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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!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Coming into their week two match up against the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys knew they could control the game with -- for the first time in years against Eli Manning -- their pass rush and strong secondary. Exposing a weak Giants offensive line went well beyond the Cowboys front four in this win though.

The Cowboys put Manning on the turf six times, with Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard relentlessly dialing up pressure. With the depth at linebacker to match up with Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram, along with Byron Jones' efforts on Odell Beckham Jr., it's no secret how the Cowboys defense forced Manning to dump the ball to his running back for 14 receptions.

Barkley's longest catch going for ten yards, this was a nearly flawless game for Rod Marinelli's defense to even the Cowboys record at 1-1. Expecting much of the same from their front seven against a poor Seahawks OL, now is a good time to look back at some of the pressure packages the Cowboys used in week two.

With a core of versatile linebackers they can trust, the Cowboys deployed Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee, Damien Wilson, and Leighton Vander Esch all over the field to present the Giants with different looks. What made the Cowboys defensive play calling so successful was their LBs ability to cover ground quickly and create depth in coverage.

By doing so, the Giants could not take any chances down the field, their longest passing play going for 37 yards.

Blitz1

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On this play, even with the Giants looking to get the ball out quickly, the pressure from Smith and Wilson disrupt the timing. Sean Lee, the only Cowboys linebacker not sent after Manning on the play, ends up rallying from his starting WILL position to get in on the tackle. The Giants did not have the numbers up front to block Damien Wilson attacking from SAM, although more impressively, Smith was able to rip through a partial block from the right guard and get ahead of Wilson on their rush.

Blitz2

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This next blitz shows off the Cowboys strong coverage downfield against the Giants. Cornerback Anthony Brown had his fingerprints all over this game in the back end for Dallas, but on this play comes out of the slot after Manning. Sensing the pressure at his feet, Manning steps up and actually puts himself in position to deliver a good ball, but is forced into yet another check down.

While linebacker blitzes are part of the "Richard effect" on the Cowboys defense, a well-timed slot blitz is a staple of Rod Marinelli's scheme. Using Brown a number of times in this role off the strong side, the Giants had no answers for the different pressures Dallas sent their way against Ereck Flowers at right tackle.

Blitz3

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Even when Smith was picked up, as he was in the above play, the Cowboys capitalized on missed blocking assignments to get home with their front four. Taco Charlton the benefactor at RDE here, watch as Barkley rushes to keep Lee from having a straight run at his QB - allowing Charlton to do the same off the edge. Running untouched on the play, Charlton does a nice job taking a sharp angle to Manning and chasing him to the ground.

Blitz4

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As much as the Cowboys cornerbacks were a huge part of the team's confidence in sending pressure, their safeties also performed well in coverage. I wrote about the above play on Monday morning in my Sean's Scout that immediately follows every Cowboys game:

"That's a fantastic play by Jeff Heath to run across the field and tackle Evan Engram short of the line to gain on third down.

The Giants drive would continue with a fourth down conversion, but the Cowboys defense did eventually force a punt.

The Cowboys safeties were primarily called upon to play in run support in this game, a role Heath has struggled in previously. Showing off his strengths as an athletic and rangy defensive back on this play, Heath didn't get pushed up the field by Engram on his release, hunting him down after the catch in front of a fired up Dallas bench."

Heath picking up Engram is just one example of a Cowboys defender exceeding expectations in coverage. Smith was able to run with Beckham Jr., as was Charlton on separate plays later in the game.

Blitz6

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The only fitting way to conclude this film study is with a DeMarcus Lawrence sack. The Cowboys best individual defender, Lawrence had his way with Flowers as we all expected. Playing to another one of Tank's strengths here though, Lawrence rushes to the inside off a well-executed T/E stunt with Tyrone Crawford.

Also sending Brown at Manning again, the Giants pass pro leaves Lawrence unabated to the quarterback. Unlikely to escape the grasp of Lawrence on such a free rush, Manning does try to abort the pocket, but had Brown crashing down on him to collapse things.

Lawrence might not earn many easier sacks this season. None of the Cowboys starters on defense are more capable of using their own ability to get to the QB than Lawrence still, who is getting all the help he needs from Richard as his play caller.

Through just two games, the Cowboys commitment to forcing the issue on defense has potential to keep this team atop the NFC East as the offense comes into its own.

Depending on the development of their own passing game, this may have to be a defense that can win Dallas games. The only way to do so is with sacks and turnovers.

The latter is something Marinelli's defenses have always excelled at when at full strength (the Cowboys are expecting Randy Gregory back as early as this week and DT David Irving comes off suspension in week five). The former is something the Cowboys are creating with a deeply talented front seven, orchestrated by one of the best in the business.

The Cowboys will look to build on their nine sacks this season against the Seahawks on Sunday, a team that's allowed the most in the league at 12. Their timing to go after Russell Wilson will be tested more than it was against the Giants, with Richard also better positioned to aid the Cowboys against his former team.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

Dallas Cowboys’ Path to Victory Over the Seattle Seahawks

John Williams

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Dallas Cowboys' Path to Victory Over the Seattle Seahawks

In every game, whether it's a sporting event or a board game there is a path -- and sometimes more than one -- to victory. For the Dallas Cowboys, it's no different. As they get set to face a Seattle Seahawks team that is 0-2 for the first time since 2015, they'll have to win in several areas to bring home the W.

After starting out 0-2 in 2015, the Seahawks finished the season with a 10-6 record and won their wild card game over the Minnesota Vikings before falling in the divisional round to the Carolina Panthers.

The Seahawks are one of those teams that you can get down, but can never count out. If the Dallas Cowboys want to come out on top in their trip to the Pacific Northwest, they are going to have to come ready to play.

In particular, these are the things that the Dallas Cowboys have to achieve to be the victors on Sunday.

Limit Big Plays

The Seattle Seahawks are a very interesting offensive case study. They have one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but have invested very little in trying to protect their most important asset.

They rely on Russell Wilson's improvisational ability and penchant for big plays.

In 2017, Wilson had a quarterback rating of 100.9 on attempts greater than 20 yards down the field, per Pro Football Focus. He threw the ball "deep" 91 times, completing 31 passes for 1,134 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. He had the most deep attempts in the league last season and tied with Alex Smith with the most touchdowns on deep attempts. Wilson's yardage was nearly 200 yards more than the next best in the NFL on deep passing.

Wilson's going to take some deep shots. If you watched the Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bears, you noticed that even though Wilson was getting battered, it didn't deter him from taking shots deep down the field. Sometimes into unfavorable coverages.

The secondary has an advantage over the Seattle Seahawks group of wide receivers, but they'll have to stay disciplined and not allow the big pass plays to beat them.

In a game where they were being dominated for more than three quarters, the Seahawks were able to hang around and had a chance at the end because of their penchant for big plays.

Don't get beat deep.

Wrangling Russell Wilson

The Seattle Seahawks have allowed the most sacks in the league through two weeks. They've allowed six in each of their first two games this season. The Dallas Cowboys are going to have opportunities to sack Russell Wilson this week.

They have to take advantage.

Like Cam Newton in week one, Russell Wilson is a very elusive quarterback. Not only is he really good at making plays with his legs, he can be difficult to bring down. The Dallas Cowboys will have to work to keep Wilson in the pocket and finish when they get an opportunity to bring him down. He's not a physical presence like Newton is, but he's slippery and has some of that Tony Romo elusiveness to him.

If the potential tackler doesn't get Wilson down on first contact, it could lead to big plays both through the air and on the ground. Wilson averages 33.6 yards per game on the ground in his career and 5.7 yards per attempt. In order to get off the field on third down, they're going to have to prevent Wilson from using his legs to pick up third downs.

Establishing the Pass to Set Up the Run

At this point in the Dallas Cowboys offensive approach, everyone in the world knows what the Dallas Cowboys want to do on offense. They want to run the ball.

The Dallas Cowboys did a great job using this knowledge to their advantage on the first series of the game against the New York Giants.

On the first play of the game, they used a Run-Pass Option, with a clear out to the flat by Tight End Geoff Swaim, and found Allen Hurns on a slant to set up a second and short. Then after picking up that second and short with a run by Ezekiel Elliott, they used a straight play action out of a two running back, one tight end set, and hit Tavon Austin for the 64 yard touchdown.

Dak's willingness to throw the ball deep on a couple other occasions helped open up the run. The deep ball has to be a threat in order to back defenses off the line of scrimmage and do what you do best: Run the Ball. If they aren't going to back off, then you have to keep throwing it until you hit the deep ball enough that it forces them to do so.

The Dallas Cowboys were able to run the ball pretty effectively for the rest of the game, even if they didn't hit a lot of big plays. With the New York Giants interior defensive line, it was going to be tough sledding anyway. Getting things going through the air, helped out immensely.

The Seattle Seahawks are going to try to do what everyone does; put the ball in Dak Prescott's hands. If they're going to win on Sunday, it's going to be because Prescott had another efficient game throwing the ball.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

This game sets up really well for the Dallas Cowboys to improve their record to 2-1 and keep pace with the upper tier teams in the NFC. Every win matters, but these NFC games matter even a bit more. No game in the NFL is a cakewalk and this game is no different. If the Dallas Cowboys aren't able to do the above, it could be a long day for America's Team. 



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Game Notes

#SEAvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Wishlist Christmas Edition: Seahawks @ Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys found a way to get their first win last Sunday, defeating the New York Giants from start to finish, 20-13.

Now at 1-1 and locked in a three way tie for 1st place in the NFC East, Dallas is looking to string together a few victories and create some early separation. Seattle is now sitting at 0-2, and while that's typically a hole teams cannot climb out of in the NFL, the Seahawks will be desperately fighting to avoid an 0-3 start.

The Seahawks opened up as 3 point home favorites against the Cowboys, with the over/under set at 44.5 points.

Dallas Cowboys

After an abysmal season opener against Carolina, the Cowboys came out firing against the Giants on Sunday night. Dallas led by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter, and ended up holding on as the Giants made a late garbage-time run.

Dak Prescott looked as comfortable in the pocket as he as in weeks, finding Tavon Austin for a 64 yard touchdown pass on the opening drive. Ezekiel Elliott scored another rushing touchdown, and the Cowboys defense was straight up dominant.

Now, the Cowboys defensive line has another chance to increase their sack total against the Seahawks' weak offensive line. And you know DeMarcus Lawrence is salivating.

Dallas improved to 1-1 straight up and against the spread, covering the 3 point spread set by Vegas a week ago. Both Cowboys games have gone under thus far as well.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks fell to 0-2 on Monday night with a tough road loss to the Chicago Bears. Khalil Mack dominated the Seahawks offensive line, dictating protections and keeping Russell Wilson uncomfortable all night long.

The Seahawks haven't been able to get much of a run game going this season, despite their insistence upon doing so. Russell Wilson is their offense, and if the Cowboys can pressure him and force him into hero-ball throws, they should have success on Sunday. After all, this was the Bears recipe for success on Monday night.

Seattle is 0-2 straight up and 0-1-1 against the spread this season.

Trends

  • The score total has gone under 5 straight Cowboys' games.
  • Dallas is 2-4 against the spread their last six times playing at Seattle.
  • Seattle is 1-5 against the spread their last six games at home.
  • The under has hit 4 of the last 5 Cowboys/Seahawks games.

Prediction

While I've thought hard about picking the under for the third straight week (I'm 2-0 doing so), I'll pick the actual game for you guys this time. I think the Cowboys will get this road win and improve to 2-1 behind dominant defensive line play and a strong running game.

This match up favors Dallas in multiple ways and I expect them to take advantage of Seattle's weak spots.

I like the Cowboys +3 a lot this Sunday.



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