The 2016 season finally arrived for the Cowboys, and it left us wearing a sad face as the Cowboys fell 20-19 to their NFC East rivals - The New York Giants.
Cowboys Nation was hoping to get off to a start that would signify a far different season than
the one we never speak of 2015, but to be totally fair if we want to re-create the successful 2014 season, we're doing a great job as that team also started off 0-1.
So how exactly did this team lose the first game of the season? Here are my 10 takeaways from the Cowboys season-opening loss to the New York Giants.
Ezekiel Elliott Can Be Stopped
20 carries, 51 yards, and 1 touchdown. That's not exactly 4th Overall Pick worthy, is it?
I'm not trying to indict Zeke Elliott here, but we need to be honest with ourselves. When the Cowboys drafted the star running back the thought was "Who's going to be able to stop this Offensive Line and Zeke?!".
You know what the answer is? The New York Giants. Olivier Vernon did a lot to live up to the gigantic contract the Giants gave him this offseason as he and his teammates seemed to be all-in on limiting Elliott on Sunday. If that was indeed their plan then they executed it pretty perfectly while proving that this elite ground game that the Cowboys possess has a kryptonite.
Dak Prescott Is For Real
The Cowboys didn't seem to ask a whole lot from Dak Prescott, which might have actually been the problem if you really think about it.
Dak did as he was told, and he looked really great in doing so. His stat line isn't one that's going to win you a fantasy football game, but Dak showed an incredible amount of poise and leadership in his first NFL game against a division rival. The hype surrounding him won't come anywhere near the levels that followed his preseason performances, but this one was arguably better.
Jason Witten Is Timeless
It's a tale as old as time (shout out to Beauty and the Beast) that rookie quarterbacks tend to lean on their tight ends. As true as this may be... if your tight end happens to be a future Hall of Famer then you're likely to lean on him even more, right?
Dak Prescott's leading receiver on Sunday was indeed Mr. Witten who hauled in 9 passes for 66 yards. Witten seems to just be a chain-sniffing machine as he continually produces first down after first down. So much has been made about what life may be like without Tony Romo, but this franchise is seriously going to miss Witten when he's done with the game.
Cole Beasley Isn't Perfect
There are certainly fan-favorites when it comes to Cowboys Nation and their beloved 'Boys, and it's safe to say that Cole Beasley is among them.
Cole's stock, both among fans and on a national level, has really risen over the last few seasons as he's become one of the best slot receivers in the game, but boy did he have a case of the dropsies on Sunday. Beasley will likely wish that he had a few passes back as there were some big plays to be made if he could've just held on. It was shocking to see him not be flawless.
Dez Bryant Is Not Dez Bryant
How long has it been since you've seen Dez Bryant dominate a game? Seriously. Think about it.
My answer is the 2014 season finale in Washington. #88 has been a shell of himself ever since and was particularly disappointing in Sunday's loss. People will say that he should've seen more targets, which is true, but only cashing in on 1/5 for eight yards is an unacceptable stat line for any legitimate wide receiver let alone one of Dez Bryant's caliber.
While Tony Romo is out the Cowboys are really going to need their Stars to rise up. Dez's inability to against the Giants was without a doubt a big reason for the loss, regardless of how the Coaching Staff did or did not use him.
The Orlando Scandrick Hype Was Silly In Hindsight
Honestly how foolish was it that people thought a cornerback who is approaching the age of 30, is coming off of an ACL AND MCL tear, and hasn't played since the end of the 2014 season was just going to come in and be dominant?
It's no surprise that Orlando Scandrick struggled on Sunday. Struggled might even be generous all things considered. Scandrick looked pretty bad, so bad that Brandon Carr was the best Dallas Cowboys cornerback in the game. Think about that.
Call it whatever you want. Say it was rust. Say that Orlando isn't fully healed. Whatever the case may be... Orlando Scandrick is far from dominant and that was reflected in Sunday's loss.
This Team Misses Rolando McClain
The Cowboys have absolutely no presence when it comes to the middle of the defense. He may be a purple drank dranker (what?), but Rolando McClain was really good at establishing some of that presence when he was on the field for America's Team.
Dallas simply doesn't have the personnel to fulfill this role adequately. It's a glaring weakness that existed all offseason and was fully exploited against the Giants. Good thing the Cowboys spent their 2nd Round Draft Pick on someone who plays that position though, right? Nevermind that he might not ever play football again! Hooray! *sadface*.
Pass Rush? What's That?
In the most shocking event around the NFL World on Sunday (I'm counting a 2-point conversion by the Raiders to go for the win instead of a safe extra point tie in regulation), the Dallas Cowboys had not one but two sacks! Whoa crazy crazy!
The box score may make it seem like the Cowboys know what they're doing when it comes to getting after the quarterback, but that could not be farther from the truth. This team's achilles heel is, and has been for a long time, rushing the passer. Eli Manning was afforded too much time and it showed with his ability to find receivers in the middle of the field (shout out to Rolando McClain/Jaylon Smith).
Scott Linehan Might Not Be An Offensive Genius
I don't want to overreact and say that Scott Linehan is a bad coach, because he's not, but he did a horrible job of trying to win a football game against the New York Giants.
Linehan and Co. insisted, almost arrogantly, on running Ezekiel Elliott up the middle despite having success with him outside and success with Alfred Morris both in and outside. It was as if the Cowboys were trying to prove a point and flex their muscle that this is their style of football and they were going to prove it. It failed miserably as the Cowboys only scored one touchdown in four full quarters.
Dan Bailey Is Amazing
This isn't necessarily breaking news, but holy guacamole do I love Dan Bailey.
I legitimately believe that we as the loyal members of Cowboys Nation do not appreciate Bailey's greatness enough. Do you know how many NFL teams/fandoms would do anything to have the peace of mind that he provides? Terrance Williams is taking an enormous amount of heat for going out of bounds because we're all certain that Dan was going to make a potential 60-yarder. He's incredible!
@rjochoa honestly, when we got a 4th down stop i felt relieved. And my tale away, GIVE ZEKE MORE OUTSIDE CARRIES. USE HIS AGILITY.
If you want your takeaway to be featured here at Inside The Star, just tweet at me and I'll include the best ones! Shout out to Branden Griffin for this week's addition.
Branden has a great point if we're being honest. The positives taken away from the Cowboys Defense (i.e. the Brandon Carr interception) were gifts from Eli, not the result of anything they did of their own talent. It truly did feel like we escaped something drastic each and every time the Cowboys forced a punt. This is going to be such a fun season!
#ATLvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction
This week's gambling preview focuses on the Cowboys week 11 opponent, the Atlanta Falcons. Dallas beat the now 4-5 Eagles last Sunday to improve their own record to 4-5. Atlanta lost on the road to Cleveland last week to drop their record to 4-5 on the season.
It's an 8-8 league, isn't it?
Dallas returns to the scene of the 2017 crime this Sunday, traveling to Atlanta where Chaz Green and Dak Prescott were destroyed almost exactly one year ago. Let's take a look at the line and the quality of these teams to see which way it could go.
Cowboys +3, O/U 48 points.
Dallas saved their season on the road last Sunday night, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles and getting right back in the thick of things in the NFC East race. Still, we can't simply ignore what the other 8 games of data have told us about the Cowboys and their offensive quality.
The addition of Amari Cooper has clearly helped the offense, opening up the passing game a bit and allowing for Dak Prescott to have a reliable "number one" receiver. The team's results overall have been mixed the first two games of the Cooper-era, but he has been consistently good in both match-ups.
Defensively the Cowboys continued to impress last week, though "cornerback opposite of Byron Jones" is quickly becoming a potential need. Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith stole the show last Sunday, and both the present and the future of the Cowboys' linebacking corps is strong. It could be argued the Cowboys have yet to see a passing attack like the one Atlanta brings, however, making Sunday a big test for them defensively.
Similar to the Cowboys, Atlanta has been very much up-and-down this season. In a way, though, they are just the opposite-day Cowboys, with their offense putting up insane numbers most weeks and their banged up defense often letting them down.
Though it looked like they were turning it around in recent weeks, Atlanta had probably their most disappointing loss in quite some time, losing at Cleveland to the young Browns. Still, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones lead a prolific passing attack which can strike fear in any defense.
Byron Jones and company will have their hands full with the Falcons' cast of skill players on Sunday, and as usual, stopping their passing attack will all begin up front with the pass rush. Hopefully Randy Gregory can build on his week 10 performance to produce even more results this week.
- Surprisingly, the score total has now hit the over 4 of the Cowboys' last 6 games.
- The Cowboys are 2-5 against the spread their last 7 games against the Falcons.
- The Cowboys are also 2-4 against the spread their last games at Atlanta.
- Dallas is just 1-4 straight up on the road this season.
- The score total has gone over 4 of Atlanta's last 5 home games.
- The Falcons are just 2-5 against the spread their last 7 games.
Who the hell knows, man.
This team is incredibly difficult to project week to week, probably about as volatile as they've been since all those 8-8 seasons. This line started at Cowboys +4.5 and has since moved down to just +3, meaning they are valued as a pick 'em on a neutral field.
Given how inconsistent, yet talented, both teams are this line feels exactly right. I'll take the Cowboys and the points because why not? I expect this to be a tight game throughout, and could come down to the kicking game in the fourth quarter.
X-Factor: Xavier Su’a-Filo Excellent in Cowboys Win over Eagles
Heading into this week's game against the Philadelphia Eagles the Dallas Cowboys were down starting Left Guard Connor Williams as well as starting Center Travis Frederick. Getting his first start for the Dallas Cowboys since being signed off the street during the season as guard depth was Xavier Su'a Filo and he played excellent.
Filling in against a front seven as good as the Eagles is a pretty difficult ask, but Su'a-Filo had 31 games in the previous two seasons with the Houston Texans, so he's not your typical interior backup.
In particular, Xavier did a great job of getting to the second level quickly and sealing off the linebacker, which allowed Ezekiel Elliott to spring for several big gains on the day.
Here on Ezekiel Elliott's big run, you can see Su'a-Filo and Left Tackle Tyron Smith start a combo block on the three-technique defensive tackle. After the initial engagement, Su'a-Filo comes off his block quickly and gets to the linebacker and prevents him from filling the hole and doubling back to cut Elliott off and Elliott runs for 32 yards down the middle of the field.
Again, we see Tyron and Xavier work a combo block before Su'a-Filo comes off his block to engage the linebacker and prevent him from getting back to Elliott after hits the hole to the left side.
This time Xavier Su'a-Filo works with Joe Looney to prevent the one-technique defensive tackle from slanting down the line and disrupting the point of attack. Su'a-Filo then quickly releases to linebacker and seals him to the outside and creates a big hole for Elliott to run through for yet another big gain.
This is another big gain for Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys offense that seemed to be able to run right at the heart of the Philadelphia Eagles defense all night. This time Su'a-Filo stumbles off the snap but is able to regain his balance and neutralize the middle linebacker yet again allowing Elliott to get to the second level quickly and get the Dallas Cowboys into field goal range late in the game.
Su'a-Filo is matched up against one of the première defensive tackles in Fletcher Cox. Cox looks to get leverage on Xavier but is unable to fully get to Dak Prescott as he steps up into the pocket. The offensive tackles didn't expect Dak to step up into the pocket and were unable to hold up the Philadelphia Eagles defensive ends and Prescott is sacked. Su'a-Filo, though isn't completely walked back and Dak has a lane to step into in the pocket. Obviously it's not a perfect play for the Cowboys, but Su'a-Filo eventually tosses Fletcher Cox to the ground. That kind of play strength has been missing from rookie Connor Williams.
In pass protection, Xavier held up well. Cox attempts to use power to knock him off-balance, but Su'a-Filo holds up to the power and Dak Prescott finds Allen Hurns for a big gain down to the one yard line setting up Dak Prescott's rushing touchdown.
The Cowboys run game has had a difficult time getting going for much of the season. Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys offensive line played their best game of the season. It looked like the dominant run game we've grown accustomed to. Pro Football Focus attributed to hurries to Su'a-Filo on the night, but zero quarterback hits and zero sacks. Running to the left, Elliott ran for 113 yards at a clip of 8.61 yards per carry including three carries for more than 10 yards and Su'a-Filo was a big part of that.
Xavier did a nice job stepping in for starter Connor Williams and had a nice day both in pass protection and in the run game helping to give strength and athleticism at the point of attack. His ability to get to the next level helped spring Elliott for several big runs on the night, which was a huge key to the football game. Coming into the week 10, the Philadelphia Eagles had allowed the second fewest rushing yards in the NFL.
Takeaway Tuesday: Amari Cooper Proving to be Worth It
Just when all hope was lost, the Dallas Cowboys went on the road and surprised fans with a 27-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Both on defense and offense, it was a game that showed us plenty of silver linings to be excited about. While a playoff run certainly remains pretty difficult to accomplish, at least the team isn't leaving without a fight.
The last Cowboys' victory came approximately a month ago, so it is with great pleasure that I share with you this week's edition of "Takeaway Tuesday!"
Vander Esch Among Best Cowboys' Players
Just before last game, I wrote about how Leighton Vander Esch could be in contention for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Playing on Sunday Night Football (on national TV), the rookie helped his case a lot with 13 solo tackles and an interception.
Little by little, he's making sure the Cowboys know they can move on from frequently injured Sean Lee down the road. Vander Esch can play. Forget about him being an impressive rookie, he's currently one of the best players on this roster.
Scott Linehan Shouldn't be Off the Hook
As any Cowboys fan, I loved the win. There were quite a few things to like about the offense on Sunday, but there's no denying play calling could've been way better. As much as the Dallas Cowboys are still in the hunt in a mediocre division, Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan should remain on the hot seat.
Ezekiel Elliott took the Cowboys to the 5-yard line by leaping over a human at full speed and right after the Cowboys stopped using him on that drive. Against the Titans, the offense found itself on third and 16 twice and ran a running back screen pass. In Philadelphia, they were on third and 16 once and they ran a RB screen once again.
Dallas has left a lot of points on the field this year and in big part thanks to play calling. Linehan shouldn't be safe right now.
Amari Cooper Proving to be Worth It
After two games wearing the Star, Cowboys Nation is feeling a lot better about trading a first rounder for Amari Cooper. On the field, he's proven to be an impact player. An impact that has been felt immediately, by the way. Out of 11 catches, Cooper has gotten the Cowboys' offense ten first downs.
Versus the Eagles, though, his impact is felt beyond his single stat line.
On Sunday Night, he accounted for six catches and 75 yards. He helped QB Dak Prescott get 270 yards through the air and most importantly, to spread the football.
7 different Cowboys have a reception of at least 13 yards tonight.
That stat above is an underrated one. No wide receiver in next year's Draft would have the kind of impact Amari Cooper is having on this football team. In the long run, lots of people could be eating their words after heavily criticizing the Cowboys' trade for the two-times Pro Bowler wide receiver. Hopefully, that's the case.
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