As often happens on a NFL Monday, the big story of Dallas' season-opening loss is the final play. Terrance Williams' game-ending decision not to get out of bounds but instead go for more yardage has been met with with plenty of outrage and bewilderment, but also some mild defense.
I thought I'd take a few minutes to dissect that play and see how defensible it was for Williams. You can use this video to follow along with the second-by-second breakdown:
Dallas Cowboys tried one last surge against the New York Giants, but it was to no avail in Week 1 of the 2016 NFL season. Subscribe to NFL: http://j.mp/1L0bVBu Start your free trial of NFL Game Pass: https://www.nfl.com/gamepass?campaign=sp-nf-gd-ot-yt-3000342 Sign up for Fantasy Football!
00:12 - Ball is snapped from Cowboys 46-yard-line.
00:10 - Williams catches ball on Giants 48-yard line.
Assuming Terrance had run for the sideline and gained a few more yards, Dan Bailey would have had a shot from about 61-63 yards out. That's a good 5-7 yards more than his career long, but not outside of his range based on pregame warm-ups and other practice kicks.
Some have defended Williams based on this; Bailey's chances of making that kick were low and the receiver felt he had to try and make a play. There may be a smidge of merit to that idea, but there's just one problem.
There was time to run one more play.
Terrance Williams caught the ball near the sideline with 10 seconds left. He could have gotten out of bounds within about 2-3 seconds the most, leaving 8-7 seconds on the clock. It would have been about a 10-yard gain that took all of four or five seconds to run.
Dallas would have had time to try and get one more quick out to put Bailey in better range. They could have allowed to Dak Prescott to make another quick read and either throw to a receiver or just throw it out of bounds to let Bailey try the 60-yarder. Even if it took six seconds to run the play, Dallas would have had time to try it and put Bailey in a much better position.
Obviously, we have the power of a timed replay and hindsight to make this argument. It's hard to ask players to process all of that in the heat of the moment.
Williams' choice would be more defensible if he'd actually tried to go for the touchdown. He had the inside position to beat Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and could have tried to cut back outside and take the sideline to the endzone.
I doubt he makes it, but diving to end the play was the worst possible choice. It was a no-win scenario.
If you follow me on Twitter (@CowboysAddicts) then you know I'm not a big fan of Terrance Williams. I've seen him blow way more plays than he's made in three years and made plenty of jokes about it. In fact, he's blocked my account because of my "hater" status.
This isn't to pile on the guy. I feel horrible for him because I'm sure Terrance feels even more horribly. I don't think he was trying to play hero ball but just had a misguided sense of the circumstances and what he had to do to help the team win.
Ultimately, Dallas' porous run defense and settling for field goals over touchdowns played a much larger role in the loss. But make no mistake; the Cowboys still had a chance to win and Williams' took it off the table.
It was a tough way to start the year for the player, team, and the fans. Hopefully we're all happier next week in Washington.
Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott Looks Primed for Greatness in 2019
All offseason, there's been a lot of talk about whether Dak Prescott deserves to be paid like a franchise quarterback. It's been debated in every walk of life in which Dallas Cowboys football comes up in conversation; On the radio, in the newspaper, on the internet, at the doctor's office, in the drive-thru at Whataburger, and every place in between. Regardless of where you stand on the big-money contract extension that Dak Prescott will eventually sign, the more encouraging thing is how he's looked in the offseason and in the preseason. Saturday night was yet another indication that Dak Prescott is going to take another step forward in 2019.
On Saturday night vs the Los Angeles Rams, Prescott was 5 of 5 for 64 yards, including a big 31-yard completion to Michael Gallup. Where the two struggled with having a consistent connection in 2018, doesn't seem to be a problem in 2019 thus far. Dak Prescott has been looking for Michael Gallup a lot in practice and the two have connected three times for 50 yards this preseason. Dak Prescott is definitely looking his way anytime he gets single coverage.
On this play, the Dallas Cowboys motioned Jon'Vea Johnson from right to left across the formation and the Los Angeles Rams showed that they were in man coverage with a single high safety. On the snap, it's confirmed as one of the safeties drops into coverage and the other steps up to help to take Witten on the 10-yard in. Without looking, Dak Prescott knows that Michael Gallup has man-coverage on the right side of the field.
After the snap, he keeps his gaze on the middle and to the left part of the field just before looking right and throwing the ball to Gallup. Connor Livesay, from Blogging the Boys, rightly pointed out on Twitter yesterday, that at the time of the release of the football, Gallup was still engaged with the cornerback before breaking away after Prescott's release. Gallup does an excellent job coming back for the football, going over the top of the defender to make the catch.
Dak Prescott doesn't have anything open on the play, but instead of holding onto the football and potentially taking a sack, he takes advantage of the single coverage deep down the field and gives his wide receiver a chance to make a play on the football. Prescott's ability to hold the safety in the middle of the field with his eyes is what gives this play a chance. If, as soon as he realizes there's nothing open in the middle of the field, he immediately turns to Gallup, the deep middle safety begins breaking that direction and has a chance to disrupt Gallup's attempt to catch the football.
Another encouraging aspect of this throw was the situation in which he took the shot downfield. Prescott, in seasons past, seemed to shy away from high risk throws on money downs and instead looked for just enough yardage to get the first down. Though it's only the preseason, Prescott looks to have the trust of the coaching staff to take some chances, even on third down.
It looks as if Dak Prescott is ready to shine under a couple of coaches who won't force him into being a risk-averse passer, which seemed to be the case under the previous offensive coordinator. Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore has talked a lot about wanting to be a vertical team. Quarterbacks Coach Jon Kitna's greatest football influence is former St. Louis Rams Head Coach Mike Martz who also wanted to throw a lot of vertical passes from his days with the "Greatest Show on Turf." The combination of Moore and Kitna look to be excellent additions for Dak Prescott.
Through two games in the preseason, Dak Prescott's been perfect. He's gone 9 of 9 for 86 yards, a 106.9 passer rating, and 9.7 yards per attempt. One area where he's improved dramatically is in his time to attempt numbers. Per Pro Football Focus, in 2018, Dak Prescott averaged 2.65 seconds to attempt. In the 2019 preseason, Prescott's time to attempt is 2.42 seconds. Yes, there are attempts where he's holding the ball longer, like the completion to Gallup on Saturday night. But generally, I see a player who is making quicker reads and quicker releases than the one we saw in 2018.
In 2018, when Prescott released the ball in less than 2.5 seconds, he completed 72.5% of his passes and had a 7:1 touchdown to interception ratio. When he released the ball after 2.5 seconds, he completed just 63.1% of his passes with a 15:7 touchdown to interception ratio.
He's not holding onto the ball as long as he did last year, which is an issue that needed to be corrected. If applied in the regular season, it's going to pay huge dividends for the Dallas Cowboys offense.
Yes, it's only the preseason and the Dallas Cowboys are playing against backups, but they also haven't had their full complement of players either. The Dallas Cowboys' starters have played with Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Jason Witten (vs SF), and most notably Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott. The Dallas Cowboys first team, despite missing five Pro Bowl players on offense, have been able to move the ball really well.
It's an encouraging sign for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations and high expectations for a quarterback that they are about to pay more than $32 million a year to. The way the offseason and now the preseason has gone for Dak Prescott, he could be looking at his first 4,000-yard season as a passer.
Dak Prescott is only going into his fourth season in the NFL. He's played 51 games thus far giving him a ton of experience to work from. That experience combined with improved chemistry with Michael Gallup, better game planning and play calling from Kellen Moore, better mechanics, and a better understanding and ability to manipulate defenses, 2019 is shaping up to be Dak Prescott's best season yet.
Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott “Ready to Go” Once Contract Situation Settled
As the Dallas Cowboys prepare for their second preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams Saturday in Hawaii, they continue to so without Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott is still searching for a contract extension from the Dallas Cowboys that could potentially make him the highest-paid running back in the history of the NFL. The Cowboys are trying to get Elliott's contract closer to what Le'veon Bell received from the New York Jets at $13.125 million per year.
The difference is probably about $2 million a year between the two sides. That difference is leading to this holdout.
Despite being away from the team, Elliott is reportedly staying in excellent shape. Per a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter, the NFL's leading rusher from the 2016 and 2018 seasons has been working out while in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and should be ready to hit the ground running once the contract situation is figured out.
While he is away from the Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott's weight is in the low 220s, the lowest it has been since his rookie year, per source. If and when the two sides can work out a deal, Elliott will be all ready to go.
Schefter also states that Elliott is down to the low 220's, which is approximately 10 pounds lighter than what he has been playing at the last couple of years.
One criticism of Ezekiel Elliott's 2018 season is that he wasn't very efficient with his league-leading carries. Per NFL's Next Gen Stats, Elliott ranked 36th in efficiency. To Elliott's defense, he saw eight or more men in the box on 24.67% of his carries last season (Per Next Gen Stats).
He didn't have as many long runs as he had in previous seasons either. Though he still led the NFL in carries of greater than 10 yards (per Pro Football Focus), he was second in the NFL with only 11 carries of 20 or more yards and had only one carry for more than 40 yards (per NFL.com). In 2016, Elliott had 14 carries for more than 20 yards and 4 carries for more than 40 yards during his rookie season.
Elliott slimming down a bit should help him to be quicker, faster, and more elusive. For most of his career, he's relied mostly on being more physical than would-be tacklers and has been at the top of the NFL in yards after contact. Slimming down should help Elliott to break tackles without having to rely on his physicality and toughness.
The other criticism Elliott faced was the effectiveness of his targets and his 77 receptions. While Ezekiel Elliott finished fifth in the NFL in receptions by a running back, he was eighth in yards and 14th in yards per reception among running backs with at least 61 targets on the season. If you include running backs with at least 24 targets on the season, Elliott drops all the way down to 24th in yards per reception in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus.
Much of that was due to his average depth of target, which had him more often than not as a check-down option. Elliott's receiving ability is much better than that as we saw in the Detroit Lions game when Dak Prescott found Elliott deep down the sideline for a catch that set up the winning score.
With Kellen Moore on board, it looks like the Dallas Cowboys will deploy the running back as a receiver in the passing game more. In training camp, we've seen Tony Pollard and Jamize Olawale flash with receptions down the field in practice. Being able to motion Elliott out wide and throw to him down the field will be a huge boost to the Dallas Cowboys offense.
If Elliott is slimmed down to closer to 220, then his ability as a receiver will be the primary beneficiary. As opposed to being only a check down option for the Cowboys passing game, they'll be able to deploy him on routes that have him catching the ball deeper down the field.
The Dallas Cowboys are getting ready to invest in Ezekiel Elliott with a big contract and it's important that he and the team take care of that investment as he advances in age. While he's capable of taking on 380 touches, it's in the team's interest to keep his touch total closer to 350 touches a season if they plan on having him around for the next five years or so, as it appears to be their intention.
Ezekiel Elliott has always been a tremendous worker and the reports coming out of Cabo should be encouraging to Cowboys fans. He's getting ready for the 2019 season. Though the contract is what's keeping him away at this point, I don't imagine he or the team letting this spill over into the regular season. Ezekiel Elliott is an important person to this team; on the field and in the locker room. Having him in the backfield with Dak Prescott week one is important for the chemistry and camaraderie of the Dallas Cowboys.
The front office wants him to be a member of the Dallas Cowboys for a long time and Ezekiel Elliott wants to be a member of the Dallas Cowboys for a long time. When that's the case, it's only a matter of time before a contract will be finalized.
And when the contract extension finally gets done, the NFL's best running back will be back and ready to help the Dallas Cowboys contend for a Super Bowl.
Cowboys C Travis Frederick Sees First Game Action Since 2018 Preseason
All-Pro Center Travis Frederick returned to the scene of the crime so to speak this past Saturday at Levi's Stadium. Just a year ago, Frederick felt numbness in his hands and feet after 10 snaps of the opening preseason game against the 49ers. It would later be determined that he was in the beginning stages of a battle with Guillian-Barre Syndrome which ultimately ended his 2018 season.
Of course, when an unexpected injury like this happens the goal is to work your way back into as normal of a routine as possible. After his 9 snaps against San Francisco, the quarterback of the offensive line knows this is a process that takes time.
"It's sort of a reuniting feeling with the guys," Frederick said. "When you're injured or you're out, you kind of get separated. That's not on purpose, but it is just what it is. This was an opportunity to kind of rejoin that fraternity. And then personally just getting a chance to prove myself that I can do it, and that I can still play at a high level and be able to contribute this season. I think it was a good step for me."
Any athlete that suffers this kind of an injury has to get over that first bit of physical contact while also pushing back whatever effects said injury has on him/her mentally. Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare disorder in which your immune system attacks your nerves. Tingling throughout your extremities can spread quickly and eventually paralyze your entire body. Not something to easily get over physically, however, the 9 snaps taken Saturday night were a good confidence booster for Frederick.
"There was some thought there, but again, my goal of the whole thing is to try to make it as normal as possible and get it back to normal," Frederick said. "So for me, having a normal opportunity to go back out there, play that normal amount, nine plays, one series whatever it was, that was good. That was exactly what I wanted and needed emotionally, mentally and physically."
This is a very small sample size of course but you have to start somewhere. Veteran Joe Looney was more than serviceable in Frederick's absence in 2018 but you can't easily replace the best player in the NFL at his position. If this continued progression stays as is the chances of him being on the field week 1 against the New York Giants remain extremely high.
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