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Game Notes

Cowboys at Browns: Previewing Dallas’ Week 9 Road Game With Dan Labbe

Sean Martin

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Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams

The 6-1 Dallas Cowboys will be in Cleveland on Sunday, traveling to play the win-less Browns for the first time since 2008 on the road. America’s Team always draws a great crowd – as Browns fans will try to recover from watching their Cleveland Indians lose Game 7 of the World Series, wanting nothing more than their first win of the season.

I also believe that Cowboys Nation will be well represented in the stands, including my own presence for the first time! I’ll be taking in my first ever Cowboys game, and feel pretty good about it ending up as Dallas’ seventh straight win.

In order to learn more about this match up, I interviewed Cleveland.com Browns reporter Dan Labbe.


Q: The Browns missed a great chance to get their first win of the season last week at home against the Jets. I’m sure plenty of fans are also pretty upset the Indians couldn’t pull out Game 7 in the World Series. What is the mood around this Browns team and their fans right now with the NFC leading Cowboys in town?

Dan Labbe (@Dan_Labbe): The good news for the Browns is they’ve been flying under the radar, which is rare for this team. The bad news is the Indians are done and interest in the NBA won’t pick up for a while, so their 0-8 record (and, let’s be honest, soon to be 0-9) is front and center.

Fans were expecting a long, losing season, but the frustration is starting to grow. They see the plan being put together — acquire draft picks and start over from scratch — and the team has fought and been in most games, but I’m not sure how fans would stomach 0-16 or 1-15.

Q: The Browns could start Josh McCown at quarterback in his second straight game, or go back to rookie Cody Kessler. We know they will also welcome back first-round pick WR Corey Coleman. Obviously, Cleveland needs to find a way to put up point in this game, where do you see them having an advantage against Rod Marinelli’s defense?

Dan Labbe (@Dan_Labbe): It could be Cody Kessler at quarterback as he’s cleared the concussion protocol and will be active. Hue Jackson will make his announcement on Friday. Regardless, the best shot the Browns have is to take advantage of the wounded Dallas secondary with their big target in Terrelle Pryor and the speed of Coleman who will line up in multiple spots — both outside and in the slot.

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys at Browns: Previewing Dallas' Week 9 Road Game With Dan Labbe 1

Q: If McCown does start against Dallas, what does he have to do to secure his spot as the starter moving forward for Hue Jackson, throwing against a Dallas secondary that will be without Barry Church and Morris Claiborne?

Dan Labbe (@Dan_Labbe): McCown’s biggest strength is his arm, but the key is taking care of the football. He can be turnover prone. He also needs to get rid of the ball quickly. With a shaky offensive line, his penchant for holding onto the football could get him hurt again.

If Cody Kessler starts, he needs to show he can get the ball down the field. It’s the biggest question mark for him along with his durability. There should be some opportunities, especially with Coleman back, and he has to take advantage of them.

Ultimately, this has to be Kessler’s job, though. The Browns have to see what he’s capable of and judge his ceiling.

Q: The Browns added LB Jamie Collins this week ahead of this game, what role do you expect to see him in for his first game this Sunday?

Dan Labbe (@Dan_Labbe): It appears they are going to use him at outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme, but he does have the ability to play inside should they choose to move him inside. I’m guessing that at some point he will be on the field in the nickel, as well, as opposed to Demario Davis, one of their inside linebackers. His coverage skills will be a welcome addition, as the Browns have had all kinds of problems with tight ends. It will help them to have another player that defenses need to pay attention to and will be interesting to see if it will open up some opportunities for a young pass rusher like Emmanuel Ogbah on the other side.

Q: The Cowboys and Browns are tied in sacks at 14 on the season. What does the Browns pass rush need to do to make Dak Prescott uncomfortable, coming off of a game where he looked flustered against the Eagles?

Dan Labbe (@Dan_Labbe): The Browns best pass rusher is rookie Carl Nassib. He’s quick off the ball and bats down a lot of passes — he got three of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s in the first half last week. He’s also fast enough to chase quarterbacks down and smart enough to read screens and designed quarterback runs. They need him and Ogbah, who lines up at outside linebacker and defensive end, to bring as much heat as they can, because the inside rushers, who haven’t created a lot of quarterback pressure, will be tied up trying to deal with the interior of that Cowboys line. It’s also why I expect Collins to step in and play a fair amount. They need pressure from their outside linebackers.

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys at Browns: Previewing Dallas' Week 9 Road Game With Dan Labbe

Q: Which Cowboys defender in the front seven do you think scares Cleveland the most when it comes to trying to establish running backs Isiah Crowell and Duke Johnson?

Dan Labbe (@Dan_Labbe): I’m going to be generic here, but really anyone who lines up in the middle is a problem. Cameron Erving has struggled at center to begin with and now he’s popped up on the injury report with a shoulder. This offensive line has already had to shuffle, losing left guard Joel Bitonio, who was having a Pro Bowl-type season. Interior defenders have given them nightmares.

Q: Who should the Cowboys be the most worried about defensively overall for Cleveland?

Dan Labbe (@Dan_Labbe): I mentioned Nassib, their third-round pick last April. He’s been really good, even if he’s faded in second halves of games. Joe Haden isn’t the type of cornerback who will shut guys down, but he is one of the few players in the secondary who can force turnovers and he can make life difficult for a wide receiver. You can beat Haden, but he can also make plays on the football and create turnovers.


It looks like Dan sees the Browns defense doing their best to create pressure off the edge against Prescott, including with their newest addition Jamie Collins. Tyron Smith was absolutely dominant in week 8, but Doug Free will have to be ready for different looks at right tackle.

For the Browns offense, regardless of who starts at quarterback, it will be important for them not to turn the ball over, and find ways to get Coleman his touches. They will also have to find a way – with the interior of their offensive line struggling – to block the likes of Terrell McClain, rookie Maliek Collins, and even David Irving lining up in the middle of the Cowboys’ defensive front.

In the end, he sees the Browns falling to 0-9 at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, who would improve to 7-1 on the season.

What are YOUR thoughts on the Cleveland Browns ahead of this weekend’s Cowboys game? Let us know! Use the comment section below to start the conversation.

You can follow Dan on Twitter @Dan_Labbe, and read his work at Cleveland.com! I’ll be on Twitter live from FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland @ShoreSportsNJ, and will be streaming live on Periscope at halftime.

Tell us what you think about “Cowboys at Browns: Previewing Dallas’ Week 9 Road Game With Dan Labbe” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Pleasant NJ, no we're not how you think we are. Host of "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. You may @ me: @SeanMartinNFL.

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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