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Game Notes

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

Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles

Kevin Brady

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Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There's no doubt the Dallas Cowboys passing game faltered in 2017. Though never expected to throw for many yards, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys failed to maximize their attempts down the stretch. The passing game was simply inefficient and ineffective.

One reason the passing game took a step back was the disappearance of slot receiver Cole Beasley. Whether you blame defenses adjusting their coverages on third downs towards Beasley, Beasley growing another year older, or quarterback Dak Prescott, Beasley simply didn't look like the same player in 2017.

In the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cowboys selected a wide out who many anticipate could replace Beasley, in time. Rookie wide receiver Ryan Switzer rarely got chances to make an impact on offense this season, designated as the return man for much of the year. With Cole Beasley out for the season finale, however, Switzer got his chance to make a name for himself.

While the numbers were far from gaudy, Ryan Switzer showed some things we should be excited about for the future.

dalvsphi2018 switzer - Streamable

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Ryan Switzer's first target came on a third down -- something Cowboys Nation should get used to heading into 2018. Switzer is lined up inside in trips on the near-side of the formation. The Eagles show man coverage pre-snap, and with just one safety over top and the other rotated down on top of Jason Witten, it is clear to Dak Prescott they plan to bring some pressure.

As soon as Prescott gets the snap, his eyes go to Ryan Switzer.

The cornerback plays Switzer with inside leverage, refusing to be beat with a hot slant route. Switzer instead keeps the defender on his back hip and creates separation with an out-breaking route.

Prescott delivers the ball towards the sideline where the defender can't catch up to it, and Switzer comes away with the first down.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 2 - Streamable

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Later in the game, we once again see Ryan Switzer targeted from this inside-alignment.

Switzer is a pretty prototypical slot receiver, and if used correctly he should win in man coverage situations often. The cornerback attempts to maintain inside leverage on Switzer and get physical at the top of his route. Ryan Switzer does a nice job of fighting through that physicality and crossing the defender's face over the middle. He flashes open pretty quickly, and Prescott delivers a strike for the completion.

If Switzer can create this type of separation often, I see no reason why he shouldn't be a focus of the offense in 2018.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 3 - Streamable

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Switzer's third target is actually an incompletion, but it is worth studying, regardless. Switzer is in the slot on the far side and the Cowboys once again are in trips alignment. The cornerback over Switzer is in man coverage, but gives him room to breathe at the line of scrimmage.

Switzer exploits the cornerback -- who is cheating to the inside -- with his footwork and route running. He gets to the sticks, breaks to the outside, and creates enough separation for a first-down completion. Prescott delivers the ball a bit late and behind Switzer, causing an incompletion instead.

I'd still like to see Switzer adjust to the ball and make this catch, but I put more of the blame for this play on Prescott.

With a full offseason to work within the offensive system, as well as to develop chemistry with quarterback Dak Prescott, Ryan Switzer will prove to be an important piece to the 2018 Dallas Cowboys.



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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer's Good Game 1
AP Photo / Michael Ainsworth

The Dallas Cowboys put an end to a long, long season last Sunday after they defeated the Eagles in Philadelphia in a game that had absolutely no meaning for either team. Surprisingly, the Cowboys played with their healthy starters most of the game, but were barely able to put six points on the board, which were enough to take the win home.

The Cowboys might've lost more than what they actually won, and most of the fans were unhappy with the victory. Despite it being a pretty boring football game, we still learned a few things about the Dallas Cowboys.

The season's finally over. It wasn't easy, but we're still here. Here's to 2018. Let's hope it's a good one for our Cowboys. Here's this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday!

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Coaching Staff Didn't Help Its Cause

It's more than fair to say that a lot of us want to see changes in Dallas. And specifically, changes in the coaching staff. After the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention, Jerry Jones said Jason Garrett's job was not an issue. Now, Jerry's even talking about Rod Marinelli and Scott Linehan being back in 2018. Who knows if it's true.

While I don't think we'll see a new head coach anytime soon, I'd dare say that after the horrible game versus Philadelphia the front office at least got to thinking.

Dak Prescott, Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, HC Jason Garrett

Coming into this game, the team had a choice to make: play with the starters to win it, or let guys like Cooper Rush in the game and see what happens. A loss would've meant a better draft position for the Cowboys and a chance to see what rookies and other young players could bring to the table.

But they decided to manage the game like it was a "real action" game. Being conservative. Not going for it when there was nothing to lose. They did so after a team that, with the NFC's #1 seed secured, basically played with its B team. Not only that but for the Eagles, most of the game was played by a third string QB.

Despite all this, the Cowboys could hardly beat the Eagles 6-0. Poor execution and all, I can't help thinking about the coaches.

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Cowboys Should Keep Datone Jones for 2018

In late November, the Dallas Cowboys signed Datone Jones after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers. The former Packers' first-round pick made an impact when he was given the chance. His play at DT was pretty solid and he showed very promising flashes.

DatoneJones - Streamable

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Jones will be under contract in 2018 and I'd be surprised if the Cowboys don't keep him another year. Per Over The Cap, he'll be paid $790,000 next year which isn't at all expensive for a 27-year-old player.

The Cowboys would add depth and even a potential starter at DT for next season.

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Ryan Switzer Can Play as a Wide Receiver

With Cole Beasley missing the game because of an illness, we finally got to see Ryan Switzer at WR. We had already seen good things from him as a kick returner, but on offense, he hasn't been as involved as Cowboys Nation expected him to be.

Last Sunday though, Switzer was used for more than a jet sweep.

SwitzerWR - Streamable

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He still has a long way to go, but I was impressed by his ability to create separation. I really hope he's used more next season.

At the end of the day, he's a fourth-round pick. He should be playing more on offense, not just on "gadget plays" or special teams. Could Ryan Switzer be Dak Prescott's best friend in the future? Only time will tell. Right now, it's too optimistic to expect something like that.

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Dan Bailey's Confidence is Shattered

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey's 2017 season hasn't been easy at all. We've seen him miss kicks we never imagined he would, including extra points. One of the most painful moments of the Cowboys' season came late in the season finale when he lined up to kick a simple 20-yard field goal.

The ball went up, but failed to split the uprights. Dan Bailey stood in complete disbelief, with a blank look in his face. His confidence, shattered.

For kickers, it's all about confidence.

For years, we referred to Dan "Automatic" Bailey as the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Now we're not sure about calling him "Automatic" anymore. Bailey will have a lot of time to pick himself up though, and will probably be back at it next year.

Let's hope that's the case.

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For now, the only thing left to say is one of the most encouraging, yet sad phrases in sports... Maybe next year. We're on to the offseason.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Starters Produce Uninspiring Week 17 Win

Playing more than enough of their starters in hopes of ending this 2017 season on a high note at the Eagles, the Cowboys produced a lackluster 6-0 win that will surely leave a bad taste in the mouths of Cowboys Nation - despite it being a victory.

The win put the Cowboys at 9-7 on the season, and it is a shame they had nothing to play for in this regular season finale. Once again in week 17, it was the offense holding back another fantastic performance by Rod Marinelli's defense.

We'll discuss both units in this final 2017 Dallas Cowboys version of Sean's Scout.

  • You have to love the way Chidobe Awuzie was able to bring physicality to a young Cowboys secondary that had another solid game. 

There were times earlier in this season when it seemed the Cowboys' second-round pick would have a lost season due to multiple hamstring injuries, but Awuzie quickly tuned around his rookie campaign by coming in and playing with exceptional technique and awareness.

With enough length to turn and run, Awuzie thrived in this zone scheme by keeping everything in front of him, as he did on his interception of Nick Foles. With Dallas in Cover 2 on the play, Chidobe read Foles' eyes the whole time to the boundary and was in position to cut off the pass.

This is a topic we'll now have much more time to discuss, and it is a hollowing one considering it was truly the Cowboys offense that kept them from the playoffs this season. The need for new talent at WR is clear, but the need for a target that better suits Prescott's strengths going into year three is even more important.

His pass catchers, along with inconsistencies in pass protection, were the main reasons Prescott struggled in 2017, although in this game it seemed like the only time he was affected in the pocket was when forcing the ball late to Bryant.

Coming from a spread system in college, Prescott simply does not have experience throwing his receivers open -- relying on route combinations and separation ability to hit open targets. Dez Bryant hasn't been that type of player through his career, and certainly isn't now that he's lost a step.

  • 9 wins for a team unlike their usual selves up front offensively is still pretty impressive. 

The Cowboys got nearly no impact from any of their free agent signings this season, which is why the depth of the team held them back once again. Veteran Byron Bell was brought in as a backup swing tackle, but he is simply not a scheme fit at tackle here.

Dak Prescott should not have been playing with Bell as his LT, and eventually Joe Looney at LG after Jonathan Cooper went down.

Bell lacks the quick-twitch ability and athleticism needed to be successful on every down, and it showed as he was again beaten by both speed and power against the Eagles.

The Cowboys have proven their acumen drafting young OL talent that performs at a high level early and often. So, instead of relying on more free agents, like Bell and Looney, drafting talent up front to spark the running game and give Prescott adequate protection is likely the best answer.

  • Ryan Switzer's ability to separate late in the down really stood out, as he finally got his chance at WR without Cole Beasley

Growing calls for more of Ryan Switzer on offense will surely take root this offseason after he caught four passes for 32 yards in the absence of Cole Beasley yesterday. More of a one-speed player at North Carolina, Switzer's spacial awareness and smoothness in giving Prescott somewhere to throw the ball as plays developed was really impressive.

In order to be a great team at the NFL Draft, you have to accurately scout your own roster. It will be fascinating to see just how the Cowboys feel about their current pass catchers, with not only Ryan Switzer but the likes of Lance Lenoir and practice squad addition K.D. Cannon in the fold as well.

  • The Cowboys found themselves a valuable addition to their rotation at DT with Datone Jones. 

Jones was able to push the pocket throughout this game in Philadelphia, and has done so consistently since getting here, at both the 1T and 3T positions. Using his hands to generate power as a down-the-line player, Jones plays with great pad level. That allows him to shoot gaps when needed, or anchor the line of scrimmage.

The Cowboys have not prioritized adding premier talent at DT in recent years, and may forego it again this offseason as well. The Cowboys expect Maliek Collins to contribute further with another season at 1T and David Irving back at 3T.

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To everybody who made this 2017 season at Inside The Star as enjoyable as ever, I would like to thank the readers of Sean's Scout. All this aspiring scout can ask for is to enhance the fan experience through both wins and losses, and your feedback on this series helped me to confidently do just that.

As we prepare for an even better 2018, Sean's Scout won't be going anywhere! I'm shifting my full attention towards the NFL Draft, looking for prospects that could help the Dallas Cowboys reach the playoffs again next season.

Thank you for another roller-coaster ride we call football season, Cowboys Nation. Truly the best fans anywhere.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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