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Will December bring another bitter end for the Cowboys?

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Cowboys Blog - Will December bring another bitter end for the Cowboys?

Dallas enters the stretch run with the NFC East there for the taking.  Again.  Fourth time’s a charm….?

It’s all so familiar.  Cowboys fans have sat tied and blindfolded in darkness for much of the past decade, not knowing when, or how often, a two-by-four to the knees would strike.  Football torture can be a cruel, cruel thing.

So forgive our Pavlovian flinch each time someone utters “playoffs” or implications involving January football.  Such is the result of the constant hope and disappointment that regurgitated 8-8s brings.  Season after season of flawed squads in win-or-go-home finales has calloused and conditioned this fan base to expect the worst.  It’s just been too long.

(Good gosh what it must be like to be a Guantanamo Eagles fan.)

This certainly isn’t the first time Dallas has sat in decent shape heading into Thanksgiving, but it’s been an annual striptease that ends in a $300 bar tab.  But this go at it should be from 8-3, rather than the 6-4, 5-5, and 6-5 in recent seasons.

Football logic, if there is such a thing, says that this time is different.  The group is far more fundamentally sound, balanced, constructed, and focused for a stretch run.  It’s not all Romo-or-else as it was before, with Murray running wild and a transformed defense that looks the part of a real NFL unit.  And health, dare I say it, seems hauntingly on the Cowboys’ side.

But…..I don’t know.  Squeamishness is setting in as we file into the shadows of December, where orcs and gremlins normally ruin the holidays.  That damned Pavlov and his wicked ways.

Tony Romo’s back has to hold up for Thanksgiving, just a few hours after a Sunday nighter in New York.  His health going forward is paramount, as the alternative against Arizona proved beyond doubt.  True, the run game and defense make this a much more December-worthy team, and far less codependent on Romo, especially in the cold, wet, and wind that awaits.  Winning low-scoring affairs is not laughable anymore because this is thankfully not like recent Dallas teams.

Over there in the far corner sits Philadelphia.  The Eagles, too, have their demons to exorcise, despite the national fawning over Chip Kelly and his hocus-pocus offense.  One game, they’re tearing through opponents like high schoolers, then another, they can’t score an offensive touchdown.  Their running game is disappointing, as is their red zone offense.  Mark Sanchez is apparently the next Joe Montana in this offense by all reports, butt fumble and years of prior failures conveniently pushed aside.  They lead the league by a mile with nine defensive/special team scores, which isn’t sustainable.

So how will the NFC East end?  Here’s my week-by-week take.

Week 11:  The Packers drop the Eagles to 7-3 this weekend while the Cowboys heal.  It’s a dead heat with both head-to-head matchups looming soon.

Week 12:  A healthy Dallas squad rolls over a Giants team that is giving up massive rushing totals and is basically already in offseason mode.  The Eagles pound Tennessee, also done for this season already.  Both teams are 8-3 heading into the Thanksgiving showdown.

Week 13:  Mark Sanchez is not one for the bright lights of the national stage.  His history says so, and Dallas, thanks to an easy win in New York and quick exit for Romo, has a healthy quarterback despite short rest.  Nothing is easy about this classic all-timer, but Dallas manages a 27-24 win to take a one game lead in the division.

Week 14:  Dallas gets another team that’s imploding from within in Chicago the following Thursday.  The coach and quarterback are on the hot seat, and Jay Cutler is in full pout mode.  Dallas wins to put the pressure on Philadelphia to keep pace, and the Eagles have Seattle coming to town fighting for their own season.  This is the critical game for Philadelphia because a loss here is devastating for them.  Cowboys fans will be riveted to this game, but will be disappointed as the Eagles get this done at home.  Dallas maintains a one-game lead.

Week 15:  The rematch at Philly brings a few days extra rest for Dallas, thanks to back-to-back Thursday games, and that could bode well, as could nighttime temperatures that favor the better running team.  However, a road gremlin bites Dallas, and they drop a close one to the Eagles, which brings the race back even at 10-4 each.  Could have ended this there, but didn’t. Ouch.

Week 16:  From here, the schedule appears to benefit Philadelphia.  However, the Eagles get surprised by a feisty Redskins team that is under pressure by the home fans and owner, and the Eagles drop one unexpectedly to their bitter rival from just down the road.  Unfortunately, the Cowboys home woes continue, and they drop a close one to Indianapolis and fail to take advantage again.  Both are now 10-5.

Week 17:  With the division hanging in the balance, both teams step forward and finish strong.  The Eagles beat New York, and Dallas wins in Washington with a much better plan against Jim Haslett’s blitz scheme.    Dallas and Philadelphia finish with identical 11-5 records.

So now what?  This is where it gets really crazy as it takes the fourth tiebreaker to determine a winner.

Dallas and Philly split the head-to-head, both teams finish 4-2 in the division, and both teams are 10-4 against common opponents.  Dallas wins the NFC East based on conference record with a one-game advantage (10-4) over Philly (9-5).  Both teams are playoff bound, but Dallas doesn’t earn a bye.

All that is to say, whether I’ve pegged it or I’ve got it all out-of-order, we’re all still bound and blindfolded, hoping we don’t get another whack across our knees.  Let’s hope Dr. Pavlov took December off this year.



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Did a Year Away Help Rejuvenate TE Jason Witten’s Game?

Brian Martin

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Did a Year Away Help Rejuvenate TE Jason Witten's Game?

Jason Witten is 37 years old, retired from the NFL after the completion of 2017 season to try his luck as an announcer in the booth, but has now decided to come out of retirement to rejoin the Dallas Cowboys? It seems a little unrealistic to think he can come back after a year away from the game and pick up where he left off, but it sounds as if he's like a Phoenix rising from the ashes.

Jason Witten has been the talk of Dallas Cowboys OTA practices so far. These practices are unpadded and basically just an opportunity to do install some of the offensive and defensive plays, but that doesn't make them any less important. One of the things that has been somewhat surprising though is how talked up the future Hall of Famer has become.

Here is what Head Coach Jason Garrett had to say recently about Jason Witten's return:

“Yeah, absolutely. He’s been excited about every part of it ever since I met him and that hasn’t changed,” coach Jason Garrett said. “The work that he’s done in the weight room in the off-season program has been outstanding. His testing numbers and all of that are what they’ve been or even better. And he just has an unbelievable way about him. Tremendous passion for the game. And he demonstrates that every day. Witt looks good. He’s excited to be back and we’re certainly fortunate to have him back.”

The main thing that stands out from Garrett's quote to me is how Jason Witten looks just as good, if not better after not playing at all in 2018. To think that his testing numbers are possibly even better is unfathomable. We typically don't see NFL players in their mid-30s retire from the game and then return just as good, or maybe even better than they were before.

It's inhuman!

Jason Witten, Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten

Maybe that's just what Jason Witten is, a little inhuman. Maybe he's found the secret to turning the clock back just a little bit. Or, maybe he found the fountain the youth and didn't tell anybody. Regardless, there's no doubt Witten will be a welcomed addition to the Cowboys offense, especially if he's gained a step.

I don't know about all of you, but I'm hoping the year away from the game did him some good. I honestly thought he made the right decision to retire prior to the 2018 season. It just looked like father time was catching up to him in 2017. But, hopefully all he needed was a little time away from the grind he's been putting his body through for over a decade.

Whatever he's done hasn't gone unnoticed though. Even Quarterback Dak Prescott has noticed and said he's on to Witten's scheme.

“I guess the trick is to take a year off because he’s definitely gotten better, stronger and faster,” Prescott said. “He hasn’t lost a step.”

I'm not afraid to admit I wasn't too excited to see Witten come out of retirement and rejoin the Cowboys at first. I was skeptical he could be the player he once was after a year away from the game. But, all of this talk about him looking as good as he once was, perhaps better, has me really looking forward to seeing him on the field once again.

Do you think a year away has rejuvenated Jason Witten's game?



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Cowboys en Español: El Verdadero Cambio en La Ofensiva

Mauricio Rodriguez

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3 Quick Fixes to Jumpstart Cowboys Anemic Offense

Los Dallas Cowboys tuvieron un interesante 2018. La ofensiva dejo mucho que desear toda la primera mitad de la temporada cuando carecían de un receptor número uno. No fue hasta media temporada cuando consiguieron a Amari Cooper de los Oakland Raiders, que la ofensiva comenzó a verse realmente amenazante. Siendo sinceros, el cuerpo de receptores de los Cowboys lucía muy débil al inicio y Michael Gallup aún no conseguía mucho tiempo de juego en el emparrillado. Incluso una vez en el equipo, a pesar de las grandes hazañas de Cooper en Dallas, la ofensiva no terminó de dar el siguiente paso.

Sí, con Amari en el equipo vimos un equipo de Cowboys que movía constantemente las cadenas e incluso se convirtió en una de las mejores unidades en tercera oportunidad en la liga, pero no fue suficiente. Los problemas en zona roja persistieron y continuamos viendo una selección de jugadas muy cuestionable semana tras semana.

Es por eso que al finalizar la temporada, la administración de los Cowboys finalmente tomó una decisión muy anticipada. El entonces coordinador ofensivo, Scott Linehan, fue despedido.

En cuanto a talento, los Dallas Cowboys no verán un cambio mayor en su ofensiva. Cole Beasley, uno de los mejores WR slot en la NFL, firmó con los Buffalo Bills durante la agencia libre. A pesar de la llegada de Randall Cobb, la ofensiva probablemente extrañará bastante a Beasley. Además está el regreso de Jason Witten al campo, quien se repartirá el balón mucho con los jóvenes del equipo, principalmente con Blake Jarwin. Por último, Travis Frederick podría estar de regreso como el centro titular. Fuera de eso, no se anticipan cambios de jugadores en la ofensiva.

Y a pesar de esto, la afición de los Cowboys espera ver un cambio grande entre la ofensiva del 2018 y la de 2019. Si las cosas salen bien, así será. Pero más que por el talento del equipo, que ya está ahí y es un muy buen talento, deberá ser por el hombre al mando.

Kellen Moore

Kellen Moore ha tomado las riendas como el nuevo coordinador ofensivo y finalmente podremos ver su potencial. Muchos han criticado a Moore, en gran parte por nunca haber sido un quarterback exitoso en la NFL. Sin embargo, hay muchas razones por las cuales deberíamos estar emocionados.

Desde que Moore salió de la universidad de Boise State, se le veía como un prospecto muy inteligente. Incluso analistas como Jon Gruden (en ese entonces conductor del programa de ESPN Gruden's QB Camp) mencionaban que Moore probablemente no sería un gran mariscal, pero que tenía la mente de un coach.

En Boise, Moore trabajaba con la ofensiva del actual coach de los Washington Huskies, Chris Petersen. Esta ofensiva es una muy complicada que le exige al mariscal saber casi tanto como un jugador profesional. Muchos han descrito a Moore como un genio ofensivo que será un gran coach en el futuro.

Para los Cowboys, Kellen Moore será una pieza clave en 2019. Si vemos una ofensiva realmente diferente, será gracias a su creatividad y filosofía que implementa a un grupo bastante talentoso en Dallas. Los jugadores están ahí, ¿sabrá el coordinador ofensivo de 30 años aprovecharlos?

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: El Verdadero Cambio en La Ofensiva" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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NFL to Study Marijuana Use, Will It Impact Randy Gregory’s Status?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Headlines - Rubbing Salt In The Wound That Is Randy Gregory

The NFLPA and the NFL have reached an agreement to research alternative pain-management tools for the players. They'll form joint medical committees to study different strategies, among which will be the use of marijuana. It's important to make it clear that said committees will not be exclusively about marijuana, but a lot of different issues related to pain-management in the league. However, it'll likely be one of the most important aspects of their work.

Marijuana continues to be a highly debated topic and it's no different when discussing the NFL. Dallas Cowboys fans should be very familiar with the situation. Earlier this year, David Irving "quit" on football during an Instagram live stream while smoking weed. In the video, Irving talks about how he thinks it's better to be addicted to marijuana rather than certain medications used by NFL teams to treat their players.

Although David Irving is not an authority on substances, that is where all of this debate centers around. Throughout the league, players are given strong medication to deal with injuries and the physical pain of playing pro football. I'm not an expert either, but it's more than fair to say there's a strong argument here. Specially in a country where marijuana has already been legalized in 10 states and the trend points toward legalization continuing.

The current CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) between the NFL and NFLPA will expire after the 2020 season and how the league's drug policy looks like in the new agreement will be a huge factor for reaching a satisfactory CBA for both sides.

Of course, the fact that the NFLPA and the league are working together on such an important task doesn't mean we will see any immediate changes or that the NFL's ban on marijuana will be lifted anytime soon. Many big question marks will have to be answered before we hear about teams implementing this substance as a pain management tool.

For the Dallas Cowboys, this will be a relevant narrative down the line. Pass rusher Randy Gregory was reinstated after serving an indefinite suspension due to substance abuse prior to the 2018 season. After a dominant year, Gregory was suspended again by the NFL and it all points toward him sitting out this upcoming season and perhaps even more.

Even still, the Cowboys are still standing behind their 2015 second round pick. If the league ends up lifting its ban on marijuana, they'll have to decide what they will do with players already serving a suspension for this reason. Guys like Randy Gregory, for instance. If it's decided they'll be reinstated to the NFL, the Cowboys will sure be glad to have supported Gregory all throughout the process.

Last year, the pass rusher proved how effective he could be even with a short period of time training. Hopefully, the Cowboys are able to get him back on the field eventually, where's been consistently dominant. In the meantime, we'll see how recently acquired Robert Quinn does in Dallas.

The NFL won't be lifting its ban anytime soon, but it's good to know they're at least open minded to changing the league's policy and consider alternatives that could benefit the players' health. We'll see how these new medical committees work and keep you updated here at Inside The Star.

Tell me what you think about "NFL to Study Marijuana Use, Will It Impact Randy Gregory’s Status?" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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