I love lists. Love them.
What do I need to get done tomorrow? Let me make a to-do list. What are the five best movies ever? List those bad boys. Which Deniece Williams song makes my heart sing the most? Give me a list. (Spoiler: It's Let's Hear It for the Boy).
Someone who might love lists more than I do is NFL Network, or as they would have you believe... the NFL players.
Since 2011 the NFL Network has put together an annual "NFL Top 100" list. The list is pretty simple - the Top 100 Players in the NFL as voted on by the players.
That last bit is a little tricky. Yes, technically the votes that go into this list are 100% players on NFL rosters, but I can guarantee you that the Tom Bradys of the world aren't in on it. As a result the sanctity of the list is left in the hands of players who are simply prisoners of the moment and have no memory past the most recent season.
The 2016 version of the Top 100 list gets going tonight on NFL Network, and we here at Inside The Star were wondering how America's Team is going to do.
So how have the Dallas Cowboys fared in the history of the NFL Top 100? Glad you asked. Keep in mind that the list is released around May so the year of these lists precedes that numerical season.
|DeMarcus Ware (12th)||DeMarcus Ware (6th)||DeMarcus Ware (12th)||Dez Bryant (25th)||DeMarco Murray (4th)|
|Jason Witten (36th)||Jason Witten (75th)||Dez Bryant (35th)||DeMarcus Ware (56th)||Dez Bryant (15th)|
|Andre Gurode (57th)||Tony Romo (91st)||Jason Witten (41st)||Tony Romo (71st)||Tony Romo (34th)|
|Miles Austin (70th)||Tyron Smith (78th)||Tyron Smith (36th)|
|Tony Romo (72nd)||DeMarco Murray (87th)||Jason Witten (93rd)|
|Jay Ratliff (75th)||Jason Witten (98th)|
Bolded Names Are Active Players On The Dallas Cowboys Roster
The Cowboys average 4.6 players on the NFL Top 100 every year, but since we can't have a player who's value is .6 (we'll let the Eagles have those guys like Sam Bradford) we'll round it down to an even 4. That number is working well for Cowboys Nation these days, right? Ezekiel Elliott was selected with the 4th Overall Pick and Dak Prescott is going to wear #4. Sweet.
So who will the four Dallas Cowboys on the list be? We need to remember that the "players" voting on this list have really, really, really short term memories. For instance, it would not shock me at all for Tony Romo to be completely absent from this list due to the fact that he only played, poetically, four games last year.
Here are our official predictions regarding the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016.
Jason Witten Gets The Sixth Ring
The only Dallas Cowboy who has made the list each year since its inception is one who I believe we all take for granted - Jason Witten.
Witten has become so good and so dependable that it's actually boring. He's like the San Antonio Spurs of the tight end position. It's exhausting to watch him play game after game, make catch after catch, and be clutch all the time.
Jason is a household name when it comes to the tight end position. The NFL literally hands the players voting a list and says to write down their 100 best players. If I gave you a pen and paper to do the same, don't you think Witten's name would come up? Of course you do. He's making the list for a sixth straight time.
Tyron Smith Makes It To The 20s
I can't emphasize how big enough of a factor the whole "household name" quality is with this list. The players are essentially writing down the first hundred names that come to mind.
Tyron Smith has established himself as one of the premiere left tackles in the game - arguably the best. Consider the big names that were hurt last season: Tony Romo, Le'Veon Bell, Jamaal Charles, etc.. When the voters think of stars, no pun intended, they'll think of Tyron. Look for him to be one of the top two tackles on the list.
Dez Bryant Falls To The 50s
Mr. Throw Up The X only played in nine games during the 2015 season, and he was without #9 for six of them. As a result he ended the season with a disappointing 31 catches for 401 yards and 3 touchdowns.
With other receivers across the NFL having spectacular seasons in 2015 (Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones, and Brandon Marshall off the top of my head) Dez will likely be one of the lower receivers on the list. He'll still make it, he's Dez Bryant after all, but if you were basing the list off of 2015, which most of these guys are, it'd be hard to justify putting him above a lot of people.
Zack Martin Makes His NFL Top 100 Debut
Pretend that you literally just started following the NFL a year ago. (This is how Chip Kelly builds NFL teams, FYI).
When it comes to the best at their respective positions one name would undoubtedly stick out - Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl Guard Zack Martin. In two seasons Zack has as many Pro Bowls and was named a First-Team All-Pro in 2014 as a rookie. You'd be pretty impressed, right?
The voting for this is typically done around the Super Bowl as far as the calendar is concerned, which somewhat explains why Zack didn't make the list last year. Similarly to Tyron Smith people identify him with success and with the greatness of the Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line. He'll make it.
Sean Lee Squeaks In For A Surprise 5th Cowboy
I know that I said we were going to round down from 4.6 but the rules of math, logic, and my own heart are suggesting that we round up! Raise the roof up in this hizzy!
Sean Lee was, shockingly, one of the lone points of consistency when it came to health for the 2015 Dallas Cowboys. He played in 14 games, something he's only done three times in his career, and he racked up 76 tackles along the way. That's the 19th most of all NFL players and the 12th most among those that saw snaps at the linebacker position.
Even more wind in the Sean Lee sails is the fact that perhaps his finest game of the season came in a Monday Night Football matchup in Washington on a cold December night. This was a national game that plenty undoubtedly saw that conveniently took place shortly before voting likely began. 2015 saw Sean Lee make his first Pro Bowl, and now it's going to give him his first spot on the NFL Top 100.
It wouldn't be fun if we didn't get a little crazy, right? Here are three bold predictions for the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016 List:
- Darren McFadden Makes The List -- The NFL's 4th Leading Rusher has to be remembered, right?
- Dan Bailey Is The Only Kicker On The List -- Split 'em. All day long.
- Byron Jones Jumps Onto The List -- We weren't the only ones who saw what he did.
Which Cowboys Benefit From David Irving’s Suspension?
While losing David Irving for the first four weeks of 2018 is a bad thing for the Dallas Cowboys defensive line, it does create opportunities for some of the other defensive tackles. Who has the most to gain from Irving's suspension?
Because he was mostly going to be used inside as the 3-technique DT, David's absence will naturally benefit the guys who are best suited to play that role. Thankfully, Dallas isn't lacking for those types of players.
Veteran Tyrone Crawford can use all the playing time he can get. As a likely salary cap casualty next year, Crawford doesn't want to get buried on the depth chart as Dallas focuses on their younger players who project to stick around beyond 2018.
With Irving out, Dallas will likely lean on Tyrone as they often do when someone is missing on the defensive line. With more talent now at defensive end, Crawford was going to be competing with Irving, Maliek Collins, Jihad Ward, and other younger guys for work at tackle.
But now there's a problem, and it's easy to slide Crawford into the 3-tech role that Dallas once envisioned him being a star at. Remember, it was their projection of Tyrone as a breakout DT that got him his big contract to begin with.
Yes, Irving's only gone for four weeks. Dallas will still be giving him work in camp based on the role he should fill for the majority of the season. But that's why a veteran like Tyrone Crawford is a great temporary plug-in, because he doesn't need all of the practice reps to step in and perform.
Another key beneficiary could be third-year DT Maliek Collins. Last season, Collins got stuck playing 1-technique and not getting the same opportunities to make plays and get noticed that he had his rookie year.
But now Dallas has several guys in Jihad Ward, Richard Ash, and Brian Price who can play the 1-tech role, which will hopefully get Collins back where he belongs. Maliek's athleticism belongs a little further away from center, letting him try to take on guards in single coverage.
Collins is dealing with a foot issue now but should be back for the preseason. That's enough time for him to be where he needs to be Week One, provided he's healthy.
How Dallas would balance playing time between Collins and Tyrone Crawford could be a matter of how much they play certain schemes. One could see Collins, the bigger guy, playing more in the base defense and then Crawford being used in passing situations.
There is always a lot of rotation in a Rod Marinelli line, so discussions about playing time can get a little silly. Unless you're a true stud like DeMarcus Lawrence who you don't want to take off the field, the Cowboys like to keep guys fresh.
But that's why this is a big opportunity; David Irving has that stud potential. He's the kind of talent who could keep solid players like Crawford and Collins out of view if he hits his stride.
For the first four weeks, though, Irving will be in the NFL doghouse and Dallas will likely lean on its two most experienced defensive tackles to fill the void. There will be more reps for guys like Datone Jones and Jihad Ward too, but Crawford and Collins have way more skins on the wall
That trust should keep them on the field more while David Irving's suspended, and perhaps beyond.
BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year
For the second consecutive year, Defensive Lineman David Irving is being suspended for four games by the NFL. This time, the suspension comes after Irving violated the NFL's policy on substance of abuses, as Ian Rapoport reported.
Cowboys DL David Irving is being suspended 4 games for violating @NFL policy on substance of abuses, sources say. Another big-time D-linemen hit with a suspension for Dallas.
Irving will play for the Dallas Cowboys after the team placed a second-round tender on him earlier in the year. Why no team was interested in picking such a talented defensive tackle for a second round pick is becoming clearer and clearer as the time goes on.
In April, when David Irving got hacked by his former girlfriend one of the tweets that stood out the most was one which said "Wait until you all find about his failed drug tests." Now, we're seeing what the tweet was about.
Irving is a very talented player that could have a great career ahead of him. Of course, with this being the second consecutive year in which he receives a suspension to start the season, one could question how much he wants it.
The Cowboys will play the Panthers, Giants, Seahawks and Lions to start the season. They'll have to do it with one of their most promising defensive players in David Irving.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll keep you updated with this story and every Dallas Cowboys news.
Cowboys Offense Finds Rhythm to End Minicamp, Hurns and Gallup Stand Out
The Dallas Cowboys are back in offseason mode, concluding their OTAs and minicamp from The Star. With a hiatus until training camp, it was important for several high-profile players to make a strong first impression on the 2018 season. From the start of mini camp, these impressions were left mostly by Rod Marinelli's defense and -- more specifically -- Kris Richard's young group of cornerbacks.
Still working through significant change on the offensive side of the ball, the Cowboys did rally on day three under Quarterback Dak Prescott to put out a better performance. The Cowboys coaching staff should love their lasting memories of both FA acquisition Wide Receiver Allen Hurns and rookie Michael Gallup.
There is a strong chance that these two receivers will be the Cowboys starters in Oxnard for training camp. We have heard a lot about the impact new WR Coach Sanjay Lal has had on his group, slowing the game down to focus on route running. This will give the team's rotation of unproven receivers a chance with Prescott, as he can focus on throwing to a 'spot' more often.
One spot that Prescott has struggled to hit in two seasons as the starter in Dallas is the back of the end zone for fade routes. A red zone go-to under Scott Linehan, free agent WR Dez Bryant was often the intended target on these missed passes.
Less of a route running technician and closer to the mold of a physical player like Bryant, Allen Hurns emerging as the Cowboys #1 option would solve a lot of uncertainty at the WR position. In yesterday's practice, Hurns was able to haul in a perfect ball from Prescott on the fade as he beat Byron Jones.
It's going to take some time for Jones to readjust to playing cornerback, but the vision for Kris Richard of him and Chidobe Awuzie starting on the outside is a great one. In a battle of proven players, Hurns got the best of Jones to spark the Cowboys offense at the right time.
Overall, there should be no reason to panic about (well, really anything from mini camp) the Cowboys offense right now, and plenty of reasons to be excited about what this defense will develop into.
Once the pads come on at training camp, the players the Cowboys are paying to play at an elite level will start to shine, including their newly re-signed Guard Zack Martin -- the highest paid guard in the league now. There are no doubts that the bread and butter for this offense will be handing the ball to Ezekiel Elliott behind this wall of an offensive line.
From this increase in competition in the trenches, we'll also get more meaningful battles along the defensive line. In shorts and helmets for now, the Cowboys secondary was given their chance at mini camp, and came out solid early.
Another player they've struggled to truly corral though is Michael Gallup. Perhaps pressing a bit thanks to his limited opportunities thus far, Jourdan Lewis was taken across the field by Gallup on a misfire from Cooper Rush.
This is nothing new for Gallup however, who's been ahead of the curve on creating the desired separation as a "violent" receiver on the outside.
A steal with the 81st overall pick in this year's draft, Gallup has a long way to go in beating out the likes of Terrance Williams, Cedrick Wilson (limited through this portion of the offseason with injuries), and even Cole Beasley, who's received some reps on the outside.
With both Hurns and Gallup making plays on the Cowboys final practice until late July, it's easy to let the mind wander with possibilities of the Cowboys offense playing at full strength against a defense that might be up for the challenge better than ever compared to year's past.
As always, the practice fields of Oxnard will serve as a battle ground for a young but deep Cowboys team to earn their spots on the 53-man roster, one that surely won't have room for all of the wide receiver hopefuls seen this week in mini camp.
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