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Boys vs Hawks: Time to see what’s really under the hood

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Cowboys Blog - Boys vs Hawks: Time to see what's really under the hood

Two weeks ago, I wrote of a 3-game litmus test looming against New Orleans, Houston, and Seattle.  Test passed already.  Now it’s just a matter if the grade will be an A, B, or C.

Trouncing New Orleans was unexpected.  A hard-fought, strength-versus-strength victory against Houston was far more predictable.  Left is Seattle in the great northwestern unknown, where teams’ hopes have often seen a noisy and unceremonious bludgeoning.

A decade of Cowboys history hangs pessimistically over the weekend.  However, more recent events foreshadow better.  I truly have no idea what to expect Sunday, but I can’t wait to find out.

There’s nothing wrong with 4-2, which is why that overtime win was so incredibly important.  Of course, 5-1 with a win up there in that snake pit will turn the nation on its side.  Imagine the pain and angst at the Cowboys for not playing the prescribed role given them as league comedy fodder.  A sinkhole might engulf LandoverSteven A. Smith might switch to soccer.

While expectations should be tempered, it is imperative that Dallas plays well.  A win would be glorious.  A hard-fought loss would be perfectly acceptable.  But a whooping at the hands of Seattle could upset the mojo and turn things a sour direction.  There’s your A, B, and C grade scenarios right there for the litmus test.  At least the D and F possibilities are gone.

In truth, the next really important games lie after Seattle, with home games against the Giants, Redskins, and Cardinals waiting.  (That is, if the Cowboys have home games anymore. We should call them “proximity games” from now on because I don’t see much of a home-field advantage in this team’s future going forward in that building.)  Those games will have a greater effect on the playoffs for Dallas than Sunday in terms of where the Cowboys are in this redevelopment process.

I believe the Cowboys are built to play well in Seattle.  The run game is the best in the biz right now and is suited for that environment.  It’ll milk clock, and it’ll open things up for the passing game far more than what other teams can do against Seattle.  Washington looked lost Monday night.

The defense is more iffy in this match-up, especially with Bruce Carter out and Rolando McClain gimpy, if not out as well. Geez, what a difference that guy makes.  Best free agent signing in the NFL.  Good on you, Jason and Jerry.  I hope he can play, but if not, get him ready for the more-important Giants game.

What Dallas is doing defensively surprisingly reminds me of Seattle, flying to every ball and playing fast.  Granted, the talent is inferior to the Seahawks’ defenders, but receivers are getting almost nothing after they catch the ball.  Running backs aren’t breaking tackles, even when they break through to the secondary.  Rod Marinelli has his defense playing well, and without Ware, Hatcher, and Lee.  How is that possible?  Excuse my sarcasm.

Pre-snap penalties are down.  Mental mistakes are down.  Romo’s back is relatively quiet.  The offensive line is everything it was hyped to be.  And the defense isn’t the worst in NFL history as the experts promised us. What we have here is a pretty tight ship, thank you.

Now it’s time to open up the valves, get on the Autobahn, and get a real idea of what’s under the hood. Plenty of season remains to tweak and add to the offense, and hopefully pass rush is on the way with DeMarcus Lawrence and Josh Brent.  Enough with the linebacker injuries, too, if you please.

Color me intrigued.  Bring it on, Seattle.



Game Notes

#DALvsCIN: Can WR Lance Lenoir Continue To Impress?

Kevin Brady

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Lance Lenoir

Entering training camp projecting who would make the final roster from the Dallas Cowboys wide receiving room was a crapshoot. The combination of misfits from other teams, unproven young guys, and a couple of Cowboys veterans makes this position group the most questioned across the entire roster.

But while Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, and Michael Gallup were stealing headlines, Lance Lenoir was making a name for himself among the Cowboys faithful.

After serving on the practice squad for the Cowboys a year ago, Lenoir seems to have entered 2018 with one goal in mind: to make the official game-day roster. And even if he falls short of this goal, it won't be due to any fault of his own.

Day in and day out Lance Lenoir has been a consistent wide out, catching nearly everything thrown his way and running some of the crisper routes on the team. Under new receivers coach Sanjay Lal, Lenoir has become a technical route runner and dangerous receiving threat.

Maybe most importantly for his future with the team, Lenoir has developed an obvious chemistry with starting quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott has continued to compliment Lenoir throughout training camp, and you know that the Cowboys front office is well aware of Prescott's trust in Lenoir on the field.

During the preseason opener against the 49ers, Lance Lenoir caught his first touchdown of the season, dazzling with his toe-tap ability. If he is going to steal a roster spot away from one of the more seasoned wide outs, however, he will have to remain that consistent target.

This Saturday, Lenoir gets another shot to prove why he's not only deserving of a roster spot, but of a starting spot. Sure, it might be a bit of a stretch, but if he continues to play like he has during camp and preseason, Lenoir could find himself working with the 1's more frequently.

Look out for Lance Lenoir against the Bengals this week, as he makes it harder and harder for the Cowboys to cut him by the second.



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#DALvsCIN: Bengals DL Gives Cowboys OL Formidable Test

Kevin Brady

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The Star News - Bengals At Cowboys: ITS Staff Picks And Notes
Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

During their preseason opener, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line faced its first test of the season. The young, athletic, and downright talented defensive line of the 49ers gave the Cowboys starting five a chance to gauge their offseason progress thus far.

I'd say the starting group passed the test, while the backups and depth players looked a bit more shaky. The good thing about football, though, is that they get a shot to do it all again this Saturday.

This week's opponent, the Cincinatti Bengals, feature some serious talent upfront. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins is one of the best interior defenders in all of football, terrorizing centers and guards since he entered the league.Carl Lawson, Auburn

On the edge is one of my 2017 draft favorites, Carl Lawson. Lawson was a draft target of mine for the Cowboys, but it appears the entire league missed on the stud edge rusher during that draft. During his rookie season a year ago, Lawson racked up 8.5 sacks and looked like the best rookie rusher in all of football. It's rare that a rookie defensive end tallies the sack total that Lawson did in 2017, but then again, Lawson is a rare type of player.

Opposite of Carl Lawson is veteran pass rusher Carlos Dunlap. Together, Atkins and Dunlap have been one of the more dangerous pass rush duos for quite some time, but the additions of Lawson and Jordan Willis make them an incredibly impressive group.

During the Bengals' preseason opener against the Chicago Bears, their defensive line looked to be in midseason form.

Though Geno Atkins had the team's only sack, the trio of Atkins, Lawson, and Dunlap looked as prolific as ever.

This deep and talented defensive line is a more-than worthy test for the Cowboys this Saturday. Rookie Connor Williams will likely have to block Geno Atkins at some point, and though he looked promising against the 49ers, this week presents a whole different challenge.

Many now expect veteran center Travis Frederick to miss Saturday's game as well, due to his shoulder troubles during training camp. If Frederick were to miss the start, Joe Looney would be thrown into the first against this first team defensive front of the Bengals.

A rookie at left guard and Looney at center might not be the best ingredients against Geno Atkins and company, but it'll be what they have to roll with.

Still, Saturday will give us another chance to see what the 2018 Dallas Cowboys offensive line is all about.



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Game Notes

Film Review: Connor Williams Overall Impressive In Preseason Debut

Kevin Brady

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Film Review: Connor Williams Overall Impressive In Preseason Debut

The collapse of the 2017 Dallas Cowboys can be, in large part, attributed to the collapse of their offensive line. When left tackle Tyron Smith was forced to miss time with various injuries, neither Chaz Green nor Byron Bell could get the job done in his place. Not only were these two replacements unsatisfactory, however, they were disastrous.

From the beginning of the 2017 season the Cowboys had a problem at left guard as well. With Ronald Leary departing for Denver and La'el Collins replacing Doug Free at right tackle, the left guard spot was left to an open competition between Jonathan Cooper and Chaz Green. Quite frankly, neither was impressive.

As a result Dak Prescott's sophomore season was nowhere near as fun or remarkable as his rookie season, and the Cowboys faltered down the stretch as a team. Trying to rectify these issues, Dallas drafted Texas offensive lineman Connor Williams in the second round of last year's draft.

Though it could be argued that, on paper, the Cowboys had more pressing needs than their All-Pro filled offensive line, adding a player like Connor Williams was exactly what this team needed to do if it wanted to emulate its 2016 success.

So, through one preseason game, how does the rookie look? Let's take to the film to decide just how good (or bad) Connor Williams was in his debut.

dalvssf2018 connor williams

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Let's begin with the bad. Really the only completely poor rep of the night for Connor Williams came on the first drive of the game. Williams is working against former first round pick DeForest Buckner here. Buckner, lined up as the 3 technique over Williams' outside shoulder, knows he is in a one-on-one situation with the rookie.

Buckner immediately swipes Williams' hands down, quickly flipping his hips and getting upfield. Besides not getting a strong enough punch, Williams' biggest mistake is that he stops his feet on contact. This allows Buckner to get him off balance, forcing Williams to bend at the waist and look lost.

Buckner then blows by him for the easy quarterback hit.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 2

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Later on the same drive we see Williams struggle to execute a reach block. Once again Williams is faced with a 3-technique, this time defensive tackle Sheldon Day. Day gets a great get-off, beating Williams initially with his first step. Day then does a great job of stoning Williams' playside shoulder and redirecting the running back.

This is another example of Connor Williams needing to increase his play strength and speed a bit. Multiple Cowboys reporters at training camp have mentioned these issues with Williams' game, and they flashed on tape during this rep.

Thankfully for both Connor Williams and the Cowboys, things only went uphill from here.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 3

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

On Dak Prescott's touchdown pass to Michael Gallup we see Connor Williams correct everything he had wrong earlier.

Williams comes out of his stance square, delivers a solid punch, and stones the defensive lineman at the line of scrimmage. Williams stays strong with his hands even as the defender attempts to swipe them down as Buckner successfully did earlier.

He allows for no interior pass rush and keeps Prescott's vision clear down the field.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 4

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Earlier on the same drive we see Connor Williams work well off a double team and on to the second level. Williams delivers a solid punch to the 1-technique on the inside of him, allowing Travis Frederick plenty of time to overtake the man and drive him back.

What's most impressive, though, is how Williams keeps his shoulders square and his eyes on the second level the entire time. He never buries his head or over-commits to the down lineman, allowing himself to be an athlete and help spring Rod Smith for a nice gain.

Despite some legit reasons for concern about Williams' game, I do believe he will be fine moving forward. Connor Williams is an excellent plug and play left guard who provides some tackle depth as well, and is a vital addition to the Cowboys 2018 offense. His debut performance gives all of us even more reasons to be excited about this offensive line.



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