After the shellacking the Dallas Cowboys took from the Denver Broncos last week, they look to get back on track against the Arizona Cardinals Monday night. This will be their second road game of the 2017 season, but home or away, this Cowboys team has to be at their best in order to put another W in the win column.
The Arizona Cardinals might not be as talented overall as the first two teams they've faced this season, but they do have some players that could give the Cowboys some problems. I put together a list of five matchups I think the Cowboys must win in order to ensure a victory over the Cardinals Monday night. Continue to read below to see which matchups I believe are the key to a victory.
Dez Bryant vs. Patrick Peterson
Dez Bryant is arguably the best playmaker the Dallas Cowboys have on the offensive side of the ball. There has been a lot of talk lately that he is washed up and not as talented as he once was, but that is completely inaccurate. He may not be the focal point of the offense anymore, but that doesn't take away how important he truly is.
Bryant will draw the opposing defenses best cornerback ever week. He has already faced Pro Bowl CBs in the first two games of the season and will see another one in Patrick Peterson this week. This is a tough matchup again because Peterson is physical and can carry Bryant in coverage anywhere on the field.
Peterson of course won't have to do this alone, because the Cardinals defense will undoubtably role extra coverage Bryant's way every time he's on the field. Bryant just has to do enough in order to keep the Cardinals defense rolling extra coverage in his direction, because that will open up things for the rest of the Cowboys offense. But, Bryant simply can't allow Peterson to win the one-on-one matchup.
Cowboys Secondary vs. Cardinals WRs
The Dallas Cowboys will be a little thin in their secondary tonight against the Arizona Cardinals. Both Nolan Carroll and Chidobe Awuzie will miss this contest due to injuries, which means some of the young defensive backs will have to step up.
Luckily, Orlando Scandrick will be back on the field, which provides more veteran experience against a talented group of Cardinals WRs. Scandrick can't do it alone though. Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, and maybe even Xavier Woods will have to be on top of their games in order to keep the Cardinals WRs in check.
The Arizona Cardinals offense likes to push the ball down the field, so the Cowboys secondary will have to keep the plays in front of them and make sure tackles. This was a problem last week, but I'm sure defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has emphasized this week how important tackling is. This matchup just might be the most important for the Cowboys.
DeMarcus Lawrence vs. John Wetzel
Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence has been simply outstanding the first two weeks of the 2017 season. He has pretty much dominated any offensive lineman he has gone up against and should continue that impressive streak this week against the Arizona Cardinals backup left tackle John Wetzel.
Wetzel will be filling in as an injury replacement and as a former practice squad member of the Dallas Cowboys, should know what he's up against. Unfortunately, that works both ways. Lawrence should know all too well Wetzel's strengths and weaknesses and how best to win the match up. I'm expecting Lawrence to have another good game getting after the QB and you can bet Carson Palmer is paying extra close attention to where he is lined up every play.
La'el Collins vs. Chandler Jones
The Dallas Cowboys absolutely have to win the battle of the trenches against the Cardinals tonight. The Denver Broncos were able to beat them at their own game and control the line of scrimmage last week. That can't happen this week and La'el Collins might just be the key to the entire offensive lines performance.
The Arizona Cardinals have a talented defensive line, but I believe that it will be Chandler Jones who might just be the most impactful. I think Jones and Collins will square off against one another the majority of the game and this is a battle Collins has to win. Luckily, Collins has performed above expectations and has already proven himself against some of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
It may be unfair to single out Collins, because I believe the entire offensive line needs to up their game after last week's performance. But, I believe the Collins and Jones matchup will go a long ways in determining how the Cowboys come out in the battle of the trenches. If the Cowboys can win that battle, it will open up the passing and running game, making things that much more difficult for the Cardinals defense.
OC Scott Linehan vs. DC James Bettcher
It's no secret that I've been extremely hard on Scott Linehan in the past. I think he was largely responsible for how the Dallas Cowboys offense performed last week against the Denver Broncos defense, which is why I think he has to do better this week.
Offensive coordinators against defensive coordinators is always a chess match. You have to anticipate what the other is going to do and come up with the right counterattack move. Linehan was unable to do that against the Broncos, but the Cardinals defense doesn't have the same kind of talent on that side of the ball as Denver did.
Linehan has to do much better job of getting Dak Prescott settled down early, because he has been a little inaccurate to start the first two games of the season. He also has to find ways to get the ball in the hands of his best playmakers, Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott. When they are involved early in the game, it helps the entire offense and puts the opposing defense on their heels.
What are your key matchups for the Cowboys against the Cardinals?
REPORT: Cowboys WR Michael Gallup Out 2-4 Weeks After Knee Surgery
Two games into a seeming breakout season, Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Michael Gallup will now be out for the next 2-4 weeks after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He suffered the injury late into the Cowboys' victory over the Washington Redskins yesterday.
An MRI revealed the extent of the injury today. There were hopes that Gallup had only suffered a contusion, but unfortunately he will be out at least a couple of games after requiring this minor knee procedure.
Gallup is the team leader in catches (13) and receiving yards (226) after the first two weeks of the 2019 season.
Sources: #Cowboys promising WR Michael Gallup is having arthroscopic surgery to trim his meniscus, knocking him out 2-4 weeks. No structural damage besides the meniscus tear, so the return should be quick.
The Cowboys still have Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb as a strong starting duo. They also hope to get Tavon Austin back this week after he was inactive in Washington with concussion issues.
Gallup's absence could be big for Devin Smith, who had a 51-yard touchdown catch against the Redskins and should see more work in the coming weeks. It also may prompt Dallas to keep prospect Cedrick Wilson, just called up from the practice squad a week ago, on the 53-man roster a while longer.
Despite this depth, Michael Gallup will still be missed for however long he's out. Hopefully he can return on the quick side of the projection and keep his 2019 momentum going.
Robert Quinn Returns; How Will Cowboys Make Room on Roster?
Defensive End Robert Quinn, who the Cowboys traded for during the offseason, will make his Dallas debut this week after serving a two-game suspension to start 2019. To add Quinn to the 53 for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins, the Cowboys will need to make some kind of move to create a roster spot.
The question now is how Dallas makes that room. Who winds up leaving the team this week to create that spot for Quinn?
Ideally, the Cowboys will be able to find a trade partner for the disgruntled Taco Charlton. The former 1st-Round pick has been targeted for a while now, and trade rumors have intensified after Taco's been inactive for the first two games of the regular season.
Unfortunately, the goal of moving Charlton before Quinn comes back is something the rest of the NFL is also aware of. If a team does have interest, why trade for Taco now when you can potentially just claim him off waivers in a few more days? The Cowboys are the ones with the deadline.
Trading Taco, or releasing him if a trade doesn't materialize in the next few days, is the most logical solution here. It not only get Charlton out of Dallas and fresh start somewhere else, but it all takes place within the defensive end position. One DE out to make room for another; makes sense, right?
But let's say that the Cowboys aren't ready to just lose Charlton for nothing, or aren't satisfied with the trade offers they get. Could they elect to hang on to Taco and create that roster spot some other way?
If that's the case then the move will likely come at another position on the roster. Dallas isn't going to part with any other young prospects at DE like Dorance Armstrong or Joe Jackson. They also may have just lost DT Antwaun Woods for a while with a knee sprain coming out of the Redskins game, so the Cowboys won't like losing any additional defensive line depth right now.
The easiest move would be cutting Cedrick Wilson, who was just added last week off the practice squad. Dallas called Wilson up for punt return duties while Tavon Austin recovers from a concussion.
Assuming Austin is able to come back this week, Wilson's release is the simplest way to create a roster spot. It buys Dallas time and leverage in handling the Taco Charlton situation and doesn't force their hand.
One x-factor here is how Michael Gallup's knee is doing after yesterday's game. If there's any thought that Gallup might need a week off, especially with the hapless Miami Dolphins on the schedule, perhaps Dallas wants to keep Wilson for one more week for WR depth.
I think the Cowboys would be fine going with just four receivers in Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, and Devin Smith if they have to. But if there is a reason that they want to hang on to Cedrick for this week, that would mean looking elsewhere for a roster spot.
Another option could be on the offensive line, where Dallas is currently heavy with ten total linemen and two guys who've been inactive in both regular season games. Backups Adam Redmond and Brandon Knight haven't suited up against New York or Washington, so there is a certain level of expendability there.
Dallas went long on OL depth this year due to concerns about Zack Martin's back and the 2020 free agency of Joe Looney and Xaver Su'a-Filo. They didn't want to risk losing either Redmond or Knight from the practice squad.
But with the season now well underway, the Cowboys may feel more confident in being able to move one of those prospects and slip under most teams' radars.
A final area to consider for a roster move is safety. With Darian Thompson and Donovan Wilson both returning from preseason ankle injuries, Dallas now has five total safeties in addition to five cornerbacks.
The Cowboys have have always intended to keep this many total defensive backs, but it's more than they usually have in previous seasons. The general feeling at final cuts was that Kavon Frazier kept his job due to the injuries to Thompson and Wilson, and his time on the roster might be short-lived after they got healthy.
Frazier is a strong special teams player but hasn't ever broken through on defense, and his rookie deal expires at the end of this season. Assuming that Donovan Wilson is able to fill the void on kickoff and punt coverage, Kavon becomes another expendable player this week.
Again, the ideal move will be to find a new home for Taco Charlton and make the easy swap within the defensive end position. Robert Quinn comes in, boosts the first-team talent, and increases the depth via ripple effect.
But as we just illustrated, the Cowboys have other options beyond dumping their former 1st-Round pick. They could find a roster spot at receiver, safety, or on the offensive line and then keep looking for Taco trade partners for the next several weeks.
Time will tell, and ultimately the player lost is probably someone who wouldn't have been active this week or most weeks to come. Just don't assume it's going to be Taco Charlton; there are still plenty of ways this could go.
However it shakes out, we're just glad to finally see Robert Quinn out there and hopefully improving the Cowboys' pass rush.
The Brady Report: Cowboys Offense Dominant Despite Slow Start
The Dallas Cowboys followed up their dominant performance last week with yet another blowout divisional win on Sunday, defeating the Washington Redskins 31-21.
While the Cowboys controlled the game for much of the last three quarters, they actually got off to a slow start in Washington. Once again they fell behind to a lesser team 7-0 early, before scoring on nearly every possession to finish off the game.
Let's get into my game notes from the Cowboys' week two win.
- We have to start these game notes by talking about Dak Prescott. The Cowboys franchise quarterback was incredible for the second straight week to open this season. Despite the early interception, Prescott continued to look poised and calm in the pocket, allowing him to deliver a dime to Devin Smith for the team's first touchdown. Prescott was picking apart the Redskins secondary during the final three quarters to the tune of 269 yards and three touchdowns. Plus, he was very effective as a runner, including his dynamic 42 yard run on third down and one with the game still tied. If Dak is going to play like this, the Cowboys can beat anyone.
- Ezekiel Elliott looked a lot more comfortable Sunday than he did against the Giants. Not only were his raw numbers better, rushing for 111 yards and a touchdown, he was back to his ways of falling forward and avoiding the first tackler. He still didn't really explode the way we all know he can, which means opposing defenses should be scared when considering what the Cowboys offense's full potential could be.
- Which receiver didn't ball out Sunday? Michael Gallup seems to be developing an awesome rapport with Prescott, Amari Cooper continues to prove he's a legit WR1, Randall Cobb was once again effective on swing passes and in the slot, and even Devin Smith had himself a monster game. If Devin Smith is going to be the speed deep threat he was against Washington, look out.
- Ok, now that I've congratulated the majority of the offense, let's talk about the one guy who I'm sure would've liked to have a better day. Left guard Connor Williams. The second year guard was solid overall Sunday, but was abused by Daron Payne from time to time. Most notably, Payne went right through Williams both to force Prescott's interception and on the only sack of the game. Williams has to be better going forward, because he is the clear weak link across this dynamic offensive line right now. Luckily, as a whole, this line has been very good through two games.
- Defensively, things could've gone better for the Cowboys. While a lot of the production through the air came through garbage time, Terry McLaurin was still too effective down the field. Chris Thompson was also getting too much YAC against these defenders. Anthony Brown had a rough day in the slot, missing multiple tackles and not being too great in coverage either. Jourdan Lewis, however, did have himself a good game in limited snaps. Both he and Byron Jones made impressive open field tackles on third downs.
- The Cowboys run defense stepped up from a week ago. The tackling of their front seven overall improved as the game went on, and they held Adrian Peterson to just 25 yards on the ground. Part of this was because of how quickly the Cowboys got to their 21-7 lead in the third quarter, but they were solid nonetheless.
- Dallas' pass rush will benefit greatly from Robert Quinn's return next week against Miami. DeMarcus Lawrence created a couple big pressures on Sunday, but Quinn's presence should help free him up a bit to create more of a consistent pass rush.
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