Tag Archives: Cowboys

One & Done or More to Come?

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“Never judge a Quarterback off of his first year,” is a great quote to live by.

Ever since I was told that I’ve started to evaluate quarterbacks differently. Instead of judging them off of their first year I give them a three year process. The three year mark is a long enough frame because various things come into play within those three years.

In the very first year, a quarterback will often struggle with the pace, flow of the game. They don’t know their teammates as well which could lead to a few chemistry issues. Another problem is that most quarterbacks drafted high in the draft go to bad teams. Due to lack of experience, how are they supposed to be successful right off the bat? And even with those problems, opposing defenses don’t know to fully prepare for them, thus giving them a slight edge.

There has been cases where they fail in their first year and there have been cases where they succeed in their first year. One sample is never enough.

In year two, defenses are better prepared for the quarterback. They watch film, tapes and a lot of other useful tactics that help in their approach towards stopping them. Quarterbacks struggle and history shows that quarterbacks or any position, for that matter, struggle in the second year. That’s just how it goes.

Only a handful of quarterbacks didn’t endure the second year slump and those pretty much the franchise caliber guys. (Luck, Wilson etc)

Year three is when the player finally comes into their own. They’ve matured. They’ve gained experience. And they’ve seen a variety of defensive looks. Case in point, they’re more comfortable with their surroundings, coaches, players etc.

Whatever the case may be year three is when you find out if you have a stud or if you have a dud.

This evaluation can work for every quarterback, outside of Robert Griffin lll.

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Coming in as a rookie RG3 was arguably the best QB in his draft class. He had a tremendous arm, was very dead on when throwing the deep ball and had Olympic level speed. He was a tremendous athlete whose only downfall was not being able to slide at the appropriate times when facing pressure.

Nevertheless during his rookie season Griffin dominated the league. He was one of the highest rated passers. His completion total was decent and he had nice TD-INT ratio. In a week 17 showdown against the Dallas Cowboys Griffin outshined Tony Romo in a game that had playoff implications. RG3 even had a 14pt lead against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs following the win against the Cowboys before he got injured.

Unlike year one, year two wasn’t nearly as good.

Problems brew in the locker room between players and coaches; Griffin was injury riddled; the whole Redskins organization was in a flux. At the end of the season Mike Shanahan was fired and the Redskins moved in a different direction. To top it all off RG3 was injured yet again sending his mobility and health into a state of question.

That offseason the Redskins filled a couple of holes. They went and signed Jay Gruden as head coach, brought in safety Ryan Clark (Steelers) and defensive lineman Jason Hatcher (Cowboys) to shore up the defense and even stole wide-receiver DeSean Jackson away from the Eagles. They looked prime for a renaissance if RG3 was healthy and in tip top form.

Last season, RG3’s third year, ended up being a mess as well. He missed bits and pieces of Training Camp/pre-season action and wasn’t fully ready to go week one of the season. Need playbook, new coach and having a new target all added onto his struggles. At one point he even lost the trust of a few teammates.

Last season wasn’t even about football for him. It was more about him finding common ground with his new coach and his teammates, as well as regaining his health the thing that he ultimately failed to do.

Griffin was in & out of the lineup last season as well, but he did show signs of improvement when he was healthy. The jury is still out on whether or not RG3 can be a nice solid QB. His 2nd & 3rd seasons were injury riddled and filled with constant change in regards to the situation around him. (Luck and Wilson have always been in stable environments.)

If anything year 4 will start to tell the true story of Robert Griffin lll. He’ll have more time learn the playbook, get in sync with his weapons and get a better connection with his coach. More importantly he’ll finally be going through an offseason where he is completely healthy. (Hasn’t happened since his rookie year.)

So don’t doubt RG3 just yet. There is still some time left for him.

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Murray, Misleading, Money, Mistake

For the longest amount of time the Dallas Cowboys had been a mediocre team that showcased a multitude of deficiencies, year in and year out.

For a couple of years the problems came on the defensive side of the ball. While other years, it was poor O-line play, and lack of experience coaching wise. But even with those problems being at the forefront, there was still a problem that lingered and hindered them for a long period of time. That problem happened to be the lack of a run game.

During the 6-10 and countless 8-8 seasons, the ‘Boys went through a plethora of runningbacks. Guys like Marion Barber, Tashard Choice, Phillip Tanner, Felix Jones and Sammy Morris had opportunities to shoulder the load, but none of them seized control of the moment like DeMarco Murray did in 2011.

Drafted in the 3rd round with the 71st pick he wasn’t sought out to be the #1 back. He was looked at as guy, for some, who would be a decent backup to Felix Jones. Meant to ease his load as he was often injured. Little did we know Murray was going to end up being a capable back.

DeMarco Murray’s Career Stats (Rushing)

Year  Games  Attempts  Yards   Y.P.C    Fum   TDs

2011:   13          164         897         5.5        1          2

2012:   10          161         663        4.1          2         4

2013:   14          217        1,121       5.2         2          9

2014:   16          392        1,845     4.7           3         13

When Murray was coming onto the scene and taking over for Felix Jones, he started to generate some buzz and make a name for himself. He was a hard runner who had pretty good vision, but would leave yards on the field as he tended to follow his blockers. And was deemed as a guy prone to injury. Solid, but not a stud. (AP, Charles, McCoy, Forte, Foster, Lynch, Rice, Turner).

As the years went by and he progressed, there started to be talk in regards to feeding him more and let Romo take a backseat. That argument really didn’t have much spring to it until after 2013 when he played in 14 games. His most to that date.

With Jason Garrett’s coaching job on the line, Romo’s back issues, and Murray’s contract being up; the Boys decided to run Murray, much to his liking this past season to see what he could do and also because it was the smart thing to do. Murray responded by breaking Smith’s franchise record yard count with 1,845 yards, and helped Romo have a career year and led the Cowboys to a 12-4 record.

Good things happened when he was fed the ball. They maintained drives. Opened up opportunities for Dez and Witten. Kept the defense off the field. Controlled time of possession. Spectacular.

From the outside looking in Murray seemed/seems to be the sole reason for the Cowboys success when that isn’t the case at all.

Did he help? Sure, but it’s deeper than him.

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From 2011-13 the Boy’s finished 8-8.

In 2011: the O-line wasn’t that good and ended up being the start of the rebuilding process as the Cowboys drafted left tackle Tyron Smith in the first round. (Murray also drafted). Injuries came all across the line plus Murray didn’t play in three of those games. This team was also one of the most heavily penalized teams. Garrett was the play caller.

In 2012: the defense ended up being historically bad. (3rd worst all time.) Rob Ryan was the defensive-coordinator, and despite his progression as a player, Murray showed a knack for getting injured. Star linebacker Sean Lee missed 10 games gutting the defense. Jason Garrett was the play caller. They were still heavily penalized. Rarely forced turnovers. However, Dez was officially established. And Murray missed 6 games.

In 2013: the Cowboys drafted center Travis Frederick in the first round aiding the line. Monte Kiffin became defensive coordinator changing the scheme of the defense. Sean Lee missed 5 games. Murray missed 2 games. And Tony Romo missed the final game of the season. The defense was a record setting defense and the worst in NFL history, ever. Bill Callahan was play caller. (Offensive coordinator as well.) Heavily penalized still.

In 2014: the Cowboys drafted guard Zack Martin. (All-Pro as a rookie). Murray played in all 16 games despite getting injured. Romo played in all 16 games. Rod Marinelli became defensive coordinator. Scott Linehan became the offensive coordinator as well as play caller. Callahan was moved to offensive line coach. The defense was slightly on par with being average. Sean Lee missed the full season. This team wasn’t penalized as much as previous years, and the defense forced the 2nd most turnovers in the league.

As I stated before, Murray was a key cog in the Cowboys success but he wasn’t the main reason.

Guys like Witten, Romo, and Dez made the game easier for him as he did for them. All of those guys were already proven stars while Murray was still on the cusp.

Having Murray did hide the defense some; but how much of it was really him when the defense was second behind Houston in forcing turnovers?

His leadership on the field was nice too, but does that out do Rolondo McClain’s and Justin Durant’s leadership on the other side of the ball? Oh wait, what about Dez being vocal and rallying guys hyping them up? Was that just Murray too?

I’m guessing Marinelli making the most of what little talent he had defensively was more about Murray too.

Football is the greatest team sport there is. Each man HAS to do their job for the other to succeed. Collective effort bottom line.

With all of that being said DeMarco Murray did deserve to be paid. Just not by the Cowboys.

Dallas couldn’t have afforded him and still have money to make some moves on the defensive side of the ball. Throw in the facts that the o-line is elite, Murray is prone to injury and that he started to slow down at the end of the season and the decision is a no brainier.

Running-backs can easily be replaced. You can have a two back tandem, a three headed monster, or just one stud and have a nice amount of production. Especially with a good offensive line.

With this upcoming draft being RB heavy, the Dallas Cowboys can easily find a replacement for DeMarco at a CHEAPER cost for four more years. Simple and smart. There will be money to add new players as well as feed your own.

The Bengals have a two headed monster. The Bills had a two headed monster. The Ravens found a quick Ray Rice replacement in Forsett….

The Boys are playing it smart right now, which is good. They know what they are doing.

Recent history shows they have a plan…

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Food For Thought:

Backup RB Joesph Randle

2013: 13 Games 54 Attempts 164 yards 3 YPC 2TD

2014: 16 Games 51 Attempts 343 yards 6.7 YPC 3TDs

Was it really Murray making the o-line or did the o-line make RBs in general better?

Only time will tell.

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Top 10 Outside Linebackers of All-Time

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10. Andre Tippett

Tippett was a damn good player that had his career cut short to multitude of injuries. His third year in he recorded 18 sacks and followed that season up with 16.5 sacks the next year. From that point forward he was plagued with injuries. In 1985 he was crucial to the Patriots playoff run all the way to the Super Bowl. Causing havoc in anyway he could on the defensive end. He was best known for his jaw dropping hits that looked like they were ending careers out there. Tippett is considered one of the greatest Patriots to ever live.

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9. Cornelius Bennett

Bennett came on the scene being deemed the best defensive player out of college, and to this day is the highest picked Alabama defender ever. Impressive enough especially how many pro defenders Alabama pushes out every year. His numbers aren’t as good as they could have been with Bruce Smith another Hall of Famer on his team getting most of the attention on defense but it doesn’t diminish how great of a player Bennett was. He helped 5 teams go to the Super Bowl but lost all 5. Many others could have filled out this list at the number 10 spot but Bennett’s pass rushing ability and ability to stop the run was enough for me to put him over all of the rest.

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8. Derrick Thomas

Derrick Thomas for about a four year period was second to none as a pure pass rusher. Although I have seen many other lists and questioned why some put him within the top 3 he was without a doubt. Thomas came in an made an immediate impact winning rookie of the year in 1989. Thomas gets on this list because of how good he was in a short amount of time. If he could have sustained his production for a longer amount of time then he could have easily have been higher.

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7. Terrell Suggs

Suggs is a man among boys it seems like a lot of times. Suggs was part of a great defense headlined by Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. Many seem to forget about him a lot, but he deserves a lot of credit for that stout defense. He won defensive player of the Year in 2011. There really wasn’t even a close second that year when he recorded 14 sacks, 2 interceptions, 6 pass deflections, and 7 forced fumbles. He performed well in many playoff runs as well in 2010 recording 5 sacks in just two games. Suggs has been the enforcer on a great defense for many years. Hopefully he won’t be forgotten behind the other great players he got to play with.

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6. Rickey Jackson

I’m not gonna lie, if it wasn’t for his longevity he wouldn’t be over Suggs for me. Nonetheless though Jackson dominated in a different aspect it felt like every game. If he wasn’t knocking around the QB he was covering the flat and hook zones effectively. Jackson was the best thing in New Orleans for a long time. Sadly his team was awful for most of that time and when he went to the Niners he just wasn’t the same guy, but was able to get a ring he deserved just for having to play for the Saints as long as he did.

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5. Demarcus Ware

Right when I thought it was the decline for Ware he came out this past season with 10 sacks. Ware at one point was the most dominating pass rusher I’ve ever seen. Ware struck fear into QBs and it sucks that he was forced to play on a team that didn’t use his great years to their benefit. Even though I had been pulling for Brady all of this season I would have loved to see Ware get one as well. I still believe it to be an atrocity that Ware did not win defensive player of the year in 2008. He had 20 sacks that season with 6 forced fumbles, and he did all of that while be double teamed it seemed like every down.

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4. Kevin Greene

How in the hell Kevin Greene is not in the hall of fame is beyond me. Greene is 3rd in sacks and even though you can debate whether or not he was one dimensional when it came to linebackers, he is still one of the best rushers in NFL history. If you can find me a guy who got 15 sacks and 2 interceptions at the age of 36 and not in the hall of fame please come tell me. Greene was sort of a journeyman which you don’t find often within this elite class of linebackers. He started out on the Rams, then the Steelers, then the Panthers, then the Niners, and then back to the Panthers.

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3. Jack Ham

Jack Ham was the 3rd guy you thought of when thinking of the greatest defense of all time. Regardless though Jack Ham was one of the best coverage linebackers ever. His takeaways rank 1st of all non secondary players. Most of the time if you’re the 3rd best player on your unit, you tend to go unnoticed, but Ham had a flair for stepping up in the biggest of moments. The four championships the Steelers won in the 70s are in large part to Ham’s heroics in late game situations.

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2. Derrick Brooks

It’s hard to quantify how good Derrick Brooks was. He was a leader and that dominating Buccaneers defense was centered around him and Warren Sapp. In 2002 Derrick Brooks had 11 pass deflections, 5 interceptions and 4 defensive touchdowns. The way Brooks could read a QB was the way Peyton Manning can read a defense. His football IQ was just out the roof. Right as the Raiders tried to make an impossible comeback, Derrick Brooks read the route perfectly jumping it and returning Rich Gannon’s throw all the way back for a TD to seal the game. Without Brooks there is no way the Buccaneers are in that Super Bowl game.

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1. Lawrence Taylor

Let’s be honest. Did this come as a surprise to anyone? Taylor is in a very elite class of defensive players to win NFL MVP. He won defensive player of the year three times. There’s only one other guy I can think of that effected the game in as many ways Lawrence Taylor did. If it wasn’t locking down the flats or hook zones, he was right in the QB’s face it the QB managed to barely escape his grasp. LT had the strength to throw linemen out of his way, and somehow seemed quicker than everyone on the field with him. Just sit and watch an entire game from beginning to end and you’ll be as convinced as I am that there isn’t another player in the same conversation as LT outside of maybe Ronnie Lott. Many give LT the title as the greatest defensive player of all time, and any of those people have plenty of reason to do so.

Top 10 Tight Ends of All-Time

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10. Ozzie Newsome

Ozzie is one of the greatest Brown’s players ever. He held the team record for receiving yards in a game with 191 which stood for 29 years up until Josh Gordon broke it. He has over 7,000 yards, 47 touchdowns, and 662 receptions. There are other options to this spot but I decided to go with Ozzie because of his toughness and the dominance he would show when the moment called for it.

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9. Dave Casper

He started off very slow only bringing in 9 receptions in his first 2 seasons. However, he started producing heavily after those seasons. In a time that the games were battled in the trenches, Casper hauled in 52 touchdowns during his career. Casper was also involved in some miraculous moments. Telling the details of each one would be an article all of its own so I highly suggest you google Dave Casper and fill yourself in with all he’s done.

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8. Mike Ditka

Known mainly for his coaching career leading one of the best defenses of all time in the 85′ Chicago Bears and as an analyst on ESPN. Best believe he was one of the best football players to ever step on the field. His numbers aren’t just ridiculous but he was a very good blocker as well which sadly can’t be shown in the stat sheet. In his first year his presence was felt by winning rookie of the year, scoring 12 touchdowns, and having 58 receptions. Alongside Mackey, Ditka helped revolutionize the position.

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7. Jason Witten

Witten will go down as one of the greatest Cowboys of all time and could be argued that he should be higher up on this list. He broke his jaw early in his career and still continued to play. From that point onward was when the legacy started. He is the only Cowboys TE to date to record 1,000 yards in a season. He’s a leader, and the locker room in Dallas falls in line behind him. He still has the potential to go a few pegs higher on this list before he’s done.

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6. Shannon Sharpe

1996-2000 were some very good years for Sharpe. He already had some good years before then but was able to really shine in that 4 year span. In that time, he had 306 catches, 3,971 yards, and 28 TDs. The greatest moment that Sharpe ever had was his 96 yard TD in the AFC Title game which still stands as the longest TD in playoff history. You may hear him brag about himself a lot, but it is well earned by coming in as a 7th round pick and ending his career as a top 5 tight end in touchdowns.

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5. John Mackey

Mackey was the main weapon for the great Johnny Unitas. They have awards named after him as he was the first great tight end to ever play. He was a deep threat. In his first four seasons, he averaged 18 yards a reception. There are few who believe he was the best ever as his numbers can’t translate when comparing his era to the tight ends who have played in the last 20 years. We can all thank him though for what the tight end position has become.

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4. Rob Gronkowski

Gronk is just an absolute monster. In my opinion, the best receiving option in the game today. He’s had many issues staying healthy but his numbers speak for themselves. The man has only played 5 years and has more touchdowns than almost everyone on this list who have played over 10 seasons. In 2011, he had the best statistical year ever for a tight end posting 1,327 yards, 90 receptions, and 17 touchdowns. The yards and touchdowns are the most ever by a tight end in a season. I believe by the time his career is over he will go down as the greatest ever; leaving a huge gap between himself and the man I have at number one.

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3. Antonio Gates

Another guy who played basketball, Gates was undrafted out of Kent State. Damn there were so many people who wish they found this diamond in the rough. Gates redefined the tight end position. Nobody had ever seen a player at this position with that type of power and speed. He is one of only two tight ends to have four seasons with at least 10 touchdowns. Another guy I really wish could get a ring but sadly it is just out of his hands. As soon as I thought Father Time finally hit him, Gates blew up this past year with 12 touchdowns. He has a very good chance of leading all tight ends in touchdowns if he plays another two years.

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2. Kellen Winslow

Kellen Winslow was a huge weapon for Dan Fouts and the Chargers offense. Winslow had the most receiving yards by a tight end ever in the 1980 season when he recorded 1,290 yards. That record stood for 30 years until Rob Gronkowski broke it in 2011. In 1981, Winslow tied a record of 5 receiving touchdowns in a single game. All of those accomplishments are great but none of those compare to his game against the Dolphins in the 81′ playoffs. He had what I describe as the best individual performance ever in a playoff game. He caught 13 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown. He also blocked what could have been the game winning field goal for the Dolphins to send the game into overtime. To make the game even more memorable, Winslow was treated for a pinched nerve in his shoulder, dehydration, severe cramps, bruised ribs, and received three stitches to his bottom lip. The picture above is of his teammates helping him off the field.

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1. Tony Gonzalez

Without a doubt the greatest tight end of all time. His numbers are up there with top 5 wide receivers. He is 2nd all time in receptions, 5th all time in receiving yards, and 6th in receiving touchdowns. Coming into Kansas City, Gonzalez worked with a lot of below average guys. He wasn’t able to win a playoff game until his 16th year in the league when he finally was with a good team. It’s sad that he couldn’t add a ring to his ridiculous resume, but regardless Tony Gonzalez will always be remembered as an all time great.

The New Dallas Cowboys

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After years of being mediocre the Dallas Cowboys have finally gotten over the hump. The years of being 6-10, 8-8, 8-8 and 8-8 are finally behind us.

There is no such thing as “December woes” when speaking of the 2014 Dallas Cowboys.

There aren’t any questions in regards to Jason Garrett being the head coach or if Tony Romo is good enough to be the starting quarterback.

There also isn’t any talk on whether or not Jerry Jones should step down as the GM for the Dallas Cowboys.

The only question or questions that are being asked this time around are about the Cowboys being legitimate Superbowl contenders. Nothing more and nothing less.

This season the Cowboys have changed their style of play drastically.

They are no longer the team that looks to put up points on the board and outscore the opposition. They no longer play conservative and timid. Rarely do these Cowboys come out playing soft.

The Boys are now more about imposing their will. They look to control the time of possession. They dictate how the game is played. And when things get tough they still show heart and play hard.

Because of the change in philosophy as well as mentality the Cowboys have done a 180.

They’ve changed things that hampered them in the past that led to the 8-8 finishes which in return, has led them to winning the NFC East as well as having a chance to be at the top of the NFC.

Sitting at 11-4 (tied for #1 in the NFC) the Cowboys have become a force to be reckoned with.

They can win on the road in tough environments. (7-0 on the road.) They can run the ball just as good as anyone as well as air it out. They dominate the time of possession. They force turnovers. They contain high-powered offenses (Saints-Bears-Colts-Eagles).

The only thing the Cowboys have a problem doing is rushing the passer; which in recent weeks hasn’t been much of a problem.

This Dallas Cowboys team is a threat. And arguably the most complete team in the whole NFC.

Teams no longer push them over and dictate what’s going to happen. Those days have ended. The Dallas Cowboys have graduated from being boys, to being men.

Having said that, they can compete with the likes of anyone and should be taken seriously.
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