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Unity & Identity: Differences Between 2014 & 2015 Dallas Cowboys

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Cowboys Blog - Unity & Identity: Difference Between 2014 and 2015 Dallas Cowboys

Watching the 2015 Dallas Cowboys was stressful.

Forget about barely seeing Tony Romo and seeing a clearly hobbled Dez Bryant; things just didn't seem the same as they did in 2014 and it was maddening.

I usually try not to tweet during Cowboys games. I don't like to overreact to things or have haste reactions. But this season, I couldn't stop. This team was particularly frustrating and I often times had to get out my frustrations by trying to figure things out with a community approach through Twitter.

My main problems were cosmetic. Just looking at the team, it didn't appear to be working. They were missing that "It" factor that made them so successful in 2014.

As the season went on I came to figure out what was different...

What went right for the Cowboys in 2014?

The 2014 Dallas Cowboys had a hunger unlike anything I've ever seen before, out of any sports team that I follow closely. That team played with determination. You could see the hunger in every single player, especially on the defense. They were a defensive unit that the mass-media was labeling as potentially a historically bad defense prior to the start of the season.

You could tell that the defense was motivated by this and what did we get? A defense that fought!

Any time there was a pass caught, you would see every defensive player flying to the ball. It didn't matter if you were a corner, defensive tackle, linebacker... EVERYONE flew to the ball. They hit hard and group tackled.

I remember, on Monday Night Football, Jon Gruden picked up on this and called the Cowboys defense "Unidentified Flying Objects." What he meant by this was that you didn't know the names of these players, but they flew to the ball.

Cowboys Blog - Unity & Identity: Difference Between 2014 and 2015 Dallas Cowboys 2

In 2014 look at the Cowboys tackling Marshawn Lynch. There are four players there! All three linebackers and a defensive lineman

Some of this defensive intensity that was missing comes from losing Orlando Scandrick's presence on the field.

Scandrick is without a doubt one of the most fiery players on the Cowboys defense. He likes to chirp and he leads the "fly to the ball" movement. Throw a screen in Scandrick's direction and forget about it.

Cowboys Blog - Unity & Identity: Difference Between 2014 and 2015 Dallas Cowboys 3

Boy do I miss this sight! Scandrick plays with so much aggression to his game. Notice how many other Cowboys are in the shot still. This is from 2014.

What went wrong for the Cowboys in 2015?

This is where this article gets a little racy and debatable.

While I supported the Cowboys going out and getting Greg Hardy, and I thought it was a move that could potentially make the Cowboys a Super Bowl quality team, there were repercussions.

Disclaimer: I am not going to sit here and say Greg Hardy alone was the reason the Cowboys lost the group mentality as well as their fiery competitiveness. That would be completely unfair to Greg Hardy and to the Cowboys. There is no exact science to building a unit like the 2014 Cowboys had, or every team would be doing this. Cohesion is something that every successful team has and it is a key piece to successful football.

Now, when you add a big personality into a locker room, things change. This is just human nature. Even without Greg Hardy's baggage, he is an elite-level player and that changes things. Add to it the obvious baggage and its clear effects on team chemistry.

The bigger point that I am trying to make here is that when high quality players join a unit, you run the risk of other players getting even slightly more complacent.

There is a reason that the Cowboys have seen much more success with Sean Lee off the field rather than on the field. The Cowboys have done even worse when Lee and DeMarcus Ware were on the field, compared to off.

I'm not saying those players aren't good, because they are in fact great and elite players in the game today. The point is that the Cowboys have to carry that same intensity and level of effort with great players on the field that they do when they are off the field.

You can't expect Sean Lee's presence to mean you don't have to go 100 mph on every single play.

I get that players get tired. They are humans. It is human nature to try to find a break here and there. It seems pretty obvious to me that when elite players join this defense it makes other players think they now have protection.

Cowboys Blog - Unity & Identity: Difference Between 2014 and 2015 Dallas Cowboys 1

Compare this to 2014 and you see just one player there tackling Marshawn Lynch. That is Byron Jones, a safety, alone on Marshawn Lynch. The contrast from this picture and the one from 2015 is telling

No. Keep that intensity and work ethic and you reach even further heights.

How can Dallas replicate 2014's success?

Does this mean you should look away from players like Olivier Vernon or Mario Williams? I don't think it does. However, I want someone that is coming in hungry. The Cowboys need players that are going to motivate everyone around them. There can't be plays where anyone gives less than 100-percent.

This is the reason more and more teams are looking for youth movements. Young players are hungry. They haven't received their second contracts yet. The Cowboys defense still has a lot of these players on it and where they have players on second or third contracts, they have high work ethics.

I still prefer Olivier Vernon due to his age. Though I think Mario Williams would come in hungry. He would be returning to Texas only to join the other team there. He is coming off of a disappointing season in which he will have had to be cut in order to join the Cowboys in the first place. He would be returning to a scheme that makes him comfortable.

There also has to be more competition on the second level of the depth chart. If you don't want to give your all, it's okay, because someone behind you will and they will take your job from you.

Competition breeds success. The 2014 Cowboys defensive line was filled with players that didn't have name recognition and you could see these players fighting for playing time.

I am trying to build something new here.

While I think having great players is obviously important, I want to build a team filled with high motor players. A team filled with hungry players. A team of personalities that mesh well. A locker room that is a pleasure to enter into. I want a unit. I want a TEAM.

If that means I have to sign or draft a player with slightly less skill but a higher motor and is a better person, I will take that person every single time!

This is about team building. This is about assembling a group of men that are not just teammates, or people getting paid a lot of money, or people who want a Super Bowl... but a group of men that consider themselves brothers, and who want to share a Super Bowl with each other and fight for themselves and one another every single day of the week and on every single snap.

Is this easy to accomplish? It is the hardest thing to do in the NFL. People like Greg Hardy will always intrigue you. People like Noah Spence and Randy Gregory will intrigue you. Quite frankly, I can see a way you can add these types of players and still make my vision work. If you have a player who you truly think made a mistake and uses that as fuel to become the type of player and person I am looking for... then I'm all for it.

While I have no power and I don't want to pretend like I do, I think this is exactly what Jason Garrett is looking for and is why I admire him so much. Jason Garrett gets it. Few coaches in the league do. Jason Garrett understands that it takes a group effort to attain success and he understands what it takes to build that type of group effort.

If the Cowboys can combine my philosophy for the defense and the philosophy I prescribed for the running attack yesterday, that gives the Cowboys an offensive and defensive identity. That is what leads teams to succeed.

I'm ready for 2014 on steroids (Not literally).



I've been blogging about sports and music for almost eight years now. I also work in media relations for a New York sports team, so I understand the bridge between the outlets writing about a team and the team monitoring content. I hope to bring something new to Inside The Star, getting deep into draft work, breakdowns and I always come with a strong and passionate opinion. I'm very active on Twitter, so ask questions, comment on stuff, etc. and I will almost definitely respond to you in some sort of debate!

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Star Blog

DL Kerry Hyder Helps Solidify A Re-Tooled Defensive Line

Kevin Brady

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DL Kerry Hyder Helps Solidify A Re-Tooled Defensive Line

The Cowboys got off to a busy start to week two of free agency on Monday, and capped it off by signing defensive lineman Kerry Hyder to a one year deal.

The former Detroit Lion could be classified as a "one year wonder" of sorts, but when you look closer at his career arc, you see that Hyder can provide upside at multiple positions across the Cowboys' defensive front.

After having 8 sacks and 19 quarterback hits as a defensive end in 2016, Hyder missed all of 2017 with an achilles injury. Last season, under new head coach Matt Patricia, Hyder was moved out of position and forced to play as a nose tackle and 5-technique more often.

So, the last time Hyder was healthy and playing in the role in he will likely fill in Dallas, he was productive. Yes that was a couple of seasons ago but it makes Hyder worth the one year deal he received from the Cowboys.

What exactly is that role, though?

I see Hyder primarily as a rotational 3-technique for the Cowboys. At just 270 pounds Hyder isn't going to play over the center often, and won't be very useful as a 1-technique against the run. He's at his best when lining on the outside shade of an offensive lineman, where he can use his get-off and quickness to create pressure.

Kerry Hyder can also fill in at defensive end if needed, especially when the Cowboys go into a nickel package. Hyder is similar to Tyrone Crawford in his ability to move inside and out, but is a bit better of a pass rusher than Crawford when at his best.

Hyder is a high energy, motor, and character defensive lineman who will fit right in with a Rod Marinelli unit. If it all clicks for Hyder and he regains his 2016 form, the Cowboys will have stolen an impressive pass rushing defensive lineman who can win from multiple positions.

If Hyder is actually a "one year wonder" who is more of his 2018-self with the Cowboys despite being put in a better role to succeed, Dallas can move on rather quickly because he is only on a one year deal.

This is a smart signing by the Cowboys front office as they look to re-tool their defensive line, and avoid being pigeon-holed into over-drafting at a certain position this Spring.



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New Cowboys WR Randall Cobb Announces His Signing With A Fantastic GIF

Kevin Brady

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New Cowboys WR Randall Cobb Announces His Signing With A Fantastic GIF

On Tuesday this week it became official the Cowboys would sign former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb to a one year deal worth an estimated $5 million. After his visit Monday morning, speculation around whether and when he would sign was swirling.

Cobb confirmed his intentions to join the Cowboys himself, and did so with some A+ GIF usage on Twitter.

Randall Cobb on Twitter

Randall Cobb on Twitter

https://t.co/9H9xfApFqe

In case you don't know, the GIF Cobb tweeted is Woody from Toy Story, emerging confidently and tipping his cap.

This was Cobb signaling that he his a Cowboy, and he appears excited to be joining America's Team. Cobb also received some social media love from his now former teammates in Green Bay, including wide receiver Davante Adams and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

https://twitter.com/tae15adams/status/1108158105957920770

RJ Ochoa on Twitter

Aaron Rodgers had some parting words for new Cowboys WR Randall Cobb

Clearly Randall Cobb made an impact in Green Bay, both on and off the field. Let's hope he can replicate some of that in Dallas now that he has joined the Cowboys.



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Malik McDowell Is Well Worth The Risk For The Dallas Cowboys

Kevin Brady

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Malik McDowell, Michigan State

The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly brining defensive lineman Malik McDowell into The Star this week for a visit, as they decide whether or not to potentially sign him for the 2019 season.

McDowell is a former second round pick of the Seattle Seahawks, who fell to day two because of what scouts call "off the field" or "character" concerns. McDowell did not last long with Seahawks, as he was released in 2017 following an ATV accident in which he reportedly suffered "extensive brain and eye trauma" according to Charles Robinson.

None of us know much about who Malik McDowell is as a person, or what concerns their really should be with his health. But what I do know is that on tape at Michigan State, McDowell was a top 5-10 player in the 2017 draft class. He was a stud, and has the traits to continue to be a stud in the NFL.

2017 NFL Draft: Scouting Michigan State DL Malik McDowell - Slant Sports

The 2017 NFL Draft is chock full of talented, athletic, and productive defensive linemen. While most of the draft pundits have focused on EDGE rushers thus far, the defensive tackle class also possesses some of this year's top NFL prospects. Arguably the best of those defensive tackles is Michigan State's Malik McDowell.

Back in 2017 I wrote a full scouting report on McDowell, detailing why he earned such a high grade on my board. McDowell is a versatile linemen who is explosive off the ball, powerful and rangy against the run, and a skilled pass rusher who plays with a high motor. What more could you really ask for?

"McDowell is a patient pass rusher at times, setting up the blocker how he likes and then beating them with ease. McDowell’s ability to swipe hands off helps him greatly, but his quick swim is his most effective pass rush move.

On this play he uses that swim to perfection, forcing the center to power down to the right before swimming back to the other side."

nfldraft malik mcdowell 3

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

When the Spartans went to a three man pass rushing front, McDowell moved to the EDGE often and made plays with his quick, active hands and impressive swim move. He was much more impressive on the interior, however, and could be a direct replacement for David Irving as an explosive and powerful 3-technique for the Cowboys.

nfldraft malik mcdowell 4

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

I love that the Cowboys are bringing McDowell in for a free agent visit. His price will likely be low, as he is yet to play in an NFL game over the last two years, but his ceiling remains very high if he is healthy. It's rare for a player with his college production, natural ability, and measurables to completely fail in the NFL.

Maybe all McDowell needs is a second chance to get his head right and prove that he belongs in the league. Maybe he flames out quickly and can't get on the field due to "off the field" stuff. Or, maybe he simply isn't healthy enough to contribute as an NFL player. Regardless, for the price he'll likely command, McDowell is well worth the risk if the Cowboys are willing to take it.



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