Cowboys Week 17 -- and Beyond -- Observations
1. Demarcus Lawrence ended his streak at 4 straight games with a sack but that doesn’t mean he was any less effective in Dallas' season-ending 34-23 loss to the Redskins. Lawrence was very good against the run and made a couple of run stuffs, including a tackle for a loss for a Cowboys safety. He also chased down Crowder on the Redskins big 3rd-down conversion. Lawrence started out about 5 yards behind Crowder and was able to chase him down and make the tackle. By my count, Demarcus Lawrence finished the season with 8 sacks, a forced fumble, a safety and 13 tackles for a loss. I can’t wait to see what he does in 2016 with yet another offseason to acclimate to the NFL.
And I also can't wait to see who he is paired with at DE. Mincey is talking like he's Old Man River. But the FA to be can still play and is an important leader. One of the guys he leads is FA to be Greg Hardy. Reports of unnamed teammates "souring'' on him? Hey, we don't have to do this anonymously; Fish has reported that Mincey is on-record as saying he doesn't always see eye-to-eye with Hardy. Should the Joneses take the temperature of the locker room into account as they decide on Hardy's future? Sure. But Hardy isn't blind; he's indicated to Fish that he very much wants to return to Dallas.
If everything is "sour,''woudn't he know that? And why would he want to return to "sour''?
2. Rolando McClain had one of his better games of the year in the season finale. He was decisive and effective when making tackles and showed the physicality that we all know he’s capable of but he sometimes lacks. One of his best plays was when he made a TD-saving tackle in the 1st quarter when he chased down the Redskins WR after a long gain. McClain finished the season with 80 tackles, 10 TFL, 3 pass breakups, 2 sacks and an interception returned for a TD.
And yet ... the ups and downs, driven by his desire or lack thereof, are bothersome. This might be the end of the line for Ro.
3. This Redskins game was another solid outing by the Cowboys 1st draft pick, Byron Jones. He recorded 2 tackles for a loss vs the Redskins and finished the year with a team-leading 8 pass breakups. Not bad for a rookie. However, Jones was called for two penalties on special teams in the season finale. Still, his rookie campaign was extremely promising. Put him and La'el Collins and hopefully Randy Gregory together and the 2014 Draft-Time Take can be remembered as special.
4. While Rolando McClain had a good game, Anthony Hitchens was even better. Hitchens recorded his lone pass breakup of the season and nearly had an interception on a pass deflection later on. He also forced a fumble that went out bounds. With Rolando McClain’s future with the Cowboys in the air, it was nice to see Hitchens step up and have a big game. He was flying all over the place.
Hitch, by the way, was mentioned by name by Sean Lee when Fish asked him about his $2-mil sitout. It's a heck of a story ... we give you a headstart on the Sean Lee story here.
5. Terrance Mitchell continued to make plays despite being with the team for a short amount of time. Mitchell made some really nice run stops and made a tackle on 3rd and short to force a punt in the 4th quarter. I don’t know whether or not he’ll have a role on the team moving forward but he's certainly earned a shot. ... and this secondary has a brighter future with Orlando Scandrick's rehab going well, too.
6. Brice Butler recorded 4 catches and 60+ yards in 2 consecutive games to end the year. Butler finished with 258 yards on the season for an average of 21.5 yards per reception - just 22 yards shy of his career high. I’m really interested to see what he can do with an adequate quarterback throwing him the ball next season.
7. It seemed like Terrance Williams noticed the plays that Butler was making because he started making some big plays of his own. Williams had 8 catches for 173 yards vs the Redskins, both of which are career highs. He also ended the year with career highs in yards/catches in a season. Ironically, Williams also set a new career-low in TD’s. However, no Romo probably had a lot to do with that.
8. Butler and Williams weren’t the only WR’s who made plays on Sunday. Cole Beasley recorded his 3rd career multi-TD game and finished the year with a team-leading 5 TD’s. Beasley set new career highs in catches, yards and touchdowns. Not bad considering he was playing most of the year without his QB.
But no talk of Cowboys wide receivers is complete without mentioning Dez Bryant, who underwent foot and ankle surgery this week in New York and says he's "already up and running.''
No, no, no. Whether you believe RapSheet's note that Dez is fine in 2 months, the Cowboys' whispers of 4 months, or Fish's caution of 6 months ... no, no, no. Dez, stay off that Hoverboard!
Oh, Tyrone Crawford is also among the Cowboys undergoing surgery.
9. I have been rooting for Kellen Moore but he simply isn’t an NFL QB. He can do some things well and shows poise even after making mistakes but I just don’t ever see how he can have success at this level. He just doesn’t have it in him physically. Maybe he can find a role in the NFL as a backup but he’ll never be more than that and certainly not in Dallas.
But ... is he better than RG3? Better than Johnny Manziel? Both those guys seem to be campaigning for shots in Dallas. Of course, they need to be released first.
10. Who would’ve thought that Tony Romo would be tied for the team lead in TD passes at the end of the year with just 5? Or that Joseph Randle would lead the team in rushing TD’s with 4 after playing in just 6 games? Or that Cole Beasley would lead the team with 5 TD catches? Or that Jeff freaking Heath would lead the team with 2 interceptions? It’s been a strange year but it had it’s positives nevertheless. The biggest of which is the No. 4 pick that the Cowboys have in the draft this April. (A history lesson here.) 4-12 is disappointing but the season is already behind us. Time to look ahead and give this thing another shot next season. ... and know that Organic Tanking worked.
It got you the last-place schedule. It got you that No. 4 slot in the Draft. (See the entire Cowboys ammo here.) It gets you controversy, yes, like Stephen A. Smith irresponsibly playing the race card when it comes to Cowboys hiring practices.
But today isn't just the end of 2015. It's the beginning of 2016. And that is a good thing.