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Could Wide-Open NFC East Help Jason Garrett’s Job Security?

Jess Haynie

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Jason Garrett

No NFL head coach has a hotter seat right now than Jason Garrett. The Dallas Cowboys are 2-3 and seemingly lost on offense, and Garrett's decision to punt in overtime last week has been lambasted by most football analysts. But with Dallas still just a half-game behind the NFC East leader, is Jason's job security getting a boost?

After five weeks, Washington leads the division with just a 2-2 record (they had an early bye in Week 4). The Cowboys and Eagles are both at 2-3, and the Giants are the 1-4 basement dwellers.

No matter how bad a division winner is compared to the rest of their conference, they still get that guaranteed playoff spot. Therefore, as long as Dallas is in the hunt for the NFC East, will it make sense to fire Garrett and essentially give up on the season?

The notion that Jerry Jones might fire Garrett mid-season is already suspect. He's only done that one time before, and that was in 2010 when Wade Phillips was let go after Dallas started the year 1-7.

That year, Jerry had his handpicked guy waiting to take over; Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett. But there's no indication that any natural successor is currently on the Cowboys staff.

Even if Jones wanted to go ahead and make a move in 2018, it will be hard to do that if the Cowboys remain in the playoff hunt.

Cowboys Headlines - LISTEN: Jason Garrett Joins ESPN San Antonio's The Blitz

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett

Just look at the Week 6 schedule. If the Cowboys can pull of a win over the visiting Jaguars, they could very well have the division lead by Sunday evening.

Washington will be hosting the 3-1 Carolina Panthers on Sunday and could very well be 2-3 afterward. The Eagles visit the Giants tonight and the short week is especially unkind to road teams. Philly and New York could be tied at 2-4 after this game.

Despite everything, and especially themselves, the Cowboys are still in the fight. It's still early October, they're only one game below .500, and a half-game away from the division leader. They also haven't lost a home game or division game yet this year.

None of this changes the poor performance by Garrett's team up to this point. He's not the offensive  coordinator, but his background still holds him more accountable for that side of the ball.

More than that, though, the Cowboys' locker room has never seemed so tense. Players are speaking out about coaching decisions, receivers are getting defensive when blamed for the passing issues; it's bordering on a toxic situation.

Even when his X's and O's and game management have been questioned, Jason's leadership and ability to unite his players has been the strength of his coaching. Unfortunately, things may be slipping out of his control.

That said, as long as Dallas remain in striking distance of the NFC East, it's hard to imagine that Jerry Jones will pull the plug.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

Game Notes

Cowboys Defense Getting Players Back at the Right Time

John Williams

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Could Any of These 3 Cowboys Disappoint Cowboys Nation in 2017?

The Dallas Cowboys have played really well on defense this season allowing the seventh fewest rushing yards per game, the third lowest yards per carry, and the eighth fewest passing yards per game this season. They've done it for most of the 2018 season without Defensive Tackles Maliek Collins and David Irving, and Linebacker Sean Lee, who's missed the last three games with a strained hamstring.

This week the Cowboys play the NFC East leading Washington Redskins, making this a very important matchup for the Cowboys playoff chances. The Dallas Cowboys are 2-2 in the NFC in 2018, so a win against the Washington Redskins on Sunday carries much more importance. If the Cowboys have hopes of making the playoffs, they're going to have to improve their record against the NFC and they can on Sunday with their defense getting back to (nearly) full health.

Still awaiting word on Chidobe Awuzie's availability for this week.

Antwaun Woods, Tyrone Crawford, and David Ross have held up really well on the Cowboys defensive interior without Irving and Collins, which makes their return even more important. Better depth along the defensive interior is only going to help those guys have more productive snaps. Both Collins and Irving are explosive penetrating defensive tackles that give interior offensive lineman fits with their combination of strength and quickness. They play the run and pass with equal effectiveness and make life a lot easier for the linebackers and the defensive ends.

In their first game back in week six, Irving and Collins combined for two quarterback pressures, a quarterback hit (Irving) and a sack (Collins). Irving also drew a holding call on a punt.

Getting them back takes so much pressure off the defensive ends to generate pressure in passing situations. With better pressure from the interior of the defense, DeMarcus Lawrence and the other defensive ends will have better opportunities for sacks because opposing quarterbacks won't be able to step up in the pocket with as much ease as they have through the first five games of the season.

The linebacker duo of Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch have been one of the best position groups for the Cowboys this season. As good as they've been, Sean Lee is still one of the better linebackers in the NFL. Though he's leading the Cowboys in solo tackles with 43, Leighton Vander Esch probably sees a decrease in his snaps with Lee returning. They'll all play, however, and the Cowboys will look for ways to have them all on the field together.

Getting Lee, Irving, and Collins on the field at the same time with the defensive parts that the Cowboys already boast in Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Byron Jones is going to make playing offense nearly impossible.

How do you attack these guys?

The Washington Redskins rank in the bottom third in passing yards, yards per attempt, and are 18th in the NFL in passer rating. Washington ranks in the top half of the league in rushing yards per game, but rank 23rd in yards per attempt.

If there's an area where the Dallas Cowboys defense has been susceptible this season it's against the pass and having all of their best defensive players available for this week seven NFC East matchup is going to make all the difference. They'll be able to generate pressure with fewer blitzes because of the ability of Irving and Collins to generate pressure from the interior.

Though the Redskins have had some success on the ground in 2018, it's going to be tough sledding for Adrian Peterson and the Redskins run game. Lee, Vander Esch, and Smith all play the run extremely well and with the improved talent at defensive tackle, Peterson is going to find very few open lanes against the Dallas Cowboys defense.

The elite defense that we imagined this team could be may be right around the corner. Having everyone healthy and on the field together as the Dallas Cowboys get ready for the stretch run of the NFL season is huge.

Get ready NFL. Points are going to be really hard to come by.



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Player News

Report: Austin Heading to IR: Deonte Thompson is the Next Man Up

John Williams

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Wide Receiver Deonte Thompson Making Preseason Debut Vs. Cardinals

Tavon Austin's stint with the Dallas Cowboys has been up and down through six games. He's provided some big play ability on the outside, but hasn't really had the running room on jet sweeps that the Dallas Cowboys would have hoped for when they acquired Austin from the Los Angeles Rams during the 2018 NFL Draft.

Now it's being reported by Brandon George from the Dallas Morning News that Austin may be headed to injured reserve for a groin tear suffered in the Dallas Cowboys week six win over the Jaguars.

Brandon George on Twitter

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said WR Tavon Austin will be getting a second opinion on his injured right groin in the next day or so. He didn't discount possibility of him being placed on injured reserve.

 

Whether Austin goes to injured reserve or not remains to be seen, but we do know that he'll miss week seven and likely won't be able to suit up for a while. Though Austin hasn't been relied upon much, he has been a threat that opposing defenses have had to account for in both the passing and running game. Tavon Austin leaves a bit of a hole.

Enter Deonte Thompson.

Deonte Thompson, who was signed by the Dallas Cowboys this past offseason, hasn't been the same type of rushing threat that Austin has been in his NFL career. Thompson's only carried the ball two times in his career for -5 yards. However, Thompson has some skills that could bode well should the Dallas Cowboys decide to use him in the jet sweep role that Austin is vacating.

He's been a return threat in his NFL career, averaging 24.8 yards per return. He's had returns of 47, 64, and 74 yards. He's also had some good moments running after the catch in his career, though he hasn't gotten many opportunities.

Thompson's a former track athlete and before the 2012 NFL Draft ran a 4.30 40 yard dash. He has the speed and a bit more size than Austin to make some things happen if given the opportunities.

The jet sweep has become an important staple in the Dallas Cowboys offense. Even when they don't hand it off on the sweep, they use it in play action, to set up screens, and even to get the defense thinking about it on direct hand offs to Ezekiel Elliott. They aren't going to want to scrap that part of the playbook just because Austin will be sitting out. Deonte Thompson can be that guy. Much like Marquise Goodwin in San Francisco, Thompson has elite speed.

He's not just football fast. He's fast-fast.

When I was in high school, I played baseball. In the baseball program I was fast. The fastest on the team. That was my game. Infield singles. Stretching doubles to triples. Stealing bases. I was fast. I went out for track my senior season because I thought, "hey I'm fast, let's see what would happen if I ran the 100-meter-dash." I found out really quickly that there is a difference between baseball fast and track fast.

The same applies to football and track. Deonte Thompson is track fast. He's a guy that the Dallas Cowboys need to get the ball to on those jet sweeps to continue to threaten defenses sideline to sideline. When it's working, as we've seen with Lucky Whitehead in the past and Tavon Austin this year, it opens up a lot for the Dallas Cowboys offense.

It's likely that Cole Beasley gets those first jet sweep attempts, and as a trusted veteran for the Dallas Cowboys, he probably should. But, if Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan want to continue to use the jet sweep to the offense's maximum benefit, they need to start showing it with Deonte Thompson. He has the speed to get to the corner and take it to the end zone from any where on the field.

Here's an example of what Thompson can do with the ball in his hands.

NFL on Twitter

109 YARDS TO THE HOUSE!!! Deonte Thompson returns the missed field goal and runs it all the way back for a @ChicagoBears TD! #CHIvsAZ https://t.co/k9IfkZMoIY

 

With Tavon Austin set to be out -- possibly for the season -- it's time to see what Deonte Thompson can do. The Dallas Cowboys need to get a win here to get above .500 for the first time this season and set themselves up to make a run at the divisional crown. Deonte Thompson's ability with the ball in his hands will give them a good opportunity to do just that.



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Game Notes

#WASvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys en Español: Optimismo, Pesimismo y Realismo para los Dallas Cowboys
AP Photo/Ron Jenkins

Despite each looking awful during their week five match up, both the Cowboys and Redskins bounced back in a huge way a week ago. Dallas now sits at 3-3, just a half game behind the 3-2 Washington Redskins for first place in the NFC East.

This is a massive week seven game between these two hated rivals, especially considering it appears the Philadelphia Eagles are starting to hit their stride.

The winner of this game will be in a very favorable spot heading into the second half of the 2018 season, as they each look to steal this division from the Eagles' hands.

Cowboys +1.5, O/U 41.5 Points. 

Dallas Cowboys

Through the first five weeks of the season it seemed clear the Cowboys offense was broken, specifically through the air. And entering their sixth game on the year, this time against the league's best defense, it was hard to imagine them putting up many points at all.

Then football happened. And, somehow, the Cowboys dominated the Jaguars defense all game long, to the tune of a 40-7 victory.

The win helped the Cowboys keep pace in the NFC East, as both Washington and Philadelphia got their third wins of the season as well. Those three teams may be in a fight the entire season, and these division games are very meaningful.

A victory on Sunday would put the Cowboys in a fantastic spot moving forward.

Washington Redskins

Are the Redskins good? Honestly, it's hard to say. Before the season I predicted they'd be in second place in the East, and a possible wild card contender. Through their first five games I'd say that prediction looks solid, but they also got destroyed by the Saints just two weeks ago.

This whole division is wonky and that's probably how it will continue to be. Washington has talented players though, and could give the Cowboys offense some issues on Sunday.

Alex Smith and company looked very impressive in their week six victory over Carolina, but like the Cowboys this team has been up and down all season. It's impossible to peg how they'll play on a given Sunday.

Trends

  • The Cowboys are 5-2 against the spread their last 7 games against Washington.
  • The score total has gone over the last 5 Cowboys/Redskins games.
  • Washington is 5-1 their last 6 games at home.
  • The Cowboys haven't won a road game all season. (I just wanted to throw that in).

Prediction

This is a really tough one to call.

Are the Cowboys going to score 40 points again? Probably not, but then again the Jags defense is much more talented than the Redskins. Are the Cowboys ever going to win a road game? I mean, eventually, but why should we believe this is the week?

I don't think anyone should bet on this game, and there's really no value in the line either way. But taking over 41.5 points might be your best bet, especially considering that both match ups between these teams would've hit that over last season.

I could see a 23-20 final score, which would hit the over of just 41.5 points.



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