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Was The Cowboys Divisional Loss To Green Bay A Microcosm Of Their Season?
There are going to be a lot of long and arduous days in the coming weeks and months where we struggle moving past the 2016 Dallas Cowboys season.
If you scan the confines of Dallas Cowboys Social Media then you'll see a lot of debate as to whether this season was successful or simply deemed a failure. Obviously you can argue success because of the large discovery of talent, but unless you are holding that beautiful Lombardi Trophy in February... well you get the idea.
While trying to wrap my own head around this whole thing in the immediate aftermath, I found myself identifying a lot of my feelings about the whole season directly to the Divisional Loss against Green Bay. Sometimes that happens in instances like this, our feelings about certain events across a whole season intertwine and ultimately marry into the same thing.
When you look at this game in a vacuum, you look at a Dallas Cowboys team that put themselves in an early 21-3 hole. Hope was all but dead, it felt like we'd seen this horror movie before, and people were clamoring about the state of the backup quarterback position.
Wasn't that how the 2016 season started... in general? When Tony Romo went down with an injury during the third week of the preseason it felt a whole hell of a lot like going down 21-3 with your season on the line. We were just one year removed from understanding the ramifications of not responsibly-planning for this situation, and we scratched our heads about the backup quarterback position.
Just like he did across the entire season for Cowboys loyalists, Dak Prescott put forth a Herculean effort after this hole was dug for his team. He fought, fought, and fought some more... pulling off the damn near impossible.
Of course throughout said effort even Dak Prescott showed a sense of humanity - like he did against the New York Giants - when he threw an ill-timed and porous interception. A performance with a single blemish is pretty much the story of young Dakota whether across the entire year or in this single game.
The Cowboys weren't without their own interceptions, though. Jeff Heath - the GOAT - intercepted Aaron Rodgers. This is real life. We're not just talking about any errant Aaron Rodgers throw, either. Aaron Rodgers was in the middle - really, the end - of the longest interception-less streak of his career. Jeff Heath of all people picking him off is in and of itself the story of this defense, isn't it? A group not expected to do much, but turning in performance after performance against all realms of logic and supposed records.
What about Ezekiel Elliott? His 2016 campaign was one of the more impressive individual ones put forth by anyone in the NFL, and he continually showed us the ability to do more and more and more to help his team. This effort was seen in this game when he hit the B Button on Clay Matthews with the most incredible spin move ever. That's who Zeke is - a do-whatever-it-takes-and-do-it-in-a-flashy-way type of guy that gave us his absolute all, so much so that he almost got Jason Garrett to curse on Monday!
The narrative about Dez Bryant entering this game was that he was looking for revenge from two years ago's catch. Dez insisted all week long that he'd put that behind him and was focused on today - a Jason Garrett philosophy fully adopted by the star receiver. Dez went through a lot this season... another injury that sidelined him for a while, and the devastating loss of his father. Through it all Bryant stepped up as a leader across the year in new ways, and that was captured with a performance for the ages against Green Bay.
On the other side of the ball, when Jeff Heath wasn't ballhawking Aaron Rodgers... Sean Lee was making plays. An All-Pro season is what we've grown to expect from Sean Lee, and the ability to be fully healthy across a season cashed those expectations in for the real thing this year. It was all that and more as "The General" was the lone pillar of excellence on this defense in Sunday's loss, giving his all on every single play.
Perhaps the largest sense of the season that diluted into this game was Jason Garrett's #FinishThisFight mantra. His team fell down 21-3 to what many people believe is one of the three best quarterbacks to ever play this game. They never blinked, never doubted themselves for one second... nobody exemplified this sentiment more than Jason Garrett himself. Even when Dak Prescott threw his interception, Jason Garrett could be seen mouthing that everything was alright - a common criticism of the Head Coach many moons ago.
Everything was alright, though. Coach Garrett's team found ways to put themselves in a position to win. They - as he demands - relied on each other and almost pulled off the impossible... just like this team as a whole on the year.
We talked so much about how the 2016 Dallas Cowboys weren't real in a sense. It isn't real - a reality we're now being forced to accept - for two rookies to come into the NFL at running back and quarterback and just go win the Super Bowl. It was the stuff of movies and a classic Hollywood blockbuster.
Isn't that who the Cowboys were all season long, though? They always have been the top one, but in 2016 they were undeniably the NFL's only blockbuster as they saved ratings that were otherwise down week after week. The Cowboys were the heroes everyone wanted to root for.
Sometimes in Hollywood blockbusters the heroes don't win, but isn't that what makes the story riveting and powerful? If the heroes always won, things would be predictable. We have to see the hero fall in order to understand just how heroic he is - just ask Tony Romo.
The Dallas Cowboys almost pulled off something miraculous this season, and it's going to hurt for a long time that they didn't. That's exactly what happened on Sunday. A season's worth of drama, rise, fall, intrigue, sorrow, and joy was condensed into four quarters of high-octane action. This one didn't go our way, but if we're to follow the course laid out for us... it certainly feels like the next one will.
The Cowboys are the heroes, and ultimately the heroes win. We will win. We are Hollywood.
2018 In Review: Byron Jones Emerges As CB1
Heading into the 2018 season Byron Jones was being asked to prove himself. The former first round pick had fallen out of the coaches' good graces during his third season, though many of his struggles could be attributed to those very coaches which were then questioning his ability.
Being asked to play out of position, or at least in a spot which did not maximize his natural ability, Jones struggled in 2017. Too often he was playing in the box as a safety where his lack of physicality was exposed by the opponent's run game. This was mostly due to the coaching staff falling in love with his tight-end-erasing ability in man coverage, but backfired when overused as a safety.
Once hired the following offseason, Kris Richard and company decided to move Byron Jones to cornerback full time, allowing him to utilize his excellent coverage skills and athletic ability to the fullest, rather than putting him at a disadvantage in the box.
The results? Well, Jones had one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football, earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his young career.
Byron Jones had a dominant season for Dallas
Pro Football Focus graded Jones as the sixth best cornerback in all of football last season, allowing just 0.79 yards per coverage snap. Despite not having an interception on the season, Jones still earned national recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league.
Down the stretch of the season, Chidobe Awuzie started to play up to the level which fans had hoped for during the preseason. He had been sticky in coverage most of the year, but now he was making plays on the ball at a much better rate, forcing incompletions. This led to an increase in targets to Jones' side, and though the increase resulted in more catches given up by the number one cornerback, I don't think Jones' play faltered as much as some will have you believe.
The fact is, when you get targeted more you are bound to give up more catches and yards. The key is to force them into contested catches, and make things as difficult for the receiver as possible when targeted.
Byron Jones continued to do this all season long, and fans should be excited for the next step of his growth in 2019.
Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial
Por muchos años, el tema del tope salarial ha sido un tema sensible para los Dallas Cowboys. Entre dinero muerto y otros problemas, el equipo ha tenido una situación delicada en este aspecto. Sin embargo, para la temporada del 2019 tienen más espacio de lo que estamos acostumbrados.
Según Over The Cap, los Cowboys tendrán aproximadamente 48 millones de dólares disponibles en 2019. Es importante recalcar que este número no es definitivo y puede cambiar. Año tras año, esta administración ha sido aficionada de reestructurar los contratos de ciertos veteranos para liberar espacio salarial constantemente. Además de esto, hay varios jugadores bajo contrato que el equipo podría decidir cortar para liberar aún más dinero.
Al ver sólo 48 millones disponibles, es complicado imaginar un escenario en que el equipo logre satisfacer todos sus objetivos. Hay bastantes candidatos a grandes extensiones en el equipo, principalmente dos jugadores. En una liga en la que quarterback es la posición más importante, la segunda más importante podría ser la del caza cabezas, cuyo objetivo es ir tras el quarterback contrario.
Pues en Dallas, hoy dos jugadores en estas posiciones que hay que extender. El más urgente sin duda es el defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence se puso el jersey del equipo cuando este lo designó a jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia. Afortunadamente, el atleta de 26 años la hizo de soldado y jugó sin amenazar con faltar a entrenamientos ni pretemporada.
Lo que sí comentó es que no pasaría por lo mismo en 2019. Ahora, el momento está aquí y es tiempo de que los Cowboys lo extiendan. El valor de Lawrence es difícil de predecir, pero es bastante seguro que se acercará a los números de Khalil Mack. Mack hizo historia ganando un contrato que en promedio gana 23.5 millones al año. Si bien no anticiparía que lo supere, la cifra estará cerca al contrato del defensivo de los Chicago Bears.
Además está Dak Prescott, cuyo contrato probablemente estará por encima de los 25 millones anuales. Son contratos caros, pero son piezas fundamentales para el equipo. Definitivamente se les tiene que pagar a ambos. Son pilares que año tras año buscan equipos en toda la NFL.
Además de esto, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley y más podrían tener un impacto en el tope salarial. Algunos buscan un contrato nuevo, otros una extensión. Pero honestamente, me parece que habrá más espacio en el tope salarial de lo que pensamos. Sólo es cuestión de tiempo para que los Cowboys comiencen a reestructurar a sus veteranos para ahorrarse unos cuantos millones para utilizar en agencia libre.
Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford entre otros pueden ser buenas opciones para comenzar este proceso. Antes era Jason Witten uno de los candidatos favoritos para este proceso, pero él ya se encuentra comentando partidos para ESPN. En Inside The Star, continuaremos actualizándote con contenido al día de los Dallas Cowboys.
Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?
Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.
The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.
The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.
Lock Down the Big Guns
Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.
Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.
As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.
Adding New Talent
One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.
Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.
If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.
Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.
Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.
The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.
As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.
Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.
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