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Cowboys Gameday: All Eyes on the Running Backs in San Francisco

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Gameday: All Eyes on the Running Backs in San Francisco 7

The Cowboys will take the field at Levi's Stadium tonight for their second preseason game against the 49ers, in hopes of improving the team that aims to be back to San Francisco when it matters - for Super Bowl 50.

Headlines have been abundant so far this week, which gives us a number of players on both sides of the ball to watch tonight.

Of course, there is the "Dez Bryant" fight from training camp still looming over the team's head, which should leave Cowboys' fans anxious to see what #88 does on the field.

Bryant and Romo are both expected to get limited time tonight, depending on the condition of the turf in San Francisco - which is a concern.

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Gameday: All Eyes on the Running Backs in San Francisco

However, when it comes to the offense in tonight's game, my eyes will be on the offensive line and running backs. Zack Martin will not play, and it is unclear who else from the starting offensive line will see time.

With Travis Frederick being the only lock to start, we will get a look at the depth the Cowboys have along the line with the likes of La'el Collins - who impressed in week 1 - and fellow rookie Chaz Green.

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Gameday: All Eyes on the Running Backs in San Francisco 1

While this unit should still be solid, more pressure will fall on the running backs competing for a roster spot to make their mark tonight.

It is not clear who will see the majority of the touches in the backfield, but Jason Garrett is hopeful that Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, and Lance Dunbar can all see time.

How the carries will be divided up will be something to keep an eye on during the game.

Lache Seastrunk was recently cut, leaving Gus Johnson as the other running back competing in this group.

Randle, McFadden, and Dunbar all bring an element of explosiveness every time they touch the ball, and all three should be aiming to make a highlight-worthy play tonight.

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Gameday: All Eyes on the Running Backs in San Francisco 3

Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar (25) runs during the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Cowboys are deep at many positions, and talented players are going to be left off this roster based on the team's needs at certain positions. This effect may be most notable in the backfield come week 1.

While preseason reps are important for starters to begin getting live game action, they are infinitely more important for coaches to figure out who they can actually utilize in the regular season - and use that information to form the final roster.


All the running backs that we will see tonight deserve to be part of the offense, because they all improve it in different ways.

While Randle is a lock for the final roster, he may have to separate himself from McFadden and Dunbar to assure that he becomes the feature back.

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Gameday: All Eyes on the Running Backs in San Francisco 4

The Dallas Cowboys' Darren McFadden (20) during an OTA practice at Valley Ranch in Irving, Texas, on Wednesday, May 27, 2015. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS)

McFadden's role is the most uncertain, and this game will serve only as the first step in forming his identity at the position.

With limited practice time, no live game reps and a long injury history, nothing will surprise me from McFadden tonight - whether he fails to get anything going or rips off a big run.

That leaves Dunbar and Johnson, who are likely both fighting for one final spot. This is an intriguing position battle because the two backs present completely different skill sets to the offense.

Should the final roster be Randle, McFadden, and Dunbar, the Cowboys would have three backs that all compliment each other very well. The big play ability is evident with all three, and Dunbar serves as the best pass catcher in the group.

Randle would likely be the feature back, being called on in short yardage situations.

This is also where Gus Johnson could have a role, as the team's goal-line style running back.

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Gameday: All Eyes on the Running Backs in San Francisco 5

Johnson showed great physicality in San Diego, but little hope to be a high-carry type of back. If given his chance tonight, he will have to show consistency in his yards per carry.

Whether the Cowboys carry Dunbar or Johnson will likely not be decided until the end of the preseason, but a lot could be learned on the field tonight in San Francisco.

Amidst the position battle in the backfield, Jason Garrett and the Cowboys enter this game with a clear focus - do what it takes to ensure a second game at Levi's Stadium this season.


What do you expect from the Cowboys' backfield tonight? Let me know below or on Twitter @ShoreSportsNJ!

 

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Gameday: All Eyes on the Running Backs in San Francisco" 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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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Zeke Had The Exact Kind of Game Cowboys Need

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Ezekiel Elliott Should be rid of all Rust

It's pretty difficult to deal with the hype of being 2-0 to open a 2019 NFL season. The Dallas Cowboys have done just that with a revamped offense and a quarterback that's thrown seven touchdowns in the process. They currently sit alone atop of the NFC East and although it's too early to know what kind of team this will be when it's all said alone, we're excited.

Let's dive into this week's takeaways!

We Need Robert Quinn Back

The Dallas Cowboys defense hasn't been as bad as many would think. They've had a few bad moments but the talent is still there and should be improving as the season goes on. Last Sunday, what was most frustrating to me was the lack of a pass rush. DeMarcus Lawrence had a pretty good game, even though his stat line doesn't look very pretty. The pressure was there constantly and he forced a handful of bad plays from Case Keenum. Tyrone Crawford managed to sack him once.

Breaking News: Robert Quinn Suffers Fractured Hand

Other than that, for most of the game the pressure was scarce. Fortunately, the Cowboys are getting Robert Quinn back from suspension this week. Having two quality edge rushers will boost a defense that has the potential to be great, but has only been "good" two weeks into the season.

Ezekiel Elliott Had The Kind of Game The Cowboys Need

Zeke was back for a heavier workload in week 2 after having a snap count in the season opener. It may have not felt like it, but the Cowboys' star running back had a pretty good game versus the Redskins. On 23 carries he had 111 yards and a touchdown, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

In contrast of recent years, Elliott had a great game without the team heavily leaning on the running game. Dak Prescott threw the ball 30 times and Zeke still had a great game. This is what Cowboys Nation should want out of Kellen Moore's offense.


Elliott has two rushing touchdowns in the season, compared to six in all of last year. This is a product of an offense that's now dangerous in many ways, specially in the red zone. You gotta love what Moore is accomplishing so far.

Slow Starts Can't Continue to Happen

The biggest issue with the Cowboys in the first two weeks of the season has been their slow openings. In both games they've started trailing early. The worst thing about it is that it's been due to giving up big plays (like Saquon Barkley's big run in week 1) and quick, unsuccessful drives on offense (like a three-and-out drive followed by a drive that ended in an interception last Sunday).

Fortunately for the Cowboys, the Giants and Redskins didn't pose much of a problem. But when we reach the tougher stretches of the schedule, we know how quickly a game can turn south. Not every rival will be as unforgiving as the 0-2 foes they've faced so far.

DAL 31, WAS 21: Dak Prescott Dominant In Comfortable Win 1

Dak Prescott Continues to Prove He's It

Last but not least, we'll talk about Dak Prescott. Once again, he looked great. He finished the day with 269 yards, three touchdowns and an interception that came on a tipped ball from Randall Cobb's hand. He threw an absolute dime to WR Devin Smith, giving him his ninth 50+ yard touchdown pass of his career (ranking third in the NFL since 2016 behind Tom Brady and Philip Rivers).

All game long, he was precise against Washington's defense. He dealt three touchdowns to three different players and was making throws with anticipation and poise. If you're not sold on Dak Prescott yet, I don't know if you'll ever be.

He also looked well as a runner, specially on that 42-yard run where he stiffed arm Josh Norman. I hope the Cowboys continue to use him in the running game.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Zeke Had The Exact Kind of Game Cowboys Need" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL 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

The Brady Report: Cowboys Offense Dominant Despite Slow Start

Kevin Brady

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The Brady Report:

The Dallas Cowboys followed up their dominant performance last week with yet another blowout divisional win on Sunday, defeating the Washington Redskins 31-21.

While the Cowboys controlled the game for much of the last three quarters, they actually got off to a slow start in Washington. Once again they fell behind to a lesser team 7-0 early, before scoring on nearly every possession to finish off the game.


Let's get into my game notes from the Cowboys' week two win.

  • We have to start these game notes by talking about Dak Prescott. The Cowboys franchise quarterback was incredible for the second straight week to open this season. Despite the early interception, Prescott continued to look poised and calm in the pocket, allowing him to deliver a dime to Devin Smith for the team's first touchdown. Prescott was picking apart the Redskins secondary during the final three quarters to the tune of 269 yards and three touchdowns. Plus, he was very effective as a runner, including his dynamic 42 yard run on third down and one with the game still tied. If Dak is going to play like this, the Cowboys can beat anyone.
  • Ezekiel Elliott looked a lot more comfortable Sunday than he did against the Giants. Not only were his raw numbers better, rushing for 111 yards and a touchdown, he was back to his ways of falling forward and avoiding the first tackler. He still didn't really explode the way we all know he can, which means opposing defenses should be scared when considering what the Cowboys offense's full potential could be.
  • Which receiver didn't ball out Sunday? Michael Gallup seems to be developing an awesome rapport with Prescott, Amari Cooper continues to prove he's a legit WR1, Randall Cobb was once again effective on swing passes and in the slot, and even Devin Smith had himself a monster game. If Devin Smith is going to be the speed deep threat he was against Washington, look out.
  • Ok, now that I've congratulated the majority of the offense, let's talk about the one guy who I'm sure would've liked to have a better day. Left guard Connor Williams. The second year guard was solid overall Sunday, but was abused by Daron Payne from time to time. Most notably, Payne went right through Williams both to force Prescott's interception and on the only sack of the game. Williams has to be better going forward, because he is the clear weak link across this dynamic offensive line right now. Luckily, as a whole, this line has been very good through two games.
  • Defensively, things could've gone better for the Cowboys. While a lot of the production through the air came through garbage time, Terry McLaurin was still too effective down the field. Chris Thompson was also getting too much YAC against these defenders. Anthony Brown had a rough day in the slot, missing multiple tackles and not being too great in coverage either. Jourdan Lewis, however, did have himself a good game in limited snaps. Both he and Byron Jones made impressive open field tackles on third downs.
  • The Cowboys run defense stepped up from a week ago. The tackling of their front seven overall improved as the game went on, and they held Adrian Peterson to just 25 yards on the ground. Part of this was because of how quickly the Cowboys got to their 21-7 lead in the third quarter, but they were solid nonetheless.
  • Dallas' pass rush will benefit greatly from Robert Quinn's return next week against Miami. DeMarcus Lawrence created a couple big pressures on Sunday, but Quinn's presence should help free him up a bit to create more of a consistent pass rush.


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Game Notes

Dallas Cowboys Good, Bad, and Ugly From Week 2 Against the Redskins

Brian Martin

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Dallas' Good, Bad, and Ugly From Week 2 Against the Redskins

It's still a bit early in the 2019 season, but the Dallas Cowboys ability to go into hostile territory and come away with a victory against the Washington Redskins is a big win. Not only does America's Team remain undefeated to start the season, but they also now sit atop the NFC East in sole possession of the division.

The Dallas Cowboys again got off to a slow start Sunday afternoon against the Redskins but showed their resiliency by continuing to battle throughout the game. I expected a slobber knocker type of game considering the way these two teams battle it out every time they square off against one another and they certainly didn't disappoint. However, it was the Cowboys who prevailed in the end with the 31-21 victory.

But enough with the rehashing of yet another impressive Cowboys win. Let's get to the point of this article and dive into The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly this week from the Week 2 matchup against the Washington Redskins.

The Good

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

I really wanted to go with Wide Receiver Devin Smith here this week because he had an impressive game against the Washington Redskins and ended up leading the team in receiving yards (74 yards, 1 TD), but I'm just going to give him a shout out instead. I think the good deservedly goes to Quarterback Dak Prescott. He continues to show he has taken the next step in his development, which is making the Dallas Cowboys offense one of the more lethal units in the NFL.

It may have taken a little while for the Cowboys offense to get going, but when it did it was because Prescott took charge. Once again he looked really good in the passing game, completing 26 of 30 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns. His efficiency throwing the ball was awfully impressive, but so was his five rushes for 69 yards on the ground. His only little blemish on the day was the unfortunate interception that just so happened to bounce the right way for the Redskins. Overall though, Dak handled more than his share Sunday and did it really well.


The Bad

Dak Prescott, Connor Williams, Travis Frederick

Dallas Cowboys LG Connor Williams

Deciding what to put in this category each week is never an easy task. I absolutely hate singling out a single person, but this week I'm going to have to point my finger at Left Guard Connor Williams. He's my nomination for the bad this week due to the penalties he had at the most inopportune times. Last week Zack Martin did the same thing against the Giants and rebounded. Hopefully, Williams can do the same.

Although I put Williams in the section, I think the penalties the Dallas Cowboys piled up throughout the game against the Redskins probably deserve more attention than I'm giving them. It was a sloppy game from start to finish due to the amount of yellow flags flying Sunday afternoon, but it's kind of to be expected considering they are playing a divisional opponent and how early it still is in the 2019 season. Let's just hope the amount of laundry flying from now on is minimal to none.

The Ugly

Adrian Peterson, Byron Jones

Washington Redskins RB Adrian Peterson

For the second week in a row the Dallas Cowboys defense has failed to live up to the expectations many of us have had for them entering the 2019 season. For that reason alone I think they were the ugly from Sunday afternoon against the Washington Redskins. They really need to step up their game if they want to live up to the aspirations that we not only all have for them, but they have for themselves.

I honestly don't think the Redskins offense is all that much better than the Giants, who the Cowboys made look better than they truly are last week. I think they did the same thing in this Week 2 matchup as well. They are really struggling to bottle up the running game like they did last year. They're also giving too much cushion in the passing game and have allowed too many easy completions underneath. Hopefully they can bounce back next week against the Miami Dolphins, but if not we should all be really concerned.

What is your Good, Bad, and Ugly from the Cowboys victory over the Redskins?


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