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Writer's Blocks: On Sloppy Football, Ancient History & Draft Day Bargains

FRISCO, Texas – It's way too early in the game to nitpick. At this point, I'm still just thankful to have football back.

But, man – that was bad. In the era of pure parity, where every team is supposed to have a chance, that was about as boring an opening NFL weekend as I can remember. I tuned in expecting heart-racing finishes and game-breaking plays, and most of what I got was lopsided blowouts and sloppy football.

It's at least a little ironic, because all of this comes after what felt like the longest preseason in league history, when you'd assume these clubs can work out the kinks. But having watched the first round of games this weekend, it sure looks like it's going to take a while for everyone to fire on all cylinders.

None of this should concern the Cowboys, obviously. Dallas put together one of the best performances of Week 1, as the Dallas defense suffocated a hapless Giants offense, while Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott pieced together a steady – if unspectacular – effort on offense.

The Cowboys' 19-3 win against New York wasn't the most entertaining thing I've ever watched, but all wins count the same in the standings. I'm sure the other Week 1 winners feel the same way.

Still, I hope there are some more fireworks coming in Week 2.

1.I'm not making this up, by the way. When I decided to write about how boring last weekend was, I made sure to check and make sure I'm not crazy. This is what I discovered:

Of the 16 games played in Week 1 last season, 11 of them were settled by seven points or less. The first game of the season, Carolina at Denver, came down to a missed field goal at the buzzer. The Bengals squeaked past the Jets on a field goal with less than a minute remaining. Oakland and New Orleans played a thriller that was settled by the Raiders' decision to go for two with 47 seconds remaining.

The Chiefs and Chargers went to overtime to open 2016. The Lions beat the Colts on a last-minute field goal. Doug Baldwin lifted the Seahawks over the Dolphins with a last-gasp touchdown.

Compared to that, last weekend was a snoozefest. Only four of the 15 games played were settled by one possession. A whopping six games were decided by 15 points or more.

Big-time kudos to the Chargers for staging a late-game rally in Denver, because that was some of the only bonafide drama of the entire week – aside from Atlanta's goal line stand in Chicago.

This is the NFL, where anything can supposedly happen on any given Sunday. I need more drama than what was offered to start the season.

2.We'll get our first opportunity for more drama tonight, as two of Week 1's most disappointing teams look to rectify their wrongs. Houston got blown out by Jacksonville, and they'll hope to right the ship in Cincinnati – where the Bengals were shut out to start the season.

Statistically, it's entirely possible that these two teams will play the most entertaining game of 2017 tonight. And even if they do, I'll be fundamentally opposed to the entire endeavor.

Five members of the Houston Texans are currently in concussion protocol after taking hits to the head in Sunday's loss to the Jaguars. Fortunately, football teams treat concussions differently than they used to, so those guys aren't likely to suit up for a Thursday night game.

Despite that, I think that really emphasizes the physical nature of football – and how absurd it is to ask NFL teams to play on what is essentially three days' rest. Consider the bumps and bruises, and yes the damaging hits, that professional players take on a weekly basis. If you ask them yourself, most players will tell you that it takes until at least Wednesday or Thursday to get last week's aches and pains to go away – if they do at all.

Now, consider the league's supposed interest in player safety, and tell me how it makes sense to make every NFL team play a Thursday game. At its very worst, I think it's reckless to ask guys to put their bodies through that in such a short period of time. At it's very best, I think it leads to some sloppy football.

Seriously, go ahead and tell me how many truly entertaining Thursday night games you've watched. Now tell me why we're still making this a weekly experience. It doesn't make sense for anyone.

3.If you have to go through the rigors of a Thursday game, it might at least help to have youth on your side. The Cowboys don't have a Thursday kickoff until Thanksgiving, but youth is definitely something they have in abundance.

With so many young players contributing to the cause in the season opener, I wanted to calculate the Cowboys' age. I took the 43 players who I feel will play a truly significant role on this year's roster, and I came back with an average age of just 26. Even when you factor the starters, which includes longtime stalwarts like Jason Witten, Sean Lee, Orlando Scandrick and Dez Bryant, the average age jumps up to just 28 years old.

That's a lot of youth making a lot of contributions.

This Cowboys team boasts a whopping 10 starters – Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, La'el Collins, Chaz Green, Maliek Collins, DeMarcus Lawrence, Jaylon Smith, Damien Wilson, Anthony Brown and Byron Jones – who are 25 or younger.

That doesn't include "older" players like Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, who are 26.

Like I said last week, the Cowboys have positioned themselves well to have the core of this team intact for a long time.

4.When I do *The Draft Show *with my buddy Bryan Broaddus during the offseason, I often bristle at the notion of trading premium picks to move up the draft board. As valuable as first-round picks are, I really feel like you build the core of your team by drafting well in the second, third and fourth rounds.

This week's matchup perfectly illustrates my point.

You undoubtedly remember the 2016 NFL Draft, when the Cowboys aggressively tried to trade with the Seattle Seahawks to draft Paxton Lynch in the back end of the first round, offering their No. 34 overall pick and their No. 101 overall pick to move up to No. 26 for the quarterback.

They were ultimately outbid by the Denver Broncos, who sent pick No. 31 and pick No. 94 to Seattle in exchange for Lynch. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones could have pulled off the trade, had he been willing to deal pick No. 67 to Seattle.

In the aftermath of the first round, Jones was hard on himself about what he perceived as a missed opportunity.

"When I look back on my life, I overpaid for my big successes every time," he said. "And when I tried to get a bargain, get it a little cheaper or get a better deal on it, I ended up usually either getting it and not happy I got it. Or missing it. And I probably should have overpaid here."

Fast forward a year, and I bet Jones is glad he didn't overpay. The 34th overall pick that he didn't deal to Seattle turned into Jaylon Smith, who made seven tackles and forced a fumble in his first NFL start on Sunday. That 67th overall pick turned into Maliek Collins, who posted five sacks as a rookie and who might be the most talented player on the Cowboys' defensive line.

And then there's the obvious fact that, had the Cowboys drafted Paxton Lynch, they would have felt no need whatsoever to spend pick No. 135 on a quarterback, which turned out to be Dak Prescott.

If that qualifies as a bargain, it might be the best bargain ever.

5.Few practice squad players have had a more interesting ride through the NFL than Jameill Showers.

The Cowboys released their third-year quarterback/safety from the practice squad on Wednesday evening. It's too early to speculate on where his career takes him from here, but I can't remember a guy who's worn more hats during a stint with a team.

Showers showed enough moxie, poise and athleticism to make the team as a practice squad quarterback in 2015. That natural athleticism made him a perfect practice squad player, as he worked on special teams in practice and helped the scout team – mimicking mobile quarterbacks like Russell Wilson during game week. He was so useful that the coaching staff rewarded him by bumping him to the active roster for the end of that 4-12 season. That might not seem like a big deal on the surface, but it's a massive monetary difference for an undrafted free agent, I assure you.

He developed in Year 2, despite the front office's addition of Dak Prescott. I have said it before, and I will say it again right here – I will go to my grave insisting that Jameill Showers was better during training camp practices than Dak. He seemed more comfortable, and he was far more accurate.

But, as we all know by now, something clicked for Dak when the lights came on. He took the starting quarterback job and ran with it, and Showers moved to safety after he eventually wound up on the practice squad.

I don't know where Showers goes from here – whether it's to another team or another career, or whatever. But he jumped around from quarterback, to kick coverage, to punt protector, back to quarterback and then to safety. He even snagged an interception or two during training camp this summer. And he did it all with a great attitude, which is always admirable.

Good on you, dude.

6.As if you needed another reminder of the fleeting nature of the NFL, here comes an AFC opponent.

Each AFC opponent only comes up on the schedule once every four years. So in this league of constant turnover and endless roster moves, it's always kind of trippy to look back and see what the previous meeting looked like.

The 2013 shootout between Dallas and Denver was a memorable one. It was actually the fifth Cowboys game I ever covered, and still one of the best – not that anyone asked. And as amazing a game as it was, with Peyton Manning and Tony Romo lighting up the scoreboard, what really stands out to me is how completely different this year's game will be.

This is a list of all the Cowboys players from the 2013 game who are still on the team: OT Tyron Smith, C Travis Frederick, WR Dez Bryant, WR Terrance Williams, WR Cole Beasley, TE Jason Witten, TE James Hanna, LB Sean Lee, LB Kyle Wilber, CB Orlando Scandrick, S Jeff Heath, K Dan Bailey, P Chris Jones, LS L.P. Ladouceur.

That's only 14 out of 53 players, but it actually feels like a huge list compared to Denver's, which looks like this: WR Demaryius Thomas, RB C.J. Anderson, TE Virgil Green, DE Derek Wolfe, LB Von Miller, CB Chris Harris Jr.

That's it – a grand total of six holdovers from the 2013 Broncos, or roughly 11 percent of the roster.

7.Maybe my favorite discovery of that exercise was looking at the inactives for that 2013 game. The last time the Broncos and Cowboys played, Champ Bailey and Miles Austin were still members of those respective rosters.

Bailey was inactive against the Cowboys while he battled injuries. He eventually rallied to help the Broncos reach Super Bowl XLVIII – but he'd be out of football within a year.

Austin was out that day with a hamstring injury. He also recovered, but he eventually finished with just 244 yards that season – his final campaign with the Cowboys. After short stints in Cleveland and Philadelphia, he's now working in the Cowboys' personnel department.

Like I said, time flies.

8.Here's a completely random fact that I'd never considered before: because of the way the NFL schedule is configured, the Cowboys are guaranteed to play one of their Super Bowl opponents in any given season.

The Cowboys won Super Bowl XII against the Broncos, who reside in the AFC West. They beat Miami in Super Bowl VI and they took Super Bowl XXVII and Super Bowl XXVIII, so that takes care of the AFC East. Dallas has famously played Pittsburgh, of the AFC North, in three Super Bowls – two losses, in Super Bowl X and Super Bowl XIII, and a win in Super Bowl XXX. They also lost Super Bowl V against the team that is now the Indianapolis Colts, who play in the AFC South.

This information is mildly interesting at best. But I'd never noticed it before.

Neat, I guess.

9.I spent a solid chunk of this column complaining about Week 1 being boring, but I don't think Week 2 is going to be some kind of firework show for your Dallas Cowboys. This is the wrong opponent.

This seems like the perfect storm for a defensive slugfest. The Broncos have the personnel to limit the Dallas offense, as I expect Von Miller to make life miserable for Dak Prescott, and I think Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. are capable of limiting the Cowboys' receivers – especially with Terrance Williams hobbled.

Conversely, this Denver offensive line didn't look great against Los Angeles, and that was before Ronald Leary suffered a concussion. The Cowboys might not have as good a pass rush as the Chargers, but they
should have some success getting to Trevor Siemian.

I'm thinking the first team to 24 wins.

10.Every time I hear the word "Denver," I think about the old episode of South Park where the kids are playing in the Little League World Series and Stan's dad gets in the fight with "Bat-dad" from Denver. It's a pretty good bet I'll be wandering around Denver this weekend, doing my best Bat-dad impression. So if you see me or hear me, I apologize in advance.

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