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Game Notes

What Cowboys, Dez Bryant Must Prove Against Cardinals

Sean Martin

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The Jared Goff led Rams and Brian Hoyer quarterbacked 49ers combined for 80 points last night on Thursday Night Football, only further driving home the absurdity that is the weekly tradition of "Overreaction Monday" around the National Football League.

This Monday, it was the widespread talk of impending doom for a stacked Cowboys offense that was shut down in a 42-17 loss at the Broncos that had many in Cowboys Nation anxiously awaiting the new opportunity that week three in Arizona will present.

While it is smart to say that things can only go up from here for Dallas offensively, the Cowboys may have to rely on moving the football for another game without elite production from WR Dez Bryant. Preparing to face Patrick Peterson of the Cardinals after seeing Janoris Jenkins and Aquib Talib to start the season, the Cowboys need to prove that they can either scheme their top receiver into any game (like the defending NFC Champion Falcons did with Julio Jones in 2016) or win consistently without Bryant dominating games.

Marcus Mosher on Twitter

Patrick Peterson has always played Dez Bryant fairly well. A big reason why is that he isn't afraid to get beat over the top. https://t.co/orFQZ4MYdJ

With Dak Prescott as his quarterback, Dez Bryant was actually targeted 16 times against the Broncos - a new career high for passes thrown from #4 to #88. Obviously, the production did not follow these targets as Bryant caught seven passes for 59 yards and a touchdown in the blowout loss.

Some of Bryant's most efficient games have come when he is not force-fed the ball, but rather used intelligently by Scott Linehan as a chess piece capable of taking the top off of a defense at any time or moving the chains underneath.

Putting Bryant in motion to free up the middle of the field, getting him away from physical boundary corners by lining him up in the slot, and keeping him mentally engaged by throwing some slant and screen patters his way are all ways that the Cowboys have found ways to win with and without Bryant carrying the offense.

Marcus Mosher on Twitter

One thing DBs try to do vs Dez is get their hands in his head/neck area. It can frustrate him at times. https://t.co/UoDYimHJXz

Patrick Peterson is going to be yet another tough match up for Dez Bryant, as one of the most athletic cover corners in the NFL will combine aspects of what Jenkins and Talib have successfully down to slow down Bryant so far this season. With the ability to slow him down at the line, run with him to the boundary, effortlessly stay sticky on Bryant's physical in-cuts, and play the ball at its highest point in the air, Peterson will make nothing easy when Dak Prescott looks Bryant's way on Monday night.

What The Dallas Cowboys Offense Must Prove On Monday Night 1

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant and QB Dak Prescott

One thing that did stand out was Bryant's touchdown from 2014 against Peterson though, as it reminded me exactly of the play he beat Talib on a week ago for his lone score of this young season (as I explained more in Sean's Scout).

Marcus Mosher on Twitter

Here's Dez's TD vs Patrick Peterson. https://t.co/ZcIgX1GVrF

Let's be real about one thing, Cowboys Nation. As excited as we are about Rod Marinelli's defense slowly improving through the season thanks to the young talent the Cowboys added in the draft, it has been this team's offense all along that is the source of any Super Bowl aspirations the 2017 Cowboys may have.

There just aren't many offenses in the NFL that can play at a championship level without a dominant "X" receiver, which Dez Bryant absolutely still is. It may not show this week once again, but Monday night could be a great opportunity for the Cowboys to again prove they can at least utilize Bryant effectively and execute on offense both running the ball with Ezekiel Elliott and  throwing to targets that aren't Bryant.

In games where the Cowboys offense broke 30 points in 2016, Bryant averaged just under four receptions. A closer look at the film from these game would show a #88 that was still very much involved in the offense, which has not been the case through two games in 2017.

Marcus Mosher on Twitter

Again... expect PP to try to make this a brawl. https://t.co/uE8qBMI7zx

Patrick Peterson won't provide any relief on a brutal schedule of CBs that Bryant has had the task of lining up against, but no matter the result he will need to help his young quarterback and running back get back on track to avoid consecutive losses.

Randall Liu on Twitter

Only 4 in NFL history with 70+ TD catches in 1st 100 games: Rice Hutson Moss Alworth @DezBryant & @RobGronkowski can join the list

Oh, and a breakout game from Dez Bryant in prime time could land him in elite company with Jerry Rice and Randy Moss. If anyone thinks the past two weeks have truly exposed one of the best WRs in football...

Tell us what you think about "What Cowboys, Dez Bryant Must Prove Against Cardinals" 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.

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4 Comments
  • TreFKennedy88

    Good article Sean

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      Thank you for reading!

  • Corey

    I don’t mean to get off of the subject, but I have got to say this. I think Roger Goodell and the NFL are taking this suspension of Zeke a little to far. I mean there is no real evidence that he did anything and yet it seems that Goodell is really out to get him. Personally I think Goodell is the one who should be replaced. He sucks as the commissioner and always has, and probably always will. He is power hungry and he is so far off the mark in most of the decisions that he makes, he has made a mockery of the position of commisioner

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      Well said, Corey.

Game Notes

Film Review: Connor Williams Overall Impressive In Preseason Debut

Kevin Brady

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Film Review: Connor Williams Overall Impressive In Preseason Debut

The collapse of the 2017 Dallas Cowboys can be, in large part, attributed to the collapse of their offensive line. When left tackle Tyron Smith was forced to miss time with various injuries, neither Chaz Green nor Byron Bell could get the job done in his place. Not only were these two replacements unsatisfactory, however, they were disastrous.

From the beginning of the 2017 season the Cowboys had a problem at left guard as well. With Ronald Leary departing for Denver and La'el Collins replacing Doug Free at right tackle, the left guard spot was left to an open competition between Jonathan Cooper and Chaz Green. Quite frankly, neither was impressive.

As a result Dak Prescott's sophomore season was nowhere near as fun or remarkable as his rookie season, and the Cowboys faltered down the stretch as a team. Trying to rectify these issues, Dallas drafted Texas offensive lineman Connor Williams in the second round of last year's draft.

Though it could be argued that, on paper, the Cowboys had more pressing needs than their All-Pro filled offensive line, adding a player like Connor Williams was exactly what this team needed to do if it wanted to emulate its 2016 success.

So, through one preseason game, how does the rookie look? Let's take to the film to decide just how good (or bad) Connor Williams was in his debut.

dalvssf2018 connor williams

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Let's begin with the bad. Really the only completely poor rep of the night for Connor Williams came on the first drive of the game. Williams is working against former first round pick DeForest Buckner here. Buckner, lined up as the 3 technique over Williams' outside shoulder, knows he is in a one-on-one situation with the rookie.

Buckner immediately swipes Williams' hands down, quickly flipping his hips and getting upfield. Besides not getting a strong enough punch, Williams' biggest mistake is that he stops his feet on contact. This allows Buckner to get him off balance, forcing Williams to bend at the waist and look lost.

Buckner then blows by him for the easy quarterback hit.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 2

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Later on the same drive we see Williams struggle to execute a reach block. Once again Williams is faced with a 3-technique, this time defensive tackle Sheldon Day. Day gets a great get-off, beating Williams initially with his first step. Day then does a great job of stoning Williams' playside shoulder and redirecting the running back.

This is another example of Connor Williams needing to increase his play strength and speed a bit. Multiple Cowboys reporters at training camp have mentioned these issues with Williams' game, and they flashed on tape during this rep.

Thankfully for both Connor Williams and the Cowboys, things only went uphill from here.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 3

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

On Dak Prescott's touchdown pass to Michael Gallup we see Connor Williams correct everything he had wrong earlier.

Williams comes out of his stance square, delivers a solid punch, and stones the defensive lineman at the line of scrimmage. Williams stays strong with his hands even as the defender attempts to swipe them down as Buckner successfully did earlier.

He allows for no interior pass rush and keeps Prescott's vision clear down the field.

dalvssf2018 connor williams 4

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Earlier on the same drive we see Connor Williams work well off a double team and on to the second level. Williams delivers a solid punch to the 1-technique on the inside of him, allowing Travis Frederick plenty of time to overtake the man and drive him back.

What's most impressive, though, is how Williams keeps his shoulders square and his eyes on the second level the entire time. He never buries his head or over-commits to the down lineman, allowing himself to be an athlete and help spring Rod Smith for a nice gain.

Despite some legit reasons for concern about Williams' game, I do believe he will be fine moving forward. Connor Williams is an excellent plug and play left guard who provides some tackle depth as well, and is a vital addition to the Cowboys 2018 offense. His debut performance gives all of us even more reasons to be excited about this offensive line.



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Game Notes

What We May Have Learned From the Cowboys Week 1 Preseason Loss

Brian Martin

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5 Things We Might Have Learned From Cowboys Preseason Week 1

The Dallas Cowboys unfortunately came out on the losing end of the battle in their first preseason contest against the San Francisco 49ers, despite pretty much dominating the majority of the game. The good news is it was just an exhibition game and means relatively nothing in regards to the upcoming 2018 season.

Last week was the first chance for a lot of us to see what this years Dallas Cowboys team could possibly look like. There was a lot of roster turnover this offseason, which means there were quite a few new faces on the field for the Cowboys Thursday night. But, I can't say that I was disappointed in what I saw, at least so far.

Now that I've had time to study and evaluate the Dallas Cowboys game against the 49ers, I wanted to share with all of you some of the things we may have learned. Up until this point we were left speculating about certain things, but I think the picture is much clearer now.

To keep myself from going overboard here, I decided to narrow it down to just five things I think we may have learned about the 2018 Dallas Cowboys last Thursday night. Continue to read below to see what they are.

✭ Rookie WR Michael Gallup the Real Deal✭

Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

With so much unknown surrounding the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver position, it was really good to see rookie WR Michael Gallup play well against the San Francisco 49ers Thursday night. Despite being a rookie, Gallup looked like the best WR on the field for either team. I don't believe I'm exaggerating the slightest either.

The highlight of the game might have been when he and Quarterback Dak Prescott were able to hook up on a 30 yard touchdown pass to close out the Cowboys first offensive series. Gallup might have scored a second TD later in the game if QB Cooper Rush's pass wouldn't have been under thrown. But, that's neither here nor there now. If Gallup continues to play like he did Thursday night, he could easily be the Cowboys top WR in 2018.

✭ Blake Jarwin Favorite to Replace Jason Witten✭

Blake Jarwin and Geoff Swaim

Dallas Cowboys TEs Blake Jarwin and Geoff Swaim

Geoff Swaim may have gotten the start and provided some good blocking Thursday night against the 49ers, but it was Blake Jarwin who may have ended up becoming the favorite to replace Jason Witten this season. Out of all of the options in the receiving game for the Dallas Cowboys, it was Jarwin who was on the receiving end of Dak Prescott's first pass of the game. And, if he hadn't had stepped out of bounds later in the game he would've found himself in the end zone.

Now, it's a little early in the process to claim Jarwin as the victor in the Cowboys TE competition, but he was able to carry over what he's been doing in practice into the game. That's no small feat to accomplish. I'm sure we'll see some of the other TEs on the roster receive opportunities to prove themselves, but for now, it's looking as if it could be Blake Jarwin's job to lose.

✭ Tavon Austin More Than a "Gadget" Player✭

Ezekiel Elliott and Tavon

Dallas Cowboys RBs Ezekiel Elliott and Tavon Austin

When the Dallas Cowboys traded for Tavon Austin earlier in the offseason no one really knew exactly what kind of offensive role they had in mind for him. Since arriving in Dallas, Austin has been described as a "web-back", but that made things even more confusing because it sounded like a made up position. The only thing anybody really knew is that Austin has been mostly a "gadget" player since entering the NFL.

I know it was just Week 1 of the preseason, but if Thursday night was any indication of how the Cowboys plan to use Austin, then he will be more than a "gadget" player this season. Austin didn't line up in the backfield or receive any handoffs. He didn't even return any punts or kickoffs against the 49ers. The only thing he did do was lineup at WR and run routes. His role could change and expand later, but it looks as if he will be more involved offensively than we had originally thought.

✭ DE Taco Charlton Looks Much Improved in Year 2✭

Taco Charlton

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton

The Dallas Cowboys defense may not have recorded a single quarterback sack Thursday night against the San Francisco 49ers, but they did put consistent pressure on the opposing QBs. One of those pass rushers to consistently pressure the QB was the Cowboys second-year Defensive End Taco Charlton, who looks like an entirely different player this year. He was getting after the QB, making tackles, and deflecting passes.

Charlton is starting to look more and more like the first-round draft pick the Cowboys were hoping he would be last year. He looks bigger, stronger, faster, and more technique sound than he did a season ago, which should be good news for the pass rush this season. He also showed that his knowledge of the game has improved. Last season he would've been fooled by some of those bootlegs, but it doesn't look to be the case now.

✭LB Depth No Longer a Concern✭

Joe Thomas

Dallas Cowboys LB Joe Thomas

The Dallas Cowboys played the entire game against the 49ers Thursday night without Sean Lee, their best defensive player. Unfortunately, it may have provided a glimpse of what we could see at some point during the 2018 season since #50 has a problem of remaining healthy. The good news is, it looks like the Cowboys have covered themselves for such scenario.

Yes, all eyes were on Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch against the 49ers Thursday night, and rightfully so. Both players didn't do anything to disappoint, but it was the Cowboys free agent addition, Joe Thomas, who stole the show. Thomas was filling in for Sean Lee and did an outstanding job doing so. He was all over the field and even ended up getting an interception off a Kavon Frazier deflection. The way all the Cowboys LBs played should ease any concerns with the depth of the position heading into the 2018 season.

What stood out for you in the Dallas Cowboys game against the 49ers?



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Game Notes

LB Joe Thomas Steals The Show In San Francisco

Kevin Brady

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LB Joe Thomas Steals The Show In San Francisco
Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into last night's preseason opener Cowboys fans had their minds on three linebackers: Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch. Of course, they were right to focus on those three. They are the three most talented linebackers on the roster, and each were taken within the first two rounds of their respective drafts.

During the game against the San Francisco 49ers, however, an under-the-radar linebacker stole the show for the Dallas Cowboys. If you were watching you know that linebacker is Joe Thomas. With Sean Lee out Joe Thomas got a chance to play with the first team defense, and boy did he take advantage of that opportunity.

Joe Thomas finished his night with five tackles, one TFL, and an interception on the play below. Thomas was relentless in pursuit, flying all over the field and keeping himself near the ball at all times. This relentlessness put him in position to capitalize on Kavon Frazier's pass deflection, and come away with the pick.

Multiple times during the first half Joe Thomas made everyone in Cowboys Nation ask "who is that!?" And in the preseason, that's at the top of the to-do list of every lesser-known player.

NFL on Twitter

On the very next play... PICKED. #DALvsSF https://t.co/X62FGTNpKV

Over the last few seasons the Cowboys have severely lacked depth at the linebacker position. When starting WILL Sean Lee is out, which happens quite frequently, the entire unit seems to fall apart. Their attempts at bargain shopping at linebacker, or snagging mid-round depth in the draft, hasn't necessarily worked all that well.

Adding Leighton Vander Esch during the 2018 draft was a step towards building the linebackers as a complete unit, but Joe Thomas' performance last night adds even more stability.

No, Thomas isn't going to take a starting role from Sean Lee, but he does add quality depth behind what are high profile linebackers. Jaylon Smith looked better and healthier last night than he has during his entire time as a Dallas Cowboy, Vander Esch looked like an athletic freak at times, and Sean Lee is still Sean Lee.

If Joe Thomas is going to show up like he did against the 49ers on a nightly basis, the Cowboys suddenly possess one of the deeper front sevens in all of football.



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