FRISCO, Texas – Some things in this game of football are hard to understand. Things happen, and you go, say what?
Like this past Sunday.
The Minnesota Vikings led the NFL in scoring defense in 2017, giving up 15.8 points per game. Only four times all regular season did the Vikings give up more than 20 points in a game. They won two of them. Only twice during the regular season did they give up more than 30. They split those two. But in the playoffs, the Vikings give up 24 in a victory over the Saints on that head-scratching prayer over the final seconds and then a season-high 38 in the NFC title-game loss to Philadelphia.
Then there is Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles. He played in seven games in 2017, behind Carson Wentz, starting just the final three of the season. After seeing him against the Cowboys in that brief appearance in the finale, wouldn't have given you a wooden nickel for the guy.
I mean, in those seven games he completed 56.4 percent of his passes and averaged a less-than pedestrian 5.32 yards an attempt. His QB rating was 79.5. Then he goes out against that No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL and goes 26 of 33 for 352 yards, three TDs, no picks and a 141.4 QB rating in the 38-7 victory over the Vikings. And this after leading the Super Bowl-bound Eagles to all of 15 points in the divisional-round win over the Falcons (15-10).
That then brings me to my No. 1 Mick Shot of the week, a serious say-what occurrence.
- Dez-Dak:So, need help with this one. Dak was a rookie QB in 2016, never had played a down of NFL football. And remember, he rarely worked with Dez in camp since he was projected to be the third-string quarterback until Kellen Moore and then Tony Romo went down for basically the season. Dez spent most of the first half of the season recovering from the tibial fracture to his knee. But in the last eight games Bryant played in 2016, Games 9-15 (no stats in only 18 snaps in Game 16), and then the playoff loss to Green Bay, the two guys hooked up on 43 catches for 748 yards and eight touchdowns. As I've pointed out before, if you factor that over an entire season, Dez finished on a 16-game pace of 86 catches for 1,486 yards and 16 touchdowns. That with a rookie QB he had rarely worked with in the offseason and camp. Now, after Dez falls off to a team-leading 69 catches, for a team-leading 838 yards and a team-leading six touchdown receptions, suddenly the two aren't on the same page. They need more time together. He doesn't have the same rapport with Dak as he had with Romo. And this after Dez looking like a sure Pro Bowler during an exceptional training camp. This all leading to most everyone insisting the Cowboys should either cut Dez's pay or cut him outright. Say what? What happened? Please help me.
- Then What?Say the Cowboys cut ties with the franchise's all-time leader in career touchdown receptions (73), what would you do to compensate for his loss? Certainly no one on the team is ready to assume the role of an 80-catch, 1,000-yard, 10-TD lead receiver. Draft one? Who is to say a rookie will be more productive in 2018 or you're assured of getting one who possibly is? Sign a free agent? In a list of the top 20 *potential *free-agent receivers I just saw – remember, some will be re-signed – none had better numbers than Dez did in 2017. Oh, and the 20th-ranked free agent receiver in this one poll was, uh, Brice Butler.
- Free What?Keep hearing what the Cowboys' free-agency priorities should be, come the start on March 14. Say what you want, but here is my list in order: Re-sign or franchise defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence; re-sign guard Zack Martin to a long-term deal instead of having to pay him the fifth-year option of $9.3 million; re-sign linebacker Anthony Hitchens; and put at least a second-round tender on defensive lineman David Irving, which will cost around $3 million, if not a first at the cost of nearly $4 million. But if the Cowboys are unable to sign Lawrence and Martin to long-term deals, their cap space will evaporate quickly if having to franchise Lawrence at $17 million and absorb Martin's $9.3 million fifth-year option. Oh, and let's not forget the last portion of Romo's prorated bonuses he received will amount to $8.9 million.