There are officially 70 days until the toe meets the ball at AT&T Stadium where the Dallas Cowboys will host the New York Giants on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
Happy Sunday one and all! I truly hope that all of you had a wonderful and safe Fourth of July, commemorating our great nation. NBA Free Agency heated up a bit yesterday and the U.S. Women’s World Cup team is preparing to play, so sports are happening! Let’s be honest though, your Dallas Cowboys trump all of that. I’m your main man RJ, so I get that. I’m here to help! Check out the Greatest 70 in Dallas Cowboys History.
The following players have all worn 70 for the Dallas Cowboys:
- Ethan Brooks, OT
- Javier Collins, OT
- Tyrone Crawford*, DE (also featured on our 98 list)
- Leonard Davis, OG
- Dale Hellestrae, LS
- Frank Kearse, DT
- Jerome Long, DT
- Daniel Loper, OT
- Zack Martin*, OG
- Bob McCreary, OT
- Dale Memmelaar, OG
- Drake Nevis, DT
- Howard Richards, OG
- Bill Sandeman, OT
- Mark Stepnoski, C (who would later change to 53)
- Bob White, C
- Rayfield Wright^, OT
^Pro Football Hall of Famer
*Active player on the Dallas Cowboys roster
Talk about linemen! There are a lot of them for us to consider here. The three greatest 70s all happen to have played on the right side of the offensive line: Zack Martin, Leonard Davis, and Rayfield Wright.
Before we get into the big right three, let’s talk about some of the other 70s. For starters, how many of you knew that Stepnoski wore 70 for his rookie season? Raise your hands. You’re probably lying, but whatever I’ll trust you. Current Cowboy sensation Tyrone Crawford also wore the 7-0 for his rookie year before making the switch to 98…perhaps he’s in for as long and as great of a career as ‘ol Stepnoski!
One of the more decorated 70s on this list is former right guard, Leonard Davis. Signed as a free agent in 2007 to what was a pretty big contract (seven-year, almost $50 million) Davis produced right away. He helped lead one of the more underrated Cowboys offensive lines in franchise history, a line that helped a young Tony Romo transition into the NFL.
Speaking of offensive lines and speaking of Tony Romo, we all know who the hottest 70 on the market is right now. He also happens to play right guard, also happens to have worn 70 for his rookie year, but he’s only entering his second year in the NFL. Zack Martin is a beast.
The super fan in me really wanted to call Zack the best 70, but as you’ll find out there is one cat (no pun intended) that trumps him. Zack deserves A LOT of love, though. Taken with the 16th overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, Zack began playing at an elite level right away. He helped fellow first round picks (from 2011 and 2013) Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick establish arguably the best offensive line in the NFL that helped DeMarco Murray lead the NFL in rushing. Zack was one of just three rookies selected to last year’s Pro Bowl and he was the only rookie to be named First-Team All-Pro (the first Cowboy rookie since Calvin Hill in 1969 and first rookie at o-line since Dick Huffman in 1947). While Zack isn’t quite the Best 70 yet, the future of the number is in great hands with him.
The seventh round of the 1967 NFL Draft yielded a 6’7” 225-pound kid from Fort Valley State. The Dallas Cowboys planned on using their new player at tight end, defensive line, and offensive tackle. His athletic build allowed him to play very large and fast, giving Rayfield Wright the nickname “Big Cat”.
When Ralph Neely, who was featured on our 73 list, got hurt in 1969 Rayfield had to jump to the right tackle position. Keep in mind that in this era of NFL History the right tackle was the position that guarded the opposing team’s best pass-rusher, not the left side like in today’s NFL. Right tackles were a necessity to go up against the games best, and Rayfield’s first start was no different. The Cowboys were playing the Los Angeles Rams and asked Rayfield Wright to stop future Pro Football Hall of Famer, Deacon Jones (he coined the term “sack” for all those interested). The Big Cat played so impressively that the right tackle position became his for good.
Rayfield flourished at the right tackle position throughout the 1970s. He was a critical element in those Cowboys offenses that finished in the top 10 in terms of overall offense in every year of that decade. While his quickness and athleticism had been traits that scouts considered would make him a great tight end, Wright translated those qualities to the offensive line and helped redefine how people evaluated skill at the position. His resume includes:
- 6 Pro Bowl Selections (1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976)
- 4 First-Team All-Pro Selections (1971, 1972, 1973, 1975)
- 2-time Super Bowl Champion (VI and XII)
- Member of the NFL's 1970s All-Decade Team
- Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor Class of 2004
- Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2006
Rayfield’s place in Pro Football History is incredible no matter how you look at it. His accomplishments on the field are obviously incredible, but his Hall of Fame Class is one of the greatest in Canton’s History. Wright was inducted in 2006 along with fellow Cowboy Troy Aikman, Coach John Madden, quarterback Warren Moon, linebacker Harry Carson, and arguably the greatest pass-rusher to ever live…Reggie White.
Rayfield Wright was an incredible offensive lineman in the 1970s. It’s only natural then that he is the Greatest 70 in Dallas Cowboys History. He is one of the greater Cowboys regardless of position or jersey number in franchise history, and as a member of the 70 Crew can also be proud of the pedigree of that number and the bright future that it has.
Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 69 in Dallas Cowboys History is!
If You Could Only Pay One: Ezekiel Elliott Vs. Byron Jones
But last week a couple of Twitter polls got me very interested in this topic, and I wanted to expand on my thoughts.
It all started when longtime Cowboys reporter Mike Fisher wrote that as the Cowboys look to sign their own free agents, Byron Jones will likely be the one who gets squeezed out. So while Elliott, Dak Prescott, DeMarcus Lawrence, Amari Cooper, and Jaylon Smith remain with the team, Jones will likely be off to find a new home.
if you can only pay one it should be
I put up this poll, pitting Jones against Elliott, and Jones came out as the winner. My colleague John Williams put out the same poll, but with Elliott running away for the victory.
Inspired by my teammate @KevinBrady88, if you can only pay one, which would it be?
His had many more votes, which likely makes his poll a bit more representative of the fan base's feelings (which reminds me, follow me on Twitter @KevinBrady88.) Plus, I have been carrying the Byron Jones flag for quite some time, so it's possible my followers are biased towards Jones.
Either way, let's examine the situation here.
On one hand is Ezekiel Elliott. The former fourth overall selection in 2016, Elliott has led the league in rushing two of his first three seasons in the NFL. While this is true, his ability (and usage) as a receiver deserves to be questioned, and his lack of touchdown production in comparison to some other elite-level backs is concerning as well.
Yes, this is not totally his fault, as Scott Linehan and an overall lack of offensive weapons outside of Elliott have handcuffed him a bit. But if we are going to place the blame for his faults onto others, then we should at least attribute some of his excellent raw rushing totals simply to opportunities.
Elliott carried the ball 304 times in 15 games, averaging 20.3 rush attempts per game. The next closet player in terms of total carries? Saquon Barkley, who carried it 261 times in 16 games, averaging 16.3 rushes per game. That's a massive gap.
No individual running back is taking the wear and tear that Elliott is on a per game basis. And while it helps make his raw rushing totals look outstanding, it is also likely hurting his shelf life as an elite runner in the NFL.
The main argument I received supporting paying Elliott over Byron Jones was that while cornerback is more important than running back in a vacuum, Elliott is such a special player that his importance is greater than that of a normal running back.
Maybe. But let's talk about how special Byron Jones is and can be.
Jones' spider chart puts him in elite company, with the likes of Jalen Ramsey, Antonio Cromartie, and Terence Newman. Except, Jones was even more athletic that each of these Pro Bowl caliber cornerbacks.
Cornerbacks with the athletic profile that Byron Jones has rarely ever miss, and most of the time they reach an All Pro level. This is exactly what Jones did in 2018, getting named second team All Pro and to his first Pro Bowl in the same season. Both these honors also came during his first season as a full-time cornerback. Imagine what his ceiling can look like as he continues to work with Kris Richard and get more comfortable in his permanent home.
There's no doubt that Jones struggled a bit more in December last year than he did in September, but he was playing at a pace few players ever have played at or kept up over a long period of time. Even accounting for these "struggles," Jones was graded as the sixth best cornerback in all of football by Pro Football Focus. Elliott, on the other hand, had his overall value questioned by PFF.
Of course PFF is not the be-all-end-all here, but it's certainly a piece of the argument. Both Elliott and Jones will command top money at their position whenever it is their turn to get signed. The Cowboys have struggled for years to find themselves a number one cornerback. Despite paying Brandon Carr big money and trading up for Morris Claiborne, it simply hasn't worked. Really since Newman began aging, they haven't gotten that guy.
On the other hand, Dallas produced two 1,000 yard rushers back-to-back seasons before Elliott even became a Cowboy. Running back is a more replaceable position at the top than cornerback is, and if Dallas believes that Jones should be considered "at the top" of his position group, than the choice between the two becomes clear.
I will say, however, that there is a human element to this as well. Elliott is a clear leader on this team, and if the Cowboys strong-armed him out of town, it could have serious implications across the roster. Jason Garett loves Zeke, Jerry Jones loves Zeke, and quarterback Dak Prescott loves Zeke.
Zeke is going to get paid by the Cowboys, I have no doubts or issues with that, but if all these guys getting paid squeezes an All Pro corner out of town, that could bite this franchise in the butt down the line.
Jason Garrett Has Hard Road Ahead in Contract Year
It seems like every year we talk about how hot is Jason Garrett's seat. This year though, it will be one of the biggest storylines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys. Garrett will enter the 2019 season without an extension. However you feel about the Cowboys head coach, being in a contract year automatically means dealing with low job security.
What is clear though is that Garrett's contract year might be a difficult one.
First of all, the Dallas Cowboys haven't managed to get their superstar 26-year old pass rusher signed to a long term deal. DeMarcus Lawrence has made it clear that he will not play under the tag and until a contract is signed, he'll even postpone his pending shoulder surgery.
Cowboys Nation is hoping to see D-Law get his long term deal before it's too late, and as we know, the Cowboys want to sign him. Who wouldn't? But there's a reason it hasn't happened yet and if this drags out, it won't be good for the team. Jason Garrett can't be happy about not having his best defensive player ready to work.
Rather than an unfortunate situation, this feels more like a bold approach by Garrett. After firing Scott Linehan, the Cowboys promoted Kellen Moore to offensive coordinator. Moore's potential has since been praised by players and coaches around the country and I'm actually excited about what he can bring to the table. But he's still a rookie OC. Young coaches like Sean McVay have taken the league by storm but it still feels like a bold move by Garrett to put Moore in this position. This was undoubtedly a Jason Garrett move and it only makes sense for the Cowboys to let him put together his own staff before the season.
Under the "Cowboys are one player away" narrative, many believed a big free agency signing was bound to happen in Dallas. Specifically, the discussion revolved around one of the newest members of the Baltimore Ravens, Safety Earl Thomas. So far, though, it's been same old, same old for the Cowboys during the start of free agency. Top free agents are off the shelves and Dallas has been pretty quiet so far.
Also worth noting is that the Cowboys will not have a first round pick during the 2019 NFL Draft. Now granted, that first round pick they don't have was worth it thanks to Amari Cooper's arrival but it's still a difficult situation for a football team that has many needs, including one at wide receiver after letting Cole Beasley leave for the Buffalo Bills.
A potential holdout by DeMarcus Lawrence, a rookie offensive coordinator, no splash in free agency and no first round pick... Jason Garrett's approach to his contract year certainly seems like a risky one. Not to mention this is only what we're talking about now. What if Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott or Cooper decide to holdout (even if it's just for a while and eventually come back)? Hopefully this isn't the case, but with the way things go in the NFL today it wouldn't be a surprise.
The Dallas Cowboys will play in an NFC East that might sound like an easy division but surprises happen every single year. If Jason Garrett manages to lead his team to a successful season under such circumstances, he should earn the respect of many fans that want him out of the picture. The question will of course be: "How much does he needs to accomplish to keep his job?" Will making it to the playoffs be enough? Or will he need to make a bigger statement?
Would Cowboys Trade Joe Looney if the Saints Came Calling?
The hits keep coming for the New Orleans Saints. Not only are their fans extremely disappointed in the way the Saints 2018 season ended, and rightfully so, but now they have to deal with the fact that one of their best offensive players has decided to retire. Ouch!
Source: Saints C Max Unger has retired. Wow.
No matter how you slice it, Max Unger's decision to retire is a huge blow to the Saints offense. The three-time Pro Bowl center is still one of the best in the game at his position and he's a huge reason why New Orleans has been so successful on the offensive side of the ball since he joined the team in 2015.
Unger's ability to keep the middle of the pocket from collapsing on Quarterback Drew Brees, while also blocking for Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram in the running game is the lifeblood of the Saints offense. Without him, the entire offense could be in trouble. Finding someone to step in and fill those huge shoes won't be easy.
As luck would have it, the Dallas Cowboys may have the answer to their problems. Joe Looney had to step in and replace Travis Frederick, another one of the top centers in the NFL, and filled in admirably during his absence. He could do the same thing for the New Orleans Saints.
With Frederick set to return to the Cowboys starting lineup in 2019, Looney suddenly becomes nothing more than a backup C/G once again. Because of that, he could become expendable, making him an intriguing tradable asset for teams looking for a starting caliber offensive lineman with versatility to play any interior position. This could be exactly the kind of player the Saints are targeting.
Unfortunately for New Orleans, they don't have a lot of draft capital in the 2019 NFL Draft to find a starting caliber center. Like the Cowboys, they don't have a first-round pick this year and don't make their first selection until the second-round. After that, they don't have another draft pick until the fifth-round. This further complicates replacing Unger as well as trading for anyone, such as Joe Looney.
It's highly unlikely the Saints are willing to part ways with their second-round pick and the Cowboys would probably want more for Joe Looney than a fifth-rounder. Looney after all has proven to be a serviceable starter, which is probably more valuable for Dallas considering the unknown about Travis Frederick's health moving forward.
So, even if the New Orleans Saints picked up the phone and called the Dallas Cowboys to acquire about trading for Joe Looney, I just don't think the two teams would be able to come together on trade compensation. I guess that means we can put this potential trade rumor to bed.
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