Connect with us

Dallas Cowboys

3 Things the Cowboys Should Learn from Patriots’ Super Bowl LIII Victory

Jess Haynie

Published

on

Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett

After last night's victory, the New England Patriots have won six Super Bowls since the Dallas Cowboys won their last one in 1995. The Patriots' success the last 18 seasons is a sobering thought for any NFL franchise, but especially those who haven't had much success during their run.

The Cowboys have already started doing things "The Patriot Way" these last few years. They have moved to a much more conservative model of handling their salary cap, refusing to pay big money for older players who are on the decline or even getting close to it. They have also improved their drafting and found more capable players in later rounds, filling out the depth chart more organically.

Beyond these more broad philosophies, though, Dallas should learn a few very specific things from how the Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams last night. After all, it was the Rams who knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs in the Divisional Round.

Today we're going to look at three lessons that Dallas could take from New England's Super Bowl win. The first involves the Most Valuable Player from last night's game, and what his performance might tell the Cowboys about one of their most important free agents.

Julian Edelman

New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman in Super Bowl LIII

Julian Edelman & Cole Beasley

Tom Brady threw to his favorite receiver 12 times last night, resulting in 10 catches and 141 yards for Edelman. It earned Julian, at 32 years old, his first MVP award in his three Super Bowl wins.

The comparison between Edelman and Dallas' Cole Beasley goes beyond their size and skin color. They are both devastating route runners who few can cover. They get open in the short and mid-range passing game as well as anyone in football.

Last night we saw the value of that to the Patriots' offense as they were able to control the ball and avoid turnovers, keeping the Rams' offense off the field. Brady was able to play his kind of game, ugly and conservative, utilizing his go-to guys in Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. They combined for 16 of the New England's 21 receptions.

Some have argued that Dallas doesn't need to re-sign Cole Beasley this offseason because they already have Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. But last night's game showed the value of having two proven receiving threats, as Gronk seemed to be getting keyed on by the Rams' defense and allowing Edelman to take advantage.

Gallup, despite having a solid rookie year, is far from a bonafide threat at this point. And right now Dallas has no tight end of consequence, and even a high draft pick may not yield one in 2019.

If re-signed, Beasley would be one of Dallas' top two receivers in terms of talent. He would need to be properly utilized, of course, which hopefully would get fixed by the recent change in offensive coordinator.

Last night showed how much damage a guy like Cole can do when used correctly. And if defenses start to pay him more attention, then you hurt them with Cooper, Gallup, and others. Dak Prescott doesn't want to throw into double coverage or tight windows, so give him a WR who gets himself open as good as anybody in the game.

Rams, Patriots

Rams QB Jared Goff gets hit by Patriots LB Dont'a Hightower in Super Bowl LIII

The Rams Offensive Line Was Beatable

A few weeks ago, the Cowboys' defense got manhandled by Los Angeles. They ran for 273 yards and didn't allow Jared Goff to get sacked once. In fact, only one QB hit was registered by Dallas in that game.

Last night, the Rams only mustered 62 rushing yards on 18 attempts. Goff was hit twelve times, four of which were sacks.

Sure, everyone can have a bad game. The Rams' offensive line did grade out as the best group in football overall for 2018. But last night showed they weren't invincible, and that perhaps Dallas' defense isn't as strong as we thought earlier in the season.

Even after re-signing DeMarcus Lawrence this offseason, as the Cowboys should and likely will do, they still need to give attention to other areas. They need more consistency across the defensive line, with upgrades possible at every other spot.

Dallas has plenty of solid guys; Tyrone Crawford, Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods. But where were they when the Rams were running all over the Cowboys a few weeks ago?

Lawrence can't do it alone as a pass rusher, either. Randy Gregory had some good games, but where is a guy who consistently takes advantage of going against a single blocker?

Last night reinforced what some have already said about the Cowboys' 2019 offseason; re-signing DeMarcus isn't enough. They need to make another significant addition on defense, most likely at defensive tackle, to take the group true championship level.

3 Things the Cowboys Should Learn from Patriots' Super Bowl LIII Victory 1

New England Patriots RB Sony Michel in Super Bowl LIII

Versatility in the Run Game

Even with Brady, Edelman, and Gronkowski out there as the offensive figureheads, the Patriots didn't neglect their rushing attack. Sony Michel had 18 carries for 94 yards and the game's only touchdown, while Rex Burkhead threw in 43 yards on seven carries.

Dallas can learn two things from this. One; Ezekiel Elliott is better than just about anyone that's ever played RB in New England (the exception being Curtis Martin). He's the best offensive weapon that Dallas has and he should be leaned on in just about any situation. Scott Linehan seemed to forget that at times last year.

But more importantly, there's a need for some variety in the run game. Rod Smith is basically a lesser version of Zeke, and what Dallas needs going forward is someone who brings a true change of pace.

Elliott can do it all, even go line up at receiver, but he still has a specific kind of athleticism. Having a guy like Burkhead who offers a different style of running from your lead back brings new wrinkles and works against the expectations that defensive players build up throughout a game.

Granted, Dallas needs more from its passing game at times to open up the run. There's only so much Elliott or anyone else can do if defenses are happy to load up the box and force Dak Prescott to beat them.

This season it felt like Dallas suffered some identity crises at times on offense. Part of that was due to health issues on the offensive line, with All-Pros missing time and limiting their typical rushing dominance.

But there were several games were Zeke was averaging 5.0 or more in rushing and then wasn't getting the ball, leaving us all shaking our heads and calling for Linehan's.

Like the Patriots did last night, Dallas needs to remember to lean on its strengths more. Remember who your RB and QB are, and find the right mix again to make both effective. They haven't really had that since 2016.

Hopefully Kellen Moore will do a better job.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

Advertisement
Comments

Dallas Cowboys

History Suggests a Contract Extension for Ezekiel Elliott is a Crapshoot

Brian Martin

Published

on

Contract Extension With Ezekiel Elliott a Crapshoot at Best

If rumors are true, Running Back Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon could be following in the footsteps of Le'Veon Bell by threatening to hold out not only training camp, but the 2019 season if they're not rewarded with contract extensions from their respective teams. It's a bold strategy, especially considering the history of long-term extensions previously given to running backs.

Contract extensions for running backs is always a controversial topic. It's not only one of the easier positions to replace, but the shelf life for a NFL RB is a short one due to the physical nature of the position. Players bodies break down quicker, meaning their lifespan in the league on average is between just 3 to 5 years.

For the most part, the market value for running backs around the league would suggest the position isn't one teams like to invest a lot of resources in. Although, there was an uptick in the market last year when Todd Gurley signed a four-year deal worth $14.375 million a year and then David Johnson signed for three years worth $13 million a season. Those two contracts could be the starting point for Ezekiel Elliott.

Ezekiel Elliott's camp knows all of this and so do the Dallas Cowboys. But, handing out upwards of $14 million to a position that has such a short shelf life in the league is a crapshoot at best, even to a player as talented as Zeke. History hasn't been kind to running backs who receive a long-term extension. In fact, it's really hard to put a finger on one single RB who has lived up to their contract extension.

Ezekiel Elliott, Le'Veon Bell, Todd Gurley

RBs Ezekiel Elliott, Le'Veon Bell, Todd Gurley

Take Todd Gurley and David Johnson for instance. Gurley already has long-term concerns about his health, and Johnson missed nearly all of the 2018 season due to an injury. Both players are currently the top paid at the position right now, but they're not the only examples of why the Cowboys should be cautious offering Zeke a contract extension.

The RB tier below Todd Gurley and David Johnson are making around $8 million a year after receiving a contract extension. Unfortunately, the results are about the same. Devonta Freeman ($8.25 M) and Jerick McKinnon ($7.5 M) missed nearly all of the 2018 season due to injuries after being rewarded with long-term deals. Only LeSean McCoy ($8.01 M) has come close to living up to his deal, but even he has struggled off-and-on with injuries.

Need more convincing?

Let's take this back a little bit further. Chris Johnson, Johnathan Stewart, DeMarco Murray, DeAngelo Williams, Ray Rice… I can go on and on. Even players such as Arian Foster who remained productive after receiving an extension struggled with injuries. If you haven't yet, you may start to see a trend here.

Now, I'm not saying the Dallas Cowboys shouldn't extend Ezekiel Elliott. Personally I'm on the fence about it and would be fine with them going either direction. But, they absolutely have to be cautious with the way they handled this. History is a good indicator they may not get the same kind of production from Zeke as they have previously.

Do you think the Cowboys should give Ezekiel Elliott a contract extension?



Continue Reading

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Training Camp Preview: Linebacker

Jess Haynie

Published

on

Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith

The linebacker position went from liability to luxury in 2018, thanks largely to the emergence of a pair of dynamic young talents. Now seen as one of the strengths of the Dallas Cowboys' defense, what questions remain for the linebackers as we await the start of the 2019 training camp?

Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are the nucleus now at linebacker, if not the the Cowboys' defense as a whole. The days of worrying if Sean Lee can stay healthy are over; we now have two players capable of elite play and the versatility to handle multiple spots.

Lee isn't gone; the longtime defensive captain accepted a pay cut and a lesser role to stay in Dallas this year. He is still expected to start in the base defense, moving to the strong-side LB role that Damien Wilson vacated.

Indeed, the top-three linebackers for 2019 are easy to project. Jaylon and Leighton are the new leaders and Sean will get as much playing time as his body can handle.

This year, which is unusual for reserve players, the second team is almost just as predictable.

Here's the projected Linebacker Depth Chart for the 2019 training camp:

  1. Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee
  2. Joe Thomas, Justin March-Lillard, Chris Covington
  3. Kyle Queiro, Andrew Dowell, Luke Gifford, Nate Hall

There may not be a position on offense or defense with less x-factors than linebacker. Almost just as likely as the starters, Joe Thomas, Justin-March Lillard, and Chris Covington should have the second-team spots locked down.

Joe Thomas, Cardinals

Dallas Cowboys LB Joe Thomas

Thomas is especially valuable, having the skills to step into a larger role if Sean Lee suffers from age or injury. If Lee were to go down, we might see Jaylon Smith move into the SAM spot and Thomas playing as WILL in the base defense.

Dallas re-signed Justin March-Lillard this offseason. He played in all 16 games last year as a backup and special teamer, and his experience will make him hard to oust.

Chris Covington was a 6th-round pick last year and has the body to play SAM but also experience at other spots in college. Dallas would love to see him grow into a larger role the way other recent 6th-rounders like Anthony Brown and Xavier Woods have.

One potential challenger could be Jalen Jelks, the 7th-round defensive end that Dallas just drafted last April. Jelks has the body and athleticism to play a hybrid LB/DE role, and could challenge as the backup SAM. We don't know if the Cowboys will give Jelks a chance at LB, but it may be the only way to keep him on the 53 given all the talent at defensive end.

It will be hard for any of the remaining LB prospects to work their way onto the roster. The top six have experience and upside that undrafted rookies will need to be exceptionally good to overcome. Only Kyle Queiro, who was on the practice squad last year, brings a little NFL experience to the table.

Of course, unexpected things can happen. The talent margin between late-round picks and undrafted guys can be slim; who knows if one of these prospects pushes March-Lillard or Covington out of the way?

But barring a surprise, we already have a good idea who the Cowboys' six linebackers will be in 2019. Will this year's training camp solidify that projection, or will we get some new evidence to consider?

~ ~ ~

OTHER 2019 CAMP PREVIEWS



Continue Reading

Player News

Tony Romo: Cowboys TE Jason Witten Will “Pick Up Right Where He Left Off”

John Williams

Published

on

Did a Year Away Help Rejuvenate TE Jason Witten's Game?

There's no denying that the future holds a gold jacket for Dallas Cowboys Tight End Jason Witten. With everything he's done in his career, he'll go down as one of the three best tight ends in the history of the NFL when he finally hangs up his number 82 for good.

Most of the questions that have come surrounding the offense have focused on the tight end position this offseason. Even prior to Jason Witten announcing his return from the broadcast booth at ESPN to the NFL, tight end was one of the areas that was considered a draft need by most analysts. Since coming back, the questions may have altered, but they're there all the same. Now, we're wondering how much Jason Witten will play? Will Blake Jarwin and/or Dalton Schultz see significant playing time in the offense? Will Jason Witten be able to return to his pre-retirement form?

It's that last question that was answered pretty directly by Witten's former quarterback and NFL on CBS Analyst Tony Romo when he was on with Ben and Skin of 105.3 The Fan. In the way that only Tony Romo can, he illustrated what exactly will allow Jason Witten to return to the game without missing a beat.

"He'll pick up right where he left off. I don't think it's a big challenge for Jason  (Witten). The reality of it is as long as, if you know the game the way he does, there are certain positions -- he plays one of them at tight end -- he's always going to have the nuance to get open. Let's say he runs the exact same he always did, to me , it's just that at that position, your ability to use leverage against somebody, make you think this and then do that. It's like the back pick in basketball. Just all of a sudden it gets you and you didn't even know it was coming and that guy is wide open. He's very intelligent with the game of football. I think he's going to pick up right from when he retired. I think you're going to see the same guy."

Tony Romo on 105.3 The Fan via Jon Machota of SportsDay DFW

Jason Witten has been one of the best route-running tight ends in the NFL during his time with the Dallas Cowboys. He's always been able to win with his intelligence and route running despite not ever being the quickest or most athletic tight end in the NFL.

Because of Jason Witten's knowledge and feel for the game, it's easy to see why a player like that could walk back into the NFL after taking a year off and remain a productive player for the Dallas Cowboys. It's why they didn't hesitate to bring him back in the offseason. Though it's been relayed that he'll have a somewhat reduced role, he'll be the starting tight end week one against the New York Giants.

While it's uncertain exactly how much Jason Witten can play, you know that he'll be available to play. Prior to his retirement, Witten played in 235 straight regular-season games. Not only is Witten's availability great to have, but so is his ability to win on third down and in the red zone. It will be a welcomed addition to a Dallas Cowboys offense that struggled in both of those areas in 2018.

In 2018, they were 10th in third-down conversion percentage in the NFL at 41.4%. That's down from ranking fifth in the NFL in 2017 at 42.9%. 1.5% may not seem like a huge difference, but that's two to three more first downs on the season. Being able to convert on third downs increases your chances of scoring. Scoring more helps you win.

They were 29th in red-zone scoring rate at 48% in 2018. The only teams in the NFL that were worse than the Dallas Cowboys were the New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, and San Francisco 49ers. Only one other team in the bottom 10 in the league in red-zone scoring rate made the playoffs; the Houston Texans. In 2017, the Dallas Cowboys were sixth in the NFL in red-zone scoring percentage at 59.6% and that was without Ezekiel Elliott for six games and without Tyron Smith for three games.

Having Jason Witten's ability to get open in confined spaces will help everyone on the offense. Even after having a year off, Witten is a player that will have to be accounted for in those high-leverage situations.

There isn't a person in the world that knows Jason Witten the football player better than Tony Romo does. Their careers have been so intertwined that it's hard to think of one without thinking of the other. It's why one day when they're inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor, that it would be fitting for it to happen together.

If, as Romo believes, Jason Witten can pick up right where he left off, his veteran presence, leadership, and on-field ability are going to be a huge asset for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations in 2019. For the Cowboys to reach the Super Bowl and win their sixth Lombardi Trophy, they're going to need "Gold Jacket" Witten to return to his pre-retirement form.

And if Tony Romo believes he will, there's no reason to doubt Jason Witten. Do so at your own peril.



Continue Reading



Enjoy 40% commissions on officially licensed products as a FanPrint affiliate. You can even make your own, fully licensed Cowboys and player designs! Get started here

Trending