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Breaking Down Cowboys @ 49ers

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Cowboys Blog - Break Down: A Look At Cowboys vs 49ers

That was far from pretty.

The 23-6 final score is of no value, but the totality of how the team played has ramifications of what the depth chart will look like come week one. I took extensive note while watching last night and took away both positive and negatives from the team's play.

To get some of the more glaring negative, 49ers rookie RB/PR Jarryd Hayne, who is making a name for himself after coming over from the National Rugby League in Australia, broke several huge Punt Returns against the Cowboys' coverage unit. In all honesty, the group made him look as if he was a Hall Of Famer in waiting.

This is without mentioning the blocked Punt that Safety Tim Scott failed with his technique and Dan Bailey managed to miss a Field Goal....

Yes, Dan Bailey missed. That pretty much says it all for how bad special teams looked last night. Aside from Tim Scott delivering a thunderous tackle on the opening Kickoff to the 2nd half and Lucky Whitehead having a few decent returns, there wasn't much to like with that unit.

There were a number of missed tackles, bad angles, and lack of gap integrity on the Punt Coverage team. Of note, early Jameill Showers made several noticeable tackles on Special Teams during this game. Even more concerning was the Offensive Line.

Yes, I am speaking of the backups, but there was definitely disappointing play there. One one drive alone in the 2nd Quarter, R.J. Dill began the drive with a False Start. On 2nd, Down John Wetzel showed that he has little ability to sit down on a bull rush and stop the Defensive End from walking him back to the Quarterback. Finally on third down, Darrion Weems and La'el Collins did not communicate well on a stunt and led to Weeden getting sacked.

No, the sack was not Weeden's fault. But, it did force him out of the game. Dill and Wetzel were bad throughout the entire game and probably extinguished any opportunity either had at making the Practice Squad. As they have also shown next to nothing during all of Training Camp. Personally, I would cut one of them today and workout several other Tackles on Tuesday to see if an upgrade can be found. Keeping them around even in camp right now is taking up useful reps that a more polished Tackles with a higher upside could be receiving.

One of the more surprising negatives was Dustin Vaughan. While he hung in the pocket well at times to deliver the ball while taking a hit, he was overall bad. His interceptions were a combination of poor decisions, poor execution, and not seeing the field properly. His first interception was returned for a Touchdown, a ball he threw right into the arms of the Defensive Tackle. His feet weren't set and I am still not sure what he thought he saw on that play.

His second interception came from him staring down Lucky Whitehead and delivering an inaccurate ball in his direction. His eyes were not good during this game, as he rarely went through his progression. He was extremely fortunate to not throw a third as he delivered a ball on the move directly into a crowd of the 49ers secondary. Why he didn't simply throw the ball out-of-bounds on that play is a question he will have to address in team meetings.

Now there were some positives to this game. The Defensive Line was outstanding throughout, no matter who took the field. Coleman, Bishop, Gardner, Russell, and Gregory all made splash plays that showed up. This was the highlight of Ben Gardner's camp as he put himself back into the Defensive Line conversation. In the second quarter, Bishop and Gregory ran a nice stunt which led to Bishop ceiling off two blockers, allowing Gregory to get the sack. He was a continued force, in the 2nd Quarter he immediately got pressure off the snap and forced a hold on a 49ers Tackle as he would have had a free shot on Blaine Gabbert. Gregory's play really stood out the entire game.

Something the recently retired Justin Smith did for the recently released Aldon Smith for years in San Francisco. If the Cowboys can utilize more stunts like that during the season the sacks will come with regularity, as there's far too much athleticism on that unit to not get home on a free run to the Quarterback.

Ben Gardner's sack came on an inside move after feinting an outside rush. I have not seen him show that much quickness throughout camp thus far. He also had several other hurries throughout the game.  Bishop and Coleman should the willingness to hustle and run down run plays the entire night. A message Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli preaches, and something that is seen often from starting 1 Technique, Nick Hayden.

Keith Smith showed several flashes at Linebacker with a couple of Tackles For Loss, showing great tackling technique. Jasper Brinkley was not perfect last night, but his play was improved from the first Preseason game. Damien Wilson took a step back, not being in the correct position several times, but it a lot to ask for a rookie to be perfect through an entire game.

Wilber was a bit off playing his first game at Mike Linebacker, but again it is to be expected. Jonathan Brown made a nice tackle in the hole during the 3rd Quarter. Overall, not the best game for the Linebackers, but they did battle enough to keep the 49ers Offense from rolling over them.

The Secondary played well, starting from Corey White's great end zone breakup in the 1st Quarter extending through the rest of the game. Showers showed a lot of promise at Quarterback. While there were times where he would stare down his receiver, he showed a powerful arm on several throws and some toughness hanging in the pocket.His interceptions are correctable with more reps and film study. I did not see anything glaringly troubling with his interceptions, he just simply needs more repetitions in practice.

His touchdown throw to Nick Harwell was extremely impressive and showed a lot of poise on that drive, which would be the game's only offensive touchdown.

In a somewhat "feel good" moment, the much maligned AJ Jenkins was able to hold onto a ball after taking a vicious hit. He has had multiple drops during his career and throughout camp this year. Seventh Round draft pick, Tight End Geoff Swaim showed solid receiving skills and "want to" during this game. Showers threw him a great touch pass in the 4th Quarter that he was able to catch and shimmy his way upfield for the extra yard needed for the conversion on 4th-and-15. Gus Johnson showed a lot of heart to play this game without practicing much if at all this week. That kind of toughness could earn him a Practice Squad position.

Overall, there were things to like and dislike from this game. Special Teams needs to be cleaned up and the Linebackers need to sharpen up their game a bit going into next week. However with the play of the Defensive Line and Secondary, the defense is showing a lot of promise.



Avid Cowboys fan that will provide analytical analysis to the Draft, Film, and everything related to the team. You can find me @TheRealSmoothG on twitter.

Game Notes

Cowboys, Falcons Week 11 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Zack Martin

The Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons are both 4-5 and playing to keep their seasons alive. It's a mutual must-win game, and both will have to try to win it without some key players. Once again, we look at this week's injury reports.

Let's begin with your Cowboys, whose report is getting longer as the season wears on:

Dallas Cowboys

  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
  • DE Taco Charlton (shoulder) - OUT
  • DT David Irving (ankle) - OUT
  • DT Daniel Ross (calf) - OUT
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - OUT
  • DT Antwaun Woods (concussion) - Doubtful
  • G Zack Martin (knee) - Questionable
  • G Connor Williams (knee) - Questionable
  • DT Maliek Collins (knee) - Questionable
  • LB Joe Thomas (foot) - Questionable

The biggest news is the guy who won't miss tomorrow's game; All-Pro guard Zack Martin is expected to play despite his knee injury from last Sunday night. The Cowboys, already dealing with Travis Frederick's absence and now health issues at left guard, could ill afford to go without Martin in such a pivotal game.

Even if he was healthy, rookie Connor Williams might have a hard time getting in the game. Backup Xavier Su'a-Filo looked like an experienced former second-round pick last week, and he may be the better player for now.

The defensive line has been hit hard, particularly in the middle. With Irving and Ross out, Woods doubtful, and Collins uncertain, Dallas called up DT Christian Ringo from the practice squad. They will also be without Taco Charlton, who could play inside some. Veteran Caraun Reid will be seeing a lot of playing time.

Sean Lee's ongoing absence has become almost an afterthought now with the stellar play of Leighton Vander Esch. We've seen in the past when missing Lee meant disaster on defense, but Dallas' first-round rookie has helped mitigate the damage.

Atlanta Falcons

  • LB Deion Jones (foot) - OUT

It's a short list for Atlanta, but the one name on it is a big one. Arguably the team's best defensive player, Deion Jones will miss the game with a foot injury.

The Falcons' injury issues have been more in players suffering season-ending injuries. Both starting guards, Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco, are on injured reserve. Star running back Devonta Freeman is also there, and those losses help explain Atlanta's 30th-ranked rushing offense.

Both starting safeties are also on IR; Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. Atlanta has one of the league's worst passing defense this year without them, ranking 30th in yards allowed and 28th in opponent passer rating.

So yes, the Falcons injury report compared to the Cowboys' may raise some eyebrows. But in terms of who has most of their key guys, Dallas is arguably still better off.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

The Dallas Cowboys play their next three games in 13 days, all critical to their hopes of winning the NFC East despite alternating wins and losses since week one. For the Cowboys to earn consecutive road wins, their first coming on Sunday night at the Eagles, they'll have to come out of Atlanta in much better shape than they did just a year ago.

As expected in the NFL, a lot has changed in this year. The Cowboys 27-7 loss at the Falcons in their first game without Running Back Ezekiel Elliott was the beginning of the end on a season that forced a multitude of coaching changes in Dallas.

The Cowboys stubbornness in allowing Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn to sack Dak Prescott six times by beating Chaz Green and Byron Bell is something they hoped to move past when new positional coaches were brought in at OL, TE, QB, and WR.

It took the team admitting that these moves below Offensive Coordinator Scot Linehan were not all correct two weeks ago for the Cowboys to see any real progress, but with their win last week there's hope that the Cowboys are the improved team expected weeks ago - arrived just in time for Thanksgiving.

Firing Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander was the first move, as the Cowboys named Marc Colombo OL Coach and Hudson Houck his assistant. Colombo told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas this week that he has injured Center Travis Frederick on a headset during games as well.

Colombo, Houck, and Frederick have the Cowboys offensive line confident in their ability to play to their strengths, rewarded with a renewed faith in the zone blocking scheme that was forgotten under Alexander.

If the Cowboys offensive line was their first problem in last year's Falcons loss (it was), it's becoming their biggest strength at the right time in the season.

The Cowboys necessary changes didn't stop here though.

In desperate need of a play maker on the outside, the Cowboys are seeing their investment into Wide Receiver Amari Cooper pay off so far. Cooper is averaging 3.2 yards of separation on his routes this season, ahead of Cole Beasley's 2.6 yards as the next closest pass catcher.

Cooper's presence was a big part of Ezekiel Elliott's 151 yard rushing performance at the Eagles. A player that can win on the outside with ease and dictate coverage has benefited Prescott and the Cowboys game plan on offense enough to send away a first round pick.

It will be up to this "rebuilt" Cowboys offense to match the Falcons on Sunday. Atlanta is averaging 27.1 points per game this season, but a much more dangerous 32.2 at home. After a 1-4 start, the 4-5 Falcons are playing in front of their home fans for the first time in two weeks, losing at the Browns in week ten.

The Cowboys felt they'd be prepared for games like this after their offseason moves, instead needing to show the type of in-season urgency that's been rare for Jason Garrett's team. The same can be said about a Falcons team that's experienced playing with their backs to the wall much sooner than the Cowboys have this season, setting up a big NFC match up in the early slot Sunday.

Dak Prescott will be thankful that Chaz Green nor Byron Bell are protecting him, wanting nothing more than to deliver another win for the Cowboys to take into Thanksgiving against the division-leading Washington Redskins. Not all of the coaches responsible for the lack of adjustment in last year's game are gone. What the Cowboys do have are tangible new ideas from coaches that understand they need more than a win at the defending Super Bowl champions to call this Cowboys season a success.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

Do Or Die: Chidobe Awuzie Must Improve Sunday, Or Cowboys Season Could End

Kevin Brady

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Will Chidobe Awuzie's Return Benefit The Cowboys' Defense?

Coming into the season there was a lot of hype surrounding the Dallas Cowboys' cornerbacks. With Byron Jones moving from safety full time, and now second year player Chidobe Awuzie playing opposite Jones after a promising rookie season, there was a lot for Cowboys fans to be excited about.

Through the first 10 weeks of the year, though, only one of those two has maintained fans' excitement. While Byron Jones has been arguably the best cornerback in all of football, Chidobe Awuzie has been damn-near an automatic completion when thrown at.

Awuzie has a -5.8 coverage rating this season, 65th among cornerbacks in the NFL. Coverage rating is a metric which factors in how often a cornerback is targeted as well as how many passes they've defensed per target. Quarterbacks also have a 116.6 passer rating when targeting Awuzie, compared to just 64.5 when targeting Byron Jones. For comparisons sake, Jones' coverage rating is a +45! So you can see why "cornerback opposite of Jones" is becoming a need for the Cowboys.

What's perplexing about Awuzie's season, though, is that he is only giving up an average 0.95 yards of separation, 27th in the league (courtesy of playerprofiler.com). So while Awuzie is playing relatively sticky coverage, he's still being targeted often, and he's still allowing completions way too often.

This week, Chidobe Awuzie will be tested once again, this time by the dynamic passing game of the Atlanta Falcons. The match-up many fans are focusing on is that between Byron Jones and Julio Jones, but how Awuzie does against Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu may play a bigger factor in the result.

Both Ridley and Sanu are solid supporting receivers, and considering how much attention the defense typically has to pay to Julio Jones, they tend to get man coverage often. This allows for a precise route runner like Ridley to take advantage of opportunities, and come away with the types of big plays we've seen from him this year.

When matched up with either of these weapons, Awuzie will need to continue to stay close, but play and defense the ball better. He must continue to make it hard on these receivers and force them into contested catches, but hopefully he can improve on his play when the ball gets to the catch point.

Sunday will be another big test for the Cowboys' young defense. And as well as they have played most weeks, this game has the potential to be a season ender if certain guys do not step up. One of those guys who will certainly play a key role in influencing the result in Chidobe Awuzie.



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