Memories of “America’s Team” suffering postseason defeat at the cloven hoofs of the Rams at the Los Angeles Coliseum had been swirling for months ad nauseum. Cowboys Nation has had all summer over which to stew, but sweet relief has arrived with another NFL season that has begun anew. Though not just any season but the NFL’s 100th year to be crystal clear.
While “final” 53-man rosters have largely been hardened, scouting departments around the league continue their last-second sifting through Turk-traumatized free agency . . . hoping to find just one more raw-skilled, high-motor individual with a sense of now-or-never urgency who may rise above what is initially bargained.
And for those lucky or established enough to have survived a visit from the Turk, it is time to become a playing participant in the NFL’s centennial celebration, err, get to work. The Dallas Cowboys are doing their part for the league’s anniversary by bringing something old, something new, something borrowed, and something (white and) blue.
Future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten will make his official reappearance to the gridiron after a temporary retirement to ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth. Color commentary (even for a man of his pro football knowledge) proved the wrong environment, and now he is out to show himself and “Cowboys Nation” – while he is something (slow and) old – he has not grown too long in the tooth. He is determined to show the NFL world that one year away has not diminished his ability to (impactfully) play.
Veteran center Travis Frederick will make his long-awaited homecoming after missing all of 2017 with (temporary-yet-still-debilitating) symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome. Now fully recovered with ALL SYSTEMS GO, “Fredbeard” appears ready to help “The Great Wall Of Dallas” regain more of its former glory by beating unworthy defenders like a drum. While Frederick is also something somewhat old (or shall we say established), his complete recovery from a crippling nerve condition is no less inspiring and bold.
Not only do the Cowboys have something new, but it is also a carefully curated collection of something borrowed (trade and free agent pick-ups on one-year, prove-it deals which Dallas hopes congeal) and 2019 draft picks that comprise a promising who’s who.
Key among those undrafted additions were defensive end Robert “The Mighty” Quinn (via trade with Miami) who is expected to be a long-sought-after bookend to DeMarcus “Tank” Lawrence, but until his two-game PED suspension has concluded, fans will simply have to grapple with the suspense. Free-agent wide receiver Randall Cobb (who from the flank, in the slot, or returning kicks) can – when healthy – do the job just as easily as former Cowboy Cole Beasley. Free-agent defensive end Kerry Hyder, who left the Lions’ den to improve his fortunes among a robust rotation of defensive colliders. “Futures contract” free agent and former New York Jets speedy wide receiver Devin Smith has battled all the way back from being no more than a “camp body” with consecutive ACL tears in right knee (over a 16-month span from 2015-2017) to having landed another game day opportunity for all of Cowboys Nation to see.
Among the Cowboys’ 2019 draft picks, first-round gobstopper and defensive tackle Trysten Hill, shifty running back Tony Pollard, determined defensive end Joe Jackson, and delightfully-ball-hawking safety Donovan Wilson seems most ready to perform year-one tricks. Guard Connor McGovern and defensive end Jalen Jelks will start the season on the eight-week injured reserve list, and it is Dallas’ hope that their promising skills and desirable depth will not have been missed.
“What about something (white and) blue?” you ask. GM Jerry only recently fulfilled that task, but on that, there will be further reflection in the next section.
Infraction By Distraction
The Dallas Cowboys – since their purchase by Jerry Jones on February 25th, 1989 and certainly since the advent of social media – have almost never “enjoyed” an uneventful moment at any time during any season. So long as Jerry remains in charge, the association of the words “peace and quiet” with America’s Team will be viewed as an act of abject treason.
The Cowboys would lose popular-and-productive wide receiver “Lump Of Cole” Beasley to Buffalo, injury-prone-but-gutty tight end Geoff Swaim to Jacksonville, and capable-yet-inconsistent linebacker Damien Wilson to Kansas City. If not for another year of functional frugality in free agency and (more) deft draft choices by people with wise voices, these losses might have triggered pity.
Defensive end Randy Gregory would quietly remain dedicated (by all accounts) to his latest mission of – once again – gaining reinstatement by Commissioner Goodell’s decision.
Still, Dallas had been enjoying an offseason rather smooth and training camp exceptionally chill. Sure, challenges were present, but they were imminently solvable. Dak Prescott was due for a contract extension, and it would be no easy effort of locking in his retention. First came the titanic new extension for Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson. And just when GM Jerry thought he had some time to reasonably avoid a compensation crime, Eagles’ QB Carson Wentz received an extension that would force Dallas to at least swing for Philly’s financial fence. And just when GM Jerry believed his cap space could manageably remain in place, Ezekiel Elliott (not-so-suddenly) began a preseason holdout that nearly caused the myopic among Cowboys Nation to fall on their collective face. GM Jerry would take a previously-hinted detour and surprisingly extend Jaylon “Smooth” Smith, making everyone’s financial fixation on Dallas’ big three (Dak, Zeke, and Amari Cooper) all but a myth. Doubling down on the new contract cravings, Dallas also extended offensive tackle La’el Collins (who helped create nearly $6M in current cap year savings). Following that purposeful pronouncement, and just as Elliott and GM Jerry were beginning to converge (albeit painfully) towards their long-awaited announcement, Rams’ QB Jared Goff received an extension that would yet again require of GM Jerry a bit more fiscal invention. Then, finally, mercifully, Zeke and Jerry would agree (on the richest contract for a running back in NFL history), and all would be merry.
The Cowboys would precede that wonderful news with the release of persona non grata, linebacker Rolando McClain (a talented-yet-troubled athlete by any number of views). The suddenly-reinstated McClain last played in 2015 when his time with Dallas was upended upon becoming indefinitely suspended.
“Well?! What about something (white and) blue?!” you push yet again. GM Jerry is a rare business bird. He is often able – in the same business breath – to antagonize (with “Zeke WHO?”) and then monetize (with “THAT’S who!”), softening his target audience with so much guaranteed satisfaction (that he no longer wishes to flip Jerry the La’Veon Bell, err, bird).
While – again – there were surprisingly none (?) of the common Cowboys blotter squatters, Dallas suffered a bit from infraction by distraction . . . and Cowboys Nation will continue to agonize into the season until Prescott has been sufficiently granted his own green gratification.
Will They Or Won’t They?
The New York Giants travel to AT&T Stadium for an up-close reminder of how much Cowboys Nation hates ‘em. The G-Men appear doomed to somewhat extend their 2018 mess into this new year, but a cocky and complacent Cowboys team offers plenty for fans to fear.
As ready to retire as Eli Manning may appear, he has an improved-if-still-imperfect o-line behind which to better steer. Saquon Barkley will surely be raring to go against a Hot Boz squad glaring at him so darkly.
Will the newly-deepened “Marinelli’s Men” attack and sack Manning again and again . . . or will Saquon the every-back, tight end Evan Engram, and a rag-tag receiver fleet find a way to turn it on?
Will a relaxed and ready Zeke pulverize New York’s defensive front, or will the Giants surprise with a consistent backfield hunt? Will Dak – armed with 2K (Kellen and Kitna) – confidently remove the offensive shrink wrap and make all of Cowboys Nation want to vigorously clap?
Will Prescott and Zeke lead the deepest Dallas team in years towards joyous Super Bowl tears?
We shall see. We always do.