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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

Cowboys, Falcons Week 11 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Zack Martin

The Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons are both 4-5 and playing to keep their seasons alive. It's a mutual must-win game, and both will have to try to win it without some key players. Once again, we look at this week's injury reports.

Let's begin with your Cowboys, whose report is getting longer as the season wears on:

Dallas Cowboys

  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
  • DE Taco Charlton (shoulder) - OUT
  • DT David Irving (ankle) - OUT
  • DT Daniel Ross (calf) - OUT
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - OUT
  • DT Antwaun Woods (concussion) - Doubtful
  • G Zack Martin (knee) - Questionable
  • G Connor Williams (knee) - Questionable
  • DT Maliek Collins (knee) - Questionable
  • LB Joe Thomas (foot) - Questionable

The biggest news is the guy who won't miss tomorrow's game; All-Pro guard Zack Martin is expected to play despite his knee injury from last Sunday night. The Cowboys, already dealing with Travis Frederick's absence and now health issues at left guard, could ill afford to go without Martin in such a pivotal game.

Even if he was healthy, rookie Connor Williams might have a hard time getting in the game. Backup Xavier Su'a-Filo looked like an experienced former second-round pick last week, and he may be the better player for now.

The defensive line has been hit hard, particularly in the middle. With Irving and Ross out, Woods doubtful, and Collins uncertain, Dallas called up DT Christian Ringo from the practice squad. They will also be without Taco Charlton, who could play inside some. Veteran Caraun Reid will be seeing a lot of playing time.

Sean Lee's ongoing absence has become almost an afterthought now with the stellar play of Leighton Vander Esch. We've seen in the past when missing Lee meant disaster on defense, but Dallas' first-round rookie has helped mitigate the damage.

Atlanta Falcons

  • LB Deion Jones (foot) - OUT

It's a short list for Atlanta, but the one name on it is a big one. Arguably the team's best defensive player, Deion Jones will miss the game with a foot injury.

The Falcons' injury issues have been more in players suffering season-ending injuries. Both starting guards, Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco, are on injured reserve. Star running back Devonta Freeman is also there, and those losses help explain Atlanta's 30th-ranked rushing offense.

Both starting safeties are also on IR; Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. Atlanta has one of the league's worst passing defense this year without them, ranking 30th in yards allowed and 28th in opponent passer rating.

So yes, the Falcons injury report compared to the Cowboys' may raise some eyebrows. But in terms of who has most of their key guys, Dallas is arguably still better off.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

The Dallas Cowboys play their next three games in 13 days, all critical to their hopes of winning the NFC East despite alternating wins and losses since week one. For the Cowboys to earn consecutive road wins, their first coming on Sunday night at the Eagles, they'll have to come out of Atlanta in much better shape than they did just a year ago.

As expected in the NFL, a lot has changed in this year. The Cowboys 27-7 loss at the Falcons in their first game without Running Back Ezekiel Elliott was the beginning of the end on a season that forced a multitude of coaching changes in Dallas.

The Cowboys stubbornness in allowing Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn to sack Dak Prescott six times by beating Chaz Green and Byron Bell is something they hoped to move past when new positional coaches were brought in at OL, TE, QB, and WR.

It took the team admitting that these moves below Offensive Coordinator Scot Linehan were not all correct two weeks ago for the Cowboys to see any real progress, but with their win last week there's hope that the Cowboys are the improved team expected weeks ago - arrived just in time for Thanksgiving.

Firing Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander was the first move, as the Cowboys named Marc Colombo OL Coach and Hudson Houck his assistant. Colombo told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas this week that he has injured Center Travis Frederick on a headset during games as well.

Colombo, Houck, and Frederick have the Cowboys offensive line confident in their ability to play to their strengths, rewarded with a renewed faith in the zone blocking scheme that was forgotten under Alexander.

If the Cowboys offensive line was their first problem in last year's Falcons loss (it was), it's becoming their biggest strength at the right time in the season.

The Cowboys necessary changes didn't stop here though.

In desperate need of a play maker on the outside, the Cowboys are seeing their investment into Wide Receiver Amari Cooper pay off so far. Cooper is averaging 3.2 yards of separation on his routes this season, ahead of Cole Beasley's 2.6 yards as the next closest pass catcher.

Cooper's presence was a big part of Ezekiel Elliott's 151 yard rushing performance at the Eagles. A player that can win on the outside with ease and dictate coverage has benefited Prescott and the Cowboys game plan on offense enough to send away a first round pick.

It will be up to this "rebuilt" Cowboys offense to match the Falcons on Sunday. Atlanta is averaging 27.1 points per game this season, but a much more dangerous 32.2 at home. After a 1-4 start, the 4-5 Falcons are playing in front of their home fans for the first time in two weeks, losing at the Browns in week ten.

The Cowboys felt they'd be prepared for games like this after their offseason moves, instead needing to show the type of in-season urgency that's been rare for Jason Garrett's team. The same can be said about a Falcons team that's experienced playing with their backs to the wall much sooner than the Cowboys have this season, setting up a big NFC match up in the early slot Sunday.

Dak Prescott will be thankful that Chaz Green nor Byron Bell are protecting him, wanting nothing more than to deliver another win for the Cowboys to take into Thanksgiving against the division-leading Washington Redskins. Not all of the coaches responsible for the lack of adjustment in last year's game are gone. What the Cowboys do have are tangible new ideas from coaches that understand they need more than a win at the defending Super Bowl champions to call this Cowboys season a success.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta" 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

Do Or Die: Chidobe Awuzie Must Improve Sunday, Or Cowboys Season Could End

Kevin Brady

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Will Chidobe Awuzie's Return Benefit The Cowboys' Defense?

Coming into the season there was a lot of hype surrounding the Dallas Cowboys' cornerbacks. With Byron Jones moving from safety full time, and now second year player Chidobe Awuzie playing opposite Jones after a promising rookie season, there was a lot for Cowboys fans to be excited about.

Through the first 10 weeks of the year, though, only one of those two has maintained fans' excitement. While Byron Jones has been arguably the best cornerback in all of football, Chidobe Awuzie has been damn-near an automatic completion when thrown at.

Awuzie has a -5.8 coverage rating this season, 65th among cornerbacks in the NFL. Coverage rating is a metric which factors in how often a cornerback is targeted as well as how many passes they've defensed per target. Quarterbacks also have a 116.6 passer rating when targeting Awuzie, compared to just 64.5 when targeting Byron Jones. For comparisons sake, Jones' coverage rating is a +45! So you can see why "cornerback opposite of Jones" is becoming a need for the Cowboys.

What's perplexing about Awuzie's season, though, is that he is only giving up an average 0.95 yards of separation, 27th in the league (courtesy of playerprofiler.com). So while Awuzie is playing relatively sticky coverage, he's still being targeted often, and he's still allowing completions way too often.

This week, Chidobe Awuzie will be tested once again, this time by the dynamic passing game of the Atlanta Falcons. The match-up many fans are focusing on is that between Byron Jones and Julio Jones, but how Awuzie does against Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu may play a bigger factor in the result.

Both Ridley and Sanu are solid supporting receivers, and considering how much attention the defense typically has to pay to Julio Jones, they tend to get man coverage often. This allows for a precise route runner like Ridley to take advantage of opportunities, and come away with the types of big plays we've seen from him this year.

When matched up with either of these weapons, Awuzie will need to continue to stay close, but play and defense the ball better. He must continue to make it hard on these receivers and force them into contested catches, but hopefully he can improve on his play when the ball gets to the catch point.

Sunday will be another big test for the Cowboys' young defense. And as well as they have played most weeks, this game has the potential to be a season ender if certain guys do not step up. One of those guys who will certainly play a key role in influencing the result in Chidobe Awuzie.



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