Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now


Archive for the ‘NFL’


Dallas Cowboys Seek to Land Impact Players in 2024 NFL Draft 1

Posted on April 25, 2024 by Chris Kent
The Cowboys seek top talent from the draft.

Like a soap opera, the Dallas Cowboys are the most drama filled team in the National Football League. So much that even the smallest issue can dominate the news like wildfire. Whether it is incidents with players in their personal lives, relationships among players, coaches, and staff, rumors generated on players’ podcasts, or the ongoing saga of contract negotiations, Dallas is always generating drama in a way that commands public attention with an abundance of questions. The Cowboys’ 2024 offseason has been dominated by questions so far and have involved many of the team’s star players as well as coaches

Is quarterback Dak Prescott going to get a contract extension to remain in Dallas beyond the 2024 season? Will head coach Mike McCarthy be around after this next season? What is edge rusher Micah Parsons saying lately on his podcasts and is he using this platform in the right or wrong way? Are the contract negotiations of wide receiver CeDee Lamb and Parsons moving forward? Will cornerback Trevon Diggs regain his all-pro form following last season’s torn ACL that lead him to miss all but two games? How does Mike Zimmer look in his return to the Cowboys as the new defensive coodinator? Why has Dallas signed just two free agents this offseason while losing seven key starters from last season and other important players?

While all 32 NFL teams are facing similar questions like these, they always mean more in Big D based on the history of this iconic franchise and its’ quest to return to the Super Bowl for the first time in 29 years.

If the Cowboys are to reach the Super Bowl in the immediate or near future, they will have to make a big splash in this week’s NFL Draft. Dallas and 31 other NFL teams will be looking for their future stars, starters, and complimentary players while hoping to secure some depth for their rosters this week. The draft will take place from April 25-27 at Campus Martius Park, Hart Plaza in Detroit, MI starting this Thursday. It will be televised on ESPN Thursday and Saturday with Friday’s coverage airing on ESPN2. The NFL Network, ABC, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN Radio will also provide coverage.

Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy will be coaching on an expiring contract in 2024.

Three straight 12-5 regular seasons and a pair of NFC East division titles have proven that the Cowboys are an above average team in recent years. However they are 1-3 in the playoffs during this time which does not sit well with team owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones or the fan base of this proud franchise. Dallas has many needs, none bigger than the front seven on defense to shut down opposing rushers. The Cowboys allowed 112.4 rushing yards per game and gave up 4.2 yards per carry in 2023, both of which ranked 16th in the league leaving Dallas as a middle of the pack team against the run. Green Bay had its’ way running the ball in its’ 48-32 playoff upset vctory over the Cowboys back in January. Aaron Jones – who has owned Dallas – ran 21 times for 118 yards and three touchdowns in the one-sided win. The Packers rushed for 143 yards on the day and made their drives count.

The losses of Jonathan Hankins and Dorrance Armstrong – two starters on the defensive line – as well as fellow lineman Dante Fowler and Neville Gallimore leave the Cowboys thin there. Add in the loss of linebacker Leighton Vander Esch who was forced to retire due to recurring neck injuries and Dallas needs a significant upgrade on defense. Veteran cornerback and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore is a free agent likely to sign soon with one of a handful of other teams. Gilmore spent 2023 with the Cowboys after signing a one-year free agent deal and had 68 total tackles, 13 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions last season. A small nucleus is all that remains on defense in veteran Demarcus Lawrence at defensive end, Parsons at edge rusher/linebacker, and Diggs at cornerback. Young players like defensive ends Sam Williams and Chauncey Gholston will have to rise and contribute more along with other players Dallas lands.

The Cowboys need a linebacker or two as well to go along with the newly acquired Eric Kendricks who they signed to a one-year deal in free agency. The 10-year veteran out of UCLA brings experience with the ability to make defensive calls on the field and had Zimmer as his head coach for part of his time in Minnesota. DeMarvion Overshown could be a wild card at linebacker. Dallas used a third-round draft pick on him a year ago but he never saw the field after suffering a torn ACL during a preseason game.

While the defense lost more in quantity, the offense might of lost more in quality. The offensive line took big hits with the free agent losses of future hall of fame left tackle Tyron Smith and 2022 pro bowl center Tyler Biadiaz who had started 49 of 51 regular season games games over the last two years. While 2022 top draft pick Tyler Smith is projected to replace the departed Smith at left tackle, he also has flexibility to play guard. Whether it is a tackle, a guard, or a center or someone who can play multiple positions along the offensive line, the Cowboys need to upgrade this unit. The group is anchored by right guard Zack Martin, a nine-time pro bowler and seven-time first-team all pro. Dallas also re-signed guard Chuma Edoga to help bolster their line.

Improving the offensive line is also needed to support a better running game which right now is in question with no proven feature back. Tony Pollard, last year’s starter, signed with Tennessee in free agency leaving the Cowboys in search of an every down back. Rico Dowdle will battle with six-year veteran free agent signee Royce Freeman for position on the depth chart. Malik Davis, Deuce Vaughn, and Hunter Luepke are the other backs on the roster.
The special teams unit is one of the better ones in the league with kicker Brandon Aubrey, punt returner Kavontae Turpin, and punter Bryan Anger all receiving pro bowl selections. Trent Sieg is the team’s long snapper.

Dak Prescott had a career year in 2023 and is looking for more in 2024.

Prescott is playing for his future in 2024 whether it is in Dallas or elsewhere. Backing him up are Cooper Rush and Trey Lance who the Cowboys aquired prior to the start of last season. The receivers are one of the team’s strengths with all-pro Lamb and Brandin Cooks the established wide receivers along with Jake Ferguson who blossomed last year at tight end in his second year. However the team released Michael Gallup who never returned to his form after suffering a torn ACL near the end of the 2021 regular season.

With many positions of need, Dallas Vice-President of Player Personnel Will McClay and the team’s scouts have been busy evaluating players in preparation for the draft. Entering the draft, the Cowboys have a total of seven draft picks starting with the 24th pick in the first round. They have one pick each in the second (No. 56th overall), third (87th), fifth (174th), and sixth rounds (216th). Their final two picks are in the seventh round with the 233rd and 244th overall selections. The team has no pick in the fourth round.

If Dallas is to reach its’ first NFC Championship game in 29 years this next season, they need to be a more efficeint team on offense and a more physical team on defense to prevent teams from gashing them with chunk running plays. Both areas are important in order for the Cowboys to rise over the likes of San Francisco, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Green Bay and maintain control of their division in the NFC East where their traditional rivals like Washington and the New York Giants loom and are always pesky. Gaining impact players in the trenches also bodes well for competing with teams in a much deeper AFC where Dallas will play the likes of Baltimore, Cinncinnati, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland this coming season. The Cowboys will also play one additional team from the AFC which will be known when the schedule is released next month.

Georgia’s Amarius Mims could help the Cowboys offset the loss of Tyron Smith at offensive tackle.

This is a deep draft for offensive tackles. While some will go in the top 15 to 20 picks, a bunch of them figure to still be on the board when Dallas picks 24th in the first round. They include Tyler Guyton from Oklahoma, Jordan Morgan from Arizona, Georgia’s Amarius Mims, Washington’s Troy Fautanu, and JT Latham from Alabama. Guyton is 6-8 and 322 pounds. He earned all-Big 12 Honoarble Mention recognition last year when he played in 10 games with nine starts at right tackle for the Sooners. Mims is 6-8 and tips the scales at 340 pounds. He emerged in 2022 for the Bulldogs when he played in 14 of 15 games while making starts in both the college football playoff semifinals and championship game helping Georgia repeat as national champions. Mims made six starts at right tackle in 2023 when he was part of a Bulldog line that ranked first in the the Southeastern Conference and seventh nationally in sacks allowed per-game (0.93). Morgan started all 12 games for Arizona a year ago during which he allowed only two sacks in 787 snaps over 12 games. Morgan was named first team all Pac-12 and played in the Reese’s Senior Bowl, the premier college football all-star game. He was also named a second team all-American by both CBS Sports and 247 Sports. Latham has a huge frame at 6-6 and 360 pounds and garnered numerous accolades a season ago including second team all-American honors by the Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America, The Sporting News, and the Walter Camp Foundation. Latham was also an all-SEC first team selection by the AP and conference coaches in 2023 when he started all 13 games at right tackle and had 41 knockdown blocks across 813 snaps as a junior. Latham also garnered second team all-American honors by the AP, FWAA, TSN, and the Walter Camp Foundation.

Guard Jackson Powers-Johnson won the Rimington Award at Oregon last season.

Should the Cowboys strengthen the interior of its’ offensive line, look no further than Jackson Powers-Johnson of Oregon, perhaps the top interior offensive lineman available in the draft. Powers-Johnson became the first Duck and the first Pac-12 player ever to win the Rimington Award as the nation’s best center. He was the fifth unanimous all-American in program history receiving first team honors from the American Football Coaches Association, AP, FWAA, TSN, and the Walter Camp Foundation. He started all 13 games a season ago during which he allowed just one pressure and no sacks in 471 pass blocking opportunities. Powers-Johnson was part of an offensive line in 2023 that led the nation with just five sacks allowed for the second year in a row. Powers-Johnson lead all FBS centers in overall (84.3) and run blocking (85.2) grade by Pro Football Focus while ranking second in pass blocking grade (90.6).

Other top interior lineman that could be available between the late first round and into the third round include Duke’s Graham Barton, West Virginia’s Zach Frazier, Kansas State’s Cooper Beebe, and Wisconsin’s Tanner Bortolini. Barton lettered four years at Duke and stands 6-5 while checking in at 314 pounds. A two-time first team all-ACC selection, Barton played in 40 career games, 39 of them starts. Intelligence is a strength of Barton as he was a second team College Sports Communicators Academic all-America selection and is a three-time Academic all-ACC team member. Barton has also received the team’s Offensive Lineman of the Year Award twice and was named a second team all-American by the AFCA in 2023.

Cooper Beebe was an all-American guard at Kansas State in 2023 and is powerful.

Beebe is built like a fire hydrant at 6-4 and 335 pounds. That kind of size and power can help Dallas run better between the tackles lending to better balance on offense. Beebe garnered first team all-American honors from numerous outlets last season including the AFCA, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, The Athletic, ESPN, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, and the Walter Camp Foundation. He was also named first team all-Big 12 by both the AP and the coaches in each of his last three years at Kansas State. Crafty and intelligent, Beebe was named to the Big 12 all-Academic first team each of his four seasons in college. He was also the recipient of Academic all-District Team honors from CSC as both a junior and senior and was named an Academic all-American by CSC in 2023.

Frazier is another prospect that could help the Cowboys at center. He has good size at 6-3 and 310 pounds. Frazier allowed only one sack over the last two years and four over his college career. Frazier is a two-time all-American and a three-time all-Big 12 selection receiving first team honors in 2022 and ’23. Frazier is recognized for his intelligence as he is a National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete, a three-time Academic all-Big 12 first team honoree, and a first team Academic all-American selection by CSC.

Bortolini comes from a great program for offensive lineman at Wisconsin where Dallas found the since departed Biadasz. Bortolini has the smarts to make all the line reads at center where he made 12 starts a year ago as a redshirt junior. He is a three-time Academic all-Big Ten team honoree and has the versatility to play guard. In 2023, Bortolini allowed only one sack over 477 pressure opportunities and he was part of a Badger offensive line that led the Big Ten in third down conversion rate at 44.2 percent.

Texas defensive tackle T’Vondre Sweat is 366 pounds and won the Outland Trophy in 2023.

Should the Cowboys go defense with their top pick they will likely be seeking a defensive tackle or linebacker to help strengthen the middle of their front seven. Perhaps Kris Kenkins from Michigan or Braden Fiske from Florida State, both defensive tackles. If they want to go even bigger they could look to 366-pound defensive tackle T’Vondre Sweat from Texas who really moves people. However due to a recent legal matter their is controversy surrounding the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Sweat was arrested on April 7 on suspicion of driving while intoxicated according to the Travis County Sheriff’s office in Texas. So Dallas needs to decide if this action is just a one-time mistake or a sign of a bigger problem with Sweat’s off the field behavior. Sweat won the Outland Trophy as the nations top interior lineman a year ago and was a unanimous all-American. He recorded 45 tackles, 8 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 4 pass break-ups, and 1 blocked kick.

Keep an eye on Michael Hall Jr. from Ohio State, DeWayne Carter from Duke, or Mekhi Wingo from LSU on the defensive line. A sleeper pick on the line is Jalyx Hunt from Houston Christian University who also played at Ivy League school Cornell. Byron Murphy II is also a possibility from Texas at the defensive tackle spot.

If the Cowboys want another edge rusher to team with Parsons as well as help at linebacker they could look to Darius Robinson of Missouri, Dallas Turner of Alabama, Laiatu Latu of UCLA, Xavier Thomas of Clemson, Marshawn Kneeland from Western Michigan, or Bralen Trice from Washington. Turner, Latu, and Robinson are forecasted to go in the first round before Dallas picks at No. 24. Thus, the Cowboys might have to move up via a trade to get one of those players. Junior Colson of Michigan is another top prospect as a traditional linebacker that could help solidify the middle of the Dallas defense.

As for the offense, it is hard to say what the Cowboys have at running back because it is unproven with one new face in Freeman. Dallas will enter the 2024 season with none of its backs having been in the league more than six years and not one of them having reached 1,800 yards rushing in their career. The Cowboys were 14th in the league in rushing yards last year with 1,920. Meanwhile, Prescott completed 410 passes with 36 touchdown passes in 2023, both of which lead the NFL. That could reveal why Dallas is not an elite team in the league. More efficient play is needed on offense and they have to balance it out with better play from their running backs and tight ends. While Prescott has proven he can throw the ball to Lamb, Cooks, and Ferguson, more production is needed from the backs and tight ends. Part of this is a reliable running game and part of it is using the backs in the receiving game with short outlet passes. First and second down offense has to be more productive so you can avoid third down altogether or have only one or two yards to pick up on third down. A strong and shifty back with speed is needed to lend balance to the offense and keep the defense guessing. At times in recent years, the Cowboys have been one dimensional with only its’ passing game to rely on. This has left them mostly predictable.

Florida State’s Trey Benson breaks free from defenders.

A running back like Jonathon Brooks from Texas or Trey Benson from Florida State would fit nicely in Dallas and give them some young legs and juice. Blake Corum from Michigan or Braelon Allen from Wisconsin could lend help as physical runners from the ground and pound nature of the Big 10. Other backs include Marshawn Lloyd of USC and Isaiah Davis of South Dakota State. It is not a prime draft for running backs and it is likely that a running back might not be chosen until the middle of the second round. So teams could find a value pick or sleeper at this position in the later rounds.

Value or gems in the later rounds could also be found at wide receiver. While Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. is the top rated non-quarterback prospect and will be long gone in the first four to seven picks, there are others to be had in the later rounds. Florida State’s Keon Coleman, North Carolina’s Devontez Walker, and Oregon’s Troy Franklin are options in the later rounds along with Xavier Worthy from Texas, Xavier Legette from South Carolina, Ricky Pearsall from Florida, Roman Wilson from Michigan, and Jermaine Burton from Alabama.

Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy dazzled NFL coaches and scouts with a time of 4.21 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in February setting a record time at the event.

Worthy set an NFL Combine record in February when he ran a 4.21 in the 40-yard dash, surpassing the old record set at the 2017 Combine by John Ross by one tenth of a second. Worthy stands 5-11 and weighs 165 and is projected to go between the late first round and second round. Although he dealt with inconsistent quarterback play at Texas, Worthy burst onto the scene in 2021 with 62 catches for 981 yards and 12 touchdowns. He followed that up with 60 receptions for 760 yards and nine scores in 2022. In 2023, Worthy made 75 catches for 1,014 yards and five touchdowns. While not very big, he is fast, explosive, and very dangerous with the ball in his hands.

Of course you never know what the Cowboys are going to do on draft day. Dallas once built championship teams with a blockbuster trade way back in 1989 by sending Herschel Walker to Minnesota in exchange for players and draft capital over a three-year stretch. They have traded down to acquire more picks for immense value and they have stood still and added impact players that have become the core of their teams over the last decade plus. What the Cowboys do in the coming days will be vital to the success they have in 2024 and beyond. The Super Bowl is about 10 months away but Dallas seeks perhaps its’ missing players this week to return to championship glory.

Big Ben Roethlisberger: Life After Football 1

Posted on March 02, 2024 by John Harris
Big Ben Roethlisberger retired from the NFL following the 2021 season.

Ben Roethlisberger retired from the NFL after the 2021 season, closing the book on one of the most successful careers by a Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback — or any QB, for that matter. But who is Ben Roethlisberger, and what is the larger-than-life “Big Ben” up to since hanging up his cleats?

“A boy from Findlay, Ohio, with NFL dreams, developed in Oxford at Miami University. Blessed with the honor of 18 seasons as a Pittsburgh Steeler and a place to call home. The journey has been exhilarating, defined by relationships and fueled by a spirit of competition,” he said in 2022.

“Yet the time has come to clean out my locker, hang up my cleats, and continue to be all I can be to my wife and children. I retire from football a truly grateful man.”

Who Is Ben Roethlisberger?

Roethlisberger spent his entire 18-season NFL career with the Steelers, building a resume worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, for which he’ll be eligible — some say a shoo-in — in 2027. He was drafted 11th overall in the first round in 2004, and made an immediate impact by winning the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Known for his competitiveness, toughness, and uncanny scrambling ability, Roethlisberger led Pittsburgh to three Super Bowl appearances, winning twice. He departed holding virtually every major passing record in Steelers history. Beyond the numbers, Big Ben defined an era of smashmouth AFC North football. His pump fakes, improvised plays, and come-from-behind heroics symbolized the gritty spirit of Steelers football.

Roethlisberger announced his retirement in January 2022 after Pittsburgh’s early playoff exit, going out on his own terms after a career filled with injuries and triumphs.

Roethlisberger walked away ranked eighth all-time in passing yards and 10th in touchdown passes. The six-time Pro Bowler got to go out in front of a cheering Steelers home crowd in Week 17, with Pittsburgh still in the playoff hunt. It was a fitting end to a storied career defined by clutch play in crunch-time moments.

Read the rest of this entry →

Howley and Ware Represent Dallas Cowboys along with Thomas at 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductions 15

Posted on August 04, 2023 by Chris Kent
The Dallas Cowboys are common in Canton, Ohio.

The Dallas Cowboys are well represented in the Pro Football Hall of Fame with a total of 32 individuals enshrined who spent all or parts of their careers with the franchise. Included are former players, coaches, and front office personnel who have been crucial to Dallas winning five Super Bowls in eight appearances while producing many epic moments throughout its’ 63-year history. Iconic players like Bob Lilly, Bob Hayes, Roger Staubach, Drew Pearson, Tony Dorsett, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith, and Larry Allen to name just a few, are among the all-time Cowboy greats enshrined in Canton, Ohio.

As of Saturday Aug. 5, the tally will grow to 35 with the addition of three players who spent time in Dallas, two of which played most of their careers with the Cowboys. Outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Chuck Howley spent the bulk of their careers in Dallas while middle linebacker Zack Thomas played his final season for the Cowboys after a 12-year tenure with the Miami Dolphins where he built his hall of fame profile. These three players give Dallas 19 inductees over the last 18 classes dating back to 2006 when Aikman and the late Rayfield Wright were enshrined.
This trio is part of the nine inductees in the Class of 2023 that will be enshrined this weekend. The other six enshrinees are Ronde Barber, Don Coryell, Joe Klecko, Ken Riley, Darrelle Revis, and Joe Thomas. The enshrinement ceremony is set for noon on Saturday. For a complete list of events and details go to, https://www.profootballhof.com/enshrinement/2023-enshrinement-week-schedule-of-events.

Each of these former Dallas players showed toughness, leadership, and great tenacity during their careers. With linebackers being so vital for calling formations, blitzes, and tackling opponents within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage to prevent big plays, these players have much responsibility. Their performance often dictates whether a team makes a big play or obtains a first down. Games can be won or lost by a linebacker due to issues with coverage or tackling. However that was rarely the case with each of these linebackers.

In this his 45th year of eligibility, Howley enters the hall of fame in his first year as a finalist. Howley had an inauspicious start to his pro career. Selected in the first round with the seventh overall pick by the Chicago Bears in the 1958 National Football League Draft, Howley played his first two seasons in Chicago. After suffering what was considered to be a career-ending knee injury during training camp in 1959, Howley appeared in only three games that season and then retired. After missing the entire 1960 season, Howley decided to make a comeback in 1961 after particiapting in an alumni game at his alma mater, West Virginia University. The event ignited a spark in him to give the game one more try which he did in 1961 after being traded to the Cowboys. From there on, he and Dallas never regretted it. Howley became a defensive mainstay for the next 13 seasons and was part of the Cowboys’ “Doomsday Defense” in the early 1970’s.

Chuck Howley intercepts a pass against the Baltimore Colts.

In his 180 career games played, Howley recorded 25 interceptions, scored two touchdowns, and had 26 sacks. He also recovered 18 fumbles which he returned for 191 yards – a total that still ranks seventh on the NFL’s all-time list. Howley was durable, remarkable when you consider his serious knee injury early in his career. He missed only four regular season games from 1961 to 1972 during which he played in 176 games and made 11 playoff starts leading Dallas to the first two NFL Championship games and two Super Bowls.

From 1966-1970, Howley was selected to the Pro Bowl and was named a First-Team All Pro each season. He also received Pro Bowl recognition in 1972, his sixth and final selection, and was named a second team All-Pro in 1971. In 1977, Howley was inducted into the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor. Howley had two interceptions and one forced fumble in Super Bowl V en route to being named the Most Valuable Player despite a 16-13 loss to the Baltimore Colts in 1971. To this day, Howley holds the distinction of being the only player from the losing team to be named MVP of the Super Bowl. The following season, Howley helped Dallas win its’ first Super Bowl with an interception and a fumble recovery in a 24-3 win over Miami in Super Bowl VI.

Like Howley, Ware was also a mainstay at outside linebacker for the Cowboys. He played nine seasons for Dallas before spending his final three seasons with the Denver Broncos. Drafted with the 11th pick in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft out of little known Troy University in Troy, AL, Ware entered the league with something to proove. It did not take him long to do so as he finished his rookie season with 58 tackles and a team-best eight sacks while starting all 16 games for the Cowboys. That was a sign of things to come as the 6-4 258-pound linebacker went on to record double-digit sack totals in each of the next seven seasons, all team-bests, during which he did not miss a single regular season game. Ware’s career-high 20 sacks in 2008 and 15.5 sacks in 2010 both lead the league.
Ware played on only one team with a losing record over his 12-year career and was part of team’s that made five playoff appearances. During the 2013 season, his final one in Dallas, Ware become the Cowboys’ all-time leader in sacks with 117, a record that still stands. Ware always had to be accounted for by opposing offenses and was a dominant player who would also line up at defensive end on occassion.

DeMarcus Ware used his size and strength to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.

After signing with Denver in 2014, Ware totaled 21.5 sacks over the next three seasons. Ware had three solo tackles, two assists, two sacks, and four hits on the quarterback helping the Broncos to a 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl L following the 2015 season. Ware finished his career with 138.5 sacks and intercepted three passess for 44 yards and one touchdown. He also returned two fumbles for touchdowns. Selected to nine Pro Bowls, Ware was voted first-team All-Pro four times and second-team All-Pro three times. Ware is also a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s. In 2016, Ware was honored by the Broncos with the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award, an annual award the franchise presents to a player from their team “who best exemplifies Williams’ enthusiasm, cooperation, and honesty while dealing with members of the press.”

These same kind of honors were also earned by Zack Thomas who produced similar statistics as Ware. Although undersized at 5-11 he packed a punch at 235 pounds and was a relentless hard-nosed player built on toughness and grit. While not the biggest or the fastest, Thomas made up for it with great knowledge and a strong sense of anticipation. Thomas credits his success to his meticulous preparation helping him to always know where the play was going.

While he played his final season in Dallas in 2008, Thomas enters the hall based on his terriffic 12-year career with the Miami Dolphins where he played for former Cowboys’ head coach Jimmy Johnson from 1996-99. A versatile middle linebacker from Texas Tech, Thomas made an immediate impact for Miami after being drafted in the fifth round with the 154th overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Thomas had 131 tackles, 49 assisted tackles, two sacks, and three interceptions to earn the team’s MVP award. He was also named AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Zach Thomas used his toughness and smarts to run down ball carriers and accumulate tackle after tackle.

Thomas lead the team in tackles in 10 of his 12 seasons with the Dolphins. A tackling machine, Thomas racked up 100 tackles in each of his first 11 seasons in Miami. His play was pivotal in helping the Dolphins make the playoffs five straight seasons from 1997-2001. In a playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens following the 2001 season, Thomas had 22 tackles including 14 solo. Thomas finished his career with 20.5 sacks and totaled 17 interceptions for 170 yards and four touchdowns, a Dolphins career record for interceptions returned for a touchdown. Thomas played in 184 games including 168 starts, the most in team history by a defensive player. Voted a first-team All-Pro five times and a second-team All-Pro twice, Thomas was selected to seven Pro Bowls and was also named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000’s. Thomas was also the first player in Dolphin’s history to win the team’s Leadership Award three times.

Howley, Ware, and Thomas. Three players who spent time in Dallas. Whether it was just for a short time or for most of a lengthy career, these players are part of this legendary franchise that is a five-time Super Bowl Champion with many iconic individuals and moments. As they enter the hall of fame this weekend, the star is shinning a little brighter on the helmet for this proud franchise that is always in search of its’ next individual to receive a hall call.

Credit: https://www.profootballhof.com/hall-of-famers/class-of-2023

Dallas Aims to Hit on Picks in NFL Draft to Emerge as a Title Contender in 2023 17

Posted on April 26, 2023 by Chris Kent

With a solid offense and a top level defense that has produced back-to-back 12-5 playoff seasons and one NFC East Division Championship, the Dallas Cowboys have been a better than average team each of the last two seasons. Getting to the NFC Championship game and winning the Super Bowl, both of which they have not done since the 1995 season, is the burning issue for Dallas owner Jerry Jones and his franchise. So what do the Cowboys need to do to bolster their team to make either of those things happen? While the answer to that question won’t fully reveal itself until we reach training camp and the start of the 2023 regular season, a big resource for it is this week’s NFL Draft. The annual event will help determine in large part their hopes and expectations for the upcoming season. The draft will take place from April 27-29 in Kansas City, MO in the Plaza outside of Union Station. A prime time start of 8 pm EST is slated for the opening night on Thursday April 27 when only the first round will be conducted. The second and third rounds will be held on Friday April 28 starting at 7 pm EST. The draft will conclude on Saturday April 29 with rounds 4-7 starting at Noon EST.

Dallas is clearly at a crossroads with its’ current team. The nucleous of Dak Prescott, CeDee Lamb, Tony Pollard, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, Demarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, and Jayron Kearse gives the Cowboys veteran players with experience, many of who have prime years ahead of them. Adding some quality pieces for youth, speed, and depth could turn Dallas into a Super Bowl contender.

Dallas Owner Jerry Jones has used trades before to get the best value out of the NFL Draft.

The waroom at THE STAR – the Cowboys’ headquarters in Frisco, TX – will no doubt be busy this week. Both the offense and defense need help with the offense a little more of a pressing need to create better efficiency and protection for Prescott, their franchise quarterback who has two years left on his four-year $160 million contract that he signed in the 2021 offseason. Prescott has taken much criticism from media members for throwing too many interceptions, many of which have turned the tide in the team’s losses whether they have come late in close games or just been poor decisions. Including his two playoff starts last season, Prescott tied for the league high with 17 interceptions while starting 14 of 19 games. To avoid these mistakes the team has to protect Prescott better and add to his supporting cast with a prime running back, wide receiver, or tight end. Retooling the offensive line would help as well. Although injuries have limited the availability of perennial pro bowlers in Smith and Martin over recent years, both have been mainstays on the line for most of the last decade. While both Smith and Martin can still play, getting younger on the offensive line would help and provide depth.

The offense will look different in 2023 behind new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer who replaces Kellen Moore. Schottenheimer will look to retool an offense that lost two key starters in veteran running back Ezekiel Elliott and tight end Dalton Schultz. Elliott had four 1,000-yard rushing seasons and was a three-time pro bowl selection during his seven seasons in Dallas. Although his production slipped over the last three seasons, Elliott will be missed for his veteran leadership in the locker room and his steady short-yardage and goal line scoring ability. The Cowboys will need Pollard to replace some of Elliott’s production. The same will be needed at tight end as Schultz was a top target of Prescott, totaling no less than 57 catches each of the last three seasons during which he accumulated 17 touchdown catches.

Michael Mayer excelled at Notre Dame and would fill a need at tight end for Dallas.

With these holes on offense, Dallas could draft one of the top tight ends with their first round pick at No. 26 overall such as Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, Georgia’s Darnell Washington, or Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave. Mayer is highly rated as a very polished player and could provide both receiving and blocking at 6-4 and 249 pounds. Mayer piled up 2,099 yards and scored 18 touchdowns in his college career. Pass catchers could also be available at wide receiver who the Cowboys might look to select as well. Although Dallas signed nine-year veteran Brandin Cooks from the Houston Texans to upgrade the spot, receivers like Zay Flowers of Boston College, Quentin Johnston of TCU, or either one of the Tennessee products in Jaylin Hyatt or Cedric Tillman could be available when the Cowboys pick in the first round. Tillman is a big target at 6-3, 215 pounds and caught 109 passes for 1,622 yards and 17 touchdowns during his college career. Hyatt was the Biletnikoff Award Winner in 2022 when he was a cosensus first team All-American by the Associated Press. Hyatt was also a first team All-SEC selection in 2022 when he set a school record with five touchdown catches in a wild 52-49 home win over Alabama which also tied for the SEC record.

Bijan Robinson uses a stiff arm to shed an opposing defender to gain more yards.

As for running back, Dallas will be looking to Pollard to fill the void left by Elliott. Pollard will be coming off a lower leg fracture he suffered in the playoff loss at San Francisco last season. To help offset that, the Cowboys signed former Kansas City Chief Ronald Jones, a five-year veteran runner who helped Tampa Bay win Super Bowl LV following the 2020 season. While it is not a top year for running backs, keep an eye on Bijan Robinson of Texas, who won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back last season. Robinson was a unanimous first team All-Big 12 selection last season when he piled up 1,580 yards rushing to go with 18 scoring runs en route to receiving first team All-American honors by the Associated Press. While Philadelphia, New England, Detroit, Buffalo, and the Los Angeles Chargers are other teams interested in Robinson, if he is still on the board by the middle of the first round Dallas could look to trade up to take him. Jones has been known for orchestrating draft day trades and he could pull off another one in pursuit of the draft’s top back.

If not, Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs could be an option. In just one year at Alabama, Gibbs had a 6.6 yards-per-carry average on 96 carries for 632 yards. If the Cowboys look in the later rounds for a running back keep an eye on Deuce Vaughn from Kansas State. Although Vaughn is undersized at 5-6 and 176 pounds, he is elusive and can make people miss in the open field. Vaughn might be best suited for gadget plays and is a threat as a receiver where he runs excellent routes and has great hands for catching the ball.

While these skill position players could add splash on offense, Dallas also could retool their offensive line to help fortify the running game and protect Prescott. Options for this include Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence, tackle Broderick Jones from back-to-back defending national champion Georgia, Tennessee tackle Darnell Wright, or Ohio State tackle Paris Johnson Jr.

Tennessee’s Darnell Wright is imposing at 6-6 and 335 pounds.

A top guard prospect, Torrence was a consensus All-American at Florida a year ago receiving first-team honors from the American Football Coaches Association, The Sporting News, and the Associated Press. He was also a Walter Camp first team All-American and was a first team all conference performer in the Southeastern Conference, his first in the league after transferring from Louisiana where he was a first team All-Sun Belt Conference performer in 2021. Broderick Jones stands 6-4 and checks in at 310 pounds. He was an AP first team All-SEC selection in 2022 when he started at left tackle in all 15 games for Georgia. Wright is a durable tackle who started all 13 games for the Volunteers each of the last two seasons. At 6-6 and 335 pounds, Wright has size and strength to make an impact which he did as a freshman at Tennessee when he was named to the freshman All-SEC Team in 2019. Wright was selected to play in the 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl and was a first team All-SEC selection by the AP, Coaches, and USA Today in 2022. Johnson Jr. was a second team All-Big Ten Selection in 2021 and was also a Rotary Lombardi Award semifinalist in 2022 which goes to the nations most outstanding lineman annually. The former Buckeye adds value as he started all 13 games at guard in 2021 before moving to right tackle last fall.

Olu Oluwatimi won both the Outland Trophy and the Rimington Award last season at Michigan.

If the Cowboys do not get one of these offensive line prospects in the first round, there are value picks in the later rounds such as interior offensive lineman Joe Tippmann of Wisconsin, TCU’s Steve Avila, or Michigan’s Olu Oluwatimi. Other offensive tackles such as Matthew Bergeron of Syracuse, Nick Saldiveri of small school Old Dominion, or Alabama’s Tyler Steen could be options. Bergeron was a second-team All-ACC selection and a Senior Bowl selection while serving as a team captain last season at Syracuse. Bergeron was also recognized with the Ben Schwartzwalder award in recognition of his leadership and on-field production that reflect the hard-nosed style of the program. Saldiveri stands 6-6 and weighs in at 316. He was named a second team All-Sun Belt conference performer and was selected to play in the 2023 Reese’s Senor Bowl after starting 11 games in 2022, one at right guard and 10 and right tackle. Tippmann was an Honorable Mention All-Big 10 selection in 2022 for the Badgers were he made 12 starts at center. Avila brings a burly presence at guard at 330 pounds in his 6-4 frame. He helped power a physical running game that led TCU to the college football national championship game last season. A first team All-Big 12 Selection, Avila did not allow a sack for the second straight season in 2022 and was also selected to the 2023 Reece’s Senior Bowl. Oluwatimi could be a late round find for Dallas. A consensus All American with first team honors by four of five organizations, Oluwatimi won both the Outland Trophy and Rimington Award in 2022. Playing for perennial power Alabama, Steen earned second team All-SEC recognition in 2022 when he started all 13 games at left tackle for the Crimson Tide. Steen helped an offensive front open holes for an average of 5.5 yards per carry, good for fourth nationally. Most impressive, Steen allowed only 4.5 sacks, 12 pressures, 8 quarterback hits and committed just 4 penalties on the season. Prescott could benefit from a pass protector like this.

That same quality in the trenches is what Dallas could use on defense to improve its’ rush defense which was leaky at times late last season. The Cowboys ranked 22nd in the NFL in rushing defense last season, yielding 124.4 yards per game. Although Dallas re-signed defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins this offseason, more help is needed in the middle of the defensive line. Young defensive tackles Osa Odighizuwa and Quinton Bohanna need to tighten up their play and more is needed from rotational players in fourth-year defensive tackle Neville Gallimore and third-year defensive end Chauncey Golston. The Cowboys did sign six-year veteran linebacker Takk McKinley who starred at UCLA and played for the Rams last season. McKinley brings athleticism and has totaled 98 tackles and 20 sacks thus far in his career. McKinley should team nicely with Vander Esch, the middle linebacker who Dallas resigned in the offseason.
Defensive players of interest for the Cowboys on the line are Lukas Van Ness of Iowa, Mazi Smith of Michigan, the Clemson duo of Myles Murphy or Bryan Bresee, and Calijah Kancey of Pittsburgh. A sleeper pick in the later rounds could be K.J. Henry of Clemson as the Tigers continue to roll out prime NFL prospects.

Lukas Van Ness brings athleticism to the defensive line where he can play inside or outside.

Van Ness is a very versatile player who spent most of the 2022 spring practice season converting from defensive tackle to defensive end. At 6-5 and 240 pounds, he possesses good size and athleticism to make an impact inside or outside and could give Dallas a lethal combination with Micah Parsons to provide a one-two punch. Van Ness was a second team All-Big Ten selection last season and has the smarts to go with it with his two straight Academic All-Big Ten accolades. Van Ness has totaled 71 total tackles, 13.5 sacks, and 19.5 tackles for a loss over the last two seasons. Smith brings power and leverage to play nose tackle with his 6-3 337-pound frame. He garnered first team All-Big 10 accolades in 2022 when he was also named Defensive Player-of-the-Year by the team.

Bresee, Murphy, and Henry are all top players coming out of Clemson which has been an elite program for the last decade. Bresee was a second team All-ACC selection last season when he had 15 total tackles and 3.5 sacks. Murphy garnered first team All-ACC recognition last season when he had 40 tackles (22 solo) and 6.5 sacks. Over his three year college career, Murphy totaled 119 total tackles, 17.5 sacks, and 6 forced fumbles. At 6-4 and 255 pounds, Henry can cause problems for offenses with his size and strength. A third team All-American selection by Pro Football Focus in 2022, Henry was also voted by his teammates as the team captain, a reflection of his leadership qualities. Henry started all 14 games in 2022 during which he had 59 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 6 pass breakups. He also led Clemson with 24 quarterback pressures, the most by a Tigers’ player since Clelin Ferrell’s 24 in 2016.

Drew Sanders makes an interception for Arkansas.

Some other intriguing players that could help the Cowboys are linebackers such as Arkansas’s Drew Sanders, Clemson’s Trenton Simpson, Iowa’s Jack Campbell, or DeMarvion Overshown of Texas. Sanders, who played his first two years at Alabama, was a unanimous All-America selection last season at Arkansas receiving first-team recognition from the Associated Press and second team honors from the American Football Coaches Association, the Sporting News, and the Walter Camp Football Foundation. A first team All-SEC selection in 2022, Sanders was also one of three finalists – and the school’s first – for the prestigious Butkus Award given to the nation’s outstanding linebacker. Sanders started all 12 games he played in a season ago and lead the team with 103 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, and 9.5 sacks. Jones has a strong connection to Arkansas having been a co-captain on the school’s 1964 national championship team making Sanders an intriguing prospect for the Cowboys. Simpson was a third team All-ACC selection at Clemson in 2022 when he had 72 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. Iowa’s Campbell had a productive college career at Iowa where he totaled 305 total tackles (140 solo) and five interceptions over his four-year career. The recipient of the 2022 Butkus Award, Campbell was also recognized as a first team All-American by Walter Camp, The Sporting News, the Associated Press, the Football Writers Association of America, the American Football Coaches Association, and Phil Steele. Campbell was also named the Nagurski-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Player-of-the-Year a season ago. A first team All-Big Ten selection as a senior, Campbell was also named the Butkus-Fitzgerald Big Ten Linebacker of the Year last season. Campbell could be a good late round addition to the Dallas defense. If not, the Cowboys could look to Overshown. At 6-4 and 220 pounds. Overshown relies on speed over size to chase down ball carriers which would go well with Parsons and the newly acquired McKinley. Named a semifinalist for the Butkus Award each of the last two seasons, Overshown also was recognized as a first team All-Big 12 selection in 2022. An active player with his 6-4 frame, Overshown set career highs last fall when he had 96 total tackles (49 solo), 10 tackles for a loss, 4 sacks, and 5 passes defensed.

While the Dallas defensive front seven could get a major boost from any of these lineman or linebackers, the defensive secondary could also use some help. The Cowboys have some flexibility here because they traded for veteran cornerback Stephon Gilmore in the offseason by sending their fifth round pick in this year’s draft to the Indianapolis Colts. A five-time pro bowler, Gilmore has also been named All-Pro twice and was the NFL Defensive Player-of-the-Year in 2019 when he starred for the New England Patriots. Gilmore gives Dallas an experienced cornerback with a Super Bowl ring to his credit having been on the Patriots Super Bowl LIII championship team. Gilmore will team with the ballhawking Diggs giving the Cowboys two of the top corners in the league. With it unknown if Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis will return from their season-ending injuries a year ago, Gilmore is insurance to fill this spot. If Dallas still wants to pick a defensive back they could have a few options pending how the draft unfolds and who other teams pick.

Emmanuel Forbes has 4.35 speed in the 40 and had six pick-sixes in his college career.

Emmanuel Forbes of Mississippi State and Deonte Banks of Maryland could be options at cornerback in the late first round or early second round. Jakorian Bennett, also of Maryland, could help or safety Jordan Battle of Alabama could be a nice addition for the Cowboys. DJ Turner II out of Michigan is another possibility at cornerback. Forbes tied for the third best time in the 40-yard dash at 4.35 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in March. At 6-0 and 180, Forbes relies on his speed and technique to excel in coverage. He appeared in and started 12 of the Bulldogs 13 games in 2022 on his way to earning second team AP All-American honors. His six interceptions, which included three pick-sixes, last season led the SEC and placed him third in the nation. Forbes also led the team with 10 pass breakups. What is most impressive about Forbes is that his play impacts games. During the 2022 season he became the FBS record-holder with six pick-sixes in his career. He also ran his career interception total to 14 during last season making him the active leader in the FBS at the time.

Bennett’s 40 time of 4.30 seconds was the second best time at the scouting combine. The most valuable player of the 2022 Dukes Mayo Bowl, Bennett recorded 69 total tackles (55 solo), 29 passes defensed, and 4 interceptions over his three years with the Terrapins. Battle brings playmaking ability at safety where he excelled for Alabama. Named a third team All-American by the Associated Press in 2022, Battle recorded 71 total tackles (34 solo) en-route to receiving first team All-SEC recognition by the league’s coaches. If none of these defensive backs are available, Dallas might look to Turner II who ran the top time in the 40 at the combine at 4.26 seconds. Turner is a two-time All-Big Ten selection and finished with 69 total tackles (53 solo), 3 interceptions, and 20 passes defensed during his time at Michigan which all came over the last two seasons.

With so many good and versatile players in this draft, the Cowboys could go a handful of different ways with their picks. Plenty of other prospects lie in the draft as some 200-plus players are set to be drafted out of 350 or more prospects. Like so many other teams, Dallas is hoping to get who they want based on the countless hours of research and scouting that their front office staff has done headed up by Jones. Significant input from the likes of Cowboys’ Chief Executive Officer Stephen Jones, Vice President of Player Personnel Will McClay, and head coach Mike McCarthy along with the assistant coaches has all been part of the work. Time will tell if Dallas lands an impact player. Hope is in the air and Americas Team is soon to be on the clock. All of Cowboys Nation is holding their breath in anticipation of a bright light to be shinning at the end of the tunnel.

Report: Tom Brady Retiring From the NFL 1

Posted on January 29, 2022 by Dean Hybl

Less than a week after leading a spirited, but ultimately unsuccessful comeback in the NFC Playoffs, multiple sources are reporting that 44-year-old quarterback Tom Brady is retiring from the NFL.

Multiple sources are reporting that Tom Brady is retiring after 22 seasons in the NFL.

If the reports are accurate, it is truly the end of an amazing era in NFL history. Not only has Brady played in more Super Bowls (10) and has more Super Bowl rings than anyone else (7), but he holds the NFL records for most passing attempts, most passing yards, most touchdown passes and most passing yards in NFL history.

However, unlike some of the quarterbacks he overtook for the all-time passing records (Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, and Dan Marino), Brady’s legacy is truly less about the statistics than it is about his winning history.

In the 20 seasons in which Brady was the full-time starting quarterback, he led his squad to the playoffs 19 times, including the last 18 years in a row. His career playoff record of 35-12 in 47 games represents nearly three full regular seasons worth of postseason performances.

When describing great coaches, they often use the adage that he could take his team and beat your team and then take your team and beat his team. Tom Brady is one of a handful of football players for which you could make the same comment. If Brady was the quarterback of the team, you knew they always had a chance to win.

Few (okay, no one, except maybe him) predicted such lofty greatness when Brady was drafted by the New England Patriots in the sixth round of the 2000 draft with the 199th overall pick.

Read the rest of this entry →

Drew Pearson: Mr. Clutch 1

Posted on August 07, 2021 by Dean Hybl

Drew Pearson

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former NFL wide receiver know as “Mr. Clutch” for his penchant for making big receptions at crucial moments of the game. After waiting for more than 30 years, he is finally earning his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2021 Hall of Fame Class.

During his decade with the Dallas Cowboys, Drew Pearson had a habit of making the big catch at the right moment to help the Cowboys time and again snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

The favorite target of Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, Pearson was widely recognized as one of the great receivers of his era. Though at the time of his retirement many expected Pearson to easily breeze into the Hall of Fame, his enshrinement was derailed by changes to the game which artificially inflated receiver stats and made the numbers he produced during a time when wide receivers weren’t catching 100 passes a season seem inferior.

Read the rest of this entry →
  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Rusty Staub: A Man For All Ages
      April 8, 2024 | 1:26 pm
      Rusty Staub

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former major league baseball player who came into the game as a teenager and stayed until he was in his 40s. In between, Rusty Staub put up a solid career that was primarily spent on expansion or rebuilding teams.

      Originally signed by the Colt .45s at age 17, he made his major league debut as a 19-year old rookie and became only the second player in the modern era to play in more than 150 games as a teenager.

      Though he hit only .224 splitting time between first base and rightfield, Staub did start building a foundation that would turn him into an All-Star by 1967 when he finished fifth in the league with a .333 batting average.

      Read more »

    • RSSArchive for Vintage Athlete of the Month »
  • Follow Us Online

  • Current Poll

    Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
  • Post Categories



↑ Top