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5 Bye Week Takeaways from the 2017 Dallas Cowboys

Bryson Treece

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5 Takeaways from the Cowboys Through the Bye 1

And just like that, our enthusiasm has deflated. On September 10, 2017, the Cowboys hosted the New York Giants—one of only two teams to beat them in meaningful games last season—and won in convincing fashion. But that defense we all cheered on as they held the Giants to just a field goal hasn’t held another team back since.

Now that the bye week has arrived, you may be licking your wounds from two games the Cowboys should have won, against the Rams and Packers. Other Cowboys fans may instead dive into football betting sites this week, alleviated of favorite team bias.

I dreaded Sunday’s loss to Green Bay. Not necessarily because it’s a loss, though that hurts too, but because the conversations around Cowboys Nation these next two weeks are bound to be insufferable, to put it mildly. That already started with ridiculous tweets about how Dak Prescott should’ve knelt at the one-yard line with just over a minute left to play, instead of scoring the touchdown.

We’ve got to get this straight. You score when you can score.

That was Dak’s mentality, just as it was the play before when he tossed the ball to Dez Bryant in one-on-one coverage. You score the points as they become available and do your best to make sure those points are enough.

Unfortunately, the defense wasn’t up to the latter task.

But enough of the Green Bay Packers game. Instead, I’d like to take a look at some things I feel should be on the list of issues addressed during the bye.

1. Defense – Just as I wrote last week, before the Packers game, defense is a crucial element in closing out games. It is exceedingly rare for an offense to be able to win a lot of games in shootouts. At some point, the defense must protect a lead.

Tackling has been a major concern and not just in 2017 either.

Injuries and suspensions have also factored heavily into the defense’s lack of production, as we’re seeing now with Sean Lee sitting the last two games out. David Irving came back Sunday and recorded two sacks, but we can’t get those four games without him back.

This young secondary is still being forced to play a scheme they may not be best suited for, and it shows on the field.

Overall, the defense has had some great moments this season, but have failed to secure their top priority: stop the other guys from reaching the end zone.

2. Special Teams – We have the league’s most accurate kicker in Dan Bailey. He’s automatic and a huge asset for this team. We also have Chris Jones, who consistently pins teams back inside their own 20—or better. He is also a great asset for this team.

But what else has the special teams unit done lately?

The truth is, since Dwayne Harris left, special teams haven’t done much by way of scoring or advancing our field position. And even less without Lucky Whitehead fielding kicks. Ryan Switzer has been safe. He rarely takes the ball and runs and in the last two weeks, he’s lost a fumble on a muffed punt and lost yards fielding what was clearly a fair catch punt.

Special teams are often unsung heroes of a team, outside of the kickers of course, but in the case of the 2017 Dallas Cowboys, they aren’t even that.

We need more plays from the special teams unit. They don’t have to score, but they need to gain more yards. Hell, any yards would help at this point. Scores are ideal but field position is always welcome.

3. Game Management – This year, the Cowboys have given Dak Prescott much more freedom. A prime example of this is that second down throw to Dez in the final minutes against the Packers. It was a run-pass option and Dak saw a favorable matchup on the outside for one of the biggest end zone threats in the league.

It was a high-percentage throw that he simply botched. It happens.

The situation at the time was the Cowboys were knocking on the door to the end zone, but still had over a minute left to play. I, myself, was on my couch hollering at my TV for another run by Ezekiel Elliott.

One minute is more than enough time for the Packers to march down the field and score, and that’s true almost regardless what team they’re playing. With the Cowboys defense giving up yards the way they were, that’s especially true.

I wanted to keep the clock running as much as possible, and that second-down incompletion stopped the clock.

That stung even more when the Packers’ scoring snap came with 11 seconds to go in the game.

Dak did what he was taught to do; he identified a weakness in the coverage and took a shot. I can’t fault him for that. He missed, but the call was right from his perspective. The fault I find–in that case and others before it this season–is in Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan’s trust of this sophomore quarterback to make that decision on so many plays.

At some point, the play caller (Linehan) needs to see the situation on the field and issue a play, rather than passing the buck to his quarterback. That was all fine and well when the QB was Tony Romo, but Dak Prescott doesn’t have the experience that made Romo so good.

Would that particular second down have gone any differently if Dak had a script to follow? Who knows. The only thing that’s certain right now is that Prescott is young and still learning so much. I would like to see more responsibility on Linehan’s part, leaving Dak to run the play.

4. Dez Bryant isn’t playing elite – There are a lot of things Dez does well, and he hasn’t been doing many of them this year. Sure, he has to be thrown the ball in order to make a play, but elite wide receivers never have problems getting targets, do they?

Elite wide receivers also don’t have the same high-caliber cast around them either. It’s a mixed bag. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Dez is a great wide receiver. He can be invaluable to this team. He just isn’t used right, in my opinion.

He’s not a burner. Dez is not super fast. He’s a tough, physical receiver who can win matchups based on being physical rather than blowing by coverage. Has he blown by coverage before? Of course, but not consistently.

Over the middle is where a player like Dez is typically most valuable. It’s a more dangerous area to work in, but possession receivers just seem to work better across the middle of the field. Bryant’s greatest strength lends itself so well to tight, heavily contested throws.

Bringing him across the hashes is also a better use of such a respected receiver, instead of using him to consume coverage so other guys can get open. Elite receivers are more than just decoys and placeholders, they find ways to get open and players like Dez need less of an opening to ensure the gain.

5. Jeff Heath is not the answer – I feel like I’ve been watching J.J. Wilcox at safety these last few weeks. Bad angles and blown coverage. I don’t know if Chidobe Awuzie is the answer, or Kavon Frazier, or Xavier Woods, but it certainly isn’t Jeff Heath.

We haven’t had a truly impactful safety in over a decade and it’s no wonder why, considering the Cowboys haven’t tried to bring in a player for that. Barry Church wasn’t flashy or perfect but he was at least reliable, and that’s more than we can say about Jeff Heath after five games. The Cowboys made a change Sunday, but with Awuzie’s hamstring still a bother, we ended up with Heath more and more as the game progressed.

Orlando Scandrick is Orlando Scandrick. He’s steady and at least average on most any play. Anthony Brown isn’t what he was in 2016, often playing tentatively and lacking confidence, but he’s still not bad yet. And Jourdan Lewis is making a name for himself with some well defended balls. And they get better or worse depending on who’s helping over the top.

Byron Jones was good in 2016, far better than he’s been in 2017, and I put that on Heath.

It’s no different from the offensive line being out of sync with two new players in the mix; the guy beside you has a huge impact on your own game. Maybe Byron just regressed, but maybe that’s unlikely. Maybe it’s the guy we all see making bad plays who is forcing him to try to pick up slack, leaving him a jack of all trades and master of none.

Whatever the case, the scheme and personnel aren’t meshing well right now. So how long will Rod Marinelli let it continue? Or does Monte Kiffin have to come back to show him how to manage his defense again, like he did in 2013…

✭ ✭ ✭

If anyone has answers to what’s afflicting the Cowboys this season, I assume it will be the coaches running things at The Star in Frisco. But maybe these five things, which I think are incredibly obvious after five games, are on the agenda.

And one more thing too, halftime adjustments. For the past few years, I’ve marveled at the way this team could come out of halftime on fire and ready to take what the other team gives them. I haven’t seen that at all this year, but these last two weeks have been particularly bad. Especially on defense. Got to give credit where credit is due though. The Rams and Packers did a great job adjusting at the half.

Anyway, here’s hoping week seven comes fast and ends with the 49ers defeated. Until then.

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Nothing gives me greater joy than the experience of being a Dallas Cowboys fan come time to check another victory on the schedule every Sunday. I live Inside the Star everyday and blog on it occasionally, as well. Follow us on Twitter – @InsideTheStarDC

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1 Comment
  • Hammer33

    Wow, putting s lot on heath. You truly are blaming one player for the demise of an entire defense? How far up your ass is your head?

    He’s struggled. But the press, who proves time and again just how much football they know blow it WAY out of proportion. Was at the game yesterday. Heath was not an issue. But he’s an easy target.

    Byron Jones I’d hsving an off year because of Hesth. You are truly unbelievable

Star Blog

A Cowboys Win vs Giants Can’t Be Taken For Granted

Mauricio Rodriguez

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A Cowboys Win vs Giants Can't Be Taken For Granted 1

The Dallas Cowboys are coming from a bounce-back win versus the Washington Redskins in which they blew out their divisional rivals 38-14. The New York Giants are coming from a week in which Head Coach Ben McAdoo and General Manager Jerry Reese were fired. The former is 6-6, and the latter is 2-10. You tell me which organization is getting the W this Sunday.

Easy, right? Well, no. Not really.

All week long, most of Cowboys Nation has been taking this win for granted. Understandably so, since New York is only a two-win team. However, this is certainly one of those games with a “trap game” feel to it.

It wouldn’t be the first time we see a football team being led by a new coach to a surprise victory. Hell, we saw a very similar situation when Jason Garrett debuted as the Cowboys interim head coach in 2010… against the Giants. 

 Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee, New York Giants QB Eli Manning  Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

On top of that, you have Eli Manning back at the wheel after he was benched for Geno Smith a week ago. Even though the guy who made that decision is out of the picture, you have to imagine the veteran quarterback will go out to play with a chip on his shoulder.

And if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, this Cowboys’ team still has a lot to prove. Let’s not forget the fact that they lost three consecutive weeks. That’s why we´re trying to find which NFC teams need to lose certain games. Because the Dallas Cowboys put themselves in this position.

Dak Prescott is the future for this franchise, and despite having some tough games this year, I still believe he’s the guy. However, as Staff Writer Kevin Brady recently wrote here at Inside The Star, Dak Prescott must overcome his struggles when facing the Giants:

“Prescott played his worst game of that spectacular rookie season when he traveled to East Rutherford, New Jersey as the Cowboys prolific offense was only able to score 7 points during their key loss.”

Although they have a 2-10 record, the Giants’ defense shouldn’t be underestimated. They still have personnel that can give the Cowboys’ offense a bit of trouble, especially without Ezekiel Elliott running the ball.

Sean Lee should be ready to go this week, and while many discuss whether or not the coaching staff should give him an extra week of rest, the truth is that’s something the Cowboys can’t risk to do. At the end of the day, lose one game and forget about playing in January.

You need 50 on the field. If at some point in the second half they manage to get a big-lead, securing a win, then let’s hope they take him off the field and let the guy rest. But until then, Sean Lee should be playing.

Will Chidobe Awuzie's Return Benefit The Cowboys Defense?

Dallas Cowboys’ Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Woods (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Dallas is expected to start three rookies at cornerback. Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Wood could be the guys who line up to start the game in New York. Naturally, this is the case because they’ve proven to be solid players.

But it’s inevitable to be a bit scared of this situation when you’re facing Eli Manning. Say what you want about him, but you never know what might happen when a player like that is on the other side of the field.

I’m picking the Cowboys to win this football games for at least a touchdown. But let’s not think of this game as if it were the Browns. If this ends up being a trap game and the Cowboys manage to get their seventh loss of the year, it’s over.

We’re 14 weeks into the season and it feels like we don’t know what this team is capable of doing with Sean Lee, Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliott starting at the same time. But this week will prove a lot of things about the Cowboys and their quest for the Playoffs.

Tell me what you think about “A Cowboys Win vs Giants Can’t Be Taken For Granted” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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Star Blog

Week 14 Playoff Projection: Cowboys Still In Striking Distance

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys en Español: Dak Prescott #14 Según los Jugadores, ¿Realmente Lo Es? 1

The Cowboys are one of three 6-6 teams still hoping to find a way into the NFC playoffs. Even if they win out and get to 10-6, they will need help based on tiebreakers and the superior records of the teams ahead of them.

Last night, Dallas’ hopes took a kick in the teeth when the Atlanta Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints. Atlanta not only moved to 8-5 but also holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowboys, making them a major threat in the Wild Card race. The Falcons need to start losing, fast, for Dallas to have a shot at overtaking them.

Atlanta’s not the only team that Dallas should be concerned about, though. Here are the current NFC playoff standings, including last night’s result:

  1. Minnesota Vikings (10-2)
  2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2)
  3. Los Angeles Rams (9-3)
  4. New Orleans Saints (9-4)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (8-4)
  6. Carolina Panthers (8-4)
    ————————————–
  7. Atlanta Falcons (8-5)
  8. Detroit Lions (6-6)
  9. Green Bay Packers (6-6)
  10. Dallas Cowboys (6-6)

TIEBREAKERS

  • The Vikings are ahead of the Eagles thanks to the common game tiebreaker, since they are both 8-1 against NFC opponents.
  • Seattle (6-3) is ahead of Carolina (4-4) thanks to a better record in NFC games.
  • Detroit has a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Packers and a common games tiebreaker over the Cowboys.
  • Green Bay has a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowboys.

With the Falcons’ win over New Orleans already in the books, here are the other playoff-relevant games for the NFC in Week 14.

Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants

This is the easiest game let on Dallas’ schedule (assuming Philly doesn’t rest starters in Week 17). The Giants will have a new coach and have changed back to Eli Manning as the starting QB. Will they be galvanized by these changes or only in even greater disarray? We certainly hope for the latter.

Green Bay Packers @ Cleveland Browns

At 6-6 and with Aaron Rodgers potentially returning next week, the Packers are looming as a real threat. They have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Dallas from a win earlier this year. The hapless Browns winning this one is certainly faint hope, but it’s still Brett Hundley out there at QB instead of one of the league’s MVPs.

Detroit Lions @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The other team in the 6-6 tie, Detroit needs to go away. The Bucs are 4-8 and a non-factor now, so we can root for the pirate people without hesitation.

Minnesota Vikings @ Carolina Panthers

The Panthers are another key target for us in the Wild Card race. Minnesota should run away with the NFC North, so they’re a non-factor for Dallas’ concerns. A Carolina loss is clearly better for Dallas, dropping the Panthers to 8-5 and within reasonable range with three weeks left to go.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Los Angeles Rams

Last week, Dallas fans were put in the unfortunate position of having to root for the Eagles against the Seahawks to help our playoff chances. We’re back in that same boat this week as a Rams’s loss would be more damaging for the Cowboys than Philly losing.

Because L.A. has a head-to-head tiebreaker over Dallas, our best bet is for them to win the NFC West and stay out of our way. We have a much better shot at catching the Seahawks, especially since we get to play them in Week 16 when Ezekiel Elliott returns.

Seattle Seahawks @ Jacksonville Jaguars

So yeah, as just said, the Seahawks are one of the teams we have the best chance of beating out for a playoff spot. Last week’s win over Philly hurt, but a road loss against the 8-4 Jaguars is certainly possible and would go a long way to helping our cause.

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Cowboys en Español: Optimismo, Pesimismo y Realismo para los Dallas Cowboys

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys 2017 Roster Projection: Preseason Week 2

La verdad es que, los Dallas Cowboys se pusieron en una posición en la que no deberían de estar. Y a pesar de que podemos pasar días discutiendo quien merece la culpa, ahora la preocupación en la mente de todos los aficionados es la misma. ¿Veremos a los Cowboys jugar en enero?

Primero que nada, los Cowboys necesitan ganar los últimos cuatro juegos de su temporada, lo cuál no será un trabajo nada fácil. Aún si ganan los próximos dos juegos sin Ezekiel Elliott, los últimos dos partidos de la temporada son bastante complicados.

Sólo para darnos una idea, así se ve lo que resta del calendario para Dallas:

  • @ NY Giants
  • @ OAK Raiders 
  • VS SEA Seahawks (Regreso de Zeke)
  • @ PHI Eagles

Nada fácil para un equipo que ha tenido bastantes problemas. Porque, a pesar de extrañar a jugadores como Ezekiel Elliott, Sean Lee y Tyron Smith, perder seis juegos nunca debió de suceder.

Sin embargo, aquí estamos. A un par de días de ver a los Cowboys tomar el campo en New York para enfrentarse a un equipo de Giants, mientras esperamos con ansias ver como este equipo gana sus últimos cuatro juegos para entrar a playoffs.

Pero, hay un detalle. Pues todos sabemos que aún con Dallas cerrando su temporada 10-6, necesitamos ayuda exterior. Y es aquí donde entra una preocupación enorme en la mente de todos los aficionados empedernidos de los Cowboys.

Ayer por la noche, los Falcons vencieron a los Saints en el Thursday Night Football de la semana. Y sin darnos cuenta, pudieron haber terminado la temporada de nuestro equipo favorito. Actualmente, los Cowboys se encuentran en la posición #10 de la tabla de la NFC.

Por encima, peleando por los puestos de comodines están los Seahawks, Panthers, Falcons, Lions y Packers. Como aficionados a la Estrella Solitaria, no será suficiente apoyar a nuestro equipo mientras busca sus victorias. Sino a unas cuantas cosas más.

Cowboys' TE Position Hurting Offensive Production?

¿Qué combinaciones necesitan nuestros Cowboys?

  • Terminar la temporada con un récord de 10-6.
  • Dos derrotas de Seahawks, incluyendo una contra los Cowboys.
  • Dos derrotas de Falcons o…
  • Dos derrotas de Panthers MÁS una derrota de los Packers y una de los Lions. 

Es agotador, lo sé. Después de una temporada en la que dominaron la conferencia nacional, no esperábamos esto. Hace un año, hacíamos cálculos para analizar cómo podían asegurar el sembrado número 1 de la conferencia. Ahora, para poder tener una oportunidad de brillar en pos- temporada.

Y al final de cuentas, no sabremos que sucederá. Ni siquiera en cuanto a la temporada de los Cowboys. Suponiendo que ganen los siguientes dos, y tengan un equipo listo al 100% para cerrar contra Seattle y Philadelphia… no conocemos el nivel de este equipo.

Ha pasado mucho tiempo desde que vimos a este equipo con todas sus piezas claves en el campo, y no lo hemos visto ganar contra un equipo con récord ganador en todo el año. Duele admitirlo y es fácil olvidarlo cuando venimos de una semana en la que vencieron a Washington 38-14, pero este equipo no ha sido lo que queríamos.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) 

El problema este año, es que ni siquiera se trata exclusivamente de si este equipo puede o no lograrlo. Sino que se trata de que pasará con otras franquicias. Y aún si llegan a playoffs, ¿se lo merecen?

Como fan a morir de mi equipo, estaré apoyando con todo mi ser a todos los escenarios necesarios para ver a Dak Prescott y compañía en enero. Pero con tantos requisitos, es difícil mantener las esperanzas tan arriba como quisiéramos.

Tell me what you think about “Cowboys en Español: Optimismo, Pesimismo y Realismo para los Dallas Cowboys” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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