The Dallas Cowboys will face off against the Seattle Seahawks tonight for their "dress rehearsal" preseason game. We probably couldn't have asked for a better team to match up against for the all-important third preseason game.
We all know that the Cowboys pride themselves on their high-powered offense, while the Seahawks are on the opposite end of the spectrum, relying heavily on their defense. It's a strength against strength matchup that should be really entertaining to watch.
I can almost guarantee that these two teams will be at each other's throats from the beginning and it will be a hard-fought battle to the bitter end. Both teams want to come out and set the tone early as being the more physical team, but only one can come out on top.
This is really the first chance we will get to see the starters for an extended amount of time, although we still don't know how much playing time they will receive. Minus some of the injured players that won't be suiting up (Bryant, Crawford, and Scandrick) this could be the team we see take the field Week 1 against the New York Giants when the 2016 season kicks off.
Let's talk some football and discuss some of the key matchups worth watching in tonight's third preseason game.
Dallas Cowboys Offense
The battle in the trenches:
The Dallas Cowboys have arguably the best offensive line in the entire NFL and are no strangers to imposing their will on opposing defenses. The Seattle Seahawks however have players along the defensive line that could create matchup problems for the Cowboys OL.
Michael Bennett in particular has had success against the OL. It will be interesting to see how they approach this particular matchup.
I will be paying particularly close attention to Chaz Green, especially if Tyron Smith doesn't play.
Running game vs. Seahawks defense:
It's common knowledge that the Cowboys want to run the ball and it looks as if we might finally get to see what the running game will look like for the 2016 season. Ezekiel Elliott has a good chance of making his NFL debut and we have a really good opportunity of seeing exactly why the organization invested so highly in him.
The running game has been impressive in the first two preseason games with Alfred Morris, but everybody wants to know what we have in Elliott. There will definitely be a lot of eyes on the young RB.
Brice Butler vs. Seahawks secondary:
I'll be honest and say that I'm a little disappointed that Dez Bryant won't get to match up against Richard Sherman. When the two players square off against one another, you can almost guarantee that there will be some entertaining banter back and forth between the two.
I am however excited to see Brice Butler and how he performs against the Seahawks talented secondary. I also want to see if Butler has developed a chemistry with Tony Romo. The two didn't really get to build a bond last season because of injuries, so hopefully that changes in 2016.
Dallas Cowboys Defense
Pass rush vs. Russell Wilson:
The Dallas Cowboys defense is getting some important pieces back from injury and they should make their NFL debut against the Seahawks.
Benson Mayowa, Maliek Collins, and possibly Charles Tapper should help improve the Cowboys pass rush and they have a steep test ahead of them in containing Russell Wilson, who is known to use his legs to extend plays. All three players are virtually unknowns with the Cowboys, so I'm really interested to see how they perform against the mobile QB.
Cornerbacks vs. Seahawks WRs:
The Cowboys secondary has performed well over the first two preseason games, but the Seahawks wide receivers present a different challenge. The Seahawks WRs are more the shifty slot receiver type and the Cowboys CBs will have to cover them all over the field, while knowing full well that Russell Wilson can buy extra time with his legs.
I will be paying particular close attention to how Anthony Brown plays out of the slot since Orlando Scandrick is expected to sit out with a sore groin muscle.
Linebackers vs. Seahawks running game:
With the exception of Sean Lee, the other two linebacker starting spots might be up for grabs. We haven't seen much of Justin Durant so far, but he is capable of playing any three of the linebacker positions.
I'm really interested to see who lines up where with the starters and how they perform against the Seahawks, who are known to depend on the running game. I think it will be Sean Lee on the weak side, Anthony Hitchens at MLB, and Justin Durant on the strong side as the starting linebackers.
Are there any matchups that you will be paying attention to that weren't mentioned?
Please feel free to use the comments section below to share with everyone your thoughts and opinions or the matchups you will be paying attention to against the Seahawks.
Jason Garrett Deserves Major Praise For Cowboys Week 7 Win
Jason Garrett's seat had never been hotter than it was entering Sunday night.
And that's saying a lot.
The much maligned head coach of the Dallas Cowboys has been fending off those who have called for his job since the very day he took the team over from Wade Phillips in 2010. Garrett has been called a yes-man, the "clapper," and flat-out a bad football coach by seemingly every national media outlet despite the success he's had as the coach in Dallas.
That's right, I said success.
Yes, there has been no championship level success under Garrett's regime, but there has been success. Since 2014, Garrett has led the Cowboys to 3 division titles in 5 years and has reached the Divisional round of the playoffs three times. He's 16-5 against the NFC East in the Dak Prescott era, and has the Cowboys in first place of the division through seven weeks once again.
So, there has been success. But certainly not enough of it to defend his every move.
Jason Garrett messed up in New Jersey. There's no way around it. Sloppy game management and poor control of the clock put his team in a tough situation against the Jets, and ultimately led to their disastrous week 6 loss. He was outcoached and out-prepared by a winless team, and suffered one of the worst losses in his era as the team's head coach.
Fans were calling for his job, and rightfully looking for answers as to why such a talented group of players was in the midst of a three game skid that no one had predicted after their fast start to the 2019 season. Dallas' backs were against the wall, and they had to answer against the Eagles in order to salvage a season which had such high hopes just weeks before.
And, as Jason Garrett's teams have done more often than not, the Dallas Cowboys answered. Garrett's Cowboys had been plagued by slow starts during their three game losing streak, but his team came out on fire on Sunday night. Dallas forced two quick fumbles, scored two easy touchdowns, and were up 14-0 before the Eagles had even blinked.
The game was over, and it had just started.
Jason Garrett is far from perfect as a head coach. He often deserves criticism, and he has some faults which are hard to look past as we project what the Cowboys will be down the stretch of the season. But he deserves major praise for this team's week 7 performance. It would've been easy for the Cowboys to once again come out slow on Sunday, get behind early, and fall into the shell they had found themselves in the previous two weeks.
But instead, they fought. They dominated. And they won.
Games like these are why it's so difficult for the Cowboys to move on from Jason Garrett as their head coach. These teams play hard for him, and they are rarely out of contention on any given Sunday, or during any given season.
Jason Garrett's seat is still hot. The Cowboys will need postseason success to ensure that it cools to a comfortable temperature for the coach this offseason. But kudos to him and the Cowboys for getting a massive win on Sunday night.
Takeaway Tuesday: DeMarcus Lawrence Silences Doubters vs Eagles
Dallas Cowboys fans should be happy about the change of pace in the conversation surrounding America's Team. A week ago, the talk in Cowboys Nation was all about just how hot was Jason Garrett's seat. Three consecutive losses will do that to most fan bases. Fortunately, though, we can put a pin on that conversation for a while after the Cowboys handily defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 37-10 last Sunday Night.
It was a great team performance all around, but we should dive in to the specifics. Overall, it was a good win to claim the NFC East division lead as the Cowboys get ready to rest this upcoming bye week. Let's get to this week's takeaways!
Ezekiel Elliott Played His Best Game of the Year
The way Ezekiel Elliott ran versus the Eagles' defense reminded me of his rookie season. Elliott has had a pretty good season even though the Cowboys haven't leaned as much on the running game as they had the last few seasons.
Last Sunday, he accounted for 111 rushing yards and 36 receiving yards. But it wasn't about his total yardage. What was special was the way he juked defenders, broke tackles and fought for the dirty yards.
There was a fire about #21 and I'm sure Cowboys Nation is just as excited as I am to watch it. He truly was something versus the Eagles.
Ezekiel Elliott's best game of the season BY FAR. Look at this chart from Next Gen Stats. Green lines mean 5+ yards gained or touchdown.
Not to mention, Elliott was extremely effective as he found multiple ways to have 5+ yard run after 5+ yard run. Simply put, an impressive performance from the Cowboys superstar running back.
DeMarcus Lawrence Silenced Doubters
I don't know if it was his huge contract that turned many fans against DeMarcus Lawrence early in the season, but the Cowboys' defensive end managed to silence doubters against the Eagles. On his way to one sack and one forced fumble, Lawrence dominated in the trenches.
He was solid versus the run and kept pressuring Carson Wentz all game long.
The truth is that D-Law has played well this offseason, but constant double-teams and the lack help from the interior defensive linemen have kept his box score stats down. However, when you look at more advanced metrics such as pass-rush productivity, you'll notice Lawrence is still playing at a very high level.
His play versus the Eagles proved that to many fans watching at home.
I was intrigued by the Cowboys lining him up against the Eagles' LT, trying to exploit the fact that Jason Peters was out injured. I wonder if Rod Marinelli continues to look for favorable match-ups in the future and keeps moving him around occasionally.
Amari Cooper is Fine
After Amari Cooper's quad injury against the New York Jets, reports emerged on him being in "terrible pain." Many doubted he'd even play against the Philadelphia Eagles but he did, along other key players who were dealing with injuries too. In his return to the field, Cooper led the Cowboys receiving core with 106 yards in only five receptions (five targets).
Once again, his route running was on full display. He managed to burn a secondary that has been far from great this year. The Cowboys needed him to show up, and he delivered. He even caught a 44 yard pass when he absolutely destroyed Eagles DB Rasul Douglas on a double-move. Cooper would also have a diving jaw-dropping catch later in the game.
It's fair to assume he's healthy and ready to go for the rest of the season.
Cowboys Run Defense Still an Issue
Takeaways and a strong defensive performance against the pass secured the win for the Cowboys, but the run defense continues to be a problem for Rod Marinelli's unit. The Eagles running backs combined for 103 rushing yards and Dallas was beaten in the trenches a handful of times on this game.
The linebackers looked drastically better, and Leighton Vander Esch had his best half this season so far. Fortunately, it seems like his injury isn't serious enough for him to miss any additional playing time.
However, there were a handful of plays in which the Cowboys' defensive tackles were pushed around again. If I had to choose one position to upgrade, I wouldn't hesitate to address the interior defensive line. It's a problem.
This Defensive Drive Sealed the Game for the Dallas Cowboys
Things couldn't have started off any better for a Dallas Cowboys team that was desperately in need of a fast start in this pivotal week seven matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. In the midst of a three-game losing streak, tied atop the NFC East at 3-3 with the Eagles, and hosting their division rival on Sunday Night Football, the Cowboys needed to put their best foot forward early in this game.
After a couple of fumbles recovered by the Dallas defense, the Cowboys jumped out to a 14-0 lead by the midway point of the first quarter. In a two-score hole early in this contest, the Philadelphia Eagles came out guns blazing on their third offensive series of the game and marched right down the field in seven plays, aided by a couple of personal foul calls, and brought the game to within a score.
At 14-7, the Dallas Cowboys offense was then forced to punt on the ensuing drive setting the Philadelphia Eagles up with an opportunity to tie the game in the second quarter if they were able to put a drive together. Getting the score even in the first half after pretty much gifting the Cowboys with a two-touchdown lead early would be a huge momentum swing in the game and provide the Eagles with a ton of confidence.
The Dallas Cowboys defense, however, wouldn't allow that to happen.
With the Eagles pinned back on their own 10-yard line after a Chris Jones punt, the Dallas Cowboys defense went to work with some excellent team defense and individual open field tackling performances on three plays that led to a Philadelphia Eagles three and out.
On first and 10 from their own 10-yard line, the Eagles attempted to run Jordan Howard through the right side of the line. There was nowhere to go on the play as Maliek Collins got excellent penetration into the left "A gap" making first contact behind the line of scrimmage and getting an assist from DeMarcus Lawrence to finish off the run stop for just a one-yard gain.
With a failed first-down run, the Eagles were set up with a 2nd and 9 at their own 11-yard line for the first play of the second quarter. Here they run Jordan Howard off of left tackle on a shotgun sweep handoff and he's able to pick up a nice bit of yardage to set up 3rd and 4.
To me, this was a huge third-down play for the Dallas Cowboys defense. On their previous drive, they had just given up a touchdown and needed to find a way to get of the field. If the Eagles are able to pick this up, it continues to put pressure on the defense and Philadelphia has some momentum.
Needing just four yards for the first down, the Eagles had both run and pass options at their disposal. As the Eagles are in have a tight bunch on the left side, the Cowboys have seven into the box to face six blockers, including the tight end who has a wider than normal split from the left tackle. Jeff Heath is the seventh man and on the snap is able to remain untouched as Carson Wentz hands off to Miles Sanders and snakes his way through the mass of humanity to stop the running back just shy of the first down.
They had the play fairly well blocked, but nobody accounts for Heath who is able to stay clean and track down Miles Sanders before he's able to get to the first down marker.
In a game that had a ton of highlights, this was a play that may go unnoticed when people talk about the outcome of this game but was huge given the current game situation. The Dallas Cowboys needed to get a stop on defense.
The Philadelphia Eagles attempted to attack the Dallas Cowboys' defense on the ground on this drive, which has been an area of vulnerability for the Cowboys in 2019. Their attempt to ground and pound in order to gain some momentum and reassert themselves in the game didn't come to fruition because the Cowboys defenders rallied well to the football on three straight running plays. The Dallas Cowboys turned a weakness into a strength on this drive and did their part to help the offense put the game away early.
After forcing the three and out, something the Dallas Cowboys defense doesn't do a lot of this year, the offense was able to take the ball and go on a 12 play, 71-yard drive for a touchdown that took nearly seven minutes off the clock. The Cowboys were able to go up two touchdowns again on their division rival and pretty much put the game out of reach, but it wouldn't have been so had the defense not stepped up and forced the three and out on this early second-quarter drive.
The defense played arguably their best game of the season on Sunday Night Football on a night where they desperately needed to play their best game of the year. There are still nine games to go and have a pretty rough seven-game stretch coming out of the bye starting with another divisional matchup on the road against the New York Giants in week nine. If the Dallas Cowboys defense can show this kind of consistency against the run moving forward, they'll be very difficult to beat.
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