Pre-Draft look at the NFC East

Prior to the NFL draft on April 30th, what does the NFL East look like?

The NFC East, made up of the Dallas Cowboys, the Philadelphia Eagles, the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins, is one of the most competitive divisions in all of football. It seems that each year, the division champ is still being figured out late into the last weeks of the season, if not the last game. Last year, The Dallas Cowboys won the division (for the 22nd time) and posted a 12-4 record after going 8-8 the previous three seasons. Who will win it this year? There has not been a team to repeat as Champion since the Eagles won it four times in a row from 2001 to 2004. Can the Cowboys pull it off? Will the Chip Kelly experiment prove to be a success? Can RGIII and Jay Gruden right the ship that is Washington? Can Eli Manning lead the Giants to a division crown and regain his playoff magic? These are all important questions.

The Cowboys lost DeMarco Murray, the 2014 NFL leading rusher. Replacing him, or at least getting his production is the number one question mark for this team. They have players who have showcased their talent, but can they provide the punch and demand the respect from opposing defenses as DeMarco did? Joseph Randle averaged 6.7 yards a carry as a back up, but can the Cowboys trust him? Darren McFadden was brought in, but can he stay healthy? His explosiveness and running ability can prove effective behind their offensive line. McFadden played 16 games for the first time in his career last year. While the Cowboys lost two-thirds of their starting linebackers, they look to have Sean Lee back. They are still not sure how many games Greg Hardy will play for, but their pass rush should be improved. The biggest opportunity for them on Defense is in the Secondary. Can Barry Church and JJ Wilcox improve and who will step up at Corner to help Scandrick out? Last year had question marks as well, but the Cowboys found answers. If they can do the same this year, the Division just might be theirs.

Every four years or so, the Giants get on a roll and steam roll into the playoffs and the Super bowl. Can’t count them out. They always have a chance. Odell Beckham Jr had his coming out party and he doesn’t look like he wants to slow down. To maximize on this talent, the Giants need to keep Eli Manning standing strong in the pocket and improve their running game. Defensively, I believe that their LB play needs to get stronger. If these things can happen, the Giants will have their say in who takes this division.

The Eagles on paper have not gotten better, yet. Yes. Kiko Alonso might be a stud, but they lost playmakers on both sides of the ball. Murray will do a good job up there if they don’t get too cute. Similar to him here, he has to be featured. Don’t see that happening. Sproles is electric. In the backfield and in the slot. Sproles is one of the finest weapons in the league. Throw in Matthews who is making a lot of money to be the third running back, and touches could be limited. Bradford isn’t an upgrade. But can Chip work his magic with him?  And health is a major concern for almost every FA they picked up. Their chances at winning increases the longer they stay on the field.

The fate of the Redskins lie at the feet of RG3. Can he stay healthy? Can he improve his recognition and feel for the pocket? They have their uncertainties on both sides of ball, but give Jay Gruden time to sort it out.  Their Corners should be better with another year under their belt. Their biggest concern is finding pass rush from someone else besides Kerrigan.  He can’t be the only force. Jason Hatcher was injured last year, but if he can regain his 2013 form, their Defense could see a tremendous improvement.

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Cowboys Sign Player From London League

Efe Obada played just five games for the London Warriors. He has his work cut out for him if he is to succeed in the NFL.

Efe Obada (number 10) played just five games for the London Warriors. He has his work cut out for him if he is to succeed in the NFL.

The NFL draft is set to begin on April 30, 2015. Former Collegiate Defensive Ends like Randy Gregory, Alvin “Bud” Dupree and Shane Ray are anxiously awaiting to hear their named call. To see their dream fulfilled. Some would envy them. Others would envy Efe Obada. Obada works at a warehouse in London. At least he did. Obada is now a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

Obada plays for an American Style football team called the London Warriors. He has only played in five games. Contrary to the aforementioned draftees, Obada has not been playing the sport long. The Cowboys are hoping that it doesn’t matter.

On tape, Efe needs to be taught how to effectively use his hands and how to improve his footwork. There is some things he need to learn about counter balance and bending. These are things that can be resolved and honed during practice, coaching and training. The things that can’t be taught is natural ability. Coach Adrian Eaglin, an offensive line coach for Denton Ryan, told me long ago when asking about why a certain player would get noticed by college teams. “I can make you the best lineman in the State. I can’t make you 6’6.” That one statement was all it took for me to understand how important being a gifted athlete is.

Efe Obada is that gifted athlete. He stands 6 foot 6 inches tall. He weighs 260 pounds and has a wingspan of 84 inches. He has been clocked in the forty yard dash in the 4.7 range.  Efe can close on the ball and showcases good awareness and coordination. He is a physical specimen. The Cowboys are hoping to turn Obada from an athlete with RAW talent into an NFL defensive end. Can it be done? Assistant Scouting Director Will McClay has found talent to be on the roster before, but never this far. There has to be something special that the scouts saw in him for him to garner not just a look, but a three-year deal.  Obada has his work cut out for him. The mental preparation alone is staggering. Can he pickup schemes, assignments, and learn all the techniques needed to be successful? We don’t know, but for right now he is living a dream.


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Cowboys Shift Roster, Not Focus

Soldiers were lost but the fight is still going. Dez Bryant, Jason Written and Tony Romo will not settle for anything less than a Super Bowl run.

You walk in to your local convenient store and purchase something to drink. You see a can soda for 79¢, a 20 oz soda for $1.29 and a 2 liter bottle for a little less but it’s not cold. You decide on the 2 liter. The price of the beverage is 99¢. You reach into your pocket and pull out a one dollar bill.  You hand it to them and tell the cahier that they can keep the change. Why? You place little to no value on that penny. But say if you paid with a one hundred-dollar bill, then you would take your change. Maybe even count it again in the car to make sure you know what you got.  And while you sacrificed a cold drink, you benefited in other areas.

The Cowboys placed little value on their linebackers corps. While they played well while here, the market price for their services proved to be not in line with the Cowboy front office. The smarts of Durant, the play-making ability of Carter, and the presence of McClain will be missed. Speaking of missed, last year these players missed a combined 16 games of football. You can’t register stats on the sideline. The two linebackers that they signed, Jasper Brinkley and Andrew Gackhar, have missed one game since 2011. Cowboys also signed Keith Rivers.

George Selvie, Henry Melton and Anthony Spencer were members of the defensive line. The Cowboys needed pass rushers who could get to the quarterback and create pressure. Melton was coming on late in the season, but the Cowboys did not see enough to either sign his option or offer him a deal. And for Selvie and Spencer, perhaps it was time for a new scenery. Cowboys think they have seen the best at what they were and chose to look other places for help on the defensive line. The first addition to the line was Greg Hardy. He is one of the most dominant forces in the NFL. The Cowboys believe he can be a double-digit sack and have a huge impact on this team.

Sterling Moore was a solid number four corner that sometimes had the expectations of a number two corner. Teams tried to pick on him but for the most part, he held his own. As a free agent, Moore wanted to be paid. It only made sense. He played more, at a good level, so he should be paid more. The NFL is a business, after all. Cowboys just didn’t think he was worth what he wanted. Cowboys signed Corey White with the hopes of being Moore’s replacement. They believe he can also handle playing in the slot. This would allow for Orlando Scandrick to play on the other teams best wide out which would be a better matchup for the Cowboys and they may get more reward out of Scandrick’s contract.

The Cowboys also parted ways with most of their offensive free agents. They had to choose between resigning Doug Free or Jeremy Parnell at Right Tackle. The better player was Free, though Parnell was younger and more athletic. They chose Free.

Dwayne Harris contributed little on offense (only 116 yards), but was a special teams stand out. He became the Cowboys best tackler and was their return man.  In 2013, Harris averaged over 30 yards a kick return and almost 13 yards a punt return. Last year, however, Harris’s numbers dropped an average of six yards on kick returns and four yards on punt returns. With players like James Hanna, Jeff Heath and Cameron Lawrence among leaders in tackles on special teams, they will be asked to pick up the slack. From a return standpoint, the decision as to who they put back there is a mystery. The Cowboys could try Joseph Randle, Cole Beasely, Lance Dunbar, a draft pick or an undrafted free agent.

The biggest free agent to leave via free agency was DeMarco Murray. Murray was accountable for  2,261 yards of offense. Those air and ground stats will be missed. The Cowboys were waiting for Murray to bring them an offer. They didn’t think it was going to be from Philadelphia. The Eagles provided Murray with what he wanted. A nice contract with the right amount of money guaranteed and a chance to prove Cowboys front office wrong. They Cowboys seemed fine with at. The next day they sign Darren McFadden to a deal. McFadden will get his chance to show what he can do behind a solid offensive line. His best years in Oakland was in 2010-11 when the Raiders  line had an 18th run block ranking. What will he do now with arguably the best line in Football? Injuries were a concern with Murray. The same can be said for McFadden who sometimes looks as if he skips leg day. He has had 12 injuries to his legs since entering the NFL. This will be something the cowboys will have to monitor. What they see in taking a shot on McFadden is a back with good vision, a willingness to block, cutting ability and speed. If he holds up, he could run well behind this Great Wall of Dallas 2.0 and help this offense succeed.

The Cowboys were just a call away from advancing to the NFC championship game. They were almost there. They felt like they were ribbed of their chance at NFL While last season was nothing to sneeze at, going 12-4 and breaking the 8-8 cycle, they know that this team is capable of more. They also know that time is of the essence. Cowboy lifers such as Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and L.P. Ladouceur want to win a Championship. Who knows how much longer they will play. Romo was recently on TV talking about how little of time he has left. The proverbial window is closing. While they are all still solid players in this game, all  three made the pro-bowl last year, they don’t want to leave anything on the table. You give your all to this game and many just want one thing: a Super Bowl ring.   That is their focus.

The amazing year Dez had, leading the league in touchdowns, doesn’t matter. He wants to win a championship. The addition of Greg Hardy did not ease that train of thought for these guys. With young studs on Defense like Lawrence, Hitchens, and now Greg Hardy, this might be a great opportunity for Cowboys. Biggest problem in their way? Finding another Corner, improved play of entire secondary and having success running the ball with out DeMarco Murray.

The Cowboys will add this new group of free agents and the players selected from the draft to their team.  April 20 is when OTAs begin. The annual NFL draft will take place in Chicago and will be held on April 30.

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Cowboys sign DE Greg Hardy

Cowboys have signed The Kraken…

After two days of meet and greets, trying to see if this would work for both parties, the Dallas Cowboys and Free Agent Defensive End Greg Hardy agreed to a deal. Hardy was looking for a team that wanted his services. The Cowboys not only fit what he was looking for organizationally but also systematically. Marinelli’s defense should highlight what Hardy does best and get him and this Defense a chance to rise.

Hardy signed a deal that is worth up to $13.1 million. That is a huge chunk of change. But get this. Hardy’s base salary is only $750,000. The majority of his money will come through bonuses and incentives. Hardy can earn more than $9 million dollars this upcoming season just by being active. His contract includes a roster bonus of $578,125 per game. If he play, they pay. There is also some added motivation for him to remain one of the top five 4-3 Defensive ends with a performance incentive. Hardy will earn $500,000 if he records 8 quarterback sacks, $1 million with 10 sacks, $1.4 million with 12 sacks and $1.84 million with 14 sacks or more. Hardy will also get paid in his preparation for the season. If he participates in the Off-season Training Activities (OTAs), Hardy will net $1.31 million.

This deal will allow the Cowboys to have flexibility, not just with Hardy but with their Salary Cap. This deal will only count $3.2 million dollars towards the cap. The Cowboys still have almost $5 million they can play with. They will get more money when they sign Dez long term and arrive to a conclusion on Brandan Carr. The team wants him to take a pay cut. Cowboys are hopeful that Hardy will want to resign with team next year if he pans out. Not too many teams stepped up in uncertainty to try to win his services. The Cowboys are taking a risk. One which they think will work in their favor.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were also interested in signing “The Kraken” but decided against it. Jason Lict, the General Manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was quoted as saying that they “didn’t feel good about it.” What was he referring to? Who wouldn’t feel good about signing a pro bowl talent such as Greg Hardy?Well, if you consider what Hardy was accused of, you might understand how the Tampa Bay Buccaneer front office (along with almost every other front office) feels on adding Hardy to their team.

Greg Hardy allegedly physically assaulted his then girlfriend, Nicole Holder. Her first account is that he threw her across Hardy’s apartment, into the bathroom and into the living room. She stated that she had bruises from head to toe from the actions and violence done at his hand. Hardy denies this claim. His side of the story is that they got into an argument and he asked her to leave. She refused. He asked again and she got angry. According to him, he was the one assaulted. Not only would she not leave, but she hit him, threw objects at him and broke some of his belongings. If evidence was to be found, like photos of attack or witnesses supporting a story, Hardy would be in trouble. Hardy’s story does have some type of evidence. Here is the 911 call that he made to the police during the altercation.

When the police came they questioned Holder and took Hardy to jail. Hardy didn’t play another game in the NFL last year, being placed on the commissioners exempt list. While on the list, Hardy continued to be paid, but was suspended from all activity with his team. Later on, his case was heard by a judge in Carolina courts. The Judge convicted him.  Hardy appealed, taking his case to court where Holder would not cooperate with prosecutors. The case was dropped.

The NFL is still investigating what happened on that early morning of May 13. Sources say that Hardy will most likely be suspended for parts of this season as well. The mystery question is how many games. The NFLs new domestic violence policy indicates that suspension could be six games. Very few think it will be greater than that (those close to story are saying four) but banishment is a possibility with Roger Godell having the last say as always.

Meanwhile, Cowboys fans can at least celebrate a little. Hardy should see the field for the majority of the season. On paper, the Cowboys pass rush just got better. The Cowboys ranked 28th in sacks and 27th in 3rd down defensive efficiency last year. The Kraken, 26-year-old phenom, who is just as good stopping the run, is a welcomed addition to this team. Teaming him with last years rookie DeMarcus Lawrence on the outside and Tyrone Crawford on the inside should bolster their defensive line and provide a solid pass rushing threat. The NFL and more specifically, the NFC East should be on high alert. Dallas will seek to Unleash The Kraken and return to the playoffs where they were one call away from the NFC Championship game.

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Cowboys Need to Land a Linebacker

With Carter and Durant gone, Cowboys are in need of Depth at Linebacker position.

Free Agency. A period of the NFL where teams can go out and find the missing piece or add a piece to their team to get them closer to their goal of winning a Championship. This period is very exciting. Not only are you trying to add talent, you are also trying to keep the talent you have. Players whom contract is up are free to sign with any team that they want.

Free agent markets can vary depending on what position a player plays, last year’s production of said player, and what another team is willing to offer. Teams have to choose how they approach this time period. Do they cast a wide net, trying to lure anyone interested to join their team or are they more selective?  Will they be passive, waiting to see who is interested in them or aggressive, actively pursuing players that they think would fit their team?

The Cowboys have been playing it passive so far, mainly because of their salary cap situation. They only have a limited amount of money they can spend that would not have them going over the hard set salary cap of $143 million dollars applied to all NFL teams. They managed to franchise Dez Bryant (still needing a long-term deal done), resigned Cole Beasley and Doug Free and tendered Lance Dunbar and Chris Jones.

Heading into this league year, the Cowboys had three Linebackers that hit Free Agency: Justin Durant, Bruce Carter and Rolando McClain. Thoughts were that the Cowboys would at the very least resign two of these players. This didn’t happen.  Justin Durant signed with the Falcons and Bruce Carter signed with the Buccaneers.  So not only do we still need to resign Rolando McClain, but a player I believe we need to sign is Brandon Spikes, free agent Linebacker who played for the Buffalo Bills as well. He will not give you a ton of play making ability like Carter provided in pass coverage, but he is stellar at stopping the run.

Spikes has been a starting Linebacker in this league. He is a solid tackler and has plenty of experience. He is also a Champion. Spikes has been where we are trying to go. His leadership and insight would be invaluable.
Keith Rivers is a good signing, but we now need depth. Take in to account that Lee, (out the entire year) Carter, Durant and McClain all battled injuries last year.

Hitchens proved to be a solid replacement who can play all three LB spots. This was a good thing. Not sure if we have the luxury of selecting another LB in the draft this year.  McClain was amazing for us last year. Not only did he fill the void of losing Team Captain Sean Lee, but he brought an attitude and mean streak that spread throughout the entire defense and the team.  Teams knew that even though we didn’t have All-World talent on defense, we were not going to back down. We are going out and meeting you at the line of scrimmage. And with bad intentions.

The free agency pool for Linebackers is pretty slim. I trust the Cowboys scouting department will be ready with a name if need be. They have looked at film and done research on who will fit this scheme and can add to what we have.  But if you ask me, Spikes might be our best option and at 27 he still has plenty left in tank.

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Could Murray Move On?

Could DeMarco Murray, 2014 Rushing Leader, say “Peace out” to the Cowboys and sign with another team?

The Cowboys offense found their true identity last year. In the age of the quarterback, the Cowboys found success running the ball. The drafting of Zach Martin solidified their offensive line and made it possible for them to focus on the running game. This led to a more efficient passing game.

Tony Romo’s average yard per attempt saw an increase. Not only did he have more time, but the opposing defenses were caught off guard at times trying to stop the running game. His completion percentage was nearly 70% last year, tops among Quarterbacks that had at least 130 attempts. While we are on the topic of attempts, Romo was a better QB with fewer passing attempts. His 435 attempts in 2014 is a hundred less than in 2013 and over two less in 2012. The fewer drop backs, the less likely he will take those punishing hits that lead to more injury.

The offensive line and the receiving corp deserves to be commended, but don’t over look the man in the back field. DeMarco Murray proved that he could stay healthy. He also proved that he is an elite running back, capable of carrying the workload for your team. Murray rushed for 1,845 yards last season on his way to the Rushing Crown, the first Cowboy to do that since Emmitt Smith in 1995.

Murray will be set to see what his market value will be once free agency begins March 10. The reigning rush king will have its suitors. The Chargers, Lions and Colts are all teams that would be interested in his services. They believe that if they could establish the run, they would be immediate championship contenders. Another team that might be interested is already a contender as they have been to the last two Superbowl games, the Seattle Seahawks. If Marshawn Lynch doesn’t come back next year, they would need a strong versatile runner to take his place. DeMarco Murray wouldn’t be a bad contingency plan.

All these teams could offer Murray more money. The only thing that they can’t offer is the Cowboys Offensive Line which boasts three pro bowlers. The Cowboys package deal, with this line, solid play calling, and strong supporting casts could tilt the table in their favor. If what DeMarco Murray said is really true, what is the best place for him?

He was quoted in January as saying “What’s best for me is to win a Superbowl and win one now. At the end of the day, the money is irrelevant to some degree. But you definitely want to get what you’re worth and things like that.” Every one wants to feel valued and appreciated. So once he hits the market and a range is set, the Cowboys will have their shot at retaining his talents.

There is a notion that the amazing year that DeMarco Murray had isn’t worth the weight and salary cap dollars. Some seem to believe in the GEICO effect, that running behind this line would be “so easy a caveman can do it.” That you can plug in any runner and get the same production. While I do agree that it is to a running backs liking to be surrounded by this cast and running behind this line would be a dream, but how “easy” is it to run against 300 pound men 300 odd times in a season. Many forget that in 2013, when this line wasn’t cohesive and was without Zach Martin, Murray averaged 5.2 yards a carry. With every touch he was half way to a first down.

Murray is the total package at running back. He has the size and strength to run through the tackles, the speed to get around to the edge, the explosion to get through the holes and past the second level of the defense. And perhaps the best quality in a running back- patience and vision.

The one thing that the Cowboys should be cautious of, is that Murray is 27 years of age. To give a long huge contract to a player that might not fulfill the length of the contract would be prudent. A four-year deal would be as far as I would go, and that year might be at a team option.

I am a firm believer that you take care of the people who take care of you. That you reward those who set new standards of excellence. The Cowboys appear to at least want to give it a shot. The Cowboys best game plan involves a steady running game. They need a running back that is up to the task. They must decide if he is the best option or not from all aspects, especially financially.  Do they look for a back in this upcoming draft, which is deep at running back or in free agency. The ball is in Murray’s court. He will test the market and see what team wants him. We now wait to see where he wants to play.

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He Dez-erves This…

Dez Bryant is trusted on the field and has become not only a leader on this team, but one of the best receivers in the NFL. Reports indicate that his off the field trust issues has Cowboys cautious.

Approaching fast is the March 2nd deadline to decide for applying a franchise tag to a player. Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys are trying to work out the details of a long-term contract, but it has been hard with the changing of agents and the fight against time. Maybe this pressure will serve the two sides well and get a deal done that would benefit both sides.

The Cowboys will not take the $13 million dollar franchise hit to their salary cap, and Dez will have to play the year going through the questions and worries about if he will get a deal, will it be with the Cowboys, and hopes of not getting injured. The latter is the main concern. Dez plays all out, fighting for every inch of yard. That is when he is at his best. Getting injured on a one year deal would be bad for him, where in a long-term deal he can play hard and still be protected next year and can just focus on a recovery. The franchise tag, on the brighter side, could buy time for the two teams to work out a long-term deal by the July 15th deadline. But with the team focusing on the draft and then camp preparations, now would be a good time to make it happen.

Dez Bryant hauled in 16 TDs last year. No wide receiver has had more touch downs than he had since he came in the league. He has proven to be a go to guy and in certain games, has been down right dominant. Consistency is something that he has been working on, and has improved. From a production side of things, what else do you want in your number one receiver? But here recently, the media wants to talk about more of his off the field run ins than what he does in uniform.

Lately, all of Dez’s past incidents, mostly things done by people associated with Dez, have been dug up and put back on the table. Their has been reports about something tragic that happened that no one can give proof of. Adam Shefter has been working on getting information about this “alleged” video tape since September of 2014. The tape was supposed to show Dez in an unpleasant light doing something in 2011. Why hasn’t Shefter submitted a report or article on this? Because he doesn’t have enough information. Enough proof. Enough evidence. While somehow he knows that said tape exists, he has never seen it. Who has? No one is sure, but that didn’t stop people from mentioning that it was “five times worst than the Ray Rice tape.” But not even TMZ could come up with this tape as of yet. So mysterious. Perhaps the most mysterious footage in the Dallas area since “Who Shot J.R.” over 8 years before Dez Bryant was even born.

Stephen A. Smith ( made a good point earlier during the week when he asked, Why now? Why is this mystery tape that occurred three years ago of any importance and interest now, as in during Dez Bryant’s contract negotiations? To a guy that has been everything you wanted him to be, Dez can’t help but scratch his head.

No one knows who started this uproar, but the Cowboys were already aware of this incident that Dez was not involved in. Dez has not been charged with any crime. Perhaps he is only guilty of being loyal to his friends. Numerous times, the company that Dez keeps have gotten his name in the news. Some would say that he has the wrong friends, but be careful before you judge another persons bond. It would be safer to ask Dez to continue to assure hisself that his friends want what is best for him, not them and that they understand that the negative attention brought to him is damaging to his brand. Like it or not, he is being judged by said company.

Another point of interest with his contract negotiations, is the notion that Dez should take a “friendly” deal. The people who cheer at the top of their lungs for him. The ones that laud his physical prowess. The ones that are in awe of his athleticism. Many who say he is one of, if not the best wide outs in the NFL. They now turn around and ask that he not be paid as such. To take a lower deal for the team, again. Dez took a smaller deal when he first signed with team, because he wanted to be on the field. Wanted to make concessions so that he to could succeed. Now that he has proven to be the play maker that he has become, Dez should get compensated for his talents. If you believe this team is better with him, pay him accordingly. If you can’t afford market price, maybe you shouldn’t be in the market. If reports are true, the base part of the deal is set. Now they are debating over the details and guaranties.

Time is of the essence. This team is set up to win now. Draft picks in return would be good for the future, but you have a grand opportunity in front of you. Seize it. Do what needs to be done and reward your players. Dez has not only earned it, but he deserves it.

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The Aaron Rodgers Effect

Two good quarterbacks. Both have the potential to go number one over all. Only one will.

Tampa Bay is on the clock. As this years scouting combine comes to an end, more and more attention is being put on just who they will select with the number one overall pick. Marcus Mariota is a tremendous athlete with great size and speed. Jameis Winston has great size as well. A solid arm that can make all NFL throws. He has been lauded by his football IQ. Who will Tampa Bay go with?

This is huge for their franchise. General Managers and coaches get fired for not picking the right player or not getting said player to reach expectations. The immediate success of your team evolves around your franchise QB. Great teams seem to have great quarterbacks. Millions of dollars are wrapped up in this player who you believe will learn your system and be the missing piece to restore glory and prestige to your team. There can only be one overall pick. The other player will be thrown back into the pool, just a name on a card until a team puts their hope and future into his hands.

How ironic that it will be ten years since the 2005 NFL draft when San Francisco had this same dilemma. Interesting that Aaron Rodgers was slotted to go number one overall, but Alex Smith ended up being the 49ers pick. Do you remember what happened to Rogders? He slid all the way down to Green Bay at the 24th pick. Green Bay already had Brett Farve, but picked up Rodgers anyway. We all know how that worked out.

Part of the combine is getting medical evaluations of these prospects. Players are given physicals and past/previous injuries are made known. The Dallas Cowboys made headlines when they requested an electromyography (EMG) of Jameis Winston’s shoulder. Not unusual until you see where the Cowboys are selecting from, the 27th pick. Winston just might be the first name called on April 30th. Why would the Cowboys waste time getting an EMG (use of electrodes to analyze problems in muscles or nerves. A graph is charted and then doctors interpret results) to look at the health of a player’s muscles and nerves when he is more likely to be gone? They are certainly being thorough.  If Winston or Mariota are available, they want to be prepared. Yes, fully prepared just in case the Aaron Rodgers rule is in play.

When San Francisco chose Smith, it gave 22 other teams the chance to draft their franchise quarterback. Out of the 22, 15 could have used an upgrade at QB.  All 15 teams passed on him. Dallas and Minnesota passed on him twice. (Dallas went on to select All-Pro LB DeMarcus Ware and 3-4 end Marcus Spears. The Vikings selected Troy Williamson and Erasmus James. James only played three seasons, marred by injuries while Williamson struggled through 5 seasons. He never caught more than 40 passes, gained over 500 yards or scored three touchdowns in any of those seasons.) Out of those 15 teams, only 8 picked a pro-bowler.

Bottom of the basement teams sent out players like Marques Tuiasosopo (Oakland), Gus Ferrotte (Miami), Chris Simms (Tampa Bay) and Trent Dilfer (Cleveland) in 2015. The old saying rings true that hindsight is only 20/20.

The Cowboys don’t want to make that mistake, especially with an aging quarterback. One that has several back surgeries on his list of injuries. Another tidbit of news from Combine was that Jerry Jones believes this soon to be 35-year-old QB with Chronic back problems has up to five more years left in the tank. Will Romo’s body hold up that long? Who knows, but look favors the prepared. We saw what happened last year. Do the Cowboys want to start grooming its future QB now or put it off for later? What do they see in Weeden that we haven’t seen? Is Dustin Vaughn going to continue to develop? Fortunately, it’s not my decision, nor my money.

Jerry did say something that I agree with. The last two years they were in need of some defensive help but chose to go in a different route in the first round. They followed their draft sheets and picked a player on the offensive side of ball. Not bad picks as they turned out to be All Pros- Zach Martin and Travis Frederick.  In years past, the Cowboys have abandoned their draft shhets and reached on some players or let their impulse drive their decision. To their credit, and certainly Assistant Scouting Director Will McClay’s, they have done a better job drafting players that not only fit their scheme but at a good value. What about this year?If their targeted prospects for defensive end and defensive tackle who they graded out as first rounders are gone, what do they do?

Best player available is usually the smartest move.  The Cowboys could pick an offensive tackle, a defensive back or whatever player they graded out as a first rounder. Even a QB like Winston or Mariota if they slide down that far. This is highly unlikely, but the Cowboys would be wise to learn from the past.

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Cowboys vs Packers Preview

Two storied teams battle for the right to play in Conference Championship game.

The Dallas Cowboys face off against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau field. This game between two of the most storied franchises in NFL history will decide who gets to play the Seattle Seahawks for the Conference Crown and a trip to the Superbowl.

The Temperatures will be 15 below freezing. The Cowboys are going against the best passer, probable MVP, in football in Aaron Rodgers. Their dynamic duo of Nelson and Cobb haven’t been contained all year. They have a solid running game in Eddie Lacy and this Clay Matthews led defense can present some troubles for an offense. Not to mention the Packers are undefeated at home this year. So!

The Cowboys believe and they know what they are up against. Besides, there are no Gifts in the NFL. This is a “Take” league. Nothing is given to you. If you want it, take it. The only question is how bad do you want it. This is playoff football; win or go home.

This team has heart and a fight in them. They are and will be up to the challenge. It is not going to be easy, but the greatest accomplishments require the greatest efforts. The Cowboys have been building for this moment. To be in the playoffs, playing with house money, against a juggernaut like Green Bay to prove what they are made of. To go to Lambeau, perhaps one of the worst places to play come playoff time and play their best football. They vowed to finish the fight, and they stand firm in their resolve.

What do the Cowboys have to do to pull out the upset? Jason Garrett speaks of staying true to yourself. Believing in yourselves, your preparation and the system. In its spirit, football is an easy sport. Run, throw, tackle, block and kick. The teams who do this well have the most success. To win, you have to be the stronger and tougher team, mental before physical. Offensive coordinator Bill Callahan said that the team that wins will have to go ” the longest, the hardest…”

Aaron Rodgers may have a Calf injury, but his best quality is still his arm. He has a quick release and is very accurate throwing the ball. That is the main reason he hasn’t been intercepted at home in his last 477 passing attempts that have totaled 38 touchdowns. To buck this trend, the Cowboys will not only have to force quick reads, but react even faster themselves in playing passing lanes and getting deflections and possible interceptions.

The receivers of these throws are usually Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. Both have caught over 90 passes for over 1250 yards this season. Hard enough stopping one 1000 yard receiver, but they have two. They are both explosive playmakers who brings their own flash to this offense.

Aaraon Rodgers aerial attack is a thing of beauty but they have become a little more run conscience with the emergence of Eddie Lacy. He is a tough back that fights for every yard. The physical play of this run game has only been cranked up as the season progressed. In the first 10 games, Lacy went got over 14 carries in a game once. In the last six, he was 5 out of six with his biggest workload the last game of the season to clinch a bye and the division as he rushed for 100 yards on 26 carries. Interesting to note that in this high scoring offense, he only has a score in 43% of their games but this is playoff football. This number shouldn’t be an indicator. Anything can and will happen.

This Green Bay offensive line is the unsung heroes of the offense. Rodgers release still needs time to survey and plant his feet. They feel disrespected with how much praise and honor is bestowed on the Cowboys unit and want to show that they are just as good, if not better. They will be motivated, especially trying to protect a banged up Aaron Rodgers.

As good as this offense is, and it is prolific, they could use another weapon like a Jason Witten or a Cole Beasley to compliment what they do. The Cowboys are hoping that all their array of playmakers shine this game. One matchup to watch is how the Packers defend Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar. This could be a mismatch.

The Packers rush Defense took a blow early in the season with BJ Raji suffering season ending injury. He was so important at clogging up the middle and taking up blockers. The lineman are not stellar, but they do their job. This defense is highlighted by Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, combining for 18 sacks and 3 interceptions. Peppers also boast 11 pass deflections. When you prevent big plays and cause big plays you are a disruptive force and Green Bay will move him around to bring the most pressure on opposing Qbs.

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are 35-5-1 in the last five seasons at Lambeau field. While they do hold a significant home field advantage, especially in cold weather, they are not unbeatable. The Cowboys can take heart that they are 1-2 in the playoffs during that span. If the Cowboys plan in winning, they will have to step up on Defense.

Fill in the gaps, make proper reads, and don’t miss tackles. The safeties will have to look to make plays, not necessarily the big hit. Play sound football and continue to force turnovers. The corners have been making plays when they need to and though banged up, the linebackers remain the heart and back bone of this defense. They are constantly fighting and setting the tone. While the pass rush is still not prevalent, they remain poised to have an impact on this game.  Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Lawrence will have to be factors in all four quarters. Do they have enough talent to get the job done? Defensive coordinator Rod Marrinelli stated that he “believes in these men. Cause of their attitude, work ethic and they’re tough.” We will see how tough.

Jason Garrett has this team ready for this game. They are “Locked in at the task at hand.” As he has preached all year, and every year he has been here, it’s a process. Taking it day by day and being great everyday. It’s all about bringing your A game. Will the Cowboys A game be good enough? Time will tell.

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Cowboys vs. Lions recap

A win is a win. No matter how ugly it is. Their Victory over the Lions puts Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys one win closer to their dream.

The Dallas Cowboys will be advancing to the Divisional Round of the Playoffs thanks to their comeback win at home against the Detroit Lions.  The Cowboys scored 17 unanswered points to stay alive in their quest for a sixth Championship.

It was plain out ugly in all phases of the game early on but they battled back and came out with a Victory. The first possession of the game for Detroit saw Golden Tate beat Barry Church in a double move for 51 yards on a score. Their second drive was kept alive by DeKoda Watson with a “running into the kicker” call. Ironically, Watson was signed for his special teams play. This call extended the Lions drive on fourth down. The Cowboys would have had not only good field position but momentum. Instead, the Lions proceeded to drive down the field (99 yards total) and score on a Reggie Bush 18 yard scamper into the end zone.

During this first quarter, the Cowboys could not establish the run, nor connect with their passes. Throughout the game, Detroit dialed up wonderful blitzes that disrupted the Cowboy’s passing game.

The Cowboys would later answer in the second quarter with a 76 yard catch and run by Terrence Williams. Detroit would go on to get two field goals, but nothing else. Two key calls went the Cowboys way. A pass interference call was overruled and on a Cowboy drive, the Lions were called for pass interference. These two calls gave the Cowboys life and helped turn the game around.

The game wasn’t pretty like the last three offensive showings for the Cowboys, but in the end, they stepped up and made crucial plays on offense and defense to win the game. The Cowboys started to make more tackles and get more stops in second half. On offense, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley found holes in this stellar Lions defense to pick up the chains and get back into the game. On the last drive for Dallas, Romo found Terrance Williams cutting back across the end zone for a score that would be the game winner. Rookie DeMarcus Lawrence had not had the season he or Cowboy fans expected, but in a win or stay home moment, he played his best football on Detroit’s last drive coming up with a sack-strip and redeeming his prior fumble. This sealed the game for the Cowboys and punched their ticket to Green Bay where perhaps the best offense in the league and “the frozen tundra” awaits.

What a game. What a comeback. How do you gut out a win in the playoffs like that? ESPN’s Tim McMahon heard Jeremy Mincey, who had a pass deflection that led to a pick and a sack, say it best: “Heart, Baby! Heart!”

Here are some of the things that the Cowboys will look to correct as they advance in the playoffs.

Defense: The Defensive strategy was good to limit big plays against the Lions, but was poorly executed for most of the game.The Dallas defenders were out of position, made bad reads and poor tackles. This kept them on the field for longer periods of time and weakened them. They need to play with more discipline and improve their tackling skills. The defense is to be commended for capitalizing on an opportunity, making stops when they had to, forcing 4 fumbles and an interception and getting 3 sacks.

Offense: The offense will have to find better ways to get their Running game involved. They could use more power and zone schemes than what they showed against the Lions. What good is having an All-Pro guard if you won’t reward him and let him pull for the NFL rushing leader who ran well with his limited touches… The offensive line struggled to open up lanes for the rushing game, struggled to protect Romo at times (gave up a total of 6 sacks) and picking up the Blitz. Communication and recognition goes a long way in beating the blitz. Look for the Cowboys to adjust their longer routes into quick slants and spot routes in blitz situations.

Coaching: Good game plan, but players couldn’t execute early in game. Great adjustments made at half time. This game was ugly. The type that all coaches love come practice/ film study. Plenty of things to work on, but you get the chance to do so as you advance to the next round. Get to work! Green Bay is going to be a tough game.

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