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!
DL Kerry Hyder Impressive In Cowboys Week 2 Preseason Win
Kerry Hyder joined the Cowboys this offseason on a one year deal, and while the four-year NFL veteran has put up some solid tape in his time around the league, it was hard to project just what he could bring to the Cowboys defense.
Listed at 6'2" 270 pounds, Hyder is a bit of a tweener on the defensive line. Though the answer to "will he play tackle or end" seems to be "both" to this point in the preseason.
As he fights for his life on this deep defensive line, Kerry Hyder had himself a day in the Cowboys 14-10 victory over the Rams last weekend.
Hyder made an excellent play defending a screen pass in the first quarter, reading the play perfectly and reacting quickly to running back Darrell Henderson coming out of the backfield. Hyder also created some pressure on the quarterback, and finished with 3 combined tackles in very limited playing time.
Hyder's versatility is working well for him as he looks to make the final roster. Like a Tyrone Crawford type player, Hyder will be able to move inside and out depending on the situation. This allows the Cowboys to be flexible in how they structure their depth chart on defense, and in how they decide to rush the passer on third down.
A pass rushing package involving Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence on the edge with the combination of Hyder and Maliek Collins on the inside could turn out to be a very dangerous one for opposing offenses to deal with.
Rod Marinelli spoke to this versatility a couple of months ago, showing just how much he values what Kerry Hyder can bring to this team.
"Maybe you adjust him sometime, once in a while – in a one-on-one pass rush situation, stick him over a guard and start to get a feel for it.” - Rod Marinelli
Earlier this offseason, I wrote that Kerry Hyder could end up being Rod Marinelli's next great under-the-radar find on the defensive line. And if he continues to play with the hustle and awareness that he had on Saturday, he's going to make Rod look very smart in his evaluation.
Kerry Hyder is making it very difficult for the front office to let him go. And, at the end of the preseason, I do expect Kerry Hyder to find himself on the Cowboys' active roster. Especially considering how Mike White is playing at quarterback, and how his release could open up an extra spot at a different position group.
#DALvsRAMS: Tony Pollard Proves he’s no Longer Darrell Henderson’s Backup
For the better part of three years Tony Pollard was forced to play second fiddle to Darrell Henderson during their time with the Memphis Tigers. But, Saturday night in the second week of preseason Pollard emerged from the shadows and proved he's no longer Henderson's backup.
Tony Pollard put on an impressive show Saturday night against the Los Angeles Rams. He touched the ball a total of six times and turned it into 51 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for 42 yards on the ground, averaging 8.4 yards per carry, and had one reception for 9 yards. All in all it was an impressive performance and one that arguably outdid his former teammate, Darrell Henderson.
Tony Pollard is starting to look like a real weapon for the Dallas Cowboys. It's still a small sample size, but in the first two preseason games he's proven the jump up in competition isn't too big for him. As a runner he's been decisive, picking up what yardage is given and not dancing around. He hasn't been utilized much in the passing game yet, but that time will come.
The Dallas Cowboys couldn't be happier with the way their rookie RB has performed thus far. He's everything they've said he was, and quite possibly much more. Maybe those Alvin Kamara comparisons weren't that far off after all.
We all know Ezekiel Elliott will return to the Dallas Cowboys at some point, but for now Tony Pollard doesn't look completely out of place as their lead back. He still needs to work on his pass protection, but everything else he's been asked to do he's excelled at.
I don't know about you, but I'm excited about seeing what No. 36 can do when these games start to matter in 2019. He will once again have to accept a backup role like he did behind Darrell Henderson in college, but you can bet the Cowboys coaching staff will reward him based on his play so far in preseason.
Pollard's versatility to be a weapon as both a runner and receiver in the passing game should make him a unique chess piece in the offensive game plan each and every week. He's been exciting to watch so far and we haven't even seen him in the return game yet, which was a big part of his game in college. I'm personally expecting big things from him this season. What about you?
What do you think of Tony Pollard's preseason performance so far?
The Brady Report: Tony Pollard, Devin Smith Steal The Show On Offense
The Dallas Cowboys earned their first win of the 2019 preseason on Saturday night, defeating the Los Angeles Rams 14-10 in Hawaii.
Despite the low scoring affair, there were certainly standout performances from both offensive and defensive players for Dallas. Some who are looking to earn a roster spot, and others who are rather solidified in their place with the team.
Let's get into some of my game notes from the Cowboys preseason victory.
- Tony Pollard. I mean, I've said enough right? The rookie running back was awesome in his one drive of action Saturday night, rushing 5 times for 42 yards and a touchdown on the team's opening possession. Pollard was decisive, patient, and comfortable in the zone blocking scheme, and seemed to know exactly where and how to run on each rep. Pollard is looking like a complete back, rather than just a receiving threat for the Cowboys offense going forward.
- While undrafted free agents Jon'Vea Johnson and Jalen Guyton have garnered much of the attention, it was Devin Smith who impressed the most out of all the Cowboys' down-roster receivers this week. He caught 3 balls for just 24 yards, but had a fantastic touchdown grab from Cooper Rush in the third quarter.
- Speaking of Cooper Rush, he's your backup quarterback for the 2019 season. The coaching staff gave Mike White a chance to work with the 2's this week, allowing him equal ground for competition with Rush. But even with this opportunity, Mike White did not play well whatsoever. He's indecisive in the pocket, abandons clean protection, runs into pressure, and just looks kind of lost out there. Hopefully White can improve, but Rush is certainly deserving of the QB2 spot going forward.
- While Rush solidified his position as the QB2, QB1 Dak Prescott led another impressive drive on Saturday night. Prescott has command in the pocket and of the entire offense, and he orchestrated an excellent touchdown drive in his own possession this week. Prescott went 5/5 for 64 yards, but the highlight of the game for Prescott was his third and seven completion for 31 of those yards to Michael Gallup. He and Gallup seem to be connecting this preseason, and if that's going to happen regularly, look out.
- Now to the defense. Defensive tackle Maliek Collins continues to show signs that 2019 could be a career season for him. He was disruptive in limited playing time this week, and showcased a scary spin move on the inside. He can be an electric interior pass rusher for the Cowboys, and he looks to be "putting it all together" this year.
- Jourdan Lewis is too good to rot away on the bench, guys. Though he did get beat for decent completion in the first half, Lewis was also sound as a tackler and sticky in coverage once again this week. Lewis looks to be playing at the highest level we've seen from him yet, but once Byron Jones comes back he may not be getting the playing time he'd easily earn elsewhere. Dallas has a bit of an embarrassment of riches at cornerback right now, and Lewis just needs to keep competing every week.
- Lewis' Michigan teammate Taco Charlton had a decent night himself. While Dorance Armstrong has been the talk of the town at defensive end, Charlton deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage and was credited with 2 quarterback hits against the Rams. He wasn't creating the level of pressure you'd hope to see out of a former first round pick playing that deep into a preseason game, but you can tell he's looking a bit better as of late. Still, there's a whole heap of defensive ends on this roster who are flat out better than him right now.
- The Cowboys linebackers showed up to play on Saturday night. Of course, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander-Esch are who they are, but Justin March-Lillard led the team in tackles with 6, and Justin Phillips came away with an exceptional interception in the third quarter. He made a play on the ball that you don't expect to see from any linebacker, let alone someone of his roster status. This is a really deep linebacker room, and there's a strong chance the Cowboys will have to let go of a good player.
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