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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.
Starters Make Cowboys Serious Contenders, But Depth is a Concern
Playing in the National Football Conference, the Dallas Cowboys have a difficult task ahead of them if they are to be serious Super Bowl contenders. Even still, they've become a very underrated football team due to their 9-7 record last season. The Cowboys struggled in many areas and with the Philadelphia Eagles crowned as Super Bowl Champions, everyone has forgotten about America's Team.
2017 was an awful year for the Cowboys. It seemed like a roller coaster of success, putting up an impressive performance one week only to disappoint the next one. Let's be honest with ourselves here and talk about what really ended the Cowboys' last season.
As much as we talk about how there shouldn't be any excuses in football - the Eagles made a huge statement by winning it all with a backup QB and other key starters missing - we can't deny the impact of these injuries.
Anthony Hitchens, Sean Lee, Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliott all missed some time last year, affecting the team's performance week in and week out. Had the starters been healthy, the truth is this team would've been in the playoffs.
Heading into 2018, the Cowboys will face a very similar situation. This year, starters make Dallas a serious contender. Even if they're playing in a conference that will feature a lot of quality teams, the Cowboys are a team that could beat any team in the league if healthy.
Even the dreaded wide receiver position - which has been famous this offseason for the lack of a #1 receiver - won't be as bad as we make it out to be starter-wise. A starting trio of Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup and Cole Beasley doesn't really sound bad.
Heck, not even Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods starting at safety is concerning. They have what it takes to be decent starters. Sure, Heath isn't a guy who will make the Pro Bowl, but his skills will show on the field once the season starts in September.
The Cowboys' starters will do just fine this season. If the team's fate is up to them, they are in a very good spot. The same can not be said about depth, though.
Except for the defensive line, every other position lacks depth. If Sean Lee goes down, the linebackers stop looking like a three-headed monster. Same goes for the cornerbacks. Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis seem like a good group but as soon as one of them suffers an injury, the Cowboys will be in trouble.
We're in for an exciting season with a lot of young talent waiting to breakout. The Cowboys are underrated this year. They may not be among the NFC's favorites, but they truly have what it takes to replicate the success they had in 2016. However, it seems like circumstances have to be ideal for them to make a run for the Lombardi Trophy.
With a little bit of luck, they'll bounce back this season.
The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up
Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.
The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.
As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.
Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.
Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.
Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.
Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.
I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.
All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.
How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?
Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?
With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.
Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.
I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.
I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?
Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.
Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.
Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.
Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.
Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?
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