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3 Things Cowboys Should Learn From the Super Bowl Champs

Brian Martin

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3 Things Cowboys Should Learn From the Super Bowl Champs

Like it or not Cowboys Nation, the Philadelphia Eagles are now the latest Super Bowl champions after their 41-33 victory of the New England Patriots. Despite a close game, things just fell the Eagles way. It's a hard pill to swallow for a lot of Dallas Cowboys fan, but swallow it we must.

Although I wasn't personally rooting for the Eagles, I'm not all that upset they were the Super Bowl victors. They've been one of the best teams in the entire NFL throughout the 2017 season and were able to overcome several obstacles placed in the way.

Now, I don't want to give the Eagles too much credit, because there were a few touchdown catches that probably should've been overturned. Luckily for the Eagles though, the officiating thought otherwise. We as Cowboys fans could only sit back and watch in disbelief plays that were oddly similar to the Dez Bryant "catch" against the Green Bay Packers a few seasons ago.

But, I'm not here to rehash what should've/could've been. I'm more focused on the Dallas Cowboys and what they can possibly learn from the now Super Bowl champs, the Philadelphia Eagles.

Continue to read below to see the three things I believe the Dallas Cowboys could learn from the Philadelphia Eagles.

Become more of an Aggressor

Nick Foles

Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles

The Philadelphia Eagles had the mindset of being the aggressor against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl and it ended up working in their favor. It was really no surprise because that's just the way the Eagles played the entire season.

Doug Pederson was aggressive all season with his play calling and didn't back down against the Patriots in the Super Bowl either. His fourth-down trick play touchdown pass to Nick Foles was proof of that and it was arguably the turning point of the game.

On the other side of the ball, Jim Schwartz operated an aggressive/attacking defense. The Eagles defense was one of the better units the entire season, and they eventually wore down the Patriots and started getting to Tom Brady.

The Dallas Cowboys could definitely adopt some of this aggressiveness in all phases of their game. They have been pretty simplistic and predictable on both offense and defense since Jason Garrett has taken over as head coach. It might be time to take a page out of the Eagles book and incorporate it in Dallas.

This also spills over into the Cowboys approach in free agency. They need to be more aggressive going after free agents who can actually contribute to the team. They can't continue to sign players who don't even make it through the season.

Adequate Roster Depth is a Must

Sean Lee

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

One of the most important things the Dallas Cowboys could have possibly learned from the Philadelphia Eagles is how important roster depth is in order to overcome injuries.

The Cowboys 2017 season was pretty much derailed when some of their key players were out due to injuries. They didn't have an adequate replacement in place for Tyron Smith, which caused a breakdown in protection and it had a ripple effect throughout the offense. The same can be said for Sean Lee as well.

The Eagles however were able to overcome injuries to quite a few of their key players and not have it affect them negatively. They lost their starting left tackle (Jason Peters), starting linebacker (Jordan Hicks), and their franchise quarterback (Carson Wentz) and didn't really skip a beat.

The Dallas Cowboys absolutely have to do a better job of addressing their depth, especially at key positions. It's unfathomable to think that injuries to just a few players can derail an entire season, but that's what happened. It can't continue!

Play Calling Should Highlight Strengths of QB

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

The Dallas Cowboys play calling was obviously an issue this last season. It was still pretty much the same offense Tony Romo operated, with a few run/pass options (RPOs) thrown in here and there. This is something that absolutely needs to be addressed this off-season.

Doug Pederson did a masterful job playing to Carson Wentz's strengths in 2017 and it was one of the reasons he was in the MVP discussion prior to his injury. Pederson incorporated a lot of RPOs and even added a few of Wentz's favorite plays he liked from college. He did the same thing once Nick Foles took over.

The Cowboys need to follow suit and do the same thing with Dak Prescott going forward. They need to get back to the drawing board and sit down with #4 to figure out what he likes and what he doesn't.

I think it should look much more like a college style offense where they spread things out and run a lot more RPOs, while still relying heavily on the running game. Prescott is at his best when he is throwing on the run and using his legs. That hopefully means moving the pocket much more in 2018.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys will learn anything from the Super Bowl champs?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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28 Comments
  • William Pep Hatcher

    I hope that they sign Jarvis Landry and draft two speed WR’s and a Speed TE. It’s rd must be a DT and second rd must be an OG.

    • Brian Martin

      I think there is a 0% chance they sign Jarvis Landry. They already have more than enough slot WRs. I kinda doubt they draft a TE either. As far as a speed WR, DJ Chark is on my wish list for the Cowboys. I can also see them drafting a DT or OG/OT in the first couple of rounds.

      • William Pep Hatcher

        We have to sign Jarvis Landry if we are to be Dak Friendly. He’s a great route runner that knows how to make the smart read. Dez has to go because we can’t afford both. Witten should be TE asst coach but he is too slow to continue to start. Swarm and RICO should be the first options to replace Witten. He can go get sized for his gold jacket.The TE from Penn State should be available in the third as long as we don’t use it to trade up in the first or second round.

        • Brian Martin

          Dez isn’t going anywhere this year. The Cowboys will likely draft a WR, but no chance Landry ends up in Dallas. 82 will also remain the starter because there’s nobody to challenge him. Swaim and Gathers simply aren’t good enough. I’m not even sure the Cowboys coaching staff trusts Gathers. There are several TEs in this draft class who could eventually replace Witten.

        • Brian Martin
      • Brian Martin
    • Brian Martin
  • Hector Espindola

    I think the play calling would be adjusted, but anything so far to be labeled as “aggresive”, It is not in the nature of our OC. However, I believe firstly it would be “friendly” for Dak, in order to rebuild his confidence. And talking on roster depth, I doubt any splash signing at FA, they will keep buiding from the draft. My wish list says: 1st round OG Isaiah Wynn, 2nd DT Da’Ron Payne and 3rd WR DJ Chark.

    • Brian Martin

      I doubt we have any splash FA signings either, but they definitely have to do a better job of signing players who can actually contribute. Also, your wish list looks pretty much like mine. I would absolutely be on board if that’s the way the first three rounds turn out for the Cowboys.

    • Brian Martin
  • Hobbes49

    I agree with all three of those things. It was easy to see the difference between the ‘Boys and the Eagles through this playoff season. The Eagles covered every player loss adequately, made great in game adjustments, and were aggressive start to finish. We have the roster for the most part to maintain that aggressive nature, we need to stock the roster and get Dak friendly quickly.

    • Brian Martin

      I think the roster is already “Dak friendly”, the playcalling just needs to help him more. They are pretty much operating the same system is when Tony Romo was QB. Need to play to Prescott strengths more moving forward.

    • Brian Martin
  • William Pep Hatcher

    The Eagles free agent signings made plays in the Super Bowl. If we refuse to utilize free agency as an additional option to get better then we won’t be able to catch the Eagles.

  • William Pep Hatcher

    We lack speed at the TE, we lack speed at WR and we lack speed in the slot with our starters. I don’t see how you win a Super Bowl like that.

    • Brian Martin

      Unfortunately, that’s just the way things are right now. We will have to wait and see what they do in free agency and the draft. But, adding speed doesn’t necessarily correlate with winning the Super Bowl. With the exception of TE, the Eagles don’t have a lot of speed on offense.

    • Brian Martin

Player News

Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch’s Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion

Sean Martin

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Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch's Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion 1

The Dallas Cowboys know what they're doing when it comes to the NFL Draft. Not to be outdone by Philadelphia, the Cowboys brought the 2018 Draft to AT&T Stadium, marking the first time the event's been held in an NFL stadium. This made Boise State Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch the first player to be drafted on the field he now calls home. Returning home this week after two straight interceptions against the Eagles and Falcons, Vander Esch is far from the controversial pick that drew jeers inside AT&T Stadium on draft night and every bit the star the Cowboys projected him to be.

The ascension of Leighton "Wolf Hunter" Vander Esch as one of the best young linebackers in the game has happened rapidly. LVE played eight man football in high school, tasked to do everything on both sides of the ball before settling into defense as a walk onto the blue turf.

For the first time in what seems like forever, the Cowboys have more than just a plan to play defense without Sean Lee. Thanks to their 19th overall pick they're thriving as one of the best units in the league, making Lee an afterthought.

Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch's Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion

Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch

Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith have changed the entire makeup of the Cowboys defense, two young and athletic linebackers that should be roaming the middle of the field for a long time in Dallas.

This is exactly what LVE was able to do on his interceptions of both Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan. Vander Esch defending well against the pass is probably the least surprising part of his development, as his coverage skills always overshadowed his strength against the run in college.

It just so happens that Vander Esch tallied 63 tackles in eight games before recording his first career interception, establishing himself as an all-around linebacker with no true weakness. Vander Esch has played with the power and block shedding ability that matches his sideline to sideline range and instincts, as opposing offenses have done little to slow the Cowboys new leader on defense.

LVE2

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This is Vander Esch's first interception, which set up a Cowboys field goal against the Eagles. Watch as Leighton reads the eyes of Wentz through the play, first angling towards his check down throw and then gaining depth to intercept the pass.

The subtle yet effective movements from Vander Esch to undercut Wentz's throw is a fine example of how quickly LVE has picked up on Kris Richard's defense, as well as the next level game speed.

LVE1

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Sunday's interception from Vander Esch was the type of game breaking play the Cowboys needed to separate from the Falcons in hostile territory. Although the Falcons would rally to tie the game after this point, the Cowboys defense became the first to hold Atlanta under 20 points at home this season, thanks in large part to LVE as always.

The smoothness from Vander Esch on this play is exceptional, stepping up into coverage against the running back before sprinting back in position for the turnover. Calvin Ridley, drafted seven picks after Vander Esch, helps Leighton by letting Ryan's pass go through his hands.

Give Vander Esch credit for being in the right place at the right time and finishing the play. Every week, the rookie finds a way to do something memorable, and in helping the Cowboys earn their first two road wins of 2018 he finally flashed in pass coverage.

The next challenge for the Cowboys defense comes on a short week, against the division leading Washington Redskins. Though they lost starting Quarterback Alex Smith for the season on Sunday, expected to start Colt McCoy on Thanksgiving, it was Running Back Adrian Peterson that gashed the Cowboys for 4.13 yards a carry and 99 total yards in the Redskins week six win over Dallas.

Given what not only Leighton Vander Esch but the rest of the Cowboys defense has shown against the run in recent weeks, all without David Irving and most recently without either Antwaun Woods or Daniel Ross, the Cowboys should certainly be prepared to play for first place in the NFC East on Thursday.

Tell us what you think about "Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch’s Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Player News

Sean Lee: Time for the General to Surrender

John Williams

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REPORT: Cowboys LB Sean Lee to Miss Games with Hamstring Injury

“Football is a meritocracy,” said Tony Romo about this time two years ago. He’d just been told that Dak Prescott would remain the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, though Romo was deemed healthy enough to return to action. Well, the Cowboys face a similar situation with another rookie playing excellent football with a veteran on the sideline. The rookie is Leighton Vander Esch and the veteran is Sean Lee.

When Romo stepped aside he issued the words that have become synonymous with who Tony Romo is, “Football is a meritocracy.” As sad as it is when it comes to the end of a player’s career, the time has come for General Lee to wave that white flag as a full-time player in the NFL.

Lee has been one of the best linebackers in the game during his tenure with the Dallas Cowboys, but has always been limited by his body’s inability to stay healthy. In most seasons, the Cowboys haven’t had an adequate replacement for Lee on the depth chart and that led to disastrous outcomes like the Green Bay and Los Angeles games in 2017.  Most years, we’d sit around for weeks telling ourselves, “if the Cowboys can hang in there until Sean Lee gets back, then they’ll be alright.” 

That all seems to be over now. The Dallas Cowboys finally have a player on the depth chart who can adequately, and perhaps more than adequately, replace Sean Lee’s production at the weak side linebacker position in Vander Esch. You don’t have to be a film grinder to see that the 19th overall pick has become a difference maker for the Cowboys and someone you can’t take off the field. He’s the future, but he’s also proving to be the now at WILL for the Dallas Cowboys and the coaching staff as well as Sean Lee need to recognize that. 

Vander Esch has two interceptions in the last two games, won defensive player of the week for his play against the Philadelphia Eagles. Per Pro Football Focus, Vander Esch is second in the NFL among linebackers in tackles and fourth in the NFL in stops. 

He’s been one of the best players on the team this season and shouldn’t come off the field, even for an All-Pro like Sean Lee.  

So the coaches have a difficult decision to make, but with the Dak Prescott-Tony Romo decision as a template, it’s not really a difficult decision. 

It’s time for Sean Lee to take a step back. He’s a leader on the defense whether he’s on the field or on the sideline. He’s a huge asset to the linebacker room in-game preparation, and he can still make plays for you when asked to do so. Lee, however, doesn’t need to see a full-time compliment of snaps when he returns unless we see a drop off in play for Leighton Vander Esch. Vander Esch’s play and Lee’s body are telling us that the time is now to make the transition to life on defense beyond Sean Lee.

Lee is still an important player to have around and he’ll get some snaps, but the WILL linebacker spot needs to be Leighton Vander Esch’s moving forward. 

Because, after all, “football is a meritocracy.” 



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Game Notes

Ezekiel Elliott’s Excellence Elevates Cowboys in Road Win

John Williams

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Cowboys en Español: El Reto VS Texans, Porque Bryant No Volverá

For the first time this season the Dallas Cowboys have won back to back games moving to 5-5 on the year with a 22-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons in a game that they had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The defense was the story for most of the game, forcing the Atlanta Falcons to kick four field goals before allowing the game-tying touchdown with less than two minutes to play. The offense had trouble getting going until they leaned heavily on their star running back, Ezekiel Elliott.

Elliott, who went over the 200 total yard mark for the second time this season and the fourth time in his career was dominant in the second half, getting hard-fought yards en route to his fifth 100 yard game of the season.

Elliott averaged 5.3 yards per carry, on 23 carries, but was also the leading receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. Ezekiel Elliott on the day caught seven passes on eight targets for 79 yards as well.

The Cowboys first touchdown drive was reminiscent of who the Dallas Cowboys were in 2016. That season, and seemingly rarely since, the Cowboys would go on these long 10-15 play drives in the second half of games and take control of the game.

On Sunday in Atlanta, they did it again.

Trailing 6-3 in the second half with the defense playing an excellent game, the Cowboys went on a 14 play drive for 75 yards that took nearly eight minutes off the clock. It was a huge drive to give the Cowboys a lead and to give their defense a much deserved rest.

On that drive, Ezekiel Elliott saw the ball seven times and set the tone picking up several first downs that helped set up Dak Prescott's four yard touchdown run that took the lead. After Leighton Vander Esch's interception on the ensuing drive, Elliott once again made a huge impact taking the ball twice for 31 yards including the 28 yard touchdown run that put the Cowboys up 19-9 with a little more than 12 minutes to play in the game. And on the final drive of the game, Ezekiel Elliott caught a pass and picked up a first down just inside Falcons territory.

Over the last two weeks, you can see a big difference in the effectiveness of the run game. Elliott spoke about Amari Cooper being one reason they've had more success in the run game.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Ezekiel Elliott on Amari Cooper: "It's just one more guy they have to worry about. It seems like he kind of was the missing piece, just because when he got here this offense started rolling. It's great having him. He's a phenomenal player. He's going to have a great future here.

Amari Cooper's presence is a big reason for the offense and you can tell they've been a more complete offense the last two weeks. The addition of Cooper puts more stress on a defense in the passing game. Like Elliott said, he's a player that has to be accounted for, making his and the offensive line's jobs easier.

The play of the offensive line has also been really good the last two weeks since Marc Colombo took over as offensive line coach and coincidentally Xavier Su'a-Filo was inserted into the starting lineup for an injured Connor Williams.

Whatever the reason, Ezekiel Elliott seems to be on an upward trajectory.

Ezekiel Elliott is now averaging 129.4 total yards per game, which sits right at his career average heading into the 2018 season. He's on pace for 1,524 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns, 545 receiving yards, and 3 receiving touchdowns. The touchdown totals are down from his career pace, but he's still on pace for 2,000 total yards this season. If the last two weeks are any indications, that pace could see a huge bump in the second half of the season.

NFL Research on Twitter

Since entering the NFL, Ezekiel Elliott has: * 17 games with 100+ rush yards * 24 games with 100+ scrimmage yards * 4 games with 200+ scrimmage yards * 3,567 rush yards The one similarity between these numbers? Elliott leads the NFL in each since 2016 #Cowboys

If you needed a singular note to tell you how great Elliott's been for the Dallas Cowboys, that's the one. It's amazing that Elliott leads the league in all of those categories including rushing yards considering he sat out six games last season and had a game where he rushed for only eight yards against the Denver Broncos in week two of 2017.

And then there’s this one.

NFL345 on Twitter

@dallascowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott had 201 scrimmage yards and a TD in the team's Week 11 victory. Elliott (4,540 scrimmage yards & 32 TDs) became the third player in @NFL history with 4,500+ scrimmage yards & 30+ TDs in their first 35 career games.

The two other players to accomplish that feat were Eric Dickerson and Edgerin James. That’s some legendary company.

Ezekiel Elliott is a big-time player for the Dallas Cowboys and someone who they can lean on the rest of the season. If the Cowboys are going to make the playoffs it will be because the run game continued to play at a high level, which opened everything else up for the offense. While many people will tell you that running backs don't matter, Ezekiel Elliott certainly proved on Sunday that he matters.

And if you watch opposing defenses on Sunday's, they act like Elliott matters. Like Sunday, Ezekiel Elliott will continue to be a threat each week and big things are coming for him and the Dallas Cowboys.



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