Sullivan: Marinelli's Defense, This Year's Draft Class Among Thoughts

Some of the thoughts that run through an oversized, bald head:

• Absolutely nothing wrong with a boring win every now and then. Can't even imagine the years we all lost on our lives with that Eagles game the week before, so was a nice, relaxing three hours against the oh-my-God-how-can-they-be-this-bad Browns.

Look, it's one thing not having enough talent – they are in Year 87 of the mother of all rebuilding projects – but come on, lining up onside shouldn't be challenging for a defensive unit. They didn't jump, they weren't drawn. They just lined up offside five times. That has to be an NFL record. Heck, that would be a record for the majority of Pop Warner leagues.

• There are two stories through the halfway point of this season: The one the media is jamming down everyone's esophagus, Dak Prescott, Tony Romo and Zeke Elliott, although admittedly the kids are fantastic; and what's actually taking place. This team is 7-1 because of the defense. The defense. Part of me, as bizarre as it would be, might vote for defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli for NFL Coach of the Year right now.

This is the first time since 1994 that the Cowboys have allowed 23 or fewer points in each of their first eight games. That's ridiculous in this day and age when offenses are scoring more than ever. The Browns finished with 222 yards and 13 first downs. And Cleveland somehow scored at least 26 points in two of its previous three games.

• Here's how absurd the Cowboys' 2016 draft class is performing: Third-round pick Maliek Collins is just 21 years old and is starting for one of the top defenses in the NFL. He registered two sacks against the Browns, yet it's buried beneath the comics. Any other year, or for any other team this year, Collins would be a 487-foot home run. And he still is. It's just that the Cowboys also have Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Roy Hobbs, the latter being Anthony Brown.

Keep in mind that 10 years from now they could also have the best defensive player from the draft in Jaylon Smith. Teams have called about interviewing senior director of college and player personnel Will McClay previously and the Cowboys have been able to keep him, but this offseason he's going to have his pick of jobs. Going to be tougher to keep him, although no one will outspend Jerry Jones. That we know.

• My favorite Ezekiel Elliot plays aren't the long runs. There have been five or six occasions this season, twice against the Browns, where any other running back would have lost 3 or 4 yards and he somehow, someway managed to get back to the line of scrimmage, maybe even picked up a yard. My No. 1 play of the season was that first down on the opening drive against Philadelphia, a little dump-off pass. He broke like four tackles where most backs just would have gone out of bounds 5 yards shy of the marker.

Zeke is on pace for 1,782 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. No player in franchise history has ever reached those numbers and only 12 in NFL record books have. I loved, loved, loved how the Cowboys didn't overuse him when there was no need to, as Alfred Morris finished with just one fewer carry.

• Speaking of paces, Jason Witten's big day has him on track for 76 catches and 848 yards. Only Tony Gonzalez has done that as a tight end aged 34 years or older. And Witten throws more blocks in each game than Gonzalez did over his last decade in the league combined. Not sure what the defensive scheme or the plan was with the Browns. It was literally like you were playing three against two in the backyard, and Witten was that third kid. He was literally that wide open on some of those catches.

• This story has officially morphed into reality for the majority, but here's the truth: Jerry Jones was never going to take Johnny Manziel in the 2014 NFL Draft. At least not in the first round. Yeah, he was smitten with the kid, but everyone was on board with Zack Martin, including Jones.

• Dez Bryant finished with just one catch, as I'm sure everyone knows. He also dropped three catchable balls, although only one was officially ruled a drop. This offense is going to need him. Maybe not every week, certainly not against Cleveland, but Bryant needs to stay focused, not worry about his targets and not worry about what the media and Twitter are saying. Just keep grinding, going hard every snap, every route. He cannot become a distraction. That looks bad enough on a losing team, never mind a 7-1 squad.

• Pretty sure there's never been a quarterback sent to the sidelines riding a seven-game winning streak. Have to think Tony Romo is pretty close to being ready. I wrote a few weeks ago that it was his team when he's ready. And I do think he's still a better quarterback than Prescott at this point in time. Know what? I'm glad it's not my call. And in terms of "problems" it's a heck of a one to deal with compared to the dilemma of Quincy Carter, Anthony Wright, Ryan Leaf and Clint Stoerner, who each started at least two games in 2001.

Check out Jeff Sullivan's column each week in Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine. Find out more at DallasCowboys.com/star. You can also follow Jeff on Twitter, @SullyBaldHead, or email him at jsullivan@dallascowboys.net.

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