Since late July, the shadow of a potential domestic violence charge has been hanging over Dallas Cowboys running back and first round pick Ezekiel Elliott. He maintained his innocence all along, and now the authorities involved have declined to press any charges. Although carefully worded, the statement released by the Columbus, Ohio city attorney does seem to imply that the alleged victim was not credible. The NFL has not completed its own investigation into the situation, but there is not much basis for them to take any action if the accuser is basically discredited.
The perpetually loquacious owner and general manager of the Cowboys took to the airwaves to discuss a variety of subjects. While his remark about circumcising mosquitoes is the most memorable line from the interview, the biggest takeaway is that Tony Romo will remain on the 53 man roster rather than going on IR. (Be warned, this is classic Jerryspeak.)
WILL YOU PUT ROMO ON THE SHORT-TERM IR? -- "Not really. So, I think that medicine can fail you when you start really creating these bright lines. And we've found that out over the years when they say it takes six weeks, it takes this. We learned that with Witten. So, in his case, it was supposed to be a length of time. It turns out that it wasn't. So, some of these kinds of things have been around, these traditional healing times, aren't necessarily as bright-lined as you might like for them to be. So, his importance to us, his being able to play in a game ... is really kind of unique. So, we'll be real liberal when we start evaluating when it is he'll start coming back."
And maybe it's just me, but this quote also stuck out.
HOW DO YOU FEEL LIKE DAK WILL BE DIFFERENT LAST YEAR'S BACKUPS? -- "Well, we're just pleased with what Dak has been. Actually, when we did use Weeden last year, we were dealing with a more seasoned player. We were dealing with one that had started games. We were dealing with a player that was a first-round pick. We were dealing with a player that had really more credentials, if you will. But he hadn't played as well as Dak has played at any point since getting in the NFL."
As the quarterback of three Super Bowl winning Dallas teams, Troy Aikman is a living legend for Cowboys fans. He is also the number one analyst for FOX Sports NFL broadcasts, and one of their biggest stars. Oh, and he has a long standing beef with newly hired FOX "personality" Skip Bayless. (If you don't know the origins of that, you can check it out here.) In an unusually blunt statement, he expressed his displeasure with the Bayless hire.
"To say I'm disappointed in the hiring of Skip Bayless would be an enormous understatement," Aikman said. "Clearly, [Fox Sports president of national networks] Jamie Horowitz and I have a difference of opinion when it comes to building a successful organization. I believe success is achieved by acquiring and developing talented, respected and credible individuals, none of which applies to Skip Bayless."
Oh, were you aware that in four days, the Dallas Cowboys will meet the New York Giants in a REAL, COUNTS IN THE STANDINGS FOOTBALL GAME? So it is time to start looking forward to that contest.
This is a very fun read, especially if you are an X and O junkie. It tries to predict the offensive game plan of the Cowboys against the Giants. Lots of interesting plays, and a couple of terms many of us are fond of, jet sweep and run/pass option, play prominent parts.
DALLAS COWBOYS OVERALL STRATEGY
With or without Romo, Dallas' strategy is clear: maximize the talent of their highly touted offensive line and recent number four overall pick to form an unstoppable ground attack: a juggernaut. This will sustain drives by creating manageable 3rd downs, open up big plays in the passing game, wear down opponents, and control the tempo.
With Romo, Dallas would be expected to score a lot of points, thereby helping the defense to focus on rushing the passer and creating takeaways. Since the Cowboys are starting rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, whether or not they can finish enough drives with TD's is less certain. A dominant running game will help simplify the game for Prescott by limiting his exposure to the numerous pressure packages designed by Giants Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
Hypocrisy alert: Jon Gruden sometimes drives me mad, but I really like the praise he heaps on rookie quarterback and starter Dak Prescott.
"Trust me the playbook is going to change in Dallas," Gruden said. "You're going to see quarterback-driven runs. You're going to see option football whether you like it or not. And that regulates what a defense can do. One thing the Cowboys are certainly going to do is they're going to run the ball right down your throat, and they're going to command an eight-man front, which is going to give Prescott some of these one-on-one isolations to guys like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Prescott can be really hard to defend because of his dual-threat abilities and what he does to defenses. He makes you play assignment football."
This is Todd Archer's weekly five wonders post. He always has some good thoughts, and the impact Lance Dunbar might have is one of them (if Dunbar is active for the game, which is not certain given the time he's missed).
In last year's season opener against the Giants, Dunbar caught eight passes for 70 yards, including two for 40 yards on what was the Cowboys' game-winning drive in the final minute.
While there is a lot of concern about the defensive line and uncertainty about the MIKE and SAM linebackers, the secondary was clearly the strength of the defense in camp and preseason.
It was evident all preseason with mostly positive results: The Cowboys' secondary is playing fast, physical and aggressive.
"They've done a nice job. They're off to a good start," head coach Jason Garrett said in late August when the team returned home from camp. "I think as a unit they're playing more physical than maybe we've played in the past, and that's a good thing. The corners are tackling. They're not afraid to stick their nose in there on a consistent basis. That's an area we still have to improve on."
In Sunday's season opener against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium, they'll have to be sharp in all areas against one of the NFL's most talented receiving groups.
In the preseason, we saw a rare event: A Dan Bailey miss on a 52 yard field goal. But in the finale against the Houston Texans, he got anther chance and, as we are more used to seeing, he split 'em.
"It was actually the exact same kick, right hash on the 34 [yard line] so 52 yards," Bailey said. "Anytime you miss one you always want it back, so to come back and have the same kick was good. It was good to go out there and knock it through. I know I can make that kick."
A big challenge for Prescott is going to come from the highly-regarded pass rush of the Giants, including this man:
DE Olivier Vernon: He's the player the Giants handed $52.5 million guaranteed this summer. Now the pressure is on the former Miami Dolphin to produce. All early indications are that Vernon is primed for a breakout season. He consistently dominated Flowers this summer and excelled in limited preseason action. He's the flashiest part of what could be a dominant front four.
One note: Ereck Flowers, who Vernon dominated, is listed as one of the real weaknesses of the offense.
The premise of this piece by Steve Van Over is Jimmy Johnson's tenet that you have to win two of the three phases of the game: Offense, defense, and special teams. Dallas has built a powerful offense, even with a rookie starting at quarterback. But the defense has more questions than sure answers at this time. So the path to success may be building a killer special teams unit, which is a likely reason the team kept two fullbacks.
I see the team's strategy here. The defense wasn't the strongest unit on the club before having three starters suspended for the first four to ten games. Keeping an extra rotation player (or two) isn't going to change that. However if the club can win both the offensive and special teams battles then the defense only has to maintain, not win it's contest in order for the club to bring home the victory. That is an aggressive game day strategy but one that bespeaks an honest assessment of the clubs individual units. Offense AND special teams should/can be dominant. The defense is/can be "ok." That's proper assessment versus drinking the kool-aid and reflects well on the staff.
Because zebras matter.
The weekly "Decoding" series by Sturm are must-reads. Here, he sets up for the offense.
The league has told us that this is a QB league and that you don't invest in Running Backs because their roles are less than they have ever been and that perhaps they are merely complimentary pieces now. But, what if you desire to get to 50/50 or beyond? 50/50 based on a hypothetical 1,000-play season means you are running 500 run plays. If you are, then you might want the best RB you can acquire and then sign him up for 300 of them (Ezekiel Elliott). Then, you might want someone else's starter to be your backup (Alfred Morris), and even a nice rookie to take on a little of the leftovers (Darius Jackson).
Again, the Cowboys seem to be trying to pull off something - at least in their heads - that the league simply isn't doing anymore. But, because of the Cowboys DNA - a coach and front office that are still trying to go back to 2014 and the early 1990s dynasty - they have built this throwback offense and are trying to insert modern ideas with an old-school, physical style.