The Dallas Cowboys are on an impressive 11 game winning streak, but in order to continue that winning streak they will have to go on the road and beat the only team that has beaten them this season, the New York Giants.
When these two teams square off against one another you can almost guarantee that it will be a hard-fought game that comes down to the very end. That is exactly what I expect Sunday afternoon.
Fortunately, the Pittsburgh Steelers may have just provided the perfect blueprint for the Cowboys to beat the Giants and expand their lead over the NFC East division.
Now, the Cowboys don't really have much to play for since they have already locked up a spot in the playoffs, but if they want home-field advantage, they need to continue to win games.
Below are the five things I think the Dallas Cowboys could've possibly learned from the matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants last weekend
Lean on Ezekiel Elliott
Okay, this maybe a little obvious, but if the Dallas Cowboys learned anything watching what the Steelers were able to do on the ground and through the air with Le'Veon Bell, then they would be wise to follow suit with Ezekiel Elliott.
Le'Veon Bell was a huge thorn in the side of the New York Giants defense the entire game. He rushed for 118 yards on the ground and added another 64 yards through the air.
The Cowboys have been somewhat reluctant to use Elliott in the receiving game so far in 2016, but this would be a good game to use that part of his repertoire. He's already had several big plays catching the ball out of the backfield and we all know he is a threat to take it to the house anytime the ball is in his hands.
Now, this may not happen because the Cowboys have more weapons on the offensive side of the ball than the Steelers do. But, any time you give Ezekiel Elliott the opportunity to make a play, good things usually follow.
I fully expect Ezekiel Elliott to have a huge impact on the outcome of the game.
Target the Tight end
The defense for the Giants did a pretty good job of containing Antonio Brown and the rest of the Steelers wide receivers, but failed to remember about the tight end position.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Ladarius Green caught six passes for 110 yards and one touchdown against the Giants Sunday afternoon.
Jason Witten might not be as big as a receiving threat as Green at this point in his career, but that doesn't mean he can't find the same type of success. Witten still has a veterans saviness to his game and knows how to get separation from whoever is trying to cover him.
Make Eli Manning uncomfortable
We all know that Eli Manning struggles was when he has pressure in his face and the Pittsburgh Steelers defense was able to do just that.
Now, the Dallas Cowboys defensive front has struggled nearly in the entire season getting QB sacks, but have been able to be somewhat successful applying pressure.
The best way to throw Manning off his game is to collapse the pocket around him. That's usually when he makes a mistake in the passing game. And any time you can create more opportunities for the Cowboys offense by getting the Giants off the field, is a good thing.
Ereck Flowers particularly had a tough game, and I would expect defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to attack him early and often to try make Eli Manning as uncomfortable as possible.
Stop the Giants running game
The Pittsburgh Steelers pretty much made the Giants offense one-dimensional by stopping the running game.
Rookie running back Paul Perkins was the leading rusher for the Giants, but only managed 38 yards on seven carries.
The Dallas Cowboys have been pretty good about containing opposing rushers in 2016. I'm pretty sure they have yet to allow a 100 yard rusher this season and let's just hope that streak continues this week.
The more one-dimensional the Cowboys can make the Giants offense, the easier it is to keep Eli Manning and the Giants wide receivers from taking over the game.
Contain Odell Beckham Jr.
I would've predicted that Odell Beckham Jr. would've had a huge game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but that really wasn't the case Sunday afternoon.
Now, Beckham did finished the game with 10 catches for 100 yards, but the Steelers secondary did a really good job of making things as difficult as possible the entire game. To say that that frustrated Beckham would be an understatement.
Back in the season opener, the Cowboys secondary limited Beckham to just four catches for 73 yards, but that was with Morris Claiborne in the lineup.
The Cowboys defense simply can't allow Beckham to take over the game if they want a chance of continuing their winning streak.
I expect the secondary for the Cowboys to be physical and make Beckham work for every catch he gets, much like the Steelers secondary.
What do you think the Dallas Cowboys learned from the Steelers/Giants game?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions on this topic.
Cowboys Sign Free Agent WR Deonte Thompson
The Dallas Cowboys added some speed to their receiver corps today by signing free agent Deonte Thompson. He played for both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills last season.
Thompson, who turned 29 last month, went undrafted in 2012. He had a quiet to start to his career as a reserve and practice squad guy in Baltimore and Chicago, but finally got a chance to shine with seven starts last year for the Bills. He 27 catches for 430 yards and one touchdown in just 11 games.
The #Cowboys signed WR Deonte Thompson, per agent @davidcanter. He gets 1-year, $2.5M with a $1M signing bonus.
Deonte brings some much-needed speed to the Cowboys offense. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash as a rookie, and while he's 29 now he still poses more of a vertical threat than the current Dallas receivers.
Given the low salary in this deal, Thompson may not be seen as much than a replacement for Brice Butler near the bottom of Dallas' depth chart. We also have to wait and see what happens with the draft and other moves this offseason to know where he fits into the bigger picture.
For now, though, Cowboys fans can take a little comfort in knowing the front office hasn't completely fallen asleep at the wheel.
Dallas Cowboys: How “Position-Flex” Has Handcuffed The 2015 Draft Class
Over the last few years the Dallas Cowboys have placed a high level of importance on "position flex." They've drafted Swiss-Army knife players which could be moved around to different positions on the field.
By drafting players like Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Woods last year, as well as Byron Jones in 2015, the Cowboys have tried to find these versatile players who can be used in multiple ways.
While this seems great on paper, this strategy has handcuffed the majority of their 2015 Draft Class, and is a key reason why the Cowboys seem to be in such a tough spot.
The Cowboys' first round pick in 2015, Byron Jones, quickly became a favorite of mine during his rookie season. Incredibly athletic, long, and skilled in coverage, Jones was able to be both a fantastic cover cornerback and a solid middle-of-the-field safety due to his range.
Due to both injuries to his teammates, and Jones' own versatility, the Cowboys coaching staff couldn't keep Jones in just one spot. Once they discovered how great he was in man coverage against tight ends, they became enamored with trying to play him in the box.
Once in the box, Jones' struggles as a run defender were highlighted, and both the organization and the fans soured on him quickly.
Now it is rumored that Byron Jones will be moving back to cornerback full time. And while I do hope this is the case, the fact that he is in year four, and the Cowboys haven't been able to find their first round pick a permanent home is a huge indictment on their ability to evaluate and develop talent.
Okay, hear me out.
The former third round pick of the 2015 Draft was brought in to be the swing tackle for the Cowboys his rookie year. Mainly due to injuries, Green did not see the field for much of his first two seasons. When he did fill in for Tyron Smith at left tackle in 2016, however, Green was very effective.
Of course, Chaz Green's last appearance with the Cowboys was ugly, giving up a plethora of sacks against the Atlanta Falcons. But Dallas might've made their own bed with Green during the beginning of the 2017 season, when they attempted to move him to left guard full time.
Instead of getting the increased work at tackle, and continuing to work as the swing tackle for the team in case of injury, Dallas started Green at left guard early on in the year. He struggled trying to move positions, and looked even worse when trying to move back to tackle.
Once again, the position flex bit the Cowboys right in the backside.
It's 2018 and we are still talking about what position to play La'el Collins on the offensive line. And that is solely on the coaching staff and front office, not Collins.
Collins was brought in as an undrafted free agent in 2015, but was widely regarded as a first round pick heading into that draft. Though he started at left tackle at LSU, Dallas shifted Collins inside to left guard in 2015. After taking over for Ronald Leary as the starter, Collins produced highlight blocks week after week.
Injuries shortened his 2016 campaign, but heading into 2017 the Cowboys decided to shift him back out to right tackle. Despite some early struggles, Collins progressed nicely throughout the year and became a solid starting right tackle. Plus, he has the upside to become one of the top right tackles in the league.
Instead, it is now being rumored the Cowboys might move him back to guard for 2018. And with that news, I continue to pull my hair out over the position-flex decisions this coaching staff and front office like to make.
If the Cowboys want to get the most out of each draft class, and effectively develop their talent, they need to let those players actually develop, rather than move them around each season. Hopefully they now understand this, and allow both Byron Jones and La'el Collins to reach their full potential.
Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal
At long last, the Dallas Cowboys have their first free agent addition of this offseason. Having lost starters Jonathan Cooper and Anthony Hitchens at left guard and linebacker respectively, the team has added depth at LB with Joe Thomas signing a two-year deal.
The 2018 season will actually mark Joe Thomas' second stint with the Dallas Cowboys, as he was signed to their practice squad in 2015. The team that signed Thomas out of South Carolina State following the 2014 draft, the Green Bay Packers, added Thomas back to their active roster for the 2015 season.
Source: Cowboys have agreed to a 2-year deal with free agent LB Joe Thomas. He visited the Cowboys today. Thomas has played in 42 games over the last three seasons with the Packers. He had a career-high 70 tackles in 2016.
Thomas has spent the last three seasons starting eight games for the Packers, recording 70 tackles and an interception in 2016.
A contingency plan of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith carrying the Cowboys for 16 games at LB requires adequate depth, which is exactly what the Cowboys are typically in the market for come free agency. Waiting longer than usual to make their first splash, the Cowboys absolutely need an addition like Thomas to perform better than last year's FA class.
Used in sub packages by the Packers while also playing special teams - where the Cowboys have lost core players in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber - Thomas will have a great chance to impress two new Dallas coaches in Ben Bloom and Keith O'Quinn.
Want to help make Inside The Star better?
We’re collecting feedback from our readers about the site. It only takes <2 minutes to complete, and can be done from any device.
Don’t worry, your information will not be shared with anyone but me (Bryson T.).
Star Blog2 days ago
Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?
Star Blog3 days ago
Xavier Woods, the Real Reason Cowboys Didn’t Pursue Tyrann Mathieu?
NFL Draft2 weeks ago
Mauricio’s 2018 NFL Mock Draft 1.0: Cowboys Steal Defensive Talent
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Dallas Cowboys Have Missing Piece at Offensive Line
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Cowboys 2018 Free Agency: What’s Left Before Market Opens?
Star Blog1 week ago
3 Former Penn State Alumni Cowboys Could Target in Free Agency
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Cowboys Defense: Bigger Need at Safety or Defensive End?
NFL Draft1 week ago
Final Cowboys Mock Drafts Before Free Agency Address Defensive Interior, Receiver