A rumor broke on Monday from credible Cowboys analysts that the team had decided to move on from soon-to-be free agent Greg Hardy. In response, Stephen Jones has made a public statement that the team is not yet decided on Hardy. Is this the truth or the typical management move of trying to maintain leverage until point you absolutely don't need it? Only the Cowboys know for sure.
Let's assume that the original report is correct and that Dallas intends to let Hardy walk. Some are rightfully surprised by this news given the current issues at defensive end. Randy Gregory will be serving a four-game suspension to start the year and DeMarcus Lawrence is recovering from minor back surgery. Jeremy Mincey and Jack Crawford are free agents, leaving just Ryan Russell currently under contract from last year's squad.
It would be a mistake, in my opinion, to label Dallas' decision as an admittance of error about signing Hardy last year. I've already seen some trying to say just that; that the Cowboys have realized they were wrong to give Hardy a chance after learning more about his domestic abuse case. There's also the notion that Hardy was too much of a locker room problem and burned his bridge in Dallas.
Let's put aside all that conjecture and focus on the one fact we have about Hardy in 2015; he had just four sacks in his last 11 games. You don't need to know anymore than that to understand why Dallas is moving on. I'm not saying the other stuff isn't a factor, but it's secondary to the simple truth that Hardy wasn't a difference-maker for the defense after his first few weeks.
We didn't realize it at the the time, but even Hardy's grand debut has to be taken with a grain of salt. After serving his suspension Hardy debuted in seemingly top form with two sacks, a forced fumble, and several other hits on Tom Brady. However, just a few months later, we saw Brady and the Patriots' offensive line get massacred by the Broncos. Was Hardy really making an impact there or was it more an issue of the Patriots' horrible pass protection?
Put that game aside and Hardy's season was well short of impactful. He did have one more sack the next week and an interception the week after, but from there he had just three sacks over the final nine games. By comparison, Mincey had six sacks in his last nine weeks of 2014.
Hardy was supposed to blow Mincey out of the water. That's why Dallas bit the bullet on signing him and took on all of the public relation backlash after Hardy's domestic issues. That's why they put up with Hardy's Twitter misbehavior and reported issues with practice and team meeting tardiness and absence, or his minor dust-up with Special Team Coach Rich Bisaccia.
Remember, Dallas could have cut bait with Hardy at any point last year. They structured his contract specifically with that provision; a penalty-free option to release him whenever they felt they needed to. Despite Hardy's lack of production, and despite their season going in the toilet pretty quickly thanks to the Tony Romo injury, things never got so bad that Dallas felt they needed to cut Hardy loose.
To be clear, I wouldn't blame the Cowboys if they wanted to bring Hardy back. He turns just 28 in July and still has better skills than most of what's out there in free agency. Dallas has already taken the media hit for doing business with Hardy and perhaps they could chalk up his low production to all of the turmoil and distractions swirling around his personal life. Taking a chance on him getting back to form next year, further removed from the drama, would be a logical move.
In the end, though, football isn't very merciful. Dallas took a big P.R. hit and paid Hardy a lot money for very little in return. That doesn't sit well with any front office. Hardy could've overcome every bit of his personal issues with on-field production. He didn't, and I expect Dallas would rather look to new options than stick with a seemingly bad investment.
Maybe they'll be wrong. Hardy could sign with a new team and be back to double-digit sacks. I'm sure some of those clamoring for Dallas to part ways now will have short memories and later criticize them for giving up too soon. That logic I described earlier about Hardy bouncing back could wind up being another team's to enjoy.
Much like they took a chance by signing Hardy, though, I think Dallas will take the risk of letting him walk. They won't lose sleep over whatever success he has with his next team because, here and now, they sent a clear message to their players that you have to show up on Sunday. Yes, they'll put up with plenty Monday thru Saturday if you do it, but what happens on the field is ultimately what matters.
Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off their most impressive win of the season, keeping playoff hopes alive on the road with a 27-20 victory at the Philadelphia Eagles. Entering the hostile home of the defending Super Bowl champions with three previous road losses already on their record, the Cowboys performance on Sunday night was truly about getting back to their roots. In their second week with Marc Colombo as the Offensive Line Coach, the Cowboys rushed for 171 yards and protected Dak Prescott very well. It was revealed after the game that Frederick was on a coaches headset with Colombo and his new assistant Hudson Houck.
Travis Frederick just told @BenRogers on @1053thefan that Marc Columbo has him on a coaches headset now helping him and Hudson Houck. That's a smart move from Columbo. Smartest guy on the line
The anchor of the Cowboys offensive line since being drafted in 2013, Frederick is regarded as the smartest linemen on the team. It's his mental edge that's made up for a slight lack of size at the position, regarded as one of the worst first round picks in his draft because of this oversight.
Not only is Frederick a welcome addition to the Cowboys brain trust at offensive line, but he did receive some great news on his battle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) that's kept him out this season. Frederick was placed on injured reserve on October 6th, announcing publicly his GBS diagnosis on August 22nd.
Frederick has a long way to go before he's playing football again, not eligible to do so until week 14 at home against the Eagles. Regaining feeling in his hands is about the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee getting as healthy as possible away from football. If a return to the Cowboys is possible through his recovery, the team would of course welcome Frederick.
Travis Frederick regains sensation in his hands: "There is some light at the end of the tunnel" https://t.co/wvQhB6KUQp
What Frederick has gained in upper body strength, he must remain patient for in the lower body. While pointing out that over 95% of patients make a full recovery from GBS, Frederick is still waiting to feel sensations in his feet.
The Cowboys have been optimistic that Frederick's condition was caught early enough for a full recovery to be probable.
Dallas' schedule doesn't get any easier following their uplifting win. Returning to the site of last year's demoralizing loss at the Falcons, Frederick likely wishes he could make a miraculous return just a bit more this week.
To make matters worse, Left Tackle Tyron Smith did not practice on Wednesday due to back spasms. It's unknown if rookie Connor Williams will reclaim his starting left guard spot on Sunday, or if Xavier Su'a-Filo has earned another opportunity.
Despite the patchwork nature of a Cowboys offensive line once regarded as the best in the league, and still vital to the entire team's success, Dallas has an abundance of hope that Sunday in Atlanta can be much better than 2017. This starts with Frederick's strength to fight GBS and attempt to rejoin his teammates, wisely given some added game day influence on them by Colombo.
If elevating their level of play up front was all it took for the Cowboys to play up to their potential and pull off an upset on prime time last week, the NFC East is certainly still within reach for a team that must now sustain the level of play on offense to match what this defense has given all season.
Cowboys LB Named NFC Defensive Player of the Week Against Eagles
You already knew that Leighton Vander Esch, the Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker, had a great night last Sunday in Philadelphia. Apparently the rest of the football world agreed, and now he's been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
The award is the first of what could be many for Leighton, who has emerged as a defensive leader for the Cowboys. He's been playing more in the absence of veteran Sean Lee, who has been battling hamstring issues all season.
THE. WOLF. HUNTER. Congratulations to #DallasCowboys rookie LB @VanderEsch38 on being named NFC Defensive Player of the Week! → https://t.co/XeSTt2tIpX
This is the second Player of the Week award for a Dallas Cowboys this season. Kicker Brett Maher won the Special Teams version in Week 4 after going 4-for-4 and hitting a game winner over the Detroit Lions.
The Defensive Player award hasn't gone to a Cowboys since Week of 2017, when DeMarcus Lawrence put up three sacks against the Arizona Cardinals.
Leighton's recognition is also well-earned. He led Dallas with 13 tackles and an interception in a pivotal road victory against a division rival. In what was arguably a "must-win" game for the Cowboys, their first-round pick stepped up and stood out.
A few more games like this, and Vander Esch could be in the running for the Defensive Rookie of the Year. But even above personal accolades, Leighton's play could help the Cowboys make a push in the NFC East.
If nothing else, he's making that first-round pick look smarter every week.
Legendary Cowboys Quarterback Backs Dak Prescott
Things have not gone well for Dak Prescott this season. His play has been up and down and he hasn't given the team or Cowboys Nation much reason to believe that he's the future at the quarterback position for the Dallas Cowboys. Speaking to 105.3 FM The Fan in Dallas today, Legendary Dallas Cowboys Quarterback, Ring of Honor and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Roger Staubach offered support for the Cowboys current quarterback, Dak Prescott.
Staubach had this to say when asked about Dak Prescott.
Roger Staubach on @1053thefan said #Dak is a part of the problem with the #Cowboys offense, but he is not the problem.
Roger Staubach didn't start in the NFL until the third year of his career and thinks that's a good time for the quarterback to make the jump. At this point, we are 40 games into Dak Prescott's NFL career and we can see some of the things that he's good at as well as some of the things that he struggles with.
As Staubach points out, Dak Prescott has the intangibles that you look for in a quarterback, even if his play hasn't been what you'd want at the position. Roger admits that Dak shoulders some of the blame for the offensive woes of the last 16 games, but realizes that there are many reasons for the Cowboys offensive failures this season.
Roger Staubach believes that the Dallas Cowboys can win with Dak Prescott as their starting quarterback despite some of the flaws that have crept up over the last 16 games. He's not wrong.
Staubach's pretty accurate in his assessment that there's been more good than bad. If you look at the first 24 games of Dak Prescott's career, he was really good. Through the last 16 games, he's struggled at times. So technically there's been more good than bad. The problem is that over the last 16 games, there's been more bad than good. The NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league and lately Dak hasn't done much. We can debate all day on how much of the struggles Prescott's faced are on him, but everyone should be willing to admit that some of the struggles are on him.
It's plausible that the confidence in Prescott that Jerry Jones has comes from Roger's belief that the Cowboys can win games with Dak Prescott at quarterback; and they have. In Prescott's career, the Dallas Cowboys are 25-15. Though wins are a team stat and not a quarterback stat, it just goes as evidence that Dak Prescott can be a winning quarterback in the National Football League.
Dak has some flaws, but the offense and its play caller haven't helped Prescott much this season. We should be critical of Prescott because he has a big pay day coming, if you believe Jerry Jones. While Dak has some flaws, he also has some traits that can make him a good quarterback in the NFL with the right coaching situation behind him. 2018 may be running out of time for the Dallas Cowboys and their playoff prospects, but the Cowboys have time before they have to make a decision on Prescott.
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