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Cowboys Defense Isn’t What We Thought They Were

John Williams

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In Houston, Dallas Cowboys Defense Reveals a Problem

Coming into the 2018 NFL season, I looked at the Dallas Cowboys and saw them as a team that would fairly easily win 10 games and make the playoffs. Questions centered around Dak Prescott and the offense, but I like many, thought the defense was going to be elite.

Well, after five games, it's safe to say that the defense is not elite.

The Dallas Cowboys' defense wasn't the entire problem on Sunday night in their 19-16 loss to the Houston Texans, but to say that they didn't have their own struggles on Sunday would be an understatement.

We've seen what this defense is, and what they are is not good enough.

As a unit, they haven't been bad, but they aren't a unit that is capable of carrying an offense as bad as the Dallas Cowboys offense is. And I can't kid myself anymore, this Cowboys offense is a bad offense.

The Texans moved the ball at will on the Dallas Cowboys. They hit the Cowboys for big gains in both the passing game and running game. The Cowboys allowed 462 yards of total offense. Houston Texans Quarterback Deshaun Watson throwing for 375 and running for another 40.

The Cowboys defense pressured him 17 times, but were only able to come away with one sack. This against the team that had given up the second most sacks in the NFL coming into week five.

Running Back Alfred Blue rushed for 46 yards on the day, but had 47 yards after contact. Though Blue only ran for 2.3 yards per carry, he was able to do enough to keep the Texans in favorable down and distances on Sunday night.

The Dallas Cowboys were able to force the Texans to kick field goals inside the five yard line three times. The Texans also failed to convert on fourth and goal from inside the five yard line at the end of the second half. Imagine what the score would be like if the Texans were able to score on even half of their inside the five yard line attempts. Were they lucky or were they good in their ability to limit the Texans to field goals from inside the five? Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good and I think the Cowboys were more lucky. They were lucky to hold the Texans to 19. They could have easily given up 30 or more if not for the play of the Linebacker Jaylon Smith.

Other than the red zone defense, which was stingier than a Dave and Buster's claw machine, the Dallas Cowboys couldn't do anything to stop Houston. Deshaun Watson was slinging the ball around like an in his prime Drew Brees and the Cowboys had no answer for it on the defensive side of the football.

When the Texans got the ball in overtime, I didn't have a good feeling about their ability to prevent Houston from kicking the game winning field goal. There had been too much evidence in the previous 60 minutes -- 3 games -- of play that Dallas is struggling on defense.

The Cowboys defense has now struggled three weeks in a row after starting the season strong against the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants. They've now allowed an average of 22.33 points per game over the last three weeks and the pass defense has seen their passing yards against increase each of the last three weeks. In their last two weeks, they've allowed 318 passing yards per game to Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson, who are good passing quarterbacks, but aren't the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

Kris Richard, Rod Marinelli, and the defensive coaching staff attempted to make a personnel adjustment in the middle of the game by going with Anthony Brown at left corner back and inserting Jourdan Lewis into the lineup as the slot corner. The results were better in the second half compared to the first half, but they were still giving up a lot of yards to the Texans.

Someone on the defensive line has to start turning pressures into sacks. DeMarcus Lawrence as good as he is, can't do it all, and week after week, he's going to be asked to try to beat multiple blockers when rushing the quarterback. Very few players in the NFL can play against double teams on every snap and win consistently. So, someone along the defensive line is going to have to give opposing quarterbacks something to think about. Whether it's Taco Charlton, Randy Gregory, or the returning David Irving, someone has to help Lawrence out.

I hate to say it, but the 2018 season is heading to an unfortunate place. The Dallas Cowboys are looking down the barrel of a sub-.500 season because this defense isn't good enough to carry the offense.

At this point, we know what this team is and on both sides of the football, they aren't very good.



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

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4 Comments
  • tony

    I didnt think at all that this defense was going to be elite! I thought they would be decent could the secondary would not be as good. Also they would have a problem with pressure up the middle. If the offense was better it could make the defense better but that’s not going to happen.

  • Sean Leonard

    This defense has been a pleasant surprise. Its not at full strength yet and is without its field general(Lee). I did feel that the play-calling was tentative. It felt like Marinelli reclaimed the play-calling. When Dallas finally sent blitzes, it caused Watson to throw a pick. Vanderesch is ahead of the learning curve and Jaylon is becoming a star. The safeties are the weak point but Heath played much better. Xavier is looking like JJ Wilcox with the poor angles. Its tragic Cowboys couldnt get the Earl Thomas deal done,but Jerry hasnt gotten a good deal done since signing “primetime “.

  • Wayne Young

    The defense has been a lot better than expected. Who thought they would be elite??? If anything, they were a major concern coming into the season. And say what you want, if it wasn’t for the defense they would be winless right now. Because they’re not an elite defense you can’t expect them to carry and win every game for them with the offense playing as poorly as they are. The defense isn’t their issue. Their offense and coaching are. Period.

  • dallas1966

    First things first, the no earl thomas trade didn’t do any justice, heath, needs help. I’m not sold on woods, despite the interception.
    What has surprise me, is the regression of dak prescott. I’m very disappointed in his career development, especially, with his propensity to be inconsistent, especially, with accuracy and anticipation. If, the Cowboys scouts knew he had these issues while in college, why waste a draft selection ? It appears that dak’s rookie season is becoming more like RG3’s rookie season, an aberration.
    With a new HC and offensive coordinator, it wouldn’t surprise me, If the Cowboys keep dak to complete his 2019 contract, but draft a quarterback in the 2020 draft. Just my two cents worth.

Game Notes

L.P. Ladouceur Insists “Nothing Different” on FG Attempt

John Williams

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Cowboys Blog - Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur Is Greatest 91 In Dallas Cowboys History

There were other plays that certainly had as much of an impact on the outcome of the Dallas Cowboys loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday. However, sequence of events surrounding L.P. Ladouceur and the game-tying field goal attempt are front and center.

Prior to Brett Maher's game-tying 52 yard field goal attempt clanged off of the left upright as time expired, backlash on social media had already begun to spread about the so-called "snap infraction" that moved the Dallas Cowboys from what would have been a 47 yard field goal attempt to the 52 yarder that Maher pulled.

Five yards closer and Maher gets that kick through the uprights and the Dallas Cowboys go to overtime with a chance to take the division lead. It didn't and the Cowboys fell to 3-4, now a game and a half behind the Washington Redskins as the Cowboys head into the bye.

After the game, many of us were watching the snap and trying to figure out what exactly he did wrong to warrant the penalty. According to L.P. Ladouceur, he did nothing wrong and was adamant about that in the rare post game interview.

“I just adjusted down so I could put my hands on the bottom of it so I could snap it in the right direction. Exact same thing I’ve been doing for 14 years … I’m not even trying to get him offside. I know the situation. Just too bad.” 

L.P.Ladouceur - via Todd Archer, ESPN.com

It was a rare "miscue" for the 14 year veteran deep snapper. Seriously, I can't remember a time when this call was made on a deep snapper or when Ladouceur had a bad snap. He's been excellent. If deep snappers could get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, L.P. would be a first ballot Hall of Famer. He's been that good.

As Cowboys Nation attempted to make sense of the call, the NFL Officials Twitter account had an explanation of the penalty call after the game, which may give you more understanding, or more frustration.

NFL Officiating on Twitter

The illegal ball movement by the center in #DALvsWAS causes the defense to come across the neutral zone and contact a lineman." -AL https://t.co/Cv8Ugwb99p

Their argument was that Ladouceur moved the ball in his snap and that is an "illegal ball movement." It was that movement which caused the defender to come into the neutral zone and make contact with the offensive lineman.

I'll have to admit, watching deep snapper All-22 film is not something I'm going to find myself doing and so, we'll lean on Mike Garafolo here.

Mike Garafolo on Twitter

Just watched a few of L.P. Ladouceur's snaps in recent weeks. He moves the ball a lot at times. Nothing out of the ordinary here. The difference could be that nobody jumped on previous snaps. https://t.co/kc10gtMJ11

If what Garafolo says is true, that L.P. Ladouceur does move the ball a lot on his snaps, then how come he hasn't been called for it before. Mike could be right in that he hasn't been called for this before because no one has ever jumped offsides when he moved before. Regardless, the call has me wondering one of two things as to why they called it all of a sudden. 1) Either the officials don't usually see the ball movement or 2) they don't care. And both leave me a bit frustrated.

If they don't typically see the ball movement, then that means they didn't see the movement on Sunday and relied on the movement of the interior defensive lineman jumping offsides to make the call. To me, that is a problem. The officials need to be the ones making the call in these situations, especially a game-tying field goal attempt where five yards can make a huge difference. A defender is always going to act like he got drawn offsides. It's the officials job to make that call. Not the defense's.

If they don't typically care what long snappers are doing with the football prior to the snap, then why did they call it this time? A long snapper, like a kicker and punter, has a routine they go through prior to the snap to get their mind and body right. There's zero chance after 14 years in a game-tying situation that L.P. Ladouceur changed his approach to snapping on this particular field goal try.

The NFL Officiating body of the NFL says what he did is a penalty. Ladouceur says that's how he's always snapped.

So it begs the question, "why now?"

If that's always been a penalty and he's always snapped it like that, why did they pick that time in that situation to make that call. It may have been the right call, but it was a ticky-tack call and it inserted the officials into the outcome of the football game. Yes, the Dallas Cowboys killed themselves with a lot of penalties in really bad situations on Sunday. Like the Connor Williams hold to negate the Cole Beasley first down reception prior to the Ryan Kerrigan strip of Dak Prescott that led to a touchdown. However, you never want a penalty to decide a game.

On Sunday, the officiating crew asserted themselves to call a penalty on a play they either didn't see or didn't care about in L.P. Ladouceur's 14 year career to date. And while, Maher still could have -- and should have -- made that kick, there's no denying that the penalty had an impact on the game.

You never want to point to officiating as the reason your team loses a game, because there are always calls that go against either team that you could argue were bad calls. Unfortunately, this bad call pushed Brett Maher's field goal attempt back five yards, which had a direct impact on the game.

It may have been a penalty, it was a weak call at a really bad time for the Dallas Cowboys. With only nine games remaining in the 2018 NFL season, that call certainly hurt their chances of making the playoffs.

It's just another in a long line of officiating decisions that has hurt the Dallas Cowboys and that act is getting old.



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Game Notes

3 Stars from Cowboys Loss to the Redskins

John Williams

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Cowboys Roster: Dallas Made Right Decisions on Unproven Skill Players

Loss. Win. Loss. Win. Loss. Win. Loss. That's where we stand after seven games with the Dallas Cowboys alternating home wins and road losses and through nearly half the schedule en route to their 3-4 record.

It was a disappointing loss after a defensive effort that held the Washington Redskins to 13 points on the day. The offense had some good moments, but the road inconsistency and penalties killed throughout the NFC East matchup. The Dallas Cowboys playoff chances took a substantial hit with the loss. With only nine games left in the season, the Cowboys are probably going to have to go 7-2 to make the playoffs.

It's not impossible they could get on a run, but it certainly looks bleak.

Before we move forward, let's look back and highlight this week's 3 Stars of the game.

First Star

Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins

There were several players that gave the Dallas Cowboys offensive line fits on Sunday, but Ryan Kerrigan's strip-sack of Dak Prescott in the fourth quarter was the difference in the football game.

The Cowboys were trailing by three and after being backed up because of a holding penalty on Cowboys' Left Guard Connor Williams. Dallas was facing a 3rd and 14 at their own 10 yard line. Dak Prescott had good initial protection, but held the ball too long allowing Kerrigan to get to him, strip the ball, and Preston Smith recovered in the end zone to put the Redskins up by 10 with less than five minutes to play.

Kerrigan finished the game with five tackles (4 solo), two sacks, one tackle for loss, a pass deflection, the forced fumble, and two quarterback hits. It was a strong day for one of the longtime Redskins greats.

Second Star

Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins

The Washington Redskins didn't really have a lot of offensive weapons at their disposal aside from Tight End Jordan Reed and Running Back Adrian Peterson. Adrian Peterson had a good game against a stout Dallas Cowboys run defense, which kept the Cowboys defense off-balance most of the afternoon.

His 22 carries for 99 yards may not be the best game ever, but his ability to hit some big runs early and run with consistency early in the game put the Redskins ahead of the chains. On a day when the Redskins were down three of the top four receiving targets, Peterson needed to be effective for Washington to have a chance. He was a big reason the Redskins put up the 13 points on offense that they did.

Peterson ran hard "All Day" and made life difficult for the Dallas Cowboys defense.

Third Star

Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys

After last week's performance, I wrote a piece predicting that a breakout game was imminent for rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup.

He delivered the best game of his career Sunday afternoon against the Washington Redskins hauling in three receptions on five targets for 83 yards and a touchdown.

Gallup's touchdown reception was a beautiful double move that left the Redskins corner in the dust on his way to his first career touchdown. It was a huge play at the end of the first half that put the Dallas Cowboys on the board. They hadn't really gotten much going prior to that drive. It was a nice step forward for Gallup who has been making strides since some early season struggles.

The Dallas Cowboys have needed someone to step up on the outside to take some of the pressure off of Cole Beasley in the slot and Ezekiel Elliott and the running game. With another solid performance under his belt, Gallup is proving that he is a starter for the Dallas Cowboys now and in the future.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Who were your 3 Stars of the game in the Cowboys disappointing loss Sunday?



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Game Notes

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Redskins

Brian Martin

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Redskins 5

Well, here we are again. The Dallas Cowboys lose another close game, but this time it might hurt a little bit more since it was to the division rival the Washington Redskins. This was definitely a game that could've gone either way since neither team played well, but in the end things just happened to go the Redskins way this time.

One or two things going just a little differently for the Cowboys likely would've been enough to secure the victory Sunday afternoon and I'm not even talking about Brett Maher's missed field goal. For instance, what if Quarterback Dak Prescott would've taken the safety instead of fumbling and letting the Redskins defense score a TD. That mistake it definitely hurt!

I could sit here and play the "what if" game with you all day, but we have nearly two weeks to do just that since the Cowboys are now on their bye week. Today, I want to share with you The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from the first of two meetings between these two teams. Enjoy!

The Good

Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

In yet another sloppy performance on the road, there was very little good to take away from the first meeting of the 2018 season between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. I think the one thing I will remember the most, in a positive way, from this matchup is Wide Receiver Michael Gallup's long touchdown pass from Quarterback Dak Prescott.

Michael Gallup continues to make plays when given the opportunity. In another offense with a better play caller and maybe even a better QB, Gallup would likely be in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year, but has failed to make much of an impact with the Cowboys so far. Hopefully that will change after the bye week though.

If I'm the Cowboys coaching staff, I'm going to find ways to get Michael Gallup more involved in the passing game coming out off the bye week. Other than Cole Beasley, he is the only one who is having much of an impact and definitely needs to see more targets. I would make that a top priority moving forward.

The Bad

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

There is so much that I could put in this section, but I think the worst thing that happened Sunday afternoon when the Dallas Cowboys lost to the Redskins was the fact that we will have nearly 2 weeks of having to listen and talk about it. For me, that is the bad!

Yes, you read that right. Now that the Cowboys are heading into their bye week, we have two entire weeks to dissect and analyze everything that has gone right or wrong this year, especially what happened against the Redskins since it's the freshest in our minds.

This was definitely a tough loss, and one that could come back and hurt the Cowboys when it comes to playoff seeding at the end of the season. Too many mental mistakes and penalties definitely assisted in the letdown, but in the end they just weren't good enough to win on the road. That's absolutely something that needs to change since they haven't won a road game all season.

The Ugly

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

I'm going to have to go with both the offense and defense for the Dallas Cowboys as the ugly against the Redskins Sunday afternoon. Neither unit really played all that well, even though they both probably played well enough to win the game if just a few things would've gone just a little bit differently.

On the offensive side of the ball the Cowboys couldn't get anything going for nearly the entire game. The Redskins did an excellent job of bottling up Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott couldn't get anything going in the passing game until the fourth quarter. They did have a few big plays called back due to holding penalties, but overall it was a pretty sloppy performance.

Defensively things weren't much better. The Cowboys have been pretty good at stopping the run this season, but for some reason couldn't find an answer of how to stop Adrian Peterson. The defense probably played better than the Cowboys offense, stopping the Redskins in the red zone on several occasions and only giving up one TD, but in the end it just wasn't enough.

What is your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against the Redskins?



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