Happy #VictoryPoloMonday, Inside The Star Family!
This feels weird because the Dallas Cowboys didn't play a game on the Sunday of Week 13, but they were nevertheless victorious. In case you haven't heard - the Dallas Cowboys clinched a playoff berth on Sunday!
It's a ridiculously awesome life when the calendar reads December 5th, but your ticket to the dance has already been purchased. What about our suit, though? We need to go get measured. We also need to look into getting that limo to get us to this dance... we need to discuss all the other potential perks that come with being a playoff team!
When November began I wrote here at Inside The Star that the Dallas Cowboys would be in an NFC East win-and-clinch situation entering the New York Giants game on December 11th. Here we are, a playoff berth in hand, and we want more.
Last week we detailed all the playoff-clinching scenarios for you, and that's why we're here today... It's time for an update! The most relevant non-Cowboys team as far as the NFC East goes is the New York Giants, and the most-watched teams across the conference for our sakes are the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions.
The Cowboys have opportunities to clinch both a First-Round Bye AND Home-Field Advantage this season, it's a wonderful world. Sit back, grab a cup of coffee (I like mine with two sugars and one cream, please), and start planning.
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How The Cowboys Can Clinch The NFC East
This is pretty simple at this point, but it's fun to talk about how dominating we are so we'll do it briefly. The Cowboys have a 3-win lead on the next closest division rival, the New York Giants. In order to win the NFC East the Cowboys need:
- A Win In New York On Sunday: A win on Sunday would give the Cowboys 12 victories and hold the Giants at 8. There are only three left afterwards. Yay math.
- IF The Giants Win On Sunday: The Cowboys have more room for error concerning Sunday's game in New York thanks to the Steelers beating the Giants this past Sunday. If the G-Men managed to sweep Dallas, the Cowboys could still clinch the NFC East fairly easily. They'd simply need to win one game, any game, and have the Giants lose one.
At this point the Giants need a miracle to win the NFC East. The only way they could is if the Cowboys only win one game from here on out, that game not being the one in New York, and the Giants would have to win out. Buh-bye.
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How The Cowboys Can Clinch A First-Round Bye
It's Christmas time so I hear those sleigh bells jingling and ring-ting-ting-a-ling, but I want to enjoy Christmas with the peace of mind that my Cowboys are going to get a week of rest at the culmination of the regular season. Here are the ways the Cowboys can secure a First-Round Bye:
- Win In New York On Sunday + Detroit OR Seattle Loss (Any Loss): It goes without saying that the Cowboys have to win the division in order to get a bye, but in case you didn't know there you are. A NYG win would net the division and take care of that, and a loss by Detroit or Seattle would mean that whoever lost stayed at 8 wins while the Cowboys coasted to 12 with only three to go. If the Detroit or Seattle loss we need came a week later, that'd be fine. It would mean that whoever did lose that game (Detroit or Seattle) would not mathematically be able to hit 12 wins, and since the Cowboys would already have 12 all would be taken care of.
- Win The Next Two Games AKA The Magic 13: The Cowboys are sitting on 11 wins as we speak, two more would give them The Magic 13. This number is magical because no other team in the NFC can achieve it. Should the Cowboys win their next two games they'll have secured the NFC East and a mark that is literally impossible for anyone else to reach.
Technically speaking the Cowboys could still miss out on a First-Round Bye if they lost out and both Seattle and Detroit won out. Obviously this is very unlikely for a squad that's won 11 games in a row, so it seems like those two teams will have to fight each other for the other bye.
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How The Cowboys Can Clinch Home-Field Advantage
Last week someone told me that we were getting ahead of ourselves talking about something like Home-Field Advantage so early.
When you have a playoff spot locked and loaded on December 5th, you can look wherever you want. The Cowboys have earned the right to look past some teams because we're amazing and they're not (those are the spark notes, sorry). Seriously though, it is not just possible but likely that the road to Super Bowl LI in Houston will also run in the state of Texas. Here's how the Cowboys can lock up Home-Field Advantage:
- Win In New York On Sunday + Detroit AND Seattle Loss (Any Loss): This logic is easy to understand. A NYG win gives us the NFC East and 12 on the season, and losses by both the Lions and Seahawks keeps them at 8 with three to go. We'd be the top dog. Say the Lions (host Chicago) and Seahawks (visit Packers) both win on Sunday... no biggie. Both of those teams would have to win out in order to reach 12, if they both stumble even just once apiece then it's over.
- Win In New York On Sunday + 1 More Win AKA The Magic 13: By now you've read me say a win in New York gives us the division, yay, but one more win might be necessary. Say the Lions and Seahawks actually did each win out (that would mean the Lions beat the Cowboys on Monday Night Football in Week 16, by the way). Then Dallas would have to beat either the Buccaneers (this game has been flexed to Sunday Night Football, by the way) or Eagles to give them 13 wins - no one else can reach 13.
It's pretty unlikely, but it is possible that when the Cowboys kick off in New York that they will be playing for: The NFC East, a First-Round Bye, and Home-Field Advantage. This is the scenario that sees Detroit and Seattle both losing in Week 14, but again it is unlikely. Either way the Cowboys are in a position where they have some serious control.
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What To Root For In Week 14 For The Cowboys Sake
By now you're a pro when it comes to what the Cowboys need to clinch this, that, and the other... but what about something else? There's always something else!
If you're looking really far down the road then you're already trying to organize who you want the Cowboys to be in the playoffs with. I've said many a time on OchoLive that I'm afraid of the Redskins (even though they lost to the Cardinals), but who are you afraid of? The current NFC Playoff Landscape has Dallas, Seattle, Detroit, and Atlanta as the division winners plus the Giants and Bucs as the wildcard teams. I like that mix of teams.
The Packers and Vikings technically still have life, but I've already mentally disregarded them. The only team that's on the outside-looking-in that is still relevant to me is in fact Washington. This can get spicy in the NFC South if Atlanta decides to drop a few and we could see Tampa Bay actually win it, Washington take the Wild Card back, and Atlanta drop out altogether. That trifecta is going to be fun to watch, but if you like the way things are right now here's what you need to root for in Week 14:
Cowboys Week 14 Guide: ▪️ Dallas beat NYG ⬜️ ▪️ Chicago beat DET ⬜️ ▪️ Green Bay beat SEA ⬜️ ▪️ Philly beat WASH ⬜️ ▪️ Tampa Bay beat NO ⬜️
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It was just over a month ago that we all got together here at Inside The Star and agreed that the Dallas Cowboys would be in division-clinching position on Sunday, December 11th.
Let's keep this party going. Huzzah.
What to Expect from Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Group in 2019
In a span of a week, the Dallas Cowboys have solidified their wide receiver group with the resigning of Tavon Austin to a one year deal and the signing of former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb. Despite the loss of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys have a created a really good group of receivers for Quarterback Dak Prescott to throw to.
Cobb joins a really nice group of players that includes incumbent starters on the outside in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup as well as solid depth players in Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Throw in Cedric Wilson, the Dallas Cowboys sixth round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft and the Cowboys may have one of the deeper receiving corps in the NFL.
The question is, how will the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff delineate the roles?
Let's take a look.
As I mentioned before, the Dallas Cowboys are returning their top two options on the outside in Amari Cooper, who is the X wide receiver and Michael Gallup, the Z receiver. Both players will go into week one as the starters at their respective positions in two-wide receiver formations.
Despite some of the overthrows from Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup, Gallup had a really nice rookie season and got better as the year went along, even leading the Cowboys in receiving in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. In that game, Gallup recorded the first 100 yard game of his career. Sure, it was in an attempt to comeback by the Dallas Cowboys, but it is impressive nonetheless. His touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks the week before was clutch. The Cowboys needed that to take the lead at the end of the first half. 2018 was only the beginning for Michael Gallup. He showed an ability to win with a full offseason to work with Dak Prescott, their chemistry and connection should only improve.
As for Cooper, his presence was felt right away as the offense just looked different once he stepped on the field. It's no coincidence that Dak Prescott's two best career games in terms of passing yardage came with Cooper in 2018. He's such a threat that he opens up space for the rest of the wide receiver group. His route running, speed, ability to run after the catch make him a threat to score any time he's targeted.
Behind Cooper and Gallup, you have options in the event that one of them gets hurt. Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Noah Brown are all players who took snaps on the outside for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 and did so with effectiveness. Hurns best game of the year came just before the Cooper deal was made as he went for five receptions for 75 yards.
Tavon provided down field speed on several occasions and provides some gadget quality that the Dallas Cowboys love to have. Noah Brown is a player that the Dallas Cowboys love to deploy as a blocker in the running game. While it looked like he might get more run in the passing game in 2019, the depth additions will limit him again to a specialty role. If needed, though, he could be an option to take snaps on the outside as his big frame allows him to box out defensive backs down the field.
There will be snaps on the outside for someone when the Cowboys go to 11 personnel, because of Amari Cooper's ability to slide into the slot.
Obviously, the writing is on the wall with who the Dallas Cowboys are planning on deploying in the slot as things stand right now, and that's Randall Cobb.
While Cobb should be penciled in as the starter in the slot, I doubt that he's going to get 100% of the snaps there in 11 or 10 personnel groupings. Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson could all push for playing time from the slot.
Last month, I wrote a piece about Allen Hurns and his effectiveness in the slot and why the Cowboys should feature him there. With Cobb coming off an injury laden season, the Cowboys would be wise to give some snaps to Hurns along with Tavon Austin.
In Jacksonville, Hurns was incredibly effective from the slot running posts, slants, and ins and outs. His size and route running made him an effective mismatch against linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks alike. Remember, it wasn't long ago that Hurns had a 1,000 yard season with Blake Bortles at the helm.
Tavon Austin's quickness is an asset that could be very effective in the slot as well. Though he lacks size, he's a player that opposing defenses have to account for because of his ability to make big plays once the ball's in his hands.
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The Cowboys haven't been shy about carrying seven wide receivers on their 53-man rosters and it's possible, though unlikely that they could do it again in 2018. As things stand now, I see Noah Brown and Cedric Wilson as the potential odd men out. Of course, this could all get reshuffled if the Dallas Cowboys use a top 100 pick on a wide receiver in the draft.
With Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Randall Cobb only under contract through the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to invest at the position despite the strength of the position in 2019.
Report: Dallas Cowboys Set to Meet with Safety George Iloka
As the Dallas Cowboys continue the process of building a roster capable of taking them back to the playoffs, and hopefully to a Super Bowl, this next season, they’re bringing in another safety to try and strengthen their top 10 defense. This time it’s free agent safety George Iloka, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings.
Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Dallas Cowboys are set to meet with
The #Cowboys are hosting former #Vikings and #Bengals safety George Iloka for a visit tomorrow, source said. They're still looking to add in the secondary.
It will be the third meeting this week that they’ve had with a veteran safety after hosting recently resigned Indianapolis’s colts Safety Clayton Geathers and former Kansas City Chiefs Safety Eric Berry.
The Cowboys feel really good about Xavier Woods at safety, but definitely could use some depth at the position as they head toward the 2019 NFL Draft.
Iloka is coming off a season where he was relegated to a reserve role for the Vikings. In five of the last six seasons, Iloka’s played all 16 games, and the one season he didn’t, he played 12. He has nine career interceptions, and has three seasons with more than 70 total tackles.
Back in August of last year, Brian Martin argued that the Dallas Cowboys should pursue Iloka after being released by the Cincinnati Bengals. He would play the strong or box safety role in the Cowboys defense if they were to come to an agreement.
Stay tuned for more Free Agency coverage from us here at InsideTheStar.com.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Draft Needs: Impact of Free Agency Moves & Rumors
With most of the marquee NFL free agents already off the market, many are already turning their eyes to the 2019 Draft. Whether a glaring need went unaddressed or the needs have simply changed, the draft offers the next big opportunity for teams like the Dallas Cowboys to stock talent for next season.
While they've been conservative so far this offseason, Dallas has been active in the last few days in covering bases and giving itself more flexibility for the draft. They don't want to have to reach on a talent because of a need, nor do they want to tip their hand too much to the rest of the league.
As of now there are still some significant acquisitions that could happen. Dallas has visited with veteran Safety Eric Berry and Defensive Lineman Malik McDowell, plus are reportedly in trade talks with Miami for Defend End Robert Quinn. Any of these moves could have a big impact on their need levels for the draft.
We've already seen some changes thanks to offseason activity. With Tuesday's signing of Randall Cobb, plus moves to retain Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns, Dallas may not be looking at a receiver as early as we might've thought. The same can be said for Jason Witten's return and the tight end position.
If the draft were today, without accounting for any of the players that the Cowboys have had talks with but remain unsigned, here's how I would rank the team's 2019 draft needs:
- Defensive End
- Defensive Tackle
- Tight End
- Running Back
- Wide Receiver
- Offensive Tackle
- Quarterback (Mike White is their drafted backup project for at least another year.)
- Punter (Could add someone to compete with Chris Jones and save some cap dollars.)
- Fullback (They re-signed Jamize Olawale, who they barely use anyway. Zero need here.)
I put safety on top because it's the spot that could most use an immediate upgrade and has some pressing future need. Dallas didn't make the big move for Earl Thomas that many hoped for and Jeff Heath's contract expires after this season. Hopefully, a second-round talent could compete for a starting job now and at least replace Heath in 2020.
Even with the Kerry Hyder signing defensive end has some major red flags. DeMarcus Lawrence has sworn he would holdout without a long-term deal. Randy Gregory is suspended again, and now Tyrone Crawford is now facing potential league action from an incident with police last week. Unless the Cowboys think Taco Charlton is going to make a big push in his third year, they could be hurting for a pass rush in 2019.
I expect things with Lawrence will get resolved, and I doubt Crawford will get suspended for more than a game or two if at all. But Dallas could still use another solid DE if they don't get this deal for Robert Quinn done.
Remember, the 2019 Cowboys aren't working with a first-round pick. Barring a trade, they'll be waiting until the 58th pick to make their first selection. That limits the impact potential of their picks and makes what they do with the Day 2 picks all the more critical.
So what if the Cowboys pull off these three potential moves, adding Berry, McDowell, and Quinn? Each player would help to address the top three needs on my list.
Eric Berry hopefully solves the immediate upgrade need at safety, though it may not do much for the future. He turns 31 this year and was released by Kansas City because of multiple injury issues. Dallas could still consider taking a rookie prospect, perhaps even releasing Jeff Heath for cap savings if needed.
Malik McDowell was considered a first-round talent in 2017 but has never played after a major ATV accident prior to his first training camp with Seattle. If he's finally recovered enough to return to football and play at his original potential, he could give Dallas a talent infusion that none of their draft capital could provide.
Robert Quinn has been around a while but will be just 29 in May, and is still putting up sacks at a solid rate. He's averaged 7.5 sacks the last two years with two different teams. He would go a long way to stabilizing things at defensive end and allowing Dallas look at guys like Gregory and Hyder as icing on the cake.
If Dallas lands all three players then I would adjust the list as follows:
- Tight End
- Defensive Tackle
- Running Back
- Defensive End
- Wide Receiver
If you think about it, the safety and tight end positions would be kind of similar in this scenario. You'd have Eric Berry and Jason Witten as the veteran stopgaps, Xavier Woods and Blake Jarwin as intriguing young guys with starting potential, and Kavon Frazier and Dalton Schultz as other young depth.
However, at every step, safety would be deeper and have more upside. Berry should have more to often than Witten, Woods is more proven than Jarwin, and Frazier is more experienced than Schultz.
Plus, we didn't even mention that you'd have Jeff Heath for experience and versatility at safety. Meanwhile, TE Rico Gathers probably won't be on next year's team.
So yes, I'd vault tight end to the top of the need list. Dallas may like Blake Jarwin but they could find a far more polished and talented player with the 58th pick.
Even with McDowell and Christian Covington added to the mix, Dallas would still be wise to address the defensive tackle position. They have several contract issues coming up at once in 2020.
Covington and Maliek Collins will be unrestricted free agents next year. The Cowboys will also likely want to finally shed Tyrone Crawford's contract, with $8 million in cap relief possible. That would leave them pretty bare at defensive tackle.
Dallas could make a move now to solidify their rotation and prepare for the future. They'd have a little more stability at defensive end with assumed multi-year deals for Lawrence and Quinn, making tackle the more immediate concern.
The backup running back spot can't be ignored, with only Darius Jackson and Jordan Chunn currently signed behind Ezekiel Elliott. If Dallas doesn't bring back Rod Smith between now and the draft, they may want to spend a high pick for Zeke's relief man and an additional offensive weapon.
Elliott's own contract will be up for discussion as soon. Having a talented player with a four-year rookie deal behind him could give the Cowboys much-needed leverage in any future talks with their franchise back.
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We'll see if Dallas lands any of the players we've hypothesized about. Any of them would help lessen the need at their positions, but those would still remain important areas for the Cowboys to look at in the upcoming draft.
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