The Cowboys left receiver Lucky Whitehead at home in Dallas for missing yet another team meeting.
According to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, missing meetings has been a recurring issue for the Dallas receiver. They’ve decided to punish him by leaving him out of the biggest game they’ll play this regular season against the Giants (8-4) at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
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The Dallas Cowboys had only said that Whitehead violated club rules.
The 24-year-old former undrafted free agent out of Florida Atlantic University is known more for his gimmick rushing plays and return acumen than anything. In two seasons, he has eight total catches for 56 yards. This season, he has 19 punt returns and 10 kick returns.
As the Cowboys get deeper into this historically good run, Whitehead would do well to get back in the team’s good graces. A dependable returner, Whitehead could see his role taken away down the stretch if the team cannot depend on him to show up on time.
Because we can only roll our eyes at high-turnover, low-scoring football perhaps Sunday night’s game might not go down in recent history with proper context. It was a slugfest, with Sean Lee, Tyron Smith, Olivier Vernon jersey and Devon Kennard among the hardest punchers. In terms of what was at stake, this was about as good as it gets for regular season football with three weeks remaining in the season. On the line was Dallas’ first-round bye and the Giants’ slim cushion in the wild card. Dak Prescott was humanized and the Giants’ offensive line was stripped bare for the world to see. Ezekiel Elliott got more than 100 rushing yards with a majority of them coming after first contact. Beckham passed Plaxico Burress as Eli Manning’s highest-scoring target.
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Janoris Jenkins has been staking his claim as a top-five cornerback all season and did a fantastic job on Dez Bryant on Sunday night. Aided by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the pair held Dallas’ top wideout to zero catches and zero yards until his fourth quarter catch-and-fumble with 2:13 remaining (he had seven previous targets without a catch). Prescott was picked trying to hurl it to Bryant in double coverage, a desperate attempt to get one of their best offensive weapons involved in the game. We chastise teams who spend big in free agency and end up saddling their rosters with expensive dead weight. But what about Giants general manager Jerry Reese? The $200 million in new deals brought in the league’s best run-stuffing defensive tackle (Damon Harrison) and Jenkins, who completed a troika of cornerbacks (Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple) that are playing some top-level football.
What’s amazing about Odell Beckham jersey is how he almost never finishes with a completely negative game. Earlier on Sunday night, he dropped a potential touchdown that hit him in the palms. In the third, he dropped a third-down conversion that forced the Giants to settle for a field goal. The lazy assumption would be that it somehow fuels him, but the reality is that he’s simply an excellent big-play receiver with a quarterback smart enough to continue feeding him the football. On the 61-yard touchdown, the display of top-end speed was prime Victor Cruz-esque. Manning, for all of his shortcomings (especially this season) might be the perfect quarterback for Beckham after all thanks to a lack of concern for feeding the ball into tight coverage. When it works out like that, who can blame his wholesale NFL jerseys?
This was the situation the Cowboys were hoping to avoid, no? Dak Prescott had a bad game in a big spot and Tony Romo is finally healthy. It would be impossible for the rookie not to be looking over his shoulders and authentic sports jerseys but it’s important for Dallas not to create the type of environment where he has to. Prescott still had his moments on Sunday but needs to develop a quicker trigger finger when facing this kind of pressure-oriented defense. The Giants secondary managed to catch up to a lot of his reads before he was able to make the throw.
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Carson Wentz’s finale was a microcosm of his rookie season. The quarterback came out firing, completing his first five passes. Then he sputtered, missing receivers high and wide. Wentz was under siege all day by the Cowboys’ pass rush and got no help from his cheap jerseys and wide receivers. The rookie overcame his struggles by heavily targeting tight end Zach Ertz jersey (13 catches for 139 yards, two TDs) in the second half. Wentz dropped a beautiful dime to Ertz to give the Eagles a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Wentz finished 27-of-43 passing for 245 yards and two TDs. The rookie’s finish displayed all the promise that made the Eagles’ brass drool before the season. Wentz will head into the offseason needing to tweak his elongated mechanics (dropping his elbow leads to sailed passes) and footwork. On balance, for a rookie that many said needed a year of seasoning before he was ready to play, Wentz’s first season should be viewed as a success. Now he needs to grow in his first full offseason, and Howie Roseman needs to get Wentz some skill-position help.
With nothing on the line, the Cowboys rested their star players. Ezekiel Elliott dressed but never left the bench (dashing Jerry Jones’ claim Zeke could go after the rookie rushing record). Linebacker Sean Lee also dressed but was tied to the bench. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten both started but didn’t make it to halftime before being yanked (Witten finishes the regular season 17-yards shy of the Cowboys’ all-time receiving record). Dallas’ offensive line started reserve left tackle Emmett Cleary and backup left guard Joe Looney. With a bye before hosting a playoff game, Dallas hopes to get healthy ahead of their Super Bowl run.
Rod Marinelli deserves the Assistant Coach of the Year Award. Even with a bevy of players injured or held out, his defensive line had its way with the Eagles’ offensive line.