Defensive Tackles Should Do More Than Just Plug Holes
In 2016, I think it's time this coaching staff begins to value the 1-technique. Nick Hayden, while a serviceable player, doesn't really give you much. Yea he will plug the middle fine, but he is by no means an impact 1-technique and fails to consistently make plays in the backfield.
When I look back on this season, I remember the Philly game in week 2. The defense in that game, as a whole, was phenomenal, and I can’t help thinking that had, at least, something to do with Terrell McClain playing like a man on fire. McClain was in the backfield all game, disrupting timing. If you remember in that game the DEs were making tackles for losses and the Eagles could not get anything going.
I attribute that to the amount of attention the offensive line had to pay to the interior of our defense with Tyrone Crawford and McClain causing havoc. McClain could be a viable option if not for his durability concerns, so I'd like to see the club look elsewhere in the offseason.
The Dawning Of Run DMC (Darren McFadden)
Darren McFadden really proved himself to me this season. The last offseason when he was signed I honestly did not expect him to beat out Ryan Williams and make this roster. Well, he sure shut me up fast. When Randle was getting the bulk of the carries early on, McFadden in his limited carries did not produce. It wasn’t until McFadden was given a full workload that we got to see why the Cowboys signed him in the offseason.
Doug Free Stepped Up When Needed Last Year
This time last year, people were calling for the Cowboys to draft or find the replacement for Doug Free. Whether it be for productivity or health issues, last year Free was the target of some criticism. I believe over the course of the year, Free shut the haters up. He was healthy throughout the season, and unlike last year, protected very well.
It became incredibly crucial for Free to play well the final 2 games of the season, as Kellen Moore’s blind side was the right tackle, not the left. Free was up to the challenge and protected well. Free’s presence as the grandfather in the locker room cannot be overlooked as I truly believe he has played at least a small part in the younger lineman's development.
Randy Gregory Looked Better Than The Stats Show
While not having a very impactful Rookie Campaign, I think Randy Gregory has a great chance of becoming a good player in this league. While he never officially got credited with a sack, he was in the backfield a ton and impacted a number of throws that lead to positives for the defense.
Where he must improve is developing more pass rush moves.
Gregory always tries to use his speed, dip his inside shoulder, and get around the tackle. This is a fine move, unless you don't have any other moves to set it up or keep the tackle guessing. If you wanna be a one trick pony, that trick better produce sacks like the signature Dwight Freeney spin move.
If there is one more thing Gregory needs to work on it's his feel for his depth when rushing. Too often he would run past the quarterback leaving a very nice pocket for the quarterback to step up into. With all that said, I've seen enough from Gregory this year to assume that he will have a Demarcus Lawrence type of year #2.
DeMarcus Lawrence Is Developing Nicely
Speaking of DeMarcus Lawrence, it was amazing seeing the kind of transformation he had this season. I remember seeing pictures of him last offseason and thinking how much bigger he looked. This season proved it, as switching from RE to LE is not an easy transition. Going against RTs instead of LTs means you must put on size, as the RT is more of a power position. It was amazing to see Lawrence gain the size and not lose a step on the field. All season he was causing havoc in the backfield, and although the sacks started to come late he was getting close to the quarterback all season.
To me, though, what's more impressive than the sacks is that game after game it seemed he was making a big stop in the backfield. Both defending the run and rushing the passer, "Tank" Lawrence made great strides this season.
Whitehead & Butler Stood Out When Times Were Tough
I really hope to see Lucky Whitehead and Brice Butler get more opportunities on offense next season. I can’t help but feel like we have seen the last of Devin Street in a Cowboys uniform. After being given ample opportunity to produce, with Dez Bryant being out and Terrance Williams not playing well, Street was unable to make an impact and failed to get open consistently against 1-on-1 situations.
Brice Butler made big plays seemingly every time he was given a chance; he is a vertical threat and plays big with his size to win contested catches. I'd like to see Butler compete for the number 2 WR next season.
Lucky Whitehead was dangerous every time he got the ball, and I wonder why it took so long for the coaches to give him opportunities. I think both WRs have bright futures, maybe even bright enough to withhold from drafting a WR this year.
Rookie Defensive Backs Impressed Me All Year
I think we have really found something with the young defensive backs on this roster. Byron Jones had an amazing rookie season, doing something that is unheard of by playing all over the secondary as a rookie. His season was well reported on InsideTheStar.com so I will focus on the play of Terrance Mitchell and Deji Olatoye.
Both players were thrown into the fire late in a lost season and I think they both responded well. Actually, they got the only two interceptions from corners on this season. Mitchell has the feistiness we saw at times from Tyler Patmon but he has far more upside. Olatoye - at 6-1 - is a big corner with a lot of upside. I think both of them have a future role on this team.
Dan "The Man" Bailey Was True To Form
I know it doesn't have to be said but this year especially Dan Bailey was unreal. Looking past his near perfect field goal percentage and perfect extra point percentage, Bailey was almost supernatural kicking off this year. He allowed only 23 returns all year after allowing over 40 in every other year of his career. We fans often take him for granted but seeing all the missed extra points and teams shuffling through kickers, I realized how lucky we are to have Dan.
Rookie Left Guard La'el Collins Is Really Special
La’el Collins has a chance to be the best of all our offensive linemen. He is an athletic freak; I’m sure we all saw him go stride for stride with Darren McFadden. He needs work on the mental aspect of the game as it seemed all of the sacks given up were a mental lapse. If he continues to develop as expected, we will have 4 pro bowlers very soon.
Don't Forget About The Other Kicker...
Nobody wants to hear about the punter, but sorry, Chris Jones had to sneak past the NFL and took steroids or something this year (kidding obviously). He killed it after most of us thought he would get beat out by the rookie in training camp. He improved tremendously this year compared to last and was one of the best punters in the league all season. It's weird to say but he was probably the biggest pro-bowl snub on this roster.
The Cowboys Blueprint for Success has been Set
The Cowboys victory against the Jaguars was a reminder to everyone just how good Dak Prescott & Co. can be. They ran and threw all over the Jaguars defense like they were high school level. It was a one-sided, lambs to the slaughter type of game.
At the end of the game, it left all of us wondering, "where has this team been all year?"
Throughout the season, the Cowboys showed both dominance and incompetence on the offensive side of the football. One game the team moves the ball up and down the field with ease, the next game the offense looks inept. Last Sunday’s game versus Jacksonville shows that Dallas can be successful the rest of the season, if they continue to play as such.
Run the ball
This team was built to run the football. Look at the offensive line, their type of tight ends, their quarterback, and of course Ezekiel Elliott.
The line is full of first round talent, the tight ends are block-first types (sans Rico Gathers), Dak Prescott gives them another dimension with the mobile ability in and out of the pocket, and Elliott is one of if not the best running back in the league.
The concept of running the football should not be lost on this team.
If they let Elliott run 20 or more times per game, allow Prescott to run outside of the pocket and not just be a stand-still passer, and mix in some of Rod Smith and Tavon Austin (when healthy) to give their main runner a break, they can run on anyone.
Let Dak Move Around
What makes Dak Prescott so special to this team isn’t just his leadership, but also his ability to extend plays. He stays in the pocket if he has to but he’s so skilled outside with his legs. Zone read, play action, tuck and run, throw on the run, etc., any excuse to get Dak Prescott on the move is a plus. Defenses respect his ability to move so much that the Cowboys receivers get open more as a result.
The worst thing a coaching staff can do to a mobile quarterback is to keep him standing still when he can do so much more with his feet. Don’t buy a Corvette and keep it locked up in the garage. The best way for Dak Prescott to stay consistent and succeed as a passer is to let Dak be Dak.
The Cowboys have found a serious advantage that they’ve lacked in years past. Led by DeMarcus Lawrence and Jaylon Smith, the Cowboys have 18 sacks through the first six games of the season.
Throw in the contributions of players like Taco Charlton, Tyrone Crawford, and Randy Gregory, among others, and you’ve got the deepest pass rush the Cowboys have had in years.
The team is 7th in the league in sacks and there seems to be no sign of stopping and no shortage of players who can get to the quarterback. These numbers look like they’ll only go up from here and with the amount of players the Cowboys have to do so, Jacksonville looks like it was only a taste of what’s to come.
Creative Play Calling
A little more than a week ago Jerry Jones stated that the Cowboys offense looked similar to the L.A. Rams - a hilarious notion by most accounts, right?
The Cowboys offensive scheme had been mocked all season for being both predictable and out of date. I’m not sure how many times you can run a three tight end set and expect success when it hadn't happened yet.
The team would run then throw on first and second downs, and depending on yardage, would set up a predictable third down attempt.
Against Jacksonville, we saw more read option than we’ve seen all year. Dak Prescott was vintage. His ability to move the ball with his legs made the secondary shaky against the Cowboys receivers - especially Cole Beasley - and that opened up the playbook.
Ezekiel Elliott couldn’t be stopped and just about every receiver got in on the action. Even rookie receiver Michael Gallup got in and showed some of what Cowboy fans had been waiting for.
Hopefully, that game showed just how dangerous the Cowboys can be when they are unpredictable and let their quarterback be himself. If they game planned for today the same as they did against the Jaguars, the rest of the season will be much more winnable.
Cowboys en Español: ¿Dónde Tiene Que Mejorar Dallas?
El mejor juego de los Dallas Cowboys en 2018 vino la semana pasada, cuando recibieron a los Jacksonville Jaguars y los vencieron 40-7. Un resultado que tomó a todos por sorpresa demostró la mejor cara en el año de este equipo que apenas tiene un récord de 3-3.
Por más dominantes que se vieron en el emparrillado el domingo pasado, esa actuación no termina de reflejar lo que realmente son los Cowboys. Son un equipo con potencial en la ofensiva y con una defensiva bastante fuerte, pero ¿pueden ganar constantemente como lo hicieron contra Jaguars?
De entrada, la respuesta a esta pregunta parece ser no. Aún en esa victoria, se vieron problemas evidentes en la ofensiva. Para empezar, la falta de ejecución en la segunda mitad en series ofensivas que incluso llegaron a iniciar en territorio enemigo. De gol de campo en gol de campo se juntan puntos, sin duda, pero en partidos cerrados eso termina costando victorias. Hace falta que Dak Prescott y compañía puedan mover el balón una vez en rango de gol de campo y convertir esas oportunidades a touchdowns.
Otra preocupación que no podemos subestimar es que el juego aéreo sigue sin funcionar apropiadamente. Cole Beasley dominó con nueve atrapadas para 101 yardas y dos touchdowns, pero el resto de los receptores se fueron sin más de una recepción por cabeza. El único jugador que logró más de una fue el TE Geoff Swaim, quien se llevo dos en todo el juego.
Si bien Beasley tuvo uno de los mejores juegos en su carrera, más receptores tienen que involucrarse para llevar la ofensiva al siguiente nivel. La buena noticia es que en esta ocasión se enfrentaron contra una de las mejores secundarias en la NFL. Los números son malos, pero tienen la oportunidad de demostrar mucho más contra otras defensivas.
Los Dallas Cowboys tienen que repartir más la bola y seguir buscando maneras creativas de utilizar a su RB Ezekiel Elliott. Pases pantallas en tercera y largo no es ser creativo. Lo vemos funcionar dos o tres veces al año pero mandan esta jugada semanalmente. En cuanto a Dak Prescott, hay mucho donde mejorar. Deberíamos estar viendo pases más arriesgados, al centro del campo y mucho mejor posicionados.
Para la defensiva, las cosas se ven muy bien. Puede que veamos la mejor versión de esta unidad esta semana, cuando viajen a Washington. Maliek Collins, Sean Lee, David Irving, y Randy Gregory estarán jugando mucho más sanos y preparados. Este es un frente defensivo lleno de talento que intimidará constantemente a Alex Smith este domingo.
A pesar de que los Redskins no tienen una ofensiva muy explosiva, el área de oportunidad principal para la defensiva de Cowboys está en la profundidad defensiva. Tanto Jeff Heath como Xavier Woods han hecho un trabajo decente, pero tienen sus momentos en los que no logran asegurar una tackleada y permiten jugadas largas.
Hace unos meses no esperábamos que fuera la defensiva y no la ofensiva la que cargaría a este equipo a muchas victorias, pero ese ha sido el caso en las tres victorias de esta temporada. Y en las tres derrotas, la defensiva fue la que mantuvo a los Cowboys en el juego.
Sin duda alguna, lo que tiene que mejorar es la ofensiva. Los receptores tienen que desmarcarse, Prescott debe ser más preciso y tener una mejor conciencia en la bolsa de protección.
Pero sobre todo, es la inconsistencia del equipo. Esto se comienza a sentir como la temporada del año pasado, cuando los Cowboys se fueron 9-7 y nunca terminaron de establecerse como contendientes a los playoffs. Aún en una NFC East donde todos los equipos tienen récords similares y débiles, no pueden continuar perdiendo una semana y ganando a la otra.
Ganarle a los Redskins sería la primera victoria de Dallas jugando de visita. También sería la primera vez en el año en la que tendrían victorias consecutivas. Por esto y muchas otras razones, incluyendo el potencial liderato de la división, este juego es de suma importancia.
Si ganan, podría ser el momento en el que los Cowboys terminen de darle la vuelta a la página y si pierden, podría ser un indicador de que esta temporada será igual que la del 2017.
Time to get FB Jamize Olawale More Involved Offensively?
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off arguably their best and most complete offensive performance of the season after playing the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, but there is still quite a bit of improvement that can be made. The need to get more playmakers involved is apparent, which is why I think it's time to utilize Fullback Jamize Olawale's unique skill set.
I know many of you will argue that getting Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup going is a higher priority, and you wouldn't be wrong, but Jamize Olawale's playmaking ability could be a huge asset for Quarterback Dak Prescott and the offense. I know it sounds a little strange, but hang in there with me for little bit.
As things stand right now, Olawale has only played 38 offensive snaps (10%) in 2018. That's the exact amount of offensive plays Wide Receiver Terrance Williams has played this year and he's missed the majority of the season. It's not exactly the kind of production I was expecting when the Cowboys decided to bring him aboard via trade with the Oakland Raiders earlier this offseason.
I don't know about you, but I was expecting Olawale to be more involved in the offensive game plan. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and isn't too shabby as a runner either. But, we haven't seen him utilized in either fashion this season and I think that's an injustice that needs to be corrected.
Now, I fully understand there are other offensive weapons ahead of him in the pecking order who need to see more targets, but I also really think he can make a difference maker, especially in the passing game. That is where his strengths lie, not as a lead blocking fullback.
Olawale was a bit of a Swiss Army knife during his time with the Oakland Raiders. He played a little running back, fullback, tight end, and even a little slot receiver. I really thought the Cowboys would take advantage of his versatility in the passing game, but as of yet they have failed to do so.
I'd like to see the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan utilize Jamize Olawale's unique playmaking ability a little bit more on offense. I think they should try to utilize him like the San Francisco 49ers use their fullback, Kyle Juszczyk. He's much more involved and has played a total of 263 offensive snaps (63.68%) this year.
Juszczyk is a better lead blocking FB then Olawale, but that's not where he makes the most difference in the 49ers offense. He does it as a receiver and has already caught 17 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown. That's some pretty solid production from a position that is being phased out in the NFL.
Now, just imagine the Cowboys offense getting similar production from Olawale and how that would help open up things for everybody else. It's not out of the realm of possibility because the 49ers offense and the Cowboys isn't all that dissimilar.
Unfortunately, I think Jamize Olawale is pretty much an afterthought in the Cowboys offense right now. It's truly unfortunate because I think he can be a difference maker if given the opportunity. And with a division foe like the Washington Redskins next on the schedule, what better time to unleash a new and unseen element of the offense?
Do you think Jamize Olawale needs to be more involved offensively?
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