Who died? I must have missed the crawler at the bottom of the screen.
Something bad happened, because the dour faces and slumped shoulders of the post-game shows tell me this must be a day of mourning. I feel horrible that I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel horrible about. Please, someone let me in on this because this is incredibly awkward.
Turns out, this isn’t a funeral, but a resurrection. And the anti-Cowboy bloc is none-too-happy about it.
Yep, the Cowboys are the uninvited guests to this 2014 season. Dallas was scripted to be one of the key grips for this year’s cast of contenders, not the starring role it’s shoved teams aside to grab.
And what’s worse for the torch-and-pitchfork mob is the suddenness of it all. The initial impressions of Week 1 offered them hope that this would be a season of guffaws and giggles at Cowboy expense. The drudgery we endured that Opening Day against the 49ers – when Tony Romo stiffly chipped away the preseason rust he didn’t chip away during the preseason – galvanized the vultures circling Dallas from afar. Even the local critics dropped 6-10 and 5-11 bird bombs across the Cowboy windshields.
That Sunday was the welcomed splat heard ‘round the NFL, and the national punditry fist-bumped with glee, belly-laughing at the visiting fan occupations of Cowboys Stadium and celebrating an implosion in the making for that *#@*# “America’s Team”. The fun had begun.
This punctuated an offseason of snarky and smarmy Cowboy hatred. The worst defense in Cowboys history a year ago would be even worse. The coaching moves were signs of desperation. Romo wouldn’t be Romo anymore with that back. Garrett wouldn’t survive the season. Dallas should have taken Manziel. Despite three 8-8 seasons, Dallas plunged in the preseason rankings to 24th or worse across the national landscape. Let the celebratory bonfire begin.
Welp, the cops showed up and busted up their happy party. The ticket violation code reads “6-1”.
Before the unapologetic gloating begins, I must qualify. No, I didn’t see this coming either, not like this. Yours truly had them at 8-8 “until proven otherwise”. They’d be better, I believed, but a gauntlet of a schedule and years of disappointment couldn’t imagine anything like this.
Better because, if for no other reason, there would be legitimate NFL players on the front seven this season, as opposed to the Jiffy Lube part-timers that rolled through here a year ago. Jason Vega, Everette Brown, Corey Irvin, David Carter, Edgar Jones, Drake Nevis…these were the wet-paper soldiers trying to guard the fort last season. They’re gone now, as are underperforming DeMarcus Ware and contract-chasing Jason Hatcher. The craft and scheme of Sir Rod Marinelli could only help.
Make no mistake, it’s not the 6-1 that has the enemies frothing at the mouth. Every year, a team or two tallies early wins almost by accident, as Kansas City did a year ago. Sometimes the breaks don’t even out until much later in the season, one way or the other.
Nope, what’s driving the antagonists and eastern-media elitists bonkers is how Dallas is doing this. This is more than sustainable, and they know it. This is the most convincing brand of football being played in the NFL right now, and they know it. This football plays in the cold and in the rain, and most importantly, in December and beyond, and they know it. This is the style Dallas hasn’t played since your college kid was in diapers.
The Cowboys are manhandling teams up front. Romo has never seen so much zero coverage in his life because the run game is bludgeoning people. That’s allowing for an embarrassment of options in the passing game at Romo’s choosing. Beasley one week, Escobar the next, Williams with generous helpings on a regular occasion. I fully expect Hanna and Harris, maybe even Street, to get a special day in the game plan on a Sunday yet to be played. Of course, Dez and Witten are big every game.
What’s left is an energized defense that still needs honing and improvement. The return of Bruce Carter should help. Perhaps the addition of DeMarcus Lawrence will bring the pass rush he was drafted for. And the extra strength and size of Josh Brent should help shore up the middle against physical run teams. Got to trust in Marinelli, which by now, we most certainly do.
The comeback against St. Louis was appetizing. The thrashing of New Orleans opened our eyes and had us looking at each other. But that utter domination of Seattle in that pressure cooker is what got us digging the pom poms out of the attic and painting our faces again. Some are trying to downplay that win now after Seattle’s slump, but they fail to mention the whooping the Seahawks put on Denver and Green Bay this season.
Like any team, a serious injury to the QB, and it’s over. A rash of boo-boos like a year ago to the defense, and it’s back to Scotch tape and Elmer’s glue. It’s no different for Romo here than it is for Rodgers in Green Bay, Peyton in Denver, Rivers in San Diego, or Brees in New Orleans. Attrition and good football don’t mix, never have and never will, especially at quarterback.
But that’s a catastrophe for another day that hopefully never comes. The Dallas Cowboys are the best team in the NFL today. Sorry, Broncos, I saw you get beaten like mules against Seattle, again.
Stop. Look around. Smell it, and take in the view. Ain’t none of us imagined this.
Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?
It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.
These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.
Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.
Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.
This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.
Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.
The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.
It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.
Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.
As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.
For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.
Cowboys OT La’el Collins Could Become Major Bargain
When you talk Cowboys offensive line, you always think of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin first. Right Tackle La'el Collins still has to prove he belongs in the same sentence with his elite teammates. If he does that in 2018, Collins could become one of the best bargains on the roster.
Making the move from left guard to right tackle last year, Collins improved with time and was playing his best football at the end of the year. This was despite ongoing back issues that had him on the injury report most weeks.
La'el started all 16 games at right tackle and did enough that the Cowboys committed to keeping him there in 2018, even despite a big hole back at left guard. They are hoping consistency and stability will allow Collins to really blossom this season, building on the strong progress shown last year.
For 2018, Collins has a $5.76 million cap hit. According to Spotrac, that makes him the 13th-most expensive right tackle in the NFL this year.
That middle-of-the-pack expense is consistent with where La'el currently rates among NFL right tackles. Bleacher Report ranked Collins as the 16th-best RT in football last year.
But that ranking was based on the season as a whole. If La'el plays all of 2018 the way he was playing towards the end of last year, he will have emerged as one of the better right tackles in the game.
If Collins develops as we hope, that salary suddenly becomes a major bargain. The most expensive right tackles in the NFL are making $7-$9 million this season.
But this can go a couple of ways. With his 2019 cap hit rising to $7.9 million, La'el needs to next step forward.
If Collins were to struggle this year, it could make him a potential cap casualty next offseason. Dallas can save $6.5 million in cap space if Collins is released or traded in 2019.
Dallas could elect to give Connor Williams, their second-round pick this year, a look at right tackle next season. It's the position he played in college.
They could also consider veteran backup Cameron Fleming, who will still be just 26-year-old. Fleming has two Super Bowl rings and several starts, including in the postseason, from his time with the Patriots.
While we think of La'el Collins as a first-round talent, it's important to remember that he was ultimately an undrafted free agent. Dallas did not have to invest anything to acquire him, and ultimately that makes it easier to let him go.
Naturally, we prefer the other side of this coin. If Collins builds on 2017, he will join the upper echelon of right tackles in the league. And if the Cowboys' offensive line isn't already the best in the NFL, that would only cement them as the best unit in football.
If La'el makes the leap, it could mean huge things for the Cowboys' offense and team success this year.
How Cowboys Could Benefit From Randy Gregory’s Suspension
Randy Gregory is back! His suspension is officially over and he will be able to join the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California when training camp gets underway less than a week from now.
Speculation has already started as to what this could mean for the Dallas Cowboys defense this season, and shockingly expectations are rather high for a player who hasn't stepped foot on the field in over a year. But, that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to focus on Gregory's mess of a contract, because it is rather interesting.
Randy Gregory was signed to a four-year contract after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gregory's rookie deal was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season, but his multiple suspensions have now changed that expiration date.
You see, Gregory has only played in a total of 14 games in his career, 12 as a rookie and two in Year 2. His third year in the NFL was completely wiped out due to his year-long suspension. If you were to add that all up, it equates to just one accured season in the NFL. Remember that, because it could have a huge impact on his contract down the road.
What all of this means is that the Cowboys can pretty much stretch out Gregory's contract now that they are three years in on the deal and have only gotten one accured season out of the agreement. That basically means they can push his contract back a year, meaning his 2017 salary ($731,813) gets pushed back to 2018, his 2018 salary ($955,217) gets pushed to 2019. That would essentially make him a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in 2020.
Or does it?
Depending on how the Dallas Cowboys handled paying Randy Gregory during his suspension could actually make him an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (EFA). This is a similar situation in which David Irving found himself in after the 2017 season. The Cowboys placed a second-round tender on him in order to secure his services for another season, albeit at a $2.91 million price tag.
As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys pretty much hold all the cards when it comes to Randy Gregory's contract situation. It's all a little confusing, but that's what makes it such a unique and interesting situation.
Of course, the Cowboys could decide to extend Gregory early if he completely dominates upon his return this season. It's highly doubtful though considering his past suspensions, but still technically a possibility. If it does happen, you can go ahead and ignore everything I've written previously.
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