoy and what many are describing as a draft steal, Tight End Cornelius Ingrum found in the 5th round.
The Giant's were able to significantly improve their defensive depth with Free Agent's Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard, Lee Vickers and Michael Boley. With the loss of Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer and Derrick Ward to free agency (or legal issues in the case of Plaxico), the Giant's focused on offense in the draft picking up Hakeem Nicks (WR) in the first round, Ramses Barden (WR) in the third, Travis Beckum (TE) also in the 3RD and Andre Brown (RB) in the 4th. Not to be overlooked, Clint Sintim was picked up in the 2nd round and will likely play a huge role in their various pass rushing schemes.
While the Redskin's didn't make too much noise in Free Agency, quite possibly the most talked about acquisition was Albert Haynesworth (DT), the player who imfamously stomped on Andre Gurode's head while he was on the ground. They were also able to extend DeAngelo Hall's contract, the inconsistent, yet dynamic CB acquired from the Raider's during last season. In the draft the Redskins focused on defense, there most significant choice being Brian Orakpo, who will be transitioning to LB for the Redskins.
Meanwhile, the Cowboy's Free Agency and Draft was fairly quiet. No big names. No 1st or 2nd round pick. At face value, it is easy to see why many believe while the above team's improved, the Cowboy's ability to compete slowly deteriorated with the losses of T.O., Chris Canty, Zach Thomas, Roy William's, Kevin Burnett, Tank Johnson, Anthony Henry, and Pacman Jones. That's one major starter on Offense , 3 primary starter's on defense and 3 situational starters on defense and special teams. How did the Cowboy's replace these players? T.O.'s replacement was acquired in the middle of the 08 season: Roy Williams. Chris Canty was replaced by Igor Olshansky. Zach Thomas was replaced by Keith Brookings. Roy Williams (SS) was replaced by Gerald Sensabaugh. Kevin Burnett will be replaced by either Bobbie Carpenter, Brandon William's or Stephen Hodge. Anthony Henry and Pacman Jones will be replaced by last year's rookies Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick. Tank Johnson will likely be replaced by Junior Siavii.
Chances are, prior to their acquisition, none of these name's truly stood out at first glance, for the exception of Roy Williams (WR). Nevertheless, were I to list all the player's of team's who have won Super Bowl's throughout the tenure of the game, chances are you would be familiar with fewer names than those who are considered icon's to the sport. Every team in the history of the game has their legends. But Superbowl's are not won by the effort's of individuals. It takes all 53 player's a team is afforded in a given season to reach that supreme goal. Some may never see the playing field, but in one way or another every player contributes to the end result. My point? The Cowboy's may not have replaced big names with big name's, but if these acquisition's can at least be solid at their perspective position, there are plenty of names still on this team that can use that firm base to take off like a rocket.
Examples: If Anthony Spencer can, at least, provide even a moderate threat in the blitzing game, opposing offenses won't be able to focus all their attention on Demarcus Ware, and without a double-team, Ware will get to the quarterback/ball carrier more often than not. If Sensabaugh can cover, the Cowboy's will be able to send more player's on blitzes and will have more flexibility in their base defense to cover a slot receiver should one be motioned out in a pre-snap adjustment. If Igor Olshansky can hold at the point of attack, the LB's will be able to make play's just as effectively as if it were still Canty there. If Roy William's can, at least, make team's pay for single man coverage, the Cowboy's should be able run all over team's with their diversley talented trio of RB's and the TE's should see open flat's and clear intermediate seam's on a fairly regular basis. So, again, while the Cowboy's may not have added weapon's of the same caliber our interdivisional foes did, the truth is, the Cowboy's really didn't need anymore. The only issue of note is the coveted conundrum of putting together a plan that exercises all the Cowboy's weapons in an effective and efficient manner.
When the smoke clear's following Training Camp and Preseason, the Cowboy's will likely be regarded with caution, but ultimately wishful-thinking of the "they're bound to implode eventually" variety will prevail among most of those who choose to voice or write their opinion on the Cowboy's. What we as fan's must keep in mind is the vast majority of the media and experts were made to look like idiot's last year as their preordained Super Bowl winner failed to even make the Play Offs. As the cliche goes, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Therefore, when in your search for hope all you find is reluctance and criticism of the Cowboy's upcoming season, what you are seeing is for the most part a reaction to what happened last year. There is a balance these expert's and mediots must maintain that heavily involves the credibility of their opinion and, in most cases, they are merely playing the odds and clinging desperately to popular opinion. But, as we all know, popular opinion does not dictate the outcome.
Make no mistake, these Cowboy's, barring significant injuries, are extremely dangerous. Our defense is much faster at each level from the DL to the Secondary than last year's group. Our offense is much more balanced and more aware of their strength's coming in to the season (e.g. the Cowboy's now know what they have in last year's rookies, in particular the pleasant suprises Felix, Choice and Martellus Bennett). Special Teams will undoubtly be much improved with the addition of Special Team's coach DeCamillis, a revamped youth infused pool of rookies and a handful of players who will have to fight tooth and nail to be a part of the final 53. The table is set. The player's are hungry. And the feast can't start soon enough. Hopefully the buffet will be open until February 2010.
Cowboys Sign Ryan Yurachek; Fullback Role Changing in New Offense?
The Dallas Cowboys signed free agent Fullback Ryan Yurachek yesterday, who spent last year on the Oakland Raiders' practice squad. It could an easy to move to ignore, but Yurachek's game speaks to how the fullback position may be changing as a whole in the Cowboys offense under Kellen Moore.
To stay under the 90-man offseason roster limit, Dallas waived linebacker Justin Phillips.
The Cowboys signed fullback Ryan Yurachek, who spent last season in Oakland's practice squad and was released in May following knee surgery. To make room for Yurachek, linebacker Justin Phillips was waived. The Cowboys now have two fullbacks on the 90-man roster with Jamize...
Yurachek was a prolific pass-catcher as a tight end at Marshall. He had 10 touchdowns his senior year, which was one short of the NCAA Division I leaders for tight ends in 2017. Ryan was also named the team's offensive captain as a senior. Over his four years with The Herd, Yuracheck had 143 catches for 1,354 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Listed at just 6'1", Yurachek converted to fullback to attempt an NFL career. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Green Bay Packers but was released later that month. The Raiders signed him and kept him on the practice squad through the 2018 season. Oakland released Ryan last month after his had to have his knee scoped.
It's Yuracheck's background as a TE, especially with those receiving numbers, which intrigues me. It makes me think, and hope, that the Cowboys are going to start looking for more creative ways to utilize their fullbacks.
Before he joined the Cowboys last year, Jamize Olawale had seasons in Oakland where he got around 30 touches. Last year, Olawale had zero carries and was targeted just four times for two catches in the passing game.
That usage is consistent with how former Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan saw fullbacks throughout his tenure in Dallas. We had Keith Smith as a pure blocker, and before him it was Tyler Clutts. From 2014-2019, Cowboys fullbacks have had just 12 total receptions and even fewer rushing attempts.
I know the FB is a dying breed in the modern NFL, but that's also what we thought about run-first offenses for a while. The Cowboys, Seahawks, and some other teams have proven that so-called "old school" approaches still work, and in no small part because modern defenses are more focused on stopping the pass.
The biggest complaint about Linehan's system was its predictability. We're all hoping that new OC Kellen Moore will bring a more dynamic style, and a big part of that could be better utilizing players with versatile skills.
Even if Ryan Yurachek is just here as a camp body to take some work off of the veteran Olawale, his arrival could be a sign that the Cowboys are looking to get more out of their fullbacks in the receiving game. Even if they remain a low-volume part of the offense, as they should, anything that keeps opposing linebackers and safeties guessing is a positive.
2019 Dallas Cowboys the Best Roster of the Jason Garrett Era
It's still very early in the evaluative process for the Dallas Cowboys' coaches and scouts, but all things point to this being the best roster during Jason Garrett's tenure as head coach. The 2014 and 2016 teams had the best finishes of the Garrett era, but on paper, this 2019 roster looks like a team that can contend for a Super Bowl with few glaring weaknesses on offense or defense.
It may be a stretch to suggest that this team is better than the 2014 Cowboys that went 12-4 or 2016 team that went 13-3. Both of those teams were a couple of plays away from heading to the NFC Championship. However, those team had holes and weren't nearly as deep as this 2019 squad appears to be. Neither team fielded a defense as good as the players the Cowboys will put on the field in week one.
In 2014, the offense was one of the best in the NFL, scoring the fifth most points at 29.18 points per game. They were seventh in total yards. Tony Romo had the best season of his career while DeMarco Murray led the NFL in rushing. Dez Bryant was prime Dez Bryant catching 16 touchdowns and averaging 15 yards per reception. And Jason Witten was still a great player for the Cowboys averaging more than 10 yards per reception. In his most recent seasons of 2016 and 2017, Witten's seen that number dip below 10 yards per reception.
2014 was the first season we saw the combination of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin on the field together and it provided a glimpse of what an elite offensive line could look like. Doug Free at right tackle and Ronald Leary at left guard were no slouches either. Though they didn't get as much positive publicity as the rest of their offensive linemates, they were effective in their own right and were a big part of the reason why DeMarco Murray and Tony Romo were able to have the seasons they had.
At wide receiver, the Cowboys are better than they were in 2014 or 2016. In 2014, it was Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Dwayne Harris, and Devin Street. In 2016, the wide receiver group consisted of Bryant, Williams, Beasley, Lucky Whitehead, and Brice Butler. Heading into 2019, the Cowboys look to have one of the deeper wide receiver groups in the NFL featuring Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Three of the six wide receivers projected to make the roster have at least one 1,000 yard receiving season under their belt. Tavon Austin is as dynamic a player as you'll find if he can stay healthy and Michael Gallup and Noah Brown are young, but ascending players in the NFL.
In 2016, the NFL was taken over by the Dallas Cowboys rookies phenoms. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott were the leaders on an offense that was led by Cole Beasley at wide receiver. Back in 2016, the Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott led Dallas Cowboys finished fifth in the NFL in points and yardage. Though Dez Bryant was one of the best wide receivers in the NFL in 2014, he was a shell of himself in 2016. Bryant dealt with injuries during the season and was missing during the Cowboys biggest regular season win at the Green Bay Packers. Neither group had the depth that the 2019 team takes to Oxnard.
As good as that offense was, the 2019 group is going to be better. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are going into their fourth year in the NFL and are better players now than when they were rookies. Not only are they better, but they have better skill position players than the 2016 team did, which should help take pressure off of Ezekiel Elliott and the running game and make it easier for Dak Prescott to find success.
With a fresh perspective from Kellen Moore and some fine tuning of Prescott's footwork, this offense should be just as good as the 2014 and 2016 offenses.
The offenses in 2014 and 2016 stole the show for the Dallas Cowboys. The defenses, on the other hand, got by without much in the way of talent.
In Rod Marinelli's first season as the defensive coordinator, the Cowboys largely got by with their bend don't break defense. They were a defense that was good enough and was largely carried by their offense throughout the season. 2016 wasn't much different.
The 2014 or 2016 Dallas Cowboys didn't have elite pass rushers like DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn bookending the defensive line. If you recall, Jeremy Mincey led the team with six sacks that season before DeMarcus Lawrence came on strong in the playoffs against Detroit and Green Bay. Henry Melton was second on the team with five sacks. In 2016, Benson Mayowa led the Dallas Cowboys with six sacks and second on the team was Maliek Collins with five sacks. For perspective, in 2018, Lawrence had 10.5 sacks and Randy Gregory had six sacks.
The 2019 Dallas Cowboys boast six players who've had at least five sacks in a season in Lawrence, Quinn, Gregory, Kerry Hyder, Tyrone Crawford, and Maliek Collins. The Cowboys go two-deep along the defensive line with legit pressure players at every position.
Rolando McClain and Anthony Hitchens were the leaders at the linebacker position for the Cowboys. McClain was excellent in the 13 games he played for Dallas. In 2016, Sean Lee had an outstanding season, which culminated in a First Team All-Pro selection and Anthony Hitchens was good. However, as a unit, neither 2014 or 2016 had as much talent as the 2019 Dallas Cowboys do at linebacker with Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Sean Lee, and Joe Thomas. There isn't a better 4-3 linebacker group in the NFL than what the Dallas Cowboys are rolling out there in 2019.
At defensive back, the Cowboys were rolling out Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick, and Sterling Moore as their starting nickel group. I'd easily take Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, Xavier Woods, and Jeff Heath. Throw in Jourdan Lewis and the Cowboys probably have the best four-deep cornerback group in the NFL. Even if you aren't a big fan of Jeff Heath at strong safety, he's still a better option than J.J. Wilcox was in that 2014 season. George Iloka and Donovan Wilson provide significantly better depth than the 2014 or 2016 groups at defensive back.
Think about the roster as a whole. They have a perceived weakness at starting strong safety with Jeff Heath, but they were able to make the playoffs with Jeff Heath and the defense was one of the best in the NFL in 2018. The defense in 2019 should finish in the top five in scoring and yards against. They're going to be a disruptive group that constantly puts pressure on the quarterback and if they're able to create turnovers, they'll be the best unit in the NFL.
As much as we fight against it, this Dallas Cowboys roster heading into 2019, is the best they've had since 2011. The defense is definitely better going into 2019 than they were in 2014 or 2016 and the offense has a chance to be just as good as those two successful seasons.
On paper, they're a team ready to contend for a Super Bowl. After not making an NFC Championship game since 1996, the time has come for the Dallas Cowboys to turn all the hype into results. No matter how hard I try to manage expectations for the 2019 season, I can't help but think that this iteration of the Dallas Cowboys is on the verge of greatness.
Michael Gallup is Primed for Breakout Sophomore Season
Heading into the 2018 season the Dallas Cowboys had big questions at the wide receiver position with the departure of Dez Bryant. They elected not to go for the flashy names like Maryland's D.J. Moore or Alabama's Calvin Ridley, but instead took Colorado State Wide Receiver, Michael Gallup 81st overall.
Even without the hype of other bigger named receivers coming out of college, Gallup's resume was enough to impress Head Coach Jason Garrett. "There's a lot to like about him. He's big, he's athletic, he plays the game the right way. He's been a productive player for them, doing a lot of different kinds of things. We feel like he has real upside, too. A lot of qualities that you want in a young receiver, in a developmental receiver. But a lot of production, too. He had opportunities there and took advantage of them throughout his career," Garrett said.
Once the season started, however, it was apparent that it would take some time to build the chemistry and trust with Quarterback Dak Prescott. The lack of a true number one receiver wasn't doing the first talent any favors as he tried to figure out his role on the team. Gallup would be targeted just 15 times in the first 5 games, only registering 6 receptions. But fortunately for the newbie, help was on the way.
During the team's bye week in October, they acquired Amari Cooper from the Raiders in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2019 draft, and it worked wonders for Gallup and his development. Weeks 11 through 14 saw him targetted 27 times. This was significant considering the Cowboys were in the midst of a 5-game winning streak after a 3-5 start. Prescott's trust and belief in Gallup were starting to come together as the team made a run at the NFC East crown and a playoff berth.
He would finish with 33 receptions for 507 yards and 2 touchdowns. Once the postseason rolled around Gallup had firmly established himself as the team's second option behind Amari Cooper.
Gallup would make his first playoff start in the divisional round against the Rams in Los Angeles. Although the Cowboys season wouldn't survive this contest, one of the positives was the play of the first year pass catcher. He finished with 6 receptions for 119 yards, and a tidal wave of momentum heading into 2019.
There's a major change coming to the Cowboys offensive philosophy this season, thanks to newly promoted Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore. The new puppet master of the offense has made it clear he's open to listening to suggestions from the players and staff on what they feel will take the offense into another orbit. "At the end of the day, work together with everyone. I think that includes the coaching staff, obviously coach Garrett and the rest of his staff. I think you also got to get some input from the players. It doesn't mean you have to go down those roads all the time, but I think it's important that when a player believes in something and they're pretty convinced on it, usually they find a way to make it work," Kellen Moore said.
With a season already under his belt with Prescott, and an open-minded first-year offensive coordinator willing to abandon the prehistoric ways of the Scott Linehan era, Gallup's development will only improve with each snap.
Unlike the beginning of his rookie season, Michael Gallup knows exactly what his role with the Cowboys is going forward. Amari Cooper is the main option, and with him drawing double teams regularly, the opportunities for Gallup to have a major impact in year two are endless. Not to mention, the added addition of Randall Cobb to the Cowboys passing game just made life even easier for him. Now teams not only have to roll coverage to Cooper, but the threat of Cobb in the slot creates a lot of one-on-ones on the outside for Gallup.
The size, speed, and athleticism are all there for this young man. Now, with a more innovative offensive scheme coming into play, and growing trust between himself and Dak Prescott, the 2019 season is shaping up to make Michael Gallup a household name.
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