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!
Cowboys Trade For DT Jihad Ward Already Paying Off?
The Dallas Cowboys uncharacteristically made several offseason trades this year and it has yet to be seen how or if these players can be impactful in 2018. One such trade was met with quite a bit of skepticism and actually angered a lot of Cowboys fans. Sending wide receiver Ryan Switzer to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for Jihad Ward was somewhat puzzling, but it looks as if the trade might already be paying off.
Unfortunately, one of the Dallas Cowboys best defensive players will once again have to sit out of the first four games of the 2018 season while serving his suspension for violating the substance abuse policy. David Irving was expected to pick up where he left off last season as one of the best defensive tackles in the league, but will have to wait until Week 5 to find out what he can do.
I don't know if the Dallas Cowboys suspected something like this would happen with Irving once again, but suddenly the trade for Jihad Ward is looking like a brilliant under the radar offseason move.
I know a lot of Cowboys fans were excited to see what Ryan Switzer could do for the offense this season, but the coaching staff never really had a plan in place for him or knew exactly how to use him. There is no question as to how the coaching staff will use Ward. He could end up being one of the better defensive lineman this season.
Jihad Ward has already caught the attention of the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff in organized team activities (OTA's) and mandatory minicamp. Coincidentally, he's been playing in place of David Irving at the under tackle position or the three-technique. It's a role he may not relinquish heading into the 2018 season, and quite possibly even when Irving returns from his suspension.
I know it's a little bit early to anoint Jihad Ward, but the fact that as a new addition he's already starting ahead of the likes of Tyrone Crawford and other 3-tech candidates is pretty telling, at least for me.
Once training camp opens up there will be several things I will be paying close attention to, and how Jihad Ward performs will be one of them. He was after all highly thought of by defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli a few years ago in the 2016 NFL Draft. Maybe that infatuation will pay off.
I know it still stings a little that Ryan Switzer is no longer with the Cowboys, but Jihad Ward could prove to be the more impactful player this season and beyond.
Do you think the Jihad Ward trade is already paying off for the Cowboys?
How Will Safeties Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier Fit Kris Richard’s Secondary?
Unfortunately, David Irving's most recent four game suspension is the main story for a Dallas Cowboys team finished with OTAs and mini camp, left only to wait for training camp now. I've chosen to focus on the players that were on the field for the offseason program, that will continue to contend for starting jobs in Oxnard. Standing out from a lackluster group of safeties, for a Kris Richard led secondary that is off to a fast start, are safeties Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier.
Joined by Jeff Heath, Tyree Robinson, Jameill Showers, and Marqueston Huff, the Cowboys are lacking a dominant force at safety to pair with their young and talented group of cornerbacks. With the likes of Chidobe Awuzie, Byron Jones (the former safety), and Anthony Brown already improving under Richard, the Cowboys hope is that the same will apply to this group of safeties.
It's still entirely too early to know how the Cowboys want to deploy their safeties this season, but the only players that have shown their strengths and weaknesses over any period of time are Heath, Frazier, and Woods. This is sure to cause an uphill battle for the fringe players looking to push this trio of versatile safeties.
Jeff Heath has appeared in 77 games over five seasons with the Cowboys. Frazier and Woods combined? Just 24 games, with 16 of them making up Woods' rookie season a year ago. This makes finding a potential role for both players vital to the Cowboys.
Safety Kavon Frazier
Working mostly as a special teams player through two seasons in Dallas, Kavon Frazier has patiently awaited his opportunity to spark the Cowboys defense as a sixth round pick of 2016. Doing so in a memorable week 13 win over the Washington Redskins, Frazier earned an increased role as an enforcer on defense.
This is a player whose straight line burst and power is ideal for a ST starter, and when Frazier connects coming downhill on defense, the results can be catastrophic for an opposing offense. Surely these are traits that will remind Kris Richard even slightly of his Super Bowl winning "Legion of Boom" defenses.
The distinction between Frazier being a part-time player or one maximizing his potential to start deep in the Cowboys secondary is an important one. Limited in coverage, Frazier may be at his best when conceding snaps to another safety on the Cowboys roster with more of an all-around game -- which the Cowboys can only hope Xavier Woods continues to be.
Safety Xavier Woods
Xavier Woods may not have the pure stopping power that Kavon Frazier possesses, but as a fellow sixth-round pick there is more than enough to like about what Woods brought to the Cowboys in 2017 out of Louisiana Tech. With 14 interceptions and six forced fumbles out of college, Woods slid in the draft enough for the Cowboys to trade up for his services.
The team wasn't cheated out of their investment in Woods last season, giving him the "Byron Jones treatment" as Woods lined up all over the field. It was Richard that came to Dallas and almost immediately moved Byron Jones down to cornerback, seeing a better use of his natural size and skills there.
Doing the same for Woods -- while keeping the natural FS free to react -- should be next up on Richard's offseason to-do list. This is a player with sideline to sideline range, enough athleticism to cover down in the slot, and the functional strength to compete in the box.
Amidst this uncertainty for both Frazier and Woods, early reports out of the Cowboys practices thus far have Jeff Heath specifically matching up against the tight end. This is an ideal role for Heath, and one that could compliment Woods very well.
Regardless of where Heath is on the field, Woods should be able to coexist with him as a similarly instinctive safety.
There is also the possibility that both Heath and Woods struggle to handle these "starting" responsibilities, leaving the Cowboys with very little trusted depth at safety. If there is an area Woods needs the most improvement in, it is the angles he takes against the run to consistently make stops, a weakness also potentially mitigated by the Cowboys improved linebacker play (investing the 19th overall pick at the position).
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Between Frazier and Woods, it feels safe to say the Cowboys must find a starter for a secondary that could still achieve great things in 2018. The Cowboys are entering this season with a loaded group of cornerbacks, all capable of making a safety's job relatively easy, especially while learning under Richard.
Such can be the hope for a raw player like Frazier and, in a sense, Xavier Woods. The second-year player in Woods is a great unknown for the Cowboys right now, as he'll remain that way for some time before next month's training camp.
With this, we'll have much more time to sit around and continue pondering what certain position groups will look like once meaningful Cowboys football graciously returns. I've written before that I'm paying close attention to this team's group of wide receivers, and you can add in the secondary players they'll be competing against too.
No, Cowboys Shouldn’t Cut David Irving
For the past five years, Dallas Cowboys fans have gone through painful offseason stories regarding upcoming suspensions for defensive players. It doesn't matter how much talent the front office is able to find through the Draft, there's always one player that ruins what feels like a successful offseason. This time, for the second consecutive year, David Irving is the player to let Cowboys Nation down.
On Friday it was announced that Irving will serve a four-game suspension after violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Understandably, a lot of Cowboys' fans want to see Irving released by the franchise that has preached the "Right Kind of Guy" philosophy while failing to establish such a thing. It's disappointing to see such a talented player limiting himself by not "wanting it" bad enough and by making mistakes like this repeatedly.
However, even if it's a very frustrating situation, the Cowboys shouldn't cut David Irving.
First of all, Irving's hit against the cap space is pretty minimum and nothing to be concerned at all. After being handed a second-round tender earlier in the year, #95 was set to earn $2.91M during the season. With a four-game suspension ahead of him, that number will be even lower.
We're talking about a guy who in eight games managed to get to the quarterback seven times in 2017 and consistently pressured opposing signal callers. Not to mention he's going to be just 25 years old when the season begins.
For the Cowboys, David Irving has the talent needed to average one sack per game. All of this for less than three million.
Irving has proven by now that he's not worth a long-term extension. That much is clear. In order to get one of those, a player must prove his availability.
Talking specifically about 2018, though, I'm sure the Cowboys will be better off if they count on Irving for the final 12 games of the season. The team counts with pretty decent depth at the position with Maliek Collins, Datone Jones and Jihad Ward, but Irving has the potential to end the season with double-digit sacks.
The team gains nothing by releasing Irving. The team will not even be "sending a message" if they were to release #95. Maybe if the team had consistently sent this kind of "messages" over the years it would make sense.
However, we know this team sticks with their players and supports them in moments like this. They have done just that with Randy Gregory and it seems like it will pay off soon.
Whether we're mad at Irving's actions or not, the truth is letting him go wouldn't be wise at all. The Cowboys are not paying him big-time money, he's young and he'll be productive on the field when the defense needs him to.
We're talking about a football team that wants to make a run for the Lombardi Trophy. They can't be letting starting-caliber players go just like that. They need all the help they can get and even though his situation is far from ideal, David Irving will play a big role on defense.
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