Let's begin here, with some good news:
Tiny Jim with the list of Pro Bowl nods. To my mind, the one that merits our attention is Dan Bailey, who has been the league's best kicker but has yet to receive recognition as such:
The fifth-year veteran has been nothing short of monstrous in 2015, connecting on 28-of-29 kicks – including a 54-yard game-winner against Washington on Dec. 7.
Given their offensive struggles this season, the Cowboys have called on Bailey frequently – and he has rarely failed to deliver. He has kicked two or more field goals in 11 of the Cowboys’ 14 games this season, including a season high of four made kicks in the 13-12 loss to Seattle on Nov. 1.
He is 5-of-5 on kicks from 50-plus yards, and his one miss so far this season came from 48 yards away in the 10-6 loss to Tampa Bay on Nov. 15.
Sturm's weekly "Decoding Linehan" post focuses on Kellen Moore's night. After an admiring look at Moore's poise, especially against the blitz, Sturm shares the Boise St. product's pass distribution chart with us, which leads to the following conclusion:
As you can see here, the debate about Moore and his arm strength and what part of the field he uses can be seen here. I want to wait a week or two, but this does match the eyeball test. He is going to be a guy using the underneath stuff primarily. Now, that is ok if you can throw guys open, anticipate windows, and excel with accuracy.
He has a chance, but it won't be with a big gun and velocity. And, sometimes, that can work for a backup QB. Over 15 yards down field: 0-4 with 2 interceptions.
Garrett says the desire to play hard in the next couple of meaningless games starts with the coaching staff:
He doesn’t believe in the notion of a meaningless game, and he expects his coaching staff to show the same enthusiasm and preparation as it did in Week 2. "The energy starts with us," Garrett said. "That’s something regardless of what the records are. We have to bring that. That’s part of our ethos as coaches."
Jason Garrett has no intention of giving away playing time in the final two games of the regular season; the players on the field will have earned whatever snaps they get. The RHG believes any other approach cheats the team and the player:
"We're going to play the guys [who] have earned the opportunity to play," Garrett said. "We create competitive situations each and every day in practice. It's a competitive league, it's competitive to be on rosters, it's competitive to get playing time so you have to earn it."
This is why we wont see Chaz Green in the last two games; he hasn't yet earned the right to take snaps away from Doug Free.
Two differing takes on the Cowboys defense, 2015 edition:
Toddzilla suggests that the nasty run of defensive collapses are a byproduct of too many minutes on the field:
The Cowboys are fourth in average time of possession (31 minutes, 40 seconds). In five of the aforementioned games [all losses in which the defense could not make a late stop] the Cowboys lost the time of possession battle.
The Jets held the ball for 32:17 to the Cowboys' 27:43.
"They were tired again," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "Usually these things do boil down to the end but I looked down and I think it was 30/20 (time of possession) at 50 minutes. We knew that we were going to lose some energy. I would say there is some of that, but I did not see lack of effort."
Bankston builds an interesting case for the defense being far better than we have been giving them credit for. Exhibit A supporting his claim is this fact:
Dallas is the only team in the last decade to finish in the top half of the league in defensive points per game and worst in the league in turnover differential.
From the Opportunity Knocks Department:
Eatman concocts a list of the rooks that need playing time in the 2015 campaign's bitter two-game denouement. One of them would please O.C.C. greatly were it to come to pass:
Mark Nzeocha: This guy hasn’t played any football since last fall in college. Coming off a knee injury, you really don’t even know what type of player he’ll be, since he doesn’t even have preseason games under his belt. Even if he plays strictly on special teams, the Cowboys can get an idea what kind of awareness he brings to the table, not to mention his speed, tackling and all that. Getting him to the games might be tricky, especially if Rolando McClain is active, but if that means sitting Damien Wilson for a game, just to get Nzeocha on the field, I think it’s worth it. Some might argue that Wilson should be on this list, but I think the Cowboys have a good idea what type of player he is, and I don’t foresee him getting a start. So if it’s just about being a backup/special teams player, I think they need to see Nzeocha over Wilson.
Geoff Swaim will get snaps in Gavin Escobar's absence. His head coach says the team likes Swaim’s versatility:
"He’s a young tight end. But he has a lot of different traits that make you feel like he could be a complete tight end," Garrett said. "He did a good job blocking in training camp and showed he could run routes and catch the ball. He plays with a physicalness and aggressiveness, so it’ll be a good opportunity for him to get out there and play and be a part of this."
Greg Hardy gave Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 video game consoles to several of his defensive teammates.
Locker room cancer!! https://t.co/ydkXTnvNhV— rabblerousr (@rabblerousr) December 23, 2015
Jerry is asked whether this is the most disappointing season in his disappointing tenure. I think he claims that it had been (but who knows? Jerruh is indirect in the extreme and more or less incomprehensible):
"I thought we were going to be a whale of a football team....And, yes, it's far different and much less than I had anticipated, much less than we paid for, much less than we put the money out there for, if that counts. We put it in the places that I thought we had a chance to get better, get where we needed to get better, particularly in the pass rush. I thought we would be pretty dynamic in the pass rush, and certainly whether it be field position or whether it be what we've asked them to do, we just haven't been what we thought we'd be."
Moore with an excellent long-form piece on the intracacies of the concussion protocol. Once it's has been determined a player has suffered a concussion, there are a series of stages - rest and recovery; light aerobic exercise; weight training; metabolic work - he must clear. After clearing these hurdles, one more step remains before he can return to practice:
The Cowboys administer a computerized impact test and compare it against the player's base line. Fowler reviews the results. If the numbers look good, the player is taken to one of the four UNCs in the area for an independent evaluation. If the consultant clears the player neurologically, he can return to practice.
Video of Dez Bryant racing OSU's equine mascot, Bullet, in T. Boone Pickens Stadium.
Get your picks in for the BTB Pick 256 Challenge!
If you haven't yet submitted your picks, now would be a good time. Here's the link to the entry form.
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We have 90 participants who've already submitted their picks for Week 16, here's how they see the NFC East action going down this weekend:
58% like the Redskins over the Eagles
55% like the Bills over the Cowboys
91% like the Vikings over the Giants
If you haven't submitted your picks yet, you still have until 8:30 pm EST on Thursday to do so, but might as well get it done now by following the links above.