Two Cowboys legends received their gold jackets, joining the best of the best and took their rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
DeMarcus Ware and Chuck Howley were officially inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, giving the Cowboys now have 17 former players in Canton. While the wait was certainly different for Ware and Howley, the honor is the same as the two are now surrounded by the best of the best in pro football history. Ware made the HOF in his second year of eligibility while Howley now gets in after waiting 50 years since he last played in 1973.
Ware played 12 seasons, including the first nine with the Cowboys from 2005-13. During that time, he registered a franchise-record 117 career sacks. After Ware left the Cowboys, he joined the Broncos for the final three seasons of his career. In Denver, Ware made two more Pro Bowls, but more importantly, helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50 against the Panthers. When Ware retired following the 2016 season, he ended up signing a contract with the Cowboys to officially retire with the franchise that drafted him.
Howley spent his entire 13-year career in Dallas from 1961-73. He made six Pro Bowls and five All-Pro selections. He helped the Cowboys win their first title in Super Bowl VI, but he was also the MVP of Super Bowl, becoming the first and still only player in NFL history to win the award on the losing team. In that game against the Colts, Howley had two interceptions and a fumble recovery. A year later, in the win over the Dolphins, Howley didn’t get MVP but still had an interception and a fumble recovery.
Ware’s HOF speech contained some powerful moments.
DeMarcus Ware’s football journey from small-college star to Pro Football Hall of Famer took a fateful turn in the early 2000s, when he made a life-altering decision with a knife in his hand.
Choking with emotion as he recalled the incident Saturday in his induction speech at Tom Benson Stadium, the former Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos star said he was assaulted by a gun-wielding man in a parking lot during a trip home while attending Troy University. That moment, which he’d never shared publicly, changed his life.
“Without warning, I was knocked across the head with a gun,” Ware told the crowd. “A knife dropped to the ground and I picked it up. And when I looked up, all I could see was the potential shooter’s eyes and a gun barrel pressed against my head. All I heard was my family say, ‘Don’t kill him.’
“There was an eerie silence after which I simply said, ‘This isn’t me,’ and I dropped the knife. At that moment I knew God gave me a second chance and I had to do something with it. That was my turning point. The memories of those parking-lot lights and the sounds of those screams, ‘Don’t kill him,’ became the fire that empowered me. You can imagine how many years that night echoed in my head.”
The Dallas Cowboys defensive line has vastly improved over the last two seasons.
DALLAS HAS AN ABUNDANCE OF PASS RUSHERS
I have refrained from including Micah Parsons in this group. This article is about the men up front. Granted, Micah lives on the defensive line but I’m lumping him into the linebacker group to show others some love today. The 26.5 sacks and the 157 total pressures makes it very difficult not to focus on his talent and abilities.
Thus far in training camp, Tyron Smith has been on skates trying to get one hand on Parsons. However, I digress. This defensive edge group beyond Parsons can hold their own. The combination of DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Sam Williams, and Dante Fowler, Jr. got to the quarterback pretty often with 24.5 sacks combined.
Dan Quinn has been masterful in his rotation and allowing each guy to play and make an impact. I believe that this group will remain an asset and that its positive impact will continue into 2023. If I were to make a prediction, I would put my money on it.
DALLAS HAS A LEGIT 3-TECHNIQUE
Since Jay Ratliff exited stage right for the windy city years ago, it seemed as if Dallas has been searching near and far for a pass-rushing defensive tackle. They finally landed on one in the third round in 2021 draft with Mr. Osa Odighizuwa. He will burst on the scene and maybe even make a pro bowl selection this season. The point is, against this defense, quarterbacks won’t be able to sit comfortably in the middle of the pocket with pressure up the middle. He provides that piece. According to PFF, 68 total pressures in 2 seasons is music to my ears. Heading into year three, I expect pressures to increase north of his 34 average. The depth behind him isn’t great.
Neville Gallimore has an outside shot of making this roster but there’s no guarantee he would be impactful if he does. Nevertheless, I feel good about the position flexibility of Viliami Fehoko, Jr. and Chauncey Golston. It’s a win if they can give Dallas minutes on the interior. Golston proved that to be the case by lining up over the guard on the interior in 74 snaps in 2022. Not too shabby.
The Dallas Cowboys defense has impactful defenders through their unit. with many versatile enough to play multiple positions.
Over the winter, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn watched ESPN’s 30 for 30 “Bullies of Baltimore,” about the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, one of the most dominant units in NFL history. When it was over, Quinn called their defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis to ask what made the difference from one year to the next. In 1999, the Ravens allowed 20 touchdown passes. In 2000, they cut it down to just 11. “A drastic number,” Quinn said.
Quinn was the defensive coordinator of the “Legion of Boom” Seattle Seahawks in 2013-14. In two years, Seattle allowed the fewest yards (270.4), points (15.2) and passing yards (178.8) per game.
“It’s not one-size-fits-all, but I would say at the front of it, the best defenses, one, are usually very good tacklers and guys who have a really good ball-hawking awareness because if you get those two parts right, you’re going to limit your explosive plays,” Quinn said, “and then obviously with the takeaways you’re taking away opportunities to score or you’re going to score yourself.”
Quinn has Pro Bowl players at every level with Lawrence, edge Micah Parsons and cornerback Trevon Diggs. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and Gilmore have been Pro Bowlers. In Kearse, Malik Hooker and Donovan Wilson, he has three safeties who can bring a versatility to the defense. The defensive line is as deep as any the Cowboys have had since their Super Bowl days.
“Each one (of the great defense) probably had their own identity and I’d say ours here is probably more flexibility and adjustability than most of the defenses I’ve been a part of,” Quinn said. “We can put some guys in different roles based on all the skills that they can do. We’re just getting started (but) the traits are there to play really exceptional defense.”
Here are a few Cowboys that deserve more praise for performance at training camp.
WR Simi Fehoko
Simi Fehoko became the unfortunate target of fans’ ire on the very first day of training camp when he let a perfect pass from Dak Prescott bounce off his hands and fly into the clutches of rookie corner Eric Scott Jr. But since then, Fehoko has been having a really good camp.
He’s ultimately been overshadowed by CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks, both of whom are living up to their billing as top receivers. Meanwhile, Jalen Tolbert is turning heads with how much of a jump he’s making, but Fehoko - who is considered to be competing with Tolbert for the WR4 spot - has been keeping pace with the second-year pro regardless of who’s throwing him the ball.
Fehoko, who stands at 6’4” while boasting a 4.43 40-yard dash, offers a unique combination of size and speed. He’s been showing that off in camp, too, using his speed to get open on crossing routes and using his size to box out defenders on plays where he needs to be more physical at the catch point.
It was easy to get carried away on the first day, but the rumors of Fehoko’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. He’s right there with Tolbert in the competition for the top backup receiver spot.
S Juanyeh Thomas
Juanyeh Thomas signed as an undrafted rookie last year out of Georgia Tech. It was a bit of a surprise that Thomas went undrafted, and the Cowboys scooped him up quick. He spent all season on the practice squad, but he had impressed the team with his performance on special teams during the preseason.
With injuries to two safeties on the first day of camp this year, Thomas has had a surge in first team reps and he hasn’t looked back. Thomas has consistently flashed, and he’s impressed the top boss:Thomas is suddenly one of the better bets to make the tail end of the roster, and he’ll be getting ample opportunities to cement that status once preseason games commence. The Cowboys are loaded at safety right now, and Thomas’ strong start to camp makes them even deeper.
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