The Dallas Cowboys are coming of one of their worst performances that I have personally witnessed. There is no need to sugarcoat things, the Denver Broncos simply made the Cowboys look like they were the Cleveland Browns. Fortunately, I think we will see a bounce back performance this week against the Arizona Cardinals and I believe offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will have a lot to do with that.
Arguably the most surprising thing last week for the Cowboys was how god-awful the offense performed against the Denver Broncos. It didn't matter if they were trying to run or pass the ball, the Broncos seemed to have the answer for everything. This is simply unacceptable, especially with all the firepower the Cowboys have on offense.
I personally believe the playcalling needs to improve and that's where Scott Linehan comes in. Linehan has far too many weapons at his disposal for any defense in the NFL to shut them down the way the Broncos did last week. Luckily, I believe there are 3 ways he can get the Cowboys offense back on track this week.
Help Dak Prescott Settle In Early
It's no secret that QB Dak Prescott has been uncharacteristically inaccurate in the first two weeks of the 2017 season. It's really nothing to be too alarmed about considering the Dallas Cowboys have played two really good defenses who have Pro Bowl caliber cornerbacks, but it still seems as if his confidence is just a little bit off. Fortunately, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan should be able to help with that.
Dak Prescott seems to struggle the most with his accuracy early in the game, at least these first two games anyway. It seems take him a little while to settle down, so I think Linehan would be wise to help him settle in early. Linehan can do that by designing some easy completions early on to build Prescott's confidence. This is not a new concept/idea, but it means the playcalling needs to improve or the execution, possibly both.
With all of the weapons the Dallas Cowboys currently have on the roster this shouldn't be a problem. It could be a simple dump off pass to Ezekiel Elliott or even a high percentage throw on an intermediate pass to Cole Beasley. Then again, Jason Witten has been the most consistent so far this season and could be the beneficiary. My point is there are endless possibilities, but Scott Linehan definitely needs to do a better job in order to help Prescott get going early.
Find Mismatches For Dez Bryant
This may surprise a lot of you since there are those among you who believe Dez Bryant isn't the player he once was, but I assure you that's inaccurate. I've been hearing far too often that the Dallas Cowboys need to trade or cut Bryant because he's not worth the money he is making. But, OC Scott Linehan has been doing him a disservice with his playcalling.
The way that Dez Bryant has been utilized in these first two games of 2017 season really plays right into the hands of the opposing defenses. He has had to go up against Pro Bowl caliber CBs against both the Giants and Broncos, and has been at a disadvantage from the get-go. Linehan has been lining him up out wide where the CB can get their hands on #88 and be physical/handsy before he can even get into his route.
Dez Bryant would be much better utilized on the move or out of the slot where he can actually use his own physicality to his advantage. If Linehan were able to get the ball to Bryant on the move on crossing routes, it would be a huge advantage to the entire offense. Instead we are seeing a lot of 50/50 contested passes thrown his way or back shoulder fades. There just needs to be more passes thrown his way that have a higher chance of being completed.
Create More Opportunities For Ezekiel Elliott
We heard all off-season that the Dallas Cowboys were planning to use Ezekiel Elliott more in both the running and passing game, but that has yet to come to fruition. Now, I understand the Cowboys have gone up against two pretty good defenses, but there have been missed opportunities for Elliott, especially in the passing game.
Personally, I was shocked that Scott Linehan didn't try to get Elliot the ball out in space against the Broncos last week. The Broncos defense completely sold out to shut down the running game for the Cowboys, and it worked. But, with all of the Broncos defenders focusing on the run, there were still opportunities to get Elliott the ball in the passing game.
There were several instances where there was just one defender covering Elliot in the passing game. I don't know about you, but I like the odds of Elliott beating that one defender and picking up a good chunk of yards. They were just simple dump off/swing passes, but it would've helped Elliott get more involved and put the Broncos defense on their heels a little bit more.
Can Scott Linehan turn things around for the Cowboys offense?
Ezekiel Elliott vs Byron Jones Part II: The Case For Paying Zeke
It's a debate that has raged on social media for some time now and it likely won't slow down as the offseason progresses and the Dallas Cowboys begin to hand out massive contracts to their top players. Pay Ezekiel Elliott? Pay Byron Jones? If you could only pay one, which would you pay?
This week fellow Inside The Star Staff Writer, Kevin Brady took to Twitter to poll the populous and his results were a bit surprising to me.
if you can only pay one it should be
The results inspired me to see what would happen if I put the same poll on my timeline.
Inspired by my teammate @KevinBrady88, if you can only pay one, which would it be?
On Monday, Kevin wrote a piece looking at one of the difficult decisions facing the Dallas Cowboys this offseason or next. If the Cowboys could only extend Byron Jones OR Ezekiel Elliott, who should they choose? Kevin, as am I, is a firm believer in Byron Jones ability and says the Cowboys should extend them, and I agree. But let's look at the other side of the argument.
To begin, the Cowboys should and probably will get both guys contract extensions either this offseason or next. It's not impossible with the cap continuing to increase at a rate of about $8-12 million per year that the Cowboys will have the space to get the deals done that they need to get done. Ezekiel Elliott and Byron Jones included.
Byron Jones settled in nicely at cornerback during his first full season at cornerback and knowing what we know about Jones, he won't be satisfied with a second team All-Pro appearance. Expect him to get better. However, if there's a single player that represents the current identity of the Dallas Cowboys, it's Running Back Ezekiel Elliott.
The Cowboys made him the fourth overall pick in 2016 and haven't looked back in their plan to establish the running game. For his career Elliott has averaged 26.9 touches per game over the course of his 40 games.
Here's a look at what Elliott's per game and per 16 game paces look like through the first three seasons of his career.
As you can see from the table above, Ezekiel Elliott is averaging 131.2 total yards per game for his career. In his rookie season he had 1,994 total yards and he sat out the week 17 game against the Philadelphia Eagles when the Cowboys had the NFC and home field advantage locked up. In 2017, Elliott sat out six games and still had nearly 1,000 yards rushing. In 2018, Elliott broke through the 2,000 total yard barrier after seeing a huge increase in his targets and receptions.
Ezekiel Elliott has been everything the Dallas Cowboys could have hoped for and more. With the leadership role he's taken with the team, he's a player that leads both vocally and by example. There are few players on the Dallas Cowboys that give as much effort as he does each snap. How many times has it looked like Elliott was about to get dropped for a two or three yard loss only to grind through tackles to pick up a four yard gain? How many times has he bounced off tacklers to get to the first down marker? Ezekiel Elliott is the human personification of dirty yards, but don't let that fool you into thinking that Elliott can't take it to the house every time he touches the ball. Elliott's is a game breaker who threatens the defense every time he steps on the field.
In 2018, Elliott led the NFL in yards after contact, per Pro Football Focus. His 949 yards after contact in 2018 would have ranked 13th in the NFL in rushing, which was better than David Johnson's 940 yards rushing last season.
Not many running backs effect a football game like Ezekiel Elliott does.
Few players outside of the quarterback position are as much of a focal point for their offense while being an attention grabber for opposing defenses like Ezekiel Elliott is. In 2018, he saw eight or more men in the box on nearly 25% of his carries in 2018. Some of that is related to the Dallas Cowboys insistence on using two tight ends on 50% of their running plays (per Sharp Football), but the other aspect is related to how much they respect the Dallas Cowboys running game. Since the 2014, the Cowboys have been synonymous with running the football. DeMarco Murray, Darren McFadden, and now Ezekiel Elliott have been the faces of that running game behind the Cowboys elite offensive line.
Even in a down year for offensive line play from the Dallas Cowboys, Elliott still managed to lead the NFL in rushing for the second time in three seasons. Elliott made the Pro Bowl for the second time in three years as well. Were it not for the railroad job done by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in 2017, there's a really good chance that Elliott leads the league in rushing three years in a row and that the Dallas Cowboys make the playoffs all three seasons.
Sure, the running back position is undervalued in the NFL and rushing yardage can be replaced, but there are intangibles to Elliott's game that are very difficult to replace. His ability to grind out the dirty yards, break big plays, create yards after contact, pass protect, be a threat as a receiver, and his leadership make him a player that is difficult to replace.
Yes, Byron Jones was really good in 2018 and deserves to get paid by the Dallas Cowboys as well, but you'd be hard pressed to find a player on the Cowboys roster who has been as consistent and dominating week in and week out as Ezekiel Elliott has been over the last three years.
BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb
According to multiple sources, the Dallas Cowboys have signed former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year deal to help bolster their depth at the WR position and potentially become Cole Beasley's replacement.
Cowboys are giving former Packers' WR Randall Cobb a one-year, $5 million deal, per source. https://t.co/8KWFPjSP8T
The Dallas Cowboys met with Randall Cobb earlier this week, but he eventually left Dallas without a contract. He must've had a change of heart or just needed time to ponder the Cowboys offer, but regardless of what transpired in that short time he is now part of America's Team.
During his time with the Packers, Cobb accumulated 470 receptions for 5,524 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. The eight-year veteran will now be expected to replace some of Cole Beasley's production out of the slot for the Dallas Cowboys.
After years of watching Beasley as the Cowboys slot WR, it will be really interesting to see Randall Cobb in that role. He's not as quick twitched as No. 11, but can be just as dangerous due to his ability to be more of a down the field receiver. He also brings added value in the return game and could compete with Tavon Austin to become the return specialist.
This could mean the Cowboys forgo drafting a wide receiver early in the 2019 NFL Draft, but I wouldn't put it past them. Regardless of what happens, this is an excellent addition.
Welcome to Cowboys Nation Randall Cobb!
REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur
L.P. Ladouceur is returning for his 15th season as the Cowboys' long snapper. The veteran free agent was re-signed by Dalals today to a one-year deal.
Thanks to Jason Witten's one-year sabbatical with Monday Night Football, Ladouceur has now been with the Cowboys for more consecutive seasons than any current player. He just turned 38 last week, but Louis-Philippe remains one of the top long snappers in football.
The Cowboys have signed long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a one-year deal worth $1.03 million and $90,000 in bonus money, but he will count $735,000 against the cap. This will be Ladouceur's 15th season with the Cowboys, tying Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Mark... https://t.co/2iDsi6RX7e
Retaining Ladouceur is an underrated move for the Cowboys given their situation at kicker.
Brett Maher was only 80% accurate overall on field goals last year. The team could be considering an upgrade in free agency.
Whether they bring Maher back or try someone new, having a long snapper with Ladouceur's performance perfection will make things much easier for them.
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