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Cowboys 2017 Defensive Lynch-Pin – Cornerback

John Williams

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Orlando Scandrick

After spending some time looking back at the 2016 season, I re-watched some of the Pittsburgh Steelers game. One thing that was clear was the lack of depth at cornerback. In that game the team was got killed by Eli Rogers and Jesse James in the middle of the field, and by Le’Veon Bell who split out wide several times.

If you’ll remember, Bell caught the opening touchdown pass for Pittsburgh when he matched up with J.J. Wilcox on the outside. That’s a mismatch any team will take, any day. Wilcox, for all his strengths, should never be relied upon to cover someone with Bell’s receiving ability one-on-one.

With the way the NFL is now comprised, you need depth at the cornerback position. Looking at the composition of the 2017 Dallas Cowboys, they finally have that.

Between Nolan Carroll, Anthony Brown, Orlando Scandrick, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Marquez White, the Cowboys have six (SIX!!) guys who could contribute in 2017. Five of those guys could all start on the inside or the outside and Awuzie has the flexibility to play some safety.

Cowboys en Español: Caras Nuevas, ¿Tenemos Cornerbacks?, Adiós Ware

Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Anthony Brown #30 (James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys)

On the Dallas Cowboys 2017 schedule, they will have to face some pretty impressive passing games.

The New York Giants look to have one of the most formidable receiving groups going, especially if Brandon Marshall returns to his 2015 form.

Philadelphia will be no slouch either.

Washington, while not lining up the big names that Philadelphia and New York do, has really good players in Terrelle Pryor and Jamison Crowder. Josh Doctson will be healthy this year and will make the Redskins passing game more lethal.

The Arizona Cardinals — despite an aging Carson Palmer — have several legitimate weapons in the passing game. Larry Fitzgerald has redefined himself as a slot machine as he operates primarily from in the middle of the field these days. In fact, he led the league in receptions from the slot in 2016. RB David Johnson is a dangerous receiving weapon as well.

The Atlanta Falcons use several players — like Mohammed Sanu and Tevin Coleman — who are effective from the slot, not to mention superstar Julio Jones.

Though he had a down year in 2016, Randall Cobb remains one of the more effective weapons in the middle of the field and don’t sleep on Ty Montgomery either. He had several games with 10 receptions. Now converted to running back, Montgomery will be split out at times to keep defenses off-balance, and he remains a difficult cover out of the backfield. Davante Adams is emerging and Jordy Nelson will play forever.

The Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders have several players each that can be effective from the slot.

This doesn’t even begin to cover the tight ends that Dallas has on the schedule.

Evan Engram, Jordan Reed, and Zach Ertz — twice —, Jake Butt — if healthy — , Martellus Bennett — yes, him –, Marcus Mosher’s rookie favorite, George Kittle, Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry for the Chargers, Cowboys-killer Jared Cook, and the resurgent Jimmy Graham for Seattle.

The point is, Dallas is going to have to be really good against the pass this year for their defense to show the improvement we hope they will make. In 2017, they have the players to do it.

Cowboys Rookie CB Jourdan Lewis Announces Signing With Dallas 1

Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Jourdan Lewis #27 (James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys)

Starting with Orlando Scandrick, who has been the primary slot corner player over his time in Dallas, they have a strong veteran leader who can play with just about anybody in the middle of the field.

While, Scandrick was out in 2016, Anthony Brown — then a rookie — filled in nicely for several games before being called upon to fill in on the outside. Rookies Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis are both viewed as players who can be effective inside or outside cornerbacks.

Nolan Carroll isn’t a great player by any stretch, but he carries the reputation of being a solid contributor who can cover and make some plays.

Marquez White has some solid traits that could turn him into a fine cornerback in the league, but needs some time to develop.

We may look at the defensive line and their ability to get pressure as the most important key to the 2017 Cowboys season. With the question marks on the defensive line, I see it a bit differently.

What sustained some frustrating drives at times was the quick passing that teams used pretty effectively against the Cowboys in 2016.

A lot of the NFL is now using the quick passing game to get their team in a rhythm. It will be the Dallas cornerback’s job to disrupt that rhythm. If the cornerback group can disrupt the wide receiver for even a half a second, it will help the defensive line get home with more frequency.

The passing games that the Dallas Cowboys will face in 2017 will be tough matchups, no doubt. For the Cowboys to reach their 2017 goals, which hopefully include a trip to the promised land, this cornerback group will have to be equally tough.

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I didn’t start out as a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quickly as I could. I grew up a Joe Montana fan when he was with the 49ers and followed him to the Chiefs, until we moved to Texas. I’ve now been a Fan of the Boys since the Dark Days of the Post-Aikman, Pre-Romo era of abysmal quarterback play, now relishing in more than a decade of franchise quarterbacking for America’s Team.

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Sean’s Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat

The Cowboys have just one more game to get through without their star running back Ezekiel Elliott, but Alfred Morris and Rod Smith deserve a ton of credit for the way they’ve been able to fill in out of the backfield for Zeke Elliott. Throughout the time Elliott has missed though, the Cowboys have lacked the explosive plays on offense that he can provide – until Rod Smith was given an opportunity last week at the Giants.

Smith complimented Morris exceptionally well, running with quickness and power to prove his case for more of a role on offense behind Elliott moving forward. It was the Ohio State product’s consecutive touchdowns of 81 yards through the air and 15 yards on the ground that sealed the game for the Cowboys in week 14.

Here is a closer look at Rod Smith’s performance from last week in this latest Sean’s Scout.

Smith3 – Streamable

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The Cowboys offensive line was dominant as always against a tough New York defensive front, and this first play is a great look at their execution in space and on the move. Rod Smith’s decisiveness when hitting the hole with speed and balance was the first thing I noticed on the game tape.

The best thing Smith does on this play comes at the second level, where running backs can truly make a difference in Dallas. As RG Zack Martin rides his man out of the play entirely, he gets in front of Smith who is seeing the play develop straight ahead. With his long strides, Smith is able to smoothly get through traffic and continue accelerating up field through arm tackles for a big gain.

Smith2 – Streamable

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

 

These same traits are seen with Rod Smith as a pass catcher – something he does effortlessly to also help fill the void left by Elliott. Watch how quickly Smith commits to his angle up the field after catching this dump pass from Dak Prescott, attacking a defender that has the angle on him after the catch.

Rod subtly leans to the right just enough to make the defender hesitate long enough to allow his burst to evade him and gain extra yards falling forward.

Smith4 – Streamable

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Smith essentially does the same thing without the ball in his hands here, on his 81 yard catch and run for a touchdown. Setting up the safety out of the slot to be beat across his face, Smith separates from him at the stem and then does a great job getting depth on his route into the vacated middle of the field. With blockers to help him reach the end zone, Smith turns this busted coverage by the Giants into the game’s biggest play.

Smith1 – Streamable

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

 

This last play I chose to show is probably the least well-blocked attempt for Smith out of the ones in this Sean’s Scout, but there is still a lot to like about what Rod does here with the ball in his hands.

The Giants might be a two-win football team, but they still have marquee players up front, particularly DE Olivier Vernon. Smith does well here to keep his feet moving as he cuts this play to the backside. Vernon does well to limit the potential gain on this play by staying away from the block of Jason Witten, as Smith is taken down by Darian Thompson.

The numbers the Giants had to commit to stopping the run was still a huge reason why Prescott had a career day throwing the football, and Rod Smith’s readiness to step in at RB was a deciding factor in getting Dallas to 7-6.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Proving to be one of the Dallas Cowboys most valuable players, considering his cost (under contract through 2018), and ability to contribute on special teams and offense, Rod Smith is the perfect RB3 for this team.

Smith is not elite in any one area, and is not a prototypical RB from a physical standpoint, but his contributions as a runner, pass catcher, and blocker could remain critical to the Cowboys’ hopes of reaching the playoffs behind this offense – even when Ezekiel Elliott is back in the fold.

Tell us what you think about “Sean’s Scout: RB Rod Smith Proving Valuable Offensive Threat” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Dallas Cowboys

Rod Smith Vs Alfred Morris: Who’s The Cowboys Real RB1?

Brian Martin

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Rod Smith Vs Alfred Morris: Who's Cowboys' Real RB1?

The Dallas Cowboys are less than a week away from welcoming back their talented Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott, but until then they still have a game to play against the Oakland Raiders. That means we will have one more week of Alfred Morris and Rod Smith handling the workload, but which RB is sitting at the top of the Cowboys depth chart?

Unfortunately, this is exactly the type of decision that can end up winning or losing a game. Both Alfred Morris and Rod Smith have had their moments during Ezekiel Elliott’s absence, but neither one of them have really distanced themselves from the other. So, should Rod Smith or Alfred Morris receive the majority of the workload against the Raiders Sunday?

A Case for Rod Smith

RB Rod Smith and QB Dak PrescottRod Smith might just have had is coming out party last week against the New York Giants. Against their divisional rival, in what was a must win game for the Cowboys, Smith rushed for 47 yards on six carries and added another 113 yards through the air on five catches. He also found himself in the end zone twice, once on a rushing touchdown and the other on a receiving touchdown.

You may or may not agree, but I believe that “Lightning” Rod Smith was largely responsible for igniting the Cowboys offense and helping them pull away from the Giants last Sunday. He accounted for over 160 total yards and two touchdowns by himself and didn’t receive the majority of his playing time until later in the game.

Rod Smith certainly has traits that make him a more desirable RB over Alfred Morris. First off, he is a more complete back. He is better in pass protection and at catching the ball out of the backfield. But, he is also starting to show up in the running game and is averaging 4.5 yards a carry this season. His size (6’3″, 235) also makes him a better short yardage back, although I wish he would deliver more of a blow at the end of his runs.

A Case for Alfred Morris

RB Alfred MorrisAlthough there’s nothing particularly special that stands out about Alfred Morris, he has proven time and time again he is more than capable of carrying the workload. He has received the majority of the workload during Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension and has performed pretty well. In fact, he is averaging 5 yards a carry this season, which is better than any other RB on the Cowboys roster, including Elliott.

Alfred Morris has looked pretty good this season and is playing with more of a spring in his step than I have seen from him in probably his entire career. Last Sunday against the Giants he received the the majority of the workload and finished the game with 19 carries for 62 yards. Not particularly spectacular, but the week prior he did rush for 127 yards on 27 carries in the victory over the Washington Redskins.

Like I mentioned earlier, Morris is a tried-and-true RB in the NFL and is at his best when he can continue to pound the rock and wear down opposing defenses. That is what he did against the Redskins, but he has his limitations as well. Despite his years in the league, he still struggles in pass protection and is limited in what he can do in the passing game. But, he does seem to have the trust of the Cowboys coaching staff.

✭✭✭✭✭

Personally, I would like to see more of Rod Smith this coming Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. I really like what I’ve seen from him in both the running game and in the passing game. I just think he is a more dangerous and versatile weapon then Alfred Morris. His presence on the field really opens up what the Cowboys can do offensively.

I don’t mean any disrespect to Alfred Morris at all. I just think that Rod Smith has proven he is a more dangerous offensive weapon of the two. I don’t know if the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff will agree or not, but I truly believe Rod Smith could once again be the X factor against the Oakland Raiders.

Of course, both Rod Smith and Alfred Morris will have to take the back seat once Ezekiel Elliott returns. So, this discussion really only has any credibility for this week in yet another must win situation against the Oakland Raiders.

Who do you like better… Rod Smith or Alfred Morris?

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La’el Collins’ Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise

Brian Martin

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La'el Collins' Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise 1

The decision by the Dallas Cowboys to move La’el Collins from left guard to right tackle was met by some skepticism by quite a few members of Cowboys Nation during the off-season. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was one of those skeptical of the move, but I’m not afraid to admit he has exceeded my expectations.

In all honesty, I always believed that La’el Collins’ best position in the NFL is on the interior of the offense of line as a guard. I thought he could use his strength and athleticism to his advantage when working in a phone booth against slower and less athletic defensive tackles. That’s not to say I didn’t think he would make a good right tackle, I just thought he had Pro Bowl potential as a guard.

Strangely enough, Collins has probably put together a Pro Bowl caliber season in his first season starting at the right tackle position for the Cowboys. He has become an upgrade over the previous starter Doug Free, and is really starting to earn high praise from the brass. Stephen Jones in particular has been impressed with Collins, especially considering how he has played after missing two full weeks of practice.

Mark Lane on Twitter

DallasCowboys COO Stephen Jones told @1053thefan La’el Collins has answered the bell after his contract extension.

I personally agree with everything Stephen Jones said about La’el Collins. I’ve really enjoyed watching his progression this season, but I have been really impressed how he played the last two weeks after missing so much practice.

You might not of known, but Collins has missed two full weeks of practice due to a herniated disc in his back. This is put his availability to play against the Washington Redskins and New York Giants in jeopardy, but somehow he has toughened up and played considerably well.

This unfortunately will be something he has to continue to battle through the rest of the season, but I’m not going to bet against him playing. He absolutely makes this offensive line better and I would hate to see Chaz Green or Byron Bell back on the field after the way they played as feel-ins.

La’el Collins has without a doubt earned my respect and I think it’s about time we all recognize the player he is turning into. I know the Dallas Cowboys appreciate all that he does and believe that his recent contract extension is money well spent.

What do you think about La’el Collins?

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