It doesn't get much more important for the 2017 Dallas Cowboys than this upcoming Sunday's game. At 7-6 and with their playoff lives on the line, the Cowboys have no other choice but to defeat the Oakland Raiders if they want to keep their hopes alive.
Though both the Cowboys and Raiders were expected to be fighting for supremacy in their respective conferences, neither has quite had the season they'd hoped for. After a disappointing loss to the Chiefs last week, Oakland now sits at 6-7, and is also in a must-win situation.
Most fans don't get the opportunity to watch the Raiders each Sunday, and have been wondering what is going wrong out in Oakland. Sure, the offense has taken a step back and Derek Carr has not been the same quarterback we saw a year ago, but overall that side of the ball has been good enough most weeks.
The real problems for the Raiders begin on the defensive side of the ball. And their struggles don't discriminate - as they've been pretty terrible against both the run and pass this season.
According to Football Outsiders' DVOA (Defensive-adjusted Value over Average) metric, the Raiders defense ranks last in the NFL against the pass and 21st in the NFL against the run. In terms of more raw statistics, the Raiders allow 350.8 yards per game and rank 22nd in the league in net yards per game. The Raiders defense also ranks last in the league in both yards per attempt and completion percentage allowed on throws outside the hashes, according to Pro Football Focus.
The worst position group on this defense, by both the eye test and the Pro Football Focus numbers, are the linebackers. PFF has their linebackers with a 60.6 average grade, and outside of veteran Navorro Bowman, the group has been pretty disappointing.
Their secondary hasn't been much better either, ranking last in the league against the deep ball and 28th against short passes (again, by DVOA). When you watch the tape you see pretty clear problems on the defensive side of the ball, though many Raiders fans will tell you the struggles of the offense have failed to aid what they expected to be an undermanned defense.
If there was going to be a week for Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant to connect on a few deep balls, the numbers say that this should be the time. While the Cowboys offense has struggled to create yards-after-catch much of the season, this could be another opportunity for Cole Beasley, Rod Smith, Ryan Switzer, and Dez Bryant to make some plays with the ball in their hands.
And though Oakland boasts arguably the best EDGE rusher in the entire league in Khalil Mack, the rest of that defensive roster is not nearly as impressive. If La'el Collins can slow Mack's pass rush down, the Cowboys offense should be able to have a successful day against the Oakland Raiders.
CIN 21, DAL 14: Dak Prescott Continues Strong Preseason in Loss
The games may not count yet, but Dak Prescott looks ready for the 2018 season. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback continued his strong preseason play in the team's 21-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Prescott played three series, going 10/15 for 86 yards and a touchdown. He got the offense out of trouble a few times with his feet, avoiding sacks and ultimately getting the scoring pass off on a redzone scramble.
Dak's strong play has coincided with shutdown performances from the starting defense. The Cowboys' first-team defenders have yet to allow a score in two preseason games. Tonight, the Bengals were forced into four punts and two turnovers on their first-half possessions.
Overall, the Cowboys are a combined 24-7 in the first halves of their first two preseason contests.
The second half has been the problem, and for two weeks now Dallas' reserves have squandered halftime leads and given up losses. Thankfully, most of the responsible players will not be on the final 53-man roster.
- There were several concerning injuries for the Cowboys tonight. None was scarier than when All-Pro guard Zack Martin went out with a knee injury, but it does not appear to have been serious. Starting defensive backs Byron Jones and Xavier Woods also got banged up; Byron returned to the game but Woods did not. Defensive lineman Datone Jones also left with a knee injury.
- Even more concerning was the play of the second-team offensive line. Chaz Green was typically awful, but we also saw swing tackle Cam Fleming struggling and just an overall lack of protection for the backups quarterbacks. Green got benched in the second half and may have finally played his way off the team.
- Credit to Terrance Williams for getting open in the endzone to give Dak Prescott a receiver for the touchdown throw. Even with his warts, Williams' two years of experience playing with Dak can't be ignored in deciding who makes the team.
- Tight end Blake Jarwin continues to run with the starters on offense and may have quietly taken the job away from Geoff Swaim.
- Darius Jackson took advantage of some extra playing time tonight after Bo Scarbrough left with a hip injury. He broke off a few nice runs to amass 42 yards on just six carries, plus had four receptions.
- We finally get to see Dan Bailey kick a field goal again, and it was an easy 35-yarder with no issues.
- Shout out to Chidobe Awuzie for one of the pretty interceptions that a Cowboys DB has made in some time. Awuzie had to bend like Beckham (Odell, that is) to get a hand on the ball, then tipped it to himself for the pick.
- Preseason fun continues for the Cowboys next Sunday when they host the Arizona Cardinals on NBC's Sunday Night Football.
#DALvsCIN: Can WR Lance Lenoir Continue To Impress?
Entering training camp projecting who would make the final roster from the Dallas Cowboys wide receiving room was a crapshoot. The combination of misfits from other teams, unproven young guys, and a couple of Cowboys veterans makes this position group the most questioned across the entire roster.
But while Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, and Michael Gallup were stealing headlines, Lance Lenoir was making a name for himself among the Cowboys faithful.
After serving on the practice squad for the Cowboys a year ago, Lenoir seems to have entered 2018 with one goal in mind: to make the official game-day roster. And even if he falls short of this goal, it won't be due to any fault of his own.
Day in and day out Lance Lenoir has been a consistent wide out, catching nearly everything thrown his way and running some of the crisper routes on the team. Under new receivers coach Sanjay Lal, Lenoir has become a technical route runner and dangerous receiving threat.
Maybe most importantly for his future with the team, Lenoir has developed an obvious chemistry with starting quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott has continued to compliment Lenoir throughout training camp, and you know that the Cowboys front office is well aware of Prescott's trust in Lenoir on the field.
During the preseason opener against the 49ers, Lance Lenoir caught his first touchdown of the season, dazzling with his toe-tap ability. If he is going to steal a roster spot away from one of the more seasoned wide outs, however, he will have to remain that consistent target.
This Saturday, Lenoir gets another shot to prove why he's not only deserving of a roster spot, but of a starting spot. Sure, it might be a bit of a stretch, but if he continues to play like he has during camp and preseason, Lenoir could find himself working with the 1's more frequently.
Look out for Lance Lenoir against the Bengals this week, as he makes it harder and harder for the Cowboys to cut him by the second.
#DALvsCIN: Bengals DL Gives Cowboys OL Formidable Test
During their preseason opener, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line faced its first test of the season. The young, athletic, and downright talented defensive line of the 49ers gave the Cowboys starting five a chance to gauge their offseason progress thus far.
I'd say the starting group passed the test, while the backups and depth players looked a bit more shaky. The good thing about football, though, is that they get a shot to do it all again this Saturday.
This week's opponent, the Cincinatti Bengals, feature some serious talent upfront. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins is one of the best interior defenders in all of football, terrorizing centers and guards since he entered the league.
On the edge is one of my 2017 draft favorites, Carl Lawson. Lawson was a draft target of mine for the Cowboys, but it appears the entire league missed on the stud edge rusher during that draft. During his rookie season a year ago, Lawson racked up 8.5 sacks and looked like the best rookie rusher in all of football. It's rare that a rookie defensive end tallies the sack total that Lawson did in 2017, but then again, Lawson is a rare type of player.
Opposite of Carl Lawson is veteran pass rusher Carlos Dunlap. Together, Atkins and Dunlap have been one of the more dangerous pass rush duos for quite some time, but the additions of Lawson and Jordan Willis make them an incredibly impressive group.
During the Bengals' preseason opener against the Chicago Bears, their defensive line looked to be in midseason form.
Though Geno Atkins had the team's only sack, the trio of Atkins, Lawson, and Dunlap looked as prolific as ever.
This deep and talented defensive line is a more-than worthy test for the Cowboys this Saturday. Rookie Connor Williams will likely have to block Geno Atkins at some point, and though he looked promising against the 49ers, this week presents a whole different challenge.
Many now expect veteran center Travis Frederick to miss Saturday's game as well, due to his shoulder troubles during training camp. If Frederick were to miss the start, Joe Looney would be thrown into the first against this first team defensive front of the Bengals.
A rookie at left guard and Looney at center might not be the best ingredients against Geno Atkins and company, but it'll be what they have to roll with.
Still, Saturday will give us another chance to see what the 2018 Dallas Cowboys offensive line is all about.
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Should Cowboys Regret How They’ve Handled The Safety Position?
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
5 Cowboys From 2017 Who May Not Make Current Roster
Dallas Cowboys3 days ago
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Has Breakout Day in Camp
Dallas Cowboys4 days ago
Possible Cowboys Roster Cuts Who Could Have Trade Value
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Don’t Freak Out About The Cowboys Passing Game Just Yet
Game Notes1 week ago
LB Joe Thomas Steals The Show In San Francisco
Star Blog2 weeks ago
DE Taco Charlton Bigger, Stronger, Faster in Year 2?
Star Blog5 days ago
The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up