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Anthony Spencer, Does He Have What It Takes?

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Since the departure of Greg Ellis earlier this week, I have had a question tumbling around in my head. Can Anthony Spencer take the next step? I have yet to be able to answer this question.

The opinions, much like the Swine flu, are wide spread. Although I do not feel we should be wearing a mask and disinfecting everything we touch when trying to figure this out, the thought did cross my mind though.

Anthony Spencer has shown flashes of brilliance and mediocrity. Just when we think he is taking the next step, he fails to do the most elementary of tasks or gives a lack luster effort.

Anthony has as much talent as you could ask for in a 3-4 scheme OLB, so what seems to be his major hold up? That is a question I have been struggling with - on one hand one could say that he is a little lazy (as evidence showed in hard knocks last year by failing to go to rehab) but you might also say he lacks drive. Then on the other hand one could reasonably say that "well he is a young guy, and with the small number of reps he has had it is just going to take a little more time."

As the old saying goes "There are two sides to every story and the truth lies somewhere in the middle!" and this case is no different.

The time however has come for Anthony Spencer to either "shit or get off the pot!" Neither the Cowboys nor he have the luxury of him giving half hearted efforts. There are several young men who were recently drafted by the Cowboys, eager to take that spot.

As a general rule I try not to question a professional athletes "drive" too much, just because if you have made it to "The League" you have obviously been at least somewhat driven, and who am I to speculate on what they have been through to get where they are, because if it were easy we would all be doing it!

The hope is that Anthony has been paying attention and absorbing all he could from Greg Ellis and DeMarcus Ware, and that he has been training hard, and is ready to explode onto the scene this year.

This is his chance! And there will not be another chance quite like this one, and he knows it. Now he just needs to prove that he deserves it, and if he does no one will question the decision to release Greg Ellis.

Spencer will have the opportunity this year to wreak havoc on opposing team's quarterbacks. Teams will be focusing their attention towards the likes of DeMarcus Ware, Bradie James, and Jay Ratliff leaving Spencer in one on one situation's.

The thing that concerns me about Spencer is he has shown a knack for having big plays and big games, followed immediately by such sloppy, and half hearted play. These things simply do not just go away.

The team has now completed its OTA campaign for this year, and while there was certainly a lot of talk about him getting the opportunity, there was not much talk about his actual play during those OTA's.

I understand that there are no pads being worn and it they are primarily walk through and individual work outs, but with as much talking as Wade Phillips likes to do about the status of his players, it's been somewhat odd to not hear anything about Spencer, Don't you think?

The jury is still out on Anthony Spencer and will probably be in deliberations for quite a while yet. So for now I am going to wait on answering my questions concerning him, how long I hold onto them is in his hands.

What do you think - Can he be what we all want him to be? Or is he the second coming of Barbie Carpenter?



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6 Comments
  • Jonathan

    Anthony Spencer received rave reviews coming into the season last year, however, the combination of injury and the presence of a malcontented veteran slowed his progress. I, for one, have fewer questions about Anthony’s ability then most of the young players currently projected as starters. Will Mike Jenkins hesitancy to make plays spill over from last year? Was Orlando Scandrick play a fluke? Is Gerald Sensabaugh the cover safety we hope he is? Can Mike Mickens make the transition from college well enough to be relied on in the Dime? Can Felix Jones stay healthy? Was Tashard Choice explosion on the scene the result of playing against players that had slowed with season wear and tear?

    The main knocks on Anthony Spencer, in my opinion, is mental. Has he learned to stay in his lane, rather than trying to use his speed to move round potential blockers to make the play. That is a rookie error, that is understandable for a player moving from DE in the 4-3 to OLB in the 3-4. In terms of physicality, he could be compared to Demarcus Ware. And if he is 80% the player that Ware is, I think we can expect a pretty solid tandem of LB’s, which in the 3-4, is the most important key to a successful defense.

    • bags030404

      Very well said! While he may not be one of the main areas of concern on this team, he can surely help take the pressure off some of the others.

  • Bo

    I don’t know about you guys.. But I am pumped about Spencer. I feel like he is going to be everything we want him to be, maybe not right away, but give it time!

  • bags030404

    I hope so! Hopefully he has grown up a little bit, and is ready to take advantage of his opportunity!

    • https://insidethestar.com/ Doran Palmer

      That’s what I’m hoping for. His little incident off the field doesn’t worry me very much, I mean who wouldn’t let loose after a loss like that at the end of a year like that.

      But he is still quite inexperienced when it comes to the pass rushing game, though good against the run. I wonder how well he’ll handle the pressure of the starting job on his shoulders alone.

  • Jonathan

    Perhaps this is wishful thinking writing, but my guess is one of the reasons the Cowboy’s allowed Ellis to walk so soon before training camp has two-fold wisdom: one, they wanted to grant Ellis the respect he deserves, being one of our more tenured veterans, allowing him time to catch on with another franchise prior to the season and two, they wanted Anthony Spencer to understand, prior to the true training camp beginning, that the Cowboy’s are placing alot of confidence in him to step up. I’d imagine, as a result, Spencer is training harder to prepare himself for the upcoming season then he would, if he was slotted to share snaps with another player.

    The other aspect of this for him to consider are the 4 linebackers the Cowboys drafted. Sure, Jason Williams and Stephen Hodge have been slotted as ILB, but that’s not written in stone. If any of the four show they can shine above what Spencer is doing, he is probably not so safe that he can assume the job is his regardless of what player he shows up as in training camp.

Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Leverage Defense to Reach .500 Against Falcons

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Leverage Defense to Reach .500 Against Falcons

The Dallas Cowboys are returning home for Thanksgiving with a 5-5 record, needing to earn road wins at Philadelphia and Atlanta in the last two weeks to do so. Sunday's revenge win at the Falcons did not come easy, as the Cowboys conceded their first touchdown in the final two minutes of regulation to tie the game.

Missed opportunities in the red zone and penalties all had a say in the Cowboys needing a walk off Brett Maher field goal to win. Running Back Ezekiel Elliott once again sparked the offense in the second half, as the Cowboys defense assured this game wouldn't be a shootout in the first 30 minutes.

Here are my observations on the Cowboys latest thrilling win, greatly increasing their chances at reclaiming the top spot in the NFC East considering the Redskins home loss to the Texans.

  • A great down-the-line play from rookie Dorance Armstrong on the Falcons' opening possession to set up DeMarcus Lawrence's first sack.

The Cowboys came into this game thin across the defensive line. Defensive Tackle Maliek Collins and Defensive End Dorance Armstrong really took advantage of the opportunity, pushing the pocket against Matt Ryan and freeing up the Cowboys linebackers to be themselves.

Lawrence's sack was the play that got the Cowboys off the field on third down, but Armstrong meeting Ito Smith in the hole for no gain was as big of a play on second down. The Falcons were smart to test the interior of the Cowboys defense and use the power run to set up their vertical passing game, but Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard simply had their guys ready to play.

If Collins and Armstrong can sustain their high-energy level of play with Antwaun Woods and Daniel Ross working their way back into the Cowboys rotation at DT, this defense can reach a new level of play given their speed in the back seven and ability to give opposing offensive lines fits with just four up front.

  • Cole Beasley did more than enough to make up for it, but his drop in the end zone on the Cowboys first scoring drive is one he'll want back for a while.

The Cowboys play calling on their first goal-to-go situation left a lot to be desired, but Beasley was still able to make a scoring play with the ball in his hands at the pylon. Beasley bobbled the ball going to the ground and couldn't come up with it.

On the next play, the Cowboys finally targeted Amari Cooper, although without Ezekiel Elliott on the field. It was the combination of Cooper on the outside and Elliott in the backfield that provided a boost to the Cowboys offense last week at the Eagles, and for whatever reason they went away from it consistently against the Falcons.

Beasley's 19 yard catch and run on the Cowboys final drive set them up to run Elliott and kick the game winning field goal, giving Prescott an easy target on a crossing route. These are the types of inconsistencies the Cowboys will have to happily live with as they review this win and prepare on a short week for the Redskins.

  • Head Coach Jason Garrett should be questioned about how his offense handled the last drive of the first half.

Trailing by three in a game still looking for its first touchdown, the Cowboys came out firing with 29 seconds left in the first half before shutting the drive down themselves. After Elliott advanced the ball to the Cowboys 35 and prompted a timeout, his catch and run for eight yards was the final play of the half.

I have no problem with the Cowboys getting the ball safely into the hands of Elliott, but after gaining positive yards on two receptions it's inexcusable to sit on a timeout without attempting a pass to the end zone.

  • The Cowboys play calling improved in the second half, evident on Dak Prescott's rushing touchdown to give the Cowboys a 12-9 lead.

Again, taking the good with the bad, the Cowboys did go to this zone read look one too many times in the second half. From four yards out against a defense playing without one of their most talented players in Linebacker Deion Jones, Prescott faking to Elliott and keeping himself is as smart and safe a play as Linehan could have called.

Prescott's score was followed by Leighton Vander Esch's second interception in as many weeks, allowing the Cowboys to go right back to hammering the football. It took just two carries for Elliott to cover 31 yards and put the Cowboys ahead 19-9 off the turnover.

His 23-yard touchdown was sprung by Right Guard Zack Martin, who deserves a ton of credit for not only dealing with an injury sustained last week but seemingly finding an even higher level of play since then to motivate his teammates.

Joe Looney filled in well for Travis Frederick once again, and Xavier Su'a-Filo replaced a now-healthy Connor Williams for the second straight game, making Martin's elite level of play much more important.

Martin's lone mistake in this game came at a costly moment though, as a false start penalty backed the Cowboys up before punting it back to the Falcons for the tying score. Although the penalty created a third and 13 that Dallas used to keep the clock running on a dump off to Elliott, their second down play call to go with another zone read was costly as well.

Prescott lost two yards on a play that didn't fool the Falcons in the slightest, creating the original third and eight situation.

  • Chidobe Awuzie was actually in good position on Julio Jones' fourth quarter TD, but as has been the case all season he reacted late and was beat with the ball.

Awuzie ran stride for stride with Jones, doing his best to force the Falcons best receiver towards the sideline. To Jones' credit, he was able to stay true to his route and run under a perfect pass from Matt Ryan.

Awuzie's fate was sealed on the play when he failed to react in time to jump with Jones, who simply elevated over the Cowboys struggling cornerback to give the Falcons new life in this game. Awuzie has been given every opportunity to be the Cowboys starter across from Byron Jones, trusted by Kris Richard to be a valuable part of this defense.

Quarterbacks in need of a completion have been able to pick on Awuzie far too much this season. The Cowboys don't appear to be in any rush to change this, as Cornerback Jourdan Lewis is designated to handling jet sweeps for the Cowboys offense while Anthony Brown remains the starter in the slot.

It was Brown that struggled through all of 2017 before finding his form again this year, perhaps giving Awuzie some hope that he can respond sooner rather than later.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The early slate of games proved to be a massive one for NFC East implications. The Cowboys escaped Atlanta with a win, and minutes later the Texans put the finishing touches on a win at the Redskins. Much earlier in the afternoon, unbeknownst to the Cowboys fighting for their life at the time, the Redskins also lost Quarterback Alex Smith.

Smith broke his tibia on a hit from J.J. Watt, and will need season ending surgery according to his Head Coach Jay Gruden.

This division has been waiting for a team to seize control of it all season. Realizing this, the Cowboys didn't sulk through their poor start and made the right moves to play into contention - playing as the desperate team that often achieves a lot in this game through their last eight quarters.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Leverage Defense to Reach .500 Against Falcons" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Enjoy Double Win as Redskins Lose

Mauricio Rodriguez

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3 Reasons Why RB Ezekiel Elliott Will Dominate in 2018

The Dallas Cowboys looked great on the road against the Atlanta Falcons. There were very few things to complain about their last showing and now that they're back at .500, the season doesn't seem lost as previously thought. After all, the NFC East has been a mediocre division so far in 2018 and the division title is not that far from the Cowboys' grasp.

In fact, if they win this Thursday on Thanksgiving, the Dallas Cowboys would become the NFC East's division leader. The Washington Redskins were off to a great start on the season but after falling to the Houston Texans on Sunday, they only hold a one game-lead over the Cowboys.

This will be the second time of the year these two teams face each other. Back in week 7, the Cowboys played one of their worse games on the year in Washington. Many times the Cowboys shot themselves on the foot until they failed to get to overtime as Brett Maher's FG attempt bounced off the goalpost.

This time though, things should be different.

The team is on a two-game winning streak on the road against the last two NFC Champions. Of course, neither of these teams are the same than they were in previous years, but Dallas has done a good job these past two weeks. Some staff members might be coaching for their jobs as the team approaches "now or never" territory to contend in 2018. Although play-calling and execution haven't been perfect, at least the offense is showing signs of life.

Both the Cowboys and the Redskins suffered key injuries on Sunday. Towards the end of the game, Cowboys' LT Tyron Smith went down injured and headed to the locker room. With his injury history and a short week on deck, it's tough to imagine Smith will suit up on Thursday.

David Helman on Twitter

Tyron Smith, as only he could say it: "It didn't feel good, but I'll be alright." #cowboyswire

However, the more serious injury came for the Redskins. Quarterback Alex Smith suffered a broken tibia and fibia and will end his season due to surgery. With Colt McCoy playing at QB for Washington, winning the NFC East will become an easier task for the Cowboys.

But they can't take the win for granted. This is a flawed, inconsistent team we're talking about. On a short week, it'll require a lot of effort to beat their hated division rivals.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Enjoy Double Win as Redskins Lose" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL 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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Game Notes

DAL 22, ATL 19: Elliott, Maher Carry Cowboys to Season-Saving Win

Jess Haynie

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Ezekiel Elliott

A last-minute field goal by Brett Maher lifted the Dallas Cowboys to a 22-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. On the strength of 201 yards of total offense out of Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas improved to 5-5 and arguably saved their 2018 season.

Elliott had 122 yards rushing and 79 receiving today, plus scored one touchdown, to make up well over half of the team's offensive production. Dak Prescott was also solid, throwing for over 200 yards and committing no turnovers.

Dallas and Atlanta traded field goals in the first half, and the Falcons took a 6-3 lead into the locker room. But the Cowboys answered with a tying field goal on their first second-half possession, then scored a touchdown on their next drive.

Maher was 3/3 on his field goals today, which included a 50-yarder. A missed extra point created concern, but the Cowboys kicker delivered in the biggest moments.

Once again, Dallas' defense was impressive and played a major part in the win. The Falcons never got into the endzone until their last possession.

Game Notes

  • Leighton Vander Esch had another interception, securing a tipped ball that lucked its way into his grasp. He also made some big tackles and continued last week's exceptional play.
  • DeMarcus Lawrence was credited with 1.5 sacks, getting him back among the league leaders with 8.0 on the year.
  • Elliott was Dallas' leading receiving today. Next up was Cole Beasley with five catches for 51 yards, and Cole's day could've been better if not for a dropped touchdown pass.
  • Jeff Heath nearly had his second interception of the year, but Falcons WR Julio Jones made an impressive play to hit Heath and break up the catch.
  • Tyron Smith left the game on the final drive with an injury, but Cam Fleming came in and the team didn't suffer for it. We'll have to see what the short Thanksgiving week means for Smith's status against the Redskins.
  • Speaking of Washington, the NFC East leaders fell to 6-4 today at home against the Houston Texans. Even worse for them, QB Alex Smith suffered a nasty ankle injury is almost assuredly out for weeks to come. Colt McCoy will be their starting QB on Thursday against Dallas.
  • If Dallas wins next week, they will pull even with Washington in overall record, division record, and split the head-to-head series. With the Eagles facing a tough road game today in New Orleans, and with Alex Smith going down for Washington, the NFC East may have just become the Cowboys' to control.



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