I love Inside The Star. I love everything about it and the chance its given me to lend my thoughts about the Dallas Cowboys, the National Football League, and the occasional tangent.
We preach the notion that Inside The Star is the "voices of a nation" for a reason. We strive to deliver content that will resonate 100% with the fans - you are our target audience.
This platform allows us to speak our thoughts with full honesty, and that's what I'm doing right now.
Tony Romo's National Fantasy Football Convention (NFFC) has officially been postponed. No, this isn't a headline from a year ago. This is news as of Tuesday, June 14th, 2016.
The articles you'll read and the tweets you'll see will tell you that it just couldn't work. They'll say that sponsors dropped out, players dropped out, or some hybrid of everything here.
The truth of the matter is that the NFL put their foot down for the second year in a row and won't allow this to happen. Why? They want a piece of that pie.
The National Football League is one of the most successful businesses on this planet, and to be honest part of the reason is because of this mentality. They carve every penny out of every single one of their properties, this time at the expense of the fans (again).
If you're unaware, I've alluded to this already, this happened last year. The NFFC was set to go down in Las Vegas, but the NFL had a problem with casinos being involved. As silly as that is I think we can all semi understand that, and that's why the NFFC moved to Pasadena, California for 2016. No problem, right?
The NFL is still not running this show. That's the problem. So what do they do? They nip it in the bud.
It's Not Just Business, It's Personal
So many people have sacrificed to make this happen: the coordinators of the NFFC, the players involved, and most personally to us... the fans who have spent non-refundable money on travel, lodging, and tickets.
I can say personally because it is personal. I've been talking about it on Twitter, Periscope, and the #RJOShow how Bobby Belt (Host of Cowboys Cast) and I were going to be there. Our objective? To deliver the highest quality content for you to enjoy from afar.
If you'll allow me, I'll get even more personal for a second. I'd already planned in my head how the first article I wrote from Pasadena was going to go. It was going to be titled I Hopped Off The Plane At LAX For The NFFC in tribute to the ballad Party In The USA by Miley Cyrus.
I was going to include a funny song written to the theme of hers with words that matched our situation. The best part was that I was going to at one point take a shot at DeMarco Murray, reference him being a Titan now, and drop it right before she says "This is definitely not a Nashville party" so that it all made sense. That joke will never happen now!
And it's not going to happen because the NFL is once again putting potential (and modest) profits over their fans.
The NFL: A Business Above All Else
As a young boy watching football, I absolutely loved the game. Everything about it. I mean everything. Down to the most minute detail of the jerseys. I assumed that everything the league did was done in fairness. The most important thing is the fans, right? That's what matters most!
When we grow up, the naiveties of life reveal themselves to us, but they do it softly. In due time. The NFL does it with a punch to your gut.
They are intentionally standing in the way of hundreds - if not thousands - of fans interacting with their favorite players in ways that have never been done before. The experience that they are halting is not achievable in any other way. I'm not exaggerating when I say that they are crushing dreams.
Why? Because the money you're paying for that once in a lifetime deal isn't going into their piggy banks. Not one dime. The sad truth is that even if it was just one dime, they'd still do this. Money is that important to them.
Let's assume that an average ticket to an NFL game is $300. This seems fair for the average considering there are box seats, blah blah blah. Let's also assume that each stadium can hold 70,000 people. This all feels fairly conservative, but hey let's keep math simple.
There are 256 games in an NFL regular season. Right there that's $5,376,000,000. Just on tickets for the regular season games. The most expensive ticket to the NFFC was $745. Say they sold 10,000 of them. That's a gross exaggeration, but hey. Let's roll. The NFFC would have then made $7,450,000.
Say the NFFC donated 100% their profits to the NFL. That would be 14% of what the NFL makes during the regular season. That's not counting playoffs, not counting sponsors, not counting TV deals, not counting jersey sales.
So the NFL wants to rip off the fans over what could, in an intense exaggeration, be at maximum 5-10% of their annual income. That's it!
Word trickled out that Commissioner Roger Goodell made $34.1M in 2014. Money talks.
It's a sad reality that the NFL is such a greedy monster. It really is.
We Love Football: No Matter What
While we're all disappointed that they are putting such a small amount of dollars ahead of the satisfaction of fans, let's remember why we love this game for a second.
We love football. We love the action. We love the drama. We love the debate. We love the touchdowns. We love the broken tackles. We love that feeling when we wake up on Sunday and our team's got a big game going. We love when we get the win we needed most.
We love football. No matter what. While some corporate entities are choosing to take advantage of that fact, I propose that in spite of that we celebrate this game.
Ultimately the NFL can't stand in the way of that, right? They can't stop us from loving football. That's ours.
That's how we triumph.
We love football.
For now. And for always.
As the late Steve Sabol once said, "Life is great. Football is better."
Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder Stand Out in Cowboys Practices
With Left Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, Defensive End Taco Charlton rehabbing a shoulder and foot injury, and Right Defensive End Randy Gregory currently suspended indefinitely, there have been plenty of snaps at defensive end for other players to make a name for themselves in the offseason training activities (OTAs) and this past week's minicamp. The two players that stood out above all others on the defense were defensive ends Dorance Armstrong and Kerry Hyder.
You might be asking yourself, "what does it matter? DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn are the starters. Why should we care about a couple of backups."
First, the backup defensive ends for the Dallas Cowboys will play. After DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford, the leaders in defensive end snaps in 2018, Randy Gregory got 44% of the snaps on defense and Taco Charlton saw 39%. Dorance Armstrong, who played sparingly as a rookie, saw 26% of the snaps. The defensive ends that make the 53-man roster are going to get playing time.
Secondly, there's no guarantee that DeMarcus Lawrence will be ready for week one. Tyrone Crawford, who was the starter at right defensive end in 2018, could miss week one if the NFL deems his offseason altercation is worthy of a suspension. That leaves a whole lot of potential snaps at the left defensive end spot if either of those two guys misses week one.
Dorance Armstrong, the Dallas Cowboys fourth-round pick from 2018, caught the eye of several observers from the media and finished his offseason with a strong minicamp.
"These coaches have to be happy with what they’ve seen from Dorance Armstrong during these practices. Armstrong has been mainly filling in for DeMarcus Lawrence on the left side, but on Wednesday he switched over to the right. There were several snaps where he was a handful for Cam Fleming to handle. Armstrong started off well last season before hitting the rookie wall. He physically looks bigger and is also now equipped with the knowledge of how he has to prepare to play at a high level the entire season. Keep an eye on Armstrong to make that jump from the first to second year."
Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com
Armstrong had a really nice training camp as a rookie and as Broaddus notes, tailed off during the regular season. Reports are that he's added size this offseason -- as most players do between their first and second year -- and if all the reports are correct, could be a breakout player in the making.
Kerry Hyder is another intriguing player and one of the more underrated offseason acquisitions by the Dallas Cowboys front office.
Coming from the Detroit Lions, where they used Hyder as a nose tackle in Matt Patricia's 3-4 alignment, he was played severely out of position. In 2016, playing primarily as a defensive end, Hyder recorded eight sacks for the Lions. In 2017, he suffered a torn achilles which kept him out all of that year.
Now with the Dallas Cowboys, he gets to return to his more natural defensive end position. And he's making some noise in these offseason practices.
D-Linemen never get any shine during OTAs, so today is for them. With Tyron Smith & La'el Collins sitting out today, Dorance Armstrong & Kerry Hyder absolutely wrecked practice. Murdered it. I legitimately don't think Dak would've gotten a single throw out if sacks were allowed.
Of course not playing against the starting tackles in Tyron Smith and La'el Collins will allow players to shine a bit more, but let's not forget that Cam Fleming started in the Super Bowl for the New England Patriots before signing with the Dallas Cowboys. Connor Williams, who has been getting snaps at tackle as well, is no slouch as a former All-American for the Texas Longhorns.
Here's what Bryan Broaddus had to say about Kerry Hyder in one of the previous OTAs his "Scout's Notebook" from May 22nd.
"I have to be careful with my love for veteran defensive linemen, but Kerry Hyder looks like a different man playing at end instead of head-up tackle. The coaching change in Detroit did him no favors last season. Having to play in a spot where he had to fight blocks all day to now working on the edge in space is a good thing for him. It appears that Hyder has his quickness back, but he also has some pass rush moves in his tool belt. I thought maybe they were going to use him as an under-tackle, but putting him back at end might be his best shot at making the roster."
Bryan Broaddus - Dallas Cowboys.com
The Cowboys found a really good player in Kerry Hyder. He's capable of playing some 3-technique defensive tackle if needed as well as on the edge. He has a good motor and is able to make plays in the running game.
With the emergence of Kerry Hyder and Dorance Armstrong this offseason, it puts Taco Charlton behind the eight ball as the team heads to Oxnard. If they continue to play well, it's a real possibility that Charlton could be a gameday inactive during the regular season, especially if Randy Gregory is reinstated.
However they end up being deployed, this group of defensive ends will cause fits for opposing offensive lines. They've been aiming for waves of pass rushers for Rod Marinelli's defense and for the first time since becoming defensive coordinator, he looks to have just that.
BREAKING: Cowboys TE Rico Gathers Receives One-Game Suspension
Tight End Rico Gathers already had an uphill climb to return to the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster in 2019. But that climb just got even steeper; the NFL handed down a one-game suspension to Gathers today for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
If he does make the team this year, with Dallas or anyone else, Rico will have to sit out Week One of the season without pay.
Cowboys TE Rico Gathers is suspended without pay for the first game of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse. This is from his arrest in 2018 for marijuana possession.
Gathers' chances of returning in 2019 were already hurt by Jason Witten's reversed retirement. He dropped to fourth on the TE depth chart behind Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz, and Dallas only kept three tight ends last year.
The Cowboys also added Codey McElroy as a developmental player during the offseason.
While the suspension is news, the incident that led to it is not. Dallas already knew about the arrest, which occurred in early September of 2018, and have kept Gathers around up until now.
The NFL's substance abuse system is pretty formulaic, so the Cowboys likely anticipated this suspension all along. This may not change anything about how they value Rico Gathers for the 2019 season.
Nevertheless, a player who can't help you in Week One and is a liability for ever longer suspensions down the road is definitely a red flag against Gathers' job security.
Antwaun Woods: Cowboys DT is Just Getting Started
Antwaun Woods went undrafted in 2016 coming out of USC. After two years with the Tennessee Titans, he would only see one game of action. In May of 2018, the Cowboys signed Woods to a two-year contract worth 1.05 million. Probably seen as nothing more than a practice squad guy, Woods would quickly show he was much more than that.
The newly acquired Woods started his climb to stardom in Oxnard during training camp, and not for making plays. One day during practice he got into a friendly game of fisticuffs with All-Pro Center Travis Frederick. The team even posted the video on social media, which had fans buzzing and wanting to know who he was.
All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott echoed those thoughts when he saw Woods during camp. "Honestly, when we first got him, we were like, 'Who is this guy?'. He was giving Travis Frederick, one of our best players, hell all camp. Just trying to figure out where this guy came from," Elliott said.
Once the regular season started it was clear the Cowboys had found a hidden gem. Although the sack numbers won't dazzle you, seeing as he only registered 1.5, you could forget about running the ball anywhere near him. Woods has amazing quickness for a 300 pounder which allows him to extend his arms before offensive lineman can get a hand on him.
How significant is that? It becomes that much easier to bull rush and blow running plays up in the backfield.
When you can get your hands on an offensive lineman immediately when the ball is snapped, he's basically under your control. You can move him around like a puppet on a string. Essential for a 1-technique nose tackle. With that being said, there should be no surprise the Cowboys finished fifth against the run in 2018 with Woods manning the middle.
Woods draws a lot of double teams, and he handles them well. Having the ability to take on multiple linemen frees up your other playmakers. As the anchor in the middle, Woods made life a lot easier for not only his fellow defensive linemen but the team's two young star Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Allowing them to roam freely like Lions in the Serengeti makes running backs essentially Zebra's carrying the ball, cooked food. So much so that both tallied over 120 tackles and were the only teammates in the NFL to rank in the top 15 in that category.
There's nothing but upside with Antwaun Woods. He's only had 18 games of experience in three years. He's already a stud, but with limited snaps, it can only mean he'll be even more formidable going forward.
The Cowboys have a loaded defensive lineman group with around 15 bodies, plenty of competition. All signs point to him remaining the starter, but it's not guaranteed. Even with that being said I don't expect a complacency from Woods, especially with DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn looking like the only sure starters on the defensive line. Plus this is a contract year for him, so you know he'll be even more motivated as he tries to maximize his dollars. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg from this raw talent, setting up for a potential breakout year for him in 2019.
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