Spagnola: So Far, So Amazing For These 2014 Cowboys

IRVING, Texas – Standing in the Cowboys locker room on Thursday and thinking, oh baby, maybe I'm amazed …

Amazed the Cowboys have a 6-1 record, as of Thursday tied with Denver for the best record in the NFL.

Amazed the Cowboys have won six consecutive games heading into their Monday night affair with the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium, the first time they've done that since 2007.

Amazed DeMarco Murray has a chance, albeit just seven games into a the season, to become just the second guy who has walked through this very locker room out here at The Ranch to lead the league in rushing, and just the fourth to lead the NFC in rushing.

Amazed Amobi Okoye, after listening to his tale, not only practiced football this very day for the first time since Dec. 28 of 2012, but that he is actually alive after spending from March 15 to Aug. 7 of 2013, nearly five full months, in an medically-induced a coma to save his life from a deadly Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis (swelling of the brain) while losing 88 pounds, memory and motor skills, then having to relearn how to walk and how to talk before he could even fathom performing "swim moves out there" on this day.

Amazed Tyrone Crawford, after missing all of last season recovering from the torn Achilles he suffered on the very first day of training camp in 2013, has started the past four games at defensive tackle, and his 18 tackles are second among the team's defensive linemen by one. He is also tied for the team lead with 17 quarterback hurries and has finally earned what is supposed to be an endearing nickname from the master of nicknames for the defensive linemen, Rod Marinelli, the veteran defensive coordinator now referring to the third-year guy as "Cinderella Man."

[embeddedad0] Amazed Rolando McClain, who last had played in a football game on Nov. 25, 2012, having retired twice from the NFL after just three years in the league, has become the physical glue to the resurgent Cowboys defense, the middle linebacker second with 51 tackles, first with three tackles for loss, first with two interceptions and his one forced fumble ranking him second on the team.

Amazed how so many are amazed at the high level of play from Tony Romo, his 69.2 completion percentage leading the league and his 104.7 passer rating fourth, not to mention his 8.36 yards per attempt ranking fourth as well, all coming after the last time he faced the Redskins, that being Dec. 22, 2013, at FedExField when he played through what had become a ruptured disk in his back and told me walking toward the bus after the 24-23 victory over the Redskins that his back was "real bad."

Amazed defensive end Anthony Spencer has even played four games this season, a minor upset just more than a year removed from having this microfracture knee surgery that drills holes in the bone under the kneecap to help promote regrowth of the missing cartilage. And I'm told he had a big divot in there, an injury that normally ends a football player's career.

Amazed, after everything he's gone through since Dec. 8, 2012, to even see Josh Brent here at The Ranch, let alone working out and becoming eligible to begin practicing during the ninth week of his 10-game suspension, now with the real possibility of adding some much-needed girth to the middle of that Cowboys defensive line.

Amazed, after watching him mostly struggle through training camp, how backup offensive tackle Jermey Parnell played this past Sunday against the Giants in place of the injured Doug Free, and likely will have to continue doing so at least at that level for the next three games if not better, including Monday night against the Redskins (2-5).

Amazed, since we're talking offensive line, at the instant high level of play from rookie guard Zack Martin, the Cowboys first-round draft choice who likely would not have been the team's first-round draft choice had the Steelers not taken linebacker Ryan Shazier the pick before them or had the Cowboys been able to trade down low enough in the first to qualify taking DeMarcus Lawrence that high while picking up like a third-round pick.

Amazed, and trying not to nonchalantly take for granted, how Dan Bailey has connected on 14 of 15 field-goal attempts so far, including two from 48, two from 49 (including the game-winner in overtime vs. Houston), another from 51 and 56, with his only miss, and barely, from 53 yards out.

Amazed – no, truly amazed – at the dramatic turnaround so far by this Cowboys defense, which after ranking 32nd last year, having given up more yards than any Dallas defense in history and third most in NFL history, goes into Monday night's matchup ranked 14th, giving up 61.4 fewer yards a game than they were after seven outings last year.

Amazed at the points, too, the Cowboys finishing last year giving up 27 points a game, but so far this year the Cowboys defense has given up no more than 17 points in any of the seven games when the opponent has not been aided by some sort return for a touchdown, or interceptions and fumble recoveries directly leading to scores.

Amazed somewhat that an offense converting no more than 35 percent of third-down opportunities last year now leads the league – think about that, leads the league – converting 57.4 percent of third downs this year.

And really amazed the Cowboys will be playing the Washington Redskins nearly 25 years to the anniversary date of Jerry Jones' first NFL victory as Cowboys owner (Nov. 5, 1989), that 0-8 Cowboys team going up to Washington D.C. to defeat the 4-4 Redskins, 13-3, on a Sunday night, knocking that potential 0-16 monkey off their back. Even though they finished 1-15 that season, the most franchise losses in a single season, at least they did not become the first NFL team to finish a season 0-16, and for that Jones is forever grateful, still commemorating that first victory – and only victory of his first season – with the game ball on display in his office.

So look, who knows, we are only seven games into the 2014 season, reaching the halfway point after Monday night's game. Last year at the halfway point the Cowboys were 4-4 on their way to that third straight 8-8 season. And that was about the time they started losing starter after backup to the starter in bushel-fulls, having to rely on guys coming off their couches, some not even with the benefit of anyone's training camp.

But this year, well, as you can see, maybe the worm is turning. They have received favorable results so far from questionable players, both physically and mentally, and from a highly-questionable defensive unit.

And they are actually seeing the reinforcements coming over the hill, starting this Monday night with Bruce Carter returning from his quad strain after missing the past three games. Why, fellow linebacker Rolando McClain has practiced all week for the first time since re-aggravating his groin several weeks ago, meaning their three starting linebackers might all be on the field together for the first time since the season opener.

Next week, their second-round draft choice, and they hope pass-rush specialist, DeMarcus Lawrence is eligible to come off injured reserve/return after having practiced these past two weeks. The week after that, suspended Josh Brent is eligible to return to practice for two weeks before he is eligible to resume playing.

And as previously mentioned, Okoye, the former Houston 2007 first-round pick, but only 27 years of age, is now in a three-week window of practicing, and eligible to come off the reserve/non-football injury list when ready, another guy who potentially can add some beef to the interior of the defensive line.

Just so many positive results heading into Week 8 from so many heavily looming questions going into training camp.

Seriously now, I'm right aren't I? Definitely amazing.

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