FRISCO, Texas – What's up, party people?
Alright, so that's not the best way I've ever opened a story, but whatever. I'll work on it.
It felt like I needed some kind of introduction to what I'm doing here, as I'm hoping to make this a regular piece during football season. I'm guessing you're all familiar with the concept of a notebook, where a reporter dumps all of his extra information into a story. You've also read plenty of columns, I'm sure.
I'm hoping to make this a kind of combination of the two – a place where you can find some extra tidbits about the Cowboys and the league landscape, along with plenty of my own personal opinions about the team, the coming opponent, Twitter nonsense, what I had for lunch – really whatever feels fitting.
I plan to do this every week from now until New Year's, and I'm hoping it'll be informative, fun and not a waste of your time or mine.
So, let's get into it.
1. I've heard the rationale over Dez Bryant's lack of involvement in the offense against the Giants. I don't necessarily agree with it, but I guess it at least makes sense.
It made me curious for one big reason, though. There's always going to be a great parallel where Scott Linehan and Dez Bryant are involved, because Linehan called plays for a gamebreaking receiver named Calvin Johnson during his time in Detroit.
I did some quick math. In 75 games between 2009 and 2013, the Lions targeted Megatron 803 times – an average of 11 times per game. Johnson was targeted 10 times or more in 44 of 75 games, or roughly 59 percent of the time. Conversely, Dez has been targeted 220 total times in 28 games since Linehan started calling plays in Dallas – an average of eight times per game. He's only been targeted 10 times or more on seven occasions – roughly 25 percent of the time.
There's an easy caveat to all of this, and it's that Dez has played 10 of those 28 games – including Sunday's loss to New York -- while Tony Romo was limited by injury. It makes sense for a wide out's production to suffer with a backup quarterback, right?
I'm not so sure. During Linehan's stint with Calvin Johnson, the Lions were missing Matt Stafford for a whopping 18 total games. In his place, they were quarterbacked by the likes of Shaun Hill, Daunte Culpepper and Drew Stanton.
And yet, during those 18 games, Megatron averaged five catches and 67 yards per outing, and he scored 10 total touchdowns. In his 10 recent games without Romo, Dez is averaging three catches for 36 yards, with four total touchdowns in that span.
That's a lot more numbers than I'm accustomed to dealing with, but it give me reason to believe that even a backup quarterback can find ways to get an All-Pro receiver involved.
2.As long as we're whining about troubling trends from the Giants game, let's throw out Ezekiel Elliott's woof-tastic average of 2.5 yards per carry. There's no doubt it wasn't pretty. Having gone back and watched all 20 of the rookie's carries, though, I think it says far more about the quality of the New York defensive line than anything else. Elliott was brought down by a defensive lineman on 15 of his carries – and he scored a touchdown on another. That means he only broke into the second level of the defense on four of his attempts. Back during the preseason, Elliott said it made his job easier when all he had to do was make a safety miss. Last weekend, he had to do far more than that.
3.Watching the Steelers plays Washington on Monday night should give the Cowboys – and any fans – some confidence that the ground game can bounce back this week. Deangelo Williams ran the rock 26 times in that game, racking up 143 yards. On 18 of those 26 carries, he bypassed the front seven altogether and was tackled in the defensive backfield. We know the Cowboys' offensive line is more talented than it looked against New York. There should be plenty of opportunity for them to right the ship against this run defense.
4.Just a quick fun fact about Brandon Carr's interception last week: it was his first pick in 1,018 days. Last time he intercepted a quarterback, on Thanksgiving Day in 2013, only four other defensive starters were even on the roster. Zeke Elliott was a true freshman at Ohio State, fresh off a one-carry, seven-yard performance against Indiana. Time flies, man.
5.After signing on to the Patriots' practice squad, Devin Street told reporters in New England that he could sense he'd be cut by the Cowboys because of "the culture down there." I can kind of empathize with Street – at least a little bit. The Cowboys are heavily invested in the trio of Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley, and none of the three was ever going anywhere this season. At the same time, that leaves two open spots on the wide receiver depth chart, and Street did nothing to seize one of them. In 30 career games in Dallas, he recorded nine catches for 132 yards. He fought injuries and failed to make an impression during the preseason this year, dropping two passes in the preseason finale. That doesn't sound like a culture problem, so much as missed opportunities.
6.Jay Gruden told me it was oversimplifying things to wonder why Josh Norman wouldn't shadow Antonio Brown all over the field. Washington has faith in both Norman and Bashaud Breeland, he said, and sometimes it's more complicated than sticking your best corner on your best wide out. I'm not questioning the nuance involved in game planning, but I don't buy it. Norman held Brown to zero yards on two targets, while Breeland surrendered eight catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Put your best corner on your best receiver – that's why you pay them.
7.In that same vein, if the Redskins follow through on their pregame plan and *don't *shadow Dez with Norman, I think they're crazy.
8. Myles Jack Watch.Myles Jack will be a topic of conversation around the Cowboys for the foreseeable future, considering he plays the same position as Jaylon Smith, had a similar draft grade as Jaylon Smith, was selected after Jaylon Smith – and is completely healthy right now. If Jack goes on to a Pro Bowl-caliber career, he will be considered a Draft Day mistake of the same caliber as Randy Moss. The Jaguars' second-round pick didn't play a single defensive snap in their season-opening loss to Green Bay, as he was limited solely to special teams. It'll be interesting to see how his role increases throughout the season.
9.I'm a sucker for a good Twitter meme, and I don't think there is one that's as consistently funny as Crying Michael Jordan. Obviously, there were going to be jokes after Washington's blowout loss to Pittsburgh. It wasn't surprising to see Crying MJ. What was surprising was to see him talk. Bravo.
10.He might not have liked the NFL media very much, but goodness gracious do I love Marshawn Lynch. On the field, he ran the ball like a dump truck careening down a gravel road. Off the field, he always stayed true to himself – even when it rubbed reporters the wrong way – and his efforts to help people in his hometown of Oakland are well-documented and impressive.
Anyway, I'm going to miss watching Lynch play football, but I can at least take solace in the fact that he's still out there doing BeastMode-type things – like going on a wilderness adventure with Bear Grylls.