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Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch off to a Fast Start

Matthew Lenix

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Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch off to a Fast Start 2

When the Dallas Cowboys drafted Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft it wasn't received with open arms from the fan base. However, he would quickly turn heads with his elite level of play in only his first year on the field. He was so good that he earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors and was one of the leaders of the Cowboys top 7 ranked defense. With expectations through the roof in 2019, Vander Esch is off to another fast start.

Just like last season, Vander Esch displayed the speed, power, and aggression that made him a household name against the New York Giants last Sunday. He racked up 10 tackles (9 solo), 1 pass defended and a forced fumble. This puts him on pace for 160 tackles for the season which would shatter what he did as a rookie. Of his 140 tackles last season 102 were solo. That's what's probably the most impressive thing to me about him is his ability to bring down ball carriers/pass catchers on his own.

Marcus Mosher on Twitter

Look at this athleticism and effort from #Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch. Whew. https://t.co/iEjJ5GTDg5

The best play he made versus the Giants is in the clip above. Vander Esch does a great job of changing direction and pursuing Eli Manning as he picked up a half-sack along with DeMarcus Lawrence. This was a crucial fourth-down stop considering if the Giants scored a touchdown it would've made the score 28-17 with more than a quarter to play, and as we know in the game of football, momentum is a powerful weapon.


Marcus Mosher on Twitter

Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch JUST missed this INT. https://t.co/6ulkkVerIM

Another nice play made by Vander Esch in the clip above came in the fourth quarter. He does a nice job reading Eli Manning's eyes while simultaneously keeping Tight End Evan Engram in front of him long enough that it makes a difficult throw for Eli Manning down the seam. High pointing the ball he almost comes down with an interception. He had two interceptions last season and it looks like he'll have more in 2019.

This Sunday the Cowboys face bitter division rival the Washington Redskins on the road. Defense generally travels on the road and they'll definitely need a solid effort on that side of the ball to get their second division win in two weeks. Vander Esch hasn't missed a beat coming off his spectacular rookie campaign and it looks like another Pro Bowl/All-Pro season is on the horizon.


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Jourdan Lewis Continues to Shine, Needs More Playing Time

Matthew Lenix

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Jourdan Lewis Continues to Shine, Needs More Playing Time

Once upon a time, Cornerback Jourdan Lewis was a star at Michigan who had first-round talent written all over him. The former two-time First-Team All-American would see his stock plummet, though, with a domestic violence accusation hanging over his head. Nonetheless, the Dallas Cowboys selected him 92nd overall in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

His career got off to a great start in his rookie campaign. He totaled 54 tackles (48 solo), 10 passes defended and an interception. Unfortunately for Lewis, when the Cowboys hired Kris Richard as the Passing Game Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach in 2018 he became the forgotten man in the secondary. The architect of the infamous "Legion of Boom" in Seattle that produced stars such as Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor likes tall, physical and rangy corners. At 5'10 and 195 pounds, Lewis simply didn't fit Richard's vision of what his secondary should look like.

He would only manage one start in 15 games and registered a pedestrian 12 tackles in 2018. Lewis caught a break recently, though, when starting nickel corner Anthony Brown left the Cowboys Week 6 matchup against the New York Jets with a hamstring injury. Lewis, who obviously had been chomping at the bit to make his presence felt didn't waste any time reminding everyone how talented he is.

Lewis would not only register four tackles but he intercepted Sam Darnold inside the 10 in the third quarter. As we all know, turnovers have been the achilles heel for the entire defensive unit for years so to see Lewis come in and get one in a matter of minutes was encouraging.

With Brown ruled out against the Philadelphia Eagles, Lewis would get another shot to show what kind of a player he is, and once again, he didn't disappoint. In a dominant 37-10 win, Lewis had four tackles and his first NFL sack. Simply put, Lewis makes plays whenever he's on the field.


It's not like Brown is a bad corner or anything, he's not at all. In fact, he could start for a lot of teams in the NFL as their top corner or be a solid number two. However, in 2017 he was benched in favor of Chidobe Awuzie in Week 13 and remained a backup for the rest of the season. With this latest setback, Lewis could find himself with a permanent role, that is if Richard can look past his height and focus on who's the best option to put on the field out of Lewis and Brown.

There are several reasons I feel Lewis is a better option than Brown as the lead nickel corner. For one thing, Lewis is a ball-hawking corner and you can never have enough of those is this passing era of NFL football. Brown is the only corner out of the team's top four with more career interceptions than Lewis, and they have all had significantly more playing time than he has over the last three years.

Also, he's a sure tackler as 68 of his 77 career tackles (88%) are of the solo variety. A corner who can create turnovers and tackle well is a defensive coordinator's dream come true. Lastly, Lewis can play in the slot or on the outside. Position flex is a very valuable tool to have as a defensive back and makes it easier to fill a hole in case of an unfortunate injury in your secondary.

So when Brown is healthy enough to return what does Richard do? Will he insert him back into the starting lineup? Does he realize Lewis is the better player and keep him on the field? This will be an interesting decision and one that a lot of fans will definitely be keeping an eye on.


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Football Focus: Top 3 MVP Candidates Through Seven Weeks

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Football Focus: Top 3 MVP Candidates Through Seven Weeks

Once week 8 comes around, it's acceptable to start MVP discussions. Of course, that sort of talk begins even before the season starts, but by the eight week of the season we've seen plenty of NFL action for the conversation to have any sense at all. Having said that, on today's edition of Football Focus, I'll share with you my top three candidates for the MVP award this season. Stick around for some thoughts on the New England Patriots, Andy Dalton, Los Angeles Chargers and more!

Let's get to it.

Russel Wilson, SEA Seahawks

Dangerous Russ is playing absolutely great. Despite a rough outing versus the Baltimore Ravens, Wilson has been playing at MVP level all season. Although the Seahawks are always thought of as a talented team, the truth is they're far from being one of the best rosters in the NFL. Wilson's offensive line is average at best and he still manages to play lights out football.

He has a 122.1 passer rating outside of the pocket, according to PFF. He's led the Seahawks' passing offense to become the second most efficient according to DVOA. Wilson is elevating the players around him. If the Seahawks make the postseason, it'll be thanks to him. He might be the best QB in the NFL right now.

Deshaun Watson, HOU Texans

The Houston Texans are a difficult team to figure out. They're 4-3 and have been somewhat inconsistent this season. They're not the best of teams, but Deshaun Watson is a great QB. Watching him play is unbelievably fun as he slings the ball all over the field. His offensive line is far from great, but he manages to extend plays and get the job done frequently.

Watson is throwing 8.3 yards per attempt (fifth most in the league) and he's racked up 18 total touchdowns (tied for first in the NFL).

Last week wasn't very helpful to his case, but Watson will continue to play well this year. If the Texans win the division, I'll sure consider him an MVP candidate.


Lamar Jackson, BAL Ravens

Baltimore Ravens' QB Lamar Jackson might be a dark-horse candidate in the MVP race, and I'm surely betting on him. He's just a tough quarterback to defend. Many people don't like running signal-callers and I get it. Historically, their careers haven't been very long and they're often injury-prone.

But Jackson is sixth in the league in rushing yards (576). In average rushing yards per attempt, Lamar actually leads the league with 6.9 yards. He makes it look easy even against well-coached defenses such as Pete Carroll's Seahawks. With the Ravens playing aggressively this season on their way to a 5-2 record, Lamar Jackson should be in the MVP conversation.

Football Focus: Top 3 MVP Candidates Through Seven Weeks 1

Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton (Justin Berl / Getty Images)

Three-And-Out: 3 Quick Thoughts

  • Maybe the New England Patriots haven't faced a tough team yet, but that doesn't mean you should doubt them. They're really good and Bill Belichick might be coaching the best defense of his career. Through seven games, they have allowed 6.9 points per game, 223 yards per game, and have 22 takeaways. In all of those categories (and more), they rank #1 in the NFL. They've allowed three offensive touchdowns while scoring three on defense. This team is remarkable. Don't let lazy "they haven't played anyone" narratives fool you.
  • With the Cincinnati Bengals leading the Jacksonville Jaguars 10-9, things went south for the 0-7 Bengals really fast. Quarterback Andy Dalton would go on to throw three interceptions in the fourth quarter. It truly feels like it's time to move on from Dalton in Cincinnati. Start the rebuild with a new face at the wheel.
  • Oh, the Los Angeles Chargers. Prior to the season, they looked like a serious contender in the AFC West. Now they're 2-5. Last weekend, they were inches away from getting a win over the Tennessee Titans but Melvin Gordon fumbled the ball and the Chargers lost in disappointing fashion. They might not be a bad football team, but there are more issues with Anthony Lynn's team than just health issues. Even if they were completely healthy, this wouldn't be a great team.

Underdog of the Week: Baltimore Ravens

The Seattle Seahawks were 3-point favorites last week against the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens defeated the Seahawks on the road - which isn't easy in Seattle - 30-16. Lamar Jackson was impressive on the ground as he racked up 116 yards in 14 carries. The guy is special and it's the first time this season when the Ravens have convinced me they're a good team. I had my doubts, but they're gone now.

Player of the Week: QB Aaron Rodgers, GB Packers

This might've been Rodgers' first "elite" performance of the season. Against a bad Oakland Raiders' defense, Rodgers did a fantastic job throwing the football. He completed 25 out of 31 passes for 429 yards and five touchdowns. He was great. Although the Green Bay Packers are 6-1, they're one of those teams that still have a lot to prove. Rodgers having such a good game is a step in the right direction.

College Football Corner: Down Goes Wisconsin

Sooner or later, the Wisconsin Badgers were supposed to fall. They're a good football team and they ranked #6 prior to last week, but they weren't likely to survive a game versus the Ohio State Buckeyes next Saturday. However, their first loss of the season arrived very unexpectedly. As a 31-point underdogs (yes, you read that right), Illinois defeated Wisconsin on a walk-off game winning field goal.

SportsCenter on Twitter

Illinois pulls off the BIGGEST upset of the season over No. 6 Wisconsin! #SCtop10 https://t.co/z3lmx1H7kK

Just like that, Wisconsin's playoff hopes are completely gone. It's tough to see, but it's what makes college football beautiful. The surprises never stop.

Tell me what you think about "Football Focus: Top 3 MVP Candidates Through Seven Weeks" 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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Will Cowboys Bring Back Anyone From Injured Reserve After Week 8?

Brian Martin

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Report: Cowboys G Connor McGovern Suffers Setback Recovering From Torn Pectoral Muscle

After thoroughly dominating the Philadelphia Eagles and claiming sole possession of the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys are officially on their bye week. It couldn't possibly come at a better time. Not only are there several players who need to get healthy, but it's the perfect time to reassess what's gone right and wrong thus far for them in 2019.

During the week off the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff is going to be really busy. They need to reevaluate just about everything, which includes the current roster as it stands right now. Why? Well, not only is the trade deadline approaching quickly, but teams can also bring back players who have been on injured reserve after Week 8.

Per NFL rules, teams can bring back a total of two players who have spent the first eight weeks of the season on injured reserve. The Dallas Cowboys have designated players to return from IR in the past, but will they do so again this season?

When thinking about who the Cowboys might bring back from IR two names immediately popped into my head, Wide Receiver Noah Brown and Offensive Guard Connor McGovern. After doing a little research though I discovered Noah Brown doesn't qualify because he's on the Physically Unable to Perform List (PUP), not IR. Let's talk a little about him before we discuss McGovern's 2019 fate.

Noah Brown

Dallas Cowboys WR Noah Brown

Even though Noah Brown can't be designated to return from IR, the Dallas Cowboys still have to make a decision on his 2019 future pretty quickly as well. You see, players on the PUP list have until November 4 to start practicing and then the Cowboys would have three weeks to either activate or shut him down for the season.


Unfortunately, as recently as last week reports indicated Noah Brown isn't ready to practice due to a lingering knee injury. That doesn't bode well for him suiting up this season, meaning we could see him placed on IR at some point in the next few weeks.

That leaves Connor McGovern as the Dallas Cowboys most logical option to be designated to return from IR. With the Cowboys current offensive line depth on the roster right now it doesn't make much sense for them to add McGovern to the active roster, but the trade deadline could change all of that.

The Dallas Cowboys currently have three offensive lineman in the last year of their contracts (Joe Looney, Xavier Su'a Filo, and Adam Redmond). The Cowboys would surely take a call from any team showing an interest in trading for any one of the three, especially if they believe Connor McGovern is ready to step in as a replacement.

Personally, I have a hard time seeing the Dallas Cowboys make such a move. I think they will keep McGovern on IR and allow this to be a redshirt year of sorts for him. Of course, that could all change if the Cowboys become sellers before the trade deadline.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys bring back anybody from injured reserve?


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