2010 Season

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Dallas 27, Houston 13: Big D Doesn’t Mean Dead

Mike Jenkins and the Cowboys may have saved their season by winning at Houston.

The Cowboys’ 27-13 win over Houston was hardly perfect. In fact, early mistakes were enough to make one 39-year-old youngster throw a fit, turn off the television, and listen to the rest of the game on the radio. It was apparently good luck.

On that radio broadcast, Brad Sham referred repeatedly to the Cowboys drooling on themselves, meaning that every time the Cowboys did something positive, they would end up making a dumb mental error.

What the Cowboys did against Houston was to overcome those mistakes by making big plays on both sides of the ball when it mattered most.

Case in point #1: Early in the second quarter with the score tied at zero, the Texans faced a 3rd-and-19 play. Matt Schaub handed the ball off to Arian Foster on a draw, and Foster was able to cut back to his left and race 21 yards to give Houston a first down. A 26-yard catch-and-run by Andre Johnson gave Houston a first down inside the 10. From there, though, the Dallas defense stiffened and forced a field goal.

Case in point #2: Right after the touchdown, the Cowboys ran a screen pass to Felix Jones that would have gained 32 yards to near midfield. However, a penalty on Miles Austin negated the gain and moved the Cowboys back to their own 10. Tony Romo responded by hitting 9 passes on a 13-play drive to move Dallas into scoring position. Marion Barber’s touchdown gave the Cowboys a lead that they never surrendered.

Case in point #3: The Cowboys had extended their lead to 17-3 by the end of the third quarter thanks to a David Buehler field goal (yes, that David Buehler) late in the first half and a touchdown from Romo to Roy Williams (yes, that Roy Williams). Houston drove the ball down to the Dallas 1 early in the fourth, and Dallas had to be mindful that Houston had come back from a 27-10 deficit a week ago at Washington. On a crucial series, Dallas held Houston on two downs before Keith Brooking blitzed and sacked Schaub for a nine-yard loss. Houston settled for a field goal.

On the next drive, Romo found Williams on a short slant after the defender had fallen down, and Williams raced all the way to complete a 63-yard touchdown.

The Cowboys only converted 4 of 11 third-down plays, not counting penalties, but the four plays were huge. Three of the conversions came on the Cowboys’ first TD drive as Romo hit Williams, Austin, and Dez Bryant on pass plays to keep the drive alive. Sam Hurd had the other third-down reception on a TD drive in the third quarter that ended with Williams’ first touchdown. He had the biggest game as a Cowboy, catching 5 passes for 117 yards.

Barber ran well and once again got to play the role of closer. With the Cowboys leading 24-6, the team recovered its first fumble of the season. Barber carried the ball seven times on a drive that ate more than five minutes off the clock. Buehler’s second field goal extended the lead to 27-6.

Houston was able to score late, and Martellus Bennett helped to keep the Texans’ slim hopes alive by muffing an onside kick attempt. However, Danny McCray ended the game by recording his first career pick.

With losses by the Redskins and Giants, the Cowboys trail only the Eagles in the NFC East. This bye week may be bearable after all.

Week 3 Prediction: Stars are Not Aligning for Cowboys at Houston

Arian Foster and the Texans are favored to send Dallas to an 0-3 record.

The Cowboys have won under more difficult circumstances than what they face at Houston on Sunday. However, it’s hard to trust that Dallas will do so this week against a Texans team that erased a 17-point deficit to beat Washington last week. Although a few are predicting a Dallas win, the Cowboys just haven’t shown enough for the majority to think that this is the week for that first victory.

Dallas then welcomes the bye week. Even if you name were mud, you would still be doing better than if your name was Wade.

Odds: Houston Favored by Three

NFL betting lines have the Texans favored by three points. This is the first time this year that Dallas has been an underdog. From BetUS.com:

Those who cast their lot against the NFL betting lines are licking their lips as they anticipate a meeting between the unbeaten Houston Texans and the winless Dallas Cowboys in what is legitimately a “Lone Star Showdown” that is slated to begin at 1 PM ET on Sunday at Reliant Stadium (natural turf) in Houston.

ESPN: Edge to Houston

Surprisingly, four of the eight commentators who make expert picks selected Dallas to win on Sunday.Last week’s leader, Chris Mortensen, took Dallas this week. However, Mark Schlereth has been the most accurate of the group this year, and he took Houston. As for the four on Sunday Countdown, three took Houston. Cris Carter was the only one who picked Dallas.

ESPN SportsNation: 77.3% Pick Houston

With more than 21,000 votes in, the vast majority on ESPN SportsNation predicted a Houston win.

AccuScore: Houston 27, Dallas 24

The simulations at AccuScore haven’t been entirely reliable so far, but for what their worth, Houston has the edge on Sunday.

AccuScore is forecasting a close game with the Dallas Cowboys winning 41% of simulations, and the Houston Texans 58% of simulations. In close games, turnover margin is especially important. The Dallas Cowboys commit fewer turnovers in 37% of simulations and they go on to win 70% when they take care of the ball. The Houston Texans wins 76% of the simulations in which they commit fewer turnovers. Tony Romo is averaging 279 passing yards per sim. If he can have a great game with better than average passing yards and at least a 2 to 1 TD to INT ratio (39% chance) then he helps his team win 47%. Matt Schaub is averaging 278 passing yards per sim. If he can have a great game with better than average passing yards and at least a 2 to 1 TD to INT ratio (38% chance) then he helps his team win 59%.

WhatIfSports: Houston 27, Dallas 23

Houston won 59.5% of the simulations against Dallas this week by an average score of 27-23.

(As a side note, I am not sure how a simulation engine can have much validity when it is only 50% accurate. My daughter could pick games according to her favorite colors and be just as accurate. But anyway…)

Madden Simulation: Houston 20, Dallas 16

The Cowboys had a tough time stopping Arian Foster and the Houston offense in a 20-16 Texan win, according to the Madden Simulation on ESPN.

What would be the bigger surprise — the Texans starting the season 3-0 or the Cowboys starting 0-3? Well, according to “Madden,” it looks like the unthinkable just might happen and both of those scenarios will come true thanks to Houston beating Dallas, 20-16.

My Guess (0-2 this season)

My prediction last week:

This week, I think the Cowboys start strong but then stall. Chicago, however, will not be able to close the gap, and the Cowboys hold on to a 14-0 lead for much of the game. Dallas relies on three field goals in the second half, while the Bears only manage three points.

I got the 14 points right as far as the first-half output, and I also predicted that the Cowboys would stall. However, I had too much faith in the Dallas defense, which could not stop the Bears when the team needed it.

I don’t have much confidence in the Cowboys heading into this week. We’ve read about he players-only meeting, Wade promising changes, Jerry promising not to fire Wade, etc.  Where was the concern in August?

I think the Cowboys fall behind early and have to scratch and claw their way back into the contest. Houston will hold a 14-3 lead at the half, but Dallas storms back to take a 17-14 advantage in the fourth quarter. Houston regroups, and two Neil Rackers field goals in the final four minutes gives Houston the win.

Final score: Houston 20, Dallas 17

I don’t think merciless quite describes how the fan base will react towards the Cowboys brain trust if we see an L on Sunday.

Thursday Trivia for Week 3

Here are ten trivia questions regarding the Cowboys as they prepare for the Texans in week 3.

True or false? Tony Romo's 656 yards in the first two games of 2010 is his highest two-game total to begin a regular season.

How many times has Tony Romo attempted 50 or more passes in a regular season game?

The Cowboys have only recorded two sacks in 2010. How many did the Cowboys record in 2009?

True or false? Marion Barber has never averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry in any season of his career.

Three of Mat McBriar's punts this season have been downed for touchbacks. How many of his punts were downed for touchbacks in 2009?

After two games in 2009, how many field goals had Nick Folk missed?

Dez Bryant has 10 receptions for 108 yards in his first two games with the Cowboys. Which of the receivers below is the only one to record 1,000 yards in his rookie season?

Michael Irvin had the greatest single season of any Dallas receiver in 1995, catching 111 passes for 1,603 yards and 10 TDs. After two games in 1995, did he have more or fewer yards than Miles Austin currently has in the 2010 season?

After two games, how many receptions has former Cowboy Patrick Crayton had with the Chargers?

Word on the street is that Jerry Jones will replace Wade Phillips if the Cowboys fall to 0-3 after this week. Phillips has served as interim head coach twice before in New Orleans and Atlanta. What was his overall record as an interim head coach?

Chicago 27, Dallas 20: Cowboys Stumble Their Way to 0-2

Tony Romo now knows what an 0-2 record feels like.

This season may not be over, but the only use of “Dallas Cowboys” and “Super Bowl” in the same context should be reserved for the coincidence that Dallas hosts the game this year.

The Cowboy defense that looked so dominant early in the game fell apart. With the Cowboys leading 7-3 after Dez Bryant’s 62-yard punt return for a touchdown, the Bears figured out that Dallas could not stop quick passes off three-step drops. Greg Olsen caught one of those passes and outran free safety Alan Ball for a 39-yard touchdown pass.

The Cowboys regained the lead early in the second quarter on Tony Romo’s one-yard TD pass to Chris Gronkowski. However, the defense gave up a 59-yard bomb to Johnny Knox. The Bears capitalized by scoring on a touchdown pass from Jay Cutler to Devon Hester.

The Cowboys had the ball late in the first half, but a Romo pass attempt went through the hands of Jason Witten and into D.J. Moore’s hands. It was Moore’s second interception off of a tipped pass and gave the Bears the chance to increase their lead to 20-14 at the half.

Dallas started moving the ball in the second half, but the opening drive stalled. David Buehler kicked a 28-yard field goal to cut the Chicago lead to 20-17. The Cowboys had chances to tie the game or to take the lead, but the drives stalled. With just over seven minutes left, Buehler hooked a 44-yard attempt to the left. One play before the miss, Romo missed Tashard Choice on a wheel route that may have resulted in a touchdown.

The Cowboys’ only chance was to stop the Bears, but Chicago quickly drove 66 yards and increased the lead to 27-17. Dallas had a shot to cut into the lead, but Roy Williams fumbled the ball with four minutes left. Although the Cowboys kicked a late field goal, the game was all but over.

David Buehler has had a terrible season so far, and not just because of his missed field goals (which were both bad, to be sure). He has yet to  record a touchback and has had to make three tackles on special teams after long returns. Against Chicago, Buehler had to push Knox out of bounds after Knox had returned the opening kickoff 42 yards.

After Dallas had taken a 7-3 lead, the Cowboys had Buehler attempt what amounted to a pooch kick that only traveled 28 yards before being fair caught at the Chicago 42. The Bears took advantage of the good field position and scored in three plays.

Romo threw for 374 yards by completing 34 of 51 passes. Miles Austin showed up again, catching 10 passes for 142 yards. The running game disappeared yet again, as the “three-headed monster” gained a combined total of 37 yards.

Week 2 Prediction: Cowboys Should Handle Bears in Home Opener

Nearly every commentator thinks that Bradie James and the Cowboys will shut down the Bears.

In each of the past three seasons, the Cowboys have opened so strongly that fans just had to get excited about things to come. The last time the team had to concern itself with a 0-2 start was 2006, when Dallas had to follow a poor showing at Jacksonville with a home game against the Redskins. The Cowboys won that game and the next one to go to 2-1 on their way to a 9-7 playoff season.

Most of the focus this week has been on the Cowboys’ failure at Washington. There has been some speculation that the Bears could catch the Cowboys looking backward, but most commentators predict a Dallas win.

ESPN: Unanimous

Unlike last week, nobody at ESPN has predicted a Dallas win. This includes the four commentators on Sunday Countdown as well as the eight remaining experts.

Here is a video from Countdown Daily:

Peter Schrager, Fox Sports: Cowboys 27, Bears 17

I’m going to include this prediction mostly because if this asinine comment:

Seemingly every talking head on TV, radio and Twitter took their shots at Alex Barron on Sunday night following the Cowboys’ 13-7 loss in Washington. Sure, Barron committed three holding penalties in the final 31 minutes, and yes, he’s the most penalized player since 2005. But if Barron doesn’t commit that last penalty, Romo gets sacked, possibly injured and there’s no game-winning pass attempt at all. Without that hold, Jon Kitna’s quite possibly your Week 2 Cowboys quarterback!

Alex Barron didn’t play well Sunday night, but he didn’t deserve the slaying he received from the media hounds and Cowboys fans after the game. I think Dallas regroups and finds a way at home on Sunday, and Garrett has Romo take a knee the next time there’s four seconds on the clock and more than 50 yards to go before the half.

Alex Barron doesn’t deserve a job in the NFL. He wouldn’t make it in the UFL. He got what he deserved.

But, Mr. Schrager, your prediction for the game is just fine.

Madden Simulation: Dallas 24, Chicago 13

Madden does seem to like the Cowboys, and once again, Dallas won the simulation. Here’s the summary:

After suffering a heartbreaking loss to the Redskins in Week 1, the Cowboys bounce back against the Bears with a 24-13 win. The best sign for Cowboy fans is that their offense finally found a spark as Romo threw for 249 yards, including touchdown strikes to both Miles Austin and Roy Williams.

AccuScore: Cowboys Win 72% of Simulations

The Cowboys again won the majority of AccuScore’s 10,000 simulations. Here is the video summary of the game:

WhatIfSports: Dallas 25, Chicago 11

The Cowboys won 86.8% of WhatIfSports’ predictions by an average score of 25-11. Strangely, though, when I simulated several games on the system, the Bears won most of them.

I’m not going there…

My Guess (0-1 in 2010)

My guess last week about a low-scoring game wasn’t awful, but I had too much faith in the Cowboys’ kicking and general decision-making.

Against the Redskins, the Cowboys will have to rely on David Buehler more than they wanted. His two field goals mark the only scores of the first half. However, the Dallas defense plays well, and the Cowboys have a 6-0 halftime lead. Washington comes out early in the third quarter to take a 7-6 lead, but the Cowboys’ offense finally comes to life. Two Tony Romo touchdown passes give the Cowboys a 20-7 lead, and the Redskins can only manage a field goal.

In real life, Buehler missed his only field goal attempt from 34 yards out. The Cowboys would have trailed 3-0 at the half if it weren’t for the team’s decision to run a pass play at the very end of the first half. Washington took the lead and kept it, even when the Cowboys offense came to life in the second half.

This week, I think the Cowboys start strong but then stall. Chicago, however, will not be able to close the gap, and the Cowboys hold on to a 14-0 lead for much of the game. Dallas relies on three field goals in the second half, while the Bears only manage three points.

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My score: Dallas 23, Chicago 3.

Five Trivia Questions About Cowboys vs. Redskins, Week 1

Please go to Five Trivia Questions About Cowboys vs. Redskins, Week 1 to view the quiz

Washington 13, Dallas 7: Not a Funny Comedy, Alex Barron

That's what we're asking, Wade.

Pondering what to say if Alex Barron is still employed by the Dallas Cowboys as of tomorrow morning. Perhaps hire Phil Pozderac as an offensive-line consultant?

Let’s review:

  • With 11 seconds left in the first half, the Cowboys had the ball at their own 46. It was close enough that the team could have moved into field-goal range. On a first-down play, Barron was called for holding, moving Dallas back to the 36. On the next play, the Cowboys inexplicably lined up in a pass formation. Tony Romo flipped the ball to Tashard Choice, who was stripped from the ball by DeAngelo Hall, who ran the ball in for a touchdown to give Washington a 10-0 lead at the half.
  • With the Cowboys down 10-7 in the fourth quarter, Romo appeared to hit Jason Witten on a pass to the Washington 44, which would have given Dallas a first down. Nope– holding, #71, offense.
  • With three seconds remaining, the Cowboys had one last chance from the Washington 13. Romo bought some time, rolled right, and found Roy Williams for an apparent touchdown. Then the flag came in, and the call wasn’t even close. Barron put a bear hug on Brian Orakpo in one of the most obvious holds anyone could imagine.

No touchdown. No win.

So the team could do without Flozell Adams, who was the second-most penalized player in the NFL since 2005. Instead, the team acquired and now has to start Alex Barron, the most penalized player in the NFL since 2005.

Some other decisions either haunted or could have haunted the Cowboys.

The Cowboys thought they could turn to kickoff specialist David Buehler to handle field goal duties. He went 10-for-11 in the preseason and hit the game-winner against Miami. His lone regular-season field goal attempt, and miss, looked like a Nick Folk special from 2009. Making matters worse was that Buehler’s two kickoffs were returned 34 and 42 yards, respectively.

Dez Bryant wasn’t bad tonight, catching eight passes for 56 yards. However, on the final drive of the game, Bryant didn’t realize he was the hot read and didn’t look for the ball when Romo tried to hit him. The ball bounced off LeRon Landry’s hands, fortunately, but it was the type of play where the Cowboys could have used a veteran like Patrick Crayton.

And then there’s the playcalling. The final play of the first half was the dumbest in recent memory. It may be the dumbest in distant memory. I’d rather not think about it for now.

The Dallas offense tried hard to get the WR screen set up in the first half. One might think the calls would set up something else later. Instead, the Cowboys struggled to move the ball effectively and consistently during the entire first half.

Miles Austin was huge, catching 10 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. His 30-yard reception on 4th-and-10 from the Washington 43 with less than 20 seconds left gave the Cowboys a chance to win the game.

Marion Barber and Felix Jones were less effective. Each carried the ball eight times and combined for 77 rushing yards.

The Cowboys are 0-1 to start a season for the first time since 2006. The team’s next three opponents—Chicago, Houston, and Tennessee—each won their openers. In fact, the only opponent in the first nine weeks that lost its opener was Minnesota, and that was to the New Orleans Saints.

Pondering where to find some optimism.

Week 1 Prediction: Cowboys Edge Redskins in Low-Scoring Opener

The majority of commentators and simulations predict a Dallas win on Sunday night.

Most commentators have predicted the Cowboys will beat the Redskins on Sunday night in the opening week of the season. There are concerns about the Cowboys’ offensive line because of the injuries to Kyle Kosier and Marc Columbo. However, the Redskins have installed new offensive and defensive systems, and concerns about Washington are greater than those about the Dallas line.

ESPN Votes: Dallas 10, Washington 2

Three of the four commentators on ESPN Sunday Countdown picked Dallas, with Keyshawn Johnson providing the lone vote for Washington. Of eight commentators who voted on Pigskin Pick’em, only Adam Schefter voted for Washington.

Madden Prediction: Dallas 30, Washington 27

Unlike other simulations, the Madden simulation on ESPN predicted that this game will be a shoot-out. Here’s the summary:

One of the best rivalries in the NFL heats up in Week 1 as Tony Romo and the Cowboys duke it out against Donovan McNabb and the Redskins. And while Dallas seems like everyone’s favorite to win the NFC East, Washington proves that it belongs in the discussion, scoring a touchdown in the final minute to send the game into overtime before losing on a 31-yard field goal.

AccuScore Simulations: Cowboys Win 61%

In AccuScore’s 10,000 simulations, the Cowboys won 61% of the games. The summary:

AccuScore is forecasting a close game with the Dallas Cowboys winning 59% of simulations, and the Washington Redskins 41% of simulations. In close games, turnover margin is especially important. The Dallas Cowboys commit fewer turnovers in 45% of simulations and they go on to win 81% when they take care of the ball. The Washington Redskins wins 59% of the simulations in which they commit fewer turnovers. Felix Jones is averaging 48 rushing yards per sim. If he can have a great game with better than average rushing yards and at least a 1 rushing TD (22% chance) then he helps his team win 81%. Clinton Portis is averaging 60 rushing yards per sim. If he can have a great game with better than average rushing yards and at least a 1 rushing TD (26% chance) then he helps his team win 60%.

WhatIfSports: Dallas 22, Washington 18

The Cowboys won 65.4% of WhatIfSports’ simulations by an average score of 22-18.

My Guess

Last year’s predictions didn’t turn out too bad, with a final record of 11-7. However, my guess that the Cowboys would beat the Vikings 27-24 in overtime was awful.

Against the Redskins, the Cowboys will have to rely on David Buehler more than they wanted. His two field goals mark the only scores of the first half. However, the Dallas defense plays well, and the Cowboys have a 6-0 halftime lead. Washington comes out early in the third quarter to take a 7-6 lead, but the Cowboys’ offense finally comes to life. Two Tony Romo touchdown passes give the Cowboys a 20-7 lead, and the Redskins can only manage a field goal.

personalized greetings

* * *

I never seem to get bored with online generators. So I provide for you a link to Jerry doing the ugly dance in celebration of tomorrow’s game:

This isn't any worse than Jerry's Papa John's commercials, is it? Click on the picture to see the site.

Oh yes, there's more.

Are There Similiarites Between 1992 and 2010?

In January, I wrote a post noting several similarities between the 1991 season for the Dallas Cowboys and the most recent 2009 season. I thought these similarities were kind of eerie; others disagreed and noted that the similarities were little more than a series of coincidences. Fair enough.

But what we all really want in 2010 is for the Cowboys to follow up their 2009 season the same way the team followed up the 1991 campaign. There are more similarities between 1992 and the upcoming season worth noting, but there are also several differences.

Similar: Fourth-Year Head Coaches

In 1992, Jimmy Johnson was heading into his fourth season as the Dallas coach. During the previous season, he had won his first playoff game, which was a huge accomplishment given that he inherited a team that had gone 3-13 the season before his arrival. He had replaced a legend in Tom Landry, who had won two Super Bowls.

Wade Phillips is now heading into his fourth season as the Dallas coach. He won his first playoff game in 2009, which ended the team’s streak of seasons without a playoff win that began after the 1996 season. Phillips had replaced a legend in Bill Parcells, who had won two Super Bowls.

Different: Jimmy Johnson vs. Wade Phillips

Johnson helped to gut the Cowboys and rebuild it according to his standards. His approval rating jumped from 0% (or so) to about 80% or 90% between 1989 and 1991 thanks to his rebuilding efforts. He eventually became a legend.

Phillips had previously coached the Broncos and Bills, and he was an interim coach with two other teams. By the time he arrived in Dallas, his teams had generally been mediocre. Whereas Johnson started with nothing and went 1-15, Phillips inherited many of the team’s current stars and went 13-3 in his first season. His approval rating has never been great, but a playoff failure in 2007 followed by a poor 2008 season had many fans calling for his head.

Similar: Star Power in the Skills Positions

The 1992 Cowboys were a young team with an abundance of talent at the skills positions. Few teams could boast having skills players such as the likes of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Daryl Johnston, Alvin Harper, and Jay Novacek.

The 2010 Cowboys are a fairly young team with plenty of talent in the skills positions. The skill players include Pro Bowlers and former Pro Bowlers such as Tony Romo, Marion Barber, Felix Jones, Miles Austin, and Jason Witten.

Different: Acquiring the Star Players

The 1992 Cowboys’ star players were mostly high draft picks. Aikman, Smith, Irvin, and Harper were each first-round picks, while Johnston was a second-rounder.

Romo and Austin were both undrafted free agents. Witten was a third-round pick, while Barber was a fourth-round pick. Only Jones was taken in the first round, but he has yet to earn the starting running back job.

Similar: Charles Haley and DeMarcus Ware

Charles Haley (#94) converted from outside linebacker to defensive end and gave the Cowboys a dominant pass rusher in 1992.

DeMarcus Ware (#94) is an All-Pro outside linebacker and gives the team its best outside pass rusher since Charles Haley.

Different: 4-3 vs. 3-4

The 1992 Dallas defense was built on speed. The team had an aggressive front four that was backed up by speedy linebackers. The team did not blitz often, and the secondary often played a bend-but-don’t-break zone defense.

The 2010 Dallas defense will line up in the 3-4, and the team will blitz frequently. The Cowboys often rely on Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins to dominate in man coverage.

Similar: Opening with the Redskins

The 1992 Cowboys had their first test in the opening week when they hosted the Washington Redskins in primetime on Monday Night Football. Dallas took care of business and won 23-10.

The 2010 Cowboys also open against the Redskins in the primetime slot on Sunday Night Football. Dallas needs to take care of business to start the season on a good note.

Different: The 1992 Redskins vs. the 2010 Redskins

The 1992 Redskins were defending Super Bowl Champions and featured the reigning Super Bowl MVP in QB Mark Rypien.

The 2010 Redskins are rebuilding after the team suffered through a 4-12 season in 2009. The team features a new head coach in Mike Shanahan and a new QB in Donovan McNabb.

Similar: Visiting the Site of the Previous Season’s Playoff Loss

The 1992 Cowboys put a big circle around their November 8 trip to Detroit, which is where the team had suffered a blowout loss the previous season.

The 2010 Cowboys on October 17 will visit Minnesota, which is where the team suffered a blowout loss last season.

Different: Strength of Schedule in General

The most difficult part of the 1992 Cowboys’ schedule was having to face division rivals Washington, New York, and Philadelphia. The Cowboys faced AFC West opponents, none of which were especially strong in 1992. Even the Falcons and Bears, who had made the playoffs in 1991, were not especially strong in 1992.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone will consider the 2010 schedule is easy. In addition to the divisional rivals, Dallas has to travel to Indianapolis, Green Bay, and Minnesota, and the team hosts the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints on Thanksgiving Day.

Anything I’m missing?

Was Patrick Crayton the Best Slot Receiver in Team History?

Patrick Crayton is now a member of the San Diego Chargers.

Pretty sad news today as the Cowboys traded receiver Patrick Crayton to San Diego for a seventh-round draft pick next year. The trade isn’t entirely unexpected, as some thought Dallas would move Crayton once the team selected Dez Bryant in the first round of the draft. Still, Crayton has been a solid contributor since he entered the league as a seventh-round pick in 2004. The receiving corps that season? Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn, Antonio Bryant (before he was shipped to Cleveland), and Quincy Morgan (traded for Bryant).

Since then, all of those receivers left. Terrell Owens came and went. Roy Williams came and has done nothing. Crayton seemed to be a long-shot when he arrived, but he was steady throughout his entire career. He played 82 games in Dallas and started 32 of them. He averaged 32.7 receptions and 481.3 yards per season during that time. He ranks 19th on the team’s all-time list for career receptions (196, trailing Terry Glenn by 12 receptions) and ranks 16th on the list for receiving yards with 2,888. He was a decent punt returner and even took two back for touchdowns in 2009.

The title of the post asks whether Crayton is the best slot receiver in team history. This is a tough question, given that it’s tough to identify a slot receiver before Butch Johnson. Since that time, the team has had a handful of third receivers who played principally in the slot position. I won’t waste time discussing the likes of Ernie Mills, Wane McGarity, or Stepfret Williams. Crayton is among four slot receivers who would be part of this debate. Others include Butch Johnson, Kevin Williams, and Kelvin Martin. Here are the career stats for these players:

Butch Johnson (1976-1983): 112 games, 132 receptions, 2,124 yards, 19 TD

Kevin Williams (1993-1996): 57 games, 98 receptions, 1,268 yards, 5 TD

Kelvin Martin (1987-1992, 1996): 98 games, 237 receptions, 3,083 yards, 9 TD

Patrick Crayton (2004-2009): 82 games, 196 receptions, 2,888 yards, 23 TD

Like Crayton, the others spent part of their careers as starters, but they were best known for playing the slot on third downs and other obvious passing situations. Who among these was the best?

Johnson may be the player most would remember, given his amazing catch in Super Bowl XII and flamboyance in developing the California Quake. But Johnson never caught more than 25 passes in any single season until 1983, when he caught 41 for 561 yards.

Martin’s receptions mostly came during his years as a starter in the 1980s. When the team became competitive in 1991 and 1992, he only had 16 and 32 receptions respectively.

Williams caught a total of 33 passes as a slot receiver in 1993 and 1994 before becoming a starter in 1995. Even while starting 16 games, he only had 38 receptions that year.

Crayton wasn’t a great starter in 2007, but he was consistent while filling the slot role in other seasons. I think he’ll be missed.

Who is the greatest slot receiver in team history?

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