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After Two Strong Games, Cowboys Defense Looks Legit

Jess Haynie

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Jaylon Smith, Eli Manning, Giants

The Dallas Cowboys are now 1-1 after last night's victory over the New York Giants. Despite the record, though, their defense has put in two winning efforts. This young group, already viewed as an emerging entity before the season, appears to have officially arrived.

After two weeks, the Cowboys defense ranks third in yards (274 per game) and points (14.5 per game) allowed.  They currently the lead the NFL with nine team sacks, though Chicago and Seattle still have to play tonight.

There are still some situational issues, such as the team's difficulty stopping short-yardage runs. But overall, the Dallas defense has already emerged as one of top units in the league.

The premise of this article was inspired by a tweet from one of my Inside The Star colleagues last night:

John Williams ✭ on Twitter

Week one vs Jacksonville Odell Beckham Jr. 11 catches on 15 targets for 111 yards. Week to vs the #DallasCowboys 4 catches on 9 targets for 51 yards. Jacksonville allowed 15 points to the #Giants. Dallas allowed 13 points. Jacksonville had two sacks. Dallas 6.

The comparative analysis of how the Giants fared against the Jaguars defense, arguably the best in the NFL, and the Cowboys is strong evidence. Granted, they were on the road in Dallas and at home against Jacksonville. But doesn't account for all of the statistical disparity.

Along with the stats provided by John, you can look at the difference rushing yards. Dallas gave up just 35 total yards on the ground, not allowing Saquon Barkley to follow up last week's big game. The Jaguars surrendered 114 rushing yards last week, although 68 did come on a single big play.

In total offensive yardage, the Giants had 324 against Jacksonville and just 255 in Dallas. If that wasn't enough, 108 of last night's yards came in garbage time against soft, prevent-style coverage.

Granted, outside of Barkley, this Giants offense is very familiar to the Cowboys. They should be better versed in how to deal with it. But keep in mind that New York has a new offensive-minded head coach in Pat Shurmur and a new OC in Mike Shula.

In fact, the familiarity argument goes out the window when you look at how Dallas' Week 1 opponent performed yesterday.

After Two Strong Games, Cowboys Defense Looks Legit

Dallas Cowboys DE Demarcus Lawrence (AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek)

The Carolina Panthers fell 31-24 to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday after beating Dallas 16-8 a week ago. They scored eight more points on the road against a division rival than they had at home against the Cowboys.

The Panthers amassed 439 offensive yards against the Falcons yesterday. They had just 293 yards against Dallas. The Cowboys sacked Cam Newton three times and allowed an 82.4 passer rating. Atlanta had two sacks and Newton's passer rating rose to 105.3.

Of course, two games don't make a season. Dallas' defensive performance may not hold by the end of December, either due to injuries or teams figuring things out from film study.

But so far, so great.

The really exciting thing is how much better this team could get. Xavier Woods' return should be an upgrade at safety, which would also allow Jeff Heath to play closer to the line of scrimmage. Randy Gregory should be back next week after sitting out yesterday from concussion issues.

And then there's David Irving. If he comes back from suspension in Week 5 as the same player we saw last year, the dynamic capability of the defensive front goes up dramatically.

Along with those talented players returning, just the general growth and development of young talent across the defense should yield results. Chidobe Awuzie, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and others should all be better players by December they are now.

Dallas should be 2-0 right now based on their defensive play. The offense did its part last night, as opposed to Week 1, to avoid wasting the effort. As long as that continues, the Cowboys defense could carry this team into the postseason.



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!

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BREAKING: Ezekiel Elliott Handcuffed After Incident with Security Guard

Jess Haynie

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No Preseason Work Hurt Ezekiel Elliott's Early Season Production?

TMZ has released footage of Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott being handcuffed and escorted by police after an altercation with security at a Las Vegas music festival over the weekend.

Elliott was not arrested and no charges have been filed.

ProFootballTalk on Twitter

Ezekiel Elliott handcuffed but not charged after incident at Las Vegas music festival https://t.co/NJQ6csGgnv

The video shows Zeke engaged in what appears to be an argument with a female companion. Elliott is seen following her through the crowd, and then security starts to get involved after Zeke moves his body to block her from walking away.

One of the security guards says something that attracts Elliott's attention, causing him to move in closer. The guard falls backward from minimal contact. It as soon after that police get involved.

There isn't much here that would cause trouble for the average player, but that's hardly Elliott's situation. He's one of the most prolific stars in the NFL and already has history with the league for domestic violence and personal conduct issues.

Remember, no charges were filed when the NFL gave Elliott a six-game suspension in 2017 after accusations from an ex-girlfriend of domestic violence.

We will have to wait and see how Roger Goodell chooses to treat this latest issue.



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Dallas Cowboys

Ezekiel Elliott ‘Excited’ About Dallas Cowboys ‘Promise’ in 2019

John Williams

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Dallas Cowboys Still Plagued by Red Zone Struggles

There's a lot to look forward to as the team gears up for offseason training activities and minicamp. The 2019 Dallas Cowboys look like a potential contender in the NFC after making it to the divisional round of the playoffs before falling to the NFC representative Los Angeles Rams by a score.

The offseason additions the team has made in addition to the draft have many in Cowboys Nation excited about the Dallas Cowboys heading into the 2019 season. That includes Running Back Ezekiel Elliott.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Ezekiel Elliott: "I'm just excited about the group of guys we have. I'm excited about the talent we have on this team. I'm excited about the leadership group we have. I think we have a lot of the right pieces. I think we have a lot of promise for this season.

I think the Cowboys are right to be optimistic about their team heading into the season. They had one of the top 10 defenses in the NFL and an offense that was trending in the right direction over the last half of 2018.

On both the offensive and defensive side of the football the Dallas Cowboys have gotten better as a team.

The offense sees the return of Travis Frederick to the middle of the offensive line and though Joe Looney was good, he's no Travis Frederick. Frederick's return will improve communication along the offensive line and improve their run blocking up the middle; an area where the Cowboys struggled with consistency in 2018.

Another veteran returning to the Cowboys for 2019 is Tight End Jason Witten. Though he's slowed down some at 38 years old, having his leadership and veteran presence on a team attempting to make a deep playoff run is very important. Witten's as steady a player as has been in the NFL and should still be able to make plays in the run and pass game.

The additions of Randall Cobb and Tony Pollard give the Dallas Cowboys a more versatile group of players for new Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore to toy with. This versatility will allow them to keep teams off balance. With Randall Cobb, the Cowboys will be able to move Amari Cooper around the formation in order to find favorable matchups in the passing game. Tony Pollard gives the Cowboys a durable gadget option and big-play threat in the run and pass game. Pollard's ability as a returner could help the Cowboys get more favorable field position in 2019.

Ezekiel Elliott himself stands to benefit a great deal from the additions and changes the Cowboys made to the offense. Pollard is an upgrade as a running back to Rod Smith, so the Cowboys can cut Ezekiel Elliott's workload a little and keep him fresh by expanding on the two series a game the coaching staff used to give Smith.

On defense, they added Robert Quinn to a defensive line that already boasts one All-Pro pass rusher in DeMarcus Lawrence. Christian Covington, Kerry Hyder, and Trysten Hill provide depth to an interior that struggled against the Rams in the playoffs and the Indianapolis Colts during the regular season. The defensive line.

In addition to all that, the Cowboys will get to see what kind of progress their 2018 rookie standouts make in year two.

Leighton Vander Esch was a second-team All-Pro in 2018 and should have won defensive rookie of the year with his play. Connor Williams looks to have gained the necessary size and strength to play left guard in the NFL. A second offseason at guard should help him to improve at his new position. Michael Gallup was a revelation in the third round of the draft last year. After slowly being worked into the lineup over the first half of the season, he emerged as the Dallas Cowboys second wide receiver.

The NFC East and the NFC is a tough place to play. Every year, it's an uphill climb to win enough games to win the division or make the playoffs, but the Cowboys have put themselves in a fantastic position to do just that. Though no team has been a repeat winner of the NFC East since the early 2000s, the Dallas Cowboys have built a team that will be able to compete with any team in the NFL.

From the roster to the coaching staff, the Dallas Cowboys have built a squad that should get anyone excited. Are there questions as the team heads to training camp? Of course. But every team has questions at one position or another. The Cowboys have done an excellent job to minimize those questions through free agency and the draft and have one of the best teams in the NFL on paper.

The excitement that Ezekiel Elliott feels is warranted. The Dallas Cowboys do have a lot of promise as we look ahead. Now as they get ready to start ramping up practices, it's time for Elliott and the rest of the team to go prove it.

And I have a feeling they'll live up to that "promise."



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DT Leonard Williams May be Available, Should the Cowboys Explore a Trade?

John Williams

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DT Leonard Williams May be Available, Should the Cowboys Explore a Trade?

Per a report by Rich Cimini of ESPN, the New York Jets may be exploring a trade for their star defensive lineman Leonard Williams. With Williams set to hit free agency in 2020, the theory is the Jets may not be interested in locking up Williams long-term after just drafting Quinnen Williams with their top five selection in 2019.

Here's what Cimini had to say in his report:

"There's already talk in league circles that Gase could be looking to move on from Williams, who will be a free agent after the season. He's due to make a guaranteed $14.2 million in the final year of his contract. Gase hasn't said anything about Williams that would spark speculation, but it's not hard to connect the dots when examining the defensive line situation."

Rich Cimini - ESPN.com

Williams has been a really good player for the New York Jets who has played 3-4 defensive end and some defensive tackle for the Jets in his four-year career. A former sixth overall pick has had as many as seven sacks and as few as two sacks a season, but he's played in all 64 games in his career, starting 63. He's stayed healthy and been productive on a Jets defense that hasn't been very good over the last few years.

Defense & Fumbles Table
Game Def Def Def Def Def Fumb Fumb Fumb Tack Tack Tack Tack Tack
Year Tm GS Int Yds TD Lng PD FF Fmb FR Sk Comb Solo Ast TFL QBHits
2015 NYJ 15 3.0 63 29 34 7 21
2016* NYJ 16 2 0 0 7.0 68 36 32 11 19
2017 NYJ 16 1 6 0 6 1 2.0 47 22 25 3 25
2018 NYJ 16 0 0 0 0 2 5.0 42 27 15 11 20
Care 63 1 6 0 6 3 2 0 0 17.0 220 114 106 32 85
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/20/2019.

For the Cowboys defense, he would project as a 3-technique with the ability to be the Cowboys 1-technique in passing situations. Among interior defensive lineman, Leonard Williams finished 21st in run stops per Pro Football Focus and sixth in total pressures with 53. Williams was third among interior players in QB hits with 16 ahead of Kansas City Chiefs Defensive Lineman Chris Jones and Seattle Seahawks Defensive Tackle Jarran Reed. For reference, DeMarcus Lawrence had 63 total pressures and 11 QB hits in 2018, while Tyrone Crawford had only 37 total pressures.

The Dallas Cowboys have been working to reinforce their defensive line this offseason after struggling in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams when the Cowboys gave up over 200 yards rushing. Though they like Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins, they obviously weren't satisfied with the going into 2019 with just those two in the Dallas interior.

In free agency, the Cowboys added Christian Covington and Kerry Hyder and then drafted Trysten Hill with their second-round pick. They also added Daniel Wise, a player that was seen as a fourth or fifth rounder in most people's minds as an undrafted free agent and will compete for a roster spot.

As intriguing as Covington, Hyder, Hill, and Wise are in addition to Maliek Collins and Woods, Williams would be an immediate upgrade at 3-tech and the Dallas Cowboys should explore it, even if they don't plan on resigning him beyond 2019.

The Cowboys could swap expiring contracts by sending Maliek Collins to New York and a draft pick. Collins is unlikely to be resigned by the team in the 2020 offseason as they have plans for Hill as their 3-tech of the future.

The Dallas Cowboys showed with the trade for Robert Quinn that they're alright going after the one-year rental player. Leonard Williams would make their defense better for 2019 and while they have high hopes for Trysten Hill, Williams is a known asset right now and wouldn't prevent you from giving Hill snaps at 3-tech.

For a team hoping to make a Super Bowl run, adding a player like Leonard Williams makes a lot of sense. He's another disruptive player that would immediately improve your pass rush and also helps your run defense. The Dallas Cowboys have a team ready to win now, so now's the time to go get players that help you do so.



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