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Cowboys @ Falcons Staff Picks and Game Notes

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Whelp. It's here. Ezekiel Elliott is suspended. Right or wrong, it was bound to happen eventually, and now the Cowboys must face the Falcons in Atlanta without arguably the biggest piece of their offense. Are they up to the task?

Right now it's a toss-up figuring out who will be given the bulk of the carries. Alfred Morris seems to be the favorite among the coaching staff, though I have my doubts. I've said it all year, Darren McFadden has earned the second spot behind Elliott. He's answered every call for this team and stayed healthy, a big surprise considering his history. But McFadden has been inactive all season.

Rod Smith is a guy many know about, thanks to his brother Jaylon Smith and the journey he's had up to this point. He's a monster on special teams and the few times he's been given the ball during a game, he's been quite explosive. His level of energy alone is enough to say he should be given a solid chance to do something over these next six weeks.

Last week against the Kansas City Chiefs... I don't know about you but that was a fun game. Maybe it was hearing Tony Romo's play-by-play, but that whole game was just fun. So fun that the injuries during the game didn't really even register, especially not the two late injuries to Terrance Williams and Dez Bryant. Bryant says he's going to play this week, while Brian price, who was also hurt last week, is now on IR.

But perhaps the bigger injury story right now is left tackle Tyron Smith. He's been battling back issues for a couple of years now, even missing time last year, and he's out for this contest as well.

The discussion surrounding Chaz Green this season has been all about left guard, not tackle, even though he was drafted as a swing tackle and projected at that position until Ronald Leary left for Denver. Green recently lost the starting LG job to Jonathan Cooper, who seems to be an integral part of the Cowboys' surging running game of late. Now it looks as though Green will get the nod in Smith's absence.

ITS Junior Writer Mauricio Rodriguez broke down Chaz Green's play at left tackle in the NFL to give us an idea of how he'll do tomorrow. Check it out if you missed it this morning.

The Cowboys are healthy across the rest of the offense. Yes, Geoff Swaim is injured, but he isn't a big part of the game plan, even with an increased role these last few weeks. Dak Prescott, Cole Beasley, Jason Witten, Zack Martin, all healthy and ready to go. Zeke is a special runner, no doubt, but it's time for the next man up.

What about the defense? They've strung together an impressive set of performances lately, surpassing I'd imagine even the coaching staff's expectations. Are they great? Nah. But they're getting the job done. They'll need to be on top of their game to stop Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, not to mention Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.

As always, I encourage you to add your own predictions for the game in our comments section below.

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No Zeke, No Problem

The Cowboys are getting ready to play their first game without Ezekiel Elliott since 2015. It's going to be a challenge. Fortunately, the Falcons are not the threat we expected at the beginning of the season and I'm confident in Dak Prescott's ability to lead the Cowboys to victory as he scores three touchdowns. Mauricio Rodriguez – @PepoR99

Cowboys 24 – Falcons 20

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Never had a chance

Bottom line? The chances of winning without Zeke and Tyron are greatly diminished and if Dez is limited at all, those odds shrink closer to zero. Goodell cackles wildly in the distance as the Cowboys are completely dominated by the Atlanta Falcons who are back on the playoff track. The combination of Freeman and Coleman wreak havoc in the second level of this Cowboys defense that stayed on the field way too long; looking as tired as us fans are of the seemingly unlimited legal proceedings and this awful CBA. Brace yourselves for panic in big D. Christopher Wätjen – @SingForTheDay

Cowboys 17 – Falcons 35

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Cowboys March Through Atlanta

It'd be easy to dismiss the Cowboys now that Ezekiel Elliott is out, but the Falcons are just 18th against the run. However the carries are distributed between Dallas' three RBs, they should be effective. Jason Garrett is a master motivator, and I predict the Cowboys will rally behind Zeke's absence. Jess Haynie – @CowboysAddicts

Cowboys 34 – Falcons 28

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Dak Prescott Carries Cowboys on His Back in Offensive Shootout

Of course, as we all know, Ezekiel Elliott will not be on the field Sunday as the Cowboys take on the Falcons. While that is an enormous blow for the offense, Dak Prescott is playing out of his mind. I’m really starting to wonder if this offense can take it to another level when Dak Prescott is running the show. I expect a huge game from Dak Prescott, maybe his career best. Connor Livesay – @connorx147

Cowboys 38 – Falcons 35

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Pass Rush Prevails, Cowboys Win Fourth Straight

The National Football League is impossible to predict. A year ago, the Dallas Cowboys were a win away from setting up an NFC Championship game against these Falcons at AT&T Stadium. I thought all along that, should they have beaten the Packers, the Cowboys would have had a very hard time beating that Falcons team. Now, they are set to face them on the road without Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith - yet I'm picking them to win against a banged up Atlanta team. I am completely sold on this pass rush being good enough to win games, and with that, Dak Prescott and Alfred Morris can score just enough to keep this momentum rolling in Dallas. Sean Martin – @SeanMartinNFL

Cowboys 21 – Falcons 17

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Cowboys Soar Over Falcons Without Ezekiel Elliott

The Atlanta Falcons aren't the same team we watched play the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. They have struggled on both sides of the ball this season and I think the Dallas Cowboys can take advantage of that. Even without Ezekiel Elliott, I believe the Cowboys will lean on the running game and control time of possession. This strategy will once again lead them to victory. Brian Martin – @BrianMartinNFL

Cowboys 28 – Falcons 20

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Dak and Lee Lead the Way

When LB Sean Lee is in the game, Dallas only allows 18 points per game. If you remove the Denver game that number drops to 13. While Ezekiel Elliott's absence will be noted, Dak Prescott and the defense are the differences in this one. John Williams – @john9williams

Cowboys 28 – Falcons 17

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Feed... Alf?

I think this is going to be an important game for the Cowboys going forward. If they can compete, and potentially win on the road against the Falcons, it will do wonders for their confidence without Ezekiel Elliott. It's going to be a tall task, but I think the Cowboys are just a better team than Atlanta. Kevin Brady – @KevinBrady88

Cowboys 30 – Falcons 27

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Leave Alf in the 90s, Where He Belongs

Nothing would please me more than watching the Cowboys ball out without offensive centerpiece, Ezekiel Elliott, nothing. I just don't like what I've been seeing behind Zeke. I have zero confidence in Alfred Morris to get the job done, and yet I know he'll be the lead back tomorrow. Dak looks good right now, but Alf is going to be too much for him to overcome. Players before scheme, Dallas. Bryson Treece – @BrysonTreece

Cowboys 20 – Falcons 23

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So we're mostly behind the Cowboys, going 7-2 for the win. Whatever happens tomorrow, the only thing I know for certain is that it won't go exactly as any of us expect. We've never seen this team execute a game plan without Zeke. Last time it happened, Elliott was still at Ohio State. So we've got to wait and see.

Share your game picks below and, as always, Go Cowboys!


This is the General Staff account for Inside The Star, a blog for Dallas Cowboys news, scores, schedule, rumors, and analysis. We are the official home for @CowboysNation on Twitter. Follow us today for new content updates straight from our timeline. To learn more about our staff, please visit our Staff listing.

Game Notes

Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles

Kevin Brady

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Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There's no doubt the Dallas Cowboys passing game faltered in 2017. Though never expected to throw for many yards, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys failed to maximize their attempts down the stretch. The passing game was simply inefficient and ineffective.

One reason the passing game took a step back was the disappearance of slot receiver Cole Beasley. Whether you blame defenses adjusting their coverages on third downs towards Beasley, Beasley growing another year older, or quarterback Dak Prescott, Beasley simply didn't look like the same player in 2017.

In the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cowboys selected a wide out who many anticipate could replace Beasley, in time. Rookie wide receiver Ryan Switzer rarely got chances to make an impact on offense this season, designated as the return man for much of the year. With Cole Beasley out for the season finale, however, Switzer got his chance to make a name for himself.

While the numbers were far from gaudy, Ryan Switzer showed some things we should be excited about for the future.

dalvsphi2018 switzer - Streamable

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Ryan Switzer's first target came on a third down -- something Cowboys Nation should get used to heading into 2018. Switzer is lined up inside in trips on the near-side of the formation. The Eagles show man coverage pre-snap, and with just one safety over top and the other rotated down on top of Jason Witten, it is clear to Dak Prescott they plan to bring some pressure.

As soon as Prescott gets the snap, his eyes go to Ryan Switzer.

The cornerback plays Switzer with inside leverage, refusing to be beat with a hot slant route. Switzer instead keeps the defender on his back hip and creates separation with an out-breaking route.

Prescott delivers the ball towards the sideline where the defender can't catch up to it, and Switzer comes away with the first down.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 2 - Streamable

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Later in the game, we once again see Ryan Switzer targeted from this inside-alignment.

Switzer is a pretty prototypical slot receiver, and if used correctly he should win in man coverage situations often. The cornerback attempts to maintain inside leverage on Switzer and get physical at the top of his route. Ryan Switzer does a nice job of fighting through that physicality and crossing the defender's face over the middle. He flashes open pretty quickly, and Prescott delivers a strike for the completion.

If Switzer can create this type of separation often, I see no reason why he shouldn't be a focus of the offense in 2018.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 3 - Streamable

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Switzer's third target is actually an incompletion, but it is worth studying, regardless. Switzer is in the slot on the far side and the Cowboys once again are in trips alignment. The cornerback over Switzer is in man coverage, but gives him room to breathe at the line of scrimmage.

Switzer exploits the cornerback -- who is cheating to the inside -- with his footwork and route running. He gets to the sticks, breaks to the outside, and creates enough separation for a first-down completion. Prescott delivers the ball a bit late and behind Switzer, causing an incompletion instead.

I'd still like to see Switzer adjust to the ball and make this catch, but I put more of the blame for this play on Prescott.

With a full offseason to work within the offensive system, as well as to develop chemistry with quarterback Dak Prescott, Ryan Switzer will prove to be an important piece to the 2018 Dallas Cowboys.


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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer's Good Game 1
AP Photo / Michael Ainsworth

The Dallas Cowboys put an end to a long, long season last Sunday after they defeated the Eagles in Philadelphia in a game that had absolutely no meaning for either team. Surprisingly, the Cowboys played with their healthy starters most of the game, but were barely able to put six points on the board, which were enough to take the win home.

The Cowboys might've lost more than what they actually won, and most of the fans were unhappy with the victory. Despite it being a pretty boring football game, we still learned a few things about the Dallas Cowboys.

The season's finally over. It wasn't easy, but we're still here. Here's to 2018. Let's hope it's a good one for our Cowboys. Here's this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday!

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Coaching Staff Didn't Help Its Cause

It's more than fair to say that a lot of us want to see changes in Dallas. And specifically, changes in the coaching staff. After the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention, Jerry Jones said Jason Garrett's job was not an issue. Now, Jerry's even talking about Rod Marinelli and Scott Linehan being back in 2018. Who knows if it's true.

While I don't think we'll see a new head coach anytime soon, I'd dare say that after the horrible game versus Philadelphia the front office at least got to thinking.

Dak Prescott, Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, HC Jason Garrett

Coming into this game, the team had a choice to make: play with the starters to win it, or let guys like Cooper Rush in the game and see what happens. A loss would've meant a better draft position for the Cowboys and a chance to see what rookies and other young players could bring to the table.

But they decided to manage the game like it was a "real action" game. Being conservative. Not going for it when there was nothing to lose. They did so after a team that, with the NFC's #1 seed secured, basically played with its B team. Not only that but for the Eagles, most of the game was played by a third string QB.

Despite all this, the Cowboys could hardly beat the Eagles 6-0. Poor execution and all, I can't help thinking about the coaches.

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Cowboys Should Keep Datone Jones for 2018

In late November, the Dallas Cowboys signed Datone Jones after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers. The former Packers' first-round pick made an impact when he was given the chance. His play at DT was pretty solid and he showed very promising flashes.

DatoneJones - Streamable

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Jones will be under contract in 2018 and I'd be surprised if the Cowboys don't keep him another year. Per Over The Cap, he'll be paid $790,000 next year which isn't at all expensive for a 27-year-old player.

The Cowboys would add depth and even a potential starter at DT for next season.

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Ryan Switzer Can Play as a Wide Receiver

With Cole Beasley missing the game because of an illness, we finally got to see Ryan Switzer at WR. We had already seen good things from him as a kick returner, but on offense, he hasn't been as involved as Cowboys Nation expected him to be.

Last Sunday though, Switzer was used for more than a jet sweep.

SwitzerWR - Streamable

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He still has a long way to go, but I was impressed by his ability to create separation. I really hope he's used more next season.

At the end of the day, he's a fourth-round pick. He should be playing more on offense, not just on "gadget plays" or special teams. Could Ryan Switzer be Dak Prescott's best friend in the future? Only time will tell. Right now, it's too optimistic to expect something like that.

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Dan Bailey's Confidence is Shattered

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey's 2017 season hasn't been easy at all. We've seen him miss kicks we never imagined he would, including extra points. One of the most painful moments of the Cowboys' season came late in the season finale when he lined up to kick a simple 20-yard field goal.

The ball went up, but failed to split the uprights. Dan Bailey stood in complete disbelief, with a blank look in his face. His confidence, shattered.

For kickers, it's all about confidence.

For years, we referred to Dan "Automatic" Bailey as the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Now we're not sure about calling him "Automatic" anymore. Bailey will have a lot of time to pick himself up though, and will probably be back at it next year.

Let's hope that's the case.

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For now, the only thing left to say is one of the most encouraging, yet sad phrases in sports... Maybe next year. We're on to the offseason.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Starters Produce Uninspiring Week 17 Win

Playing more than enough of their starters in hopes of ending this 2017 season on a high note at the Eagles, the Cowboys produced a lackluster 6-0 win that will surely leave a bad taste in the mouths of Cowboys Nation - despite it being a victory.

The win put the Cowboys at 9-7 on the season, and it is a shame they had nothing to play for in this regular season finale. Once again in week 17, it was the offense holding back another fantastic performance by Rod Marinelli's defense.

We'll discuss both units in this final 2017 Dallas Cowboys version of Sean's Scout.

  • You have to love the way Chidobe Awuzie was able to bring physicality to a young Cowboys secondary that had another solid game. 

There were times earlier in this season when it seemed the Cowboys' second-round pick would have a lost season due to multiple hamstring injuries, but Awuzie quickly tuned around his rookie campaign by coming in and playing with exceptional technique and awareness.

With enough length to turn and run, Awuzie thrived in this zone scheme by keeping everything in front of him, as he did on his interception of Nick Foles. With Dallas in Cover 2 on the play, Chidobe read Foles' eyes the whole time to the boundary and was in position to cut off the pass.

This is a topic we'll now have much more time to discuss, and it is a hollowing one considering it was truly the Cowboys offense that kept them from the playoffs this season. The need for new talent at WR is clear, but the need for a target that better suits Prescott's strengths going into year three is even more important.

His pass catchers, along with inconsistencies in pass protection, were the main reasons Prescott struggled in 2017, although in this game it seemed like the only time he was affected in the pocket was when forcing the ball late to Bryant.

Coming from a spread system in college, Prescott simply does not have experience throwing his receivers open -- relying on route combinations and separation ability to hit open targets. Dez Bryant hasn't been that type of player through his career, and certainly isn't now that he's lost a step.

  • 9 wins for a team unlike their usual selves up front offensively is still pretty impressive. 

The Cowboys got nearly no impact from any of their free agent signings this season, which is why the depth of the team held them back once again. Veteran Byron Bell was brought in as a backup swing tackle, but he is simply not a scheme fit at tackle here.

Dak Prescott should not have been playing with Bell as his LT, and eventually Joe Looney at LG after Jonathan Cooper went down.

Bell lacks the quick-twitch ability and athleticism needed to be successful on every down, and it showed as he was again beaten by both speed and power against the Eagles.

The Cowboys have proven their acumen drafting young OL talent that performs at a high level early and often. So, instead of relying on more free agents, like Bell and Looney, drafting talent up front to spark the running game and give Prescott adequate protection is likely the best answer.

  • Ryan Switzer's ability to separate late in the down really stood out, as he finally got his chance at WR without Cole Beasley

Growing calls for more of Ryan Switzer on offense will surely take root this offseason after he caught four passes for 32 yards in the absence of Cole Beasley yesterday. More of a one-speed player at North Carolina, Switzer's spacial awareness and smoothness in giving Prescott somewhere to throw the ball as plays developed was really impressive.

In order to be a great team at the NFL Draft, you have to accurately scout your own roster. It will be fascinating to see just how the Cowboys feel about their current pass catchers, with not only Ryan Switzer but the likes of Lance Lenoir and practice squad addition K.D. Cannon in the fold as well.

  • The Cowboys found themselves a valuable addition to their rotation at DT with Datone Jones. 

Jones was able to push the pocket throughout this game in Philadelphia, and has done so consistently since getting here, at both the 1T and 3T positions. Using his hands to generate power as a down-the-line player, Jones plays with great pad level. That allows him to shoot gaps when needed, or anchor the line of scrimmage.

The Cowboys have not prioritized adding premier talent at DT in recent years, and may forego it again this offseason as well. The Cowboys expect Maliek Collins to contribute further with another season at 1T and David Irving back at 3T.

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To everybody who made this 2017 season at Inside The Star as enjoyable as ever, I would like to thank the readers of Sean's Scout. All this aspiring scout can ask for is to enhance the fan experience through both wins and losses, and your feedback on this series helped me to confidently do just that.

As we prepare for an even better 2018, Sean's Scout won't be going anywhere! I'm shifting my full attention towards the NFL Draft, looking for prospects that could help the Dallas Cowboys reach the playoffs again next season.

Thank you for another roller-coaster ride we call football season, Cowboys Nation. Truly the best fans anywhere.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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